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The Final Space Unicorn Uncanny Countdown!

You Spectacular Space Unicorns,

With 24 hours to go in the Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter, we just hit our fourth stretch goal! Thanks to your generosity, we will be adding an additional story per issue!

How amazing is that?!?

We still have one more stretch goal of a 2nd additional story per issue. We can do this! We would love to have more content for the readers and more opportunities for writers. You’re obviously under no obligation, but we would love this signal boosted over the last few hours of the Kickstarter.

As a reminder, we have have Space Unicorn Rangers Corps patches (our Space Unicorn mascot as created by the fantastic Katy Shuttleworth in scouting patch form) available to all of our backers as an add-on. Just increase your pledge by $10 and remind us in the survey that you will receive after the Kickstarter closes.

Thank you all so much for making this happen.


Lynne and Michael Thomas

Uncanny Is Looking for Submissions Editors!

Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy is currently seeking to add Submissions Editors (often called slush readers). Uncanny is an online magazine that publishes Science Fiction and Fantasy and pays $.08 per word for new fiction. Our submission guidelines are here:

We will ask Submissions Editors to select unique and provocative, diverse, well-written stories from our unsolicited submissions for the Editors-in-Chief to consider for publication. Each Submission Editor will be responsible for reading about 30-60 stories per month (we try to respond within 10 days to submissions). This is an unpaid volunteer position, and you will be unable to submit to Uncanny if you are chosen. If you’re curious about how that works, here is an excellent post by Sigrid Ellis on the subject.

If you’re interested in joining Team Space Unicorn, please fill out our Submission Editor application form. We will be accepting applications until September 2 at 11:59 PM CDT.


We’ve Reached Two Stretch Goals!

Hello You Wonderful Space Unicorns,

The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter has reached two stretch goals! There will be ORIGINAL COVERS from artists Tran Nguyen and Galen Dara!

If you backed Uncanny for more than $50, you have the option of getting this original art in postcard form. There are also backer levels that will let you get this art as a print. How awesome is that? 🙂

We’re currently $1550 away from the next stretch goal of 2 additional essays per issue. We already have essays coming from Jim C. Hines, Kameron Hurley, Tansy Rayner Roberts (the last three Hugo winners for Best Fan Writer), Sarah Kuhn , Julia Rios, and Diana Pho . Imagine what we could do with extra essay slots.

After that, we have two stretch goals for additional stories. We would love to give you more amazing content in each issue.


In other news, Editors-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas were interviewed by Escape Pod.


Lynne and Michael

Uncanny Magazine Is 92% Funded with Two Weeks to Go!

Hello Space Unicorn Rangers,

We’re nearly there! With little over two weeks to go, the Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter is 92% funded with 669 backers! To celebrate this milestone, our daughter Caitlin cosplayed a Hogwarts student. (Caitlin is 11 and about to start middle school.)

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We would love your help to spread the word. The sooner we reach 100%, the sooner we can start working on our first issue. This includes opening up to unsolicited submissions. This is going to be an amazing magazine, and we can’t wait to share it with the world.

The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter still has many exciting backer levels available including:

