To my utter shock, “We are the Mountain: A Look at the Inactive Protagonist” took home Best Creative Nonfiction last Sunday (my time). To think I only wrote the speech a day before because Suzan Palumbo reminded me to; I really didn’t think I would win. 😆
Speech text below:
To paraphrase Snoop Dogg, I wanna thank me for doing better than I initially believed I could.
After that, I wanna thank the Ignyte team for putting in the hard and smart work into making an award that would mean so much to so many in such a short time.
And then, I wanna thank the community at large for validating that there is more than one way to protag through life.
When I first wrote about inactive protagonists on Twitter in January 2021, I was doing what any inactive protagonist would do. I was merely reacting to a disagreeable systemic belief upheld by the hot take of the day: how unacceptable it is to write and publish SFF with inactive protagonists in the Anglophone West. How could that be when living and working in a world built on White supremacist culture guarantees that most of us will always be inactive protagonists?
The resulting uproar was scary and stressful as only going viral online can be. I had no idea my thoughts would resonate so widely (and become the rebuttal for this debate again and again).
But I have no regrets because my reaction brought with it many opportunities such as writing the essay we’re celebrating today for Fantasy Magazine (thank you, Arley and the team!). I’m pleased to announce it will be reprinted by Penguin Random House some time next year in the anthology Letters to a Writer of Color. It also brought me the chance to create the Exploring the Inactive Protagonist class I’m currently teaching, care of the Carl Brandon Society (hello to Yasmine and my students!).
But more than these, it has brought me a whole community, a whole mountain of people who believe that the inactive protagonist deserves a spotlight in our stories. That it is in fact a mode we shift in and out of as we live our rich, messy, pandemic-touched lives.
And no matter what some people would have us think, it isn’t—we aren’t—going anywhere.
And neither are we alone.
From the bottom of this inactive protagonist’s heart, thank you.