Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Reading the Hugos: Novel

Today we are going to take a look at the six finalists for Best Novel. This is an absolutely stacked ballot. Recent Best Novel ballots have been as good as we could hope for, but the 2020 Hugo Awards takes it to another level. From Top to Bottom (and there is no bottom to this category), this is as good of a list of finalists and I've seen.

Which really goes to say that the six finalists for Best Novel appeal to my personal taste. Four out of the five novels I nominated are on the ballot here. The only novel missing from my nominations is Sarah Pinsker's excellent A Song for a New Day (also nominated for a Nebula Award) and I will not be surprised to learn that it was either seventh or eighth in the nominating tally when the statistics are released in August.

Tamsyn Muir and Arkady Martine are new to Hugo, but the other four finalists are very well known to Hugo voters. Kameron Hurley is a three time Hugo Award finalist for her nonfiction, winning twice in 2014 for "We Have Always Fought" (Related Work) and as a Fan Writer. She was on the ballot again in 2017 for The Geek Feminist Revolution (Related Work). Alix E. Harrow's short story "A Witch's Guide to Escape" won the Hugo Award last year for Best Short Story. Charlie Jane Anders is a previous winner for Best Novelette ("Six Month, Three Days") and won for Fancast last year.

Seanan McGuire is the Hugo outlier in this conversation, having been a 20 time finalist (14 times as Seanan McGuire, 6 times as Mira Grant). McGuire's novella Every Heart a Doorway won the Hugo in 2017, and she is also a two time Fancast winner.  The clear delineation for Seanan McGuire is that until this year, it was only under her Mira Grant pseudonym that she has been on the Best Novel ballot. Her longer series fiction have been recognized under Best Series, but no Seanan McGuire novel has been up for Beset Novel.

Suffice it to say that this an impossible ballot and that's a beautiful thing. I would be happy with any of these novels to win the Hugo for Best Novel. Every one of these novels are excellent and truly among the best of the year and may well be remembered and read for decades to come.

It's a sad thing to have to rack and stack these Hugo Award finalists. Any one of them could win, should win. It's a damn shame for any of them to be low on my ballot, but I can't rank them all at #1. That's not how this works, unfortunately.

Let's take a look at the finalists:

The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor)
Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (Saga)
Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (Tor)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook)

The City in the Middle of the Night: If somebody told me that 2019 would bring us a novel that has the strongest resemblance and feeling to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish novels, I’d have been more than skeptical – but The City in the Middle of the Night is so very much that novel. Several times, I had to check the cover to remind myself that this wasn’t Le Guin. It’s not, but The City in the Middle of the Night is a worthy successor to Le Guin’s work while still very much being a Charlie Jane Anders novel and its own thing. There is a tidally locked planet, fascinating characters, absolutely original and creative alien creatures, and a conversation about morality. The City in the Middle of the Night is a novel of big ideas and just as important, it’s a book you don’t want to put down. Anders is doing the work here. This is an absolutely compelling novel that I cannot recommend highly enough.(Paul's review)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January: Oh, what a lovely, lovely novel Alix Harrow has written. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a story about stories, or perhaps about the power of stories. It is also a portal fantasy - which automatically hits a lot of my buttons (it's more than one button). The Ten Thousand Doors is a love story, a story of pain and escape and of longing. It is a story of hope and of magic, of friendship and evil secret societies. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is the story of everything and the deepest feelings of the heart. It is absolutely beautiful. (Paul's review)

Middlegame: Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work. It’s impressive. McGuire goes big with Middlegame. Doubt Seanan McGuire at your peril. (my review)

A Memory Called Empire: Sometimes you finish reading a novel and one of the emotions you feel is anger that you waited so long to read it, even if "so long" equals "approximately twelve months", which is ridiculous, but A Memory Called Empire was so good that not only did I not want to put the book down, not want the book to end, but I was legitimately upset that I could have read this more than a year ago. Martine's novel is a wonderful melange of a minority outsider in a dominant culture, spectacular worldbuilding, almost diplomacy, colonization, empire, looming threats, politics, and quick witted smart people. A Memory Called Empire is a god damned delight. (Adri's Review)

Gideon the Ninth: The tag line I’ve seen all year long is “Lesbian Necromancers in Space” and while that is technically correct and was absolutely a selling point for the novel (as was the spot on cover art from Tommy Arnold) that’s not really what Gideon the Ninth is. This is a love story. This is a hate story. This is a locked room mystery (locked citadel on an abandoned planet mystery?). There is beautiful swordfighting, necromancy, magic, absolutely foul mouthed characters, and it’s all a friggin delight. In her review, Adri wrote about the claustrophobic atmosphere and that’s an apt description – which is why the “in space” part doesn’t really apply. The “Lesbian Necromancers” – yeah, it’s very much that and it’s pretty spectacular. One of the most impressive aspects to Gideon the Ninth is that it lives up to the massive hype. Gideon the Ninth is a brutal, sharp, nasty, wonderful novel. Tamsyn Muir will gut you. (Adri's review)

The Light Brigade: The Light Brigade is a bold novel in the tradition of Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and Old Man’s War. I don’t use this as an opportunity to list the titles of three significant military science fiction novels I’ve read. I view this more as a recognition of where The Light Brigade should be considered in the larger science fiction conversation about canon (as if there is a singular canon) and of which novels get to be held up as classics of the genre which revitalize and engage with the genre’s past. That’s a bold statement to make about a novel that was published less within the last twelve months, but there it is all the same. The Light Brigade does all of that while telling a strong story about a soldier in the middle of an absolutely messed up war (is there another kind?) that is messed up even further when her combat drops sometimes place her in the wrong battle at the wrong time – the wrong “when”. Hurley ties together all of the complicated timelines and fits it together perfectly. The Light Brigade is a gem of a novel.  (Paul's review)

My Vote
1. The Light Brigade
2. Gideon the Ninth
3. A Memory Called Empire
4. Middlegame
5. The Ten Thousand Doors of January
6. The City in the Middle of the Night

POSTED BY:  Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 4x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.

Microreview [Book]: We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

A solid combination of impending war, decapitations and fantasy-democracy with an intriguing core cast

We Ride the Storm is one of several recent Orbit publications with a self-published past: a couple of years ago, it was runner-up in the annual Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, and now its out from Orbit books in swanky dead tree form with at least one sequel on the way very soon. Chonky epic fantasy is not a super-common stomping ground for me, but this one came with enough intriguing recommendations from people whose opinions I trust to make it one that I wanted to experience for myself.

At the core of We Ride the Storm is the fragile political balance between two rival powers on the same continent. There's the Kisian Empire, in the south of the continent, ruled by an empire whose current Ts'ai dynasty has only held power for a generation and is consolidating power against the former ruling bloodline, and neighbouring Chiltae, in the north, which seems to have a similar flavour of patriarchy but with more religious overtones. Thanks to various political machinations in both places, the two countries are now on the verge of going to war, and the tenuous last-ditch attempts to broker peace are being set up to fail by those in power with an interest in seeing the conflict happen. Mixed in to this primary conflict are the Levanti, a culture of nomads whose home lies across the ocean from Chiltae. Due (apparently) to the interference of missionaries in their culture, an increasing number of warbands made up of younger Levanti have found themselves exiled by their own people, crossing to Chiltae and getting pressed into military service. In short, it's all a big fun time, and the only way to get to the bottom of it all is apparently through copious decapitations. And, oh boy, does this book deliver on that front.

We see the conflict unfold through three interlinking story. Closest to the political centre of it all is Princess Miko, twin sister of the heir to the Kisian Empire who has managed to educate and keep herself near the centre of power despite being a woman and therefore held in lower esteem in her patriarchal society. What makes Miko's situation even more difficult is that she and her brother Tanaka are not actually the biological children of the Emperor, but of the disgraced last member of the former ruling line. This bloodline comes with its perks - notably, some spectacular archery accuracy skills - but it also puts Miko and Tanaka in a challenging and fundamentally insecure position within the court, which each deals with in different ways and with rather different outcomes. Competent, clear-eyed and smart about her situation without losing a fundamental level of compassion, Miko was a very easy character for me to appreciate, and I also enjoyed how Madson portrayed her alliances in the court, showing individuals acting out of decency and loyalty even as the betrayals on other fronts started to mount up.

While Miko acts as the main conduit for the happenings in Kisia, we see Chiltaen politics more indirectly through the other two characters. There's Rah E'Toren, a recently exiled Levanti trying to hold his band of warriors together and seek out his brother Gideon, all while upholding his own sense of honour. As one of the Levanti's core beliefs is that dead bodies need to be decapitated in order to set their souls free, and to do otherwise means carrying the weight of that sin on one's soul and jeapordising one's position in the cycle of reincarnation, Rah's ways of upholding his honour can get quite messy and "barbaric" in the eyes of the Chiltaen, but Madson portrays Rah with sensitivity and sympathy throughout, averting any particularly unpleasant tropes with a character who could become problematic in other hands. That said, Rah and the Levanti are unlikely to work for anyone fundamentally frustrated with the "fantasy horse people" trope: while there are elements which are clear subversions of this being a warlike "barbaric" culture (including a fully realised democratic process for challenging leadership), the fundamental relationship between the Chiltaen and the Levanti still plays into those tropes to some extent, and the fact that we only see the young, warlike Levanti means that there's a lot that feels missing from their depiction, even if it is a deliberate absence.

