Queer Space Fantasy: Ashanti Fortson talks GALANTHUS


Web comics are awesome. There are so many of them and they’re so under-the-radar, though, that it’s sometimes hard to find the best ones. Luckily, Galanthus stands out.

In Galanthus, Farah is caught by a smuggling crew after accidentally stowing away on a spaceship. They hire her as a tech assistant and drag her along on their job to retrieve an ancient powerful artifact – one that could change the future.

Creator Ashanti Fortston was kind enough to answer our questions about Galanthus, worldbuilding, and their favorite web comics to read. Galanthus can be read online now.

Tell us a little bit about Galanthus and Farah, our amazing heroine!
Galanthus is a queer space fantasy comic about Farah, a kind and idealistic human girl who is hired as a tech assistant on a smuggling ship after she accidentally stows away on it. As the fabric of the universe is beginning to unravel, the ship’s crew is sent to retrieve an ancient and unimaginably powerful artifact, and they aren’t the only ones who want it. Along the way, Farah must decide – is the future worth fighting for?

Farah herself is the heroine I wanted to see when I was younger. She’s brave, sensitive, and impulsive. She follows her heart no matter what, which can and does land her in hot water when her judgment is clouded, or directed, by strong emotion. She doesn’t tolerate injustice or cruelty; she’s lived through enough of it, and has lost loved ones to it. In part, she’s inspired by Miyazaki’s Nausicaä, but she’s more of a regular person. I want to show the reality of heroism: you don’t need to be the chosen one or a white man to be a hero. All you need is conviction, a willingness to act, and a compassionate, honest heart.

In Galanthus, the crew is sent to find an ancient artifact. You openly call Galanthus science fantasy; do you think blurring the lines between science fiction and fantasy is something that happens often in comics?
Certainly! Genre-blending in comics is fascinating. I think, especially in webcomics, there are very few limits when it comes to genre, setting, or themes. If you can imagine it, you can write it and draw it. This allows for creators to tell niche stories that are perhaps very close to their hearts, or that involve weird things they like. You can do anything you want, with only the restrictions of your own skill and imagination, so why not do something you’re really interested in? The format encourages a whole lot of creativity.

I think sci-fi and fantasy specifically are a pretty natural combination of genres to blend – they both deal with the extraordinary, the unknown, possibility, and the imagination. There are degrees of blending and degrees of intensity with each genre, too, which is cool. Some people like hard sci-fi, where it’s all or mostly based on real science. Some people like sci-fi with fantastical elements, like magical aliens or dimension-hopping. My favorite is fantasy that takes place in space, and that’s what Galanthus is.

With that in mind, what sort of world did you build? Can you tell us a little about it, and the process of creating it?
I love talking about my worldbuilding! Galanthus takes place in our galaxy, hundreds of Earth years in the future, with a decidedly fantastical lens. There are colorful jellyfish aliens, bread-based crime syndicates that operate entirely out of bakeries, and a whole bunch of magic swords. Much of the mythology of the setting is based around textiles, because I love textiles and needlework. An ancient creation story in the Galanthus universe describes a being called the Weaver, who wove together the fabric of space and time and embroidered beautiful worlds into the cloth of its creation. Spaceships travel along the pathways of this fabric – commonly called threads – each ship using a machine called a “hook,” which allows the ship to make small jumps along the threads. (My space travel is essentially crocheting!) It’s a vibrant world where people live vibrant lives, but it’s also troubled, just like our own. Wars have plagued parts of the galaxy for decades or more, corruption and cruelty lurk in the galaxy’s most influential figures, and some say that the recent, unexplained disappearance of planets heralds the end times.

One part of the process of creating this setting is how much it’s developed, especially during the time I’ve been actively making Galanthus. I started Galanthus when I was 18, and though I knew what I wanted the story to be, I didn’t have a particularly clear vision for the aesthetics and mechanics of the world. I’m now almost 20, and I’ve learned a whole lot about comics, illustration, writing, thoroughness, worldbuilding, etc. I’m always learning and always getting to apply that knowledge to new pages, which is one of the most exciting things about webcomics.

In terms of nailing down what I wanted the world to be, a lot of that has been relatively recent. The more skilled and specific I become regarding environments and cohesive worlds, the more I’m able to make the kind of setting I want. I’ve been increasingly able to depart from the idea that space has to be sterile-looking, which makes it a lot more fun for both me and my readers. Why not add weird alien plants? Why not add glowing crystal lamps? Why not give people magic swords and spears and spells instead of guns? It’s thrilling to think about how I’ll be able to develop the world – through writing and art – over the duration of the comic.

Galanthus updates every Wednesday! What are the sort of strains that come with a weekly web comic? The joys?
The biggest challenge for me is finding time to make new pages and do the necessary writing and visual development for the story. I’m a full time art student with a disability, so just managing school is difficult. Updating a webcomic weekly on top of that, as well as doing other comics projects, makes it a whole new level of stressful. I’ve actually had to cut my update schedule down to two pages a month for the past few months, but I think I’m ready to get back into the weekly swing of things now.

I’d love to be able to make the story happen more quickly, with two or three updates a week, but that’s not possible right now. I think that’s the biggest frustration. However, I’m so grateful for the folks who read Galanthus, both on a weekly/twice-a-month basis and more sporadically. They’re one of the biggest joys. Their support means a whole lot to me – every comment, every like and retweet, everyone who looks for my table at conventions, etc. It’s really special being able to connect with people through this story I’m making!

What else do you want people to know about Galanthus?
Galanthus is in its second chapter right now, so still early on, but it’s a story I feel passionate about making – especially now. With so much of the world looking so grim, it’s more important than ever to not lose hope that we can make it better and kinder and more just. Galanthus is essentially my response to people who say that they’ve lost faith in humanity. I understand that feeling. There are many cruel people out there, people who use their power to hurt and oppress others. Our world is often frightening, but there are so many of us who fight tirelessly for a better world, in large and small acts. That’s what Galanthus is about, really: coming of age in a scary, tough world, and choosing to not give up on it.

If you’d like to keep up with Galanthus, I post update previews on , and I have an update mailing list set up (where update notifications go straight to your email). I also have a Patreon page, where you can support the comic and see early updates, sneak peeks, concept art, and more!

What other web comics would you recommend for fans of Galanthus?
Oh man, have I got some good space webcomics for you.

I think folks who like Galanthus would also very much enjoy Star Trip by . It has beautiful soft colors, fun and imaginative sci-fi worlds, and a lot of heart. The Otherknown by is a really fantastic, intriguing sci-fi drama involving time travel. I also like Heir Presumptive by ! It’s a stylish space opera about an anxious princess who runs away from home. Definitely check those out!

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Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at or Tumblr at . Like her work? Leave her a tip.

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