Editor's Desk: Not Alone
In a few days, I’ll be boarding my first flight in over two years and heading to Chicago for this year’s Worldcon. A decade ago, I had similar plans, but they were cut short by my heart attack. On some level, that makes this year’s trip more meaningful to me.
I’ll be on several interesting panels, but instead of talking about those, I wanted to talk about one I’m not on: “The Future of Science Fiction is International.” Aside from the subject matter, what makes this entertaining to me is that I’m fairly certain that I’m the source of the title and Google appears to confirm it. I’ve used those exact words on panels about translation and international SF for over five years now; mentioned them on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter when discussing international submissions; and it is the title of a presentation I created for a convention in China in 2019.
I’m somewhat amused that I’m not on this panel—I did volunteer for it—but I am very happy to see other people picking up the mantle or even just coming to the same realization independently. Even better, I’ve noticed that this is one of a few program items that are being offered twice with two different sets of panelists: one for the virtual attendees and one for the in-person audience.
There are days that I can feel very frustrated and alone. This is not one of them. Seeing the topic elevated on the Worldcon stage has given me a much needed and perfectly timed boost. For the last few months, I’ve been working on various aspects of the Spanish Language Submission Window project we announced some time ago. (Temporarily derailed by the many medical procedures I needed in 2021 to deal with a meteor field of kidney stones and all the work it piled up in its wake.) The exhaustion has temporarily lifted and I feel like I have the energy to push through the remaining challenges.
What makes great science fiction is not determined by lines on a map or the language a story is written in. Location and language, however, currently dictate what you have the opportunity to read. In the last ten years, I’ve observed a small and growing community within short fiction publishing who are willing to work towards expanding your “opportunity to read” stories from outside the historical status-quo.
This is a good sign. Often, where short fiction goes, the rest of the field eventually follows. The frustration I mentioned comes with things moving too slowly, which is often publishing’s top speed. My feeling is of general impatience that comes from working on the line, realizing there is so much more great work out in the world, and knowing the industry you’re a part of continues to ignore it. What we’ve been able to accomplish without overall industry support is important, but it is still just a drop in the ocean. And while something is better than nothing, it’s not enough. What we could do with the strength of an entire sea . . . now that would be progress.
Is the future of science fiction international? I think it already is. It’s just waiting for us to catch up. Why?
I’ll tell you later as I plan on attending those panels, comparing notes, and getting back to you on that . . .
Neil Clarke is the editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, and several anthologies, including the Best Science Fiction of the Year series. He is a ten-time finalist and current winner of the Hugo Award for Best Editor (Short Form), has won the Chesley Award for Best Art Director three times, and received the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award from SFWA in 2019. His latest anthology, New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction (co-edited with Xia Jia and Regina Kanyu Wang), is now available from Clarkesworld Books. He currently lives in NJ with his wife and two sons.