Archive for 2017

A Dearth of Fairy Godmothers

(Guest post by Kat Howard)

I am not the sort of writer who generally knows where she’s going when she begins a story. I’ll start with a character, a voice, a scene, and then I just write. So when I started writing An Unkindness of Magicians, I didn’t know that much about what I wanted the book to be.

What I did know was that I wasn’t writing a fairy tale.

I love fairy tales. My first novel, Roses and Rot, is full of them, and I’ve retold them elsewhere as well. I’m certain that they’re something I’ll return to. But with An Unkindness of Magicians, I wanted – I needed – to tell a different kind of story.

Fairy tales often rely on the idea that good will be rewarded. That the deserving daughter will go to the ball, that an old woman will offer a wish in exchange for a kindness, that a mechanical bird will cry out against injustice.

An Unkindness of Magicians is not that kind of story. There are no fairy godmothers coming to save anyone.

Magic is not a thing that is given as a gift in the world of An Unkindness of Magicians. It is not a reward for good behavior. It is wielded like a weapon, it is kept behind locked doors, it is taken.

We say things that happen easily, unexpectedly, miraculously, happen as if by magic. But that’s always struck me as a too-easy explanation. Magic embodies the imagined; it makes the impossible commonplace. If magic were real, practicing it would not be an easy thing.

But even in a society of magicians, people with magic in their very bones, people for whom the right words could conjure the impossible, there would be people who would want magic to be easier.

There are always people who think that things should easier.

That’s not to say that ease is bad. There is an ease that comes with practice, with skill, with study. If you work, you may find that what was once difficult comes with ease. There are also technologies specifically designed to make tasks easier, and of course those should be used.

The problem with ease is when you make your own life easier at someone else’s expense. Those aren’t fairy tale creatures anymore. Those are things from a horror story, vampires and other such ghastlies that feed off the blood and life and soul of others.

An Unkindness of Magicians is not a horror story either. What it is, is the story of a corruption. A thing like a pea, put under mattresses and quilts to bruise the flesh of a true princess, only instead of a pea it is rot, and it has spread through everything.

But An Unkindness of Magicians is also not simply the story of a corrupt society that collapses under its own weight. It is the story of what happens when society stands on the brink of that collapse. Of the people who say enough, and the people who are still willing and happy to sacrifice anyone so long as they get theirs.

Here is the other thing about fairy tales: evil is punished. The doves peck out the eyes of the cruel stepsisters. Bones sing to name their murderer. There is a sense, at the end of the stories, that justice has been done.

An Unkindness of Magicians isn’t that sort of story, either. Sometimes justice can’t be done. The dead do not sing, but stay silent and dead. Even if you cause people to look, straight on, at what they’ve done, the past cannot be unseen.

There is no inherent reward or punishment here. The last words I typed in An Unkindness of Magicians were not “happily ever after.” And anyone who is saved, saved themselves.

(Editors note: Kat Howard’s An Unkindness of Magicians was released on September 26, and is now available at all booksellers.)

Kat Howard lives in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in Year’s Best and “best-of” collections, and performed on NPR. Her debut novel, Roses and Rot, was named one of the best SF/Fantasy/Horror books of Summer 2016 by Publishers Weekly and is a finalist for the 2017 Locus Award for First Novel. Her second novel, An Unkindness of Magicians, was published September 2017 from Saga Press, who are also publishing her short fiction collection, A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, in fall 2018. You can find her on Twitter at @KatWithSword.

Liz Argall’s Things React to Qi Xi

As you may remember, one of the stretch goals for the Uncanny Magazine Year Three Kickstarter was a continuation of our webcomic feature. Each issue, the multi-talented Liz Argall will have a special Uncanny edition of her webcomic Things Without Arms and Without Legs where they react to a piece in an issue of Uncanny Magazine.

For Issue 17, Liz’s Things react to the poem “Qi Xi” by Joyce Chng. This particular comic also features an appearance by Mayara, a Tamarin-sized Tamarind who loves the cosmos!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 18 Cover and Table of Contents!


All of the content will be available in the eBook version on the day of release.

The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on October 3.

Don’t forget eBook Subscriptions to Uncanny Magazine are available from Weightless Books and Amazon Kindle, and you can support us on our Patreon!

There is an upcoming staff change at Uncanny Magazine. Issue 18 will be Amal El-Mohtar’s last issue as a podcast reader. Amal’s career as a writer and academic has been growing, and she needed to shed some responsibilities to focus on her upcoming projects. Amal has been an extremely important part of Uncanny Magazine since its beginning. Nobody did more to support this dream. We at Uncanny wish her all the best in every future endeavor.

