Alice Sola Kim kicks off Spring Writers Series in Kirby Hall


The Beacon/Sean Schmoyer

Alice Sola Kim spoke about her experience as a science fiction author writing short stories.

Sean Schmoyer, Asst. News Editor

Science fiction author Alice Sola Kim kicked off the Allan Hamilton Dickson Spring Writers Series as the first author to visit campus.

Dr. Mischelle Anthony, associate professor and chair of the English department, oversaw contact and reservations with students for the events throughout the day.

“I was happy to have Alice Kim visit our department as a person of color writing speculative fiction, a genre so many of our English majors and creative writing minors are interested in trying out. With our more diverse student population, Alice’s position as an award-winning short fiction writer, as someone young in her career and working on her first novel, as someone who did not go ‘straight through school’ or did not ‘always want to be a writer,’ are important pieces of her identity for our students to witness,” Anthony said.

Kim has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in sciences and technology, and she produced content writing for a chatbot with a start-up in San Francisco before studying at the M.F.A program at Washington University in St. Louis. Kim also taught a class in the M.F.A program at Columbia University earlier this year.

Kim is known for her short stories and has been in publications such as The Cut, Tin House, McSweeney’s, Lightspeed, and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017.

She has also received grants and fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She was also the winner of a 2016 Whiting Award, which is given annually to 10 emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama.

The first event students were able to attend was an afternoon workshop in which Kim expressed that she was interested in “the surprise in writing,” and worked with students on writing against cliches in prose.

Daniel Stish, a first-year English major, was one of the students in attendance during the workshop.

“I think my favorite part was being able to see how different people responded to the same questions. It was neat seeing the different directions everyone was able to take their pieces, and the creative processes at play,” said Stish.

Stish felt that the major skill he took away from the workshop was how to challenge the audience’s expectations through the use of descriptive language that keeps the reader surprised and engaged.

“Ms. Kim is a wonderfully talented writer,” said Stish. “As someone new to being an English major, it is great that I have someone I can look at and say, ‘I’d love to be able to write like she does.”

Another aspect of writing Kim focused on was the necessity of a playful nature. Anthony recounted this part of the activity in her introduction to Kim later in the night.

“You need to have a playful nature to be imaginative in your craft of writing. Taking yourself too seriously and your writing too seriously can limit what you can produce,” Anthony said.

Stish was also in attendance for the second event of the night, a dinner that allowed students and faculty to sit down with Kim.

“The dinner was very pleasant. It’s really great how close the relationship between English students and staff appears to be. I was able to connect with other students and the faculty present, along with Ms. Kim herself,” said Stish.

The Beacon/Sean Schmoyer
Alice Sola Kim spoke about her experience as a science fiction author writing short stories.

The final event of the evening was a reading from Kim to the general public in the Kirby Salon.

The excerpt Kim read was from a novel she is working on, which she has yet to publish anywhere. Known for her short stories, the new novel marks a change in format for Kim’s writing. Despite that, the excerpt she used showcased many of the skills she spoke about during the writing workshop earlier that day.

The excerpt focused on a frat party from the point of view of a girl named Bora. Kim uses Bora’s point of view to describe other characters and produce the atmosphere of the setting and story.

“Although if there was a head bird it was Veronica. She was the easiest to track through the crowd both for her height and the slithering net of gazes she trolled in her wake. And who knew, maybe the back of her head was somehow beautiful too since he was so beautiful that she had reached this infinite vanishing point of hotness in where her hotness got fractal…,” Kim read.

As the story continued, Kim tells Bora’s story through the character’s judgment and interactions with others at the party.

After reading the excerpt Kim took questions from the audience. She first spoke about her time writing science fiction.

“I started by being a science fiction fan. I went to conventions and I started publishing in science fiction magazines and publications. It was nice because it felt like a more smaller contained accessible world than just all of literary fiction. It was a nice way to start and it is a community I still feel a part of,” Kim said.

“The way I see science fiction, I agree with the writer William Gibson. Where for him, science fiction is not important as a form of future forecasting so much as it is like a heightened exaggerated strangely and magic way of looking at the present,”

Kim continued as she spoke on how to write science fiction in today’s world as technology continues to advance, “I think there are writers who see it as looking into the future and imagining that, but it is not the lens I view it through even if I enjoy that kind of fiction.”

Kim then spoke about her current novel and the process of writing it and what convinced her to make the switch from the short story to the novel.

“I had just written short fiction before and the thing about my writing process is that it is very ‘bingey’, which works much better for works of a contained shorter work. I found that I had to make ‘bingeyness’ work for me, and one of the issues I had to deal with was keeping the project in my head and alive to me over a long span of time. I do not think everyone has to write every day if they want to write, but with a novel, if you are not writing every day you have to have it present somewhere,” said Kim.

“This is basically the first novel I am writing. I love novels, and just as a challenge, they are much longer and more deliberately built and structured. I always wrote way too long of short stories, and there are times where it feels like you are not a real person if you haven’t written a novel,” Kim said.

Finally, Kim spoke on the diversity of the genre of science fiction and how it has grown to include more writers and characters of colors.

“The simple answer is it is the best and I love it. It just speaks to how hungry you can be for something that you do not care if no one reflects you almost. You just want it and you do this big imaginative act of imagining yourself into it or forgetting yourself, which is a very difficult thing that happens when literature and media do not reflect you. But, I think it is also wonderful that it does not need to happen anymore,” Kim said.

The next event in the series will take place on March 18 and will feature Poupeh Missaghi, Iran Editor-at-Large for Asymptome Journal.