I’m overjoyed to talk real shit and book shit with rising transfeminine powerhouse author Fae’rynn, whose polyamorous lesbian mecha book Sundered Moon comes out February 29 and is currently available for pre-order! We talk about her life, her influences, her book, and her upcoming projects in this far-ranging interview. All her links are at the bottom of the page, of course. But before we begin, let’s have a gander at that gorgeous cover, shall we?
Dani: I’ll start with the most important question I begin every interview with: How’s your mental health these days?
Fae’rynn: It’s about as well as can be expected for a trans woman living in the USA. It could be a lot worse, and I’m glad enough for that.
Dani: I absolutely feel you on that. I get in daily rages seeing what those fuckers are trying here, and it makes me want to get the fuck out too. But looking around the world, I’m not sure where would be better in the long run? I know some places are better than others. I gather you’ve been planning to move along to safer shores. Want to talk about that?
Fae’rynn: Sure! I’ve been planning a move out of the USA for about six months or so, and this year put out a GFM to raise the funds for it. I’ve kept where I’m going a bit on the DL, but I suppose there is no harm in talking about it: Thailand is going to be where I end up asap. It’s more culturally friendly than a lot of places in the West to trans people, and laws are being passed to help women like me there.
Dani: We’ll link that Go Fund Me at the bottom of the interview for those who might want to donate. I know a few trans women who have moved there, and they’ve opened my eyes quite a bit to the culture there, which sounds a lot more open than what we’ve descended into in the US for sure. Have you been working on learning Thai at all? I understand that most people there will know English to some degree, but I imagine you’d want to learn the language as well.
Fae’rynn: Yeah, I think pretending it’s perfect is a mistake, but from my PoV, it’s much better. Also a big factor is I do already have friends there so there is a community to slot into. As far as the language goes, no, I haven’t been learning it yet. (Too focused on writing my book!) But I will be making the effort while I’m there. It’s a bit more… um… practical, I guess, to learn in an environment where the language is all around you.
Dani: As a French teacher, I can absolutely agree, though having a little bit of a base before you go wouldn’t hurt. But being hurled in (with support) will be lovely. And I have to ask, as an aficionado of southeast Asian cuisine, how fucking excited are you about the food?!?
Fae’rynn: LOL, well thai food is some of my favorite food as well. I’m a bit curious to see how it is there vs the places I’ve experienced it in restaurants. (Primarily the USA, but there was a really good Thai restaurant in South Africa when I lived there that I really enjoyed, too.) So… out of 10, I would say I’m a 100 on the excitement scale on the food alone.
Dani: I hope you get to meet Bee as well at some point while you’re there!
Fae’rynn: I’m sure she’ll find a reason to say hi and push me into traffic. (affectionate. This is an in-joke!)
Dani: If you know, you know. Moving on…There’s word on the street that you have a book coming out at the end of February called Sundered Moon, but before we talk about that, this book had its origins as a serial on Scribblehub. I’d never heard of Scribblehub until I started getting to know the transfem writers’ community, but it seems to be a very active place for this group. Tell me a bit about that platform and its importance for transfem and queer creators generally.
Fae’rynn: Well, to be quite honest, I also hadn’t heard of it before getting to know other writers in the transfem community either! LOL. But, I think there is a readership there (of other trans women) who enjoy the stories and it’s a sort of nexus for a lot of writers in our community. I’m not really sure on the history of the platform, but speaking of my own experience there: it makes integrating support platforms like Ko-fi and Patreon quite easy and intuitive (it places a button on the bottom of every chapter release, on your profile, etc, etc). So, it’s a nice way to put out content that isn’t likely to be as overly scrutinized by assholes for free and gives readers an easy way to support creators. (Also it’s not awful to read on. Could be better but it could also be worse.)
Dani: This speaks to something I’ve noticed in the community, which is that mutual support and aid is a very common and important phenomenon. Be it simple calls for aid, which are often answered–there’s a joke that there’s the same twenty dollars that just keeps getting passed around from one person to the other–to platforms like Scribblehub, and Itch where there’s a minimum price but donations are easy to do above that price. Like there’s a socialist philosophy that seems to underlie the community. Does that make sense?
Fae’rynn: I’ve joked about this with Benjanun, but it’s not really a joke: we’re the dregs and we look out for our own. There’s a really upsetting reality where people love trans women in theory, but god fucking forbid we assert our humanity, our voices, or our thoughts. Then we’re easily discarded, downplayed and dismissed. It’s actually a bit insanity inducing, because other members of the “Queer Community” are not immune to doing this to us. It often feels that at the end of the day, trans women have no one else but other trans women. There are some allies who get down into the dregs with us and stay there (like Bee), but they are few and far between.
