We Have Always Dreamed In Poetry – Part 1 (beginning of recorded history through those dramatic Romans)

Last time, I talked about the earliest recorded speculative fiction poem. Before the end of the month, I want to talk about  where poetry has ended up, and where it’s going. To get there, we need to have at least a basic idea of what poetry has explored between 2000 BCE and the early 20th century. 4000 years of poetry in a singe blog post?

Actually, we need to start farther back. And, this is going to take more than one post.

Speculative fiction – the stories we tell which have not happened in our reality and contain some element of fantasy – has always been a part of our recorded literature. From the very beginning, we imagined, and then expressed those visions. But it is important to be aware that Western culture prejudices the reader to think of stories of certain gods and epic events as “myth”, while simultaneously promoting certain other gods and epic events as “gospel”. If we want to look at all of these stories as fiction, then it could be said the earliest fantasies in literature were created by Enheduanna, an Akkadian princess who served as High Priestess of moon god Nanna during the third millennium BCE. She lived in the Sumerian city-state of Ur, is one of the earliest women known from historical record, and is the earliest known author and poet.

Except – Enheduanna wrote hymns to her god. She exalted her worship in poetry and song. True, her work was revered. Copied and saved by kings, remembered, and revised 4500 years later*. It was beautiful, but to her and many of the people who came after, it wasn’t fiction. We cannot include it in this discussion without dismissing her beliefs, so we’ll mention her as a forerunner to SFF poetry in that she was an early creator of poetry, but we need to come forward in time a little to find what we’re looking for.

Around 2000 BCE, we find the oldest known love poem, a Sumerian tablet recording a “risque ballad” where a priestess asks her king to take her to bed, and then compliments him afterward. It’s possible that this was actually a performance piece instead of a personal note, and scholars have argued that the people represent gods, are taking part in seasonal fertility/agriculture rituals, and so on. Since it’s either romantic or religious (or both) it’s like the hymns of Ur: we can see the beauty in this work but can’t consider it fiction.

“Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor” is different because it is a narrator’s account of one person telling another person a story, and the storyteller recalls an event which could not have happened** in order to deliver a moral lesson.*** At most, it’s a parable or metaphor, but contemporary people seemed to have considered it entertainment (therefore, fiction) so it’s safe for us to do so as well. Continue reading

UPDATED List: 150+ Asian Speculative Fiction Authors (with links)

Updated to add suggestions from the comments/email/Twitter. All authors mentioned prior to 7/9/2017 are now included. If you’re not on this list but should be, or you’re on it but want me to link to a more recent story or current website, please comment below.

I’ve been wanting to expand my reading to include more international speculative fiction, and more non-white American authors. I am privileged to know a couple of brilliant writers who also happen to be Asian, and that seemed a good place to start my reading*. I put together a list of work I’d been meaning to explore, and then solicited ideas from Twitter and the SFWA forums. Most people suggested the same couple of names over and over again… while it’s, honestly, wonderful that we’ve reached a point in SF/F where these authors are being read and discussed at all, there’s so much more diversity in our fiction, if we just look for it. There’s almostover a hundred and fifty published writers on this list, and I know it isn’t everyone.

The authors are listed alphabetically by given name, so the list doesn’t imply hierarchy. I also didn’t sort by ancestry, current geographic location, or place of birth (though I noted it where it’s listed in author bios**), because the writers listed here have placed varying degrees of importance on those facts. Some work in American tropes, subverting the “classic” science fiction of the 50s, while others retell the myths of their homeland in new and unique ways. Some look to the future, extrapolating possibilities from their own experiences. There’s no one style, structure, or emotional context that can be called “Asian writing”. What these authors have in common is that they’re all of Asian descent, and they all write speculative fiction***. These authors write primarily in English—I’ve included a few translated works, but I can’t vouch for the authenticity of voice, so I tried to choose English-language stories wherever possible.

