Seeing the Invisible

Fiction is supposed to be about seeing through other people’s eyes for a little while, experiencing their lives and coming away changed. If you don’t see those people in the first place, though . . . how will they ever make it into the story?

Jim Hines has put together a ebook collection called Invisible, which began life as a series of guests posts on his blog. He invited people to talk about representation — not in general, theoretical terms, but highly personal ones, testimonials about moments in their lives where seeing people like them on the page (or not seeing them) made a difference. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why this kind of thing matters, Invisible answers that question quite thoroughly: I defy anyone to read it and say “eh, we’re only talking about fiction. It isn’t real life.” We are story-making animals, and story-consuming ones. If our physical bodies are created by DNA, our minds are created by narratives. The building blocks we use make a difference.

Gays, women, Mexicans, albinos, autistics, wheelchair users, people of non-binary gender — that’s only a partial sample of the topics that come up. Invisible is a short collection, but it covers a lot of ground. Including ground that I, a full-time fiction writer who does her best to think about this stuff, hadn’t necessarily thought to include before. People often answer calls for representation by decrying some straw notion of “quotas” or “shoehorning things in there,” but the truth is that it helps me to keep a mental list of ideas I could be including in my stories. If I say to myself, “okay, third gender, what could I do in this story if I include a third gender,” I won’t always find a good spot to incorporate it — but sometimes I will, and in growing to accommodate that, the story becomes much richer. And the thought that some readers may pick up that book and find themselves or someone they know on the page?

Yeah.

Invisible is a charity anthology; all proceeds go to the Con or Bust program of the Carl Brandon Society. Jim has a host of buy links on his blog, so odds are good you can get it from your ebook retailer of choice. And it includes new essays not originally part of the series, which means that even if you read the guest posts, there’s some bonus material in here for you. If you think you know all of this already and agree, buy it to support a good cause. If you’re wondering who’s out there that maybe you haven’t seen, buy it and find out.

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Marie Brennan

Marie Brennan is the author of more than forty short stories and seven novels, the most recent of which is the urban fantasy Lies and Prophecy. Visit site.

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