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Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 3A

Welcome to Episode 3A of the Uncanny Magazine Podcast!

 

In episode 3A you will hear:

Editors’ Intro: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas

Short Story: “Translatio Corporis” by Kat Howard, as read by Amal El-Mohtar

Poetry: “Deep Bitch” by C.S.E. Cooney, as read by the author

Interview: Kat Howard interviewed by Deborah Stanish

Interview: Jim C. Hines interviewed by Michi Trota

 

This podcast was produced by Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky. Music created by Null Device and used with their permission.

 

You can subscribe at iTunes or with the RSS feed.

Afrofuturism Rising

When people ask me to share my introduction to Afrofuturism, I usually look to my freshman year of college. As a student at Clark Atlanta University, I was befriended by a sci–fi lover from Philly who championed what I’d later know as Afrofuturism. It was the defining philosophy of his emerging adult life. In our first conversation, his enigmatic persona somehow managed to relay the connections between funk music, ancient African technologies, the minimal presence of Black people in sci–fi, and golden era hip hop’s aspirations. He was one of hundreds at the school actively engaged in these ideas. The energy of what we’d later call Afrofuturism was a dominant line of reasoning for students on the campus, nearby campuses, and the city at large who eagerly wanted to transform their communities, build a new future that valued humanity, and shed light on an overlooked past filled with incredible innovations by people of African descent. Depictions of Black people in the future were a major prong in the platform of answers. Music was a liberator. Organic food and holistic living was an answer, too. This seamless relationship between art, history, music, mysticism, and science appeared to be the keys to unlocking the destinies of lives in need of a refresh.

I share this story often, because upon graduation, many of those students weren’t quite sure how their comic book–inspired philosophies on life fit in the world they were to make a living in. Not knowing the term Afrofuturism or its application was a deficit.  I wrote Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi & Fantasy Culture (Lawrence Hill Books) with them in mind. I, too, discovered the term years later. I, too, was an Afrofuturist most of my life, not knowing I was an Afrofuturist, and there were, in my journalistic analysis, a legion of many who fell into the same coveted box. A book like Afrofuturism, one which collected these disparate ideas and inspirations, ranging from the music theories of Sun Ra to the sci–fi work of W.E.B. Dubois, the fiction of Octavia Butler, and the space–inspired legacies of the Dogon in one front–to–back read, could have helped some of my college peers feel more comfortable building on their ideas. It would be confirmation for some and affirmation for others that their ideals and beliefs weren’t in the realm of the unreachable fantastic. Black people are in the future, optimism is the core principal of resilience, and yes, the end of the world happened a long, long time ago.

The term Afrofuturism was coined in the 90s at the dawn of the internet. Several key writers, including Kodwo Eshun, Greg Tate, Mark Sinker, and Mark Dery wrote about these issues at length. A listserve created by student–turned–professor Alondra Nelson further established the term by 2000, and the site she created became a discussion portal for students and artists wrestling with these ideas of Black people, technology, and the future. Many theorists and professional artists would emerge from these dialogues. DJ Spooky, a music innovator and theorist was among them. Poet D. Scott Miller, who would later pen the AfroSurreal Manifesto, was among them, too. Nelson’s listserv inspired academic writings on Afrofuturism, sci–fi anthologies, and conferences exploring emerging technologies and race. Digital music in urban landscapes was explored as postmodern language. Race was identified as a technology, a human–created categorization process enforced by law and violence that deemed darker people as alien. The imagination and improvisation were the mastery tools for transcending the impacts of the race technology. Valuing humanity would end the –isms, too.

These works and conferences sought to give a language and academic basis for a philosophy that’s existed on this planet for a very long time. While there was one set of people actively working with the term Afrofuturism in the first decade of the millennium, there were many, many more who engaged in Afrofuturism’s wisdom, completely unaware that an emerging body of study existed. The community of Black sci–fi lovers, academics, comic fans, history buffs, and music lovers who engaged in Afrofuturist ideas were relatively unaware of one another globally. I wrote Afrofuturism hoping to bridge that gap, too.

The fall of 2013 will likely be held as a turning point for Afrofuturism. The Studio Museum of Harlem hosted an Afrofuturism retrospective and season–long programming; Duke University hosted the first Race & Space Conference to explore equality on future space settlements; Bill Campbell’s anthology Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, and my book Afrofuturism debuted within days of one another. The swarm of events was raining enlightenment on the senses inspired more conversation and a social media flurry.

The evolution moved swiftly.

In February 2013, professor John Jennings and Adilifu Nama hosted the AstroBlackness Conference at Loyola–Marymount in Los Angeles. Sci–fi luminaries Nalo Hopkinson, Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Nnedi Okorafor, along with comic book creators and theorists, delved into the politics of sharing the narrative of people of color in the future.

In April 2013, producer King Britt curated MoonDance: A Night in the Afrofuture at MoMA PS1 in Queens. I had the pleasure of moderating the Afrofuturism panel. The show was a synergetic shock to the pop culture system with its alternate world digital renaissance. Hank Shocklee of Public Enemy, Hprizm, Ras G, Shabazz Palaces, Ursula Rucker, and others were featured as high points in the new era of digital music fueled by beat music and live beat composition.

By September 2014, graduate students in Vanderbilt’s Theological school, inspired by the book Afrofuturism, hosted a conference on religion and Afrofuturism. Funk pioneer George Clinton was the guest speaker. Fall marked the Afrofuturist Affair’s Annual Ball in Philadelphia, an event created by Rasheedah Phillips. Last October and November, both the British Film Institute and Watershed in the UK hosted Afrofuturism film festivals. In February, Afrofuturism849, a group I created with film curator Floyd Webb kicked off Black Future Month, an Afrofuturism film series in Chicago.  The Black Future Month title provided a new window for a dialogue often framed solely by the past, creating a two way conversation that amplified a visioning of a future. The title caught on.

Within a year, Afrofuturism had forged new conversations in new places, serving as an anchor for feminists, advocates, educators, and artists alike, all of whom looked to Afrofuturism’s fluid intersectionality as a model for new reasoning, community building, and STEM.

While Afrofuturism is viewed as a tool of empowerment for people of color, the dual aesthetic and philosophy at large serves to provide answers for a gaping hole in the story of humanity. Afrofuturism values intuition, feminine aspects of humanity, and nature. Afrofuturism views the future, past, and present as one. Afrofuturism provides a platform to explore time and memory in the context of human life. These open explorations are connections to the indigenous context for thought that once dominated our world.  However, this perspective, despite the shift to modernity, did not completely eradicate these values from the ether, so to speak. Despite the undermining of African–inspired and indigenous philosophy, and contributions to humanity, these ideas lived on, sprouting up in music, literature, and daily life.

When I’m asked about Afrofuturism, I usually reference my puzzled chat with my Philly–born friend as the genesis. But the truth of the matter is that Afrofuturism was the thread woven throughout much of my life. It lived with me as a child, hopping from a church rooted in metaphysics, to my Childcraft anthropology books, to my history–inspired decision to become a journalist dedicated to capturing the untold story. Afrofuturism was one of the core connectors that bound seemingly unrelated affinities in my life. It explained my infatuation with funk and house music,; my attachment to digital sounds, my love for improvisation in dance, and my affinity for science. It explained my quest to value the feminine and holistic living aspirations. It explained the belief in the power of a great vision and the fascination with the web of time and space.

Afrofuturism is the window for a great many things. It closes the gap of ignored contributions of the past and opens another for the visioning of a collective harmonious future. It demonstrates the synthesis between science and history, and gives intuition the same weight that we give reasoning.  This is an exciting time. In Montreal, HTMlles, a feminist coalition, coordinated the Zero Future Conference. The event, held in November of 2014, proposed that the future we were sold some decades ago was a commodified vision that didn’t engage the larger world. A few years deep into the second decade of the 21st century, the conference proposed that we are now at Ground Zero and desperately in need of a new future. Afrofuturism was a major theme at this conference. I had the honor of speaking and quickly recognized that many people are in need of a dose of deep–rooted optimism. People are craving an empowered imagination. For many, Afrofuturism inspires that latent feeling of hope. Challenging weighted cynicism to protect the imagination is crucial. Afrofuturism values the imagination, knowing that the future is now and yes, that future is you.

Interview: Sofia Samatar

Sofia Samatar is a self–admitted study in contrast, “generally feeling torn between two things I love in equal measure.” As an academic she brings a keen insight into her work, distilling literature, art, history, and religion into a potent mixture of truth encased in beautiful prose. Sharply honed and confident, her World Fantasy Award–winning debut novel, A Stranger in Olondria sweeps the reader into an evocative world where the power of story is revealed. In “Those,” Samatar strips the veneer of complacency from cultural history, literary classics, and even the Book of Revelations, and challenges the reader to pull each of these things out from the shadows of received wisdom. A writer, poet, and editor, her work has appeared in numerous publications including Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons and Lightspeed. Winner of the 2014 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Samatar is an important new literary voice whose works continue to be both thought–provoking and entertaining.

Uncanny Magazine: Those” is the type of story that creates a wonderful dilemma for the reader: The desire to race through to see how the story ends wars with the desire to slow down and savor language and poetic rhythm of the words. This is a complex story that touches on many themes including colonialism, racism, and religion. What was the spark for this story?  

Sofia Samatar: The spark for the story is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the many works inspired by it. I think of this body of work collectively, as a sort of Heart of Darkness machine. I’m especially influenced by the Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih, whose novel Season of Migration to the North is a brilliant reverse Heart of Darkness, but of course there are tons of others, maybe most famously Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Francis Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now. And then last year, you might remember, President Obama said in a speech “The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.” And then I saw the movie Interstellar and there’s a part where they’re looking at something, probably a black hole, I forget, and somebody goes “There’s the heart of darkness!”