Finally, there's Cassandra Marius, an assassin and sex worker who appears to have another consciousness living in her head, one which starts to show her some of its more worrying abilities as her involvement in the politics of the two nations increases. Although she's an intriguing character, Cassanrda's sections feel notably less driven and central than Miko or Rah, and I found myself significantly less engaged by her story than that of the other two, particularly as we don't get much explanation for her unique powers, or those of the characters she interacts most with - including Dom Leo Villus, son of Chiltae's leader, who forms one of the running strands through all three of the stories. Nevertheless, Cassandra's ends up in a pretty intriguing spot by the end, and there's certainly potential in her character even if I didn't think she was particularly well-served by the focus of this particular novel.

I will come clean at this point and admit: I hoped We Ride the Storm would demand less of my attention than it ended up doing. This is not the book's problem at all, but the shortcomings of a reader attempting to read during a global pandemic and a time of immense social upheaval. With difficult political decisions being made on all sides and a terrible political situation being driven by a very calculating and ruthless set of political elites, a lot of heads do roll - usually in a literal sense - across all of We Ride the Storm's journeys, and coupled with the fact that very few of the characters overlap between points of view, this means there's a significant rotating cast to keep track of, especially in Rah's story and to a lesser but prominent extent in Miko's. Coupled with a juicy, ever-shifting political background, this is a book that requires attention, but it certainly delivers an entertaining ride in return.

This certainly isn't a standalone book; despite the best efforts of the characters and some interesting changes in fortune for Rah and Miko in particular, the world at the end of We Ride the Storm looks even messier than the state it was in to begin with, and there's a lot of fuel for the rest of the (presumably) trilogy to cover. Despite a shakier reading experience than the book itself deserved, I enjoyed my time with this world and characters, in all their decapitative glory, and am intrigued to find out where it all goes next. I'll be clearing my schedule when I get hold of We Lie With Death, and giving the gang all the attention they richly deserve.

The Math

Baseline Score: 7/10

Bonuses: +1 A fully realised democratic leadership challenge, held in adversity

Penalties: -1 Cassandra Marius feels like she's just hanging around for later books

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10

POSTED BY: Adri, Nerds of a Feather co-editor, is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke. Find her on Twitter at @adrijjy.

Reference: Madson, Devin. We Ride the Storm [Orbit, 2020]

Monday, June 29, 2020

Interview: Uncanny Magazine

Congratulations to Uncanny Magazine, who are nominated for the Hugo for best Semiprozine!

Uncanny has swept this category for the last handful of years, and if they take home the rocket statue later this summer, it will be their fifth win in a row. They have also won the Parsec Award and the British Fantasy Award.  Uncanny Magazine is run by co-Publishers/co-Editors in Chiefs Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damien Thomas, and a vivacious team of managing editors, fiction and non-fiction editors, and podcast narrators and producers.  Uncanny is known for publishing personal essays that don't hold anything back, and fiction that challenges expected worldviews.

Much of Uncanny is pre-funded through Kickstarter, as was the award winning Uncanny Special Issue Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. Authors, poets, and artists featured in Uncanny include Galen Dara, Julie Dillon, Hao Jingfang, Theodora Goss, Roshani Chokshi, Amal El-Mohtar, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Rachel Swirksy, Fran Wilde, Aliette de Bodard, Sonya Taaffe, Naomi Kritzer, Ursula Vernon, and so, so many more. Bimonthly issues include fiction,  non-fiction essays, poetry, interviews, and podcasts. 

Managing editors Chimedum Ohaegbu and Michi Trota were kind enough to let me pick their brains about their behind the scenes work at Uncanny,  their favorite things about being involved with the magazine, what makes Uncanny unique, and more.

Chimedum Ohaegbu is a fan of bad puns, insect facts, video game music, and is working towards her dual degree in English literature and creative writing. Her fiction and essays have been published in Strange Horizons, Train: A Poetry Journal, The Ubyssey, The Book Smugglers, Arts Common Magazine, Room Magazine and elsewhere. She is also the co-founder of FEMMES Interactive, a Vancouver B.C. based workshop series supporting womxn, nonbinary, and femmes of colour in creating works of interactive fiction. You can learn more about Chimedum Ohaegbu at her website Chimedum.com and by following her on twitter, @ChimedumOhaegbu.

Michi Trota is a four time Hugo Award winner, a British Fantasy award winner, and the first Filipina to win a Hugo.  She was Uncanny Magazine's first Managing Editor/Non Fiction editor, and she is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and co-editor of the upcoming WisCon Chronicles Vol. 12 (May 2020) with Isabel Schechter. Her essays have appeared in The Book Smugglers, The Establishment, The Bias Blog, The Learned Fangirl, and Invisible: An Anthology of Representation in SF/F. You can learn more about Michi and her life long promotion of diversity in SF/F at her website, geekmelange.com, and by following her on twitter, @GeekMelange.

Let's get to the interview!

NOAF: Can you tell us about your role at Uncanny Magazine? How did you get involved with the magazine?

Michi Trota: In 2019, I was the Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor at Uncanny. As Managing Editor, my responsibilities included the production of the magazine - copyediting fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for the magazine as well as posts for the blog and website, layout and design for each issue, creating the issue covers using the art provided by our cover artists, coordinating with the Assistant Editor for additional copyediting and production of the Uncanny newsletter, and support with social media. As Nonfiction Editor, I was responsible for choosing writers to solicit for essays for each issue, which I oversaw through developmental and line edits before accepting for publication. There were always at least four essays per issue.

I met Uncanny's Publishers/Editors-in-Chief, Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, through mutual friends at SF/F conventions. We'd been on panels together a few times, and they knew I had a professional background as an editor and communications manager. I was so thrilled when they asked me to come onboard as Uncanny's Managing Editor when they began building the magazine in 2014, so I was able to be part of the whole thing from the ground up. I ended up spending over five years as part of Team Uncanny (I left the editorial staff at the end of 2019), and the experience changed my life.

Chimedum Ohaegbu: I've been Uncanny's Managing Editor since the end of 2019, fulfilling the same role that Michi did during her tenure in that position.

I got involved in 2018 after Uncanny opened up applications for an editorial assistant position. I'd been a longtime reader of the magazine and an aspiring editor, and had been looking at ways to get professionally involved with the SF/F community. I found out about the internship and applied for it on the same day - that is, the very last day applications were open, which was wild - and was thrilled to land the position!

A few months later, Publishers/Editors-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas offered me the Assistant Editor position, and later on I was offered the Managing Editor position, after getting to learn a lot from working closely with Michi. The journey from Editorial Intern to Managing Editor has been uplifting and educational, not to mention exciting!

NOAF: As editors, what is a typical “week at the magazine” like for you?

MT: Uncanny wasn't my full time job, so after a 40+ hour work week at my dayjob, I would spend a lot of my evenings and weekends working on the magazine; this was in addition to gigs with Raks Geek, the fire and bellydance performance troupe I'm part of in Chicago, as well as other volunteer and community boards I was part of. There are always emails to answer, and we're typically working on more than one issue at a time, in addition to planning larger projects like the next year's Kickstarter, coordinating schedules for who is attending which conventions to represent Uncanny, and other projects. During Uncanny Year Four, for example, we had hit the stretch goal of filming a pilot for what an Uncanny TV show would look like, so I was coordinating with my friend and co-host Matt Peters about guests, a production/stage crew, filming location, and what the episode would look like. Basically, there’s very little sleep during a typical week!

CO: During the academic year I have classes, a part-time job, occasional freelance work, and many extracurricular and volunteer commitments, so doing Uncanny work has usually been a weekend/evening scenario for me as well. The busiest weeks are . . . all of them, in a way, since as Michi said there does tend to be a lot of planning emails for issues, blog posts, social media promotion, and other projects such as our Kickstarter even during 'slower' times. During faster-paced times, there's also direct production on upcoming issues: myself and Uncanny's excellent Assistant Editor Angel Cruz copyedit the pieces, then after the authors approve the edits I lay out the issue in InDesign and the covers in Photoshop. Wrestling with software has, I'm pleased to say, gotten progressively easier - though I do still get distracted by rereading stories while doing layouts!

NOAF: How is Uncanny magazine different from other projects you’ve been involved with?

MT: Actually, Uncanny is similar to other projects I've been involved with in the sense that I prefer to take on projects with folks who are thoughtful, responsible, and talented. The time I spent with Uncanny only solidified my desire to collaborate with people who have clearly held principles, bring passion and consideration to their work, and treat each other with respect. It's been a great experience working with folks who make a daily effort at thinking through both impact and intent, and do their best at continually working to create a more integrated and inclusive genre and community.

CO: Prior to Uncanny, I'd mostly been involved in undergrad publishing at my university, so an immediate difference was the scope - Uncanny gets a lot of excellent submissions from all over the world, whereas I'd been used to a talented but very specific (UBC-only) pool. In projects I’'ve been involved with since joining Uncanny, I've looked for - and been lucky to find! - environments that mirror Uncanny's, i.e. where I get to work with people who are team players who care about their communities.

NOAF: Michi, You were with Uncanny for 5 years. How did the magazine evolve during your tenure? Chimie, where do you see the magazine going in the next five years?

