Tuesday, 14 March 2017


Say what you will
When you live from weekend to weekend
or from holiday to holiday
for the sake of survival, for the sake of pleasing the unpleasable
Then let me tell you,
this is not a life you should be proud of
You have thrown your dreams into the gutter
Where is the pride in that?

I feel like the nail they constantly praise
That nail stuck in the wall everyone is seeking
The nail that found its place among the other rusty ones
In a wall, weathered by storms, missing bricks here and there
The paint cracking open almost everywhere
But I have found my place, they say
Therefore, "shut up and be happy".
Stick to the dying wall
and shut it.

Thus, I have ceased to speak.
I have, altogether, ceased to exist.
My desk, once drowning in drawings and poetry
now lays barren
like a pest-ridden town
with lesson plans of lessons
that no one gives a shit about.

I have ceased to speak.
They have told me this is the best place to be.
They have insisted that this is a dream come true.
They have warned me not to complain any more.

And so, I sit in silence, under starless skies
I stare at the yellow hills. They stare back, wordlessly. Mercilessly. Pitilessly.
The wind howls and grains of dirt blur my vision.
They howl and their words poison my heart.

"I am happy." Sisyphus says as his life's work is undone, day by day.
"I will escape." Icarus said as his wings caught fire.
"I shall have what is mine." Tantalus says as everything he reaches out for eludes him.

(c) Jo In Hyuk

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Reclaiming mirrors and voices: An interview with Nicolette Barischoff, co-editor of the intersectional feminist SF anthology "Problem Daughters"

This week I had the honor to interview Nicolette Barischoff, writer and activist. She is one of the co-editors of the upcoming anthology Problem Daughters that will be published by  FutureFire.net publishing. Problem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. It will be an anthology of beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, focusing on the lives and experiences of marginalized women, such as those who are of color, QUILTBAG, disabled, sex workers, and all intersections of these. 

For more information, I provided some links below. But first, who is Nicolette Barischoff? Let's get to know her!

Nicolette Barischoff was born with spastic cerebral palsy, which has only made her more awesome. Her fiction has appeared in Long Hidden, Accessing the Future, The Journal of Unlikely Academia, Podcastle, and Angels of the Meanwhile. She regularly writes about disability, feminism, sex- and body-positivity, and how all these fit together. She’s been on the front page of CBS New York, where they called her activism public pornography and suggested her face was a Public Order Crime.

"But that’s what real agency, real freedom, is. It's making the choices you feel are best, and living in full knowledge of the consequences. The true test of those who count themselves as allies of female agency is how they react when that agency is used to make choices they don’t agree with."

How did the idea for this anthology first invade your mind?

Nicolette: "For me, the inception of this book was an intersection of three things:

The first was a twitter conversation I’d had with Rivqa and Djibril about what makes a story “Feminist.” What metrics are we actually using when we assess a story’s value as a feminist work? How many valuable, beautiful kinds of narrative are we leaving out of the feminist conversation just because they don’t look like the feminist narratives we are used to seeing? This led us to discuss definitions of feminism generally. We think we know what Feminism looks like, but what presuppositions and cultural biases is that definition based on? Are we to believe that any woman who does not share the Western values of fierce individualism and self-actualization is not Feminist, or that her experiences have no place in the feminist world?
At the time of this conversation, I was still fuming over the appalling way that Hollywood’s most prominent actresses (avowed feminists, all) reacted to Amnesty international’s recommendation that sex work be decriminalized, for the safety of the women who practice. It galled me that so many privileged, influential feminists could so publically oppose the safety and personal agency of a group of women whose lives they know nothing about, who have faced dangers and challenges they will never have to face. It struck me that these women have their own feminist stories to tell that anyone has yet to really listen to.
The other thing I was kind of turning over in my mind at the time was a very unproductive  and disheartening Twitter chat with an able-bodied male author who’d recently made a bit of press writing about disability. I found myself in the weird position of trying to join in on a conversation about disability in literature, comprised almost entirely of able-bodied writers, and being completely ignored. I’m used to being talked over and cut off in live conversation (people usually do it without even realizing they’ve done it, even people who know me well and value what I have to say) so I don’t think it even occurred to me to feel angry about it until someone who’d been a part of the conversation DM’d me a week later to tell me how upset she was about the dismissive way I’d been treated.
And that made me think. How many women have a story like this? How often are women made the objects of conversation, rather than participants in it? Talked about rather than talked to? How often do we allow ourselves to become the Mcguffin in a story, in a conversation, that turns out to not really be about us at all? I’m an opinionated person, with a very strong sense of my own voice, and I allowed myself to be objectified, in the true sense of the word, without even really batting an eye. Is this a problem of not enough Own Voices, not enough women used to telling their own stories?
 And well… it’s not a big leap from there to an anthology like Problem Daughters."              

 Illustration of "Dare", The Future Fire no. 26 (© 2013 Eric Asaris)

What inspired this very intriguing title?

Nicolette: "Part of it comes from the idea that feminism as a reality is messy and complicated. A temptation that many mainstream feminist movements fall to is treating all women everywhere as a single, unified group who all share the same experiences, and make the same demands out of life. Women are tired of this. Women want to be treated this way. All women have felt this, don’t you see? Because these movements depend on uniformity for impact, it’s important to them that “all women” be united under a single set of concerns. 