It’s just everywhere, this metaphor, despite Achebe’s critique of it decades ago in his essay “The Image of Africa”—the one where he calls Conrad a “bloody racist.” I mean, whatever you think of Conrad, it seems like we should pause over calling anything a “heart of darkness” considering the way Conrad’s metaphor brings together blackness, the landscape of the Congo, savagery, and inhumanity. But we don’t—that’s why I think of the metaphor as a machine. I wrote this story feeling like well, it’s here, inescapable, let’s address it. You can’t address it without taking part in it, so now I am part of the machine—just as the protagonist of my story, a young black woman, is the daughter of a white ex–colonial.

Uncanny Magazine: Your use of color in “Those” is fantastic. Phrases such as “he was so green he was almost silver” are incredibly evocative and linger in the reader’s mind. Are you a person for whom color is associated strongly with creativity? How does color affect your creative process?

Sofia Samatar: I’m definitely affected by color. I’m most interested in how color changes: skin color, for example, changes so much depending on the light, and also on emotions or other things happening in the body—in the example “he was so green he was almost silver,” the person is very ill. And of course a Heart of Darkness story is going to work with black and white! There’s black and white all through “Those.” The black woman, the white father. The black ants, the white maggots. The black bonnet, the white lilies. The black forest, the white fog.

I don’t usually think too much about these connections while I’m writing, but I notice them later, and I might emphasize them in revision. Very often a story or section of a novel develops its own palette. This can be really powerful, because color, like smell, goes straight to the emotions.

Uncanny Magazine: The religious imagery in this story made me catch my breath, particularly the scene where Sarah is weaving the twelve lilies into a crown. What makes using religious themes in your work compelling? Do you consider the emotional resonance of religion or do you see religious works and ideas as a rich form of literary text? Or is it, perhaps, a combination of the two?

Sofia Samatar: Hm! This is an interesting one. Do I consider the emotional resonance of religion, or see religious works and ideas as literary text? I think it has to be both. I don’t think I can separate religious–work–as–text from emotional–resonance–of–religion, because all texts, if they are worth anything, possess emotional resonance. As for what makes using these themes in my work compelling—I’m compelled to use them, compelled to think about religion, because I had a religious upbringing and I have a very religious family. And since there are different religions in my family (Islam and Christianity), I’m interested in how faith brings people together and how it separates them.

In “Those,” the religious element has a sadness about it, because Christianity is so entangled with the colonial project. It’s part of the main character’s mixed and fraught heritage. But it’s also a source of possibility. That’s how the “Free Church” in the story comes in, the Black church. It’s an alternative.

Uncanny Magazine: When reading “Those,” the narrative structure felt almost poetic, reminding me at times of such ballads as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. An old man’s recounting a long suppressed memory contrasting with Sarah’s stifling reality creates a wonderful dramatic tension. When crafting this story, what made you decide on this type of structure?

Sofia Samatar: Heart of Darkness again! Like Conrad’s novel, “Those” is a club story—with a difference. The typical club story, as defined by John Clute in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, is told between men, because the club in question is an institution that doesn’t allow women. You know, it’s Victorian or Edwardian guys sitting around the fire with their brandies, talking quite literally man–to–man. A club story isn’t always told in a club—in Heart of Darkness they’re on a yacht—but it’s understood that women are out of the picture, which is crucial to Conrad’s text.

“Those” brings the structure of the club story into the domestic sphere. It’s a woman now, a daughter, who is listening. She’s also Black. I suppose I’m trying to ask—how does the story change depending on who’s listening?

Uncanny Magazine: This story is not only powerful and beautifully lyrical, it is also deeply layered. You recently wrote an essay in The Guardian in response to Ben Okri’s claim that a “tyranny of subject” is keeping Black writers from greatness. You challenged that Black literature didn’t need better writers it needs better readers. As a writer, what do you expect from your readers? Conversely, as an editor, (Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts) what do you expect from your writers when it comes to accessibility?

Sofia Samatar: The statement that “Black literature needs better readers” really needs to be understood in the context of my Guardian piece, because I’m talking, first, about a specific type of Black literature, the kind that’s successful with a white–dominated literary establishment, and second, about the professional readers who make up that establishment: mainstream publishers, critics, teachers, and so on. Those particular people do indeed need to step up their reading game when it comes to Black writing. But I’m not sitting here with a checklist of things my readers need to do. Of course I hope they’ll give my work the kind of attention they give to any other work, attention to form as well as content.

As for Interfictions—the great thing about it is that our submissions are totally unpredictable. I never have any idea what’s going to show up in the pool. People send so many wonderful weird things, it’s hard to imagine developing any kind of expectations! But to answer the question about my expectations in terms of accessibility, I have none. I mean, the work has to be accessible to the editors, I guess, or we wouldn’t be attracted to it and want to publish it, but beyond that? It’s just not something I’m really interested in. When I read a piece I don’t ask myself if it’s accessible. I ask if it’s powerful, moving, innovative, necessary.

Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for sharing these insights about your work with us!

Those

“…how is this nonsense possible, that the enemies of Kush are copies of the Kushite enemies of Pharaonic Egypt?” ~ L. Török, “Kush and the External World”

Sarah sets the kettle on the hob. She bends and fans the fire, her face aglow for a moment, molten bronze. When she stands up, her color fades in the gloom of the little house with its high windows, that house built like a ship. Tight and trim as a yacht stands the little house, the wind beats hard against the high windows, and Sarah’s father with a blanket over his knees, her father the old seafarer with a black–bordered card grasped tight in one hand, draws his chair to the fire and clears his throat.

“Poor George, poor George! Well, he would keep his vow, he said; and so he has; we shall never meet again in this life. Poor fellow! Listen, my girl, when you go out, just stop by the Widow Cobb’s, you know the place, at the end of the lane, and see if she has any lilies. We’ll send them over to George’s poor wife. It’s kind of her to remember me after all these years—‘remember’ in a manner of speaking—we never met. George must have spoken of me to her, and kept my address among his papers… my God, Sally, but Man is a curious beast!

“I’ll tell you a strange thing. The first time I was struck by the mystery that is Man, this same George Barnes, whose death has just been announced, was at my side. It was in the Sudan, at Meroe, and the two of us were making our way north to Cairo for a bit of a holiday. We were young and hardy then, but even so, our recent misadventures in the forests had brought us both down—George was so green about the gills, he was practically silver—and we longed for entertainment and pleasure. There was little of either in the dusty villages we passed on our way up the Nile, but the tombs of Meroe promised a diversion. At the time, I considered myself an amateur archaeologist, and it was with great excitement that I packed our Spartan picnic of bread and dried fish. There was also a jug of the native beer called merissa, which George wrapped in a towel as if it had been an infant. I can still see him astride his donkey, his long legs dangling comically on either side, his head swathed in a turban of blinding whiteness…

“He was a child, you know. Little more than a child. His father, whom George described as a ‘holy terror,’ had sent him to sea at the age of twelve, and George, whose nose had been permanently flattened by the fist of this same father, had set off gladly enough. The sea washed him to and fro for a number of years, with its cruelties and privations, the worst of them brought about by the men he served on ship after ship—for sea life is unkind to the small and weak, as I know from experience, though I was twenty when I left home for the waves. I was twenty, and tall, and broad, and George was a slip of a creature with gingery hair, and when we met years later in the Congo forest, natives of the same city, employees at the same plantation, I was thirty and solid as an anvil, and George, though the same age, was still a child. Was it because he’d been robbed of his childhood? Perhaps some men never grow old. What pleasure he took in our excursion to the tombs! He named his donkey Annabelle. He could whistle like a lark—it was his crooked teeth, he said. To think that George, even young George, is dead.”

The kettle sings. Sarah takes it off the fire and brews the tea. Soft steam, loamy fragrance, while the wind blows. She fetches her father’s pipe from the shelf and helps him to light it. He grunts his thanks, a hollow rumble deep in his wintry throat. She takes the black–bordered card from his hand and reads it beneath a window. If there are lilies, she will take them to this address. She knows the street, a poor but respectable street much like her own. It’s near the Free Church—a building Sarah has passed often, but never entered. Once a young woman stopped her and gave her a pamphlet about that church, a dark and quiet woman with startling liquid eyes… The address on the card is just beyond there, not more than a few doors down. She’ll wear her large bonnet. She’ll knock at the kitchen door.

“Good afternoon, ma’am. Lilies. For the funeral.”

For a moment, she will look into the woman’s face. Perhaps she’ll catch it before the expression twists, before it becomes like all the others, molded by the same stamp, indistinguishable. Part of the fog.

“Thank you, my dear. Would you help—just a little closer—yes, now I feel the warmth at last. I shan’t scorch my beard, don’t worry! Now George, as I was telling you… George who’s laid in a box, God rest him! I suppose it ought to make us grateful we can still feel the nip of this blasted autumn… George was a merry lad, for all he’d been kicked about the globe like a stone in an alley. Down where we worked, at the teak plantation, the natives gave him a name I can’t pronounce—your poor mother could tell you, if she weren’t in Heaven—but it meant, as far as I understood it, a type of squirrel. And he was just like that, a gingery leaping squirrel with keen black eyes. I remember once at Christmas, when we were invited to dine with the plantation owner, Vermeiren, a bloodless Belgian with fangs like a mastiff, he had a bit of fun with George over that nickname. ‘You do realize,’ he drawled, ‘that the natives eat these squirrels?’

