Welcome to September 2015’s edition of #SciFi Women Interviews. Today, I am pleased to speak with a long time friend and creative partner: Rose B. Fischer. I promise we will do our best not to stop in the middle of the conversation due to muses demanding attention or a need to frying pan Palpatine!
Rose B. Fischer is speculative fiction author and creative entrepreneur. Her current project is The Foxes of Synn, a low-tech science fantasy serial. Click here for more information.
She is a survivor of domestic violence who lives with multiple disabilities. In the early 2000s, she became homeless after leaving her abusive spouse. She later entered a transitional housing program while attending college. These experiences inspired her to begin writing non-fiction, and have had lasting impacts on her approach to fiction writing.
She publishes science fiction, science fantasy, horror, and biographical essays. On her website, she writes about the intersection of storytelling, social responsibility, art, and pop culture in the internet age.
She also offers custom designs and templates for indie authors, musicians, and other muse-herders. Her website, rosebfischer.com, features a growing collection of free and pay to use stock art, as well as tutorials and many other features for writers, artists, readers, and viewers.
NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?
ROSE: I remember that when I was in kindergarten or first grade, kids were talking about Star Wars. I want to say that Return of the Jedi was in theaters at the time, but I’m not sure of the timing. We heard an ROTJ radio play in school. That was my first exposure to science fiction, and believe it or not I don’t remember exactly when I SAW the SW trilogy. I know that I saw that in order. In third grade, I saw the movie version of Dune, and I’ve never gotten over it.
NG: Do you believe Science Fiction has an educational value?
ROSE: I believe all stories have educational value. Speculative fiction has a particular value in that it can be used to engage with social concepts and hot-button issues in a safe forum. Science fiction adds to that by also having the ability to explore technological advancement and other scientific concepts.
NG: Which responsibility do you think Science Fiction has in terms of inclusiveness and diversity?
ROSE: Well, let me start by saying that I am a woman with a disability, and I grew up in a large blended family with people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Because of that, I have cultural heritage that I’ve adopted that isn’t part of my biological ethnicity. I identify as gray romantic, and I’m also bisexual. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life because of hypothyroidism. So, I’m very conscious that the world is full of diversity, and I think that should be reflected in our art. SF authors have a goldmine of potential to work with there, and NOT using it is a big missed opportunity.
I think that when a creator chooses to write about characters who are part of minority groups, the author has a responsibility to either write from personal experience or seek out members of that group, ask how the text reads, ask how those people would like to see their experiences and cultures represented, and to thoroughly research before publishing a story. To do otherwise is irresponsible because it’s potentially damaging.
I’ve spent the last year running a blog project to promote better, more authentic representation for people with disabilities. So, sure, audiences need to ask for what they want.
With that having been said, I get really nervous when people start talking about authors having a “responsibility” to include anything in their work. That’s trying to turn art into political and social propaganda, and I’m not on board with it. I don’t want to be part of a diversity police, either.
My responsibility as an artist is to take my vision and bring it to life to best of my ability. I hope that my audience will feel challenged and believe the journey was worth taking. For me, that usually means consciously including characters from minorities, because that’s the kind of world I live in and that’s what I think good science fiction should be doing. My science fiction needs to reflect my reality, my questions, and my hopes for the future.
For someone else, “diversity” might not be important, and that’s okay with me. That’s the story they need to tell at that moment. It’s not anyone else’s job to dictate what should be in it or what backgrounds the characters should have.
NG: What are your top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?
ROSE: Three? Three? You mean thirty-three, right? Um….. (NG: Yes, three. Can’t you see my evil grin?)
Books–Dune, any of the original Pern Quadrilogy by Anne McCaffrey, and The Ship Who Sang, also by McCaffrey.
TV shows–Stargate SG-1, Babylon 5, and Star Trek: The Next Generation
Movies– The Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner (Thank you, incidentally.) and Aeon Flux.
NG: Which Science Fiction characters have had the greatest influence on you?
