Dreams and Perceptions…And ‘The Other’

Credit Riv path in snow

path along Credit River (photo by Nina Munteanu)

It was a while ago, as I was driving home from a friend’s place in the sultry dark of night that I noticed the change…

Perhaps it was the rain and the winding road that nudged my psyche to wander into that other realm. Or was it the surrealistic motion picture The Fountain that I’d seen the evening before? Or had it more to do with the fact that I’d been, for various reasons, without sleep for over forty hours that I glimpsed the ordinary in an extra-ordinary light?

Light had everything to do with it…Amber traffic lights at a construction site pulsed like living things. Smoky back-lit clouds billowed over an inky sky. A garish screen of trees, caught in the beams of my car lights as I turned a corner, flashed. Nature recast. A half-built apartment building loomed up like some dark tower in Lord of the Rings. I was reminded of a scene early on in The Fountain where the viewer is disoriented initially by a busy street at night because it was shot upside down. Ironically, the picture was filmed in my hometown of Montreal and I didn’t even recognize it.

Have you ever done that? Looked backward while driving through a familiar scene to gain a different perspective? And felt different for just a moment? Like you’d briefly entered a different dimension and glimpsed “the other”?

What is it like to meet “the other”?

What is it like to approach the unfamiliar? A new landscape. A stranger in town. A different culture. An “alien” encounter. How do we react? Is it with wonder? Curiosity? Fear? Hatred? A mixture of these?

The genre of science fiction vividly explores our humanity through our reactions to “the other.” It does this by looking at both perspectives. By describing “the other,” science fiction writers describe “us.” In his book Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient Edward W. Said contended that for there to be an ‘us’, there has to be a ‘not-us.’ According to Patricia Kerslake of Central Queensland University, this arises from a postcolonial notion of ‘the Other’, through a mutual process of exclusion. This exclusion inspires the very idea of ‘alien’ by imposing expectation on perception. Kerslake argues that: “When one culture imposes its perceptions on another, in that it begins to see the Other not as they are but as, in Said’s words, ‘they ought to be’, then the process of representation becomes inevitable: a choice is made to see a ‘preferred’ real.”

Ursula K LeGuin

Ursula K. LeGuin

In her 1975 article “American SF and the Other,” Ursula K. LeGuin unequivocally scolded the Western SF genre for representing and promoting colonialism and androcratic motives.

One of the great early socialists said that the status of women in a society is a pretty reliable index of the degree of civilization of that society. If this is true, then the very low status of women in SF should make us ponder about whether SF is civilized at all.

The women’s movement has made most of us conscious of the fact that SF has either totally ignored women, or presented them as squeaking dolls subject to instant rape by monsters—or old-maid scientists de-sexed by hypertrophy of the intellectual organs—or, at best, loyal little wives or mistresses of accomplished heroes. Male elitism has run rampant in SF. But is it only male elitism? Isn’t the “subjection of women” in SF merely a symptom of a whole which is authoritarian, power-worshiping, and intensely parochial?

The question involved here is the question of The Other—the being who is different from yourself. This being can be different from you in its sex; or in its annual income; or in its way of speaking and dressing and doing things; or in the color of its skin, or the number of its legs and heads. In other words, there is the sexual Alien, and the social Alien, and the cultural Alien, and finally the racial Alien.

Well, how about the social Alien in SF? How about, in Marxist terms, “the proletariat”? Where are they in SF? Where are the poor, the people who work hard and go to bed hungry? Are they ever persons, in SF? No. They appear as vast anonymous masses fleeing from giant slime-globules from the Chicago sewers, or dying off by the billion from pollution or radiation, or as faceless armies being led to battle by generals and statesmen. In sword and sorcery they behave like the walk-on parts in a high school performance of The Chocolate Prince. Now and then there’s a busty lass amongst them who is honored by the attentions of the Captain of the Supreme Terran Command, or in a space-ship crew there’s a quaint old cook, with a Scots or Swedish accent, representing the Wisdom of the Common Folk.

