A diverse issue

Moderately often I find myself drawn into discussions about equality, diversity and representation in genre fiction. The thing trotted out generally in defence of the status quo is ‘the focus should be on quality not equality’. To which my question is continually ‘Why are they seen as mutually exclusive?’

The thing that angers me is the idea that quality and diversity/equality/ representation are mutually exclusive. They are not. No one is robbing an editor of the right to select the best stories by asking them to consider approaching a broader range of writers in the first place.  In fact it’s entirely possible that is a good way to get the best stories. It saddens me that I still find myself drawn into these discussions, because it means they are still occurring with alarming regularity. People are still trying to argue that in publishing and on convention panels you can have quality OR equality. Not true, it’s totally possible to have both. This, my friends is a cake we can all have and eat too!

cake

I believe diversity, equality and representation make for a richer experience in fiction (as in life). All those different perspectives, the breadth of experience, the cultural richness of it can only be a good thing for SFF and Horror. I want more Asian mythology, history and religion in my fantasy and urban fantasy reads. These things are less familiar to me and therefore endlessly fascinating to read, but I’d like more (not all) of those books to be by Asian writers because, well they have a different perspective on it than a white British writer for example.

Also as a friend of mine pointed out (you know who you are), it’s all well and good having more gay and bisexual characters in books but if they are all written by straight people nothing has really changed, that isn’t real representation or diversity and it does nothing for gay or bisexual writers. It’s not a bad thing in itself for straight writers to write gay characters, everyone should write the stories, cultures and characters they want. Writing African protagonists should not be restricted to African writers, nor should gay female writers have to write gay female leads, but those characters AND those writers should be part of big picture.

I want diversity in the books I read. I want characters, settings and cultures of all kinds and I want them written by all kinds of people. I want to see an end to whitewashed covers, I want panel parity to not be needed as a ‘thing’ because it’s so normal for women, writers of colour, people who do not identify to a single binary gender or sexual identity and the rest to be on panels. I want the ‘broads with swords’ and ‘women in horror’ panels to vanish because the women who write horror or epic fantasy are talking about it on the other panels.

So this is my stance folks. Diversity in fiction isn’t a good thing, it’s a great thing! An essential thing! A needful thing! Please Embrace it.

*As an important aside, I entirely accept that it is possible to send out invitations for an anth to a good mix of people and still largely get back stories from white men, it happens and it is entirely unfair to hold the editor accountable for then publishing an all or almost all male, white T.O.C. The simple principle on this is the more diverse your invitation list the better the chance is you will get a diverse T.O.C.*

Some interesting sites and articles although this barely scratches the surface of quality discussion on the matter.

Islam in SF

List – Mindblowing SF by Women and Writers of Colour

Article on Feminist Science Fiction

A couple of posts on whitewashing by InsideaDog and Booksmugglers

LONTAR a journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction

Lizzie Barrett on Panel Parity

 

Leicester workshops

So I will be doing a couple of sessions aimed at unpublished writers, covering some of the basics at the Leicester Phoenix for Creative Leicestershire.

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Creative Leicestershire in partnership with Fox Spirit Books are offering ‘A Quick Guide to Your Publishing Options’ over two twilight sessions in October. These sessions are aimed at unpublished writers who want to explore their options with an introductory overview to the world of publishing. Join us for discussion and workshops and bring a layer of thick skin as you will need to be prepared to give and take some feedback.

Session 1 will focus on choosing your route; self, small or traditional big press publishing and the pros and cons of each. It will also cover contacting, querying and dealing with publishers.

Session 2  will explore having an online presence, managing your online identity and interacting publicly with fans and reviewers.

Both sessions will offer a Q&A opportunity.

Adele Wearing ran a book review site and was involved in literary events for a number of years before starting Fox Spirit Books. As a small publisher she works around her day job with a copy editor and book formatter to produce quality genre fiction and occasional non-fiction. Fox Spirit has been running for just over two years and this year was short listed for Best Small Press and Anthology for Tales of Eve by the British Fantasy Society.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-quick-guide-to-your-publishing-options-part-1-tickets-12579588889

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-quick-guide-to-your-publishing-options-part-2-tickets-12579653081

The sessions are £10 each if you attend only one session or £15 to attend both.  This includes a free glass of wine or juice. Payment via PayPal is to Fox Spirit Books.

