In a time of pandemic

Last year, I was on a panel where we talked about the pandemic. We were in lockdown, but there was still this feeling that vaccines would be developed and the virus would be defeated. The reality is we’re still in the midst of a raging pandemic and while there are vaccines, the virus has undergone a number of mutations and there’s no way of predicting the path of a virus. It’s a natural phenomenon–like a storm that must rage until it’s done raging. There’s no reasoning with it, there’s no negotiating with it, there’s just understanding that we are living in a time when we must rethink the way we live our lives and do things.

This Sunday, I’ll be on a BonFiyah panel titled: Frail But Hard to Kill:Hope in a Time of Pandemic. The panel will be hosted by the most excellent Cristina Jurado and I’ll be on it alongside Alyssa Cole, Bogi Takács and Eve Shi. It’s probably the first proper SF related event that I’ll be appearing on since I don’t remember when, but the subject matter of the panel speaks to the need of the time we are in, so I hope I can offer something helpful.

The pandemic broke at a time when I was getting back on my feet and feeling strong enough again to pursue new ventures. For a short while, it was like coming to a full stop and feeling quite stymied about what happens next. But what helped me most was being in the rhythm of conducting a workshop that had to be moved online. Having to adapt the method and the practice to one that was more personal and having to take more time to think about the needs of the students. At the close of that period, I felt as if I had learned a lot and it helped me go back to the drawing board, to rethink how such workshops are conducted and to think about ways that are more nurturing and communal.

It also had me reflecting on the radicalised nature of various discussions and on what could be done to shift the direction of conversations so that instead of shouting from opposite ends of the table, we could move towards finding common ground, building bridges, and having productive discussions.

How can we as beings who are writers, practitioners of craft, artists and thinkers help create or shape the environment for these kinds of discussions?

I don’t think a blogpost offers enough room to think aloud on that matter, but I am taking it with me as I continue on my journey.

In the meantime, I wanted to share an image taken during one of my afternoon walks. I’ve included the caption I invented for it as I shared it with my friends. May we also recognise that there are other dwellers and travellers on this earth.

Upon observing a third species attempting to capture their meeting, the two species say to each other: ignore the third species. We’re still going to have our afternoon hangout, right?

May we travel with love and with wisdom.

second update of the day

Two updates in a day! Isn’t that something after months of not updating at all.

If I had to share everything that’s happened in the past year, I would be updating on the hour. But this update is about a one-hour workshop that I’ll be doing for FIBER. As I understand there are still spots available and when you sign-up or apply, you’re not just applying for a day workshop, but for a series of multidisciplinary workshops. If that tickles your curiosity, do go and check out the link.

I’ll be doing Day #1 workshop on worldbuilding and I’m still working on how to fit as much as I possibly can into that one hour slot. I went and read Alice Bucknell’s essay Ecological World-Building:From Science Fiction to Virtual Reality and then I asked Rhian Morris if I could attend Alice’s lecture (I can. Yay!). I have the date blocked on my calendar and am looking forward to it.

Anyway, talking about worldbuilding, I had to share a project I’ve been doing with a handful of young people (14-21 years old) and how working with these youngsters has inspired me and helped me refine and adjust my approach towards teaching/sharing worldbuilding tools. Each workshop I’ve given has also taught me a lessons on how to refine my approach so that it fits better with the people I’m working with.

With Envisioning Other Futures, I had a balance of Dutch-speaking and English-speaking students. My discord youngsters are bilingual who choose to write in English, and I’ve had one day workshops with writers whose only common language is English. Each group teaches me how to adapt and adjust so that the approach will be most useful to those attending.

Regardless of what discipline or background people come from, I think it’s important to find that sweet spot where participants let go of the rigidity of expectation and embrace their playful self. I think we’re best able to create when we allow ourselves to play in the worlds that we create. It’s also then, in that sense of joy that comes from creating together that we find surprising solutions to what might seem like insurmountable problems.

**I am also sharing a link to Rhian Morris’ site as I found myself quite fascinated by her immersive work. Do check it out and be inspired.

Preparations

In the lead-up to the second edition of the Other Futures Festival which will be held in Amsterdam from the 10th of April to the 12th of April, I will be leading Envisioning Other Futures, a creative writing workshop with the focus on science fiction. The application period has passed and the selection process has been completed. Names of accepted applicants will be released sometime in the coming week.

It’s been a while since I last led a workshop and with Envisioning Other Futures, I hope participating writers will feel free to write in either English or Dutch. I am looking forward to the stories that will come out of the workshop and to witnessing fresh voices emerge from the workshop.

I am happy that we made a choice for guest lecturers from different disciplines, who can offer participants insights that I hope will compel our writers to look deeper than the known tropes.

After what feels like a long period of being out of it, I find myself returning to one of the things I love the most. Writing. Sharing what I know and nurturing others. 2020 is shaping up to be a great year.  🙂

Eschacon

20151016eschaconintro

Eschacon starts today and I will be there together with awesome writers Zen Cho, Marieke Nijkamp, Corinne Duyvis, Bill Campbell and Aliette de Bodard.

Work and life go on. I’m very honored to join these writers in discussions. To be able to share what knowledge I have gained is a joy.

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. 🙂

Sci Fi Writing Salon

(Copied from the FB page where you can register for this workshop.)

“If we want to see women of color safe, happy, healthy and in power in the future, we must write/create worlds that are worthy of us.” – adrienne maree brown.

On Saturday July 12 poetry platform RE:Definition, feminist collective Redmond and Amsterdam’s American Book Center are hosting a sci fi writing salon with adrienne maree brown (co-editor of “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements) and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Octavia Butler scholar).

— Event info —
Doors open: 14.45h
Writing salon: From 15.00h until 18.00h.
Location: ABC Treehouse* (address: Voetboogstraat 11, 1012 XK A’dam)
Entrance: Free!
Reservations: Due to limited seating, reservations are required. To do so, please go to the Facebook Event page mention the number of seats (max. 3) you’d like to reserve.
What to bring: Something to write on and something to write with.

* ABC Treehouse is around the corner from sushi spot Tokyo Café at Spuiplein. When facing Tokyo Café, walk to the right; Voetboogstraat is the first street to your left.

— Links —
adrienne maree brown – http://adriennemareebrown.net/
Octavia’s Brood – http://www.octaviasbrood.com/
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz – https://rcloenenruiz.com/
Redmond – http://www.redmondamsterdam.com/
RE:Definition – http://www.wedefineus.wordpress.com
American Book Center – http://www.abc.nl

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.