Friday, 9 August 2019

The Futures Women Spin: Interviews with the Distaff authors part 1

Over on SFFChronicles (my favourite SFF spot on the net), a crack team of talented writers have been preparing an all woman Sci Fi anthology: Distaff. It's a wonderful collection of stories, ranging from charming to bleak and thoughtful - often in the same story. It's out soon and more details can be found here.

 When it was suggested to me that I might like to interview one or two of them, I responded with "How about I send 2-4 questions to everyone?".

That's what ended up happening and here are some of the answers - first up Juliana Spink-Mills, author of the Blade Hunt trilogy:
1) This anthology came about from you all being members of the SFFChronicles forums. What brought you to the community and what does being part of it mean to you?

JSM: I found the Chrons when looking for fantasy book recommendations; eventually I wandered into the writer’s boards and just…never left! The Chrons taught me about critiquing, gave me my first beta readers, and introduced me to my online writing group. The forum and its members have provided a wealth of support and friendship, and helped me feel like I truly belong within the wider SF/F community.

2) Of course, Distaff isn't just about Chrons, its about celebrating the many female writers who are part of it. When people talking about "Women in SFF", what do you think of?

JSM: There are so many talented and hardworking women in SFF. They’re writing books and comics; they’re making amazing artwork; they’re directing, producing and acting in movies and TV shows. They’re behind the scenes in publishing and entertainment, as well as at the forefront. They come from a rich history of authors and other creatives, and are as much a part of the rich tapestry of sci fi and fantasy as anyone else in those genres. The landscape of modern speculative fiction wouldn’t be the same without the women who work in this field, and I’m proud to call myself one of them.

3) Onto the stories! Where did the idea for your particular contribution come from?

JSM: A Cold Night in H3-11 was originally going to be a sweet little ‘first contact’ sort of story set in a space colony. Then the snowstorm showed up, and the title emerged, and the whole thing sort of spiraled from there and went down a much darker path than I’d originally planned… Oops?

4) Finally a question just for funsies - if you could be any female character in SFF, befriend any female character in SFF, and get to bring righteous retribution of your choice for any female character in SFF, which three would you pick?

1. I rather like being myself, but if I could be anyone for a day, I think I’d like to be Blue Sargent from Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. (In other words, I just want to ride around in an orange 1973 Camaro and look for magical dead Welsh kings in the rolling Virginia countryside…)
2. I’d love to be friends with cryptozoologist Verity Price from Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid novels; she’d make sure life was NEVER boring. I mean, cryptids! And Covenant knights! Also, ballroom dancing.3. This last one stumped me. Mainly because the characters I like who need retribution tend to have it served generously by themselves or by others. So I think instead I’ll put in a protest on behalf of all those mothers who were killed off in the name of Tragic Backstory… (And yes, I'm aware that I’ve done that in some of my work and fully accept the blame!)

It is true that giving birth to a Chosen One is about as dangerous as playing chicken on a motorway while wearing an invisibility cloak! To find out more about Juliana's books, visit her website here 


Next up is Susan Boulton, author of Oracle and Hand of Glory

1)This anthology came about from you all being members of the SFFChronicles forums. What brought you to the community and what does being part of it mean to you?

SB: Goodness, a hard question. I was at the time looking for another forum with a writing/critique section, as the old Tor critique site had gone fee paying. This was years ago. As to what is means, well, I have always enjoyed reading the various threads on the different forums, and it is a way to keep in touch with gene fandom. I still do.

2) Of course, Distaff isn't just about Chrons, its about celebrating the many female writers who are part of it. When people talking about "Women in SFF", what do you think of?

SB: The lack of exposure for so many women, (a lot talented than I am) and the way their stories have been overlooked on so many levels. Thankfully this is started to change in the last couple of years.

3) Onto the stories! Where did the idea for your particular contribution come from?

SB: A number of years ago I suffered from a life threatening illness, which left me with a damaged lymph system. At the time I knew nothing about the, “lymph system”, how it worked, etc. When I did, it sparked an idea (ok, I went damn, that’s a cool idea for an end of the world plague lol) And it grew from that.

4) Finally a question just for funsies - if you could be any female character in SFF, befriend any female character in SFF, and get to bring righteous retribution of your choice for any female character in SFF, which three would you pick?

SB: Lady Mara of the Acoma, (main character in Servant of the Empire Series by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts.) befriends Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and take on the Borg Queen! Mara of course takes over the Borg collective, and makes it part of the Tsurani Empire, and Buffy gets plenty of slaying practice.

