?

Log in

No account? Create an account

The Past | The Previous

Retarded Children

The other day, Gary Kemble (garykemble) and I got talking in the comments of a post about people inferring that Australian authors are considered lesser than international ones. He didn't think people were saying so, but I did.

It's true, though, in that I do think this. Whenever local lists are generated in this country, there's an almost B-Grade feel to them, as if they're listing an entirely different group of authors than the those that the international ones are existing on. Call it the retarded child syndrome, really: you know that a retarded kid isn't going to be able to compete with the normal kids, so you set up a different set of judgments for the poor sod and, now separated from the rest of the kids born with all their fingers and toes, you say, "They did pretty well for a retarded kid." Except, of course, you don't say retarded. You say mentally disabled. You say fucked up. You say Australian author. You know how it goes.

The question that I find myself with, later, however, is why this is done. It's not just a literature thing, but one of those things that covers the country. Australian music, Australian film, Australian bullfighting: Retarded Kids and Their Activities (though, of course, there are exceptions to these rules, such as Australian Cricket, in which the rest of the world is retarded, and Australians end up being bored and saying things like, "Sure, the team's good, but it's not very exciting to watch them. Maybe if the opening batsmen were replaced with teenagers from the cancer ward?"). Part of the answer is, of course, that within the country there is a mentality that you should support local things, because the international imports threaten the growth of the local industries. That was what the Australian Made pitch was done on, and to be honest, it's not one that I have a particular problem with. We should promote Australian things, simply because the industry--any, I'm not fussed--is one that can do with more audience.

But I wonder, also, if that same statement doesn't allow for Australian work to exist in a continual bubble of substandard content. You wonder--and by you, I mean myself--if, by being so distinct in its categories, the conversation of Australian work and International work doesn't impact on the people creating it, and the people producing it?

Especially with the bullfighting, y'know. Australian bullfighting has been coasting for years.

Comments

( 87 Soaking Up Bandwidth — Soak Up Bandwidth )
random_alex
Jan. 4th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)
I agree with you to some extent - we're certainly defensive enough about our achievements... I wonder if it comes from a history of having to defend being worthwhile counted as a country, and not just being colonials? One thing I'll say in my defence - since I am guilty over the last week of putting up a specifically Aussie list - is the reason I did this was to celebrate those Aussies, to say how good we are; I used the same criteria for the list as I will for an international one. I wonder whether other colonial places feel the same? Australia has nation-specific awards - NZ too - even Britain has a few, I now remember, exploding my colonials theory... and I can't think of one that is US-specific. Possibly because they don't need to make it clear, they just generally *do* end up being all American. Cos, after all, they are the superior race.
girliejones
Jan. 4th, 2008 07:07 am (UTC)
My list won't be the same criteria cause I didn't find enough home grown stuff to make a full list!
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 07:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 07:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - random_alex - Jan. 4th, 2008 07:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 07:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bluetyson - Jan. 4th, 2008 09:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 4th, 2008 09:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 4th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bluetyson - Jan. 4th, 2008 09:26 am (UTC) - Expand
rosefox
Jan. 4th, 2008 07:00 am (UTC)
I see the same thing in the GLBT publishing world. A substantial portion of the books I got when I was judging last year's Lambda awards were frankly awful, and put out by tiny publishers who offered little in the way of editing or production values. You'd only hear about any of them if you were immersed in the queer publishing world. It's ridiculous.

Of course, you could probably say the same thing about SF&F publishing in general.

It's very hard to draw the line between "we're a community and we support one another" and "we're happy here in the ghetto and drag down anyone who tries to leave it". Just look at the hissing and spitting whenever a mainstream reviewer says that a book has "transcended science fiction". On the one hand, that does have the condescending sound of "pretty good for the Special Olympics"; on the other hand, a lot of the hissing and spitting is directed at the author, who has presumably Sold Out (whatever that means) and is now busily denying any and all ties to the community of people who bought their early space opera trilogy. Usually the author actually has no intention of selling out or turning their back on genre fans or genre publishing, but they get dumped on all the same.

It's all very stupid.
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2008 07:19 am (UTC)
yeah, i figure it exists in all kinds of worlds. you see it in the 'independents vs the mainstreams' conversations, too, which i suppose is what all defines the whole conversation as a whole.

it is, like you say, all real stupid.

did like the special olypmics bit tho :)
(no subject) - rosefox - Jan. 4th, 2008 08:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 09:10 am (UTC) - Expand
girliejones
Jan. 4th, 2008 07:07 am (UTC)
I must say that one of the reasons I have the distinction is that it makes it easy to say what is eligible for the Australian Awards.
The other thing is so many people claim that they only read local stuff cause they don't have time or whatever - its actually quite hard and expensive to read overseas hard copies of mags - so I thought it would be a way of engaging more people in discussion. As an aside, it hasn't done so.
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2008 07:22 am (UTC)
yeah, it would be nice if it engaged people in a discussion, but it's a struggle to do that. it's a struggle to get people talking in this scene about any work, really.
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 4th, 2008 07:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bluetyson - Jan. 4th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 5th, 2008 10:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bluetyson - Jan. 5th, 2008 11:39 am (UTC) - Expand
catsparx
Jan. 4th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
I believe in the value of diversity. The American cultural juggernaut rolls right over the top of many things. We can let that happen -- and mostly, when it comes to entertainment, we do. But sometimes its good to take stock of diversity, even if only to evaluate if there is any. Are there any lesbian/gay SF authors? Australian SF authors? women SF authors? Isn't it OK to ask this question and find out? Just cos you might want to know? Or should we just roll along with the great machine. If you're any good you'll just percolate your way to the top by natural selection.