“‘Ha, ha! They are funny fellows,’ laughed George.

“I laughed too, as would any man who had lived all year on millet porridge, and now found himself at the Belgian’s table facing a guinea fowl poached in French wine. I laughed, I tell you; I opened my mouth and howled.

“Vermeiren showed his fangs. ‘Oh yes,’ he went on softly (and George and I both cut our laughter off short, so as not to drown him out), ‘that little animal is quite popular with our dusky friends. Its stomach, I have been told, is full of oil. They prick the stomach—so!—collect the oil, and serve it to the chief.’

“When he said ‘So!’, he poked his finger in the air, toward George’s midriff. His nail was long and yellow, his hand elegant and, for the tropics, marvelously clean. I noticed George turn pale, and felt a little unsteady myself.

“‘They eat all sorts of disgusting things,’ said George, with an effort. ‘Monkeys. Grubs.’

“‘So they do!’ answered Vermeiren, with ghastly cheer. He addressed himself to his fowl, sawing his knife against the plate, red wine sauce mingling bloodily with the cassava that served us for potatoes. ‘And men, of course!’ he went on. ‘You will have noticed how they file their teeth. Personally I would find it perturbing to have the name of a squirrel. I would find it most unlucky to have this name. As for me, they call me One Gun. Because of my Juliette. This satisfies me.’

“He pricked up a quivering, reddish bit of meat with his fork, and motioned with his eyes toward the rifle hanging on the wall. This was his hunting gun, called ‘Juliette,’ after his wife, who resided at Marseilles, where, to judge from his furnishings, she embroidered quantities of tablecloths.

“I do not know why the Belgian chose to rattle George in this manner. Perhaps he was trying, in his rough way, to put some backbone into the lad: for George was Vermeiren’s overseer, charged with ensuring the productivity of the farm, and meting out punishment as required. In the early days of our employment, Vermeiren had often grumbled that George was too soft. On one occasion, I recall, the Belgian had brought forward, as evidence, a recently disciplined native called Francisco, and, exposing the native’s back crisscrossed with small welts, demanded if this was what George called lashes? George protested that he had lashed the black soundly, as anyone could see, and Vermeiren retorted that a native’s back was as insensible as teak, certainly impervious to George’s paltry strokes, and that if George dared shirk again, he would be taught a lesson in lashing upon his own person. So perhaps Vermeiren’s mockery that Christmas was meant to strengthen George’s arm. If so, it was hardly necessary, for George had taken his earlier lesson to heart, and routinely exhausted himself in his exertions with the whip, even putting the same Francisco—apparently an habitual malingerer—into the infirmary at the Catholic Mission.

“But perhaps Vermeiren had other reasons. Perhaps he was simply possessed by that devil which leads men to tear at each other in a small space. I have often encountered this devil on board a ship; and in that house, the only white men for miles, were we not as three sailors launched on a Stygian sea? The darkness, Sally, the closeness of the place! I can scarce describe it. The windows were sheathed in white netting against the mosquitoes, and not a breath of air came through: the flames of the candles on the table stood up as straight and motionless as pikes. After dinner, George attempted to lighten the atmosphere with a carol. His voice faltered reedily into the massy night. I joined him for a few bars, but soon stopped from depression of the spirits, and he went on alone. I gave my love a cherry.

“The suffocating loneliness, the density of the forest. You couldn’t see more than five yards in any direction. It weighed on you. It’s the reason we felt so lighthearted on that trip up the Nile, the trip I was telling you about, to Meroe… But the forest, my God: sickness and heat and work. I kept the accounts in an office with a tin roof, so hot I’d feel my brains boiling by ten o’clock. That heat! And George stood in it all day. It took its toll on him. His fevers were terrible, enough to break your heart.

“‘Get back, get it away.’ That’s what he said the night your mother came to see us. She wasn’t your mother then, of course, just a nurse from up the river. I’d sent word to the nuns at the Mission to rush somebody down to us, for I was sure George could not live another day. ‘Easy, George,’ I told him. ‘This is a nurse from the Catholics come to make you well.’ All the same I had to hold him down on the bed. Weak as he was, he thrashed in my arms like a seal. ‘Get it away, oh God,’ he moaned. And your mother bent over him in her white dress.”

White, like a lily.

Sarah fingers the silver crucifix at her throat. This is her inheritance from her mother, who died when she was three years old. This, and a few dresses, and two pairs of shoes. She has let out the dresses, but she cannot wear the shoes, which are too small. She keeps them lined up under her bed. When she was very young, she used to bring them into bed with her. She gave them names: one was called “Maiyebo.” To remember this now, this naming of the shoes, causes the heat of shame to slip up her neck.

She can no longer recall her mother’s face.

Her father gestures with his pipe, and she fills it. He has told her the sweet smoke does him good. She helps him light the pipe, then tucks the blanket more snugly around his wasted legs. She remembers a dream, a song.

If only it were possible to control one’s dreams!

If it were, she would dream the same dream every night. One that has only come to her a few times. Fragments of glittering color and a dry, delicate scent. A memory of swinging. A dream of a structure of light.

Light. Sharp pieces of radiance. No fog. A snatch of song in a lost language. Maiyebo. The name of a mushroom? A comical song. Someone bounces a baby on her knee. Mi a bi nga ro berewe te. “I’ll never see you again.”

“You’re not… you’re not too lonely, are you Sal? Well, I know, but I can’t help worrying. I think sometimes that we ought to have stayed in the forest. That I ought to have raised you there, among… But after we lost your mother, it was too hard for me, taking care of a child alone. I didn’t know what to do with you, and there was your aunt, too, writing to me about my Christian duty, and the life you might have here. And, of course, there was George. Passing me like a stranger, day after day. Three years like that. Without a word. I suppose a part of me thought that after your mother was gone… but no. He kept his vow. ‘If you do this thing,’ he told me, the night before my wedding, ‘if you enter into—that—you’re dead to me.” He was trembling, white, as if in the grip of one of his fevers. I thought he’d get over it.

“I thought he was still shaken up from the scare we’d had on the farm that year, and that he’d soften and come around in time. It must have affected him more deeply than I thought. I should have known, now that I think of it. I should have recognized the signs. The way he pounded on my door that night. ‘Come out, come out!’ That high–pitched scream. I tell you, I thought the house was on fire. I rolled out of bed and stumbled across the room, and when I opened the door he practically fell into my arms.

“‘Get your gun,’ he cried hoarsely. He had his own rifle, and a lantern in the other hand. As I stared, our employer Vermeiren slouched into the circle of light, casually carrying Juliette over his shoulder.

“‘Stir yourself, if you please,’ he said pleasantly enough. ‘It seems we must make a little show of strength.’

“‘For God’s sake, get your gun,’ repeated George, looking over his shoulder. I obeyed, donning boots, a shirt, and trousers for good measure.

“I joined them outside and locked the door behind me, and was immediately struck by the peculiar silence. There used to always be a little noise on the farm, voices of the native families, and lights, too, from their fires. Now the place was entirely deserted.

“‘What’s happening?’ I asked softly.

“‘A little fuss from our savage friends,’ said the Belgian. ‘Not to worry.’

“George stood so close to me, I could tell he wanted to seize my arm, though he couldn’t, being encumbered by his gun and lamp. His teeth were chattering. ‘Look here,’ I said, alarmed by his evident panic, ‘do we want to carry a light about, and make ourselves a target?’

“‘By God, you’re right!’ cried George, and, looking at his own light in horror, he made as if to fling it to the ground.

“The Belgian snatched his wrist. ‘Don’t be stupid. We must not appear to be hiding. In our position, a show of fear would be catastrophic. Instead—stand up straight, little squirrel! Are you indeed a squirrel, or a caterpillar?—we must appear calm, and above all, we must shoot accurately, and to kill.’

“‘Shoot at what?’ I exclaimed. ‘It’s black as Hades.’

“Before us stretched the teak grove, like a columned ruin in the faint starlight, and beyond that, invisible to us, the damp tangle of the forest.

“‘Only wait,’ said the Belgian, and a spark flared as he lit his pipe.

“And so we waited. And waited. And whether it was the sound of George muttering prayers at my shoulder, the way his voice went up and down, full of little sobs, or the smell of fear that rose from him, thick and hot, I cannot say… Whether it was the darkness and silence around us, or the brooding, hostile forest, or the soft black of the sky in which no moon hung… I cannot say, Sally, why it was, but I felt something close around my heart, squeezing tight like a devil’s vise. Tighter and tighter it squeezed, and my head grew light, and my body cold, and I thought of your mother, and was glad that she was away at the Catholic mission, where the nuns had given her thread, she said, to embroider a wedding veil. I clung to the thought of her face, as if it would save me… And perhaps, you know, it did save me. I held to that face, the face of my own Maria, as something began to happen in the dark. The darkness seemed to ripple, to stretch itself like a long snake. ‘Ah,’ breathed Vermeiren. ‘Now it comes.’

