Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Two Uncanny Stories, The Thomases, and Uncanny Magazine Are All Hugo Award Finalists!

Outstanding news, Space Unicorns! Two Uncanny Magazine stories are finalists for the prestigious Hugo Award! “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander is a finalist for Best Short Story, and “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong is a finalist for Best Novelette! As you may recall, these stories are also Nebula Award Finalists! Congratulations Brooke and Alyssa!

Even more excellent news! Uncanny Magazine (edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky) is also once again a finalist for Best Semiprozine!

One more thing! Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are finalists for the Best Editor- Short Form Hugo Award! This is their first time as finalists in this category. This is also the first time a couple has been nominated for an individual Hugo Award since Leo and Diane Dillon won the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award in 1971.

Finally, “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar from the Saga Press anthology The Starlit Wood (edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe, who is also a Hugo finalist for Best Editor- Long Form), which we reprinted in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for Best Short Story, just like it was for the Nebula Award! Congratulations Amal and Navah!

It is an amazing list of Hugo Award finalists, many of whom are Uncanny authors and friends. CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYBODY!!!

Below is the Hugo Award Press Release from Worldcon 75:

Hugo Award Finalists Announced

Worldcon 75 is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards. With 108 finalists, this is the most extensive Hugo ballot on record. The Hugo Awards, first presented in 1953, celebrate the best in the field of science fiction and fantasy. Recipients are chosen by Worldcon members. The 2017 Hugos will be presented at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland, on 11 August 2017.

The convention officially announced the finalists via its social media feeds in a video featuring Guest of Honour Johanna Sinisalo; graphic novelist Petri Hiltunen; writer J. Pekka Mäkelä; translator Johanna Vainikainen; Worldcon 75 Chair Jukka Halme, and other members of the Worldcon 75 team.

2464 valid nominating ballots (2458 electronic and 6 paper) were received and counted from the members of the 2016, 2017 and 2018 World Science Fiction Conventions. The final round of voting will open in the week following this announcement and close on 15 July 2017. For more information about the awards and the voting process, consult our website at http://www.worldcon.fi/wsfs/hugo/.

The finalists are:

Best Novel

2078 ballots cast for 652 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 156 to 480.

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)

Death’s End, by Cixin Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)

Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)

Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

 

Best Novella

1410 ballots cast for 187 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 167 to 511.

The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (Tor.com publishing)

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com publishing)

Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)

Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)

A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com publishing)

This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

 

Best Novelette

1097 ballots cast for 295 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 74 to 268.

“Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex”, by Stix Hiscock (self-published)

“The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan (Tor.com , July 2016)

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, by Fran Wilde (Tor.com, May 2016)

“The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)

“Touring with the Alien”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

 

Best Short Story

1275 ballots cast for 830 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 87 to 182.

“The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)

“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

“That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)

“An Unimaginable Light”, by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

 

Best Related Work

1122 ballots cast for 344 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 88 to 424.

The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)

The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)

Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)

The View From the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow / Harper Collins)

The Women of Harry Potter posts, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

 

Best Graphic Story

842 ballots cast for 441 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 71 to 221.

Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)

Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)

Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)

Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)

The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

 

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

1733 ballots cast for 206 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 240 to 1030.

Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)

Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)

Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)

Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)

Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)

Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

 

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

1159 ballots cast for 569 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 91 to 193.

Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)

Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)

The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)

Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)

Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)

Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

 

Best Editor – Short Form

951 ballots cast for 191 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 149 to 229.

John Joseph Adams

Neil Clarke

Ellen Datlow

Jonathan Strahan

Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas

Sheila Williams

 

Best Editor – Long Form

752 ballots cast for 148 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 83 to 201.

Vox Day

Sheila E. Gilbert

Liz Gorinsky

Devi Pillai

Miriam Weinberg

Navah Wolfe

 

Best Professional Artist

817 ballots cast for 387 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 53 to 143.

Galen Dara

Julie Dillon

Chris McGrath

Victo Ngai

John Picacio

Sana Takeda

 

Best Semiprozine

857 ballots cast for 103 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 80 to 434.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews

Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by P. Alexander

GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith

Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff

Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

 

Best Fanzine

610 ballots cast for 152 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 53 to 159.

Castalia House Blog, edited by Jeffro Johnson

Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood

Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan

nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry

Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

 

Best Fancast

690 ballots cast for 253 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 76 to 109.

The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan

Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace

Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams

Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch

The Rageaholic, presented by RazörFist

Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

 

Best Fan Writer

802 ballots cast for 275 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 80 to 152.

Mike Glyer

Jeffro Johnson

Natalie Luhrs

Foz Meadows

Abigail Nussbaum

Chuck Tingle

 

Best Fan Artist

528 ballots cast for 242 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 39 to 121.

Ninni Aalto

Alex Garner

Vesa Lehtimäki

Likhain (M. Sereno)

Spring Schoenhuth

Mansik Yang

 

Best Series

1393 votes for 290 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 129 to 325.

The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)

The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey (Orbit US / Orbit UK)

The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)

The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)

The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Harper Voyager UK)

The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

 

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (937 ballots)

933 votes for 260 nominees.

Votes for finalists ranged from 88 to 255.

Sarah Gailey (1st year of eligibility)

J. Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility)

Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility)

Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility)

Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility)

Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility)

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!

