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March 21, 2006

Octavia E. Butler Scholarship

The Carl Brandon Society, an organization for writers of color in science fiction, fantasy and horror genres, has just announced their new Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarship will send writers of color to one of the annual Clarion workshops.

Intended to bring talented writers into professionalism in the field, the Clarion writers workshop program has been called a "boot camp" for writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror. It lasts six weeks. Each week, you get a different instructor, who is a well-known writer or editor in the field (my year at Clarion West we got Nancy Kress, Kathy Goonan, Liz Hand, China Mieville, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and ... drumroll, please ... Chip Delany.) Each week, each of the 17 workshoppers turns in a story. That's six stories in six weeks that you write, 96 stories in six weeks that you read and critique. It's exhausting. It breaks up marriages. It's a sinkhole for gossip and misbehavior. It forces you into a state of ecstatic depletion, like the last few miles of a marathon, in which your inner critic gets bludgeoned to death, and your inner professional is born. It's amazing.

The original Clarion writers workshop, which Octavia herself attended, is now defunct, but so influential was it, that it has spawned three successors: the new Clarion in Michigan, Clarion West in Seattle (which I attended in 2003), and Clarion South in Australia. Octavia taught at both of the American successors. So it's appropriate that the Carl Brandon Society is using this opportunity to honor her. It's especially appropriate given how few writers of color there are in the field, and how incredibly high an impact Octavia had -- even before you read her books -- simply as a figurehead, as a black woman in a white male field. Many, if not most, of the SF/F/H writers of color I know started writing at least in part influenced by Octavia.

Please consider making a donation to this fund if Octavia meant something to you and you'd like to honor her in a substantial way. Thanks!


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aren't you applying for this? i saw it and immediately thought of you . . . why aren't you applying for this??

i didn't say i wasn't applying for this :P... but, as it happens, i'm not, because, as it says in the blog entry above, i've already been to a clarion workshop. you can only go to clarion once; you're not allowed to go back. technically, i suppose you could go to clarion west and then go to clarion east (i don't actually know if they would let you in) but i suspect even if it were technically possible, it would be frowned upon.

but that's all academic. they have rules against going back to clarion to keep people from hogging the opps, but most people wouldn't want to go back. your clarion experience is like your outward bound experience, or like any amazing, one-time experience that you spend your entire life nostalgic about: you would love to get that time back, but you don't want to redo the experience with other people at a different time.

plus, as i said above, clarion is hard and exhausting. it's boot camp. you wouldn't repeat boot camp, partly because you come out knowing all the things you went to bootcamp to learn, and partly because it's hard and exhausting.

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