The Speculative Poetic Justice Series: An Introduction and FAQ

The second speculative poetry project I’m launching for National Poetry Month here at Freethinking Ahead is the Speculative Poetic Justice Series.

What is Freethinking Ahead’s Speculative Poetic Justice series?

The Speculative Poetic Justice series takes a cue from John Scalzi’s “The Big Idea” and Mary Robinette Kowal’s “My Favorite Bit” and adds a twist. Posts in this series will feature poets on the social justice elements of their work.

The goals here are to:

  • showcase upcoming and available speculative poetry collections,
  • curate a searchable list of speculative poetry collections to highlight authors, and, similarly,
  • create a hub for featuring presses and magazines that feature speculative poetry.

I’m also always on the lookout for poets and editors to interview for Speculative Poets in Conversation, and I anticipate an overlap in these series.

Who Can Participate?

Anyone who has a book-length work that contains speculative poetry (i.e., science fiction, fantasy, slip-stream, horror, weird, etc.) can request to participate. Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Full-length and chapbook-length works that are currently in print or forthcoming in the next three months.
  • Books published by a press not owned or operated by the author. I am not accepting self-published works at present. (If you work for the press that published your book, however, I may make exceptions, depending on the history of the press; just send a quick query to the email address below.)
  • Single-author and multiple-author books as well as anthologies or special theme issues of magazines.

Collections of multiple genres–short stories, poems, essays, etc.–are eligible, as long as the included poems touch on social justice issues.

Please do not send collections that contain graphic and/or needless violence, especially graphic sexual violence, and especially violence against children or animals. I’m not a horror reader for a reason, y’all. The topic is not off the table, of course, since poems that decry war, crimes, etc. are powerful statements against these things. But there’s a vast difference between useful mention of horror and gore for its own sake.

What Do Authors/Editors Need to Submit?

Just send an email to info at tdwalker dot net with the subject Speculative Poetic Justice Series Query: [Title], [Author] and include the following:

  • A brief (250-1000 word) post on the social justice elements of your poems (i.e., How does your poetry address concerns about representation of women? How do the speakers of the poems work against type? Etc.)
  • A brief bio (no more than 150 words)
  • An ARC (ebook in .mobi format or a print copy). If you plan to send a print copy, just let me know in your email. I’ll reply back with a mailing address.
  • An image of the work’s cover.
  • Any social media links and websites for the author/editor and for the press (as applicable).
  • If your book is forthcoming, please include the release date.  If it’s already available, please indicate this.

Please note that submission to this series does not guarantee that your book will be featured on the blog.

When Will the Posts Appear?

Speculative Poetic Justice series posts will appear on all Wednesdays of the month that I have content available, except for the first Wednesday of the month. These Wednesdays are reserved for the monthly Speculative Poets in Conversation posts.

In your email, let me know if you’d like a particular date, and I’ll try to accommodate your request as I can.

Where Do I Get More Information?

Just send me a message at info at tdwalker dot net if you have any questions.

 

Speculative Poets in Conversation: Kristi Carter

The Speculative Poets in Conversation Series features interviews with writers of science fiction and fantasy poetry about how their work addresses social justice issues. For the first post in the series, I spoke with poet Kristi Carter about her 2017 collection Cosmovore, published by Aqueduct Press.

Kristi Carter is the author of Red and Vast (dancing girl press), Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem (Porkbelly Press) and Cosmovore (Aqueduct Press).  Her poems have appeared in publications including So to Speak, poemmemoirstory, CALYX, Hawaii Review, and Nimrod. Her work examines the intersection of gender and intergenerational trauma in 20th Century poetics. She holds a PhD from University of Nebraska Lincoln and an MFA from Oklahoma State University.

Freethinking Ahead: Given that consumption is at the core of the poems in Cosmovore, the book seems to present an argument about the dangers of desire: Cosmovore can have the physical world and incorporate it into herself, but she can’t have her beloved or their child. 

What led you to create the character of Cosmovore, her desires, and the ways in which she attempts to satisfy her hunger(s)? And why address those ideas in poems?

Kristi Carter, Author of Cosmovore

Kristi Carter: Thank you so much for starting with this focus on consumption. As someone who has long lived in blue pockets in red states, I’ve seen the way that women are coded as producers, commodities of making more, and the narrative of that repeated as an end goal has reductive implications for women as complex entities. Why is motherhood still an end-goal held above all others in the stories people are fed over and over?

