In a discussion on diversity in literature, science-fiction author Rebecca Roanhorse shared her perspective on the importance of unheard voices in, “Diverse Voices in Speculative Short Fiction.”
The latest entry in the Halbert W. Hall Speaker Series was hosted Thursday, Sept. 19 in Rudder Forum. As a Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award-winning author, Roanhorse has a key interest in “speculative fiction”, an umbrella term for stories associated with science fiction, fantasy and horror. In her short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” and the mythological, post-apocalyptic novel series “The Sixth World,” Roanhorse shines a light on indigenous culture, themes and myths.
“I write the stories and places and people that I know, just like everyone else, and then I imagine things differently,” Roanhorse said. “That's the speculative element of the genre. Writers write what we know, and then if we're really good, we convincingly write what we don't know.”
During Thursday’s panel, Roanhorse highlighted books, novellas, semi-professional science fiction and fantasy magazines, and short story collections that showcase the expanding field of speculative fiction and prop up the international, minority and marginalized authors who write them.
“There is a lot of exciting and innovative work being done in speculative fiction these days,” Roanhorse said. “Much of that great work is happening in short fiction and by marginalized authors. I want to introduce folks to these exceptional voices they may not be aware of and also just share some great stories.”
As a woman of mixed Indiginous and African-American heritage, Roanhorse discussed the need for diversity among the nominees and winners of prestigious writing awards at Thursday’s panel. In a study by tor.com, Roanhorse presented data showing how often women writers are overlooked for award consideration.
“I didn’t know the numbers were that low,” psychology freshman Kasandra Thatcher said. “I think it’s pretty cool because it makes us aware and it’s inspirational for writers to get their books out there.”
Roanhorse continues to contribute to science fiction with her latest novel “Star Wars: Resistance Reborn,” which is slated for release on Nov. 12. Roanhorse said she plans to keep penning novels and presenting across the nation, “particularly [to] women and people from marginalized backgrounds,” so other disenfranchised groups know their stories matter.
“Everyone, regardless of background, has a story to tell,” Roanhorse said. “I want to encourage everyone to tell their story. Don't focus on the obstacles, focus on the possibilities. That's what speculative fiction is all about.”
“Diverse Voices” wrapped up Cushing Library’s “The Stars are Ours” exhibit on diversity in science fiction and fantasy, which displayed a wide variety of authors who have contributed to the realm of science-fiction across the decades.
“The stereotype is that science fiction was created by, written for and about people like me,” Cushing Memorial Library Science Fiction and Fantasy curator Jeremy Brett said. “I think it’s important to have talks like Rebecca’s to show that is not true. A lot of different people have stories to tell and those stories are valuable and worth telling.”