You’ve been inspired to write something about another culture that isn’t your own. Or perhaps you’re a speculative fiction writer looking to flesh out your world map. Maybe you’ve seen a film or read an article and you feel that itch to write.

But if you’re worried about the ways you can go wrong. You hear that people will shout at you on the internet if goes wrong and you’d like to avoid that.

You’re read my first article of practical advice and want to do some more thinking beyond the usual “do research”. So here is my follow up.

No article about Mulan (2020) can open without mentioning the cultural genocide happening in China right now. The Chinese and Asian diaspora’s yearning to see people like ourselves on the big screen has coalesced into Disney’s live-action offering, a choppy regurgitation of orientalist tropes filmed a stone’s throw away from concentration camps.

When the diaspora begins to critique Mulan, it is easy for us to go back to talking about the importance of representation and historical accuracy as though the film happened in a vacuum. It is our usual approach when it comes to critiquing orientalist art. We talk about…

the four villains of each of the four seasons: Amon of the Equalists, Unalaq the Dark Avatar, Zaheer of the Red Lotus and Kuviera the Great Uniter

The Legend of Korra is defined by its villains.

Each season brings a new set with ambitious goals to change the world, from Amon looking to bring equality through ridding the world of bending to Zaheer trying to bring about freedom through anarchy. But somehow every season always seem to end with the villain personally staring down Korra and telling her that the world no longer needs the avatar.

Korra is also meant to have learnt from these villains, especially as by the beginning of the next season, she (or others) have put in place changes that are vaguely in…

Korra looks upon across the water at a green-tinted statue of Aang in position clearly meant to evoke that of the Statue of Liberty holding a flame aloft

“Why is Aang now the Statue of Liberty? Is this show set in New York now?”

That was my very first impressions of Korra. And I can’t say anything in the subsequent episodes contradicted this. The sequel to the much-lauded Last Airbender, commonly celebrated for grounding its world building on non-white cultures decided that what it really needed for its sequel is to have all the action be about this new PseudoAmerica. Despite Korra herself not being from Republic City or even The United Republic of Nations, her perspective keeps being pulled towards it. …

Every time I show my uncle a photo of my dogs[1], he’d unfailing make a jokey threat about eating Twist and Moo. Regular as clockwork.

It’s one of things I find frustrating about my own life, that there are times when it seems to conform to and confirm awful stereotypes about Chinese people.

The crude racial stereotype isn’t just a thoughtless punchline, though. It is part of a larger narrative that paints East Asian people (or specifically Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc) as monstrous and their culture as exotic and evil. …

Instead of a harsh teacher or a discouraging parent, the Critical Voice I’ve internalised is that of the nitpicking internet hate-reader.

And I say this as a nitpicking internet hate-reader. I have absolutely been there.

But let’s begin at the beginning.

It’s no secret that a good bonfire of rage gets more clicks than love.

There’s several cottage industries built around consuming and mocking media of all stripes, from the So Bad It’s Good to celebrated blockbusters, from charting pop songs to trashy novels.

There are many excellent, very thoughtful critiques of narrative in popular media, including novels, which use…

Note: this contains basically all the spoilers

It’s impossible to talk about The Rise of Skywalker without addressing the huge, hateful backlash to The Last Jedi and to a lesser extent, The Force Awakens.

The endless, painful conversations about how Rey is a Mary Sue, how she must be related to powerful legendary Jedi, how Rose Tico is a terrible character, how Luke’s character was ruined because he’s not a superhero, etcetc, have all been rattling around the internet, along with aggressive harassment campaigns that hounded both Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran from social media. …

We stand on this land worn by tears

But our rage burns away all our fears

Lift your face, find your voice, free your silent tongue

For our freedom shall be won.

We march though our tears cloud the path

We march with no doubt in our hearts

Blood falls with our tears, but we still march on,

To bring freedom to Hong Kong

Though the stars are drowning in the sky,

For people lost in smoke there sounds a rallying cry.

“Claim our rights! United we fight

And light up the night

With hope, with art, with bravery.”

Come now the dawn,

Break the dark,

Free Hong Kong.

Rise as one

Revolution of our time.

Democracy shall be our guiding song,

We’ll bring freedom to Hong Kong

John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Astounding Science Fiction, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.

But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.

And I am so proud to be part of this. To share with you my weird little story, an amalgam of all…

The Discourse returns again to the dynamics of cultural appropriation and white writers and the calling out of individual problematic books.

In years past, I would have posted my long diatribe of a deconstruction of books in question and show you its guts. Make a sideshow of it. But for all the hyperbole I would employ in the write up, a lot of these books by white writers are just a bit meh. …

Jeannette Ng

novelist, hair wizard, game designer

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