Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Twinja Book Reviews 3rd Annual Diversity Month Day Thirteen: Interview with @astralcolt + our month long #giveaway

So we met our next guest at Kidlitcon this year, as she was one of the awesome panelists we got to speak with about diversity. 

 (we look totally cheesy, we know XD )
What we really liked about her(outside of the bias we now have, having spoken on a panel with her XD )was how honest she was about the privileges she had, despite being a woman of color in the publishing industry, and life for that matter. 

I think her interview says it better than how I can remember all the awesome things she made reference to, but it's often difficult for people to admit our privileges, even when we're heavily marginalized ourselves.

Plus she's really kinda awesome(ok she's actually...super awesome, but who's counting!)

Twinja Book Reviews Annual Diversity Month Event Day Thirteen:

Author Mary Fan

So we already know you, and met you back at Kidlitcon, but for anyone who might be learning you for the first time, tell us who you are and what you're known for!

Hi everyone! I'm Mary Fan, author of the JANE COLT space opera series (from Red Adept Publishing) and the FIREDRAGON fantasy novellas (which will lead up to the FLYNN NIGHTSIDER series, coming soon form Glass House Press). I'm a first generation American and an incurable nerd, an Asian-osaurus and book hoarder.

I'm also the co-editor of BRAVE NEW GIRLS, a YA sci-fi anthology about brainy young ladies who use their tech skills and science smarts to save the day (and we're donating all proceeds from sales to a Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund). Women are terribly underrepresented in the STEM fields, and it's all because of a culture that subtly discourages girls from pursuing them (nerdy girls never get the boy! joining math club is social suicide! smart girls only exist in stories to be useful sidekicks!). BRAVE NEW GIRLS aims to show girls that they can be both smart and the heroes of their own stories, and to encourage them to explore STEM fields. It's our little way of nudging the world in the right direction.

What can you tell us about your journey being an author?

I've been addicted to stories for as long as I can remember. As a bookworm, as a TV addict, as a movie buff. So of course, I wanted to try my hand at creating stories of my own! Writing was the most natural way to begin, and I dabbled a bit in plays, humor articles, and screenwriting in school before realizing that novels are really my word-medium of choice. I say word-medium because I'm also a composer (though a bit out of practice these days) and like telling stories through music as well.

Funny thing is, I was so used to seeing no one who looked like me in any of those many stories I devoured (except maybe the token bit character or stereotypical Mysterious Chinese Person with Mystical Chinese Powers because Chinese People are Mysterious Dragon Beings) that it never occurred to me that it was a problem until quite recently. I mean, seeing white people everywhere is just normal, right? And the odd Asian character is a special treat for which I should be grateful (even if they are a stereotype), right? Then one day it hit me--NO! That's not how things should be! And no one should have to feel invisible, then expected to be grateful for what few crumbs they get tossed. So I make a point of including characters from various backgrounds in my own writing.

I've been scribbling stories and such for as long as I can remember, but I have two starts to writing seriously (incidentally, both occurred while I was spending a year in China... hmm). The first was when I was 12 and spending a year abroad in Hong Kong with my dad (who was a visiting professor at CUHK). I'm not sure what exactly gave me the kick, but that was the first time I settled down to write a full-length book. The result was about as good as you would expect from a middle-schooler who just wanted to write about spaceships. But the hobby turned into a habit that lasted until 10th grade.

Then boom. It all stopped. Maybe it was because the pressures of preparing for college were getting to me, or maybe it was because I finally looked into what it took to publish and felt overwhelmed, or maybe I just wanted to spend more time on music... For whatever reason, I didn't attempt another novel for six whole years (though this is when I dabbled in screenwriting and playwriting and even a poor attempt at comedic writing).

A year out of college, I found myself abroad in China again (Beijing for a job this time) with little to do after work, since I worked weird hours to sync up with the company's US office. A good friend of mine sorely wanted to be a novelist but, without the support of a campus writing workshop, was having trouble being motivated. So I was like "what the heck, let me try this writing thing again so we can be a workshop of two". I thought I'd just scribble a few words for kicks and forget the whole thing soon enough.

Little did I know I'd become completely and utterly and helplessly addicted... It was like that kid's book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." First, I just wanted to finish the dang thing. It could rot on my hard drive after that. Then, I wanted to make it decent. So I sent it to a few betas and joined an online writers community. But it was still intended to rot. Or, maybe if I was feeling ambitious, I'd post the whole thing online and forget about it. So I did that, but still lacked a sense of closure. So I kept futzing with it and futzing with it and finally decided that the only way I was ever going to leave it alone was if someone yanked it out of my hands. So I started querying and stumbled upon Red Adept when they were just opening their doors.

That book became Artificial Absolutes.

We kinda talk about inclusion all the time, and a lot about what we seek comes from how we grew up. What can you tell us about your experience growing up?

