There's less than 48 hours to go in Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad's IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for their anthology project titled Accessing the Future. I did an interview with them back at the beginning of the campaign. Today I'm reposting it, hoping to shed some light on this ambitious project.

Lesley Conner: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how the idea of Accessing the Future came about? What do you envision when you think of the final product?

Kathryn Allan: I’m an academic copyeditor and dissertation coach by day, and an independent scholar of science fiction and disability studies… also by day. I’ve wanted to edit an anthology of disability-themed SF ever since I completed my PhD (in English Lit—I studied feminist post-cyberpunk and the vulnerable body) back in 2010. I really want to see more SF stories that address disability or include people with disabilities in realistic, three-dimensional ways. As I became part of the SFF community, I met Djibril through a #feministSF chat on Twitter and I think we quickly identified each other as like-minded. After being involved with The Future Fire (as a Reader and Associate Editor) and knowing their excellent track record with Outlaw Bodies and We See a Different Frontier, I knew I wanted to pitch my anthology idea to Djibril.

Djibril al-Ayad: I’ve been editing The Future Fire magazine of social-political SF for nearly ten years, and recently co-edited two anthologies of intersectional (feminist, queer, postcolonial, etc.) short stories, as Kathryn mentioned. I see Accessing the Future as a continuation of the themes that we, as a small press, are interested in, and as part of our ongoing conversation with underrepresented voices and social-political themes.

LC: In one sense, an anthology of disability-themed speculative fiction seems to have a very broad theme. There are many types of disabilities, those that are physical, mental, and emotional, and they can take many forms. At the same time it is an intensely personal subject. How do you plan to approach the subject matter? Do you have any fears or hesitations about broaching the subject?

KA: In our pitch, we write that: “Disability is a social construct, and all bodies do not fit into or navigate the material environment in the same way(s). Personal and institutional bias against disability marginalizes and makes ‘deviant’ people with certain differences, but it doesn't have to be that way.” We intentionally leave the category of disability broad so that we can engage with the many complex ways society creates disability (through medical practices, laws, language, social customs, etc.). Disability is an intensely personal subject matter (which I know from experience) but it’s also a cultural one and people need to know how to talk about it, and not just at the level of the individual. For example, “lame” is a word that people use without thinking about its ableist connotations—some people might just think, “oh, it’s just a word. I didn’t mean anything by it” but the truth is that pejorative slang words for people with disabilities have a long history of standing in for negative acts and opinions. One disparaging word replaces another when it goes out of vogue or awareness of its harm is successfully raised, but the root of the problem–the prejudice against people with disabilities—remains. I have no fear in calling this stuff out when I encounter it, and I want Accessing the Future to be one part of the larger on-going conversation about disability.

As is the case with other identifications, the people who are most uncomfortable talking about disability tend to be those with little experience with it. This needs to change. We need to openly discuss disability and create stories that reflect people with disabilities as they are (and not as “problems” to be “cured,” as “inspirations” for the able-bodied to patronize, or one of the many other negative and harmful stereotypes attached to disability identity). People with disabilities make up an incredibly diverse community, and there needs to be a plurality of voices speaking about or, in this case, writing about our collective human future.

LC: You’re going to open submissions to Accessing the Future at the end of your fundraising campaign. For writers who are considering submitting, is there anything in particular that you’re going to be looking for? Anything you don’t want to see? Any suggestions of what writers should be considering before they start to write?

DaA: We would suggest authors keep in mind that most of the stories we’ve published in the previous anthologies and the magazine in recent years, have (1) been informed by deep and sympathetic understanding of the themes and issues, and (2) not been one-issue stories. We’ve found that the authors who are sensitive to gender and sexuality themes, for example, have also inevitably and gracefully addressed race, class, disability, and a whole range of other axes of privilege in the process. So we don’t want to see stories that feature “cures” for disability, or “magical people with disabilities” who have special powers to compensate for their “handicap,” or who are “inspirational” by their fortitude and strong will in adversity. And we certainly don’t want to see stories that get all of the disability and mental health politics right but then are misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic or heteronormative, or fall into any other discriminatory portrayal or assumptions.

Obviously, we want stories that are good science fiction, that tell a cracking story, are well-written, and neither shoe-horn plot around a disability issue nor drop a tokenistic character into a cookie-cutter scenario. Think about the world in which your story will be set: to what extent does society’s attitude toward disability condition the difficulties faced by disabled people? What other vectors of prejudice, oppression, and marginalization do people in this world encounter, and how do they intersect with the privileges of ableism? For example: Who has access to technological resources and wealth? How does gender impact disability? How does one’s job status inform their identity and social position? We want writers to tell an engaging, rounded story. Make it as beautiful as it is meaningful; confound the reader’s commodified expectations of how science fiction addresses disability.

LC: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell us about Accessing the Future?

DaA: Only that we’re super excited about this anthology, and we’re blown away by the amount of support we’ve already received. Our ultimate goal is to raise at least $7000, so please keep spreading the word about Accessing the Future and contribute to our Indiegogo campaign.

 


Since this interview originally ran, the project has raised more than their goal of $7000. They have a few hours left to raise even more money to make Accessing the Future the best it can possibly be.

Check out their IndieGogo page for more information or to donate.