The people, in SF, are not people. They are masses, existing for one purpose: to be led by their superiors…

…What about the cultural and the racial Other? This is the Alien everybody recognizes as alien, supposed to be the special concern of SF. Well, in the old pulp SF, it’s very simple. The only good alien is a dead alien—whether he is an Aldebaranian Mantis-Man, or a German dentist. And this tradition still flourishes: witness Larry Niven’s story “Inconstant Moon” (in All the Myriad Ways, 1941) which has a happy ending—consisting of the fact that America, including Los Angeles, was not hurt by a solar flare. Of course a few million Europeans and Asians were fried, but that doesn’t matter, it just makes the world a little safer for democracy, in fact. (It is interesting that the female character in the same story is quite brainless; her only function is to say Oh? and Ooooh! to the clever and resourceful hero.)

If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate it, or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality, and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality.

You have, in fact, alienated yourself.

Diary Water cover finalWritten 45 years ago, Le Guin’s scathing article may have accurately represented the North American science fiction community of writers of that time. Today, despite the remnants of a strong old guard that still promotes a patriarchal colonialist hegemony, the science fiction genre has matured and grown beyond this self-limiting view. This is partly because current authors—many who are women and many who are representatives of minority or marginalized groups—have given SF a new face and voice that promises to include equality, inclusion, and a fresh look at exploration and ‘the other.’

The genre of science fiction has matured by diversifying to embrace “mundane science fiction,” literary fiction, speculative fiction, climate fiction, cli-fi, eco-fiction, indigenous futurisms and more.

memoryofwaterScience fiction that leans toward “mundane”(everyday life) and literary fiction include the works of Paulo Bacigalupi (Windup Girl), Margaret Atwood (Year of the Flood), and Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140). Literary fiction overlaps with science fiction through eco-fiction and climate fiction which address oppression, jingoism and neoliberalism often through dystopian themes—and often through the voice of women writers—such as Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series, Emmi Itäranta’s The Memory of Water, Nina Munteanu’s A Diary in the Age of Water, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, and Richard Power’s Overstory.

CliFi Tales of ClimateChangeIn 2017, several publications addressed different aspects of society through speculative fiction.  Laksa Media published Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, which explores issues of mental health. Exile Editions published Cli-Fi: Tales of Climate Change with stories on personal experience with climate change. Reality Skimming Press published Water, for which I was editor, which explored optimism in the face of climate change.

In Ann Leckie’s 2014 Ancillary Justice, the main character is a space ship. The Gethenians in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness are humanoids with fluid gender, adapted to environment. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312,  humans have abandoned the gender binary for an intersex existence based on proven longevity.

Borderline mishell bakerNovels and anthologies of short stories that feature disabled characters are also growing. Examples include Borderline by Mishell Baker, We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ, Murderbot series by Martha Wells, and Uncanny: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction (edited by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Dominik Parisien et al.) among many others.

Indigenous futurisms, speculative writings on issues of colonialism, identity, AI, and climate change include Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, Take Us to Your Chief, by Drew Hayden Taylor, The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, Walking the Clouds Anthology edited by Grace L. Dillon, and Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich.

Trail of LightningIn an introduction to seven Indigenous Futurism books, Barnes and Noble writes:

So many stories, well intentioned and not-so-well-intentioned, have fixated on the dark pasts of Indigenous people, assuming that colonization stole from them any future not involving slow decline and assimilation. Though there’s plenty of tragedy to be recounted, Indigenous history didn’t end there, and a wave of modern authors are exploring Indigenous cultures as living, vibrant, and firmly fixed in both the modern and furute worlds—sovereign nations with as much claim to an endless array of possible futures as any other culture. So much of what we call classic science fiction involves tropes that look very different to colonized peoples: the heroic space explorers who travel the stars visiting (and often conquering) alien worlds look very different to people whose histories are so strongly marked by the scars of colonization.