I think Australian authors who only evaluate their progress against other Australian authors are deluding themselves, but the Internet is making this practice harder and harder to sustain. When I see a list of Australian achievements, I don't picture retarded children. I'm interested in knowing about it, just as I'm interested in knowing how many of the cans I buy from the supermarket contain local produce. Doesn't mean I won't eat beans from Thailand, but I want to *know* how globalisation affects my life.

Do you feel like second best when you think of yourself as Australian? if so, why is that?
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2008 08:06 am (UTC)
nah, i don't view myself as second best when i think of myself as being australian. i like it well enough, and i like writing about australia.

but the lists make me think it, and i think in part it's because for many australian authors, being 'diverse' is not what they do. they aren't that different to other authors--especially in spec fic, where the aus culture is stripped out a lot, so it makes the local content kinda pointless.
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 4th, 2008 08:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 08:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 4th, 2008 08:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bluetyson - Jan. 4th, 2008 09:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 3lobed - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bluetyson - Jan. 4th, 2008 12:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bluetyson - Jan. 4th, 2008 12:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_benpayne119 - Jan. 4th, 2008 09:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catsparx - Jan. 4th, 2008 10:29 am (UTC) - Expand
ex_benpayne119
Jan. 4th, 2008 09:25 am (UTC)
I don't have a problem with sets and subsets... you know, I don't mind if someone asks my favourite dish, and this week I'll say maybe hmmm... palak paneer! Then someone else could ask my favourite mexican dish and I'll say ummmm.. enchillada!

Does that mean I think Mexican food is inferior and cannot compete with Indian and world food? No. it's just about a subset...

Same goes for Australian writing. When I do my list of the best stories of the year, the Australian stuff will be compared to the stuff published worldwide. When I do my Australian list, it's compared to other Australian writing... I don't see that as patronising, it's just context.

Sure, the goal of all art is to be as good as it can be, and any writer worth their salt will want to compete with the best in the world... but that doesn't mean the milestones along the way are meaningless...

Sure, some authors might take their local success as a sign that they've done enough and stop trying to get better... the problem's with them, not with the people who gave them the award or accolade.... and ultimately they're only hurting themselves...
bluetyson
Jan. 4th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)
There's a reality show for you :- International Iron Chef Deathmatch. Fajitas vs Rogan Josh.
(no subject) - bluetyson - Jan. 4th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 4th, 2008 08:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
bluetyson
Jan. 4th, 2008 09:27 am (UTC)
Ice hockey team probably needs a rev up, too.
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
yeah. the ice hockey team sucks.
ashamel
Jan. 4th, 2008 09:32 am (UTC)
Braving the shoals of provocation and insult, here's my thoughts on the matter. When I created my pages devoted to Australian Horror and Australian comics, it was done as a fan. I thought these things were really good, and deserved to be shared. My recommendations are sincere, and I believe it is useful to group them together because there are indeed common themes to be teased out, and artists who have influenced each other -- and just because it is interesting. Perhaps because presenting them in a united front may lead people to examples they would otherwise overlook (distribution and marketing is naturally appalling), and even because I think there are things to be proud of therein.

(It amuses me greatly that three of the four Lothian horror novels seemed to fit the feel of Aussie horror from the movies, in their different ways -- including Prismatic, which wasn't deliberate. Even the 40 minute film I wrote in the early 90s was similar, which I only realised much later. It seems the Lothian book that didn't fit was more successful overseas, I might note.)

Can that be sustained, especially if it gets out of control like my comic gallery that tries to list everything? Maybe not. Even I'm not quite sure about the point of it these days.

And what happens if there isn't that critical mass of quality that attracted me in the first place? Do we just fold the whole thing up and say we won't bother any more? I don't see it happening, even if anyone could actually agree that was happening -- I'm certainly not an arbiter of such things.

So lists continue, which may or may not be a good thing -- but since they are of interest to at least one group (those who are trying to get themselves onto them), I don't see it as a bad thing.
garykemble
Jan. 4th, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC)
Do we just fold the whole thing up and say we won't bother any more?

I'll meet you down the pub at 4.30. :)
(no subject) - ashamel - Jan. 4th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashamel - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashamel - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
hollowpoint
Jan. 4th, 2008 09:36 am (UTC)
It's not just Australia - look at the Mercury Music Awards.

Actually that's an unfair example, as most of the contestants are retarded children.

