History and myth-making

I’ve been thinking a lot about history and myth-making as I work on another piece. Edouard Glissant’s work inspires me a lot and it feels like the universe is working to bring various readings across my path that are in conversation with the work of Glissant.

Rolando Vazquez’s Vistas of Modernity enriches my engagement with Glissant’s work and vice versa and I can’t recommend Vistas of Modernity enough. While I was reading Vistas of Modernity, I found myself moving back to some passages from Glissant and then returning again to Vistas. In my head, it felt like there was this rich conversation going on between these two thinkers. There’s a lot to process and a lot to think about and I feel like rushing to make a post on it would not do any justice to the work. But definitely, anyone who’s interested or who is engaged in decolonial work would benefit a lot from looking up Glissant’s work and Vazquez’s Vistas of Modernity.

While reflecting on these two works, and while working on the new short piece, I found myself thinking about the relation between music and mathematics: about algorithms and improvisations: about waveforms and spacetime. A lot of times, I feel like a chicken scratching at the surface of concepts where comprehension lies just beyond my reach–like that word that you know is waiting to be uttered at the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t vocalise it yet.

The new piece is me working on concepts that intrigue me. It’s also influenced by the idea of history, re-membering (as Rolando writes it) and myth-making.

All these thoughts tumble together to inform the practice I am developing when it comes to the workshop practice. The idea of employing various mediums and ways of creating or re-membering or un-remembering history….these are things that I feel are key to the work and are necessary to what we want to achieve with the Invitation to Dreaming.

The hungry mind led me to Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination by Brent Hayes Edwards. I’ve only cracked the book open, but in the introduction there’s a passage that captured my imagination. Here, the author writes that: “Oral history’s importance lies not in adherence to fact, but in its departure from it, as imagination, symbolism and desire emerge.”

I think on how we can sometimes get stranded or blocked by the idea of story not aligning with empirical data and I’ve been thinking too about how a lot of history is told from the viewpoint of the conqueror or the coloniser.

Anyway, this is because I find myself rather obsessed with the question of the use of speculative fiction in the work of decolonisation.

A beloved friend of mine spoke of this kind of writing as a form of exorcism and the more I think on it, the more I love how this resonates with the idea of myth-making and how important it is for us to recognise that the myths we create are not subordinate or less important but are rather of equal value and equal importance. Do we even need to explain why it is important to us? Do we even need to make everything comprehensible or transparent?

Glissant in Poetics of Relation writes this: “For more than two centuries whole populations have had to assert their identity in opposition to the processes of identification or annihilation triggered by these invaders. Whereas the Western nation is first of all an “opposite” for colonised peoples, identity will be primarily “opposed to” — that is a limitation from the very beginning. Decoloniality will have done its real work when it goes beyond this limit.”

I think then to myself that the capacity to think beyond data and to think outside the box, to imagine beyond what is presented as “these are the facts” are tools which help in the work of decoloniality. Myth-making, the de-linking of the personal and the empirical, the creation of tangents and speculations, the ability to think outside of time.

My mind works away and picks at process and about how to bring these ideas into the workshop practice. How to encourage new and aspiring artists to bring this kinds of concepts with them into their core work.

Again, I find myself thinking of points of origin and how starting from the self, meeting the artists at where they are in that moment is an essential part of the work. Histories, stories, songs and other creations which are personal to us are also linked to the wider world. Family stories are where myth-making starts. Family histories are part of our personal myth-makings too. Beyond the personal portraits, beyond the familial, we see the world as a backdrop. How is that family myth set within the world around it? How do we create myths that originate from our selves? What’s important is that these myths come from us. From creators whose voices have often been elided–the sound you miss or skip over–like jazz creators, we must improvise. We create and bounce off each other’s words and worlds, we mix and play to create myths that sound like and belong to the self. They don’t have to adhere to an existing narrative, they belong to their selves, just as we belong to our selves.

There is a lot to think and reflect on as I think of this and as I consider on how to bring that into my practice.

To you who are on the journey, sing your songs, write your myths, dance your dances.

