This post is the first in what I intend to be several recaps of some of the most thought-provoking moments during this weekend’s Arisia science fiction and fantasy convention.
First of all, I have to thank Andrea Hairston. As a panelist and audience member, moderators have consistently been the most significant factor affecting the experience of con panel. Andrea was our fearless leader during this panel and I think we all owe her thanks for her energetic and positive management of the conversation.
Panel Description: Is Optimism Just Nostalgia in Disguise? – Marina 2, Literature, Sun 11:30 AM: We are hearing, after a long sojourn in dystopia and postapocalypse, that optimistic SF is making a comeback. Is it really the case or is the optimism of yesterday just another type of nostalgia? When climate change, postantibiotic medicine, and resource depletion are major factors in our lives (topics that are not always as well addressed in optimistic SF), is there a way to temper our optimism and inspire those who might be able to face these problems? Panelists: Andrea Hairston (mod), N.A. Ratnayake, Matthew Kressel, T.X. Watson, M.J. Cunniff
I was happy that the conversation could begin with every panelist answering the titular question in the negative: no, optimism is not just nostalgia in disguise. We had different perspectives as to why and how to move forward, but it was great to have that connecting thread. I won’t (and really can’t) give a transcript or summary of the conversation as it happened, but here are some of my key conclusions that I took away.
[SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet seen Star Wars: Rogue One, skip the section “Positive Stories in Negative Spaces.”]
A long, long time ago… in a galaxy far, far away… [cue amazing, soul-electrifying fanfare]
It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil GALACTIC EMPIRE.
During the battle rebel spies managed to steal the secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the secret plans that can save her people and restore peace to the galaxy…
I think I must have been about ten years old when I first saw those words scroll across a television screen. Oh boy, was it awesome.
Three days ago, I submitted my votes for the 2014 Hugo Awards. If you’ve never voted for the Hugos before, I highly recommend it. For $40, you get:
- nomination and final voting for the current year’s Hugo Awards
- nomination for the following year’s Hugo awards
- e-copies of all of the top five nominees in every category (some of the novel-length items are novella-length excerpts)
The Hugos are supposed to be a democratic representation of what the fans of the genre find compelling and worthy of praise. Say what you will about the state of the genre and how far we still need to go on many issues, but the Hugos are one way of making your voice heard. Don’t complain about what gets accolades if you don’t vote!
I didn’t submit votes for all categories, since I didn’t have time to read through everything. (You will recall, of course, that I was and still am working on finishing a novel draft this summer as well.) I also confess to voting for Best Novel based only on the first 1-2 chapters of each nominee. Here are my top ranked selections for each category that I actually submitted a vote:
- Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
- Best Novella: “Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
- Best Novelette: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com / Tor.com, 09-2013)
- Best Short Story: “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013
I think the category in which I was most conflicted about my final vote was Best Novelette. Aliette de Bodard’s “The Waiting Stars” as well as Ted Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling” were both lovely stories as well. I liked all three for different reasons. Kowal’s won out in the end I think because all else held equal, I think I’d rather promote a story about humanity looking outward into space again than anything else.
Can someone please explain to me what the HELL just happened? Twitter exchange on #clifi compiled below.
Sandra McDonald’s story Fleet appeared in the post-colonial anthology We See A Different Frontier (along with my short story Remembering Turinam). My story received an honorable mention in the recently released 31st edition of The Year’s Best Science Fiction — Sandra’s went all the way and earned inclusion in its pages.
Congratulations Sandra! And I’m honored to have been included in the same anthology with you.
Recently, The Future Fire interviewed Sandra about gender, colonialism, and the story she wrote for We See a Different Frontier:
How we define, defend and debate gender in the U.S. is fascinating to me, and certainly there are clashes between cultures where gender is rigidly enforced vs where gender variety is protected. For years now i’ve tried to explore those schisms and honor the men and women who live outside the boxes we try to stuff them in.
You can check out the whole interview on The Future Fire editor’s blog. There’s a smattering of some Buddhist perspective in there too.