#IWSG: Finding IWSG

On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (open to anyone and full of great resources and information for writers) post their answers to a monthly prompt on their blogs.

Authors benefit from getting an insightful prompt for generating more blog content, and IWSG links all respondents, which is a way for writers to discover each other. Pretty neat!

September 6 question: The IWSG celebrates 12 years today! When did you discover the IWSG, how do you connect, and how has it helped you?

I first heard about IWSG from Toi Thomas, a fellow writer and classmate in writing course we both took from The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk called “Becoming a Master Writer” (with John Dedakis). I had been bemoaning my lack of production lately, saying that it had been hard to establish and maintain a regular habit of writing. She suggested IWSG as means of sparking some blog content to get the juices flowing.

I think it has worked! I’m under no illusions that writing blog content is the same as writing prose. I can dink around on my author website for hours, but at the end of the day that doesn’t make me a writer – at least, not in the sense that I want to be. However, the monthly prompt to write something often serves as an indirect prompt to reflect on what I have written lately, what I’d like to write, and what I should be writing.

It’s fairly typical that after composing an IWSG post, I’ll also open up my notebooks or files and at least take a look around, and then this prompts further poking and more often than not, writing. I can also credit IWSG with helping me move toward a more general shift in philosophy from product-focused (which was ironically not producing anything) to process-focused (which has been excellent for addressing the root problem in the first place, consistency).

Thanks IWSG! Even when it seems like I can’t make any other progress on writing, often I can look forward to the first Wednesday of the month where I know I’ll get a little nudge in the right direction again.

Book Review: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

I don’t write book reviews much anymore. Even though I’m no longer on GoodReads, it has long since felt as though there is little I could say that hasn’t been said and posted repetitively on some social media or another a billion times already. But The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, by Shehan Karunatilaka, had such a strong, personal impact on me, I think it’s worth typing something up here, if only to focus on the aspects that I know will affect my own personal journey as a writer.

First, a very basic plot summary: Maali Almeida – war photographer, broken idealist, and gay player of the field – is dead. He wakes up, with no memory of what happened, in a kind of purgatory – a bureaucratic quagmire full of fellow Sri Lankans all quite used to waiting in long government office lines and bickering about it. He has seven moons to decide if he will continue on to the afterlife or remain behind to haunt the mortal world until his soul is eaten by demons. What follows is Maali’s quest to find out who killed him, and more importantly to convey his last sentiments and wishes to the two people most dear to him in life. Along the way, Maali faces his own mistakes, hopes, hypocrisies, missed chances, and pockets of happiness against the backdrop of 1980s Sri Lanka, which were arguably the most horrific years of the decades long, brutal, multi-way civil war that wracked the country of my parents and heritage.

Permission to be Sri Lankan

Though I am not Sri Lankan myself (that is, I was not born there nor have I ever lived there, and I do not consider it my country), it is certainly the land of my heritage and one with which I feel a strong cultural connection. My name, my extended family, the food I consider to be “home cooking”, and where I’d love to take my future child someday to show them their roots are all Sri Lankan.

When writing though, I often wonder how much of that to put in. Is it relatable? Do I have the right to talk about a country that isn’t mine, a claimed ethnic background that comes with egregiously American-accented Sinhala and no directly lived experience? Am I allowed to draw on a mythos and cosmological perspective, say for fantasy world-building, from a culture in which I am very nearly a tourist myself? Will the general reader be turned off by characters with unfamiliar, unpronounceable Sinhalese names?

Seven Moons was remarkably empowering in this sense. The novel is full of fantastically Lankan names like A.S.P. Ranchagoda and all manner of Lankan places that I can remember from trips to visit my grandparents when they were still alive. The mannerisms of Lankan speech, behavior, and thinking are so well captured, I can literally visualize the entire story being acted out by members of the Sri Lankan diaspora community that I know. (I do wonder how these mannerism and quirks convey, if at all, to non-Lankan readers.) And yet, the author has also clearly taken Lankan popular mythology, ancient history, and modern urban culture and thoroughly remixed it with whatever he damn well pleased into a fascinating blend of magical realism (Salman Rushdie comes to mind) meets gritty political thriller and contemporary murder mystery.

