Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our spotlight on Michael Takeda this Friday! Michael has been our friend for many years through the New England Horror Writers and Pink Narcissus Press. He’ll be joining us on Sunday, June 11, from 2:00 – 4:00 PM for our Pride Month Celebration, sponsored by Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts, to talk about Brave Boy World: A Transman Anthology, which he just released this February.
Michael Takeda is a writer of speculative fiction that has been called “dark” by Publishers Weekly and whose gender-bending themes Analog has compared to those of Theodore Sturgeon. He has also worked as a translator and teacher of English and Italian language and cinema, had a brief stint as a music reviewer for local newspaper “PDXS”, completed two degrees in Italian literature, and has published various novels and other fictions. He currently lives in Worcester, Massachusetts where he attends nursing school and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Pink Narcissus Press.
Thank you so much for joining us, Michael! When you first conceived of Brave Boy World, were there any stories you were especially hoping to receive? Were there any parts of the transgender / transman experience you were especially excited seeing through a science fiction story?
I’d been toying with the idea of doing a trans-themed anthology for a while. After some initial research, I found that there were a small number of fiction anthologies that either focused on transwomen, or a few that included all members under the trans umbrella (Brit Mandelo’s Beyond Binary from Lethe Press would be one excellent example of the latter). But I noted that there were no collections that specifically represented transgender men.
Given the possibilities, science fiction seemed like the best choice thematically. As Kim Stanley Robinson said, “Science fiction represents how people in the present feel about the future.” Given our current political climate, I expected to receive a lot of dystopian stories that reflect the more negative aspects of the trans experience. But I also expected the opposite – utopian futures where trans people are accepted and treated like everyone else. Surprisingly, the stories I received, though dealing with common trans issues of today, were overwhelmingly optimistic. This, I believe, is a good thing.
As all trans experience is valid, one of my goals in choosing which stories to include was to incorporate a variety of transmasculine experiences, both good and bad. With Brave Boy World, I feel like I’ve achieved that. But most stories do have a happy – or at least, not unhappy – ending.
What was the biggest surprise from the collection? What story or stories had you not been expecting to receive but were so glad to have read?
I imagine that some readers might expect a collection of stories about transmen to focus strictly on the protagonist’s gender issues and/or transition. However, in a few of the stories, such as Dave Riser’s “Coyote Dog Bitten” or Deven Balsam’s “Sindali”, little emphasis is given to the main character’s being trans. So that might surprise some readers. But when someone is transgender, that’s just one small part of who they are as a person. It doesn’t define them.
Obviously, I’m glad to have read all the stories I received, even some of the ones that I unfortunately couldn’t include. I am glad that I ended up with a variety of fun characters, including a trans rock band, a trans robot, an intergalactic trans superhero, and more!
If we had the science fiction ability to transport ten, twenty-five, and /or fifty years in the future, what stories might we see from the transgender / transman experiences? What stories might be the same, and how might some be different–for better, we hope… or for worse?
In Jaap Boekestein’s “The Three Ways of the Sword Man”, a woman (read: transman) walks into a room, and, via technology, walks out shortly after as a fully-transitioned man. I expect (hope!) that in the future, advances in medicine will make transitioning quicker, easier, and less painful. For the rest of Boekestein’s story, the protagonist then must discover for himself how to fit into society as a man. I think that once we’ve worked out how to transition physically with ease, stories about transmen’s experiences will focus more on social transitioning. Also, although I admire people who dare to break the binary, and those who attempt to redefine our ideas of masculinity and femininity, I don’t see gender roles disappearing in the near future, so writers will most likely continue to explore what it means in this society to be a man.
What advice could you share with transgender writers? Or cis writers wanting to be respectful / inclusive in their writing?
For Brave Boy World, I allowed everyone to submit, regardless of sex or gender identity. So there are a small number of stories by authors who identify as cis [cisgendered, or identifying with the sex they were assigned at birth]. What they have in common is that they clearly understood something about the trans existence – either because they’ve done their research carefully, or they have trans family members or friends. Really, the best way to understand the trans experience is to talk to trans people!
For transgender writers, my advice is this: You already know that you’re brave. You already know how to be authentically you. So just keep doing that.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
Our books are available through online booksellers such as Amazon, as well as through our website at http://www.pinknarc.com/
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
We’re not social media mavens, but of course we do have an online presence. The best place for updates is our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pinknarc/
Anyone interested in checking out my writing can do so at http://elvesfromiceland.weebly.com/