Foreign Deviltry

I’ll just come out and say it: I come from a people who know a li’l sumpin’ sumpin’ about the Colonial Encounter, so yeah, I wanted to see this.  Not exactly sure what I expected, but what I didn’t want (and what I didn’t get, thankfully) from the panel “Complicating Colonial Encounters” with JoSelle Vanderhooft, Vandana Singh, Robert Redick, Craig Gidney, and Anil Menon was a simple list of writers and books and how they just failed, or a discourse on how Avatar sucked.  I can get those on any random sampling of blog posts in a given day.

I was a bit late getting there and I left during the Q&A ‘cos I was feeling a bit punchy and hungry by that point. Still, I managed to take away some cool stuff…

  • There’s a school of thought that says that science-fiction essentially came from the colonial encounter.  Think Kipling, Wells, etc.  I can see it when I think of Tarzan.
  • There were definite historical instances where, at least initially, the relationship between colonizer and the colonized was somewhat of a flirtatious love affair where both saw parts of the other that were exotic and something to be explored.  And even colonizers “going native.”
  • That there is more to the issue than just the obvious power differential.  The question was asked (by Redick, according to my notes), how can we complicate our understanding of the colonial encounter?

Speaking of notes…

Same as last time, I make no guarantees that these will make sense.   I make no guarantees against my faulty memory, sketchy hearing, or any kind of telepathic or machine-based manipulation of/interference with my senses.  Anything I might’ve gotten wrong is purely unintentional.

“Complicating Colonial Encounters”
Gidney, Menon, Redick, Singh, Vanderhooft

AM: moderator
CG: writer, wash dc., BET press, fantasy
RR: epic fantasy series
VS: short stories, sf/f, born/raised in India, intersection of colonialism and sf, antho “so long, dreaming” (NH?); collection THE WOMAN WHO THOUGHT SHE WAS A PLANET
JS: ed, LESBIAN STEAMPUNK STORIES–critique of steampunk colonial side

AM; standard narrative–two cultures encounter each other; one culture wiped out; ppl have panels.
*CG: e.g. AVATAR–tropes. 
** “native who knows”
** “natives are mystical, colonizers scientific”
** yet, he liked avatar
** tries to subvert “white savior”
*RR: ease with which he could’ve been/have been born into a position where he could be “inward-looking.” 
*VS: experiences w/colonialization–long after colonizers had left.

AM: gradual process of discovering “something is off.” true of science fiction studies in general: e.g. thesis that SF came FROM the colonial encounter. e.g. Kipling, Wells, etc.
* CG: subtext is there in beginning of sf/f e.g. Tarzan.
** fear of being colonized re: WAR OF THE WORLDS
** VS: WotW as a critique?  (probably)
* RR: what do we want to think of as working def. of colonialism? any form of APPROPRIATION from one ID group/cultural force of another one.
* VS: historically, there ARE examples in human history where people coexist.
* AM: British/Indian interaction = two-way exchange. i.e. voluntary
* CG: good appropriation vs. bad appropriation
* VS: what’s “voluntary?” being enticed?  OTOH, there is a “falling in love” e.g. British who “went native” in India
* JV: overriding narrative of power differential
* RR: How can we “complicate our understanding?”

AM; books that get it right/wrong. 
* AM: MAN IN HIGH CASTLE by PKD. (right)
* CG: XENOGENESIS series by O. Butler. Unclear–colonizers aren’t evil.  they’re beneficial!  But humans still don’t like it.
* VS: THE MOUNT. aliens colonize earth, and how revolution happens. THE TELLING by UK LeGuin.
* CG: THE SOLDIER’S SON… tries to subvert AVATAR, but doesn’t succeed.
* RR: BRIGHTNESS FALLS FROM THE AIR (Tiptree). Fails somewhat. Yet, a moving story.

AM: Moral dimension to colonialism
* AM: e.g. Skin darkening okay but skin lightening, bad. Taking a drug that makes you gay, okay; taking a drug that makes you straight, bad.
** accepting the colonizer’s ways

2 thoughts on “Foreign Deviltry”

  1. That's an interesting panel. I read a few books involving colonization and I did notice the flirtatiousness, but I never before thought about the link to sci-fi.

  2. Neither did I, but as soon as the panel mentioned Kipling and Wells, I was like, "How could I not have seen it?"

    If you ever have a chance to make it to a ReaderCon, I can't recommend it strongly enough!

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