#WOWLDN | Do Women Dream of a Different Future? Women and Science Fiction

The Women of the World Festival is back at London’s Southbank Centre 9-11 March. I’ll be talking about the futures women dream of with Fiona Sampson MBE, author GX Todd, and Leila Abu El Hawa of the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club and Dark Societies. We’ll be chaired by Una McCormack, best-selling SF author, academic and lecturer.

Here’s what the lovely folk who organise WOW have to say about the panel:

From the The Handmaid’s Tale to The Power and The Hunger Games to Noughts & Crosses, women’s writing has drawn on history to imagine different futures in sci-fi and fantasy writing. With grim comparisons being drawn with dystopian fiction and our current political climate, and as technology and science begin to make what seemed impossible a reality, what can speculative fiction tell us about our world today? On the bicentenary of the publication of Frankenstein – written by a 19 year old Mary Shelley in 1818 and often called the first true work of science fiction– we talk to the women who rule sci-fi and fantasy right now to help us imagine a gender equal world.

I’d love to tell you to go buy tickets, but they’re already sold out! If you were quick enough to get yourself a Saturday or weekend pass, please join us in the Level 4 Blue Bar from 13.15-14.15. If not – well, I was on another standing-room-only WOW panel in 2015 which the festival recorded and posted online very shortly afterwards. Hopefully they’ll do the same again.


Things I Got Done

A four month gap between posts must be some kind of record (I’m not going to check, on the even more embarrassing off-chance that it isn’t). I’ve never been able to muster the dedication required for regular blogging, and I find that as I’ve evolved into a more accomplished writer I’ve actually become even less inclined. That might sound paradoxical, but dashing off something quick, rough and trivial simply for the sake of having a post feels antithetical to the standards I set myself. Any serious effort is more likely to go into a novel or short story – work that can be submitted for publication elsewhere.

So on reflection it’s not really surprising that since I started this website new posts have become fewer and farther between, and mostly about professional matters like publishing schedules and appearances. I think the menu tab above is about to be renamed ‘News’, since it’s clear I’m only likely to post anything when I actually have some.

What news am I here to share then, at the end of this extraordinary year? That I’m feeling less than sanguine about politics and public discourse will surprise no one who follows me on Twitter or Facebook. I’ve been posting less there too, on the principle that if you can’t find anything nice to say it might be best not to say anything. I don’t claim to be rigorous about sticking to that principle, but I also don’t see much point in simply adding to the rising tide of impotent outrage. It’s unproductive and it makes me cross. So I’ve kept myself mostly offline this year, I’ve gotten a great deal done, and – the dire state of humanity notwithstanding – I’m in a pretty good mood about all of it.

First a piece of news that was new to me too: Jo Fletcher Books tells me an omnibus ebook edition of the three ®Evolution novels will be out in March, and is available for pre-order here. I hadn’t known they were going to do that, but I’m pleased – it feels like a nice coda to a really important part of my writing and thinking life.

Though perhaps I speak too soon. I’m not planning any new books in the series, but one of the things I got done involved revisiting Gemsigns in May/June, while on hiatus from another project (more on that in a moment). I needed a mental palate-cleanser, and I’ve been asked so many times about the possibility of it coming to screen that I decided to try my hand at writing an adaptation. It turned out to be a very specific skill, distinct from novel or short story writing; you have to think visually, and be sensitive to the technical constraints as well as opportunities afforded by a different medium, while retaining overall plot structure and the emotional essence of the original text. I probably erred on the side of too much narrative detail, and I still have no idea whether Gemsigns, Binary or Regeneration will ever be brought to either large or small screen. But: I sent it to people I know who actually make film and television, and the noises that have come back are largely positive, so in my book it was time well spent. Who knows? The fabled phone may ring for that one yet (more likely a ping via IM or SMS or WhatsApp, which, given the context in which the books take place, would be appropriate).

As for what I was on hiatus from – well. That has been this year’s big accomplishment, which I’m finally ready to talk a little bit about *drum roll, please*. I’d just finished the first draft of a new book. It has the working title Sacred, and is by far the most challenging and ambitious piece of narrative fiction I’ve ever attempted. Just finding my way in was hard – I spent a year thinking through the concept; another year working out the structure, making notes and false starts, and reading reading reading to prepare myself for the eventual plunge; followed by seven months of solid writing, seven or eight hours a day, five or six days a week. I was completely wrung out when I finished; I knew there were things wrong with it, but I was much too close to be able to tell what they were. So I sent it off to my agent plus a handful of industry friends – writers and editors – for feedback, and spent the next three months very determinedly Doing Other Things. (The Gemsigns adaptation, but also travelling, visiting art galleries, spring cleaning, staring into space, reading very different types of books. One of the things I’ve learned is that taking yourself outside the world you made is essential to being able to see that world clearly.)

