Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Flyers for Accessing the Future fundraiser

As we go into the second half of the Accessing the Future fundraiser, and the last few weeks of the summer convention season, we're calling on the army of TFF supporters and allies to help spread the word in the offline world. Are you going to a con in the next three weeks? Do you work or hang out in a library, a genre bookstore, a creative writing or literature department, a trendy café, or anywhere else where potential readers, writers or supporters might pick up a colorful flyer?

Would you be willing to print out a few copies of the flyer to the left, and put them on a leaflet table, hand them out to fellow con-goers, or airdrop them over a receptive crowd?

(Background artwork by the wonderful Carmen Moran, by the way; flyer design by Valeria Vitale.)

We've also uploaded a PDF with 4 copies to a page, which is how I prefer to print them and cut them out. I took a couple hundred of these to #NineWorlds and #LonCon3 this month and practically papered the halls with them!

Shout if you want another format, or if you're in London and would like me to give you a handful of paper copies in person to save you printing them. We'll be eternally grateful either way!

Let's make this happen!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Guest Post: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

By Tade Thompson

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes is a phrase better known to speculative fiction fans as 'Who watches the watchmen?', popularised by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's opus Watchmen. It holds other significance in psychiatry.

Louisa Lowe wrote Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? in 1872. She married Rev George Lowe in 1842 and moved out in 1870. When she would not return the good Reverend had her detained in an asylum. She languished there for eighteen months. Her documentation is one of the reasons we know about abuses in asylums.1

Asylums ran wild with treatments such as isolation, blood-letting, turning, centrifuging, and water-dousing. None of these were evidence based, and many were cruel. Society let it happen because nobody cared about the mentally ill. It was a gender issue (approximately twice as many women were lobotomised as men); it was (and perhaps still is) a race issue (ethnic minorities are compulsorily detained more in the UK), it's a disability issue, yet still there is something about mental illness that triggers discrimination.

Maltreatment of the mentally unwell and stigma does not just affect the patients. Psychiatrists are not the most esteemed medical specialists. There appears to be a problem with parity. The disease burden is clear, but the funding is not proportional. WHO says “Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.”2 Yet we, as a society, do not appear to care enough about our mentally ill. There is a lot of rhetoric, but little action.

Speculative fiction in all its guises has always been a place for ideas to thrive. Weird, wacky ideas like, hey, how about a world in which mental illness is not a punchline? Where are the narratives where mental illness is not used as a ‘random’ factor to drive your plot in any direction you want? Mental illness isn’t random. Where are your nuanced characters? I love Douglas Adams, but Marvin the paranoid android wasn't paranoid, he was depressed. Even the Black Sabbath song ‘Paranoid’ has lyrics that suggest depression rather than paranoia. I feel people should do a little more research.

I wrote a 7-part primer on mental illness for writers of speculative fiction,3 because I believe the books people read and the films people watch and the music people listen to all play a part in forming a view of those who are mentally ill. If the depictions are non-sensational and well-informed, perhaps we can foster a better understanding.

1 Lowe’s report (The bastilles of England; or, the lunacy laws at work):
2 WHO Factsheet on Depression:
3 Tade Thompson, Mental Illness Primer for Speculative Fiction Creators:

Sunday, 17 August 2014

AtF two-week link round-up

Two weeks into the Accessing the Future fundraiser (igg.me/at/accessingfuture), and we're already a third of the way to our ultimate (stretch) goal which is $7,000 and a professional rate-paying anthology of disability-themed science fiction stories. Here's a quick round-up of some of the blog posts, interviews and other features, both here and elsewhere, that have helped us spread the word.
Thanks to all the excellent people who have blogged on this subject, loaned us their platforms, or taken the time to ask us interview questions about the anthology; please keep up the signal boosting! (And thanks to Kathryn for her earlier link round-up last week.)

Friday, 15 August 2014

Guest Post: Werewolves as Patriarchy

25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf

Guest post by Jo Thomas

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, I consider werewolves one of the three fundamental monsters of horror fiction. In fact, I consider them the most used embodiment of the “monster within”, of what happens when one gives into one’s instincts and desires.

