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The authors got newer as I got older. But I was sold. More years passed, and somehow along the way, I became a writer. I wrote many things, primarily but not limited to plays, and the occasional novel or collection of short stories. But always, hiding in the back of my mind, I longed to write something that basically did not as yet exist.
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A genre that in itself was considered practically an oxymoron. When I started writing, Native science fiction was, by definition, a contradiction in terms. By that I mean Native literature was generally believed to consist of three avenues of literary exploration: victim narratives, historical themes, or side effects of what I call Post-Contact Stress Disorder.
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It seemed, as a result, that Native people and technology did not go together. Nor did spaceships, or aliens or even science in general stop in at First Nations communities looking for cheap gas and cigarettes. Instead, literarily speaking, we just travelled in canoes, hunted buffalo, had alcohol problems and suffered a number of other social ailments.
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In those days, science fiction was considered more of a Caucasian genre. Specifically, male Caucasian. Most of the pioneers of the genre were men of the dominant culture. So as a struggling, up-and-coming young Ojibway writer, the idea of writing Native science fiction was completely a foreign concept. You see, Native people simply did not write science fiction.
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Just like we did not write erotica, murder mysteries, vampire novels or fantasy books. No more than a fish could ride a bicycle or trees could tap dance. I never felt this was right.
Within the Native community, our imagination, our sense of what is possible was as wide, as expressive and as detailed as any other people on the face of the Earth. Many of our traditional stories could easily be classified as such.
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Different Indigenous nations have numerous stories about star people coming to Earth, or women falling from the sky, or people travelling up into the stars. Images on pictographs and petroglyphs have been theorized by some to represent possible alien travellers. It was all there; you just had to be aware of what you were looking for. Luckily, in recent years, the perception of what Native authors are capable of writing has broadened.
In your local bookstore are collections of topics as varied as Indigenous erotica sort of a 50 Shades of Red , a fantasy trilogy with elves, magic and swords written by a Native writer, and even murder mysteries penned by the famous Thomas King. It was only a matter of time. This new openness to Indigenous sci-fi is also reflected in visual art and film. Montreal artist Skawennati, who represented Canada at the Biennial of the Americas, is known for her work TimeTraveller , which uses science fiction to examine First Nations histories. Calgary-born filmmaker Benjamin Ross Hayden showed his futurist feature The Northlander , set in , at Cannes earlier this year.
But even with this shift in pop-culture awareness, I still felt obstacles to writing sci-fi myself.
For a long time, I have had a reluctance to immerse myself in the world of prose. Yes, through sheer willpower and a need to pay the mortgage, I have managed in the past to pump out two novels and a previous collection of short stories. But prose is not a field I find myself eager to plow. I have long been more comfortable weaving tales onstage, through live dialogue or personal storytelling. The world of prose is a harsh and difficult taskmaster, one requiring a comfortable knowledge of such creatures as split infinitives and dangling participles.
Having been educated in my early years on the reserve, many of these concepts have felt beyond my expertise. I contacted the cream of the Aboriginal crop of Canadian writers, inquiring if they might be interested in exploring and contributing a science-fiction anthology.
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