The first responses came from the friends, every last one of whom apologised for their slowness and confessed that they were having a hard time getting into the manuscript. Now on the face of it this might seem unhelpful, but I cannot stress enough (especially to new writers, or anyone who’s inclined to be a bit precious about their work, or indeed those supporters who think their job is not to say anything negative) just how valuable it is to be told something like this. It meant I had a pretty good idea of some of what I would need to work on even before Ian, my agent, sat me down for a lengthy and candid session on all the ways in which the book was not yet firing. I won’t go into detail, save to say I realised with some amusement that the things I was most worried about being able to pull off, and hence had concentrated hardest on, were absolutely fine, whereas things I’m usually good at had suffered from a lack of attention.

When I reread it myself, with the added benefit of my own time away, the Not Good Enough list grew even longer. That’s no reflection on Ian or the others – whole aspects of the book that were alive in my head had barely been hinted at on the page. There were things I’d meant to say that had as yet only been said to myself. I had a completed manuscript, but the reader in me could see only the shell of the story the writer wanted to tell.

All of which makes me kind of astonished that the second draft took barely three months to complete (including a week off for Helsinki and Worldcon). Another benefit of time and distance from the work is that it makes it much easier to be both methodical and ruthless when you finally do return. I dismantled and rewrote the first three chapters, and indeed much of the first third of the book. The changes I made there to character development, motivation, and narrative tone had to be carried throughout, which meant more big chunks of rewriting as well as subtler tweaks to practically every paragraph. The revised manuscript ended up noticeably longer, despite huge swathes of the original text being cut. I’m not sure I’ve ever worked with greater intensity – or with a greater sense of immediate satisfaction, of utter rightness. How do you know when it’s working? You just know.

As for what the book is about: it’s about stories, the ones we privilege and the ones we disdain, the tales we mythologise and those we discard. On one level it’s about the search for a sacred text, but it’s also about what we choose to make sacred. The most succinct description I’ve managed was when I told someone to think Paulo Coelho meets Neil Gaiman via a Malian griot and a Jamaican granny. An intriguing elevator pitch, came the reply, but it doesn’t actually reveal very much.

That’s a fair point, but I think it’s about as far as I can go right now. The book is out on submission, and I don’t want to say too much too soon. I’ll only add that the narrative unfolds via a series of stories the protagonist both tells to and elicits from the characters she meets; some are contemporary to the action and some are constructed as ancient folktales which, as they’re repeated, provide a context for the protagonist’s journey as well as forming their own parallel storyline. So there’s the meta-narrative inhabited by the protagonist; the contrasting/ contextualising strand of folklore within which an equally complex narrative is embedded; and several micro-narrative threads which inform and reflect them both.

Like I said, it was a challenge.

I received Ian’s response to the new draft at the end of November. It made my year. He got busy doing his agent thing, and now I’m the one who gets to wait, and hope that there’ll be publishing news sometime soon.

So, after over twelve months of dedication to Sacred plus the other in-between projects, how did I celebrate getting it done and getting it good? I … went out and found myself a job. I had to. I may have produced four solid novels in seven years, but being a writer has not come close to paying the bills (as is the case for most of us). That may change one day – I live in hope – but until then my resolution is to find a way to keep writing (albeit at a much slower pace) while staying in regularly and decently paid work. I’ve been extraordinarily privileged to have gotten this far in my authorial career without having yet had to truly balance the two. Now I need to learn how.

That, then, is the next big project. While I get stuck into it, and Sacred searches for a home, I do have a few smaller irons in the literary fire. There are two short pieces I’m about to submit to two new journals – and yes, one is an excerpt from Sacred. With any luck either or both of those will be out in the spring. I’m planning on attending the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica in early June. And I’ve been asked back as one of three teachers for the Science Fiction Foundation’s 2018 Masterclass, following the late cancellation in 2017. That’ll be at the end of June, and I’ll share sign-up information as soon as it’s available. I’ve submitted the same cracking reading list I was going to use last year, and I’m really looking forward to spending a few days talking with bright people about brilliant books.

