Inspired by the unique storytelling opportunities offered within a Twitter feed, Daniel José Older began creating small narratives between his job as a paramedic and a writing class. These “urban fantasy” narratives, like the NYT bestseller Shadowshaper, are challenging staid genre conventions, and offering new, more diverse fictional worlds in which fellow writers–and readers–can find strength and solidarity.

By David M. Perry at Pacific Standard:

Older told me that his goal as a writer is to reach people who have always loved books but have rarely seen themselves within them. He acknowledges the difficulty: “Start to talk vernacular in a narrator’s voice … that’s when people get uncomfortable. And whenever someone gets uncomfortable, that’s when someone else is getting really comfortable, and it’s people who have never been comfortable before.” When readers tell him that they heard their own voices in his prose, he’s delighted. “That’s the point of my literature, definitely,” he said, “To make people feel at home in books.”

Speculative fiction matters. The genre encompasses everything we might once have called science fiction and fantasy, but it’s not niche entertainment for nerds; we’re all nerds now. Speculative fiction dominates the most widely consumed media of the moment: the Marvel empire, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, the most popular video games, and so on. The heart of the genre, though, has always been books that reveal and push the boundaries of our imaginations, exploring new worlds alongside new aspects of the world in which we already live. These visions of the possible need to reflect the diversity of our reality.

This story was originally published on May 19th, 2016.