What we think of as werewolves is shaped by centuries of folklore and stories wrapping up together to form a totally mixed whole. There are plenty who lament the werewolf’s badass decay in paranormal romance and urban fantasy. I don’t especially wish sexy werewolves would disappear, but I wanted to show something of why we have werewolf mythology in the first place: lycanthropy is probably a twisted remembrance of warrior initiations.

There’s a fair chance that werewolves are the last remnants of rituals intended to make young men feel less human—more precisely, less subject to social mores—in order for them to commit some truly atrocious acts. The kind of acts that make certain Northern European tribes memorable to Romans like Tacitus, as it did for the Harii.

The Wikipedia article on the Harii only mentions the links between the warriors of that tribe and the warriors who serve Odin in Valhalla—and the later corruption into the Wild Hunt. There are also similarities with, and suggestions of carry-over into, the concept of the bear-shirts (berserkir) and wolf-coats (ulfhéðnar). Which, basically, may have spread the idea of shape-shifting into wolves around Europe, parts of Asia and possibly into the Americas. Depending on how far you think Viking influence spread.

In fact, if you check out some Germanic and Celtic hero stories and the chances are, you’ll fall over a warrior with a name that includes “hound” or “wolf” in fairly short order. If not, you’ll probably find a reference to someone who was turned into a wolf or dog for a somewhat confused reason that may have made sense before the story was written down by a Christian monk.

So, what have we got? Werewolf mythology comes from warrior rituals intended to make it easier to survive combat—or at least lessen the psychological damage of taking part in it. These warriors would have been the sports celebrities of their day (with added PTSD) and, just as today's celebrities, they would have been managed and controlled by higher status individuals who had either been through it themselves or could pay the warriors' salaries.

The warriors would be considered the best and the bravest of the youth, the most talented with their culture's preferred weapon(s) in hand. While there may have been women warriors, anyone who didn’t measure up—less strong or healthy, anyone who didn’t identify as the warrior ideal, anyone who didn't make the required number of kills—would have not been considered as good, as worthwhile. Generally, these people would have been men and, eventually, the outliers would be forgotten or given mythical status.

But, while they existed, these heroes would have been given or taken what they desired, regardless of what anyone unable to stand up to them wanted. Which is not to say that there wouldn’t have been genuinely nice guys (or girls). But… We are all aware of how difficult it is to resist, refuse, or otherwise turn down someone who has implied power, let alone physical ability.

What remains of bear-skin and wolf-coat references are all for male warriors, so it's possible to assume that all these wolf-warriors were male and so we could consider the seed of werewolves to be a result of male chauvinism, of a particular brand of male superiority. These are men who had gone beyond being human to being mystical animal-shape shifting warriors with special powers and were better than whatever other way of being was out there. If there were women bear-skins or wolf-coats, or even an equivalent, they are no longer described in the same terms.

Yes, I am apparently a card-carrying, man-hating feminist. I never set out to write 25 Ways to Kill A Werewolf as a woman fighting against patriarchy but there must be a lick of that there when the origins of werewolves are considered. And the fact that the men who choose to become werewolves in the world I built are usually in it for the perceived power it gives them fits with that, as well.

The irony is, of course, that werewolves didn’t become a Bad Thing because of being poster children for macho men. The seed of the werewolf idea became a Bad Thing because the men who went through these rituals were pagans and heathens who enacted the rituals in the name of demon-gods, not something the growing Christian Church(es) appreciated. Theoretically the practices died out, although it’s likely that a memory of them continued, becoming more twisted as time went by.

Although there’s an element of settlement and civilisation in there. The more sedentary communities are likely to admire the warrior class less, because warriors spoiling for a fight tend to ruin the sedentary bit—and that may be why werewolves became superstars of horror in more recent history. As the whole un-Christian practices débâcle becomes less important to Western culture, we became more convinced of our own civility and the wild behaviour of werewolves became more of a thrill.

