Reality Skimming promotes optimistic SF -- stories that inspire us to fight the good fight for another day. Committment to larger projects, the writer's sense of mission, joy of reading, the creative campfire of the SF community and the love of deserving protagonists are celebrated. We believe in heroes and striving to be what we believe in. It is also a news hub for content related to the Okal Rel Saga written by Lynda Williams.
Colleen Anderson has lived a varied, artsy life. She graduated in photography (Visual Communications) and later also graduated with a degree in Creative Writing. She has a strong sculptural design aspect and loved glassblowing. Her piece “It Came from the Glass Studio” was juried into an art show at the Vancouver Public Library. She started writing around twelve, with poetry, but she hid it for years until she took it somewhere for a critique in her early twenties. These days she freelances in copy editing and writing, including manuscript editing. She is a past editor for Aberrant Dreams and ChiZine. She has edited many first-time novels for individuals as well as working with publishers and magazines. If you are looking for an editor, you can contact her through her blog. On 7 October 2014 she hosts the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver, which will feature Lynda Williams as one of the authors. More information under http://chiseries.com/reading-series-vancouver
Interview by Christel Bodenbender
About two weeks ago I had the pleasure to meet Colleen for an in-person interview in a cozy pub at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. The rustic interior was a nice backdrop to our chat about the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver and Colleen's life as an author. After we settled in and ordered a basket of fries, I took out my notebook with the questions I had prepared.
The Chiaroscuro Reading Series began further East, when did the reading series start in Vancouver and how did it come about?
The reading series was started by Sandra Kasturi in Toronto about five to six years ago. Sandra and her husband Brett Savory also founded ChiZine, an online magazine featuring poetry and short fiction, but due to funding issue the project changed its course and developed into ChiZine Publications (http://chizinepub.com/) through which they publish books.
Colleen was friends with Sandra and during a visit in Toronto she had a taste of the monthly reading series and immediately wanted to bring the event to Vancouver as well. She was excited to hear Sandra was thinking of expanding to other Canadian cities just around the same time and gladly took the lead to organize the reading series in Vancouver. The first local reading event was in April 2013, after which it has run on a quarterly schedule. The event has been thriving ever since, with the next upcoming set of readings commencing on 7 October 2014, featuring Alma Alexander, Paula Johanson, and Lynda Williams.
What draws you to live reading events?
Most of the arts involve a creator as well as an audience appreciating the artwork. For visual artwork there are galleries to facilitate the interaction between creator and viewer, but writing, in contrast, is a much more solitary endeavor. The reading series tries to bridge that gap as it provides a venue to share and experience the work. Additionally, the reading series helps to establish a community, where you buy the book but it also brings together readers and writers of the speculative fiction realm.
When did you start organizing reading events? What do you like about the work, what not?
Organizing the Vancouver ChiSeries is a new experience for Colleen. She likes the interaction with the authors and the audience. This pooling together of energies generates new ideas and inspiration. Furthermore, she loves the community aspect. Yet it isn't easy to market the event. In today's age of information over stimulation, it is difficult to reach people and make them understand the event is free to attend, although a donation is appreciated to pay the authors an honorarium.
Do you feel the audience changes with authors or is there a particular, dedicated crowd?
The reading series is still fairly new in the scene and hasn't run long enough to see a dedicated crowd, though she would love to see that for the future. So far the authors, the location, and even just the season can have a large impact on who is coming to the event. The focus of the ChiSeries is for the audience to get to know more local talent. That said, she had some Americans read as well, who either came through town or live in communities not too far south of the border.
Do you select authors and contact them or are you approached by authors?
So far it has been Colleen who has contacted authors and asked if they are interested to read for the series, in which case they would get back to her. She also mentioned that Sandra sometimes lets her know about a writer who expressed interest to read in Vancouver.
The reading series features a great variety of writing. What is your favorite?
Having different authors read each time makes it a fresh experience. When you have a wide range of interests, it is difficult to read all of it. Yet the reading series provides the opportunity to experience a multitude of authors and their worlds first hand. Since there is no guarantee that good writers are also good readers, the organizers of the series focus on published authors to make sure the writing is of a certain caliber, which the audience appreciates.
Tell us what writing means to you?
Colleen enjoys writing dark fiction and morality tales -- stories that feature a rich set of symbolism. She likes to dive into poetry that is mythic or fairy tale based, but can also be all over the map. Writing is a chance to explore worlds of what-ifs, taking familiar conflicts, yet highlighting societal issues by putting what exists into a different view. She stressed that we can have stories that have been told before but we can individualize them and then share them with others. By putting yourself into the viewpoint of the character, you can imagine how it would be like for you in that situation. Yet the reader still has his or her true emotional reaction to it. People sometimes try to identify the author in the story, but Colleen points out that no story or character can be representative of a person or their life, though some aspects of the writer can leak into it.
Could you tell us about some of your future projects?
Having worked on it for many years, Colleen has finished the draft of a novel and found an agent who is interested in it. Yet it is part of a series and the agent requested outlines for the following novel to see where the series is going before committing to the work. Colleen also writes away on the Compendium of Witches, consisting of thirteen poems with the first one coming out in OnSpec. Furthermore, she is co-writing a story for an anthology as well as in negotiations to co-edit another anthology, and is currently writing two articles--one about the types of monsters that are universal to all cultures. All in all, there are a host of stories on the back burner to be written and rewritten, which she focuses on when she is not working in her day job or going to conventions, such as VCON in Vancouver in October and OryCon in Portland in November.
