Looking towards Dysprosium: an open confession

Here’s where I admit to suffering from a serious bout of pre-convention anxiety. I’ve been to Imagicon and that went well, but it was a convention based in the Netherlands and I went there knowing that most of the folks I’d meet have no connection to anything that went on last year. For a while I considered backing out of going to Dysprosium–and as the convention drew near I’ve vascillated between extreme moments of anxiety and trying to hide in my bed while trying to maintain the household. It’s just that I’m taking my eldest son to Eastercon for the first time and I know the con experience has given him the confidence boost that he’s sorely needed–it’s like he’s found a space where he’s free to be the person that he is.

But anxiety…it haunts me. Regardless of the fact that I know I will be surrounded by friends who care for me, I have heart palpitations and am filled with the same kind of terror that I had when I was preparing for Nine Worlds last year.

There’s this thing about having experienced hostility in places that you once felt at home in. During my sessions with my therapists, I talked about the struggle I’ve faced as I try to prove wrong all the stereotypes leveled against third world women in a relationship with a white person. It’s a damned hard struggle because I’ve already been confronted with it–because some folks have judged me as being that third world woman who latches onto a white person for economic gain. And that isn’t even counting the in-your-face racism where people tell you exactly what they think of people coming from your part of the world–but “oh, I don’t mean you.”

The greatest source of my pre-Dysprosium anxiety comes from this being a London convention. It comes the possibility of being in the same area as people who have judged my right to my choice of friendships and my right to form my own opinion and my right to support what I wish to support–for not being angry enough or outraged enough–for being robbed of the choice when to speak and how to speak. This outright act of racism, coupled by the experience of knowing that I am “a piece of shit” to certain people–it’s what makes me feel anxious and unsafe.

Why now? People may ask. Why write about this now?

In writing this, I want to bring home the truth of what it feels like to be a person of color who has been treated like “the shit” certain people think I am simply because I did not fall in line with some unwritten party policy.

At the height of last year’s incident, someone questioned my right to write what I have been writing–after all, I am not a person with academic credentials, no MA’s no doctorates–only passion. Today, I grab hold of courage and remind myself that I am not here because I have the right degree. I am here because I have something I want to say and regardless that I’m not considered a “proper scholar”, I am committed to change in my lived life, in the society I occupy, and in the field I work in.

There are those who’ve questioned too, the depth of my relationship with Tricia Sullivan. Holding up this relationship and using it as an excuse to say I identify as white. What people don’t see and what people have never seen is how during my second year at Eastercon, when I still knew nobody and when I was barely anybody, Tricia Sullivan opened herself to me and treated me as an equal–not because I had attained something but simply because she saw me. It’s hurt me deeply to see Tricia vilified and made to appear as someone who is a villain–but in all these things, I have always seen Tricia’s heart and that she’s been made to feel unwelcome and unsafe where she only sought to create a wider space–that the beloved friend of my heart should be treated as if she were nothing more than trash–I cannot put into words how it’s made me feel.

I find myself wondering how people cannot see the double standards that are applied in this case. How is it that people do not understand that it is possible for a woman of color to stand up and choose to stand by a white person? How hard is it to comprehend that I would rather be hurt, because I know my own heart and I would rather take that hurt than to see my loved ones harmed? My choice. My decision. My stand. To me these are the things that have been on the line–my right to be a self-governing person who makes the decisions I make and to be treated as an equal when I choose to speak and to say what is on my mind.

I think it’s hard for most people to understand this pain and I am writing now from a place of pain and deep grief and I have to put this out there because to paper over this pain, to pretend it isn’t there–that’s something I can no longer do.

For some, deep friendships between white folks and people of color seem an impossibility. I will tell you, it’s not. It’s not impossible to love a white person so much that you see their flaws and their faults–to see their heart–to understand and embrace that person flaws and all because love sees and embraces all things and understands.

I think too of how narrow our vision is if we cannot see that.

I certainly can not and could not have come this far without my beloved friends, without my companions, without kadkadua and dear ones who have embraced me as I am, flaws and all.

So yes, I am anxious–terribly and incredibly anxious. But I am going to Dysprosium. I will be there. I will be doing barcon and will be sitting and catching up with beloved friends and companions on the journey. I will be there because I am doing what every woman of color has done before me–I’m facing down the dragon of anxiety that comes after you come to realize that not all those who call themselves ally truly see you as a person in your own right.

