transcription of slides under the cut:
[SLIDE 1] the vibes ao3’s top 9 mdzs ships give me (a really stupid thing i made on a lazy saturday)
[SLIDE 2] wangxian: the wholesome canon relationship (with a hint of spice)
ok maybe calling the union between a demonic cultivator and a secret sex fiend “wholesome” isnt exactly accurate…but that’s where the “hint of spice” comes in
other than that tho? i remember seeing a meme somewhere about wangxian and sangcheng and wangxian was described as “domestic gays with a house and a white picket fence and two kids” and honestly? yes
not that they cant be freaky. id say their particular brand of freakiness is vaguely surrealist suburban horror. make of that what you will
[SLIDE 3] xicheng: either its “pair the spares” or just about trauma
their dynamic is 500% “karen/enabling husband” but like in a good way
objectively the best-dressed couple you will ever meet. like seriously why are you even trying? theyve got you beat
jc would own a flower shop and punch you in the face for saying a single bad thing about his flowers. lxc would own a tattoo parlor and hand you a lollipop and tell you how proud he is of you for not crying while he gave you a tattoo
they dont strike me as a “every evening we relax and watch the sunset” type of relationship B U T every other week they go stargazing with a detailed map of the night sky
[SLIDE 4] xiyao: either a) the angst of betraying/being betrayed or b) the angst of killing/being killed
high society gays. they would both unironically wear tuxedos to a mcdonalds. lxc would see it as a fun couples thing and jgy would do it to assert his dominance
i swear they would be among the smiliest of the major couples. only one of them would give you a happy smile
dont mess with them. no like dont mess with any of the couples but so far jgy is the first one who would make your life living hell and keep you around long enough to suffer the consequences
[SLIDE 5] sangcheng: being simultaneously over- and underestimated
i saw a meme about sangcheng and wangxian where sangcheng was described as something along the lines of “wine aunt and vodka uncle” and honestly? yes
they’re both human disasters. nhs would have various splotches of color on his clothes and you cant tell if it was intentional or if theyre actually stains. jc is very neat and organized but will have a mental breakdown at the slightest inconvenience
sometimes they just sit down across from each other and. cry. its how they bond
idk why it popped into my head but they’re both ace Because I Said So
[SLIDE 6] xuexiao: cute domesticity but also murder
i refuse to believe that xy is anything but unhinged in every universe. whether or not thats a good thing is up to you
xy could and would murder you in your sleep and not feel bad about it until xxc told him off. even then he might still decide it was worth it
xxc doesnt exactly know about The Murder Stuff(TM) but he knows some shit is off but he trusts xy enough to not comment on it
they would meet and hook up in a bar and mutually decide that they may as well stay together for the rest of their lives the next morning
[SLIDE 7] xuanli: the token straights (but also? theyre really cute???)
i did not expect them to be as cute as they were but here i am
anyway jyl has jzxuan wrapped around her little finger and shes just too nice to use that to her advantage
if jyl asked jzxuan for some chocolate jzxuan would just buy her the entire hershey company and forget to give her an actual chocolate bar and jyl is too sweet to actually say anything about it
they would definitely have like 20 children. theyd fucking love being parents. the moment having another child became dangerous theyd start adopting left and right. theyre rich they can afford it and their hearts are big enough for all their kids so why would they not?
[SLIDE 8] songxiao: childhood friends to lovers AND perfect power couple
i know they have more nuance than this but i cant help but think of them as The Perfect Couple(TM)
not shipping-wise!! i mean like. theyre both law-abiding citizens. their house looks like a model house. theyre dressed super neat and handsomely. they both know cpr and first aid and one of them is a lawyer and the other is an award winning writer. idk who is who but yk.
