Queer Lit Q&A: Margaret Killjoy

When I started this Q&A, naturally I put the thumbscrews on as many of the writers as I knew to get this whole thing started; today’s person is the first person to join me who I had not set out to ask. The reason I mention this is because when their name popped into my inbox, I did a little fanboy dance because I *adore* What Lies Beneath The Clocktower. If you haven’t read anything by Killjoy, please sort your life out immediately.


1. Tell me about a piece of yours that you’re particularly proud of…
About two years back, I published A Country of Ghosts with Combustion Books. It’s an anarchist utopian novel, set in a 19th-century alternate world, and follows the adventures of a gay journalist sent to report on the empire’s war of colonization on the eastern front.  It’s not really been discussed as a work of gay fiction—at least not anywhere I’ve seen—but I’ve been particularly proud of how I handled the character’s sexuality in that one.
Around the time that the novel was off at the printer, I had a health scare and was about halfway bedridden. One night, I got it into my head that I was going to die—a combination of generalized anxiety and the flu will do that to you. But it didn’t matter if I died, I realized—A Country of Ghosts—was about to be published. I could die if not happy, then at least knowing I’d said something I’d wanted to say my entire adult life.
I didn’t die, which was certainly for the best, and I wasn’t really in any mortal danger in the end. But it was interesting to have such simple clarity as I’d found that night. And I’m proud as hell of that book.
2. Recommend me a novel/short story/poem/collection by someone else that you think everyone should be reading… 
There’s a whole wealth of anarchistic / anti-oppression fiction out there, and of course the best of it is written by people who really do take the craft of writing as seriously as they take social struggle. My favorite stories, though, challenge not only the status quo but the assumptions about how best to supplant the status quo. Ursula le Guin probably does this better than any other author living or dead. But the best short story along these lines I’ve read recently is “The House of Surrender” written by Laurie Penny and published in English by the German-language magazine der Freitag. For full disclosure, Laurie is my partner. She’s also a talented writer. In “The House of Surrender” she describes a stateless future in which jails are places of voluntary asylum. The story follows a time traveler from our time—the distant past—whose incredibly naive assumptions about sexual consent and patriarchy force him to take refuge in such a place.

Margaret Killjoy
is an author and editor who travels with no fixed home. Margaret’s most recent book is A Country of Ghosts, a utopian novel published by Combustion Books in 2014. They blog at www.birdsbeforethestorm.net and say things as @magpiekilljoy on Twitter.


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