Finding Yourself in Fandom

A couple of weeks ago Facebook’s kinda-creepy-but-occasionally-useful algorithms reminded me it had been three years since “I Don’t See Color” had been published as part of Jim C. Hines’s first Invisible anthology. That essay still holds special significance for me as the first personal essay I’d published in SF/F fandom, and, somewhat disconcertingly, the first essay I’d written in almost a decade where I explicitly wrote about race and my feelings about racial identity. Discussing race and identity has never been easy for me; my childhood heavily emphasized assimilation and “not seeing race.” The irony is that despite (or perhaps because of) the many problems regarding representation in fandom and geek culture, it’s in large part because of my participation in fandom that I’ve at long last found my footing in exploring what it means for me to be Asian American, and reconnecting with my roots as a Filipina.

I owe a lot of that comfort and confidence to the many, many Asian American/Pacific Islander and Asian fans and creators I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the past several years, thanks to conventions and social media (tell me again how socializing on Twitter and Facebook is useless). It’s still shocking to realize that I now have more Asian friends than I’ve had in the past 39 years put together. I can’t understate the difference it makes knowing that you aren’t actually alone in the things you love and are trying to accomplish, and the specific struggles you’re facing (both external and internal). This is the infuriating and frustrating legacy of being underrepresented—if not downright erased—in the stories and fandoms you’re seeking enjoyment and escape in. You end up internalizing the idea that people like you are rare, that there are roles you’re just never going to play, and the desire to see yourself and your experiences reflected—much less acknowledged—as normal and valid is just asking for too much. There’s a limited number of boxes you’re allowed to get into and if they don’t fit well, you should still be grateful they were made in the first place.

Those ideas are bullshit, but it hasn’t stopped media creators from perpetuating them. See most recently: Matt Damon’s character being centered in The Great Wall; Marvel’s assertion that Danny Rand can’t be an Asian American because only a white man can feel and look out of place among other Asians in Iron Fist; the blatant whitewashing of Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and The Ancient One in Doctor Strange being held up as wins for feminism. Taken against a political backdrop where the ever-present xenophobia and racism in America has been given a massive shot of adrenaline, and the default is being yanked ever farther into the assumption that “not white” equals “foreigner” (and probably here illegally for nefarious purposes), the thoughtless erasure and Othering is enough to make you want to set things on fire (luckily I get paid to do that!).

There’s a reason why Moana was neck-to-neck with Frozen’s record at the box office, Hidden Figures made more at the box office than Rogue One, and Ms. Marvel, Monstress and the upcoming America are bringing more fans to comics. There’s incredible power in not only seeing yourself reflected in media, but seeing that representation done right as well. It reminds you that your experiences are worth being treated with respect, that there are more choices open to you than you might think, and that you can be seen as a whole person, not just through the flattened lens of white supremacy. Luke Cage broke Netflix because so many people were watching the series, after all (and yet frustratingly, predictably, Marvel decided to ignore every lesson from Luke Cage’s success in making Iron Fist but that’s a rant for another day). Escapism isn’t truly escapism when you keep finding the same microaggressions, erasure, and stereotypes in the stories you love and are trying to escape into, and we ignore this truth at our peril because it’s never “just a story.”

I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a struggle the last few months to believe that the work I’ve been doing in these last few years really matters, because when a good portion of your fellow citizens decided it was fine to vote a xenophobic bigot who seems to relish wallowing in his own ignorance into the Oval Office, you can’t help but wonder if any of it made any real difference after all. I joke about running on sheer stubborn spite, but it really only gets you so far before you find you’re burning out and running out of words and will.

I got a reminder just in time for my birthday. On the last day of a conference, attendees were sharing experiences over the weekend that had special meaning for them. At one point, someone got up to say how they hadn’t realized how much it would mean to have the time and space to talk about what it meant to be Asian American, and have their voice and perspective centered, and having the chance to do so at one of the conference talks was an unexpected gift. It took me a moment to realize they were referring to a talk I’d helped facilitate about exploring identity through food. I wish I’d had a chance to thank that person for their words; it was a desperately needed affirmation that what I’m able to do can still make a difference for others.

Because here’s the thing: it’s a lot less intimidating to dig into emotional scars you thought you could live with (because you know what’s underneath is still damn painful) when you realize you’re not the only one wrestling with those issues. There’s strength and comfort to be found knowing you’re not going through that journey alone. You can go a lot farther when you’re able to ask for help because you know those you’re asking understand, or at the very least can be trusted to listen and support you. This is why it’s so important to create more space for diverse voices, build communities that are actually inclusive, and fight for better representation, because it’s that much harder to understand ourselves and imagine the people we want to be if we don’t see them in the stories we love.

We should all have that chance to find ourselves in fandom.


Michi Trota is a writer, editor, speaker, communications manager and community organizer in Chicago, IL. She writes about geek culture and fandom, focusing primarily on issues of diversity and representation, on her blog, Geek Melange, and is President of the Chicago Nerd Social Club’s Board of Organizers. Topics guaranteed to get her talking for hours include comics, Doctor Who, and food geekery. Michi was a featured essayist in Invisible: An Anthology of Representation in SF/F (edited by Jim C. Hines). In her professional life, she is a managing editor with fifteen years of experience in the publishing industry. In her spare time, she spins fire with the fire+bellydance showcase, Raks Geek, and at the Chicago Full Moon Jams. (photo credit to Bill Whitmire)

Max and Amal Go to the Movies! Rogue One

Welcome to the first installment of authors Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar’s movie reviews! 

