Wis[s]e Words

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Tue, 10 Mar 2009

Happy birthday to me

Or at least, the blog. It just turned seven today I just realised, while slogging through the archives manually converting posts to the new Wordpress based incarnation of this blog that escaped slightly too soon into the wider world. On this day seven years ago I blogged my first post. It wasn't very interesting, hopefully that has changed over the years even if I sometimes feel that I'm forever plodding where others seem to be able to jot down great posts with no effort at all...

I still have a lot of fun blogging even if the hopes of getting famous through it have long since faded. There's been some good writing here, also some pretty horrible writing, but who cares?


Posted by Martin Wisse Permalink End of post.

Greg Egan does the right thing

So yesterday I posted about Greg Egan's somewhat dumb and insulting comparison of "geek" and "nerd" to certain incredibly offensive racial insults. What made it even worse was that he made this comparison in the context of responding to Adam Roberts' review of his latest novel, Incandenscence. Well, Egan popped up in James Nicoll's post discussing this action. He got into a discussion with Carlos and after some prodding, decided Carlos was right in thinking this comparison was offensive. Egan therefore altered the paragraph in question and it now reads:

These days there's often ranting about "nerds" and "geeks" -- terms that the world would be better off without, though I have to admit there's something gloriously awful, in a Love And Death on Long Island kind of way, when would-be sophisticates who spend half their time discussing Joyce or Sophocles switch to a vocabulary whose current usage was largely forged in the supremely inane universe of American high school cliques.

I still wouldn't agree with his argument that nerd or geek are slurs; they used to be but they've long ago been reclaimed. But this doesn't matter. What's important is that Greg Egan saw he had made a mistake and had inadvertently insulted people and then apologised and took action to recitify this. Well done!

In related matters, cluefulness has not broken out everywhere in science fiction land, as another of James' posts shows:

Apparently in their current version, the skin of Drow who convert to good becomes lighter coloured while the "blackness of the drow's skin has become a permanent sign of their depravity". The Curse of the Lamanites angle seems to have been introduced by self-confessed Canadian author Lisa Smedman in The Lady Penitent.

Oi. That really is some old skool racist imagery, isn't it? With fantasy there's always the danger, if the writer isn't careful, that old racist stereotypes are redeemed by applying them to orcs or other fantasy races, but this is so obvious that there really is no excuse. This isn't just an awkward appropriation of an "exotic" culture to populate some generic fantasyland with, but use of an old idea that has served as a particular pernicious justification for slavery: the "curse of Ham". From wikipedia:

According to pro-slavery literature, Hamís transgressions, particularly the shaming of his father by looking upon his nakedness, provoked "Noahís curse". Allegedly, Hamís son Canaan and his descendants were thereafter doomed to serve their American lines for all of eternity. Indeed, when discussing the slaves of the pharaoh in Exodus, Origen specifically identifies them as descendants of Ham who were punished due to their ancestorís skin color. In 1823, amidst controversy concerning the justice and morality of slavery, South Carolinian Frederick Dalcho argued: "and perhaps we shall find that the negroes, the descendants of Ham, lost their freedom from the abominable wickedness of their progenitor (Ham)."

Much worse than some of the offenses that have driven racefail 2009...

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Posted by Martin Wisse Permalink End of post.

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