Winnipeg-born author Casey Plett was never a huge sci-fi fan, though she meant to go back and reread all the old Star Wars books after New York publisher Topside Press asked her to co-edit an anthology of speculative fiction by trans authors. Meanwhile Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers, which comes out in early September, is co-edited by poet Cat Fitzpatrick, and features 25 stories from American, European, and Canadian authors.
Plett speaks to Quill & Quire about the project.
How did you get involved with the anthology?
I had published a book of short stories with Topside a few years ago called A Safe Girl to Love. But I do not come out of a speculative-fiction background. I actually protested at first: What do you want me for? But I’m very happy they took me on, it was a very fun project. But Cat, my co-editor, knows everything about sci-fi and fantasy through and through.
Did being an outsider to the genre give you a different perspective?
It’s so hard, because trans writers are just as varied and weird and have their own idiosyncrasies and different backgrounds, just as much as the rest of the population, but we’re still a very small subset of that population. In my experience, being a trans editor who knows and could work with short fiction already is something rare. Maybe it was better that I didn’t come from a spec-fic background and my co-editor did, but I also think that when marginalized writers work with each other, we’re just used to filling in those gaps anyway.
Were you surprised by the number of submissions that you received?
We were shocked in the best way. It was like Christmas when the deadline passed and we looked at how many submissions we had. I don’t have an exact number because a bunch of people submitted multiple stories, but I want to say we had around 300. If you told me five years ago there were 300 trans writers out there who were working on stuff, let alone enough who would submit to this anthology, I would have never believed you. It was humbling to sift through all of those submissions and be trusted with all of that.
Were you struck at all by any consistency or connections in themes?
Completely. It was kind of eerie, actually. There were a lot of apocalypse stories, and we got all of these submissions in 2015 by the way – that has grown only more chilling and relevant in the interim couple of years. Everything in the book was submitted to us before Dec. 1, 2015. We also noticed – both in the stories that appeared in the book and those that we unfortunately rejected – there was a theme about redefining what saving the world looks like. We expected to have epic battles and either evil triumphing over good, or good triumphing over evil, in a cosmic epic fantasy or space opera type of way. And we didn’t get that. Pretty much all the stories are not about saving the galaxy: they are much smaller. They are about finding strength and survival and knowledge in these non-macro ways.
I know you can’t speak for such a large group of writers, but do you get a sense of what attracted contributors to the genre?
When we were starting to solicit stories a few years ago, Cat said in an interview that spec-fic is so much about imagining different worlds. And who needs to imagine different worlds? Well, trans people certainly do. Everyone is drawn to a genre like that for their own fantastical, dreamy, amazing, and lovely reasons. But when trans writers come to the table, we probably have a certain set of concerns that maybe a lot of other folks don’t have when we imagine what a world might look like – or what we are afraid or hope the world might look like.
This interview has been edited and condensed.