Amal El-Mohtar: So let me start by saying I was intrigued by how mixed people’s reactions were. After all the joy people took from the trailers, the impression I was overall getting from my various feeds was one of disappointment—and then, in the face of that disappointment, counter-reactions of enjoyment and appreciation. But nothing like the overwhelming wave of joy in the wake of The Force Awakens, you know?

Max Gladstone: I suspect some of TFA’s joy came from merely seeing old friends again—the feeling that the saga had been rescued from the Prequels.

Simply seeing something that looks and feels like Star Wars, after all that, was a huge relief—at least to this nerd—even though TFA had its share of oddities. But Rogue One doesn’t get to cash in that check. (Even though I did like seeing a good old pair of macrobinoculars again.)

Amal El-Mohtar: RIGHT. And that’s actually a huge part of where my problems with Rogue One live—but I’ll get to that. I’ve only seen the film once, but here was my initial impression: it’s a beautiful film full of fantastic characters, none of whom are the protagonist, all of whom—can we get spoilery? Let’s get spoilery—die.

Max Gladstone: Yes! And in that regard I think it’s very close to—Amal, have you ever seen The Great Escape?

Amal El-Mohtar: I HAVE! I LOVE IT!

Max Gladstone: OKAY GOOD. I kept thinking about Rogue One in the context of The Great Escape. That same ensemble sense, lots of fantastic characters, chained together delightfully—and (huh, for some reason I’m worried about spoiling The Great Escape more than I am about spoiling Rogue One) all but three of them die.

Amal El-Mohtar: ….Holy shit I never realized that about The Great Escape. ALL BUT THREE?!

That can’t be right!

Max Gladstone: Something like that, yes! Discounting the Nazis.

Amal El-Mohtar: FUCK the Nazis.

Max Gladstone: Yes! FUCK those guys. Charles Bronson and his bro escape to Switzerland. Steve McQueen goes back in the cooler, but he wasn’t real, so he barely counts.

Amal El-Mohtar: Right, ok, to be fair Charles Bronson and his bro were like 90 percent of the film for me.

Max Gladstone: IIRC part of the reason The Great Escape was such a thing, is the Nazis killed almost everyone involved in it—violating the Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners of war.

(Watching the movie realizing that the Camp Kommandant, a member of the officer core and reluctant Nazi, no matter how contemptible he is, is essentially trying to protect his prisoners from the True Believer SS, adds a weird layer.)

(ANYWAY)

But this isn’t a song about The Great Escape, it’s a song about Rogue One.

Amal El-Mohtar: (I NEED TO REWATCH THIS FILM because yes all of this yes ugh goddammit I want to go back to the timeline where plots about Nazis are tired and boring instead of supremely relevant.)

Max Gladstone: (SAME. Though I’m relieved we have them. There’s something in Pratchett, IIRC, about the importance of telling stories about monsters, because the stories also tend to tell you monsters can be beaten.)

Amal El-Mohtar: (Haha I think that’s actually both Pratchett and Neil Gaiman misquoting G. K. Chesterton. )

(But an IMPORTANT SENTIMENT.)

(ANYWAY.)

(New title for column: ANYWAY.)

You were saying, about it and The Great Escape.

Max Gladstone: Oh! Just that The Great Escape does the same thing, yet feels like a fluid artistic whole. Anyway!

Amal El-Mohtar: OK so here is my main, entirely emotional problem with the film, which perhaps is not even a problem in a pragmatic march-of-progress sense, but still hurt my heart. Our protagonists are overwhelmingly men of colour with atypical masculinities. They’re so beautiful. I love them so much! Riz Ahmed’s tremulous, terrified pilot, Donnie Yen’s adorably wise-cracking almost-Jedi, Jiang Wen’s machine-gun-toting Rhymes-with-Blaze badass—they’re wonderful, I love them. Diego Luna keeps his accent! Chirrut & Baze are maybe gay? Bodhi Rook is SO SCARED ALL THE TIME but gets the job done over and over and over.

And they all die! No sooner are these characters introduced for me to love than they’re wiped out of future films?

In order to give “Hope” to CGI Carrie Fisher?

So that’s my emotional reaction—one of feeling cheated out of these characters I came to love and admire very quickly. Caveat, too, and I know this is in stark contrast to you Max: Star Wars is not part of my childhood. I never lived in this universe so a lot of the nostalgia-pings didn’t hit home for me. I was FREAKED OUT by CGI Peter Cushing, who reminded me of no one so much as Gollum.

Max Gladstone: Yes. I understand why the CGI representations were in this film, but oh my god did it wear. A great example of just how far the art has left to go.

Would it feel better for you if Leia wasn’t there at the end? (Let’s assume they had a better CGI Leia, for example.)

Amal El-Mohtar: I think it was the blandishment of “Hope” as much as anything else… I mean, the battle in the corridor right before that, with Vader being ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING, was great and intense, and charged full of OH CRAP COULD THEY DIE FOR NOTHING even though obviously they won’t because obviously the Death Star does get destroyed but not before Alderaan but still, ok.

But anyway. Emotionally, it was hard to see all these characters of colour with their unusual action-movie-men configurations just wiped off the board. Intellectually—I want to be on board with a project that shows how messy and costly warfare is, especially when we’re used to it represented in mythic terms as a Battle Between Light and Dark. Largely Bloodless. Planets Destroyed With No Actual People Cost Represented.