Places are limited to 12 per session.

You may be right, I may be crazy

Well if I am quoting Billy Joel on a Friday afternoon and it’s not Piano Man then there is a good chance i’m up to no good.

I’ve been busy lining up new projects and am contemplating other things that have been brought to my attention and when I look at all the thing I need to get done in the next few months I start looking for the men in white coats.

All you need to know right now is we have exciting new things coming up and I will tell you more as soon as I can. As always the approach is ‘give me one good reason why we can’t’ so you can expect that in addition to finally getting Tales of Eve and Fox & Fae out, along with three more fox Pockets there are two or three other projects slated to come out before Christmas.

MOAR COFFEE!

A Foxy Fellow

Growing up the book I read most often, more than my favourite Narnia books (The Magicians Nephew and The Horse and his Boy), more than the Jungle Books whose poems I could recite by heart (and some I still can), more even than the Just So Stories, was Fantastic Mr Fox. It was my quick fix read. Full of cunning and humour and people it was easy to dislike. I grew up on a small holding, we lost our chickens to foxes over a couple of weeks and the whole thing was so messy and upsetting we never replaced them.  Yet this fictional fox was so full of charm and wit and cleverness I was very firmly on his side. I still have my original copy. The cover is missing. It fell off with over use.

As an adult (technically if not always in behaviour) of 35, there are many books I love. Many tales I’ve reread a dozen or more times and every time found something new to surprise and delight me. I still read Fantastic Mr Fox. He is still my favourite literary hero.

The stories in Fox & Fae celebrate the fox for all the wonderful attributes they share with Dahl’s creation. The book also explores the downsides of being beautiful and clever. It also visit the flip side of that, in ‘A Crackling Fart’ for example our foxy fellow’s superiority and cleverness are his downfall as much as his greed. It’s a wonderful collection of stories and I hope someone somewhere will take one of our foxes to their heart as much as I did Fantastic Mr Fox.

Tales of the Fox and Fae will be out this summer in the mean time there are plenty of other Fox Spirit titles out there.

If you check out the rest of the site you will find a small number of foxes caught on camera around the world. Fox photos are by Phil Knott.

Happy Birthday To Us.

Happy Birthday the Fox Spirit Skulk

The process of getting up and running took place over May and June last year with the first book going live on the 4th July 2012, but our first blog post went up on the 2nd June 2012, so we were officially a year old yesterday. You should all get yourselves a cake and pop a candle in it to celebrate. I will be.

I spent the birthday doing the 2012/13 year accounts so I thought today I’d give you all a bit of a round up of the year. Lessons learned and a few highlights from the figures, that sort of thing.

I have learned that things do not go to plan. Even if I control every thing perfectly (which I don’t) then there will still be delays and hiccups and more changes to make.

I’ve learned that no matter how many people go through a document and no matter how many times there will always be one or two errors that sneak in. The largest of which was half the final story in Nun & Dragon being missing when the ebook first went live. If anyone who bought it never got the updated download (Kindle were supposed to make this available automatically) then let me know and I will send it to you btw.

I’ve learned that I will always take a bad review personally, even if I can find nothing of truth or merit in what it says. It is a fact that while I am being all cool and telling my authors to shrug it off, I am taking it out on pads or an opponent later. These books are your babies, but I believe in them and love them like my own.

I’ve learned that there are a huge number of amazingly talented people who are willing to be incredibly generous with their time and talent for whatever the budget will allow, just because they like the project, or the people or just feel like it. I believe very strongly that people should be paid for their work, but I am eternally grateful that people are willing to negotiate to help a start up like this get going.

Fox Spirit wouldn’t be anything but an idea without all the people but time and talent into it, submitting, formatting, creating artwork, editing, reviewing, just talking about our books, and so on. Thank you.

I’ve learned there is a much greater appetite for writing and reading short stories than I had imagined.

There are plenty of other things, but those are always at the top of my list.

Now the years figures.

Well Fox Spirit is running at a significant loss at present. That’s ok, I knew it would in the first year or so. The upside is I shouldn’t have to pay any taxes. Happy Days.

In our first year we published nine books. Two Novels, four novellas, one non fiction and two anthologies. We’ve had one guest editor published and two more in the works.

