Hey, nice to see you again! Welcome back for part 4 of Read the Room: Non-Binary Writers on the Future of Science Fiction, the final part in this installment.
If you’ve just stumbled onto this post and haven’t read parts 1, 2, and 3, what are you waiting for? Fear not getting lost, for here’s where you can find part 1, here’s where you can find part 2, and in here you can read part 3. There, all caught up! Although technically you can continue scrolling down and read each part out of order, I do urge you to explore what our writers have already discussed!
Read the Room is a blog feature focusing on conversations with authors shaping the future of genre, today. A multi-author interview in the style of a chatroom, Read the Room aims to set the stage for some of the most promising, exciting voices currently molding literary genres into the amazing, bright, out-of-the-box stories we know and love to read.
For SciFi Month, we are celebrating non-binary writers who are exploring the worlds of science fiction through their own unique lens!
As mentioned, this multi-author interview is split into 4 parts (for both aesthetic purposes and to pace your reading experience), which are:
Part 4: Craft and Future* YOU ARE HERE
Remember that “best” the other parts are constantly hammering on about? Well, this is it. This is the part we consolidate the word “future” alluded to in the title of this feature. Yet, all the parts that came before were just as intrumental and I loved every second of them.
If you’re one of the authors who participated; my warmest gratitude. It’s been a pleasure connecting with you and your work (I even got schooled on what timeline science fiction is really all about :p) and hearing about your favorite experiences gave me immense joy.
If you’re a reader, I hope you find you’re next go-to author and forge connection of your own. Let’s get to it.
Before that “it” though: I really recommend you read this on a larger screen (tablet or laptop), as the layout might read stranger on phone (columns, right?…you know what I’m talking about…).
Let’s end this with some metaphorical time travel. One can’t discuss the future without first considering the present and past. So, what projects are you currently working on and what’s a favorite project you’ve finished?
Newer work: I have written three new series books since then, all of which are with my agent. The first is a YA fantasy with a nonbinary alchemist and a blacksmith princess, in a world of dangerous and magical fungi. My other two are adult books, one a science fiction story about a pair of sisters on a tidally locked world (one intersex and coming to terms with being nonbinary, though the planet is supposed to be ‘ladies only). And the third is a fluffy, fun fantasy about a thief, a princess, a prophecy, and a dragon.
JT: “Sokal,” the story that is about to be published in Lackington’s, is my sentimental favorite of all the short stories I have written. It was worth the wait to have it published.
Once a decent interval has passed with “Sokal” out there, I will compile a manuscript of my stories published to date and shop the collection around to agents. And I am working on a novel, as mentioned, but it is not science fiction.
I had been working on translating a collection of short stories by the Yiddish writer Der Nister, which fits more within fantasy than science fiction. However my progress on that project has been highly intermittent for a while now. Translation and new writing require similar efforts and energies on my part, and now that I have started the novel I am prioritizing it over Der Nister, for now.
EB: I am currently working on my master’s thesis manuscript that’s not at all science fiction. I write fiction very much in spurts and right now is a fallow period because of a variety of reasons.
When I’m back in the right headspace, I’ll be revising my sapphic space romance novella to get it in shape for submission. It revolves around two women coming to terms with trauma and is incredibly self indulgent to write since it’s basically a lot of tropes I enjoy in fanfiction like bed sharing. It’s very different from my usual work because I started writing it as a happy fluffy story for my friend even though it’s definitely marked by my experiences with mental illness…
My favorite thing I have finished is the story I currently have out on submission which uses a whale autopsy to construct a narrative about transness, family, and community. It’s a very personal piece.
MD: My next one is Ailuros. That’s coming next year from Fractured Mirror Publishing. It was a hard one to write in many ways, because it’s an experimental piece.
Most of the book is written as a mix of prose and audio transcripts, and it plays out as a queer homage to Alien. About a third of the book is written as footnotes though, and these tell a near future story about a world where negative emotions are suppressed via vaccination, with VR sims being used to let them out in a controlled manner. The notes are a Freudian analysis of the Alien-like story, and switches up the character roles in terms of heroes and villains.
