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Catherine's note: I noticed that this project had gone live and wanted to make sure more people knew about it. Older Queer Voices: The Intimacy of Survival is free to read and filled with stories and poetry by older queer folks about hanging in there, about the things that did get better, about the strategies that we used to make it. I reached out to one of the editors, Sandra Gail Lambert, and asked her to do a blog interview about the anthology. If you'd like to interview her, her co-editor or the contributors, their contact email is noted below. Please spread the word and let's get more things like this out there.

Tell us about this project.

 SGL: Older Queer Voices: The Intimacy of Survival is an online collection of creative nonfiction and poetry from thirty-five LGBTQIA writers. Sandra Gail Lambert and Sarah Einstein are the editors. 


Where did you get the idea to do this on the Internet?

 SGL: Like a lot of us, Sarah and I woke up on November 9th desperate to do something, anything. Over the next few days, we flailed around for that first path of resistance. Sarah, who teaches at a university, was confronted with young queer students who were in a sort of shock as the world they'd always known was threatened. I live in community that includes many old lesbians who had a sense of returning to a world they had already survived. Some were in despair that they were going to have to do it all again, some were energized, but they all knew, as Sarah and I and so many other old queers did, that it was possible. We had the skills and strategies to resist and even thrive within oppression. As one of our contributors says, "we know how to do this." By November 12th, Sarah and I sent out a call for submissions to Older Queer Voices: The Intimacy of Survival.

We decided on an online anthology because that would be more immediate, less commercial, and it was what we had the energy to accomplish. Both Sarah and I are older and disabled and one of the skills we have to offer is knowing the limits of what we can accomplish and still be able to keep moving forward in our work.

How did you select the authors?

 SGL: We sent out a call for submissions for writing "in response to the harder times that have come back around again." We wanted pieces about our experiences, our successes, the mistakes we made, the voices of those who were left out, and celebrations of all the ways we lived our lives. We said we wanted to reach back and recreate that combination of care and activism and add it to the already formidable power of the younger generations of queer folk.

 The response was immediate and strong. Each day I'd wake up and there would be emails filled with stories of survival that helped lessen my own dismay. Poets honored and mourned the lives lost to the Plague. A young butch lesbian survived 1950's political witch hunters. A trans woman came to activism through the Civil Rights movement of the sixties.  

 For me, the anthology was already doing its job, and it gave me hope that these writings would work the same way for readers. We had originally decided on eighteen pieces being the right number for the anthology and then upped it to thirty-six as the wide variety of submissions poured in, and we still had to send out way too many rejections. But we had a specific mission for the anthology, so that helped us figure out which pieces to include.

What do you hope this project will accomplish?

SGL: We hope the anthology, as a whole, will be useful in the days to come as we figure out how to survive. Many of the contributors have agreed to be available to classrooms and organizations that want to take up the question of how LGBTQIA people and communities survive during times of oppression, and there will soon be tools available for book groups, high school teachers, and university professors who wish to include the anthology in their readings.

We also hope, as all editors of anthologies do, that our contributors will have their writings read and appreciated.

Will there be a follow-up such as a print edition or a new round of contributors?

SGL:We aren't doing a print edition. Everyone involved in this project—the writers, the publishers that granted us free reprint rights, the website interns, the editors—did this all as a labor of resistance and love in response to an urgent situation. It wouldn't be right to in any way commercialize the project. In addition, part of our mission is the anthology's free availability to students and teachers.

Any related projects in the works? 

SGL: Some of the contributors are organizing readings. Others have suggested a series of video interviews. Also, soon there will be materials to support the use of the anthology in high school and university classrooms. Who knows what our contributors will come up with? As has been proved, they are amazingly resourceful. To contact Sarah and I or any of our contributors for interviews or more information email  



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I got to contribute to SF Signal's Mind Meld on LGBT SF and F, along with Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Melissa Scott, Cheryl Morgan and other fun folks -

And Melissa said lovely things about "Silver Moon," so I'm having a squee meltdown. It is so wonderful to have one of my "writing heroes" praise my work. :-D
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Paolo Bacigalupi's piece out on Kirkus Reviews raises some excellent points about how queer youth are treated, primarily in the U.S., in the context of talking about dystopian YA (here - I think it is a piece that is written with excellent intentions. But it falls short for me as both a writer and reader of various flavors of queer sf/f on a couple of points:
1. The notion that there is no dystopian queer ya because queer kids don't need to read about dystopias, they're living one.
2. That readers can only respond to a reversal of circumstances to empathize with the obstacles facing LGBTQ youth, in this case, by reading the work of another heterosexual male author writing about those obstacles as though they impacted straight people.
3. The implication that the only reason to include LGBTQ characters in dystopian YA is to appeal specifically to those kids, because no one who isn't queer-identified can relate.

To start with, of course there's queer dystopian ya. Check out author Nora Olsen's "The End" for one example or Dayna Ingram's "Eat Your Heart Out." Or the several pages of reviews in this site - As for the assumption that LGBTQ kids don't need to read about themselves in the same areas that their peers do, haven't we been here before? I can think of few groups of people who never want to see themselves represented in the mediums used by their culture, especially if the characters are positive. Bacigalupi missed a prime opportunity to plug a lot of good fiction in a forum where it could have gotten more exposure.
As for the notion that the experiences of LGBTQ have to be mediated through the lens of the dominant culture to be relatable, let's try a few substitutions there, shall we? Misogyny can only be written about effectively if some or all of the main characters in a story are portrayed as men experiencing a role reversal. Because, you know, readers have been totally unable to relate to "The Handmaid's Tale" or "Parable of the Sower" or Suzy McKee Charnas' work or...but you get the idea. Being invisible and discriminated against doesn't help anyone.

Will straight readers read dystopian ya with LGBTQ characters? Um...yeah, they do seem to be. And buying it and enjoying it, as far as I can tell from the reviews, the book recommendations and the fact that some publishers keep buying it.

The last time I checked in, readers read dystopias in part because many of them show humans building new societies. The dystopian event is what clears the way for a new beginning. Telling LGBTQ kids or adults, for that matter, that they have no place in that is like telling them they have no hope. And that's just wrong, regardless of intent.

3/23 Note: Having a conversation with Paolo Bacigalupi and some others about the original article. He's being quite open to discussion on the subjects of queerya and visibility stuff. My opinion of the article is unchanged since that's what's out there, but perhaps something better can come out of this. Which would be outstanding.


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