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Ignyte Interview Series 2021: Anathema: Spec from the Margins

The Ignyte Community Award celebrates the Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre. Nominated in this year’s Ignytes, Anathema: Spec from the Margins  has been publishing speculative fiction from queer writers of color, giving a space to voices so often drowned out in the mainstream  and is an essential member of the speculative community. We are delighted to have them as a finalist for the award and have interviewed a portion of the team about their work.

When did Anathema get started and why did it start?

Andrew Wilmot: Far as I can recall, it started over a lunchtime gathering of minds. I forget how we got on the topic of it—most likely due to the emergence of the Sad Puppies and wanting to vent about that—but we started playing with the idea of getting into publishing itself as a way to platform the types of authors and stories we ourselves wanted to see. But, you know, the logistics of starting your own publishing house are a bit on the daunting side, so we decided to start small with the core of what we really wanted to see more of: voices desperate for better representation in an industry that likes to trot them out for “special” event publications or to highlight those very few who manage to hit it big/break through to the mainstream (however you define that). And yes, some of it was definitely in response to old straight/cis white male authors losing their damn minds that women, queer people, and people of colour happened to be winning awards and succeeding in general. So, I guess you could say that a not-small part of Anathema’s genesis comes from wanting community to actually mean community—as a whole and not merely those who’ve been let in by the gatekeepers.

What do you enjoy the most about publishing short fiction and poetry?

AW: Personally, it’s seeing/reading something I never would have imagined. Also, getting the chance to be introduced to new writers—that sense of discovery is incredible. There’s joy, too, in seeing reviews and responses after an issue goes live. Probably my favourite thing, though, is getting reprint or translation requests—in general, seeing authors we’ve published, whether we were their first publication or their tenth, going on to something greater. It’s one of the reasons we’re not especially touchy about simultaneous submissions and the like—because such a thing forces our writers to wait on us, for the mere possibility of being published by us, rather than succeeding wherever and however they can. And what we want more than anything is for our authors, prospective or returning, to succeed and rise as much as possible. And we’re as happy to see them in the pages of our magazine as we are kicking ass somewhere else.

(I will refrain from going on my usual anti-no-simultaneous-submissions screed, but in general I think it’s a practice that harms writers and puts the needs of the publication first, and I will never be a fan of that. But to each their own.)

What impact are you striving to have on the SFF community? 

AW: Just to be a decent platform that strives to do what’s best for our community of writers and readers. And to perhaps show people involved in spec that community is malleable and what you make of it. I’ve personally never felt remotely at home in any spec or horror communities, and have had to figure out how to define that term for myself. My hope is that Anathema can be a safe harbour for someone in a similar vein.

Where do you hope the magazine will go in the next few years? 

AW: Wherever it needs to, really. Looking out into the distance, I’d like to at some point see a changing of the guards. We’re deeply proud of what we’ve built with Anathema, but at the same time a magazine only remains relevant to its audience by being willing to look inward and see what parts need changing out. We don’t ever want to become stale, and in truth I’d love the publication to one day be run by people who more clearly see themselves reflected within our (digital) pages, so I guess I hope to see new blood and brains taking over someday, hopefully before we’ve grown too jaded or exhausted with life and the industry. 😉

Where do you hope the speculative fiction community is headed in the next several years?

AW: To a place that’s less shitty and restrictive. To a place that better understands that diversity and inclusion are not pies—that the straight white cis dude who repeatedly submits to us thinking he will somehow slip by our mandate, or the queer white person who thinks they “count” as BIPOC because their partner is and makes them delicious culture-specific food are not losing ground just because the playing field has grown. That there is space enough for them, for us, and for the people we publish.

Sorry, that was a smorgasbord of metaphors. But yeah, just into a better, less gatekeepy place. One that spends less time holding up the classics just because they are considered canon while those propping them up spend half their time either washing over, justifying, or outright ignoring the ways in which their sacred creators are truly terrible people (looking at you, Lovecraft stans).

What does it mean to your team to be nominated for this award? 

AW: It means a great deal, personally. Especially coming from FIYAH and this community. It means we’re doing something right. It also means we have plenty more to do—to ensure we live up to this nomination and don’t rest on our laurels.

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