Then there are seven hidden passages that alter both endings… honestly, I had a big House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski) influence when it came to planning the layout and I’m super excited to get it out there.
Writing the five books so that each was an enclosed story that still advanced the arc brewing in the background was new territory for me, because I’ve historically tended to just wing it and write individual tales. This took a lot more planning, and let me show off a nice, large cast. Cassie and Lori is probably the most clear romantic arc I’ve written too, and I was really happy with the slow-burn of it over the books.
DD: I’m currently working on a medical horror fiction podcast. It’s a really fun project for me, especially as it stemmed from what was originally a one-off script, but so many people were interested that it inspired me to write more episodes and it has become a season-long project now, rather than just a single one-off episode. I’m also working on a short story that sort of explores surrealism and my own personal experiences, which is very fun. I think my favourite project that I’ve finished is my short story “a ballad to a rose,” which is one of my more personal pieces of writing.
At the moment, I’m translating one of last year’s Hugo winners into German which is fun and exciting.
After that, I will start a new project which is already under contract in a big German publishing house (hurray!) and which is (at the moment) called “Skjaldmær – Schildmaid” (Shield Maiden). It will be a feminist fantasy version of a Nordic saga and my husband and I are calling it lovingly #GirlsWhoViking on social media. We’re very much looking forward to it. Viking stuff is so soaked in ideas of white nationalism and toxic masculinity, it will be a pleasure to shatter that thoroughly and shape a modern progressive inclusive narrative (out of frozen white male tears, muharhar).
ESA: It’s a relief to hear a bunch of you are working on fantasy, too haha. My current WiPs are a gay fantasy romance I’ve had banging around in my head since high school, a trope-y magical girl urban fantasy with Norse mythology elements, and the next book in the Aces High, Jokers Wild series (though that’s mostly in my cowriter’s arena at the moment).
As far as favorite finished projects, I honestly think I have to go with my short story “Astral Heat.” It was the first short I self-published, my first scifi erotica, and I got to make some hidden references to my favorite video game. Because I’m that nerd.
AW: I’m currently working on “HIT IT!” the beginning of a trilogy for Orbit Books. It’s about a nice jazz pianist, his enby glam rock joyfriend, and giant robots in a quest to save the galaxy.
I’m probably proudest of my Salvagers trilogy for Orbit, which just concluded this year. I love all of those characters dearly, and it was so strange to say goodbye to them!
AE: I’ve recently finished a 4-page comic called Forgotten Reality, which was published in the third issue of The 77, which is an anthology. For that same publisher I’m currently close to finishing another four-pager.
I’m also working on a comic run called Valero, which is scheduled to be published in the spring of 2021. The very talented Scotty from 2hotty7art is doing the art for that.
On top of that I have two other comics that I’m working on in between. One of them might get picked up by a publisher, but nothing is certain yet. If it falls through, I’m probably gonna end up publishing it myself. So let’s just say I’m keeping myself busy!
KN: Most of what I’m working on at the moment is fantasy, though I have a couple of sci-fi stories I’m shopping around and hoping will land somewhere. I think my favorite unsold science fiction is the one with space marines where I did a whole pile of research about the culture and ethos of the actual Marines in several nations, so I could get it right. I should find somewhere else to get that rejected, actually.
It being NaNo month I’m banging away on a science fantasy duology that I want to finally get finished using the competition as a useful impetus.
JJ: I’m presently working on the fourth novel in my Starlight Series, entitled ‘Song of the Morning’, and I have several ideas for future novels bouncing around the old noggin.
I’d say my favourite project I’ve finished has to be Sanctuary, my debut novel – it was the work of over 10 years, and the last three of those (2015-2018) were spent on the final draft. It set the groundwork for my entire series!
