Tag Archives: guestbloggers

What We Inherited: Priya Sharma on Heiresses of Russ

Posted on December 14, 2016 by

What We Inherited opens today with author Priya Sharma‘s answer to my question about what a phrase like “lesbian-themed story” might mean in 2017: I think there’s lots of experiences under the umbrella term of “lesbian themed fiction” that have yet to be written about, from a whole load of different cultural and social perspectives. It’ll be exciting to read about those experiences.

I’ve asked Priya here as part of my series of interviews about the Heiresses of Russ 2016 anthology and her story, “Fabulous Beasts,” which originally appeared on Tor.com in July of 2015.

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 in the process of inclusion. If tagging a story brings that element into public consciousness and means recognition and debate around it, that’s good. The end point? People just wanting great stories that celebrates our differences and similarities. Is that naïve?

Ultimately I don’t want to be read because of my gender, sexuality or race, or because my writing features certain themes. I want readers to trust my abilities as a storyteller.

author Priya Sharma

author Priya Sharma

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

I hope it’s typical for me in that character is key. Characters aren’t window dressing or vehicles. When I write, my characters drive the plot. When they’re not vivid enough to tell me what they like and don’t like, whether they’re gay or straight, what they’d kill or die for, then my writing is at its weakest.

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?

Writers that have hugely interested and influenced me are Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters because of the excellence of their writing. They tackle the human experiences of love, death, power, personal mythology, subjugation and freedom head on. It would be something by them.

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’ve just read all the answers to The Heroine Question and enjoyed the varying viewpoints on the use of heroine vs. hero. I loved Juliet Mckenna’s comment about women not needing to be “faux-male” to be heroic and Louise Marley statement that being feminine is to be celebrated. However, I hope we’re redefining the words hero and heroine for the 21st century for both women and men. Heroic acts are genderless and not necessarily about physical strength. I personally prefer protagonist as it doesn’t have the shining qualities as a hero. Real people are more complex and fucked up than that.

I have no issue with “Heiresses of Russ”. Heiresses doesn’t have the same baggage that heroine does, or at least it doesn’t for me.

What are you working on now?

I’ve got a new story included in Ellen Datlow’s “Black Feathers” (called “The Crow Palace”) which is out in Feb 2017. I’m currently writing some original stories for my collection.

Priya Sharma’s fiction has appeared in Albedo One, Interzone, Black Static and on Tor.com. She’s been anthologised in several of Ellen Datlow’s  Best Horror of the Year series, Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror series, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014, Steve Haynes’ Best British Fantasy 2014 and Johnny Main’s Best British Horror 2015.

Her story “Fabulous Beasts” appeared on Tor.com, was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, and won a British Fantasy Award.


About this interview: 2016 marked my debut as an editor, with the Lethe Press anthology Heiresses of Russ 2016. 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: Bo Balder on Heiresses of Russ

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.

 

Alex Bledsoe Inksplains: typewriters, and future promises

Posted on November 16, 2016 by

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (the home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (the birthplace of Tina Turner). He’s been a reporter, photographer, editor, and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls (the real kind, not internet commenters) and tries to teach his three kids to act like they’ve been to town before. His most recent novel is Chapel of Ease, fourth in his Tufa series.

He can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and his official home page.


In the early 1990s, I worked as an assistant manager for Peaches Music and Video in Mobile, AL. I was (and remain) singularly unsuited for retail–my totem animal is the Soup Nazi–and it remains the only job I’ve ever been fired from.

Some of the few perks were the piles of free CDs music companies sent us for in-store play. Past a certain point they were put up for grabs; the store manager got first pick, then us assistants, and finally the regular clerks, all in order of seniority. I was the least senior manager, so I never got the big chart-toppers like the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik or R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People.

While working at this job (and at every job I’ve ever had), I was also plugging away unsuccessfully at writing.  As part of keeping suicide at bay as the rejection slips piled up, I gave myself future rewards. One of them was a promise to myself that when my first book was published, I’d get a tattoo to mark (heh) the occasion.

The only thing was, I had no idea what image to get. A book seemed obvious, and a pen unrealistic (I mean, even then, nobody wrote books longhand). Plus it was permanent, so I needed an image, a symbol, that I knew I’d never outgrow. I eventually had to simply trust that I’d know it when I found it.

And then, in the pile of CDs at Peaches, I found Meryn Cadell’s Angel Food for Thought.

Cadell, at the time performing as a woman (he’s since identified as male), had a minor hit from this CD, a spoken-word track called “The Sweater.”

The entire CD was fun and funny, and since I was the only one among the staff who thought so, it was still there when it was my turn to go through the freebies.  On the back cover, there was a tiny line drawing of a typewriter:

cadell-cd-back

And as time passed, I realized that this image was in fact the ideal tattoo to celebrate my first book. That is, if I ever sold one.

Flash forward from 1992 to 2007 (yes, fifteen years later).  My first novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, was finally released. By then I’d married a woman who fully supported my writing dreams, and I’d told her in passing about my tattoo idea. I even showed her the design, but I’d never actually made plans to do it. What seemed really cool at 29 seemed a little…less so at 44.

Then she surprised me with a trip to the Blue Lotus Tattoo Parlor in Madison. I’d hoped to get the tattoo in the actual size of the image on the CD, but the artist (after 10 years, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten his name) explained that tattoo resolution wasn’t that fine. So he took it, blew it up until he could manage the detail, then put that sucker on my right arm. My “write” arm, heh heh.

It remains my only tattoo. I’ve considered others, but I’ve never discovered another image that resonated so strongly. There’s something understated and (to me) powerful about having a lone tattoo, one that fully represents you and always will.  So I’ll probably stick with that.

Unless one of my books becomes a movie


About this post: Inksplanations (and variations thereon) is the name for a series of short interviews with a number of genre writers about their tattoos. Why they got them, what they mean, how getting ink did or didn’t change them–any and all of these topics are fair game. What drives a literary artist to literally become canvas for an image or epigram? Did they get what they were seeking? I wanted to know, especially after I got my 2016 poppies from Toronto artist Lorena Lorenzo at Blackline Studio, and so I did what any curious writer would do. I asked.

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.