My Favorite Bit: Julia Rios talks about KALEIDOSCOPE

My Favorite Bit iconJulia Rios is joining us today with her new anthology, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Sicence Fiction and Fantasy Stories. Here’s the publisher’s description.

What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgender animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories!

Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices:

Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar

What’s Julia’s favorite bit?

KaleidoscopeCover

JULIA RIOS

Asking an editor to choose a favorite story from an anthology is sort of like asking parents to choose favorite children. They’re all brilliant, and brilliantly diverse, so comparing them to each other isn’t really fair. Given that, I had to go to a more meta level to find my Favorite Bit.

One of the joys of seeing how this book came together was discovering all the different forms a story might take. In addition to the expected straight up narratives, Kaleidoscope stories come in the shape of diaries (“Vanilla” by Dirk Flinthart), transcripts of police reports and phone calls (“The Lovely Duckling” by Tim Susman), and my personal favorite non-standard format: the research paper homework assignment.

Photo of Sofia Samatar’s story in Kaleidoscope Transcript: Walkdog / Sofia Samatar 1. Brief Description What is Walkdog? Well Mrs. Patterson you probably know better than me. However, I am writing this paper and not you, because I need the grade as you know very well, so here is what I know.  Walkdog contrary to it’s name is not a dog. It is more like a beaver or large rat. It lives mostly in sewers, but also creeks and rivers. It is nocturnel and believed to eat fish and also, excuse me, excrament.

Photo of Sofia Samatar’s story in Kaleidoscope Transcript: Walkdog / Sofia Samatar 1. Brief Description What is Walkdog? Well Mrs. Patterson you probably know better than me. However, I am writing this paper and not you, because I need the grade as you know very well, so here is what I know. Walkdog contrary to it’s name is not a dog. It is more like a beaver or large rat. It lives mostly in sewers, but also creeks and rivers. It is nocturnel and believed to eat fish and also, excuse me, excrament.

When Sofia Samatar turned in a paper by a student named Yolanda (complete with section headings, footnotes, and copious misspellings), I instantly fell in love. I thought, “Yes! This is a person who remembers being in school, being clever and lonely, and using homework as a dialogue with the teacher.” I was such a student, and I couldn’t help being drawn in by Yolanda’s voice because it felt so true. It turns out this is probably because Sofia was a bit like Yolanda and me when she was younger. Here’s a note she sent her teacher to excuse her paper’s tardiness back in her own school days:

Photo of a handwritten note from Sofia Samater to one of her teachers Transcript: MR. DIETZEL: As you no doubt expected, this paper comes with a written statement to excuse the heinous tardiness. My excuse is the fact that I change my topic in the middle of writing another (much, much worse) paper because I did not have enough to say on the subject to get the required number of words. This caused considerable and frantic plunging into literary sources to find another topic, and by the time I got it written and proofread by a peer, it was today. Also, over the weekend and on Monday, I was deathly ill. Please understand. Your Student, Sofia Samatar— No better at getting things done early than yourself. (teacher’s note in response)What can I say? ?

Photo of a handwritten note from Sofia Samater to one of her teachers
Transcript: MR. DIETZEL:
As you no doubt expected, this paper comes with a written statement to excuse the heinous tardiness. My excuse is the fact that I change my topic in the middle of writing another (much, much worse) paper because I did not have enough to say on the subject to get the required number of words. This caused considerable and frantic plunging into literary sources to find another topic, and by the time I got it written and proofread by a peer, it was today. Also, over the weekend and on Monday, I was deathly ill. Please understand.
Your Student,
Sofia Samatar—
No better at getting things done early than yourself.
(teacher’s note in response)What can I say? ?

Yolanda is not quite as clever and polished as young Sofia was. She makes a lot of grammatical and spelling errors, and she slips into personal stuff a lot more often than a student writing a research paper should. But there’s a kind of magic to this story because it makes the reader really believe in that research paper. This is something we found evident when we got our proofreader’s notes.

Our proofreader was wonderful. She caught all kinds of mistakes that slipped past both the authors and the editors. I feel just a little bit bad about not having thought to warn her in advance about what exactly she was going to see when she proofed Sofia’s story, though.

You see,our proofreader is a teacher.

Her notes on this story started by pointing out all the incorrect apostrophes and misspelled words, while noting that she thought this might be intentional. Somewhere along the way, though, she started looking at the story as a paper, and looking at it through a teacher’s grading lens. I don’t think Yolanda would have gotten a very good grade.

Screenshot of proofreader’s comment Transcript: Comment [36]: this footnote seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the ‘assignment’ – even with the ‘padding’ which constitutes the major part of it.

Screenshot of proofreader’s comment
Transcript: Comment [36]: this footnote seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the ‘assignment’ – even with the ‘padding’ which constitutes the major part of it.

While many of the stories in Kaleidoscope are likely to be crowd pleasers, I think “Walkdog” might be one of the more divisive ones in the anthology. People are likely to love it or hate. I fall on the love side of the divide because beyond the clever formatting is a funny, sweet, and heartbreaking story. But in addition to all of that, I will forever cherish the bits of ephemera associated with it.

LINKS:

The book on the publisher’s website: http://www.twelfthplanetpress.com/products/ebooks/kaleidoscope

The Kaleidoscope blog: http://kaleidoscope.twelfthplanetpress.com/

BIO:

Julia Rios is a Hugo nominated fiction editor at the online magazine, Strange Horizons. She’s also the co-editor with Alisa Krasnostein of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and with Saira Ali of In Other Words, an anthology of poems and flash fiction by writers of color. When not editing, she writes, podcasts, and occasionally narrates audio stories and poems. She’s half-Mexican, but her (fairly dreadful) French is better than her Spanish.

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2 Responses

  1. Asakiyume

    What excellent supporting materials! This was my favorite story in the anthology (though I loved lots of them **very much**)–I’m definitely on the Strong Love side of the divide. Sofia’s letter to her teacher is excellent, and as a copy editor, I also love seeing your copy editor’s note 😀

    Congratulations on putting together a really winning anthology!

  2. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin)

    This has been an interesting “sausage making” My favorite bit.

    Thanks, Julia!

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