Speak English Like a Native?

How’s your Chinese? Well, it doesn’t matter! Freelancer has a listing for an editor to work on a collection of short stories to be translated from Chinese into English, but no knowledge of Chinese is required.

Beijing Guomi Digital Technology is a publishing house based in China. The company was founded in 2010 to bring the best of contemporary Chinese literature to international readers across the English-speaking world.

We have signed ten sci-fi short stories (about 190,000 Chinese characters together) with a top sci-fi writer in China, which will be translated into English. Now the company is looking for a free-lance editor with American English as the mother tongue. Our budget is USD15-25/thousand word. Native English speaker is a must, interested in sci-fi writing better, no need to understand Chinese.

What a wonderful minefield of cultural assumptions.

Americans will be gratified to see somebody hold us up as the standard of the mother tongue, having suffered an inferiority complex ever since George Bernard Shaw said “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” (Or whoever said it.)

Yet even Americans are likely to disagree whether an interest in “sci-fi writing” is an asset to a literary project. While I’m at home with Ackerman’s affectionate term for the genre, it has a long and controversial history. For example, Harlan Ellison condemned “sci-fi” in the most adamant terms: “What is called ‘sci-fi’ is not, repeat NOT, science fiction. It is special effects movie/television produced by and for imbeciles,” and “bears as much relation to science fiction of quality (whether film or tv or books or magazines) as Dachau did to a health spa.”

[Thanks to Francis Hamit for the story.]