Time sensitive fundraising: Akbar Shahzad

Folks, I have a time-sensitive fundraising request (looking for miles and/or cash).

WHAT’S THE NEED?

Last year at ICFA, I got to meet a bright young man from Pakistan, Akbar Shahzad, the winner of the Salam Prize for short speculative fiction. We had great conversations, and I’m personally excited to have him working in the field; I hope to keep working with Akbar to help build bridges between Pakistani SF writers and the rest of the world.

I served as a judge for the Salam Prize this past year, and I think it’s so important that we actively work to invite writers from all over the world into the futurist conversation; that will be critical to really thinking through and creating brighter futures for us all.

This year’s theme for ICFA is Climate Change and the Anthropocene. In Pakistan, Akbar’s been working on a novel growing out of his award-winning story, _Influence_, and on a set of stories from animal perspectives — eco-fiction that explores nonhuman consciousness. He tells me, “The best (or at least most important) story I am working on is about whale theologians grappling with climate change and the rising toxicity of the oceans. This year’s Guest Author isĀ Jeff VanderMeer, who is arguably the leading voice in eco-fiction and nonhuman perspectives today, which is even more exciting, because I am working on a short history of dogs as the manifest destiny of wolves.” Clearly this year’s conference is particularly relevant to his work, and Akbar’s even already scheduled to present on a panel.

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HERE’S THE ASK:

But he needs additional funding. (His original funding fell through.) ICFA can contribute $400 (from a donation), and his registration is covered as well. A plane ticket is around $1500, and then there’s a room for 5 nights. It’d be great to provide at least a few meals too, given the global exchange rate between Pakistan and the U.S. (legacy of colonialism). I’m hoping folks can help me pull this together. Here are a few possible asks:

a) if someone has sufficient miles to donate to the SLF for the flight (from Karachi to Orlando, March 17-22), that would be wonderful — we’ve never accepted a miles donation before, so I’d have to look up how the tax-deductible part of that would work, but in practical terms, you’d work with me and Akbar to book the ticket directly.

[EDIT: room costs are covered! b) if someone is attending ICFA and has an extra bed in their room and is willing to host a visiting Pakistani writer, that would also be tremendously helpful; we might be able to help with room costs, depending on how else this works out.]

c) if you can donate $5 or $10 or more to this effort, I think we could quickly put together enough to cover his travel costs. If no one comes up with miles, then we need about $1100 to cover the remaining plane ticket cost. (UPDATE: $356 raised! About $750 to go!)

Anything that the SLF raises in the next few days, we’ll put towards this — you can donate directly through Facebook, or on the SLF website. (You can also contact me directly for a private donation — PM me on FB or write to me, director@speculativeliterature.org.)

It’d help my tracking if you comment here with your pledges, esp. since FB doesn’t generate a donor report, so it’s VERY hard to tell who has pledged what — that’ll also make the post more visible. (If you donate $25 or more, you’ll also automatically become a member of the SLF for the year — thanks!)

http://speculativeliterature.org/donate/

I’m thinking we’ll set this up as the SLF’s International Writer Travel Fund. Should there be any extra funds left over, we’ll put it towards bringing out another author, from a different part of the world, next year. This is a project I’ve been wanting the SLF to start working on regardless, so consider this a bit of a kickstart.

I’ll close this with some words from Akbar — please drop a note in the comments if you can help! Thanks!

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“I am, belatedly, asking if you have any leads of this sort, anything or anywhere I can apply to that might get me to Florida to meet Jeff Vandermeer and talk about nonhuman perspectives in eco-fiction. I want to talk about writing from inside a whale’s head at my panel, read from the dog history at the reading, and just to be in a space where writers are, you know, living and working, something that comes to seem remote and damn near impossible when you get back to Pakistan and return to being a struggling Karachiite artist, where the only way out is out, and you can’t even build enough momentum (so congested is the life) to achieve escape velocity.

The best thing of all about ICFA was the welcome I received and the wonderful community I got to be a part of. The value of such an ecosystem is impossible to overstate, and can only be measured against the absence of one. That is what I want to get back to, and what artists in far-flung places really need. Going to ICFA this year would be an opportunity to reengage with that community, and bring some of that energy back to Pakistan.”

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Let me know if you can help. Thanks!

#slf

(Cee Gee, fyi.)

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