Marcy Arlin’s Manifesto for SF Writers

THE MANIFESTO by Kiah Ankoor is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Speculative fiction writers should sometimes reflect the feelings and emotions of the audience; sometimes it should give us something to think about. SF writers should aspire to changing the world; sometimes it should be for a good laugh or cry. They should tell a good, clear story; or, it could be a cacophony of bizarre images that leave one totally confused. They should examine the moral and social issues of its day; but sometimes a peek at the old ways helps us appreciate the new. They should carefully avoid stereotypes and categorization of people by gender, ethnicity, sexual persuasion, nationality, religion, appearance and ability. Those people who belong to a particular category, by their own definition, should have the right to make fun of themselves.

SF writers should expose the whims and cruelties of the world. It can be whimsical, but shouldn’t be cruel.

Everyone should have a chance to write. But skill makes great writing, as in any art or craft. It would be better if more people could make a living writing and their work considered important by the whole society.  But the times in human society when that has happened, when writing was your day job, it made for lazy artists and too much government control.

For the next four years (if we live that long), it will become increasingly difficult for people to be able to think for themselves without extreme anxiety. Authors are, generally, by nature, rule breakers within the context of a society. They are permitted, to some extent, to speak up, to shock, awaken and penetrate a society’s complacency and self-satisfaction.  They are permitted, in some places clandestinely, to think of the bizarre, amoral, nonconformist, surreal, abstract, and merciful way to live life.

We must not let that permission be rescinded, by anyone, anything, any time, any where. We may have to risk our lives (it’s happened, you all know that), and our sanity. But we shouldn’t ask anyone, including ourselves, to unnecessarily risk themselves. We may have to give up fame, fortune, recognition, access to audiences–such as it is. We may have to go to all the regular folk who live in our country and world, and write with them, in a garage or yard, or basement, or town square, or supermarket.. We just have to keep going. Be  creative, be funny, be tragic, be brave.

Photo by Melissa C. Beckman.

Marcy Arlin is Artistic Director of the OBIE-winning Immigrants’ Theatre Project, directing at MESTC, LaMama, NYTW, Public, ArtTheater (Koln), Tenement Museum, National Theatre of Romania (Cluj), Czech Center, Romanian Cultural Institute, Ohio Theatre, HERE, among many others. She is a professor at CUNY and Pace and has given workshops on immigrant theater for social change at Yale, Brown, NYU, University of Chicago (her alma mater), and in Eastern Europe. Marcy studied writing at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, with Betsy James and is a Fellow at the Writers’ Institute. She has published in spec fiction: Daily Science Fiction, Diabolical Plots, Broad Universe Sampler, Man.In.Fest Journal of Experimental Theatre, Kaleidocast, perihelionsf.com.

She has written on international theatre for tcgcircle.org and is editor of Czech Plays: 7 New Works (Martin E. Segal Publications). She is the recipient of grants including CEC ArtsLink, NYSCA, Trust for Mutual Understanding and the Ford Foundation, and was Fulbright scholar to Romania and the Czech Republic. She is a member of Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers and Theater Without Borders. Marcy’s writing reflects her interest and concerns about cultures, immigration, and Mel Brooks. She lives in Brooklyn with a ghost and two cats.

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