Nisi Shawl’s story collection Filter House co-won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and she coauthored Writing the Other: A Practical Approach. She edited WisCon Chronicles 5: Writing and Racial Identity, and Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars. She also edits reviews for the literary quarterly Cascadia Subduction Zone. In 2014 Shawl co-edited Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices. Her Belgian Congo steampunk novel Everfair is forthcoming from Tor in 2016. She serves on the boards of Clarion West and The Carl Brandon Society. She’s fairly active on Twitter and Facebook, and promises to update her homepage soon.
You can view the table of contents for Stories for Chip here.
Nisi Shawl answered a few of John H. Stevens’ questions about the new anthology.
John H. Stevens: What inspired you to put this tribute volume together?
Nisi Shawl: The anthology Stories for Chip is basically Bill Campbell’s idea. He came to me with it, and I said “Yeah! Great!” I kept saying that through the slush reading and the dog days of the crowdfunding when we would get, like, $25 in donations toward a $10,000 goal, trying to be funny and positive about this wonderful project that I just knew had to happen.
Truly, though, Delany has always been an influence on my style, a star-high benchmark for me, and I’m very glad I got asked to be part of telling him how much I appreciate him.
JHS: What is it about Delany’s writing that is important to you, that you feel needs to be celebrated?
NS: Well, the writing itself is gorgeous, honest, complex, and elegant–it’s one of humanity’s crowning achievements. So yes, let’s celebrate that achievement. Also, let’s celebrate the fact that this beauty was created by a highly marginalized person, in spite of heavy odds against its creation. Delany is a black man, and thus a racial minority; he’s a gay man, and thus a sexual minority; he’s dyslexic, and thus disabled. Yet instead of winding up murdered or in prison or addicted or insane he has made this incredibly moving art for us to experience.
JHS: What do you feel Delany’s greatest contribution has been to the literature of the fantastic?
NS: That’s a tough question. Of his many contributions, how to pick only one? His fiction, maybe–but perhaps that’s too vague. Should I choose a particular novel? A short story? His criticism? His essay on racism in SF, which gave birth to the Carl Brandon Society (an advocacy group for the presence of people of color in the fantastic genres) and through them to literary awards and scholarships?
I complain about your question’s toughness, but I asked it of others when Bill and I put Stories for Chip together. In the book alone there are 33 different answers; add the eight online essays we posted to the Indiegogo site, and the article from Tananarive Due appearing in the July issue of the Cascadia Subduction Zone–a crowdfunder perk–and the number rises to 42.
JHS: What were you looking for in submissions for the volume? Were there particular themes or perspectives you wanted to highlight?
NS: We wanted to reflect Delany’s brilliance. We wanted power and beauty. We wanted to pay homage to his transgressiveness, his political awareness, his connection to physicality and intellect, to diversity of all sorts and intimacy of all measures, to perspectives of haunting grandeur and deliberate mundanity.
Not much else.
JHS: What surprised you the most about the submissions?
NS: In general, what surprised me was their excellence. The call was a public one, but we received very little that couldn’t have been snapped up by almost any professional market.
JHS: In the introduction Kim Stanley Robinson talks about “a kind of joy” in Delany’s writing which he sees in the tribute volume. That struck me, because even in his most intricate, avant-garde writing I find that joy as well. What do you think of this idea?
NS: It’s a very astute observation–exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from Stan. He’s right, and he’s remarking on something I’ve never heard of anyone else noticing. I’m glad you find it true as well.
JHS: What do you hope readers will discover in these tributes?
NS: Perhaps they’ll come across reasons to re-read what they themselves would pick as Delany’s greatest contribution to the literature of the fantastic–or perhaps they’ll branch out and try something different, persuaded by one of Stories for Chip’s contributors that they’ve been missing out on another and even more important part of his still-evolving legacy.
Many of the anthology’s contributors are well-known, highly acclaimed veterans, while others are fresh faces; I hope its readers will find both new favorite authors and unexpected treasures from writers they’re already friendly and familiar with.
And I hope–I hope–Stories for Chip’s readers will discover delight. Ingenuity. Joy.