So I guess I don’t need to be “culturally accurate” to be interesting? And if a guy named Karunatilaka (for god’s sake) can win the Booker Prize and have the NY literati call him a genius, hey, maybe I have a shot? Thanks for the boost, Shehan aiya.

Mechanics and Structure

I’ve been trying to “read like a writer” more, especially with fiction, and think intentionally about how the author structured the story and what techniques they used to convey plot, character, and theme. I like how the author used the story itself to impose a natural structure on the plot – the book takes place, obviously, over seven moons of time with the main, load-bearing narrative thread being the murder mystery plot featuring Maali’s friends Jaki and DD, who are still alive, as they try to piece together what happened to him.

Maali cares less about figuring out who killed him than resolving his feelings and regrets with respect to DD and Jaki, who can neither see nor hear him directly. Maali also wants them to find the negatives of certain photos he took during his career photographing the Sri Lankan Civil War, and to make them public – thus, he hopes, vindicating his life’s work now that he is dead. His inner character arc progresses through reflections and realizations prompted by aspects of his relationships with DD and Jaki, helped along by plenty of flashbacks to scenes between some combination of the three of them when he was still alive.

I really liked the parallel paths of external plot driving the narrative with internal character threads hanging off of it and providing depth, the two story paths intertwined but distinct. I may actually try that same approach with the novel idea I’m working on now.

Oscar Wilde is credited with saying, “If you are going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh. Otherwise, they’ll kill you.” In the manner of the best comedians, Karunatilaka uses plenty of dry wit and hilarious Lankan situational irony to get away with stripping bare the hypocrisies of literally everyone even remotely involved in the civil war, including Sri Lankan government, the Tamil Tiger revolutionaries, the JVP communists, the Indian Peacekeeping Force, various so-called charities, the western nations who armed all sides and trained their torturers while pretending to try to broker peace, the upper middle class English speaking educated “Colombo Bubble” who lived lives of relative safety while most of the country burned, and pretty much everyone else with an opinion of any kind.

The influence of Kurt Vonnegut very evident. If you liked Slaughterhouse Five, you’ll vibe with this.

A Character Arc With Something To Say

In his writing workshop on Masterclass, Salman Rushdie says “Work close to the bull.” The bull, in this analogy, is the dangerous emotional or personal truth that lurks in your subconscious lived experience, which may gore you if you step too close without preparation. But a matador who pretends to fight the bull but stands far from the horns, and is thus never in any real danger, delivers a lackluster and boring performance.

Karunatilaka has done an admirable job of working close to the bull. The corruption, brutality, homophobia, idealism, cynicism, hope, love, rage, and frustration dripping from Seven Moons certainly seems drawn from powerful lived experience and emotional truth. Even if none of the events and feelings described never occurred directly to the author, which I very much doubt, then they are at least rendered skillfully enough to appear so, which in the literary context is the same thing.

I think what hooks me about the protagonist, Maali, is that while outwardly he is a cynic, underneath he really wants to believe. He is, in fact, a shattered idealist, hyperaware of his own flaws yet lacking the courage to face them, showing up to the one cause that he believes in – war photography that is unsparing of the futile horror of war – simply because he can’t think of any other way he can make a difference in an uncaring and randomly cruel world.

“How else to explain the world’s madness? If there’s a heavenly father, he must be like your father: absent, lazy and possibly evil. For atheists there are only moral choices. Accept that we are alone and strive to create heaven on earth. Or accept that no one’s watching and do whatever the hell you like. The latter is by far easier.”

– Shehan Karunatilaka, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

Indeed, the worldview that blares through the chaos and strife of the novel is not only contemptuous of religion of any kind, but unflinchingly (if reluctantly) outright nihilist. And yet, ultimately, I didn’t find the novel to be depressing, but rather an admonishment to make the best use of the fleeting moments we have to live the best lives we can, before inevitable oblivion where nothing else matters anyway.

“Because, on reflection, once you have seen your own face and recognized the color of your eyes, tasted the air and smelled the soil, drunk from the purest fountains and the dirtiest wells, that is the kindest thing you can say about life. It’s not nothing.”

– Shehan Karunatilaka, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

If that sounds bleak, I’m not sure he would apologize. And I’m not sure he has to.

