“Black Holes” starts with a vividly intimate setting — from the postcards on the walls, to the descriptions of the sheets, to Kant’s belly laugh. What inspired this particular tale?
Those details, and several others in the story, were inspired by life — and one person in particular, a friend who was coming out as trans the same time I was. I knew I wanted to write something about the Large Hadron Collider, this inconceivably huge and important thing that might change the world, and relate it back to these small decisions made by individuals. And I wanted to write about a relationship between two trans people. I started with this image that is very much rooted in my relationship with this friend. I borrowed his postcards and his laugh. Though it diverged from there — Kant is definitely very different from the real-life person.
Joey and Kant are not only likeable characters, they are believable. Their likes, desires, fears, and transitions: In many ways, they speak of what it means to be queer. What of your own experiences as a queer writer went into writing this story?
A lot came from my own experience. The setting, western Massachusetts, is where I found a lot of important connections to other queer and trans people myself. Not all of it is lifted straight from life, but as the character of Kant grew out of my friend, Joey grew out of myself. Ze is anxious and overwhelmed in a way that I felt in my early twenties when I was figuring myself out. Like me at that time, and I think like a lot of people, Joey tries and fails to find zerself in another person.
The voices of the differing POVs are distinct, lending to the character portrayals. Do you like to take chances with your writing, using different voices, exploring challenging subjects?
I always want to figure out what voice or format works best for the story and try out different things, but I don’t think of myself as particularly experimental. I also don’t think of myself as liking to explore challenging subjects per say, but I do think that I — and a lot of queer and trans writers — end up doing so because complexity or struggle is the truth of our experience.
QDSF strives to encourage the voices of QUILTBAG writers and their exploration of diversity in genre fiction. What do you see as some of the obstacles queer writers face when it comes to presenting their works to the world?
I struggle with this “hand-holding” issue a lot in writing trans characters: How much knowledge can I assume that my audience has? Do I need to explain this or that about trans people, or can I let the reader figure it out on their own? And of course, these questions assume that the reader isn’t trans. You want to write for your own community, but when you’re trying to get published, there’s a fear that a straight or cisgender editor is not going to “get it” even if the work is good. I think there are probably still a lot of QUILTBAG writers who aren’t writing or aren’t showing their work to anyone because they don’t see a place for their stories. But there’s certainly people trying to change that — there’s projects like Queers Destroy Science Fiction! and the Beyond anthology of queer SF comics launched by Sfé R. Monster and Taneka Stotts. There are books like Imogen Binnie’s Nevada and Casey Plett’s A Safe Girl to Love, which are literature by trans women for an audience of trans women, and they’re incredible. I’m hopeful that it’s getting better.
What’s next for RJ Edwards? What do eager readers have to look forward to?
I can’t speak to anything forthcoming immediately, but I have a lot in the works — more short speculative fiction looking for a home and a young adult novel about a fluffy romance between two girls at a rock camp. More trans characters, always. And having just finished library school this spring, hopefully I’ll have much more time to devote to writing!
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