  • AUTOGRAPH HUNTERS’ DREAM. Normandyes postcard autographed by 8 different writers currently there on a French retreat: Elizabeth Bear, Greer Gilman, Ellen Klages, David D. Levine, Scott Lynch, Pat Murphy, Madeline Robins, and Rachel Swirsky.
  • SWIRSKY STORY FOR YOU: Personalized, autographed unpublished short story manuscript from Nebula Award-winning author Rachel Swirsky.
  • SHINIES 1 pair beaded earrings handmade by Rachel Swirsky.
  • SCARY HAM FUNERAL KIT. As heard at this year’s Nebula Awards: the story of the scary ham: Ellen Klages will put together a unique package including an autographed print of the Scary Ham Story and a canned ham. (Please follow local laws when dealing with your ham).
  • HAIKU EARRING PARTY IN A BOX Jeweler Elise Matthesen will provide everything you need to throw a Haiku Earring Party. Includes a dozen pairs of earrings (all sterling silver) with names, pens and haiku cards, and instructions for conducting the party.
  • HOP WITH Maria Dahvana Headley. Take a vintage shopping trip in NYC with Maria styling you (you are responsible for purchasing stuff if you like it), or Maria will create a virtual redecoration of your home in her signature cabinet of curiousities style – as in, you tell her your favorite things, and she make a virtual fantastical room for you. Travel to NYC and lodgings NOT INCLUDED. If you follow Maria, you know this is going to be an epic shopping experience.
  • DANCE VERITY DANCE. Verity! is a Hugo-nominated podcast in which six smart women discuss Doctor Who ( The Verity! podcast will record an episode JUST FOR BACKERS (minimum 20 minutes per topic, but we’re often chatty!). Backers at this level get to choose our topics, from the silly to the sublime (need not be Doctor Who). This episode will not be publicly released through the Verity! website as an Extra for at least six months, and we may not release it at all outside of this Kickstarter.
  • NAME OUR SPACE UNICORN Our awesome unicorn was designed by Katy Shuttleworth, but it needs a name! Also includes dinner with the Uncanny editors (and any willing authors who can join us) at a convention.
  • POCONOS RETREAT Support at this level gets you a writer/editor retreat at a vacation home in the Poconos (big screen TV, wifi, & cable included), with Lynne M. Thomas, Deborah Stanish, and possibly additional area writers (Fran Wilde, Sarah Pinsker, A.C. Wise, Michael R. Underwood) based on availability. You are responsible for getting to Philadelphia, but we will cover transportation to the vacation cottage, housing, and food for the weekend.

And don’t forget that we have Space Unicorn Rangers Corps patches available as an add-on. Just add $10 to your pledge and let us know in your survey after the Kickstarter closes.


If you would like to hear more about the project, Managing Editor Michi Trota Guest Blogged on The Radish and Editors-in-Chief Guest Blogged on SF Signal.


Finally, we have an exciting video coming up. As you may know, Managing Editor Michi Trota is an experienced firespinner. In honor of being fully funded, we will be making a video of her teaching Lynne M. Thomas how to firespin! What could possibly go wrong? 🙂


Thank you again for all of your support. We couldn’t have done this without all of you.


Lynne & Michael


Uncanny Mini Interview with Future Uncanny Web Designer Jeremiah Tolbert!


Jeremiah Tolbert is a writer and web designer living in Lawrence Kansas with his wife, newborn son, and two identical cats named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. His fiction has appeared in magazines such as Asimov’s, Interzone, and Lightspeed Magazine. He has also designed the websites of a few dozen authors ranging from Ann Leckie to Michael Connelly.

Interview by Deborah Stanish.

1- Clockpunk Studios has a reputation for developing gorgeous, artistic, yet highly functional websites for authors, publishers, and other businesses. When taking on a client, how do you approach melding their needs and aesthetic with the technical necessities of a well-designed website?

Balancing form and function is one of the core struggles of any design job. They’re not always necessarily at odds with each other, but maybe they are more so in web design because it’s still a relatively young design medium, versus, say, print. Because web technology is constantly advancing, and at a very fast pace, we get new tools every day. I’ve always erred on the side of function over form – it doesn’t really matter how beautiful a website is if it can’t be used. Increasingly, though, we don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

Still, websites are not art; at least not most of them. Websites are tools and their design should reflect that. Which is not to say that we think websites should be ugly; absolutely not. But their design should enhance and serve their functionality.  If a client requires something design or aesthetic-wise that we think is a detriment to the user’s experience, we try and point out those issues and work with the client to solve the problem in different ways.

Sometimes, a client might come to us with really precise instructions like, “Make this 3 pixels bigger, and change the color to blue.” Which is fine, but we try to dig deeper. Instead, we ask, “Okay, what’s the problem you want those changes to fix? Because maybe we can use our expertise to come up with a more effective solution.”

