I’m so happy that Jim C. Hines, editor of the anthology, Invisible, was available to be interviewed on Geek Girl In Love. Confession – it took me two days to answer his email because I knew I should answer it in a professional manner but every time I realized that I had an email from Jim C. Hines in my inbox I started doing this:
Jim C. Hines has written some great books (I love Libriomancer and Codex Born) and he’s been a vocal advocate for the rights of women, people of color, and people who identify as LGBTQIA both in and out of the literary world. You can find my post about his calendar here, in which he attempt to strike the poses women strike on book covers. He’s also the editor of Invisible, a collection of essays about representation in science fiction and fantasy. We’ll be having several interviews and guest blogs from contributors to this anthology. Starting us off is an interview from Jim C. Hines himself! My questions are in bold, his responses are in regular text.
How did the idea for Invisible develop? Before you started the anthology, what inspired you to have authors write guest posts about representation in SF/F?
The project started with Alex Dally MacFarlane’s essay “Post-Binary Gender in SF: Introduction” at Tor.com (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/01/post-binary-gender-in-sf-introduction). In her essay, MacFarlane says she wants an end to the default of binary gender in SF. She wasn’t saying every story must now be some sort of “politically correct message” or meet some mythical quota of gender diversity. She asked people to recognize that gender is complex, and to stop automatically and unthinkingly defaulting to that “rigid, unquestioned gender binary.”
You’d think she’d threatened to unleash an army of rabid were-skunks on the world. Her article was attacked as “angsty emo bullshit,” an example of how modern SF/F “has its head stuck up its ass,” and so on. All because someone said she was tired of stories assuming non-binary people didn’t exist. Because she was tired of such people being invisible in fiction.
As you might have guessed, I’m very much in favor of literature that recognizes and acknowledges the diversity of the world, as opposed to presenting an artificially narrow and limited view. I blogged about the response to MacFarlane’s essay, but I wanted to do more. I have a moderately popular blog, and I figured one thing I could do was to use that platform to spotlight other voices. So I asked people to share their personal stories about representation in science fiction and fantasy.
I was blown away by the power and honesty of the stories I received. To anyone who’s ever wondered why representation matters, these stories will answer that question.
The idea to preserve the guest blog posts in a single electronic anthology came along in the midst of the process. The original posts are still available for free on my website, but Invisible adds several bonus essays, raises money for a good cause, and hopefully gives those stories a longer life.
Was there anything that surprised you from the submission? Was there anything you learned?
I was consistently surprised and impressed by the honesty of these authors, and I learned a great deal. Nalini Haynes’ essay about the Evil Albino trope in fiction and the struggles she’s faced as a result of societal attitudes toward her own albinism was eye-opening. Nonny Blackthorne wrote about how finding characters like her in SF/F stories literally saved her life. There’s not a single essay in the book that didn’t make me think about something new or challenge assumptions I didn’t realize I had.
Can you tell us a little bit about Con or Bust and why this organization is important?
Con or Bust (http://con-or-bust.org/) is an organization under the umbrella of the Carl Brandon Society that helps people of color to attend science fiction and fantasy conventions. The stated mission is, “simply to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves.”
Why is their work important? Because so many SF/F conventions are still overwhelmingly white. Because I still have conversations where people try to explain to me, “Oh, black people just don’t read” or “People of color just don’t like or understand science fiction.” Because it’s not enough to say that conventions aren’t consciously and actively refusing to let non-white people attend. Historically, there are many ways we’ve sent a message that certain groups just aren’t welcome at the convention scene. Con or Bust is one of the ways we can actively start to send a different message.
Several people have pointed out that there is more diverse representation in written media than in film. If you could make a movie from any book other than your own, and you knew that you would have total control over the screenplay and casting, what book would you want to adapt, and who would you cast, and why?
That’s a hard question. There are books I’d love to see for the screen, but not all of those are books I’d trust myself to do the best possible job of adapting. Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon would make a great movie. Pretty much anything and everything by Nnedi Okorafor. Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain and sequels. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan books. Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi (though I have no idea how you’d effectively bring baseball bat-wielding kids vs. zombie cows to the big screen).
I don’t think I’d be the best person to adapt any of these books, but I’d love to see the right person try.