“You were so little when we left the plantation, Sally. I wonder if you remember the soldier ants? George and I called them siafu, as the Belgian did, though among your mother’s people they had another name. Black they were, a black and moving river, and when that river came across your path, you had best get out of the way. They’d appear after the rains, long streams of them crisscrossing the earth, and none could say whence they came or where they went. Their determination was terrible. They used to march up the walls of the house, under the roof, and straight through, across our parlor floor. I had an old Turkish kilim there, purchased at Istanbul in my merchant–seaman days, and where the siafu crossed it, they’d leave a swath clean as the noonday sky. Your mother would always laugh and say the ants proved how dusty the kilim was, and she’d haul it outside and beat it with the broom. But the siafu were nothing to laugh at. They were voracious: if they bit you, they’d draw blood. They killed chicks in the nest, and even, I heard, human babies…

“‘Quiet!’ I heard myself say. I hadn’t meant to speak, but George’s whimpering was breaking down my nerve. He’d given up praying now, and was simply staring at the darkness saying ‘No oh no oh no oh no oh no.’ The light was pitching and bobbing in his grip like a ship’s lantern, and his face in the glow sweated pale as melting wax. Behind him, that ice–blooded Belgian was saying something about the seasons, and how these native disturbances came up each year as regular as the rains. It made me remember the soldier ants, which appeared after the rainstorms. Still the darkness swelled and coiled among the trees. And suddenly George let out a scream, followed an instant later by the report of the Belgian’s gun: ‘What the hell is that?

“Such a cry, Sally! My legs gave way.

“I saw the darkness bulge. It was leaking toward us, it was coming out of the trees. It was coming like a vast ocean of siafu, intent and ruthless and obscure like that, with a deep and cold intelligence. The terrifying thing about siafu is their will. They are utterly united, utterly faithful to their purpose. Once, I tried to snatch a tomato out of their path in our kitchen, and three of the ants went up my arm like fire.

“The Belgian was cursing. The light had gone out. I felt a kick in my ribs, the toe of Vermeiren’s boot. I’ve never felt so grateful to be kicked. ‘Get up,’ he was shouting, calling us bloody cowards and other things I won’t repeat in your presence.

“I realized George lay beside me on the ground. ‘George, George, are you all right?’

“‘I’ve got to get out of here,’ he sobbed. ‘I’ve got to get out.’

“Somehow, each supporting the other, we staggered to our feet. The Belgian had retrieved the fallen lantern and lit it again.

“‘See!’ he said triumphantly.

“There, at the edge of the teak grove, a native lay dead, shot through the heart. The darkness was natural now, empty, no longer the sentient thing it had been.

“‘But—but—’ stammered George, ‘it is Francisco!’

“He had abandoned his gun, and clasped my arm—whether in terror or some other emotion, I cannot say.

“‘Who?’ inquired our employer with a frown.

“George seemed unable to speak; I explained, therefore, that Francisco was the native George had put in the infirmary.

“‘Nonsense,’ said the Belgian. ‘As if you’d recognize him!’

“‘Turn him over,’ whispered George, finding his voice at last, ‘and let me see his back.’

“The Belgian refused to indulge what he called my friend’s ‘womanish horrors’; George, to my surprise, insisted passionately; but the Belgian stood firm, finally exclaiming: ‘What difference would it make? You’ve lashed the lot of them, as well you should.’ These words seemed to throw George into a sort of frenzy. It was with difficulty that I persuaded him back to his room, and into bed. He kept repeating that Francisco commanded an army of shadow selves, which, now that their master was dead, had swarmed across the world. ‘One is another,’ he babbled. And though I knew he was not well—he was so broken down, indeed, that I successfully petitioned the Belgian for a holiday—I could not shake my own sense that the darkness among the trees was multiple, and that George ought to have shouted, not ‘What the hell is that,’ but ‘What the hell are those?’”

Sarah puts on her bonnet at the glass. Neat black silk, with a generous brim that casts her features into shadow.

The wind beats the high windows. Her father sighs. Sarah touches her mother’s cross.

Tonight, she will dream of tiny black eyes. A river of tiny black eyes. They’re coming toward her. She lies on the grass, unable to rise. She’s struggling and weeping. The eyes advance.

Waking, she will remain motionless in bed, her limbs icy. She will listen to the beating of her heart.

She will get out of bed. She’ll find the matches and light the candle before the glass. Her own face will bloom toward her out of the dark. The same face that now regards her from the parlor glass, a face she has searched so often for a hint of her mother’s ghost. This nose, this curving eyelid. Tonight she will take her candle and leave her room, she’ll go to her father’s room and shake him awake. “You called me an ant,” she’ll say. And he, sitting up, framed by wild white hair, “Why, Sally, what’s come over you, are you mad?”

“I’m not an ant.”

“But I never—”

“You said you saw her face.”

“What?”

“You saw her face. In the forest. You said it saved you, the night the darkness came.”

“Well, yes, I—”

“Was it the face of an ant?”

“What?”

“Did you see the face of an ant?”

And when he says nothing: “No. Of course not. An ant’s face is too small.”

He stares at her. White hair, white nightshirt, white wax from her candle dripping on the sheets. And his face in strange white motion. His skin quivers. She’s never spoken like this to him before—has the disturbance, and the accusation, brought on some sort of attack? Gripped by remorse and terror—for how often has he told her, “Poor Sal, you have no one but me”?—she leans to touch him, and realizes just in time that his arm is also trembling, his shirt is alive, a mass of pale creatures swarms over his body.

Sarah steps back with a cry. She beats her hand against her nightdress, the hand that almost touched him. She is safe: her hand is dark and whole. She gazes at the thing in the bed, the thing in the shape of her father. It hisses softly, its tongue and teeth made of writhing maggots. “Help me.” It arms make the motions of caressing something in its lap. A few red hairs protrude from the teeming pallor. “Help my baby,” it hisses, before she wakes sweating in her bed again. “Help my little child. My baby boy.”

“Yes, take a little extra with you, for the lilies. For poor George. Ah, I never told you about the trip to Meroe. Wait, before you go… this is what I meant to say, about that trip, the last time George and I were together as friends. Yes, the last time, for when we returned to the forest, I told him about my intention to marry, and he said those final words: ‘You’re dead to me.’ He couldn’t get over it, though I explained that your mother was a good woman, a trained nurse and a Christian convert… Well. But at Meroe we were quite happy. George clambered about on the ancient stones, whooping like a boy. I was afraid he’d get sunstroke, to tell the truth. We sat in the shade of a cracked mausoleum wall and ate our little picnic. George was cheerful, energetic, telling me all his plans. He was going to save enough to buy a cottage back home. Enough to marry a pleasant girl. You know I almost told him about my engagement then, but for some reason I held off… Ah, are you leaving? Well, bring me the big book on Kush before you go. That’s the one. This is a treasure, my dear, bought for a song in Cairo, probably worth more than everything else in the house put together, remember that when I’m gone! Now look here. These are some of the paintings we saw in the tombs at Meroe. Marvelous, the way the desert air protects the color. In your poor mother’s country these pictures would be eaten away by the damp. Look, here’s the king, and under his feet, bound captives—a conquered people. Look how they fall beneath him in a line. And their arms and legs, twisted and broken, but repeated in the same pattern, as if with a stencil. Such precision! But the odd thing, you see, is that the same images appear in the tombs of Egypt. I recognized them as soon as I saw them, for I had visited the Valley of the Kings. As I said, I thought of myself as a sort of archaeologist, and I remember I was very excited on that trip with George, thinking I might have made an important discovery. But when we got to Cairo, I found this book, and saw that the discovery had already been made. Egypt conquered Kush, you see, and the artists of Kush adopted Egypt’s painting style. And generations later, these Kushite artists used these images, images of their own people, to depict their enemies! Isn’t that odd? As if the images have no character at all. As if they are vessels that can be filled again and again. Simply the enemy. And what is required of the enemy’s image? Only that the figures are identical, and that they are many.”

Sarah goes out. She locks the door and tucks the key in her glove. She walks with her eyes fixed on an imaginary horizon. A pale face passes her, blurred. She senses a sneer, but does not see it. She allows it to melt away like fog.

At the corner a man snarls something at her. She steps aside quickly, avoiding his lunge. He shouts at her back. Muffled by her bonnet, his voice is the honk of a goose.

There are lilies at the Widow Cobb’s. Sarah buys a dozen. She will not look at the Widow Cobb’s pinched, resentful face. Let it blend into fog. She takes the flowers, but she does not go to the address on the black–bordered card. She goes to the harbor.

She sits on a bench. A cold wind blows from the water.

Sarah sets the lilies beside her and takes off her bonnet.

Cold. And the sound of the gulls. She never takes off her bonnet outdoors. Her heart races. She can hear children shouting somewhere nearby. Are they coming toward her? She picks up the heavy, funereal lilies, she begins to break the flowers from their stems.

Stems fall about her feet. They shift in the wind.

Sarah takes a lily and tucks it into the black band of the bonnet in her lap.

One by one, she tucks the lilies into the band. It’s delicate work, and she takes off her gloves, her skin tightening in the raw air. She continues until all twelve lilies encircle the edge of the bonnet. She puts on her gloves and places the bonnet back over her hair.

Sarah is crowned by fragrance and by snow.

Across the water, a streak of gold slips stealthily through the clouds. Sunset soon. She will sit in the cold and wait for the clouds to break, saying her usual prayer for her mother, and adding one for the man known as Francisco. She will murmur a melody under her breath, pentatonic and strange to this place. And afterward, walking home, she will pick up a low, throbbing hum in the darkened street, a hum with the same pentatonic shape as her half–forgotten song, and she will follow it through the door of the Free Church at last.

For now, she sits and waits. And the light begins to grow, to change, to take a shape rarely seen except in dreams, a shape that allows one to see, really see, and Sarah breathless and radiant in her crown perceives for a moment a world without fog, undimmed by this—that—those.

(Editors’ Note: In this issue, Sofia Samatar is interviewed by Deborah Stanish.)

Family Matters: How Geek Communities Turn Dysfunctional

“My people!”