She’d always known space had shape and form of its own. It wasn’t always visible, but it was there. Now, its patterns and undulations were visible to her. She could see it curving around to accommodate her sire; could see it flowing and moving to accommodate static instruments, to accommodate her/self/; and now, she could see too how it lent itself to shadows that took on a form of their own as they came to stand beside her sire. 

-From To the Tune of the Wild Ones-

literary tradition

Small chapbook is happening. I wish I had thought to do this when she was still here. I miss you, big sis. But even though I can’t see you anymore, I know you’re somewhere smiling because I also believe you do see this.

Included in this book: Decolonizing as an SF writer, Dancing in the Shadow of the Once and the English version of the first Dutch story I’ve ever written. In English it’s titled: Hymn to Life.

In lieu of a CV, I thought I would just share a small book with my work in it.

some ambitious dreaming

I’ve been working on our project proposal for the dreaming sessions which would lead to more writing sessions. This is a project that’s flowed forth from a dream I shared with one of my friends sometime before Covid sent us all into lockdown. At that time, I didn’t see how to make that dream become something real. I just didn’t know how to at that time because I was emerging from having retreated away from the world and was just moving tentatively towards engaging with the world again.

So I told this friend who is also a dreamer like me, about my desire to create something inviting for BIPOC writers, thinkers and creatives. I didn’t know what form it would take, but during the pandemic period, when I realised how dreaming was essential to youngsters, I started the writing sessions. When my fellow visionary got back in touch with me, I had already worked out some of the things I wanted to do with a face to face version of the writing sessions.

As I work on the draft for this project, I think about my own history with dreaming and the written word.

My love for writing started long ago, when I was little girl in the mountains who had run out of books to read. Before I thought of writing stories for myself, I remember lying in bed next to my sister long after lights out. I remember the stories we spun for each other in the dark. I remember holding hands when our stories got scary, and falling asleep when they got a bit boring, and dreaming on inside my mind long after my sister had fallen asleep.

Books were magical things created by people far far beyond my line of sight. When I was a child, I didn’t know it was possible for someone like me to one day have stories included in books.

I think of those whose names I don’t yet know–those who I will meet on this journey. I think of those who dream and who are scared to reach out for the pen, I think of the numerous stories, the numerous words, the recollections and the dreaming that are waiting to be brought into the world. I want to say: I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to read your work.

Working on the writing sessions

Life is moving swiftly these days and it’s good to be working again and to be writing at a steady pace as well. I’ve decided to start a new trajectory for the kids who are joining in on the discord writing sessions, moving towards helping the kids think about projects they want to work on or stories they might want to write and how best to help them achieve that.

The project that a friend and I have pitched has been approved and we hope to start working on promoting and inviting participants soon. I think that one of the things we’ll have to do is specifically go and invite potential participants actively. My hope is that in actively inviting, we create a sense of welcome. Bringing potential participants across the threshold to where they say: Okay, I’ll give this a try, is a first step.

My primary focus in the upcoming sessions is the participant. What do participants want to achieve? What stories do they want to tell? To me, it’s important to meet participants where they are in their journey. To give them freedom to connect with the sound of their own voice and the strength of their own stories. In this, I feel it’s important to share the works of writers of colour, to reconnect with musical forms that come from personal history or culture, to think about the forms we use in our own settings and to make those the building blocks on which we tell our stories. To invite participants to play and just have fun in whatever language feels most connected to their inner self. I feel this is where I would like to start as I’ve discovered that often that reconnection with the inner voice brings about a sense of wonder, the realisation that a certain power and magic exists in letting that inner voice come out. To my mind, the technical details of craft, while being necessary are of lesser importance than that discovery.

More and more, I find that colouring inside the lines–adhering to imposed structure and imposed ways of telling story ‘correctly’ (what does that even mean?) limits imagination and sense of joy and wonder. When we move outside of those lines, when we explore and have fun, then magic unfolds.

I think it’s important to emphasise that BIPOC writers write and create because we enjoy it and because we are curious and playful. Imagining and creating our own worlds and spaces bring us joy and hope and helps us work through things we wrestle with. I translate this as freedom to explore structures and other forms of tellings that live outside of the west or the establishment’s experience. It’s also a journey of exploration for me and as with all journeys, there is an element of trepidation. More than that though, there’s excitement and joy.