Hopefully I’ll have enough of a handle on the time-and-motion logistics by then to be able to start working on a new book of my own. I’ve already got a couple of ideas …

What I Did On My Summer Holiday (or, How to travel to Helsinki and end up on the radio in Bristol)

UPDATE: The Listen Again links at Ujima Radio have expired, but interviews are now going up at Cheryl Morgan’s Salon Futura podcast site. Here’s mine (apparently I also got to be an example in Cheryl’s podcasting class at BBC Bristol!).


I haven’t done a Worldcon75 round-up; I was too busy in Helsinki and I’ve been too busy since I got back. I’m working on a revised draft of my new novel, following some candid and entirely apt feedback from my agent (bless you, professional readers who pull no punches. Bless you, bless you). I’m also one of the Lignum Vitae Awards judges this year; they’re for unpublished work by Jamaican authors. My beat is adult fiction or creative non-fiction, so I’ve got a scary number of novel-length manuscripts to finish reading in the next few weeks. I suppose I didn’t actually have enough time to take any off, but I’d been planning it for a year and I’m very glad I went. The con was great, and so was the city (I have to keep reminding myself that I was there during a gloriously sunny and warm week in August; it’s possible I might have enjoyed it less in oh, say, December. But I doubt it.) Helsinki is on the water, with bridges and bays everywhere you look; it’s compact, clean, easily walkable, good for cyclists (I’m not one) with excellent train, tram, bus and ferry service. The food is good, the people are lovely, the museums are excellent (and everyone speaks English).

No post-mortem as such, but I was asked if there was a particularly memorable con moment. There were actually two, starting with the panel I wasn’t scheduled to be on and the reading I hadn’t known I was going to do. The panel was Caribbean SF, and featured Worldcon Guest of Honour, fellow Jamaican Nalo Hopkinson; Barbadian writer, Worldcon Toastmistress and my good mate Karen Lord; and Brandon O’Brien from Trinidad & Tobago. As they made their way to the front of the room I was summoned from my front-row seat to join them on the platform. They’d already discussed kicking off with 2-minute readings from their own work, to give the audience a sense of how our region influences the way we write: in dialect, in imagery, in the cadences of our prose. I obviously hadn’t been part of that prep meeting, but as luck would have it I happened to have with me the newly rewritten opening chapters of the new book, which is influenced by Jamaican heritage and folklore to a far greater degree than any of my previous books. So I got to test it out via my own mini-reading (it went down very well), in addition to being part of a brilliant conversation with a brilliant group of people.

Memorable moment number two is actually online, so I can share it. The prominence of Caribbean women writers and women of colour at Worldcon this year (N.K. Jemisin won the Best Novel Hugo award for the second year running) prompted Cheryl Morgan to do a series of interviews for Ujima Radio‘s Woman’s Hour programme. Ujima is an award-winning community radio station in Bristol, with a strong Afro-Caribbean focus. The show went out last week, and Listen Again links are now up. I’m on first, followed by Karen Lord. That link is here. I talk about the rise of Caribbean speculative literature, the politics of diversity and importance of cultural narrative, and the joy of being surrounded by friendly Finns who look as though they’re cosplaying my characters. Karen takes us behind the scenes at Worldcon, is delightfully amazed to find herself doing the incredibly cool things she’s doing, and talks about her new gig writing seasonal fiction. (If you need any more reasons to listen, the playlist includes Prince, P-Funk and Hendrix.) The second hour kicks off with African-American writer K. Tempest Bradford, and wraps up with Nalo Hopkinson; here’s that link (and yes, the playlist is just as awesome).

Worldcon75 schedule. Helsinki here I come!

I’m going to be on three panel discussions at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention at the Messukeskus Centre in Helsinki, August 9-13. The organisers caution that the programme is almost-but-not-quite finalised, so if anything else gets added I’ll update this post. However these are confirmed:

Are Utopias Worse than Dystopias?

Friday 11 August, 12:00 – 13:00, Pasila library (Messukeskus)

Utopias are supposed to be good futures, and dystopias bad futures. Yet utopias are by definition ‘best’, hence preclude the possibility of change and evolution. Also, any utopia described has no place for dissidents: they only work if everybody toes the line.
Utopias tend to be reflections of the time they were formulated in, and what might be seen as a happy society in one age might be seen as terrible places in a later age (just look at More’s “Utopia”). If a utopia can’t be changed, it will eventually turn into a dystopia. Dystopias, at least, include the possibility of rebellion and the hope for change.