If you’ve ever followed Twitter as your friends walked into a conference or convention, you’ve seen this. Someone sees a fellow cosplayer, a T–shirt from their favorite obscure fandom, 201–level discussions of issues that are ignored in mass media, or even the simple lack of the background nonsense they deal with everywhere else, and they are home. They’ve found their people.

“Our baby!”

A software startup, a magazine, a political campaign, an event, or an organization—there is nothing quite like seeing all your hard work and sacrifice build something new. Creation is a heady thing that only becomes more intoxicating when shared. When you create together, you don’t have to wait for the final product to exult. You can celebrate each accomplishment, each step of realized potential, as your baby comes to be.

In these family–like, affinity–based, collaborative creative spaces, we often use the language of family. We take our lonely pursuits and turn them into opportunities to connect. We use the world’s indifference and hostility to spur the building of spaces where we belong. We create bonds that can, in the best of times, give us what family gives.

Unfortunately, many of the problems of these spaces are the problems of family as well. We pressure each other to conform to the way “we” do things, whether our traditions are helpful or harmful. People play favorites, both in relatively harmless and grossly toxic ways. Abuse is perpetrated, both among peers and across inequities of position and resources. We protect the family as a unit over the individuals who make it what it is.

Most of all, we have deep emotional investments that make addressing these problems more complicated.

There’s no Dear Abby for affinity and creative groups, and that’s a pity. We could use the perspective of a trusted total stranger on our problems. Call her Dear Affie.

Dear Affie: People are talking all over the internet about bad things that have happened in my group, but none of them talk to me about it. How can I do anything if they don’t talk to me? Are they trying to destroy me? –Out of the Loop

Dear Loop: There are lots of organizers/leaders in your position all over the web. Some of them do have enemies, so I can’t say whether these people really are out to get you. However, odds are that they’re not.

So many people have had so many headaches reporting problems that there’s very little trust in organizers right now. Instead of reporting and risking being ignored or otherwise side–lined, many people who’ve had problems are speaking out publicly, trying to make it obvious that they’re not alone and to make change at a cultural level rather than one resistant group at a time.

Is that fair to you? Again, I can’t say. I don’t know how you (or the other people in your organization) have handled previous complaints.

Still, you can take action. Make sure you’re ready with good procedures when someone does bring you a problem, so you don’t become a bad example. Talk to other organizers who’ve been praised for handling complaints well and find out what they’ve done. Make it easy for people to find your principles and your procedures.

If you trust your process, ask the people complaining to contact you directly. Remember, though, that they’re doing you a favor. They’re under no obligation to you, especially after they’ve had a bad experience. Remember too, that if they trusted you completely, they’d have already talked to you. Finally, don’t take this step unless you’re comfortable with your follow–through. People who complain now will complain more if you fail them.

Use this opportunity to make things better, and the world will notice. Best of luck to you!

Dear Affie: I am done! After everything I invested in my group, all the hours I put in, all the bumps I’ve smoothed over, all the content I’ve created, they’ve made it entirely clear to me that I’m a second–class citizen and always will be to them. The “needs of the many” (read: “unearned self–esteem and protected ignorant biases”) will always outweigh even basic consideration of the needs of us “few” (though we’re so few only because they keep bleeding us out). There is nothing good left, nothing worth saving. I’m out. No advice needed. I’m just writing to tell you because I know they won’t listen. —Burned and Burnt Out

Dear Burned: Ouch. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot. You’ve got my sympathy. Take some you–time, and best of luck to you wherever you land.

I have just one quibble. Unless you’re talking about a very small group, you probably weren’t the only one fighting. (If you were, hats off to you!) The work other people have put in—the work you put in that they’re carrying on—is worth saving.

That doesn’t mean you have to do the work to save it. You’ve done what you can do. You’re more than entitled to take care of yourself and move on.

Just don’t tell the people who still want to fight that their fight is useless. Everybody gets to pick their project, that broken thing they’re willing to invest in fixing while they have the energy. That’s how change gets made. That’s how you’ve made change, even if you can’t see it from where you sit.

So thank you for what you’ve done, and may your work be better rewarded from here on out.

Dear Affie: Why do these people have to be so demanding and divisive? Why won’t they just shut up and let us enjoy our group already? —Anti–Drama

Dear Anti–Drama: Who is “us?” Who are “these people?” And who owns “our group?”

I understand being upset by people fighting. That’s entirely natural. Downright civilized, in fact. However, it’s impossible for one side to fight on its own. If people were given what they demanded, there would be no fight. And usually, in these circumstances, what people are demanding is an equal stake in the group they’re part of.

Your wording says they may have a legitimate dispute. You’re defining the group as yours and not theirs. That wording also tells me, if group ownership is the issue at hand, that you’re not a neutral party in this dispute. You’ve taken a side.

If that’s the case, step up and own that position. Don’t tell me “these people” are being divisive. Go ahead and tell me that you don’t believe “these people” have a stake in “your group.” It’s more honest.

But if that’s not your position once you stop to think about this? If you really do believe that your group should welcome all sorts of people? Then it’s time to stop laying the blame for divisiveness all on the side of the people being demanding. Take the time to examine their demands, understand why they’re making them, understand the opposition to them, and make your own support or opposition based on your best understanding of how reasonable they are.

If you don’t have the time or energy to invest in that, then stay truly out of the fight. Taking a side is a risky thing when you don’t understand them both.

Having indulged that fantasy, I now want Dear Affie to exist. I need that outside perspective as much as anyone. I want access to that broad understanding of how the dynamics of these fights play out, uncomplicated by anyone’s position in the fray. I want an arbiter, a counselor who isn’t an invested party in disguise.

Having been in the middle of fights like these, I want—more than anything else some days—for someone else to step in and be a god damned grownup so I don’t have to be.

Fighting with your family is hard. It doesn’t get any easier when it’s your chosen family. It can be worse. Economic independence, though it’s becoming harder to achieve, and weakening cultural imperatives toward the primacy of family mean that, if we need to, we can leave the families to which we belong by an accident of birth or marriage behind. Legal families are small, and there’s a whole world out there from which we can build families of choice.

Our affinity groups and collaborative communities are larger. Leaving them behind may mean abandoning hobbies, careers, political leverage, or the opportunity to talk to anyone who uses the same vocabulary we do. People sometimes establish the bulk of their personal relationships within a single one of these “families.” Walking away can get very tough indeed.

Staying and working for change isn’t much easier. We have few good models for setting boundaries with our families or for respecting the limits our family members set. We’re encouraged to define our emotional closeness by our lack of boundaries, no matter how toxic this can be. Our family members can leverage the concept of “family” to demand we fulfill obligations we would refuse to recognize from anyone else.

These dynamics can carry over to our family–like groups. The ideals around which we organize aren’t “family,” but we still go above and beyond in their name. We organize or educate or entertain. We invite strangers into our social spaces or encroach on theirs with our message. We overcome our reluctance to asking people for money. We pour our time into projects in amounts that are, ultimately, unsustainable and can distance us from our more traditional families.

Working “for the love” this way makes it harder to maintain perspective. We’re too invested, and our perceptions reflect that. People who point out problems are attacking us. People who fail us are betraying us. People who are up to their ears in their own problems are dismissing us. There is too much at stake to calmly set limits and trust we will be heard.

We resist the idea that bad things could happen among us. We have trouble believing that our friends, the people with whom we have so much else in common, the people who contribute so much else to our communities, our “family,” could do terrible things to one another. How can our families, these groups with which we identify, contain all the problems of the rest of the world?

We resist setting rules, some of us because we rely on the lack of rules to get what we want, but more of us because when we walked into these spaces, we felt we understood the rules. These places felt easy, at least compared to the rest of the world. They made us feel at home. Rules, or the people who enforce them, might tell us we don’t belong here either.

It makes changing anything all sound so impossible, doesn’t it? Yet things still change. They change even in these “families.” We just have to figure out how.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I have tried to learn from the strife in these communities, both my own and others facing similar problems. I also have the admitted advantage of having a less–than–idealized view of family to start from. And I recognize that there are lessons we can learn from how healthy families operate—and how they don’t.

Healthy families work for the benefit of all their members. The members of healthy families share responsibilities and benefits. They all listen to each other, not just the younger generations listening to the elder. They make time for activities that everyone can enjoy.

Healthy families allow people to make mistakes but don’t shield them from the reasonable consequences of those mistakes. They treat adult abusers as solely responsible for abuse and act to protect the rest of the family from further abuse. They don’t require people to bury their feelings for the sake of group harmony. And perhaps most importantly, healthy families recognize when the problems they face are beyond their skills or perspective and seek the expert help they need.

If we’re going to treat our affinity spaces like surrogate family, it’s about time we learn those lessons. They’re not easy, but they have the potential to make all our lives much, much easier.

Now, who’s up for a Dear Affie column?

The Lamps Thereof Are Fire and Flames

The second queen forbade any telling of tales or writing of histories. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. Let him that breaks this law see his own hands cut off before he loses his eyes.

You have taken so much more from me, my Queen. But I will tell my story anyway.

Once upon a time, there lived a king and a queen who loved each other as the sunflower loves the sun. Every moment they shared was crowned with joy, and the jewel of that crown was their daughter Lirralei.

Then the queen died, and the king was left forever turning after a sun that no longer existed.

His duty did not permit him to kill himself, so he tried to create the land of the dead around him. The tapestries, the paintings, Lirralei’s silk gowns—all burnt. The dancers, the troubadours, the jesters—dismissed. Hunting, dancing, singing—forbidden. Every soul within the palace must wear black, whisper, and walk with head bowed, as befitted a shade. It was death for any man to bring his wife into the palace, or tryst with a lover, or even steal a kiss. For the king’s heart lay buried in the palace and it was blasphemy to embrace upon a grave.

