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.