KW: I am in a brief period of rest, which is both a relief and kinda strange. *laughs*
The final chapter of the Farian War, “Out Past the Stars” will drop February of 2021 to finish up Hail’s stories. It’s a bittersweet feeling to say goodbye to characters you’ve been working on for more than a decade.
I’m also wrapping up the last few pieces on the next NeoG book, “Hold Fast Through the Fire” which will be out in the summer of 2021 and am currently in talks about new stories there.
Meanwhile I’m letting my brain play with an idea for a new space opera that I’m hoping we can convince someone to take on – politics and fashion, friendship and betrayal, and a search for an end to a generational war. I’m very excited about it!
JT: So, now I’m going to gainsay myself. I recently decided that my novel is untenable, and I am getting increasingly disenchanted with my own past short fiction, so I may not actively pursue publication of a collection. I will continue working on my Der Nister translations, and I’m going to start writing some strange prose poetry. I have no idea if the latter will ever be publishable.
Many times, creativity doesn’t satisfy itself with just one outlet. What other crafts besides writing are you into and what works have come out of those interests?
JT: Writing is my domme, but I come when she calls. A more reliable outlet for my creativity, in that I need to engage with it every day, is cooking. The works that have come out of that have been tasty meals for myself and my kids.
DD: I’m also someone who finds an outlet through cooking! It’s just unfortunate for me that my chronic pain and executive dysfunction so often stop me from being able to do it. I love cooking for others most of all. It’s one of the ways I express my love for people!
KN: Whoof. I am a giant katamari ball of half-finished projects. I’m an artist without a studio right now, though I got myself a really splufty drawing tablet as a “yay, we finished my office renovations, I can has office nao” celebration so I’ve been doing a little digital art. Some oil paints, I really want to get my kiln set up so that I can get back to clay. I’ve also done a little Twine-based game programming, used to dabble in Infocom-style text adventures, neither of which have produced finished results. I’m technically doing a game programming EdX course right now for the values of “technically” that mean “I haven’t touched it since August because the world is on fire and I have young kids”.
ESA: I adore “giant katamari ball of half-finished projects.” It’s the perfect term; can I steal it? While fiction writing is and always has been my first love, I also dabble in photography, acrylic painting, poetry, digital art, and the occasional half-assed cosplay. A couple months ago, I tried to teach myself how to draw well enough to make comics and graphic novels on my own, but I got distracted before I could make any real progress.
KN: Absolutely you can steal it, half my dialogue is stolen from someone else anyway. (I can echolalia and so can you.)
AE: I paint things from time to time. Currently I’m mostly painting vinyl records, but I also paint clothes and canvas. Some of those works I put in my Etsy store, others are gifts for friends and family, or for myself. Other than that I sometimes make shitty digital designs. I say shitty because I don’t put much effort in them on purpose. I’m not really an artist, but if I was, my style would be called messy. I just like messy art styles a lot. Last year I drew two messy plants for Christmas cards and they’re called “badly drawn cards” (also on my etsy). I’m surprised people seem to like them!
KW: I haven’t had a lot of free time to do other projects as writing and the day job eat just about all the hours in the day (and sleeping, always sleeping). But I started tending plants a few years ago and my jungle has grown quite a bit. I also dabble in watercolors and am trying to teach myself how to draw in this newly found non-writing time I have.
EB: I’m also a book reviewer so I spend a lot of time reading books. I’m currently trying to put together my big review project for next year which focuses on ecology in SFF.
Outside of writing, I’m also an illustrator who specializes in scientific/botanical and character illustration. I mostly work with art markers, but sometimes work digitally. I’ve had a few people commission me for tattoo designs because of my scientific illustration skills which was really cool.
I am a belly dancer, but I haven’t been active lately because of the pandemic. I’m also really into alternative Japanese fashion, particularly lolita and ouji. I do sew and embroider. Not a creative hobby per say, but I grow carnivorous plants. I’ve gotten my venus fly trap to flower which was pretty cool.
