All For Anthologies, Anthologies For All
Problem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. It will be an anthology of 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 all intersection of these. Edited by Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael and Djibril al-Ayad, the anthology will be published by Futurefire.net Publishing and is currently being crowdfunded and is open to submissions. Today, Rivqa and Nicolette talk about the value of anthologies for readers and writers, particularly marginalised writers.
Rivqa: Follow @enoughsnark
Anthologies are often a forgotten artform. When most people think of fiction, they think of novels; long, satisfying journeys into other worlds. Short stories are ephemeral, left open in browser tabs for too long and then eventually abandoned. They fall through the electronic cracks of e-readers and gather dust in paperbacks under that shiny latest novel.
But that’s not the whole story (yes, you see what I did there). I, for one, love short fiction. Not just because I’m busy, and I can’t always squeeze in novel-reading time into my day, but also because shorts are distilled, concentrated fiction. Stripped of every unnecessary element, a short story is a snapshot, a frozen moment. I read short fiction over meals, on short train trips, while my kids have their swimming lessons… whenever I can squeeze them in, basically. I also love how much short fiction is available free online, which is great for increasing accessibility.
In particular, anthologies are a wonderful way to experience short fiction. My preferred format for an anthology is on my Kindle (so I can’t lose my place), and I’ll often take weeks or months to read one. At their best, short stories are so rich that I often need a break in between each story. And I love reading what’s often a mixture of authors I know and love, mixed in with new (or new-to-me) voices. I get this great assortment at a much lower price point compared to buying every single author’s novel.
Anthologies can be themed tightly, loosely, or not at all. While an unthemed anthology can be a selection of great stories, I loved themed anthologies both as a reader and a writer. It’s wonderful to see what 10–20 writers have done with that same basic concept. The breadth of human imagination, summarised on paper! (Or e-ink…)
As a writer, it just so happens that all of my stories published so far have been for themed anthologies. Something about those prompts jolt me through a brief “I can’t do this!” phase and propel me very quickly to the blissful “I just had a great idea” phase. When the concept is too limited, though, I tend to freeze up and have nothing to write about red cars or whatever the theme is.
So when my co-editors and I were discussing the exact theme of Problem Daughters, we thought about it carefully. Some of our first ideas were very specific, but we ended up with the broader call for submissions that’s currently open. We really wanted to hit a sweet spot between being specific enough to produce a cohesive anthology, but broad enough that we could include as wide a range of voices as possible, and hopefully we’ll achieve that!
But that’s not the only benefit of submitting to an anthology! This won’t be news to experienced writers, but short stories can, for many writers, be a way to explore a character, a world or an idea, without the time commitment required of a novel. In a short story, you can take risks. Play with structure or voice (second person, for example, is hard to sustain for the length of a novel, but can be very effective for a short story). Sometimes those ideas grow and become the basis for a novel, but I love short stories as a playground for developing them. Or sometimes, just for writing something small and self-contained.
Again, veteran writers will know this, but for many writers, even if they’ve written a great novel, getting a book deal can be a challenge. That’s unfortunately even more pronounced for marginalised writers. There are no guarantees in this tricky industry, but having some short stories in your portfolio first is a time-honoured method of proving your credentials.
As we editors make this small space available primarily to marginalised women’s voices, I would be lying if said I wasn’t hoping to discover some unpublished genius in our slush pile. Of course, we can’t publish everything we receive, and we’re sure to face some hard choices, but all three of us are committed to doing our utmost to amplify marginalised voices and stories. Part of that is helping our authors make their stories the best they can be. We’re open to questions if people have any. The most important message I’d like to get across to potential authors is: please don’t self-reject! We really want to see your work.
About the author:
Rivqa Rafael is a queer Jewish 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). In 2016, she won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent. She can be found at rivqa.net and on Twitter as @enoughsnark.
Nicolette: Follow @NBarischoff
Going into writing this post, I had a lot of ideas of what it was going to be. I had sharp glittering insights on what can happen to the reader deprived of representation in the books she reads. Long, lovingly crafted sentences on the role that stories play in engendering empathy, and how anthologies like Problem Daughters are single squares in a gorgeous and diverse pattern SFF writers and editors have been consciously weaving over the last two decades.
But over these past weeks, as my country shifts faster than I ever thought possible toward a dark, unknowable shape, I realized that this post, and this book, would only ever really be about one thing for me: resistance.
Writing has always had an important place in the resistance against tyranny, or outright erasure. Writing, storytelling, is an undeniably human act. There can be no dehumanization of any people who keep telling their own stories. Who keep saying, with every word they write, “I am here. This is me. This is us.This is what happens. This is what has been. This is how it is, now. Right now. Look sharp! Listen! Pay attention!”
It’s funny how small a writer – particularly a writer of fiction – can be made to feel in times of great upheaval or mass human suffering. What can this stupid story I made up in my head do against a man who has decided that people with brown skin are genetically predisposed to rape and mass murder? Who has literally declared sexual consent to be unnecessary?
We manage to forget (and the despots of the world take care that we do) that tyranny has a natural fear of literature. There is a reason why the mass destruction of writing plays such a pivotal role in every burgeoning fascist regime. Writing is dangerous. It makes ideas impossible to kill. It makes them into sharable, tangible things that stretch like force fields over entire populations.
Speculative fiction in particular makes all sorts of dangerous ideas seem possible. And short fiction, as my co-editor points out, often packs the most powerful punch, in a more accessible package. It takes years that many authors do not have to write a novel (and sometimes months for a working person to read one. But the surgical strike of a truly excellent short story is available to all. Passed through enough hands, a short story can become a movement.
There are a lot of women in the world who are right now, as I write this, struggling against forced oblivion. Women whose personhood we have only just begun to acknowledge, whose rights and personal agency and safety we have only just begun to see as important. If Problem Daughters is to be meaningful in its impact at all, it must function as a means for these women to tell their stories, to write their resistance.
About the author:
Nicolette Barischoff was born with spastic cerebral palsy, which has only made her more awesome. Her fiction has appeared in Long Hidden, Accessing the Future, The Journal of Unlikely Academia, Podcastle, and Angels of the Meanwhile. She regularly writes about disability, feminism, sex- and body-positivity, and how all these fit together. She’s been on the front page of CBS New York, where they called her activism public pornography and suggested her face was a Public Order Crime.
Hi, everyone. This is Naz writing now. I want to thank Rivqa and Nicolette for letting Read Diverse Books host this call for submissions and funding for Problem Daughters. I don’t know about you, but I’m thoroughly convinced that I need this anthology in my hands. If you like what you read today, please consider contributing.
I want to share this information again:
Writers: If you are interested in submitting your fiction or poetry for Problem Daughters, you have until March 31st, 2017 to do so. Click here to learn all the details!
Readers: Please contribute $5 or more, if you can spare it, to support this ambitious feminist anthology. $5 will get you the ebook and $25 will give you the glorious paperback. Please help spread the word and let’s get Problem Daughters fully funded. There’s not much time left!
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