2- You are a writer yourself. Did that inspire you in any way to focus on building websites for creative types? Are there similarities in the creative process of writing and designing a website?

Absolutely. When I decided to strike out on my own and launch Clockpunk Studios, I knew I would need a niche to service. I’ve worked for clients such as AOL, and Kraft, and other Fortune 500 companies, but there’s no shortage of competition for jobs like those. Instead, I wanted to make my own way and work with clientele that didn’t traditionally have the services of professional web designers. And because I was already a writer with a large social circle of writers, writers started coming to me right away to build their sites. I was very lucky to have a lot of friends who needed work early on, and the business has ballooned from there.

At the time I started, websites for authors were in a pretty sorry state. Since then, a lot of tools have come along to make having a great author website so much easier than before – to the point where we are constantly working to provide more and more to our clients to compete with such solutions.

I think there are definitely similarities between the creative processes. Our projects begin with something akin to an outline, which we call wireframes. They’re pencil sketches of the interface and layouts of websites. Next, we move on to visual mockups to define the site’s design/look/feel, which would basically be the meat and bones rough draft. Finally, we write that design as code to make the site come alive. This involves a lot of revising of code and testing things, which in some ways emulates the rewriting process.

3- A website has a lot of jobs to do: highlighting the “product,” being user friendly, offering an enhanced user experience – but it is also a creative endeavor. How do you challenge yourself as a designer and developer without over-challenging the user?

I challenge myself as a designer and developer on my own time with personal projects more than I do for my clients, unless they’re specifically asking to take some risks. The trouble with challenging and stretching yourself is that sometimes you go down dead-ends or find less than ideal solutions. The learning process is valuable, but I prefer not to do that on someone else’s dime.  We’re more than happy to do so if that’s the expectation up-front.

Most of the work I do for clients is a challenge of iterating on successful design patterns; things that work, and trying to improve them, enhance them, without necessarily trying to reinvent the wheel with each project. There’s an enormous amount of value in consistency when it comes to user experience. This might result in some elements being the same across most websites – for instance, you’ll find that the search tool is often in the upper right, navigation at the top, and so on. This consistency, a design “pattern,” results in a better user experience.

As far as a website having a lot of things to do, this is true, but most of those things are in service of a singular goal (or a few goals). With your product example, user friendly and enhanced user experience are all things that service highlighting the project. A good website works in concert to accomplish goals like that.

4- What is the “uncanniest” thing that has ever happened to you?

Goodness, that’s a hard one. I’ve lived a pretty uncanny life, for which I’m pretty thankful. Here’s an absolutely true experience from my childhood, as I remember it.

It was July 4th, probably 1988 or 1987. My father, sister, brother, and I were driving back from my great-grandparents who lived in the country outside a tiny little town called Carbondale, Kansas. We were on a dirt road, and it was maybe one or two in the morning, miles from anything but farms.

Up ahead, we saw a man running down the middle of the road. He wore a track suit, looked to be in his 50s, and most peculiar of all, he consisted entirely of grays. He looked like he had sprung to life from a black and white photograph.

He ran straight at us, not acknowledging us in the car at all, gaze set straight ahead. My dad swerved to miss him. This all happened in a matter of seconds.

Here’s the thing about childhood memories– hard to know which parts are true and which are parts you made up. I know all of the above actually happened. I remember it clearly as do the others that were there.  I just can’t tell you if this last bit were true or if I tacked it on afterwards and it just feels real now.

But I could have sworn when I looked back at the man as he faded into the darkness, out of the reach of the car’s tail lights, that I could see through him; I could swear that he was semi-transparent and did not disappear into the darkness but instead evaporated into the summer night air.

I could swear that, but I won’t. Everything else is true though.

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Sofia Samatar!

