I am the Teaching Assistant for a class about the personal essay, and I’m taking a walk with the Professor of the class, who has just finished telling me about her latest book, which is about the racial struggles of a small town. She has uncovered evidence of terrible abuse and incredible survival and adapted it into a novel. It’s the kind of book that changes your worldview.
She asks me about my latest project, and I explain that it’s about an Alien Invasion in the court of Louis XV.
“What do the aliens look like?” she asks me.
“Insectoid,” I start, launching into a full description of their weirdness.
“So maybe,” she says, “They look awful, but really, they are actually benevolent, and want to help, but people can’t see it because of the way they look.”
I don’t want to offend her, but that’s completely not what I’m going for. “That’s an interesting idea,” I say, “But-” Now I have to actually figure out what I am trying to say with these things.
She gained her reputation for writing a non-fiction book about the experiences of women in prison, which shone the light on abuse and corruption. It was the kind of book that changes lives. I write short stories about vampires who work in exclusive restaurants and games about zombies.
“It’s about colonialism,” I say, waving my fingers, “About how a group of people can perceive another group of people as less than human, less sentient, less important, in order to justify taking what they want.”
“Hmm,” she says.
“Not that I actually SAY that at any point,” I tell her. I don’t say, ‘Oh, this is about colonialism everybody’ instead I have the aliens tell them ‘I KNOW you can talk! I think it’s ADORABLE! But no, really, we’re going to eat like, those eight people over there right now.”
Both of us laugh at that.