Scifipulse recently caught up with Margaret Killjoy. She has published fiction novels in the steampunk and folk horror genres. And is an anarchist, feminist and anti-fascist. Additionally, she founded the feminist black metal band Feminazgul in 2018. Margaret also hosts the anarchist survivalist podcast Live Like The World Is Dying. During this interview she discusses what hasn’t yet been done in sci-fi and where the genre is going.
SFP: What made you want to be a writer?
Margaret Killjoy: Well I suppose I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Most of my family are writers as hobbyists. My dad ran a zine in the 80s called The (Almost) Everything Magazine that he laid out by hand and stapled and sent to a subscription of a few hundred people, and it included his kids’ writing, including some stories of mine from when I was, I don’t know… 6? 8? But I decided more consciously to become a writer sometime in my early twenties. I was squatting this abandoned tenement building in the south bronx with about 50 other people, we’d come into town to protest the RNC in 2004. I had this room overlooking the water and the highway, with a broken window, and there was an old writing desk in there from god-knows-when, and I decided basically as an aesthetic choice that I should write fiction. Nothing I wrote for the next five years was any good, of course, but I’m glad I wrote it all.
SFP: What do you think hasn’t been done yet in sci-fi that could be done?
Margaret Killjoy: I’m sure whatever I come up with, someone I don’t know about will have done it! But I suppose I’d like to see more sci-fi that combines “hard” and “soft” and just breaks down that dichotomy. I see absolutely no reason why I can’t care about the mechanical aspects of space travel at the same time as I care about the new developments in mediation and community that would allow generation ships to remain stable environments. It just seems like such a bullshit men-versus-women dichotomy to draw, and I’m real glad I’m living in an era where gender divisions are starting to collapse in on their own weight.
SFP: Can you tell us your work’s message in 25 words or less?
Margaret Killjoy: We, all of us, need to explore our own agency as individuals and communities in order to fix this dying planet.
SFP: What are you working on at the moment?
Margaret Killjoy: My history podcast steals most of my writing time these days! I’ve got several books in the pipeline towards publication, but I’m afraid after that there’s likely to be a bit of a delay! I’ve got two novels in progress—one science fiction, one fantasy—and several others mapped out that I’d love to be working on. But yeah, podcasting, raising a puppy, and preparing for climate catastrophe has really cut into my time of late.
SFP: Based on your fiction books, would you say that power will ultimately corrupt anyone who has it or can it be used positively?
Margaret Killjoy: I suppose it depends on how you define power, right? Coming into our own power, individually and collectively, that rules and we’ve got to do it. But power-over, rather than power-with? Yeah I think ultimately it will corrupt people. I think Tolkien got this one right. Boromir was wrong, the ring of power needs to be cast into the fires of Mt. Doom. The 20th century really was a repeated science experiment of this: well-meaning revolutionaries become tyrants easily enough. I think it corrupts people unequally, and some people handle it better than others, but fundamentally, yeah, throw that shit into the lava.
SFP: What authors are you inspired by?
Margaret Killjoy: Well now I’d be a liar if I didn’t say Tolkien. I like authors that talk about power and talk about community. So Tolkien (for all his faults), Ursula le Guin, Octavia Butler, Cory Doctorow, Terry Pratchett, I love them.
SFP: Where do you think science fiction as a genre is headed?
Margaret Killjoy: Well, probably all sci-fi that doesn’t directly address climate change is going to read as nonsensical fantasy soon enough. So I think the future is there. Personally, I hope it heads in the direction of offering alternatives, instead of just saying “here’s some stuff that’s bad.”
SFP: And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Margaret Killjoy: Store at least 5 gallons of water per person and a week’s worth of food in your pantry. Connect with your local mutual aid organizations, or start your own. Talk seriously about how you and your friends and family will attempt to interfere with the global resurgence of fascism, utilizing the skill sets and resources available to you. You can’t write fiction on a dead planet. Furthermore, it’s our participation in life that allows us to reflect life with accuracy and beauty on the page. Find inspiration for your characters from people in the world instead of people in books. Find inspiration for conflict and resolution in history and the present instead of what you’ve read in other novels. Live life as fully as you can, feel things as fully as you can. Your life will be better and your books will be better.
Scifipulse would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks and warmest best wishes to Margaret Killjoy for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
Margaret’s website: Birds Before the Storm
Her Twitter: @magpiekilljoy
Check out our interview with Sassafras Lowrey here
Check out our interview with Kalynn Bayron here