The only delightful things he allowed to remain were the gentle white tea–roses that his queen had loved. He razed the gardens to make room for them, brought pots and baskets and vases of them into the palace, till every room was filled with their cloying scent, every floor spattered with the white snow of their petals.

Lirralei was a girl of storm–winds and thorns, the musk of the wild rose and the flight of the falcon. Year after year, the black–draped walls of the palace closed in upon her, the quiet courtiers and the mute servants shuffled past her, the spun sugar scent of the tea–roses choked her. She swallowed down the ashes of her father’s love, every day mourning his loss of something she would never be allowed to have, until she thought she would go mad.

One night, mewed up in her room like a falcon that must starve till it was tamed, she looked out at the stars and swore that she would suffer anything, give anything if only somebody could wake her from the endless mourning slumber of the palace. If she could only know this love without which all the world was dust.

Then she remembered a tale she had once heard. And she spilled her blood.

Once upon a time, there was a perfect kingdom. The Queen was wise and just and joyful—for though she had no king, every night Love himself came to her bed and delighted her. She bore him a daughter named Myrra, and raised her with all the love in the world.

Myrra drowned in that love like a fly in honey. She was that fly, the only blot in the perfect sweetness of the kingdom. Her mother gave her dresses and kittens and sweets, took her out riding and allowed her to dance at every grown–up ball. But Myrra fell off her horse, and at every ball she tripped or spilled food or was rude by accident. She was stupid at her lessons, and as for her looks—she was not ugly, but neither lovely: nose too big, lips too thin, her body a jumble of knees and elbows.

Every evening, the Queen came to bid her goodnight. She wore translucent silks, her face painted with rouge and her body anointed with musk, ready for the arrival of Love. One night, Myrra burst into tears when she saw her mother. When the Queen asked her why, she said, “Because you are lovely, and beloved, and I will never be either.”

“Oh, my child.” The Queen embraced her. “Someday you will be a woman, and then you will be lovelier than me, and loved as dearly.” She kissed her forehead. “Someday. But not yet.”

Myrra never complained again. Year after year wore on in the golden palace. She watched her nurses and handmaids and tutors grow older. Some got married and some retired, and new ones took their places. But every day they still dressed Myrra in ruffled childish gowns, gave her dolls and sorbet and confusing lessons. And every spring they celebrated her twelfth birthday.

One evening she looked in the mirror and saw the creases about her eyes, the sun–spots on her cheeks.

“Surely I am a woman,” she whispered.

She imagined herself running to her mother’s chambers and crying, Mother, I am a woman. But she already knew the Queen’s reply: Oh, my darling child. You will be a woman when you are loved.

She remembered her mother’s loveliness: the skin of cream and rose–petals, the slender wrists, the uncreased eyes. Love is ever–young, and the Queen was loved. Myrra was not, so she withered while still a child. She would die a wrinkled hag, without ever becoming a woman.

The fury trembled in her veins and coiled around her throat until she thought she would never breathe again. She seized a china shepherdess and threw it at the hateful image in the mirror.

The glass shattered, breaking the image of her futile decay. But the fact remained. With a sigh, Myrra knelt to gather the pieces of the shattered mirror. They slid in her grip, sliced open her palms. Her blood dripped to the floor, but the pain in her hands was easier to bear than the emptiness in her heart.

“Oh,” she sighed, “I would suffer anything, sacrifice anything, if only I could be a woman, and loved like my mother.”

Someone touched her shoulder.

Once upon a time, seven sisters lived in an old cottage: Knob, Note, Bone, Wisp, Jam, Leaf, and Moan.

They did not share blood, but pain. Knob had lumps on her shoulders. Note had claw–like fingers that could barely move. Bone had legs of different lengths. Wisp’s right arm was half the size of her left. Jam’s words came out sticky and mashed together. Leaf never grew taller than her mother’s hip. Moan could only make one sound.

The eighth sister arrived on a night of wind and rain. Knob heard a thump against the door; when she went to look, a young woman lay curled on the doorstep, rain dripping down her face. Her hair was dark as the cloud–smeared night; her skin was almost white and cold as snow. They thought she was dead, but Leaf dragged her beside the fire and rubbed her wrists and face until she awoke, choking, and coughed out a flower.

In a spasm, she clawed free of Leaf’s hands and flung herself into a corner. She hunched and stared at them like a startled cat.

“It’s all right,” said Leaf, her voice gentle. “We’re just like you.”

The girl didn’t move as Leaf slowly reached forward; when Leaf’s fingers touched her hair, she closed her eyes and shuddered in relief.

Leaf called her Heartsease, after the little purple flower she had spat out when she woke.

Yes, my Queen, you are the fairest woman in the land.

I’m telling you the truth. I am. You cursed me to know everything and never lie.

Remember?

Heartsease never smiled and never wept. She would not eat or drink, though Leaf spooned soup into her mouth till it dribbled down her chin. She sat by the fire like an abandoned doll, dark eyes glinting from under her long dark lashes.

On the third day, they found that while she breathed, she had no heartbeat.

“She’s a revenant.” Knob hauled her up by the arm. “Back where you came from, gravespit!”

“No!” Leaf seized Heartsease’s other arm. “She can’t be, she isn’t rotting.”

“A witch–thing, then.” Knob dragged them a step closer to the door. Heartsease’s head wobbled; she didn’t look at either of them.

“Cursed, maybe.” Leaf clung to Heartsease like a righteously furious burr. “But she sat still and happy when we said our prayers last night.”

“Happy? This thing?” Knob shook Heartsease. “She wouldn’t notice if we killed her.”

Leaf’s voice was low. “Was I any more human when you found me?”

Yes,” Knob snarled. But after a moment, she let go. “Watch her every moment,” she said as Heartsease crumpled to the ground. Leaf barely caught her head before it hit the floor. “If she hurts anyone, it’s on your head.”

“She won’t,” Leaf promised, and pressed her face into Heartsease’s dark hair.

Over the next few weeks, Heartsease grew a little more life–like. She would follow Leaf, wobbly but walking on her own, and she would sit and stand and hold things when she was told. But that was all Leaf could coax her to do, no matter how she tried to teach her eating or drinking or cooking or sewing.

Knob shot them sour looks while Jam and Moan huddled away from them. But then Wisp and Bone came down sick with chills and vomiting. The next day, Note, Jam, and Moan were sick as well. Knob and Leaf—too busy to glare—nursed the five of them. Then Knob took ill, and over her protests, Leaf laid her down with the others.

She turned to Heartsease and put a spoon in her hand. “Help me make the broth,” she said.

Heartsease blinked at her. And did.

They worked together until Leaf toppled over and couldn’t stop shivering. When the fever–dream broke, Heartsease sat beside her with a dipper of water. She held it to Leaf’s lips, and when Leaf had finished drinking, she raised it to her own mouth. And drank.

“You learned,” Leaf whispered.

Heartsease lowered the dipper and touched Leaf’s hair as once Leaf had touched hers.

“You learned,” Leaf said again, and fell asleep smiling.

After that, Heartsease ate and drank and learned everything Leaf taught her—except how to speak or smile. Knob called her an idiot and sometimes Jam still shivered at her glance, but they all agreed she was one of them. Soon she became nimble as Leaf at spinning, and the two spent hours working together.

“What’s your name?” asked Leaf. “I mean, was your name, before you came here?”

Heartsease never replied, but Leaf did not give up.

“Don’t you think that cloud looks like a bear?”

“Have you ever heard the tale of the bear and his wife? I know tales are forbidden, but who’s to hear me tell you?”

“Knob boxed my ears again today. I’ve decided you’re my favorite sister.”

“I am not,” said Heartsease, her voice a crumbling dried flower.

Leaf’s hands convulsed on her spinning, but she didn’t glance at Heartsease, who spun a little longer before saying more strongly, “Not. I am not your sister.”

“We’re all sisters,” Leaf said softly. “We’re all the same, and even when we box each other’s ears, we all love each other.”

“I don’t.” Heartsease’s voice was passionless. “I don’t.”

Your daughter is lovely, it’s true. But she weeps and sometimes whines, while you are serene in your beauty. She sweats in the kitchens and gets soot on her face. You glow every morning as you remember the touch of your love.

What else do you remember?

“If you’re not my sister,” said Leaf, “then you must be my friend.”

“Why?” The word drifted out of Heartsease’s mouth like a bit of dandelion fluff.

Leaf paused to squeeze past a bush. Jam had taken another one of her chills, and the village herb–woman wasn’t speaking to them, so they had to gather the medicine themselves.

“Well,” said Leaf, “we love each other, and if we’re not sisters, what else are we?”

“I can’t love,” said Heartsease.

“Why not?” asked Leaf. “You nursed us when we were sick and you don’t smack Knob when she’s bossy. If that’s not love, what is?”

“I do not.” Heartsease’s voice was like dust on a forgotten shelf. “I do not…desire…anything.”

Leaf looked back over her shoulder. “You ran to us. You ran to our doorstep. Why?”

Heartsease stared at her like she was a foreign language half–understood. Her mouth opened.

Then a wolf knocked Leaf to the ground.

She went down with only a gasp, but when it sank its teeth into her arm, she screamed, high and breathy. And Heartsease leapt upon the wolf.

It should have ripped her in two. But she had barely touched it when it let go of Leaf, whimpered, and fled into the woods. With still face and steady hands, Heartsease ripped her cloak to make a bandage, then swung Leaf up on her back. Three jolting steps, and Leaf fainted.

