One of the things you don’t want to happen when you are traveling is have a major online row break out that you feel you need to comment on. Thankfully Nick Mamatas has said most of what I wanted to say, and from the perspective of Haikasoru which lends it more weight.
I do, however, want to focus in on one small part of Norman Spinrad’s somewhat bumbling and insensitive article. Talking about what he perceives as a lack of SF from “Third World” countries, he says:
If it exists, I haven’t seen a significant amount of it translated into any language I can read
Well, there’s a reason for that. It is partly about markets. The bigger the readership you have for a book the better, so you tend to want to write in a language that a lot of people read. That means you should go for Mandarin, English, Spanish, Arabic or Russian. Bearing in mind the relative wealth of the readers, French, German and Japanese might be good too. Portuguese is probably on the way up. Urdu and Bengali are also interesting prospects, but if you live in India you may choose to write in English because India has a lot of different native languages. If your native tongue is Yoruba then you may well choose to write in English, because a lot of Nigerians speak it anyway and it gives you access to a wider market. Spinrad, I suspect, will view anyone writing in English as “Western-influenced” and therefore not really “Third World”.
The other reason, and you’ll get bored of my saying this soon, is that the English speaking world is woefully uninterested in translated fiction. That’s why some friends and I have started translation awards. Perhaps if Mr. Spinrad were to read the blog there regularly (and the excellent World SF News blog) he would become somewhat better informed. And if he’d like to help support the awards we may see a lot more translated fiction in the future.