Share this project

Done

Share this project

Done
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: "On Falling In and Out of Love with Science Fiction" by Julie M. Rodriguez

10 likes

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: "On Falling In and Out of Love with Science Fiction" by Julie M. Rodriguez

I remember when I first fell in love with science fiction. It was 1995. I was nine or ten years old. The original Star Wars trilogy was airing on basic cable, and my parents told me they thought I would like it. I don’t think they anticipated that I would spend the next several years of my life reading every single tie-in novel, and trying my hand at fan fiction of my own.

What I don’t remember is the moment when I first realized my love for science fiction wasn’t exactly reciprocated. When you’re ten, twelve, thirteen years old, reading about aliens and improbable physics, it’s easy to overlook the fact that characters like you don’t really exist in the fiction you’re consuming. On top of that, I’d spent most of my formative years in suburban Utah. There was one other Latino family in the neighborhood. I was used to being surrounded mostly by people who were nothing like me.

By the time I reached high school, I was reading female authors and writers of color almost exclusively. I’d grown bored with stories about straight white men saving the universe. There was nothing wrong with those stories—but I wasn’t any of those things. Authors like Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany, and Octavia Butler wrote stories that spoke to me, rather than stories that merely entertained. That was the fiction that inspired me to seriously pursue a career in writing.

Still, there was something missing. I don’t think it was until my twenties that I realized I couldn’t remember seeing any Spanish names in the genre fiction aisle at my local bookstore. I could only recall a handful of Latino characters in any of the SF books I’d read or films I’d seen. I’d discovered a deep and diverse well of talent in the genre fiction community—so why couldn’t I find any other Latino writers?

It didn’t make sense. Latin America, after all, spawned the entire genre of magical realism. Why wouldn’t these be cultures interested in fantasy? Once my family moved away from Utah, I was far from the only nerdy Latino kid I knew. I’d met brown kids as obsessed with Lord of the Rings and Alien as I had been with Star Wars.

We existed. In fact, we were rabid fans. And we were deeply creative people—so where were the Spanish names on book covers and magazine racks? Why didn’t I see characters I recognized in the pages? I didn’t want every story to be about characters just like me. I just wanted a handful of books, an author or two, who came from somewhere familiar. I started to wonder: Was science fiction a genre that was even open to me? Was there a more sinister reason behind editors’ rejections than personal taste or my own level of skill? Was I wasting my time even trying to break through?

Those are questions I never want to even cross the mind of another aspiring young writer. It’s a difficult enough career without the overwhelming fear that no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to succeed in your chosen field. Admitting this may cause some to roll their eyes, but at points I sincerely wondered if the only way I would ever make more than a handful of sales would be to use the whitest-sounding pen name I could think up. If it weren’t for some professional success as a nonfiction writer under my own name, I might have tried it.

In the past couple of years, matters have improved, if only slightly. I’ve started seeing Spanish names being hyped on Twitter, on store shelves. Brief mentions in Wikipedia. Editors with Latin American backgrounds soliciting submissions. Even an anthology of our own. It’s still not nearly enough. But I know now: I’m not the only one. There is room for people like me.

As for my love affair with science fiction, well . . . I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m still not sure I trust it with my heart right now. But I’m open to the idea that genres—like people—can grow and change. I’ve already seen it, even if that growth has been slow to come. And no matter what happens, I’ll continue writing. I don’t know how to do anything else.

______________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie M. Rodriguez is a freelance writer and contributing editor for the sustainable design blog Inhabitat. When she’s not writing about social justice issues or the environment, she edits genre fiction novels for Curiosity Quills Press and runs the The Renegade Word, an online resource for creative writers. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two neurotic shelter cats. Her first flash fiction collection, One Elephant, Slightly Used, is set for release in early 2016.

Cathy Greytfriend, Ira Kalina, and 8 more people like this update.

Comments

Only backers can post comments. Log In
    1. Tasha Turner Lennhoff
      Superbacker
      on February 7, 2016

      I start thinking of Latin names I know and realize they are possibly all fantasy. Huh. Keep writing it's the only way to change the genre. I look forward to reading more by you in the future.

    2. Irrevenant
      Superbacker
      on February 6, 2016

      I wonder to what extent the lack of Spanish names on SF books indicates a lack of Latin SF writers and to what extent it indicates a lack of authors/publishers willingness to use Spanish names. Either way is obviously a problem.