On the other hand, utopian thinking as a phenomenon and mindset is notably a great advantage for human society. Take the contemporary standard of equality we are enjoying; for introducing that we have utopian-thinking people and groups to thank for, (for fighting slavery, feminism, etc.) Even if not a single consummated utopian theory has been proven to be completely workable in praxis (from the ones that have gotten the chance to be tried), utopian literature and art remains an efficent laboratory for trying out and comparing different social theories, and questions on what humanity is. Science fiction that plays ontologically with WHAT-IFs is a natural habitat of Utopia as an artform.

Klaus Æ. Mogensen (M), Tom D Wright, Stephanie Saulter, Jani Saxell, Maria Candia

The Future is Approaching Quickly: SF As An Alternative to Future-Oriented Think Tanks

Friday 11 August, 14:00 – 15:00, 204 (Messukeskus)

Earlier this year The Economist ran a feature on how people who want to figure out where society is heading should read Iain M Banks.They argue the Culture is “space opera that anticipates some of the challenges that technology is beginning to pose in the real world” and that science fiction serves as an idea library that informs tech industry.

What do you think the near future will look like? Do you believe in the singularity? Will we figure out reasonable security? Will big data ruin it all? Would block chains make for good SF material? Will people accept self driving cars?

Kristina K., Stephanie Saulter (M), Nick Price, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Qiufan Chen

It’s More Complicated Than That

Sunday 13 August, 14:00 – 15:00, 203a (Messukeskus)

“There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” When experts try to popularise science, and politicians pronounce about economics, is a little knowledge a dangerous thing? If the public think they don’t need experts, or prefer simple lies over complicated truths, can democracy survive?

Joe Haldeman (M), Ian Watson, Stephanie Saulter, Ian Stewart


As always, many thanks to the organisers for all their hard work and smart programming. I’m really looking forward to the con, catching up with old friends and new, and spending a couple of days getting to know Helsinki before it all kicks off. (Getting a head start with Adventures in Moominland this evening in London!)


BSFA/SFF Mini Convention

Less than a day to go before the Science Fiction Foundation and British Science Fiction Association hold their annual joint mini-convention. It’s free and open to the public (other than the annual general meetings at lunchtime, which are members-only), so please join us! The BSFA’s guest of honour this year is the wonderful Anne Charnock, while it’s my honour to fill that role for the SFF. The event will be held in Lecture theatre 1 at the Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London, SW7 2AZ (entrance on Prince Consort Road, on the south side near Queens Gate Road). The schedule is as follows:

0930: Doors open
1000: Welcome and SFF interview (Stephanie Saulter interviewed by Professor Sarah Brown)
1055: Short break
1105: SFF “Fake News” panel: “Political discussion recently has been more and more dominated by discussion of ‘fake news’: did SF see this coming? And does science fiction provide us with any tools for better understanding the media and reality landscape we’re confronted with?” Stephanie Saulter, Anne Charnock, Chris Beckett and Graham Sleight (moderator).
1155: Lunch break (suggested venue: Queens Arms)
1200: BSFA AGM
1330: SFF AGM
1440: BSFA interview (Anne Charnock interviewed by Gerard Earley)
1530: BSFA panel:  “Is science fiction addressing the really big issues facing humanity?” David Gullen, Andrew Wallace and Donna Scott (moderator)
1630: End

Science Fiction Foundation | 2017 Masterclass and GoH

Applications are now open for the 2017 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism, and I’m delighted to be one of the Class Leaders this year. I’ve got a cracking reading list lined up and a few intriguing discussion topics in mind, so do click the link and get your applications in by 24 April. The Masterclass is held over three days, from Friday 30 June – Sunday 2 July. We’ll be at the glorious Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London.

I’m also deeply honoured to be the guest at this year’s Annual General Meeting of the Foundation, to be held on 17 June at Imperial College, London. The Science Fiction Foundation is a registered charity which aims to promote science fiction, and to bring together those who read, write, study, teach, research and archive it in Britain and the rest of the world. It publishes Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, a highly respected journal of SF criticism.

