Something different for today’s interview: a blog tour spot. I’ll be talking to Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench from Australia, the editors of Defying Doomsday, an anthology of apocalypse survival fiction featuring characters with disability and chronic illness. The anthology will be released in 2016 by Twelfth Planet Press. Tsana and Holly can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
SCy-Fy: Tsana and Holly, this is a very interesting project and we will talk about it shortly, but first, tell me a little about the objective of this blog tour.
DD: We want to be able to publish a full-length anthology and pay our authors professional rates. To do that, we are running a Pozible crowdfunding campaign during the month of April. We have also received a Crowbar Grant from Arts Tasmania to assist with production costs, but this is contingent on a successful Pozible campaign. Our goal is to raise US$13,000 to cover production costs, reward items, and the funds to pay authors a professional market rate. We like to think of it as an early pre-order system.
This month’s blog tour is to get people excited about our anthology and to promote the crowdfunding campaign.
SCy-Fy: I am very pleased to be taking part. Now let’s talk about Defying Doomsday itself. The theme is unique, as far as I can recall.
DD: Apocalypse fiction rarely includes characters with disabilities, chronic illnesses or anything other than peak physical fitness. When these characters do appear, they usually die early on, or are secondary characters not developed into anything more than a burden on the protagonist. In putting together Defying Doomsday we want to show that disabled characters also have interesting stories to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.
We want the anthology to be varied, with characters experiencing all kinds of disabilities from physical impairments, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and/or neurodiversity. Defying Doomsday will show these characters surviving the apocalypse and contending with the collapse of life as they know it. We intend for this anthology to provide stories of hope to people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, showing that they also have valuable experiences worth exploring in the science fiction world, despite the assumptions traditionally made.
SCy-Fy: Tsana, you are an award-nominated book blogger and Holly, you are the managing editor of Visibility Fiction. Your interest in this topic is not only professional, though.
DD: As two people living with disability and/or chronic illness, we have a strong affinity for the subject matter and are interested in seeing people under-represented in fiction playing a larger role in science fiction. We want to read stories about people like us, stories in which it is not only the healthy and able-bodied who guide the narrative. We want to give others like us relatable characters and provide a forum for writers to illustrate protagonists who are allowed to be different. We also think it’s important to make stories available that are about people with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses getting on with what life throws at them — an apocalypse in this case — as opposed to stories that are primarily about being disabled and/or chronically ill.
SCy-Fy: The publisher is already well known in the field.
DD: That’s true. Twelfth Planet Press is an award winning Australian publisher, championing under-represented voices in speculative fiction. For example, last year they released Kaleidoscope, an anthology of diverse YA stories covering characters from all sorts of backgrounds. We are very excited to be working with them to produce Defying Doomsday.
SCy-Fy: I am sure that many writers would like to contribute to the anthology. What is the submission process?
DD: There will be an open submission period beginning after the Pozible campaign concludes on 1 May, 2015. We will be releasing more detailed submission criteria closer to the time, so keep an eye on our website!
To summarise, though, we’ll be looking for apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic stories featuring a disabled, chronically ill, mentally ill or neurodiverse protagonist. We’re open to any kind of apocalypse (except any involving magic; we’re not looking for fantasy for this anthology) and any kind of condition, so long as it has some sort of impact on the character’s life. (No deathly peanut allergies when all the peanuts in the world have been wiped out by a plague, for example.)
We’re looking for a variety of stories, including those that are funny, sad, adventurous and horrific. We are primarily interested in stories in which disability and/or chronic illness is a character trait, rather than a plot device.
SCy-Fy: Do you have any specific advice for writers who might want to contribute to Defying Doomsday?
DD: Don’t be ableist! Do your research!
But slogans aside, if you’re writing about something you don’t have first hand knowledge of, getting the details right can be tricky. The most important thing you can do is as much research as possible. If you happen to know someone with firsthand knowledge of what you’re writing about, then it might be useful to talk to them. But don’t harass people about it, especially people you don’t know well/or at all. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t meant they exist to be your encyclopedia of disability.
Oh, and get your science right as well, or Tsana will be annoyed.
SCy-Fy: What are some good research resources?
DD: We recommend having a read through the Disability in Kid Lit website, which mostly deals with representation in YA (and middle grade) books. For writers, a great resource for how to handle disability in fiction is the post “10 Things Fiction Writers Need to Remember About Disability”. For general chronic illness stuff there’s http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com, which is where the spoon theory originated.
There are also a load of other lovely links at Diary of a Goldfish.
SCy-Fy: What are some previously published stories or novels that best illustrate this theme?
DD: Viral Nation (and sequels) by Shaunta Grimes is set in post-plague-apocalypse Reno and has an autistic main character. You can read Tsana’s review of it here.
Pawn (and sequels) by Aimée Carter is dystopian rather than post-apocalyptic but does feature a dyslexic main character. Read Tsana’s review here.
Moving away from YA, Feed (and sequels) by Mira Grant has a central character dealing with light sensitivity issues during a zombie apocalypse. Tsana’s review is here.
SCy-Fy: In your experience, which types of disabilities are least understood by the general public?
DD: Most impairments and chronic illnesses are misunderstood by the general public to different extents. People’s experiences with disability are so varied and personal that it’s hard to generalise about what it’s like to have any one kind of impairment, which makes it difficult for others to understand, even other people within the disability community. One of the most important things for people to understand about disability is that everyone experiences it differently and all those experiences are valid. That’s a big part of what we are trying to show in Defying Doomsday, that disabled characters have many narratives to share – many stories that have been previously unexplored by fiction and experiences that are misunderstood by the general public.
SCy-Fy: What specific changes would you hope to see in society’s attitude to disabilities? And which changes do you hope to achieve through this anthology project?
DD: Society tends to see disabled people in a few very narrow and specific ways. We’d like to see society in general realise that disabled people and people with chronic illness are full individuals with complex lives. Hopefully, by sharing stories in our favourite genre with characters who are complex and full, and who also happen to be disabled or chronically ill, we can expand the way readers and writers view disabled characters and society views disabled individuals.
SCy-Fy: Let’s hope that Defying Doomsday manages to achieve that. Thanks to both of you, and good luck!
DD: Thanks for having us, SCy-Fy!