Ashley Mackenzie- Inspiration

The Uncanny Valley

N. K. Jemisin- “Henosis” (9/5)
Fran Wilde- “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” (9/5)
C. S. E. Cooney- “Though She Be But Little” (9/5)

Catherynne M. Valente- “Down and Out in R’lyeh” (10/3)
Vina Jie-Min Prasad- “Fandom for Robots” (10/3)
Delia Sherman- “At Cooney’s” (10/3)

Malinda Lo- “Ghost Town” (9/5)

Sophie Aldred – “My Voice-Over Life” (9/5)
Cecilia Tan- “Let Me Tell You” (9/5)

Sarah Kuhn- “I’m Not The Only One: Why Wonder Woman Doesn’t Need to Stand Alone in Order to Stand Tall” (10/3)

Sam J. Miller & Jean Rice- “’Don’t Let Him Catch You With Your Work Undone’—Activism for the Long Haul, Resistance 101, Vol. 4″ (10/3)
Sabrina Vourvoulias- “Changeable Skins, Consummate Catchphrases” (10/3)

Jo Walton- “Too Much Dystopia?” (9/5)
Brandon O’Brien- “Birth, Place” (9/5)

Ali Trotta- “A Lovesong From Frankenstein’s Monster” (10/3)
Gwynne Garfinkle- “The Golem of the Gravestones” (10/3)

Julia Rios Interviews C. S. E. Conney (9/5)

Julia Rios Interviews Delia Sherman (10/3)

Podcast 18A (9/5)
N. K. Jemisin- “Henosis,” as read by Stephanie Morris
Fran Wilde- “Clearly Lettered with a Mostly Steady Hand,” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Jo Walton- “Too Much Dystopia?”, as read by Erika Ensign
Julia Rios Interviews Fran Wilde

Podcast 18B (10/3)
Catherynne M. Valente- “Down and Out in R’lyeh,” as read by Heath Miller
Ali Trotta- “A Lovesong From Frankenstein’s Monster,” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Julia Rios Interviews Catherynne M. Valente

Triumph Over the Backspace Key: A Letter for a Book in Which I Don’t Have a Letter by Mimi Mondal (Guest Post)

I did not write a letter for Luminescent Threads, an anthology that I would eventually come to edit. I am writing this post in lieu of the letter I failed to write almost a year ago.

Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and me, is now available from Twelfth Planet Press. It is a collection of writing on Octavia E. Butler, including some essays and articles, but mostly personal letters written posthumously to Octavia E. Butler, describing how she and her writing touched the lives of her readers, and helped them become the writers they are today. A similar anthology, Letters to Tiptree, was published by Twelfth Planet Press in 2015.

Luminescent Threads is my first book as a volume editor, but I didn’t come into the project until halfway through it. I had read and enjoyed Letters to Tiptree, but Twelfth Planet Press and its editors are based in Australia. I have never been to Australia. I came to the United States for the first time in 2015. I haven’t yet met in person all the editors I submit to, all the writers I read and love, all the writers who will send me their works the next time Uncanny is open for submissions. In India, where I grew up and learned to write, the consequences of baring one’s heart and vulnerabilities in writing are often too severe, especially for those who belong to minorities. I have always been more comfortable writing fiction and poetry—expressing my deepest thoughts in allusion and metaphor—than I have been with writing a memoir. I don’t talk about my life with strangers. I am constantly trying to pass as something or the other that is not entirely me, so that I can have friends, so that I feel safe and included, so that I have enough common grounds with anyone to be able to hold a conversation at all.

I had loved Letters to Tiptree, as had many others, but when I saw the call for submissions to Luminescent Threads almost a year ago, I did not feel ready to send them my own story. I had not met those people; they were white; and I had faced enough rejection, denial, and whitewashing of my life experiences by other people to not open myself up to another pair of strangers. Despite the fact that these people in question had published another compassionate and relevant book that I had enjoyed. Despite the fact that I was an Octavia E. Butler Scholar and wasn’t probably a completely worthless writer. Despite the fact that other people I knew and respected happened to know and respect them. I didn’t know these people, and I wasn’t going to take the chance of sharing my life story with them.

Why was I—why am I—so distrustful of strangers, even benign harmless strangers with no history of misbehaviour? (Some would say “paranoid,” a word I despise because of its connotation of mental illness. One of the weapons of gaslighting the minority experience has always been accusing the person of mental illness and subsequently distorted perception.) People aren’t born distrustful of other people; the baby always reaches out with undiluted curiosity and joy towards the thing that fascinates it. All distrust is learned—you stop trying to grab that bright flickering thing when you learn that it burns you; you learn that a smile is good and a frown is bad; you learn when the cat wants a cuddle and when it’s going to scratch.