It’s problematic in and of its own to limit women to be the custodians of other people and not have any alternative for their own lives. Considering all that, I think the real match strike for the flame that is Cosmovore was living in Oklahoma when personhood laws for abortions were coming into reality, with little opposition or variety of conversation regarding them. That said, the fatalism I saw in those who disagreed made me turn to poetry as a venue of agency, a kind of activism and alternative to those political choices about what could potentially be my body, in which I had absolutely no say.

Because poetry boils things down to the most essential elements, there is anger, there is hunger for more, and there is an insatiability that seems to reflect how little there is to really pick from.

FTA: One of the aspects of the collection I most appreciate is that it functions on both the literal, speculative level as Cosmovore’s story and on the metaphorical level as an exploration of a woman who loses so much in spite of trying to take as much as she does from the world.

Do you see the subtext of the collection as a critique of what contemporary society deems acceptable (or necessary) for women to want? If so, does that come out of your areas of research?

KC: Oh very much so! Readers who do not question how women are oppressed have seen Cosmovore as a kind of villain or bizarre character. If the conversation is not already happening in the reader’s own life, there is a disengagement from the poems because Cosmovore intensifies questions that are already a burden for most people who want to challenge patriarchal expectations. On the other hand, people who have survived some kind of violence and/or are just fed up with the lack of agency they have respond to those poems on an intuitive level, which is flattering. It’s a divisive collection, just as the issues within are.

In terms of my research, I think it’s no accident to see the reactions of who responds and how. Intersectionality teaches us no one thing about us makes us experience oppression and that our oppressions might parallel those of others and though we cannot always inhabit those differences, and thus empathize, different kinds of marginalization give us different access to those experiences. So for example, I have witnessed more readers who are men of color or LGBTQ men react positively to the text compared to white men. Women react more strongly overall, either in solidarity or in defense of their own attachments to motherhood, or some mixture. When those women are women of color, they react even more strongly. Obviously it depends on the individual, but these trends echo what we have seen in literature and sociology for some time.

FTA: In the poem “Cosmovore Has Night Demons,” Cosmovore contemplates the city around her–and its drive toward consumption through its “open signs […] burned coffee, stale bagels”–as she moves toward thinking about her lost lover and what seems to be their lost pregnancy. She tells him “You never understood anything about survival. About how I could / still be whole / after we lost what I was carrying.” Cosmovore is still a whole woman in spite of her losses.

Cover Image of Cosmovore by Kristi Carter

How do you view this wholeness–if we can see her as whole–in relation to the threads of horror and the fantastic that run through the collection? How did (or didn’t) your idea of Cosmovore change in the course of writing the poems?

KC: The idea of wholeness is really intriguing because it circles back to that idea of goal-fulfillment that influences cultural values, specifically the idea that women have to reproduce to check off some major box validating their existence. When we prod that patriarchal idea with the question of infertility or pregnancy by rape, confusion and aggression seem to arise. Since horror and other modes of surrealism have historically been used to comment on political issues, we witness hyperbolized, condensed narratives about these issues in those traditions.

The sheer power of Cosmovore makes her whole in one sense, but her strength also makes her intimidating. I think it’s a both/and situation that most of us combat in our day-to-day lives where we are told to pick either/or instead. As Cosmovore progressed I saw how again and again deeply engraved that cycle is in the world around us, which is why she is always searching for a kind of release from those confinements.

FTA: Any exciting recent titles (SF poetry or not) that you could recommend to the Freethinking Ahead readership?

KC: A novel I recently read that has been haunting me is Katherena Vermette’s The Break, a recent title which explores issues in the Métis community of Winnipeg, Canada. Vermette is also a poet which comes through in her glimmering prose. For poetry, I recommend Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Heather Derr-Smith’s Thrust, Chloe N. Clark’s The Science of Unvanishing Objects, and anything from the presses that have taken my work. It’s no surprise they make a commitment to the political urgencies of the work they publish as well as the artistic artistry.

 

 

Monday Miscellany: 26 March 2018

A few links of interest from around the web:

Stay tuned in April when Freethinking Ahead’s own interview series with speculative poets launches on the 4th.  We’ll be talking SF poetry, social justice, and reading recommendations.

