We sat down with Ada Hoffmann, author of Monsters in My Mind, to talk about speculative fiction, the state of the writing world, and what’s next.
AutPress: Why MONSTERS IN MY MIND? Why speculative fiction generally, and why this collection?
Ada: I grew up around speculative fiction. It’s a childhood love, and one of those things that was always there. Literary realism never felt grounded to me – it felt small, stifled. Consciously cut off from all the realms of imagination that could have been.
I’ve been publishing short speculative fiction and poetry since 2010. Short fiction is a delight to me – I probably read more of it than novels. I’ve also written a lot, and I wanted to make that writing tangible. A physical object that I could hold in my hands and give to people.
I organized MONSTERS IN MY MIND around a loose theme appropriate to NeuroQueer Books – the theme of being different, monstrous, or out of place, and hoping to somehow be accepted that way. I grouped stories and poems so that they moved through different ways of engaging with that theme in a way that felt, in a very abstract sense, like its own story. A few short works I loved didn’t make the cut, not because there was anything wrong with them, but because they didn’t fit into that “story”. Maybe they’ll go into a future book!
As for the title, I don’t remember where I got it, but it happened fairly late in production. I’m not the first person to have used the phrase. If you want to assume cryptamnesia, then it probably comes from the song “Happy Hurts,” by Icon For Hire.
AutPress: What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration? What/Who else do you read or recommend?
Ada: Sometimes ideas just happen. It isn’t glamorous. “You Have to Follow the Rules” was based on a dream that my friend A. Merc Rustad had. “The Chartreuse Monster” came partly from a random number generator. “Centipede Girl” was inspired by an actual centipede that crawled on my keyboard, and “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library” was based on a list of tropes that another friend of mine liked. One of my best ways to generate ideas is by going to a classical music concert, where I’m forced to sit in a chair for two hours, listen to pleasant noises, and let my mind wander. And my go-to method for coming up with more poetry is just to binge-read any poetry at hand until my mind starts automatically arranging its thoughts into verse.
In terms of other authors who inspire me, Catherynne M. Valente’s collection “A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects” was the reason I got serious about poetry. Meda Kahn’s short story “Difference of Opinion” pushed me to be better and braver about autism representation. I would love one day to build worlds like China Miéville, develop characters like Lois McMaster Bujold, dispense careful wisdom like Rose Lemberg, build up a sense of scale like Robert Charles Wilson, quip and twist the plot like Joss Whedon on a good day, and tap into the depths of my id like Tanith Lee. Anybody wanting more of the queer and neurodivergent themes from MONSTERS IN MY MIND should check out A. Merc Rustad and Bogi Takács, among many others.
AutPress: What’s the most unexpected thing that happened while you were working on this collection (or any particular part of it)?
Ada: Once I had all the stories, putting the collection together was pretty straightforward. Though – one unexpected thing that happened while the collection came together was that I landed an agent for a novel I’d written. That was very distracting, in a good way.
[Full Disclosure: The interviewer was a beta reader for this novel, which fully deserves all the love an agent can give it.]
AutPress: Where is spec fic/dark fic/weird fiction headed? What does it need more of?
Ada: I don’t think spec fic will ever go in just one direction. It’s a big tent with a huge number of things going on.
It’s clear, though, that at least some parts of spec fic are moving towards more diversity and better representation. There’s an increased interest in diverse characters, in diverse authors, in concepts like #ownvoices – and also in the range of new ideas, not just writing about themselves, that marginalized authors bring to the table. I’m really enjoying all the recent counter-Lovecraftian fiction, for instance. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Innsmouth Free Press was doing this for years, but now it’s been joined by some higher-profile friends: Ruthanna Emrys’s “Innsmouth Legacy” series and Victor LaValle’s “The Ballad of Black Tom”, to name two.
Of course, this trend comes with pushback; you don’t need me to tell you the story of the Sad Puppies. It would be naive, especially in 2017, to say that things will clearly keep changing for the better. But we’ll see what happens.
AutPress: What are you currently working on, and what’s next?
Ada: Well, my agent is shopping my novel around, and I’m replenishing my store of short fiction and poetry. I’ve written some really daring short pieces that I’m very excited to share when they find a home. Two collaborations that I love are coming out in the next year or so – one with Jacqueline Flay in Persistent Visions, the other with A. Merc Rustad in Lightspeed. I’m also working on a collection of dinosaur poetry called “Million-Year Elegies”. That’s about 75% done, and a few early pieces from that series are already published online, if you want a teaser. Of course, I’m also still working on my PhD research, in which I teach computers to write their own poetry. My biggest challenge is finding time for all these projects and book promo, too!
Autonomous Press is proud to have Dani Alexis Ryskamp aboard as our newest editor and your future curator for Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber. On top of her work in activism an blogging, Dani’s writing includes fiction, research and academic essay writing, and a variety of freelance genres. Joining our press isn’t her first job in the industry, and because of that, her experience will help us bring our mission into focus. For instance, when she says:
Your time, effort, and attention are valuable. When you focus them to produce a piece of writing, that writing has value. When you give that writing away without being compensated for it, you are giving charity. It’s a gift. And like all gifts, you are notobligated to give it.
Naturally, a lot of companies realize that simply asking people to give them charity doesn’t fly. So “write for us for free!” is often (though not always!) masked with other terms, like “on spec” or my personal favorite, “for exposure.”
Which is why we’re also glad that she was able to say this, without even having to prompt us to try it:
Autonomous Press, founded in 2015, has published only one book containing the works of disabled writers who were not paid cash money for their contributions. The writers were, h0wever, compensated with at least one physical printed copy of the book apiece (to my knowledge, The Mighty does not print copies of contributors’ submissions for distribution). Contributors to the press’s second compilation, The Real Experts, were paid with contributor copies and cash; contributors to its third, The Spoon Knife Anthology, will be paid in similar form. Every single-author book Autonomous Press has produced to date is also paying royalties to its respective author.
(Incidentally, AutPress’s payment to me for my own contribution to Spoon Knifeis the most I have ever been paid for a single fiction piece.)
If AutPress can produce physical, printed books with a four-figure startup budget and compensate our contributors, The Mighty has no excuse for running a digital-only realm on a seven-figure startup budget and not paying its writers. And as for “exposure,” a print publication outranks a digital one on a CV every time.
And that’s why we’re also happy to announce one last thing:
There’s a blog network coming. And we’re paying.
Hi everyone, Michael here. As most of you know, I’m the coordinating editor for NeuroQueer Books, which means I manage the calendar and help shepherd our releases through production, making sure we have the art and other resources we need when it comes time to publish. Today, I’m happy to announce that two out of our three March books have their art in place already, so I’m going to show them off for you.
First off, we have my next novel, Imaginary Friends. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, the book follows autistic protagonist Clay Dillon as he begins the second grade and navigates the complex family dynamics that come with both religious education and the coming of a new sibling. Along the way, Clay’s powerful imagination brings his lessons to life. Sometimes this brings him a new understanding that allows him uncommon insight into the people around him. At other times, it produces such overwhelming thoughts that he is unable to do more than cope with the output of his brain as it wrestles withe multiple immediate perceptions.
For the cover, the artist (Chris Henry) chose to craft Van’s helmet. Van is one of Clay’s most immediate imaginary creations, and he played a big role in both this book and my first novel, Nothing is Right. In the background, we can see the skyline of Clay’s LEGO fortress in silhouette, so it doesn’t give up its details. To learn more about the story, feel free to start reading the rough draft as it finishes up on my blog. The chapters will stay up for about a month after the serial concludes, and then the fully edited final cut will be ready for you in March.
March also brings us our first NQ Books collection, The Spoon Knife Anthology. I’m editing this one with N.I. Nicholson of Barking Sycamores, the literary journal for the discussion of neurodivergent literature and craft. Our third release for the NQ Books launch will actually be a Barking Sycamores collection that will bring together many of the writings from the first four issues. That book is set to be a fundraiser for the journal, and we hope it allows us to build a long and fruitful relationship with the outlet while helping the editors gain the funding they need to develop the publication further.
The Spoon Knife Anthology is no fundraiser, though. Instead, it is our first literary collection, and the first paying collection under our anthology funding program. As we’ve explained elsewhere, this program works by paying writers a work-for-hire rate for their work in collections and then setting aside the 15% that would normally be paid in royalties, putting it into a special fund. That fund then becomes the pool of resources for future books, ensuring that each passing anthology helps to make the next one bigger, better, and better paying for our writers.
Our first volume will pay out at 1 cent per word, with a guarantee of a $5.00 minimum for each accepted piece. This was the highest rate allowed by our funding from Typed Words, Loud Voices, and it is a method of payment that makes it easier for us to control the book’s length and guarantee both quality and diversity in the selections.
To the right, you’ll see the art for The Spoon Knife Anthology. While the cover was put together by Chris Henry, the cover artwork was sourced from Selene Depakh, a neurodivergent artist with a longstanding reputation of community involvement and beautiful concepts in stunning execution. The piece we chose to license for the anthology is one in a series of PTSD-inspired creations, and its contorted, cyborged, and blended approach to the concept of mechanizing the self really resonated with both N.I. and myself. We’re happy to be working with Selene and with the rest of the people who are contributing to the anthology, and we will have a roster of contributors ready within a couple of weeks. Thank you! – Michael
Hi everyone, Michael here. You might have seen my job title with the press is listed as being with NeuroQueer Books, and not with Autonomous Press. A few people have asked about it, and it’s time to set a few things straight and clarify how our press works. Autonomous Press is the name of the company, but it’s also the name of one imprint. Sort of like how Marvel Comics has the MCU, and it has its own mission and tone and target audience. Now, we’re also planning on rolling out a few more imprints, and each one will have a different focus and audience. Again, this is like how Marvel Comics has Marvel Max and the Ultimates universe. Each of them is a little different, but their titles all fit together.
This March, the first of our new imprints will be coming. It’s called NeuroQueer Books, and the focus is going to be, as our AutPress website says, “queer issues, queering, sexuality, gender, or critical response to other aspects of identity (such as race, class, disability) as they interact with neurodivergence and psychological development,” but that is a little unclear to anyone in the creative writing community who doesn’t do a lot of theory, and the fact that we are a literary imprint that deals mostly in poetry and fiction can be a little bit new for people who are used to working in theory. So, since we are actively looking at submissions now, I wanted to establish some clearer guidelines for NQ Books, and also to share a few programs with you. Let’s start at the top, with book proposals.
NQ Books Book Submissions
NeuroQueer Books is looking for book-length (50,000+ words) collections of poetry, prose fiction/nonfiction, novels, memoir, graphic novels, photo essay books, and creative-critical scholarly work. Submissions may be multi-genre. Writers need not claim a disabled identity to submit, but they should be writing from the intersection of neurodiversity and queerness, and the work should deal heavily in some kind of exploration of identity. The prompt is broad to be inclusive, so do not be afraid to query with questions. You can contact me through the NQ Books Facebook Page.
Writers are also invited to send shorter collections, novellas, and other work for consideration in the monthly NeuroQueer Horizons series. We are still looking for writers coming from within a neuroqueer identity, and we will consider the same mix of presentation formats that we do for full-length books. NQ Horizons does have a theme, though, and only submissions that fit the theme will be considered.
NQ Horizons Call: NeuroQueer Horizons is a series of ebooks that run between 10,000 and 30,000 words, with some leeway for quality material. We are looking for work in any genre, but prefer poetry and fiction in the science fiction, fantasy, and steampunk genres. The prompt is “What is intelligence? What does it mean to communicate?”
Submissions will not be open for this series until June 2016. NQ Horizons submissions that are made up entirely of work that was previously featured in AutPress anthologies and/or Barking Sycamores will be automatically accepted into the release queue. If a single writer with at least 3 NeuroQueer Horizons releases wants to re-release them as a combined paperback, that proposal will also be automatically accepted.
Spoon Knife Anthology
In addition to being featured with your own release, you can also submit to the annual Spoon Knife Anthology. We are currently working through the first year’s submissions, but we will have a new editor for volume 2 and a new prompt, and that will come out some time in May. For year one, Spoon Knife focused on works invoking compliance, defiance, resistance, and consent.
For those of you waiting on submission acceptance, we are pleased to announce that we have settled on an honorarium, and we will be announcing that payment in a few days, when we unveil the first volume’s cover design.
We’re also planning a few other projects that might have submission opportunities, but these three programs give us a way to provide writers with a paid, feedback-oriented path from a single poem or short story to an eventual paperback collection with little pressure, a flexible pace, and a consistent audience that allows them to develop rapport. We also strongly suggest sending work to Barking Sycamores between anthologies, and submitting revisions there if you receive a rejection with feedback. If it is accepted, then it has a second chance with us in one of your NQ Horizons collections.
NQ Books – Year One
We do have a few empty spots in our calendar, but here’s what the first year of NeuroQueer Books looks like for now. We are considering another book or two that is in the process of acceptance and finalization, and we can consider new books for August until January, and we can consider new books for December until the end of March. Please send us a query or a full manuscript if you have work ready.
- Imaginary Friends, a novel by Michael Scott Monje Jr.
- The Spoon Knife Anthology, poetry & narrative, N.I. Nicholson & Michael Scott Monje, Jr. (eds.)
- Barking Sycamores: Year One, featuring poetry, essays, fiction, and art from the first four issues, N.I. Nicholson (ed.).
- Teaching Languagings | To: Nonverbal Thinkers — The US Book, a poetic aesthetic by Michael Scott Monje, Jr., with a foreword by Andrew Dell’Antonio and an afterword by Dani Alexis Ryskamp.
- Mirror Project, a science fiction novel by Michael Scott Monje, Jr. (2nd edition re-release)
- NeuroQueer Horizons 1: A Waking Narrative by Michael Scott Monje, Jr.
We worked hard to get our first three books to you. We double and triple checked everything and still we made a mistake.
In Typed Words, Loud Voices we correctly listed Daniel McConnell as the author of the article “Autism and Neurodiversity Panel.” But when we created the first page of the article, we said that someone else wrote his article.
We are very sorry for this error. And we thank Charlene Brandi for letting us know of our mistake.
Here is what we are doing to remedy this.
1. We changed the e-books right away. If you have the Typed Words e-book and would like us to send you the correct e-book, please email us at Publicity@autpress.com and we will send it to you.
2. We have changed our master copy with the printers. So all books printed going forward will have Daniel’s name with his article.
3. In each of the Typed Words, Loud Voices that we sell that are not corrected, we are inserting a note on that page listing the correct information.
We are very sorry for our mistake. We thank Daniel for his graciousness.
If anyone else finds any mistakes, please let us know and we will work hard to fix them. Just email us at Publicity@autpress.com
From Michael Scott Monje, Jr. (Autonomous Press) and N.I. Nicholson (Barking Sycamores):
We are happy to announce that we are seeking submissions of poetry, fiction, and memoir for an upcoming collection called The Spoon Knife Anthology. This book will be released as one of the kickoff projects for AutPress’s NeuroQueer Books line, which focuses on neurodivergence and disability as they intersect and interact with queer issues. This includes queering disability and neurodivergence, as well as discussing how it functions or fits with other aspects of a queer identity.
For this inaugural anthology, NeuroQueer Books seeks to feature works that focus on consent and compliance. We are particularly interested in depictions of the ways that expectations for compliance can be frustrated or subverted, including but not limited to work that explores the various ways that neurodivergent and disabled individuals are forced to use misdirection, manipulation, or deception to avoid having their personal autonomy and dignity compromised by social forces that seek to dictate the expression of their identity and/or limit their choices.
In plainer language, we want stories, poems, and memoir pieces that focus on compliance, defiance, resistance, consent, and/or the negotiations that surround these aspects of any relationship. We are especially interested in works that complicate this issue by including other aspects of identity, such as sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnic identity, class, and/or gender.
While we will consider any submissions that are on-topic and we do wish to solicit voices from a broad range of neurodivergent and disabled perspectives, preference will be given to authors who clearly identify as neuroqueer and whose work demonstrates a neuroqueer point-of-view.
Length and Format:
Fiction and Memoir: 10,000 words or less of fully polished prose, submitted in standard manuscript format (title page with contact info, double-spaced Times New Roman 12 point font, pages numbered with either title or author’s name in the header).
Poetry: Up to 5 pieces of any length and style, provided they use the prompt above as a touchstone.
All submissions need to be in a Word-compatible format (.doc, .docx, .odt).
Deadline and Terms:
Submissions are due by Tuesday, September 8, 2015. Authors will be notified of their acceptance or rejection no later than November 15, 2015. Please include a cover letter that makes it clear exactly how you are to be credited—we will reproduce this exactly, including punctuation. We will also need a 3-4 sentence bio for the contributors.
Submission email: email@example.com
Please put “Spoon Knife Anthology” and the genre (poetry, fiction, or memoir) in the subject to help us distinguish between anthology submissions and book proposals. Thank you!
UPDATE: The Spoon Knife Anthology is a funded anthology. This means that we will be paying for accepted submissions, but due to our funding model, we will not be able to announce the exact rate until the final day for submissions, Sept. 8. This is due to the fact that the funding for paying writers is contingent on sales from our current anthology, Typed Words, Loud Voices. You can read more about our anthology funding model here.
Autonomous Press’s debut wave of books is now available for preorder on Amazon.com (and possibly other retailers). We are still working on our on-site cart, but Amazon.com customers can follow the links below to preorder their books for our June 9 release. If you prefer to get the books firsthand, meet an author, or get some great SWAG like AutPress bookmarks, you can also join us at the Society for Disability Studies conference in Atlanta. Click on any of the covers below to go to Amazon’s product listing for the book.