Notes for myself mostly, as I try to articulate the thing:
1. The SLF’s Portolan Project was born out of two things:
• frustration with the ballooning and often outrageous cost of creative writing education
• admiration of Khan Academy, and how much they’ve done to provide free math education, globally — easy to use, easy to access, a tremendous gift to the planet
2. We believe: everyone in the world should have free and easy access to reading & writing; storytelling / literature is our birthright.
3. Why speculative fiction? Because magic and science spark the imagination — when we think about what the future might look like, or imagine a world filled with magical creatures, that generates energy and excitement, making reading and writing fun.
• if you’ve ever seen a reluctant middle-schooler light up reading about a kid with superpowers, you know what we’re talking about
• the thriving SF/F convention culture shows how much adults love to come together to talk about the magical and futuristic worlds they adore
4. What does the PP hope to work on long-term?
• free writing courses, aimed first at the college level, but with plans to extend up and down — material appropriate for grad students, but also for high school & middle school. (These could be worked through individually at home, but will also be a tremendous resource for teachers looking to add interest and diversity to their classrooms, with structured and scaffolded approaches making it much easier to incorporate them into their busy teaching days.)
• a giant database of speculative lit, tagged for easy searching (For example, you’re looking for eco-conscious science fiction from Asia? Or feminist SF of the 60s and 70s? Contemporary Black American fantasy? We’ve got you covered. (We’re still thinking through the practicalities of this — partner with ISFDB, perhaps? Hmm…))
• literacy projects — imagine learning how to read with a story about a Mexican wizard kid, instead of Dick and Jane. Some of those stories already exist; we’d like to adapt them for early literacy materials — for small children, for adults from underprivileged backgrounds with inadequate education, for ESL learners, etc.
• collecting materials in one place — for example, let’s say a podcast does a terrific interview with N.K. Jemisin — if you don’t already follow that podcast, will you ever know about it? If you visit our section on Nora Jemisin, you’ll get linked to curated content, the best of the web.
• highlighting the work of marginalized writers who might not be otherwise surfaced by the mechanisms of traditional publishing in a capitalist system
5. One immediate practical component of the PP are the Deep Dives, brief accessible video clips of professional writers discussing their work, paired with thought-provoking discussion questions (perfect for a book club) and welcoming writing exercises (for the new or experienced writer). Linked to longer interviews for those who want to sink in.
Here’s a Deep Dive with SFWA Grandmaster Nalo Hopkinson, talking about the use of vernacular speech in storytelling:
Okay, I need to go get dressed and head down to Hyde Park, I think, but that’s a start…more soon. Pictured, this morning’s hibiscus. Hibiscus blooms for only a day, but they’re so lovely while they do. And the fact that they only bloom for a day means you never need to feel guilty for picking one. No thematic connection here to the PP; just a pretty picture!