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Kat Howard’s “Translatio Corporis” Inspires Liz Argall’s Webcomic

First, please read Kat Howard’s phenomenal “Translatio Corporis” from Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 (or listen to Amal El-Mohtar read it on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast 3A).

Future Uncanny Magazine author Liz Argall is the creator of the charming webcomic Things Without Arms and Without Legs: A Comic about Creatures Who Are Kind. Liz enjoyed “Translatio Corporis” so much, she created some fan art for the story, starring her webcomic creations.

This pretty much made everybody’s day when we saw it.

Thanks, Liz!

 

SPOILERS FOR “Translatio Corporis” BELOW!

 

 

 

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Learning to Turn Your Lips Sideways

Once there was a girl who couldn’t say what she wanted to say. Whenever she talked, her words were so heavy they fell to the floor without reaching the intended ears of those who needed to listen. People stumbled over her words, not seeing them, or completely ignored them, kicking them under the carpet.

The girl soon learned that the only way she could get her words to be heard was to not let them tumble from her mouth like normal, but to tilt herself in a way that the words slanted upwards, from an unexpected angle.

So she learned how to turn her lips sideways.

Stories hold the potential for breaking down barriers, creating empathy, and showing a human side of people who are normally considered outcasts or uneducated. But that only works if the story itself doesn’t descend into tired stereotypes or tropes. While there are plenty of good stories, there many, many more stories that see marginalized people as one-shots. One notes. And if you see enough of those depictions that are always flat, always negative, then you start to believe it.

Take the narrative we often hear about Chicago. I grew up in Chicago. Still have family in Chicago. Consider it my hometown. There was always the issue with security and crime, but no more than what you expect in most urban (and suburban) areas. Dealing with it meant having common sense. Make sure your doors are locked. Don’t leave anything valuable in your car. Always be mindful when walking home after dark.

Since moving to Wisconsin, however, I’ve noticed that when I go back to visit family in Chicago, I feel more wary, more vulnerable when walking down a street, whereas before I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Nowadays, when you think of Chicago, particularly the south side, you think of urban decay, gangs, drugs, baby mamas, shootings. We see it in movies like Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, which presents a hyper-violent, over the top view of Chicago. And then there is President Trump’s tweet from January, threatening to send the Feds to Chicago if it doesn’t shape up. According to him, Chicago is a desolate place worse than Syria. It doesn’t help that the news and social media choose to fixate more on the crime aspects of Chicago. It’s a flat view of Chicago. A single story.

This puts me in mind of Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk on a single story. This single story of Chicago is spun to so many people, and yet for those who live there, it’s their home. Their life. Their world. This is not to downplay the problems in Chicago—if you’re really interested, you’ll want to read Mikki Kendall’s thoughts on Twitter about it. But there’s also beauty and normalcy. And there are people there who look just like me. Act just like me. Have brown skin, just like me.

How, then, do we tell stories that portray our lives accurately, rather than through the lens of white supremacy or stereotypes? And furthermore, how do we get people to listen when they are so used to hearing only one type of story?

A couple of years ago, I made a joke in front of a family friend. She turned around and responded, “Girl, you better turn your lips sideways.” I’m sure she meant “Shut your mouth,” but to me, it was a perfect metaphor.

We have to turn our lips sideways. Slip our messages into unsuspecting ears.

When I first discovered fantasy books as a child, there was a period when everything seemed possible and magical. I thought I saw fairies dancing on broken glass in empty parking lots, or taking short cuts over abandoned train tracks and wondering if I put my feet down in just the right spots, I would emerge in a whole different world.

As I grew older, I stopped having those dreams. As I watched the news and listened to the radio, there was a disconnect between the world of books, where anything was possible and my world, which had, well, news reports that talked about crime and politics, and nothing that looked like fun.

There’s a phrase around the internet that a black person cannot escape their race. I, on the other hand, found I could easily escape through fantasy books. The characters in those books were mostly coded white, but they never dealt with drive by shootings, or struggled because of the color of their skin. They slipped into wardrobes and became kings and queens in magical worlds, fought majestic battles in space, dueled with swords, rode dragons and unicorns, and generally lived happily ever after.