And when you are a minority, especially if you’re the only one among your friends, you learn the hard way that the smiles that are meant for them are not always meant for you. That dynamic itself doesn’t change no matter how many levels you cross, how far you rise from wherever you started—you may outgrow your middle-school bullies, but there will always be smarter, subtler, more powerful versions of them lurking at the next place you go, then the one after. There will not always be precedents of bad behaviour for you to can take a warning from. Your non-minority friend may have nothing but pleasant interactions with someone but they may be “uncharacteristically” ghoulish to you, and often—more often that I wish was true—if you bring up the matter with your non-minority friend, they will be surprised and ask you if aren’t imagining the insult. (This is when you start to consider dropping them and acquiring a new set of friends, but that’s easier—and faster—said than done.)

Anyone who belongs to any minority knows what I am talking about. The girl who cannot convince her guy friends that their common friend is sleazy to her. The non-native-speaker student who never gets an A from the very helpful English teacher at school. The friend from a different religion who is tactfully overlooked from the dinner invitation at the parents’ house. Everyone who has ever felt inexplicably dirty and wounded by a “harmless” joke cracked at their expense.

The more minorities you belong to, the more unreliable that expectation becomes. Not all queer-friendly communities are equally friendly to trans people, queer people of colour, disabled queers, poor queers. Not all people-of-colour communities welcome all people of colour among them. I wish I could “be myself” around more people, but I have met more people in life than not who treat my friends differently from me. Until I have had a personal interaction with anyone, no matter what other people I know and love say about them, I am polite but aloof, never forthcoming with my struggles or confessions.

Why I am writing about these things in an article about a book I edited—am I not supposed to be on the other side of the table? I am writing because for this book, other minority writers have overcome that immense fear and vulnerability about rejection that I myself could not when I was on their side. And there’s something deeply valuable, deeply moving about that which goes beyond the mere words of their letters.

The biggest challenge when creating a book about a celebrated member of any minority is that by the time they become enshrined enough to be commented on, the loudest and most prominent commentaries no longer come from the communities from which the person has risen. Octavia E. Butler had been a working-class, queer, Black woman—very few of her readers, researchers, and people writing on her works for posterity can claim to be all three. Anyone who is on the editorial side of books and magazines knows this—no matter what subject we want to hear about, no matter how many heartfelt diversity statements we put out, the largest number of submissions still end up coming from white men with a certain level of formal education. I may be mistrusted by a stranger for the same anxieties that lead me to mistrust another, and it would be neither of our fault.

Minorities self-reject. We self-reject a lot. We self-reject no matter what age we are, or what level of success we have. We don’t only worry about not being good enough to be published—that is the first, and in many ways the easiest, hurdle—but if we do get published, what consequence our words will have on our lives, our careers, how much people respect us, whether we will get labelled whiny or angry or anti-national or whores or a number of other violent things, the safety of our families and friends. (We don’t do this because we are paranoid. We do it because this has been our experience—if not always personal, at least in the larger communal memory.) Every word I write I weigh against my possibility of ever going back home, of finding my family as safe as I left them, of being able to live and work in India again. Backspace happens to be the most worn down key on my computer.

This entire anthology, in that way, is a triumph over the backspace key. While I went through them trying to fix spelling and syntactical errors, the letters in this anthology made me cry for their honesty, bravery, anger, vulnerability—everything their authors have been willing to share with others. A simple publication credit isn’t worth that kind of stripping down of the self; there is something bigger. There is striving towards healing, strengthening, consolation, solidification—both of the self and others whom those words will reach.

Most of our letters came in right after the US presidential elections, and there is a direct, unabashed political rage that emerges in many of them. These writers committed to those words at a time when I was myself too afraid to even name the President on any of my social media accounts—I hadn’t voted for him, but I had never been eligible to vote for him, and he wanted people like me thrown out of his country anyway.

The first person those words embraced and held back from crumbling was me. At a time when I was no longer sure if I was worth anything to anyone in the US any more, and should not just give up and leave on the first flight home, they convinced me to hold out a little longer, endure a few more days of bleakness, before other friends came along—more luminescent threads from strangers that have strengthened and sustained me through what has been probably the worst year of my life. I was not an editor at Uncanny Magazine when I started working on this book, and now I am. I go out a little more, I initiate conversations, my words encounter a little more of CTRL+S and little less of backspace. That is what working on Luminescent Threads has done for me, and I hope reading it does that for you too, at the time when you need it the most.

Uncanny Magazine’s Reprint/Poetry Editor, Mimi Mondal, was born and raised in Calcutta, India. In various incarnations, she has been an editor with Penguin India, a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Stirling, Scotland, and an Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholar at the Clarion West Writing Workshop 2015. Her stories, poetry, and social commentary have appeared in The Book Smugglers, Daily Science Fiction, Podcastle,, Muse India, Kindle Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the co-editor of Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler (2017) from Twelfth Planet Press. Her first collection of stories is also forthcoming in India from Juggernaut Books. Mimi almost always enjoys the company of monsters.

