Farewell to Connected: the Orient

I think this is for the best. More than half my relatives would have been regarded by the Victorians as Oriental, but the term has never offended me, perhaps because no one in contemporary Britain can pronounce it with sincerity. But it clearly has different connotations in the States, and it wasn’t doing any useful work in Fallen London.

Honestly, there isn’t much useful work that it can do, because it conflates societies and people whose only unifying feature is the ways they were interacted with and thought about under European imperialism. I don’t know if there was a time when that was one of the things Fallen London might have come to be about, but it certainly hasn’t evolved that way.

I think Chris’s point about the writing is sound, too; the storylet Alexis linked to didn’t work for me either as humour or a contribution to the setting, perhaps because it seems so anxious about being misunderstood.

[color=#009900]It’s always rather difficult, as a writer, to respond politely to someone who tells you on your home territory that you’re not funny. Especially if they’re correct. Fortunately, neither Chris or I wrote this ([/color][color=rgb(0, 153, 0)]the terminal ‘fez’ is a typical example of Nigel Evans’ gift for prosodic comedy, IMO).[/color]
[color=#009900]I think you’re reading between the wrong lines:[/color]

  • [color=#009900]The storylet was written in early 2010 when we were far from ‘anxious about being misunderstood’ and remains unchanged (except that I removed an anachronistic doughnut), because[/color][/li][li][color=#009900]Chris and I conferred, and we happen to think it’s really quite funny and also inoffensive[/color][/li][li][color=#009900]and I linked to it as a microcosmic example and epitaph of what we were originally aiming for: &quotthe Orient&quot in gently derisive hygiene quotes.[/color]


Well, I found the snippet pretty amusing, defining Mrs. Plenty like Petronius did with Trimalchio. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person for not getting the nuances XD

I’m sorry if I’ve given offense. I tried quite hard not to; that’s one reason why I said ‘it didn’t work for me as humour’, rather than ‘it wasn’t funny’. The other is that I know different people find different things funny. For what it’s worth, I enjoy a lot of the humour in Fallen London. I also didn’t say you were ‘anxious about being misunderstood’, only that the prose came across that way to me. And I certainly didn’t say I found it offensive.

Having read it again, I can see that sentence adds nothing important to my post. I should have left it out. I do think, though, that your reply makes it sound like I said something really uncivil, and at the moment the worst thing I can find in my post is tactlessness. Which, sadly, is a perennial failing of mine. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll see what you mean; I don’t know.
edited by Flyte on 11/20/2013

[color=#009900]oh, the tone-of-voice free Internet. You haven’t given offence![/color]

color=#009900 People have been saying much worse things about my work for years, and I eat feedback and p*ss storylets. But if I ever think a piece of my own writing is so exceptional that I make a point of quoting it, and someone takes the time to post ‘meh, wasn’t all that’ then this is the noise I will make[/color]


[color=#009900]and I might or might not have my feelings hurt. This isn’t by any means an unusually sensitive writerly response, and it’s unlikely to be diverted by diplomacies like ‘personally’ or ‘for me’ or ‘of course everyone’s different’, so I thought I’d give you a friendly warning for similar cases here and elsewhere in future. Which alas didn’t come across as that friendly, apparently.[/color][color=#009900]
color=#009900 I didn’t want to take credit for Nigel’s (fine) work.[/color][color=#009900]
color=#009900 It did look like you misunderstood/I didn’t make clear why I posted the link. Whether or not that’s the case, all misunderstandings are hopefully now erased.[/color]

color=#009900 bonus advice with, honestly, no subtext: if you ever are worried you’ve been offensive, google &quoti’m sorry if I’ve offended&quot first. Your apology may not be taken as you intend it. :)[/color]

[li]edit: getting round my own curse word filter. I must fix that.[/li][li]
edited by Alexis on 11/20/2013

Flyte, as a data point, I didn’t read Alexis’s comment as offended or upset, rather correcting a possible mistaken impression on your part.

Edit: I really have to stop cross-posting with Alexis today. This is getting weird.
edited by an_ocelot on 11/20/2013

[quote=Alexis Kennedy][color=#009900] this is the noise I will make[/color]
… Harumph is a rather elephant-like noise. I would be delighted, would positively pay fate, to hear our beloved tiger keeper growl a harumph.

Sits up in anticipation, an expression of delight across her features

Holy crap, Alexis is FURIOUS. Flyte, you better be careful, or he’s going to eat you.

In Spitalfields did Mrs P
A shonky pleasure-dome decree
Near where the Stolen River ran
Through caverns measureless to man
(Pre-order Sunless Sea!)
A barren patch of swampy ground
With hurdle fences was girdled round
And there a carnival of sensuous thrills
Such sights for curious Londoners to see!
And here were jugglers dressed as emperors
And murals of exotic scenery

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
Her foul fag-end, her blue-rinsed hair!
Count your moon-pearls for her twice
And don’t dare try the lumps-with-bread
For she on well-water hath fed
And can’t be fooled at any price

…That was possibly one of the most amazing things I have ever heard.

[quote=babelfishwars][quote=Alexis Kennedy][color=#009900] this is the noise I will make[/color]
… Harumph is a rather elephant-like noise. I would be delighted, would positively pay fate, to hear our beloved tiger keeper growl a harumph.

Sits up in anticipation, an expression of delight across her features[/quote]

If Kipling is to be believed, it’s a camel-like noise. Second Kipling reference in this thread, though the first was less direct.

