Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of Brewing Community is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities.
The series first ran in 2015. In returning to it after several years, I wanted to focus on how these experiences of community may have changed in recent years, and how people would like to see them change, as well as delving into what books and media have brought comfort in difficult times.
When I put my blog on hiatus, I still had a few outstanding interviews. I'm delighted to be able to share them with you here at Nerds of a Feather. You can find the other interviews back at Earl Grey Editing.
Today's guest is Rem Wigmore. Rem is an up-and-coming talent who is fast becoming a regular on the shortlists for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards. Even in Australia, books from New Zealand authors can be hard to get hold of, so I'd heard of Rem long before I got my hands on their work. Once I did, they didn't disappoint, and I devoured their queer, found-family solarpunk novel Foxhunt from Queen of Swords Press. I'm already counting the days until I can get my hands on the sequel. In the meantime, I'm delighted to share this interview with them.
Since I've never interviewed you before, there's one important question I must ask first: what's your favourite beverage?
Black coffee! I drink plunger coffee at home (French press) and normally an Americano if I’m at a cafe. Filter coffee is also fine. I never used to drink coffee, and then I did a barista course and became an insufferable coffee person nearly overnight. This is fortunate as I live in the nation’s capital city of insufferable coffee people.
Has your experience of community in speculative fiction and fandom changed in recent years?
A little, in a few different directions. I don’t engage in fandom as much as I once did in terms of making my own content for anything, though I still get really into specific things sometimes (Murderbot and What We Do In The Shadows were two big examples in 2021, and now Our Flag Means Death). I tend to have to put my time and energy into original work and my own work more these days, as there’s not much time and energy to go round. So my experience of fandom is more just bonding about stuff with pals who also happen to be into it rather than the wider community.
The good ways my experience of community in speculative fiction has changed is that I have a fair few little pockets of community that I’m very happy with and lucky to have. I feel very fortunate in my friends.
Also, what a WONDERFUL time to be writing and reading spec fic. It really feels like there’s more diversity and variety than ever before! Of course people have always been writing it, but it’s more available now, and tentatively more celebrated. I hope it gets even more celebrated. I want mainstream success for more queer authors, trans and nonbinary authors, authors of colour, disabled authors, neurodiverse authors, authors from all over the world.
What would you like to see changed?
The negative way my experience of community in spec fic has changed is how hostile and outright dangerous this environment can be. I’m talking specifically in terms of social media, and it’s the same story that can be seen with social media in general, but it’s honestly scary. People get dogpiled for imaginary slights as well as real mistakes and there’s no understanding about a person’s capacity for change. It’s all terrifying as a marginalised author. It’s okay to be scared of doing wrong – of course we all want to do things right, and a little uneasiness is a good sign of when to veer back into one’s lane – but I don’t think people should be this scared, not just of doing wrong but of the appearance of it. The people who often get targeted are more often marginalised authors than people in positions of any real power, as well.
So I’d love to see something more like actual justice, a community operating in kindness – obviously not being fine with people going around doing harm, and what each person thinks is acceptable is a deeply personal thing, but what I don’t find helpful is this current attitude where making a mistake can haunt you forever. The way the ownvoices movement went from being an attempt to shine light on marginalised authors to being a cudgel used to prod people out of the closet, to gatekeep people who aren’t ‘enough’ or make them divulge personal information. I’d like none of that. To an extent this is a danger in any online community (and online is mostly what I’m thinking of; I haven’t seen anything really like this in local spaces). I think it’d be nice if we could do better.
What books or media have you found yourself turning to for comfort?
What We Do In The Shadows is a delight. Those are my emotional support vampires ... I love a lot about that show, it’s really goofy and silly and has that Kiwi humour that of course I love, but my favourite thing is Guillermo. It’s rarer than it should be to see fat characters getting to be cool, complex and badass, and I like it very much. I finally started listening to The Magnus Archives, too. I’ve gotten more into horror and dark fantasy these last few years. I’m also big into Dracula Daily!
Sometimes I struggle with reading, but I’ve been able to get back into the habit by reading at least a little bit each day – I still read slowly, but I read! I greatly enjoy local authors like Cassie Hart, Octavia Cade and Andi C. Buchanan (off the top of my head) as well as the current boom in speculative romance – authors like Freya Marske, AJ Lancaster and Everina Maxwell.
And I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. That was the main thing that sustained my creative spirit during lockdown and it’s still pretty vital to me, I think. It’s good to have an outlet for storytelling (with Friends!) that isn’t a Hustle like my writing is. I am extremely invested in my highwayman’s misadventures.