Writing progress

I’ve been working slowly on the Cartographer’s World novel. I have the world so fully formed inside my head that I sometimes feel like I’m walking in that place and introducing people who populate it as well showing out the sights while I’m at it. While Siren from Song of the Body Cartographer plays a major role in this novel, there are other characters who intrigue and catch my attention with their own stories. I should probably start a character chart soon as the world and their stories come out on the bigger canvas. Writing a novel is an immersive and fun experience.

In the meantime, I’ve also been working on two different stories. One which springs from an image of a person looking out towards earth from the viewing deck of a generation ship. It’s a pretty cliched image, I know, but the possibilities that exist there…I found myself thinking of where this person came from and where this person was headed to. I also thought of possible dialogues that were running through this person’s head as the ship draws farther away from earth. This is the first time I’m attempting something like this and I’ll admit it’s a bit daunting, particularly since using the first person pov is something I’m not very good at.

I was prompted too by the thought of what happens when someone is sent into exile where the exile benefits those who are in power. It’s not an easy story to write and I rather hope it ends on a good note.

The second story that I’ve written a draft of is a bit of a fun caper. This one was inspired by a conversation I had with Tade Thompson on family coaches. I meant, the person who helps families restore structure in the family setting but somehow this morphed into something else .It’s a lot of fun and also involves some really cute animals. <g>

I haven’t talked about it on here, but I am participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon. I’m hoping to raise at least 200 dollars for Clarion West and have promised to post a previously unpublished short story for every 50 dollars I raise. I’ve just raised my first 50 dollars, so watch this space for a free story soon. I will be sure to post about it on twitter and facebook and will also let my sponsors know that it’s up. Please do check my profile at the Clarion West website. There are lots of other fabulous authors participating, so you can take your pick of who you wish to sponsor.

Finally, I have been sitting on a bit of good news. I received an acceptance for Magnifica Angelica Superable and just sent out the signed contract this week. I had a lot of fun writing Magnifica Angelica. I think I chuckled to myself while writing most of it.

I’m working on updating and revamping the book blog, but will post more about that once things are better in place.

Thinking things through: process

I have recently been engaging more in the exploration of what narratives emerge as I make use of languages that are closer to my inner self than the English that I formally learned.

In these newer works, I am interested in exploring the traumas inflicted on the colonized body. What movements does the body go through in order to break free of those traumas? How does the colonized body find healing when it is constantly reprimanded, tokenized, devalued, objectified and still treated as a being of lesser worth?

I think of the narratives that have been attached to brown bodies and I think of how we rob these narratives of poison when we take them and make them our own. This to me, is the transformative power of story.

During the Amsterdam Sci Fi Salon, Adrienne Marie Brown reminded us of the power of the erotic and the power of desire, and I thought of narratives where the brown body’s sexuality is shamed. Where desire is labeled as sinful and unacceptable. I think of the power locked up in the shamed body. I think of what is released when we break free of those shackles and take full possession of our own skins.

It’s not that I am no longer writing in English, but that I have chosen to let the narrative take its forward motion from lines or words that I associate with home. It’s possible that this choice has no meaning to the reader, but to me who writes it, this choice reminds me that the narratives I’m writing are not of lesser worth. They are of equal value.

And if language is a thing that stands in the way, it also becomes a reminder of how the brown body is often viewed as an object that stands in the way.

Is it even science fiction anymore? I really don’t know and to be honest, I’ve stopped caring about labels as I find that labels are only useful for commercial purposes. Labels have a confining and limiting function, and more often than not they are exclusionary.

If we talk about science fiction that comes from the West, we already know what we are talking about. There are narratives that belong and there are narratives that are allowed.

But the choice to depart from what belongs and what is allowed is also a deliberate choice. It is a choice that says, what exists is not what defines me or my work. Rather it is the work that defines itself. It is a choice to embrace and move towards a different kind of envisioning the future.

What else can I write? What other things can I explore? What waits around the bend? Where is the true body of my story?

These are questions I ask as I continue on my journey.

Book Blogging, Linkage and the Diversity in SFF conversations

It’s Friday and I just realized I haven’t posted yet about various things. Over at the Book Blog, I’ve posted a short book discussion that Weng and I had about Kiini Ibura Salaam’s Ancient, Ancient. That discussion went up on Monday and on Wednesday, we published our author interview with Kiini. Do go check out the book blog if you haven’t yet and let us know what you think.

Aliette de Bodard has posted a must-read blogpost on Other Cultures and Diversity in SFF. Do take the time to read it.

Talking about diversity and the danger of dominant voices drowning out minority narrative, read also Gracie Jin’s article on Policymic where she writes about the One Thing White Writers get away with but Authors of Color Don’t.  

My own thoughts on diversity in SFF are contained in last week’s Movements Column: On Escapist Literature and Being Dangerous.

On Black Gate, Foz Meadows’ Challenging the Classics: Questioning the Arbitrary Browsing Mechanism is another must-read.

On twitter, Lavie Tidhar tweeted: “It’s easy to make a hashtag about diversity, harder to actively encourage/support it.”

Speaking as a writer coming from a third-world nation, as a writer coming from a culture that has been so steeped in western influence, as a writer who knows what it’s like to have English valued above your native tongue, I can speak of the multiplicity of struggle.

We struggle against the impositions of language and we struggle against the impositions of western thought. We struggle to bring our stories into the world and we struggle to be heard. We have voices, but those voices are often drowned out by hegemony.

Our voices are often rendered suspect because “experts” have been there telling our histories and our stories in our place.

One of the things that sometimes disheartens me, is how in the discussions on diversity, the voices of those from the margins are often overlooked or erased. I wonder then, again, do we speak our words into the wind? When will the time come when our narratives/opinions will also be treated as equal and welcome? 

I don’t worry for myself. I am at this age where I think: if I get another twenty years, that’s a good thing. While I don’t worry for myself, I do worry for the next generation of writers and creators and I don’t want them to lose heart because the struggle seems to be all uphill. I want to believe that in the time I have, I can at least make a little bit of a difference so it will be less of a struggle. I want to make room so it will be easier to breathe and easier to create. 

You’re probably wondering what you can do. What else can we do? What more can we do to promote diversity in SFF? 

Here’s something concrete we all can do–promote a story, promote a book, promote a writer who is not one of your circle, but who is someone who you feel has a story that needs to be heard. As a challenge to yourself, let that writer be either a writer of color, a writer who is non-western, a QUILTBAG writer or a writer who is all or a combination of the above. 

You may not like all the stories you read, they may not all speak to you (God knows, not all stories speak to me), but they may speak to someone else and in promoting that story, you say this: “There’s this voice I heard. I want you to hear that voice too. I want us to listen and make space because that voice is saying things someone needs to hear.”