Alyx Dellamonica

What We Inherited: Claire Humphrey on Heiresses of Russ @clairebmused

Posted on November 30, 2016 by

As the Lethe Press website says, Heiresses of Russ reprints the prior year’s best lesbian-themed short works of the fantastical, the otherworldly, the strange and wondrous under one cover. With that in mind, I’ve asked author Claire Humphrey to come share some thoughts on the anthology and her story, “Eldritch Brown Houses,” which originally appeared in Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists!

What do you think a phrase like lesbian-themed or lesbian story means in 2017? Do you think that has changed? How do you think it might change in the future?

When I think about the first lesbian-themed writing I remember reading, it was pretty focused on contemporary relationships and identity, on being lesbian in a heteronormative world.  I think recently I’ve read a lot more that is broader in setting, like lesbians in space or lesbians in imaginary worlds, or broader in theme, where characters who are lesbians engage in a story that is mostly about economics or war. Only, every story is always partly about relationships and identity, no matter who the characters are and what the setting is, right?  And have the stories changed, or is it just that I’m reading more widely than I did at first?

I think that maybe lesbian stories are reaching a wider audience than they used to, as the publishing industry becomes more diverse and readers eagerly respond. And I think it’s always important to represent diverse identities in stories, but especially in a time where parts of the world seem to be turning back toward bigotry.

What do you think we achieve by categorizing stories, tagging them with qualities that highlight sexuality (or gender, ability, and race) ? Is it a desired end point? A necessary stage on some collective journey humanity is taking?

I think it’s most necessary for the people who are feeling under siege, alone, without a community.  When you see your identity represented, you feel less alone. And for a reader who doesn’t share that identity, that reader gets the opportunity to learn and become more empathetic.  Tagging stories allows readers to head for what they want most.

Do I think it’s a desired end point?  I don’t know—in a perfect world would we all feel sufficiently well represented that we wouldn’t ever need to seek out our own voices for comfort?  Or would that tagging become part of a less-fraught but still lively set of messages that would help us choose and maintain both personal support and diversity in what we consume? I think we’re so far from that perfect world that right now we need to keep doing whatever we can to represent ourselves and each other kindly and fully.

Would you say your story in the collection is typical or emblematic of your work, or an outlier?

It’s typical of me in that it’s LGBT+, character-driven, and touching on dysfunctional families.  It’s an outlier in that it is the first and only time I’ve written anything that riffs on Lovecraft. In the SF/F community there’s a lot of adoration and discussion of Lovecraft and I usually don’t participate because I’m bored by his work as well as offended by his attitudes.  I challenged myself to find a way to write about him while still writing the kind of story that I usually write. This was the result.

If you were to pick stories for a historical overview–Best Heiresses of Russ of the Previous Century, that sort of thing–what would be the first story you’d seek out?

The Clover Still Grows Wild in Wawanosh” by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, published by Strange Horizons in 2013. (Podcast version here.) I love this story so much—it’s subtle, harsh, moving. It’s about identities in a post-apocalyptic world.

One of my previous interview series, The Heroine Question, generated some interesting discussion of the gendered term Heroine. What do you think of Heiresses of Russ as a title for this project? Should it be Inheritors or Heirs?

Frankly, I think it’s academic-sounding and uncommercial, which is something that often happens around idealistic, worthwhile projects: the people who get its meaning are an enthusiastic but really small group.  Best Lesbian Fiction would get the job done just fine.  This is me wearing my bookseller hat, obviously!

What are you working on now?

I have a whole bunch of new stories coming up soon, none of which have been publicly announced, but it’s been a nice couple of months for acceptances around here. I’m also working on two different options for my next book, which may or may not be a followup to Spells of Blood and Kin.

Claire Humphrey is the author of Spells of Blood and Kin (St Martin’s Press, 2016).  Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story ”Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot” appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story “The Witch Of Tarup” was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden. Find her online at  her website,  on Facebook, or on Twitter

 


About this interview: 2016 marked my debut as an editor, with the Lethe Press anthology Heiresses of Russ. I co-edited with the capable and lovely Steve Berman; our Table of Contents announcement is here. At that time I asked some of my contributors if they’d be interested in talking a little about the ideas behind their stories, about the idea of lesbian-themed genre fiction, or anything else that seemed interesting and relevant. These are their replies.