I’m taking notes.

#IWSG: Conflicted Writing

On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (open to anyone and full of great resources and information for writers) post their answers to a monthly prompt on their blogs.

Authors benefit from getting an insightful prompt for generating more blog content, and IWSG links all respondents, which is a way for writers to discover each other. Pretty neat!

August 2 question: Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it?

Uhhhh…. all the time? Like maybe everything I’ve written? As for the second part of the question, what I did with it, I think the general principle is that I would rewrite until it somehow feels “done enough” and then let it stay how it was.

To zoom in a bit though to the scene level, I think I recall in a very early draft of Red Soil Through Our Fingers, there was a scene in which the protagonist Mahela takes some petty revenge against his ex-wife Sun-Hee. I removed it before the final draft, and I’m not entirely sure it was the right decision. While I don’t think it would have been out of character for Mahela to have done that, so long as he regretted it afterward, it also would have introduced another layer of complication in the plot, because he needed (and ended up getting) Sun-Hee’s help. I would have had to bring that tension to closure in some kind of morally satisfying way, or leave it unresolved and thus perhaps implicitly sully the protagonist’s character more than I intended to.

In the end, it came down to a practical publishing decision. I still think to this day the novel could have really used a few more layers of depth and side plot – it’s very linear and simple in structure. But, on the other hand, if I had kept working on it to add those layers, like the one I started but removed, I’m pretty sure I never would have gotten it out the door.

It’s easy to look back and wonder, oh I should have done this and that for an already published novel. In the end, I got it out, and it is what it is. Maybe next one will be better!

#IWSG: Replacing Writing?

On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (open to anyone and full of great resources and information for writers) post their answers to a monthly prompt on their blogs.

Authors benefit from getting an insightful prompt for generating more blog content, and IWSG links all respondents, which is a way for writers to discover each other. Pretty neat!

June 7 question – If you ever did stop writing, what would you replace it with?

I tend to go through go through 4-month-ish long cycles of hobby focus. I’ll be very focused on one of my interests while others get pushed to the side, then eventually my “season” for that thing fades and I shift to something else that will take the majority of my attention, energy, and time for awhile.

I’m currently in a writing season, as I work on completing my summer longhand novel draft project. This project ramped up on the heels of finishing a “running season” in the spring, wherein I trained for and completed two marathons in March – not much time for writing when you’re getting training miles in 6 days a week, and putting in 20-milers on the weekends on top of the rest of life!

This fall, after my novel draft is complete, I may shift back to a running training cycle, or perhaps shift my attention to one of my other hobbies like D&D, gardening, cooking, learning a new subject/language, or something else.

Or, more realistically, prepare to become a new parent! :-O

All that to say that, in a sense, I’m continuously going through cycles of “stopping” writing (not quite literally stopped – I always keep a pilot light burning on my main hobbies) and replacing it with something else (probably a marathon or another physical challenge), only to come back a few months later for another project. This is just how I work, and I try to embrace it – I think four months is the perfect-size “deadline” window for me to draft a new novel length project, or complete and submit a short story or two.

Then I leave it for awhile. I know I’ll come back when I feel like it!

A New (Longhand!) Project

Last year, I made it about 25,000 words into a novel project (tentatively called Rassam’s Eye) and stalled out. I don’t think that project is dead – there were some good ideas there. However, I started to feel that working on it had become more “should” than a “want,” so I set it aside. Maybe it will come back! Even if it doesn’t, most writing is compostable – and the stuff that isn’t at least provides useful meta-functions like conditioning the mind and habituating a fluency with converting thoughts to words.

Since then, I’ve been trying to embrace more non-digital tools that help me get away from the screens, especially after many long hours sitting in front of two for work. That shift has led to two things that have seeded a new sapling of an idea: 1) I’ve been outside more – enjoying the changing seasons while reading or writing, walking the dog, etc and 2) I’ve been filling up physical notebooks with musings, sketches, observations on nature, and various longhand scrivenings.

I’ve discovered – after years of sneering at longhand writers for being old-school technophobes unwilling to embrace modern tools – that physically putting pen to paper has actually been great for open-ended, generative thinking.