So far the best sellers have been Weird Noir and Pseudopod, level pegging at the end of the financial year  and both Weird Noir and Pseudopod have had a small number of sales in Euros as well as £ and $. Nun & Dragon sold the most physical copies.

The anthologies and essays are overall moving faster with the novels and novellas going more slowly. I presume this is due to more people being involved in spreading the word. So folks, help spread the word we have starving authors who need your love.  Not to mention starving artists and Editors.

We have had lots of positive reviews and I will update the press page shortly, so if you’ve reviewed something and it’s not up already let me know and I’ll add it. If you’d like to review us also drop me a line on adele@ foxspirit. co.uk

Our second year will be just as busy if not more so. There are three titles waiting in the wings to break into the world any moment a couple of novels committed to, Fox Pockets, more Noir, more Bushy Tales and general mayhem to unleash.

Keep an eye on our submissions page for what we are up to and follow us on twitter @foxspiritbooks or facebook to make sure you don’t miss anything.

 

 

You are a Time Lord

I will be attending the Futura event in Wolverhampton this June and it has got me thinking about reading and the appeal of the speculative fiction to me and obviously others. I came to the conclusion that I am a Time Lord and so are you.

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I have travelled to other worlds, fought a million battles, won and broken a thousand hearts, lived endless lifetimes, changed age, gender, race, religion, sexuality, even species more times than any Time Lord. I have both ridden, fought and been a dragon. I’ve watched worlds created, pass through their evolution and burn out. I’ve mastered the broadsword and the lazer canon. I have matched wits with Moriarty and I have been Nemesis. I have read.  

Every work of fiction is in its essence a portal fantasy. Every book, whatever genre, offers the reader an opportunity to lose themselves utterly in another mind. It’s more obvious is the fantastic genres than in literary, because who really thinks of someone else’s mundane and slightly depressing life as portal to another world. It is exactly that though, simply by merit of not being your life, your thoughts and your actions. All fiction is fantasy to some degree, but not all fiction is the fantastic! Personally I prefer to zap myself into lives I could never really live, something truly beyond what I could expect to experience in my every day.

It’s a choice too, whether to experience a book immersively or as a spectator.  Some people simply read a book and walk away, but I prefer to fall into it, to let my imagination conjure it around me and to be a part of it for a while. I know a lot of passionate readers do the same.  I think it partially explains the hoarding mentality of many book lovers (this one included). All those shelves don’t just hold wonderful stories, they hold open the doors to other worlds. They allow us to travel through time and space. On the outside they are a few inches of paper, on the inside they contain whole worlds and systems we can visit at will. They are, in short, our TARDIS. You don’t need a madman in a blue box, you need books. With books instead of travelling with a Time Lord you become one.

No wonder so many spec fiction fans watch Dr Who when readers are all Time Lords!

Very exciting updates!

The second Bushy Tales Anthology, ‘Tales of the Fox and Fae’ is nearly ready for press. It may be a little later than originally intended but it will be a volume worth waiting for. We have a fantastic line up of stories for you (copy across).

We’ve also made the slightly unusual move of including a comic strip in the book. For those of you viewing digitally, the story ‘Outfoxed’ written by Jasper Bark http://jasperbark.net/comics/,http://www.youtube.com/user/jasperbark , with fantastic artwork by Soussherpa www.soussherpa.com , http://soussherpa.deviantart.com and lettering (and additional formatting) by Bolt-01 http://www.futurequake.co.uk/will be at its best viewed on media such as a tablet rather than phones.

I’m particularly excited to see this story included as it was always the purpose of the Bushy Tales to go a little beyond the expectations of a traditional anthology. In Nun & Dragon we mixed genres and included some illustrations and even recorded a song for the Ballad of Gilrain so to bring the comic book form into the pages is very much in keeping with what these books set out to do.

Kieran Walsh has provided incredible internal illustrations and has outdone himself on his wonderfully creepy imaginings of a world that could hold these tales.

Cover art once again by Vincent Holland-Keen who reports that fur is much harder than scales, but who has delivered another gorgeous cover.

For those of you waiting for ‘Tales of Eve’ our own anthology of weird science for/by women, it is almost ready for release, with some final correction to the book being agreed as I type.

Finally ‘Piracy’ is also well on its way to completion, edits almost done and then it will be off to formatting. Piracy will be released in May.