MT: We're all very ambitious folks at Uncanny who want to DO ALL THE THINGS! This is great in principle, but in practice it can get very exhausting! A thing I've appreciated very much about Uncanny is seeing how the team continued to think about how we could improve and push the envelope every year, but also noting where our ambitions didn't quite match our capabilities and bandwidth, and rescaling the magazine's scope where needed so that we weren't burning ourselves out.

CO: I see Uncanny holding onto our best habits - publishing work we love from emerging and established writers and artists; continuing to help shape the tenor of many SF/F conversations; and (professionally) geeking out over how vibrant SF/F can be! But I'm also excited to see our scope and innovation expand, and for Uncanny to be an even brighter spot for readers, writers, and editors alike.

NOAF: What's been your favorite thing about being involved with Uncanny Magazine?

MT: I have so many favorite things about being involved with Uncanny! I've been introduced to so many amazing writers because I first read their work in the magazine - it's been particularly wonderful for me to see Filipinx writers published in the magazine! I'm so proud we had the chance to continue the Destroy! series with Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction and Disabled People Destroy Fantasy - Elsa's speech at the 2019 Hugo Awards was a highlight of the con for me. I can't believe I got to spend five years editing incredible essays about the genre, fandom, and pop culture - I am definitely a far better editor coming out of my time with Uncanny, I'm so lucky I had the chance to have this experience and what I learned has helped me grow so much as both a writer and editor. Thanks to my time with Uncanny, I've had the opportunity to work with an incredible array of folks, from creators with established careers to folks for whom Uncanny was their first publication. I think that's my favorite part of Uncanny, actually, that I got to be part of creating and evolving a fantastic publication and community that's become an entry point for fans to read work from creators they might not have heard of before, and for creators to build on their career as writers in SF/F.

CO: Ooh, it's difficult to choose just one favourite thing! I will say that, as an early-career creative, it's been exceptionally cool to work with some of my favourite editors and writers in SF/F. I still feel like a sponge, just soaking it all in and learning a ton while growing more confident in my abilities, more appreciative of the mind-blowing work appearing in the genre. Working with Uncanny has also granted me more access to a lovely community, both within and without SF/F, and I'm excited to continue to be part of it.

NOAF: Uncanny Magazine has won the Hugo for best Semiprozine for the last 4 years in a row. You're on your way to unseating Locus for most 'zine wins in a row! The list of awards the magazine has won seems to never end! What is the Uncanny team doing that everyone else isn't doing?

MT: The industry for SF/F magazines is changing so fast and there are so many variables that it's really impossible to say what one magazine is doing better than others. The SF/F magazine field is so incredibly strong right now in the work being published, its fantastic company to be in! We're all approaching the genre a little differently, but with the same goal: to publish phenomenal work that's more truly reflective of what the genre can be and who its creators are. A lot of this is luck - you never know which story is going to be a hit or what audiences are going to really connect with and love. At the end of the day, I think Uncanny is doing what any magazine does: choosing the stories, poems, nonfiction, and art that we feel passionately about, putting our all into giving them the best support that we can, and trusting our audiences.

CO: Seconding this! I think this is an incredibly exciting time for SF/F magazines, and the field is such that we're all building off each others' energy and passion for publishing great work. We're lucky to have such a committed readership, as well as a caring speculative community at large, which is in large part what allows Uncanny to thrive alongside other gorgeous journals.

NOAF: Thank you so much!

POSTED BY: Andrea Johnson lives in Michigan with her husband and too many books. She can be found on twitter, @redhead5318 , where she posts about books, food, and assorted nerdery.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Microreview [Book]: Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott

A triumphant and fully measured return to Space Opera by one of the Empresses of Fantasy

In Kate Elliott’s long career, her work has mainly conquered vast realms of fantasy. From the Crown of Stars series, treading ground familiar to readers of A Song of Ice and Fire, to the Crossroads series (including the recent Black Wolves) with Demons, intrigue and Giant Eagles, to the gonzo Icepunk Alternate History Fantasy Spiritwalker series featuring delights such as lawyer dinosaurs, the inventiveness of Elliott’s fantasy work is unmistakable. Oh and then there is the YA Court of Fives Trilogy, too, with a fantasy world inspired by Ptolemaic Egypt.  However, she has written Space Opera too, earlier in her long and storied career, in the Jaran Tetralogy and the Highroad Trilogy.

Now, in Unconquerable Sun, Kate Elliott returns to the realm of Space Opera with perhaps one of the best elevator pitches I’ve ever read: Genderflipped Alexander the Great, in Space.

Readers of Elliott’s work know that her worldbuilding is deep and infused with real world inspiration, given a fantasy turn and Elliott’s eye for societies that either are more egalitarian, or look long and hard at the role of marginalized members of society, particularly women. So what does a Genderflipped Alexander the Great story in space actually MEAN in a Kate Elliott novel? We are introduced to the Republic of Chaonia, ruled by Queen-Marshal Eirene. The titular Sun is her daughter. In this, Elliott genderflips the relationship between Philip II of Macedon, and his son, Alexander. Sun’s father, Prince João maps in some ways to Olympias, Alexander’s mother, especially in being a relative outsider to the Republic’s court. Given that he is not Chaonian, Sun’s status as Heir to her mother is something that could be under theoretical threat if, say, Eirene were to marry a full blooded Chaonian and have a child by them. Even with her heroics at a recent battle, Sun is keenly aware of the political threat when her mother does indeed announce that she is going to take a wife, Manea Lee. The Lee Family, in addition to having a long and storied place in Chaonian history and power, also are the spymasters of the Republic This allows Elliott to use Sun’s considerable temper, a notable and well used character flaw in the novel, to help propel the plot.

The use of Manea as a stand in for the real life Cleopatra Eurydice of Macedon, and the apparatus of Lee House gives Elliott a chance to use her other main point of view, Persephone Lee (or as her chapter titles call her, The Wily Persephone). Persephone is, when we meet her, under a false identity at a military academy, having gone on the run from her own family, not wanting to be part of their endless political machinations, and as a way to honor her dead older sister, Ereshkigal Lee. (see the name parallel?) . Persephone soon finds that her family has known where she was for some time, and “just when she thinks she’s out, they drag her back in” to Lee House and their machinations. Persephone provides an interesting contrast to Sun, both in her own individual thread and when events bring them together. Sun is confident, bold, strong, dynamic and grasping and very wilful. Some of the DNA of her Highroad series protagonist Lily Ransome (as well as of course Alexander himself) are definitely within Sun. By comparison, Persephone is a child of her House even when she is trying to make it that she is not--educated, calculating, intelligent, cerebral, and cunning, living up to her author-given epithet of Wily.  Sun has understandable trouble in trying to trust Persephone, given events. While Sun is definitely a Sun in that many characters orbit her (especially her Companions, a way to rework the Companion Cavalry into a Household system of giving important nobles official “friends”), Persephone, too, proves to be a leader and pole for the novel, although in a lesser way.

And while a lot of the personal plot and conflict are forged in the Eirene-Sun relationship and that provides a lot of the drive of the novel, the Chaonians are not alone in this universe. On their borders are the Phene Empire. The Phene once vassalized Chaonia (as the real life Persian empire did so to Macedon) and seek to put the bootheel back on the Chaonians once more, and perhaps go further and avenge their defeat at the hands of the Yele League (the Greek City State analogue). Their machinations, both the overt military threat and more subtle plots and plans they have in motion are the external pressure on the characters and the plot.

And there is just so much goodness here in the world that Elliott has built. There are some things about Alexander and his world that seemingly would not map well onto a FTL interstellar civilization. Elliott gives us multiple methods and challenges of interstellar travel, finding a solution to the problem of how fleets of ships can plausibly have conflict in the vastness of space. The Beacon system reminds me of the Alderson Points in the Pournelle/Niven Empire of Man verse, although Elliott’s universe has additional surprises in store in how her beacons can work,their origin, and how they can be circumvented. The space battles themselves are not Star Wars dogfights, and they are not the hard SF relativistic space battles of The Risen Empire, but occupy a middle ground that gives somewhat of a WWII Carrier fleet action feel, with broad tactics and strategy emphasized over individual broadsides and single ship actions  (More Jack Campbell than David Weber) . There is also ground actions and tactics, and again, Elliott is either interested in the personal costs and struggles, or the broad strategies than so much individual unit tactics (although there is a very clever use of an improvised weapon that helps save the day in one situation, it must be said).

Elliott’s worldbuilding goes far beyond the warfare and into every sphere of the world that she has created. One I want to mention is her use of the idea of Channel Idol. How does one try and come up with an interstellar idea of Arete (excellence) in a way to mirror Alexander’s rise to power, fame and reputation? Easy. Create an interstellar network of news and entertainment called Idol. Add in a Eurovision like contest called Idol Faire. The fact that Handsome Alika, previous winner of Idol Faire, is one of Sun’s companions makes the next steps obvious--of course Sun would manipulate Idol to burnish her reputation. It’s a fascinating mirror at our own society, sometimes obsessed with celebrity, gossip and trivia, and shows how someone as driven as Sun can and would use such a system to her own advantage. In some ways, Sun’s relentlessness makes her a character that often pushes very hard indeed, even into spheres where you would not suspect. And there is much more, the novel having plenty of references and allusions outside of Alexander’s life that bore into the worldbuilding to various depths, from the role and use of religions, to the history of how man got here and plenty more. I could write an entire review just focused on all of the bioengineering, genetic manipulations and how they are used to worldbuild, create characters, and drive the narrative. (Really, that in itself is a whole strand of the novel that intersects in very different and interesting ways with Sun, and with The Wily Persephone).

