From perilous quests and magical creatures to parallel universes and dystopias, speculative fiction and fantasy stories provide readers with a playground of endless possibilities. Broad Universe is dedicated to promoting women as well as other underrepresented identities in these genres. For Lit Crawl 2021, they are excited to present the “Rapid Fire Reading!” Preceding this presentation, writers E. C. Ambrose and Anne E. G. Nydam have answered some questions to indulge our imaginations for this exciting and unpredictable event. Register now for this event!
BBF: What unique perspectives do you think underrepresented voices have brought to the genre of science fiction?
E.C.: For a genre that claims to be about ideas and speculations, testing the limits of human possibility, SF has also, for far too long, been dominated by familiar ideas presented by familiar voices. By supporting and uplifting underrepresented voices, we reveal new layers of lived experience that can inform our visions of the future, as well as broadening perspectives on the issues of today that might be explored in fiction for the future. Speculative fiction has the ability to shake up the world and influence generations of thinkers. Exposing those dreamers to an expansive array of experiences, ideas, and perspectives can mean expanding our world.
Anne: Speculative fiction is all about imagining possibilities, and underrepresented people may perhaps have greater incentives to imagine new possibilities. Certainly in a field that’s all about opening minds and hearts by imagining new ways of being, we all benefit by hearing from as many different and diverse voices as possible.
BBF: What science fiction themes or tropes seem to particularly resonate with women and nonbinary science fiction readers and writers?
E.C.: Women and non-binary authors are exploring all kinds of topics, but one area I think is especially fruitful is concepts of leadership. So many of our expectations about the world and its fiction developed under the influence of very top-down, male-led power structures, and one key aspect of welcoming more voices is to question and explore what that influence means and what other models of leadership might be available.
Anne: Spec fic is a genre uniquely able to offer us new visions of what could be, instead of being bound by stereotypes and assumptions about “the way things are.” That means neither authors nor the characters they represent need to be bound by conventional ideas of what women can do and be, or how women can or should be treated by others. It’s a powerful place for us to reinvent or reclaim what it means to be female or non-binary.
BBF: There are so many powerful female characters in the science fiction world—do you have a favorite one?
E.C.: Essun, the protagonist of N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, is a powerful figure in more ways than one. I won’t give the secrets away for those who haven’t read the books, but let’s just say that Jemisin’s approach allows for extraordinary depth of character development. It’s great to see a middle-aged woman who is willing and able to take on the world. If I can slide in a bonus character, one of my favorite nonbinary characters is Kepler, in Claire North’s Touch. Kepler is one of a group of individuals who can slide into and temporarily possess the bodies of others. North uses this concept to unravel ideas around identity and human connection.
Anne: I can’t pick a favorite, but I think it’s worth noting how many strong girls appeared in the very earliest fantasy stories for children: Princess Irene, Alice, Dorothy. I think it’s no coincidence that nineteenth-century writers wrote fantasy when they wanted to show smart, courageous, self-willed girl.
BBF: Rapid readings are filled with surprises and unpredictability—what can audiences look forward to the most? Do you think these are essential factors when writing the science fiction genre?
E.C.: This particular reading includes four women writing from very different places in speculative fiction. The readings will include some ideas listeners may not have heard before, and also deliver insight into more familiar areas from a direction the listener may not have considered. Speculative fiction holds up a funhouse mirror to humanity and the present day, using its distortions to create revelation. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for!
Anne: People definitely love speculative fiction because of the surprises: entirely new worlds full of magic and possibility. At our readings you might get dragons, or spaceships, or magic spells, or aliens, or umbrellaphants… Or all of the above, or perhaps none of the above, because we write a wonderful diversity of styles within speculative fiction, and each author will bring something different to the mix. You can be sure you won’t get bored!
Don’t miss this fun occasion on June 10 at Lit Crawl 2021! Find more information on Broad Universe here and register for their “Rapid-Fire Reading” Lit Crawl session here!