K. Tempest Bradford identifies herself as a speculative fiction author and freelance adventuress, but she has picked up a few more labels over her writing career: web producer, editor, technology journalist, fashion blogger, podcaster, activist, and Internet provocateur. In preparation for her residency at Surel’s Place this November, Ms. Bradford has been holed up in the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA, doing some deep research for the novel she will be working on while she is here. The novel is historical fiction set in Ancient Egypt with a steampunk twist. As part of her process, Ms. Bradford is interested in exposing the preconceptions and biases that may be present in both her own writing and buried under massive pyramid stones.
One of the mysteries she has been investigating has been how Egyptians were able to move such enormous stones. A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep depicts a giant sled holding the stone with a figure at the front pouring water in front of it. During her research, Bradford read a quote from a physicist stating that Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation. “When I first read this my thought was, ‘Ugh, typical Egyptologist/archaeologists, assuming something practical is ritualistic’…But then…As I was going through older books, I came across that picture…and every single time I did, the author explained… someone pours water on the sand to help make moving it easier… But wait…HMM.”
Bradford is interested in creating these moments that cause us to stop and consider viewpoint in writing. Did the physicist who wrote that statement not know about the shared theories of other scientists, or was he deliberately making it seem that people in different scientific disciplines were ignorant? Maybe both. Was he even aware of his biases?
Like that physicist, we might not be aware of our own predispositions. Bradford has been pondering the question of bias in her own writing and addresses the subject in her training of other writers. She has been teaching classes on “Writing the Other” for a large part of her career. A version of this class will be offered as a workshop on November 18th to help writers get over their fear of writing characters very different from themselves in an effort to make their fiction more diverse.
This subject has been in the news recently when author Laura Moriarty had the starred review of her Young Adult novel “American Heart” taken away by the Kirkus Review when critics said she had created an offensive “white savior” narrative that was culturally insensitive. The controversy surrounding the book swells over questions of representation and diversity, and who is allowed to speak in what voice. As a person of color, Bradford’s view is that writers should be not be afraid to write from the perspective of the other, but that they need to learn to do it well.
Tempest Bradford’s short fiction has appeared in award-winning magazines and best-selling anthologies; her essays and criticism have appeared on io9, NPR, Tor.com, and multiple collections of essays. She volunteers for many non-profit organizations, including the James Tiptree Jr. Award foundation, Interstitial Arts Foundation, and the Carl Brandon Society. Bundling this all together has allowed her to move forward with something almost as hard to budge as a giant Egyptian stone: a writing career.
PYRAMIDS AND PUNK
Thursday, November 30th
doors at 6:30pm | 7pm reading
All events at Surel’s Place: 212 E 33rd St in Garden City