Fiction: “Palo Alto, Early Summer”

Palo Alto twilight, by Arenamontanus on Flickr (CC by-nc)

I can’t sleep, so here, have some fiction.

Speaking of atlases as we were, this is a story I wrote three years and another life ago (or two? I’ve lost count), as a way to map out one possible future.

My own life has moved past it, but it still lays out a path someone else might take. Maybe even a future me.

For this story, for me, the change of it is not so much something the character undergoes, but between myself, now, and the ‘I’ of the story. I don’t know if that will work at all for you, too, but I hope it does.

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What I’m Watching: The Wind Rises

Saw The Wind Rises, the new (and supposedly last) movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki, with my boyfriend over the weekend. We both really enjoyed it.

It is, remarkably, a movie about engineers which shows the characters actually engineering, which we both found pleasant.

It’s obviously conflicted about the uses to which the planes the main character designed were put, and it engages lightly but (I thought) well with the issues, showing us the characters as they work out out how they feel about the compromises they’re forced to make. It also acknowledges Japan’s own imperial excesses in the period more than I had expected (ie. at all).

It is additionally a love story, which reflects on its central theme in interesting ways.

It is inspiring, touching, and ultimately poignant. We found it very powerful.

“They create, through the stories they’re given, an atlas of their world”

This apartheid of literature — in which characters of color are limited to the townships of occasional historical books that concern themselves with the legacies of civil rights and slavery but are never given a pass card to traverse the lands of adventure, curiosity, imagination or personal growth — has two effects.

One is a gap in the much-written-about sense of self-love that comes from recognizing oneself in a text, from the understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed and even celebrated. Academics and educators talk about self-esteem and self-worth when they think of books in this way, as mirrors that affirm readers’ own identities. I believe that this is important, but I wonder if this idea is too adult and self-concerned, imagining young readers as legions of wicked queens asking magic mirrors to affirm that they are indeed “the fairest of them all.”

The children I know, the ones I meet in school visits, in juvenile detention facilities like the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Maryland, in ritzy private schools in Connecticut, in cobbled-together learning centers like the Red Rose School in Kibera, Nairobi — these children are much more outward looking. They see books less as mirrors and more as maps. They are indeed searching for their place in the world, but they are also deciding where they want to go. They create, through the stories they’re given, an atlas of their world, of their relationships to others, of their possible destinations.

From the New York Times (also).

You can see me here engaged in the same thing.

I’ve found very few maps where my part of the world is marked with any legend more sage than “Here There Be Dragons.”

Best Bi Short Stories

Best Bisexual Short Stories

Just a quick bit of signal boosting: Circlet Press is running a Kickstarter to finance Best Bi Short Stories, an anthology of bisexual literary fiction edited by Sheela Lambert. It’s coming out from Circlet’s Gressive Press imprint, who published the Scheherezade’s Facade anthology I blogged about last year, and are dedicated to “sex-positive fiction that celebrates life outside the big ‘binary’ categories of gay/straight, male/female.”

I’m a bit selfishly unhappy that they’re not taking open submissions — because I think I’ve written some pretty good bisexual fiction, dangit — but I’ve backed the anthology anyway. In general anything which proves or grows the market is a win for all of us, and past evidence from Circlet and Gressive suggests it will be a very good book.

Go back it! That way we all can read it.

(For open submissions, I’ll have to wait for the promised 2015 Queers Destroy Science Fiction, set to be guest-edited by Seanan McGuire.)

Science Fiction Gives Us the Tools to Live in the Future, and We’re Not Using Them

The Bouletcorp: Exobiology my love

The Bouletcorp: “Exobiology my love”

I feel like this a lot about science fiction. Like we’re living in the future, today, right here, but we’ve installed screens in our spaceships on which to watch the futures of the past on rerun. I like the reruns sometimes, don’t get me wrong, and rewatching them sometimes shows me that they are more incisive about the present than my memory of them would have it, but they’re still not the view out the window.

Here’s Charlie Stross lamenting that the present has stolen his plot again, as though as soon as it became reality, it was no longer interesting or valuable to write about.

I know that speculative fiction is definitionally premised on speculation, the counterfactual. I feel like that’s not the only thing it does, though — it also gives us tools to help us understand and cope with change in the world, the change we’re experiencing right now, and we’re not using them, and I don’t know why. Maybe we’re too overwhelmed by it already.

I really liked William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, and the rest of that trilogy, for how it used — I’m going to call it a science fictional worldview, although I can’t write down a good definition of what that means — to explore the very recent past, and to help to set it in some kind of perspective.

A science fictional worldview is, it’s — materialistic, in the philosophical sense of that term; rational; it enjoys and approves of technology but understands and acknowledges technology’s limitations even when it asks if they’re necessary; and it just as much understands and identifies with humanity even when it asks if humanity could be otherwise. Maybe there are other things that I’m missing.

I feel like this, the complete package, is missing from our discussion of the present right now, and it’s a lack I feel keenly. Obviously it’s something I try to do in my own writing, but… I can’t do it alone, you know? I’m not even sure if the gap is really there or if I’m just imagining it, half of the time.