On Writing: Drafting, Revising, and the Critique of an Ever-Shifting Present

One of the perils of writing–or, more specifically, revising–the sort of near-future science fiction that I write in the slow manner that I tend to write it is that the issue that sparked the story often changes significantly by the time I get around to polishing up said story.

Stepping back a bit: I’m in the camp that believes that one of the purposes of science fiction (and really, any form of literature) is to critique some element of the present. Yes, these stories should be full of interesting characters having interesting conflicts while doing interesting things. But there should also be something that grounds readers to the present, or something through which they can view that present.

But what happens when that present suddenly and dramatically shifts?

What got me thinking about this is that I recently came back to a story that I drafted in 2014, a near-future SF story about a young new mother whose repressive family twists the circumstances and narrative around her child’s birth. Back in 2014, I wanted to explore the collision between recent research on altering memories and the usual reproductive rights issues that find their way into my fiction.

And then in 2015, we saw a religious backlash in the US to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, a backlash that gave a platform to certain southern judges and county clerks.

And then in 2016, the current US administration was elected, sort of.

And then in 2017, the Texas legislature passed laws that allow child welfare agencies to deny adoptions and discriminate against prospective parents based on the agencies’ “religious freedom.”

And so on.

Which left me wondering, should events in the intervening years affect the story? Or the world-building around it? Given the damage done to reproductive rights in Texas in the last legislative session and the real threats to religious freedoms handed down from the state and federal levels, should I alter the society as I’ve imagined it?

The readers of the story will be inhabitants of 2018 (or 2019 as publishing schedules usually go), so it makes sense for me to address anything that no longer works with current policy and so forth.

But ultimately, the question must be what will make for the best story? If I just want to explore the consequences of a given law, then I should just write an essay or a blog post. If I want to write fiction and affect readers, then any changes have to be in service to that end. The critique has to be secondary.

After all, if no one is moved or intrigued or delighted or enraged by a character, then what’s the point of telling her story?

Ursula K. Le Guin: An Appreciation

Most of the appreciations of Ursula K. Le Guin have focused on her fiction, but the SF master also wrote speculative poems. Like so many in the field, I began writing SF after reading her lyrical, intelligent prose. That lyricism, of course, we also find in the intelligence of her poems.

I’ll admit here that I haven’t read as much of her poetry as I’ve read her prose. That said, one of the most striking speculative poems I’ve read in a while is hers: “Werewomen.” which I encountered in The Moment of Change, edited by Rose Lemberg. (As an aside, the anthology is a solid collection of speculative poetry that I highly recommend. Read a review by Brit Mandelo on tor.com here.)

The poem is a cry of an older woman who, like the younger women and urban women she aligns herself with, implores the reader to “Listen what I need is freedom,” including the freedom to walk alone at night. In an era of #metoo, marches against the current US administration, and other calls to raise our voices, we should keep the last lines of the poem with us:

“All kinds of women
talk about walking alone.
When the moon is full
listen how they howl,
listen how they howl together.”

And so, we keep howling. Howling on placards and protest chants. Howling through calls and letters to our elected officials. Howling through our online posts. Howling through our stories.

From Around the Web: 23 October 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

From Around the Web: 9 October 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

From Around the Web: 3 October 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • A couple podcasts featuring SF authors: Gary Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan interview Nnedi Okorafor on the latest Coode Street Podcast. And Gregory Benford, David Brin, Geoffrey Landis and Larry Niven appear on a recent episode of Planetary Radio.
  • Here’s a poem featured on Rattle by Raye Hendrix, on the “death” of Cassini: “ELEGY FOR A SPACECRAFT
  • And for those of you in the North Texas region: I’ll be reading at this year’s Art & Words show, curated by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.

More Destroying Science Fiction!

The Destroy! series of science fiction anthologies continues, this time from the folks at Uncanny.  From the Kickstarter:

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction will be in the same vein as the previous Destroy special issues (Women Destroy Science Fiction, Queers Destroy Science Fiction, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction), featuring editors, writers (both solicited and unsolicited), and artists with representation from all across the sliding scale of disability.

The project has already funded, which is great to see.  But alas, the “Bespoke Space Unicorn Art of You” reward has already been claimed.

From Around the Web: 3 July 2017

A few links of interest from around the web: