To celebrate the official print release of Our Beautiful Reward on March 16th (virtual release party Sunday the 19th, you’re invited!), I asked some of the contributors a few of the questions foremost on my mind. It’s been too long since we’ve run many interviews here, and I’ve missed it; getting to know writers and how they think and feel has been one of the most rewarding aspects of Reckoning for me since the beginning. I hope their answers prove as enlightening to you as they have been to me.
We’re posting one mini-interview a day until the release party (or we run out, whichever comes first.)
Today’s answers come from the prolific Marissa Lingen, whose unflinching and intense litany poem “Exception”closes out Our Beautiful Reward.
Michael: How do the tools of speculative writing help you to think and communicate about what’s being done to personal freedoms around our bodies?
Marissa: Oh Lordy. Speculative fiction writing is one of my favorite tools for thinking and communicating about everything. It’s literally what I’ve trained my brain to do. So for me this is a baseline thing.
I think one of the interesting questions that’s coming up with a lot of issues right now is how to find angles to illuminate them that haven’t been overused already. We’ve had The Handmaid’s Tale for a while, you know? I reread Suzy McKee Charnas’s Walk to the End of the World recently, and it isn’t any less applicable than it was when Suzy wrote it before I was born—it isn’t any less brutal—but I think just the very fact that it is a novel from before I was born means—we already have that one. If that perspective is going to get through to someone, we can hand them Walk to the End of the World, we can hand them all these other classics that have been looking at this topic. And so I think there’s a very interesting challenge, how to get a different angle so that people won’t think, yes, I’ve already heard that argument, it’s already been handled—and pulling in sff genre furniture is an interesting way to go about that.
Michael: What are you reading and thinking about that helps put this issue in perspective for you?
Marissa: I’m a member of more than one disabled writers’ community, and gosh, if there’s anyone who talks about bodily autonomy, it’s us disabled folks. And I think that’s what really tied environmental and reproductive justice for me, moving in those spaces with those people and having those conversations.
I also found Diana Athill’s essay about her miscarriage really interesting on this front.
Michael: Tell us, if you’d like, about something you’re doing, outside of writing, to make the world a less hostile and dystopian place for human beings with bodies to exist in?
Marissa: One of the things my immigrant rights group does is to provide very basic backpacks of toiletries, seasonally appropriate clothing in the person’s correct size, a snack, and book or other bit of entertainment for people who are released from ICE detention and have a bus ride back to their friends and family ahead of them. I think this is the sort of thing we too often take for granted—of course people will have a toothbrush, of course people will have a coat, of course the government of my country would not release someone—someone they have agreed is free to pursue their life in the community—in ill-fitting and seasonally inappropriate clothes. And yet that’s exactly what happens if we don’t do something about it. So we are.
Bodies are inconvenient, messy, smelly, unpredictable. If we watch for the places where people try to deal with that by just skipping it entirely, we’ll see a million cracks in the system that are opportunities to do the work together.
Michael: Thank you very much!