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Space Unicorn Ranger Corps RECRUITS

Catharine Roseberry, Katie Sinkoski, Jennifer Hisrich, Jenny Barber, Danielle, Mr. Robin White, Andrew Gregg, Anitra Heiberg Lykke, Andrew S. Fuller, Aleksi Stenberg, Damien Neil, Not_the_brain,  james qualters, Maria Schrater, Leetmeister,  Max Andrew Dubinsky, Wordsmith Lynn, Robin Hill, Liz Argall, S P, Ken Schneyer, Ryan Pennington, Neil Ottenstein, Penny Richards, Josh Smift, Jay Lofstead, Sidsel Pedersen, Annaliese Lemmon, fadeaccompli,  Clarissa R., Ai Lake, David Versace, Kate Barton

Space Unicorn Ranger Corps ENSIGNS

Anja, Cheryl Martin, Michael Mendoza, rick kintigh, Brian,  Petri Wessman, Em, Emily Robbins, Rick Floyd, Tomb, Susan Yount, James Antill, Kora Bongen, Mark A Dispenza, Zhenya, Cait Coy, Alex Cross, Rachel Green, Jim DeVona, Sean Pruitt, Haven Spec, coffee n’ cats, samuel lightcap, Alysha MacDonald, Crystal Hill, Dominique Martel, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Carla B. Estruch, Jordan,  Adrienne Joy, Duke Kimball, Maritza Sanchez, Alina, itay parasol, Emilie De Saint Martin, Zanele Ndaba, John Carr, Riikka,  Tatyana,  Surya H, Callum Williams, Dilly, Howard Cornett, Kellen Harkins, Fábián Tamás, Ashley Herzig, Rhian Bowley, Carl Olsen, Goran Lowie, Aliénor, Dawn Bonanno, William Hay, Dave McAvoy, Julia Pillard, Nicky Martin, Nicholas Davies, Monique Cuillerier, Thomas Faust, D. M. Baldwin, John Coxon, Fabienne Schwizer, Greg Chapman, Kael, Colin, Jaime McLeod, Katie Rodante, Sofia G, Kathrin, Ross Williams, Andrew McIntosh, Alec Ross, Karen Young, Simon Hoerder, Melanie Savransky, Ailbhe Leamy, Pete Kirkham, John Atom, Chris Gates, Kim Park, Felicia Jordan, Jes, Tracey Thompson, Ryan V Thummel, Shannon H, Jenn Brissett, Brian, Sonja Pieper, Kelly Quantrill, Aditya Dubey, Kari Keeling, Taylor Alcantar, Goetz Kruppa, Bonnie, Agnes,  Peter Schmitt (Aragos), Douglas Dluzen, Hiu Gregg, Mary Brock, Chawin Narkruksa, Tuomas Pohto, Emily Goldman, Beth Hoffman, Alina Kanaski, Matthew Bennardo, Brad Preslar, Fiona Parker, Alison Gilder, Markus Regius, Natalie Boon, Luke, Caroline Pinder, Vicente JM, Ben Hammerslag, Tina Skupin, Eris Young, Chessa Hickox, machine_person,  John Derrick, Charlie Lindahl, Lauren Strenger, Carrie,  Sarah Jansen, Emily Kvalheim, [email protected],  Leanne Kathleen Ingino, Sadie Slater, Andrew Hickey, Julia Struthers-Jobin, Tim Campbell, Melissa Brinks, Nick Mazzuca, Maria Haskins, Sarah Elkins, Victor Eijkhout, Melissa Martensen, Joe Iriarte, Jacqueline Rogoff, Sarah Bea, Amanda B Cook, Ellen Zemlin, David O Mahony, Risa Wolf, John Cetrone, Cynthia Murrell, Gina,  ShadowCub,  Tiffany M., Albert Bowes, Amanda J. McGee, Crystal Huff, Leslie Ordal, Maria,  Gene Breshears, Ysabet MacFarlane, Erik DeBill, Emily Finke, Paul Weymouth, Laura K, Philip Woodley, David Demers, Jeffrey,  Ondrej Urban, Emily Hogan, Paul Weimer, Lauren Vega

Space Unicorn Ranger Corps LIEUTENANTS

Shelby Niehaus, Pat Hayes, Tracey Abla, Wendy, Sarah Storm, Brian Withers, Stephen,  Will Hamilton, Sean Eric Fagan, smokestack, Heather Holmquist, Ian Sweedler, Gregor M. Geemd, Kelsea Kreuch, Sasha H, Mark Tyler, Christiane Knight, Salvatore Fabbiano, Sarah Jackson,  John Reynolds, Starr Hoffman, John Tobias, Kyle DeVries, Matthew Montgomery, julianna zdunich, Koa Webster, Sarah Hale, Randall Beeman, Danielle Weaver, Alena Geffner-Mihlsten, LInda Thompson, Ahsan A. Latif, Lisa Cox, Stephanie Novak, Rich Rubel, Haley N Cowans, A T-L, Margaret N. Oliver, Joan Combs Durso, Nancy Palmer, Elan Samuel, Sid J, Sarah Berriman, RMD Cade, devorah hill, Josef D Prall, Sam Gawith, Kirby Li, Declan Meenagh, Christi Clogston, jenn northington, Gareth Morgan, Ravian Ruijs, Bee Buehring, E,  David Dagg-Murry, Raphaelle,  Emma Osborne, Max G, Matt, Thomas Marks, Derek Smith, Erin Bright, michael smith, Ariana Dawnhawk, tatere,  Adrian,  Kaylan McCanna, Elena Gaillard, Lorelei Kelly, medievalpoc,  Myz Lilith, Devin & Stephanie Ganger, Phil Margolies, Brandi Blackburn, Cait Greer, Jen Talley, Ian Radford, Adam Israel, Aaron Roberts, Jennifer Melchert, John M. Gamble, John Chu, Brooks Moses, Deborah Levinson, Michael Lee, Adam Leff

Space Unicorn Ranger Corps COMMANDERS

Emily K Miller, Kuang-Yu Liu, Kelly Lester, Chip Roland, Camille Knepper, Elizabeth Galliher, Mairin Holmes, William T. McGeachin, Alex Eiser, K.C. Mead-Brewer, Alexander M Henderson, Kate O’Connor, Marzie Kaifer, Edmund Schweppe, Nicole Fuschetti, Dain Unicorn, Jayme,  Bliss Ehrlich, Daniel (a raven)

ADDITIONAL SUPPORTERS

talkativeprovider, Jacob Aldrich, Karen, Roy Ha, SB Divya, Hayley Klug, Will Hindmarch, John Overholt, Martha Hood, Marc Beyer

Timeless Pie

she saved her money to buy

a thirty-minute trip back in time

to visit the diner where

she could watch her grandpa

young with a head full of hair

working behind the counter

as she ate a piece of his

maple apple pie with coffee

 

the piece she ordered to-go

traveled fifty years

ahead of time

to be sneaked to her grandma

in hospice care

who couldn’t eat more than a bite

but breathed it in

and smiled

The Boy Who Cried Historical Accuracy

“It’s that it’s not historically accurate.”

