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February 08, 2007

Sundry Notes, 2/8/07

Various small things:

* My e-mail appears to well and truly screwed at the moment: no mail coming in or out. It's the mail server. If you've sent me e-mail in the last few hours, I would recommend sending it again... after a few hours. If you're planning to send me e-mail, wait. If you're expecting e-mail from me, manage your expectations. If you've neither sent me e-mail nor are expecting any from me, please, go about your day as usual. This mail interruption seems part of a larger problem my host provider's having; I can't get their Web page to come up either. However, my site is up. So that's all right.

* Happy birthday to the fabulous Mary Robinette Kowal, who is celebrating her birthday by going out for Chinese food with friends. Wish I could be there. Ms. Kowal, as many of you know, did an absolutely excellent job as one of the readers of "The Sagan Diary"; honestly, I can't get through her recording of Chapter Eight without weeping like a child. And that's a good thing.

* Congratulations also to my friend Lawrence Schimel, whose anthology The Future is Queer is on the Lambda Literary Award long list. These lists will be whittled down to finalists in a couple of weeks.

* Justine Larbalestier, whose really excellent book Magic's Child was just sent to me in hardcover, which should make you all jealous because it won't be out for a month, is interviewed on BookSlut. I'm also planning to interview Justine next month; good thing she's a talker.

* This fellow wants non-Americans to boycott "American cultural products," on the rationale that "They are propaganda aimed at turning your children into mindless consumers and your nations into obedient colonies." Damn it, I hate it when my subtext is that obvious! You non-Americans aren't supposed to suspect my hegemony until after you've bought the book!

Honestly, I never know what to make of the frothy types such as this. But just for the record, non-Americans: I prefer you have children with fully-functioning brains, and that you go through life blissfully uncolonized by my country. I know that's dreadfully unhegemonic of me. But, look: Hegemony is just so much damn work. I have other things to do, you know?

Posted by john at February 8, 2007 10:41 AM

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Comments

Chris Gerrib | February 8, 2007 10:53 AM

"Weep like a baby."

Glad I'm not the only one getting choked up.

Dan | February 8, 2007 10:54 AM

So, you didn't get my email about free V17ag7R@? Ah well... You're not missing much.

Happy B'day, Ms. Kowal. Enjoy the Chinese food.

Mary Robinette Kowal | February 8, 2007 11:09 AM

Thank you! It's starting off as a banner day so far.

Ray | February 8, 2007 11:13 AM

Interesting.
What a complete friggin hypocrite that "fellow" is. I bet he:

1)Wrote that article using a Microsoft PC (and the website I'm sure is hosted in the U.S.)

2)Has no idea about how many other Country's depend on American exports to expand there own economy.

3) Has never seen Team America.

4) Is married to a goat.

Chang, father of pangolins | February 8, 2007 11:19 AM

Cultural Hegemony: It's what's for dinner all over the world!

Chang, father of pangolins | February 8, 2007 11:28 AM

Ray, that married to the goat part is fuuuuunnnny! Thank you.

That guy's goff his rocker.

Steve Buchheit | February 8, 2007 11:45 AM

Hegemony, isn't that Dan Simmon's gig?

Happy, happy Ms. Kowal. Hope it's a great one.

PixelFish | February 8, 2007 12:00 PM

Happy birthday, fellow Aquarian. :)

So every cultural artifact created in the US is propaganda? Wow. That's a very broad statement. Here I thought my fan fic/art, my own art and writing, and my design were all either for my own entertainment or to put bread on my table or both. Hrm. I hope the propaganda police don't notice that my last story is about overthrowing an imperialist state. I obviously got the wrong memo that week.

Kate | February 8, 2007 12:09 PM

Still waiting for my copies of the book from SBTP. I am holding off listening to the audio until I can hold it in my hands for a first read.

As for Mr. Goff -- Holy Hippopotamus, Batman!

While I can respect his right to free speech, I am constantly amazed at the portion of the population who use it to spread hate. Reading that post made me really agitated.

While our country has it's problems, so does everyone else in the free (and not so free world.)But apparently, the grass is greener for Mr. Goff everywhere but here.


