Welcome to Smugglivus 2014! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2014, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2015, and more.
Who: Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, a Filipina writer living in the Netherlands. She attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in 2009 and was a recipient of the Octavia Butler Scholarship. Her work has been published in various online and print publications in the Philippines as well as outside of the Philippines.
Please give it up for Rochita, everybody!
This year, more than any other year, has brought me a stronger awareness—not only of the field, but of myself and my relationship to the field in particular.
Whether it was a conscious choice or not, I found myself looking at the field in relationship to where I stand and the insights that come from this kind of positioning have been challenging as well as enlightening.
In today’s society, social media plays a vital role in bringing our attention to movements, but more than social media, personal contact with those involved—the act of reaching out to connect—these are the things that allow us to see better what is taking place not only in the field but in the world around us. It is what gives me hope and makes me believe that the change we long for is not an impossible dream.
2014, saw an escalation in the conversations around the subject of diversity and inclusivity. On twitter, the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks gained traction and 2014 saw the establishment of the We Need Diverse Books, an initiative of Ellen Oh and Malindo Lo.
I love the energy and the dynamic coming from the young and upcoming movers and shakers like Corinne Duyvis and Marieke Nijkamp. The reminders that while presenting fully rounded diverse characters in our work is necessary, it is also equally necessary to recognize and acknowledge the presence of writers who come from the groups represented in our work.
Inevitably, this conversation led to a wider discussion revolving around the fraught subjects of appropriation and representation. Who gets to represent whom? Who gets to speak? Who gets to write diversity? These are important and necessary conversations that lead us to look more mindfully at the work that we bring to the table.
I encourage readers to go check out the We Need Diverse Books website. Read more about the organization and support the writers and the team that continues to work hard to bring more visibility to books and authors we want to see published.
2014 also saw a rise of interest in bringing translations into the field. Translations were a vital part of many conversations I found myself engaged in this year. From January 2014 when discussions around the Interstitial Arts Foundation’s Dream Translation Project fired up to Fantasticon in Denmark where I spoke with writers who write mainly in their mother tongue, to Loncon 3 where I moderated a panel on the Interstitial Arts Foundation Dream Translation Project.
2014 saw the English publication of the first part of Liu Cixin’s Three Body Problem and the launch of Clarkesworld Magazine’s initiative to translate science fiction from China as well as other parts of the world.
Speaking with writers, editors, translators and linguists has made me more keenly aware of the way in which we use language and the role language plays in bringing about social and political change. It’s made me think more deeply on how language influences the way we approach a certain work—how we as readers find ourselves alienated or able to connect to a work because of the choices writers make with regards to language.
Nigerian feminist ARTivist, Amina Doherty (@sheroxlox) tweeted about the first regional non-fiction writing workshop for African Women which was held in Uganda this year. A collaboration of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWFD) and the Uganda Women Writers Association (Femrite). As I followed the tweets and the sharings from workshop attendees, one of the statements around the non-italicized use of non-anglo words resonates with what we want to see take place in the real world. That the choice not to italicize is a refusal to compromise or to apologize for being other—that the choice not to italicize is a deliberate placing of one’s self on equal footing with dominant representation.
This is a sentiment that I see echoed in Malaysian publisher, Buku Fixi’s manifesto (something that I wrote about in one of the Movements columns). Buku Fixi brought us Malaysian writer, Zen Cho’s fabulous short fiction collection, Spirits Abroad. Unapologetically smart, clear-eyed and witty, Zen Cho’s collection is an introduction to the work of a writer with a voice all her own. Spirits Abroad remains one of my favorite reads from 2014. Zen Cho has a unique gift of bringing to the page stories that entertain us even as they make us think.
2014 has also seen the emergence of writers who I hope will continue to write and thrive in the field of science fiction. More and more, we see the rise of independent publications geared towards highlighting necessary voices.
One of the most exciting events for me was the coming of Adrienne Maree Brown to Amsterdam. Her coming to Amsterdam marked the very first Amsterdam SciFi Writing Salon which was held at the American Book Center’s Treehouse. Adrienne Maree told us that this was the first workshop she’d ever given where the participants were all people of color. For many of these writers, this workshop was their first time to engage with visionary writing. For me, that moment is a reminder of hope—a reminder that dreams can become possibilities as we believe in them and reach for them.
What I’ve written about here only scratches the surface of movements that contribute to the overall vision for diversity and inclusivity. Even now, there is work being done behind the scenes. It is work that is unlikely to ever be recognized, it is hands-on dirty work that involves investments of time and energy with very little in terms of reward except the joy of seeing the work done. It is this kind of work that makes possible the work that gains the awards, that makes it possible for a new crop of writers and visionaries to dream in a wider space. It is the kind of work that makes air so those who struggle will be able to thrive and find room to breathe.
2014 has been a year of challenge, but it has also been a year teeming with possibilities. It has been a year that brought to us a stronger awareness of the fact that we need more than one story—that in order for genre to thrive and grow stronger, we need to listen and to give space for a multiplicity of voices, opinions and stories.
Keep your eyes on 2015, it promises to be even more exciting.
*Adrienne Maree Brown co-edited the upcoming Octavia’s Brood Anthology which is coming out in 2015.
*Corinne Duyvis has a wonderful YA book entitled Otherbound that was published in 2014, do check it out.