Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cry Freedom!

When the Nazis came for the Gypsies, I did not speak out because I was not a Gypsy.

When the Nazis came for the homosexuals, I did not speak out because I was not a homosexual.

When the Nazis came for the Jews, I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

When the Nazis came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me...

Borrowed from JA Konrath's blog.

There's a debate going on out there, about prejudice and how it affects writers. In this case, it seems a black-and-white example of discrimination.

I must say that in my own experience, I've even encountered a different kind of "prejudice". The "we-don't-want-to-publish-Canadians" line.

On the one hand, I completely respect the editor who told me that before I wasted my money and time submitting my work.

On the other hand, it still stings a bit.

I've talked to authors here, and one thing I heard was murmurings of a knee-jerk reaction. The person said they weren't reading the American authors now - they were deliberately choosing Canadians.

Frankly, I find it sad. Okay, I've always been a sucker for those British boys* but at the same time, I've deliberately forced myself to read from a larger pool. I've got Laura Lippman, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Tonino Benacquista, David Simon, Felicity Young, Andrew Pyper, Maureen Jennings, H. Mel Malton - amongst others - on my shelves, contributing to my literary mosaic of influence.

I would agree that we need to show support for our fellow writers, and I believe that one of the things we can do is speak out for them and try to promote their work. Bolster their sales a bit. Build their rep. Talk them up to anyone who will listen.

I don't think people should get deals based on the colour of their skin, their heritage or how good-looking they are. People should get deals because they can write a damn good book that deserves to be in print.

Of course, in a perfect world, right? Because even I admit to my soft spot for the British boys. But that's because they converted me to the world of crime. It is by looking at the recommendations of other authors like Ian Rankin that I have come to read some of the others, and I am so glad I did.

Seek out the new guys, the overlooked, and find the hidden jewels that should be championed to the world - no matter if their name is Lin or Tarquini or Garelick or Schultz.

Or even Konrath!

* yes, I see how you can take that out of context. Dream on Kim!


Gabriele C. said...

There's something about the German tradition as a people of translators that opens this country for lots of foreign books, genre and mainstream. There's been a More books get translated into German than German books into other languages-ratio since Heinrich the Lion Duke of Saxony commissioned the translation of the French Song of Roland in the 12th century (the Song of the Niblungs didn't get translated into French in turn). Authors in their own right have not been above translating books, from 18th century Schiller who adapted Macbeth for the German stage to 20th century Bergengruen who rendered War and Peace in a quality finally worth the original.

Scandinavia is a bit like that, too, with a long standing tradition since the Mediaeval riddarasögur (adapted from mostly French originals - subject of my PhD, lol) to Cold Granite. :-)

Hopefully there'll be more, and less chauvinistic, publishers in the UK than the one that only accepts submissions by UK citizens (fuckwits obviously never heard about the EU). Because with my books being published in English there'll be a good chance they get translated into German. The other way round, chances would be small since not even Rebecca Gablé's historical fiction books with an English setting get translated.

JamesO said...

This whole subject just makes me very sad. I read about how some black American authors are being categorised as that, rather than by whatever genre they happen to be writing, and the whole 'no Canadian writers' thing is just ridiculous. My reading habits are limited by my poor understanding of languages other than english, and my inability to read fast enough. I'll read anyone's work if it looks interesting to me, and I don't care where they come from.

I can, however, understand where this starts. It's all down to the money. Far easier to sell American (read White Anglo-Saxon Protestant American) authors to a WASP readership, and to a perhaps lesser extent, English authors to an English readership. As consumers, most readers are very conservative (why else do they keep coming back for more Jeffrey Archer?) The money-men know that anything straying from the usual won't sell as well (or will require more effort and cost to sell as well) and so they don't take it on in the first place.

Sadly, this means that most of what's available (and read by the vast masses of people) is similar, derivative and mainstream, further discouraging those readers from branching out.

That doesn't in any way excuse it. Nor does it explain the alarming growth in plain, old-fashioned racism that seems to be rearing its ugly head again.

M. G. Tarquini said...

*working frantically on the lyrics to 'Write, Canada!*

Boy Kim said...

Well poop! Having said that, dreaming is about the extent of it lately. I mean, I know me quite well and sleep with myself out of necessity not choice. Given the choice, even I probably wouldn't.

But I'm still clinging (and I typed that as "clinking" first) to the hope that there's a young (negotiable) lady (also negotiable) out there whose motto is "any port in a storm".

Anyway, I'm not British.

Erik Ivan James said...

Bingo, jameso! It's all about the money!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well Kim, do we really want to talk about the recreational activities of the Welsh?

There are some presses in the UK that are doing a phenomenal job of translating foreign authors. I hope we see more and more of it here.

And I won't complain for me - I got a deal. Being Canadian didn't stop me. And I'm content with my place in the publishing universe at this moment - a publisher I'm really enjoying working with who treats me like a person.

Boy Kim said...

I don't mind.

Kate said...

In Australia most of the books in bookshops and libraries are from overseas. There weren't many Australian books published until the 1970s and the number has shrunk again recently. A large part of reading for Australians is finding out about other countries. (Obviously this has a downside for Australian writers.) It's the same with television – most of the dramas and comedies are from the US and UK, although we also have a free-to-air channel that mostly shows television series, films and news in languages other than English.

E. Ann Bardawill said...

What can u du?
When u spell wurds with a U.

Cry boo hu hu hu!?

Can du?


We lost to SWITZERLAND??

**falls over**

Boy Kim said...

The Bard is drunk?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Stupor of sadness, methinks.

How are you this fine day, Boy Kim?

Dana Y. T. Lin said...


Yes, it shouldn't matter if your last name is Lin.

*drags sleeve across snot encrusted nose*

I'm fat and I'm Asian and I can write, dammit!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yeah, but you're a woman.

I don't know if the world is ready for that!

(Good to see you're feeling better Dana!)

Trace said...

Hey, you grew up in my house! Where were you hiding?