Looking at where I started with this post, I find myself thinking about jam sessions and improvisation and how it’s when we aren’t worried about ‘what if I play the wrong note’ that the most wonderful things come into being. One of them being: the joy of shared laughter and then the excitement of seeing what we can do with unintended disharmony.

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.

Workshop update

Yesterday was the third day of the Envisioning Other Futures Writer’s Workshop. After an intense first two meetings with lots of in-class exercises, we had our first critique circle. For their first writing assignment, we created a shared world setting and I asked the writers to create stories/work in that setting. For me, it was important to see how far these writers are in their writing journey and also I wanted to know what else I could share with them. Given that they had less than a week to complete the first writing assignment, I found myself happily surprised by how many of the class made the effort and succeeded in completing a first draft. I am encouraged and delighted by the work the class is producing. In between, we talked briefly about the Dutch mindset and how this can stand in the way of allowing the self to come out and play and be imaginative and have fun.

In the afternoon, our first guest lecturer, Müge Yilmaz spoke to us about her work and process. It was such a joy to listen and to be inspired by her approach and her vision. Müge’s work is thought-provoking and inspiring and her talk reminded me of how artists and visionaries tap into streams of awareness that resonate with each other.

There’s a lot to think about and mull over.

I’m sharing a link to Müge’s website in the hopes that those who read this post will also be inspired by her work.

I want to write more about the workshop, the process and things I am discovering not just about my students, but about myself as well. The great thing about the workshop process is that as we share knowledge, we also grow in understanding. It isn’t a one-way street, it’s a process. I believe that to be an artist is to be constantly challenging oneself and to be constantly open to learning and to be constantly growing.

Envisioning Other Futures 2020

Tomorrow marks the start of Envisioning Other Futures, the Other Futures science fiction workshop.

Out of the applicants, we’ve selected 12 participants to take part in this first edition. It feels like a beginning, like a promise of things to come. I look forward to the workshop, to working together with, and to seeing what our participants will bring into the world.

The announcement with the names of the participants is here.

In preparation for this workshop, I’ve been digging back through my notes. Rereading Octavia Butler’s works–Furor Scribendi, Earthseed, Speech Sounds, Bloodchild.

Reading Octavia’s Earthseed, I find myself going back to that refrain:

All that you touch

You change.

All that you change

Changes you.

The only lasting truth

Is Change.

God

Is Change.

 

I’m holding onto these words and I am remembering.

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.  🙂

Links and things to read

Movements: Translations, the Mother Tongue and Acts of Resistance is now live on Strange Horizons. Elisabeth Vonarburg’s The Chambered Nautilus also appears in this issue. It’s my first time to read her and I’m so glad Aliette de Bodard chose her story for this curated issue. You can read Aliette’s introduction here.

In the same issue is an essay by Jaymee Goh: Once More with Feeling: A Belated Response.

Fellow Filipino writer, Victor Ocampo has a new story up at Apex Magazine. Blessed are the Hungry is an interesting work which also breaks language hegemony and demonstrates code written into story. I like how it references a famous Filipino movie by Ismael Bernal.

Apex Magazine’s July issue is filled with interesting reading provides the reader with an interesting and diverse line-up. I quite enjoyed Rose Lemberg’s Baba Yaga Tries to Donate Money.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s novelette, Courtship in the Country of the Machine Gods, also appears in this issue as a reprint. The Apex Book of World SF 3 edited by Lavie Tidhar features this novelette and is now available.

(I’m thrilled to see that this volume also includes a reprint from Swedish writer, Karin Tidbeck whose work I adore.)

Of the stories published in Clarkesworld Magazine, I’ve only read N.K. Jemisin’s Stone Hunger. I like how the story makes use of the fairytale frame, the familiar becoming unfamiliar, it’s a story I want to read again at more leisure.

I’m working slowly through a post on the Decolonization process and Science Fiction. At the moment I have so many words on the page and I need to group them together so they form a cohesive whole.

Lately, I’ve been reading Leny M. Strobel, Virgil Mayor Apostol and Barbara Jane Reyes. Artists, writers, culture bearers.

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.