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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: "Thirsty for New" by Malka Older

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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: "Thirsty for New" by Malka Older

I am a xenophile. I want to be able to eat a different kind of food every night of the week. I want my shuffle to jump from nineties indie to Malian-Cuban rhythms to Balkan beats.

It’s largely because of this that I’ve spent most of my adult life living in countries that are not mine, learning languages that aren’t mine. Yes, that’s plural, because I wasn’t content with one or two. My rule of thumb for when to move was when my fluency got good enough for me to make smartass remarks to people in authority, but the real reason was usually that I was thirsty for something new.

This wanderlust is more instinct than thought, but I’ve developed a philosophy to justify it. If I get farther away, if I find the way of life that is as different from mine as possible, maybe I’ll be able to look back at myself from the outside.

Also, it’s fun. Getting lost, having no idea what’s going on, being amazed, experiencing what would be wild beyond belief at home. Learning on a curve like a baby’s, a thousand new details every day until I do know what’s going on and all the sensations start to dull again.

There may be a push factor besides the pull; or at least, it may make it easier that I never completely belonged at home. Representation matters, and my particular combination of attributes is pretty much unseen on screens, although I did find some reflections in books. Maybe it was easier to fudge the identification when the visuals were in my imagination.

Or maybe it was that with books you don’t have to travel to leave this place where you don’t belong.

With books you don’t have to travel to find a place new and different enough to be able to see yourself from the outside.

With books you don’t have to travel to get lost and experience something wild and gradually find your way in a new universe.

So I want as many different books as I can find. I want stories that come from places I’ve never been, that unravel in ways I don’t expect. I want to be surprised by stories, which means that I don’t know who the love interest is from page one and I don’t want to recognize the shape of the narrative arc. Please, give me a narrative triangle instead, narrative pointillism.

I want to know how people whose lives are totally different from mine imagine the future, because I’m sure I’ve got some blind spots there. I want to know what those people think is going on in space.

Give me characters that represent me, when you can, but also give me characters that are completely, mind-openingly other. Other does not mean just those that are not me, but also those that are not the fingernail-thin sliver of humanity depicted in the vast majority of mass culture.

Until the aliens bring us extraterrestrial stories, we need to make the most of the differences we have here.

______________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Malka Older is a writer, humanitarian aid worker, and PhD candidate studying governance and disasters. Her novel Infomocracy will be published by Tor.com in 2016 and her writing can also be found at Leveler, Bengal Lights, Tor.com, Sundog Lit, and in the anthologies Chasing Misery and My Cruel Invention. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in 2015, she has more than eight years of experience in humanitarian aid and development, and has responded to disasters and complex emergencies in Sri Lanka, Uganda, Darfur, Indonesia, Japan, and Mali.

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    1. Missing avatar

      Nina Kiriki Hoffman on January 23, 2016

      Another great essay! Thanks, Malka and LIGHTSPEED! Keep 'em coming!

      Nina

    2. Tasha Turner
      Superbacker
      on January 23, 2016

      "Give me characters that represent me, when you can, but also give me characters that are completely, mind-openingly other. "

      This. This so much.