AW: I’m a musician, and I love working with all kinds of instruments, from piano and guitar to samplers and synths. I thoroughly enjoy straddling the old and new, and I’m always trying to pick out the things that hook people in a song.
JV: I love playing and designing RPGs (mostly indie games – I played D&D literally once in my life!) and have a Patreon for monthly mini-games (and short stories). I like designing small games, not only in a fantasy or SF context but also according to the current situation: to help people care for themselves and others during lockdown, for example. I have a (German-language) podcast about feminism in tabletop games.
I also like historical fencing, but it’s a bit on a hold right now – but it’s wiggled its way into many of my works!
MD: Oh, plenty! I cosplay, and love building costumes. That’s included everything from modifying a motorcycle helmet to building an entire fursuit from scratch. I’ve appeared in a few magazines as a result. My proudest moment with that was a picture appearing in the Sonic the Hedgehog comics. I think I was the first to cosplay as one of the new characters, Tangle the Lemur.
I also run a pop culture website, where I cover everything from comics and books to anime and video games. You’ll see spotlights, interviews, reviews, opinion pieces…I even sometimes write about my own personal experiences. That’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve been quoted in advertising a few times, which is nice.
I used to build video games as a teen, and recently started doing that again too. I’ve released a visual novel already, and am currently working on a 2D horror game. Most of my time on it has been spent building an enemy AI based loosely on the xenomorph in Alien Isolation. Like Joseph, I love to cook too. If I can experiment with spices, I’m happy!
JJ: My main craft other than writing is scale modelling. I collect miniatures for the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000, as well as miniatures for D&D and other tabletop games. Building and painting these miniatures is something I really enjoy, and I also create scenery for them too. Aside from the occasional commission, I don’t really do it to make money or create great works – I just do it because I enjoy it.
JS: I’m a sculptor and woodturner, and so I keep myself busy in the shop most days. I dabble in furniture building, and just finished up a new bed for my girlfriend, which was a big hit!
Lastly, what do you see in the future of science fiction?
JS: Fewer angry white dudes! Seriously, SF has changed, even in the last few years. We see the old guard finally stepping down and letting in People of Color, women, queer people, etc., and it’s making the SF world so much more beautiful. I think this trend will continue, and through it, we will start getting truly diverse stories that aren’t just the same old narrative with a new cover, over and over and over again.
Blogger’s log: lmao I love that xD I would buy that “Fewer Angry White Dudes” book
JJ: I’d hope to see a greater number of nonbinary and transgender authors and creators being given the chance to be a part of it. It’s been dominated by white and cisgender people for too long, and it’s such a rich genre for making diverse stories in.
JT: In Anglophone SF, we need more influence of writings that have been translated from other languages.
The recent growth of Chinese SF in translation has been heartening, but it only seems like a lot in comparison to the meager availability of such things in previous years. Compared to the output of Chinese SF authors, or the body of untranslated writing in all the many other languages of the world, it barely scratches the surface.
Incidentally, the languages that I know well enough to translate from are Spanish, German, Yiddish, and Portuguese. (I also have French, Modern Greek, and Modern Hebrew, but I haven’t tested those yet to see if my chops are up to doing decent translations.)
So if anyone knows of an author whom they passionately believe should be translated, and they want to commission something, paying jobs preempt all other projects.
JV: Sometimes I think that, at least in Germany, it’s about survival. We translate a lot of English works, but the sales figures everywhere are dire. Small publishing houses, interested in feminism, in own-voices, in empowerment go bankrupt, bigger publishing houses are getting pessimistic as well.
I have high hopes for science fiction, in Germany as well as everywhere else, but I also see capitalism getting in the way of many art forms. We need to find a solution for that, to decouple creativity from money.
We need to work on that and till then, we have to survive as writers, artists, creators.
MD: For me, I’d like to see more own voices authors making a big impact. There are a lot of us out there, and the majority of us are signed to small presses or self-published, I think. I’d love to see more of us become best sellers, or sell adaption rights. It’d be a wonderful message for others to be able to say ‘hey, they’re like me, and they made it!’ It’s things like that that help break down the barriers we face in getting work out there to a large audience.
