We’re about halfway through our fundraising period now (GIANT THANKS to all our lovely backers!), and many people have asked how this project came to be. Today, Alisa is sharing her project creation journey:
We started working on the Kaleidoscope project over a year ago now. I remember driving around on a Saturday afternoon, running my errands and listening to an episode of one of my favourite podcasts – The Outer Alliance. This particular episode was recorded live at WisCon and was a panel Heteronormativity in YA Dystopian Novels featuring Malinda Lo, Neesha Meminger, Katharine Beutner and Julia Rios. The discussion of this panel gave me a bit of a lightbulb moment.
I’d been struggling to read a few YA novels myself around that time – I’d recently finished the Hunger Games trilogy and had gone on to explore a few other books marketed in the same vein but I had been really struggling to finish them, let alone bond with or even like them. I was also reading Russ’ We Who Are About to… at about the same time. And listening to this panel discuss some of the books I was reading, as well as many others, really nailed down my thoughts and feelings on a lot of this recently published YA dystopian fiction. It makes absolutely no logical sense that in a postapocalyptic world, after some catastrophic event that wipes out most of the world’s population and requires a complete social reboot to jumpstart the human race’s viability, that only white, able bodied heteronormative people would survive. Even at the most basic level, what kind of catastrophe could wipe out most people, completely alter the way our reproductive systems work so that only 16 year old girls can have the babies, yet leaves everyone (who is white, straight and able bodied) otherwise completely unchanged? From an evolutionary viewpoint, why would that be the strongest pool of humanity to move forward from? Wouldn’t that leave it completely exposed to the next great catastrophe? With very little variation in the population to be robust enough to survive?
And most disturbingly, what kinds of messages are these books romanticising? How are we empowering young adult readers with books about girls at close to the age of consent being paired up to reproduce, governments choosing and match making teenagers with their marriage partners, placing youth in situations where because there is only one other person (of the opposite sex, of course) their age, they will of course fall in love and get married and make those babies. The obsession with the making of the babies, I think, got to me the most. And to some extent, I understand the appeal of these books to the intended age group, I was a 13 – 15 year old girl once upon a time, after all.
I just … I want more for the young adult reader. I want this reader to be able to see themselves as the protagonist of the stories they read. To find real escapism from reality in their fiction, where they aren’t also excluded or ostracised there too. I want young adults to be inspired, encouraged and captivated to reach for their potential, to be any one they want to be and to feel confident to be who they are and not who or what society says they should be.
And then I remembered that I’m a publisher and that means that I can do something about that. And that by not doing something, I was endorsing the status quo. I’d also been really wanting to work on a project with Julia Rios because I thought that would be fun. I reached out to her, and pitched her the beginning of an idea that evolved into Kaleidoscope. We met up at World Fantasy Con in Toronto and fleshed it out further and began working on this book.
Our main goals are to try as best we can to make this book truly diverse – both in the inclusion of writers and of the stories they tell. It’s important to us that the diverse characters within each story we publish are the heroes of their own journeys and not the support crew, ensemble cast or exoticised other in the background. We want any young adult reader to pick this book up and find a rapport with a character within the pages. And we also want to depict the world as we know it – filled with diversity, and colour and a range of life experiences, that challenge our own view points and perspectives. And most of all, this is a book intended for young adult readers. We want to get this book out and into the hands of as many young adult readers as we can – that’s a final part of this project that extends beyond the funding raising, editing and production stages.
We are edging up on the halfway mark in our fundraising campaign. We have about two weeks left to go, and we hope to have a lot of wonderfully diverse stories to share, but we can’t do that without you! Please back Kaleidoscope on Pozible, and if you want to see this book in the world, tell everyone else to back it, too!