There’s a situation unfolding right now that has me pretty steamed. But I’m not convinced that I can really add much to the conversation that hasn’t already been said by people who are both more affected and more involved.
In light of that a quick suggested reading list:
A storify to bring you up to speed on the key argument
A link to the comments which precipitated the situation
An extract on File 770 quoting the comment
Alyssa Wong’s blog (she hasn’t written about this situation there as of posting, but it’s still worth adding to your reading list).
A backgrounder on fail_fandmanon
I’m happy to add to this list if anybody knows of other places its being discussed. Priority will be given to Chinese voices.
Again, I’m pretty outraged about the comments, but the worst of them (certainly the actually slurry part) were pointed firmly at Chinese people, so for the most part I’d rather just shut up and let the affected people speak for themselves.
There is one thing I do want to mention: I voted for the Three Body Problem. I’ve publicly said that it not only deserved the Hugo but also deserves some serious consideration in the big literary fiction prizes. And I don’t say this hyperbolically. When I reviewed the book long before it was on the Hugo ballot, I mentioned how it incorporated themes regarding chaos and stability in multiple levels and ways, creating a wonderful thesis about the shape of history with a deft touch that belied a depth of introspection and of reading.
I’m jumping the gun a bit since I haven’t finished, but I see similar signs in The Dark Forest despite this book having a rather different central thesis. What’s more, one of the first parallels that stood out to me is with Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain, which won the Nobel Prize. Gao’s assessment of how we construct ideas of the identities of the people in our lives is a brilliant part of what makes that book special, and the same key questions are explored with Liu’s book as part of a multi-leveled question regarding the boundaries of communication.
When you combine Liu’s deftness with thesis construction and exploration with the evident depth of his reading you already have something worthy of serious academic recognition. Adding in the exceptional translation artistry of Ken Liu in the first volume just is icing on the cake.
So, no, I didn’t vote for the Three Body Problem to support communism. And anyone who would default to that suggestion is an asshole. That being said, the suggestion that one must either A) repudiate all communism or B) love the cultural revolution, is such an obvious example of both Black or White fallacies and Loaded Question fallacies that this construction alone is kind of insulting.
I am an anarcho-communist. Being communist is a big part of that. So is a large anarchist streak. This is an admittedly utopian view, which is why I generally default to positions not THAT far off of social democracy for practical discussion, BUT, it is one that is antithetical to the authoritarian excesses of the stalinist and maoist states.
Look at it this way: if I said you must either repudiate Capitalism entirely or love Augusto Pinochet, you’d say I wasn’t being fair. But that’s what this construction is proposing!
Furthermore there’s a lot of arrogance in the assumption somebody knows what Liu’s thoughts are about the Chinese state entirely from his writing on the Cultural Revolution in one book. Spoiler alert: plenty of people in China are both patriotic and think that MUCH of what happened between the ’50s and the ’70s was wrong. And some don’t. And others aren’t patriotic. Because China is a huge, massively diverse place. And for the most part people are able to form opinions about stuff there subject to no more propagandist control than the average American. And history is inherently complex, which lends nuanced and complex perspectives on nationhood strength, not just in China but pretty much anywhere people actually spend the time and effort to think about the question in more complex terms than, “how many tea bags can I staple to a tri-corn hat?”
Ok, so that went on longer than I intended. Basically, short form: if somebody says, “that’s a slur, don’t call my people that,” then apologize and find different ways of describing those people in the future. It’s a fucking slur. And if you’re only doing this to try to score a weak rhetorical point by proposing that readers of an exceptional novel that is very worthy of awards on literary merit alone, notwithstanding politics, only awarded the book because of what you view as their misreading of that book’s author’s politics, perhaps you should get your head out of your own ass.