Problem Daughters, a new feminist anthology

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.

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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.

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2016-11-03-14-51-31Rivqa 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.

TFFX: 10 Years of The Future Fire

Today I welcome Valeria Vitale to the blog to talk about The Future Fire, a magazine of social-political speculative fiction which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, TFF is crowdfunding an anthology: TFFX will include new fiction and artwork, plus reprints of some of the best work from the past ten years.

Valeria is one of TFF’s editors, and is also co-editor of the Fae Visions of the Mediterranean horror anthology. She has a soft spot for ghosts, vampires and old mythologies, but enjoys all sort of stories. When she’s not busy writing and reading (for pleasure or work) you may find her staring at ancient objects in museums or modelling buildings in 3D. At night, when she can’t sleep, she makes toys.

How did you first get involved with The Future Fire? Without looking it up, what is the first story you can remember buying for the zine, and what did you love about it?

Valeria Vitale: My first contact with TFF was as a reader, with issue #24 and I was really impressed by the quality of the stories and illustrations published. Discussing stories is pretty much my favourite activity, so I started doing it with other readers and with the editors, and, before I realised what was happening, I ended up being more and more involved with both TFF and the FFN (Futurefire.net Publishing) anthologies.

The first story that I remember strongly recommending for publication was Rebecca Buchanan’s “Sophie and Zoe at the end of the world.” It is a good, short story that points out issues of race, class and privilege. But what really struck me was the portrayal of the relationship between the two young girls. It felt so honest that it catapulted me back in time, to when I was that young, and very close to my best friend. It reminded me how our bond was built on sharing experiences, thoughts, and things we both loved. As for Sophie and Zoe, those things were, often, books. While reading the story, I knew that, if I had been in Sophie’s shoes, I would have given my leaving-for-a-hibernation-program soul mate a big, ridiculously heavy bag full of books too.

Do you have a favourite word and/or one that you hate?

VV: As many readers (and wannabe writers) I do love words. And I like learning them in other languages, and comparing them. It allows you to look at words from outside; to discover their strength, beauty, or fascinating precision like a foreigner visiting for the first time a place that, although awesome, is ordinary for the people who live there. My absolutely favourite word comes from the pages of French author Raymond Queneau who, I believe, minted it. The word, (in its Italian translation) is: “nottinauta”, traveller of the night. I fell in love with it at first sight. Because I think it suits me and my nocturnal attitude, my love for ghosts and vampires, for dreams and celestial bodies, I even made it my twitter handle.

There are a few words I hate, too. Usually those that _I_ tend to use too much. When I realise it, I start loathing them. But to be fair, it’s not really their fault.

What TFF story would you like to see adapted for the big screen?

VV: The first I could think of is Sara Puls’s “Sweet Like Fate.” Although part of the circus’ charm is definitely in the bold colours, I imagined the adaptation as a short movie in B&W. I think it would take the “glitter” away from the atmosphere and be more effective in showing things from the perspective of the artists, for whom that is a place of hard work and, in the case of Lambeth, of humiliation.

It’s a bit obvious, but I would use high contrast lights to show close ups of the (horrible) people in the audience. I could say in the style of Lang or Welles, but let’s not be too heavy handed. Kaurismaki’s style should be enough! The camera would show that the magic is not happening on stage, but behind the scenes, among the two main characters. Like in a Fellini movie, the tender, the oneiric, the surreal will take over reality. I also imagine it to be without spoken words, as Tati would have done it: with sounds, and only indistinct voices from the other characters. No dialogue between Ru and Lambeth, but looks, smiles, hesitations. The only words, those appearing on the acrobat’s skin.

What would be the most important thing for you to hold onto if civilization started to break down in your city?

VV: I happen to work with one of the most iconic cases of sudden disasters: Pompeii and Herculaneum. When reading the archaeological reports, it always strikes me how differently people reacted to that tragedy, and what they decided to take with them when they left their houses thinking that the world was ending. Some people made practical choices taking lamps, weapons, medical equipment. Other people tried to carry their most precious goods. But not everyone was that rational. Other people preferred to take amulets and religious statuettes, for protection. And others were found with objects that don’t have, in our eyes, any immediate practical or ritual use and maybe were just things that had an emotional value to them. I’m afraid I belong to the last category. If the world was collapsing and my house burning, I would take something not particularly useful but meaningful to me. Likely because it is a gift. Something I could look at when I need to find some inner strength. I suppose it will be one of my toy crocodiles (I have a few. Don’t ask…). And then I will start looking for some more sensible person to be my companion in the survival attempt.

Tell us more about the TFF tenth anniversary anthology and fundraiser?

VV: I see two main reasons for this initiative. The first looks at the past and is celebratory. Ten years is a lot of time for a small publishing house. We survived a few crises but we’re still here. And we want to ideally toast with all the authors, artists, and readers.

The second looks at the future. We keep receiving good stories and illustrations, but we feel we don’t give our authors the full recompense they deserve for their work, and we would like to change that. Many of the stories in the anthology are already available for free on the TFF website, but we’re also publishing new stories, flash-fiction sequels to earlier stories, poems, illustrations and Borgesian pseudostories. If you enjoy reading our illustrated stories and want to read more of them, please consider supporting the fundraiser. We have a list of nice perks to tempt you with—story critiques, artwork, or I’ll knit a zombie doll that looks like you!—or you could simply pre-order our 10th anniversary anthology featuring some of our very best stories plus new, exclusive extra content.

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Many thanks to Valeria, and to editor-in-chief Djibril al-Ayad for making this interview possible. Do head on over to the fundraiser page; the TFFX e-book can be yours for only US$5, and there are great book bundles and other perks to be had. I plumped for the five e-books …

Regeneration! Fantasy in the Court! Nine Worlds!

6 August 2015. The day the ®Evolution ended.

Well, not quite. There’s a short story, Discordances, yet to be released; Regeneration won’t be out in North America until next year; and publication in various editions and territories will roll on for a few years yet.

But: Regeneration, the 3rd book in the ®Evolution trilogy, is out in the UK today. 

Four years ago I was about two-thirds done with the manuscript for what would become the first book. I didn’t know that anyone besides a handful of friends would ever read it, and I had no plans for any more. I didn’t have an agent, let alone a publisher. If you had told me in August of 2011 that this is where I’d be in August 2015, I’d have laughed and bought a lottery ticket.

So how am I celebrating? At Fantasy in the Court, which will entail a suitably epic trek across London town, seeing as there’s a Tube strike on. Given the troubled times the ®Evolution chronicles, hiking on a day of industrial dispute from the urban wilds of Hackney through traffic-choked streets into the literary heart of this ancient city seems entirely apt. Then it’s off to Nine Worlds, the annual tribal gathering of writers, readers and fan-folk of all descriptions, where there’ll be a launch at Friday night’s Jo Fletcher Books summer party, and discussions throughout the weekend of utopias and dystopias, representation and exclusion, and what it means to tell stories; what makes them meaningful, how we reflect and transform ourselves in their image, why they may be the most important cultural artefact we create.

The power of story is something I’m thinking about a great deal at the moment. It’s going to be the big theme of the next book. (It’s also a concern of The Future Fire, a magazine of social-political speculative fiction currently celebrating their 10th anniversary – look out for more on them next week.) It has, I realise, become the big theme of my own life.

I know what stories I’m going to write next. But which ones, I wonder, will I be written into? Four years from now, what tale will I tell?

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

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    REGENERATION

    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

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