Because all work is the result of a collective

The work that I do would not be the work it is without the influence of those working and writing in my community. One of those whose work never fails to move me profoundly is the Filipino-American poet, Barbara Jane Reyes.

It feels very serendipitous to be featuring an interview with her right at this moment when I am thinking about language, decolonisation and what it means to be working in a field where we are a minority.

I hope that this interview will be an inspiration for all who read it. May we all continue to produce thought-provoking, challenging and mindful work.

An Interview with Barbara Jane Reyes is now up at the bookblog.

New Process Conversation up on the book blog

Drop by and check out A Process Conversation with Anil Menon and Vandana Singh. I’m so pleased we’re able to feature this interview on the blog and I readers enjoy it too.

“I think we’re going to be seeing a major breakout of some truly radical SFF from the rest of the world, including Indian writers. But attitude and high expectations are key.”

Go there to read more.

So many things and so little time

I’ve updated the book blog with the long-delayed publication of Wesley Chu’s interview. I’m missing the collaboration that I had with my big sister and I’m really sorry that she’s had to bow out of reviewing. I have a few more interviews on file and after I post those, I think the book blog will change into a reading blog where I talk about books and short fiction that I’ve read.

There’s been little time to update this blog and so I’m sharing a clump of news in this one post. For one, I’m finally able to announce that my Bloodchildren story, Dancing in the Shadow of the Once, will be appearing in the Mammoth Book of SF by Women edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane.  Dancing in the Shadow of the Once is one of the stories that I’m proudest of. When the email came in, I jumped up and down with joy and that happiness has kept me going throughout the dark months.

The Hugo shortlist for 2014 has been announced and I’m tickled pink to see that Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary edited by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin is a finalist for Best Related Work. My essay, Decolonizing as an SF Writer, is in this volume. You can read the essay here, but you can also purchase a copy of the book and read all the goodness inside. All proceeds from sales go to Room to Read.  

The shortlist for the Shirley Jackson Awards has also been announced and Jonathan Oliver’s The End of the Road anthology has been shortlisted for best Anthology. Jonathan Oliver put a lot of work into making this an anthology that’s inclusive and diverse and I’m very pleased to see the anthology receiving recognition from his peers. Also, secretly tickled because Dagiti Timayap Garda is in this anthology and in a way, I feel like Ifugao has now been put on the genre map.

There’s still quite a bit to post, but I’ll keep that for another time. In the meantime, I wanted to share this piece of art created by James Ng. I’m completely blown away by how this image that he’s created for my short story, The Construct Also Dreams of Flight which is in the upcoming Steampunk World anthology edited by Sarah Hans.

13Do check out the hashtag #SteamPunkWorld or check out https://twitter.com/jamesngart for more SteamPunk World interior art.

 

Changes

The book blog has been fallow for quite sometime. First we had Typhoon Haiyan and then we had a family emergency and then my sister told me the spotty internet has sort of drained her of any energy to really come and keep at it.

I thought about it for a while and considered whether I had the energy to do reviews as well as interviews. The beauty of my sister and I doing the blog was that she could bring in her perspective as a reader who reads anything and I could do the interviews (which I’ve always enjoyed doing).

I do want to continue doing the book blog and I have some interviews on stock with writers whose work I’ve enjoyed and so I think I’ll just go ahead and post those interviews and maybe write my own thoughts–not proper reviews then…but just my thoughts and impressions of the work.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to publish interviews from Kaaron Warren, Wesley Chu, Vandana Singh and Anil Menon, and from Karin Tidbeck. My schedule may be erratic, but it’s something we started for fun and because we love books.

World Fantasy Convention

World Fantasy Con is just around the corner. Next week to be exact. Let me catch my breath because I feel like I’m running out of time to do all the things I want to do so I don’t fall behind while I’m at WFC.

I’ve updated the book blog today with a review by Weng. This time, she reviews an urban fantasy novel by J. Damask. Head over and read if you have time.

It looks like this is going to be one busy convention as I want to meet and hang out with so many people. I’ve also heard this is the con where if folks see someone they need to talk to because of work, that comes first. So, if you’re in convo with me and see someone walking by who you must talk to, I won’t be offended or hurt if you run off in mid-sentence.

Here’s where I’ll be at World Fantasy:

Friday: 17.00  We’re All Bloggers Now (Cambridge, Track B)

Sunday: 10.00 Reading (Hall 8B, Readings 2)

Sunday: 11.00 Signing for the On The Road Anthology (Signing Alley)

I’ll be attending World Fantasy together with fellow World SF supported writer Csilla Kleinheincz. This will be our first World Fantasy Con and I am looking forward to it. Thanks again to Lavie Tidhar and Sean Wallace, to the World SF Blog and to folks who supported the Indiegogo campaign that made this possible for Csilla and I.

