2017 MacArthur Genius Grant Winners: Critical Linking, October 12

Sponsored by Earth Hates Me: True Confessions from a Teenage Girl by Ruby Karp

It’s not often you’ll find these 24 names in the same place. They are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers and architects. But whatever it may read on their business cards (if they’ve even got business cards), they now all have a single title in common: 2017 MacArthur Fellow.

Hey hey Jesmyn Ward!

“One of the markers of [the] current age is that we’re starting to talk about who sets the classics,” The Stone Sky author N.K. Jemisin said at NYCC’s recent panel The New Classics of SFF. In response to moderator Petra Mayer’s (from NPR Books) opening question—what makes a classic work of SFF?—Jemisin explained that having conversations about whose stories are central helps to expand what constitutes the canon of science fiction and fantasy works. The notion of a canon was Provenance author Ann Leckie’s contribution, likening it to her study of the classical canon of music in college. But where she received her training from one or two handpicked textbooks, today’s readers have the internet, which allows for so many conversations to be seen simultaneously. Leckie made the argument that there is no longer “a single list of canonical classics, but a bunch of intersecting and interpenetrating lists.”

Leckie and Jemisin on what makes a SFF classic.

Blackness remains the great challenge to writers of fiction on all sides of the color line, for the central role of race in American Othering affects us all, white and nonwhite, black and nonblack, not just writers who are white. Morrison describes her own struggles with color codes in her work, notably in her novels Paradise (1997) and Home (2012), and her story and play Recitatif (1983). “Writing non-colorist literature about black people,” she writes, “is a task I have found both liberating and hard.” Non-colorist literature does not make racial identity do the work of character creation. Characters may have racial identities—in the USA, race is too salient a part of experience to overlook. But race should not decide how a character acts or thinks or speaks or looks.

On Toni Morrison, race, and othering.

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