|Your blog’s About Page says you are “a political/feminist/anti-racist blogger”; elsewhere on the same blog you mention that you are somewhere to the left of the Democratic Party. Speculative fiction is a genre not noted for its embrace of progressive politics, feminism or, as shown in 2009′s epic RaceFail flamewar, diversity; in light of that, what attracted you to this particular genre? |
NKJ: Actually, before I got into the creative side of speculative fiction, I thought of it as the most progressive genre. Friends and family members who knew of my interest helped to steer me towards writers like Anne McCaffrey, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein. I saw science fiction and fantasy writers imagining amazing futures that ordinary people seemed to think were unattainable, or not worth striving for. The first speculative novels I read were full of badass “liberated” women, kids from poor families who changed the world, black guys who witnessed the dawn of a new humanity, Muslims in space. I grew up on shows like Star Trek, watching people of color go into space and even flirt with Spock. But back then I lived with so much inequity and exclusion in the real world that the tiny, grudging steps toward progress that I saw in speculative fiction seemed like the strides of a giant.
As I grew older, I began to realize just how small those early steps I’d seen were, mostly because I started reading speculative fiction that took much bigger steps. I read works like Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, which taught me there are no utopias—and that the people who don’t see the ugliness in the world are making a choice to ignore it, on however subconscious a level. I began to learn more about how the real world works, and it finally hit me that speculative fiction reflects all the same limitations and prejudices as reality—they’re just hidden better. There’s a reason it’s easier to find blue people in this genre than black people. There’s a reason we’re still so surprised to see people like me—for whatever value of “like me” you choose to focus on—reading and writing and thriving in these futures and myths that we create.
So I started writing speculative fiction because at first I didn’t know any better. I kept writing it because I got pissed off that it wasn’t what I thought it should be. Anger’s a great motivator, but it’s fun, too, so I guess I’ll keep writing this stuff for awhile longer.