they are who people call to deal with problems instead of the police and they delight in that fact. that is what i mean by them being The Perfect Couple(TM)
[SLIDE 9] chengxian: disasters through and through
uhh i am going to be spending the entirety of this slide ignoring the fact that i personally consider them siblings
they would live in a dingy studio apartment in the heart of a city and theyd both never be home
theyre both super fucking rich but theyd never have any money on hand so dont be surprised if they just starve out on the street one day because theyre just that stupid
they collectively have the self esteem of rotting cabbage but theyre keeping themselves and each other alive purely out of spite and sheer force of will
[SLIDES 10] nielan: childhood friends to lovers AND himbo power couple
psst heres a secret: neither of them are actually himbos
H O W E V E R they both 500% pretend they are. they intentionally act as stupid as possible just for the fun of it
the best part is when they stop acting stupid when something important happens. crouching-moron-hidden-badass at its finest
also the older brother energy is overflowing. it does not matter who you are or how old you are. if you meet them then youre going to walk away with two new big brothers
[SLIDES 11] the end (unless i gather the willpower to make a part 2)
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what mxtx said: on translation
hi everyone :) i thought i’d write something up about how english language cnovel fandom interprets and does, or doesn’t, have access to the original authors of the novel.
i want to take a specific instance of a moxiang tongxiu interview answer and look at the different interpretations fandom has had of it, in this case, the infamous “everyone in modao zushi but wangxian is straight” line.
this is a mxtx take i’ve seen thrown around a lot, i think often mockingly. “mxtx wrote [xiyao/nieyao/xuexiao/songxiao/speaker’s choice of ship], but yeah, everyone in mdzs is straight.” it’s meant to sort of be a gotcha. but it’s never really clear who the joke is on: mxtx for not understanding her own writing, other fans for taking her seriously, or a half-assed attempt to prove the canonicity of their ship in face of all other evidence.
as best as i can tell, this interview answer entered english language fandom on january 31, 2019. cloud recesses translation on twitter aggregated her various interview answers, end notes, and posts and translated them in the follow tweet: https://twitter.com/ysfyc_crt/status/1090997559085023233?s=21
they originally wanted to explain to english language fandom mxtx’s stance on breaking apart the main couple (i.e. shipping wei wuxian or lan wangji with characters other than each other or switching their uh. positions.).
the original weibo article they link is no longer accessible; it uses the weibo setting that makes posts private after six months. so i’m not able to verify the screenshots they are translating, but i think that’s fine. i’m going to do a very rough translation of my own very quickly, because it seems sort of hypocritical to complain about misinterpretations of the original text without actually um. reading the original text.
the first screenshot of mxtx’s weibo is her responding to a question: would she ever write a novel with a secondary ship again?
she answers that she’s considered it often, but not again. she finds that writing a relationship plotline in danmei requires a lot of energy, and the main pair tends to occupy all of her focus. if it’s not a goofy parody [like her first novel, the scum villain’s self-saving system], she just doesn’t have any extra energy to distribute to other pairings.
in fact, she writes, originally when she was writing scum villain, she hadn’t been intending to write airplane shooting towards the sky and mobei jun as a couple. (honestly, airplane hadn’t had that many appearances at first. he was the kind of guy who, at the last minute, would come out as a passerby character) but her scum villain outline was so loose, as she kept writing, she suddenly found-- huh? what’s going on? this guy is pretty cute?! anyway, that book was a parody, pairing or no pairing, it didn’t really matter. so they were an exception. but at any rate, she won’t have another one.
when she reads other people’s works, she continues, she doesn’t always mind multiple couples. but in her own writing, she just doesn’t like it that much.
and i think this is the bit where i think where people tend to get mad: this is because she feels out of all the people who appear, it’s just inconceivable that that many are gay. she forgot where she saw this quote, but in short, for a work of art to feel lifelike, that originates in its emotional truths, not in its physical truths. as a writer, she says, as far as she’s concerned, the world she builds in her head is a real world. she can convince herself that a world with gods and ghosts running around is a real world. but she can’t convince herself that a world where the entire population is BL is a real world.
before this, she saw a commenter say, “even if it’s not romantic love, there’s still many complicated relationships between people, that are all very moving. compared to invariably calling it all romance, it’s quite nuanced.” yes, she agrees, there are many conflicts that aren’t driven by romantic love, so that allows for more interpretations. as far as she’s concerned, this already makes her feel OK. she’s able to write something satisfying enough, with realistic emotions; the plot holds water; the conflict is intense enough.
