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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: "An Army of Claudia Kishis" by Sarah Kuhn

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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: "An Army of Claudia Kishis" by Sarah Kuhn

I talk a lot about how important it is to see yourself centered in a story. As the protagonist, not the protagonist’s best friend. As the superhero, not the sidekick. As the dragonslayer, not the guy/gal who gets the dragonslayer water, a hot towel, and a snack.

It took me a long time to realize that was something I could want, I could ask for, and that I could even write. Recently, I found myself excavating the science fiction/fantasy fandom of my childhood for examples that might have provided an initial spark, given me a little clue early on that Asian and/or Asian-American female protagonists could totally be a thing.

I thought of a lot of side characters that I imagined rich, staggeringly detailed expanded stories for (Jubilee, Demora Sulu, Strawberry Shortcake’s flower-hat-wearing friend Almond Tea). I thought of characters I projected Asianness onto because I desperately wanted someone I was watching/reading about to be like me (Buttercup from the Powerpuff Girls, Lois Lane—she could be mixed, right?). I thought of characters I’d discovered in college who blew my mind wide open (the trio in The Heroic Trio). I loved them all, but none seemed to fit what I was suddenly on a quest for: a bona fide SF/F Asian lady protagonist I’d looked up to as a child.

Then I figured it out.

My beloved childhood protagonist wasn’t part of SF/F—well, not exactly.

Her name was Claudia Kishi.

Claudia Kishi was the vice-president of Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club, a series of books about a group of tween girls who are obsessed with high quality childcare. No, these books are not technically SF/F, but I’m going to make a case for the idea that to me, they sometimes read like they were. I mean, Claudia had her own phone line (one of my fantasies), a hollowed-out book where she hid candy (definitely one of my fantasies, though not even extending to the candy part, I just wanted a hollowed-out book for so many reasons), and the BSC was regularly hired en masse to go on elaborate family trips with their charges: on cruises and to Disney World and Sea City, an adorable beachside town with a restaurant called Crabs for Grabs (now we’re getting into a fantasy I didn’t even know I had—but in any case, all of these things seemed as fanciful and unattainable to me as my own pet dragon).

And Claudia was revolutionary in a way I didn’t even comprehend at the time: Japanese-American, artistic, bad at school, temperamental, always dressed outrageously, and often reading a Nancy Drew mystery. She didn’t just reject model minority stereotypes—she stomped them into the ground, usually with some kind of bedazzled high-top sneaker. Plus, she was definitely centered, in that she had entire books in the series named after her (and as early on as Book #2, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls).

Claudia was my protagonist spark, I realized, and it’s characters like her that I want to bring into and see more of in SF/F. Imagine . . .

Space Captain Claudia Kishi

Dragonslayer Claudia Kishi

SuperClaudiaKishi

Pissed-Off Fairy Princess Claudia Kishi

Magical Girl Who Can Speak All the Animal Languages Claudia Kishi

Of course, these characters won’t all be exactly like Claudia Kishi. But like her, they’ll have that uniqueness, that multi-dimensional feeling, that refusal to be a stereotype.

And of course, they’ll all be protagonists.

Just an army of Claudia Kishis, destroying science fiction.

______________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Kuhn is the author of Heroine Complex—the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines—for DAW Books. She also wrote The Ruby Equation for the comics anthology Fresh Romance and the romantic comedy novella One Con Glory, which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film. Her writing has appeared in Uncanny MagazineApex Magazine, AngryAsianMan.com, IGN.com, Back StageThe Hollywood Reporter, StarTrek.com, Creative Screenwriting, and the Hugo-nominated anthology Chicks Dig Comics. You can find her at heroinecomplex.com or on Twitter: @sarahkuhn.

Comments

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    1. Gearsoul (formerly Orson Cream)
      Superbacker
      on February 11, 2016

      I want this army of Claudia hero-types~ :3 She sounds super cool; for such an old series, it's really awesome that she broke the mould so much! n__n

    2. Tasha Turner Lennhoff
      Superbacker
      on February 11, 2016

      This resonates. You write those books. There's a need for them.

    3. Andy Konecny on February 11, 2016

      This makes me wonder about those books written by those of a different perspective, such as old white guy writing a successful series from the POV of a young female Chinese-Canadian. While Ian Hamilton's "Ava Lee" series is well enjoyed by my wife and I, and they ring true to the many Asians we know, I am very curious how much Ava Lee fits in the Claudia Kishis army destroying the Mystery genre. http://ianhamiltonbooks.com/