Big Read: Outsiders In/Of Science Fiction and the Fantastic
Monday October 24, 2011
To many people, "scifi" still denotes a world of spaceships piloted by square-jawed white male captains. But while popular culture's back was turned, the actual literature of the fantastic has always gone way beyond Hollywood to spearhead a deeply daring exploration of race and gender, stretching the boundaries of what could be, and making it possible for us to imagine alternative possibliities through the lens of speculative fiction.
From Le Guin's own ground-breaking The Left Hand of Darkness- which swept both the genre's two great awards, the Hugo and the Nebula- to Samuel R. Delany's gritty masterpiece Dahlgren and beyond, readers have found science fiction challenging preconceptions of gender and race.
This panel explored "outsiderness" in the world of science fiction and fantasy. Panelists included Steve Berman, Carlos Hernandez, Andrea Hairston, Alaya Dawn Johnson and Samuel R. Delany with moderator Ellen Kushner.
Samuel R. Delany is a novelist and critic who lives in New York City and a professor of English and Creative Writing at Temple University in Philadelphia. His short stories are available from Vintage Books, Aye and Gomorrah, and other stories and, from Wesleyan University Press, Atlantis: Three Tales. He is the author of the non-fiction study Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. His novels include Nova, Dhalgren, the Stonewall Book Award winner Dark Reflections, and—forthcoming—Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. His critical essays have been collected in several volumes by Wesleyan, including The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, Silent Interviews, Longer Views, and Shorter Views. This past summer he was interviewed in the prestigious “Art of Fiction” series in the Paris Review.
Steve Berman is the author of Vintage, an Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy finalist, as well as multiple finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for his editorial efforts (Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling and the Wilde Stories annual anthology series). He has sold nearly a hundred articles, essays, and short stories, most dealing with the interstitial spaces between queerness and speculative fiction. He regularly travels around the country speaking on such topics but returns to southern New Jersey, which he calls home.
Carlos Hernandez is Associate Professor and Deputy Chair of the Department of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY. He earned his Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Binghamton University in 2000, and is the author of numerous works of short fiction and is the coauthor of Abecedarium (Chiasmus Media, 2007). You can find some of his most recent stories in the anthologies Bewere the Night, You Don't Have a Clue, and The Tangled Bank.
Andrea Hairston was a math/physics major in college until she did special effects for a show and then she ran off to the theatre and became an artist. She is the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre and has created original productions with music, dance, and masks for over thirty years. She is also the Louise Wolff Kahn 1931 Professor of Theatre and Afro-American Studies at Smith College. Her plays have been produced at Yale Rep, Rites and Reason, the Kennedy Center, StageWest, and on Public Radio and Television. She has received many playwriting and directing awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Grant to Playwrights, a Rockefeller/NEA Grant for New Works, a Ford Foundation Grant to collaborate with Senegalese Master Drummer Massamba Diop, and a Shubert Fellowship for Playwriting. Her first novel, Mindscape, was published by Aqueduct Press in March 2006. Mindscape won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and was shortlisted for the Phillip K Dick and the Tiptree Awards. "Griots of the Galaxy," a short story, appears in So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Visions of the Future, an anthology ed. by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan. In March 2011, Ms. Hairston received the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts Distinguished Scholarship Award for distinguished contributions to the scholarship and criticism of the fantastic. Redwood and Wildfire, her second speculative novel, was published by Aqueduct Press February 2011.
Alaya Dawn Johnson is the author of the Spirit Binders series (Racing the Dark, The Burning City) and the historical fantasy novel Moonshine (the sequel, Wicked City, is forthcoming in April 2012). Her short stories have appeared in multiple venues, including Year's Best Fantasy 6 and Year's Best SF 11. She lives in New York City.
Ellen Kushner, novelist, performer and public radio personality, may be best known as the host of the long-running series Sound & Spirit, which Bill Moyers called “the best thing on public radio.” Her award-winning novels include the “mannerpunk” cult classic Swordspoint, and Thomas the Rhymer (World Fantasy Award). Kushner’s children’s story, The Golden Dreydl: a Klezmer ‘Nutcracker’, has been produced as a CD (with Shirim Klezmer Orchestra), a picture book, and onstage by New York’s Vital Theatre. 2011 saw the national broadcast of her musical radio drama “The Witches of Lublin” (co-written by Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom) and the publication of Welcome to Bordertown (co-edited with Holly Black). She is a co-founder of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, and lives in New York City. Visit her website http://www.ellenkushner.com.