More thoughts on reading and the diversity issue

My initial reading for the Paul Harland Prize is almost at an end. Only a handful of stories to go and I can send in my tabulated results and then we can all powwow on email and argue about who gets in and who stays out of the top 30 or 40 entries.

Looking at my numbers, I find myself wondering if I’ve been too harsh this year. I think of how adversity and low scores can serve as a winnowing tool as well. Writers who treat this as a hobby or who don’t really care about it will take that low number and probably quit writing. The ones who take those numbers and look at them as a challenge to come back and prove that they can be better than that number are likely to be the ones who will eventually make their mark in the field.

The road to publication is never easy. Even after you get published, the road never becomes easy. There is always a struggle, and there is always something that you have to overcome.

Aside from the Paul Harland stories, I’ve been reading quite a lot. This past month, I read Shimon Adaf’s excellent Sunburnt Faces. We’re reviewing it for the bookblog and we even managed to snag an interview with the author himself.

Last night, I finished reading Berit Ellingsen’s beautifully surreal The Empty City. Berit’s short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin has the same quiet feeling, but it’s fascinating to see that voice at work in a full-length novel.

I’ve also read Wesley Chu’s Lives of Tao which is bursting with action and energy. It’s an interesting first novel, and I’m looking forward to seeing what my Big Sis thinks of it.

Another read that I enjoyed a lot is Kaaron Warren’s Walking the Tree. I’ve since purchased quite a bunch of Kaaron’s books.

For the book blog, I’m rereading Karin Tidbeck’s fabulous Jagganath. I won’t do spoilers here, but I remember just what it was about this work that fascinated me so much.

I am reading Hiromi Goto’s A Chorus of Mushrooms and am loving it for so many different reasons. At the same time, I’m thinking yet again of Claire Light’s excellent Slightly Behind and to the Left.

If you haven’t read Claire Light’s book, I suggest you head over to Aqueduct Press and grab a copy. It’s not too pricey and it is a thought-provoking read.

Alongside all these readings, I’ve been sneaking reads and rereads into my favorite poetry books and nonfiction books. I am so grateful for mobile technology that allows me to carry so much on one small device.

I write about these readings that I’ve been doing because I keep on thinking of the discussions around diversity in SFF and how we find ourselves disappointed each time people interpret this as meaning: let me write characters of color or let me include QUILTBAG characters or let me include someone who has a disability in my work.

Yesterday, I had a long conversation with Sean Wright about this for Galactic Chat. I’m not sure how good I am as an interview subject, but basically my thoughts on diversity are summed in this: It’s not about you or your work, it’s about saying: look there’s this fantastic author who comes from this place we don’t hear enough voices from.

Instead of saying, I write LGBTQ characters, encourage and promote the work of LGBTQ writers. Instead of saying, I write brown characters in my novel, encourage and promote the work of writers of color.

Not that writers shouldn’t include a diverse cast of characters in their own work, but I’ve seen the conversation often boil down to people saying: but look at my work. I’m a white writer and I write brown people or I’m a straight writer trying to write QUILTBAG characters.

And yes, I appreciate that people are making that effort to write thoughtfully about us, but what I really really want to see happen is people saying: Oh, you must read so and so. Not because they’re this and that but because the work provides a different perspective from what we usually see.

Which brings me back to my diverse reading. Shifting from Shimon Adaf’s work which is brilliant and burns like the sun to Berit Ellingsen’s cool and surreal work, from Kaaron Warren’s wildly imaginative Walking the Tree to Wesley Chu’s energetic The Lives of Tao–these readings bring home why we need a more diverse pool of writers in the field.

In reading works from writers who reside and know their part of the world intimately, I find myself gaining more insight into the world. An opening happens in my psyche and while I may not understand fully, I am ready and willing to understand. And I think it’s at this place where dialogues and conversations happen.

Updating the Book Blog

We’ve published our Author Interview with Karen Lord over at the Book Blog, so if you have time, do hop over and check it out. I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, so if you catch any mistakes, please feel free to let me know.

This interview marks the end of the first cycle of reviews/interviews and our first process post. We’ll be taking a short break and then we’ll be coming back with another cycle of reviews/interviews/discussions and more process posts.

This first period of reviewing/interviewing and publishing on the blog has been an interesting time. For this first period, I relied a bit on a template kind of interview with some stuff thrown in there, but I find myself wondering just what kinds of conversations would take place if instead of following a template, we allowed ourselves to let the conversation grow organically.