I refuse to become invisible. I refuse to be erased. I refuse to go away. No matter how anxious I may be, I will be there. I will not be silent.

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Loncon 3 Schedule

I’m a bit late with posting my schedule, but if you want to see me on panels at Worldcon, my schedule looks like this:

Friday, August 15
1:30pm
 
Content and Form: Writing SF/F in non-Western Modes
Capital Suite 8 (Level 3), 1:30pm – 3pm

Sofia Samatar recently suggested that SF genre writers and readers have “a tendency to focus on content rather than form”, even or especially when engaging with marginalised perspectives. Does our genre inevitably tend towards the form and structure of western, English-language stories, regardless of what cultural tradition(s) are reflected in the content? How can a non-western or non-Anglophone writer engage with science fiction and fantasy while also operating outside of the conventions of western-style storytelling? Is it possible for western writers to engage with non-western traditions in an authentic way and produce a story that a wider audience will recognize as science fiction or fantasy? What are some of the different forms offered by non-western cultures that need to be told?

4:30pm
 
Imagining Fantasy Lands: The Status Quo Does Not Need Worldbuilding
Capital Suite 11 (Level 3), 4:30pm – 6pm

Fantasy world-building sometimes comes under fire for its pedantic attention to detail at the expense of pacing or prose style. Do descriptive passages clog up the narrative needlessly, when reader imagination should be filling in the gaps? Where does that leave the landscapes and cultures that are less well represented in the Western genre: can world-building be a tool in subverting reader expectations that would otherwise default to pseudo-medieval Euro-esque? If fantasy is about defamiliarising the familiar, how important is material culture – buildings, furnishings, tools, the organisation of social and commercial space – in creating a fantasy world?

8pm
 
Translation-Wish, Translation-Obstacles
Capital Suite 6 (Level 3), 8pm – 9pm

Many of us have read work in our own languages that we would love to propose to Anglophone publishers.  But how to fund a rough translation of such work?  The Interstitial Arts Foundation is looking to create a new initiative to bring translators together with national and international funders to create a way to make something happen!

Saturday, August 16
1:30pm
 
The World at Worldcon: SF/F in South and South-East Asia
London Suite 2 (Level 0), 1:30pm – 3pm

South and South-East Asia include a huge span of nations, cultures and languages, so does it make any sense to talk of “Asian SF”? What are the traditions and touchstones of fantastical storytelling in South and South-East Asia? What is the state of genre there, and how have shared myths and a joint heritage of colonialism influenced it? A panel of writers and critics from India, Pakistan, Malaysia and The Philippines compare notes.

10pm
 
Reading: Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
Capital Suite 13 (Level 3), 10pm – 10:30pm
Sunday, August 17
12pm
 
Diversity Within Young Adult Science Fiction
Capital Suite 2 (Level 3), 12pm – 1:30pm

From Earthsea to Noughts and Crosses, The Summer Prince to Akata Witch, children and teens need to see books with characters that represent the diverse world they live in, whether they are dystopian romance or fantasy adventure. Organisations like We Need Diverse Books are helping to promote diversity in children’s literature, but what actions can we take – as readers, writers, publishers, and book-buyers – to help them in their goals? And who are the great authors of the past few years we should be catching up on?

Please do feel free to say hi if you see me. 🙂

Nine Worlds schedule

Formalities being as they are. Here’s my Nine Worlds schedule.

Mythology and Fairytales: pernicious supernaturalism or meaningful exploration of existence?

Friday, 1.30pm – 2.45pm
County C&D
Where do myths and fairytales come from, and how are they influencing genre today?
Panel: Lauren Beukes, Joanne Harris, Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Aishwarya Subramanian, John Connolly

Likeable Bad Guys
Loving you is easy; explaining you is so hard
Saturday, 1.30 – 2.45
County C&D
We love to hate them, we hate to love them: from great one-liners to a sympathetic backstory, from the evil laugh to villian-fabulous fashion: what makes bad guys soooooo good?
Panel: Ed Fortune, Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Stephen Aryan, Anna Caltabiano, Den Patrick

Reading SF While Brown
Sunday, 11.45 – 1.00
For many of us, reading science fiction and fantasy was a formative experience — one that introduced new ideas, and shaped what we knew or hoped to be possible. But what imaginative leaps does a reader have to make to buy into worlds that don’t include anyone who looks or talks like them? And what impact does making that imaginative leap, time and again, ultimately have? Genre writers and readers talk about their experiences of reading SF while brown.
Guests: Aishwarya Subramanian, Taran Matharu, Camille Lofters, Rochita Loenen Ruiz

Fantasticon Report-observations, thoughts and discussions

20140614_183042[1]

 had a really great time at Fantasticon. I was housed in a lovely hotel called Fy & Bi in Valby. We had lovely weather and the walk from the hotel to the cultural center where the con was being held was quite a nice one.