without romantic love as a prerequisite, people can analyze what they see. however, if it’s straightforwardly labeled as “romantic love,” the way people think about it will become somewhat distorted. discussions will shift to points that she doesn’t think need to be twisted up. for instance: who disappointed whom, who invests more in whom, who’s not good enough for whom, who’s the scumbag where. that isn’t what she set out to write, so it would be a pity.
but as long as it doesn’t break up or flip the main couple, ship whatever, she doesn’t care. she herself often will read regular novels and enjoy shipping couples. reading books isn’t just for fun. using your brain to supplement or enjoying couples as you wish, that’s fine, just don’t break up or flip the main couple.
paraphrasing now, she goes on to reference a particular fan who obsessively sent her hate because they were so fixated on a sidepair and were mad she didn’t endorse it as the author.
anyway, the other bit from her this translates is back to the whole “don’t break or reverse the couple” discourse which is umm... not really a big discourse in english lang fandom? thank god.
so the critical take, the one i see the most often takes one (or more) of the following stances in responding to her answer.
the literal refutation. they argue that gay people are more numerous that mxtx says. they think that not only, statistically speaking, there should be more gay people than just one couple, but that gay people often find platonic companionship, comfort, and safety in each other. therefore, where there’s one gay couple, it seems even more likely that there should be more.
the “my meow meow” refutation. this is usually centered around a specific character that they are convinced is gay that mxtx has implicitly (or explicitly, in the case of jiang cheng) deemed straight. nie huaisang is often a example of this: why would mxtx claim he gets straight married when he [insert epic gay huaisang moment]
the “my meow meows” refutation. this is usually centered around two characters who seemed to be wholly motivated by their romantic love for each other. how do you explain 3zun, how do you explain yi city, if not wholly by romance?
there are also some more fawning stances, where people wholeheartedly defend her from those three points. it typically goes like this--in china, gay people don’t have the same visibility or community that they do [wherever the original commenter is from]. therefore, it’s fine that there’s only one gay couple because it’s realistic. everyone else is straight.
and then here’s what um. what i think.
first: on genre. i think she’s talking a lot about genre here rather than like. real life. i intentionally left BL untranslated, because she does say 全民 BL, or the entire population being BL/in BL relationships. ghosts feel more realistic to her because xianxia is an established mainstream genre. like it or dislike it, it seemed that her artistic goal was to tell a gay love story in a xianxia world/genre, rather than a love story in a BL world/genre.
i think she certainly succeeded in that respect. mdzs is umm very popular. i think it’s fine to be an ambitious writer with aspirations of a mainstream audience. my thoughts here kind of go part and parcel with my thoughts on her treatment of female characters.
obviously i hate when GIRLS die. obviously i really like a lot of her female characters that don’t get that much shine. check my ao3 lol i do put my money where my mouth is. but the fact of the matter is that there are two genres that condition where she can put female characters and maintain suspension of disbelief (that concept is, i think, what she’s working around in her interview answer).
because mdzs is a xianxia novel and a danmei novel, there are some complications. historically sexism did exist. there are and were high profile women who had an impact and certainly had leadership roles. mxtx does put them in these sorts of positions, e.g. madam yu or wen qing. there also are women who were important because of their relationships to men, e.g. jiang yanli or wang lingjiao. unlike in a het xianxia novel, women aren’t romantic leads, so this does diminish the number of “important” roles a woman can take--priority is paid to the ones who serve the plot.
so there are important plot relevant roles in mdzs that women are just excluded from: e.g. the sworn brotherhoods. 3zun would have had to be all women, or all men. there are also important roles that preclude a confirmed monogamous romantic gay partnership. e.g. nie huaisang, who as a sect leader would have been expected to marry at least one woman to have children with. i think this is where people might go: this is a book about gay people! she’s obviously already making departure points!
