January 20, 2022

Zee Dempster
Zee Dempster

By Bonnie Eissner

In her spare time, when she’s not working with Graduate Center students and faculty, Zee Dempster, the assistant director of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC) and assistant coordinator of the Africana Studies certificate program, pens novels. Her first one, The Aurora Satellite, earned her the Sara Patton Stipend from the Writer’s Hotel Conference, a distinction that the conference awards to just three writers a year. Propelled by her success, Dempster is at work on her second novel.

Dempster writes speculative fiction, focusing on the near-future and fantasy settings. “I have always loved science fiction and grew up watching movies such as The TerminatorStar Wars, and Alien,” Dempster said. 

The Aurora Satellite, according to Dempster, follows Rae, a 22-year-old, self-centered fatalist, surviving a flooded, post-apocalyptic Earth on a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The archive, or record that is kept about the civilization that Rae and others on the ship once knew, figures prominently in the novel. 

“Working at the Graduate Center, attending a course taught by Robert Reid-Pharr and being exposed to the IRADAC fellows over the years, I became intrigued with the concept of the archive and the degree to which it influences faculty and student research,” Zee said. 

She also discovered that her union, the Professional Staff Congress or PSC-CUNY, offered professional development grants that would allow her to take writing courses. She received funding to take courses at Gotham Writer’s Workshop and attend the Writer’s Hotel Conference.

Her first novel, which she is now trying to get published, took five years to write, and she intends to write the sequel in a year. 

“The thing that's really helped me is to just write something every day, even if it’s just three paragraphs, she said. “Don't worry about writing War and Peace or Beloved. Just write some words. When you finish and you go back to the editing, that's when it all comes together.”  

Reflecting a little more, she added, “I just want people to know that whatever it is you want to do, this is the moment to start it.” 

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