Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
Read Part Four here.
Airship Ambassador: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
Margaret Killjoy: Well, I think I write better than I used to. I’m afraid sometimes I’m getting too stilted, but mostly I’m proud that I’m better able to express myself. I kind of understand how I could write from now until I go senile and never stop improving. Writing is so rewarding because it’s so goddammed hard.
I sort of assume I’m less die-hard activisty than I used to be, but I don’t know. I don’t have perspective enough on that. In my mind, I’ve never been very preachy. Who knows if that’s true. Maybe I still am.
AA: LOL, I’m sure someone is bound to let you know one way or the other. Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests and topics fill your time?
MK: Prisoner support. A friend of mine was imprisoned last year for not testifying before a grand jury investigation into anarchists in New York City. He served more than half a year in jail without being charged with or accused of a crime.
The government has, for a decade now, kept environmentalists at the top of their watch lists, despite tons of documented violent rightwing terrorism and hate crimes in this country that doesn’t see anywhere near the same kind of attention that left-wing and environmentalist sabotage and even civil disobedience sees.
I’m not a front-line activist. I go to demonstrations but I don’t put myself in harm’s way with the regularity of a lot of very, very brave folks. So I’m interested in publicly supporting those who do. Like Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who exposed Stratfor’s extensive spying on activists for corporate clients. He’s serving 10 years.
Outside of geek culture and anarchy, I like being in nature and fantasizing about throwing my computer into the ocean.
AA: What other fandoms are you part of in some way?
MK: I got into geek culture through steampunk, and I gotta admit the rest doesn’t really always hold up. I love how steampunks actually make their own characters, create their own personas. Good stuff.
Cosplay is neat though. I’m sort of obsessed with Game of Thrones and armor, and I have a chainmail shirt I wear around town sometimes in case someone might otherwise have confused me for being cool.
AA: How do those interests influence your work?
MK: I haven’t touched epic fantasy yet—I don’t have the commitment for it! But the themes that are explored in glorious war epics and stuff like that absolutely trickle down into my works. I love Lord of the Rings—and can go on a rant about it being kinda fucked up racially et cetera, but I love it anyway—because I love the idea of diverse groups banding together.
The ride of the rohirrim. When the riders of gondor crest the hill and ride off to their presumed deaths into an endless horde of fascists—er, I mean, orcs—I am right there with them. It’s not about winning, it’s about fighting every goddam nazi—er, I mean orc—in this world even if you know you’re going to die.
I dream of writing something that powerful.
AA: I really hope you find the time, energy, and commitment to writing that! Who or what do you count as your influences, motivators, or role models?
MK: It’s funny, one of my favorite anarchist writers (who, fittingly enough, writes anonymously) is about a decade older than myself. I talk with them about how we live our lives. And this writer can’t imagine living to be old, even still, maybe because all our role models died with nooses around their necks.
But that’s not for me. Yes, a lot of my role models got killed for believing what they believe, but I’m not trying to go out like that. If the state starts rounding up anarchists–which has happened before even in the US—then I guess I’ll go down like some of my heroes. But I’d rather live that quiet life where you keep fighting and never get famous.
So that said, I’ve got George Engel tattooed on my arm. George Engel (not to be confused with Friedrich Engels!) was an anarchist toy shop owner in Chicago, an immigrant from Germany. He was hanged in 1887 specifically because he was an anarchist. Because he helped out with the German anarchist paper in Chicago. His death—and the deaths of the rest of the Haymarket Martyrs—is why the eight-hour workday exists. Because power concedes nothing without a demand.
Right now a fascist group, the Golden Dawn, is coming to power in Greece. My heroes are in the streets fighting them. Physically. Because the Golden Dawn is staging anti-immigrant attacks, and some of those immigrants as well as greek anti-fascists are fighting back. The Golden Dawn is openly attacking gay people in the street. The police don’t care because tons of cops, including a majority of the motorcycle cops, which is its own strange gang, are members of the Golden Dawn. But some people are fighting back. Institutions can empower fascism, but only individual anti-fascists can stop it.
Oh, maybe you meant writers. Ursula Le Guin, Cory Doctorow, and China Miéville off the top of my head. All of whom know how to wield a book as a weapon against oppression while never straying from the goal of telling lies that tell the truth (that being fiction) and telling a compelling and complex story.
AA: Oh, I meant any one and any thing. Not just writers. I learned so much in follow up research just from that one answer. Thank you! Quick random questions – what is your favorite scenic driving location, time of year, and tea?
MK: The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon maybe. It’ll be different if you ask again tomorrow.
Used to be winter but I’m going to go with summer and lose my goth cred.
Rooibos or peppermint. Always herbal, because proper tea is theft. (Yes, that’s the worst, most cliche anarchist joke of them all). Actually always herbal because I don’t drink caffeine.
AA: Ahh, vanilla rooibos is one of my favorites – makes a great tea-spresso! Any final thoughts to share with our readers
MK: Go make things that you care about.
Magpie, thank you so very much for joining us for this interview. There’s never enough time at conventions and other events to just sit and chat, so I greatly appreciate your time. This has also been very engaging and educational, and I hope that our readers follow up with their own reading and research, too.
Until you wonderful readers catch up with Margaret Killjoy in person, please do read the multiple issues of SteamPunk Magazine, and get your copies of What Lies Beneath the Clock Tower and A Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse from Combustion Books.