Fantasticon was a very good opportunity to get to meet Danish writers of the fantastic and I loved that I got to find out firsthand about the state of genre in Denmark. I didn’t get to see a lot of bookshops, but I did go back and investigate the shelves of a bookshop I’d visited together with Karin Tidbeck.

The Scandinavian countries seem to share quite a number of things in common when it comes to challenges in genre. I couldn’t help but wish someone would already invent that built-in translator device where you plug yourself in and you can read and understand whatever language is used in whatever country you visit.

Con organizers, Jesper Rugard Jensen and Lars Ahn gave me the lowdown on how genre is doing on the evening that I arrived in Copenhagen. What genre struggles with is the general impression or stereotype that genre has had to struggle with in many places in the world. In Denmark, they find themselves going up against that thing where people call certain things high literature and other things low literature and genre seems to be pushed into this box with a huge label on it marked: FOR CHILDREN.

I’m not very fond of this inclination as I tend to think that literature is whatever’s written and we read it (I’m literal like that). Some literature is bad and some is good. Some I’ll like, some I won’t like. I also think that labels are only helpful for marketing but they don’t really help the people who read.

But not everyone is like me and what these labels mean is that a lot of Danish folk read fantastic and speculative fiction until a certain age and if you’re an adult who still likes science fiction and fantasy, people will look at you askance. This mirrors some of the attitude that I see in The Netherlands and is to some extent similar to what I’ve seen in The Philippines (although it’s gotten much better over there since they’ve started producing soaps that take inspiration from historical characters and epic tales).

Karin Tidbeck told me that this is the same thing they’ve been up against in Sweden. According to Karin, Nene Ormes’s work has played an important role in making fantasy more mainstream as Nene has created this fantastic world that mines Swedish myth and history. I now want to read Nene’s books, but translation takes a lot of time of effort and money and until someone does that, it’s either I wait or learn Swedish. (I wonder if I’ll learn Swedish before translations happen).

A lot of the conversations that we had during the con was about language, the use of language, and translations–the use and the challenges of. It was great to sit in a room with writers and translators who had firsthand experience with translating either their own work or the work of others. It’s heartening to see the spirit of generosity that exists within the community as we see writers who translate work for other writers or translators who give their services all free of charge. It made me wonder though how it would change things if writers didn’t have to expend their energy on translating their work. If professional translators could be paid to do the work, wouldn’t this free up time and energy for writers to write more new work?

While we see very little traffic going outward, where Danish or Swedish writing gets translated into English, there seems to be quite a good bit of translation going on from English. In one of the bookshops, I noticed that they stocked books from popular authors like Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. I think I saw Joe Abercrombie on the shelves and Stephen King, but there’s not really much to choose from and there were no local authors at all–well, at least none that sounded Danish or English. In another bookshop, I did see work from Tove Johanssen and Peter Hoeg. But really not very much that I could identify as genre.

20140616_113519[1] I can’t help but think that there’s some connection missing there somehow. Karin talked about how language colonialism, but I wonder if it goes even deeper than that. I’d be speculating at this point, of course…but I can’t help but think I need to do more real research. It seems to me that there should be some way to break through those false barriers that keep people from reading work that’s locally produced.

I find myself wondering if being translated into English affects the way we receive certain works? Does a local being published in the US or the UK affect our perception of that author’s work? To what extent does publication in the US or the UK influence or affect how we receive the work or perceive the author?

A lot of questions that still need to be asked. It makes me think that there’s still quite a bit of work to be done when it comes to breaking the stereotype that people have attached to science fiction and the fantastic in these countries.

(On an aside, it does seem that Anime and Manga are a big thing in Denmark too. So, there’s that as well.)


20140613_115728[1]My thanks again to the con organizers who invited me. To the Danish writers, translators and readers who generously shared of their knowledge, their experiences and the challenges they face in genre. Thank you. It was hyggeligt. 😀

 

Talking about good things

2014 is turning out to be quite a busy period. Aside from familial things (including my eldest son breaking his leg and needing lots of support), I’ve been busily working on the En novel. Sometimes, I look at this work and worry about it being too different. When those moments arise, I remember Audre Lorde talking about the work being greater than the fear and I push on and persevere. This is a story I must write and so I’ll write it to the best of my abilities.