Because I read so much fantasy that had white as the default, I didn’t know how to deal with the black experience translated into fiction. Most of what I found in the bookstore was always “Urban Fiction” featuring guys with gold teeth on the covers or serious subjects such as slavery or civil rights. Even the science fiction books that did contain mainly black characters were always serious (and it was always science fiction, never fantasy… unless you count magical realism). I remember the very first Octavia Butler book I read—Dawn—in my teens, and thinking “I don’t get it.” There was never that feeling of fun or wonder or adventure, at least in my mind. Furthermore, I was brought up in a religious culture where “good art” didn’t contain profanity or sex, but always had to contain Truth (with a capital T), be beautiful, and most importantly, be clean. “Keep it holy,” was our motto. Most black literature didn’t fit in that category, or, at least, I didn’t perceive it as such, so I stayed away from it. I was a good Christian girl.

Then Trayvon Martin got shot. And Eric Garner. And Sandra Bland. The Black Lives Matter Movement started. Here’s the thing. Police shootings and violence have always happened. But with the advent of social media, it was thrust into the spotlight. And there could be no sweet words, no sugar coating, no positive, uplifting songs or story that could cover up the ugliness of what was hard reality.

I found I need a language for the horror, the pain, the fear I felt. And the rage. But nothing I was reading at the time could express it adequately. Until one day, Erykah Badu released a mixtape called “Feel Better World.” That in turn, made me devour all her music, which in turn, led me to spoken word… which in turn lead me hip hop. And that was where I learned that hip hop had its own beauty. It spoke to those parts of me that I didn’t know existed. It also spoke Truth. From Aaron Burr belatedly realizing he and Alexander could exist in the same world in Hamilton, to Beyoncé standing upright in her video Lemonade with other black women dressed in white, forgiving herself for past mistakes. Hip hop had its own worth, its own beauty, its own explorations of faith, rooted deep in black identity.

And that caused me to ask myself, “Where else can I find work like this? How do I dig in deeper? What am I missing?

So I returned to black literature. There, I found a plethora of stories rooted in black identity, some which have always been there, and some that were not only brand new, but made my young reader self squeal in utter delight.

Currently, I’m reading a graphic webcomic called The Hues. It’s a magical girl comic with girls who are different shapes, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Audrey, the water user, is fat, quiet, shy, and utterly, utterly adorable. Whereas most depictions of fat black women in the media are either sassy, back-talking mamas or strung out drug addicts, here is this girl, smiling shyly, kicking butt, and living her life as a normal girl (well, normal for a magical girl living in a dystopian world anyway). Meanwhile, Briana Lawrence, cosplayer and an up and rising writer, has finished a successful Indiegogo campaign to create an illustrated book featuring a whole team of dark-skinned, curvy, queer magical girls.

Kai Ashante Wilson’s novella Sorcerer of the Wildeeps gives us a black sorcerer traveling with a band of soldiers. What made this story stand out was the use of AAVE. Wilson weaved it so deftly into the fantasy norms that it became part of the rich landscape of his world, and thus gave it a whole new spin. And that on top of swashbuckling sword fights and romantic tension between the sorcerer and the captain he serves. His follow up novella, A Taste of Honey, showcases another romance between men, but also spins in a tale of how choices can create surprising and regretful futures.

One of the many reasons I love Nisi Shawl’s Congolese steampunk Everfair is her characterization of Martha Livia Hunter, an anti-slavery Christian missionary (and even here Shawl flips expectations in that Martha is a black, female missionary to the Congo as opposed to white male). She is rooted in her faith and sees everyone around her as heathens needing to be converted, and even sees her marriage to a younger white man more out of Christian duty than passionate love (though in time it grows into that). Shawl could have easily made her a one-note villain, but instead she portrays Martha as a woman with complex feelings, desires, and fears.

I haven’t even touched upon the works of Nnedi Okorafor, N. K. Jemisin, Alaya Dawn Johnson, K. Tempest Bradford, Jenn Brissett, Maurice Broaddus, Chelsya Burke, Kay F. Vega, and so many others. Black authors are learning how to turn their lips sideways. We are coming out of the woodwork and getting black blackity black all up in our stories and our fairy tales and our science fiction and our fantasy. We’re writing works that tell stories that have always been told, to show that Black Lives truly do Matter, that we are more than one-notes with just a single story. That we are deep and complex and diverse.

With all the works that are out by black authors now, I’ve been challenged to read works I used to shun because I considered it too “ghetto” or too “serious.” I’m rediscovering my Gloria Naylor books, which yes, was magic realism, but just as much fantasy in their own right. I picked up Octavia Butler’s Dawn again… and still didn’t like it. But then I read Parable of the Talents and OHMYGODTHATWASTHEBESTBOOKEVER.

