This month marks the publication of an anthology that I'm really proud to be part of: Diverse Energies, edited by Tobias Buckell and Joe Monti. The anthology's title is taken from this John F. Kennedy quote:
“No one can doubt that the wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men. No one can doubt that cooperation in the pursuit of knowledge must lead to freedom of the mind and freedom of the soul.” — President John F. Kennedy, from a speech at University of California, March 23, 1962
The 11 stories in this collection — from authors including Ursula K. Le Guin (!!!), Paolo Bacigalupi, Cindy Pon, and Ellen Oh (and me!) — are a direct response to the predominantly white futures on display in today's popular wave of dystopian/sci-fi young adult fiction. Every story in this anthology features diverse characters, and I'm thrilled to be part of the line-up.
My story is titled "Good Girl," and it's set in a post-apocalyptic New York City in a time when it is basically illegal to be of mixed race. The idea comes partly out of my experience as a biracial person who passes for Asian in America (I'm one quarter white, and usually the only people who guess I'm not 100% Chinese are other Chinese people), and partly from reading YA dystopians in which mixed racial identities are rarely addressed, even though everything in our contemporary world points toward multiracial identities becoming the norm.
Beyond those theoretical inspirations, "Good Girl" is about what it means to be a good girl. Does it mean that you do everything you're told? What rebellions are possible for a good girl in a police state? And what if you meet a criminal who challenges your identity as someone who is "good"?
This story was my first time writing in first person, which was an interesting experience. I really enjoyed writing a story about a gritty, urban environment. And, since it's a story by me, of course there's some same-sex romance. (Although romance might not be the right word …)
Here are the first few paragraphs:
“You look like a good girl. Aren’t you a little far from home?”
Those were the first words she said to me. That was the day I finally got up the nerve to squeeze through the crack in the wall near Lucky Grocery that everybody knew about but nobody admitted to. Inside, the gray afternoon light shone faintly over a flight of half-broken stairs. I waited until my eyes adjusted to head down into the dark, because like an idiot I hadn’t thought to bring a flashlight.
Her words came at me through the murky half-light like a gunshot, and I actually ducked. “Who’s there?” I heard my voice quivering.