To celebrate the Jubilee Issue of The Future Fire magazine, General Editor Djibril al-Ayad agreed to come and answer some of my questions about the work their team of editors and readers does in the speculative market.
PersephoneKnits: Let’s start with an introduction of The Future Fire (TFF) to the readers.
Djibril al-Ayad: The Future Fire is the flagship magazine of Futurefire.net Publishing,
a small nonprofit SF press that focuses on social-political and progressive speculative fiction.
This means we aim to publish work that shows people in other worlds (future, past, fantastic, surreal, weird, whatever…) from the perspective not only of amazing technology, magic, creatures etc., but how these amazing differences affect their lives.
We knew when we started back in 2004 that we wanted political consciousness to be a core, and in particular we were thinking about ecological SF and the kinds of literary radicalism seen in movements such as New Wave SF — the potential of cyberpunk and other corporatist-dystopia to disrupt lazy expectations.
But it was only with time, and with the involvement of a more diverse group of friends and collaborators, that we became aware of the importance of intersectional axes in political art. I realized I could not run a publication like this on my own (not only because of the workload and the isolation—although that too!) but primarily because I don’t have the range of experience, the perspective on privilege, to be able to recognize and judge feminist or postcolonial or disability issues in the fiction we’re selecting, in the way that some of my co-editors do. No one person could, I think.
PK: There’s a shift in the political landscape, not just in the US, but internationally. Behaviors and attitudes banked like hot coals are fanned to flame. You say you always knew you wanted TFF to address political consciousness with a focus on intersectionality — are there favorite creative spaces or bodies of work that empowered you & that you built this idea upon?
DA: When we started we had very little connection with the SF world, so apart from some of the “New Wave” authors doing progressive political things with SF as far back as the 1970s, we didn’t really have any creative spaces we knew about to build on. (In fact we probably thought we were being a lot more original than we were!)
Since then we have benefited from friendship with other editors, authors and critics in the spec-fic world, and publications like Crossed Genres, The Dark, Strange Horizons, Lethe Press, Fox Spirit Books and Capricious magazine stand out as working in the same space that we do, and being collegial and supportive of one another.
PK: I finished reading the Jubilee Issue, and wow! I was particularly impressed with the first two stories, but all of them were intense and intricate in ways I wasn’t expecting. You don’t normally do longer word counts — was the editorial process different for you with this issue?
DA: Thank you! Not particularly different. We didn’t really have a separate call for stories for the Jubilee Issue, although we let people know we were looking for longer pieces than usual, which led to a sudden influx of novelettes in the slush-pile. (That hasn’t entirely stopped, incidentally.) Then we just published the six longest stories out of all those we had accepted in the bumper issue.
I say the process wasn’t really different, but in fact reading all those long stories was really cool—it was a lot of work, but if used well, the novelette format allows you to tell a different kind of story, deeper and more intense than a shorter story, and I think all the pieces we published do that particularly well, in quite different ways.
It’s also worth noting that while we were reading and putting aside longer stories, the usual flow of flash and short length stories didn’t abate at all, so we now have a backlog of accepted stories — enough to fill two normal-length issues of TFF! The next few issues may need to be a bit juicier than usual to compensate, I think…
PK: Ooh! That’s exciting. I can’t wait to see the upcoming issues! Thank you again for letting me pick your brain about what you do and why.
Thanks for reading!