Eventually, a manuscript needs to be typed – even if only in part to share with the writing critique circle. Revision and editing are far more efficient on a computer. And certainly, submission to anyone for consideration and eventual publication (publisher or self) requires a typed electronic manuscript. But after a few months now of experimenting with longhand, I think I’m convinced that ink marks on a dead tree is the way to go for early-stage work like musing and planning… and perhaps even the first draft?!

So here’s my summer creative writing project: Between May 1 and August 31, I will fill this 200-page notebook with a shitty first draft of a new novel – written longhand.

Two-hundred pages in 4 months means something like 1.6 pages per day. (Or, as the project manager in me thinks about it: 2 pages per day baseline with 40 pages of schedule margin for inevitable dropped days). At the typical estimate of 250 words/page, 200 pages should equal a 50,000 word short novel draft (or start to a longer one).

I’ve got a story idea (more later) and have been laying out the key elements. Two pages a day sounds like the right combination of something to be accountable too, but not so difficult in the midst of life craziness that it’s liable to flame out (coughNaNoWriMocough). And pulling out a notebook for a few minutes in the middle of all the major life changes happening right now sounds a lot more doable, pleasant, and productive than finding time to sit in front of a laptop screen and all its attendant distractions.

I’ll find a way to put a WIP widget or something in the side bar if folks want to follow along, and to keep track myself. We’ll see how it goes! (And join me if you want to…)

#IWSG: The First Book

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Insecure Writer's Support Group

On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (open to anyone and full of great resources and information for writers) post their answers to a monthly prompt on their blogs.

Authors benefit from getting an insightful prompt for generating more blog content, and IWSG links all respondents, which is a way for writers to discover each other. Pretty neat!

April 5 question – Do you remember writing your first book? What were your thoughts about a career path on writing? Where are you now and how is it working out for you? If you’re at the start of the journey, what are your goals?

I do indeed remember writing my first (and only) book-length work, Red Soil Through Our Fingers. The first draft was written during a July Camp NaNoWriMo in the middle of a summer off, back when I was teaching in Boston. Almost half of that first draft was written in a single weekend, on a mini writing retreat with my wife at the time and another couple. All four of us were then part of the same writer group.

We rented a (questionable) loft apartment above a brotastic surf shop in Wells Beach, took the Amtrak Downeaster up from Noath Station, ate labstah rolls, drank a case of Sam Summah, and wrote basically nonstop while alternating between loft and beach. I pounded out something like 28,000 words of an incredibly shitty first draft in three days, and finished the rest over the next 2-3 weeks. Revision and self-publication took another year.

I have never been able to replicate the experience. Red Soil remains my only completed novel.

At the time, I was wildly optimistic about turning out two more sequels and making it a trilogy, then moving on to a dozen or so other scifi ideas floating in my head. Alas, it was not to be. As I’ve described in other IWSG posts such as Getting Unstuck and The Circle Reforged, it took a long time to get through some Life Journey obstacles and find my way back to writing.

Where am I now? I’ve redefined writing success for myself and set goals that are more about consistency and small wins than pushing for big projects. I’m happy to have completed two short stories since the return, both of which are in circulation; I’ll feel a bit better when one is picked up, I’m sure! I also started (and have since put aside for now) a new scifi novel, and reformed / reconnected with a writing group.

I’ve spent the first few months of the new year focusing on “process work”, and feel as though I’m on the cusp of Something. After spending a lot of time this spring training for two marathons, I’m ready to dive into a new creative endeavor; that many miles doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing… or much of anything else really.

I’m optimistic I’ll be able to complete another novel… someday. Maybe I’ll try another NaNo this summer after the move West…

#IWSG: Working with Cover Artists

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Insecure Writer's Support Group

On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (open to anyone and full of great resources and information for writers) post their answers to a monthly prompt on their blogs.

Authors benefit from getting an insightful prompt for generating more blog content, and IWSG links all respondents, which is a way for writers to discover each other. Pretty neat!

February 1 question – If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover?

I am an indie author and I love working with indie artists for covers!

Stephanie Hoover did the cover art for my novel Red Soil Through Our Fingers, after an initial “trial run” arrangement in which she did a cover for one of my short stories, Remembering Turinam.

