Dreaming New Worlds

Oregon Humanities' 2015 Think & Drink series continues Thursday, May 21 with educator, writer, organizer, and spoken word artist Walidah Imarisha, who edited Octavia's Brood, an anthology of social justice-driven science fiction. In this excerpt from the introduction, she writes about why those who have dedicated their lives to making change are the right people to write what she calls “visionary fiction.”

Many of the contributors to Octavia's Brood had never written fiction before, let alone science fiction. When we approached folks, most were hesitant to commit, feeling like they weren't qualified. But overwhelmingly, they all came back a few weeks later, enthusiastically, with incredible ideas and some with dozens of pages already written. Because all organizing is science fiction, we are dreaming new worlds every time we think about the changes we want to make in the world. The writers in this collection just needed a little space, and perhaps permission to immerse themselves fully in their visionary selves.

We especially wanted to make space for people whose identities are marginalized and oppressed within mainstream society. Art and culture themselves are time traveling, planes of existence where the past, present, present, and future shift seamlessly in and out. And for those of us from communities with historic collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking around on two legs. Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us. For adrienne and myself, as two Black women, we think of our ancestors in chains dreaming about a day when their children's children's children would be free. They had no reason to believe this was likely, but together they dreamed of freedom, and they brought us into being. We are responsible for interpreting their regrets and realizing their imaginings. We swish to continue the work of moving forward with their visionary legacy.

At a retreat for women writers in 1988 Octavia E. Butler said that she never wanted the title of being the solitary Black female sci-fi writer. She wanted to be one of many Black female sci-fi writers. She wanted to be one of thousands of folks writing themselves into the present and into the future. We believe in that right Butler claimed for each of us—the right to dream as ourselves, individually and collectively. But we also think it is a responsibility she handed down: are we brave enough to imagine beyond the boundaries of “the real” and then do the hard work of sculpting reality from our dreams?

Excerpt from Octavia's Brood, published by AK Press in April 2015. Printed with permission from Walidah Imarisha.

 

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1 comments have been posted.

I am a longtime fan of Octavia Butler. I, too, was sorry that for years she was the one Black SF woman author, but I was sorrier still that there were so few women writing about women, so few people of color representing a more varied humanity. I began reading a lot of SF in college, choosing from the Fantasy and SciFi shelves of the University Book Store in Seattle. I looked for women authors and covers picturing a woman who was not being carried. I found many wonderful novels that way.

Jan Priddy | May 2015 | Cannon Beach

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