The Problem With Exotic

Posted by Niall Harrison

An excellent post by Tori Truslow, on wrestling with the judges' comments when giving her short story an honourable mention in the James White Award:

Tori Truslow’s ‘Train in Vain’ is a compelling tale of exotic intrigue and intricate automata, told in breathlessly vivid and evocative prose. There is no let up in narrative pace in this highly believable blend of fantasy and adventure. There’s wit too, and a hint of darkness amid the exotic imagery. We were desperate to know how the story would be resolved and we’re convinced others will be as well.

Now, this puts me in a rather awkward position. As I said, I'm tremendously grateful to be recognised, but I'm also deeply uncomfortable at the language used here, and I can't not say something. Whatever the merits/non-merits of this individual story are, it's another white-filtered representation of a country and culture that only ever gets represented in SFF by white authors, and this is a problem in itself, but especially so when that writing gets valued in terms of its exoticness.

Am I part of the problem here? Of course. I may not have meant to, but I probably did play into exoticism in this story. I contribute – however inadvertently – to the exotification of Thailand, and instead of being criticised, I’m praised for it. And round we go.