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Postcolonialism and Science Fiction: Excerpt from the Introduction

Post Colonialism in Science Fiction

Over at io0 they’ve posted an excerpt from the introduction to Dr Langer’s book Postcolonialism and Science Fiction.

On 23 May 2005, I met writer Nalo Hopkinson in a Swiss Chalet restaurant at Bathurst and Bloor in Toronto, Canada, the city where I was born and where Hopkinson moved from Jamaica when she was sixteen. She was kind enough to allow me to tape our conversation. We chatted over chicken and chips about her books, my research, and race and postcolonialism in general. Soon, the conversation moved to the relative lack of voices of colour and postcolonial voices in science fiction. “It’s like the elephant in the room,” Hopkinson said. “Actually, no; it’s like there should be an elephant, but instead, there’s an elephant-shaped hole.”

Shockingly enough, at the time of dropping this thing in the hopper (January 4th, 4:25P) the comments were… good. I mean really good. I mean, damn. Thoughtful critique, if snarky, about the use of language (overly-academic writing can put off the very audience that would most benefit from this kind of discussion — which is why I try to keep it pretty low-key here) and concerns about the authors analyzed in the book. Dr Langer chimes in and responds in an equally-thoughtful manner.

Which makes me ask where the fuck am I and who stole the Internet?

Make Her a Damn Geologist

So for those of you unawares, I also do a writing thing, which means I pay some attention to the writing world of books and things. There is a blog out there called Query Shark where people submit their query letters, and those letters are taken apart by a sharp agent eye so the author can put them back together. (I believe) It’s run by Janet Reid who (again, I believe) primarily reps thrillers and some scifi and then some other stuff.

Here is an excerpt from a relatively recent query letter:

What the house doesn’t know is that Abe’s girlfriend, a punk-rock stripper named Alice, has been snooping around for clues to the old woman’s death–if she ever died at all. First the house was content to consume Abe with its dark mystery; now it wants Alice, too.

And Query Shark’s comments:

Is there any possible chance you can have the main female character NOT be a stripper? I can’t tell you how sick I am of seeing that. It’s utterly lame and unless it’s an absolutely key part of the story (which it doesn’t seem to be) make her a damn geologist.

And truthfully, almost any query where the main female character is a stripper gets a pass from me. It’s shorthand for “women are one dimensional in my world.”

Query Shark correctly calls this bullshit out. The author maybe thought they were being So Damn Edgy making their female MC a stripper. It says that while Alice is here for part of the plot, she’s also here to take her clothes off, because the (male) viewer would like to see such a thing. It reveals less about the character and more about the author. (Not to mention there are a lot of problems in media portrayal of the sex industry (fetishization, dehumanization, illusion of full consent, erasure of human trafficking, etc, etc, etc).)

Buddy, I’d bet dollars to donuts you didn’t talk to a single stripper before writing Alice.

This is absolutely hitting the nail on the head. Unless it’s relevant, don’t go for something just to push the big button of Sex Sells. It’s stupid and cheap and honestly just makes you look like a lazy fucking writer.

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