She woke much later to shadows, the crackle of the fire, and the dull throb of her wounded arm. She tried to sit up, but a hand pushed her back down.

“Hush,” said Heartsease.

“You wrestled a wolf for me,” Leaf whispered.

“A little.”

“I think…that makes us friends.”

Heartsease said nothing.

“Where is Heartsease?” asked Leaf.

It was two months since the wolf had attacked her. She could stand and walk now, though she still could not grip the spindle and no one was sure if she ever would. Today she sat on the doorstep, breath frosting as she watched Moan and Jam throw snowballs at each other.

“Who knows?” said Knob. “Soon as you were on the mend, she was out at all hours. Won’t help with anything, lazy girl.” She looked sideways at Leaf. “But she did nurse you at first.”

Heartsease returned for dinner, but all through the meal, her gaze twitched towards the door like a leaf trembling in the wind. Late that night, when all the others were sleeping, she rose quietly as the breeze and slipped out of the house. But Leaf had kept awake, and she followed her sister, silent as still air.

Heartease strode swiftly and surely through the woods to a little clearing where moonlight glittered off the snow. At the center of the clearing waited a gray wolf with gold eyes.

She dropped to her knees. “Speak to me,” she said, and her voice was more alive than Leaf had ever heard it. “I know you. When you tried to kill my friend, I—would have hated you, if I had a heart. But I also knew you. Since then, the hole in my chest has hurt so much that I could die.”

She held out her hand. With one bound, the wolf was upon her, jaws closed over her hand, teeth resting lightly against her skin.

She stared into his golden eyes and said, “Take my blood and body if you want. I don’t care what price I pay.”

The wolf growled deep in his throat. Blood dripped between his jaws—but when he released her hand, Leaf saw that his teeth had barely broken Heartsease’s skin. Only three drops of her blood fell to the pure white snow.

And the wolf changed. Limbs stretched, fur melted, until he was no longer a wolf but a naked man. The snow steamed and melted around him as if he were a living coal, but when he took Heartsease’s hands, she did not flinch.

“Please,” he whispered. “I am bound to love a lady that despises me. Every year she lets me spend one night with her, then reviles me and sends me away in disgust. Save me. Be my true love instead.”

“I cannot love,” said Heartsease. “I cannot love anyone, not even my dearest friend.”

“I will teach you,” said the man, and kissed her. Leaf stole back to the cottage.

Please, my Queen. (Yes, you are fairest.) Please. Remember.

At the hour of perfect darkness—long past midnight—when the moon was down and the wolves were silent, waiting at the gates, Heartsease stole into the palace, into her mother’s chambers and her canopied bed.

When the queen woke, she made a noise like a caught sparrow.

Heartsease raised her knife and said, “It is time for you to die, Queen Myrra.”

Afterward, with the blood still hot and sticky on her face, she found the casket. She fumbled at the jeweled clasp, but the old Queen had inscribed runes upon it that made her fingers stiff and her knees weak.

Her lover caught her as she wavered, and kissed her as he opened the casket. “Take it, my love,” he said, lifting out the limp red thing.

Heartsease slid her heart into her chest and gasped as the color returned to her cheeks, the drumbeat to her veins. For the first time in half her life, she smiled. Her lover kissed the scar.

“You are the fairest in the land,” he said, “and so long as you are fairest, I will love you.”

The convent of Silence–on–the–Sea was a place for women who loved God and women who had nowhere else to go.

Sister Samson was one of the first. For countless years she had lived to the rhythm of the convent’s bells, chanting prayers and copying old manuscripts: herbals and star–charts and tomes of mathematics. (They were only books the Queen allowed anyone to keep.)

Sister Naomi was one of the second. She slipped to the convent door through the long purple shadows of evening, and when they let her inside, she threw off her worn cloak and begged sanctuary.

“I was once loved,” she said. “I think. And now I am afraid.”

She was ignorant as a peasant, but she learned quickly. Within a year she could read, and then Sister Samson taught her to copy manuscripts. One evening, as the candles flickered around them and they knew it was time to stop, Sister Naomi asked, “Do you know why the Queen forbids tales and histories?”

“You have seen the proclamation that her mother gave,” said Sister Samson.

Sister Naomi laughed. “Not in my village. Who could have read it?” She lowered her voice. “But I must know what happened before. What has happened to our Queen now.”

“Why?” asked Sister Samson.

“Because I made a promise to a friend.”

“Only the Prioress and I know about this room,” said Sister Samson, as she led Sister Naomi into the library. “You must never tell anyone, unless you want to see this convent burned.”

She laid her hand against the wall.

One of the bookcases slid away, revealing a secret chamber stacked high with books: some bound with velvety red leather, others with wooden boards and gut, one with covers carved of ivory. All the tales and histories of the land.

Sister Samson turned to face her, lamplight flickering across her wrinkled face.

“You want to know about the queens,” she said.

“Yes,” said Sister Naomi.

“I have lived long enough to see all of them,” said Sister Samson. “I have heard the tales the herb–women told before tales were forbidden, and I have read every book in this forbidden room.” She drew out a book bound in leather green as envy. “Including a book written by a madman, who murdered his mother and her paramour, then wrote one last testament before he killed himself.”

She met Sister Naomi’s eyes. “Your friend is the Queen, isn’t she?”

Sister Naomi nodded.

“Then I have much to tell you.”

That is how I decided to leave the convent.

I think you already knew. That’s why you killed me so quickly.

Yes, you killed me with that spell, and I pray my soul has gone to God. It’s only my ghost that is trapped here in this mirror.

And that is why I cannot obey you now, when you order me so desperately to be silent. Ghosts cannot change, and I died swearing I would speak.

Lirralei had heard the tale from a chambermaid, in her childhood before the mourning: There are those who wander the winds and long for human warmth. So if on a night of stars and wind, you spill a drop of your warm human blood, one of them might come and grant your wish.

A foolish, idle tale. But the wind was rattling the windowpanes and she was more than desperate. So she pricked her finger with a needle, and as the blood dropped to the floor, she repeated her wish.

And she heard a knock at her window.

She threw back the curtains and opened the casement. Clinging to the ledge outside was a man made of shadows and wet leaves.

“Please, little girl,” he said, “let me into your room.”

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I am lost and I am lonely,” he said, and all the sorrow of the world was in his soft, hollow voice. “But with you I will be neither.”

He didn’t seem like he could grant her wish, but she pitied him and said, “Then come in.”

He flowed into her room like a shadow, but as soon as the candlelight struck him, he was a man with a body of bone and flesh—soaked through by the rain and dressed in ragged clothes, but just as real as she.

He took her hands and kissed them.

“Please, little girl,” he said, “let me into your bed.”

“Who are you?” she asked again.

“I am lost and I am lonely,” he said in a voice like smoke and honey. “But with you, I will be neither.”

Never before had Lirralei disobeyed her father’s strictures of mourning. But her palms burned where he had kissed them, and her pulse was in her throat.

Lirralei wrapped her fingers around his wrists and said, “Then come in.”

The next morning, she woke in the arms of the most beautiful man she had ever seen. He kissed her and said, “Please, little girl, let me into your kingdom.”

“Who are you?” asked Lirralei.

“I am Love itself,” he said. “And if you let me stay in your kingdom, I will grant your wish. You will be the fairest woman in the land, and you will know a true and everlasting love.”

Lirralei looked into his golden eyes and saw the promise of perfect joy.

“I will,” she said. “But I will not be like my father. Promise me that my daughter will have a chance to know such a love as well.”

“Look at your floor,” he said.

Lirralei sat up. On the floor of her bedroom, where her blood had dripped, there now grew a crooked stem blooming with a single red rose, its petals spread wide to reveal the gold within. It was only one flower, but its musk filled the room.

“Keep that flower and treasure it,” he said. “So long as it lives, you will know love, and so will every daughter of your house, as soon as she becomes a woman.”

O my Queen, my lovely queen, my lady dearest and most dread.

I cannot lie. You are surpassing fair. But there are a hundred thousand things in this world. You are not fairer than the smell of raindrops on hot stone, or the blossoming of ink as the pen runs down the page, or the crackle of the fire as the wind sings outside. You are not fairer than the morning Knob found me starving in the woods, or the first moment written letters spoke to me, or the night that Sister Samson trusted me with her hidden books.

You are not fairer than the moment you called me your dearest friend.

Somebody touched Myrra’s shoulder, and it was a man with eyes of gold and a face like sunrise over a still lake.

“I am Love,” he said, “and you are a woman. The fairest woman in the land.”

“No,” she whispered. “I’m ugly, a child—”

“Look.” He turned her to the remnants of the mirror.

She saw his face clearly in the rim of shattered glass, but the woman in his arms, she barely recognized. Gone were the sun–spots and wrinkles. Now her skin was smooth and fair as fresh cream—and her very shape had shifted.  Her nose was a slender line, her full lips blossomed red, and her breasts and hips curved beneath her dress. Over her whole body danced the radiant loveliness that she had only seen in her mother.

“Love me,” said the man, “and you will be lovely and beloved forever.”

He kissed her, and she felt like a page cast into the fire, curling and crackling in one moment of glory before it died.

“Yes,” she said.

In the morning, she rose from her bed and looked in the broken mirror. She was still lovely, still a woman. Her lover slumbered on the bed, so she ran to her mother’s chambers to say, Mother, I should never have doubted. What you promised me has come true.

But her mother lay still in perfect deafness on the floor, curled around a little potted rose, her arms wrecked and her blood pooled cold and clotted all around her.

