Listing by Gillian Daniels
I first met Erin Underwood during our involvement in planning one of New England’s most prominent science fiction conventions, Boskone. She impressed me not only with her editorial prowess—she had recently put together a short story collection of young adult science fiction with Hannah Strom-Martin through Underwords Press, Futuredaze—but her vibrancy and enthusiasm. A local to the Boston area, Erin struck me with her openness to new challenges and genre fiction projects. It was a pleasure to work with her and I have tried to keep tabs on her ongoing endeavors ever since.
My interests in theatre and sci-fi don’t intersect as often as I like, which is why I was absolutely thrilled to hear about Erin’s new anthology with theatre editor Jen Gunnels, Geek Theatre. As she writes on the Kickstarter page, much contemporary science fiction and fantasy theatre often go unseen by mainstream audiences. Plays that blend genre and older traditions frequently remain confined to performances within the fan community at SF&F conventions or are lost completely because they’re never published.
Geek Theatre looks to showcase a number of monologues and stage plays for the benefit of theater groups, critics, schools, and readers everywhere. I’m very excited about the concept itself as I’ve struggled to find anthologies of genre theater in the past. When I saw the authors Erin had involved in the project, I was elated.
One such author is Andrea Hairston, a recipient of the NEA Grant to Playwrights, the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre, and a Theatre professor at Smith College. Her plays include Archangels of Funk, Lonely Stardust, and Soul Repairs and have been produced at Yale Rep, Rites and Reason, the Kennedy Center, and StageWest. Along with winning the James Tiptree, Jr. Award for her novel Redwood and Wildfire, she’s slated to be the Guest of Honor for Readercon 2014.
James Patrick Kelly, winner of the Hugo, Locus, and Nebula awards and columnist for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, is well known not only for his short fiction and award-winning novelettes, such as “Think Like a Dinosaur” (1995) and “1016 to 1” (1999), but his plays. Live productions have been performed Off-Off Broadway in such places as Manchester, NH, Honolulu, HI, and Poughkeepsie, NY while audio productions are available on Clarkesworld, Escape Pod, and SciFi.com.
John Kessel, author of various, mind-bending works including Good News from Outer Space and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories, has often collaborated with Kelly. Kessel’s fiction has received the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards not to mention the Paul Green Playwright’s Prize for A Clean Escape, which was adapted as an episode of ABC’s TV series, Masters of Science Fiction.
The other authors involved with the project have also amassed a great deal of prestige in the sci-fi and fantasy community. So why aren’t they more integral to mainstream theatre circles? This is why I think Erin Underwood’s Geek Theater is monstrously important.
My hope is that the Kickstarter for the project will continue to attract backers and be fully funded before May 5th, though it’s not there yet. This is a potentially watershed moment for the intersection of genre fiction and theatre. Whatever the results will be, it’s to the greatest benefit of not only SF/F fans and theatre-goers but the literary community at large to have a collection like Geek Theatre available to us all.