Good to know I'm not the only person who thinks Mara of the Acoma is totally awesome. To find out more about Susan Boulton's writing, just click here.

Last but never least - Shellie Horst, author of Virtually Everything and workshop runner 

1) This anthology came about from you all being members of the SFFChronicles forums. What brought you to the community and what does being part of it mean to you?

SH: I can’t remember what I was looking up when I landed on the Chrons homepage, it was an age ago! SFFChronicles is like your party’s guide in your D&D quest or RPG; “Hi, What do ya wanna do now?”  Doesn’t matter what you turned up to do, you’ll be there for hours. There’s a range of members, each with a love for some part of the massive and eclectic thing that is Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Gaming, Books, Movies and the speculation around your favourite TV Show. The forums and thread conversations allow you to find common ground. I’ve grown and developed with it and the people I’ve met there. Through its forums I’ve discovered books and shows that I didn’t know existed (and wouldn’t have known about otherwise). I’ve formed friendships that wouldn’t have happened without Chrons.

I’m not one of the most active members, but if I feel I have something to contribute that hasn’t already been said or that will benefit someone I’ll chip in.

2) Of course, Distaff isn't just about Chrons, it's about celebrating the many female writers who are part of it. When people talking about "Women in SFF", what do you think of?

SH: THERE ARE SO MANY!
What? Who? Which? When? A different perspective, fresh voices, new ideas, challenging concepts. The Kate Elliotts, Anne Charnocks, Nisi Shawls, Anna Smith Sparks, Nnedi Okorafors and Danie Wares of this world. All the authors in Distaff… and I haven’t scratched the surface of women in SFF. A good place to start would be listening to the Breaking the Glass Slipper Podcast: http://www.breakingtheglassslipper.com/
Though there’s an ongoing conversation about female voices and representation in SFF I’m fortunate to know more of what’s out there because of the reviewing I do with SFFWorld. It’s not that they don’t exist, it’s that they are being ignored.
A lot of the female authors within the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres aren’t afraid to experiment with tropes and personal bias. All of them refuse to be defined by the past. They persist.

3) Onto the stories! Where did the idea for your particular contribution come from?

SH: Minecraft. Skyrim. Scratch, Show My Homework, Sumdog, Warcraft, Hegarty Maths...
GAMES.
My Little Mecha was a selfish project, I didn’t plan on sharing it for anyone other than my daughters. My youngest especially wanted a story with a girl piloting giant robot. So it started as a bit of fun that blossomed from Minecraft clubs we do together. I have issues with the whole “girls toys are for girls” way of thinking, it’s a core element of My Little Mecha. On the other hand, grown-ups are too busy adulting to care about what’s important to a child.  We adults with our wisdom of dangers presume younger generations are in a safe, protected environment. We’re reliant on code foundations and AI. In truth, very few authority figures (from parents and carers to policymakers) are aware of what is discussed and what they can achieve in their own coded worlds. The ambitions of teenagers will always find a workaround to the “can’ters” and the “don’t belongers” life likes to throw at you.

So. There’s nothing dangerous about playing with toy ponies, is there?

4) Finally a question just for funsies - if you could be any female character in SFF, befriend any female character in SFF, and get to bring righteous retribution of your choice for any female character in SFF, which three would you pick?

SH: Oh dear. ‘You asked that who would you be?’ question.

Melaine Rawn’s Sunrunner Princess Sioned? Flawed by anger. Pern’s gold Dragon, Ramoth? Yep. (You did say female character… not human.) Ramoth’s time travelling abilities would be helpful. Now friends. Sansa Stark who plays the long game? She has little time for friends and doesn’t trust any claiming to be one. Tchaikovsky's Honey and Bees would make for an interesting conversation. Retribution of the most righteous kind? Rin in R. F. Kuang’s Poppy War doesn’t waste any time setting records right. But Trouble Dog, from Gareth Powell’s Embers of War possesses frightening wrath, and I’d want her on my side.

I don’t know that I want to be any of these characters knowing the trials they have to survive and the trauma they're put through. I’ve lived their lives as I read their stories. I’d rather be the lead of my own personal journey. It’s much safer!

If in doubt, be a time travelling dragon; words to live by. Visit Shellie's website here to find out more about her writing and workshops

Stay tuned for more interviews over the next few days and my review of the anthology itself.


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