Attention all bears, chubs and cubs! Author, artist and activist Alex Smith is putting out the call for original science-fiction stories centered around chubby gay male leads for an anthology he is putting together entitled cyBEARpunk.
As described by Smith: “cyBEARpunk will be an anthology of short, prose stories with some curated art/illustrations by, for and about large/chubby/”burly” gay men in sci-fi settings. Basically, think Matrix, Star Wars or 2001: Space Odyssey, but with chubby gay male leads, a bit of romance (a bit), and a sprinkling of gay/queer bear culture.”
Stories for the anthology will be accepted until October 1. Writers (who can be anyone bear, chub or otherwise) have until that deadline to submit and can find more information about the criteria HERE.
Alex Smith himself is a sci-fi writer (The Resistance web-series; Black Vans comic book), artist, musician (art-punk bands Solarized, Rainbow Crimes), activist (Metropolarity queer sci-fi collective) and cultural/arts critic (Pitchfork, The Key, Bandcamp, Philly Gay News, Philly Artblog). He is a recipient of the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and author of the sci-fi/cyberpunk/super-hero/Afrofuturist short story collection ARKDUST, from Rosarium Publishing.
We sat down with this visionary artist to learn more about this exciting and novel project.
John Hernandez: Hi Alex! Thanks for joining me. I was very excited to learn about cyBEARpunk! Why have you decided to compile and anthology of sci-fi stories with bear/ chub leads?
Alex Smith: I wanted to make a book about the bear community, especially fat or chubby gay men, because bears and bigger bodied men are left out of the gay media narrative in general, and sci-fi in particular. Big guys are portrayed often as the butt of jokes instead of the proud, intelligent, awesome warriors, thinkers, lovers, cuddlers and bad-asses that I know them to be. So, instead of lamenting about that particular lack of representation in media, I decided to do something about it! I want to see bears and big boys saving the day, fighting aliens, taking down the system and this is the best avenue at my disposal to do so.
John: Are there any authors or artists whose fat/bear positive work has influenced you?
Alex: At this point, very few and far between? I have had this idea for a couple years, but when I saw the Burly Tales anthology from Lethe Press, it was definitely the light bulb moment for me. It’s a book that also features burly, chubby, big gay men in lead roles, but it’s based on fantasy and fairy tale tropes. It helped me realize that I could do the sci-fi anthology in the exact way that I wanted to.
I will say that often when I read books with fat gay male leads, they’re often kind of boring romances or the main character is worried about his weight for 200, 300 pages, and is never affirmed as handsome or beautiful, and I got tired of that really fast. I wanted to write and help bring out stories where fatness is accepted, centered, and empowered. So, in a way, those terrible romances were kind of reverse-fuel for me wanting to course correct that stuff.
John: What do you consider positive fat/ bear representation in the media? Any examples?
Alex: Hmm.. recently I did a list of the top 10 bears on tv, I posted it for fun on my Instagram. I think the best case for this is Harvey Guillen. He is so so so so so so nice and just a real person and his character Guillermo on What We Do In the Shadows is just awesome. You see Guillermo flipping around, like crazy Blade/Matrix/X-Men style flips, slaying vampires, protecting his people, but you also see him struggle with his confidence a bit, he’s afraid to come out to his family as gay, etc, so he’s real AND fantastical. It’s a great, great character.
Also great is OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH, a show about gay-spectrum pirates on HBO, there’s some beef on that show and all the pirates are super into each other’s bodies as they are. It’s nice. And I can’t forget my buddies over at Sidekick Productions, especially their YouTube TV shows that I’ve been obsessed with for like 6 years now? Joshua Pangborn is doing great stuff with his shows Demon Doctor and Skeleton Crew, tons of hot bears. And my partner in crime, James Dillenbeck with his awesome comic book art that features exclusively large gay men (particular gay bear men of color too!)
John: Please describe what led you to the bear community and your experience within it?
Alex: I’ve been attracted to larger men since I was 5. These references are probably super obscure, but formative for me, as an 80’s kid, my early celebrity crushes weren’t like, Tom Cruise or New Edition or any of the Brat Pack. Nah, I was into Tiny from Gatchaman, Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince, Markie Dee from the Fat Boys, Larry Kubiak from Parker Lewis. So, it was natural that I gravitated to the bear community.
I’m on the smaller spectrum, but I feel body dysmorphia and awkwardness of not being in a typical super-lean, “swimmer’s build” twink body. I embrace my dad bod as much as I can. Still, as much as I love it and try to celebrate it though, the bear community can be prejudiced, sometimes downright anti-Black. This was especially true in the 90s and 00s. But lately, with the Black Lives Matter and other movements gaining ground in leftist circles, I’ve noticed that bears and chubs are more welcoming to Black men and that’s really great. I have found my bear for life, my partner Shane (who is a writer and musician) but it’s great that the community is becoming more welcoming. We do need more POC representation in the bear community and I encourage curators, promoters, and artists to think about that when they plan things.
John: Something we wholeheartedly endorse and push for here at BWM as well. Best of luck with cyBEARpunk Alex! I can’t wait to read it!
For more information on cyBEARpunk and how to submit YOUR story click HERE.