Kathryn Allan is an independent scholar of feminist SF, cyberpunk, and disability studies, and is the inaugural Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellow (2013-14). She is editor of Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure (2013, Palgrave MacMillan), an Associate Editor and Reader of The Future Fire, and her writing appears in both academic and popular venues. Kathryn is co-editing a special anthology of dis/ability-themed speculative fiction, Accessing the Future, which will be published by Futurefire.net Publishing. Please support or pre-order by visiting: igg.me/at/accessingfuture
Interview by Christel Bodenbender
From your previous work, we can see dis/abilities is a topic you have a keen interest in. What attracts you to this topic?
I came to science fiction later in life than most hardcore fans when I was in the second year of my PhD studies (at 25 years old). As I was discovering SF, I was also going through a major health crisis. I was acutely unwell for a whole year (and have been living with chronic illness since). Being ill impacted the ways in which I was reading the SF I was attracted to, namely cyberpunk and feminist SF. I changed my thesis topic to investigate the relationship between technology and the vulnerable human body. I’m really interested in questions of access to technology: who gets to use new technologies and to what ends? People with disabilities, whether they have visible or invisible disabilities, are often not present in SF stories in realistic ways. I’m curious to know what other ways we can talk about the body and technology that problematizes the dominant constructions of embodiment (of being a body that thinks, feels, suffers, aspires, etc.). There are many ways to be a body in this world; I want to see SF that reflects that variety.
Why do you think people will invest in this project?
My hope is that we are able to attract not only like-minded people to back Accessing the Future, but also people who haven’t before thought about disability in their own work or in the stories that they read. I think many of the people who have already backed the campaign are aware of the lack of realistic representations of disability in SF and they want to see stories that reflect their lives and those of the people they know and love. The Future Fire (TFF), headed by my co-editor Djibril al-Ayad, is dedicated to intersectionality and raising the visibility of marginalized voices. With two previous anthologies, Outlaw Bodies (coedited by Djibril and Lori Selke) and We See a Different Frontier (coedited by Djibril and Fabio Fernandes), I think that TFF has established itself as a respected publisher of diverse SF, and that definitely helps attract more people to invest in Accessing the Future.
Science Fiction has been envisioning future technologies that became reality later. How far do you think this anthology can inspire solutions around accessibility in the present?
I definitely believe that SF is a testing ground of both viable technologies and viable futures. By this I mean: SF writers not only imagine novel technologies, but they also express the types of futures that are the most frightening or most ideal for our society today. If someone imagines a future without disability, for example, then what message does that give to people with disabilities today? Not a good one. If SF writers imagine futures that include people with disabilities—as three-dimensional characters who aren’t in the story to be “cured” or to be inspirational for the able-bodied—then that works towards making an accessible present a reality as well. I don’t think it’s just about envisioning future technologies that matters; it’s more important that we think about the people who use and who are impacted by new technology. Our hope is that Accessing the Future will be one more part of the ongoing conversation about our collective human future that includes all people of all abilities.
How many individual stories are you planning to include?
We are aiming for around a dozen stories but it really depends on the success of our crowdfunding campaign. Our minimum goal is $4000, which means that we can publish a semi-pro anthology with approximately 10-12 stories paid at a rate of $0.03/word. Our ultimate goal, however, is to reach $7000 (or more!) so that we can raise the pay rate to the level of $0.06/word and publish and market a full, professional anthology. This money would cover the cost of paying around $300 for each of 12 stories.
What are your favorite kinds of stories to write?
I am not a fiction writer (not yet anyways) but I am strongly drawn to socially conscious SF. I love reading the original cyberpunk novels and the feminist SF of the early 1970s and 1980s, and then trying to find recent novels that combine the elements of both. While I may not write SF stories, I do spend a lot of time writing about SF stories in terms of how they represent disability, gender, race, class, and so on. In everything I produce, I try to work with an intersectional framework—this has meant that my writing of late is pushing against traditional structures of scholarly production (which is fine by me—I’m an independent scholar after all). My critical interpretation pieces are becoming too personal for academic publications, and my personal essays are becoming more like fictional stories. I like exploring the interstitial space between distinct identities and ideas.
What’s next for you after the anthology? How does it fit into your own body of work?
There’s so much I want to do! My other big project is writing a survey book on disability representation in SF literature. I want to start with the so-called “Golden Age” of SF and trace the ways in which disability is taken up (or erased) into the present day. I’ve been trying to read widely in preparation for this book, and it’s going to take quite a while longer before I’m ready to start writing it. A section of the project will include the research I did as part of my Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship—just dealing with that research alone (I have over 700 personal letters to go through from the archives of Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Sally Miller Gearhart, Suzette Haden Elgin) will take at least half a year. All of my research interests right now involve bringing together science fiction studies and disability studies. In terms of my non-scholarly aspirations, I hope to continue to participate in fandom as a blogger, critic, and editor—I’ve made so many amazing contacts through running the Accessing the Future campaign and have been blown away by the level of support we’ve received. I’m excited for what comes next.