Anthology editors usually come into their projects with a firm idea of what the anthology should be — that’s how they sell the project to a publisher (or on a Kickstarter). But as Alisa Krasnostein learned as she co-edited the Kaleidoscope anthology with Julia Rios, just because you know what you want your anthology to be about, doesn’t mean you always know how the process of building the anthology will work on your point of view.
One of the most fun aspects for me about publishing is going into a project with one perspective and coming out the other side seeing the world completely differently. It can happen through the process of working with a particular writer or in working to make a project like a themed anthology.
The original idea for Kaleidoscope came to me whilst listening to Julia Rios on a episode of The Outer Alliance Podcast about the lack of QUILTBAG characters in YA dystopian novels. The idea that only straight white people would survive an apocalypse angered me. As did thinking about young adult readers with only a few stories that really spoke to them, that reflected who they were, that told their coming of age stories.
I approached Julia about producing a dystopic fiction themed anthology filled with QUILTBAG protagonists. We developed the idea to expand to include a wider variety of diverse protagonists and to include contemporary fantasy as well. We wanted this book to be specifically for young adults reading science fiction and fantasy and looking for heroes that reflected them — we wanted diverse protagonists triumphant in their stories. A book filled with all kinds of people so that everyone might find a story within to relate to.
What I didn’t really expect was quite how much the process of editing Kaleidoscope would affect me as an editor. I don’t relate to the often default characters in science fiction. I’ve spent a long time as an editor looking for and publishing material that specifically advocates for writers and characters outside that “norm”. But I still found this project confronting in terms of what true diversity actually entails; in that not all stories are for me and not all stories will connect with me in ways that they will for others. This really challenged me in assessing what is a “good story”. Working with Julia, who has a different perspective to the world to me in some ways, made the whole process fascinating, engaging and dynamic. We had many discussions about what diversity means, about how stories can still be good even if they don’t reflect your personal coming of age story.
Even now, months after we finished selecting the stories for this collection, I’m still really thinking about what is an important and meaningful story, who decides that and for whom, and what are universal ideas and messages. And why must an idea be universal at all?
We wanted to produce a book that would reach out to readers and explore diversity as beautiful and powerful. We wanted to offer a counter-narrative to a pattern we saw in contemporary young adult fiction where often only straight white characters get to have adventures.
I’m very proud of the book we have produced. This is a collection of stories for young adults about young adult journeys — be they straight, queer, of colour or disabled. Everybody gets to be the hero of their own story. In Kaleidoscope I encountered time traveling ice skaters and disabled superheroes, love spells and fate deals, transgender animal shifters and autistic animal whisperers, urban legends and the myth of true love. All of the stories are wonderful, and each one has shifted my perspective in some way.