Accessing the Future: A Conversation Between Djibril al-Ayad and Kathryn Allan. Part III

Djibril al-Ayad (one of the editors of We See a Different Frontier, which I loved) and Kathryn Allan (editor of Disability in Science Fiction, which I reviewed here) are editing an anthology that (in their own words) “will explore disability—and the intersectionality of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. They want people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future(s)”. The campaign is here; it passed the minimum target a few days ago, but the editors are hoping to achieve various stretch goals, such as being able to pay pro rates for the stories.

I’m really looking forward to this, in large part because they are editors I respect very much, and agreed to host the final third of a conversation between them here on the blog. You can read the first and second parts here and here respectively. With artwork (originally from here) by Robin Kaplan, who will be doing the book’s cover.

 

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[Kathryn writes:] Because we can’t stop geeking out about the science fiction we love (and want to see!), I asked my co-editor Djibril al-Ayad a few questions about his thoughts on Accessing the Future. What unfolded was, in my opinion, an insightful look into the rewards of editing on the margins of genre when you have a love of SF and an open mind. The interview ended up being longer than we intended (this is a good thing!), so we decided to break it up into three parts. Today we share with you Part III. (See part I and part II.)

[Kathryn] I think we first met during a Twitter #feministSFchat on cyberpunk (or something equally cool). What is the appeal of feminist SF and cyberpunk to you?

[Djibril] Feminist (i.e., intersectional) science fiction has always seemed to me the greatest value of speculative fiction, writing that doesn’t take place in the “real world”; that may be because I started reading after the 1970s, so it’s always been around for me. Cyberpunk was the genre I grew up with, and it was cool, it was slick, it had heroes I could aspire to be (because I couldn’t fight, didn’t want to go into space, but I could code!) and because it satirized the übercapitalist world I could see being built around me. But although cyberpunk grew in part out of the political, experimental, non-conformist science fiction of the 60s and 70s, which very much included feminist writers like Russ, Le Guin and Piercy, these influences were largely unacknowledged, and the genre became pretty macho. Feminist and queer cyberpunk has always been around too, of course, and great novels by Melissa Scott, Nicola Griffith, Nalo Hopkinson, Laura J. Mixon, Lauren Beukes and a hundred others have been breaking this ice since at least the 90s. There is of course scope for much, much more.

[Kathryn] Yes! Thank you for pointing out the feminist SF influences of cyberpunk. I think our shared love and understanding of feminist SF and cyberpunk is how we knew we’d work well together. What other subgenres of SF do you enjoy reading & publishing?

[Djibril] I feel kind of the same about other genres: I enjoy classic horror, Lovecraftian paranormal noir, sword and sorcery, but these days I get impatient if there isn’t a meaningful, progressive twist to it. Forget your creepily lovingly portrayed serial killers, your puritan New Englander professors, your noble kings and generals; I want to read about ghosts fighting back against colonial oppression, minorities standing up to corporate-organized Cthulhu cultists, fantasy with lower class, queer or other marginalized protagonists fighting for their world.

[Kathryn] Speaking of corporate-organized Cthulhu cultists, as an editor, what advice would you give to aspiring writers who feel marginalized by mainstream publishing?

[Djibril] This is a tough one. It would be self-serving of me to say that mainstream publishing isn’t everything, that there are small presses and indie magazines out there that are hungry for good writing, that love marginalized authors and topics, that will cherish rk-fearoffalling1and promote and maybe even be a step along the path to broader recognition for writers neglected by the mainstream at the moment. But I don’t know if it’s usefully true; and I certainly know it isn’t enough.

By the same token, some would advise them to self-publish, because you can make it that way too, sidestepping the mainstream. There’s a lot of privilege behind such advice as well, though (not to mention a juicy slice of the Capitalist Dream), because it ignores the ingrained prejudices that infect readers of indie works as much as it does the mainstream gatekeepers themselves. I’m blissfully unaware of a lot of disadvantages that I’m privileged not to face myself. So while we and quite a few other small press publishers will do their best to signal boost underrepresented authors, and while the advice I’d give to *any* writer would be to keep writing, whatever you write, whoever reads it, because practice and persistence is worth infinitely more than any “raw talent”, I don’t pretend that I have any of the answers, or that my saying nice or inspirational things is going to make it easier.

 

Please support the Accessing the Future anthology at igg.me/at/accessingfuture.

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