Category Archives: Interviews

What We Inherited: Bo Balder on Heiresses of Russ

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Posted on December 7, 2016 by

What We Inherited opens today with a quote from author Bo Balder: I think lesbian-themed fiction would have been a tiny corner of the market in the past, and now it’s much more out there, much more mainstream. Women in fiction are stronger, more diverse in every possible aspect than they’ve ever been before. We’re not talking Bechdel anymore, or Rayne Hall, it’s WOMAN across the board.

I’ve asked Bo here, naturally, to share some thoughts on the Heiresses of Russ 2016 anthology and her story, “A House of Her Own,” which originally appeared in the October/November 2015 issue of  The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

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 a step forward. Before we can say sexuality or gender or ability are sliding scales, first you need to draw awareness to the fact that differences exist and temporarily tag them to separate them out. But I’m looking forward to a future where these aspects are just part of the whole landscape of human variety, no more remarkable than frizzy hair or flat feet or sharp eyes.

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

I’d say emblematic. I tend to write issues involving women, or at the very least strong women, and I do love an alien. Because it’s so much fun to have aliens that embody both the surface more action-adventure part of the story and also many layers of symbolism underneath. I try to get the whole package.

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?

James Tiptree, “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” or Ursula LeGuin, “Winter’s King”

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?

No, I like Heiresses a lot. Because even when we’ve been trying to move away from gendered profession nouns, like actress, the default is usually the male version. Let’s do an Ann Leckie and use only female pronouns and nouns. Doctoress. Presidentess.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a near future thriller, with, shockingly, a male protagonist, I don’t know what came over me. Also a novella in the world of another (unpublished) novel, where the people are marsupial and children can be nursed by both sexes. And always more short stories with aliens, of course.

Bo Balder is the first Dutch author to have published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Clarkesworld. Her short fiction has also appeared in Nature Futures, Futuristica: Volume 1 and other places. Her sf novel The Wan, by Pink Narcissus Press, was published in January 2016. Visit her website: www.boukjebalder.nl.


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.

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.

 

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.

Lowdown Interview, with @kellyoyo still to come…

Posted on November 15, 2016 by

The always-lovely Simon Bestwick invited me to do an interview on The Lowdown not long ago and as of yesterday it’s up and readable. In it, naturally, I talk about my upcoming novel and the books that went before it, current projects, and my writing process. They’re the sort of questions writers often answer. People, whether they’re mostly readers or are aspiring writers, tend to like to know how and when the words get made, to see if there’s any common ground, any insights to be gleaned.

This is a hers and hers interview; Bestwick also interviewed Kelly and her post will be up Friday.

Interviews happen well before they see publication, and one of the other things in this one is a bit of contemplation of how and when I might get the tattoo that became my 2016 poppies. The poppies, when I was conceptualizing them and as I actually got them, were meant as a celebration of the amazing year I was having. I wanted to celebrate, in part because so many people I knew were finding 2016 to be a bear.

All of that optimism and cheer, of course, predated the U.S. election result and the terror and despair spreading from that event. It seems a million years ago. I am generally upbeat and ebullient, but this is a blow. I don’t know when–if–I’ll bounce back to a sustained state of perkiness. I want to. At least one person has said a thing I can do for them is get back to my upbeat magical-unicorn posting habits. And despair, as you all know, just isn’t a great place to live.

Anyway. The interview is a slice of me-from-the-past, and if it seems tonally peculiar, that’s why. My hope is that there’s a me from the future who’ll be able to connect with it, one day in the not too distant, one who can lighten–if only fractionally–not merely my load but that one on your shoulders too, if you’re looking for it.

Stephanie Burgis Marches with the Heroines

Posted on November 9, 2016 by

Author Stephanie Burgis

Author Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan but now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffeeshops. She is the author of two historical fantasy novels for adults, Masks and Shadows and Congress of Secrets, both published by Pyr Books. She’s also the author of over thirty short f/sf stories and a trilogy of Regency fantasy novels for younger readers, beginning with Kat, Incorrigible. To find out more and read excerpts from all of her books, please visit her website: www.stephanieburgis.com.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess?

I imprinted SO HARD on so many literary heroines as a kid! It’s actually hard to narrow it down – Anne of Green Gables! Jane Eyre! Elizabeth Bennet! Meg Murry! I loved them all – but: when it comes down to it, I identified with Jo March (from Little Women) in SO many ways.

Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

She was a writer! (Which I already knew I wanted to be, from the time I was seen.) And she was fiercely ambitious with her writing from very early on in her childhood. In the book, she and her sisters even wrote a magazine as kids where she self-published her own stories – and as a kid, I actually did the same, circulating it ONLY among my own family members! Jo loved acting in plays that she’d written, she was wildly romantic, but she was also socially awkward and frequently messed up in important social situations when she most needed to do her best. She dreamed of traveling in Europe, just like I did; she was devoted to her family and she fought fiercely with them too. She felt real to me and she was wonderful.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

My MG heroines probably have more in common with her than most of my adult-fic heroines, but there are definite commonalities throughout. I love writing fiercely ambitious and determined heroines (of any age), in the same way that I’ve always imprinted on them as a reader.

In my new historical fantasy novel, Congress of Secrets, I set out to take the trope of the powerful, manipulative, woman who’s often portrayed as a villainess and make her the heroine of the story instead. Caroline, my heroine, has been planning her scheme for years, and now that she’s finally back in Vienna under the guise of a new identity (using the 1814 Congress of Vienna as her excuse for the trip), she’s ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish it…even if she has to resort to the same kind of dark alchemy that ruined her childhood.

However, while she is ruthless in her determination, she’s not unfeeling; like Jo, she’s actually devoted to her family, and her whole scheme is based around trying to save her father from unjust imprisonment. So, while she and Jo March might not have many surface similarities, a few of the essential qualities are the same.


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (mostly) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Linda Nagata, Kay Kenyon, and S.B. Divya. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.

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