The sudden popularity of this criticism just so happens to coincide with the rise of diversity in popular media. It was raised for the latest installment of the God of War franchise, which dared to portray a Black Angrboda, and for Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher, as it stars “ethnic” characters in a European-inspired medieval world. When it comes to sexuality and gender identity, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the cry of “historical accuracy” being used against the inclusion of queer characters in fantasy books—as if queer people were invented in the ’90s. Disabled characters are also an issue, for these concerned citizens, because disability too—apparently—is a modern invention. The inclusion of the “combat wheelchair” in the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons caused an uproar, with insults and even death threats hurled at the creator!

Historical accuracy has become a shield branded to justify one’s own bigotry, and to keep the fantasy genre as white, allocishet, and able-bodied as possible. As a lover of both history and fantasy, this bothers me. A lot.

Unfortunately, a common response to such bigotry is that “it’s fantasy, so historical accuracy doesn’t matter.” Which, if possible, bothers me even more, because it’s a very dangerous stance that can have repercussions in real life. It reinforces the idea that the bigots are right, that European history was dominated by white, allocishet men; when in truth it was anything but.

The myth of a homogenous Europe, perpetrated by white supremacists and—involuntarily—by progressives alike is just that: a myth. An extremely historically inaccurate myth, I daresay, but one that also serves a very specific purpose: to erase those who are not white, allocishet, and able-bodied from the European past, and from its present as well. As a queer and neurodiverse Southern European with a multicultural family, I know this all too well. And products of entertainment have a role in perpetuating this myth, as they—especially when they have such a big fandom, like The Witcher—shape the way we perceive reality around us. Which is why I find discussions around historical accuracy disingenuous at best, and dangerous at worst.

So, let’s talk about what is historically accurate, starting with a white supremacist’s favorite: the Roman Empire. Specifically, the Roman Empire as it’s portrayed in HBO’s show Rome—dominated by white men with inexplicable British accents. The real Roman Empire, though, was one of the most diverse empires in history, and in its diversity lay its greatest strength. Did you know, for example, that a whole line of Emperors was North African? Septimus Severus was a brown-skinned Libyan, and North Africa was one of the core provinces of the Empire along with Italy—as testified by the imposing Roman ruins to be found in Tunisia and Libya, to rival those of Rome itself. Eastern Romans—the Byzantines—maintained diplomatic relationships with the Chinese Tang dynasty—there’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to Sino-Roman relations!—and a Byzantine medic even served as Imperial physician at the court of Emperor Gaozong.

Historian Bret Devereaux does a splendid job in dispelling the myth of a homogenous Roman society in his series of blog posts “The Queen’s Latin,” or “Who Were the Romans,” especially in the article “The Color of Purple”—which I warmly recommend reading.

This diversity does not translate in most movies and shows about the Roman Empire, like HBO’s Rome. It’s not the result of mere laziness, but the legacy of how history was studied, and taught, in the West till not so long. Roman history, for example, was warped in service of Western imperialism, of which the British Empire is a prime example—ironically so, since the Romans didn’t care much about Britain to begin with, a remote island populated by barbarians.

But what about the Middle Ages? Surely, medieval Europe was not as diverse as The Witcher or The Wheel of Time adaptations would have us believe. These shows do not portray a medieval society in an accurate way.

To which I’d ask…why do you believe the opposite to be true? There exists this misconception of medieval Europe as a homogenous area, thanks both to historians who tried to erase the contribution of BIPOC, disabled folks, and queer people from European history, and to movies such as the adaptation of The Lord of The Rings, which set the standards for what medieval fantasy must be like.

Truth is, the historical reality of medieval Europe was far more diverse than you’d imagine. Look at Italy, for example. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, my country was conquered by Arabs, Normans, Spaniards, and the French. We were a commercial hub with lines extending as far as Indonesia and the Philippines. We had a Black head of state (Alessandro de’ Medici, nicknamed “Il Moro,” who ruled Florence between 1530 and 1537) and we were so gay, homosexuality was labeled as “the Italian illness”—as described by Régis Revenin in his essay, “Homosexualité et prostitution masculines à Paris: 1870-1918.” We even had our own Stonewall—The Compagnacci Insurgence—back in the XVth century!

It pains me to see this richness and diversity erased whenever historical accuracy is discussed. On one hand, we have people claiming historically accurate settings must not be diverse. On the other hand, we have people insisting historical accuracy doesn’t matter when diversity is concerned—implicitly agreeing with the first in positioning diversity and historical accuracy as two opposite poles.

Luckily, many people—historians and history nerds alike—are shredding the legacy of old imperialism and white supremacy and are portraying the past—in this case, the European past—without prejudice and without an agenda. Just the past as it was; rich and diverse, beautiful and terrible in equal parts. Notable examples are Bret Devereaux’s blog, which I already mentioned, as well as Dr. Eleanor Janega’s Going Medieval Patreon, and accounts such as Medieval POC or Roman Middle East.

I hope to add my contribution with this little essay, which is really an open call to European writers and content creators, especially from marginalized groups. European fantasy does not have to be just small villages, mountains, and feudal lords. It can also be interactions between different cultures (without an orientalist lens, mind you!), women head of states (they existed! Think about Matilde di Canossa, whose story I have summarized here), and queers fighting for their rights or simply…living their best life. Disabled folks must not be left out either, as we have thousands upon thousands of medieval prosthetics artifacts, and it’s not like neurodivergence didn’t exist in the past. An interesting theory is that Byzantine Emperor Justinian was autistic, based on the way his behavior was described by contemporaries. It’s also almost certain Roman Emperor Claudius had cerebral palsy or Tourette syndrome.