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Sofia Samatar is the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria, winner of the 2014 Crawford Award, as well as several short stories, essays, and poems. Her short story “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. Sofia is a co-editor for Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts, and teaches literature and writing at California State University Channel Islands.

Interview by Michi Trota.

1) What was the first science fiction or fantasy story that you ever fell in love with? How has it inspired your own work?

The first SFF work I fell in love with was The Lord of the Rings. It’s inspired my work enormously–mostly in terms of language. Tolkien was a master at creating an imaginative reality through the use of fantastical languages. He really understood that language makes the world. I didn’t create a fully functioning language for my own imagined universe, but I certainly know the meaning of all the names of people and places in A Stranger in Olondria. I know something about the phonology and morphology of all the languages in the book, and I have a decent idea of how the grammar works (though I’m better at Olondrian grammar than I am at some of the other languages). That knowledge is important, even if the reader doesn’t share it. When there’s consistency in an imagined language (for example, Olondrian does not have the sounds “p,” “j” or “ch”), it creates a sense of depth, of alternate reality–which is what we’re all after. Tolkien knew that the sounds of words are powerful, even if you don’t know exactly what they mean. He’s taught me a lot.

2) You’re an academic and a teacher, as well as a fiction writer, essayist and poet. When you come up with ideas to write about, do you know what form the piece will take? How do you decide if your idea is going to become a story or essay or poem?

For me, form and content are too closely related to pull apart. Ideas don’t come to me in the abstract–they come as essays, stories, or poems. Sometimes they come in more than one form–I’ve recently written both a short story and an essay about Charlie Parker, and I’ve published a poem and a story about Shahrazad from A Thousand and One Nights. But, basically, there’s never any question. There’s no decision to make. The idea is an object.

3) How do you use your work to challenge readers?

Wow, I don’t know! Maybe I challenge readers, but I really don’t set out to. In fact I always hope my work is clear and easy to read, a pleasure rather than a challenge (I’m pretty sure I don’t always succeed). I want to give someone an experience. I want to tell what I see, and for it to mean something to another person. I’m just saying stuff like “Tree–I see that tree. Do you see it too?” I suppose it can be challenging if people don’t see my trees. But–and maybe this is because I’m a teacher–I see “challenge” as something sort of awful, like a tough assignment. I don’t think of my favorite books as challenging, so I’m not looking for my own work to be received that way. I guess I would say, to someone “challenged” by my writing: “That’s too bad. I’m sorry.”

4) What is the most uncanny thing that’s ever happened to you?

Ok, do you know that game Dictionary? Where you pick a word nobody knows, and everyone makes up fake definitions for it, and then you try to guess which one is right? Well, one time I was playing with a bunch of people including my husband, Keith Miller, and there was a totally unfamiliar word (which I unfortunately can’t remember), and Keith and I both made up the same definition: “Swedish nougat.” Now, there was something about this word that suggested candy–I think someone else came up with a candy definition too–but it was definitely not “svenskanugatte” or anything like that. There was nothing in it that suggested Sweden or nougat specifically. We were speechless. I mean, we spend a lot of time together and read a lot of the same books, but it was still very weird.

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Liz Argall!


Liz Argall often writes speculative fiction and interstitial work that explore spaces between genres. She is especially fond of gritty urban fantasy, thought provoking science fiction and fantastical literary fiction.

Liz’s comics have been published in an array of publications, including Meanjin, The Girl’s Guide to Guy Stuff, Eat Comics, Something Wicked and her collection Songs, Dreams and Nightmares. Her anthology, Dreams of Tomorrow, won a Bronze Ledger Award for Small Press of the Year. In January 2009 her musical Comic Book Opera, written with composer Michael Sollis, was performed for the first time. Two of her short stories have been staged as plays.

Interview by Michi Trota

1) You’re a prolific comics’ writer as well as a writer of prose and poetry. What’s the most challenging aspect about writing comics vs. writing prose or poetry?

