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POC Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo-winning magazine LIGHTSPEED, 100% written—and edited—by POC creators.
POC Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo-winning magazine LIGHTSPEED, 100% written—and edited—by POC creators.
POC Destroy Science Fiction! is a special issue of the Hugo-winning magazine LIGHTSPEED, 100% written—and edited—by POC creators.
2,354 backers pledged $51,734 to help bring this project to life.

Personal Essay: "Spoiler Alert: The Future? Yeah, I’m in It" by Yash Kesanakurthy

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When we set out to destroy science fiction with this Kickstarter, we didn't want it to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill campaign. We wanted it to be full of smashing, crashing POC voices, telling what it really means to be POC reading and writing science fiction. One of the ways we hope to do that is by sharing a series of personal essays about the experience of being POC in science fiction.

Personal Essay: "Spoiler Alert: The Future? Yeah, I’m in It" by Yash Kesanakurthy

My relationship with science fiction is uncomfortable and complicated. I did not grow up with Star Wars or Star Trek. None of my school libraries had any Douglas Adams; I did not even know Octavia Butler was an option. Most of my childhood in Saudi Arabia was a blur of Disney movies and Enid Blyton’s syrupy, well-mannered mysteries. It was when I moved back to India that I got my first small taste of SF (liberally blended with fantasy). My bookstore mostly housed bestsellers, so Artemis Fowl became my long-time school bus companion. When I moved to Canada, I quickly fell in love with Doctor Who and then just as quickly fell out of love. I read the requisite SF/dystopian novels that made it into my lit courses and sometimes I watched them; rarely with lasting affection, though. It was when I started my MA in Children’s Lit that Artemis’ final story was released. I devoured it with great reverence and nostalgia. For a while, this seemed . . . enough.

Thing is, when you’ve moved around as much as I have, when you’re as scared of not fitting in as I am, or as scared of embarrassment, you internalize all the nonsense that the loudest voices are spewing. You change your accent to make it more neutral (palatable). You laugh at jokes (slights) that make you uncomfortable. You push the clothes you love to the back of the closet in order to fit in (and hide). You tend not to understand why Holly’s skin was “coffee-coloured” but Artemis’s pasty white ass was never described as “marzipan-coloured.” I existed in a present I did not really feel a part of. I read about a past that was equally shut off to me and people like me. Not once did it occur to me that I could look in a book about the future and see me. Not once did it occur to me that I could look in a book and see myself surviving, enduring, living—because what is the future if not those things?

Science fiction is often futuristic but, to me, it’s kind of the opposite. To me, it’s about addressing the past. It is about looking at the present and thinking, “How did it come to this?” It is about looking at the page and thinking, “Where will it go from here?” You can tell when writers have ignored those questions. They tend to write the kind of future that makes my relationship with SF so complicated. Complicated because it was science fiction that got me believing in a future void of people like me, in the temporary nature of POC, in their disposability. Complicated because it was also science fiction that got me into the habit of hoping (and later, demanding) that future change. Reading Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles—which not only has a diverse cast of characters but starts its story in Beijing instead of a whitewashed New York—was the first time I felt comfortable reading science fiction. It made me read more, want more, and it led me to Marie Lu’s equally diverse Legend trilogy. Lu’s world is what finally got me to put words to my discomfort: A future without me isn’t fiction. It’s a lie. And it is no longer acceptable.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yash Kesanakurthy has never stayed in one place for too long and it is a matter of some astonishment to her that this is her eighth year residing in Vancouver, Canada. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies (English Lit, Asian Lit, and Women’s Studies) and an MA in Children’s Literature. She is the co-founder of a children’s lit blog called The Book Wars and is a regular writer for Book Riot. Yash is currently working on her own YA SF/F contribution as well as an all-ages picture book.

Comments

    1. Tasha Turner Lennhoff
      Superbacker
      on January 22, 2016

      "Complicated because it was science fiction that got me believing in a future void of people like me, in the temporary nature of POC, in their disposability. "
      This has always bothered me. I hope we can change this for future generations.

    2. Reinik
      Superbacker
      on January 21, 2016

      'You tend not to understand why Holly’s skin was “coffee-coloured” but Artemis’s pasty white ass was never described as “marzipan-coloured.”'

      I laughed at this, because it's so true.