So will there be any differences between how ‘The Orient’ connection functions and how ‘The Widow’ connection functions? (I’m asking about expansion or removal btw). Because with this change, it would be interesting for the Widow to become more personally involved in a greater number of storylets, now that you’re connected to her rather than the entire group.[li]

P.S. Alexis, you’re not alone. I didn’t even know the term ‘Orient’ was considered offensive until I started playing Fallen London and read the FAQ.
edited by Zeek on 11/21/2013

[color=#009900]There are some very slight changes. But all the changes have now been made: enjoy the new dis-Oriented FL.[/color]

As long as the repatable action in Spite raising the connection by 10 CP, and the Urchin conflict card, remain unchanged, I’m happy with it ^^

As a matter of curiosity–is Cathayan under the same umbrella, in terms of acceptability, as Oriental? I’ve only heard Cathay and its adjectival form in old texts and things referencing them. As I understand it, it was an old name for China, as opposed to a general name for the overall region, as the Orient was (is?). But I’m about as far from China on the globe as you can be so I’m admittedly ignorant as to any further complications the name might use. I just ask because it seems to have that Victorian-era feel to it, and, while I’m not sure there’s anywhere to use it at present, options are always nice.

[color=#009900]Cathay is archaic and tended to mean specifically Northern China, though it has been used more generally, especially in poetic or picaresque writing. One of our revamped bits of content refers to ‘Nippon, Tartary, Cathay and the Princedoms of the Raj’. We’ve tended to use deliberately archaic terms (see also: Hongkong rather than Hong Kong, Peking rather than Beijing) when we wanted to emphasise the distance of history, and/or because they’re attractive words in themselves. As Chris said yesterday, specifics are usually stronger.

I’m reminded of the great deal of diversity even within a group that could be referred to as &quotTartars&quot.

If you’re the kind of person who could listen to a history professor talk about one subject for 8 hours (and I believe there are a few of us in the active FL community), I highly recommend the podcast series: Hardcore History - Wrath of the Khans by Dan Carlin. http://www.dancarlin.com/disp.php/hharchive/Show-43---Wrath-of-the-Khans-I/Mongols-Genghis-Chingis
edited by Theus on 11/21/2013

As a half-Japanese American sociologist whose specialty is race, I feel like chiming in on this conversation.

As I see it, in the US, calling someone an &quotOriental&quot is basically the same as calling someone a colored person. It’s not super offensive, but it is not the preferred terminology and has lots of problematic baggage associated with it.

Ocelot is right, ‘oriental’ has often been used to make people and cultures seem very exotic and ‘other’ which can be marginalizing and very annoying when people who have encountered these portrayals of the exotic other think that all Asian or Middle Eastern individuals they encounter must embody some kind of exotic flair. I am often asked ‘where are you from?’ and when I explain that my great grandmother came from Japan when she was a little girl and spent most of her life here and all of my family has been born and raised in the US, the follow up question is pretty much always whether I speak Japanese and although I always respond politely part of me always wants to be like really?! I just explained to you that I have little to no connection with Japan, but you still have to figure out how I am different from you and everyone else. I don’t ask white people if they speak German or whatever. What is implicit in these interactions is that I can’t be truly American. So obviously there are a lot of issues and these issues can be connected to the term Oriental.

That being said, I actually had zero problems with the use of the term in Fallen London. I can see how it may have added to the charm for many. I even incorporated it into my profile description of myself. For me it was kind of nice to indulge in some un-PCness since I spend so much of my time thinking about racial issues, and I didn’t read any disrespect in the FL usage of the term. Therefore, I am neutral about the decision to remove it because I can definitely see both sides of the equation.
edited by Asami Sato on 11/21/2013

Gah. The degree to which I feel awkward asking that is a clue that I shouldn’t ask that, perhaps.

OH LOOK, A GOAT! points in THAT direction
edited by babelfishwars on 11/21/2013

+1 for FL’s priorities. You can’t please everyone, there will be SOMEONE on the Internet who takes offense at use of articles such as “the”; but there’s a point at which one is offending enough people, and losing their participation, to merit some edits, and I’m assuming that FL made a good choice about whether it had reached that point. +1 for the Orwell passage.

I live in San Francisco, and most of my neighbors have at least some Chinese ancestry, and I was not shocked by “The Orient”. I was, however, kinda disappointed that the Connection seemed all about one particular character (the Widow), rather than narratively demonstrating connections with London residents with Asian backgrounds. So I see the re-naming as more accurate. If the Widow happened to be from Berlin, dealing with her wouldn’t constitute a connection with Germany and German culture, eh?

If my FL character could recognize the difference between someone from “the Raj” and someone from “Cathay”, and knew to greet the former in Hindi and the latter in Cantonese, then THAT would, narratively, be more about “The Orient”. (Although of course - as one might know just from reading Kipling - someone from the Raj might have Urdu as their first language, and someone from Cathay might have Mandarin as their first language.) The book which refers to “Nippon, Tartary, Cathay and the Princedoms of the Raj” illustrates awareness that there is more than one nation and more than one culture to be found in Asia, though it does not mention Arabia, Persia, Siberia, Burma, or many other Asian nations and cultures known to Victorian London.

London was the capital of an Empire, and by economic advantage, armed force, deliberate promotion of opium addiction, and other methods, was acquiring wealth and resources from many lands. Fallen London is at the mercy of the Masters. Who’s the colonizer and who’s the colonized, now?