Of Indigenous Futurisms, the Seattle Public Library writes:

Indigenous Futurisms confront many of the norms of speculative fiction by challenging, subverting, or refusing to engage with colonial, racist, and otherwise oppressive genre tropes. Indigenous Futurism draws on the strength of Indigenous knowledge systems, worldviews, stories, languages, and traditions to reimagine the past, present, and future of this world and others. Yet it is not necessarily utopic or optimistic. Many authors writing within the Indigenous Futurisms genre engage with the realities of ongoing colonialism around the world, and the apocalyptic nature of the present for many Indigenous communities. However, characters struggle despite the circumstances for a better future.

 

Credit River first snow

First snow on the Credit River (photo by Nina Munteanu)

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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Waterwill be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in June 2020.

Review of “Outer Diverse” Audiobook by Martha’s Bookshelf

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OD-review-MarthasBookshelf

Review by Martha’s Bookshelf:

Rhea Hawke is some tough cookie… well – I guess you wouldn’t call a Galactic Guardian Enforcer, a “cookie”. Rhea has a strong sense of justice and is prepared to kill in the line of duty. The problem is that she killed an innocent man by accident when she was just a child and that still haunts her.  That event has shaped her life, leading her to become the only human law enforcement officer on the Eosian force. Now it is the reason she is on leave from her job and has enemies hunting her out of fear and for revenge.

Rhea has kickin’ weapons, including a Guardian Great Coat that is a shield, weapon cache and healing cover. But her most significant weapon is the ‘MEC” (Magnetic-Electro Concussion) pistol that she designed herself. The gun is technically outlawed but it is being sought by many because it is so powerful. She has created it so it can’t be dismantled and copied and the only design schematics are in her head.

Rhea is frustrated that her Eosian boss doesn’t believe her arguments that the Vos, a brutal alien race that attacked Earth, pose a real terrorist threat to the galaxy. She continues the investigation on her own and with the help of another Guardian, Basileus, she steals Benny, her beloved little ship, (saving him from the junk heap) and heads off to face more danger.

Whew- this one takes some concentration. I had a little confusion getting the characters, races, friends – well mostly foes – sorted out.  There is wonderful world building with fascinating aliens and planets, along with detailed weapons, missions, errors, and blunders. I was a bit frustrated about a third into the book when Rhea falls in lust with a stranger and begins a heavy romantic relationship. Although Serge seems loving and caring it puzzled me that Rhea totally failed to use her police smarts in getting involved with this handsome guy.  Is he safe or not; lover or the worst sort of enemy?

Rhea faces one perilous situation after another. Some she is led into and others she plunges head long into. There are ideological twists and parallel world theories at the root of the terrorist threat that Rhea seeks to thwart. As her investigation proceeds the issues become even more complex. This isn’t a light read but it sure kept my attention as I listened to see who was really a foe or a friend and what Rhea’s ultimate fate might be.  This is the first book of the Splintered Universe Trilogy. I hope the next book will be available soon so I can continue to follow Rhea and Bennie on their dangerous adventures.

Audio Notes:
Ms. Harvey did a superb job with the narration. She manages to enthuse the personality of the characters into each voice. The wise, gentle Ka has a soft, strong sound that reminds you of a wise old bird. Shlsh Shle She, a slippery, slimy creature has a slurry, garbled voice like a mouthful of mushy, wet food.  Dawn’s reading conveys the loneliness in Rhea, the sexiness of Serge, the frustrated, friendliness of Bas, and the faithful, coziness of Benny. She is able to bring emphasis to the action or romance, weariness or fear elements of the story. The narration never takes over the story but rather enhances it.

Thought words jotted while listening:   Harsh, lonely, intense, complex, naive, betrayal, secrets.  Some sexual content.

Listen to an excerpt of Outer Diverse:

Get the complete Splintered Universe Trilogy. Available in ALL THREE FORMATS: print, ebook, and audiobook. Listen to a sample from the three audiobooks below:

audible listen

Microsoft Word - trilogy-poster03.docx

GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY!

