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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: "I Have a Few Demands" by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

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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: "I Have a Few Demands" by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

In the summer of 1977, my Aunt Gloria corralled all of the children in her care into her car and dropped us off at the movie theater. I didn’t know what we were there to see. I was six years old and the only girl among three boys. Aunt Gloria instructed, “Sit your little behinds down and don’t get up until the movie is over.” Then she left. Today I am forty-five and I can still vividly recall what I saw once the lights went down.

Close your eyes as I tell you.

The background was the black curtain of space speckled with thousands of white stars in the distance. A series of bold yellow letters crawled up the screen and faded to nothing while a booming epic soundtrack played. I was mesmerized. Weren’t you? What followed that introduction is still nothing less than spectacular and history-making.

But unlike my cousins, I didn’t spend the next few years pretending to be Luke Skywalker while twirling a plastic toy lightsaber. Nor did I don earmuff hair buns and pretend to be Princess Leia. I loved Star Wars, but even then, I only felt like a spectator.

My love of science fiction developed much later. I was standing on the edge of a dark precipice in my life. I was depressed and felt as if I had forfeited my gifts and potential. I was momentarily stagnant. Science fiction, on the other hand, was changing, slowly and in miniscule increments, but changing nonetheless. People of color were playing roles beyond silent extras, subordinates, or the guy who dies in the first act.

Do you remember Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation? Regal, gorgeous, wise, incredibly strong, and black.

One day while watching Star Trek reruns, my daughter turned to me and said, “Mommy, you look just like her.” What a compliment!

Science fiction has come to represent more to me than the idea that there are possibilities beyond our limited imaginings: It also taught me that people like me, people of color, can actually be a part of it. A real part.

People of color have been rallying more than ever for their rightful and realistic place in science fiction. Our detractors try to shut us down by telling us we’re too sensitive, or that diversity doesn’t matter. We all know this isn’t true. They even tell us that if we want diverse science fiction so badly we should go and write it ourselves. To that, I say, I will. But is that enough?

No. Miniscule increments aren’t enough. I demand more diversity in the genre I love most. I demand that more POC who write science fiction are given the opportunity to expose the wider world to their genius. I demand that science fiction incorporate more substantive characters of color. I demand these things because I don’t want my children and future grandchildren to ever feel like mere spectators to the genre I have taught them to love.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali lives in Houston, Texas with her family. By day she works as a breast oncology nurse. At all other times she juggles, none too successfully, writing, reading, gaming, and gardening. She has a self-published novel entitled An Unproductive Woman, has stories published in or upcoming in Escape PodAn Alphabet of Embers anthology, STRAEON 3, and Diabolical Plots. Khaalidah is also the Assistant Editor at Podcastle. She is on a mission to encourage more women to submit SFF stories. Of her alter ego, K from the planet Vega, it is rumored that she owns a time machine and knows the secret to immortality. You can catch her posts at her website, www.khaalidah.com, and you can follow her on Twitter, @khaalidah.

Torrain, Shervyn von Hoerl, and 14 more people like this update.

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    1. Tasha Turner Lennhoff
      Superbacker
      on January 22, 2016

      I'm demanding right there with you. And I'm putting my money where my mouth is. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us why representation matters.