Introduction by the Editors
Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, New York City, 2014
Before Long Hidden was a book, it was a conversation. Really, it was many conversations, over the course of many different lives; these fed into one conversation in particular, a back-and-forth on Twitter in December 2012 about representations of African diasporic voices in historical speculative fiction, and the ways that history "written by the victors" demonizes and erases already marginalized stories. That discussion became an idea that became the book you're about to read.
(We are especially grateful to Cassandra Taylor for starting and spearheading that conversation, the entirety of which you can read here)
We grew up reading stories about people who weren't much like us. Speculative fiction promised to take us to places where anything was possible, but the spaceship captains and valiant questers were always white, always straight, always cisgender, and almost always men. We tried to force ourselves into those boxes, but we never fit. When we looked for faces and thoughts like our own, we found orcs and deviants and villains. And we began to wonder why some people's stories were told over and over, while ours were almost never even alluded to.
Our discomfort and confusion turned into anger and frustration. We were tired of being pushed to the margins. We were furious at the complicity of publishers who whitewashed covers, and booksellers who shunted any book by a Black author to the "African-American Literature" shelves in the back of the store. Our hearts ached for all the writers who had been actively discouraged from writing characters that didn't fit the norm, even as readers like us clamored for those stories.
Slowly we gathered a few rare gems by authors who really seemed to know us and understand what we needed. We reveled in works by Octavia E. Butler, Diane Duane, Gael Baudino, Tobias S. Buckell, Nalo Hopkinson, Ellen Kushner, Samuel R. Delany, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Lawrence Schimel, and N.K. Jemisin, and anthologies like Sheree Renée Thomas's Dark Matter and M. Christian's Eros ex Machina. These authors and editors — and the publishers, booksellers, and librarians who took chances on them — showed us that splendid, exciting, rich speculative fiction could be written about people of color, queer people, trans* people, and others too often neglected and ignored.
But too many other supposedly diverse stories had generic faux-multicultural casts where everyone sounded the same. Our lives and personalities and voices were shaped by our cultures, our ancestry, and the history of people like us. We wanted more speculative works that reflected those truths. Only an anthology, a book that encompassed many voices, could speak to both the vastness and the underlying unity of our need for fiction that reflects all people and makes room for everyone to be a hero.
The journey from conversation to idea to book took a year, and a lot of hard work; and since we're stuck in a capitalist world, it also took a lot of money. Once we all agreed we were in, we set up a Kickstarter to fundraise. Crossed Genres said it would cost $12,000 to purchase and publish 100,000 words of fiction. We added stretch goals to make it longer, get illustrations, and cover the book in gorgeous wrap-around art by Julie Dillon. We had a month to raise the money. In three days, we'd cleared the initial $12,000. Support came in from all over the world. It came in tiny donations and huge ones. Tweets and blog posts were posted and reposted, and by the end of the month we'd blown straight through almost all our stretch goals and raised a stunning $31,597 from 1,181 different funders. So this book is the result of many collaborations, many contributions, many conversations, many voices.
We're not celebrities (though a few genuinely famous people were kind enough to boost the signal). We don't have enormous followings. But the idea rang true. People wanted to read Long Hidden as much as we did, and they eagerly joined us in making it happen.
Once we'd met our funding goals, we set out spreading the word about Long Hidden as far and wide as we could. We extended our call for submissions internationally and posted it in places that don't normally get solicited for speculative fiction anthologies. We reached out to writers who have never felt at home in a genre that often demonizes or erases them. And all those years of reading misrepresentations turned into an extensive set of guidelines: we demanded that our writers treat their characters and settings with respect, take care with depictions of sex and violence, and explicitly address difficult and complex topics.
Accordingly, we were then swamped with awesomeness: brilliant, unpredictable, courageous, elegant, hilarious, and heartbreaking awesomeness. Over 250 authors submitted stories, writing from their hearts, their experiences, and their family histories. We were humbled that so many people trusted us to read their deeply personal and often emotionally wrenching stories. From this amazing mountain, we drew 27 stories that spoke to the true heart of what Long Hidden is: a book of counter-narrative. It is an act of literary resistance. In whispers, shouts, and moans, these stories combine into a collective outcry that is both joyous and mournful, a forgotten praise-song that puts flesh on the bones of our hidden dreams.
As first-time anthology editors, we learned a tremendous amount about crafting a book like this. From our authors' meticulously researched work, we learned astonishing things about the lives of marginalized people around the world and throughout history. And from the outpouring of support from writers and readers, we learned that the longing to see ourselves and our history in fiction is bigger than any one book could encompass.
Many conversations became an idea that became a book, and we hope the book will spawn many conversations that will become many ideas, many stories, many dreams. If one of those dreams is yours, write your Long Hidden story. Send it to an editor, a friend, the future. Post it online, paint it on a wall, or whisper it into a loved one's ear. We are done being silent. We will revel in our messy, outrageous, complicated truths.
Thank you so much for joining us on this marvelous journey.