Going in I wasn’t sure where in “Alexander’s life” that Kate was going to set this. Even in a short life such as Alexander’s, I think the woman on the street’s conception of Alexander the Great, if dimly remembered from school or maybe the Oliver Stone movie is that he “conquered Persia” . There is plenty of life before then and setting it in the time frame she does, Elliott provides plenty of interpersonal conflict and character interaction for the reader to sink their teeth into, The novel proves that an Alexander the Great story doesn’t have to be about the tactics and battles (although they certainly there) and that Sun’s personal life, drives, goals, desires and how they mesh with her family, her Companions (really a form of found family--another theme the novel works with) are as compelling as fighting the Phene.

A new Kate Elliott novel for me is always a moment of joy for one of my heart authors. Unconquerable Sun IS the first in a series and doesn’t provide any easy escapes for someone who wants to try Kate Elliott and have a complete story in one go. It would make an intriguing place to start your reading of Kate Elliott, though, if you have not tried her work before, but do know that it ends on a note of “more to come” and you will have to wait impatiently like me for the next volume in the series (on the other hand, you will have time to dive into her oeuvre in the meantime).

The Math
Baseline Assessment: 8/10.

Bonuses: +1 Strong use and understanding of tropes and genre conventions; +1 Clockwork plotting and page-turning layout of events

Penalties -1 No offramp for readers who want a one book experience (which is something that Elliott doesn’t generally write, to be fair)

Nerd Coefficient: 9/10 very high quality/standout in its category (Sorry, Princess Sun! Not quite perfect)

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? 2020 Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer. @princejvstin.

Reference: Elliott, Kate. Unconquerable Sun [Tor, 2020]

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Questing in Shorts: June 2020

I haven't had the best reading month in June, and coupled with this being the earliest possible "Last Thursday", I am in the sorry position of having not read enough short fiction for a normal roundup. Not to worry, though, because it turns out there's been some fabulous novellas to keep us all entertained, so consider this an impromptu "Questing in long shorts". Questing in fabulously tailored capri pants, if you will. 

I've got some treats lined up on the short fiction front, so I may be back with a special edition in the middle of next month, or you may have to wait for a bumper edition in July. Either way, let's get to what we've got this month:

Exhalation by Ted Chiang (Knopf/Picador, 2019)

Ted Chiang's authorial output is famous both for its relative sparseness, and for the fact that almost every individual story hits it out of the park in their exploration of various science fictional concepts. This collection, of nine mostly longer stories, definitely lives up to the hype, with a number of stories that focus on free will, religious belief and tests of faith, and our connections across the boundaries of species and life-altering technology

The reason I read this now, of course, was for its Hugo nominated pair: "Omphalos" is the story of an alternative earth in which the evidence of divine creation a finite period of time ago is evident all over the natural world, from ancient trees which stop containing rings eight thousand years ago to human skeletons which show no evidence of having grown form childhood. In a world where religiosity is therefore far more prevalent going into the 21st century, a discovery by an astronomer threatens to overturn humanity's confidence in itself at the centre of creation. It's a story that thematically pairs nicely with another free will explanations in here, notably "The Merchant and the Alchemist", an Arabian Nights-style nested story about time travel in an immutable timeline; in both, characters have the foundations of their beliefs about humanity challenged, but we come out with a feeling that the potential of their future is undiminished. "What's Expected of Us", one of the collection's flash-length pieces, offers a far less optimistic view.

The Hugo nominated novella, "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom", also looks at free will, this time in a world where a technology, "prisms", exist to allow communication between two diverged quantum timelines, letting people try different, branched-off lives but also opening up a host of new ways for people to feel anxious, dissatisfied or unhappy about their lives (I appreciated that a significant part of this story happens in group therapy, normalising the fact that envy between life paths is something to be taken seriously in this world). The storyline of the novella follows a minor con artist and his assistant, who discover they have access to a prism that could be hugely valuable to the right buyer. What really makes this story tick, though, is not how that story plays out, but all the meetings and partings and intersections with other people trying to live their lives in a world where humanity's concept of our individual choices have fundamentally changed. It's understated and quietly powerful and, quite simply, an excellent story to round off an excellent collection.

Triggernometry by Stark Holborn (Rattleback Books)

Triggernometry is an alternate history Western in which, by some mysterious quirk of history, mathematicians have been outlawed and pushed into criminality, shunned for their wanton ways;  are now wandering around the Wild West trying to stay one step ahead of the law. When "Mad Malago Browne" is approached by her old partner Fermat (yes, that Fermat) for one last job, it draws her into a heist which could set them up in comfort for the rest of their days - except, when does that ever work? What follows is a series of double crossings, dangerous old friends, stand-offs, and plenty of nitroglycerine fun, as Browne and the crew attempt to win (or at least survive) the day.

The Weird Western setting isn't new to author Stark Holborn, who previously wrote the Nunslinger series, and the worldbuilding here is not deep, but it sure is fun. It's not entirely clear how maths became associated with sin and degeneracy, but Holborn leans into the ways it might be considered an unsavoury profession when it comes to the gunfights and other battles: characters calculate angles, defy odds that they know better than anyone, and even pull out their protractors in ropey situations to line up the perfect trick shot. Balanced against this is just enough backstory about Browne and de Fermat, and the other mathematicians (many of whom live in the outlaw town of Faculty) to make them sympathetic despite all the shooting and backstabbing. There's a sour note here in that I'm not sure the Western genre needed speculative elements that skew it more towards whitewashing, but this isn't a book that's setting out to overturn every stone of genre. All in all, I respect Triggernometry for doing what it says on the tin: zippy, fun adventures with bandit mathematicians.

Drowned Country by Emily Tesh (Tor.com Publishing, 2020)

Drowned Country returns to the world of the Hallow Wood, two years since we last left Tobias Finch and Henry Silver after confronting the dark forces of the forest. The experience has brought them together, but it's also left them both in a very different situation to the one they were previously in (spoilers ahead!) - Tobias has now been freed of his position as the keeper of the wood, but has instead passed it to Silver, who is now contemplating life as an immortal forest spirit and speculating on when, exactly, he ought to give up on his humanity and accept his decline into otherworldly madness. When his mother marches back into his (crumbling) house and demands his help with her latest monster hunting mission, Silver finds himself reluctantly back with Tobias - who now works for Mrs Silver - and agreeing to help face down a 900-year-old vampire in a nearby town. Except, the vampire isn't the real story here, and the woman he's captured has grand schemes of her own to put into motion.

I'm unusually deep in my feelings for romance at the moment, so Silver and Tobias' journey was very compelling to me, especially as the circumstances surrounding the pair's separation come into focus, and we realise what a challenge the ending of Silver in the Wood left them both. This continuation lets us see the difference between Tobias' tenure as the forest guardian and Silver's, and the different ways they cope with becoming something powerful and not-human against their will. Inevitably, Tobias has quiet but strong feelings about how Silver uses his power and their quiet longing and distrust makes for a beautiful exploration that underpins both the supernatural and the irritating human side of Drowned Country's story. While Silver and Tobias' story feels like it's now been told, I hope this isn't the last we've seen of this queer iteration of faerie, and especially not of Mrs Silver or her brilliant new assistant.

POSTED BY: Adri, Nerds of a Feather co-editor, is a semi-aquatic migratory mammal most often found in the UK. She has many opinions about SFF books, and is also partial to gaming, baking, interacting with dogs, and Asian-style karaoke. Find her on Twitter at @adrijjy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Reading the Hugos: Series

Welcome to the first article in the 2020 Edition of Reading the Hugos, where I try to cram as much Hugo related content into my brain in as short a time as possible so I can talk about what's on the ballot and share some thoughts.

I often joke that the Hugo Award Season is eternal and that is only half of a joke because there is only a small breath between the announcement of the winners in August and the end of the year when we start thinking about what the best books of the year may have been, and that leads directly into submitting our nominating ballots and the cycle begins anew.

Today we are going to look at the six finalists for Best Series. Frankly, it's a little weird for me to begin with Series rather than Best Novel or one of the shorter fiction categories, but things work out as they do and here we are thinking about Best Series as a category.

This is the fourth year of having a Best Series category and while each year has had its own flavor based on the works that were eligible that year, I particularly appreciate this year's flavor. This year's finalists represent some of the breadth of science fiction and fantasy, from urban fantasy to space opera and just about everything in between. Even more so, this year's Best Series finalists represent excellence in the genre AND represent series work that is less likely to make the Best Novel ballot - and if that's the case, this is Best Series at it's best. These are works where the encapsulation of the whole is more notable than any single volume - where a single volume is raised up by its association with the rest of the series.

This is not to say that any of the qualifying novels (or stories) that made these series eligible are not worthy of recognition on their own, because they are, but if we pay attention to the shape of the genre and what sort of work is being recognized for Best Novel and other awards and if we're being honest we'll acknowledge that few of these works are likely to make the ballot.

THAT is the truest value of Best Series.

On to the finalists.

