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REVIEW: How Many Light-Years to Babylon?




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gridsleep
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Joined: 17 Feb 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 5:13 am Reply with quote
This use of genderless plural pronouns is just going to make the world more and more annoying and I am going to end up punching somebody.
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SHD



Joined: 05 Apr 2015
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 12:16 pm Reply with quote
I have zero problems with "they/them" and whatnot, but in this particular case... The publisher uses "he/him" for the character:

SevenSeasEntertainment wrote:
The self-contained manga by fan-favorite creator Douman Seiman (The Voynich Hotel) that won the Seiun Sci-Fi Award! Follow the tale of an Earthling determined to find out why his home planet was destroyed…while sleeping with as many alien girls as possible.

It can be pretty lonely being the only member of your species—just ask “Bub”, an amnesic Earthling who woke up in outer space and discovered that Earth had been destroyed. As he travels through multiple universes, Bub must figure out his past, what happened to his home planet, and how to best pick up alien chicks—the human race won’t repopulate itself, after all!


And from what I can see and read about the character, the gender is male, with no surprise revelations re: gender identity, even if there's playing with presentation.

So why "they"...?
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octopodpie
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Joined: 02 May 2011
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:22 pm Reply with quote
As the review literally says:

Quote:
At various points, their sex and/or gender presentation change too, sometimes between scenes or even from panel to panel with the same rapid-fire delivery as the comedic gags earlier on. What's most interesting is that at times this is a huge deal, and other times is handled very matter-of-factly – not unlike the other events in this story. I certainly can't speak to the accuracy of such portrayals with much authority as it isn't my lived experience, but I found it nice that these changes aren't all played for cheap gags. Bub is shaken to the core just as often as Bub rolls with it, and the presentation feels like an exploration rather than exploitation.


This was Grant's interpretation of what pronouns to use based on what happens in the story. I will never understand why people get twisted up about the use of gender neutral pronouns especially in situations where the gender either isn't explicitly known or there's story context that makes things less clear.

Also gridsleep, if you're going to be openly hostile to people who use gender neutral pronouns, you won't last long here.
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SHD



Joined: 05 Apr 2015
Posts: 691
PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:33 pm Reply with quote
octopodpie wrote:
This was Grant's interpretation of what pronouns to use based on what happens in the story. I will never understand why people get twisted up about the use of gender neutral pronouns especially in situations where the gender either isn't explicitly known or there's story context that makes things less clear.

Yes, I know. But I was wondering why the reviewer used these pronouns when the publisher and, I assume the translation itself, uses he/him, and from what I can gather, the gender is explicitly known. Again: I don't have any problems with gender neutral pronouns (my first language doesn't have gendered pronouns so I regularly mix up pronouns in other languages, anyway). I'm just curious about the reasoning in this particular case.

(It's kind of like that trend in translation I've been seeing lately where characters talking about a character they know but the audience doesn't yet, will use gender neutral pronouns, even though they're fully aware of their gender. It's just a weird choice to make IMO.)
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dm
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:52 pm Reply with quote
This artist's work is quirky and mildly twisted. I very much enjoyed their Voynich Hotel (the first volume bought on the basis of the title alone), and got this book because the plot summary, combined with the artist's twisted sense of humor, and I'll happily buy their next work based on these first two.

Fans of The Voynich Hotel won't be disappointed, I don't think.
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Psycho 101
Oscar the Grouch
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 4:31 pm Reply with quote
gridsleep wrote:
This use of genderless plural pronouns is just going to make the world more and more annoying and I am going to end up punching somebody.


So having to perhaps switch what pronoun you use is cause to punch someone eh? Boy I'd love to see what you feel is an adequate response to you having to change pronouns and also adjectives. Would you just shoot someone then? Seems about the right amount of escalation by your example thus far. And yes, I get the fact you are, probably, exaggerating. The fact remains that your response to a very minor change in pronouns is this complete over the top anger and ignorance. Oh no, you have to change this very minute thing in your speech, let's just flip over tables and dropkick people now for this absolutely horrid inconvenience. Yea, these POS pronouns are just ruining the world!!! Charming.
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Abecedarian1995



Joined: 29 Aug 2020
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 6:43 pm Reply with quote
Hi folks. Being the one who proofread Grant's review before publication, I want to clarify that Grant's original review used he/him pronouns, and I was the one who made the change to genderless pronouns based on the paragraph octopodpie highlighted about Bub's fluid gender presentation. I did not check the original translation, so that was a major oversight on my part. I have since reverted the change.

