"I believe that there is no bound on how well we can know the laws of history, but that our knowledge will always fall short of taking every small contingency into account, and that small changes can have large consequences, so that our predictive power, while improving, will always fall short."
“America is a nation of liars, for that reason science fiction has a special claim to be our national literature, as the art form best adapted to telling the lies we like to hear and to pretend we believe,” Thomas M. Disch wrote in his Hugo-winning history of the genre, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of.
Among the lies that America has chosen to believe about itself over the past 70 years, few have had as lasting—or as pernicious—effects as those wrought by Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.
I would argue that perhaps unwittingly, this novel—and its later imitators—present a narrative that helped America justify to itself patterns of segregation and disenfranchisement, and thus perpetuated them.
Robinson however is not ignorant but avoidant in a more complex way. He is approaching the apocalypse still seeking a saviour. Still anxious about the earth, even as he seeks to know, by personifying it. The apocalypse is not an event; it is a structure. This is the insight about settler colonialism coined by Patrick Wolfe.
"I dare to say that the overwhelming majority of artists I commission come from hashtag art events, so I highly recommend artists to participate in those—we and other art directors are certainly looking!"
In worldbuilding your own fictional afterlife, be aware of how the rules of your storytelling may accidentally erase those identities. Your marginalized character may have a place in your living world, but in light of those marginalizations, ask yourself: where will you place them when they die?
I’d like SFF that makes it feel good instead of terrifying to think of the future. I don’t want the retro-future with flying cars and robot servants and a Star Trekian hand-wave of past abuses, but visions of a new, inclusive future. What does reconciliation and healing look like? What can we look forward to that isn’t an apocalypse, but also doesn’t pretend that climate change isn’t happening? I want fiction that acknowledges the shortcomings of past dreams but isn’t afraid to put forth a new vision of the future.
I think JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures and its success, especially in the queer community, can teach Western storytellers a lot in terms of representation. Merely stating a character’s marginalisation is not enough—at least not without commitment to representing what that marginalisation truly means at its core. Representation needs to be nuanced to embrace the kaleidoscope of experiences within a marginalised community. Finally, it needs to be something made for marginalised people, with the primary aim not to educate the majority, but to – well – represent us with enthusiasm, empowerment, and joy.
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