A tribute

I was a little girl when my father first told me about Tita Inday. Not only was a she a linguistics professor at a big university abroad, but she had also created a word.

I don’t recall now what the word was, my father probably does, but what captured my imagination was the idea that someone could bring into being a word that had not previously existed. To my child self, this idea was completely magical and mind-boggling.
I met Tita Inday for the first time when I was in highschool. She was, a tiny woman—tinier than my highschool self. She was full of light and energy, overflowing with brilliance.

At a time in my life when I was filled with complete doubt as to whether there was even any point in writing, my aunt reminded me that bringing the work into being is the point. That publication doesn’t always happen, that things will never be easy because you are a Filipino writing in this language not your own, but you still have to persevere.

I write about her as I think about translations and language, about the mother tongue, about worlds and words that come into being because she would have loved this kind of conversation where we talk about what’s possible. What can we do with language? How far can we push words? What are the politics that lie behind the use of language?

I remember visiting with my aunt at her home in Calgary, this was right after Clarion West. She asked me questions about my work and shared her own work with me as well.

Through the years, we kept in touch, sometimes through email, sometimes through phone conversations and then through the occasional message sent through my father.The last message I sent her contained a compilation of essays I’d written in the past year and a half.

Tita Inday passed away on the 26th of July. My father said, she called while he was out. She was having problems with her heart.

It’s difficult to write about such losses. As if by writing about them, they become more real. But I wanted to pay tribute to her in this space. I think of the saying “it’s in the blood” and I can’t help but acknowledge that even though I am no linguist, this fascination with words…this engagement with language…it also comes from that moment when my father said: Your aunt invented a word.

For the bright stars in my sky

I am in this space/ and I am looking at your face/ and I am looking at your face/ and I am looking at your face/ and yours/ and yours/ and yours too.

And I am loving this space where we are dreaming up a new sky together/

I am loving your face.

Your words/ our words/ your world/ our world/

You bright/ you beautiful/ you brilliant stars in the firmament of sky I’m looking at.

I want to look at you forever/ listen to your voices forever/

I carry your words in my dreams/

I dream of worlds you bring into being.

We are changing our sky/ We are shaping our sky/ We are putting our stars in our sky

I am looking at the sky

My sky is filled with you.

( After of the first ever Amsterdam Sci Fi Salon: For Adrienne Marie Brown, Hodan Warsame, Simone Zeefuik, the wonderful writers at the Amsterdam Sci Fi Salon, for all who dream of a wider sky. Beloved friends and treasured dreamers, you know who you are.)

Thinking things through: On acts of resistance and our own SF

Since the publication of the first part of Translations, Mother Tongue and Acts of Resistance, I continue to think of resistance and what it means. I am also thinking of it in terms of how it applies to decolonial work and the process of decolonization, to science fiction and how I position myself in relation to genre as well as the work that I do outside of genre.

I am grateful for the conversations that I am able to have with thinkers and doers and also thankful for the access that I am given to work that is being produced by mindful writers inside and outside of genre.

I find myself thinking of acts of resistance and how the history of my country is one that is filled with these acts. Because we have been colonized and occupied time and again. Because our language, our culture, our ways have been devalued, erased and overwritten time and again. Because we were subjected to a Martial rule where dissenting voices were suppressed or eradicated. Because we have known there is always a cost to speaking out.

Even in this field that we love, even in this genre that we like to think is so progressive and free, there is a price to pay. But while I am not the bravest person in the world, I find it an act of cowardice to allow other people to engage in the struggle on my behalf. Even if the only thing I can do is raise my voice, it is the thing I will do. If by doing so, other people see and take heart from it, then it is enough. (If it angers people, well, that’s a given.)

At this moment, there are so many conversations going on around science fiction. We are dissatisfied with the state of genre. We want something better. We want to destroy it. We want to change it. We want diversity. We want more visibility. We want many things and a lot of these things are good and wonderful and worthy things.

These are worthy and good conversations. These are essential and necessary conversations.

But I do wonder how we see science fiction. Is it a walled-in garden of paradise where only approved members can enter? Is it a place where we must walk carefully because “god forbid we step on the toes of sleeping deities”? (And who are these deities anyway?) Is it a place where you need membership in SFWA, BSFA, or whatever other organization in order for your voice to count? Are the important writers only those who appear on awards lists? Are the important stories only those included in Year’s Bests?

