Thursday, February 2, 2012

At Second Glance

In late 2010, during a particularly trying time for me and my small family, I woke from a haunting dream about a persecuted population relocated to a hostile and barren island; that events following the Stonewall Riots had turned in a different direction, and one of the many ugly results was a political landscape known as the Anarchic States.  Some of the country's brightest minds had been forced into a desolate existence on that island which, in the dream, was referred to as Lost Hope. Knowing it was only a matter of time before their persecutors from the Anarchic States returned, the citizens of Lost Hope set about creating a spectacular winter carnival, seemingly having accepted their fate.  But the society was planning for the end, and had secretly staged a desperate plan to fight back when the time came.  The events of my steampunk short story, "The End of an Era," written a week or so after the dream during a month-long period of hell on Earth when our small family, too, was forcibly relocated from our home and placed in a supremely hostile environment as we worked to fix financial and medical issues, is fairly accurate to its original unconscious creation. Its characters, from the frightened to the heroic, resonated clearly and haunt me to this day.  Over the summer, I submitted a hard copy via snail to editors Eric Andrews-Katz and Vincent Kovar, who were reading for the fourth volume of the popular Gay City series.  This latest, At Second Glance, would explore the what ifs of established historical events by showing them from a different angle.  A month later, I received my first paper acceptance letter in years and was thrilled last month to hold my contributor copies of the realized project in hand.  Not only does At Second Glance contain an unexpected mix of wonderful stories and styles -- with my little steampunk tale about beautiful souls triumphing over a ruthless military's iron fist sandwiched between some truly great writers like the brilliant Felice Picano -- but it has also contributed to making our world a better, brighter place though literature.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mister Kovar and Mister Andrews-Katz about At Second Glance and what they have planned next up for readers of the Gay City line.

The luminous Vincent Kovar
Vincent, this is the fourth Gay City volume -- can you discuss what's come before, and how you got involved with publishing the series?
Gay City Anthologies has been such an interesting journey. About five years ago, I approached Gay City Health Project with the idea of launching a literary journal. My initial proposal was inspired by the New York-based magazine Christopher Street and I had grand dreams of founding a quarterly periodical. However, after digging into the logistics, I switched gears and decided to create a multidisciplinary anthology instead. Maybe it was a burst of hubris but I sub-titled that first effort, "Volume One" in anticipation of making a series.

The books support a Seattle-based charity, the Gay City Health Project.  Can you tell us more about the symbiosis?
Why Gay City Health Project? Well, in my opinion, they're really the most active community resource we have. I remember back in the 1990s when they used to host a writing group I was active in (they have another one now) and since then, I've watched as again and again, they put up plays, games, movie nights, book groups, spiritual study groups, day trips, art shows, hikes and other events. I can't think of another organization that's done as much, for as long, as Gay City Health Project. That's a long answer to a short question but they really are the only support system of their kind. I also wanted to do something to help support the HIV/STD testing clinic. I think having anonymous, supportive, trained testing within our community is essential. LGBT people desperately need safe places to be educated, tested and supported. Not very many communities have that and even in those that do, the quality of care is often not what we would hope to see in 2012.

As for the anthology project, so many people helped make it a reality. People from other art groups came forward with advice and our sponsors nurtured the idea of gay arts with that most precious artistic fuel: cash. Really, the entire series would have remained an idle daydream of mine if it weren't for their faith and enthusiasm. A lot of people say, "Yes, that's a great idea," but too few participate and invest. It's worth taking a glance at our sponsors page. I think you'll see that the leaders in our community are stepping up. For instance, Jonathan Bowman (former pres. of the GSBA) has been a consistent supporter as has King County. Without people like them, our pages would be blank.

Then there are the artists, writers, photographers and poets that fill those pages. Over the series I've included a variety of disciplines and I think it's their vision that has really made the series such a success. We often hear gay people saying that there are no gay arts anymore or that there isn't any "good" work being done. I think this series shows that's just not true. There's tons of great, gay work being done; it just needs a home. Build it and they will come. Put a bird on it. The first three volumes were such an amazing learning experience. Basically, I had to learn about the publishing industry from the ground up, something I think every writer should do. There was far more business to the art and, in a way, a lot more art to the business than I ever thought. After three volumes, the most important thing for Volume 4 was to collaborate. My good fortune there was getting Eric Andrews-Katz to agree to come on board. Without him there would be no volume 4. This book is really based on his vision. The theme of second glances was his brain-child and I think that worked out fantastically. He also did an excellent job of selecting a coherent, symbiotic set of contributions. He really has a sharp editorial eye and, along with being a talented writer in his own right, is a gifted anthologist. 

Eric also recruited our graphic designer, Garth Meske of Meske Associates who put together the cover. I did the previous three covers myself and pretty much learned two things: (1) graphic design is hard and (2) smart publishers hire professional graphic designers. Garth was such a gift to us.

That cover is stunning!  Will there be a Gay City Volume 5 and, if so, what will its theme be?
We hope so. There are so many changes, happening so quickly in the publishing industry right now that we're just trying to find our bearings. We've talked about moving the pieces online to or making the final product a Kindle/Nook/Android/iPad ebook. We've looked at integrating short video and the audio arts. Art has to adapt and change to stay current. We've also been reviewing our funding model as some sources of grants run dry (or at least scarce) and fewer people are able to support such a project. What's most important to me is to get the artists paid. These are not amateurs; they need to be recognized. It's equally important to keep access to art affordable. So, we're weighing the associated cost models of each modality.

The talented Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric, in addition to short fiction, there are comics and a stage play published within the covers of At Second Glance.  What other unexpected treasures will readers discover?
There are a wide variety of subjects found in the stories selected for At Second Glance. Readers can find stories from their youths but are told by and for adults. There are historical and religious pieces and re-envisioning of more modern tales from television and pop-culture.

Did you and Vincent come up with the concept of parallel realities (such a great theme!) together?
Vincent and I discussed several ideas and themes for the anthology, but he was gracious enough to let me have the final call. At our initial meeting we had agreed on a different subject (one that I can’t recall right now) for the book. I thought about it that night and called him with the new idea of “familiar tales from different perspectives”. He really liked the idea so that is what we finally decided to use.

At Second Glance contains your powerful short story, "Betrayed With a Kiss."  Please talk some about your own writing -- what do you have forthcoming for readers to check out?
My big news is that my first novel, The Jesus Injection is being released (through Bold Strokes Books) November 13, 2012. It’s a gay spy parody, very tongue in cheek. I’m also writing my second book about two very different funerals from two very different perspectives. All updates can be found on my website, I always keep my eye open for short story submission calls as well. Aside from that, my work can usually be found in the Seattle Gay News – especially during theater season – with a theater personality interview and a review for one of the theaters. Occasionally, I’ll write another type of article because I believe that, when it comes to writing, you should never limit yourself. Give it a shot even if it's not your style -- who knows? If it didn’t work out, then it was a valuable writing exercise.

No comments:

Post a Comment