Guest Post! Liz Argall Is Launching a Patreon!

Hello! I am Liz. I am the creator of Things Without Arms and Without Legs, a comic about creatures who are kind. I’ve created over 500 comics in the last 5 years and it has been the most wonderful, humbling experience seeing how some of those comics have helped people (a sad  in particular). The Things have been blessed to be part of the Uncanny Posse for a few years, responding to wonderful works of fiction, poetry, and editorials. Looking over the ones I’ve done so far (, I’m so glad Uncanny gave us the chance to make something that would never exist otherwise.

First up, I want to say thanks to any of the Uncanny readers who nominated me (Liz Argall, which in my mind means Things!) for the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award. I’m certain some of you did, and I want you to know how much it means to me. 528 ballots were cast for 242 nominees, and we made it to the top 12. I wasn’t prepared for how wonderful that would feel. It made me want to work harder… and it gave me hope, that hope bit is so special it deserves mentioning twice. It made me all teary and stuff. So thank you.

Today, I’m launching my Patreon page. Patreon is a place where everyday folks can support stuff they love in an ongoing way (there’s even an Uncanny Patreon if you’re more of an ongoing backer type rather than a Kickstarter type).

Patreon is a place where you get to give creators the rocket fuel they need to take their art to the next level. Rewards range from access to the special Patreon feed, to physical goodies, to video shout outs, to mentoring. At any reward level, you will be supporting me and the Things to put more art in the world that is a hug when you need it, or some courage when you need to push through.

If it interests you, please check it out and sign up if you can at

Thanks for your support (be it patronage, sharing, reading, commenting, or just reading this all the way to the end), for loving Uncanny Magazine, and for being mighty Space Unicorns who bring the awesome.

Uncanny Magazine Wins the 2017 Best Semiprozine Hugo Award!

We have wonderful news! Uncanny Magazine won its second Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine! We are deeply honored by this Hugo Award. It was a stellar group of finalists.

A magazine is the work of numerous people, so we want to thank our 2016 staff of Michi Trota, Julia Rios, Erika Ensign, Steven Schapansky, Amal El-Mohtar, and Deborah Stanish; all of our submissions editors and guest podcast readers; our webmaster Jeremiah Tolbert from Clockpunk Studios; and, of course, our ombudsman and world’s greatest daughter, Caitlin. Thank you to every single member of the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps and all of the Hugo voters. We couldn’t do this without the support of this community.

Once again, congratulations to the two Uncanny Magazine stories which were finalists for the Hugo Awards: “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander for Best Short Story and “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong for Best Novelette.

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas didn’t win the Best Editor- Short Form Hugo Award, but did come in second, which is phenomenal! Congratulations to the winner, Ellen Datlow!

Finally, “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Uncanny Magazine Podcast Reader Amal El-Mohtar from the Saga Press anthology The Starlit Wood (edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe, who was also a Hugo finalist for Best Editor- Long Form), which we reprinted in Uncanny Magazine, won the Best Short Story Hugo Award, just like it won the Nebula and Locus Awards! Congratulations Amal!

The Thomases and Bolander’s Story Are World Fantasy Award Finalists and Uncanny Is a British Fantasy Award Finalist!

More excellent award news, Space Unicorns!

The World Fantasy Award Finalists have been announced! Once again, Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are finalists for the Special Award, Non-Professional World Fantasy Award for Uncanny Magazine! Also, “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander is a finalist for the Best Short Story World Fantasy Award! Congratulations to Brooke and all of the finalists!

Michael will be at the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio representing Uncanny.

On top of that, Uncanny Magazine is a British Fantasy Awards- Best Magazine/Periodical Finalist!

We are thrilled and honored. Once again, congratulations to all of the finalists!

Alyssa Wong’s Uncanny Story Wins a Locus Award and Galen Dara’s Issue 10 Cover Wins a Chesley Award!

Huge news, Space Unicorns! TWO pieces of Uncanny Magazine Issue 10 have won awards!

First,  “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong won the Locus Award for Best Novelette! Congratulations, Alyssa!

Uncanny Magazine Co-Publisher and Co-Editor-in-Chief Michael Damian Thomas with Alyssa Wong’s acceptor, Emma Osborne, at the Locus Awards.

Second, Galen Dara’s Uncanny Magazine Issue 10 cover Bubbles and Blast Off won the 2017 Chesley Award for Best Cover Illustration: Magazine!  Congratulations, Galen!