As creators, we can play a role with our art in shifting the popular perception of what historical Europe looked like. And by learning from our past, we can help shape a more inclusive future.

Plus, history is a source of untapped potential when it comes to inspiration for writing. In fact, there are great books that, in my opinion, did something amazing by drawing from European history without prejudice.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson, is perhaps most famous for its brilliant discussion of imperialism and for its tragic lesbians. Despite Dickinson’s Masquerade mapping better on western empires from the XIX and XX centuries, I found Aurdwynn—a realm with a lower technology level and a feudal political system—a close representation of what medieval Europe, especially in the early Middle Ages, would have looked like. The fact the feudal lords were of various genders, with heritages from different cultures and ethnicities, makes it way more realistic than one would expect.

Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is another fantasy book set in a world reminiscent of medieval Europe, but which manages to be extremely diverse with its cast of well-rounded women, people of color, and queer characters. Shannon herself is a history lover, as testified by the meticulous research gone into her worldbuilding. In devising her world, she drew inspiration from different historical periods—such as Elizabethan England—as well as different countries, creating a complex and vivid theater for her characters to perform in.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid is inspired by Eastern European medieval history and Hungarian folklore, and focuses—through a fantasy reimagining—on the antisemitism and hardships Jewish people had to face in the region. Reid’s book is extremely important, as it highlights how Europe has always been a diverse area…for good or bad. Jewish and Roma people, particularly in Eastern Europe, and Sámi Indigenous people in Northern Europe, have always existed as minorities and thus have always been targeted by systemic racism and harassment.

And in the last century, the aftermath of colonialism and a renewed migratory flow have done nothing but increase European diversity. Europeans of color, Indigenous Europeans, Black Europeans exist now as they did in the past. Sci-fi and fantasy writer Aliette de Bodard is of Franco-Vietnamese descent, for example, and despite being born in New York she grew up in Paris—where her fantasy series Dominion of the Fallen takes place. Zen Cho, author of Black Water Sister, grew up in Malaysia but migrated to London—theater of her debut, Sorcerer to the Crown. The novel, set in Regency England, tackles white supremacy, colonialism, slavery, and the white hypocrisy in the abolitionist movement. Much like The Wolf and the Woodsman, Cho’s Sorcerer reclaims a space for people of color in European history, while also denouncing their de-humanization in white European society.

This is extremely important, as in my opinion by claiming historic Europe to be a monolithic white space, we not only erase the incredible richness of the continent’s history…but also the ugly aspects of it. We erase the history of oppression minorities faced in this country, as well as their contribution to our history.

Which is why, as someone extremely passionate about history and a writer who holds representation dear to my heart, I believe we should stop dismissing historical accuracy, and start wielding it as a weapon against those who try to erase minorities in Europe. Both in fiction and in reality.

 

Interview: Haralambi Markov

Haralambi Markov is a Bulgarian fiction writer, reviewer, & editor with a background in content creation, who currently works as a freelance writer. He was the first ever Bulgarian to be accepted to attend the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in 2014. His work has appeared in Tor.com, Evil in Technicolor, Weird Fiction Review, Stories for Chip, Eurasian Monsters, and Lackington’s. He was part of the team of BonFIYAH 2021. “Bones Are Stones for Building” is his second appearance in Uncanny—a powerful exploration of relationships, set in an eerie post-human world.

 

Uncanny Magazine: There’s a lovely weirdness and futuristic feel to the worldbuilding in this story, and beautiful descriptions that immerse the reader in the world you’ve created. What is your process for worldbuilding? Did you have a good sense of the world before you started writing the story, or did it emerge as you went along?

Haralambi Markov: “Bones Are Stones for Building” is based on a famous Bulgarian folk song about how in order to erect a building one of the builders has to bury his young bride into the foundations alive. He’d leave only one breast exposed so that she could nurse their child. That’s the whole conceit of the story—where does this practice lead over time by cannibalizing on a single family line.

This led me to a weird, post-human, post-planet place that I crafted as I went. My whole process had to do with the divorce from the land and the physical, and the grotesque of the technological in some way.

I would say worldbuilding in general boils down to two things: a mood, and a single central image, which weaves everything else together. I’m highly visual so it’s always a distinct image that comes to mind.

Uncanny Magazine: What was the easiest or most fun part of writing the story? What was the most challenging thing?

Haralambi Markov: Nothing about this story has been easy!

I’ve been working on a variation of “Bones Are Stones for Building” since 2015, which is ridiculous. It started off as a folk tale that ended in futuristic sci-fi, but it didn’t work, so I tried different ways to reverse engineer it so at the core always stood the concept of entombing living people into the foundation.

Uncanny Magazine: One focus of “Bones Are Stones for Building” is relationships—the story explores a parent-child relationship, a family lineage, and a marriage. Are relationships a theme that you often return to in your work? What other themes do you find yourself drawn to?

Haralambi Markov: Families are somewhat central in my work. You are chained to the rhythm of life through blood. Whether you embrace it or seek to destroy your belonging to your kin, it’s still there. There’s some really heady horror there as you don’t choose your family as a child. Your family is something done to you for better or worse.

But above all else—death and bodies are central themes in my work. The finality, the gentleness, or the denial of death through transgressive body horror. I’m fascinated by the idea of your body not belonging to yourself. Not truly.

Uncanny Magazine: If you could visit one spot in the world you created for this story, where would you go and why?

Haralambi Markov: I want to walk the viewing platforms tethered to the moon and hang out there. It’s only mentioned in passing, but I tend to yearn for the places I’ve yet to explore.

Though I am tempted to trek downwards through the layers of time in the abandoned surface of the Earth. If only I was not afraid of the dark.

Uncanny Magazine: Who are some of your literary influences? What is something you read recently and loved?

Haralambi Markov: As a whole, I take my inspiration from short story writers—Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter, Lisa L. Hannett, Karen Tidbeck, A.C. Wise. These writers make up my immediate canon. I’m also quite in awe of the works of Jeff VanderMeer and David Mitchell.

The last book I quite enjoyed is a short story collection by Olga Tokarczuk, Opowiadania bizarne roughly translated as Bizarre Stories, but that collection has not been translated into English yet. I read it in Bulgarian.

Short stories I think about often are “What Floats in a Flotsam River” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu and “tragedy of the sugarcane ghost” by Desirée Winns.

Uncanny Magazine: What are you working on next?

Haralambi Markov: Currently, I’m juggling several projects. Right now the priority is to revise my Bulgarian cosmic horror short story “Root of the Womb,” which is a sequel to an earlier story I published “When Raspberries Bloom in August” back in 2015. I’m fascinated about weirding my homeland in ways that I’ve seen done in the West. Together they make up the frame of a horror cycle I hope to get rolling soon.

I’m also in the midst of drafting a script for an otome mobile game. It’s a dating simulator game where the player immerses themselves into the inner workings of a bookstore. It’s gay. It’s light. A complete 180 from the usual nightmares I write about, but it’s a fun side project I’m doing with a friend of mine who handles the art.

In between, I’m polishing up a collection manuscript, which I hope I can place in a loving home.

Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

From Panic to Process: What Taking Criticism Actually Means

One of the most common pieces of wisdom I hear directed at new writers is that You Must—oh, You MUST—Learn To Take Criticism Well. Intoning this solemnly seems to protect its proponents from ever having to articulate what that process would look like. Where is the middle path between placid accommodation and knee-jerk spite? What does it mean to take criticism well? How does it apply differently to critique (before the work is published) and criticism (after the work is out in the wild)? The sum of most advice for productively taking post-publication criticism is “don’t respond to reviews”—often the right answer but not all that can be learned.

One of the default assumptions people carry in from school and other experience before their writing lives is that criticism means negative commentary. Critical is rarely taken to include in-depth positive or even neutral commentary. But critique and criticism are not merely assessments of a work’s flaws. In fact, some of their most interesting moments can come from an analysis on forms and themes in a work that are neutral or positive. Even this, however, can be disconcerting and take practice and deliberate plans to get used to as a tool.

Critique/Pre-Publication

For me any piece of critique, large or small, can raise two questions about a work. First, how does it bring this work into better alignment with what it was intended to be doing? Second, if it challenges or reshapes those intentions, does it do so in a good way? The former question sounds grandiose when applied to small tasks like removing vague or repetitive language, but specificity helps convey your vision. Whether they change punctuation or add entirely new characters and subplots, revisions should have some method for bringing the work closer to its originating vision.

I think the latter question is often neglected because there is a common idea that only the creator can conceive of an artistic vision, which should remain pure and untrammeled. And this is true up to a point. But it is also true that sometimes it is not the execution but the concept itself that can benefit from critique. Those cases are the exception to the rule that revision should bring works closer to their original intention—rather, the entire vision for the work can be improved.

The default critique group method in science fiction circles—in many creative writing circles—is the Milford Method, in which the person whose work is being critiqued is expected to sit silently while the group delivers its commentary. For writers building an individual process of taking critique, there are advantages and disadvantages to this system. It’s intended to keep the writer’s ego from getting in the way, to allow the critiquers to have their full say without argument from someone who is knee-jerk defensive and treating every pixel out of their own computer as deathless prose. The other advantage of Milford is that it spares the author from having to come up with clever discussion on the spot—silence gives time to consider rather than react, and time is a staunch ally in finding graceful ways to process criticism.

The problem is that in compensating for defensive egotism, Milford may conceal or even create other problems. If critiquers go off on a very wrong path from misreading text that is actually present, being able to point out what’s there is sometimes useful. If they are even further unhelpful to the point of being offensive, allowing the author to respond to comments like “no autistic person would ever think this” with “I’m autistic myself, actually” can save the group a great deal of trouble—and the author a great deal of pain.

So beginners often start with critique in the Milford mode: sitting silently as a group goes around and takes turns giving their opinions, listening without giving any response. Whether this is the initial mode of critique or some other, it behooves the writer to pay attention to their internal response to it. What parts of it work well? What parts don’t? Writers are allowed to ask for particular things in a critique—either particular questions (“does the ending work?”) or a particular critique format. It’s useful to pay attention not just to whether a particular critiquer tends to have good ideas but to how the writer reacts internally to certain kinds of critique in the moment—shoulders tensing up when people say them out loud vs. writing them down, or the other way around? Stomach roiling for a point-by-point or an overview? There is no one true path here, but listening to very basic bodily signals from certain forms of critique can be a good signpost for which ways might be more productive for each individual.

It’s okay to say, “I’m feeling very shaky on this one, I’d like some encouragement.” If I had said the name of a friend who said that to me recently, you’d probably be surprised—the person has many well-deserved awards. We all have rough patches. We all need encouragement. It’s okay to say, “I’m not looking for line edits at this time.” There is no shame in letting critiquers know that you’re in that place with your work—or with a particular aspect of your work. “I’m curious about how the character relationships work for you,” or “I’m wondering if the pacing is going okay,” or “The cat is staying in no matter what, please leave the cat alone” are all acceptable things to say to critiquers in advance. I keep using the plural—but it’s okay if you find out you do better with one at a time.

Once you’ve received the critiques, you can again try different iterations of what works for you in processing them. Do you do better taking notes and organizing your thoughts right away, or does that make you feel rushed and stressed? Sometimes letting ideas percolate helps you find the right balance of your vision and other people’s ideas.

Sometimes, even having put down boundaries of this nature, there will still be something in your work that made a critiquer feel honor-bound to speak up in an area you did not request. Nobody likes to hear that they’ve accidentally (…one certainly hopes accidentally) propagated biased views in their work, but a critiquer who encounters something of that nature will often feel it is important to mention even if it wasn’t the requested focus of the critique. No beta reader is perfect, and it’s okay to consider whether one reader is reacting to your work as inaccurate to one individual rather than misrepresenting a group or propagating bias against it. But it’s also a good time to take a hard look at what you’ve written and how it might say things you don’t believe—or even things you do believe, but wish you didn’t. It’s not fair to ask readers to assume that you’re being your best self if you’re not willing to actually examine yourself and your work to ensure that this is genuinely true. This is a case where you should err on the side of things you don’t want to hear. “You’re too sensitive” is for semicolon use, not prejudice.

Your original vision was almost certainly not that you would perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or any of a number of other problems. This is a chance to move your work closer to that original vision, which did not have those problems. Fundamentally, any manuscript problems are problems in words, lines, paragraphs, chapters. Is that too obvious? But when you’re feeling attacked and defensive, such problems can seem holistic, personal. Instead, look for how to address them in the same way as you would the rest of criticism: where in the manuscript does this problem occur? How can I address it in concrete, practical terms? This moves the question from a personal attack (“Am I a bad person? What’s wrong with me, that I wrote a manuscript with this kind of problem in it?”) to a practical problem to solve.

