We are delighted to announce that the two bursary places for the 2017 Milford have been awarded to… <drum roll> Suyi Davies Okungbowa from Lagos, Nigeria, and Dolly Garland from London, UK. We’re looking forward to seeing them both in September.
Making a decision was tough and, in the end, part of the committee’s decision was based on who we thought would benefit most from attending Milford and who could bring most to the Milford table. Both writers have been published (one of the general Milford requirements) and details can be found on their own web pages.
Here are a couple of extracts from their applications.
Suyi’s: “Lagos, where I currently live, is more accepting. There are safer spaces here. That is why it’s easier for me to realise something else: there are still walls. Bigger, angrier ones of the world, standing tall and looking down at me, reminding me that I’m African. Reminding me that that I cannot stray too far from what is allowed of my identity, or else. The walls frown whenever I try to tell stories about aliens or witches or robot police. How dare you do that? Do you not know your boundaries?
So I want to press the eject button and fly. Sail clear over them all and continue sailing. I want to fully and finally become. Benin and Lagos and Nigeria will no longer contain me: only the world and the galaxies beyond will be sufficient. I want to write speculative narratives that speak of African and human experiences, and cast them out to the farthest reaches of the universe where they will poke deep and often. I want to do this well, and to do that, I must first become a better writer.”
Dolly: “I now clearly identify as a SFF writer, though more fantasy than science fiction. My fantasy worlds revolve around Indian mythology, but my stories are often muddled in cultures, as I am. Identity is a funny thing. I never labelled myself. I simply adapted to whatever country I happened to be in. But for a lot of non-Indians, I was Indian, Indian-American, Indian-British, or British. For a lot of Indians, I was a Westerner, an ABCD (a derogatory term – American Born Confused Desi – an Indian/Pakistani who simply looks the part but has no knowledge of their ancestral culture), or a NRI (Non-Resident Indian). Recently, as a part of the research for a paper I’m presenting on Writing and Identity at Imperial College in 2017, I asked various people how they see me in terms of cultural/ethnic identity. Without exception, the people who know me the best – despite their diverse geographical, racial, educational and financial backgrounds – gave similar answers, the essence of which was that I blur cultural boundaries. Those who do not know me well gave me more definitive, limiting labels.
My fiction is not about pursuing any agenda, but this experience of being labelled as well as cultural reflections, invariably affect my viewpoint and my writing. It is perhaps a good thing, because this has enabled me to eventually grow into creating my unique fantasy world that is non-European (having first started off writing a “normal” western world), and bring to the genre a little bit more diversity.”
One of the 2017 Milford bursaries was donated by the 8Squared Eastercon and the second was given by a writer donor who wishes to remain anonymous. We offer our thanks.
The Milford Committee hopes to be able to provide future bursaries. If anyone would like to help fund them (donating a little or a lot) please feel free to contact us via the Milford website: http://www.milfordSF.co.uk.