A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking to a couple dozen young sci-fi writers in the living room of a sorority house in the U District. They were part of the annual intensive writing course presented by local sci-fi writing program Clarion West, and I was part of a panel to talk about book reviewing and publishing. These writers knew exactly the right questions to ask, and their enthusiasm for publishing was infectious.
The Clarion West class was a reminder that Seattle is one of the best towns for sci-fi in America—a place where young writers come to learn their craft, and a place published writers come to find some of the best audiences in the business. Next Tuesday, as part of its summer reading series, Clarion West is bringing Daniel José Older to the downtown Seattle Public Library with the final book in his bestselling Bone Street Rumba series. Older has been a significant force for change in the sci-fi industry—it was his early agitation that finally led the World Fantasy Award organization to abandon the likeness of white supremacist H.P. Lovecraft as its award statues—and his inclusive, multicultural fiction is welcoming whole new audiences to the too-white, too-dudey genre.
But it speaks to Seattle’s strength as a reading town that Clarion West isn’t the only sci-fi event in town this week. The best sci-fi bookstore in the city, University Book Store, is also hosting a dual sci-fi event on Wednesday night that will be of particular interest to Seattle audiences. Bestselling novelist Nancy Kress moved to Seattle from New York state about eight years ago. The influential author—perhaps best known for her odyssey in genetic manipulation, the Beggars in Spain series—will read from the first book in her Yesterday’s Kin series, Tomorrow’s Kin. Fans of the movie Arrival will find a lot to admire in Kress’ latest, which involves aliens arriving on Earth and humanity’s desperate attempts to communicate with their strange visitors.
Kress will be joined by a younger sci-fi talent—and a former University Book Store bookseller. Kay Kenyon is the author, most recently, of At the Table of Wolves, a novel set in the tense years just before World War II in a world where humans with psychic abilities could upset the balance of power forever. The two authors will read from their books and talk about the agonies and ecstasies of writing.
So in the next seven days, three sci-fi writers will share their talents with eager Seattle audiences. Most American cities would consider themselves lucky to host even one of them. Is there any wonder why Clarion West chose Seattle as the place to incubate promising new talent? This is a city where great science fiction is born. Kay Kenyon and Nancy Kress. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu. Free. All ages. 7 p.m. Wed., July 12. Paul Constant is co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read books coverage at seattlereviewofbooks.com.