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Lois McMaster Bujold once said that SFF is a "fantasy of political agency". I think about this frequently even though she said it ten years ago in her Worldcon guest of honor speech. She meant that SFF is about people who have the power to change their worlds. (This explains the popularity of monarchies which we see as allowing an individual more power.) That is less true of short fiction, because shorts have to be smaller in scope. Plus, I love domestic stories about everyday life so I tend to read a lot stories that focus on those.

However, the prevalence of a certain kind of "political agency" story—you know, the one where the dude with the sword is the only one who can save the kingdom—in fiction can make it feel like one has to be a long lost heir or chosen one to change society. To help counter that narrative, and also because it gives me hope in these troubled times, I’ve put together a list of stories about ordinary people who are trying to fix their worlds or resisting oppressive governments/societies.

"Waiting on a Bright Moon" by JY Yang — Xin is an ansible allowing her community to send messages and goods between planets with her magical singing. When a dead body comes through her portal she starts to question how her society works and whether she can have a role in changing things. (Content note: multiple characters with queer tragedy as backstory.)

"The Day Before the Revolution" by Ursula K. Le Guin (scroll down to get to the story) — This the first thing I thought of rereading when I heard that Le Guin had died. It’s about Odo who is one of the intellectual founders of Anarres, the anarchist society in The Dispossessed. Although Odo has a distinguished career as revolutionary, this story isn’t about that. Instead, it's about the end of her life where she lives in a commune and speaks to school children. The people in the commune have heard rumors of revolution in another country, but Odo isn’t very interested and mostly focuses on her daily life. It's not a story where things happen, but it is a story about the work of changing the world and about going on after.

"The Book of How to Live By Rose Lemberg" — This is about woman without magic at magical university. She wants to use machines to make things better for non-magic users but when the story opens she has only been able to obtain work as a lab tech and not student status. She meets a woman from a minority culture whose rights are restricted as they both try to figure out how to use their talents and be seen as fully human by magic users. I really like how this story focused on marginalized people trying to build relationships and create change.

"Across Pack Ice, a Fire" By Marissa Lingen — This story starts out about art and revenge but ends up focusing on how ordinary people are affected by both bad governments and revolutions.

"Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics" by Jess Barber and Sara Saab — This story is about two people from Beirut in the near future where climate change has made daily life rather unpleasant. The government here doesn’t feel unjust but resources such as water and travel are scarce. I’m including this story here because the main character passionately dedicate their lives to improving the quality of life for others. It’s so good to see characters who are making a difference with dedicated hard work.

SFF tends to focus on people who start out with a lot power or are granted power by special circumstances, but stories about ordinary people who created change are more important and more likely to empower their readers.

[personal profile] forestofglory is a fan, crafter, and an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy short fiction. You can find her on Dreamwidth and on Twitter at [twitter.com profile] forestofglory.

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