They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

I learned SF is always shelved in the same place: at the back

Ten years ago this summer.

Ten years.


I attended the 2004 Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers' Workshop at Michigan State University in East Lansing MI. It was the most amazing six weeks, the hardest six weeks if work I've ever done, incredibly hot and formed bonds with other writers that mostly have survived to this day.

Back Row: Dr. Phil (Hmm, must be Canada Day, 1 July 2004), John Schoffstall MD, Lister Matheson (Director), Peter Burtis, Arnn Hixon, Charles Schoenfeld, Author Andy Duncan (Week 4 Instructor), Al Bogdan.

Middle Row: Tenea D. Johnson, Rebecca K. Rowe, Nikki Kimberling, Boris Layupan, Brynna Ramin, Grace Dugan, Marjorie M. Liu, Njihia Mbitira, Sarah Gibbons (Assistant to the Director & Mistress of the Copy Machine Without Which There'd Be No Critiques).

Front Row: Gordon Van Gelder (Editor, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction), Trent Hergenrader, Owner of Archives Book Store, Mary Sheridan (V.I.P.), Amelia Beamer, Andy Wolverton, Eric Joel Bresin.

I have been wondering how to commemorate this momentous tenth anniversary and I was thinking of something along the lines of Where Are They Now? But I wasn't sure when or where to start. As usual, though, the Internet muse provides...

This is the FIRST in a series about my 2004 Clarion classmates.


Njihia Mbitira was a writer from Kenya. He wrote smooth, achingly beautiful prose unlike anyone there. I recall reading stories I did not understand, yet enjoyed the flow of words.

Only every now and does Facebook give me a word from him. I haven't known what he's been working on since graduate school and Clarion. But he has a piece in The Revelator -- Dreams of Order, Visions of Chaos: An SF Childhood in Kenya. I highly recommend this essay, and even wish the longer paragraphs alluded to were included.

Those of us who read and write SF/F/H were all introduced to it one way or another. The title of this post comes from a line in Njihia's piece that I think was true for most of us. The books we sought were sequestered in the back. It made me flash to dozens of bookstores -- entering and making a beeline for the back, often with a large blue camera bag slung over my shoulder and partly on my back, trying not to knock into the displays and bookshelves as I made my way to the good stuff.

But much of the essay is a window into a very different world, yet one held in common by reading. I write of people on alien worlds and on great interstellar journeys, who are both in extraordinary situations, yet are still people nonetheless. Njihia's piece resonates with me. It's like watching Japanese anime and gaining a peek into the world of the Japanese schoolroom, very different from my experience.

Way to go, good sir.

Dr. Phil
Tags: clarion

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