Queerness Without Question: Sfe Monster Brings the ‘Beyond’ Anthology to Kickstarter [Back Pages]
Created by comics writer and editor Sfé Monster, Beyond is a planned collection of all-ages stories across all kinds of different genres, tones, and styles featuring contributions from at least 26 writers and artists. The book heads into fantasy and sci-fi in ways you don't often get to see in comics --- and also features a brilliantly-realized central conceit; all of the stories are about reflecting and celebrating diverse presentations of gender and sexuality, and presenting queer characters in a positive light.
Sfé and assistant editor Taneka Stotts are now running a Kickstarter, to make the anthology a reality, and has already easily exceeded its initial target of $22000! We spoke to Sfé to find out more about the project, and where it might go from here.
Comics Alliance: What’s the basic premise of Beyond?
Sfé Monster: Beyond is a queer sci-fi and fantasy comic anthology. Featuring 18 stories full of swashbuckling space pirates, dragon slayers, death-defying astronauts, and monster royalty, written and drawn by 26 incredible contributors, the anthology celebrates and showcases unquestionably queer characters as they ricochet around my two favourite genres of sci-fi and fantasy, exploring the galaxy, mixing magic, having renegade adventures, and saving the day.
CA: How long have you wanted to get this up and running as a project?
SM: The anthology was actually inspired by an idle tweet I made back in 2013. I was joking that I wanted to be part of a comic anthology with a queer sci-fi/fantasy focus and that somebody should make that. That off-the-cuff comment got a lot of positive response, and a lot of people whose work I respect and admire said they’d like to be involved, so the anthology sort of grew up --- pretty much overnight --- around that.
I’ve been making it my main mission to create positive, open, and unabashedly queer stories for years, though, so while Beyond came up sort of quickly and unexpectedly, these are the sort of ideas I’ve been nurturing for a very long time.
CA: What was it about this project which made you want to bring the anthology together?
SM: I’m constantly frustrated by the lack of positive, openly queer representation in media. So often queer identities are marginalized, or reduced to a token --- or even worse: suggested token --- role, or ignored completely. It boggles my mind that in the genres of sci-fi and fantasy, where intergalactic space travel and magical adventures with dragons are accepted without question, that the majority of stories still focus on overwhelmingly straight, cisgender characters.
I wanted to create something that showed queerness without question, where nobody would have to second-guess or read for queer hints between the lines, and the characters involved would get to have high-stakes adventures and magical journeys, without fear that they would stumble into a lack of acceptance, rampant phobias and intolerance, or be reduced to a villain or a cautionary tale because of their queerness.
CA: How did you find people to join you for Beyond? Who'll be part of the project?
SM: Beyond features an amazing lineup of contributors, including Blue Delliquanti (O Human Star), Dylan Edwards (Transposes), A. Stiffler & K. Copeland (Find Chaos and Lesbians 101), Ted Closson, Niki Smith (Some Did Rest), Reed Black (What a Queer Family), and Taneka Stotts --- who, along with contributing a comic, is my incredible assistant editor.
When I first started brainstorming Beyond I reached out and contacted a few of my friends and fellow comic creators whose work I admire and look up to and asked them if they might want to be involved in the anthology. After that there was a month-long open call for submissions, where we received over 240 pitches. From there it was simply a long, incredibly difficult (but ultimately rewarding) process of selecting the stories that best embraced and celebrated the essence of Beyond.
CA: Why take this to Kickstarter?
SM: There’s an element of queer comics being regarded as a niche or fringe interest, so I honestly don’t know if Beyond could exist anywhere else, if not via crowdfunding on Kickstarter. I think it works out for the best, though, because using Kickstarter to pay our contributors, self-publish, and print Beyond means that Beyond is exactly the book I dreamt it would be when I first daydreamed it.
I really do think it’s important for a queer-created queer-focused project like this to exist, and I think it’s important for the people who are backing Beyond to have this chance to support us this directly.
CA: What stage are you at with the project? How much have you already completed?
SM: Aside from finalizing the cover art and a few pieces of interior design --- mostly me deciding what order the stories will go in --- Beyond is 100% completed and will be ready to go to print when the Kickstarter campaign is completed. It was important to me to have all the comics completed before the project went live on Kickstarter so I could be sure there would be no last minute changes or unexpected delays that might interfere or set the book back.
CA: You’ve already achieved your goal --- congratulations! What’s your estimated delivery on the final anthology?
SM: We’ve estimated that we should be shipping out finished, printed copies of the Beyond anthology by September 2015. This will give us plenty of time to deal with getting the books printed and shipped to us so that we can distribute them. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: Beyond will get made, and I absolutely cannot wait to share it with everyone who has been involved thus far!
Beyond is running on Kickstarter until April 17 2015, and had an initial goal of $22000, which has been reached. If you'd like to find out more, you can find Beyond's website here.