When I started writing what I loved (science fiction) in about 2007, I didn’t have the impression that science fiction was US-centric. In fact, I thought that science fiction was like Star Trek’s philosophy of IDIC. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Wasn’t science fiction supposed to be like that? I mean, I did submit stories before and one even got published. That was in 2000, when I was fresh out of university, armed with a postgraduate degree. So, when I started writing in 2007, I thought it was still peachy, and a writer like me — a writer from Southeast Asia — would be easily accepted.
My steampunk story “A Matter of Possession” was published by Crossed Genres in 2010 in their issue on alternate history. It was my first entry into an interesting scene (I couldn’t use ‘community’ — didn’t feel much of it, though). I realized, to my shock, that people like me, people living outside the United States, had (still have) difficulty getting their stories published. The gatekeepers of serious science fiction were standing at the gate and barring entry to those trying to find their way in. Often, the accepted stories were written by white men. I wondered who made the gatekeepers gatekeepers? Who had set the rules and regulations? Is science fiction going to be a pub where unwanted and unwelcome folk are kept outside the window, desperately staring in while the accepted cliques mingle, laugh and have fun?
Who chooses who will write our future(s)?
I am glad that it has changed a bit since 2010. More people of color, more people with different sexual orientations and sexualities, more non-US people, are submitting and having their fiction accepted and published. The markets, too, are opening up to the idea of diversity. Online science fiction magazines and venues are seeing more Asian people. Even Southeast Asia is starting to appear on the scene with works from Zen Cho, Stephanie Lai, Jaymee Goh, Eve Shi, Benjanun “Bee” Sriduangkaew, J.Y.Yang and Dean Francis Alfar. There are actually more Southeast Asian writers, and there are lists now with people from my side of the world! Not to mention that genre seems to have a mini-resurgence in places like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. (Apologies if I missed anyone! I did say in my previous post that I disliked lists — I’m bound to leave someone out!)
What I want to see in the science fiction scene now: more of us writing, more of us submitting work and not feeling ashamed of it, not feeling that we are sub-par. We are just as good as USian writers or UK writers. I want the science fiction scene to be really IDIC and to be truly accepting of differences. I want to see a community built up by honest people working hard and pushing for true diversity and not just lip service for the sake of shutting people up. Change is not going to come overnight. Change will not come overnight. I see resistance to it, especially in the few SFWA controversies. Although I am not a member of SFWA, I feel that as an organization, they should promote diversity and not fight over issues like women writing, etc. Women write science fiction. Women write dark fantasy. Furthermore, such fights divide people and make the rest of the world go “Huh”. You are writing science fiction, damn it. You should be beyond that! We should be beyond such pettiness. Isn’t science fiction about the future?
There are many other organizations out there helping and supporting their country’s and region’s writers. Yet, as a Southeast Asian writer, I often find myself wondering if joining a science fiction organization would help me in the end. Perhaps, in the end, should we form our own group? Our own community?
Perhaps…in the future. That would be another blog post to mull over!
Note: Bear in mind that these are all my personal opinions. And a good reminder that we in Southeast Asia are also watching what’s happening in the United States and elsewhere.
Joyce Chng writes science fiction, steampunk, urban fantasy and things in between. Her fiction has been published in publications such as Crossed Genres, the Apex Book of World SF II, and The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic. She co-edited The Ayam Curtain, a Singaporean anthology of SFF micro fiction. She blogs at A Wolf’s Tale: http://awolfstale.wordpress.com. She is interested in social justice, feminism and its intersectionalities, permaculture and bread-making. She is co-editor for The SEA IS OURS (http://www.rosariumpublishing.com/rosarium-the-sea-is-ours.html). Her space opera, Starfang, is being serialized on Fox Spirit Books: http://www.foxspirit.co.uk/starfang/.