Publishing and co-editors Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael and Djibril al-Ayad are fundraising for a new pro-paying speculative fiction anthology. Problem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. I am so pleased to be able to host an interview with the lovely Nicolette Barischoff today. Publishing is looking for beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, with a specific focus on the lives and experiences of women of colour, QUILTBAG women, disabled women, sex workers, and any intersection of these. Please support the fundraiser by pre-ordering a copy of the anthology or picking up another perk here

How did the idea for an excluded voices SFF anthology come about?

On a group level, I think it started as a fairly innocent Twitter conversation that got out of hand. We were virtual conning through Sasquan, and what started as a pretty light conversation about the absurdity of the Bechdel-Wallace test becoming the standard for determining whether or not a single story is feminist (even though it’s pretty clear that misses the broader point) just got bigger and more serious. We got pretty abstract for a bit (“what does a conversation even mean?”), but after a while, we found ourselves talking more and more about the sorts of stories, the sorts of women, that feel totally unrepresented or even alienated by mainstream feminisms.

On a personal level, I was still fuming over a couple of things. The first was that appallingly tone-deaf and privileged Hollywood Feminist response to the Amnesty International recommendation calling for sex work to be decriminalized for the safety of those engaged in sex work. It struck me that a bunch of rich movie stars banding together to curtail the rights of women who make choices they don’t approve of is the worst kind of unthinking armchair feminism, and it fails to recognize the experiences and agency of women outside their shiny, idealized bubble.

The second was that I had just had a massively discouraging and unproductive conversation about disability with one of the Big Names in the field (sorry, I don’t do call-outs). I felt ignored, and dismissed, and that my voice as a woman with spastic cerebral palsy was somehow less relevant to the discussion than that of an able-bodied man who has sold a lot of books because he has a big following. It pissed me off, and I’m usually pretty hard to piss off. So, I guess I was in the mood to get fired up over something, to tackle a big project that addressed some of these issues, and to start fighting back. Rivqa and Djibril must have felt something similar because, by the time the conversation was over, we had planted the seeds for Problem Daughters.

Do you have any plans for how to solicit submissions from particular demographics or on any topics that you feel are underrepresented and might be less well featured in your slushpile?

Good question! The best and most honest answer I can give is that I plan to ask for a lot of help. I’m lucky enough to have shared ToC’s with some of the best intersectional feminist and womanist writers in genre, and I intend to soak up every bit of advice they have to offer. It’s my hope that we have written a very inviting (and enticing) CFS that will encourage new voices, and draw out the kind of diverse glittering narratives that we want. But it’s also my intention to enlist some voices in non-fiction—writers of personal essays, bloggers, poets, and activists—to help us illustrate what kind of book this is. There are quite a few voices in the sex-work community, for example, who have stories to tell, even if they leave the science fiction to someone else (hopefully, you can look forward to reading a few of them right here on the blog!). Beautiful, sensitive, diverse representation in fiction comes from listening to the truths that other people have lived.

Which of your own works do you feel would be the best fit for this anthology?

I suppose you could say “Pirate Songs”? That one’s all about intersectionality, and personal agency, and it’s got a very classic Bildungsroman kind of structure… But I think the real answer is that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from writing something new. The thing I love most about the concept of Problem Daughters is that it immediately fills my head with stories. I’m flooded with the secret worlds of a hundred different heroines, and I want to know them all… the midwife who knows a whole village’s secrets, the matriarch who governs the family business with an iron fist, the shaman with a sickness she can tell no one about. There are entire continents-full of stories that speculative fiction has yet to even touch.

Is there one famous author, a particular favourite, who you dream of including a story by in this anthology?

I’ve shared space with some staggeringly brilliant intersectional feminist writers that I would be elated to receive a story from… Sofia Samatar, Margaret Killjoy, Andi Buchanan, Lisa Bolekaja, Sarah Pinsker, Rachael K. Jones, Tananarive Due, Ellen Kushner. But ultimately, Problem Daughters is about under-served and under-heard voices. I would not want any one voice, no matter how dazzling, to get in the way of that. Finding someone new, someone brilliantly, breathtakingly new, whose voice hasn’t been heard yet, whose story hasn’t been told yet, would excite me more than receiving a story even from my favorite working writer.


img_0151Thank you, Nicolette! Did you know that Nicolette was born with spastic cerebral palsy, which has only made her more awesome? Her fiction has appeared in Long Hidden, Accessing the Future, The Journal of Unlikely Academia, Podcastle, and Angels of the Meanwhile. She regularly writes about disability, feminism, sex- and body-positivity, and how all these fit together. She’s been on the front page of CBS New York, where they called her activism public pornography and suggested her face was a Public Order Crime.

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