Monday’s panels were a bit of a let-down. We started with the Diversity in Criticism panel, which had been given only an hour but could have benefited from a lot longer. I also had one of those experiences where I could not work out whether someone really wanted to kill me with her mind-lasers, or was just very tired and desperately trying to focus.
One comment I would have made, had there been time, was in response to Aisha noting that a lone critic from another country often gets cast in the role of expert on her people and their literature. That does happen to me in the case of trans people, but just as often I get people assuming that I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about because I’m one of those crazy people who don’t know their own minds.
Which brings me to the Queering Anime panel. I was pleased to have some interesting recommendations of anime and manga with trans themes. However, I was a bit concerned that the panel was all white, and that three Japanese people in the audience stayed silent throughout. When interpreting the meaning of art from another culture you have to understand that culture really well. What the panel did make clear was that Japanese culture was changing significantly as a result of Western influences. However, I’m really not confident about Western interpretations of the meaning of gender-swapping story lines in Japanese fiction, especially because a lot of what was being said about trans people in general, especially by the audience, was considerably less than enlightened. I had this awful feeling that at times I was seeing the equivalent of a foreigner looking at UK culture and enthusing about how pantomime dames are a wonderful example of trans people in British theater.
Following that I did a couple of interviews from Ujima. One was with Glenda Larke, and is all about being an Australian woman who marries into a Muslim Malaysian family. The other was with Ann Leckie, whom I had not met before and who turned out to be utterly delightful and very smart (as you might guess from her book). We spent a bit of time (outside the interview) speculating on how we might film Ancillary Justice and still get the head-exploding effect that the use of female pronouns has in the written version. I’m now actually quite keen to see the book filmed (assuming we can get the production company to play ball).
In between those two interviews I had a long chat with Candas Jane Dorsey about what she’s doing these days. If there is anyone out there from a major publisher wanting a really great YA novel, you should chase her up.
I missed the BASFA Meeting due to interviewing Ann, but I gather it was suitably anarchic, even without Chris Garcia.
Most of the rest of the day was spent in the company of a group of Israelis who are delightful people (and utterly despairing of their government). This included a trip on the Emirates Air Line cable car service from the Excel across the river to the O2 Dome. I would not recommend taking the trip on a windy day, but having taken a cab back I can recommend it as a fast and cheap method of transport.