science fiction & fantasy writer Jason Taniguchi bites back
"REMEMBER ALL THOSE COOL ASIAN CHARACTERS IN STAR WARS?"
- JASON TANIGUCHI, ON WHY MORE ASIANS AREN'T ATTRACTED TO WRITING SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
AK: What first attracted you to science fiction and fantasy? When did this happen? Which do you prefer? When did you begin writing?
JT: What first attracted me to science fiction and fantasy was the release of Star Wars when I was eight years old. Like many of my generation, I was thereby imprinted with science fiction and fantasy (for Star Wars was both) as being the pinnacle of coolness; its overriding set of metaphors to live by is an imperative so deeply ingrained by this point that it could not be leached out even by The Phantom Menace.
Which do I prefer? It depends. When I am reading Neal Stephenson, I am sure I prefer the possibilities of science fiction; when I am reading Jonathan Carroll, I am sure I prefer the sensibilities of fantasy. But if you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose between robots and elves, I would probably choose spaceships.
Do you write more science fiction or fantasy?
Fantasy, I guess. On the other hand, I've written one spaceship story, but no elf stories.
Does your Asian heritage play a role in your writing?
Yes: while I am engaged in the hard work of writing, my Asian heritage looks up words in the thesaurus for me, runs out to the store to keep me stocked in paper and toner cartridges, and does all my copy editing. And I don't have to pay it a cent!
We had a hard time finding Asian sci-fi writers. In your opinion, why aren't more Asians attracted to writing SF/fantasy?
Remember all those cool Asian characters in Star Wars?
I recently read an article about the portrayal of minorities in SF, and the lack of writers of colour who write SF. Do you have any thoughts on this subject?
Modern science fiction has its origins chiefly in the fantasies of geeky white boys. That is slowly changing to encompass geeky girls and geeky non-Whites and even — gasp! — the occasional non-geek. But things change slowly. Fortunately for me, as I am only half-Japanese, I am also half-geeky-White-boy.
"MY FAVORITE THEME IS THE BITTER CLASH BETWEEN THE LONE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY'S BRUTE DICTATES, AND THE HOPE THAT LOVE CAN EXIST IN SUCH A WORLD. JUST KIDDING! ACTUALLY, MY FAVOURITE THEME IS BABOONS." - JASON TANIGUCHI
Besides writing science fiction and fantasy, what else do you do?
I write for, and occasionally appear in, the barely educational comedy show History Bites on the History Television channel; I perform annually at the Ad Astra science-fiction convention; I edit a dull but valuable publication, the Canadian Directory to Foundations and Grants, for the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy; and I am the founder of the Serial Diners, a club that has for 12 years been visiting all the restaurants in Toronto's Yellow Pages in alphabetical order.
Is the ability to create a world part of what attracted you to SF/fantasy?
No. The ability to create a world is what attracted me to godhood.
How many books have you written/published?
I have written one book, Jason Taniguchi's Very Sensible Stories and Poems for Grown Persons, published by Kelp Queen Press.
Some people don't take SF/fantasy writing seriously. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Who are these people? When I achieve godhood, I will turn them into elves and send them away on a spaceship, and THAT will show them how seriously they should have been taking this stuff, don't you think?
What are some of your favourite themes to write about, issues to tackle?
My favourite theme is the bitter clash between the lone individual and society's brute dictates, and the hope that love can exist in such a world. Just kidding! Actually, my favourite theme is baboons.
What authors do you like or consider influential?
Aha! You didn't specify science fiction/fantasy! You have therefore allowed me to mention Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, E.B. White, William Saroyan, Charles Baxter, Marilynne Robinson, Pauline Kael, Nicholson Baker, George Eliot, Alice Hoffman and Philip Lopate!
Okay, okay, science fiction/fantasy favourites: Harlan Ellison (#1 with a bullet), Theodore Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick, Connie Willis, Jonathan Lethem, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Suzette Haden Elgin, John Wyndham, Neil Gaiman, Brian Stableford, Douglas Adams, and the aforementioned Neal Stephenson and Jonathan Carroll. All Asian Canadians, you will note.
Is SF/fantasy becoming more popular in recent years? Why or why not?
It goes in waves. Every time there's a new Star Trek series, some wag thinks science fiction is becoming more popular, and every time some show like The X-Files is cancelled, some pundit is sure science fiction isn't popular anymore. Who knows?
Are there any challenges to being a Canadian SF/fantasy writer?
The fundamental challenge in being a Canadian SF/fantasy writer is that it entails being a Canadian writer.
Jason Taniguchi writes for History Television's History Bites and performs an annual one-man show at the science-fiction convention Ad Astra. His book Jason Taniguchi's Very Sensible Stories and Poems for Grown Persons is published by Kelp Queen Press.
Alexis Kienlen was born in the year of the Fire Dragon. She is a poet, fiction writer and journalist. Originally from Saskatoon, she has lived in Montreal, Wainwright, Albert and Jakarta, Indonesia. She reads and writes as much as she can.
This article appears in the RicePaper Magazine Issue 8.1