Stephanie Lai is a writer, publicist, and left-handed archer; she is occasionally paid to train people in surviving our oncoming dystopic climate change future. She writes about identities, queerness, and steampunk. Tweet her at @yiduiqie. Check her out on stephanielai.net and no-award.net
As the Chair of Continuum 9, it seemed that you had a real focus on not only ensuring diversity and accessibility, but seeing issues of social justice addressed and discussed. Two years on, what do you see as the legacy of that approach? How do you think it was received by con goers?
I think it was received very well! One con later, we had some nice feedback at C10 on some of the continuing themes, some really engaged and engaging GoHs, and some great responses. And I’m gonna be programming for C11, so I’m looking forward to continuing my agenda for addressing these issues. I especially love- and note I do not take responsibility for any of these things – that Ambelin and Jim, Continuum 10’s guests, so strongly addressed diversity, social justice, and shitty history in their speeches and appearances. On a personal appearance level, I enjoyed the support I received when I took people to task for being clueless, offensive, or just plain racist. And I love that I feel like that would continue, even without me around.
One of your current projects is the excellent No Award blog, which you run with Liz Barr. What was the impetus in starting the blog, and what is your mission?
No Award was actually an extension of my secret agenda for Continuum 9. Liz and I found, whilst running a panel on social justice 101, that people were asking for Australian SFF social justice resources and we were really having to direct them to USA ones. So we decided to start our own. The focus of No Award is not solely on SFF, but as SFF fans (and with Liz and I being past and future Continuum Chairs) SFF features frequently. No Award’s mission is to look at media with a critical, and particularly Australian-hyphenate, eye.
Other than your blog, are you currently working on any other projects?
So many! Later this year I’m involved in Chinese Whispers, a play/installation piece that will be premièring at this year’s Melbourne Fringe, looking at identity and racism through the lens of the race riots in Jakarta in 1998. I’m about to finalise a piece I’ve written for a Dr Who Companions antho, and I also have an exciting series in the works for No Award, looking at climate change dystopias.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
Actually the piece I’ve probably enjoyed the most isn’t sff – its YA crime, by an old friend, Ellie Marney. And its set around inner north Melbourne, which was nice.
Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
I’ve become very focused on short pieces of late, especially non-fiction, in large part because of the faster turnarounds than short fiction and long fiction. And, unexpectedly, I really love it! I have a piece in the most recent The Lifted Brow (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: feminist ghosts and female monsters of Asia), 8500 words that I wrote in 2 days because it was all I could think about, and I’m really excited to keep reading and writing in that direction.