For the record

For self-care reasons, I’ve requested that my name be removed from any publicity connected to The SEA is Ours. I’ve written the organizers to say that I will honor the perk that I offered in support of the fundraiser ( a criticque of a piece up to 8000 words ), but I have stated that I don’t want my name to appear on the page anywhere. I am making a note of it here, in case people wonder why my name has vanished from the fundraiser page and also to assure the person who took my perk that I will fulfill my word.

I wish the authors all the best and am thankful to the editors for their understanding.

Advertisements

In-between post

Today, I decided to share an excerpt from the memoir I worked on when I started writing again. Rereading it, I realize just how clearly it describes what happened to me–the slow erosion of self, the gradual erasure and subsuming of who I was to the personhood of the man I married–because, as my mother told me: it is our duty as wives to submit to our husbands.

In time, that erosion of self led to a complete forgetting of who I was and what mattered to me.

During one of my first sessions with my therapist, she asked me if I could name anything that I liked doing before I married and moved to the Netherlands.

Tell me, she said. What are the things that you enjoy.

The only thing that I could name and that I could cling to was writing. It was as if I had forgotten the self who lived before I came to this country.

Before I came here, my world was filled with life and art and sound, music and dance and song and laughter; discussions and debates over the dining table; books and words and loud speculations about the future.

I learned to hide those things because Dutch folks don’t like loud voices, because the way we laughed at home is considered unseemly here, because grown up people do not dance, do not indulge in fancy–not in this small town where I live in.

Today, I am engaged in reclamation. I have colored my hair–not an atrocious color, but still scandalous enough and I am wearing my colorful clothes.

I call my eldest son, Kuya (Filipino for older brother). I laugh and dance with my youngest child. We chatter, we make noise and we don’t care if the world shakes with the sound of our cheerfulness.

Thoughts on the Journey: Self-care: Play and the child self

My mom has this story she likes to tell–how when I was a child learning the piano, I would always at the end of each piano piece add my own notes or my own embellishments–putting in things that weren’t there.

I wasn’t very good at playing the piano the right way because the right way somehow didn’t match how I felt it should be like. ( I got much better at following the rules when I grew older, but my piano teacher always complained that I was too passionate about whatever I was playing. Which is actually pretty cool, now that I think of it.)

Growing up in the mountains, I discovered the perfect hideaway. The mountain behind our home had a small incline with no path leading up to it–no one could see from below because of the tall grasses and the view from behind was blocked by large rocks. From this perfect place, I could look down at our home, I could see the hospital compound and I could even see the road that wound up the mountain towards our home.

I can’t think about any place more ideal for a child to be because of all the endless opportunities for adventure. Everyplace could easily be transformed into elsewhere–into another place, another world, another planet and I could be anything from a secret warrior to an otherworldly alien.

One of the things I liked to do was test out what people would do if they couldn’t find me. During hide and seek, I would hide behind those rocks and no one ever thought to look there. Eventually, they would tire of the game and the sky would change its color and the other children would head home and I would still be sitting there, hiding. I sometimes wondered if they ever missed me.

At times, I tested my mother’s patience by staying hidden even after the supper call. I would watch from my perfect vantage place as the lights in our house went on and my mother called and called. When night descended, I realized that it wasn’t quite as cozy up in my hideaway in the dark. So, I would race down the mountainside and run towards the warmth of light and the warmth of my mother’s scolding voice.

My mother’s father, when she came to live with us, would pinch me in exasperation.

What a child. What a child.

I was not very obedient. Not at all. Also, I dreamed too big for my size. I wanted too many things I couldn’t have, things I shouldn’t want, things beyond my reach.

So there I was a rather mischievous chubby child who was also rather rebellious and who couldn’t fit into a pattern, no matter how hard I tried. One time, when the evening prayers were being said and everyone was all solemn, I burst into a fit of laughter–I don’t know why. But I couldn’t stop laughing. I laughed so hard that I had to leave the room and had to be scolded again afterwards.

I guess, I’m still pretty irreverent. I tend not to take myself too seriously, because honestly, if one can’t laugh at oneself one turns out to be a complete and utter bore. My kids have also given up on having a mom who fits into the mold of being what other mothers are.

I’m so sorry, I say. I know you wanted me to give you the scientific explanation, but the fantastic one sounds much more interesting, don’t you agree?

So, I may not be the most solemn or perfect mother, but at least, my kids know how to laugh and we do laugh a lot together these days.

I know I had a point in writing this, so I probably should get to it. I think that even when we are engaged in the most serious of matters, it’s absolutely necessary to keep in touch with the child self. That we don’t forget about play, about not taking ourselves too seriously. Sometimes, we may lose our way or the way is just so densely overgrown that we don’t know where it leads to anymore–but that’s really okay. Life has no tried and true map of what works and what doesn’t work, but it’s an adventure and there is always something to discover, something to learn, something precious to be found.

Today, my kids are teaching me to stay in touch with my child self. I poke fun at myself and laugh at myself. I dance together with my kids and growl like a dinosaur. I play dead or do the zombie walk–I give myself over to my child self and that gives me the strength to head back into the arena and embrace the work because everyone deserves the room to play and the space to play and this is what this genre is all about. It’s about giving yourself room to reconnect with that child self and giving yourself permission to have fun and play and create.

Spread your wings. Fly. Dream. It’s a struggle, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way. Laughter and joy, indulging in play–these too are acts of resistance.

**

(1) I admit I learn things best when they are fun.

(2) I still struggle with the big black dog, but I am thankful for the moments when my child self kicks in and decides it’s time to play.

(3) This post was partly inspired by Laura Mixon-Gould’s post on Our Nerdish Legacies. It’s a seriously good post. Do take time to read and absorb the meat of it.

(4) Adding big love to Nalo Hopkinson who reminded me to think of the joyful and happy things in life. Thank you.

Thinking things through: On acts of resistance and our own SF

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.