Welcome to April 2015’s Edition of #SciFi Women Interviews. Today, I am delighted to talk about Science Fiction with the lovely and talented Yolanda I. Washington. I met her thanks to the WordPress community, and we already had several compelling discussions about a vast range of topics, though Science Fiction and Feminism are never far from the conversation!
My name is Yolanda I. Washington and I’m a Science Fiction writer and Poet. I am working on several short stories, novellas and my first sci-fi series. I am an Indie Author and ardent supporter of other Indie authors. My first published work, a poetry collection titled “Freedom: Poetry From A Life” was published in 2013. Click here for more information. I am an avid reader of Science Fiction, Thrillers and Poetry. Some of my favorite authors and influences are George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Orson Scott Card, Jack Campbell (AKA John Hembry), Marianne de Pierres, Robert Frost, Nikki Giovanni, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Timothy Zahn, S.D. Perry, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dan Brown, Edgar Allen Poe, Gaston Leroux, and the Anonymous Author of Beowulf, just to name a few. A native of Dayton Ohio, I have lived in Atlanta, Georgia for 20 years with my awesome husband of 17 years. I am a geek, Trekkie and enjoy learning about Astrophysics, Cosmology, watching movies, knitting, nature, bowling and am an awesome mini-golfer.
I am certain you already all understand why I had to ask Yolanda to be part of this series of interviews!
NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?
YOLANDA: My father introduced us to Science Fiction with a reel-to-reel of Star Wars when the movie first came out. There wasn’t any sound to it, but my brothers and I fell in love instantly. We’d go outside afterwards and look up at the sky and imagine what was out there. Did Darth Vader really exist and if so, which stars was Tattooine orbiting? Then Dad got us to watch reruns of Star Trek, and shows and movies like Battlestar Galactica, Space 1999, Forbidden Planet, and several others. Science Fiction allowed us to dream of distant worlds and ask the ever wonderful “What If?” questions, which fueled our imaginations and gameplay.
NG: What are your current (and future) Science Fiction projects?
YOLANDA: I am currently working on a collection of flash fiction stories which I hope to publish in September of this year. I am also working on the first story in my Andromeda Rising universe. I’ve yet to decide if it will be a trilogy or longer. There will be short stories to accompany the novels. Your readers are welcome to read a few of my short stories, flash fiction and poetry pieces on my website.
NG: How did you start writing Science Fiction?
YOLANDA: I actually started out writing romance thrillers because I thought it was what I should write. Then I switched to Christian Inspirational because I thought it was what was expected of me. Finally, I decided that if I was going to pursue a writing career, it would be on my own terms. So, I switched to my first love, science fiction back in 2011 and haven’t looked back. I have never felt freer than when I am creating aliens and their civilizations.
NG: Do you have a favorite type of Science Fiction stories to write (in terms of format and subgenre)?
YOLANDA: As far as format, I love them all. Subgenre, however, is space opera, mostly because of my serious love of Star Trek and Star Wars. I didn’t know about other genres until I started studying sci-fi to write it. I’ve always loved the space opera and the adventure that goes with it.
NG: Which values do your Science Fiction stories communicate to your readers?
YOLANDA: Values such as gender equality, teamwork, and acceptance of differences are some of the values that I hope I am communicating to my readers. These are things that mean a great deal to me. Especially gender equality. Growing up as the only girl, I was treated as one of the boys until I was about 12. Then, I had to start acting like a lady. That didn’t sit well with me as I didn’t think there should be different rules for boys and girls since I hadn’t previously grown up with said rules. I believe that a woman should be given the same advances and opportunities as a man if she can cut it.
NG: What are your top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?
YOLANDA: Books there are way too many; however, I do love Star Trek: TNG Imzadi, Enders Game and The Forever War. TV Shows, Firefly, Star Trek and both the old and new Battlestar Galactica. Movies would be Star Trek Into Darkness, Forbidden Planet and The Fifth Element (cause that last movie is just plain awesome).
NG: Which Science Fiction characters have had the greatest influence on you?
YOLANDA: I would say that Princess Leia, Yoda, and Wonder Woman have had the biggest impact on me. Weird selection, I know. As a kid, I watched these characters and with the women, I saw that gender should never stop me from being the best that I can be. With Yoda, height is never an issue so go kick butt and take names. Plus, I just love his cute little nose and quiet wisdom.
NG: Which Science Fiction authors have been most inspiring to you?
YOLANDA: I have been inspired by newcomer Nicholas Sansbury Smith for his tenacity and humility. Andre Norton for proving that a woman can write Sci-fi as well as the old boys club.
NG: Do you believe that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to complex female characters?
YOLANDA: I would have to say that in the last few decades, yes. In the beginning, we were typecast as the helpless bombshell. Now, we have Padme Amadala, Zoe Washburn, Ellen Ripley and others who show us that women characters in sci-fi are more than just a damsel in distress. These women are created as forerunners of a new ideal. There is still a ways to go, as I do see a lot of men still writing the same backseat, love interest woman, however, we are definitely doing better at the complex characters than most other genres.
NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?
YOLANDA: Because Sci-fi encompasses the “What If” question, there is a responsibility to show that question in the context of diversity. What if there are other alien species? How would we react to them? How would they truly react to our warmongering? Would other species have the same sexes that we have? Would they procreate as we do? Probably not. And if so, we have to be willing to show the realities, or at least as close as we can imagine them, so that we can continue to ask those What If questions which permeate the genre as a whole. Science Fiction has been the cause of many of our technological advances because someone was willing to think outside the box. Just as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne were responsible for showing us the way toward submarines and H Bombs, Gene Roddenberry has opened the door to showing what we could accomplish as a species if we were to come together as one planet respecting of differences. That respect is what draws people together to create new advances and will keep our people alive for eons to come. Science Fiction shows us that it is possible to be different and still work together successfully toward a common goal.
NG: Thank you so much for your insight in your work and Science Fiction in general. I am certain that my readers will want to know more about your writing and read your stories! I hope they reach out to you soon. It was wonderful speaking with you, as always.
YOLANDA: Thanks a million for allowing me to interact with your readers. I truly had a great time talking with you. Feel free to contact me via my website, Facebook, Twitter or Amazon.com and Goodreads. LLAP.