 

The letter I sent @JustinTrudeau last week

Posted on November 28, 2016 by

The tl;dr version of this story is: I mentioned to a few people that I’d written the Prime Minister last week, and they asked what I said. Here’s the text, with the PM’s address in case you want to add your voice to the chorus. Postage is free, but if you’re like me you’ll forget that and stamp it anyway. If you’re a lot like me, you’ll use the Captain Kirk stamp.

The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2

Dear Mr. Trudeau:

I am writing today to ask for reassurance regarding Canada’s response to the rise of fascism in the United States.

We are of an age, you and I, and it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to imagine that you may have spent at least a few moments during your teens wondering if the USA and USSR were going to blast each other–and everyone else in the process–to cinders. There were many great things about my youth, don’t get me wrong, but when I revisit its darkest moments what I remember is worrying about nuclear war and wondering if I’d be murdered by homophobes. How strange it is to find both concerns rising from their graves, so many years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, more than a decade after Canada’s Supreme Court ushered in the era of marriage equality.

I’m not a starry-eyed idealist, Mr. Trudeau. I understand that the PM of Canada has to play nice with our massive, rich, powerful next door neighbour. We are the weak partner in a very unequal relationship; our ability to resist the whims of the U.S. has generally rested on being charming and compliant. I know you’re in a difficult position and I don’t envy you.

(I also know, full well, what it is to stand up to a volatile bully and get kicked down a flight of stairs for trying to stand on principle. Compliance is seductive. It can seem less damaging. The bruises are less visible, even if the cost of compromise comes straight out of the nation’s collective soul.)

So I wonder, as Canadian racists become emboldened: what will my government do to stop them? Expose, arrest, and prosecute? Or will we start quietly letting the outrages, the acts of vandalism, and the assaults slide? I wonder: if U.S. Muslims have to flee Iowa, or Kansas, or Detroit, or Texas: will Canada have the courage to take them in?

Will we play the role of Neville Chamberlain in the 1930s; will we weasel and attempt to appease? Will we be Vichy France, and cheerily hand over all our undesirables? Will we be remembered for being courageous, or for being spineless?

I’ve struggled in the past couple of weeks as I tried to figure out how to break it to my terrified American friends that fleeing here, in a pinch, if they can, might not give them the safety they imagine. I’m looking at pictures of swastikas on synagogues in Ottawa, and wondering if our authorities are going to let that stand. I believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I want to believe that my government does as well. That when push comes to shove, those words are held dearer than the paper they’re printed on.

Please tell me that whatever happens, win or lose, we will accept the refugees, take the economic hit, prosecute the racists and–if dire necessary requires it, as I daily pray it will not–go down fighting. If that’s something you feel you can do you will, if nothing else, magically transubstantiate one die-hard lesbian socialist into a bona-fide Liberal voter.

My very best regards,

Writing an elected representative or a newspaper is a political act you can make from your couch, even when you’re running a fever. If you’re trying to do one thing a day to make the world a better place and you’ve just got no goddamned bouncity-bounce, do this.

Review Repost: Hild, by Nicola Griffith @tordotcom @nicolaz

Posted on November 24, 2016 by

Stubby-RocketIt has been a few years since I reviewed Hild, by Nicola Griffith, for the simple reason that it’s been a few years since it came out. But as gift-giving season breathes down (some of) our collective necks, I offer this: if you do December giftage and are trying to figure out what to get a beloved fan of historical novels, someone who’s going absolutely mad waiting for Hilary Mantel’s third Cromwell novel, this is exactly the ticket. If you are that person… you’ll have a completely wonderful distraction, at least until you’re left dividing your time between pining for two sequels–the next Hild book is on my OMG, OMG, when, when? list, for sure!–instead of one.

Here’s a snip of my review:

One of the intriguing elements of Hild’s character is her refusal to accept what seem to be obvious limits. From earliest childhood, she seeks to gather strength to herself, offsetting her tactical deficits. The greatest deficit, of course, is her sex. Despite her obvious utility as an advisor, she is still female and still, therefore, a marriageable property. Her sister is married for political reasons when Hild is young, driving the point home. Losing her plunges Hild into another, very difficult, battle, against loneliness. Who is fit company for a seer? Who might she ever take as a lover or a husband?