well first there is already a historical framework for how to be gay in china, but more importantly. xianxia is an established genre. for people for whom this is their first xianxia novel, every bit of the setting may seem equally foreign. wow, they hunt ghosts? wow, they’ve got sects? and sworn brotherhoods? and they use talismans and-- it doesn’t seem like a big deal to say, why couldn’t women simply do xyz in the setting too? but this is a whole existing genre.
she’s stuck working within it, and her point, i think, is that she can only offer so many points of departure before she--and implicitly the audience--stop suspending their disbelief. she’s a young writer, and she began by admitting she has trouble balancing too many emotional thoroughlines at once. it’s okay if the BL written by a young 20-something focuses on only one gay couple.
second: on 爱情. i think it’s important that she repeats aiqing, or romantic love so many times. she is making a really genuinely good and relatively uncontroversial point here: mdzs contains a lot of relationships that don’t flatten easily into straightforward uncomplicated reciprocated romance. she also emphasizes repeatedly throughout the interview that she’s eschewing labels not complex dynamics between characters. if you take yknow. one of the many relationships in mdzs that are weird intense homoerotic and do end with one party killing the other, it’s kinda boring to look at it and go “damn if they were dating that would be fucked up.” or “damn it would be better if they were dating instead” ykwim.
third: on translators, distortions, and fan culture. i do think the original translation was reasonably accurate. i think there are some tonal choices i think were weird, but the substance is all there. my main criticism was that it was presented in a decontextualized selection specifically to achieve a certain agenda: don’t break up wangxian. which um. i think is not best translation practice. i think this is something that has happened often with translations of mxtx’s words, whether her prose or her posts.
i’m not linking the interview, because i’m not trying to start a fight here, but there is a popular interview that was originally translated from chinese to bahasa indonesia, and then from bahasa indonesia to english. the final translator did not speak chinese, and so could not refer back to her words. not only did the first translator insert their own commentary into the interview, but the second translator translated that and also added their own commentary. there are parts where it is difficult to tell what is mxtx’s opinion, and what is fan commentary.
the exiled rebels translation, the only complete translation of the novel, was done by someone who was 15/16 for most of it, and edited by an adult who did not speak chinese. shoutout to k for taking on an ambitious project at a young age but uh.
exiled rebels initially specializing in yaoi rather than danmei novels meant that there were fan cultural gaps. they were aggressive towards other translators due to the difference to community norms re: multiple translations existing. this has provoked hostility towards re translations (along with other assorted discourses) because of basically. historical accident? ancient drama between like. snoopycool, evil-genius, and other groups who’d accidentally or purposefully sniped series concreting personal disagreements into established norms?!??! christ.
at any rate, a team that specializes in yaoi plus their teenager translator does not um. does not a nuanced translation make, especially from chinese->english. i’m not saying they shouldn’t have done it!!!! i’m saying that words come from people!! and in the case of translations, they come more directly from the translator than from the author, and it’s bizarre to see people trying to seriously evaluate the original prose and language through it, much less authorial intent.
fourth: on who we have sympathy for. i don’t think mxtx is perfect. but i find myself trying to take very nuanced, kind stances towards her because i think she’s a young woman of color whose books have had runaway popularity. i think fandom can be bizarrely cruel towards her.
i’m pretty new to fandom, but i do think it’s rare to see a fandom with so much open hostility and mockery towards a new and vulnerable individual writer whose works they theoretically greatly enjoy. i use vulnerable in the sense that she writes under contract for a company that takes half of her profits, she can no longer profit from most of her novels because they’ve been taken down due to their content, she has no control over the adaptations of her works, like-- guys.... she has more in common with you as a person than you do with the wealthy queer representation we see here.
there’s this pervasive sense in a corner of fandom that if there’s something good in her novels she wrote it by accident, and if there’s something bad, she did it on purpose (and perhaps homophobically). again. you are reading a translation, it’s bizarre to make these claims about her character. and secondly, what the hell is wrong with you? again, i am not pretending she is a perfect writer, and it’s fine to object to her content. but goddamn in that interview she approaches the subject with twice the nuance than all the people who rag on her for not including enough canon gay people do.
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