Max Gladstone: Right—so much of the working-out of the consequences of Alderaan’s destruction (PTSD for survivors, an Alderanian diaspora, etc) occurred in the old Star Wars EU, totally off screen. That’s one of many reasons I’m sad about the “death” of the EU—even though so much of the handwringing about it is just “It doesn’t exist anymore” when obviously, it does, the books are still there—there was a lot of good work there making the Star Wars films feel like they had consequences, and took place in a real galaxy. Ten years after RotJ, everyone’s still picking up the pieces of the Empire. Planets suffer ecological devastation. Imperial remnants fight guerilla war. It’s messy! Versus, like, on-screen, Leia is comforting Luke about Obi-Wan’s death about forty-five minutes after her homeworld’s blown up.

Amal El-Mohtar: RIGHT

(In what way is the EU “dead”? Are they just not making more of it?)

Max Gladstone: (Oh! Um. This is an ENORMOUS CAN OF STAR WORMS, so bear with me.)

(Basically, there’s the old EU, which covers… all the Dark Horse comics, my true love, most of the games, and all the novels post-Zahn, both from Bantam and Del Ray.)

(I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call that “several Mahabaratas worth of text.”)

(All of which was, within reason, consistent canon. As of Star Wars’s transfer of ownership to Disney, give or take a bit, a circle was drawn around all of that, and it was rechristened “Legends;” any future SW tie-ins would not need to be consistent with Legends continuity.)

(This allows them to make TFA, and tie-in novels to TFA, without worrying they might not be consistent with—just to use a particularly goofy example—Kevin J Anderson’s novel Darksaber from 1995.)

Amal El-Mohtar: Ahhhh! OK.

Max Gladstone: It’s a totally reasonable decision—but a lot of people were upset about the loss of canon. Which has always seemed weird to me. But then, I love Star Trek novels, and I always understood that Q Squared and The Final Reflection weren’t exactly canon in the way the series was.

Amal El-Mohtar: RIGHT, that makes perfect sense. (The THRILL I got when Riker said “Imzadi” to Troi in an episode after I’d read the book of same title! I have no idea what the actual chronology was there, but to me it was the show making manifest the books.)

ANYWAY—so, as a project, making a film about the doomed rebels without whom the Death Star couldn’t have been destroyed sounds awesome. Showing those rebels to be mostly POC hit me in a hard place, but is also I think important? And if it’s cough representative cough of how the casting for future films will go, that’s even better? But it’s still tricky for me to parse the good mourning from the bad, I think.

Max Gladstone: That makes total sense to me.

And the picking off of characters in increasing order of whiteness is not a great look, either.

Amal El-Mohtar: Yeah.

Max Gladstone: Personally, I went in expecting a movie that was self-contained—I hadn’t heard any discussion of multi-film deals for Jones or any of the cast, though I understand there were a few—and I was impressed that anyone greenlit a decision to have an entire cast die in a tentpole megafranchise picture. Remember all the legwork they went through to injure Rhodey in Captain America: Civil War! And I felt like, if the character arcs had started better, those deaths would feel like a well-earned completion of a story—which, again, is something we so rarely see in megafranchises. But I definitely see where you’re coming from.

Amal El-Mohtar: This is true! Man, what was even up with Felicity Jones not having a character until Act 3!

Max Gladstone: Hah! This is basically the subject of that whole big long piece I wrote. “How can we give Felicity Jones a character in the fewest moves possible.” Like a Go problem!

Amal El-Mohtar: I went in expecting the character from the trailers: angry, headstrong, anything but conciliatory. Instead we got… Nothing? A set of circumstances outlined in a few lines of dialogue delivered by other people? Basically up until she starts crying at the hologram of her father, she’s a blank slate.

Max Gladstone: Yes. Part of the reason I keep going to Steve McQueen, really, is that they want her to be the Steve McQueen character in The Great Escape.

This dogged individualist who doesn’t want to be part of the big collective resistance effort.

Amal El-Mohtar: (He was always my least favourite by the way.)

Max Gladstone: (He’s great, though! Not effective, but excellent. And you can’t argue with someone so iconic that he literally becomes the fashion plate for Captain America.)

(But yes.)

Amal El-Mohtar: (nose-wrinkling)

Max Gladstone: (Oh shit I didn’t catch they even used the same motorcycle!)

(ANYWAY.)

Amal El-Mohtar: MUTTER GRUMP

Max Gladstone: But yes! So you start out with Jyn wanting to go her own way, she gets to Saw’s cave, learns her father’s still alive, throws in with the Rebellion to break him out, fails, but realizes the Death Star plans are important. But the character we get is totally defined by the men in her life. So yeah. Frustrating!

Amal El-Mohtar: Speaking of Saw—what did you think of him? Or of the film’s approach to rebellions/radicals more generally?

Max Gladstone: I like the notion that there is a radical fringe of the Rebellion. That seems like something which would exist in “real life,” and it makes the Rebellion feel more like a lived organization.

Saw’s the guy who saw Palpatine take power, and when everyone else was like, “Let’s wait and see,” he grabbed his gun and headed for the bunker. Hell, maybe he was out there even earlier—like, in the Clone Wars, as soon as the Grand Army of the Republic turned things all fascist. So when the “orthodox” Rebellion starts forming, they learn their methods from him—but they can’t go where he wants to go.