The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey (Orbit)
InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
Luna, by Ian McDonald (Tor)
Planetfall, by Emma Newman (Ace)
Winternight, by Katherine Arden (Del Rey)
Wormwood, by Tade Thompson (Orbit)

Luna: I first tried to read Luna: New Moon when it was published in 2015 and at that time I read maybe twenty or thirty pages before I completely lost interest and decided that not only was this series not for me, but perhaps Ian McDonald was not for me. I had tried and failed to get into some of his earlier novels and this was likely the last chance at novel length I was willing to give him. Then came this year's Hugo ballot and my incessant need to read everything on each year's Hugo ballot.

So, I tried again. Perhaps I was in a better place in my life, perhaps Luna: New Moon hit me at a better time of day, but I read the whole thing! That's not necessarily a real accomplishment, but given my previous failure to read this novel I'll take it as a win.

The only problem is that for most of Luna: New Moon, I was disinterested in what happened to any of the characters and the political machinations fell flat. By the end, I was curious what happened next after a fairly explosive conclusion - but more in the sense that I'd rather read a summary of Wolf Moon and Moon Rising than actually read those novels.

Given how many people adore Ian McDonald's work, I do recognize that this is a case of the wrong reader for the wrong book than it is about McDonald's work itself. I may never be an Ian McDonald reader. There's something about his storytelling that does not work for me, and as such, Luna: New Moon is as far as I plan to go with this series.

Wormwood: Rosewater was a novel I figured I would get to eventually, but I had no sense of urgency to read it anytime soon. Until, of course, the series as a whole was up for a Hugo Award.

Like the Winternight and Luna trilogies, Wormwood is one that I am considering solely off of one novel. I've read Rosewater but I am unlikely to read The Rosewater Insurrection in the next month before voting for the Hugo Awards closes. Like Katherine Arden's Winternight novels but unlike Luna, I am inclined to someday read The Rosewater Insurrection. I'm far more curious as to how Tade Thompson will develop this series than I am Ian McDonald - but and this is where we are comparing series, I am far more excited to read more of Katherine Arden. I engaged more with the storytelling of Tade Thompson than Ian McDonald. At no time was I disinterested, though I was mostly confused as to where Thompson was going. But, also at no time was I fully enraptured wtih the storytelling as I was with The Bear and the Nightingale.

It's a fool's errand to rank and compare novels and it is even moreso to compare a series, but when voting for an award requires one to do so, that's how I have to start thinking about. Sometimes it's not what the work is on its own, it is how I do I think about it in relation to another - and in relation to this category's ballot, Wormwood slots in very neatly between Luna and Winternight, but does not excite me as much as the top of the ballot.

Winternight: When I wrote about the John W. Campbell Award (now Astounding Award) for Best New Writer in 2018, I noted that after reading The Bear and the Nightingale that I was as excited to read the second book in the Winternight trilogy as I was to see what she is writing ten years in the future. The Bear and the Nightingale was the announcement of a major new talent. The novel touched on Russian folklore and was a tight family story mostly set in remote regions of Russia.

Now that Katherine Arden's trilogy is complete we can see what an accomplishment the series truly is. I would love to be at least two novels into the series at this point, if not having completed it. Perhaps by the time Hugo voting has closed in the middle of July I will have read The Girl in the Tower, but if not - I can still say with full assurance that Winternight is beautifully written excellence.

Planetfall: At this point I have read Planetfall, After Atlas, and Atlas Alone - only missing the third book, Before Mars. At a very high level, the first novel deals with the colonization of another world and the religious cult / organization which founded the colony. The second novel deals with some of the fallout back on Earth, though each book is far more complex than such a basic description. Planetfall, the series, is a fully realized universe with machinations and deft characterization.

I've thoroughly enjoyed each of the three Planetfall novels I've read, but despite that I never have the urge to go right out and read the next. These are very good science fiction novels and the series is richer because of Emma Newman's excellent worldbuilding - but as good as they are (and they are very good) they've never become essential reading for me.

The Expanse: It is somewhat weird to be disappointed when a favorite series makes the Hugo ballot, but voters had the opportunity here to hold off just this year and wait for the final volume of The Expanse to recognize a completed series. Maybe that's not realistic, and you never know what the future holds so perhaps it is best to recognize excellence when you get the chance - but if The Expanse doesn't win this year it is unlikely to have another chance at Hugo.

At the absolute worst, The Expanse will go down as a two time Hugo Award finalist for Best Series (not to mention the Best Novel nomination for Leviathan Wakes) and one of the most notable and wildly popular science fiction series in some time. The Expanse is alternatingly a heck of a lot of fun and deadly serious with heart rending moments. The most impressive thing about The Expanse is that when James S.A. Corey reset the series with a significant time jump, the series got even better.

InCryptid: When I first wrote about the Incryptid series in 2018 I was only just discovering Seanan McGuire. I had intended that year to read more of the October Daye novels, but was distracted by InCryptid on the Hugo Award ballot. Readers, I was hooked. There was a time I would have said my favorite Seanan McGuire novels were the ones she wrote as Mira Grant. While my esteem for Mira Grant remains high, my love for Seanan McGuire's novels - both October Daye as well as Incryptid - has a special place in my heart. I adore these novels.

There are now nine published Incryptid novels (eight are eligible for consideration for this award), plus a number of novellas and short stories. I made the point earlier that Best Series has the opportunity to recognize long running series where any individual novel will almost certainly never make the Hugo ballot but the series as a whole is absolute excellence and perhaps even where the whole is more significant than any single part.

That is Incryptid, and though I adore each novel with all my heart, it is as part of the larger series where Incryptid shines. It's not just the story of Verity, Alexander, and Antimony Price - it's the story of their family and their life's mission to protect (and study) the supernatural creatures of our world from The Covenant. Each novel is excellent on its own, but Incryptid is so much richer for how our understanding and appreciation builds as the series progresses. If that is not the definition of a Best Series, I don't know what is.

My Vote
1. Incryptid
2. The Expanse
3. Planetfall
4. Winternight
5. Wormwood
6. Luna

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 4x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Interview: Escape Pod

Congratulations to Escape Pod co-editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya for their Hugo nomination for Best Semiprozine!

Launched in 2005, Escape Pod is the original genre podcast. Escape Pod has  been nominated for the Hugo and the Parsec award, and the podcast is part of the Escape Artists family (which includes Podcastle and Psuedopod, among other), which means every piece of fiction they publish is also produced as an audio podcast. There are now so many episodes of Escape Pod, that the staff put together a guide for new listeners!

Authors whose work has appeared on Escape Pod include E. Catherine Tobler, Keffy Kehrli, Amit Gupta, Cory Doctorow, Izzy Wasserstein, Premee Mohammed, Ken Liu, Eugie Foster, and N.K. Jemisin, just to name a few.  Guest narrators also appear on Escape Pod, including Ann Leckie, Alethea Kontis, Kate Baker, Peter Behravesh, Trendane Sparks, Tina Connolly, and many more.

Something I really like about how the Escape Pod episode list is set up, is that each short story is tagged by genre. Want to see all the robot stories, or all the mysteries, or all the humor, or all the humorous robot mysteries? Click the tag, and you're all set!

Over the last fifteen years, Escape Pod has hosted flash fiction contests,  published the Mothership Zeta quarterly e-zine, and hosted the Artemis Rising month-long celebration of genre fiction written by women.   To celebrate their fifteenth year, Escape Pod is publishing an anthology of works by authors whose short fiction has appears in the podcast, Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology will be available later this year.

Co-Editors S.B. Divya and Mur Lafferty were kind enough to chat with me about how they got involved with Escape Pod,  what they enjoy most about being involved with producing audio fiction, the 'zine's 15th anniversary anthology, and more!

S.B. Divya's short fiction collection Contingency Plans For the Apocalypse and Other Situations, is out now from Hachette India, and her debut novel Machinehood will be out from Saga Press next year.  Her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Tor.com, Apex, Lightspeed,and Daily Science Fiction, among other publications. Her novella Runtime was a Nebula finalist.  You can learn more about Divya at her website, eff-words.com.

Mur Lafferty has been involved with podcasting for longer than she'd like to admit. She was one of the founding editors of Pseudopod, an early staff member of Escape Pod, and the founder/editor of Mothership Zeta, Escape Artist's quarterly e-zine. Her podcast Ditch Diggers won the Hugo for best Fancast, and she has won the Astounding Award for best new writer. Her novels include Solo: A Star Wars Story,  Six Wakes, and The Shambling Guide to New York City. Learn more about Mur and her work at her website, murverse.com.

Let's get to the interview!

NOAF: What is your role at Escape Pod? How did you come to be involved with Escape Pod?

Mur Lafferty: I've been involved with EP since the beginning, helping Serah Eley out with promotion, narration, and eventually taking over as Editor a few years ago. (10? Sheesh. Time flies.) I left to reduce my number of projects so I could go to grad school. A few years later I started another project with Escape Artists that didn’t really work out, but when we shuttered that, Norm Sherman was leaving Escape Pod and Divya was moving up from Asst. Editor to Editor. She wanted a partner, so I was honored to return to the show again.