I'm sure if someone showed up to his house with a one way airline ticket to China complete with a 'no questions asked' citizenship, he'd waffle.
(and no one likes waffles without syrup)

If I can offer one word of advice to him, since he was such a dear in offering it to everyone else.

Get out.

JonathanMoeller | February 8, 2007 12:19 PM

I've grown increasingly convinced that political bloggers (lefties and righties alike) are either batshit insane, blowhards, or brainwashed. Or all three.

And those are the *good* ones.

Justine Larbalestier | February 8, 2007 12:39 PM

You don't have to be doing hegemonising on purpose to be doing it you know, Mr Scalzi. Why back home in Australia no one says "mate" anymore; it's all "dude". And when there are emergencies the peoples dial 911 instead of 000 and there are deaths as a result! Deaths, Mr Scalzi!

I blame you, Mr Scalzi. Apologise at once. We Australians want our "mate" back.

Cassie | February 8, 2007 12:40 PM

If you've neither sent me e-mail nor are expecting any from me, please, go about your day as usual.

Good. I was worried.

Off to the pool hall with the kids.

What? Isn't that your usual day, taking the kids to the pool hall? Why not?

John Scalzi | February 8, 2007 12:41 PM

Justine:

Sorry, mate.

Justine Larbalestier | February 8, 2007 12:45 PM

I can smell the sincerity all the way to NYC. I'm touched, Mr Scalzi.

Tolladay | February 8, 2007 01:05 PM

Boy, ol Stan there sure has a bur under his saddle.

Personally, I believe western culture is the borq, and ALL will be assimilated (anyone read "Carnage and Culture" by Victor Hanson?), but this is not the same thing as colonization, nor is it as scary as his predictions. The arguments for these kind of scare tactics goes right out the window as soon as one drives around most American cities and starts to catalog the vast amount of wealth we have in our homes and cars.

If the world becomes culturally more western, then it will be the richer for it, and will also experience more personal and political freedom to boot. Sure some cultures will get sucked up whole, and very little will remain, but that was bound to happen anyway; heck, this goes on all the time.

oops! sorry to go all political y'all.

Pablo Defendini | February 8, 2007 02:04 PM

You know, coming from a Latin American nation, I can totally see where Guff is coming from, and I honestly can't say I disagree with most of his points. Although I do think that his assertion about 'American' cultural products is a bit too generalized, and somewhat out of context of the rest of his essay.

Like it or not, so-called 'American' culture, be it music, writing, movies, etc., was lionized around the world for most of the 20th century, and for good reason, I think. For the most part, American music, movies and books featured higher production values (due in no small part to larger budgets), and world-wide distribution, which contributed to the illusion of superiority when compared to many local products which may have been just as good or better, but didn't enjoy the backing of the American economic machine.

Many foreign countries (particularly the ones under direct American political or economic control) therefore developed the notion that 'anything American is better than the local equivalent, no questions asked', particularly among the upper classes, which obviously held the pursestrings and decided what to invest in. This seriously undermined the ability of local cultural workers (musicians, writers, actors, artists) to gain exposure and recognition, even within their own countries.

For example: when I was growing up, television stations would spend most of their budgets on securing the rights to dubbed American TV shows, instead of investing money in local productions. Whatever was left over was put into local productions, but it usually wasn't enough to attract the good talent, so local TV shows would end up sucking, and cultural workers end up moving to the U.S., because that's where people actually invest in their work, therefore propagating the same condition. It's a vicious cycle that still goes on today, albeit less so, I'm happy to say.

The anti-colonialist surge in the sixties, and the anti-capitalist movements in many developing countries around the world over the last thirty years, gave way to a general panning of so-called American cultural products, again on a knee-jerk basis. Suddenly, liking 'American TV' or "American Movies ' or 'Books and Comics in English' was way, way uncool, or it was viewed as a mark of cultural naivete. You start to see the exact opposite of the previous reaction: anything locally produced is automatically better than the American import, regardless of its inherent quality (or lack thereof).