But the feminisms that currently dominate our understanding of the word “feminism” were created in a specific kind of environment, by women at a very specific intersection of class and race (Typically white, typically Western, and typically middle-class). Most women in the world have other concerns entirely than shattering the glass ceiling at work, or overturning outdated expectations in the home. And the reality is that, while all feminist movements theoretically seek to promote female agency, not every woman in every community chooses to express her agency in the same way. Some expressions of agency might frustrate or horrify dominant models of feminism. They might not fit everybody’s idea of what a freethinking woman “ought” to do with her freedom. They’re problematic. Nobody wants to admit they’re there. But that’s what real agency, real freedom, is. It's making the choices you feel are best, and living in full knowledge of the consequences. The true test of those who count themselves as allies of female agency is how they react when that agency is used to make choices they don’t agree with.
The other thing I wanted to get at with this title is the incredible weight of being assigned the gender of female at birth, of having expectations of what you are and what you’re to become placed upon you so early in your existence. Many of us are not very old, not very old at all, before we start to feel the hammer of those expectations, and wonder if we’re failing to live up to them. How many times as seven and eight- year-olds did we sit by ourselves in some secret spot and think: “Am I a bad girl?”         
Part of this anthology is dedicated to those seven and eight-year-olds, the ones seen as Daughters, even Problem Daughters, before they are seen as people."

How is the fundraising campaign going? Please tell us more about it and how people can help in its success.

Nicolette: "As of right now, paying our authors at pro rates, we have raised enough for a small booklet of stories, about the size of a largish issue of a magazine. We do not intend to stop there! We want to include as many different voices as we can. We want many more stories, poems, essays, internal art, and maybe, just maybe, a few comics! We intend to make a book as big and bright and shining, as weird and complex and cool as the issues discussed in it deserve. If we don’t quite achieve that, my feeling, my hope, is that we’ll still come away with something awesome.  

What we really need now is for people to spread the word, especially now that we are open for fiction and poetry subs. Share, like, favorite, tweet, facebook, blog. Talk about it in your own words. Tell people we are searching for stories just like theirs. We want womanist writers, trans writers, writers from non-Western societies, disabled writers, queer writers, writers of color. We want this book to be a challenge, an answer, to the feminist narratives we’re used to hearing. We don’t want this to be a comfortable book. We want it to be a gripping one. We want contributors who don’t mind telling us what a feminist story looks like.
Also, if you’re a writer who occupies one or more of these intersections, and you’d like a platform in which to discuss an upcoming project, or any points you feel are neglected by mainstream feminisms, or anything at all, we’d love to interview you. Feel free to get in touch with me, my co-editor Rivqa Rafael, or our publisher Djibril al-Ayad."          

 "It would be years before I discovered I wasn’t the only woman who felt that way. I would come to learn that you don’t have to have a disabled body for your bodily autonomy to be called into question."

What triggered your involvement in the causes treated in this anthology (mainly Intersectional feminism, minorities and LGBTQIA+ rights) ?

Nicolette: "Like many people, my involvement in these things was spurred by personal experiences. For me, issues of agency and autonomy and personhood have always hit very close to home. As a disabled person, I often find that able-bodied people have a difficult time respecting my freedom of choice, even when they theoretically set out to do just that. Perhaps because disabled people have historically been treated as special wards of society, whether technically wards of the state or not. People who begin with an earnest desire to support and amplify my independence can become suddenly officious or controlling (often taking steps to have my legal autonomy questioned) the minute my agency takes a form they don’t like, or can’t recognize. Every disabled person has terrible stories of when they’ve made personal choices that the able-bodied people around them found inconvenient, or disturbing or strange, and their autonomy was overridden without much of a thought, sometimes to suit the preferences of a complete stranger. As a female disabled person, I have at least twice as many stories like that.

Growing up adjacent to the Southern Californian “third-wave” feminist movements of my culture, I never really felt included in the conversation, perhaps because I knew that as soon as the conversation came around to any expression of my autonomy my feminist colleagues found distasteful, that it would morph into a discussion about my “safety” or my “well-being” and whether or not the decisions I was making were “healthy,” and any concern for my personal choices would vanish. It would be years before I discovered I wasn’t the only woman who felt that way. I would come to learn that you don’t have to have a disabled body for your bodily autonomy to be called into question. You need only to be expressing your agency in a way that the specific feminisms of your culture do not recognize as acceptable.
In the end, it was the internet and social media that did it. Coming in contact with some of the women who feel alienated and ignored by the feminist movements in my culture--sex workers, trans women, religious women, women of color, body-positive activists and artists, women from non-Western societies--is what led me to seek a more thoughtful, less rigid, less culture-specific way of looking at feminism."       

Who are your favourite writers, actors or artists active in these causes or who inspired you greatly?

Nicolette: "Well, there of course the writers whose female protagonists challenged my conception of what “Feminist heroine” could be-Sofia Samatar, Ellen Kushner, Cat Valente, Delia Sherman, Aliette de Bodard, Nnedi Okorafor, Amal el-Mohtar, and so many more...but I think the ones who inspire me to action (and for me, action usually means writing) are all the women I have met over the years who taught me everything I know about being your own kind of feminist, and making your own valued place in the world. I’m talking about all the aunts and second mothers and grandmothers and sisters who around me all along, and the sex workers and healers and caregivers and soldiers I have met out in the world. These are the women I write stories for. These women are the reason for this book."

When asked about her favourite quote:

"My favorite quote concerning representation, and why I think books like Problem Daughters need to exist, is from Junot Diaz:

'You guys know about vampires? You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There's this idea that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror.  And what I've always thought isn't that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. It's that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn't see myself reflected at all. I was like, "Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don't exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.' "

You can contribute to the success of this anthology by liking, sharing and spreading the news. Contributions to help finance this project are also extremely appreciated and wonderful rewards await contributors on the fundraiser site.

Problem Daughters IndieGogo Fundraiser

Call For Submissions

Future Fire Publishing