I guess that means that werewolves got declawed by paranormal romance because the thrill had to be brought within more acceptable cultural norms. Although, arguably, the role of the male romantic lead is one of the most “alpha male” stereotypes going as they are there to dominate and show the heroine what she really wants, achieving a happy ending by proving that she really is feminine despite the (plot inspired) need to kick ass and take names.

The paranormal romance werewolf, then, is simply an extension of this: a man who shows all the signs of being physically strong and powerful, able to control the situation, able to sense what the heroine needs before she realises it. Despite his power and strength, he means the heroine no harm so he becomes the best prospective mate in the book—unless there's a vampire around, of course.

Which comes to my objections. Sure, it's nice to read a romance and have a guaranteed happy ending as a given—for certain values of happy or expected outcomes. But what happens if the werewolf does mean harm? What happens if the heroine doesn't want to be dominated? Well, 25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf happens, I guess.

Jo Thomas's 25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf is out from Fox Spirit Books in August 2014. For more information and to purchase the book, visit: http://www.foxspirit.co.uk/books/fantasy/25-ways-to-kill-a-werewolf/ or Amazon or Goodreads.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Blog hop: Accessing The Future Fiction

Guest post from Jo Thomas

The Future Fire are crowdfunding another science fiction anthology, this time focussing on the issues that come with disability—and the intersections with other issues such as race, gender, sexuality, class, etc, as our friendly socio-politcal SF magazine are wont to do. You may have noticed the blog about it here: http://igg.me/at/accessingfuture

In order to help explain why such an SF discussion is necessary, the editors (Djibril al-Ayad and Kathryn Allan) brainstormed a bit of a blog hop with a bit of help from Jo Thomas (www.journeymouse.net) and Dylan Fox (www.dylanfox.net)

We've set up the questions so they can be asked of both writers and readers:
  1. Tell us about your Work In Progress (WIP) / Current Read (CR) and the world it's set in.
  2. Who are the most powerful people in this world?
  3. Where does their power come from?
  4. What physical and/or mental characteristics underpin their positions of power?
  5. How does this affect the weakest people in the world?

Jo has launched the "Accessing The Future Fiction" blog hop at

If you want to take part and you haven't been nominated, please do so. All that we ask is that you post a comment on this post so that others can find your part of the "Accessing The Future Fiction" blog hop and that you mention the Indiegogo fundraiser in your preamble! It would be nice if you could link in some other victims volunteers to carry on the blog hop, too.

And if reading this or taking part means you want to help fund some more inclusive fiction, follow this link here: http://igg.me/at/accessingfuture

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Accessing the Future: anthology fundraiser

Quick Pitch

We are running a campaign via IndieGogo to fund an anthology of dis/ability-themed speculative fiction, Accessing the Future, co-edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad, to be published by Futurefire.net Publishing.

Support the anthology here: http://igg.me/at/accessingfuture

This anthology will call for and publish speculative fiction stories that interrogate issues of dis/ability—along with the intersecting nodes of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. We want people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future. The call for stories will open as soon as the fundraising campaign ends in September.

Who We Are

Futurefire.net Publishing is the publisher of both The Future Fire magazine of social-political speculative fiction, and of two previous anthologies, Outlaw Bodies (2012, co-edited by Lori Selke) and We See a Different Frontier (2013, co-edited by Fabio Fernandes). Djibril al-Ayad, a historian and futurist, co-edited both volumes and has edited TFF since 2005.

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. She tweets and blogs as Bleeding Chrome.

The Anthology Details

Inspired by the cyberpunk and feminist science fiction of yesterday and the DIY, open access, and hacktivist culture of today, Accessing the Future will be an anthology that explores the future potentials of technology to augment and challenge the physical environment and the human form—in all of its wonderful and complex diversity.

We are particularly interested in stories that interrogate issues of dis/ability—and the intersecting nodes of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both physical and virtual spaces. Dis/ability is a social construct, and all bodies do not fit into or navigate the material environment in the same way(s). Personal and institutional bias against disability marginalizes and makes “deviant” people with certain differences, but it doesn't have to be that way.

We want to ask:
  • How will humanity modify the future world?
  • What kinds of new spaces will there be to explore and inhabit? Who will have access to these spaces and in what ways?
  • Given that we all already rely on (technological) tools to make our lives easier, what kinds of assistive and adaptive technologies will we use in the future?
  • How will augmentations (from the prosthetic to the genetic) erase or exacerbate existing differences in ability, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, and race?
  • What does an accessible future look like?

Accessing the Future will be a collection of speculative fiction that places emphasis on the social, political, and material realms of being. We aren’t looking for stories of “cure,” that depict people with disabilities (or with other in/visible differences) as “extra special,” as inspirations for the able bodied, or that generally reproduce today’s dominant reductionist viewpoints of dis/ability as a fixed identity and a problem to be solved. We want stories that place emphasis on intersectional narratives (rejection of, undoing, and speaking against ableist, heteronormative, racist, cissexist, and classist constructions) and that are informed by an understanding of dis/ability issues and politics at individual and institutional levels. We want to hear from writers that think critically about how prosthetic technologies, new virtual and physical environments, and genetic modifications will impact human bodies, our communities, and the planet.

Monday, 28 July 2014

New Issue: 2014.30

“[Persistence] is a truth that applies to more than writing. It applies to anything that is important, but difficult, important but frightening. We're all capable of climbing so much higher than we usually permit ourselves to suppose. The word, again, is persist!”

—Octavia E. Butler

 [ Issue 2014.30; cover art © 2014 Lou Badillo ] Issue 2014.30

Download e-book version: EPUB | Mobi

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Interview: Sandra McDonald

This week saw the publishing of Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection. Dozois's annual collections are among the oldest and foremost of the genre, and we're happy to have no less than two stories from We See a Different Frontier on it: Sunny Moraine's A Heap of Broken Images and Sandra McDonald's Fleet. A while ago, I interviewed Sandra about life in a different cultural environment, gender identity and colonialism. Here it is:

1. Where are you from originally? Did you live in other cities and/or countries? Where are you living now? Are you doing something now besides writing or are you a full-time writer? 

SANDRA MCDONALD - I’m a transplanted New Englander living in North Florida, and of Florida I’ve heard it said that the more north you go, the more South you get. Which is a roundabout way of saying there’s a large cultural gap between where I was and where I am now, and I got here through a similarly roundabout route of living in New York, England, Rhode Island, Virginia, Guam, Newfoundland, Key West, Connecticut, and California. Every new place is a discovery and delight. I don’t think I’d be a very good at living in the same house on the same hill in the same town for most of my life. Also, I’d probably be very bad at staying home and writing every day. I teach creative writing and other English classes at area colleges, write novels and short stories, publish some of my own work digitally, and feed every stray animal in my neighborhood. I’ve just passed my first decade of being a published author, and that includes 8 published novels and more than 70 published short stories. It’s all going very well.

2. You were a U.S. Navy commissioned officer working abroad. Where did you travel to and what did you see during your Navy time that might have inspired you to write Fleet?

SMD - What was fascinating to me about Guam in the 1990’s was how Japanese newlyweds would come to Guam to honeymoon “in America” but most Americans had no idea where or what Guam was, or its role in World War II. My apartment in the village of Yigo wasn’t far from the South Pacific Memorial Park, where Japanese soldiers killed themselves while American troops retook the island in 1944. For recreation, many of us would go “boonie-stomping” in the jungle and find abandoned tanks or other relics of war. Guam is lovely, rugged island stepped with a history of invasion and colonialism, and seemed like a natural fit when I saw that you were seeking out tales of post-colonialism.

3. Do you speak other languages than English? What was your experience in bridging the gap between your culture and a different one whenever you were abroad? What were the challenges? (Both in work and in

SMD - Two years ago I was in Paris when a lovely old couple stopped to ask me, in French, how to get to the Eiffel Tower. To their amusement, the only sentence I could say in French was “I don’t speak French.” I know a smattering of helpful travel words in different languages but nowhere near enough for a long conversation in a pub. I’m actually sad to be monolingual, but traveling with English-only skills seems to be easier these days than it was when I was an exchange student based in London. Bridging a gap between cultures can be done through music, food, visual arts and other means, so I try not to let my lack of language keep me from interacting with locals and new places.

4. Gender identity and colonialism: two hard issues to tackle, and you managed to get them both very skillfully in your story. Why did you choose to tell the story of Magahet/Isa, and in such a setting?

SMD - She’s a transgender character following in the footsteps of Diana Comet, the titular heroine of my first collection of short stories that won a Lambda Literary award, was a Booklist Editor’s choice, and became an American Library Association “Over The Rainbow” book.  How we define, defend and debate gender in the U.S. is fascinating to me, and certainly there are clashes between cultures where gender is rigidly enforced vs where gender variety is protected.  For years now i’ve tried to explore those schisms and honor the men and women who live outside the boxes we try to stuff them in. First and foremost in Fleet, I wanted to write about how the post-apocalyptic residents of Guam, so cut off from the world, would prepare for the inevitable return of outsiders in a way opposite that of the Pacific cargo cults after World War II. That led me into an exploration of its tragic colonial past. Isa’s birth gender was a secondary consideration. The sexual harassment she suffers is a offshoot of what it’s like to be a woman in our own age, but I carefully set up that she has a loving husband, strong friendships, and the support of her community.

5. "Stories on the themes of colonialism and cultural imperialism focused on the viewpoints of the colonized," as it was written in the pitch for WE SEE A DIFFERENT FRONTIER. Do you think your story is about revenge? Stories written by the colonized are (or should be) always about revenge? Or there is a glimmer of hope for understanding in a postcolonial world?

SMD - I don’t see it as a story about revenge, but instead about the extraordinary measures one society takes to protect itself for as long as possible from the world that has always done it harm. In my own personal belief system, which is mostly Buddhist, revenge is pointless. We only harm ourselves when we harm others. But for civilizations that have been enslaved and destroyed by others, revenge fantasies can be normal or cathartic. My hope for the locals in Fleet is that they preserve their lifestyle as long as possible, given the scarcity of resources and lasting environmental damage, before change washes ashore again.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Social Justice Network

It's still very surreal for me. 

I'm frequently asked by interviewers and friends alike how I've managed to create the network and amass the loyal following that I have.

I'm always flattered and grateful because people don't have to read my writing or support my endeavors. So the fact that they take time out of their schedule to read my thoughts and ideas is both honoring and humbling.

April 2003 seems like only last week when I was using the invite codes to start a new blog on this wicked cool sight known as Livejournal. At the time I only had 2 readers. 

Fast forward and after approximately 11 years, 5000+ blog posts, eight articles gone viral, 14 con appearances, 3 book signing events, 2 books, an audioshort, a PSA video and countless other endeavors, it feels like I'm only getting started and having a cult following (any following) is still a difficult concept for my brain to process.

The fact that my next book, West of Sunset, is coming out on April 30, is still kinda difficult for me to fathom. He says while currently working on line edits.

Some may believe it's luck, I'm sure that's a factor, but as a wise friend once stated, there's definitely a lot of hard work, and the meeting of preparation and opportunity.

While Lady Luck may have been a factor, I certainly made it a point to stack the deck, sacrificing nights, weekends, holidays, a social life, to hone my craft and to elevate my art and career to the next level.

The irony, I never set out to build a network or get involved with social justice/equal rights. In fact when I first began blogging, I rarely discussed those issues for the sake of my mental health. Sometimes Fate can lead us down the unlikeliest of rabbit holes.

So how did the 'network' come to be where I'm constantly the go to guy for signal boosting news, resources, cross-posting articles, and multitasking with a frenzy on my iPad, Macbook, and iPhone that I feel like the male equivalent of the Oracle?

Much like getting published, I don't believe there's one set path to making connections and building an audience. I will say however, the following techniques and advice have served me well over the years and hopefully they'll do the same for you.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

New Issue: 2014.29

“Somos las nietas de todas las brujas que no pudistéis quemar.”

—International Women's Day chant, Barcelona

 [ Issue 2014.29; Cover art © 2014 Robin E. Kaplan ] Issue 2014.29

Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB | Mobi