When you read the acknowledgments of a published book, you may never know which of the names helped in the form of hugs and brownies and which helped in the form of sharply observant critique—but some of them will spell it out to you. Whenever you see, “Thanks to Doodle, who helped me see the relationship between the main characters so much more clearly,” in the acknowledgments, that’s an author who learned to take pre-publication criticism well.

Criticism/Post-publication

Do I have to tell you not to argue with reviews? Generally, on the whole, do not argue with reviews, this is the main advice you get for a reason, it is good advice, get it printed on a coffee mug if you have to, embroider it on a pillow, and sleep clutching that pillow to your bosom. Do not say, “Marissa Lingen wrote an entire essay about this and never said not to argue with reviews so I totally can.” Okay? Yes? We’re on the same page here and now we can say more things? Good.

It’s important to remember that the primary audience for reviews and criticism is not the author. They’re about the work, not for the author’s benefit. Even professional reviews and criticism exist as part of a larger conversation with the work they’re reviewing and other works; reader reviews are a chance for readers to talk to each other. Does that mean authors can’t ever add anything to their process based on those pieces of criticism? Never is a long time, friends. The important caveats to remember from both sides of the table here are that published works are finished. Done. New editions are rare and, in most cases, require a lot of work if they can happen at all—if you’re not the sort of person who gets an all-new edition with a special introduction written by someone else, brand-new cover art, etc., they are not likely to happen for you. (The exception here is if your work is ebook/online only, making it much easier to change.)

This means that most of what an author can—can, not must—learn from criticism is going to apply to the next work along the line—or more realistically, a work several years down the line. Ursula Le Guin’s beloved and influential The Left Hand of Darkness sparked a great deal of critical thought about gender, but as discussion evolved, the limitations of using “he” for all of the persons of a species that does not gender the way humans do became clearer to all concerned, including Le Guin herself. She followed up with discussion in a later edition’s afterword and with a short story, “Winter’s King,” making the opposite choice. Had she lived longer into the era of comfortable, ordinary nonbinary pronouns, who knows what further art might have been inspired.

More recently, Kristin Cashore has spoken about how critical discussion of her portrayal of blindness in Graceling helped her to realize that she needed a more nuanced portrayal in a later book in its series, Bitterblue. Cashore stresses not only the specific things she has learned about disability representation for this series but also its applicability to future examples of writing characters not like herself and her intentions to seek input on these topics earlier in her process. Other authors have given shorter examples of similar themes, such as Joe Abercrombie realizing that how he was handling point-of-view had implications in larger questions in his work.

In one of the rarer cases where an author had a chance to adjust aspects of a work post-publication, Mary Robinette Kowal has a thorough discussion of how her story “Weaving Dreams” changed with critical input post-publication. She talks about her vision of the story and how it went into the world achieving some things that were the opposite of that vision when it came to racism and colonialism—and because it was an online story, these aspects could be changed for all readers. Kowal has chosen to post notes about this process rather than trying to erase the previous problems with her work, allowing others to learn from the discussion as well as the results.

Author Diane Duane also responded to both her own desires to revise her Young Wizards series and to criticism of the series for the New Millennium Editions of the books. While it’s impossible to guess which motivations were internal and which external, Duane has commented on how reader feedback about her portrayal of an autistic character in A Wizard Alone in 2002 led her to revise that portrayal for the updated 2013 version. Duane talks about the balance of positive and negative criticism in her work, wanting to retain elements of the crucial character that had resonated for some autistic readers while improving the parts of her portrayal that other readers found wanting. In this case the importance of positive criticism is clearer than in most examples of demographic bias criticism, because it gave the author clarity on which parts of her story had a solid foundation and which were on shakier ground.

If you are one of the authors making post-publication changes, it’s important to take a beat to process what you’re hearing—even more so than with pre-publication critique. The speed of internet communication may make it feel like you have to react in the moment, but it’s even more crucial not to have an unconsidered response that you will regret. The authors who have issued edited works, and especially the authors who have applied lessons from criticism to later works, have taken time to consider and process.

If you choose to make a statement rather than letting your work speak for itself, that’s a great time to run that statement past another person before making it public. Your agent, the work’s editor, and a small group of trusted colleague friends are all wonderful ideas for people to help with this process and may give you much needed perspective and parallax on your public statement.

Writers are not required to read criticism of their work, much less to draw inspiration from it. You can put off reading reviews and literary criticism or have trusted friends or colleagues filter it for you in useful ways. But its uses can come in small ways and large. “They’re right, I really don’t have any disabled characters in my stories. Let’s figure out how I can change that,” is one beautiful way to take criticism well. So is, “I wonder how I can keep reaching the audiences who squee about my lapidary prose.” So is, “Thank you to all of my fans, your support and encouragement makes all of this worthwhile.” They’re facets of the same process.

No work of criticism is going to be perfectly geared to your learning. Even when you’ve had the opportunity to ask for the shape of critique that suits you best, it may show you things you wished you hadn’t seen. But with time and space to process, they can be a source of growth rather than angst.  You are free to become a better person at any time—more interesting, kinder, more knowledgeable, more thoughtful about the experiences of others—and bring your work up to the standard you have achieved. Sometimes other people offer to help you and your work with this. Take them up on it.

In Stock Images of the Future, Everything is White

I don’t want flying cars. I want my language back.

I want to glass-bottom boat my way to a dirt road

 

with no street signs, squeeze myself on the grave

of my restlessness, my atomic self-esteem.

 

Five hundred years and we have finished. What

have burned sugar and dyed cotton blighted?

 

I stain my skin with sunlight, try on those

new underwater lungs, which is to say, I search

 

for new meaning in old salt. Sand dollars are dead,

I discover. I trade them for a tour ride round

 

the mountain. The cyborg guide has a tinny

Guyanese accent, points to a crashed, cracked

 

ship, which several Locals have adorned

with bougainvillea, flags and wooden beads.

 

The guide says, remember when the sky became

red? Look—how the giant stars came to us.

 

Someone beside me regrows their limb. I try,

but I’m stopping myself, and I want to go backward

 

in time immediately. There’s another word

for lost, but I can’t remember.