S.B. Divya: I joined Escape Pod in 2015 as an associate editor (AKA "slush reader") at the invitation of Rachel K. Jones. We were both members of the Codex Writers Group at the time, and had come to love each other's stories. About a year later, Nathan Lee had to step back from being Assistant Editor, and both he and Norm Sherman (editor at the time) thought I'd be a good fit for the position so I gave it a shot. I enjoyed learning more about the editorial process, and eventually, when Norm needed to move on, I became one of the editors. Having to juggle a day job and parenting, I really wanted a partner for this role and was overjoyed when Mur agreed to be my co-editor.

NOAF: What’s been your favorite thing about being involved with Escape Pod?

ML: I love looking for stories while thinking about how they would be performed in audio, not just in text. It gives us a unique perspective on looking for stories. And finding new authors is always a thrill.

S.B.D.: Like Mur, I love discovering new authors, and I enjoy thinking about the right narrator for each story and trying to find that best match. I'm also doing my best to be a gatekeeper for more voices in science fiction that haven't been heard in the past. I think it's important to have diversity among editors as well as authors, and sometimes that means seeking out authors who might not think of Escape Pod as a place to submit their fiction. Having the ability to solicit and share those stories with our audience brings me a sense of satisfaction.

NOAF: Every piece of fiction you publish is also a hosted, narrated podcast. In what ways does having an audio narration enhance experiencing the story? In what ways does always having a hosted audio narration complicate your deadline schedule?

ML: We always have to think of how the show will sound, which makes it really hard to turn down stories that are otherwise amazing but wouldn't work with audio, As for the workload, we are lucky to have a dedicated team of narrators, producers, and hosts. We try to work several weeks ahead of time to make sure we can iron out any problems before we post the episode.

NOAF: Escape Pod has been publishing short fiction for fifteen years. How has Escape Pod evolved over the years? What directions do you see Escape Pod going in the future?

ML: Since starting in 2005, we have expanded our team, become a SFWA recognized pro-paying market, changed editors a few times, and began buying electronic print rights so we can post the stories in full on our site to increase accessibility. We have become part of a larger group of podcast magazines at Escape Artists as well (including Pseudopod, Cast of Wonders, and Podcastle.) In the early days we published a lot of horror and fantasy stories, especially around awards season, but now that we have more shows dedicated to their own genres, Escape Pod focuses entirely on science fiction. In the future? It's hard to determine that in today's climate, but internally we are moving toward paying everyone on our staff (slush readers are next). Externally, this summer we are taking a page from pre-streaming television and featuring "re-runs" all summer, showcasing some favorite episodes of the past with new, more thorough hosting endcaps by one of our hosts (and co-publisher), Alasdair Stuart.

NOAF: To celebrate your 15th anniversary, you are publishing Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology, which will be available in October of this year. Fifteen years of fiction, how in the world were you able to decide which stories to include in the anthology?

ML: We looked at authors who have been part of the show in the past fifteen years, either choosing a reprint we've published or asking for something new. We tried to choose a representative sampling with a focus on those who've continued to grow their science fiction careers. The final list was a product of our choices, the publisher's preferences, who had time for new stories, and who had the rights for reprints.

NOAF: What will winning the Hugo for best Semiprozine mean to you?

ML: It's taken over a decade to have podcasting respected - every few years a mainstream outlet expresses amazement that one can serialize audio or release fiction through this new platform called podcasting. Our two Hugo nominations have helped greatly to bringing science fiction's eye to podcasting, and a win would further cement our medium as a publishing model that's not going anywhere.

NOAF: Thanks so much! 

POSTED BY: Andrea Johnson lives in Michigan with her husband and too many books. She can be found on twitter, @redhead5318 , where she posts about books, food, and assorted nerdery.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Interview: Strange Horizons

Congratulations to Strange Horizons for their Hugo nomination for Best Semiprozine!

Strange Horizons got it's start way back in 2000, and it's always been a home for fiction that pushes the envelope. With a specific focus on showcasing underrepresented and and global voices. Weekly issues contain a combination of short speculative fiction, poems, podcasts, non-fiction essays and reviews, roundtables and interviews.  The magazine has a massive and international staff of over 50 volunteers who do everything from reading slush to editing essays, podasts, and reviews, to purchasing poetry and artwork. 

In the last few years, Strange Horizons spun off a sister magazine - Samovar, which features translated speculative fiction.  Fiction and non-fiction published in Strange Horizons has gone on to win World Fantasy Awards, Sunburst awards, Sturgeon awards, and been nominated for countless Nebulas, Chelseas, BSFA awards, Rhyslings, and appeared in dozens of "Best of" anthologies. Authors, artists, and poets who appeared in Strange Horizons include Juliana Pinho, Grace Fong, Galen Dara, Cassandra Khaw, Rafeeat Ayilu, Mari Ness, Lavie Tidhar, Omar William Sow, Charles Payseur,  Kali de los Santos,  Shiv Ramdas, Marie Brennan, Ruthanna Emrys, and so many more.

With so much going on behind the scenes at Strange Horizons and their large staff, I requested a panel interview with a cross section of their staff.  This extended interview offers a glimpse behind the scenes of this massive operation.

I am pleased to introduce our panelists:

Anaea Lay - Anaea's short fiction has appeared in Diabolical Plots, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Penumbra, Apex, Lightspeed, and elsewhere.  She is president of The Dream Foundry, an organization dedicating to bolstering and nurturing the careers of nascent professionals working with the speculative arts.  You can learn more about her at her website, anaealay.com.

Joyce Chng - Joyce lives in Singapore and writes urban fantasy, YA, and things inbetween, including the Starfang trilogy. Their short fiction has appeared in The Future Fire, Anathema, Kanstellation, Insignia, and elsewhere, and they co-edited The Sea is Ours:Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia. You can learn more about Joyce by visiting their website,  A Wolf's Tale.

Dante Luiz - Dante is a Brazilian illustrator and comic artist. He is a two-time PRISM awards finalist, and his short comics have appeared in Screams Heard Round the World, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, Wayward Sisters, Shout Out!, Built on Strange Ground, and elsewhere. You can learn more about Dante at his website, DanteLuiz.com.

Maureen Kincaid Speller - Maureen is an SFF reviewer for Vector, Interzone and Foundation, among other places. From her home in the UK she copy-edits and "enjoys" her cats' opinions on the timing of breakfast.  You can follow her on twitter at @maureenkspeller.

Romie Stott - Romie's poetry has appeared in inkscrawl, Dreams&Nightmares, Polu Texni, and Liminality and her non-fiction essays have appeared in The Toast and Atlas Obscura.  You can learn more about her artwork, poetry, music, and film making at her website, RomieSays.

Vanessa Rose Phin - Ness started as an articles editor at Strange Horizons in 2012, and is now the Editor in Chief.  Ve enjoys gaming,  editing, interviewing people, keeping green things alive, and being an extrovert in the morning. You can follow ve on twitter, @wordfey.

NOAF: Tell us a little about your role at Strange Horizons. How did you come to be involved with the magazine?

Anaea Lay: I'm the fiction podcast editor, which means I'm in charge of turning all the fiction from words on a screen into sounds in your ear. I got the job mostly by demanding that they invent it, then volunteering to fill the position. I'd been reading Strange Horizons since 2007 and it was, far and away, my favorite magazine. But after I changed jobs and my reading habits shifted, I was only getting short fiction via podcast, and Strange Horizons didn’t have one. I thought that was tragic and wanted to fix it. Julia Rios and Niall Harrison very kindly let me have my way.

Joyce Chng: I am a non-fictions/articles editor at Strange Horizons. I commission and solicit authors and writers for articles and columns. Nessa asked me if I wanted to sign up as an editor in 2016 and I said yes. I still remember the interview with Nessa and Niall (was a Sunday evening for me). And now here I am.

Dante Luiz: I'm one of the art directors together with Heather McDougal! I applied to the position after seeing she was searching for a new member for the art team, both because I'm a fan and reader of the magazine, and because I always wanted to work with other artists, being an illustrator myself.

Our job consists of commissioning artists that would match one of the stories of the month, and guide the process of creation, as well as sorting out submissions, creating covers and designing pins, among others.

Maureen Kincaid Speller: I'm part of the reviews department, along with Dan Hartland and Aishwarya Subramanian. We commission book and media reviews, do the structural and line editing in conjunction with our reviewers, and then do the final copy edits and galley the reviews before turning them over to the eagle-eyed proofreaders. We're also constantly on the lookout for things to review. We work very much as a team, but as Senior Reviews Editor, I tend to handle the admin (general correspondence, keeping in touch with publishers, soliciting review material, and organising the review assignments).

We all joined Strange Horizons as reviews editors in 2015, when Abigail Nussbaum retired from the role. It took three of us to fill her extremely capable shoes, and I still don't know how she managed it all on her own. Niall Harrison, who was then editor of SH, invited us to join the team, and I jumped at the chance. I knew Dan and Aisha online already (we have not met in real life as much as we would like to have done) and admired their writing very much so was delighted to have a chance to work with them. I was surprised and frankly very flattered to be asked to be Senior Reviews Editor.

However, my association with Strange Horizons goes back to around 2011 when I asked to become a reviewer, because I wanted to become involved with a project that not only understood fiction but also understood the importance of non-fiction, particularly critical non-fiction. I have never written fiction but I've been writing sf criticism for a long time and SH seemed to be a place I could be happy.