Rhea likes to use proverbs as barbs and to unhinge her opponent when she gets nervous or feels trapped. Send me a good proverb for Rhea to use and I will send you a code to obtain a free Audiobook from Audible. Codes are limited, so it will be first come, first serve until we’re out. Send your proverb to Nina Munteanu at: nina.sfgirl[at]gmail.com.

 

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.

Why Ya Gotta Listen to The Splintered Universe Audiobook Trilogy

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Rhea Hawke (Vali Gurgu)

Because of Dawn Harvey. It’s that simple.

If you haven’t listened to a book narration by voice actor Dawn Harvey before, you’re in for a treat. When I first embarked on this audiobook project, I had no idea what to expect. I give full credit to the original audiobook publisher, Iambik, who have since closed their doors (my books are currently carried and produced by Audible). Iambik introduced me to Dawn Harvey. She was one of three narrators they’d short-listed for me to audition. I had a short bio of each narrator along with a sample of their reading.

You can listen to samples from all three books here:

audible listen

I knew nothing about the process of narration or turning my print book into an audiobook. But, I did know what I needed in the voice of my book:

  1. The story is told in the first person by Galactic Guardian Rhea Hawke, a cynical angry human in a world of aliens; Rhea hates the colleagues she works with. They consider her puny and incompetent and rash and they continually remind her of some of her earlier disastrous mistakes. Rhea’s voice had to reflect a gritty hardness and sarcasm, while betraying a hidden compassion and kindness. Dawn’s voice nailed it. Dark and rich like a good cup of coffee, Dawn captured Rhea completely. The grit. The hardness. The irony. The vulnerability lurking beneath it all.
  2. The story takes place throughout the galaxy and Rhea encounters over twenty different alien species—all of which needed a distinct voice when conversing with her. Dawn showed incredible versatility in capturing their voices according to the alien’s morphology and culture, which I provided. One of the aliens has five mouths and speaks in a multi-timbral voice; Dawn successfully portrayed it.

OuterDiverse-audiobook-IambikI was so impressed when I listened to the final recording of Outer Diverse (the first book in the trilogy). It was as though I was experiencing the story for the first time—as if I hadn’t written it myself—I was right there, exploring with Rhea Hawke, journeying to the outer planets of the galaxy. Dawn had breathed life into my character and my story. I was totally unprepared for my reaction. Voice artists would explain her techniques: her prepared pauses, tone, speed, inflections, etc. I knew they were there. But that didn’t seem to matter; what mattered was that she’d embraced both my main character and the story and it all came out in her voice.

So, give The Splintered Universe Audiobook trilogy a listen and treat yourself to the entertaining narration of Dawn Harvey. Check out the fawn-like Fauche, raptor-like Khonsus, Azorians, burly Badowins, the amoeba-like Ngu and chameleon-like Xhix. Tell me what you think.

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The trilogy consists of Outer Diverse, Inner Diverse, and Metaverse. and is available in ALL THREE FORMATS: print, ebook, and audiobook. You can listen to a sample recording of Outer Diverse, Inner Diverse, and Metaverse through Audible.

audible listen

Microsoft Word - Trilogy-Vcon-AD-2.docx

GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY!

Rhea likes to use proverbs as barbs and to unhinge her opponent when she gets nervous or feels trapped. Send me a good proverb for Rhea to use and I will send you a code to obtain a free Audiobook from Audible. Codes are limited, so it will be first come, first serve until we’re out. Send your proverb to Nina Munteanu at: nina.sfgirl[at]gmail.com.

An addictive start to the trilogy!Book Addict

A feast for the senses; glorious worlds with complex inhabitants hurtle towards our unprepared ears—QuirkyMezzo23

I want to grow up to be Rhea HawkeDabOfDarkness

Rhea courtyard03

Detective Rhea Hawke (Vali Gurgu)

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.