[Photo: Jewelle Gomez and me! Please note that this blog was published more than 4 years ago. I have pinned it on the front page because it is central to much of what I write! Hope you like it too!]
Many years ago I was introduced to sci-fi writer and novelist Octavia Butler. It was one of my male friends who suggested that I might enjoy her books. Indeed, he was right! From the moment I put my hands on Octavia’s novels, I was hooked. Her famous words, in the person of Lauren Oya Olamina, rocked my world. In Parable of the Talents, here is what she said:
All that you touch
All that you change
The only lasting truth
Ironically, I returned to these words when I was contemplating my belief in “God.” This idea – God is Change – that was put forth by Octavia Butler inspired me to think of belief and God in a totally new way. In 2001, I thought to myself, if we have the power to make change, and if God is change, then maybe God is us? I had built my entire life around a belief system that encouraged such a dismal view of humanity juxtaposed to a concept of God as other – as essentially “out there.” Indoctrinated to this narrative since birth, I left law school in 1993 to pursue “a call” and thus to perpetuate this message. By 1998 I was an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church and I went on to pastor many churches. Yet, in 2001, I was playing with the idea that maybe “there is no God.” Maybe people who talked of God so long ago did not have it within them to fathom themselves to be that powerful?
Well, little by little, I was empowered to make a conscious choice to walk away from the idea of God; this was a life-changing decision. Letting go of the idea of God led me to a journey to atheism, which for me is a way of life that is not informed by any belief in supernatural things or beings. Instead, I believe in myself and in the power that we have as human beings. I believe that the articulation of that being is change, or evolution. Since human life began we – homo sapiens – have changed. We have evolved demonstrating that change is “the only lasting truth.” Of course, it was writers like Octavia Butler who helped me to embrace that truth for myself.
Yesterday, I had the marvelous opportunity to attend a celebration in honor of Octavia Butler at Spelman College, which is here in Atlanta. That event organized and moderated by another brave black woman, Tananarive Due, was one of the highlights of my week. There, I also met Jewelle Gomez, another courageous black woman, and much to my surprise, I found out that she is also an atheist. Gomez, a writer, an activist and an author of many prize-winning books, including the award-winning, The Gilda Stories, (which is about a woman vampire) writes from a feminist-lesbian perspective. It was such a pleasant surprise to find out that while we were watching a series of speculative fiction films in the darkened auditorium, that I was sitting next to the Jewelle Gomez! Across the aisle from her was Sam Delany, yes, the famous Sam Delany, a black male who is also an award-winning sci-fi writer. I was very excited but saddened to hear of the rejection and isolation that they have experienced in the sci-fi “community,” which is a very white, male dominated environment that is openly hostile and dismissive towards non-whites. Hmm, sounds familiar.
Later that evening, as I treated myself to dinner and smoked half of a pretty decent cigar, I thought to myself about the power of change. When I remembered the changes in my life, especially my decision to reject God, I had to acknowledge the role that Octavia Butler had in helping me to find the lasting truth that I am change, and I wept many tears. My entire life has been about change because that is the only lasting truth: change. So tonight, as I sit here writing this short blog, I have a great sense of gratitude and appreciation for what these brave women and men writers have endured in the sci-fi literary community to be seen and heard on their own terms. There is a part of me that thinks that they don’t hear it that often, so I figured that I would blog it to say thank you for overcoming hate and rejection. Your words touched my life and helped me to realize that change is the only lasting truth! Thank you.
© 2013 annalise fonza, Ph.D.