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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is R.S.A. Garcia! She received the 2015 Independent Publishing Book Award (IPPY) Silver Medal for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror E-Book for her science fiction mystery novel, Lex Talionis, and her short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies including Abyss & Apex, Devil’s Ways, and Sunspot Jungle: Volume Two. Her short story “The Sun from Both Sides” appears in The Best of World SF: Volume 1, which recently published in the UK and will be released on June 1 in the US. A prequel/sequel story, “Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma,” can be listened to or read on Clarkesworld.

Lex Talionis by R. S. A. Garcia - Book Cover


The things I love have not always loved me.

This is one of my truths as someone who identifies as a woman. As someone who is a black woman. As someone who is a West Indian black woman.

The things I love, whether they are my country, my family, the men around me, have not always loved me. They have not always seen me as a person with my own dreams, my own rights, my own needs. They did not see someone who deserved to have their viewpoints cherished, their intelligence and talent spotlighted, and their beauty acknowledged.

I was often not the default. I was not the hero, or even the fun fast-talking sidekick. I was not the woman on the pedestal, the one worthy of protection, the siren call no one could resist, or the ultimate desire of a driven hero. Often, I was the first to die, or the background character, or the annoying woman, angry for no reason. And some wanted me to think this is who I was in truth.

What I was worth.

But not only did I know that wasn’t true—mostly because I grew up in a country where my society and my media looked like me, and there is so much unexplained power in that alone—experiencing these stories and worlds through that default gaze helped teach me about a different world. Helped me to learn empathy.

I learned to see parts of myself in the default cis white male hero. I learned to see my own struggles in the cis white female heroine. I learned there was a big world out there, made up of so much more than the heroes and heroines these stories and societies focused on, and it imagined futures for itself. Yes, some of those futures I was barely present in, barely acknowledged.

But right then, in that moment, I was part of the world. So that meant I could be part of the future as well. And unlike now, the future was not set.

So that is why this post is not about the things that did not love me.

In this month that celebrates Women in Science Fiction, this post is dedicated to just some of the things I loved that loved me back. To the things that made me who I am, in some small way.

I have read every kind of literature, but my favourites were always speculative fiction, romance and mystery, and their many, many sub-genres. From science fiction, fantasy and horror, I lost myself in the question of ‘What If?’. It is my belief that speculative fiction is the study of humanity in extraordinary circumstances, and the best speculative fiction asks more questions than it has answers. It makes you think, makes you question, makes you grow. All literature can do this, but the satisfaction I gained reading for this in speculative fiction could not be matched elsewhere for me. Except in genres like mystery and romance, where I learned human nature, and the beauty of intimacy and our deepest, most personal dreams and desires. The intellectual and emotional satisfaction these genres brought me—the comfort they provided in a difficult childhood and even more difficult youth—was priceless. The stories I read inspired my life’s work.

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson showed me my own people, beautiful and flawed, living in a fascinating future underpinned by our own wonderous technology and Carnival traditions, even if over-shadowed by old problems. Until I read it, I had not seen an explicit future in which the people of the Caribbean had a place. It made me brave enough to write my own futures, this time explicitly about my own country, Trinidad and Tobago, because I have learned when you find something good, celebrate it by building on it.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys was far more complex than I could appreciate the first time I read it, but when I had to re-read it for school, it struck a bitter chord in me, the price women are often forced to pay for having the courage to live their own lives boldly, to love unwisely. It was also stunningly beautiful writing, born of a woman from our seas who wrote a better story than the one it was based on. I’d loved Jane Eyre, and to see one of us surpass it taught me there was no limit to reimagining our pasts, even if that past was more bitter than sweet.

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson - Book Cover Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys - Book Cover

I was not just grateful for books. I have always loved the arts, and film is an important part of that.

There were the shows unforgettably made in my own image, in my own country, like Calabash Alley, Rikki Tikki, Mastana Bahar, Beulah Darling, Scouting for Talent, Twelve and Under and Westwood Park. Shows that spoke to who I was and taught me to be proud of where I came from.

Benson is a forgotten TV show now, but in my household a black man rising from butler to challenge his former employer for the Governor of his state was a powerful thing to visualize. My family was headed by a strong black grandmother who raised all her children to go after an education and their dreams because she had once been denied both. It is sad that so much of US TV is homogenously white now, but mainstream TV in the 70s and 80s had gems like Benson, Good Times, Differ’nt Strokes, The Love Boat, Julia, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, 227, Charlie & Co., Family Matters and Webster, that showed me faces like those around me. Faces like mine. People living their best lives in my skin. Without them, I would not have learned there was a space in the wider world for me, a table I could sit at with others like me while we laughed and loved.

A table that also included people like the incredible Trinbagonian actors, Lorraine Toussaint and Geoffrey Holder, and even Nichelle Nichols and Billy Dee Williams, all of whom showed me myself in the future—the place I loved to live in, the place where I was in control of the stories. Where I wasn’t limited by the challenges or discrimination of the present. Where I was the fast-talking sidekick, the ultimate beauty, the woman on the pedestal. From them, from these shows, I learned the power of possibility. That things do not have to stay the same.

But most of all I am thankful for the community of speculative fiction writers that have welcomed me and nurtured me and inspired me. Women, especially black women, that have awed me with their talent and wisdom and generousness. And I do not just mean the giants of the field, the best-selling authors who gave back, and the critical successes who pushed boundaries and made a way for all of us. I don’t just mean the women at the top of the entire genre right now.

I mean the heroines actively plugging away behind the scenes to make spaces more welcoming, more inclusive for those that have found comfort and inspiration and things to love in genres that often don’t love us back. I mean the writers brave enough to take those baby steps to try to bring that love to those things themselves, so that others will not have to feel same chill of not belonging, of pushback against inclusivity and broadening horizons.

To you, the founders of awards like the Carl Brandon and the Ignytes, and of magazines like FIYAH, and societies like the Black Science Fiction Society; to all the persons and women of colour working to make safe spaces in existing organisations like the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the Romance Writers of America; to those established magazines who open their submissions up to all nationalities, ethnicities and genders; to workshops and writing friends creating Discords and Slack, Whatsapp and Facebook groups that help writers at all stages of their careers; to those who turn their blogs and websites over to promoting, and teaching, and informing women and black women, and anyone else who are historically marginalized and coming into these genres we love; those who expend their energy to review new authors of colour, to review women and queer persons, to push the film and publishing industries to do better by constantly holding them to account in studies, essays, Twitter threads; to those who report on the flaws and failures and get backlash for never backing down from speaking truth to power, both in their fiction and non-fiction; but especially to those who do all of this in Trinidad and Tobago and the West Indies, where so few understand the courage and importance of what you do…To you I say, I appreciate all that you are. All that you do.

You are my true loves.

You are my present.

You are my future.

Thank you, so much, for loving me back.

R. S. A. Garcia Photo
R.S.A. Garcia

R.S.A. lives in Trinidad and Tobago with an extended family and too many cats and dogs—none of which belong to her. Her debut science fiction mystery novel, Lex Talionis, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and the Silver Medal for Best Scifi/Fantasy/Horror Ebook from the Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY 2015).  She has also published short fiction in international magazines, including Clarkesworld, Abyss and Apex, Internazionale Magazine (Italy), and in several anthologies. Learn more about her work at rsagarcia.com.