I liked that about the film in general—its attempt to portray ranges of political and personal belief. Saw and Mon Mothma and Cassian and Bail Organa are all rebels, with very different visions of what that means; Baze and Chirrut have a running argument over the Force. Which reminds me a lot of the challenge Cornel West once made to the theology of Reinhold Neibhur: “But is your god real, Niebuhr? Really, really real?”

So that’s me. Where are you?

Amal El-Mohtar: I also really appreciated seeing the different approaches to rebellion, but appreciated less the film’s approach—I felt that Saw’s rebels were faceless goons incapable of communication, which made their visual coding as Middle Eastern kind of annoying, especially in the context of actual Imperial goons literally occupying the area in order to mine it for, you know, war-mongering fuel. Which doesn’t resemble any real-world geopolitics at all.

Max Gladstone: Hah. Yes. Of course.

Amal El-Mohtar: But that aside, seeing a fractured egalitarian Left and a unified authoritarian Right felt very true to life. I was a bit fascinated by Orson Krennic.

Max Gladstone: (I really like that take on it. I found myself going back and forth on the Middle Eastern coding—there’s the issue you raise, obviously, but it’s also interesting to see the audience’s sympathies 100 percent on the side of folks trying to prevent Imperial resource exploitation of their native land.)

(Like, I got the sense that Saw’s team were the ones who had their heads on straight and understood the stakes, while the Yavin rebels are still just kind of screwing around.)

Amal El-Mohtar: (I wanted that to be the case! But instead the first time we see of them, they’re being mean to Riz Ahmed! And being told that Saw is TOO RADICAL and none of the LEGIT rebels can go near him! And they’re also mean to Chirrut and Baze, who presumably are also native?)

(It would’ve been such an easy fix, too—just show their FACES. Let them have FEELINGS as well as guns.)

(Have them recognise these two awesome dudes just took down a squad of storm-troopers.)

(Maybe don’t introduce Saw via tentacle porn?)

Max Gladstone: (Yeah, that was weird.)

(For me, the Yavin Rebels fit into this weird space where they’re visibly not, like, enmeshed citizen rebels—they have access to a lot of capital, military-grade equipment, sovereign wealth etc.)

(They’re more like a Senate-sponsored covert anti-Palpatine organization.)

(Which, I get why Saw wouldn’t like them very much.)

(IIRC they arrest Chirrut and Baze since they’re with Cassian and Jyn, and Cassian just straight up shot one of their dudes?)

Amal El-Mohtar: (Oh, I missed that if so. I thought they were turning up after the action and were just arresting them coz they were not-them with weapons.)

Max Gladstone: (Cassian definitely shoots one of Saw’s rebels—for no reason as far as I can tell!)

(But yes.)

Amal El-Mohtar: So that’s the rebels—but what did you think of Krennic? And the baddies in general?

 Max Gladstone: Well, you keep asking what I think! Why don’t you go first!

Amal El-Mohtar: Ha! So KRENNIC. He’s a character who could’ve basically walked out of Blake’s 7, which is a British space opera television show from the 1970s and 80s quite keen on showing the woes of middle management in an Evil Galactic Empire. And I LOVED that? All he wants is for the emperor to love him and promote him and give him funding forever!

Max Gladstone: Yes!

Amal El-Mohtar: How DARE anyone try to take credit for HIS WORK (coercing smarter people into making doomsday weapons)!

Max Gladstone: And for his buddy Galen to just draw a salary so they can keep having wine tastings and presumably playing D&D at the local comic shop. “Look, man, you’re doing basic science. It will benefit the entire universe. Can you just, please, take the job?”

Amal El-Mohtar: AHAHA OMG YES!

Max Gladstone: I am here for the obvious backstory of Krennic, who probably was a Grand Army of the Republicfunctionary who joined the Party after the Order 66 Coup and saw no reason why his department couldn’t continue as before. He even has grant approval authority now!

Amal El-Mohtar: Also his CAPE kept making me LAUGH because it looks great from the front but is a MESS from the back, like some kind of hilarious cloth mullet.

Max Gladstone: Hahahaaha!

Amal El-Mohtar: It’s all cheap and see-through when glimpsed from above! Which, this is Star Wars, trust that someone is always glimpsing you from above.

So there was this one moment with Krennic though, which reminded me of—brace yourself Max you will NEVER GUESS what I am about to reference here—

—actually go on, guess,

Max Gladstone: Steven Universe?

Amal El-Mohtar: No the OTHER thing that I’m forever quoting ad nauseum in perhaps startling contexts.

Max Gladstone: Hamilton?

Amal El-Mohtar: …No the OTHER thing.

Max Gladstone: I’m bad at this game, apparently?

Amal El-Mohtar: NO you are EXCELLENT at this game, Max. The correct answer was Walter Benjamin.

Max Gladstone: Ah! Yes!

Amal El-Mohtar: The other two make WAY MORE SENSE PROBABLY.

But there’s a moment—shit, now I’m second-guessing whether it’s Krennic or Tarquin—when a bad dude looks down on the destruction of Jedha City and says “It’s quite beautiful,” or something like that.

Max Gladstone: Yes, I think it’s Krennic, they wouldn’t give that line to Goon!Tarkin

Amal El-Mohtar: And I just thought of the bit from Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” where he quotes Marinetti’s manifesto on Futurism and says of it: “This manifesto has the virtue of clarity,” and how “this is the situation of politics that fascism renders aesthetic.”

