(These are my lightly edited notes for a panel I attended at the ConFusion Fantasy and Science Fiction Convention in January of 2018)
PANEL: Immigration and Refuge in Science Fiction (20 January 2018, 10:00)
DESCRIPTION: “Travel stories are classics in any genre, but in science fiction stories of travelling to a new home are often about colonization, or about intrepid explorers amongst the (primitive) aliens. Let’s talk about the science fiction stories that better reflect the experiences of immigrants and refugees in the real world.”
PANELISTS: Alexandra Manglis, Amal El-Mohtar, David Anthony Durham, John Chu
- Children of immigrants often turn on the next generation/wave of immigrants
- Difficult to find immigration stories that are not colonization stories
- Immigration is an experience of apocalypse
- Scatter, Adapt and Remember by Annalee Newitz
- Realistic refugee stories tend to be apocalyptic
- Apocalyptic stories for white people tend to be everyday reality for persons of color
- Sci fi tends not to be from the POV of the immigrant
- Naomi Mitchison, friend of Tolkien, first-reader of Lord of the Rings
- N.K. Jemisin – Broken Earth trilogy
- Settler Colonialism theory
- Difference between colonization of e.g. India vs. North America
- Eradicate the indigenous population, make the settlers the new indigenous population
- Indigenous vs. exogenous
- Exogenous – undesirable outsider
- Seth Dickinson – Traitor Baru Cormorant
- Octavia Butler – books about alien assimilation
- Ken Liu – Grace of Kings
- White male savior is an obnoxious and overused trope
- Dances with Wolves, Avatar, etc
- White male “good guy” is adopted by natives, becomes a better native than the natives, becomes champion of natives, saves the natives (or not)
- Projection – Donald Trump, “yellow peril”, etc. We imagine them doing to us what we are already doing to them
- Kenyan science fiction series Usoni – European refugees emigrating to Africa in 2062
- “Schrodinger’s Immigrant” – simultaneously on welfare and stealing your job
- Nnedi Okorafor – Binti series
- Sofia Samatar – The Winged Histories, A Stranger in Olondria
- E. Lily Yu –The Wretched and the Beautiful
There were many important ideas passed around in this panel, particularly in light of the racist, xenophobic, fascist policies of the current (c. 2018) U.S. president and his cabinet. One book which comes to mind which showed the POV of a refugee is What is the What, by Dave Eggers. Neither genre nor quite fiction, but a beautiful book all the same. As for fiction stories, well, I can’t think of any I have read. Not that they are not out there.
* Back in September of 2016 I took the Amtrak from Grand Rapids to Vancouver via the Empire Builder route. It was a wonderful, contemplative, transcendent experience (blog posts pending). Based on that, and based on this article in the Calvert Journal, I now want to experience the Trans-Siberian Railway. It will also give me an excuse to dust off my Russian skills.
* And speaking of that trip, while in transit, while not watching America roll by, I read Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano. It is an absolutely beautiful book, recalling all of love and beauty and intimacy and trust and heartache and the million tiny moments that bind people together and pull them apart. I just came across a wonderful review by Lauren Goldberg in Music & Literature which does justice to the most compelling book I have read in years. On a related note, I think I will now buy a subscription to Music & Literature.
* And speaking of Russian stuff, the Speak Russian Like Russians blog is both useful and fun.
* In the world of fandom and literature, author Jim C. Hines (may his beard grow ever longer) has put together an excellent post detailing the long history of Jon del Arroz’s trolling and harassing behavior toward authors, fans and organizations in the larger community. The comments on the article are mostly erudite and informative, though a JdA supporter/GamerGater pulls an impressive amount of sea-lioning to no significant effect.
* The 2018 State of the World conversation over at The Well has wrapped up. It, as well as the many previous conversations in the series, are well worth perusing over the upcoming weeks and months. A hearty thank you to Bruce Sterling, Jon Lebkowsky and all the other participants for opening this to the general public.
* Dean Allen, creator of the content management/blogging system Textpattern, has passed away. Allen was one of the biggest influences in my early career as a web developer. I took his thoughts on design and typography to heart, though I was never a designer. His photo blog featuring his Weimaraner Oliver made me want to move to rural France. Allen, along with Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman, were huge influences as I began my career in web development.
Rather than constrain myself to snarky memes on Facebook and the (regrettably) unmoderated comments sections of the various news websites, I will post my position on the Various Issues which make up the Frankenstein’s beast that is a “political position”. These will be wide-ranging and subject to updates as I clarify my views based on new information. I will contemplate things like gun rights, empire, capitalism, politics, religion, energy, sundry current events, technology and so forth. I make no pretense that this is objective work. I also make no pretense that this is scholarly work. These are my views based on my life experiences.