I realize that authors are very busy people who don’t really have all the time in the world to answer the curious questions of readers–hence the convenient template. But I just completed an organically grown interview and am in the process of doing another one. And I think this is how the second cycle is going to look like.

I want to see how the book blog will evolve. What kinds of conversations can we carry on around books, what kinds of conversations can we have with writers, artists, with people who encourage and grow other artists and writers.

I want to see where the intersections are between writers coming from non-western countries and writers coming from non-English speaking countries.

I also want to see the intersections between the various art forms, the struggle in literature, in sf/f, and even in academia. I want to see where these are connected to the work we engage in as people who continue to speak out against injustices and inequalities.

Where do we have common ground and what common things do we struggle for or struggle against. How do we make room for voices that need to be heard? How do we make space for the next generation?

I suppose I need to see these things in words, more for myself because when things are in words, they become visible.

I’m not really sure what will come of it, but I like how this is all going at the moment. 

Book Blogging, Linkage and the Diversity in SFF conversations

It’s Friday and I just realized I haven’t posted yet about various things. Over at the Book Blog, I’ve posted a short book discussion that Weng and I had about Kiini Ibura Salaam’s Ancient, Ancient. That discussion went up on Monday and on Wednesday, we published our author interview with Kiini. Do go check out the book blog if you haven’t yet and let us know what you think.

Aliette de Bodard has posted a must-read blogpost on Other Cultures and Diversity in SFF. Do take the time to read it.

Talking about diversity and the danger of dominant voices drowning out minority narrative, read also Gracie Jin’s article on Policymic where she writes about the One Thing White Writers get away with but Authors of Color Don’t.  

My own thoughts on diversity in SFF are contained in last week’s Movements Column: On Escapist Literature and Being Dangerous.

On Black Gate, Foz Meadows’ Challenging the Classics: Questioning the Arbitrary Browsing Mechanism is another must-read.

On twitter, Lavie Tidhar tweeted: “It’s easy to make a hashtag about diversity, harder to actively encourage/support it.”

Speaking as a writer coming from a third-world nation, as a writer coming from a culture that has been so steeped in western influence, as a writer who knows what it’s like to have English valued above your native tongue, I can speak of the multiplicity of struggle.

We struggle against the impositions of language and we struggle against the impositions of western thought. We struggle to bring our stories into the world and we struggle to be heard. We have voices, but those voices are often drowned out by hegemony.

Our voices are often rendered suspect because “experts” have been there telling our histories and our stories in our place.

One of the things that sometimes disheartens me, is how in the discussions on diversity, the voices of those from the margins are often overlooked or erased. I wonder then, again, do we speak our words into the wind? When will the time come when our narratives/opinions will also be treated as equal and welcome? 

I don’t worry for myself. I am at this age where I think: if I get another twenty years, that’s a good thing. While I don’t worry for myself, I do worry for the next generation of writers and creators and I don’t want them to lose heart because the struggle seems to be all uphill. I want to believe that in the time I have, I can at least make a little bit of a difference so it will be less of a struggle. I want to make room so it will be easier to breathe and easier to create. 

You’re probably wondering what you can do. What else can we do? What more can we do to promote diversity in SFF? 

Here’s something concrete we all can do–promote a story, promote a book, promote a writer who is not one of your circle, but who is someone who you feel has a story that needs to be heard. As a challenge to yourself, let that writer be either a writer of color, a writer who is non-western, a QUILTBAG writer or a writer who is all or a combination of the above. 

You may not like all the stories you read, they may not all speak to you (God knows, not all stories speak to me), but they may speak to someone else and in promoting that story, you say this: “There’s this voice I heard. I want you to hear that voice too. I want us to listen and make space because that voice is saying things someone needs to hear.”

Recent Updates

The latest Movements column has gone up on Strange Horizons and is titled: On Escapist Literature and Being Dangerous. Born out of one of the many discussions we had at Nine Worlds, I hope that it speaks to readers and sparks more conversation around the subjects of diversity and inclusivity. I also hope that it gives aspiring writers the courage to keep trying.

Over at the book blog, we’ve published a new review by my Big Sis Weng. Today’s review is of Kari Sperring’s The Grass King’s Concubine. This was one of the few paper books I was able to send my sister. Most of the other books are in ebook format. As usual, most of our reviews are from books purchased/owned by us. We may grab something from netgalley, if publishers let us, but we do like choosing our own books and I don’t dictate to my sister.

I’m working quite intensively on a longer piece of fiction. This will be even longer than Dancing in the Shadow of the Once from the Bloodchildren anthology. Dancing clocked in at a little bit over 8,000 words. This one is racing towards 15,000 and looks like it’ll be going past that. I’m excited, scared and happy. I don’t know what to call it except science fiction. 🙂