Interview: Nino Cipri

Nino Cipri was awesome enough to answer a few questions to wrap up their story week. What follows is the mini-interview–enjoy! And thanks so much Nino; it was awesome to read your stories. I can’t wait to see what’s next from you!

1. You’ve written in all sorts of genres and forms; your website has links to essays, stories, book reviews, food and travel writing, plays, comics–and that’s all in addition to your short stories! How do you balance being such a multi-genre, multi-form writer? Are these different modes that you have or distinct projects that you’re working on? Or do you see all of your writing and writerly selves as connected somehow?

I’ve always bounced back and forth between formats and mediums. The first writing classes I ever took were for screenplay writing, and I was attending poetry slams and making ‘zines from the time I was fifteen. I focused on play writing in college. I always wrote prose as well, but I only started really concentrating on fiction in the last few years.

Writing in different mediums does require a mental shift, but not as much as people might think. For me, it really comes down to the story I want to tell. There are so many ways to approach a story: will this narrative be best served by actors performing it on a stage, by someone hearing it as a podcast? Will it have a bigger impact if the visuals are emphasized over the words? I love experimenting and trying different things.

2. What is your writing process? How has it changed as you’ve changed and grown as a writer?

I tend to work on multiple projects at a time. Currently: a novel, two short stories, an essay, and a short comic script. I also have two books I’m reading for future reviews. I try to do a bit of novel-writing in the morning, and everything else usually happens on weekends, or occasionally after work. Other than that, I don’t have much of a process, per se. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I’ll hold a story in my mind for years before writing it, and sometimes I’ll set a timer and just see what my brain comes up with.

The one thing I’ve noticed that’s changed in the last couple years is that I go through more drafts. The last story I finished, back in April, had a ridiculously complicated revision process. I wrote a draft, decided to take the concept and write an entirely new story from it, revised it, then looked at both and decided I liked the first one better. Then that went through two or three revisions before I started submitting it.

3. You say that your fiction tends to fall in the direction of literary science fiction/fantasy/magical realism. I love seeing and hearing people talk about writing that is both ‘literary’ and ‘genre.’ To me, those things feel very complementary and in no way exclusive, and it seems the same for you. What does it mean to you for something to be ‘literary,’ and how do you see that element/aesthetic/structure/etc interacting with the more speculative elements you’re interested in?

I spent years working in bookstores, with coworkers that constantly thrust books into my hands and demanded I read them. Reading between genres is a habit now, bouncing between lit-fic and speculative stuff, occasionally picking up mysteries and nonfiction. My favorite books tend to be liminal ones, hybrids, stories that push at the boundaries of their labels. I love stories where the core speculative elements are used to examine philosophical and humanistic themes. Ex Machina, Alex Garland’s new film is great example, with a concept that’s been well-trod–sexy android women!–but is used to interrogate the nature of consciousness and masculinity.

I think the balance between style, structure, and plot in literary science fiction can be different as well. There’s a bit more leeway for experimentation in form and style. For example, Catherynne Valente just had a great story in Uncanny Magazine, “Planet Lion”, which is mostly told from the point of view of an alien telepathic species, and uses rhythmic repetition in such a beautiful and novel way.

This isn’t to say that “regular” science fiction or fantasy stories don’t do these things. The label, honestly, is kind of meaningless outside of marketing.

4.What is it like writing as both queer and genderqueer in the environment of science fiction/fantasy today? Awesome projects like Queers Destroy Science Fiction and the work of increasingly diverse authors (from all spectrums of diversity) make me think that the community is growing more inclusive, but then there are kickbacks (all of the nasty Hugo/Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies stuff springs to mind) that make me think there are still a lot of challenges for writers who are approaching their work from a not-as-often-seen perspective or subject position. What are your thoughts on this?

Being a queer and genderqueer writer isn’t that different that being a queer and genderqueer human in my day-to-day life. It’s mostly a non-issue, or among my friends, something that’s appreciated and celebrated. There are definitely people who are confused by it, or privately think it’s weird. Sometimes, I’m asked rude or intrusive questions. Occasionally, I encounter open hostility. And I still have to live and work and write, knowing there are people that wish all of us–all the writers who aren’t male or straight or white or cisgender–would shut up, go away, or just not exist.

The Sad/Rabid Puppies thing was pretty discouraging, but it didn’t really reveal anything I didn’t already know or suspect. There are bigots and entitled assholes everywhere. I’m not writing for them or looking for their approval, though, so I don’t much care what they’d say about me. I’m also lucky enough to be beneath their notice right now. I might change my answer if some bigots start crusading against me the way I’ve seen them crusade against other writers I admire.

Honestly, though, the SF/F community have been really supportive and welcoming to me. And through SF/F, I’ve been introduced to an amazing network of other queer, trans, and non-binary writers and editors. So many people before me have done a lot of work to make this community as inclusive as it is, and are still challenging the status quo. I’m grateful.

Nino can be found at their website, twitter, or on patreon. Go support them!

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