‘You should write stories from your own culture.’
This was a message sent to me by someone on Wattpad, presumably taking umbrage at some of my AU ideas and hybrid use of elements. To that person, I have to say: You’ve no idea what my cultural background is. You’ve never met me, And if you did, how would you tell? By my physical appearance? Be careful. Or maybe it would be my language? I speak more than one, by the way. What happens then? But let me pose a question that gets straight to the heart of the issue I feel bothers you: If I am not of Chinese background, I have no business writing 3310 fanfiction, is that it?
What if I were Chinese, would the way I write my fanfics still be “wrong”?
I consider the fanfiction stories I’ve written to be “Chinese fantasy-inspired works”. Inspired is the key term because I’m basing fantasy upon fantasy. I am not writing academic papers or scholarly cultural studies. I am writing fantasy fiction. F.i.c.t.i.o.n. It’s not real. The characters and situations are not real. You get that, right?
‘You should write stories from your own culture.’ What does that mean? I can’t write a story about firefly vampires unless I’m Ghanaian? The Loch Ness monster unless I’m Scottish? A spirit of the Corn unless I’m Mohawk? Or a story about Egyptian gods unless I’m from Egypt? I’m pretty sure most stories about werewolves these days aren’t being written by European authors.
While we’re at it, does this apply only to story writing or does it apply to reading them too? Where do translated works from different cultures fit in this? Does it mean I wasn’t supposed to read an English version of Cervantes’ Don Quixote unless it was translated by a Spaniard? I must dismiss Dumas’ The Three Musketeers that I loved back in high school because it wasn’t a Frenchman who’d translated it to modern day English? Let’s use an example from China, Journey to the West. I’m pretty sure the version I read had not been translated by a Chinese. As for 3310, forget having read To the Sky Kingdom, the English translation of Tang Qi’s novel. The translator, Poppy Toland, is British –having “only” studied Chinese in the UK.
Ah hell, maybe I’m not supposed to watch foreign dramas and movies with subtitles either then, only in their original language. Goodbye Eternal Love; Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. Gee, that would cut quite a few fans out of the equation, wouldn’t it.
But I digress…
Mixing elements and combining genres is nothing new in story writing. How else would the likes of paranormal mystery, comedy horror, urban fantasy, supernatural drama, sci-fi western to name a few have ever come about if this were never done?
There is a term, xuanhuan. It translates to “mysterious fantasy”. It’s a term used to describe Chinese fantasy mixed with foreign elements. Hmm… I’ve also seen it explained as a mishmash of different elements with Chinese flavouring, or fictional stories that contain Chinese mythology with “peculiar” elements. My point is that stories of mixed mythologies and fairy tales exist. What I do is nothing new. And it is nothing wrong.
If my stories give offense to some, then don’t read my stories. It seems in these times, no matter what, someone is going to be offended by something. Anyone is welcome to write a story. Just as anyone may choose to read one, or not.
I’ll conclude by stating that if writing elements, translating stories, or reading/watching works that don’t belong to “your” culture is taboo, the world would be all the poorer.
March 31, 2021 Agree with fruitydeer, kept writing and please don’t be bothered by it. You never so many people coveted any brilliant writers creativity. Loved to watched paranormal and supernatural stories, TV program, Series and Movies. Scary but it will exercises your mind to be alert on things around us in this stranged universe we’re living. There’s a new series I’m watching “THE IRREGULARS” and I’m so delighted that the main character actress was Asian. Excellent and brilliant writers can wrote anything, any cultures came to mind. Great job of what you’re doing and accomplished already.👍👏💖
Thanks Edna, I’ll have to check out the Irregulars.
Ugh. Every fandom or subculture will always have its gatekeepers. Those people are definitely not representative of the majority. Honestly, as long as the source material or culture in question isn’t being butchered insensitively, what’s wrong with paying tribute through creative writing? I, for one, welcome the portrayal of Asian characters in fiction in ways that are empowering and break away from the stereotypes that media has tried to shove down our throats. You keep on doing you 🙂
Thanks fruitydeer. Reading your message made me feel better. ❤️
I agree with your thoughts about this issue. The creative freedom to explore different cultures and incorporate those new and exciting ideas into stories, movies, and other creative works adds a richness to the world that should be embraced and encouraged. And does it not help us all understand each other just a little bit better when we explore different cultures? We need a little more of that, imho. That’s one of the main reasons I love watching foreign films and dramas. It helps me see the world from a viewpoint I may never have considered before. If I use what I’ve learned in a story, I appreciate it all the more.
@Marie Bisset. True, I do loved watching Netflix right now since Mark Chao movie The Yin Yang Master. So many paranormal and Supernatural stories I’m hooked eg. The Irregularities, The Witcher of my fave Henry Cavill, The Umbrella Academy, The Gift and more to watch in counting and of course, ETERNAL LOVE 😘💕 Thank you for your hard work to kept us going reading and re-reading your awesome stories especially YE HUA AND BAI QIAN. Don’t let anyone distracted you in writing whatever jeep to mind. Mysterious, Romantic, Humor, Thrilling, Captiviting, Horror name it I’m game with like others. Kudos to you and Elisabeth Long. Much love from the Cowboy City/ Province. Take care, be safe and blessing.👍👏💖
A creative coming together is how I view it too. Sadly not a view shared by all.
It completely buggles my mind how petty, ignorant and parochial people can get. I am not surprised with that message. There are people out their who gets offended with anything. You are a fabulous writer with a growing loyal following. Continue with your stories. They are a balm to us readers in these challenging times
March 31, 2021. I can agree more here. You can’t make everyone happy but to criticized great writers and questioned your ethnicity was a slapped on the face. They should slapped their face instead, really. Love Netflix right now, “THE IRREGULARITIES” Series main character and actress was Asian. Those kind of ignorance should apologize to Elisabeth Long. People coveted too much now, this stupid cultures at present time should be stopped and cancelled. My POV.
Thanks Jan. It really threw me when I got that message.