Dani: The dregs are where the flavor is concentrated, though! And all jokes aside, I’ve seen the “intra-community discourse” for lack of a better word, and I was wondering how you manage to maintain your mental health, because I know it’s exhausting and I’ve seen you try to step back from it and get drawn back in a few times.
Fae’rynn: That’s the great part: I don’t! My mental and emotional health in that regard is a bit in shambles, I’ll be honest. I am not actually a mean dyke, but sometimes you don’t really have another option. There comes points where I’m like “okay, no seriously I am losing myself in this garbage and I need to step back.” And then I will, but yeah… the answer is: “I’m NOT managing to maintain my mental health.”
Dani: Do you think working on Sundered Moon has been cathartic in that regard?
Fae’rynn: In a way, yes. There were ideas going into the book that I had surrounding anti-capitalism (largely inspired by how frustrated I was with how The Witch from Mercury sort of glossed over that bit) but as time went on, the discourse dragged, and I dug deeper into transfeminist theory, Sundered Moon because far more anti-patriarchal than anything else… and yes, it absolutely does feel good to do some fictional violence to an oppressive system!
Dani: Can you give a pithy one-sentence pitch for Sundered Moon with only one clause? Cruel, I know, but please try. 🙂
Fae’rynn: This is cruel and unusual punishment but yes, I can: “Lesbians fucking and fighting their way to liberation.”
Dani: I understand there are mechas involved?
Fae’rynn: Yep! I’ve long been a lover of the genre, and I smashed mecha along with several other sci-fi elements including cyberpunk to flesh out the world and just have a fun sandbox to play around in regards to conflict. (and you know, give my characters cool shit to do)
Dani: How did you get into mecha in the first place? What are your mecha roots? Oh and could you define mecha for those who don’t know?
Fae’rynn: Sure! Mecha is basically a genre of anime that’s about giant robots. It has its origins in “Super Robots.” Shows that treated the mechs almost like… magic? But then out of that you got “Real/Military Robots” (I.E. Gundam) and that’s where I got my introduction to the genre, through Gundam Wing and Gundam Seed as a child. But also other shows such as Zoids (animal robots) and the Big-O (A blend of noir elements and mecha) and one of my personal favorites, Escaflowne (high fantasy Mecha)
I really love/am drawn to the relationship between the human pilot, their machine, and how one becomes the other while being both… and also individuals. It’s a complicated sort of thing I really enjoy thinking about! Full of contradictions that… well, I relate to a lot as a trans woman.
Dani: I was just going to say that I’ve noticed a LOT of trans women write about mechas and robots and the like…
Fae’rynn: I think it’s the TRANShumanism (ha, get it?). There is something really quite appealing about the idea of hacking your own biology and physiology to create a body you are comfortable in. Many of us, myself included, are doing that in real time! And there’s also an element, I think, of… taking power for ourselves to fight back against a world that really does not like us. In that sense, I really like writing “Self-actualizing Mecha” vs. “Body Horror Mecha.”
Dani: (nodding) Although trans writers certainly do write body horror aplenty!
Fae’rynn: Oh yeah, I even enjoy reading it or watching it. It’s great! Just as a writer, I find it a bit depressing to get into that headspace.
Dani: In some of the Chainverse stories, body horror is mixed with romance in some deliciously uncomfortable ways. i am a mad animal by Meghan Shore comes to mind, among others…I’m working on a Compleat Chainverse Companion. Anyway, I do enjoy it in small doses and it really hits home–the deconstruction and reconstruction of the body, how much the process can be controlled, etc. are themes I’ve seen played with to devastating effect.
Fae’rynn: Absolutely. As a reader and enjoyer of that very thing, I love it when writers dig deep into those themes. Gonna shill another friend here, Talia Bhatt’s Attack Dog really fucks. Everyone should read it.
Dani: (nodding) Talia also has a book on transfeminist theory called Trans/Rad/Fem coming out that looks really interesting.
Fae’rynn: Yes! She’s one of the most brilliant feminist minds of this decade and I mean that so seriously. It’s a real honor to be her friend. She’s also really fucking funny. When Trans/Rad/Fem comes out, ya’ll better be reading it.
Dani: I surely will. Do you incorporate what you would call trans/radical/feminist ideas in Sundered Moon?
