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In Conversation with Tor.com's CHRISTINA ORLANDO

Tor.com’s Books Editor and Publicity Coordinator Christina Orlando has graciously joined us in conversation about their experiences working in the publishing industry, their time with Tor.com, and more.




Tell us a little about yourself. What made you want to work in publishing? How long have you been working in the industry?

I really always loved books, but I was told from a very young age that it was just a hobby and not a job. I internalized a lot of the narrative around English majors and artists — that art didn't sell, an English degree was only good for teaching, and I needed to find something practical to do. I left college and went into digital marketing, mostly social media and e-mail, which was fine but ultimately unfulfilling. I wasn't being creatively challenged. Eventually I left and started my own business, a subscription box for books and tea. Thatwas my first real introduction to how publishing worked, and suddenly I started learning about all the different jobs that were available to me and all the different ways books were made. It was really a formative experience, and I made a lot of great connections through that work. At the same time, I started writing for Book Riot and working with that team. Once I had a better idea of how the industry worked and what the individual publisher/imprint identities were like, it made finding a job a little easier. But I've really only been in 'publishing' for two years.


What has your experience with Tor.com been like? Specifically as Books Editor & Publicity Coordinator. Are there any Tor.com titles you’re particularly proud to have worked on? Are there any upcoming titles you find to be standouts?

I really love my job, and I feel very lucky every day. I tell them this a lot. I love my team, the Tor.com website writers are the smartest people I know. I'm thankful to be around people who understand me, who I can be weird with and who have the same nerdy frames of reference that I do. I'm really proud of the work we do.


One of my favorite aspects of the job is keeping up to date with new and upcoming releases — I'm always working 3 to 6 months ahead, and I get to work with publicists and writers to hype up their books. Especially when it comes to books by marginalized voices, it's so important to be able to put Tor.com's writers and reviewers behind a standout title. I want to help these stories reach their readers. I want to see writers do well. I want everyone to know it's possible to find success in writing and publishing. I don't want anyone to grow up like I did — thinking their love for books was useless, or 'just a hobby'.


I don't work directly on the titles from Tor.com - the Publishing team is a separate group of badasses that I absolutely adore. Part of Tor.com's ethos is being publisher neutral, so I work with not just Tor.com Publishing/Tor Books, but with all publishers that publish speculative fiction. So I really get to see everything beyond what happens in my specific office, and there's a lot coming up that I'm really excited about.


That being said, my love for Emily Tesh's Silver in the Wood is well documented.


You wear many hats within this industry, from your work with Tor.com to publications like Electric Literature. Where would you like to see yourself in publishing?

That's hard for me to answer because I really love where I am now. I want to be able to keep shouting about books and writers I love, and supporting marginalized voices across all aspects of publishing. Whatever happens in the future for me, I'll be making space for creative people who have been pushed aside by the industry. Making publishing and media a more inclusive space will always be my top priority.


I have recently read your discussion with Leah Schnelbach, Natalie Zutter, and Renata Sweeney about the last decade of science fiction and fantasy. Where do you see the genre going over the next ten years? Where would you like it to go?

I'm glad you brought that up, because I really loved that conversation. Like I said - my friends are really smart, and I feel very lucky to be working with them. We sat around a table for six hours and discussed the past decade in SFF. What's funny is you can actually see a spike in the number of diverse voices being published around 2017. SFF was real white and mostly dominated by men, and then all of a sudden you start to see voices like Zoraida Cordova, Rebecca Roanhorse, Stephen Graham Jones, Marlon James, Tochi Onyebuchi, Annalee Newitz coming to the forefront. I'm really excited by that shift, and I hope SFF continues to make room for different types of narratives. Of course, that's all connected to who is behind the scenes making these books happen, too. So as much as we support writers from marginalized backgrounds, we need to support more inclusive hiring practices across the publishing industry, so we have diversity in editorial, publicity, marketing, sales, and beyond. That's the only way to really make room for books to succeed.


I'm particularly protective of narratives that don't always speak to a "general" audience. For example, sometimes books about Black experiences don't need to be palatable for White audiences, and we don't need to tone down queerness and sexuality for straight readers. Sometimes it doesn't need to be about identity at all. Marginalized folks deserve worlds where they feel seen, understood, and loved without apology. I'm always going to champion books that are #ownvoices, and that speak to audiences that have felt systemically discarded by both publishing and the world in general. I hope we see more of that in the next ten years.


Given your time spent with Tor.com’s blog, what would you say makes for a successful literary blog?

One of my favorite things about Tor.com is that we're not afraid to get experimental. Sometimes that means we get a little silly, like doing a list about the best biceps in fantasy, or what TV shows from our world we think Muderbot would like to watch. Sometimes that means we let our writers take chances on new ideas, and we get brilliant pieces like Emmet Asher-Perrin's piece about reading Paul Atreides as a non-binary character, or Leah Schnelbach's masterpiece on Forky, The Good Place, and what it means when we call ourselves 'trash'. And diversity of voice is important too - a piece from Tochi Onyebuchi is very different from an Elyse Martin or Lee Mandelo. And it's a joy watching them all run with their ideas and follow their passions.


We trust our writers, we know their strengths, and we try new things. Tor.com is a space to be weird and wonderful and strange, and that's what makes it work.


What are your favorite genres or authors, or greatest influences?

I definitely lean heavier on the fantasy side when it comes to genre, and I'll admit that V.E. Schwab's writing is part of the reason I'm here (don't tell her I said that though), and I have a deep love for lots of foundational fantasy. I came from literary fiction, and I love work that blurs those lines. Helen Oyeyemi is really important to me, and writers like Carmen Maria Machado, Claire Vaye Watkins, Akwaeke Emezi.


But my ride or die is poetry. I started writing poetry really young, and I love poets so deeply. That will always be really essential to me.


How has working in publishing affected or changed your reading as a whole. Do you find it affects reading for pleasure?

I think about this a lot, because I'm not sure I read differently, because I know what I like. What it changes is how aware I am of what books are considered 'important' or 'buzzy' in the industry, which I kind of hate. I miss the feeling of walking into a bookstore and browsing, and just picking up something that looks good without knowing much about it. Now, I'm so hyper-aware of the writer's reputation, the publisher, etc. I do still find pleasure in reading and I wouldn't be in this job if I didn't enjoy the books that I work with. But not-for-work reading is always outside of genre. I try to read very widely, so I'll pick up more literary things, or nonfiction. But I never feel like I have enough time for reading. I don't think any of us really do. I love books so much and I wish I could devour all of them.


ABOUT CHRISTINA ORLANDO

Christina Orlando is the Books Editor and Publicity Coordinator for Tor.com, assistant poetry editor for Bodega Magazine, and a contributing writer for Electric Literature. They are a champion for diversity in the literary community, and dedicated to supporting marginalized voices across the publishing industry.


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