Romie Stott: I'm the poetry editor, alongside AJ Odasso. We both joined the magazine at the same time, based on an open call in 2012, although I took a few years off in the middle. We’ve been a two-person department for the last two years, but we've operated with three or four editors in the past and are in the process of transitioning back to that because it's valuable to have more institutional memory. The poetry editors trade off doing everything from slush reading through galleying, plus liaising with the podcasters, tracking contracts, following up on payments, and commissioning pieces for special issues.

Vanessa Rose Phin: I joined in July 2012 as an articles editor. I became senior articles editor a few years after that, then associate editor, then editor in chief in 2019. As EIC, I'm the lad of all loose ends, with a big-picture box much too large for my arms. Stereotypes of EIC dictatorship are laughable: this magazine is a collective. It runs like a solar system rather than a planet, with each department its own planetary habitat, its own way of doing things. Our staff is enormous for a zine of our size - over 60 - because it was the best way to strike a balance between volunteering and giving everyone the option to participate in as much or as little a capacity as they could. And it is international, covering almost all of the time zones of the world. With such a treasure of folks in the SH collective, my biggest job is to listen.

NOAF: How has Strange Horizons evolved over the years? Where do you see the magazine going in the next few years?

AL: It keeps growing and doing more, which is great to see and particularly great to be a part of. Our partnership with Samovar is the change that's happened during my tenure which excites me most. I see the magic of Strange Horizons as its ability to expose and nurture amazing, brilliant work that doesn't get the attention it should to larger audiences. Branching out into translation is a perfect demonstration of that.

In terms of thinking about the future and Strange Horizons, my expectation is this: We will be here, being true to what we are, and thriving. What that specifically means will depend on where the world is at that time. And I mean that both at the macro, "state of global affairs" level, but also where our conversations in the industry and community are. Where the conversations amongst our subcommunities are. One of the beautiful things about Strange Horizons is that it has room for all the subgroups of the larger spec fic community, and their internal conversations around art, aesthetics, politics, merit, value, respect, representation, all of it. It's messy, nuanced, and deeply human in the best way.

Anyway, wherever the world is, and our federated communities of humanity are, that's where Strange Horizons will be.

JC: Strange Horizons has grown a lot. I came in later but I have seen it grow by leaps and bounds within a few years. The collaborations and teamwork are amazing.

Where do I see the magazine going in the next few years? Strange Horizons is a science fiction magazine that is firmly rooted in the communication of the diversity in science fiction and sffnal communities. As Anaea has said, Strange Horizons has rooms for all the subgroups in the community. And it's how we navigate and negotiate all the pretty and messy bits . . . in the best possible way. I have read and witnessed conversations between diverse folk in a nuanced manner. And I feel that the world needs this perspective. Currently, the world is burning in more ways than ever . . .  and Strange Horizons is an example of us working together. And we need more working-togetherness.

DL: Without wanting to sound too corny with the pun, I think Strange Horizons will keep its role of expanding people's horizons regarding what they read and who they read. We are constantly bringing new writers from all backgrounds to the table, including people from other countries and cultures that many English-speaking readers might have never read otherwise.

Our special issues are good examples of that, from climate change to Nigeria, India and Brazil. I can speak for the later that we are very underrepresented in anglophone markets, and it brought a lot of joy to the national SFF community to see our work recognized by an international market and reaching a different kind of audience (a rare feat for Brazilians, as our production tends to be very niche even inside the country). This kind of thing is part of the very essence of the magazine, and I'm confident we will keep seeing more of the diversity and quality that have been championed so far.

MKS: Much of what I might say has already been expressed by my colleagues above, though I would particularly like to pick up Joyce's point about "the communication of the diversity in science fiction and sffnal communities". This is something we’ve worked hard at in the reviews department, inspired by other departments, trying to focus on work from smaller and non-traditional presses, marginalised groups, and so on. We've also tried to reflect that diversity within our amazing team of reviewers.

But I think too that Strange Horizons will take on an even more significant role in the next few years, as Anaea suggests, engaging with the state of the world through everything we publish. I like the fact that we are 'political', i.e. that we do engage with the global world, through things such as our climate crisis special. I feel we do that better than many other venues, and that there is a continuing need for such an approach.

RS: We've gotten larger since 2012 in a number of ways - more staff, the addition of special issues, the translation work through our offshoot Samovar, the launch of the podcasts, better payment to authors, and the growth of the fund drive. Recently, we added content warning tags and an accessibility editor. There have also been things that dropped off or shifted - more posts to social media and fewer to email lists, more reliance on Patreon and less on Amazon affiliate links.

A lot of our backend has been automated or systematized - a submissions manager instead of submissions copied and pasted to the body of an email sent to a Yahoo! group, Wordpress templates instead of hand-entering html. The latter has sometimes been frustrating for our department because we have to figure out how to trick the auto formatting into not cleaning up something deliberately weird. The subs manager also took some getting used to and I suspect contributed to the departure of at least one editor, although it's been invaluable for being able to jump in and cover each other when there have been life disasters (anything from somebody missing a flight and having battery power on a phone die to somebody needing surgery) and the other editor has been able to jump in and pull up the needed information without needing to wait for an email (or a bunch of emails) to be forwarded.

AJ and I are both still pretty grouchy about showing up on Slack regularly. I think it's a generational thing.

Artistically, I've seen us become more global in terms of both our fanbase and our contributors, and I expect that to continue.

In the poetry department specifically, between 2012 and now, went from being outliers to being the mainstream, while operating pretty much the same way throughout. In my early years at the magazine, I remember most of SF poetry outside of Strange Horizons (though not all) being either jokey parodic stuff or Tolkienish pot-medieval lays. (Take that with a grain of salt; my memory may be fallible here.) There were also a lot more horror magazines. It wasn't a super highbrow space - more pulpy. And then we were over here doing this other thing.

Either through our influence or as a coincidence, the type of poems we published started to get more traction in the genre community, maybe because online publishing started to take off, which opened the field up to a different kind of editor and a different kind of audience. At one point, at a similar time as the Sad Puppies drama at the Hugos, but I think a little earlier, we had some backlash where various poets accused us of having secret blacklists or being the PC police or I forget what else. Which wasn't true. We just liked different poems than some of the editors of some other magazines that folded, not to our joy.

That's years ago, though. Now, somewhat to my surprise, we're respectable enough to have some influence outside of the SF space, and we get submissions from famous poets who have won major literary awards, people whose names make me have to close my eyes for a second. This is probably partly because we pay pretty well for poetry and reply quickly, but I like to think it's because of our cutting-edge taste, and our occasional willingness to take wild risks with format and run poems that are games, poems that are comics, poems that transform before your eyes. (The luxury of being an electronic publication.)

Meanwhile, I now see poems in a lot of serious litmags where I think: yeah, we would have published that. Sometimes, rarely, it sends me into agonies similar to the classic "why are we shelving George Orwell in general fiction" spasm. We don’t want to stop being SF just because we're also lit, and we don't want to be a closed door to everyone but the same names you've seen everywhere else. We're also still the first publication of a lot of poets who are just starting out, and everyone in between. We're always looking for what comes next. We take being strange and being a horizon as our mandate.

VRP: I see Strange Horizons as staying astonishingly true to itself over its twenty-year tenure. It was originally created with the intent to open up publishing to new and marginalized voices, and it continues to do so. With Niall Harrison and later, Gautam Bhatia, I oversaw the transformation of the articles department from a passive receiver of pieces to a more active, journalistic department with a deeper sense of community engagement, chasing folks for their thoughts, making space for voices silenced at conferences. That launched our thematic focus in a nonfiction sense, which we later coordinated to a zine-wide affair with an international focus my team and I deeply believe in.

With the specific creation of Samovar under Niall's tenure, we moved from occasionally translating pieces to a sibling 'zine with that specific focus. The reviews team has carefully curated their pieces and expanded their net over countless trials and reviewer rotations; our art team has reached out to new and international artists. As someone with PTSD, I lobbied for content warnings until, lucky day, Natalia Theodoridou requested them for "The Birding", and we set to work - Catherine Krahe worked with the piece; I created our initial zinewide content warnings list and trained our first accessibility editor, Clark Seanor; and Will Ellwood, our only webmaster at the time, created the system we use. We had such a positive response from the community, it really underscored the reality that we do our best when we serve it. To that end, we've also worked to get marginalized editors access and experience and to support younger zines.

Looking back on my time at SH, a lot of our changes over time were about expanding our own horizons, and how apt is that? We've only become more ourselves with each step.

As for the future, I'd planned to get our team into anthologies and other such projects, but things are a bit different this year than any of us expected. I’'m looking at our fund drive this month and planning for the worst case scenario, not expansion. My goal is to help SH survive the economic contraction of 2020.

NOAF: What is your favorite thing about being involved with Strange Horizons?

AL: Without a doubt, 1000%, it's the authors. Every time somebody is excited about their work getting audio, I'm thrilled.

JC: My favourite thing about being involved with Strange Horizons? Commissioning articles from talented writers and authors, especially from POC and marginalised groups. And the teamwork between the departments and between editors is amazing!

DL: Match-making art with story, artist with writer. It's just magical to find someone from a completely different field that resonates so well with a story, and to help this connection happen. It makes me feel like an ancient patron of the arts, and it's very rewarding to pay the artists and show them that their work is appreciated.