And I too am learning how to turn my own lips sideways. I’m learning how to write about shy black girls, queer black folk, black goths, black pirates, black warriors… but also the thug, the single mother, the homeless, the jobless, the hopeless. Because a good writer can take these stories and make them work, but a great writer can spin a tale out of anyone and make you want to read more and more, enmeshing yourself into that person’s life.

I’m thinking about how to do that writing about Chicago. I’ve been listening to blues artists from Chicago. I’m reading up on Chicago’s history of the Great Migration through The Warmth of Other Suns. And I’ve discovered Chance the Rapper, whose lyrics of growing up on the south side is unearthing my own memories and daydreams of Chicago from when I was a child. I am learning how to dream again of the magic, the possibilities, the adventure, the joy of my hometown. And as I tell my stories sideways, I’m hoping they will catch someone’s ear unexpectedly and they will see the beauty that keeps people living and working for the right to live there.

Now, if you excuse, I need to catch up on my movie watching. Moonlight, anyone?

Liz Argall’s Things React to The Uncanny Valley!

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

For Issue 15, Liz’s Things react to “The Uncanny Valley” editorial by the Thomases!

Liz Argall’s Things React to Monster Girls Don’t Cry

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

For Issue 14, Liz’s Things react to “Monster Girls Don’t Cry” by A. Merc Rustad!

The Uncanny Valley

It is 2017. All of you know what happened to the world in November.

So…

Does art matter anymore?

We’re usually playful in this editorial. After the American elections, though, it’s hard to be whimsical about much of anything.

The question we led this editorial with went around social media in the days right after the election. With everything going on, is art frivolous? It’s not calling electors or raising money for organizations that will protect free speech, women’s reproductive choices, and the rights of the marginalized. Art doesn’t call Congresspeople or Senators to tell them to start hearings about ethics violations or to stop the appointments of hateful and incompetent people to Cabinet posts. Art doesn’t get out and march. Art doesn’t stop the immoral construction of pipelines.

What can we do as readers, writers, artists, editors, and publishers to stop fascism and white supremacy? Should we abandon art?

The answer to all of that is ART HAS NEVER MATTERED MORE. Art changes the world. It isn’t instant or magic, but art gives people voices and ideas. Art protests. Art builds. Art gives access to different points of view. Art provides escapes. Art gives hope.

There’s a reason why fascists come for your books.

So yes, all of that activism matters (please consider getting involved if you can), but so does the creation of this magazine. And trust us, Uncanny Magazine is going to be LOUD. We’ve had white supremacists, homophobes, neo–Nazis, and misogynists attack things we’ve edited before, and we kept coming back bigger and better. As long as people are producing brilliant, inclusive, gorgeous art, we’ll be publishing it.

THESE UNICORNS FIGHT FASCISTS.

Now for some sad Uncanny Magazine news many of you already know. Starting with this issue, “Dangerous” Deborah Stanish will no longer be our interviewer in the magazine or on the podcast. Deb was with us from the very beginning. She was an exquisite interviewer, always well–prepared with excellent questions. If you heard her on the podcast, you know how great her rapport was with our creators. Along with this, she participated in many of our behind–the–scenes discussions about the magazine’s direction, gave thoughtful opinions, and donated the use of her family’s cabin for the infamous Uncanny Cabin Kickstarter backer reward retreats. Nobody promoted Uncanny more than Deb.

Deb decided that now is the time to part ways with Uncanny so she can pursue other opportunities. Deb is one of our dearest friends, and we wish her well with all of her future endeavors. Luckily, you will still be able to hear her with Lynne and Uncanny podcast producer Erika Ensign on the Verity! Doctor Who Podcast!

The great news is that the phenomenal Julia Rios will be taking over as the podcast interviewer while continuing as our poetry and reprint editor! (Julia already took over as the print interviewer last issue.) Julia is a fantastic interviewer and podcaster. We’ve both been interviewed by her in the past. We’re thrilled Julia is taking over this role.

So where are those wacky Thomases in January and February? Currently we plan on attending the ConFusion convention in Michigan from January 19–22. Last year’s con was truly unforgettable and changed our lives. We can definitely say shenanigans were had. We expect this year’s version to be no different.

There are some other convention possibilities in February. Please watch our social media for all upcoming Thomas travel!