KN: I’m with Matt on hoping to see more own voices work, and Joseph about translations, and I’d like to expand that into more variety in forms of narrative. I’ve seen a lot of people comment on how plot structures are very cultural, and I want to learn more about the way plots work in other cultures. I’ve also seen people commenting on how they’d like to see more, for example, cozy-style work, or ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and I’d like to see the market expand for more of those sorts of stories.
ESA: : I’m thirding the own voices and translation comments, but I’d also like to see more ‘soft’ SFF like space operas make a return. Things that don’t rely as heavily on the science side of the things. I feel like there’s been a big swing toward really hard SFF, especially since The Martian, and I’m a reader/writer who just can’t get into the super-intense science side for a variety of reasons. Basically, more character-driven, less universe-ending stakes, I guess.
KW: Like E.S. said I’m pushing for more space opera. More high-flung fantasy but with starships and character-driven stories rather than detailed breakdowns of how ship engines work. I enjoy the science side of it all, but it can be very overwhelming and easily turn into a “let me show you how this works” lecture rather than a story. So I’m looking forward to more own-voice science fiction that shows readers just how fun and interesting and expansive the genre can be.
EB: I’ve touched on this before that we’re currently in a renaissance for queer science fiction so I am going to echo everyone here, Own Voices is going to keep on growing and we are going to have more and more queer science fiction published because it’s doing rather well and more publishing venues are open to it.
I also am seeing a trend of more global science fiction too with translation of works from outside of the english speaking world coming into vogue. Basically more connectivity among the different science fiction communities of the world because of the internet because of the growing interest in translated works.
So yeah that’s pretty much my predictions: more gay stuff, more translated stuff. It’s a win-win for diversifying the pool of works that readers will have access to.
DD: I agree with all of this! We need more diverse voices in all walks of fiction, and that absolutely includes writers of colour, disabled and neurodiverse folks, and people with all sorts of experiences of gender. So often those sorts of stories are completely swept under the rug for others written by cishet white men. It’s about time that other authors had the chance to be in the spotlight and be published by actual publishing companies because we have such interesting stories to tell.
AW: Wow. They took all the good answers. Can I just say that I also want to see movies–big, mainstream blockbusters–featuring ownvoices of all stripes. I think there’s a lot of cinematic success to be found here, and only more to come. Box office audiences don’t realize it yet, but they’re tired of the same story crammed down their throats over and over again.
AE: I agree with the others. We need more inclusion. We need to hear different voices and see different faces. Also I’m having high hopes for self-published work and indie publishers. It would be great if the big names of publishing no longer ruled the game. It’s because of them that we only get to see a select range of work with limited representation (I’m not like, accusing them of anything, just saying what I see).
With things like Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sources we as the reader get to invest in stories we want to read about. That way people get a better chance at having their work published. Or at least that’s what it feels like to me!
And you, reader, what do you see in the future of science fiction?
So ends the fourth and final part of our 4-part interview. My huge, heartfelt thank you to all the writers, and to Ellen B. Wright, who was kind enough to reach out to me and help me connect with authors Alex White and K.B. Wagers for this interview!
Here’s where you can connect with all the writers who joined us for this installment of Read the Room. Stay tuned to their work and support the writers however you can:
They hold a bachelor’s degree in Russian Studies and a second-degree black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu. A native of Colorado, K.B. lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains with their partner and a crew of recalcitrant cats. In between books, they can be found attempting to learn Spanish, dying in video games, dancing to music, and scribbling new ideas in their bullet journal. They are represented by Andrew Zack of The Zack Company.
Matt Doyle (he/him/she/her/they/them) is a pansexual/genderfluid speculative fiction author and pop culture blogger from the UK. Matt specializes in fiction with a sci-fi grounding and diverse characters.
