My Superpower: Tansy Rayner Roberts

23 Jun

My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Tansy Rayner Roberts.

 

My superpower is making extra work for my publisher.

When your publisher is one of your best friends, and you’re invested in her success almost as much as your own career, it’s a very different relationship than when they are a distant, shiny corporation in a big city somewhere in the world.

I’ve had quite a few publishers over the last 19 years as a professional author, and I am very attached to many of them, but Twelfth Planet Press feels like my baby almost as much as it belongs to its publisher, Alisa Krasnostein. I’ve been there from the beginning; watched her projects and aesthetic evolve. I was there as the idea for ‘hey what about monthly collections by female authors’ developed into a massive, sprawling 4 year project.

I was there when Alisa (who hates unicorn stories) published Horn, one of the most viscerally distressing pieces of Australian SFF of all time.

I was there when an entire print run of one author’s collection had to be reclaimed and replaced because of a printer’s error… and Alisa turned around and donated the boxes of unsellable books to a local arts centre, to be transformed into exquisite paper art for a creative workshop.

I was there when Alisa ran Twelfth Planet Press’s first crowdfunding campaign for Kaleidoscope, which finished up two days before she was scheduled to have her first actual, non-publishing-house baby.

I’m invested, you know? I’m in this.

What this means is that when my authorly mind comes up with inspirational brainwaves about books or the publishing industry, Alisa is usually the one who gets the call. Not that she needs me for that — she has so many wildly ambitious ideas floating around all at once that her friends stage interventions almost as often as they help her stage book launches.

Perhaps Alisa’s greatest publishing achievement, beyond the books themselves (about which I am utterly, totally biased, they’re amazing), is the support crew she has gathered around her: people who lift her up and share part of her vision (no one gets to see all of it, maybe not even Alisa herself). We turn up for events, we check in on general wellbeing and health, we spruik her products, and we watch her grow with pride.

Picking the right people for the job is Alisa’s superpower. But that’s another essay, for another time.

What does a Twelfth Planet Press project look like? It’s hard to define, because each is so different from the last. Alisa embraces projects that involve diversity, challenging ideas, and progressive politics. She draws authors and editors to her who belong in the Twelfth Planet Press world of sharp, incisive genre fiction and brightly-coloured books.

She works hard. She makes great books. She wins awards. She keeps on going. She persists.

No one but Alisa herself knows what a Twelfth Planet Press project looks like, but sometimes we feel it. Tsana Dolichna and Holly Kench had that feeling when they pitched Defying Doomsday to her — an astounding anthology of disabled protagonists surviving the apocalypse because getting through adversity is something they already do every day.

(Defying Doomsday just won two Ditmars at Australia’s National SF Convention, it’s a great book, everyone should read it)

Recently, I came up with a book idea that I loved, and while I kind of wanted to make it, the most important thing was that it get made at all. So I wrote an email to Alisa, along the lines of:

“Hey, I have a pitch for your next anthology, following on from Kaleidoscope and Defying Doomsday. You know how artificial intelligence stories in current SF (especially movies and TV) are all about male robotics experts, or Nice Guys crushing on hot super young lady robots, and how the male actors get to play geniuses and sciencey heroes/villains while the female actors get to play disembodied voices? We should totally make a book of AI stories where women are the ones who build and design the artificial forms of life.”

“And when I say we, I mean you. There are so many great people out there who could edit this project for you. Like Rivqa Rafael — she’s a science editor, and she’d be great for this! I mean, I could do it, but it doesn’t have to be me…”

“Oh,” said Alisa. “It’s gonna be you.”

It’s nearly a year later. Our Kickstarter is live and kicking, 7 days to go. We’re making ourselves a feminist robot anthology. Rivqa and I have bonded for life over a book that you now could not prise out of my cold dead hands. Alisa is running the back end of the project — producing and publishing, while we handle the fundraising and the authors.

So many authors! We have a team of fantastic, innovative SFF writers from around the world lined up to write stories for us:

Jo Anderton, John Chu, Kameron Hurley, Rosaleen Love, Sandra McDonald, Seanan McGuire, E.C. Myers, Justina Robson, Nisi Shawl, Cat Sparks, Bogi Takács & Kaaron Warren

Mother of Invention will also feature an essay about an Indigenous women’s perspective on artificial intelligence by Ambelin Kwaymullina.

There’s going to be an open call for submissions in July, assuming we fund.

We’re totally gonna fund.

It’s exciting and terrifying.

The knitted robots have pockets.

I started us on this journey, but we’re all in this now. The Twelfth Planet Press team has my back, and together we’re going to bring another challenging, ground-breaking, smart genre book into the world.

All we have to do now is reach that all-important $20,000 funding goal.

Wish us luck!

 


Mother of Invention is crowdfunding this month on Kickstarter. Rewards include books, mugs, crafty robot-themed goodies, gourmet jam and tea, tote bags and more. Check it out today, before all the best stuff is gone!

Robot holding a red heart. Isolated

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