Saturday, September 24, 2011

Steam-Powered II Roundtable! Editor JoSelle Vanderhooft

So! Remember when I said I'd start a series of Steam-Powered II writers answering a set of questions each about their stories? I thought it would be a fine idea to start this off with the fabulous editor herself, JoSelle Vanderhooft, answering a few questions on this series in general:

So tell us about your feelings for this anthology!

This is such a strong and diverse collection of steampunk stories, with tales set in India, Malaysia, Turkey, China, Persia, Africa, and all over the United States. I'm deeply honored to have been able to assemble it.

So why, specifically, lesbians?

The obvious answer is that I’m a bisexual who is oriented almost entirely towards women--a 5 on the Kinsey Scale, if anyone wants me to be more specific. I love writing and reading about lesbian and bisexual women, and this interest informs my editing. But obvious answers are usually boring and not entirely accurate.

Although lesbians, bisexuals, gay men and transgender people are often viewed as one political movement, the letters in the abbreviation LGBT are not equally represented in the U.S.’ political landscape or the global political landscape. This is also true in publishing. Right now, it’s easier than it has been previously to find novels about gay men, thanks to things like the advent of m/m romance—though, of course, the debate about appropriation and misrepresentation of gay men’s lives in this genre has been going on for quite some time. That said, LGBT people are still underrepresented in every area of publishing, and queer people who are not cisgender men especially so. I want there to be more fantasy, science fiction, and horror out there for lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, genderqueer people, and everyone else who fits under the queer umbrella but not neatly into LGBT. A lesbian steampunk anthology is just one way to do this.

What trends have you noticed in steampunk? How has it, or has it not, translated into the submissions for this anthology?

Well, a caveat first: I spend a lot of my time these days writing, reviewing, and editing, and my leisure reading time is not what it used to be even a year ago. So I'm afraid that my answer is not going to be very representative.

That said. A lot of the steampunk I have been reading has been taking a lot of chances with the genre, by blending it with other genres (steampunk and noir seems to be gaining in popularity, and I couldn't be happier with that!), or by being more willing to wrestle with or at least examine steampunk beyond the aesthetic and concerns of upper-class Victorian England. For example, I recently attended Armadillo Con, an excellent annual SF/F convention held in Austin, TX every summer. Here I was fortunate enough to be placed on a panel about steampunk and fashion, where my fellow panelists included another author and three people involved in designing costumes and jewelry. We spent most of our time discussing not how awesome corsets, goggles, and gears are—though make no mistake, they are awesome—but such things as the clothes that lower, working, and middle class Victorians wore, how steampunk costuming has moved towards multiculturalism, and how few design boundaries steampunk actually can have. It was very refreshing and not something I expected to happen.

All of this said, I’m unsure whether Steam-Powered is, at least so far, an accurate scion of steampunk writing in general. I do my best to solicit submissions that involve perspectives that don't get a lot of attention in most areas of publishing—women of color, women living with disabilities, women who don’t come from Christian backgrounds, poor/working class women, trans women (yes, by the way, I do want stories about lesbian trans women, but so far I have not received any!). Consequently, many of the submissions I receive are from writers who are either from these underrepresented parts of the human family, or who are interested in seeing publishing become more diverse. So while the submissions are about what I expect them to be given the guidelines I put out there at this point I don't know how much I'm fitting into a trend or bucking it.

You’ve mentioned before that the Steam-Powered series will be continued for as long as you can manage it. Congratulations on the annual contract from Torquere! Do you feel this series fills in any significant gaps in steampunk, or genre fiction in general?

Why thank you! I’m thrilled that it is a series and look forward to doing many, many more volumes. For the reasons I said above, I hope that it is filling a need for readers and writers who don't often see stories about themselves in print or get to print stories about themselves. I hope I’m doing well in my selection choices on that front. As for whether or not Steam-Powered is filling significant gaps, I think that it is certainly contributing towards doing so, but of course no single book, story, or anthology can really fill a gap. It takes a movement to do that.

What are your hopes for this series?

That it can be part of such a movement consistently! And that the writers who appear between its covers go on to get lots and lots of Year’s Best nominations and reprints. It’s their house ultimately; I just polish the furniture.

You can pre-order your copy of Steam-Powered II directly from JoSelle herself by emailing her. Her official website is here, but you can also find her on Twitter, LiveJournal, or Facebook.

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