I’d say the most challenging aspect of writing comics is that you’re not doing the most challenging part! Drawing a comic is much harder than writing one. The first time I wrote a short story in a long time I couldn’t believe it; no back and forth, no trying to find the right artist with the time not to mention all the variables of collaboration in an industry that has very little money and a lot of dysfunction.

When I’m drawing and writing a comic (aka Things Without Arms and Without Legs) the greatest challenge is coming up with ideas that are good enough for the characters. They are such special characters that I want to make sure I always honor their spirit and the ness-ness of each entity.

One of the hard things about returning to short stories after a long time writing comics was not having someone to collaborate with. There’s nothing like having an artist read your mind and draw something richer than you could have ever imagined. It’s an extraordinary feeling. With a layer between yourself and the finished product it can feel a little safer, it’s easier to be brave and once you have a finished product it’s easier to say, “Check out X’s art, they’re fricken amazing! Buy our comic!” Than to spruik solo work.

And as for poetry? Crippling imposter syndrome. When I was younger I wrote poetry all the time and my first creative paying gig was as a guest performance poet at the Dan O’Connell in Melbourne (I was paid $20 and the gig was 600km away). Now that I am older I often feel like I’m not good enough, although I push myself into this realm from time to time and find sideways approaches such as my “Love Letters to Inanimate Objects” series.

2) You have some very physical hobbies, like roller derby and fire spinning. Do you ever integrate them into your writing?

Roller Derby has found its way into several of my stories. There is a vividness and strength in derby that is very appealing. I have not yet integrated fire twirling into any of my stories. I probably should, the time when I fire twirled the most was an emotionally intense period and I think I might be ready to draw from that well now that over a decade has passed.

The biggest impact that Roller Derby and Aikido (the two physical activities I do the most, I recently returned to Aikido as a form of cross training) has been psychological. Roller derby and Aikido have both helped me become more creative and FINISH work. In addition to the well-known benefits of exercise roller derby and Aikido provide me with tangible evidence of the value of practice and the different ways that you can push yourself to grow as an athlete or a creator. Seeing the benefit of thoughtful, intense practice in one field makes it easier to see the benefit in other practices.

It’s also easier for me to find and be in “the flow” when training physically and finding the flow, remembering the flow helps me find it on the page as well.

My favorite book on creativity is a sports psychology book! I highly recommend Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed.

3) How do you use your work to challenge yourself or your readers?

I try to lean into the discomfort. If I find myself flinching in a certain part of the text it often means there’s something powerful there and I need to push into it. I want to be of service to my readers and I do that by bringing them the best story I can and not flinching. I believe in my readers, they are smart and want diverse worlds.

Sometimes people are clearly challenged by my work, but often those same stories give other readers a warm safe place to snuggle into. I remember how much I wanted spaces for me when I was a teen and reading felt like my food, water and shelter. I want there to be a greater diversity of spaces and people for people to imagine themselves into.

I try to be brave when I sit down to write, it’s one of the muscles I work on and like my calves there is always room to grow! There are so many ways you can practice being a better writer; it can be overwhelming, but bravery is one of those areas I try to push into. Every time I’m brave or try to tackle intersectional issues or draw on things that make me feel exposed or get critiqued for falling short of my intention I grow in muscle and strength. Sometimes, like a hard practice, it hurts, sometimes I feel injured, but the important thing is to get up, keep growing, be brave and hold your space (or translating from derby to prose don’t let the world silence you).

4) What is the most uncanny thing that has happened to you?

That I am an athlete now. When I was in my early twenties I thought about setting a goal of standing up the whole time I was in the shower without needing to drop down to my ankles in dizziness for three days in a row. That goal seemed so far away and impossible it made me cry.