Fae’rynn: Yes and no. The trans and feminist parts, yes. However, I’m more of a Lesbian Material Feminist enjoyer (Wittig) and I think that shapes more of my thinking than radical feminism, though the two are linked. (For those who don’t know, Radical in this context means “root”) Besides schools of feminism though–I tend to think of things in more utilitarian/practical terms of “what WORKS?” (I am just a simple minded sword lesbian whose brain defaults to ‘okay but what problems can I solve by hitting them?’) I leave the big brained theory to my betters.
Dani: And you are so valid for that. We’ve talked a bit about your mecha roots, but let’s talk about your lesbian roots in terms of cultural and literary influence. What books, shows, movies, etc helped make you the writer of lesfic you are today?
Fae’rynn: A lot of this is going to come back to lived experience. Finding lesbian media is… difficult, especially lesbian media I actually enjoy. There’s a lot of anime involved because I’m simple minded and big, flashy fights and women doing cool shit is a big appeal to me.
But as far as my own personal lesbianism is concerned, a lot of that is just shaped by how I grew up. I was “straight man” and never fucking understood my “fellow” men the entire time. “I’m a lesbian in a straight man’s body,” was a joke I told often. (To my best friend, who was a lesbian!) There was a lot of abuse that got hurled at me as a result, and a lot of internalizing of issues surrounding romantic attraction (that I am still unpacking today).
Since coming out as trans, I’ve found a lot of refuge in butchfemme culture (admittedly, absorbing a lot by osmosis, as I now have a lot of butch friends) and doing masculinity in a lesbian way… which really hits different.
Dani: (nodding) So we can expect some butches in Sundered Moon?
Fae’rynn: The main character, Dia is on the butch side of the spectrum. She’s a futch. Her mother, Maeve is a masc butch and I love that for her. Other lesbians fall in all sorts of places on that spectrum because I really like writing about all kinds of lesbians!
Fae’rynn was kind enough to share art of some of the characters in the book by Lone Lion Art–get a load of these stone-cold babes!
First we have Dia:
Next comes Eva…
And finally Grainne:
Dani: Are there many men in the book?
Fae’rynn: No, not really. They aren’t omitted completely, but they take up very, very little of the book.
Dani: I honestly love reading lesfic, especially in SFF, if for no other reason that the women often outnumber the men by a great margin, which is so refreshing after the sausage-fest that has long been the main offerings of science fiction and fantasy. I know it’s changed a great deal, but what I grew up on…sigh…
Fae’rynn: Yeah… yeah. It’s rough and slim pickings. There’s actually a joke among trans women that the reason so many of us like/got into anime was because it was one of the few mediums of media that had women who did things, lol. I cannot begin to describe the frustration I felt as a kid and teenager picking up a book and running into yet another woman who was just a prop for some dude. So, in Sundered Moon, I was very, very intentional to make this story about women and lesbians, their relationships with one another and to the world around them as the main cast.
Dani: Would you classify it as a romance?
Fae’rynn: For marketing purposes… lol
Dani: I mean, are the romantic relationships the main storyline and do the couples get a HEA?
Fae’rynn: Hehe, I knew what you meant but I was being cheeky. The answer is yes. There are several romantic relationships including a poly romance of the main 3 PoV lesbians. But also side romances! (Some develop, some are pre-established) It’s very much a story about relationships in general, including romantic ones. But, I don’t think it follows conventional romance tropes… with the exception that the book ends on a HFN (Happily for Now… because I’m planning a trilogy)
Dani: Fuck yeah you are! I think queer romances often have different structures, or are less bound by traditional plots, but we digress. Are you a big romance reader or nah?
Fae’rynn: I used to be, but it got very frustrating how het it all was, and sadly even a lot of lesromance falls into some of the same trappings. (Monogamous, one character who does stuff, the other who supports and lacks interiority)
Dani: This is one thing I love about the queer indie space, because we get stories like yours, and a number of others that come to mind, like Maria Ying, or Vaela Denarr and Micah Iannandrea, or Maxime Jaz, where we see poly relationships with a lot of complexity and love stories that go beyond the usual boundaries of what we’re used to seeing in a “romance.”
Fae’rynn: Yeah, and I think a reason for that goes into how the publishing industry is structured… which is really a whole different can of worms, but I’ll say that it’s a common experience for writers to feel they have to stick to genre tropes or just not get published. Honestly, no hate to the writers but I have beef with the industry.
Dani: Especially when one of the current tactics seems to be wait and see which self-published authors rise to the top and then scoop them up.
Fae’rynn: Funny you mention that, because… oouf. I got my start in publishing back in 2013-2014 when there was a sort of self-pub bubble going on, and a lot of writers were chasing after Hugh Howey’s success with Wool.
