Saturday, October 26, 2013

Signal Boost: Support Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Fantasy

Those who know me know that I am a big supporter of projects that interest me on Kickstarter/Indie Go Go/what-have-you, especially ones that are working to fill a niche that larger publishers with working budgets aren't able to.

I've found another one that I'd like you to consider supporting, because it's a great idea and as of this writing is falling short of its goal with only four days to go.

The project is called Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Fantasy, and its goal is to create an anthology of YA-themed stories with protagonists who aren't seen with enough frequency in a publishing context. From the project page's description:
Too often popular culture and media defaults to a very narrow cross section of the world's populace. We believe that people of all kinds want to see themselves reflected in stories. We also believe that readers actively enjoy reading stories about people who aren't exactly like them. 
The main characters in Kaleidoscope stories will be part of the QUILTBAG, neuro-diverse, disabled, from non-Western cultures, people of color, or in some other way not the typical straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied characters we see all over the place.
Now that's not unusual as an effort in small publishing. However, if you don't do it right, the results are ham-fisted and don't tell a good story. What I liked about this project's plan--and the reason I chose to back it--was this additional comment:
 That said, these aren't going to be issue stories. The focus here is contemporary fantasy, and while the characters' backgrounds will necessarily affect how they engage with the world, we're not going to have a collection of "Very Special Episode" stories about kids coming to terms with their sexuality/disability/mental illness/cultural identity, etc. We want to see protagonists from all sorts of backgrounds being the heroes of their own journeys.
 That's extremely important. The key to a good story should always be the *story* not "Hey look, my characters are obviously gay!" or "See, I wrote this character as Black. Why are you asking about why she never faces any issues as a result of her race?"

It's a tricky balance, but I trust this one to work because of who is involved in the project. Julia Rios is a fiction editor at the highly regarded Strange Horizons weekly online fiction magazine. Strange Horizons regularly publishes fiction in which the characters fit the quiltbag designation. For example, a few weeks ago, the story was about two gay teens and how one lures in his paramours with a tale of a ghost who watches them make love. This past week's story features a girl who is picked on for being queer, even though she's not--she's just a tomboy. Given Rios' background, I fully trust her to be able to help select the stories that are the best, not just the ones with the best-fitting characters.

In addition, I have great faith in two of the committed contributors, Ken Liu and Vylar Kaftan, to turn in amazing stories to anchor the anthology. Liu's popularity is well-founded, being nominated--and winning--awards left and right this year. Kaftan is not only a great writer, but she's also strongly supportive of the rights of those whose voices often go unheard. They're solid picks for this project.

I am less familiar with the publisher, Twelfth Planet press, but the fact that this project comes from a small press with an extensive back catalog should help ease the worries of those who fear projects that fund but never deliver. It would significantly harm the reputation of Twelfth Planet if this doesn't see print, should it make its goal. They are also paying authors pro rates, which is a sign of professionalism.

Kaleidoscope is a wonderful project that deserves a place on the bookshelf. If you are interested in YA fiction and have $5 (or more) budgeted for a new book, consider putting it towards this one. I really want to see this make it, but it won't if we don't help get it started. Take a moment if you agree and pledge.

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