Here’s that bit from Marinetti: “War is beautiful because it establishes man’s dominion over the subjugated machinery by means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks. War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metalization of the human body. War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine guns. War is beautiful because it combines the gunfire, the cannonades, the cease-fire, the scents, and the stench of putrefaction into a symphony. War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation flights, the smoke spirals from burning villages, and many others.”

Max Gladstone: Yes! I think that’s a good connection. Also, there’s the implied contrast of Krennic’s character with that of Robert Oppenheimer.

Amal El-Mohtar: YES, right.

Max Gladstone: Which gets us off into a tangent about the importance of humanities education, etc.

Amal El-Mohtar: But you know, part of me was watching the film going—fuck, isn’t this beautiful, though? Isn’t everything about this being shot for maximum aesthetic pleasure? The scene with Jyn and Cassian, backlit by the second sun of the city’s destruction, hugging, silhouetted against the brightening light. Characters being scoured into martyrdom.

Max Gladstone: That’s an interesting response! “Beauty” isn’t really the term I’d use, though it’s certainly part of the term. Rudolph Otto’s conception of the holy is basically as the tremendous and fascinating mystery—it awes us and repels us with its scale, and yet we find ourselves drawn to it. And one thing I thought this film did very well, cinematically, is give the weight of that scale—and the insignificance of people next to it.

Amal El-Mohtar: I guess one could ask—is it ever ugly? The parts I see as ugly are where Vader’s butchering people in a corridor, or when Krennic kills the scientists.

Max Gladstone: I mean—yes? The ugliness lies in its clarity, in its purity. The Death Star is just too much of one thing.

Amal El-Mohtar: I guess the fact that it’s powered by the same stuff as Jedi light sabres is relevant here.

Max Gladstone: Yes!

It’s an enormousness that crosses over into enormity—and I think that intersects in really cool ways with the questions the film raises about destiny and god. It appears as a disruption or disorientation—even, and this I especially liked, disorienting with regard to our vivid image of the Death Star itself! Edwards and Greig Fraser did a great job of taking this very familiar brand symbol and constantly disturbing us with respect to it in the frame. The Death Star’s incomplete, its shadow immense. The Death Star rises in place of a sun. My favorite—The Death Star is upside down!

Amal El-Mohtar: Whaaaaaat!

Max Gladstone: Oh yeah! When it’s orbiting Jedah, the Death Star’s dish thing appears on its bottom half.

Amal El-Mohtar: I didn’t even notice!

Is that… A mistake?

Max Gladstone: Nope. It even makes sense! (If you were orbiting the planet, you’d want your dish pointed toward it.) But it’s so not the way we’re taught to see the Death Star. It unsettles, even if you don’t notice it consciously! Apropos of nothing, here’s a picture of Boba Fett in a dress, courtesy of Justin Bolger.

The Great Pit of Carkoon has been good to you, Ms. Fett. #StarWars #C2E2

A post shared by Justin Bolger (@theapexfan) on

Amal El-Mohtar: AMAZING!

I don’t know how to really continue after this magnificent illustration of your point, so maybe let’s conclude? Any final thoughts?

Max Gladstone: Conclusions are hard!

There were a lot of very interesting instincts here—and for my money, it gets closer to complexity than TFA did, at least. And for once we have a real sense of what religion looks like in the Star Wars universe! But it’s hampered by shoddy story work. Makes me wonder if franchises have hampered our storytelling instincts—we forget the trick of actually starting and finishing a story in two hours.

What about you?

Amal El-Mohtar: I was so delighted by how much loving friendship was on screen at any given moment. The relationship between Cassian and K-2SO, or between Chirrut and Baze (I am super on board for reading them as a romantic couple, but equally on board for reading them as deeply loving friends of long standing, because there’s a dearth of that kind of relationship for men on-screen that isn’t negotiated through access to women), or between Chirrut and Jyn, or between K-2SO and Jyn, eventually—that made me really happy. Even, and you touched on this, between Galen and Orson! Also I have insufficiently sung the praises of K-2SO, because he was perfect, and it’s the nature of these things that we talk less about the things that were perfect.

Max Gladstone: Yes to all of that!

Amal El-Mohtar: Overall, I think I agree with you that it was in many ways a more complex film than TFA, which is punching a lot of fandom’s nostalgia buttons with a view to granting satisfaction—while Rogue One is more messily trying to do something more textured, subtle, and thoughtful with its remit.

Max Gladstone: Yes. I hope this is an indicator of good things to come—of a developing universe with more texture, depth, and adventurous storytelling than we’ve seen from, say, the MCU so far. I also, though, hope the Star Wars team gets its baseline script competence up to MCU levels.

May the Force be with them!


Amal El–Mohtar has received the Locus Award, been a Nebula Award finalist for her short fiction, and won the Rhysling Award for poetry three times. She is the author of The Honey Month, a collection of poetry and prose written to the taste of twenty–eight different kinds of honey, and contributes criticism to NPR Books and the LA Times. Her fiction has most recently appeared in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Uncanny Magazine, and The Starlit Wood anthology from Saga Press. She lives in Ottawa with her spouse and two cats. Find her online at amalelmohtar.com, or on Twitter @tithenai.