 

(Editors’ Note: “In Stock Images of the Future, Everything is White” is read by Matt Peters on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, 46B.)

Irreconcilable Differences

The night before first snow in Zutphen the bathroom glass

is piebald with frostbreath and djinns and this month you don’t trust

electricity so I kneel in the tub to dredge the blood from between

my thighs until my knuckles no longer trail burnt cherries and

bicycle rust down the shower curtain I asked your mother not to buy.

Supper is bread and cheese and you saying nothing about When

you’ve been today but the maggots dotting the French press

tell me southern hemisphere and the star anise clouding your bitten nails

tells me Rajasthan. Every day you leave I think about leaving you

and Chaya from Marketing says Marie why don’t you bring your man 

to the borrels anymore and Chaya’s sisters are shifters and I could

tear the plowed fields apart with them for miles after work and dark

and you’d never notice and the ryegrass grows higher and brighter

under our house and sometimes I think about hiring the Glastras

from down the lane to stake their Deluxe Fairy Ring in the space

and how would you like it then, to steer for known earth and instead

find the flux, but then I remember the haunch of your devil’s

food birthday cake packed in the freezer, half of which I ate fresh-baked

in the driveway because you’d taken the house to Reykjavik, and I clip

the Glastras coupon to my wallet and eat cake reading about Eurovision

while you chart portals across the dining table amidst the ruins of suppers

long forgotten, staring at a postcard of Strombolian lava formations

for incalculable minutes before asking years too late if I’m ovulating.

 

(Editors’ Note: “Irreconcilable Differences” is read by Matt Peters on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, 45A.)

Omonhinmin

“what is grief, if not love persevering?”— Vision
in a village, a woman on a boat tosses her net
into a lake & hopes to fish her drowned kids from
its yawning mouth. the dark garment in the sky is
without sparkles, a halved moon hovers, & nothing
but owls eat the silence. in Bini, she says take back
this grief, & return the music of my womb. yet the sea
in her heart doesn’t forsake her body. she swears on her
breasts to reclaim her treasures gulped by the threnody
of water. what good is a home crushed by gloom,
when there are no songs to keep the light alive?
when all the air carries are the running footsteps
& laughter of one’s loss stuck in its memory?
day after day, she saddles herself to the middle
of the lake & throws in her hands in the form of a net.
someone somewhere stares at a gravestone, saltwater
from their eyes marking their face, & wonders: why
does everything that begins with love ends with grief?
why is the body a metaphor for a glass—always
filled with something? for weeks, the sun has deserted
the village’s morning sky. perhaps she, too, is held down
by some kind of heaviness, unable to take flight. isn’t
that what awaits us all? fated to be the winged bird that
falls like rain? in the eyes of the villagers, the woman
is attempting to pull a song that has vanished into the dark
back into her mouth. & who does that, if not someone
who dreams of awakening to a sky full of songbirds?

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Space Unicorn Ranger Corps RECRUITS

Catharine Roseberry, Katie Sinkoski, Jennifer Hisrich, Jenny Barber, Danielle, Mr. Robin White, Andrew Gregg, Anitra Heiberg Lykke, Andrew S. Fuller, Aleksi Stenberg, Damien Neil, Not_the_brain, james qualters, Maria Schrater, Leetmeister, Max Andrew Dubinsky, Kayti Burt, Wordsmith Lynn, Robin Hill, Liz Argall, S P, Ken Schneyer, Ryan Pennington, Neil Ottenstein, Penny Richards, Josh Smift, Jay Lofstead, Sidsel Pedersen, Annaliese Lemmon, fadeaccompli, Clarissa R., Ai Lake, David Versace, Kate Barton

Space Unicorn Ranger Corps ENSIGNS

Rick Floyd, Tomb, Susan Yount, James Antill, Kora Bongen, Mark A Dispenza, K. A. T., Zhenya, Cait Coy, Alex Cross, David Heilbrun, Rachel Green, Jim DeVona, Sean Pruitt, Haven Spec, coffee n’ cats, samuel lightcap, Alysha MacDonald, Crystal Hill, Dominique Martel, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Carla B. Estruch, Jordan, Adrienne Joy, Duke Kimball, Maritza Sanchez, Alina, Wesley Lee, itay parasol, Emilie De Saint Martin, Zanele Ndaba, John Carr, Riikka, Tatyana, Surya H, Callum Williams, Dilly, Howard Cornett, Kellen Harkins, Fábián Tamás, Ashley Herzig, Rhian Bowley, Carl Olsen, Goran Lowie, Aliénor, Dawn Bonanno, William Hay, Dave McAvoy, Julia Pillard, Nicky Martin, Nicholas Davies, Monique Cuillerier, Thomas Faust, D. M. Baldwin, John Coxon, Fabienne Schwizer, Greg Chapman, Kael, Lael Tucker, Colin, Jaime McLeod, Katie Rodante, Sofia G, Kathrin, Ross Williams, Andrew McIntosh, Alec Ross, Karen Young, Simon Hoerder, Melanie Savransky, Ailbhe Leamy, Pete Kirkham, John Atom, Chris Gates, Kim Park, Christine McCullough, Felicia Jordan, Jes, Tracey Thompson, Ryan V Thummel, Shannon H, Jenn Brissett, Brian, Sonja Pieper, Kelly Quantrill, Kristi Chadwick, Aditya Dubey, Kari Keeling, Taylor Alcantar, Goetz Kruppa, Bonnie, Agnes, Peter Schmitt (Aragos), Douglas Dluzen, Hiu Gregg, Mary Brock, Chawin Narkruksa, Tuomas Pohto, Emily Goldman, Beth Hoffman, Alina Kanaski, Matthew Bennardo, Brad Preslar, Fiona Parker, Alison Gilder, Markus Regius, Natalie Boon, Luke, Caroline Pinder, Vicente JM, Ben Hammerslag, Tina Skupin, Eris Young, Chessa Hickox, machine_person, John Derrick, Charlie Lindahl, Lauren Strenger, Carrie, Beth McMillan, Sarah Jansen, Emily Kvalheim, [email protected], Leanne Kathleen Ingino, Sadie Slater, Andrew Hickey, Julia Struthers-Jobin, Tim Campbell, Melissa Brinks, Nick Mazzuca, Maria Haskins, Sarah Elkins, Victor Eijkhout, Melissa Martensen, Joe Iriarte, Jacqueline Rogoff, Sarah Bea, Amanda B Cook, Ellen Zemlin, David O Mahony, Risa Wolf, John Cetrone, Cynthia Murrell, Gina, Tiffany M., Albert Bowes, Amanda J. McGee, Crystal Huff, Leslie Ordal, Maria, Gene Breshears, Ysabet MacFarlane, Erik DeBill, Emily Finke, Paul Weymouth, Laura K, Philip Woodley, David Demers, Jeffrey, Ondrej Urban, Emily Hogan, Paul Weimer, Lauren Vega

