Much of the conversation around women, or rather the lack of women in stories and storytelling, centers around having people in place to make it happen. The team at Silence in the Library is choosing to create the reality they want in speculative fiction, and FANgirl Blog is choosing to highlight one of them.
FANgirl Blog: Welcome, Maggie Allen
Maggie: Hi, thanks for having me as a guest! I’m Maggie Allen. I’m a musician, a writer, a science nerd, a costumer – and of course a long-time Star Wars fan. My first real fandom was Star Wars and it was Episode I and my quest for an accurate Jedi costume that got me into costuming – and later led me to start my Star Wars costume website, padawansguide.com. (Funnily enough my website is the reason I met Janine Spendlove, so it’s ultimately the reason there’s a Silence in the Library!). At the peak of my crazy Star Wars costuming, I spent nine months hand-embroidering a Leia Bespin costume!
FGB: Having worked with you on Athena’s Daughters, I have a sense of just how much work goes into these projects. You obviously possess a passion for speculative fiction stories. What were your inspirations?
MA: As someone whose day job is in science, science fiction has always been a huge interest to me. I loved the Heinlein juveniles when I was growing up, but being of their time, they were stories about boys written for boys. I always wanted stories about girls having adventures in space. I read a lot of Diana Wynne Jones growing up – her books are all so creative. As an adult, Lois McMaster Bujold (and in particular her Vorkosigan books) have been a real influence on me. She’s a master at world building and writing amazing characters that are easy to believe are real people. And another more recent hero is Aaron Allston. I didn’t know him well or long, but I was fortunate enough to be able to learn from him. He gave the best writing feedback and in the kindest but most honest way possible – and it was an honor to get a peek at his own process. I truly think he’s one of the most talented writers I’ve ever met.
FGB: What made you strike off as a co-founder of Silence in the Library, which has now launched several successful science fiction fantasy anthologies?
MA: Silence in the Library really came out of discussions that Bryan Young, Janine Spendlove, and I had. Janine and her husband Ron Garner have long run a writers workshop (Aaron was also a part of this). Janine was working on her first series of novels and trying to figure out the best way to put out the book she wanted the way she wanted. The publishing industry has really changed and after talking about it, we thought, why not start our own small press? We can put out the kind of books we want to read, and really make it about the art of making books. We ended up doing Time Traveled Tales (originally an Origins-only anthology), which we expanded on thanks to a successful Kickstarter. And here we are, just a year and a half later, doing our 9th Kickstarter, Athena’s Daughters Volume 2!
FGB: You work at NASA and are a musician and a writer. What do you make of the stereotype that scientific-minded people aren’t creative?
MA: It’s definitely not true. Everyone in my band actually works at NASA – and we’re not the only band at Goddard, the Center we work at. (There’s even a band made up of astronauts, called Max-Q.) Goddard has a photography club, a Music and Drama club, dance clubs, you name it. I know several novelists who work at NASA – my friend Alan Smale being one of them. (He’s got a speculative fiction trilogy coming out from Del Ray and is also one of our Apollo’s Daughters authors.) Many of the science-types I know are hugely creative people. And there’s a lot of creativity and outside-the-box thinking that goes with science also!
FGB: The roster of authors who have worked with Silence of the Library previously is impressive: Aaron Allston, Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn will be notable to readers of this blog. Why is a project like Athena’s Daughters 2, which provides opportunities for new authors to be published, important?
MA: We love having a mix of established authors and new authors. Honestly, the quality of the submissions we received for Athena’s Daughters 2 was so high – it was really difficult narrowing down our choices. We were excited, though, when we realized that we had a lot of new voices in the final mix. To be a part of introducing them to the science fiction community is really cool. For us, I think Silence in the Library is something of a family, and we love adding authors we respect and admire to that family. It’s not just a business, it’s something we really believe in. We really want to create and promote books and stories with protagonists that represent our readers. When I was a teen girl, I wanted stories about me. We realize that everyone wants to see themselves represented – it’s so important that LGBT people and people of color see themselves not only in books, but in science fiction books. There shouldn’t be a standard face for protagonists in speculative fiction, as we say in our mission statement. We strive to include authors with new points of view and diverse protagonists in the books we put out. Which is why we’re excited about the new authors we’ve found. We think readers will be really happy with the stories in Athena’s Daughters 2.
FGB: How does the success of Athena’s Daughters, and now the single-day funding of Athena’s Daughters 2, dispel the notion we’ve seen from the mainstream publishing industry that female-led or female-written stories don’t sell?
MA: I think we saw this in Athena’s Daughters Volume 1, when we topped $44,000. It was the most successful prose anthology ever on Kickstarter. People were coming out the woodwork to fund it – and the authors were so incredible. They all believed in this project because it was such an important one to all of us. It was so rewarding to be a part of. I honestly think the success of Frozen, of The Hunger Games movies and books, shows that entertainment with female main characters has broad appeal and can sell. I have two young nephews who are around 11 and 13 – they play hockey, they are boy’s boys. But I also watched them transfixed by Frozen, a movie they’d even seen before – so you can’t tell me that boys won’t watch a movie with girls in it. And you also won’t convince me that you have to remove Gamora from a shirt, leaving only the male Guardians of the Galaxy, just so boys will wear it. I feel like we’re the ones teaching men and boys that it’s not okay to like things with girls and women in them by doing stuff like this. My nephews apparently don’t know that they’re not supposed to like Frozen because there are girls in it. So let’s keep it that way!
FGB: Thanks, Maggie, for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Where can people find you?
MA: Thanks again for having me! Please do check out the Athena’s Daughters Kickstarter – $7 will get you an eBook and a ton of extras, and we have paperbooks and art prints and other things specially available. It runs until midnight on Thursday, January 15.
Tricia Barr’s novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library’s successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena’s Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
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