“Why?” Myrra gasped.

“Because,” said her lover from the doorway, “last night I slept in your arms instead of hers, and she could not bear it.”

Myrra turned on him, but could not speak.

“She was no longer the fairest,” he said. “It couldn’t be helped.”

“You are a monster,” she whispered.

“Once I was a lost and lonely thing,” he said. “Then your mother let me in. Now I am Love itself, and I will dwell in your house and delight the daughters of your house forevermore.”

Myrra shuddered. “Go,” she said. “Never return.”

“If you wish me gone,” he said, “destroy that flower.”

She seized the little pot to throw it out the window, but as soon as she grasped it, she saw how green and glossy were the leaves, how lovely the red petals, how sweet their musk. And she could not cast it aside.

“You will never love anyone else but me,” he said. “So you will never have the strength to send me from you. Nor will any children of your house.”

Myrra stood like a glass statue.

“You are right,” she said at last. “I cannot send you away, for I am a weak and wretched thing. But you will never have my daughter.”

That is why she forbade tales and history: that no one might learn again the charm that Lirralei worked. And that is why she carved out your heart and locked it in a casket, and why she dosed you with heartsease: that you might never love nor desire love.

You scream at me to be silent. Anger creases your face, twists the perfect curves that he once kissed and swore made him drunker than wine. Your fingers that once twined with his curl like furious claws. Your eyes turn red as they fill with tears.

You are not the fairest anymore.

When the eastern sky was smeared with cream and pink, Heartsease left the wolf who was not a wolf and returned to the cottage. When she opened the door, she saw Leaf sitting just inside.

“Please don’t trust him,” she said.

“He’s lost,” said Heartsease. “And lonely. Isn’t that why you trusted me?”

“What does he want?” asked Leaf.

“Love,” said Heartsease. She knelt before Leaf, so their eyes were level. “He will teach me how to love. All I must do is kill my mother and take my heart back. Then I will be queen, and I will take care of you all. None of you will be cold or hungry again.” She touched Leaf’s hair. “And then I will be able to love you.”

Leaf stared at her sister, at the almost–happiness trembling on her face like the almost–dawn in the sky. How could she forbid her to trust the lonely, to seek out what was lost?

“Only,” she said, “only don’t forget us. When you’re queen, and have all you desire.”

“I won’t,” said Heartsease. “And if I do, you’ll remind me. As you taught me how to drink.”

Leaf caught her hand, squeezed the cold and fragile fingers. “I promise.”

Even now, your daughter crouches among the ashes, cupping in her bleeding hands a rat who is not a rat. He whispers with a voice like smoke and honey, promising her love and the kingdoms thereof.

I do not know what you will do. I will never know. Ghosts cannot change and learning is a mighty transformation.

Maybe you will shatter this mirror and silence me. You will call on your guards and your wolves and your spells, and you will drive your daughter out into the wild. Her lover will find her. She is already his and so she will prevail.

Maybe you will break along with my glass. You will rage against your grief, and forsaking any other comfort, rend away your life. Or your grief will overtake you, until you cut out the heart you won at such cost and swallow the familiar numb sweetness of heartsease. And you will sit heavy–lidded with flowers on your tongue until your daughter comes and punishes you as she wills, and none of it will matter.

But maybe you will remember what you found in the wood, when you had no heart and loved us anyway. (Do you realize yet that you always loved us?) You will find the little potted rose with its twisted stem and one flower, and you will dash the pot to the floor and throw the flower in the fire. You will watch the petals char and weep blood while something lost and lonely wails outside the window. You will scream and weep and gasp like a newborn baby.

And then.

You will descend to the kitchens, draw your weeping daughter from the ashes, and beg her forgiveness and learn how to love her. Or you will flee through your country, and every door will be closed against you, until your pride is dead as your love and you knock at the convent’s door, and Sister Samson looks at you with wrinkled eyes and says, “Come in.” Or you will flee beyond this land, take passage on a ship and tell nobody your name, and run till every tongue speaks a foreign language and that place will be your home.

Or you will do something else that I cannot imagine. There are a hundred thousand things in this world, my Queen, my friend, and only one is lost to you.

Which one will you choose?

Deep Bitch

For Miriam Mikiel

(Editors’ Note: “Deep Bitch” is read by C.S.E. Cooney in The Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 3A, and is interviewed by Deborah Stanish in this issue.)

The Uncanny Valley

We’re writing this in the frigid past of February. Northern Illinois is in a record cold snap, and the temperatures are below zero. Wolves are circling our house—so, so hungry and so, so cold.

Welcome to the third issue of Uncanny Magazine, you fabulous Space Unicorns! Hopefully, it’s warm and delightful in future March where you are. This issue marks the halfway point of Uncanny Year One. We couldn’t be more pleased with our first three issues. The reviews are magnificent (as you know if you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr), and the feedback from all of you has been spectacular. We love how many of you speak of Uncanny as if it truly has been around since its fictional Golden Age pulp origins.

Since we’re at the magical halfway point, we want to answer two often asked questions:

  1. “How will you be funding Uncanny Year Two?”
  2. “When will Uncanny be reopening to submissions?”

We have more or less the same answer to both questions. Basically, we need your help now. As a magazine, we pay our creators on acceptance of their pieces, rather than waiting until publication. This makes writers and artists very happy (which also makes us happy), but it does have a drawback. We have the funds for Year One through our awesome Space Unicorn Ranger Corps Kickstarter backers, and we’ve very nearly purchased enough content to fill all six issues. We simply can’t reopen to submissions until we have enough money for Year Two. We don’t want to select content without being able to pay for it, and pretty much every cent we raised in the Kickstarter is going to creators or being used for backer rewards. (The Thomases are unpaid at this point.)

We would prefer not to run another Kickstarter. Although Caitlin loves dressing up and everybody loves Space Unicorn swag, Kickstarters are exhausting. We would rather put our energy and effort towards making the best possible magazine and podcast. We’re prepared to run a Year Two Kickstarter if we must, but there are better ways to fund Uncanny Year Two right now.

The number one way to fund Year Two is through the magic of  subscriptions! Uncanny Magazine eBook subscriptions are available from the wonderful people at Weightless Books. If just 10 percent of our online readers purchased subscriptions, we could immediately fund Year Two.

We’re looking at some other funding models, and we’ll have more information about ways you can support Uncanny in the coming months. We realize that many of you who graciously backed our Kickstarter will be waiting until your initial subscriptions through the Kickstarter are complete, which is understandable. We hope all of you will consider supporting us through Weightless when that happens.

So as soon as we can fund Year Two, we’ll reopen to submissions. We know how frustrating this is to writers, and we apologize. It’s just as frustrating to us. We miss reading your amazing submissions, and the wonderful surprise of finding a perfect Uncanny story. In fact, this month only includes one story solicited from the Kickstarter. The other five came out of a phenomenal slush pile.

And now, the contents of another thrilling issue of Uncanny Magazine! Our cover this month, “Unspeakable #2” is by the magnificent Carrie Ann Baade. This month’s new fiction features Sofia Samatar’s thoughtful riff on Heart of Darkness “Those,” Rosamund Hodge’s dark nesting fairy tale “The Lamps Thereof Are Fire and Flames,” Kat Howard’s harrowing tale of cities, love, and relics “Translatio Corporis,” Sarah Pinsker’s delightful story of family, magic, and hard choices “When the Circus Lights Down,” Emily Devenport’s powerfiul exploration  of  space, time, and mopping  “Dr. Polingyouma’s Machine,” and Fran Wilde’s charming, succinct, and mythic “You Are Two Point Three Miles from Your Destination.”

We also have a bonus story for you this issue. Some of you may have already seen this on the Uncanny website, where it went live on Valentine’s Day, presented to us (and you!) as a special, weird Valentine’s Day gift of love, mail, and mollusks from Maria Dahvana Headley.  “Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows”  flowed out of Maria over a couple of days, and we edited it while in a hallway at the Capricon convention in Chicago, so that we could launch it on the most romantic of days.

Also in this issue, we reprint Ellen Klages’s classic story “In the House of the Seven Librarians.” Our poetry in this issue includes C.S.E. Cooney’s “Deep Bitch,” Jennifer Crow’s “Cloudbending,” and M Sereno’s “The Eaters.”

Our nonfiction includes essays about Afrofuturism by Ytasha L. Womack, “found” family and its discontents by Stephanie Zvan, The Hobbit films by Amal El–Mohtar, and actor Peter Cushing by L.M. Myles. We also have interviews with Sofia SamatarC.S.E. Cooney and Ellen Klages, as conducted by Deborah Stanish.

The Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 3A features Kat Howard’s “Translatio Corporis” as read by Amal El–Mohtar, C.S.E. Cooney’s “Deep Bitch” as read by the author, an interview with Kat Howard conducted by Deborah Stanish, and an interview with Jim C. Hines conducted by Michi Trota. The Uncanny Magazine Podcast 3B features Sarah Pinsker’s “When the Circus Lights Down” as read by C.S.E. Cooney, M Serano’s “The Eaters” as read by Amal El–Mohtar, and an interview with Sarah Pinsker conducted by Deborah Stanish.

If you love reading Uncanny as much as we love producing it, please continue spreading the word with your comments, tweets, posts, and messages. Share us with your friends! We’re always recruiting more Space Unicorn Rangers.

Thank you all so much for your continued support.

Enjoy!

Thank You, Once Again, Kickstarter Backers!

Uncanny Magazine would like to thank the following people for backing our Kickstarter. This magazine would not be possible without their support.

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