Dani: (nodding) I heard an interview with him where he called trad publishing the new vanity publishing and said most people would actually do better self-publishing if they learn to do it right, and if they do get representation they’ll use it to their advantage and do both, not just one.
Fae’rynn: I largely agree with Howey in that regard. I think he put his foot in his mouth a couple of times by not really considering how difficult and rare his success was, and there were a lot of writers I knew who were very frustrated that he just made it seem so easy! But yes, I personally, am very pro-indie writing. I do it for myself, not because I don’t think I couldn’t make it as a trad-published writer, but because I legitimately think it’s just better to have full control of your work. It’s hard as fuck though.
Dani: Yeah–there’s a place for both, but I sure as fuck wouldn’t want to be querying right now.
Fae’rynn: I think last year alone several imprints straight up went under. Was pretty shocking to see. There’s a huge rise now, too, in things like AI covers (from like BIG FOUR houses) and just like… books riddled with really simple errors that I wouldn’t expect? Like the value of being trad published vs indie published was 1) the prestige of being trad published, and 2) that you’d have that huge support network. These days the main advantage seems to be just… distribution of physical copies. PoD (Print on demand) is still really expensive, and as a writer, I’m real sad about that because I almost don’t want readers to buy physical copies! It’s so expensive!
Dani: Yes, and the only way to make it reasonable-ish is through Amazon-only, which…
Fae’rynn: Yeah… it’s not great. I think Nook (Barnes and Noble) also does physical copies, but yeah… the Zon is really it… and yeah…
Dani: Yeah…and the less said about Ingram Spark, the better…Anyway, back to Sundered Moon. What’s the coolest bit of worldbuilding you can tempt us with?
Fae’rynn: Besides the giant, fuckable robots? (There’s a scene where the princess is a bit down bad for her GF while they are in their respective cockpits.)
Dani: GIANT FUCKABLE WHAT?
Fae’rynn: LOL, they are just really attractive… I didn’t pull a Nexus Alpha, but the robots are pretty! Okay, so… I’d say the most TEMPTING bit of worldbuilding… is that I made animal women real via cybernetics and synthetic skin.
Dani: (For readers who may not know, Nexus Alpha is a novel by Ela Bambust about giant fuckable robots and lesbians, which you can read here)
Okay that sounds fucking cool! Are there catgirls?
Fae’rynn: YES. The Princess is a catgirl frfr. (Her two gfs are wolf and lion girls)
Dani: Why is that such a thing in transfem circles? What memo did I miss?
Fae’rynn: I think it goes back to the same thing of idealized bodies and finding yourself in something human but not quite. In this case, the Princess went to Earth, observed how much more free the people were there compared to her imperial hellhole, and was like “Wow, that’s Gender.”
Dani: I love it. Speaking of catgirls, as we wrap up, I have to ask, what’s your catnip?
Fae’rynn: Well, I am a wolf girl… so, cat girls are kind of my catnip.
Dani: Oh shit, sorry, sorry.
Fae’rynn: LMAO :3
Dani: I’ll be more careful next time. Besides Sundered Moon, what other writing do you have out in the world?
Fae’rynn: Well, I’ll stick to my post-egg-cracking work for this one: I have some fanfic on my patreon, and a preview on my itch page of my upcoming fantasy novella Fate’s Desire.
Dani: (Links are at the end of the interview) Ooh, fantasy is my jam, and that sounds kinda smutty, ngl.
Fae’rynn: Fate, the concept/goddess, is a bratty bottom in that story, so… yes.
Dani: (Mr. Burns Excellent gif) And besides the sequels to Sundered Moon, are you cooking up any other projects we should know about?
Fae’rynn: I’ll admit, I’m a bit stuck in that world. Book 2 (Shattered Star) will introduce characters that lead to a spin-off series that will be a more neo-noir cyberpunk story. That book is tentatively titled Cracked Sky.
Dani: I love the symmetry of the titles with Sundered Moon, which I very much look forward to reading when it comes out on February 29! It has been an absolute pleasure chatting with you, and I look forward to seeing it drop into my ebook library when the pre-order arrives. Would you be so kind as to drop the link to the pre-order below, along with other links, such as the one where people could drop a buck if they wanted to help you get the fuck out of Dodge?
Fae’rynn: Thank you, Dani, it’s likewise been a pleasure chatting with you. You’re awesome.
Sundered Moon pre-order: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CJ7Y6BZ5
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/faerynnbooks (for my fanfics)
Dani: And for an extra good time, check out Fae’rynn on Twitter at http://x.com/Faerynnistired