So when I first translated those comments, it was strictly for amusement, but I’ve seen that some of you have been rather uncertain as to how to take them. Some have interpreted it as Chinese people being racist, while others are wondering if the Chinese know of some super-awesome novels that we don’t about. In this post, I’d hopefully address some of these things to help you guys get a more complete picture and better understand the Chinese reaction.
Fusing Profound Mysteries – Classy English vs Bad Prose
For many Chinese, asking them to understand why these novels are being translated into English is as hard as fusing two types of profound mysteries together. This is because in China, generally speaking, English (and the ability to speak/read in it well) is considered a mark of class, success, fine education, etc.; it’s almost like how some of us in the West view Latin, if Latin weren’t a dead language. At the same time, many people in China ‘love to hate’ some of these webnovels for the same reasons like how many Westerners like to hate on Michael Bay movies, Dan Brown novels, or heck, Twilight; they aren’t exactly ‘fine art’, the prose can be indisputably awful, and the very fact that they are extremely successful despite that just increases the level of saltiness!
So for many Chinese, their ‘balls hurt’ when they see this; they ‘know’ English is classy, but they also ‘know’ that some of these webnovels are hacky in terms of prose and sometimes plot/characterization. How to reconcile these two truths which are seemingly opposite?! As fusing profound mysteries to find a profound truth is hard, for the most part, the easiest answer is just to say….these foreigners are just crazy/don’t have any idea what good Chinese literature is!
Location, Location, Location – Different Places, Different Reactions
The thread where I referenced many of the comments I translated was a very critical one, but the specific subforum (much like a ‘subreddit’) was the ‘Bilibili’ subforum, which focuses on anime and manga, and not on light novels. As with any enormous community, the subcommunities within are often playfully dismissive of other ones (geeks vs nerds, comics vs manga, Naruto vs Bleach, etc.), and that was one of the reason for why the thread was strongly negative. In some of the other subforums, especially the ones devoted to 奇幻 fantasy webnovels, the reaction was MUCH more positive, and some people even started a game of ‘guess the webnovel’, where they would post the name in English and have people try and guess what the original Chinese name was! There is also quite a good deal of praise for the translations, so don’t think that it’s all negative!
My Grass vs Your Treasure – Market Saturation
The novels that you have been reading, especially Stellar and CD, are tremendously, tremendously popular in China; these stories have made their authors multimillionaires, and have tens of millions of PAID pageviews (each), and have been spun off into manga (ugh), successful MMORPG’s, and more. But at the same time, China has a bad ‘copycat’ culture, and so in the past 8-10+ years, there has been a veritable deluge of similar types of Xianxia/fantasy webnovels. 8-10 years of anything is enough to make someone sick to death of something! And of course, just like in the West, the more popular something is, the more ‘cool’ it is to hate on it (to be frank, IET’s prose makes that easy!), which is why you are saw so many comments suggesting other things to translate (many of the suggestions were in completely different genres).
I’ve flipped through quite a few of the suggestions, and quite frankly, most of them aren’t nearly as well known or as successful in China as some of the works we are doing here, even though the prose might be better. So when you see them say, “XXXX sucks, why don’t they work on YYYY instead?” Just imagine it being like a ‘true’ otaku dismissively saying, “Why do you read Naruto? That’s junk. Go read some real manga like [manga no one has heard of].” Or maybe, “Dragon Ball Z was so repetitive and boring and blahblahblah! You should check out some real anime like [anime no one has seen].” Otaku-pride! That’s really pretty much it!
Oh Please God Don’t Let Them Think This Of Us
Here’s the last reason for some of their reactions; Chinese people are very proud of their culture and literature. One of the undertones from the comments, I could tell, was, “Oh please God, don’t let the foreigners think this stuff is representative of Chinese culture” and “oh god, how embarrassing!”. And I kinda understand this! My own mother, when reading some of these novels, recently expressed the concern of, “I’m worried that these foreigners are going to think that Chinese are all violent and will kill people at the drop of a hat for ‘not giving face’!” [LOL!!!] I’ve seen quite a few comments like, “oh that’s just how Chinese literature is” or “that’s how it was in ancient China” with regards to all the violence, the recent graphic scene in MGA, slavery, and more. And, well…no it isn’t xD. These stories that we are working on in Xianxia/Qihuan/Xuanhuan are a small subset under the online ‘fantasy’ genre, and they are basically a ‘power fantasy’ type genre; very popular, but they can’t be considered ‘representative’ of ‘Chinese literature’.
So anyhow, there you go! That’s some of the reasons underlying the negative reaction you saw in the previous post. I hope this helps everyone get a better understanding of why there were the reactions they were!
Okay, lost an hour typing this. Time to go to work, both real work and chapter work! 🙂