Via my good friend, Aliette de Bodard, I found out about this lovely review of “Of Alternate Adventures and Memory”. I’m quite blown away to have my story mentioned alongside Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories are for Losers”. I loved Sofia’s story, so it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as her. Thank you, Ana Grilo.

I want to keep on writing stories that will move readers. Stories that will make readers think and look differently at the world around them. Stories that will challenge readers to step outside the box and move beyond their comfort zones. I also want to continue to encourage other writers to keep on being courageous. No one else can tell your stories the way you do.

I won’t be at many conventions this year, but I’ve been invited and agreed to be one of the guests at Fantasticon 2014. My thanks to Jesper Rugard for inviting me and to Trish Sullivan who kindly put my name forward. I’ve heard that it’s a great con and I’m looking forward to meeting new people and making new friends. 

While I was offline, the second part of A Poetics of Struggle was published on Strange Horizons. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s here. There’s still a lot more to say about struggle and the field of sf, but I’ll leave it there for the moment as the next column will be about something completely different.

For today’s final bit of news, the ToC for Steampunk World edited by Sarah Hans has been announced. I think Sarah Hans has done a wonderful job of putting together an anthology which is true to the word “World”. I look forward to reading the stories and hope that readers enjoy reading them too.

Afrofuturism and Beyond

Posting about two events related to each other.

On Saturday, November 2, Radio Redmond will be holding an Afrofuturist Event during the Amsterdam Museumnacht at FOAM Fotografiemuseum. I’m pretty excited about my story being included on programme for this event. I want to express my thanks to the Radio Redmond crew and in particular to Hodan Warsame and Chandra Frank who made time for me (never mind that the storm got in the way of that plan, but just the making time is a huge thing).

On November 9 (also a Saturday), I’ll be in Amsterdam again. This time at the American Book Center’s Treehouse for a book presentation of Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond. Our editor/publisher Bill Campbell will be there as well as ToC-mate Tade Thompson. Hodan Warsame will be moderating the q & a, and there will be books available.

Thanks go out to the American Book Center staff, in particular to Tiemen Zwaan. If you’re in Amsterdam, do drop by the book presentation. 🙂

I’ve been reminded that I still have a slew of things to finish before heading out to WFC, among them sending emails and checking in. I’m looking forward to this con. Here’s to meeting up with old friends and making new ones.

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.

My Nine Worlds experience

Nine Worlds was amazing. I was there as a guest and in this post, I want to thank Tori Truslow who invited me to the con, and also the Con Committee who made it possible for me to attend the con.

While Nine Worlds was a busy con for me (I had panels on Saturday and Sunday and a reading on the evening of Friday), I came away from it feeling very much recharged, energized and challenged ( I did sleep all day afterwards, but that’s normal, right? ).

I have great love for the Queer space. I wish all cons had a space like this. I loved that there was this safe space you could go to and just talk and connect with like-minded people. I felt like I could really be myself, and that’s always a good feeling to have when you’re talking about issues you’re passionate about.

I don’t have any other cons to compare Nine Worlds to, except for Eastercon. But Eastercon has a very different thrust and I don’t think there’s any way to compare the two. Nine Worlds is Nine Worlds and Eastercon is Eastercon.

Tori Truslow’s workshop on Writing our Own Stories proved to be very inspiring for me. I found myself challenged to write a story which would express the multiplicity and complexity of self. This was the story that woke me up at 5.30 on Saturday Morning–a voice that just refused to let me go back to sleep. I was rather grumpy about waking up too and having to turn on my netbook and write words when all I really wanted to do was go back to sleep.

The discussions and the conversations I had at the con were so thought-provoking and inspiring and I am even more determined to go on and keep writing about the things I’m writing. If we want to reach a place where we’re all finally conversing on equal terms, we need to create more space for diverse voices to be heard and paid attention to.

This is why I still value very strongly the voices of those coming from within a culture above the voices of those outside of the culture. What I mean is: I’d rather see more of us writing our own stories. And while I acknowledge the value in those who write about us, it’s just not the same.

We need more writers of color, we need more queer writers, we need more writing from the perspective of those with physical limitations, and we need more women writing. We need these stories because these stories are what make Science Fiction richer and better.

chiereading at nineworlds