Interview by Stephanie Gunn.
Tsana Dolichva is a Ditmar Award-nominated book blogger who has been reading and enjoying Australian speculative fiction for as long as she can remember. She blogs her book reviews over at the creatively titled Tsana’s Reads and Reviews. Along with Holly Kench, she edited Defying Doomsday, an anthology showing that people with disabilities and chronic illnesses also have stories to tell, even when the world is ending. In her spare time she is an astrophysicist and occasionally helps other writers with physics.
Your most recent work is as one of the editors of the anthology Defying Doomsday, from Twelfth Planet Press. This anthology focuses specifically on characters with disabilities and/or chronic illness and how they would cope/survive in an apocalypse. Are there any specific issues which you saw in submitted stories (or have read in other works) that you feel need to be addressed in terms of how disability and chronic illnesses are dealt with in fiction (and specifically speculative fiction)?
There were a lot of stories that made it into our slush that contained exactly the tropes we were trying to avoid for Defying Doomsday (plus some fresh horrors we hadn’t even thought of). The most commonly occurring ones were the magical disabled person trope and its cousin the disability as superpower trope. We absolutely did not want stories where the characters’ disabilities magically made them immune to the apocalypse or gave them superpowers for overcoming the apocalypse with. Those sorts of stories were not the kind we wanted to showcase because we wanted a strong focus on realistic disability representation, even if the settings were otherwise fantastical. We wanted to show that our disabled and/or chronically ill characters had valid stories to tell even if they didn’t get superpowers as compensation.
The other kind of story we definitely wanted to avoid was the magical cure narrative, but we didn’t get many of those, probably because we explicitly mentioned it in our submission guidelines.
Defying Doomsday was a project which was funded via a Pozible campaign. How was the experience of running the campaign? Do you have any tips for people who are looking to crowdfund their own projects?
The experience was, in a word, stressful. To be fair, this was mainly caused by the general anxiety of waiting for and watching the pledges come in, as well as the business of organising a lot of promo beforehand. Holly and I were lucky to be working with Alisa Krasnostein of Twelfth Planet Press who already had experience with crowdfunding campaigns. So my main piece of advice would be to work with someone who knows what they’re doing. Failing that, do a LOT of research and make sure you think your budget through carefully. For example, if everyone wants reward A, and that’s what gets your campaign funded, will you be able to afford fulfilling it?
My second piece of advice is to learn how to schedule tweets (and blog posts) so you can give yourself a small break during what will be a busy month.
Nothing concrete right now. Life has been a bit full-on this year with finishing my PhD, the launch of Defying Doomsday and moving countries 1.5 times (spending three months in Australia in between counts as a half). Once I get settled into my new home and job, I expect I’ll have a bit more time and brain-space to think about the several short story ideas that have flitted through my mind while I’ve been too busy (or too panicked) to write. Those take top priority, followed by starting to think about other potential anthologies.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
The Lifespan of Starlight and its sequel Split Infinity by Thalia Kalkipsakis. This was a new-to-me author that I tried after the cover of the first book caught my eye in Dymocks (I’m a sucker for good astronomical cover art). It turned out to be an excellent YA series about a dystopian future, and that’s before you bring time travel into the mix.
Going back a bit further, I also loved The Fall of the Dagger by Glenda Larke, the concluding volume of her Forsaken Lands Trilogy. I highly recommend the entire trilogy to anyone who enjoys fantasy, and especially anyone looking for a more unusual setting for their fantasy. (The same can be said for most of Larke’s books, so go read them all!)
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
This is a tricky question. I think I’d rather just have three or four seats to myself and read or try to sleep. No one’s at their best after fourteen hours in a confined space ten kilometres above the ground/ocean.
And then there’s the problem of having learnt a bit too much about some of my favourite deceased writers. For example, I’d theoretically love to meet Isaac Asimov… but probably not in the context of being trapped next to him on a plane, alas.
If I had to pick an author to sit next to on a plane, I think I’d have to choose an author-friend. Either someone I already know in real life, or an Internet acquaintance/friend that seems cool.