2084: Unsung Stories does an Orwell

Could there be any good news on this grim day? Well yes. Indie publisher Unsung Stories has announced the publication of 2084, a new anthology featuring leading science fiction writers including Christopher Priest, Dave Hutchinson, Anne Charnock, James Smythe and more, all looking ahead to what the world might be like a hundred years after the date George Orwell chose when he too decided to peer through the looking-glass into the future. Publisher George Sandison says the idea seemed pretty timely when they came up with it several months ago – it now feels downright urgent. A Kickstarter has been launched to fund the project, which I’ll be supporting just as soon as I finish with this post.

Unsung has emerged over the past few years as one of the most interesting and adventurous small publishers of speculative fiction in the UK. I’ve been hugely impressed by the work of Aliya Whitely, Oliver Langmead and Verity Holloway, all beautiful and challenging books that might have struggled to find a home in more traditional venues. I’ve no doubt that 2084 will be just as carefully edited, beautifully packaged and unsettlingly relevant.


Problem Daughters, a new feminist anthology

A few months ago at a gathering of friends and fans of The Future Fire in a London pub, I asked general editor Djibril al-Ayad if there were any new plans or projects afoot. I’d first become aware of their work with We See A Different Frontier, an anthology of postcolonial speculative fiction; Accessing the Future took as its theme disability and mental illness, and Outlaw Bodies looked at the norms and transgressions of embodied identity. Given that track record, I figured something provocative and interesting had to be up. ‘We’re thinking of doing a project around intersectional feminism,’ he said. ‘We haven’t quite worked out what it’s going to be yet, but too much of the conversation is still too conventional and mainstream, and leaves too many people out. We’d like to do something about that.’

Now we know what the something is: Futurefire.net Publishing and co-editors Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael and Djibril al-Ayad are fundraising for a new pro-paying speculative fiction anthology. Problem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. The editors are looking for beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, with a specific focus on the lives and experiences of women of colour, QUILTBAG women, disabled women, sex workers, and any intersection of these.

Rivqa Rafael answers a few questions about Problem Daughters in the interview below. I urge you to support the fundraiser by pre-ordering a copy of the anthology or picking up another perk at https://igg.me/at/problem-daughters.


Q: How did you come to be collaborating with Futurefire.net Publishing and your co-editors on this project?

Rivqa Rafael: Who hasn’t made rash promises early on a weekend morning on Twitter? It started as a virtual con (I can’t even remember which con we were having FOMO about, but Djibril was a very charming host for our pretend kaffeeklatsch). The conversation turned to the limitations of the Bechdel-Wallace test, but quickly became bigger… and it kept seeming like a good idea. This will be my first time editing fiction, and I can’t think of a better place to start.

Q: Is there a serious problem with some categories of women being excluded from mainstream feminism? Apart from publishing fiction, what can we do to address this?

RR: If you’ll indulge me an anecdote… Although I’m no longer religious, I used to be, and as part of that I covered my hair. Years ago, I was stunned into silence when an Anglo woman informed me that hair covering was a way for men to control women. At the time, I didn’t have the vocabulary to respond at all adequately. This (and many other microaggressions) made me feel excluded from fighting patriarchy kyriarchy because I didn’t fit the expected mould, and it took years of (informal) learning for me to find the words to examine the nuance and diversity that simply must exist within feminism for it to succeed.

I think that education and conversation are our best tools for building an inclusive movement, and fiction is one of our assets. Effective conversations will involve people acknowledging their privilege, not letting white/cis/straight/abled/etc guilt take over, and really listening—primarily to the voices that are already speaking eloquently on the movement’s deficiencies, rather than demanding education from marginalised people. That said, some of this should probably be taught formally, and some is just part of an ongoing process that can happen over time (how organically or disruptively I think that should happen really depends on the day…)

Q: Why is SFF a particularly appropriate medium for telling intersectional feminist stories?

RR: I see SFF as a combined microscope and telescope: it can help us zoom in on minutiae, or it can allow us to see the bigger picture. By magnifying a threat or challenge, whether it’s an evil monarch or zombies, we can illuminate the human response in a way that realism can’t achieve. I think this works best when those fantastical elements have their own meaning, rather than standing in for a challenge within our world (I never want to see aliens = POC again), because then the “what if” has more impact.

Q: Do you have any ideas for what you will do if the fundraiser exceeds its initial goal?