After I got the rights back to Turinam following its publication in the anthology We See A Different Frontier, I wanted to make the story available for free through Smashwords as well as on this website. I asked around for anyone interested in a collaboration and Stephanie responded! I posted to the blog about how our collaboration got started and the value of having a good ebook cover if you’re interested.

Soon after, I put Stephanie on contract to do the cover art for Red Soil. I interviewed Stephanie in the months leading up to the book’s release about that project and her process, which you can also read on this blog.

More recently, I worked with friend and indie artist Trish Revolinsky on the cover art for the short story Anpo: The Dawn. This was a story that I couldn’t place for years, but still wanted to publish. I finally just self-pubbed it, and worked with Tricia for the cover art. I also interviewed Tricia on the process of creating this cover. Though it’s not the only science fiction story in my biblio, it’s certainly the most “spacey” of my covers! I like that.

I’ve also done one cover myself, for the story The Parched Lands. This was a similar situation as with Turinam, wherein I had just had the rights to a published short story reverted to me, and I wanted to distribute it for free on my website and via ebooks. In this case, I used a free service (maybe Canva? I don’t actually remember) to try out the process and see how it worked out.

Overall, I certainly prefer working directly with an indie artist for covers. Not only can I get someone with far more talent than myself to produce the most fundamental advertising piece for the book, the cover, but the interplay of ideas and the joy of working in a creative collaboration are both huge benefits that it is hard to find though other means of acquiring a cover.

From a larger perspective, I think it’s also useful to remember that indie creatives not thrive on community, but depend on it. As an indie writer myself, I rely on personal connections, relationships formed at cons and other events, and the goodwill of others to take a chance on me and pay me for my work.

Working directly with an indie artist is one way to make a huge impact not only on your own publishing quality, but on the creative community in general. I highly encourage it, and hope to work with more indie artist collaborations for any future publications for which I have some control over the cover art selection.

2022 Year-End Recap

It’s been quite the year!

Back in the Saddle

In 2021, I was just barely starting to dip back into my writing after several years of hiatus. Since then: one new short story (Anpo: The Dawn) published, two new short stories (The Karma of Ponds and The Beyul) completed and in submission circulation among markets, and about 25,000 words of new prose written on a novel project (Rassam’s Eye). In addition, I managed to start a newsletter and help found a new writer’s critique circle. All this while getting married, continuing to get ever busier with a technical management position, and training for my fourth marathon! Not bad.

I’ve also realized that during my writing drought, I was also not reading much either. This year I’ve rediscovered a love for reading that I had forgotten I’d lost. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that published speculative fiction in general has greatly diversified since I last paid attention to it. I’m very excited to continue chipping away at my “Read Like a Writer” book list.

Not Quite What I Hoped

I had hoped for an actual market sale of a short story this year, and perhaps a finished first draft of a new novel. Alas, neither of these goals has materialized – Anpo was a self-pub after withdrawing it from a market that had accepted it three years ago and failed to do anything with it since, and I think I finally need to admit that Rassam’s Eye has floundered. That’s not to say the time and effort were wasted – I still think that novel idea is a good one, which may be resurrected at some point. Alternatively, perhaps even pieces of it can be mined later for something else.

On the short story front, The Karma of Ponds has gotten repeated personal rejections over a year of subbing, most saying it’s a wonderful story that “just doesn’t fit” or “isn’t quite for us” – it has yet to find a buyer. This leads me to believe that it doesn’t need wholesale revision, I just need to find the right market willing to take a chance on a unique structure. The Beyul has just entered the submission dance, so we’ll see. I remain optimistic that both will eventually find a home, I just need to stay persistent.

Getting Unstuck

One of the principles that has helped me get unstuck over the last year and a half has been a commitment to myself that I would always allow myself to write what I felt like writing, regardless of whether it was what I felt I should be writing, so as not to generate new writing career regrets. Among the consequences of this policy, however, has been that word count on longer projects like Rassam’s Eye have suffered at the expense of shorter sketches, to the point where I have honestly lost momentum on the novel ideas. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it did, after all, get me writing again.