Thanks to SHD for pointing out the original translation, and apologies to everyone for the confusion caused by my mistake.
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Showsni



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:16 am Reply with quote
I wondered if the title was based on the traditional nursery rhyme (it has to be, right?), which got me wondering how well English nursery rhymes would be known in Japan. But then, given the main character is spoiler[from Minehead in Somerset, I'd assume the author must have some fairly in depth knowledge of England. (Did he visit Butlins?)]

The nursery rhyme does play a prominent part in Diana Wynne Jones' book "Deep Secret", and I know Diana Wynne Jones must be known in Japan (I mean, look at Howl's Moving Castle), so that could be a link too.

The nursery rhyme of course goes:

How many miles to Babylon?
Three-score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again.
If your toes are nimble and your heels are light,
You may get there by candelight.

Babylon is mentioned a fair bit in the book of Revelations in the Bible, and "three-score years and ten" is the usual human lifespan according to the Bible, so you could see it symbolically asking "How far is the end of the world? Your lifespan away. Can I reach it before it gets dark? Yes, if you're light on your feet." Whilst reaching Babylon has a more mundane meaning as well in the manga, it's hard not to think the title is also a symbolic question, since the manga does deal with going to the end of the world spoiler["and back again".
]
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Grant D Clown
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Joined: 12 Jul 2020
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:33 pm Reply with quote
Oh no, looks like I missed a pretty big discussion re: the pronouns.

I can understand why Abecedarian1995 changed Bub's pronouns to they/them given the article in a vacuum and not having the specific context of the work (in retrospect, I should have made a note in the editor's comments as to why I kept Bub's pronouns he/him to avoid this situation). Truth be told, I went back and forth a bit while writing the review as to whether or not use they/them or he/him. Ultimately, since I am not an expert and did not want to contradict the text based on my own judgement, I went with he/him and tried to acknowledge that there was clearly an exploration of identity in the text which involved a fair amount of fluidity.

I ultimately decided to stick with he/him because, again, the publisher/translator made that call. Additionally, there was another scene where (spoiler tags for, uh, minor plot spoilers) spoiler[Bub is talking with his kids and he is dressed in a skirt and has long hair, which would be traditionally considered feminine attire, but still refers to himself as their father which is traditionally a masculine family role].

The tldr is that I thought long and hard about it, ultimately went with he/him, and wish I had made note of that in the editor's notes to try and head off any confusion.
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Grant D Clown
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Joined: 12 Jul 2020
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2021 8:35 pm Reply with quote
dm wrote:
This artist's work is quirky and mildly twisted. I very much enjoyed their Voynich Hotel (the first volume bought on the basis of the title alone), and got this book because the plot summary, combined with the artist's twisted sense of humor, and I'll happily buy their next work based on these first two.

Fans of The Voynich Hotel won't be disappointed, I don't think.


Oh interesting, I think I might end up doing the revers and checking out Voynich now.

Showsni wrote:
I wondered if the title was based on the traditional nursery rhyme (it has to be, right?), which got me wondering how well English nursery rhymes would be known in Japan. But then, given the main character is spoiler[from Minehead in Somerset, I'd assume the author must have some fairly in depth knowledge of England. (Did he visit Butlins?)]

The nursery rhyme does play a prominent part in Diana Wynne Jones' book "Deep Secret", and I know Diana Wynne Jones must be known in Japan (I mean, look at Howl's Moving Castle), so that could be a link too.

The nursery rhyme of course goes:

How many miles to Babylon?
Three-score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again.
If your toes are nimble and your heels are light,
You may get there by candelight.

Babylon is mentioned a fair bit in the book of Revelations in the Bible, and "three-score years and ten" is the usual human lifespan according to the Bible, so you could see it symbolically asking "How far is the end of the world? Your lifespan away. Can I reach it before it gets dark? Yes, if you're light on your feet." Whilst reaching Babylon has a more mundane meaning as well in the manga, it's hard not to think the title is also a symbolic question, since the manga does deal with going to the end of the world spoiler["and back again".
]


Fascinating, I knew the Biblical context but did not know the nursery rhyme. Thanks for sharing that!
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Suxinn



Joined: 23 Jan 2009
Posts: 84
PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2021 7:36 am Reply with quote
gridsleep wrote:
This use of genderless plural pronouns is just going to make the world more and more annoying and I am going to end up punching somebody.

I guess you've never used the pronoun "you" before in your life then?

Anyway, snark aside, I actually do agree that Bub seems to identify as a dude, but I barely even noticed the pronoun usage in this article until folks pointed it out, so it's a non-issue to me.

Happy to see more Douman licensed in English though. He's always had the magical ability to come up with completely wild premises that seem objectionable at first glance but that he manages to make into some quirky fun instead. Here's hoping that his Nickelodeon oneshot collection can be picked up someday too.
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