Working on Marked by Scorn has been a long process. But it’s one I can safely say I’m at the end of, now. I didn’t want to launch the crowdfunding campaign for it until I was sure I could deliver the goods in a timely manner, because I already had the ebooks and paperbacks ready to go. The way I run crowdfunding campaigns has always been about having a great launch and getting money to pay my contributors, and marketing and upfront publication costs than it is having an “idea” I want to start, with no clear timeline and end date.
The image to the right is the beautiful book cover designed by Grace Jensen, who I first encountered when she was commissioned to do the artwork for my story “Siren,” published in Solarwyrm Press’s original anthology, Fae Fatales: A Fantasy Noir Anthology (which, while it is still currently available, will soon no longer part of our collection, as my former partner at Solarwyrm, Jax Goss, is moving it to her new venture, The Patchwork Raven, which I fully support even though we’re no longer working together).
On Thursday last week, I received the very first copy of Marked by Scorn. Incidentally, this will be the only copy like this because I made some changes to it after I noticed a couple of things I forgot to do while I was working on the ebooks. So the copies everyone else gets will look even better on the inside.
Now, with everything ready to go, I’d love to talk more about what this anthology is, and launch the campaign so my early supporters can get their copies before the official release date on July 31st (I will be sending out copies as soon as I receive the money for it from Indiegogo — PayPal payments get to me soonest, I think, which means I can send those before the campaign even ends).
So, if you haven’t been following the progress of this book, what exactly is the idea behind Marked by Scorn? Well, for many years, I’ve been someone who has been a strong advocate for increasing diversity in the media. I didn’t have the money to put it toward filmmaking, and Hollywood is one of of the biggest culprits of not including enough diversity (both in casting and top production roles). But I did have the ability to do something about it when it came to publishing books. As someone who identifies as bisexual, who didn’t have any bisexual role models growing up, my first book was a novel with a bisexual protagonist from the 17th century. Although the majority of the lead characters are white, I do have a number of important characters of other races in there, too. But after I published that book, I realised I needed to do better, where race was concerned, which is partly how the idea for my second book and first anthology, Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, came about. I was living in Malaysia at the time, and considered how rich the cultures were in the region, and wanted to be able to share that with the world.
Whilst Amok had excellent racial diversity, and a few stories with other diverse characters, I’d felt I wanted to do more for other voices that aren’t seen so frequently in mainstream media. My story in the book, for example, was the only one that featured a polyamorous relationship.
In the initial conception stage, Marked by Scorn was only going to feature polyamorous and other non-monogamous relationships. But then I encountered a friendship where I learned of some of the struggles of dating inter-racially, and realised how taboo that has been in the past and can still be now. I wanted to be able to give those sorts of non-traditional relationships a voice, too. And if I was going to do that, then how could I not also open it up to QUILTBAG relationships, when in so many parts of the world, those relationships are still frowned upon, and sometimes even given death sentences?
When I opened up submissions, with the “non-traditional relationship” theme, I had no idea what I would get or where it would come from, but I’m very proud of the pieces I collected in this anthology. There are a few pieces that fall outside those three categories of non-traditional relationships, but still work with the theme, such as “Lessons on Loving an Able-Bodied Man,” a poem by Taylor Lyn Carmen, and “Emergency Encounter,” a memoir piece by Cindy Stauffer that explores a phenomenon that happens between people who are called to action in vulnerable places, and her personal experience with it in Haiti after the earthquake a few years ago.
Though the majority of the stories in this anthology feature cisgender homosexual relationships, one way I feel it is different from what might be seen as a typical gay and/or lesbian anthology is that a number of those stories feature characters who aren’t white, and live in predominantly non-white countries. “The Kebaya King” by Malaysian Rumaizah Abu Bakar is set in Indonesia and Malaysia, and features a couple of Muslim men struggling to come to terms with how their relationship fits in with their religion. “A Love on the Other Side of the World” by Cambodian Men Pechet explores how a gay relationship must be kept secret in his country. “Partners” by Filipino Jude Ortega explores the toll it takes on a person when their partner wants the relationship kept secret, even though they themselves are 100% out and proud about it, which I feel is a universal feeling, not something confined to the Philippines where the story is set. “Holi Colour” by Shruti Sareen is about a young woman who struggles with pining after another woman in India. And “Mirror Sunsets” by Kelly Burke is the gay interracial relationship that features on the top of the book cover, set in South Africa.
If you’re particularly interested in the non-monogamous stories, you can take a look at “Waking Dream” by Jeremiah Murphy, “Alone Time” by Viny, “The Affair” by Rebecca Freeman, “Churriye” by Khadija Anderson (set in Senegal), “No Magical Vanilla” by Jo Wu, and of course my own story, “Flesh and Stone,” set in Thailand and Malaysia, and featuring the other interracial relationship from the book cover. There is also the poem “Draupadi Hallucinating” by Rochelle Potkar.
DJ Tyrer has both a poem and a story in the collection because I felt they were both equally good, and added tremendously to the transgender content of the book. Other stories that explore characters with gender fluidity and non-cisgender identities include “Love is in the Blood” by Kawika Guillermo, “Keeping Mum About Dad” by Vanessa Ng (set in Singapore), and one of my personal favourites, “Roulez” by GK Hansen.
This is only a sample of what’s in store for you in this wonderful collection. All up, the book features 8 poems and 25 prose stories. Genre varies throughout from contemporary fiction to romance to speculative fiction to memoir. It’s roughly 96,000 words and 280 pages, and will retail at US$14.99 for the paperback, and US$4.99 for the ebook.
If this all sounds like something you want to check out, and/or help spread the word for, please share this blog post, add the book to your Goodreads lists, and order it on Indiegogo and/or share that link around.
If you can’t afford to buy the book right now, but want to do more than share links around, I’m still looking for people to send ebook review copies to, whether you’re able to post it on your blog, Amazon, and/or Goodreads (if you’ve never received a free book to review before, the only caveat is that you have to state in the review itself that you did receive the book in exchange for a review). And I only send review copies to people who aren’t already friends with me, so I know they won’t be biased when assessing the book. If you’re interested in that, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your request, and let me know where you intend to post the review (blog, Goodreads, Amazon, etc).