I’m going to talk about publishing–specifically, my publisher, Sparkler Monthly. But first, I’m going to talk about apologies.
The word sorry leaves my mouth a lot. And yet, never often enough. Sometimes, it’s fear that stops me. Or ego. Usually ego, especially because the fear is often there because my ego is a coward (clarification: I am). But I try to keep my ego in tight-check, so I’m usually able to get the apology out. Sorry.
I’ve also had apologies made to me, and in both instances (as the giver and receiver of remorse), apologies can be genuine or they can clog themselves with inaction. Because apologies are half-assed when all you do is say sorry. You can look at me all frowny and penitent, with contrition bleeding sweet as liquified lollipops from your eyesockets, but if action doesn’t accompany your words, sorry sounds like an insult. Same goes for me: if I ever apologize and neglect to follow up, I am (again) sorry, I have failed and you now have permission to stuff my socks full of meal worms and snap my drum sticks and poke holes in my rain pants. I will be better. Do better.
This framework of inaction = questionable sincerity, and action = sincerity that might actually mean something can be applied elsewhere, too. For my purposes, I’m using it to talk about writing and publishing—specifically, women and diversity in writing and publishing. Other people have discussed it (eg: Malinda Lo, Kameron Hurley, and nattosoup), with more eloquence and intelligence than I will, but this is an important conversation. And a conversation is only a conversation if there’s some conversing occurring.
A piece of the dialogue: you can talk all you want about diversity in publishing and narratives, but true support is action. I can say I support diverse authors all I want, but if I go out and spend all my (paltry) allotment for book purchases on Scott Lynch and George RR Martin, then I have failed. I mean, I fucking love Scott Lynch (GRRM I enjoy, but not to the same extent), but I love Aliette de Bodard and Ann Leckie just as much, so wouldn’t it make just a little sense for me to swipe my card just as often (if not more) for them?
I’m not saying don’t ever give a straight white cis male your money ever again, the end. I’m saying that if you believe in something, act on it. Give women your money, prove we have value, that we sell. Which, yeah, is objectifying as hel and a really terrible way to frame this, BUT. In many ways, this is how worth is established. With money. You want more diverse writers, stories, characters, settings? Buy it ALL. Everything you claim keeps you grinning and thrilling and screaming in biblioporno bliss? Let it feed upon the belly of your bank account. (This is, also and by the way, a reminder to myself.)
As I said earlier, I’m just pissing at the mouth, basically regurgitating what my betters have said, so here’s my personal spin on it:
I have a serialized novel running in Sparkler Monthly. (It’s called Skyglass, and is about sex, cyber- elves, rock ‘n’ roll, and murderous firecats). Sparkler Monthly is a multimedia publisher of comics, prose and audio dramas written from the female gaze, with diverse, ensnaring casts: people of color, a wide breadth of sexualities, fluid genders. This is quirky and not normal, because what is normal, what is expected, is the male gaze, is lack of diversity, and to have someone out there giving us great stories that aren’t cemented into that default? It’s vital.
But Sparkler is only just entering their second year and if they want to see a third year (and beyond), they need the support of everyone who says they support this kind of thing. (That’s you, by the way.) To keep stable, they need 2000 subscribers. Right now they have 142. They’re still small, and relatively unknown, but they deserve to be known. Their stories deserve to be read, and listened to. They deserve, and need, your support.
I admit: I have a stake in this. Multiple stakes, actually:
- Sparkler Monthly gives me money, because I give them words. It’s a good arrangement, and worthwhile for us both, I like to think.
- They publish really addictive stories, really important stories because they feature strong, diverse, female characters (and male characters, as well as those who don’t strictly adhere to that binary). And let me be clear: when I say strong I don’t intend ‘strong’ to only mean brawny-but-still-beautiful, kick-ass women. When I say strong, I mean nuanced, and potent. And deep. Women who get to be full characters. Which leads me to my last stake (and look! I could almost raise a tent with all these stakes…)
- Me. The third stake is me, because I’m female, and I get to see myself in the stories they publish. I’m not wallpaper, or a bed-prop, or a convenient orifice. I am a necessary, narrative creature with lungs and teeth and heart and spine, and I want more. So much more.
I know I’m not the only who wants all this. I know I’m not the only one who wants to do something. So consider a membership to Sparkler Monthly. Read up on their membership drive, and all of its excellent tiers. If you’re lacking funds, try their sampler issue, which is free to download. Also, their submissions are currently open, so if you’re looking to get published (or if you’re a voice actor), go send them something. (Something good, preferably.)
There’s continuing the conversation–and then there’s engaging and leveling it up. Make art that matters, art that syncs with this necessary diversity, and keep talking. Do everything you can, keep on and keep on, and the storyworld will grow close and colossal.