So for the last month or so, Futurefire.net Publishing and its co-editors Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael, and Djibril al-Ayad have been fundraising for a new pro-paying speculative fiction anthology.
Problem Daughters is a collection that seeks to 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, focusing on the lives and experiences of marginalized women, such as those who are of color, QUILTBAG, disabled, sex workers, and all intersections of these.
If that sounds like your bag, fundraising for the anthology–plus a whole bunch of other awesome perks–is still available at IndieGoGo for the next three-ish weeks. You can grab yourself a copy for the low-low price of $5. Five bucks! To support marginalised voices and kickass feminist literature. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
Well, fine. If you still need convincing (or even if not), then Djibril al-Ayad is here with smart words to explain a little more1…
What makes you—as a publisher of social-political fiction—decide that a book needs to exist? What do you think Problem Daughters will add to the conversation of feminist literature that more generally themed pro-woman anthologies cannot?
I think this question credits me as a publisher with too much proactivity in this process! Or rather—there are obviously many many books that need to exist (for every one by majority straight, white, abled, anglophone, middle class, Christian/secular cis male there should be a HUNDRED others by, for, and about marginalized groups) in an ideal world—as a small press we can’t publish all of those, or even themed anthologies in all the important neglected areas of speculative fiction, so we don’t even try to be comprehensive or representative. Rather, we publish when we have a good idea, or better, when someone we’d love to work with comes to us with a good idea. Problem Daughters is like this: I think it’s an incredibly important topic (not the only one) and that it will fill a significant gap in feminist and pro-women fiction, albeit not the only such gap, and nor will it be the only thing filling it. In too many pro-woman or FeministSF venues, having stories that replace the straight-white-abled-men protags with straight-white-abled-women protags seems to be good enough—and that’s not even counting venues that are explicitly hostile to trans women, to sex workers, to veiled women, etc., or who think it’s possible to be feminist while also being racist, classist or homophobic.
I think focussing on marginalized and excluded voices has two effects, both positive: one, it helps in however tiny a way to counter the neglect these viewpoints have faced from mainstream feminist venues; and two, a specifically themed anthology like this calls attention to that neglect, that marginalization and hostility, which hopefully educates some people on the need to combat it.
What kinds of stories would you most like to see in Problem Daughters? For you, is this anthology primarily about amplifying the voices of intersectional feminist authors, or giving us stories of intersectional feminist protagonists?
I don’t see a distinction between the two options, honestly. For all of our previous anthologies—on queer, feminist, colonial, disability themes—we received many, many stories that were an excellent fit for the theme (and many more that weren’t, but those are easy to spot!), and by far the majority of the stand-out stories were not only “own voices” pieces, but writing whose content and authors crossed multiple intersections (sometimes but not always, including the main theme). This is the main reason I always say we don’t need tokenism to publish more stories by women, Quiltbag people, POC, disabled authors, etc.—those are the people who write the most interesting and best stories in the social-political field.
This is also why I don’t want to say I want one or another kinds of stories in particular—authors are going to astonish us with topics and styles and themes and genres and media and experiments and lyricism and beautiful writing of all kinds that we couldn’t possibly have known to ask for. Why second guess them?
How is Problem Daughters in conversation with other TFF projects? Do you expect to see a continuation of any themes explored in other TFF anthologies?
Yes, as I’ve said, I think all of the topical anthologies, whatever their theme, have been more intersectional than we could have hoped for. I expect Problem Daughters to have the most in common with Outlaw Bodies, which was co-edited by Lori Selke and aimed to look at the ways bodies, in particular female and queer and medicalized bodies, are constrained by society, and with Accessing the Future, which Kathryn Allan co-edited and focussed on disability as a social and political phenomenon (and in which my co-editor Nicolette had a wonderful short story, of course!).
Why is representation in fiction important? Why do you think it’s so necessary for people to be able to see characters like themselves (or very unlike themselves) in what they read?
Representation in fiction (and film, music, etc.) is only partly about people being able to see characters like themselves or, as you say, unlike themselves in their stories—that’s very important, of course both children and adults need to know that they’re allowed to exist, to be visible, to be successful, to be sexy, to be the good guys, to have value in the world (beyond sidekicks, inspirations, corpses motivating revenge, sassy magical background characters, victims or comic relief), and both children and adults need to be reminded that their default is not the only kind of person in the world. But perhaps even more importantly, diverse representation is about marginalized authors being seen and heard, telling their own stories (rather than straight-white-men’s imaginings of them), making money from their work, and being recognized as existing and holding visible, responsible, creative roles in the real world, not just in fiction and film. The two are not unrelated, and both are important.
Djibril is by night the dashing, queer, general editor of Futurefire.net Publishing, by day a mild-mannered, bespectacled historian and educational futurist. He co-edited the anthologies Outlaw Bodies, We See a Different Frontier, Accessing the Future, TFF-X, Fae Visions of the Mediterranean and has edited The Future Fire magazine since 2005.