Sometimes, you cannot speak
because the weight of grief is too heavy for words.
Sometimes, you cannot speak
because the weight of grief is too heavy for words.
A lot of things have happened since my last post on this blog. I am slowly but surely regaining strength and energy again. Not as quickly as I want to, but there is progress. I consider it a gift that I have a wonderful mental health carer and that social services considers my situation one where I am in need of more support. Recovery would have been slower than it already has been otherwise.
These past weeks, I’ve been working hard on the extended story set in the world of the Body Cartographer. I had originally intended this story to be one novella, but it’s grown far beyond the minimum length. So far, I’ve completed work on part one which is comprised of 17700 words. An immersive and cathartic experience. I had to laugh a bit because just this month I attended an event at the American Book Center featuring Jeff VanderMeer, Ann VanderMeer and Thomas Olde Heuvelt.
Jeff talked about the process of novel writing and how when he’s immersed in a novel, he’s so engaged with it that even food becomes an afterthought. At one point–close to the end of part one, I had to stop because it was time to prepare dinner. I opened the fridge and stared at emptiness. I had forgotten to pick up groceries and so I had nothing to cook. Thankfully, eldest son offered to go for groceries and that evening we had french fries for dinner.
Then there was the time I wrote a scene replete with food goodness. After writing it, I was so hungry, but we only had Chicken Tonight. At least it was warm and there was steamed rice, but I would have rather had the dish I was writing about. It happens.
After finishing part one, we went off to grab ice-cream and cake, and when I came home, it was to find a message from Jaroslav Olsa, who is the Czech Republic ambassador to the Philippines. Harinuo’s Love Song, which appears in Alternative Alamat, was picked by PLAV’s team of editors for translation and inclusion in an upcoming edition. To say I’m gobsmacked is an understatement. I mean, I’ve been working towards resuming work on the translation project, but I never dreamed I’d have work getting translated into another language. How cool is that? :)
This afternoon, I did a bit of tweeting after I came home from speaking at the International Women’s Day celebration held by an organization I do volunteer work for. It was a lovely celebration. I spoke about the challenges we face as migrant women in the Netherlands and the effect of being uprooted. That we exist in a structured society that is meant to favor status quo but we are not without means and it is possible for us to think of strategies that will allow us to grow and to thrive in this environment.
I’m struck by how the conversations we have around the structural challenges migrants face, mirror the conversations we have around the structural challenges that marginalized writers face. It’s not exactly the same, but these two things speak to each other and strategies that work within one structure could also work within the other. The important thing is to see which ones work best and to find the support we need to thrive and take hold of our dreams.
It’s also been made clear to me that in conversations around race, we often fail to consider nuance. That race is not a black and white conversation. It’s more complicated than that.
This week has been full of things that I need to digest and I don’t doubt that some of it will find its way into story. For the next two days, I’ll be taking a break before immersing myself again in the writing.
I am thankful for friends and for loved ones, for the kadkadua who continue to walk with me and who remind me of what it is that matters most.
**PS. I think nonny is a really cute word. It might show up in one of my works someday. ;-)
Dear Friend and fellow revolutionary, Tade Thompson has put up a blog in response to the call for spaces for PoC to express themselves.
Originally posted on SAFE:
It kind of goes on and becomes recursive, especially if you get lost in the comments thread.
In all these discussions one constant refrain has been the lack of PoC-led spaces for discussion and exploration of these matters. I think that’s a fair point.
‘Safe’ is a direct response to that.
View original 330 more words
I realize that there has been quite a bit of dissatisfaction and discontent going around. I understand that people are fearful at the way they think the narrative is being shaped. I myself am deeply saddened to think that places that are supposed to be safe for me no longer feel safe.
I’m sending out this open call to white kadkadua and to white allies to please give us the time and the space we need to process through this and to create a space where we can share our stories and our feelings. I’m asking folks to respect our need to move at our own pace. We are conversing with each other and we are working towards solutions that work for us.
I and those who stand with me would be thankful if you would allow us the time we need.
Update: A PoC led space has been opened at the SAFE blog. A decision was made to open separate threads for affected PoC and affected non-PoC with an eye towards opening up the space for intersectional discussions. With regards to the RHB situation: in case my position on this has not yet been made clear. Harassment and abuse is harassment and abuse. We can’t do anything more beyond letting people know the truth.
Our main concern is moving forward. All victims need to be supported and need to be heard regardless of race, creed or gender. Those interested in joining hands together to support victims, and those who are interested in building bridges of support are welcome to join the discussion.
A quick post this time to signal-boost a new anthology series being put out by Aqueduct Press. The Year’s Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy is a reprint anthology that’s taking recommendations now. Please follow the links to the recommendation form.
Last week I published a fantastic Process Conversation with Kai Ashante Wilson. Kai is a fellow Butler scholar and I’m very pleased to feature him on the book blog.
Recent incidents have made me think of how important it is to be more mindful as well as vigilant. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that our work is not valued and that we cannot make a difference, but if we reach out to those who are within our circle, it’s possible to create small movements that lead to wider change. I always want to reach for better and it makes me happy to see people growing into their full potential.
My own work is moving into more challenging arena. I acknowledge that it’s probably not all that accessible to readers who are used to narratives patterned after the dominant paradigm. It’s scary but I’ve always had this belief that if something is meant to be read or shared or published, then it will be regardless.
On a very surprised note, my father said to me this week that Song of the Body Cartographer is his most favorite of all the work that I’ve done. It was so not the story I expected him to praise. I am pleasantly surprised and feeling very encouraged as well.
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.
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.)
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.
*(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.
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:
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
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.