We are pleased to announce the selection of three new Otherwise Fellows: children’s fiction writer Cat Aquino, speculative fiction writer Naseem Jamnia, and speculative fiction writer and illustrator Dante Luiz.
Cat Aquino is a Filipino children’s fiction writer, currently working on a young adult graphic novel titled Champion of the Rose. This graphic novel is a fantasy reimagining of the centuries-long Spanish colonization of the Philippines and South America, and features two main characters: Rey, a trans “indio” swordsman, and Rosa, a“mestiza” princess. Through the story of these characters, Cat hopes “to explore how the intersections of race, class, trauma, and gender interact, neither favoring one identity pole over the other, to talk about how empires and governments restrict human lives, but can also be defied because of human choices and actions.” Cat will use the fellowship to fund Dominique Duran, illustrator Champion of the Rose‘s illustrator and co-creator. Cat’s work creates BIPOC-led, anti-colonial, and anti-monarchical narratives for young adults.
Naseem Jamnia is a speculative fiction writer whose work contains “unquestioned and undoubted queerness so deeply embedded in the worldbuilding that it can no longer be called queer, and gender is a central focus of that inclusion.” For Naseem, queer genders are central to their fiction, even though their stories are seldom about queerness. They will use the grant money for historical research on non-Western genders that exist outside the binary, in order to better understand the world in which their novella The Bruising of Qilwa (Tachyon Publications 2022) takes place. In Naseem’s novella, “the main character Firuz, an agender nonbinary trans person—who would not use those terms for themself, but rather, call themself a binoh, ‘one without type’—grapples with their responsibilities as a clinician and a magic user in a city overrun by refugees like them. Meanwhile, their younger brother, Parviz, a binary trans boy, is desperate to transition with the magic only Firuz can do in their new home. The issue here is not whether Parviz is actually a boy, or whether Firuz runs the risk of being misgendered; the issue is while the city is in crisis, while an ethnic genocide of Firuz’s people happens in the background, the rest of life continues on and demands Firuz’s attention and time when they’re stretched so thin.” Naseem’s work is “a promise of possibility” and a love letter to their queer, brown communities,
Dante Luiz is a Brazilian speculative fiction writer and illustrator. In the application, Dante wrote about wanting to “write flawed yet humane trans men who are adults, responsible for their actions, both the good and the bad” as a way to combat inadequate and often infantilizing representations of transmasculine people. Dante’s story My Mother’s Hand, which was part of the application as a writing sample, is a historical fantasy set in 19th century Desterro. This story “is a short tale of a trans man dealing with the ghost of his mother possessing his dominant hand—a witch mother who never accepted his gender identity, or his love for women.” Dante is currently working on a graphic novel, Thicker Than Blood, which follows a “trans man who does a Faustian deal with the devil to keep the ancestral land of the family who does not see him as the legitimate heir, and separates him from his former lover and current enemy, a woman after the same land.” He is also working on a Brazilian romantasy novella with a trans man protagonist. Overall, Dante is deeply invested in creating fully-rounded trans characters who find themselves in exciting speculative situations and spaces.
In addition to choosing three Fellows, the Fellowship Committee announced an honor list, which includes L.J. Phillips, Calvin Gimpelevich, A.L. Major, Nicole Martinez, and Eugen Bacon. These writers and artists are all doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction.
The members of the 2022 selection committee for the Otherwise Fellowships were Aqdas Aftab (chair), Shreya Ila Anasuya, and Eleyna Sara Haroun.
Perhaps you noticed that we did not award Fellowships in 2021. In these difficult times, our selection process took longer than usual. We decided it really didn’t make sense to give out 2021 Fellowships in 2022. So to catch up, we skipped a year. Fortunately, we managed to give out the same number of Fellowships by providing three Fellowships in both 2020 and 2021, rather than our usual two. Applications for the 2023 Fellowships will be due in summer 2022.