Kiya Nicoll (all, but if specific- they/them/thon) is a writer, poet, and artist living in a New England oak grove with a large pile of family and an atypical variety of animals. Their neurodivergent obsessions include archaeoastronomy, cat fur genetics, the scientific-occult scene of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the mods for Rimworld available on the Steam workshop.
When not wrangling cats and/or children, they write things, including The Traveller’s Guide to the Duat (a humorous version of the Egyptian Book of the Dead) and short stories that have appeared in several anthologies. Their website is kiyanicoll.com and they can be found on Twitter at kiya_nicoll, because naming things is very hard.
Erin Barbeau (ze/zir) works as an entomologist that specializes in museums and butterflies. Since zir childhood, ze has been an avid consumer of speculative fiction. Without science fiction and fantasy, ze would not have been able to come to terms with zir queerness. In zir blog, ze is trying to focus on SFF that features queer, people of color, and own voices content/ narratives.
Zir is also an aspiring SFF writer, artist, and dancer.
J Patrick Jones (they/them) was born in 1994 and resides in Merseyside, in the UK. They identify as agender and prefer they/them pronouns.
They have been writing since early childhood, and other career ideas – archaeologist, pilot, games designer – fell by the wayside over the years, giving way to a career in writing. Sanctuary was self-published in April 2018, and its sequel, Endeavour Part One, followed in January 2019.
Despite being a writer, J. Patrick Jones hates writing about themself in the third person.
E S Argentum (they/them/he/him) writes LGBTQ+ romance, erotica, and fantasy with sweet, realistic relationships. As an LGBTQ+ person themself, they strive to present a mix of realistic relationships with hot sex between a variety of genders, sexual orientations, and relationship dynamics.
Alex White (they/them) was born in Mississippi and has lived most of their life in the American South. Alex is the author of The Salvagers Trilogy, which begins with A BIG SHIP AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE; as well as official novels for Alien (THE COLD FORGE, INTO CHARYBDIS) and Star Trek (DS9 REVENANT). They enjoy music composition, calligraphy and challenging, subversive fiction.
Joseph Tomaras (they/them -preferred-, or he/him) now lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York State. Their stories have appeared most recently in Lackington’s, Salvage Quarterly, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and the late lamented FLAPPERHOUSE.
When not serving as tech support for remote-schooling children or seeking paid employment, they write strange prose poems and work on translations of stories by the Yiddish author Der Nister.
Random mental emissions can be found on Twitter (@epateur), while somewhat more thoughtful contributions can be found on their blog at http://skinseller.blogspot.com/.
Judith Vogt (she/her/they/them) is a German science fiction and fantasy author, currently living in Aachen. Besides novels and short stories, she writes essays (for example for the German TOR website and the science fiction annual “SF Jahr“), tabletop role-playing games, she translates, works as an editor and hosts the first podcast in German language on feminism and RPG (Genderswapped Podcast).
Together with two friends, she publishes a quarterly queer-feminist SFF short story magazine called “Queer*Welten” (queer*worlds). Together with her partner, she won several SFF and RPG awards and publishes monthly short stories and mini RPGs on Patreon (www.patreon.com/dievoegte).
She also published the first German-language essay collection on diversity and representation in role-playing games and does workshops and panels on representation, intersectionality, inclusive worldbuilding and much more.
Dominik Myles Dyer (he/him) is a writer, content creator, and film student at manchester college. He firmly believes in building positive, intersectional representation in all forms of media. He primarily writes horror in both prose and audio formats and loves using fiction as a tool for discovery and exploration.
Dominik posts some of his short stories up on his ko-fi, where they’re up for sale. Any donations are welcomed.
J.S. Fields (them/they/theirs) is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. They enjoy roller derby, woodturning, making chainmail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, and yes, it matters.
Fields has lived in Thailand, Ireland, Canada, USA, and spent extensive time in many more places. Their current research takes them to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest each summer, where they traumatizes students with machetes and tangarana ants while looking for rare pigmenting fungi. They live with their partner and child, and a very fabulous lionhead rabbit named Merlin.