A few months ago at a gathering of friends and fans of The Future Fire in a London pub, I asked general editor Djibril al-Ayad if there were any new plans or projects afoot. I’d first become aware of their work with We See A Different Frontier, an anthology of postcolonial speculative fiction; Accessing the Future took as its theme disability and mental illness, and Outlaw Bodies looked at the norms and transgressions of embodied identity. Given that track record, I figured something provocative and interesting had to be up. ‘We’re thinking of doing a project around intersectional feminism,’ he said. ‘We haven’t quite worked out what it’s going to be yet, but too much of the conversation is still too conventional and mainstream, and leaves too many people out. We’d like to do something about that.’
Now we know what the something is: Futurefire.net Publishing and co-editors Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael and Djibril al-Ayad are fundraising for a new pro-paying speculative fiction anthology. Problem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. The editors are looking for beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, with a specific focus on the lives and experiences of women of colour, QUILTBAG women, disabled women, sex workers, and any intersection of these.
Rivqa Rafael answers a few questions about Problem Daughters in the interview below. I urge you to support the fundraiser by pre-ordering a copy of the anthology or picking up another perk at https://igg.me/at/problem-daughters.
Q: How did you come to be collaborating with Futurefire.net Publishing and your co-editors on this project?
Rivqa Rafael: Who hasn’t made rash promises early on a weekend morning on Twitter? It started as a virtual con (I can’t even remember which con we were having FOMO about, but Djibril was a very charming host for our pretend kaffeeklatsch). The conversation turned to the limitations of the Bechdel-Wallace test, but quickly became bigger… and it kept seeming like a good idea. This will be my first time editing fiction, and I can’t think of a better place to start.
Q: Is there a serious problem with some categories of women being excluded from mainstream feminism? Apart from publishing fiction, what can we do to address this?
RR: If you’ll indulge me an anecdote… Although I’m no longer religious, I used to be, and as part of that I covered my hair. Years ago, I was stunned into silence when an Anglo woman informed me that hair covering was a way for men to control women. At the time, I didn’t have the vocabulary to respond at all adequately. This (and many other microaggressions) made me feel excluded from fighting patriarchy kyriarchy because I didn’t fit the expected mould, and it took years of (informal) learning for me to find the words to examine the nuance and diversity that simply must exist within feminism for it to succeed.
I think that education and conversation are our best tools for building an inclusive movement, and fiction is one of our assets. Effective conversations will involve people acknowledging their privilege, not letting white/cis/straight/abled/etc guilt take over, and really listening—primarily to the voices that are already speaking eloquently on the movement’s deficiencies, rather than demanding education from marginalised people. That said, some of this should probably be taught formally, and some is just part of an ongoing process that can happen over time (how organically or disruptively I think that should happen really depends on the day…)
Q: Why is SFF a particularly appropriate medium for telling intersectional feminist stories?
RR: I see SFF as a combined microscope and telescope: it can help us zoom in on minutiae, or it can allow us to see the bigger picture. By magnifying a threat or challenge, whether it’s an evil monarch or zombies, we can illuminate the human response in a way that realism can’t achieve. I think this works best when those fantastical elements have their own meaning, rather than standing in for a challenge within our world (I never want to see aliens = POC again), because then the “what if” has more impact.
Q: Do you have any ideas for what you will do if the fundraiser exceeds its initial goal?
RR: So many! A bigger book—while we wouldn’t want a bloated anthology, it will be really hard to exclude beautiful works because we have to cull. Some short comics would be awesome. A Braille version, an audio version, translations—anything that increases access, really, because we want to reach as many people as possible.
Rivqa Rafael is a queer writer and editor based in Sydney. She started writing speculative fiction well before earning degrees in science and writing, although they have probably helped. Her previous gig as subeditor and reviews editor for Cosmos magazine likewise fueled her imagination. Her short stories have appeared in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications), The Never Never Land (CSFG Publishing), and Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press). When she’s not working, she’s most likely child-wrangling, reading, playing video games, or practising her Brazilian Jiujitsu moves. She can be found at rivqa.net and on Twitter as @enoughsnark.