The funny thing about being underrepresented is that the majority reality overwrites your own. I remember never questioning why no one characters I read about or watched on TV looked like me. And whenever one showed up, I'd be rather startled (and never sure whether I was supposed to automatically like that character because they looked like me or just shrug and act like they were another character who happened to look like me).

I also remember being treated like the Other all throughout elementary and middle school (I was in North Carolina until high school). I'm sure my teachers had the best of intentions when they'd invite me and my parents to talk about our Chinese-ness, but as a kid who'd spent her entire life in the US, it made me uncomfortable. Like I'd never be a "real" American like my blond-haired friends. Those same friends were also the one who gave each other cute nicknames based on their personalities (like sporty or artsy) and assigned me the role of China-girl. And who once spent an entire bus ride (that lasted at least a few hours) pestering me to teach them Chinese despite my repeatedly protesting that I didn't want to. Don't get me wrong -- they were great people, and these instances were tiny moments that occurred over years of school. But the fact that I remember them so clearly (while everyone else probably forgot long ago) is a testament to the kind of impact they had.

Then I moved to New Jersey, into a town with a decent-sized Asian population, and suddenly, I wasn't the "exotic" one anymore. I was just another kid. Mind. Blown. I thought I was finally "normal." Until people started complaining about how the damn Asians were throwing off the curve.

And then there's the fetishization. "Yellow fever" was a running joke at college, and there have even been thinkpieces published about how educated Asians are the new blond trophy wives. Isn't that great. Also, orientalism regularly rears its ugly head in entertainment. And yet, because we are a privileged "model minority," we weren't allowed to complain. I remember being extraordinarily, rage-filled offended by a Saturday Night Live skit that depicted one of the (white) cast members in yellowface speaking nonsense ching-chong syllables as President Hu (accompanied by a yellowface "translator" with a stereotypical ching-chong accent). Just typing that makes my blood boil at the memory. And yet when I complained about it, people told me to laugh it off and stop being so sensitive. Asians have it good in the States, so what was I whining about?

Anyway, it's good to see that the push toward more diversity in books is leading to the existence of characters who look like me and aren't stereotypes that exist solely to intrigue the white protagonist.

How can we make the conversation about diversity where it needs to be?

I think we're seeing good movement in that direction. People, for the most part, seem willing to listen. I think it's important for people, particularly those from privileged groups, to keep their minds open to the experiences of others and to try to see the world from perspectives other than their own.

I also think it's important for people to acknowledge their own privileges. I've noticed that people tend to become knee-jerk defensive when confronted with their own privilege, and to see any mention of it as an attack (looking at you, #NotAllMen). Also, they tend to only focus on their own hardships, blinding themselves to the hardships of others because, since they had it rough in some area, they think they can't possibly be privileged in others (look at you, Patricia Arquette, who said that it was time for the gays and the people of color to stand behind women because women have always stood behind them. And because there are apparently no women of color, no gay women, or gay women of color).

It frustrates me like nobody's business when people who are generally open-minded shut down the moment their own privilege is called into question (I've seen the term "liberal hate" tossed around by self-proclaimed liberals, claiming that making a hullabaloo over the lack of Western sympathy for Lebanon after the Paris attacks is as bad as what the Trumps of the world are doing. As if getting up on soap box is as bad as calling for hate crimes). So I think to take the diversity conversation to where it needs to be, we all need to examine ourselves and be willing to listen to different perspectives, even if they make us uncomfortable.

Why do you write the types of books you write? Do you plan diversifying genres in the future?

I write sci-fi/fantasy -- NA and YA. I'm planning on sticking with YA for now, but the next project I have planned will be contemporary rather than spec fic (I think I'm a little nuts for trying to write something set in the real world...).

I've made a promise to myself to include diverse characters in everything I write. I've also decided that Flynn Nightsider, protagonist of the YA fantasy series bearing his name that's under contract with Glass House Press, will be the only cis/het/white/male protagonist I'll ever write. In everything else I've done and in everything going forward, I'm going to write main characters from underrepresented groups.

There. It is written.

Finally, where can folks go for updates, and to learn more about your projects going on?

My Official Website
My Official Mailing list 

Mary Fan is a sci-fi/fantasy writer hailing from Jersey City, NJ. She is the author of the Jane Colt sci-fi series, published by Red Adept Publishing. Her young adult dystopian fantasy series, Flynn Nightsider, is currently under contract with Glass House Press. And her young adult fairytale series, Fated Stars, is also under contract with Glass House Press.

In addition, Mary is the co-editor (along with fellow sci-fi author Paige Daniels) of Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets, a young adult sci-fi anthology about brainy heroines. All revenues will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers.

Mary has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy. In her spare time (when she has any), she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she'll try almost anything once.

You can even win her YA sci-fi anthology Brave New Girls ebook with our month long giveaway, or head on over to Goodreads, to enter her giveaway for the first book in her Jane Colt series "Artificial Absolutes"!


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me! :-D :-D :-D Y'all are awesome :-)


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