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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.
2,354 backers pledged $51,734 to help bring this project to life.

Personal Essay: "Recounting in Rainbow" by Shveta Thakrar

Posted by Lightspeed Magazine (Creator)

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: "Recounting in Rainbow" by Shveta Thakrar

I want so many things. I want the folklore of all the world’s traditions to be acknowledged and celebrated, not just those collected and edited by the Gebrüder Grimm. I want us to move beyond just Snow White and Cinderella, beyond elfin beings of gossamer wings and detachable sealskins to nature-loving yakshas and seductive apsaras. We have a global treasure trove of tales in a rainbow of colors; why recount only in red?

And why erase the rest of us?

Most of all, though, more than respectful representation, more than a righting of historical wrongs, more even than plain and simple accuracy, I want magic. I want adventure, too.

I started writing again as an adult because I looked around at the books I loved dearly—which fell either into the young adult category or speculative fiction genre or often both—and saw no one who looked like me. No one with brown skin who got to play with magic and learn spells. No one who engaged with creatures of coiling serpentine tails or backward hands and feet. No one who sneaked aboard spaceships and sailed toward the stars. Where were my mischievous nagas? Where were my creepy bhoots and vetaals? Where was my Millennium Falcon?

Where was I?

I’ve hungered for wonder and all things numinous ever since I was tiny, and so have gobbled up book after book, always searching for something more. As an adult, I realized the types of tales that compelled me most were those based in the mythic tradition, which draws on folklore and mythology and is its own kind of mythmaking (myth as “sacred story,” not as “lie”). I plunged headfirst into the work of Holly Black and Emma Bull and the anthologies curated by Terri Windling, I returned to the Amar Chitra Katha comics of my childhood, I read all the Star Wars tie-in novels available to me, and I knew speculative fiction was where my voice belonged.

But trying to get other writers and editors to take that seriously hasn’t been as easy as I’d hoped. How do I successfully retell a narrative when my target readership (the North American market) isn’t familiar with the original? How do I avoid being told “your names are too hard”? How do I dismantle the bias-dripping assumption that “your brown protagonist doesn’t have universal appeal”?

I can’t answer these questions. I can only choose each day to string together words overflowing with the enchantment I continue to crave, words that are beginning to find their audience. I see other dream-travelers at the loom, too, whether queer Latinas or disabled Jamaican Canadians or second-generation Chinese Americans, and the space below my breastbone aches in anticipation of fresh, sparkling stories. Magic and adventure know no skin color, no external barrier. They know only richness of tapestry and tale, and there’s no reason not to weave together as many brilliant and multifaceted threads as we can.

I’ll keep writing, and I hope you keep reading. I will be.



Shveta Thakraris a writer of South Asian-flavored fantasy, social justice activist, and part-time nagini. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Interfictions OnlineClockwork Phoenix 5Mythic DeliriumUncannyFaerieStrange HorizonsKaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, draws, travels, bakes, and occasionally even practices her harp.

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    1. Andy Konecny on

      "Where were my mischievous nagas? Where were my creepy bhoots and vetaals? Where was my Millennium Falcon?" reminds me of Paula Cole's "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?". I would love to hear similar songs done from the many different cultural perspectives.

    2. Mathúin [‘Ma-Hoon’]

      ; ~ ; Wow, you're so poetic! That was beautiful~ :D