Process: Fire and Life and Story

Wrote 1647 words to the wip yesterday.

Worked on that story that I let lie for a long long time.

I am sitting at my writing desk–butt in chair, eyes to the screen. I plan to write and I plan to keep on writing.

I think of conversations had with friends about the writer’s life and the act of writing. I think of stories and I think of fire and I think of how what is twisted and cold and hateful will always try to kill what is warm and passionate and alive.

Fire and life.

I think of how we come to story from many different backgrounds. Half-scared out of our skins because to write story is to bare yourself to the world. It is to make yourself vulnerable and open to possible derision, to possible shaming, to possible rejection, to possible pain. And yet, we keep doing it. Again and again and again.

While sorting through the business of paperwork and thinking through how I should go on, I told the accountant who was helping me to deal with the finance side of stuff that I was working on my first novel. She smiled and told me that it’s a rare writer who is able to make a living off of their writing. I know this. I know this very well.

Still, I write.

I write because stories are life. They remind me of hope and joy and of the passion that is so vital to life. I know what it’s like to walk in this world carrying worlds inside my body–to have that feeling of knowing a place that is beyond the space my physical self occupies.

 

Story is a fire. It is my job to open the door, to make the fire so inviting that the reader can’t help but come in. It is my job to make the world I carry inside me become just as real to the reader as it is to me.

There is enough killing hatred in the world. There are enough people who populate the world with killing words and killing deeds.

Words have power. (Fantasy reminds us of this.)

I write to remember that the world is filled with infinite possibilities, that there is still hope, that we have the power to change, that we can change ourselves and the world around us.

Blow fire into your story.  Keep hold of your hope. Be contagious.

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quick update

A quick post this time to signal-boost a new anthology series being put out by Aqueduct Press. The Year’s Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy is a reprint anthology that’s taking recommendations now. Please follow the links to the recommendation form.

Last week I published a fantastic Process Conversation with Kai Ashante Wilson. Kai is a fellow Butler scholar and I’m very pleased to feature him on the book blog.

Recent incidents have made me think of how important it is to be more mindful as well as vigilant. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that our work is not valued and that we cannot make a difference, but if we reach out to those who are within our circle, it’s possible to create small movements that lead to wider change. I always want to reach for better and it makes me happy to see people growing into their full potential.

My own work is moving into more challenging arena. I acknowledge that it’s probably not all that accessible to readers who are used to narratives patterned after the dominant paradigm. It’s scary but I’ve always had this belief that if something is meant to be read or shared or published, then it will be regardless.

On a very surprised note, my father said to me this week that Song of the Body Cartographer is his most favorite of all the work that I’ve done. It was so not the story I expected him to praise. I am pleasantly surprised and feeling very encouraged as well.

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.

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*(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.

Process

Over on Chie and Weng Read Books, we’ve introduced a new feature called Process. We still aren’t sure how regular this feature will be, but we do want to publish these kinds of discussions from time to time. Do drop by as today we have Dean Alfar and Joseph Nacino talking about process and the challenges of Filipino SFF

Talking about process, I also recognize how working towards increasing visibility and working towards better representations and diversity in SFF is a lot of work. It also isn’t a work that can be done by one person, but it is a collective work. If you’re a reader, expand your horizons and go read something that’s outside of your comfort zone. 

If you are a writer of color or a queer writer, right now it may feel like everything is a struggle. We are struggling to make space for ourselves and for our narratives. Change is slow. We are still in process. But we will get there. Just keep on writing and telling your stories the way you want to tell them. 

To you who encourage us and keep us going. Thank you. Peace, love and courage.