December 9, 2016
VanderMeer Creative and The Octavia Project are forming like Voltron to create utopia in our time
by Simon Reichley
These are dark days, no doubt about it. Which makes it extra nice to see cool people doing rad things for excellent organizations!
Take for example Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s recent gift to The Octavia Project, a Brooklyn-based arts and technology mentoring program that uses science fiction, storytelling, and game design to teach girls from underserved communities valuable skills in technology and design. The VanderMeers’ donation will pay the bills through 2017, and also establishes a scholarship for Octavia alums to attend the Shared Worlds creative writing program at Wofford College in South Carolina.
The Octavia Project was founded in 2015 by Meghan McNamara and Chana Porter. Named after legendary African American sci-fi writer Octavia Butler, the program is open to Brooklyn girls between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, and welcomes those who identify as trans, gender non-conforming, and questioning. All programming is free and includes workshops in writing, computer programming, robotics, “wearable electronics,” “speculative botany,” and other cool stuff, as well as visits from architects, curators, urban planners, and others.
You can check out some of the students work at the Octavia Project blog. I highly recommend the interactive story games they designed using a specialized software tool called Twine. Very cool.
McNamara, in a press release announcing the VanderMeer donation, had this to say about the program’s relationship with the science fiction community:
“Now in our third year, this sponsorship means we will have more time to create dynamic summer programming and get the word out to even more girls. It’s a dream come true at this stage in our development.”
Later in the release, Porter added:
“From the very beginning, our greatest champions have come from the science fiction community. N.K. Jemisin, Malka Older, Ibi Zoboi, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, the staff of Tor.com — These members of the science fiction community helped make the Octavia Project possible.”
The VanderMeers’ generous contribution will keep the organization funded through 2017, which means that with your contribution, McNamara and Porter can start planning for the long term future of the project, which is a great luxury and also a true necessity — remember, there are Dark Days coming. Donate here.
Next week we’ll be running a Q&A with McNamara and Porter, and will talk more about science fiction and community outreach, utopia, and play.
Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.