Updated: Sep 1

For entry number fourteen of our Beneath the Needle Q&A series, we delve into Deadname; Anya Leigh Josephs' incredible contribution to The Needle Drops... Volume One. Beyond this, we talk about the importance of representation in fiction, Dungeons & Dragons, The Jena Cycle... and their adorable pet, Sycorax! Delve in below.

Anya is a dungeon-master for homebrew role-playing games, an addendum to her passion for fiction and theatre

I write widely in a variety of genres and am a member of SFWA. My fiction can be found in Fantasy Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, Mythaxis, The Green Briar Review, the Necronomicon Anthology, and forthcoming in the Broadkill Review. My non-fiction appears in SPARK, SoLaced, Prouud2BeMe, The Huffington Post, and Anti-Heroin Chic. I am also a published poet, in Poets Reading the News, and my plays have been performed by One Song Productions, NOMADS, and Powerhouse Theatre’s Apprentice Company. My debut novel, Queen of All, a fantasy for young adults, is now available.

So, Anya - Deadname highlights the insidious intolerance often found within typical small-town USA: often white, devout Christian communities where ‘alternative’ lifestyles are commonly frowned upon -- or worse. You mentioned that “this short story is a response to the horror of being and perceiving the horror there”. Would you mind expanding on this a little?

Sure! So, as my bio states, I was raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Chapel Hill is a liberal town in North Carolina. It has a low crime rate, the best public schools in the state, a renowned public university, big suburban houses. It is, proverbially, a great place to grow up. That’s what I was told as a kid by parents and teachers.

I… did not find that to be the case. And neither did anyone else I knew who grew up trans, queer, a person of color, a religious minority, disabled, neuroatypical, etc. These kinds of communities often hide behind a façade of tolerance, but they were built on inequality (in the case of those in the American South, quite literally—built atop the stolen land of Native American peoples, by the forced labor of enslaved Africans). Those structures are still there, hiding, and when you’re a kid, trapped there, they’re easy to see, even when everyone around you denies that.