The less cheaty answer is that once I feinted while I was in the shower with my boyfriend and had a very minor seizure. While I was unconscious I felt like I was swimming in pure information, then I got pulled out of the stream and into elaborate multiple reality time travel conspiracy theories. When I awoke I briefly thought I was in a government facility and didn’t know who the naked guy was, but because he was naked I thought he must know who I was and I couldn’t let them know that I didn’t know who he was or the game would be up. Then I looked up, realized I was in the shower and that brought me back to the reality where I knew my boyfriend’s name. The post-seizure state was pretty dreamy and mildly euphoric. It made me half wish I was spiritually inclined and half feel grateful I wasn’t!

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Galen Dara!


Galen Dara likes monsters, mystics, dead things and extremely ripe apricots. She has created art for 47North publishing, Fireside Magazine, Lightpseed, Apex Publication, Goblin Fruit, Lackington’s, Resurrection House, and Edge Publishing. Her art is included in Spectrum 20 and 21. She won the 2011 Orycon33 Art Show Directors Choice award and the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist. She is nominated for the 2014 Hugo Award for Professional Artist and the 2014 World Fantasy Award. 

Interview by Michi Trota.

1) Your work often blends fantasy, myth and the macabre. What is it about the “dark side” of fantasy that you enjoy integrating into your art?

I have a thing for wanting to scratch away at all the paint and polish and see what lies beneath. The hidden stuff, the darker stuff. The secret stuff. The macabre is more interesting to me than idealized images of heroics and beauty.
2) Can you describe what your artistic process is like? How does your art progress from inspiration to completion?

I often start by perusing around looking for reference and inspiration images. These can come from all over: old art books, my collection of comics, google searches, Pinterest boards, diving through my old sketchbooks, etc.  I tend to “over gather”; it’s easy for me to get lost looking at all the other cool stuff and become hesitant to dive in and make my own marks, but it’s still part of my process. Once I’ve satisfied that itch to look at ALL THE INSPIRING STUFF, I start collaging images and photos and sketches together, assembling, rending apart, reassembling until I have a composition that satisfies me. Then I begin to paint. Layer upon layer in Photoshop, glazing with varying opacities, a few choice blending modes and a handful of textured brushes. Building up color, depth, luminosity, creating softness, carving out hard edges.
3) How do you use your work to challenge your readers?

Oh, that’s an interesting question. When I’m illustrating a story, or creating cover art, I’m trying to find creative ways of solving the problem that the writer has delivered. Everyone comes away from reading a story with a different visual in their head. How I illustrate a story is very different than how another artist would do it. My job as an illustrator is to reach into the story, grab the parts and images that resonate with me.  Hopefully the art I create also resonates with readers.
4) What is the most uncanny thing that’s ever happened to you?

I learned how to drive stick-shift in a dream: When I was younger my dad obtained an ancient Toyota Corolla Hatchback for us kids to drive and for the life of me I couldn’t make that thing stop lurching and stalling, couldn’t get it out of the driveway. Then I had a dream where the details of clutch handling became crystal clear and the next day I was able to vroom that car smoothly all over town.

New Backer Level: Elise Matthesen’s Haiku Earring Party In A Box!

The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter is now 81% funded at $21,115 with 576 backers!

We’re celebrating by offering a new $300 backer reward: Elise Matthesen’s Haiku Earring Party In A Box! Jeweler and all-around amazing person Elise will provide a dozen pairs of earrings (all sterling silver) with names, pens and haiku cards, and instructions for conducting the party. There’s only one, so hurry if you’re interested!

Please also check out the Kickstarter Updates or the Uncanny website for a series of neat mini interviews conducted by Interviewer Deborah Stanish and Managing Editor Michi Trota with the Year Once contributors. So far they’ve interviewed Maria Dahvana Headley, Mari Ness, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Paul Cornell, Kat Howard, Kameron Hurley, and Jim C. Hines.


Lynne & Michael


Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Kameron Hurley!

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Kameron Hurley is the author of the novels God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture a science-fantasy noir series which earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award, BFS Award, and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, will be published by Angry Robot Books on August 26th, 2014.

Interview by Michi Trota.