Max Gladstone has been thrown from a horse in Mongolia and nominated (twice!) for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award. Tor Books published Last First Snow, the fourth novel in Max’s Craft Sequence (preceded by Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, and Full Fathom Five) in July 2015. Max’s game Choice of the Deathless was nominated for the XYZZY Award, and his short stories have appeared on Tor.com and in Uncanny Magazine.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 15 Cover and Table of Contents!

Coming March 7, THE FIFTEENTH ISSUE OF 2016 HUGO AWARD-WINNING UNCANNY MAGAZINE!!!

All of the content will be available in the eBook version on the day of release.

The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on April 4.

Don’t forget eBook Subscriptions to Uncanny Magazine are available from Weightless Books and Amazon Kindle, and you can support us on our Patreon!

 

Cover
Julie Dillon- “Submerged City”

Editorial
The Uncanny Valley (3/7)

Fiction
Beth Cato- “With Cardamom I’ll Bind Their Lips” (3/7)
Stephen Graham Jones- “Rising Star” (3/7)
JY Yang- “Auspicium Melioris Aevi” (3/7)

Sarah Pinsker- And Then There Were (N – One) (4/4)
S. Qiouyi Lu- An Abundance of Fish (4/4)

Reprint
Kameron Hurley- “The Red Secretary” (4/4)

Nonfiction
Sam J. Miller- “Resistance 101: Basics of Community Organizing for SF/F Creators & Consumers, Volume One: Protest Tips and Tricks” (3/7)
Elsa Sjunneson-Henry- “Act Up, Rise Up” (3/7)

Shveta Thakrar- “#beautifulresistance” (4/4)
Dawn Xiana Moon- “A Work of Art Is a Refuge and Resistance” (4/4)
Paul Booth – “Fandom in the Classroom” (4/4)

Poetry
Cassandra Khaw- “Protestations Against the Idea of Anglicization” (3/7)
Brandon O’Brien- “time, and time again” (3/7)

Bogi Takács- “The Size of a Barleycorn, Encased in Lead” (4/4)
Lisa M. Bradley- “The Axolotl Inquest” (4/4)

Interviews
Stephen Graham Jones by Julia Rios (3/7)

Sarah Pinsker by Julia Rios (4/4)

Podcast 15A (3/7)
Story- Beth Cato- “With Cardamom I’ll Bind Their Lips” (As read by Erika Ensign)
Poem- Cassandra Khaw- “Protestations Against the Idea of Anglicization” (As read by Amal El-Mohtar)
Interview- Beth Cato by Julia Rios

Podcast 15B (4/4)
Story- JY Yang- “Auspicium Melioris Aevi” (As read by Amal El-Mohtar)
Poem- Lisa M. Bradley- “The Axolotl Inquest” (As read by Erika Ensign)
Interview- JY Yang by Julia Rios

Two Uncanny Magazine Stories are Nebula Award Finalists!

Outstanding news, Space Unicorns! Two Uncanny Magazine stories are finalists for the prestigious Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America! “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander is a finalist for Best Short Story, and “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong is a finalist for Best Novelette! As you may recall, these were the top two stories in our 2016 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll! Also, “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar from the Saga Press anthology The Starlit Wood (edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe), which we reprinted in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for Best Short Story! Congratulations Brooke, Alyssa, and Amal!

These are the first stories ever from Uncanny Magazine to become Nebula Award finalists, and we couldn’t be more excited! It is an amazing list of finalists, many of whom are Uncanny authors and friends. CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYBODY!!!

From the SFWA Nebula Award announcement:

Voting will begin on the final ballot for all Active, Active Family, and Lifetime Active members on March 1st, 2017. The awards will be presented during the annual Nebula Conference, which will run from May 18th-21st and feature seminars and panel discussions on the craft and business of writing, SFWA’s annual business meeting, and receptions. On May 19th, a mass autograph session, open to the public, will take place at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center.

Uncanny Magazine 2016 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll Results!

Space Unicorns! It is time to announce the TOP STORY in our Uncanny Magazine 2016 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll!
It is…. *drumroll*
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander!!!
Congratulations, Brooke! Brooke will be receiving a SNAZZY CERTIFICATE!
The rest of the Top Five are:
4- “The Green Knight’s Wife” by Kat Howard
5- “The Sound of Salt and Sea” by Kat Howard
Congratulations to Alyssa, Lily, and Kat!
Thank you to everybody who voted!
Don’t forget if you’re nominating for the Nebula or Hugo Awards, we have a list of all of our eligible stories here.

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!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 14 Cover and Table of Contents!

Coming January 3, THE FOURTEENTH ISSUE OF 2016 HUGO AWARD-WINNING UNCANNY MAGAZINE!!!

All of the content will be available in the eBook version on the day of release.

The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on February 7.