(Personally I don't put much stock in local lists and awards and so on but, specific problems with specific examples aside, I think it's good that they exist as they serve promotional purposes which [I imagine] help small and indie presses a little.)
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
yeah, but here's a conversation i had with someone who was a judge on the aurealis awards this year:

'why do they give awards to books that are hard to find? that's just silly. it should go to books people can get without a problem.'
(no subject) - hollowpoint - Jan. 6th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
jody_macgregor
Jan. 4th, 2008 09:51 am (UTC)
Coincidentally, voting is now open in the JJJ Hottest 100.
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
awesome!

i didn't listen to jjj for much of 2007, actually. what they're playing these days doesn't work for me most of the time.
ataxi
Jan. 4th, 2008 11:01 am (UTC)
Storm, meet teacup
Every community has its local competitions and local pecking orders. Sometimes there isn't, or isn't regular enough examination of how that local currency could or would translate to currency in the wider world.

So what? This is not a uniquely Australian, or uniquely Australian-sf, or uniquely anything problem.

You're saying "look guys the Australian 100m sprint champion wouldn't even make the Olympic semi-final so why the fuck do you care?", but your having said it doesn't change what the champion's worth - the champion succeeds and fails in each sphere on their merits in relation to that sphere. And sometimes, the local champion is the world champion.

Success in a wider sphere than that of Australian sf might matter more to you because the local market probably doesn't have the appetite for your work needed to provide you with an independent living from your writing - which as a writer above all else, I'm sure you'd on some level like to have.

By the way I resolve the question of whether Australian work exists "in a continual bubble of substandard content" by not looking at Australian work that I regard as substandard ... and so does the rest of the generic reading public. And we don't give two shites about awards! And I haven't read a book by an Australian in over six months.

benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Storm, meet teacup
And I haven't read a book by an Australian in over six months.

i've read a bunch, but i've a reviewing gig, so...

anyhow, mostly i'm talking about this stuff again cause the conversation seemed worth a shake at, and it gets people participating on the blog, which seems a bit down of late. but your point of the wider sphere mattering to me more is quite valid, of course. you go where the cash is.
strangedave
Jan. 4th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
The same argument would essentially say there is no point having national sporting competitions. Why bother competing if its not an international competition? Abolish state teams, international competition or nothing!

There is nothing wrong with having a local scene, and paying attention to it. Its only when you think because its local it is immune to criticism that it becomes a problem.
benpeek
Jan. 4th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
The same argument would essentially say there is no point having national sporting competitions. Why bother competing if its not an international competition? Abolish state teams, international competition or nothing!

ah, but are not state teams seen in some areas to be the breeding ground of international teams? and isn't the international team seen as something 'higher' than the state?

i get your point though, and likewise, i don't disagree with the other part of the post.
(no subject) - strangedave - Jan. 5th, 2008 04:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strangedave - Jan. 5th, 2008 04:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 5th, 2008 04:43 am (UTC) - Expand
garykemble
Jan. 4th, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)
You wonder--and by you, I mean myself--if, by being so distinct in its categories, the conversation of Australian work and International work doesn't impact on the people creating it, and the people producing it?

No, because writers are always striving for the next 'hit'. Once you start racking up a few local publication credits you want to break into international mags.

Like Cat says, authors who judge themselves purely against local content are kidding themselves.

(And, underlying this, there's the whole cultural cringe thing, where Australians want to be validated by attracting an international audience).

P.S. Yeeeees, I've finally been the subject of a post on Ben Peek's blog. I've made it! I'll be holding seminars -- How I Made My Fortune Through Blogging -- from January 26 at the Punctuation Institute of South Sydney. :)
garykemble
Jan. 4th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Seminar title has been changed to: "Blogging Your Way to Fame and Fortune in the Antipodes (sponsored by McDonalds)"

Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 4th, 2008 10:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 4th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 5th, 2008 12:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garykemble - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 5th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Jan. 6th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
I think there's no question that this train of thought is due to a post-colonial mindset to some extent, and more specifically, the peculiar Australian inheritance that 'criminals will never beget intellectuals'. Load of tosh, and not a new argument, but I do think it lurks behind most discussions of the quality and originality of Oz lit. Also, most Australian authors have to work with English, which is a very mixed blessing. If you write in English, you automatically compete on an international market because it is English. Yet it's harder to express the local and specific in a national voice if that voice speaks the language of globalization.

Belief in the quality of local production doesn't have much to do with the size of the market - Icelanders KNOW that we produce literature of the highest standard. The rest of the world is just unfortunate to have to read translations because they don't speak our beautiful language, poor sods.

Happy new year.
Agnes
benpeek
Jan. 7th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
if i could speak icelandic, i totally would :)

anyhow, yes, i do think there is something to be discussed in the back of the colonial mindset. maybe i'll actually get time to do something with it. prolly not though.

hey, i hope you're doing wlel over there, too.

b
( 87 Soaking Up Bandwidth — Soak Up Bandwidth )

Profile

benpeek
benpeek
Ben Peek

Latest Month

October 2016
S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow