Hudson gets Indigenous science fiction work published
The June 2016 issue of LIGHTSPEED magazine contains Cherokee Nation citizen Brian Hudson’s Indigenous science fiction story “Digital Medicine.” COURTESY
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Cherokee Nation citizen Brian Hudson has dubbed himself an Indigenous cyberpunk for his love of science fiction, which led to the publication of his novelette titled “Digital Medicine.”
Hudson said he started writing creatively while receiving his post-doctorate in Riverside, California. He is an English instructor at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque but grew up in the Oklahoma community of Bushyhead.
“I was at Riverside doing a post-doc there, which by the way for a sci-fi geek is nirvana there because they have the largest collection of sci-fi in the world at the library there. I worked with Nalo Hopkinson, she’s a big name in Afro-futurism, which Grace Dillon borrowed from the discourse of Afro-futurism to coin the term ‘Indigenous futurism.’ So I worked with Nalo and she was putting together that anthology and worked with me to get ‘Digital Medicine’ to where it needed to be to be published,” he said.
The novelette contains science fiction elements with a mix of Cherokee culture that stem from Hudson’s Cherokee roots.
“It’s a story set in 1998 about a young Cherokee woman who is teaching her elder how to hack computers. She gets in trouble for hacking computers and gets sent to an elder, kind of as a public service type of thing by tribal court and ends up teaching this elder how to hack computers,” he said.
Hudson said he drew inspiration from being a former computer programmer.
“Writing this story to me was kind of revisiting my early love of computers like late (19)90s when the internet was new and shiny. I didn’t know about all the online stuff back in the 90s,” he said. “I was thinking what it would have been like if I had got into the hacking community back then. So it was neat to be able to do that, to think on the early internet and my experiences with it.”
The story also contains the Cherokee language, which Hudson said he drew inspiration from the tribe’s work with language revitalization.
“One of the reasons I thought about this as a viable story is the Cherokee Nation has been doing amazing work with the language revitalization, and I was thinking about well what would it be like back in the late 90s when…the Cherokee Nation was doing work with Unicode to get Cherokee in (the computer system) in about ’97 or ’98. We’re really forward thinking when it comes to that among the tribal nations,” Hudson said.
“Digital Medicine” was part of anthology called People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction that won a British Fantasy Award in 2017 for Best Anthology. The anthology was printed in the June 2016 special issue of LIGHTSPEED Magazine.
“I was very lucky to get it included with that anthology that won the British Fantasy Award in 2017. The editors were great. They worked with me to make sure we could get Cherokee syllabary in the printed edition correctly. They’re wanting Indigenous sci-fi so they’re open to making sure they can get the language in there properly, which is good. It’s not always easy for them to get the Cherokee syllabary in the print editions,” he said.
Hudson is now working on a short story titled “Virtually Cherokee,” a far-future science fiction story that sets the protagonist from “Digital Medicine” as a 75-year-old woman who creates an artificial intelligence that is Cherokee.
“Virtually Cherokee” is set to be released in another anthology in 2020 with the Simon & Schuster publishing company.
“I thought it was really important that when you have the vanishing Native myth that’s so pervasive, when you have Natives in the present writing about Natives in the future, it’s really hard for anyone to hold onto that myth. So I thought it was not only cool because I was a sci-fi nerd anyways, but I thought there was a lot of potential for Indigenous sci-fi,” Hudson said.