I want to thank Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine, Crossed Genres Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Strange Horizons, Giganotosaurus, The World SF Blog, and Daily Science Fiction for repeatedly publishing these authors. Looking for diversity in short speculative fiction? Look to those publications. (Or my own, Lakeside Circus.) When I could find it, I’ve linked to the author’s Twitter, website, blog, list of publications, and/or a sample short story. I’ve also noted if the author works primarily in YA or MG fiction.

  1. Aditya Bidikar (Indian, shorts) story: “You Cannot Fight the WarWorld SF blog
  2. Alec Austin (Chinese-American, shorts) twitter website story: “Brief Interviews with TherianthropesDaily Science Fiction
  3. Alice Sola Kim (shorts) website publications story: “Hwang’s Brilliant DaughtersLightspeed
  4. Alliete de Bodard (French/Vietnamese, shorts stories/novels, Nebula and BFSA winner) twitter website publications story: “The Weight of a Blessing” Clarkesworld
  5. Alexander Osias (Filipino, shorts) G+ twitter
  6. Apol Lejano-Massebieau (Filipino, shorts) story: “The Sewing Project” Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009
  7. Amish Tripathi (Indian, novels) twitter
  8. Amitav Ghosh (Indian, novels, Arthur C. Clark award, Man Booker shortlist) website publications blog
  9. Andrea G. Stewart (Chinese-American, shorts/novels) website Twitter
  10. Andrew Drilon (Filipino, shorts/comics/editing) blog
  11. Andrew Fukuda (Chinese/Japanese, novels) (YA) twitter website blog
  12. Andrew Vu website twitter facebook
  13. Anil Menon (Indian, shorts/novels/editing) website blog story: “ArchipelagoStrange Horizons
  14. Ashok Banker (Indian, novels) wikipedia
  15. Benjanun “Bee” Sriduangkaew (shorts) twitter blog story: “AnnexClarkesworld
  16. Berit Ellingsen (shorts, novel) website
  17. Brenda “B.W.” Clough (shorts/novels, Hugo and Nebula nominee) website publications
  18. Bryan Thao Worra (Laotian-American, shorts/poems) twitter blog poem: “No Such PhiLakeside Circus
  19. Budjette Tan (Filipino, comics/shorts, Philippine National Book Award winner) twitter blog story: “The Last Full ShowAlternative Alamat
  20. Camsy Ocumen (Filipino, shorts) story: “The Day the World Lost Its Gravity” Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009
  21. Cassandra Khaw website
  22. Cecelia Manguerra Brainard (Filipino-American, novels/shorts/editing) website wiki
  23. Cecilia Tan (novelist, editing, shorts ) twitter website publications free fiction (sample chapters/serials)
  24. Celestine Trinidad (Filipino, shorts) story: “Under a Mound of Earth, part 1Philippine Genre Stories
  25. Charles Tan (Filipino, shorts/editing) twitter blog publications story: “The Fortunes of Mrs. Yu” The Dragon and the Stars”
  26. Charles Yu (shorts/novels, John W. Campbell nominee) twitter
  27. Chitra Divakaruni (Indian-American, shorts/novels/poems, Pushcart prize) website blog
  28. Cindy Pon (Taiwanese, novels) (YA) twitter website blog sample: first 70 pages of Silver Phoenix
  29. Claire Light (Chinese, shorts) website blog publications story: “The Apocalypse ArtistStretcher
  30. Crystal Koo (shorts, lectures) website twitter publications story: “HeartlandAbyss & Apex
  31. Dean Francis Alfar (Filipino, shorts/novels/plays/editing) twitter wiki story: “The New Daughter” Philippine Genre Stories”
  32. Derwin Mak (Chinese-Canadian, shorts/novels/editing Aurora award) twitter website publications blog novella: “Kleinheimat
  33. Dinesh Rao (Indian, shorts) blog story: “The Portal PlagueThe World SF Blog
  34. Don Pizarro (Filipino-American, shorts/editing) twitter website publications story: “Life After Wartime” Lakeside Circus
  35. Dwight Okita (novels) website
  36. Dung Kai-Cheung (Chinese, novels/plays) bio Continue reading