Welcome to the official blog of Speculative Fiction Studies!
Here's what that means for you, gentle reader:
Here's what that means for you, gentle reader:
The forty-nine students whose writing makes up the May 2018 block of postings are the proud and oft-befuddled members of my two Speculative Fiction Studies classes at The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. All of them gifted STEM students, all of them self-professed lovers of sf/f (or at least sufficiently curious about it to endure a semester of play in the genres), they spent eighteen weeks reading from E.M. Forster to Nnedi Okorafor; from H.P. Lovecraft to Sam J. Miller; from Asimov to Zelazny and uncounted points between. They used their knowledge of STEM fields to identify ideas for their own hard or soft sf worlds and write stories set within them. They learned sf history from the Gernsback Ghetto's earliest days. They read literary theory from Samuel R. Delany and Ursula Le Guin, Philip Martin and James Gunn. In short, they got a crash course in sff and the time has come to test their ability to land safely.
Their challenge, as a final assignment for the term and a final tribute to the sff reader culture, was to compose a blog post where they responded to a question posed by one of three genre writing pros: Caroline Yoachim, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. The prompt I gave the professionals to help them devise a question of their own was:
"Based on your specific involvement in speculative fiction, what's the thing you'd most like to ask gifted, high school-aged genre readers? What question could they answer that could help you do what you do 'better'?"
Here's what the various professionals playing along gave us. Below, you'll find some biographical information from each, and the question asked of the IMSA Speculative Fiction Studies students:
Caroline M. Yoachim is the author of over a hundred short stories. Her fiction has been translated into several languages, reprinted in best-of anthologies, and is available in her debut collection Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories. Her 2017 short story "Carnival Nine" is a Nebula and Hugo finalist. For more about Caroline, check out her website at http://carolineyoachim.com
“There is a psychological phenomenon called 'confirmation bias' that says people will generally interpret new information as supporting their existing beliefs. Speculative fiction can (to some degree) sidestep confirmation bias by framing familiar issues in ways that are new to the reader. Secondary worlds, humor, magic, aliens--all of these things can give people the distance they need to approach ideas without as much baggage as they might bring in a mundane setting.
What current topic/issue do you think might benefit from this kind of distance, helping create rational discourse? How could you transform that issue into speculative fiction to give readers enough distance to better engage with the topic/issue?”
Vina Jie-Min Prasad is a Singaporean writer working against the world-machine. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Uncanny Magazine, and Fireside Fiction. She is a finalist for the Nebula, Hugo, Campbell, and Sturgeon Awards. You can find links to her work at vinaprasad.com.
“What work of fiction do you think had an ending that was really well done, and why? What did you like about that ending--what made it work for you, specifically, and what do you think it did right overall? What makes an ending satisfying?”
Elsa Sjunneson-Henry is a deafblind speculative fiction writer and editor from Seattle, Washington. She’s the Guest Editor in Chief of Non-Fiction for Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, a blogger for B&N Scifi, and a game designer. She’s the author of A Place Out of Time and is also included in the Ghost in the Cogs anthology. Her nonfiction has been published at The Boston Globe, Uncanny Magazine, TerribleMinds and other sundry locales. She is also the managing editor of the Hugo Finalist magazine, Fireside. Currently, she lives in New Jersey with her husband, a hound dog, two cats, and a grandfather clock that chimes when it feels like it. You can find Elsa on Twitter @snarkbat.
“I focus in my work on disability, specifically disabled women, both in my non-fiction and fiction work. I often get pushback - most frequently from male authors, about the idea that I am writing 'Mary Sue's'. In a time in publishing when we are trying to listen to more diverse voices, publish more diverse stories, and enable storytellers from communities previously unseen in the genre, is it time to get rid of calling things a Mary Sue in order to welcome writers writing from their own marginalizations?”
You may notice me commenting on these students' posts in critical fashion -- that's just part of my job, I'm afraid. I encourage you to comment on their work as you see fit. . . but remember these are students, bright and well-intended, and they deserve our best treatment.