From the SFRA 2021 Conference
Recipient’s Statement for the Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service 2020
It is a great honor to receive the Clareson Award for professional service. Looking over the list of previous recipients, I feel deeply humbled. You probably know Mahatma Gandhi’s famous observation that “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I think that ethos explains why we serve—whether it’s professional service or community service—and why we often understand the potential impact of our own scholarship in terms of service, as the manifestation of a broader mandate involving social justice praxis.
I thought that I would use this opportunity to confess my guiltiest pleasure in attempting to enact the ethos of service.
I started and continue to sponsor and coordinate a writing contest that both empowers emerging authors while bringing them into the fold of Indigenous Futurisms, an SF genre that promotes thought experiments about how various futures might look through the lens of Indigenous perspectives that have become accustomed to mitigating the historical effects of colonialism and decolonization on their communities. Standing squarely in the present, Indigenous Futurisms storytellers explore the past in order to inform ameliorated visions of future possibilities. Now in its 12th year, our “Imagining Indigenous Futurisms” annual writing contest awards one thousand dollars to the winning entrant, and it’s not too late to apply. Our application deadline is always November First. This year’s 2021 contest will be judged by my dear friend and colleague Andrea Hairston. You will recognize Andrea from her robust participation across SF venues and from her many works including MASTER OF POISONS, her most recent offering in a long line of wonderful novels.
I think of my Imagining Indigenous Futurisms Writing Contest as the combination I spoke of earlier: as service to the profession because it invites storytellers to self-identify as SF artists and scholars, and as service to communities because it brings Indigenous perspectives into mainstream contexts, just as I am attempting now. So, I’ll close by asking you to help spread good words about Indigenous Futurisms—ab0ut its potential to shape our thinking about the SF canon, and to expand our appreciation for SF’s potential to shape social change. Please consider joining our community via our Facebook page. Simply search Facebook for “Imagining Indigenous Futurisms.” You will discover how storytellers—artists, craftspeople, fiction writers, poets, playwrights, academics, and others—now live Indigenous Futurisms in ways that I never anticipated when I first introduced the term and began promoting its healing potential so many years ago. Let your students and your colleagues know about Imagining Indigenous Futurisms, both the writing contest that incentivizes it but, more importantly, as a social justice movement that gifts us with opportunities to find ourselves by losing ourselves in the service of others.
Thank you, again, to the Clareson Committee, to my SFRA friends and colleagues, and to you. I am deeply grateful.