Author Interview, Blog

Giving The Devil His Due: Q&A with The Pixel Project

Giving the Devil His Due is an anthology collection created by the global nonprofit, The Pixel Project. It’s is a collection of short stories from different authors that imagine what justice for survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence could look like. This is a charity anthology created to raise money to further The Pixel Project’s mission to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power in an effort to end violence against women through campaigns, initiatives, projects, and programmes at the intersection of social media, new technologies, and popular culture/the Arts.

I corresponded with Regina Yau, founder of The Pixel Project, and Rebecca Brewer, editor of the anthology, to learn more about The Pixel Project and how the anthology was created.

About The Pixel Project

What is it like to be a part of a global, virtual, nonprofit? How do you believe this is revolutionizing the way we serve and have an impact? What is your defined community?

Regina Yau (RY): I founded The Pixel Project as a global, virtual nonprofit because violence against women (VAW) isn’t just isolated within specific cultures and communities – it happens worldwide, and the internet, which provides so many ways to reach and connect individuals and communities across the world, would be a very timely and effective platform and tool for the issue. 

Our team has always been scattered across several countries, continents, and time zones. While most of us have yet to meet each other in person, we have worked together in lockstep and camaraderie for many years in our joint commitment to eradicating VAW. Many people have noticed that, unusually for a volunteer-run organisation, most of our team have served for at least a couple of years and many for more than five years. 

When The Pixel Project first started in 2009, many of the social media platforms we take for granted today were still in their early years and most anti-VAW organisations hadn’t fully tapped into the potential of social media and online activism. People didn’t take our activist work seriously because we are a virtual nonprofit doing online campaigns. However, we persevered because we knew we were ahead of the curve and that this was the future of activism and advocacy. One thing remains true for all activists and advocates – that to raise awareness and educate effectively, we need outreach strategies that work. With the younger generations now born into a digital world where much of daily life is conducted online and society is increasingly accepting that we all have virtual lives (or will do in the years to come), having some kind of active online outreach program is non-negotiable for those of us who wish to change the world.

As for our defined community – it is our supporters, partners, and donors from all over the world. Whether they are our Read For Pixels community of authors and fandoms, the dads that we work with, the survivors who collaborate with us, or our fellow anti-VAW organisations who do joint projects and events with us, the common thread is that we are all united for the cause to end VAW.

I really love the idea of the Read for Pixels Campaign! What have been some of your favorite author interviews/sessions? Do you have any other book recommendations to learn more about VAW (either fiction or nonfiction)?

RY: Thank you! Read For Pixels is one of our longest-running campaigns and we’ll be marking its 10th anniversary next year! 

We’ve hosted and recorded almost 200 livestreamed author interviews and panel sessions at this point so it’s difficult to choose a favourite. I would say that our shows have definitely evolved and improved over the years but I will always have a soft spot for our very first Read For Pixels session which was with the bestselling Horror novelist Joe Hill. Some of our most thought-provoking discussions have been with Samantha Shannon, Fonda Lee, Tamora Pierce, Steven EriksonMary Robinette Kowal, Rebecca Roanhorse, Jim C. Hines, Lauren Willig, Stephen Graham Jones, and Sarah MacLean. Starting in 2019, we have also started running a series of panel sessions that do deep dives into everything from how to approach VAW in speculative fiction to writing better female and male characters. Authors that have joined our panels including Charlaine Harris, Martha Wells, Leanna Renee Hieber and more.

As for book recommendations, I would say check out Faith Hunter’s Soulwood series and Anne Bishop’s The Courtyard of Others series to see how VAW is treated appropriately in speculative fiction. And of course, Giving the Devil his Due features a collection of stories which revolve around the themes of revenge and justice for VAW. We have also published an annual list of recommended reads about VAW as part of our annual 16 For 16 blog campaign for the past 10+ years. People who are interested in books (both fiction and nonfiction) about VAW can start by having a look at our 2021 and 2020 lists for more recently published books. 

Rebecca Brewer (RB): I would second Regina’s recommendations for great speculative fiction that touches on VAW in an appropriate way. I also recommend Alice by Christina Henry. For nonfiction, Why Does He do That by Lundy Brancroft  is a wonderful resource for women experiencing domestic abuse.  

I see that part of your mission and vision is to engage men and boys in the fight against VAW. Why do you believe this is important? How can we better engage men and boys in our own communities?

RY: The short answer is that we believe it is vital to engage men and boys in the fight against VAW because women and girls comprise half of humanity and cannot end the violence when the patriarchy teaches and enables the other half of humanity (aka men and boys) to abuse us with impunity and makes VAW an acceptable norm.

As it is, a UN study showed that 90% people worldwide are still biased against women in all aspects of life from work to home which tracks with how people are more apt to listen to men while being less inclined to believe women and girls who face VAW, sexism, and misogyny. Sadly but unsurprisingly, men still overwhelmingly don’t listen to women’s voices. So we need the men who see women and girls as human beings in our own right to step up to educate and hold their peers accountable for sexist, misogynist, and abusive behaviour towards women and girls. 

Human beings learn best from example. So an excellent starting point to better engage men and boys in our own communities would be to collaborate with men who are supportive of women’s human rights and who can be great role models of healthy masculinity for boys and other men. This is especially crucial for boys because they are still in their formative years. If communities can engage male people from childhood, we will stand a better chance of reducing and eradicating VAW in the generations to come.

