Personal Essay: "For the Trailblazers" by Kristi Charish
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 women's voices, telling what it really means to be a woman reading and writing science fiction. One of the ways we hope to do that is by sharing a series of personal essays by women about their experiences as a woman in science fiction. Today's essay is by Kristi Charish.
"For the Trailblazers"
I clone things.
When I first started my career in research that was the way I introduced myself.
I clone things. For someone who started university in the late 90’s that was such a loaded sentence—it carried the weight of recent scientific cloning advances (They cloned a sheep—a SHEEP! Named Dolly!), that I was involved with the leading edge of scientific advances, and that I was a female scientist—one of many from my generation.
... I guess there’s a big sci-fi influence carried in that line too.
My name is Kristi Charish and I’m a Canadian geneticist and cell and molecular biologist. Until recently I worked with these awesome, genetically modified fruit flies that carry something called a fluorophore, a glow-in-the-dark gene. Those little glow-in-the-dark genes made it possible for me to study cell division, and I discovered elements about how skin-like cells multiply that have some pretty important implications for cancer.
Take that anti-GMO’ers! GMO, glow in the dark fruit flies help cure cancer. Booyah!
I’m also a Sci-Fi and Fantasy writer—the equivalent of a rookie who just got drafted to play in the major leagues. To say I’m still pretty stoked about the whole thing would be a colossal understatement. So how did I go from research scientist to fiction writer? Well, like most writers, I’ve loved books and movies since I was a kid. But ... I didn’t want to be rescued by Indiana Jones, I wanted to be Indiana Jones—a female version mind you, like Tomb Raider, but I knew I didn’t want to take a back seat to the adventure. I guess you could say I carried that sentiment with me when I began to write a few years ago.
And something really cool happened—As a female writer and a non-arts major I met with an overwhelming amount of support from the men and women around me. Perseverance, a finished manuscript, and a dozen query letters later I had a fantastic agent (Carolyn Forde, WCA) and a two-book publishing deal with Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books US.
Now, this is an essay for the WDSF Kickstarter, and here I am, a woman in the fields of science and science fiction who has never dealt with the overt discrimination so many other women have and still face everyday around the world--quite the opposite.
But my experience is the way it should be.
I think it’s important for women like myself to speak up about their positive experiences. An integral element of science fiction and fantasy for me is the element of hope, that under the surface of every blatant setback lays a hidden truth that things are in fact changing, still changing, and the setbacks are no more than a nefarious force of old lashing back in a futile attempt to recapture a rapidly decaying mold.
For all of the women and men in science and writing who’ve blazed the trail for me, I’m one of your many successes; a young woman who has had only encouragement from the men and women in her life to pursue her careers, who has had strong professional female role models, and who has never had the hear the words ‘you can’t because you’re a woman’.
There’s still a way to go, but we’ve made a hell of a lot of positive ground too.
Kristi Charish, BSc., MSc., PhD., is a scientist and science fiction/fantasy writer who resides in Vancouver, Canada. She received her BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and her PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Kristi writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists. The first installment in her debut urban fantasy series, Owl and the Japanese Circus, is scheduled for release early 2015 through Simon & Schuster Canada/Pocket Books.