The upside of a more process-based approach to writing has been a greatly expanded range of styles, genres, and topics covered by the writing I do happen to get done. I’ve dabbled in literary fiction, fantasy, and even horror this year in my draft notebooks, whereas in previous years I tended to be solely focused on a a few particular subgenres of science fiction. I’ve also really warmed to the idea of physical notebooks at all – they really do prevent distraction and promote a certain kind of open mind. I think the breadth and experimentation and focus on process rather than product are good for me, and will eventually bear fruit in the long run.

However, in the meanwhile, it does tend to feel as though I’m not making much actual progress. I’d like to FINISH something again, be able to point to a new concrete milestone and say I produced that!

Patience – not one of my strong points.

Goals for 2023

Looking ahead, I’d like to find a way to balance my newly acquired process-centered philosophy with the need to have “small wins” for motivation and a sense of progress. Runner and novelist Haruki Murakami draws many mental connections between his two main pastimes in his memoir that I read this year, and it made me wonder if a distance-running technique often called “mental chunking” might be helpful: 26.2 miles, like a novel, is just too long to think about in it’s entirety while you’re in it – just run the mile you’re in, and the finish will come when it’s time. In other words, focus on smaller goals that can be accomplished sooner.

Writing Goal for 2023: Finish one draft short story or one draft novel chapter per month. Revision 4/1/23: Write at least a page of something every day – prose, poetry, journal, freewrite, research notes, anything. No length or word count requirements, no specific project on genre to adhere to each time, and no quality or “doneness” requirement.

Reading Goal for 2023: Finish six books from my Read Like a Writer list by the end of the year. Format doesn’t matter: ebook, treebook, or audiobook all count.

Creative Life Goal for 2023: Participate in at least one collaborative project with an artist working in a different creative medium by the end of the year. Details left open to avoid closing off opportunities.

#IWSG – Catching Up!

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Insecure Writer's Support Group

On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (open to anyone and full of great resources and information for writers) post their answers to a monthly prompt on their blogs.

Authors benefit from getting an insightful prompt for generating more blog content, and IWSG links all respondents, which is a way for writers to discover each other. Pretty neat!

December 7 question – It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?

The holidays are absolutely a time to catch up on writing goals. I say this every year, but… it’s been a busy year. Getting married, a honeymoon, lots of personal and work travel, a Ragnar Trail and now training for a marathon… I’ve had a hard time prioritizing or even finding time for writing lately. I’m looking forward to the holidays as a chance to take a break from the normal routine and schedule and spend some quality time with my notebooks.

In years past, I would have set a concrete holiday goal, such as “I will have 10,000 words by the end of December!” I’ve come to realize that such goals often create unnecessary pressure, and often result in half-finished junk that I never end up following up on.

This holiday season, my writing goal is to simply fill one page in my notebook per day, with no restriction on whether it is word-count prose, hastily jotted down notes, a mini scene that has nothing to do with anything else, or even a sketch of some aspect of a creative idea. I need to get back in touch with my creative spirit. I expect that grace and coaxing are bound to work better than hammers and roared accountability.

#IWSG – What’s Great About SciFi

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series Insecure Writer's Support Group

On the first Wednesday of every month, members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (open to anyone and full of great resources and information for writers) post their answers to a monthly prompt on their blogs.

Authors benefit from getting an insightful prompt for generating more blog content, and IWSG links all respondents, which is a way for writers to discover each other. Pretty neat!

October 5 question – What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

I’m definitely a science fiction fan! It’s a tired phrase, but I really do believe that the best aspect of the genre is the focus on the “what if”. Through imagination of other worlds, times, places, and even modes of being, science fiction is able to run “controlled thought experiments” on everything from human relationships to how we structure society to the nature of the universe and time itself.

Further, I think science fiction is able to explore and explicate certain sociopolitical issues in the “real world” in a different way, by providing some measure of distance from triggering hot-buttons and politicized contexts that may come with loaded personal and societal baggage. (Example: N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy deeply explores, among many other things, the institutions of slavery and apartheid – without ever explicitly referring or directly replicating institutional instances of such in the real world.)

I also believe science fiction is a deeply needed genre especially in the now. In her widely-shared speech at the National Book Awards, one of my favorite authors, Ursula K LeGuin, shared this view:

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.”

-Ursula K. LeGuin, 2014

I just love that phrase: “realists of a larger reality”. It’s a quality I look for when I read, and strive to aspire to when I write.