A Point of Pride: Interview with Arley Sorg
Arley Sorg is an associate agent at kt literary and co-Editor-in-Chief at Fantasy Magazine. He is an SFWA Solstice Award Recipient, a Space Cowboy Award Recipient, a two-time World Fantasy Award Finalist, a two-time Locus Award Finalist, and a finalist for two Ignyte Awards. Arley is also a senior editor at Locus, associate editor at both Lightspeed & Nightmare, a columnist for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and an interviewer for Clarkesworld. He is a guest critiquer for the current Odyssey Workshop and the week five instructor for this year’s Clarion West Workshop. Arley is a 2014 Odyssey graduate. His site: arleysorg.com. Twitter: @arleysorg Facebook is… a weird number.
What inspired you to start writing?
My family. My mother was a storyteller, but as a Black woman writing very raw stories that reflected her experiences… let’s just say she was not writing what publishing said “people” were reading back then. My grandmother, too – on my dad’s side. She had been a cowgirl, among other things, and had so many interesting stories to tell. When we couldn’t sleep, she would have us kids make up stories for each other.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I had a terrible childhood. Horror expressed truths that, to me, other types of storytelling didn’t reflect. I grew up reading horror and watching horror movies, even from a very young age. Only horror showed the pain and trauma that I knew existed in real life, even if horror showed reality by metaphor. But in showing it this way, it made it a manageable, tolerable, and very cathartic experience. That alien prowling the ship, looking for Ripley? Yes. I knew that feeling well, of hiding from monsters, of trying to survive in an environment full of dangers.
Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
I haven’t been writing much lately but I make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ contributors in pretty much everything I touch, as well as people of color – whether it’s doing interviews, some kind of editing, or what have you. When I was writing more, I was hesitant with those depictions – I drafted a book with a bisexual protagonist, and I wrote a couple of short stories with queer content, but back then I was nervous about whether or not it would be accepted. I have experienced too much prejudice to feel otherwise.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
In the US we try to hide from pain, mask it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. We are fake with each other a lot. Horror has taught me that you have to deal with these things, one way or another, in whatever way is right for you.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
I think, at least in short fiction, there’s far more queer / LGBTQ content, and it’s easily accessible. For books, I remember when I found out Clive Barker is gay, and I was stunned, in a very happy way. I was eager to meet him (which never happened). I just really wanted to see for myself that someone else was out there, someone like me. Back in the day, you had to go to the “gay” section of the bookstore to find any LGBTQ+ content, and most of it was non-genre stuff. Now you can pick up a book and you might see some queerness, maybe even done well, and just maybe, if you’re lucky, by a queer author. But it’s still a struggle; there are still prejudices and gatekeepers, and what folks consider “acceptable” queer depictions. I haven’t seen a major horror movie where the hero is a dude who has sex – on screen! – with another dude; let alone any number of other queer permutations. There are exceptions but I feel like most of the major books are “heteronormative.”
Besides queerness, especially in short fiction, people have found so many amazing ways to experiment with storytelling, from format to voice to perspective and more. People are trying new things, challenging assumptions, and making fantastic fiction.
How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
My hopes are that people can get to tell a wider range of stories and no one gets mad about it; that the field grows more welcoming – let’s squash all this racism, let’s squash all the transphobia, let’s embrace our differences, and be okay with learning about each other. We need to support each other. We all struggle, we need to see that struggle and not make it worse. Put the horror on the page and treat each other with kindness.
Who are some of your favorite LGBTQ characters in horror?
I… don’t think I have one… which means I need to read more.
Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
There are a lot of great LGBTQ+ horror authors out there. First, before anything, show some respect and look up Jewelle Gomez. After this, a few more to look up: Rivers Solomon, Cassandra Khaw, and Zin E. Rocklyn. Alex Woodroe has a great anthology with Dark Matter Ink called Monstrous Futures, which features a lot of queer authors. I also really liked the anthology Queer Little Nightmares by David Ly & Daniel Zomparelli from Arsenal Pulp. Alexis Henderson – I don’t know if the author is queer? But she writes queer horror. Going back a bit, the anthology Sycorax’s Daughters had some great queer authors and stories, if I remember correctly. This is a starter list; once I put down a few names and books, my mind began buzzing with even more fantastic authors and titles. I could fill this page…. They are out there. Go find them.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Write the stories that matter to you, that are important to you, that only you can write.
And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
The same, times two, but adding: “Prejudice exists, racism is a thing, transphobia is real – those assholes don’t get to stop you; do not let them stop you. Your readers are out there, and your work is important.”