Which to me says that the truth is somewhere in between. Yes, there are many many American cultural products which are nothing more than the means for a select few to profit and which serve no good purpose other than to propagate materialistic world-views, and to dumb-down and generally corrupt society further (The Apprentice, Paris Hilton, Hollywood studio movies, the music that used to be hip hop). There are also excellent productions, which we all enjoy and wish to expose as many people as possible to, because they're quality creative efforts (great TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, genre fiction, independent movies and comics, music coming out of local or underground scenes everywhere). By the same token, there are many international productions that cater to the basest, lowest-common-denominator audience, and serve to further dumb-down society (Don Francisco, Sábado Gigante, I'm talking to you); while others are true breakthroughs, or highly creative and original works (El Chavo del Ocho, Pan's Labyrinth, Almodovar's films, music by Café Tacvba or Gustavo Cerati, etc.).

It's up to the individual consumer to decide whether something is worth his or her time, and while I certainly can't disagree with Mr. Guff's assertions regarding American cultural exports in certain cases, I do think he's grossly generalizing, and I don't think that a blanket boycott of American cultural products fits all that well within the context of the rest of his 'quick-fix steps' to ending American Imperial Hegemony.

That being said, there is also the concern that American culture is becoming the template for the much-talked about and much-dreaded 'monoculture' that is one of globalization's byproducts. But that doesn't bother me too much, with the exception of being concerned that it be too one-sided. If we can get everyone to contribute to the monoculture, and make it an amalgam or a mash-up of the gestalt of human cultures around the world, I say bring it on. The more we have in common with others around the world, the less we'll be compelled to bomb the shit out of them.

Pablo Defendini | February 8, 2007 02:06 PM

Wow. I got a bit carried away there. My apologies.

Justine Larbalestier | February 8, 2007 02:39 PM

Don't apologise, Pablo, that was an excellent post. I totally agree with you. It is really really complicated.

On the one hand, there are so many things I adore about US culture and I'm incredibly influenced by many aspects of it. I make a living having my books (firstly) published in the US.

On the other, I am afraid of a monoculture. I see it happening in the US, which is itself not a monoculture, but seems to present itself as one. Most of the folks on TV and on radio who are being presented as figures of authority (newsreaders etc) have very similar accents. You get no sense of the incredible variety of ways American English is spoken unless you travel around the country.

It does sadden me when Australian singers try to sound American. The result is usually bland beyond belief.

But then the more I've travelled back and forth between my homeland and the US, the more differences I've noticed. I'm less frightened about the Americanisation of Australia now than I used to be.

I'm also heartened by my travels in places like Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Thailand and Indonesia. Where there are many competing indigenous arts going on at the same time. There are places in the world where the US really does seem a million miles away. Or rather where the parts that are useful of US culture are picked up, used, and transformed into something entirely new.

And also disheartened by seeing things like the McDonalds in those place doing good business when the local food is better and cheaper.

kurt | February 8, 2007 02:41 PM

Go read Goff's Bio and then a few of his other posted articles,

He is entitled to his opinion, but i dont have to agree with him

Bob | February 8, 2007 02:49 PM

I always think of the line from An American Werewolf in Paris: We love Americans; they have such good taste!

CJ | February 8, 2007 03:09 PM

Justine,

Are you sure that you should be posting here looking for a mate?

Justine Larbalestier | February 8, 2007 03:28 PM

CJ: It's no worries. Scott doesn't read Whatever.

Annalee Flower Horne | February 8, 2007 03:47 PM

Am I the only one who'se crying twice? I get it both during 'friendship' and during 'endings.' I'm not usually one of those people who cries about fiction, either.

Also, my roommate-the-non-geek ended up hearing a bit of 'speaking' and thought it was pretty awesome, so three points you.

John Scalzi | February 8, 2007 03:53 PM

I got choked up in more places than that, actually. I read the first chapter at an appearance and started having my voice crack halfway through. I'm apparently a very emotional reader.

Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers | February 8, 2007 04:08 PM

Being unhegemonic: wasn't that the theme of a recent movie, "Over the Hegemony"?

Annalee Flower Horne | February 8, 2007 04:20 PM

So long as it's not just me.

This might seriously be one of my favorite peices of writing ever, by the way. I mean I expected it to be good, but I was positively floored. Very nice work, and thanks again for the audiobook.

Pablo Defendini | February 8, 2007 04:27 PM

Aaaa, I'm waiting for my copy to come in before checking out the audio, too... damn you postman, hurry up!!

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