ROSE: The short list is Jaime Sommers, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Wilton Knight, Jessica Atreides, Paul Atreides, Alia Atreides, Lt. Uhura, Captain Kirk, and Captain Picard. I’d have to write an essay series to fully answer this. I tend to be drawn to mentors, mavericks, religious figures, and intellectuals. Uhura was literally the first black woman I ever saw in a vital role. Leia and Jaime are my first role models.
NG: How did you start writing Science Fiction?
ROSE: It depends if you mean original scifi or fanfiction, but the answer to how I started writing original fiction is here on my blog. For fanfiction, I guess I’ve always wanted to know what was happening off screen, and the more I wanted to know, the more I would get ideas for stories.
NG: What are some recurring themes and patterns in your Science Fiction stories?
ROSE: I think that in all my stories, the recurring themes are the nature of friendship, the nature of family, redemption, and education as a process of growth and cultural development.
NG: What place do fan creation in your appreciation for Science Fiction?
ROSE: Like I said earlier, creating fanfiction is something I just do without thinking about it or trying. It’s as natural to me as breathing and certainly as valid as any other way of engaging with a story. It would take a blog series for me to answer this question completely, but I’ll say this:
I was the only geek in my immediate family. A couple of my cousins enjoyed science-fiction, but we didn’t see each other regularly. Being a geek was not “cool” in the 80s. There was no “age of the geek,” “geek pride” or any option for geeks to hang out without possibly being bullied, so if you liked geeky stuff you kept your mouth shut. My siblings are quite a bit younger than I am, so with the exception of a few cartoons, most of the things I liked to watch went over their heads and the things they liked bored me. My father thought Star Trek and Babylon 5 were stupid. So, in my house there was no option for me to compromise by watching some of my siblings’ programs and some of mine. The only time I got to watch anything I cared about was if my parents weren’t home or my mother was just too busy to pay attention. In my teens, I did get my own TV, but it still meant that if I wanted to watch something I enjoyed, I did it alone.
Fan culture was revelatory to me. It meant there were people in the world who enjoyed the same things I did. With that said, I’ve never been particularly comfortable with or interested in having a group of people to watch television/movies with or discuss (fangirl over) episodes and plotlines. I rarely have anything to say in those situations unless I’m pissed off at the writers or producers. That kind of spoils the atmosphere for the rest of the group. I guess I’m just not used to those kind of interactions. My way of engaging and participating has always been through art, either creating it or finding other artists whose work I appreciate.
NG: What are the major flaws you see in recent Science Fiction media?
ROSE: I don’t know how to answer this without offending your audience. I’ve been bored with the genre for about five years running. I haven’t been able to sustain an interest in any new science fiction since 2010, and that was a miniseries. I literally have not cared about any more recent entries, even in franchises I used to enjoy. I want to be challenged and inspired again, or have my mind blasted open in a new way, and scifi just isn’t doing that right now.
NG: What would you like to see in Science Fiction that you think is currently lacking?
ROSE: Well, the biggest thing I think is lacking is innovation. The sci-fi I remember from my teens was amazing to me because I could pick up a book or open a short story and see technology and social development that nobody had ever explored before. The genre was dangerous in that sense. The questions it asked and possibilities it presented were things a lot of people had never thought about or didn’t want to look at.
I wasn’t just engaging popular scifi from the 80s and 90s, because there really wasn’t the level or variety that there is today. I was reading authors from the 50s and 60s as often or more than modern ones. Discussing TV and movies of the 80s and 90s, though, Babylon 5 did something for television that hadn’t been done before and hasn’t been successfully done since. Star Trek: The Next Generation took the technological development of Star Trek‘s universe and upped the ante, but if I’m honest, the only innovative social developments I can think of to that universe were Geordi and Data. Then the franchise stalled and did a bunch of stuff that failed to live up to its potential. Current scifi is still coasting on the same ideas and approaching them in the same ways. I think it’s lost the drive to ask “What’s next?” There are a lot of specifics I could give about particular innovations I’d like to see or modalities of thought that I would like to see engaged, but I think it would take more than a few pages.
NG: Thank you very much for the conversation, Rose! I am certain that my readers will have things to say, questions to ask and will visit your blog!