RB: Reaching and educating men and boys to respect women, and their autonomy is one of the biggest things that we can do. Preventing violence before it starts is the goal. Then, once men learn these tools and empathy, hopefully they will keep other men accountable. 

About the anthology 

I firmly believe in the power of reading and books to impact us to change the world. Many nonprofits who write books often write collections of nonfiction essays that further explain their subject matter. Why did you decide to do a fictional anthology?

RY: The Pixel Project decided to do a fictional anthology because we believe in the power of fiction to raise awareness, teach empathy, and get people thinking about difficult human rights and social issues that they would normally ignore or shy away from. 

This has been done effectively by authors such as Sir Terry Pratchett, Octavia Butler, and Ursula Le Guin who have tackled themes ranging from economic inequality to racial discrimination in their stories. This was one of the major reasons why we started Read For Pixels back in 2014 – we saw that stories are that spoonful of sugar that makes the brutal issue of VAW go down a little easier for many people. Genre fiction –  be it fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, mystery, or historical fiction – provides a safe, non-preachy, and non-threatening space for people to absorb the message about VAW.

RB:  Fiction provides a unique opportunity because it can speak the truths that simple facts might not. Some women who have experienced VAW can gain catharsis in empowering stories where a woman experiences something similar. In this anthology, we have the bonus that the reader gets to see these women all get revenge. While some people might not realize the extent of their abuse, these stories can leak the truth into their minds, bit by bit. 

For those who haven’t experienced VAW themselves, these stories provide windows into these experiences so that they can identify it, whether it is in themselves or others. 

How did you go about finding the different authors to contribute to the anthology?

RY & RB: It was simultaneously easy and difficult to find authors to contribute to the anthology. 

On the easy side, The Pixel Project had already collaborated with many speculative fiction authors for many years through the Read For Pixels campaign so we had many excellent candidates to choose from. Additionally, Rebecca, who is a former editor at Ace/Roc has extensive contacts with eligible authors. Plus some of our Read For Pixels alumni and supporters also made some very valid and appropriate nominations.

However, what made the process a challenge were the very necessary parameters we had set for the anthology:

Firstly, we decided on 16 stories because 16 is a significant number in the movement to end violence against women, principally because of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence which begins every year of the International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on World Human Rights Day. 

Secondly, because VAW affects every level of society and cuts across the lines of race, class, age, religion, sexuality, and nationality, we wanted to ensure that the anthology reflected this reality as much as possible. Representation absolutely matters. So we made a concerted effort to put together a diverse line-up of authors and that is easier said than done because you want to include everybody but the limits imposed by 16 slots means you have to make some hard decisions. 

Thirdly, we rigorously stuck to the standards that Pixel uses when considering authors as candidates for any Read For Pixels initiative or event – they must not have a history of violence against women and children, they must not be bigots, sexists, or any of the -isms, and they must be fully supportive of eradicating VAW. 

We are very pleased with our final line-up – it was worth every effort we made and we couldn’t ask for a better group of authors to work with!

The major theme of the anthology seems to be justice for women and girls subjected to violence. How do you believe narratives like these shape the way we could collectively imagine justice for VAW? What is your personal vision of justice for VAW?

RY: We decided on the theme of revenge against the men who commit VAW because we want people to be able to imagine a world where there is justice for the violence that abusive men subject women and girls to just because they are female.

In our world, we are used to seeing miscarriages of justice routinely happen in cases of VAW be it male abusers repeatedly getting let off the hook until they kill their victim(s) to rape culture so pervasive that it takes years and many victims stepping forward before anything is done to bring the rapist to justice. We are all so steeped in variations of such patriarchal norms throughout the world that many people are inured to the horrors of VAW (or don’t even think it’s wrong).

If the stories in this anthology can get people to recognise VAW as what it is – a pervasive human rights atrocity in our families, cultures, and communities that needs to be addressed – and that part of addressing the violence is to enforce appropriate consequences for the perpetrators of VAW, we will have succeeded on at least one level.  

Personally, I believe that justice for VAW can only be achieved when governments, law enforcement, and legal systems worldwide start treating VAW as seriously as they treat robberies, theft, and other crimes. This will come when we see that domestic abusers who terrorise their wives and children are no longer given the benefit of the doubt by the court, rapists are not given paltry sentences, judges are no longer approving applications for the marriage of underaged girls and so on. I hope someday VAW will truly be recognised as an unacceptable crime and that this is reflected in justice systems everywhere. Sadly, we are still far from the tipping point for that but I am confident that we will get there someday.

RB: These stories represent a world that we can reach for, as a metaphor. If a woman is abused by a partner, they will be punished. The victory would not be from a vengeful monster, but by a legal system that believes women and children, and works to protect them.. 

Justice would be when society as a whole will condemn such actions, and put them in such disgrace that it would serve as a message to others. Most of all, they will see women as having their own value, and believe them. 

Tayler Simon is a nerdy black woman in search of liberation for all. When she's not reading/listening to audiobooks and writing, you can find her laughing at memes and chatting incessantly about astrology (Cancer/Sagittarius/Cancer). Favorite genres: African American fiction and memoir.


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