I ask these questions, because if this is how we look at science fiction, then it seems to me that it’s narrower and more confined than the science fiction in my mind.

When I wrestle with questions like these, I go back to the work of people whose work I’ve chosen to take with me in this journey. I go back and remember what it is that I love about this genre and why I wanted to write in it.

I think of Octavia Butler writing about how science fiction called to her because it was so wide open, and I think of the limitless sky that has no margins but simply changes its aspect depending on where we are situated. And I think: yes, that’s the science fiction I want to be part of. A sky that’s filled with many different stars, with constellations and galaxies, a view that changes depending on where I’m situated. A sky where everyone has the freedom to tell their own story and where there are no margins because how do you put margins on the sky?

I want that sky that is brilliant and filled with the light that comes from everywhere.

Things have changed since Octavia Butler’s time. The internet has made it so that we see bigger portions of the sky–and yet for all that, we are still limited.

We’re hindered not only by our inability to read work written in original languages, but we’re also hindered by how establishment already exists and its narratives and its traditions are rooted in a colonialist and imperialist past.

I find myself wondering: How can we possibly dream within a structure that has historically viewed us as being less than human?

Audre Lorde once said that the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house. We like that quote. We like saying it to each other but do we truly understand what that means in the context of what we are trying to do?

I think that if we want to produce a science fiction that is as wide and as broad as the sky, if we want the freedom to spread our wings and dream in those skies, then perhaps it’s time to look into ways of building a new kind of science fiction–one that doesn’t rely on the Master’s tools–one that doesn’t look to establishment for validation or recognition.

I don’t know what that science fiction would look like, but it excites me to think of that freedom. I want to embrace it and I want to be part of it.

As Afrofuturist author, editor and publisher Bill Campbell says: We don’t need to sit at their tables because we got our own.

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*(I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t feel any particular need or any strong desire to belong to any kind of hegemony. I do value this community that has welcomed me. I value the friendships I have made and the truth I have seen in people who encourage and surround me. The passion to bring change about–that moves me. For all its flaws, Science Fiction still has my heart.)

**Nin Harris has written a brilliant and ferocious post which I highly recommend. Do take the time to read it. The link is here.

Fantasticon

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I’ll be leaving tomorrow evening for Copenhagen, Denmark, where Fantasticon is taking place. The past weeks have been quite busy. I’ve been working and experimenting with language and the new work that I’ve produced incorporates Filipino, Ilokano and Ifugao into the body of the text in more definite way than before. I was thinking of how many of us have been compelled to write in English and I find myself wondering how stories and texts would change if I used the languages I grew up with into my stories. I’ve incorporated the language mindfully, fitting the texts to the story that is taking shape.

Anyway, before I get sidetracked into writing an essay, I thought I’d post my schedule for Fantasticon:

Saturday:

11.00-12.00, Room 1
Translation of Speculative Fiction (Rochita Loenen-Ruiz) – English

13.00-14.00, Room 3
GoH Interview: Rochita-Loenen Ruiz (I: Karin Tidbeck) – English

15.00-16.00, Room 1
GoH Readings: Paul McAuley & Rochita Loenen-Ruiz – English

16.00-17.00, Room 3
Panel: Challenging Stereotypes in SF and Fantasy (Rochita Loenen-Ruiz,
Karin Tidbeck, A. Silvestri & Lars Ahn Pedersen) – English

Sunday:

17.00-18.00, Room 3
Panel: Is There Still Need for Science Fiction in a Science Fictional
World? (Paul McAuley, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Klaus Æ. Mogensen &
Flemming R. P. Rasch) – English

In preparation, I’ve done some reading up on previous cons and dipped a bit into the history of sf/f in Denmark. I look forward to meeting fellow writers and lovers of the speculative and hope for stimulating and fruitful conversations.

On the book blog: An interview with Kaaron Warren

Head over and check out this interview with Kaaron Warren over at the book blog.

Walking the Tree is a much different novel from Slights. I really liked this difference and I loved the world of the Tree as well as your beautifully drawn characters. Would you like to share a bit about the inspiration for the world of the Tree?

The original idea came from a number of different sources. Most directly, I was watching a documentary about ancient objects and was struck with the thought that these things sit there, well beyond human understanding, interpretation and memory. That they exist long after their original meaning is lost. In the end, there is a disconnect between the object and its origin.

Go to the book blog to read more.