10 November 2022
Your Performance Review tells the story of a bot who listens to people’s problems and tries to help. Along the way, the bot tries to solve a problem of his own. His memory has been erased. He, being a smart bot, figures if he asks the right questions of enough people, he will find out what happened.
In Episode 04, a person named D is up for a performance review. D’s issue is one of identity. Here’s a bit of dialog from the episode:
I want to build ships in the outer System. I have trained for it. I have taken all the courses. I’m expert level. I’m qualified to build. But they can’t classify me.
Classify you? Classify how?
(blurts it out)
Sleeping quarters! They don’t know what to do with me. They don’t know what locker room to assign me to.
D, being non-binary, falls outside the classifications that admin has set up.
Is it okay for writers to tell stories outside their lived experience? Here’s my view; of course, yours may differ.
Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in The Left Hand of Darkness about traveling in extreme arctic weather. She certainly had experience in her real life with cold, but researched Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions to fill in valuable details. In The Left Hand of Darkness, she describes people who change gender; they really aren’t one gender at all. On a planet far from our own, a king becomes pregnant, for example. Le Guin extends the narrative beyond her own experience. The world-building strength of science fiction uses pieces of the world we know now and extends them.
After I wrote the script for Episode 04, with the non-binary character of D, I worked with a sensitivity editor to help me with the portrayal of D. A non-binary actor plays the role in the podcast.
A non-binary person might face some or many of the same challenges in 2036 (when Your Performance Review occurs) as they face now. A podcast about the future might well bring the present into sharper focus.
Thanks for listening and reading,
(c) Lee Schneider 2023. Take care of each other. Subscribe.