I’m right now at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA). It’s a conference dedicated to the scholarship of the fantastic in the arts, and I am so grateful to have been invited to attend this year as a Creative Participant. Unlike most academic conferences, ICFA tries to keep a balance of academics and creative writers to stimulate intellectual and creative growth, and the best part is that we all have a deep love for science fiction and fantasy. So awesome.
I’ve always heard good things about ICFA and am excited to be here. My first night I was lucky to have dinner with independent scholar Kathryn Allan, who has kindly introduced me to awesome scholars at ICFA. She and I met a few years ago through my friend Na’amen at Worldcon in Reno, where she was contemplating editing an anthology of academic essays centering on disabilities in science fiction and fantasy. It was a fresh, unexplored topic and a project that excited me, and we bonded quickly.
The fact that Kathryn was an independent scholar inspired me to write and present papers as an independent scholar at a couple academic conferences, including the most recent EATON conference, where my laptop died literally one hour before my presentation on time travel in international television shows. And I did not have a back up. Thankfully, Kathryn kindly loaned me her laptop so I could have some sort of visual aid to share screenshots of from Korean time travel dramas.
Kathryn is not only brilliant, she is a kind and generous soul, heavily invested in helping underrepresented people in marginalized spaces. I’ve enjoyed watching her grow in her scholarly career. She’s traveling in an untraditional manner, having left institutionalized academia to forge her own path that’s dictated not through tenure but through pure passion and advocacy. It’s a scary journey, but Kathyrn has been able to make independent scholarship viable by supplementing her income with her private tutoring and editing business. Not only did she managed to publish her anthology, but she also is the first ever Ursula K Le Guin Fellow in Feminist Science Fiction.
In short, Kathryn is a rock star scholar in the making, and I feel so thankful to have known her since the beginning of her career. During our first dinner at ICFA, she said that she found the confidence to finish her anthology because Na’amen and I were so excited about it when we met at Worldcon. I was honored and humbled in learning this. It also made me wonder about the power of personal cheerleading, the happy spark that starts a bonfire of creativity.
Sometimes that’s all it takes, a bit of genuine, excited support, to encourage individual creativity to blossom. It reminds me of a quote by Kurt Vonnegut:
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
This quote can be interpreted as a warning towards how we choose “what we pretend to be,”which implies we not only have a choice in identity, but that we also can become something that perhaps we were not originally. It’s a nice thought, this agency. Yet the reality of identity is that it often influenced by people around you. There are so many people who can be unsupportive and toxic, draining your energy to the point where you might become your worst self. But when you surround yourself with awesome people, those who give you positive and/or constructive energy, those who encourage you to become your best self, then often good things happen.
Thank you, Kathryn, for being an awesome person to me and inspiring me to be my best self in return. May our sisterhood of awesome continue to flourish.