Saturday, March 03, 2007

No Tengremen in China

A couple of days ago, John Scalzi blogged about a website called The Great Firewall of China. What the site does is this: you type in the URL of a website or blog, and their servers send a ping from Europe to a computer in China and back again. Based on this live test, the Great Firewall site then reports back on whether the web address you typed is blocked by China's governmental firewall.

So of course I pasted in, and the site reported back that the Outpost is not blocked. Then I put in Ah, that was a different story!

This initially struck me as a little absurd as well as sad. What could someone in China possibly find objectionable about a website the introduces characters and concepts from a series of unpublished fantasy novels? I even quipped to Scalzi that Chinese officials are hiding the nonexistence of tengremen. But as I continued to think it over, I came up with the series of reasonable suppositions:
  • It is unlikely that a human being in China personally decided that an obscure American website about a fictional country is too problematic for his or her constituents to see. Therefore either is part of a large category of sites that are blocked by default, or it contains something that a spider or robot or filter, whatever you want to call it, is looking for as an indicator of trouble.
  • Let's explore the broad category option. is about fantasy stories in a world where magic works. Is that objectionable in China? It seems unlikely in a country that is famous for its lore about magical dragons. The only other category the site fits in is "obscure domains hosted by Yahoo." Obscure Yahoo domains could be blocked by default - but I doubt it.
  • Okay, so if that's not the problem, what is there about my domain's main page specifically that would set off a filter? Words like tengrem, Fayubi and selmûn aren't likely to mean anything to a filter, in Chinese, English or any other language of this world. The problem is more likely to be a word that does have a specific meaning and unwanted implications.
  • What word or words could I possibly have on that page that could possibly cause such trouble? After all, the politics of Mâvarin have almost nothing in common with the politics of China, the U.S. or any other country in what we generally consider the "real world." As far as I know, none of them was recently ruled by a family of impostors impersonating royalty.
It took a while, but I think I've found the offending word. It's the last word in the title of the book that follows the Mages trilogy, the one I've barely started writing. I bet that's it.

And now that I've mentioned all this, I suppose this blog will now be blocked, too. But I hope not!


1 comment:

Bea said...

Very interesting, indeed. There is power in words. bea