It’s the time of year when people post their year–in–reviews to remind voters for the different SF/F awards what’s out there that they might have missed and which categories these things are eligible in (especially for the Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards). 2016 was the second full year of Uncanny Magazine (Issues 8 through 13). We are extremely proud of the year we had.

Uncanny Magazine is still eligible for the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are also eligible for the Best Editor (Short Form) Hugo Award. (Note: If you are nominating the Thomases in this category, please nominate them together. They are a co–editing team.)

We have a handy list on the Uncanny Magazine blog of which stories are eligible in either the short story or novelette categories of the SF/F awards. If you’re a SFWA member nominating for the Nebula Awards, you can find eBook copies of these stories in the SFWA Forums.

All of our poetry is eligible for the Rhysling Award. All of our nonfiction writers are eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Our cover artists Kirbi Fagan, Katy Shuttleworth, and Galen Dara, plus our webcomic artist Liz Argall, are also eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist.

If you can participate in these awards, please do it, and nominate what you feel are the best works. Don’t forget there are scoundrels trying to break these awards. The more legitimate nominators the awards have, the more difficult it is for the assholes to screw things up.

And now the contents of the glorious Uncanny Magazine Issue 14!

Our gorgeous cover this month is John Picacio’s “El Arpa.” This is one of the many stunning pieces John created for his ongoing Loteria card deck project. Our new fiction includes Sam J. Miller’s haunting and visceral story of loss “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood,” A. Merc Rustad’s compelling and triumphant tale of family and survival “Monster Girls Don’t Cry,” Cassandra Khaw’s powerful, mythic “Goddess, Worm,” Maria Dahvana Headley’s macabre and dreamlike Poe story “The Thule Stowaway,” Theodora Goss’s fascinating, personal interstitial journey “To Budapest, with Love,” and Tansy Rayner Roberts’s delightful and hilarious Valentine’s Day short “Some Cupids Kill with Arrows.” Our reprint is Ann Leckie’s classic “The Unknown God,” originally published in the February 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy.

Our essays this month include a very personal review of the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Mark Oshiro, a primer of the modern romance genre for SF/F fans by Natalie Luhrs, Delilah S. Dawson’s powerful discussion about how she has never not been an object to certain people, and Angel Cruz’s examination of the astounding wave of new aswang stories by Filipina writers. Our wonderful and brilliant poetry this month includes Carlos Hernandez’s “In Lieu of the Stories My Santera Abuela Should Have Told Me Herself, This Poem,” Nin Harris’s “Jean–Luc, Future Ghost,” and Nicasio Andres Reed’s “Except Thou Bless Me.” Finally, Julia Rios interviews A. Merc Rustad and Maria Dahvana Headley about their stories.

The Uncanny Magazine Podcast episode 14A features Sam J. Miller’s “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood” as read by Erika Ensign, Carlos Hernandez’s “In Lieu of the Stories My Santera Abuela Should Have Told Me Herself, This Poem” as read by Amal El–Mohtar, and Julia Rios interviewing Sam J. Miller. The Uncanny Magazine Podcast episode 14B features Theodora Goss’s “To Budapest, with Love” as read by Amal El–Mohtar, Tansy Rayner Roberts’s “Some Cupids Kill With Arrows” as read by Erika Ensign, Nicasio Andres Reed’s “Except Thou Bless Me” as read by Erika Ensign, and Julia Rios interviewing Theodora Goss.

Please enjoy the latest issue of Uncanny Magazine, and thank you all so much for your continued support.

Fight on, Space Unicorns! Enjoy!

Liz Argall’s Things React to Seasons of Glass and Iron!

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

For Issue 13, Liz’s things react to Amal El-Mohtar‘s reprinted story “Seasons of Glass and Iron” from the Saga Press anthology The Starlit Wood!

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Liz Argall’s Things React to Star Trek!

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

For Issue 12, Liz’s things react to our two Star Trek essays: “This Is Our Work: What Star Trek Asks of Us” by Mary Anne Mohanraj and “All True, Especially the Lies—Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cardassia” by Una McCormack.

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Liz Argall’s Things React to Two Uncanny Stories!

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

This month, they’re reacting to TWO Uncanny Magazine stories! The first person who names the two stories correctly in the comments will receive a set of 6 Uncanny Magazine Cover Postcards!

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Liz Argall’s Things React to Men of Their Times

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

This month, they’re reacting to Jim C. Hines’s “Men of Their Times” from Uncanny Magazine Issue 9.

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