Special Year 10 Interview — meet blogger Christina “DZA” Marie

Year 10 is in full swing, and we’re celebrating by showcasing our staff, the people whom without, LSQ could not exist. Today, we’re chatting with one of our bloggers, Christina “DZA” Marie.
LSQ: Tell us about how you got involved with LSQ’s blog—how long have you been a blogger, how did you first learn about LSQ? What made you want to join the blog?
Christina: I got involved with LSQ when I was first looking to get some stories published in college (about four years ago now). Fun fact: the first short story I ever published was with you guys! It was a little drabble I wrote for class and I actually forget the title of it. I specifically sent it to LSQ because I love the idea of an organization that’s uplifting voices that have been silenced for so long in a genre that I love. So when I heard you were looking for bloggers, I jumped at the chance!
LSQ: Tell us about your monthly column, “The Bitch Shelf” and really, its sister blog “Dragons, Zombies & Aliens.” What topics and themes do you explore? How do you curate fresh subject matter? 
Christina: “The Bitch Shelf” was inspired by one of my other favorite websites BitchMedia, a feminist media organization that covers…everything. Politics, music, education, entertainment, the environment, you name it. It’s one of those truly intersectional feminist groups. Not just women’s issues, but LGBTQ+ issues, race issues, disability, class lines, etc. They’re the kind of bloggers that I try to model myself after (except I’m too polite and Minnesotan to be exactly like them).
Dragons, Zombies & Aliens was the start of my writing career. Admittedly it was a way for me to get my name on the internet, but for the most part I needed an outlet for all the excitement and love I have of books and fantasy, as well as a way to promote the works of other great writers who may not be very well-known.
As for what I write about, this is a little excerpt from my home page:
“All of my writing is done through a feminist/social justice lens. No damsels in distress. No stereotyped people of color acting as comic relief. No unnecessary romantic subplot that does nothing for the story except reduce the woman lead into a sex object. My goal is to change the landscape of speculative fiction writing and media entirely.”
Basically I want to promote good writing in the speculative fiction genres (that is: fantasy, sci-fi, horror, paranormal, supernatural, superhero, etc.) that does not conform to the old, hurtful stereotypes we’ve all been subjected to. One of the best ways I do this is by keeping an eye out for authors and creators outside of the American mainstream, like Nnedi Okorafor or Tiana Warner.
LSQ: You have several different writing projects to your name now and it seems many more up your sleeve. Can you tell us about what you’ve finished so far and what’s to come? 
Christina: 2018 was nuts, and 2019 is proving to be even more so. I’m working with two small publishing companies. One is Endless Ink Publishing, their main project being the Earth’s Final Chapter illustrated novella series. It’s a post-apocalyptic Earth story that’s written and illustrated by people all around the world. Last year they published book eight, Homestead Hunts, which was my first contribution to the series. Basically it’s Canadian cannibals, rebellious teens, their murderous parents, and politics. This year I’ll be working on the follow-up, tentatively titled Homestead Heroes.
The other publishing company I work with is Sic Semper Serpent, which is based in Minneapolis, a fifteen-minute drive from where I live. I already have an ongoing short story series with them: Twisted Tales. I take classic fairy tales and give them a feminist rewrite. We just finished a two-part story of Hansel and Gretel, wherein Gretel herself is a witch in a world that hates her kind. This year, I just got contracted for another series with SSS, titled Diary of the Green Snake. It’s a historical fantasy: a Western with a magic system based off of Chinese mythology. We’re all really excited about that one, and when it’s done it will have anywhere from ten to thirty stories.
There are other projects stacked up—Sovadron, the NYC Midnight short story and flash fiction contests, and an epic fantasy novella that I will be publishing to my patrons on Patreon first before bringing it to Amazon. But Homestead Heroes and Green Snake are the two most immediate projects that I’m working on.
LSQ: Your creative work crosses some different media, e.g. graphic novels, novellas, short stories, etc. Can you tell us a bit about what’s different when writing for a graphic novel versus a novel without art? What is it like to collaborate with an artist in order to capture what’s in your mind’s eye?
Christina: It’s interesting writing a graphic novel because you don’t have to spend any words or time describing how an object, person, or place looks. Often you don’t even have to describe how a character feels. It’s just there on the page for you to see. In a way it’s very freeing, and it allows me to concentrate on what the characters are doing and saying. At the same time, the medium demands a higher speed than a traditional novel format. The eye has to glide across the page. It’s not natural to peel through a comic with the thought and care you would give to a novel. The whole point of the comic is to deliver the maximum amount of information in the shortest amount of time. I’ve enjoyed creating Sovadron—that’s my graphic novel series set in a fantasy world inspired by post-colonial America—in large part because of this unique challenge.
Another challenge with creating a graphic novel: I can’t draw. Well, I can, but not very well. Certainly not to a professional’s standards. Luckily, my working with Endless Ink Publishing gave me some network connections. The artist who illustrated Homestead Hunts, John Hawkins, is also illustrating Sovadron. And he is unfairly skilled.
LSQ: What do you see as “hot topics” that writers and readers of speculative fiction are encountering right now?
Christina: One of the biggest—and most exciting—revelations occurring among readers, writers, and creators right now is that we do not have to conform to the same rigid societal rules that our predecessors have in stories. The idea that “people aren’t interested in female superheroes” or that “a gay romantic subplot just won’t have the same appeal as a straight one” has been disproved again and again and again. We’re seeing stories created and dominated by marginalized communities—Wonder Woman and Black Panther—making billions in the box office. We’re seeing allies like Rick Riordan take a crack at LGBTQ and Muslim characters, and rocking it. (Seriously, if you haven’t read the Percy Jackson series and its parallel trilogy Magnus Chase, get on that.)
The fact is, the vast majority of stories—at least the ones that have been given the most resources and exposure—have been centered around straight, cisgender, able-bodied, white men. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that—see, Harry Potter, Tony Stark, Percy Jackson, etc.—the fact is this is only a very small demographic in society, never mind the world! The narrative centers around this one type of person because, for most of Western history, it has been this one type of person who has controlled the narrative. But now the rest of us, who have been pushed to the sidelines, are pushing back with enough force to enter the playing field. That’s exhilarating!