MKS: Bringing new work to the attention of our readers, especially titles that might not have got attention in the mainstream SF press; discovering new authors as a result of review requests; and mainly, working with our reviewers – we put a lot of time and effort into editing the reviews and it is immensely rewarding to see a review transformed as a result of the dialogue with a reviewer. It's especially good to work with new reviewers, encouraging them to push the boundaries of their abilities as writers and critics.

RS: It's nice to feel like we've built a community, one that's a lot bigger than us, which we keep welcoming more people into.

VRP: My favorite thing about SH is the people. I've often said that people are candy. As an agoraphobe who has been shut inside at various times of my life, I do not take human interaction for granted, and I do not dismiss the Internet as a source of that contact. SH has always been online, never print: many of our volunteers, too, will have never met in person, living continents apart, and yet we change each other and our community across that invisible web. It includes our contributors from around the world, the people who have helped make our fund drives successful and cheer us on, the people who have volunteered with the zine - a large cohort by now - and the people inside, those lovely people in the zine itself, the ones I get to talk to and watch as they create art, words, connections. We can come together and debate a book, get a hug, or cheer a tentacle sticker (long story). They're my quirky online family.

NOAF: Why is short fiction important? For readers of science fiction and fantasy who say "I only read novels", or "I'm interested in short fiction, but I don't know where to start", what would you tell them?

AL: I'd say that "short fiction”" isn’t important so much as "fiction" is important, at all lengths. Some stories only need four thousand words to capture them fully; that doesn't make them less valuable or worthy than stories that need more space and time. Just because you can hold a story from beginning to end in a single reading session doesn't mean it isn't going to seep under your skin and stay with you for days or weeks or years. And sometimes the best way to make your point or share your insight is to have it strike like a thunderclap.

For the "I only read novels" crowd, I'd tell them that novels are my soft, squishy, happy place for fiction, too. The tactile weight of a novel in my hands is one of the purest physical pleasures I know. But fiction is like dessert: Elaborate layer cakes with fancy fillings might be your happy place, but that doesn't mean macarons aren't amazing.

As far as where to start, that really depends on you. I do short fiction entirely by audio at this point, so, obviously, I'm most familiar with places that have podcasts. Each of the shows done by the Escape Artists have a really good sense of who they are and what they do, and they cover a wide variety of subgenres across their shows. It's likely they have something that will hit your sweet spot. I'm also a big fan of Clarkesworld and their podcasts. When I wind up reading a short fiction story instead of listening to it, it's very likely to come from FIYAH or Fireside.

Honestly, though, if you're really at a loss, take a look at Charles Payseur's reviews at Quick Sip Reviews. He reads almost everything, and he's reliably good at reading. (By which I mean, he reviews the story on the page, not the one he imagines he read.) Even if you don't share his taste, it's a good spot to look for directions on where to go.

DL: Short fiction is the perfect media to make yourself familiar with new writers and to expand your vision of your favorite genre and learn about different experiences and realities without the commitment a novel requires. This alone can make a reader to fall in love with the style and message of writers they might never heard of in other cases.

Also, I second Anaea and recommend checking Charles Payseur's reviews at Quick Sip Reviews for a starting point: he summarizes really well the stories he reviews, and can be a good starting point to find something you might enjoy.

MKS: As the others have said, it's not so much that short fiction is special, more that some ideas are better explored at a shorter word length. Technically, I think it's a very different writing discipline to novel writing. Every word has to pull its weight in a way that I don't think is true for novels, or rather not in the same way.

And I'd third reading Charles Payseur's reviews to find out what’s good.

Having said all that, I'm going to subvert my answer by reminding everyone that Strange Horizons is not just about fiction. It has one of the strongest non-fiction departments of any magazine site, producing an amazing amount of material. Thoughtful, well-argued, usefully provocative articles and columns, as well as fascinating roundtable discussions (and I hear the reviews aren't bad, either).

RS: Our poems are the shortest short fiction. There are some speculative ideas where the idea itself is such a jolt that you don't really want to have it drawn out to book length, or even page length. You want it to tingle electrically on your skin as you walk around all day.

VRP: Short fiction is the laboratory of the genre. It is where authors take risks, where so many great ideas take their first steps. SFF created the framework with which we view ourselves in these times. Watch short fiction this upcoming year and I guarantee you'll see the embryo of how the world will be thinking about itself in the years to come.

NOAF: What will winning a Hugo award mean for you?

AL: When I started with Strange Horizons, several things were true that no longer are: we'd never been nominated for a Hugo, we'd never done audio of our fiction or poetry, and I couldn't conceive of ever wanting to stop doing the podcast. Now, we've been nominated every year I've been with the magazine (not because of me, this is a coincidence), we've podcast virtually all of our fiction and poetry for eight years, and it's really clear that Life Plans are headed in a direction incompatible with staying at my post. I don't have a solid time line on when I'll be retiring, but I've definitely transitioned from “"I'm here for the indefinite forever or until I'm fired," to, “If I'm still here in two years, something went wrong."

Looking at upcoming retirement from the magazine, and having lost the Hugo every year I've been here, I'd actually be pretty okay with not winning. "Strange Horizons is popular enough to get nominated for a Hugo every year, but too edgy to actually win," feels very, very on brand. I'm comfy with that.

On the other hand, "I helped create an entire department of the magazine, was one of the longest tenured staff while I was there, and lost the Hugo year after year, until we won and I retired," is also a really great story. It suits a narrative of showing up, being consistently awesome, and being an overnight success after years of work. That isn't very on brand, but it makes a great movie. Strange Horizons is still my favorite magazine on the market; I would definitely show up for our movie.

JC: To be honest, winning an Hugo award (as a team and for me personally) will be huge. Winning the award will be a testament to the hard working folks behind the scene. Folks who want to see and read discussion, dialogue and conversation from sffnal fans and writers. We all put in 100% (even more than that, I believe) in what we do and after eight years… shouldn’t we win the award, because we have done brilliant, amazing (again) and gorgeous work (we being the staff and all the writers, illustrators, podcasters, technical folk etc).

As for me personally, winning a Hugo will be enormous because 1) Southeast Asia has talent! And 2) it’s not often usual (if not, rare) to have a person from Southeast Asia winning a Hugo. So, if I win, it will be Southeast Asia (and Singapore) represent! And if I win, I hope this is also a signal for SEAsian folk to step up and sign up as fiction and non-fiction editors at SH. (we need more, please!)

DL: I'm not 100% sure about this, so please bear with me, but I might be the second Brazilian to ever appear between the Hugo's Finalists, after Ana Grilo and her amazing work at The Book Smugglers. If Strange Horizons wins, I'll be able to bring with my name a bit of the pride of our own SFF community that, as I said before, is often ignored.

We're only now starting to try our luck in English-speaking markets with authors like H. Pueyo, Sérgio Motta, Woody Dismukes and Clara Madrigano, along with a handful of others I might not know yet (I really recommend starting with our Brazil Special Issue, it's pretty cool and I had the pleasure to work with the amazing Juliana Pinho for the art). It would be a great honor to show fellow Brazilians and South Americans that yes, we can go there, and help each other along the way.

MKS: Finally winning a Hugo would be an amazing acknowledgement of the work done by the entire Strange Horizons editorial team, not to mention perhaps bringing our site to even wider attention.Strange Horizons has been nominated every year I've been an editor, and it would be lovely to finally hear our name being read out when the announcement of the winner is made, not to mention being a massive validation of the choices we've made as an editorial team to take this particular direction. But, as Anaea says, if we don't win, we can continue being 'too edgy to actually win' and I'm fine with that. It’s not like we'll be going away because we haven't won.

RS: I admit I like our long streak of being nominated but not winning. I like that we are beloved and reliable but slightly too comfortable for some people and slightly too weird for other people. The truth is, we don't have a singular vision. We are a massive volunteer org which makes decisions horizontally and often whimsically. We are like a magazine version of student council. We pick which editors' names go on the nomination each year pretty much at random, cyclically, because the Hugo ballot would have to have a whole page for just our names if you listed all of us. That's special. It's also necessarily ragtag and inconsistent.

The nomination means a lot to me, more than the win. (If we stopped being nominated, I'd be disappointed.) But of course if we do win a Hugo I am sure I will be smug and insufferable about it forever. FOREVER.

VRP: It's been 20 years of public support for an online zine everyone said wouldn't last. It's been eight Hugo nominations. I used to shrug and say hey, that's the work: blaze that trail, keep on going, don’t stop to look back at the pomp.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't want it for them. I do. So much.

It's about being seen. People call us a U.S. magazine, and that phrase alone erases much of the staff and almost the entirety of our focus. People call us venerable, as if the folks in the zine weren't constantly changing out, turning over fresh ideas, pushing that edge. It goes back to the editors here - so much of our work is invisible alongside our faces, our lives, our identities. A Hugo would mean to me that the community recognized us for who we are, and throw the spotlight on the wonderful people with whom I work, acknowledging the 20 years in which we've shaped the genre with our arms wide open; not by being safe, but by being deliberately strange.

NOAF: Thank you for this wonderful panel interview!

POSTED BY: Andrea Johnson lives in Michigan with her husband and too many books. She can be found on twitter, @redhead5318 , where she posts about books, food, and assorted nerdery.