Space Unicorn Ranger Corps LIEUTENANTS

Tracey Abla, Wendy, Sarah Storm, Kay Schumann, Brian Withers, lily pando, Stephen, Will Hamilton, Sean Eric Fagan, smokestack, Heather Holmquist, Ian Sweedler, Gregor M. Geemd, Kelsea Kreuch, Sasha H, Victor, Mark Tyler, Christiane Knight, Salvatore Fabbiano, Sarah Jackson, John Reynolds, Starr Hoffman, John Tobias, Kyle DeVries, Matthew Montgomery, julianna zdunich, Koa Webster, Sarah Hale, Randall Beeman, Danielle Weaver, Alena Geffner-Mihlsten, LInda Thompson, Ahsan A. Latif, David, Lisa Cox, Stephanie Novak, Rich Rubel, Haley N Cowans, A T-L, Margaret N. Oliver, Joan Combs Durso, Nancy Palmer, Elan Samuel, Sid J, Sarah Berriman, Rosier Cade, devorah hill, Josef D Prall, Sam Gawith, Kirby Li, Declan Meenagh, Christi Clogston, jenn northington, Gareth Morgan, Ravian Ruijs, Bee Buehring, E, David Dagg-Murry, Raphaelle, Emma Osborne, Max G, Matt, Todd Honeycutt, Thomas Marks, Derek Smith, Erin Bright, michael smith, Ariana Dawnhawk, tatere, Adrian, Kaylan McCanna, Elena Gaillard, Lorelei Kelly, medievalpoc, Myz Lilith, Devin & Stephanie Ganger, Phil Margolies, Brandi Blackburn, Cait Greer, Jen Talley, Ian Radford, Adam Israel, Aaron Roberts, Jennifer Melchert, John M. Gamble, John Chu, Brooks Moses, Daniel Ryan, Deborah Levinson, Michael Lee, Adam Leff

Space Unicorn Ranger Corps COMMANDERS

Kuang-Yu Liu, Kelly Lester, Chip Roland, Camille Knepper, Elizabeth Galliher, Mairin Holmes, Alex Eiser, K.C. Mead-Brewer, Alexander M Henderson, Kate O’Connor, Marzie Kaifer, Edmund Schweppe, Nicole Fuschetti, Dain Unicorn, Jayme, Bliss Ehrlich, Daniel (a raven)

ADDITIONAL SUPPORTERS

talkativeprovider, Jacob Aldrich, Karen, Roy Ha, SB Divya, Hayley Klug, Will Hindmarch, John Overholt, Martha Hood, Marc Beyer

Resisting the Monolith: Collecting As Counter Narrative

Growing up as a tomboy in a socially conservative town meant constantly being told that my existence was wrong. Girls don’t play video games. Girls can’t get the high score on the math test. Girls don’t like science fiction. Alongside these flat denials of reality came prescriptions for behavior. Girls shouldn’t argue. Girls shouldn’t want to join the wrestling team. Girls shouldn’t beat boys—at anything. It’s no wonder I grew up thinking I was an unpleasant, contrary person. It was a rebellion simply to be who I am.

When I started collecting feminist SF/F, I experienced similar denials about the material I sought. At one book fair I introduced myself to a specialist in science fiction. He was very welcoming and attentive, asking me whether I liked science fiction. I said yes; I had been reading it since I was a child. He picked up a book by Arthur C. Clarke from the table at his booth and asked me: had I heard of this author? At first, I nearly didn’t understand the question. I had already told him that I had been reading science fiction for decades. But I recovered quickly as I realized, oh, he’s certain I don’t actually know anything about science fiction. I assured him I had heard of Arthur C. Clarke. He asked me what books I was interested in—really, he was quite kind—and I told him that I collect feminist science fiction. He cocked his head to the side and asked what I meant by that. I offered a short definition (science fiction that explores feminist themes) and gave Joanna Russ’s The Female Man as a well-known example. With a pleased finality he stated, “I’ve never heard of it.” To him, unfamiliarity was the same as unimportance.

In fact, I had been drawn to feminist SF/F in the first place because it had personal meaning to me, regardless of other people’s interest or apathy. In these texts I recognized others grappling with the same persistent alienation I had experienced as a reader who nevertheless loved the genre. I was especially moved by the slow evolution of feminist thought in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series, which takes place in a world that valorizes men who wield magic, but denigrates women who do. Because I knew and loved the series, I was primed for excitement when I ran across a copy of the third book, The Farthest Shore, that had once been owned by her agent, Virginia Kidd. I purchased it in my capacity as a rare book dealer, fully intending to catalogue it properly, then move it along to its next long-term owner. But as I researched it, I learned that Kidd’s impact on Le Guin’s career was far more significant than I had assumed. In a reminiscence about Kidd, Le Guin stated that “I don’t believe that any other agent, in any other agency, would or could have furthered my writing career, and my writing itself, as Virginia did” (“About Virginia Kidd,” Ursula K. Le Guin Archive). I found myself more and more deeply moved by the story behind this particular copy of a beloved text—and I realized that I couldn’t possibly sell it to someone else. I was going to be its caretaker. That’s the moment when I became a collector.

People often assume that book collecting in SF/F is about the Tolkiens, the Asimovs, the Heinleins. But increasingly, my own efforts in SF/F collecting have been focused on complicating those narratives. We tend to talk about the history of science fiction in declarative statements. H.G. Wells’s book was the first with a time machine…After Frankenstein, women didn’t contribute much to the proto-SF of the 19th century…There were no Black writers publishing science fiction in the heyday of John W. Campbell. But poke at the assumptions in those statements, and that’s when things get interesting. In the process of collecting, I learned about Enrique Gaspar, who published El anacronópete (The Time Ship) in 1887; Jane Webb’s important 1827 novel The Mummy!, set in a future filled with advanced technology; and James H. Hill’s serial science fiction adventures published in the Baltimore Afro-American in the early 1950s. I am not going to be convinced that something “doesn’t exist” just because you said so. Because here I am, existing, despite how many times I’ve been told I don’t.