And here’s the cover:

What We Inherited: A.C. Wise talks about Heiresses of Russ @ac_wise

Posted on November 23, 2016 by

As the Lethe Press website says, Heiresses of Russ reprints the prior year’s best lesbian-themed short works of the fantastical, the otherworldly, the strange and wondrous under one cover. With that in mind, I’ve asked author A.C. Wise to come share some thoughts on the anthology and her wonderful story, “The Devil Comes to the Midnight Café.”

What do you think we achieve by categorizing stories, tagging them with qualities that highlight sexuality (or gender, ability, and race) ? Is it a desired end point? A necessary stage on some collective journey humanity is taking?

I tend to think of it as a necessary stage. Unfortunate as it is, narratives centering the straight, white, neurotypical, cis male experience are still seen as “the norm” and they dominate the majority of our media – in print, on screen, and otherwise. The argument can be made that labeling something as lesbian fiction is othering,  but the fact is, lesbians have already been othered, as has everyone outside that straight, white, etc. model. There are people out there hungry to see themselves represented in fiction, in movies, in song, art, and even TV commercials. At the moment, I see labels as a necessary and helpful way to allow people who crave those stories to find them. Hopefully, one day, not too long down the road if the world is kind and fair, labels will be less necessary. We’ll have stories, full stop. They will encompass all of humanity, and straight, white, male stories will no longer be seen as universal, while everything else is niche or specialized.

Would you say your story in the collection is typical or emblematic of your work, or an outlier?

Well, it’s part of a story-cycle, if you will, collected in The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves The World Again, so in that sense, it’s representative of my first published book. The Glitter Squadron stories are a little more over-the-top than my fiction tends to be, but underneath the glitter and velvet, there are themes that echo across a lot of my fiction – chosen family, self-identity, darkness, and hope.

One of my previous interview series, The Heroine Question, generated some interesting discussion of the gendered term Heroine. What do you think of Heiresses of Russ as a title for this project? Should it be Inheritors or Heirs?

I kind of like Inheritors, but I don’t have a problem with Heiress either (though it does conjure up a certain image of feuding family members in 1920s attire in a brooding mansion plotting to kill each other to get their hands on Great Uncle Ennis’ secret fortune. No? Just me?) To me, having a plethora of words lets people pick the description that suits them best. Some people might want to be heroes, others heroines, same for inheritors, heiresses, and heirs. I’m happy with anything that links me to Russ and her wonderful writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

(A.C. Wise’s Heroine Question interview is here, by the way.)

What publications do you have coming up next / what are you working on now?

My second collection, The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, just came out from Lethe Press at the end of October. Coming up, I’ll have stories at Tor.com, in Ellen Datlow’s anthology Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales, and in For Mortal Things Unsung, Pseudopod’s 10th Anniversary anthology.

A.C. Wise was born and raised in Montreal and currently lives in the Philadelphia area. Her fiction has appeared in publications such as Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Liminal, and several volumes of Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Her collections The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves The World Again, and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories are both published by Lethe Press. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, and contributes a monthly review column to Apex. Find her online at www.acwise.net, and on Twitter as @ac_wise.

Here’s a tweet featuring her Corgi:


About this interview: 2016 marked my debut as an editor, with the Lethe Press anthology Heiresses of Russ. I co-edited with the capable and lovely Steve Berman; our Table of Contents announcement is here. At that time I asked some of my contributors if they’d be interested in talking a little about the ideas behind their stories, about the idea of lesbian-themed genre fiction, or anything else that seemed interesting and relevant. These are their replies.

Introduction to Novel Writing open for registration @writersprogram

Posted on November 22, 2016 by

My winter course offering at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, Introduction to Novel Writing, is now open for registration.

This class is about planning and starting a novel rather than busting pages… you brainstorm and evaluate a number of ideas, winnow them down to one contender, and strive to get a really good start on the opening. We talk about all the foundations for a novel: plot and characterization, of course, but also suspense, transitions, and the ever-important need to find joy in the project you’re working on.

Early registrants get a break on tuition; drop me a line if you have any questions.


If you’re further along with your novel, interested in screenplays, short fiction, or poetry or for any other reason would like to check out one of the program’s many other fabulous offerings, here’s a way in.

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