FeaturedNewsWomen's History Month 2019

Finding My Tribe in Sci-Fi Through Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’

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by Jacquelyn Jordan

I have never been a fan of science fiction novels. There, I said it! Sit down kids, let me tell you a story….

I didn’t grow up with a love for fantasy books, Star Trek or cosplay. I never participated in the Marvel vs. DC debate and didn’t spend hours gaming with friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t think that science fiction novels, comic books and gaming weren’t dope, it was that I had not been exposed to them in a way that made me feel like I belonged in that world. I dismissed science fiction (novels especially) as merely “stuff for lonely white boys who geeked out on junk that’s not real”. Science-fiction never moved me and I didn’t understand cult following fantasy films; the futuristic, outer world experience seemed exceptionally boring to me. The time when I did decide to give the genre a try, I quickly become disenchanted as there were never any characters that I could relate to or that looked like me. Besides, who cared about going to outer space away.

As I got older, my feelings about sci-fi never waned but my reasons for my lack of interest did.  The problem with science-fiction and fantasy for me was whiteness and its purposeful lack of Black women as lead characters in stories. This made me move even further away from the genre and focus more on poetry and drama which unfortunately limited my exposure to some kick-ass story-tellers who I eventually were exposed to much later on in life. It wasn’t until I moved into my late 30’s that I finally picked up a work of science fiction that changed my perception.

The book was Kindred by Octavia Butler and if I am truly honest, this book sealed the deal that I would spend the rest of my life creating stories. As an emerging writer, and avid reader, I knew that I needed to step out of my literary genre box and experience something different. I needed to read something that would challenge my skewed view of who Black writers are and what they could be. At the urging of a good friend and blerd, I experienced Kindred and the genius of this Black woman, Octavia Butler, who despite growing up during segregation, and battling dyslexia, became one of the most celebrated writers in science fiction and fantasy.

Butler’s work made me want to devour anything that I could in the genre that she spent her life in love with. She made me want to fall in love with science fiction and fantasy and everything that came along with being a Black self-proclaimed history and science-fiction junkie. As a Black woman, her representation has been critical to my evolution as an individual and my success as a writer.

After reading Kindred, I was moved to write a story which incorporated magical-realism, historical fiction and fantasy called the Sun-Lovers. It has by far been the best piece of fiction that I have written. It has also been the most challenging piece that I have ever written as I was pushed completely out of my element. I threw myself into the characters and I became obsessed with them working and reworking them until they said everything they needed to say and conveyed the message that was true to who they are.

So there. I may not ever see Star Wars (how many are there anyway?) and I probably won’t get fully on board with cosplay (ya’ll go in), but I am now fully able to appreciate those who are sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts. They help to keep our imaginations alive. They keep us young, fresh and innovative. They keep me on my toes creatively. For those that are a part of this beautiful community as writers, creatives and enthusiasts, keep showing up and showing us that we do belong where we choose to belong.

God speed.

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Jacquelyn Jordan is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is, on occasion, a student at Temple University. She is the co-host of Higher Ground Tuesdays on Community Voice Radio on WPPM-LP 106.5FM, a writer, blogger and history geek. Jacquelyn’s work has been published in Little Love Stories, Vol. 4 and The Scribes of Nyota: Mystics. To see more of Jacquelyn’s work visit her website www.kineticsolemedia.com.

Facebook: Jacquelyn Jordan, IG: @mswalkersgranddaughter

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