I’m a big fan of Jim C. Hines and his blog even before I found out we live in the same city. After I found that out, it created an odd sort of… I don’t know, maybe kinship? On the one hand, I have only ever met him at signings and only as frequently as other authors who live much further away. It’s a big enough city that I don’t ever expect to just run into him at the grocery store (and even if I did, I’d be polite enough to let him just continue shopping in peace). But at the same time, when he mentions local sites on his blog or in his stories, I know them in way many other readers won’t. I have been in the library that he [redacted for spoiler], and when one of his characters visits an apartment above a used bookstore (and mentions in real life he hung out there when in college, if I recall) – I’ve shopped in the bookstore and drive past it regularly. We see much of the same sites and know many of the same places – furthermore, seeing them in much the same way. I can barely remember what other stores are on that same block, but I know right where the used bookstore is.
This past year he ran the second in a series of guest blog posts on representation in science fiction and fantasy that he compiled into an eBook called “Invisible 2: Personal Essays on Representation in SF/F.” The guest posts are also available on his site still. The first thing that struck me about these essays is that they are about the same things I read and the movies I have watched and the same sites I have seen – but from a different angle. In many of the essays, they talked about stories that I was familiar with, but from seeing them from a different perspective, they often saw or read something very different than I did. For example, Annalee Flower House’s identifying with Princess Leia as an assault survivor is particular powerful and informative.
A fascinating example for me was Alis Franklin writing about the Maxx – a series I loved as well. But Franklin identified deeply with Sarah, and I actually resonated more with the Maxx – someone trying to be a hero but mostly just kinda lost and confused in a messed up world. However, despite identifying with completely different characters, we still felt the same story and were apparently moved in similar ways.
This then brings me to the other fascinating aspect of these essays. As much as they are about seeing the world differently, and seeing people like themselves (and much different from myself) in stories, there are also strong similarities and shared experiences. The essays aren’t lectures by any means, but instead explorations of their own experiences with SF/F stories and characters they did or did not identify with, as well as their own limitations and flaws. More than pushing a message or trying to persuade readers, these essays present complex human beings sharing their personal experiences. Unlike too many characters in SF/F, they aren’t one-dimensional, token representations of simple labels, but interesting people talking about familiar sites. The essays are a perspective that is both new and similar at the same time. I highly recommend them for a Hugo Award.