Debates like this occur like clockwork in the SF/F community, where it’s common to point to an apparent absence as proof. But this line of thinking ignores one of the key concepts of formal logic. The lack of evidence isn’t evidence; it’s an indicator that the premise’s conception is flawed. Book collecting taught me new ways to frame the premise.

In searching for works of feminist science fiction, for example, I’ve found that booksellers don’t always categorize books they sell as science fiction and/or feminist texts when they can be. To find the books I want, I have to approach the book differently than the seller has. Take Ludvig Holberg’s 1741 book Niels Klim’s Underground Travels, a popular novel much like Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, in which the main character explores fantastical subterranean countries as a mechanism for the author to critique real-world politics. This book built upon theories of contemporary scientific speculation that the earth was hollow, informed by the work of Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley. Over the course of the narrative, Klim’s travels take him to an underworld society in which women have equal say in the government. When Klim suggests that the country ban women from participation in politics, the Senate’s reply is blunt: “As a Country may often labour under a Want of able Persons, we think it is a great Folly […] to render one intire [sic] Half of the Nation incapable and unworthy of Employment, solely upon Account of their Birth.” I was able to find this book at the shop of another rare book dealer only because I asked “do you have any utopian fiction?” not “do you have any feminist science fiction?” Had I asked the latter, I would have been told no, there was none.

Book collecting creates opportunities for intentional accidents—for serendipity. You sift through hundreds of books and finally, miraculously, run across one you didn’t even know to look for. This is especially true when you are collecting where your knowledge, experience, or background give you an edge. One of the most interesting books in my feminist SF/F collection is a galley of Suzette Haden Elgin’s book Native Tongue that was sent by Betsy Wollheim to James Tiptree, Jr. I discovered it entirely by accident and bought it on eBay for the price of lunch because the seller didn’t realize its significance. Native Tongue is built around a feminist constructed language and asks the question, “What would happen to American culture if women did have […] a language that expressed their perceptions?” (Elgin, “Introduction: The Construction of Láadan,” from A First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan, via sfwa.org). Wollheim sent this advance copy to the pseudonymous woman author famous in science fiction for writing such “ineluctably masculine” language that others thought the idea she could be a woman “absurd” (quoted in Julie Phillips, James Tiptree Jr., 2). As a woman reader of science fiction with a degree in linguistics, this book sings to me. Perhaps someone else would not think this book was so important, but it is to me. That’s what matters.

The fact is that we always need diverse perspectives in book collecting. Many of the great rare book institutions in the anglophone world were started from the seed of a private collector’s donated library. It is these institutions that are the foundation of our access to the sources we use to understand history. This is a vital sequence: if material is not accessible to researchers, it can’t be studied. If it is not studied, it can’t be included in the histories that scholars publish. If it isn’t included in these histories, readers will not know that it existed in the first place. And many of them will therefore deny its existence due to lack of evidence. The work of community memory needs collectors.

Building a collection—whether as a private collector or as a rare book professional at an institution—requires inherently subjective decisions about what material to include. This is a feature, not a bug. There is too much material, and all collectors have logistical, monetary, and time-based constraints. These constraints are eased significantly if a collector has support of some kind, particularly wealth. And indeed, many of the famous collections that have dominated our idea of book collecting in the Western tradition were created by people with vast amounts of assistance, money, leisure time, or a combination of these. But a historical record preserved only by the wealthy cannot represent the vastness of human experience. If everyone is collecting similar things—say, because the collectors who are donating to institutions or the curators strengthening their holdings all come from similar backgrounds and bring similar experiences—then gaps will form. In fact, we know they already have. We need to bring the widest variety of perspectives, experiences, and expertise to this inevitable filtering process. None of us filter in the same way, and that’s the value. No two collections are alike.

It’s not always easy to collect in a world where strains of power have so long dominated the culture. As a woman in the male-dominated field of the rare book trade, I am a business owner—but more likely to be mistaken as an assistant. Some of my colleagues have asked “why aren’t there more women collectors?” when they should be asking “what am I doing that makes women collectors not want to do business with me?” It’s exhausting to keep being told you don’t exist. But in reality, collectors have always been working around the stereotypes of book collecting. If one doesn’t have much money, there are magnificent collections to be built from “found” material—say, the ephemeral handouts traditionally produced at SF/F events—or in trade, offering one’s own fanfic/zine/art for another’s without any money changing hands at all. If one doesn’t have much space, collections like those just described could potentially fit into a shoe box, without the need for a gigantic private library. If one doesn’t have much time, collecting might be a way to rest after a long day, structuring in moments when one can focus on a rejuvenating hobby. My own collection has developed around parameters that were shaped by both my limitations and my advantages. I can’t afford to spend much on a single book. But my knowledge of my favored subgenre and my enjoyment of poking around secondhand marketplaces has allowed me to find opportunities within a more modest price range, as was the case with that Native Tongue galley.

One day, drained and discouraged, I retrieved a bit of my strength again when I found an 1803 book with the bookplate of the Hroswitha Club. It marked the ownership of the book collecting club founded in 1944 by women who were barred from joining premier male-only book collecting organizations like the Grolier Club. I look at the engraved illustration tipped onto that book’s endpaper and I feel as if I’ve just shared a knowing glance with those women across time. Women collectors have always existed. Black collectors have always existed. Disabled collectors have always existed. LGBTQIA+ collectors have always existed. They said we don’t exist, yet these works show we’re here. Collecting connects us to that ancestry. And when future scholars are writing their histories, they can’t ignore these works or claim they don’t exist—because they are here. In collecting them, you made sure of it.

Collecting, like history, is often viewed as a single grand narrative. In SF/F, it’s easy to become weary with the focus on Verne and Wells, the era of the US pulps, the authors of the so-called “Golden Age.” Those books are part of the story. But they are often mistaken as the entire story. This is exactly why you—you—are needed: to prove that simplified narrative wrong. To honor and celebrate all kinds of people who have existed, lived their lives in joy and pain, and created art. Collecting is storytelling, and your collection can be a counter narrative, an act of resistance to a monolithic past. Whoever you are, you know: there have always been people like you.

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