1)You write both nonfiction and fiction – when you’re working on a new story or novel, do you concentrate exclusively on that project or do you also continue to write essays? Do your essays influence your choices in fiction (or vice versa) and if so, how?

I don’t think anyone who writes for a living gets very far without learning how to juggle multiple projects. At my day job, I generally write 2-4 pieces every day. When I get home, sometimes there will be an essay and novel writing, sometimes just novel writing. But if I stopped writing novels or other contracted work to pick up and pen an essay, I’d never get anything done. I actually write all of my essays fairly quickly. The longest one took maybe 6 hours – the rest generally only an hour or two. Investment in novels and short fiction is far greater.

Much of what I write about in nonfiction are issues I’ve encountered while writing my fiction, or are about situations or themes or structures I explore in my fiction. The fiction and the nonfiction come from the same person, so it’s inevitable they address similar themes, they just use different modes of storytelling to tackle those themes.

2) Your essay, “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women as Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” is the first blog piece to be nominated for the Hugo Award for “Best Related Work.” What was your approach to crafting this essay and how was it inspired?

It’s funny how you just don’t know when something is going to take off. Aidan Moher, the editor at A Dribble of Ink, asked me for a guest post about women involved in conflict, as that was my academic background – the history of women’s involvement in resistance movements in Southern Africa. I remember it being very late at night when I was working on it, thinking it was way too long, and being uncertain if Aidan was going to be on board with the long llama introduction. I just looked up my email to him when I turned it in, and it was this “I believe you inquired about a guest post a few weeks back, something related to female fighters in history. I seem to have finally written, uh, something sort of related to that. With bonus llamas.” His response was “It’s great.” Neither of us had a clue, I think, how it was going to go over.

At the time, Aidan’s blog got far more traffic than mine, and I knew it was a good place to host a post I was going to write anyway, as it would get a greater reach. I…just did not realize how much greater it would be. It’s been reprinted a bunch of times now, and is still gaining readership – over 160k+ readers on his blog alone. It was a tremendous post, a combination of the right content at the right time… and llamas. There are a lot of discussions going on online in gaming, fiction, movies and other media spaces about the representation of women, and this became the go-to piece for those arguing for inclusion in those spaces. I’m happy to have helped make it easier for folks to have those discussions. I admit that every time I see somebody ending a “women have never fought, it’s not realistic” argument by linking out to that essay, I snicker delightedly.

3)How do you use your work to challenge yourself or your readers?

If I’m not challenging myself, I’m not having fun. I had some folks point out that by the time I got to the end of my third book, RAPTURE, I had the noir bounty-hunter-gang-hunting-whatever form down pat. It’s great to have a form down, but why write the same book over and over again? If I’m going to get better as a writer, I need to challenge myself, which is what I’ve done with my new epic fantasy novel THE MIRROR EMPIRE. It’s unlike anything I’ve done before, and I had to stretch a lot of writing muscles to bring it into being.

And, of course, as far as content goes – I got into writing genre to explore worlds that were really different. If I feel I’m just reading about the same pseudo-medieval patriarchy all over again, I’m going to stop. I write what I like to read, and that means challenging ideas about how people organize themselves, and who we are at heart. If we remove all the modern day trappings and social structures, how different will we be? That’s the question I want to answer in my fiction.

4) What is the most uncanny thing that has happened to you?

I was staying at a bed and breakfast in Cape Town and it was very late at night. I was watching The English Patient, and the lights were all off and the window to my room was open. There are bars on many of the windows of houses there, and this was no exception. But as I sat there, I saw someone’s arm move through the window and point at the opposite wall, just out of the corner of my eye. I started and turned to face the window, but of course, no one was there. It freaked me the hell out and I had a lot of trouble sleeping. The next morning, at breakfast, I overheard two of the staff talking about the resident B&B “ghost” and how it must have been the one to move something around in the kitchen that morning.

It was a super fabulous B&B, but when I went to Cape Town on my next research trip… well. I didn’t stay there!