Friday, May 2, 2008

SCI-FI: In the specific or the general?

Recently, I attended the Association of Independent School Librarians ( conference in Toronto where author Nalo Hopkinson spoke (see Brown Girl in the Ring). I was really excited about hearing her as she was a sci-fi fantasy author, which is my absolute fave genre. In addition, she wrote for the young adult audience, which is another favorite of mine. Plus she is from the Caribbean, living in Canada and uses the themes of race, racism and body image in her work. What a cool thing!

And when she came in, it seemed like everything was going to be great. She had all these little action figures and other toys and she wanted the audience to make up a story about them. But instead of using that as a prompt to talk about her work, she instead started to talk about sci-fi/fantasy in the general. To a room full of librarians, she talked about why sci-fi/fantasy is a valid genre. Mind you, we had all stated our vast preference for the genre.

I was so disappointed! I wanted to hear about her background. Where did she get her ideas? How did she come up with her stories? How did she define her characters? How do you deal with heavy topics like race and racism without it being moralistic? Oh, it was so sad. I felt like she just couldn't reveal herself. That it was too personal. Yet, she teaches creative writing. She seemed like such a lovely person, kind, interesting, quirky. I can't imagine that a room full of librarians would have been intimidating.

So, I didn't learn much about her as a writer. But she did consent to do a reading of Brown Girl in the Ring and it sounded fascinating. So I bought a copy for her to sign for my school's library. I'm looking forward to reading it and figuring out the answers to the questions I wanted her to answer.

1 comment:

Nalo said...

From the responses I got to the questions I asked at the outset, it seemed as though knowledge of SF/F/H was all over the map, so I tried to tailor my talk to suit. That probably made it inevitable that some people would be satisfied and some disappointed. Next time, if you're not getting what you want, just ask me what you want to know, either during the session or one-on-one. It's easy for me to be personal when people are being personal with me. My _writing_ is on display. If what you want is access to my innermost selves, then I need to see a glimpse of yours. That feels more like an exchange between equals, and less like me being a specimen on display to be dissected. Often, all it takes is for people to respond to me out of their own passionate interest. As I said; next time, ask me what it is you want to know.