RR: So many! A bigger book—while we wouldn’t want a bloated anthology, it will be really hard to exclude beautiful works because we have to cull. Some short comics would be awesome. A Braille version, an audio version, translations—anything that increases access, really, because we want to reach as many people as possible.


2016-11-03-14-51-31Rivqa Rafael is a queer writer and editor based in Sydney. She started writing speculative fiction well before earning degrees in science and writing, although they have probably helped. Her previous gig as subeditor and reviews editor for Cosmos magazine likewise fueled her imagination. Her short stories have appeared in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications), The Never Never Land (CSFG Publishing), and Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press). When she’s not working, she’s most likely child-wrangling, reading, playing video games, or practising her Brazilian Jiujitsu moves. She can be found at rivqa.net and on Twitter as @enoughsnark.

Hopes and Resolutions

I don’t go in for new year’s resolutions. I’ve always thought the greater challenge, and reward, is simply to be resolute in oneself; not for any particular year or endeavour, but as a way of living and engaging with life. My view has not changed. But given the real and present dangers that 2016 made clear to us, the challenges not only of the age but of my own advancing years, the insults and assaults to which so many are increasingly subject, the victories of parochialism and the triumph of mediocrity, I think it’s time to reiterate some of the principles  by which we hold to our own truth and become our better selves. They are not British or Jamaican or American values; they are not wedded to politics or geography or religion or language or nation; they are not better suited to the young or the old or the rich or the poor. They are human values and I commit to upholding them, this year and every year.













I’m Running Low on Hope Today

I’ve always been aware of how lucky I was to be born in the 1960s and not the 1930s; how privileged to arrive into a family and cultural milieu which took post-war progressive politics and social equality for granted; how fortunate to be part of the resulting generation of educated liberals. I’ve always known how different and how much more grim my life would have been had any of those things not been true. I used to feel that it was my great good fortune to be in the world at a moment of humanitarian, social and intellectual evolution that rejected dehumanisation and division, that had egalitarian ideals and honoured the social compact, that holds that whoever and wherever we are, we are all equally important. Like the rest of my cohort, I never doubted the narrative of our own inevitability; that the world and worldview we represented were the leading edge of what would eventually be a generational, global transformation.

Only in the last few years did it begin to occur to me that this moment may prove to be just that – an instant, an anomaly, an aberration. That the mood of the 1930s is far more easily reproduced than that of the 1960s. That culture tends more towards conservatism than progress, and that adherence to social hierarchies may be too ancient and ingrained ever to be abandoned. That education is easier to resent than to pursue. That freedom of thought is less valued than a licence to hate. That we are as a species too inherently tribal and territorial to truly wish for others what we expect for ourselves.

I have chastised myself for thinking this way, without ever quite being able to convince myself that my fears were unfounded. Now, in the era of President-elect Trump, and the Brexit rejection of post-war political alliance (which, let’s not forget, was intended to prevent future wars), and a sweeping populism that is more comfortable with foreign children dying rather than living next door, and a populace that appears to positively revel in its own ignorance of facts … it may be time to confront the folly of my own optimism.

In a weird way I feel luckier than ever. I still have my education and my privilege. I’ve got a little money in the bank (though my US$ account is going be to worth a hell of a lot less once the markets open). I’m a respected writer. I’m fifty years old; if this is the end of a story we believed in, at least I got to spend the better part of my life living in it.

But there’s my brown gay nephew in Florida. There’s my sister and her husband and their three small boys, also brown, also in Florida. There’s my filmmaker brother now doing post-production in California, already an easy target for harassment when he travels because with that colouring and beard and accent and all this fancy equipment, something just doesn’t smell right. Their friends and colleagues and classmates, the kids on the corner and in the nightclub and on their way to the mosque.

I could go on, but you get the picture. I have other sisters and brothers, other nephews and nieces. I always took it for granted that the younger members of my family, and yours, could look forward to at least as good and safe a life as mine. I believed that being born in the 1980s and 90s and the 21st century was even better than the 60s; that those generations would also live my story of progress. I believed that the momentum was with those of us who cherish and uphold that vision of humanity. I can no longer convince myself that this is true.

I’m running low on hope today. I’m going to do what I do, what educated liberal progressive intellectuals do: read, think, write. Debate, argue, engage. I won’t stop fighting for the kind of life I believe everyone is entitled to. But for the first time – and I cannot express how hard it is for me to write this – for the first time, I am no longer certain that we’re going to win.

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

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