AS: There’s this book called The Future Is Female! More Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women. It’s volume two in an anthology series edited by Lisa Yaszek. In the introduction, Yaszek talks about the role of anthologies during the feminist movement, and how crucial they were both in our society as well as specifically to genre. I’m just curious, Christie, do you feel that anthologies are still as important as they were then? Or have magazines—and perhaps digital magazines in particular—become the place where dramatic cultural arguments and shifts take place?
CY: I cut my teeth on the Sword and Sorceress anthologies of the ’80s and ’90s, which were inherently feminist. I had no idea at the time what it was I was reading, or how significant it was. When I entered the field in the late aughts, anthologies were huge—they reflected the zeitgeist, our social and cultural fears, and were often themed around issues of social justice. I’ve co-edited a few myself. In recent years I think we’ve seen anthologies fill that same role, but the specifics change with the times.
I suspect that it’s easier for discussion to spawn from digital magazines, if only because the content is more often available to everyone, and often for free. A single person can be changed by reading a book; societal change can only occur through discussion.
AS: I feel like digital magazines and anthologies have overlapping but somewhat different audiences. Well, at least, anthologies in bookstores may reach readers who don’t scour the internet looking for awesome reads. And digital magazines may reach readers who don’t lounge in brick-and-mortar bookstores, people who get their news through social media, and stay in touch via email or Slack.
CY: That is so true, and something that I think it’s easy to lose sight of. On the other hand, I have noticed that in the brick-and mortar-bookstores I’ve visited in the past few years there are usually only a handful of anthologies available, most of them not current, and often there are none at all. Personally, I worry that short fiction just isn’t recognized as a serious literary form to the average book buyer, or maybe they don’t find it as satisfying as a long read. The other members of my book club don’t read short fiction at all, and even give novellas the side-eye. And I think a lot of people still think that if it’s not printed on paper, it doesn’t count. But the fact that the field is largely accessible electronically should mean that we have more reach.
AS: But ultimately, there are millions of Americans who actually don’t use the internet. In fact, when the pandemic hit and education in many areas switched to virtual modalities, folks were confronted by the fact that not everyone has regular internet access, and this meant that virtual education wouldn’t work as well for a lot of people, even in urban areas like Oakland.
To me, what “writing” is (or “editing a magazine!”) shifts with relative privilege. Some editors do this for a living, or for other reasons don’t have a day job. You and I both have to work day jobs, so editing is something we do in our spare time: what we can do, what we can give is different from if we didn’t have to work. It’s not just a question of free time, it’s a question of energy, of the fallout of a bad day at work, or the sleepless, stress-filled night followed by having to get up early. If a writer doesn’t have regular internet, this changes the effort it takes for them to participate in the industry; it’s very different from a writer who has high-speed internet and a smart phone with a great plan. Even more so if a writer has to work full-time, or two jobs, or supports dependents. I think privilege actually begins internally, with the idea of who gets to be a writer. That is, who might be able to see themselves as a writer. In other words, the way that identity or circumstances might lead you to think someone like you has the possibility of being a writer—if you come up believing, due to race, gender, finances, global location, or other factors, that being a writer isn’t realistic for you; maybe even that the industry wouldn’t want you.
CY: Both for readers and writers, a person’s circumstances determine how easy or difficult it is to find, create, acquire, submit, or read fiction at any length. It can all be a real drain on a person’s resources. Technology is helping to bridge the gap to some degree—for readers, apps like Hoopla make accessing ebooks and audio books free and easy if you have access to a device that supports it. For writers, electronic submissions opened a world of possibilities (we Olds remember when it cost us $1.60+—about $2.36 today—to send a manuscript through the mail just within the U.S.). There’s more work to do, and it’s going to take imagination and creativity to find solutions. But if there’s anything our community isn’t short of, it’s that!
• • • •
In this issue’s short fiction, Lowry Poletti’s “The Dead Return in Strange Shapes” explores what binds us to the past, and Malda Marlys takes us east of the sun and west of the moon in “A Princess With a Nose Three Ells Long”; in flash fiction, Cynthia Gómez wants us to know that “The Books Would Like a Word,” and in “Secondhand” S.L. Harris revisits a different fairytale adventure from an unusual perspective; for poetry, we have “The Mermaids of Magonia” by Carina Bissett and “Food for Thought” by Lisbeth Coiman. Plus essay “The Societal Cost of Magic” by Moses Ose Utomi, author of The Lies of The Ajungo and “The Mirror Test.” Enjoy!
Spread the word!