Don’t forget eBook Subscriptions to Uncanny Magazine are available from Weightless Books and Amazon Kindle, and you can support us on our Patreon!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 14 Table of Contents

Cover
John Picacio- “El Arpa”

Editorial
The Uncanny Valley

Fiction
Sam J. Miller- “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood” (1/3)
A. Merc Rustad- “Monster Girls Don’t Cry” (1/3)
Cassandra Khaw- “Goddess, Worm” (1/3)

Maria Dahvana Headley- “The Thule Stowaway” (2/7)
Theodora Goss- “To Budapest, with Love” (2/7)
Tansy Rayner Roberts- “Some Cupids Kill With Arrows” (2/7)

Reprint
Ann Leckie- “The Unknown God” (2/7)

Nonfiction
Mark Oshiro- Inferior Beasts (1/3)
Natalie Luhrs- “Why You Should Read Romance” (1/3)

Delilah S. Dawson- “I Have Never Not Been an Object” (2/7)
Angel Cruz- “Blood of the Revolution: On Filipina Writers and Aswang” (2/7)

Poetry
Carlos Hernandez- “In Lieu of the Stories My Santera Abuela Should Have Told Me Herself, This Poem” (1/3)
Nin Harris- “Jean-Luc, Future Ghost” (1/3)

Nicasio Andres Reed- “Except Thou Bless Me” (2/7)

Interviews
A. Merc Rustad by Julia Rios (1/3)

Maria Dahvana Headley by Julia Rios (2/7)

Podcast 14A (1/3)
Story- Sam J. Miller- “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood” (As read by Erika Ensign)
Poem- Carlos Hernandez- “In Lieu of the Stories My Santera Abuela Should Have Told Me Herself, This Poem” (As read by Amal El-Mohtar)
Interview- Sam J. Miller by Julia Rios

Podcast 14B (2/7)
Story- Theodora Goss- “To Budapest, with Love” (As read by Amal El-Mohtar)
Story- Tansy Rayner Roberts- “Some Cupids Kill With Arrows” (As read by Erika Ensign)
Poem- Nicasio Andres Reed- “Except Thou Bless Me” (As read by Erika Ensign)
Interview- Theodora Goss by Julia Rios

The Saga of 2016 Guest Post by Navah Wolfe and Joe Monti

(Guest Post!)

Hi, we’re Navah Wolfe and Joe Monti, the editors of Simon & Schuster’s SF/F imprint Saga Press. 2016 has not been the best year for many reasons, but it has been a great publishing year at Saga Press. It’s only our second full year, but it was filled with fantastic book releases, starred reviews, and even award nominations. We couldn’t be more pleased.

As you probably know, Saga Press has been the sponsor of Uncanny Magazine Issue 13. As part of our sponsorship, the Uncanny editors asked us if we would like to write a blog post highlighting some of our favorite Saga works from 2016. This was an extremely hard post to write since we loved everything we released this year (THEY’RE ALL OUR BABIES) So, we each limited ourselves to four 2016 titles that we edited and love– and think Uncanny readers would love, too.

A Quartet from Navah

Borderline by Mishell Baker
If you haven’t yet encountered Borderline, here’s the elevator pitch: Men in Black, but with fairies. And here’s the slightly longer pitch: Millie gets recruited for a top-secret organization that brokers deals and visas between Hollywood and Fairyland. And here’s the longer pitch: Millie is double amputee with Borderline Personality Disorder, and one of the best voices you’ll read this year.

I fell for Millie and Borderline—and fell hard—from the opening line: “It was a mid-morning on a Monday when magic walked into my life wearing a beige Ann Taylor suit and sensible flats.” This is one of the books I’m proudest of publishing—a kickass, awesomely enjoyable urban fantasy that never lets up—starring a disabled, mentally ill bisexual protagonist. A book with an incredibly diverse cast that’s not an issues book, but lets its characters engage with the world and be people in it, instead of examples—and lets them have fun with it. In fact, Seanan McGuire said, “This book is so damn much fun, it hurts.”

Mishell is an incredibly talented writer who, with Borderline, has given us what Publishers Weekly called in a starred review, “One of the most purely respectful portrayals of people with disabilities that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading…an excellent launch to a very promising urban fantasy series.” And I can’t wait for you all to read the sequel, Phantom Pains, coming in March 2017!

 A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S. Durbin
As planes darken the sky and cities burn in the ravages of war, a boy is sent away to the safety of an idyllic fishing village far from the front to stay with the grandmother he does not know. But their tranquility is shattered by the crash of a bullet-riddled enemy plane that brings the war—and someone else—to their doorstep. Grandmother’s mysterious friend, Mr. Girandole, who is far more than he seems, has appeared out of the night to ask Grandmother for help in doing the unthinkable. Hidden within the forest near Grandmother’s cottage lies a long-abandoned magical garden of fantastic statues and a riddle that has lain unsolved for centuries—a riddle that contains the only solution to their impossible problem. To solve it will require courage, sacrifice, and friendship with the most unlikely allies.

The first time I read Frederic S. Durbin’s gorgeous novel A Green and Ancient Light, I immediately knew that this was a special book. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d read something that so deeply transported me to another time and place, and even in the dead of winter brought me instantly into the endless idyll of summer childhood. A gorgeous, bittersweet fantasy in the spirit of Peter S. Beagle, classic Miyazaki films, and Pan’s Labyrinth, this book is both achingly familiar and wondrously strange. It feels classic and timeless in the way of a dreamy summertime afternoon, and yet fresh and lovely. It’s a quiet, beautiful book that will linger in your heart and mind long after you finish it, like a haunting melody. But you don’t have to take my word for it! Chicago Review of Books called it “Not unlike reading your first beloved book as a child…Durbin’s tale of childhood, family, truth, and bravery certainly captured a piece of [my heart].”

Simply put, A Green and Ancient Light is made of the same kind of magic as the books that live inside my heart and made me fall in love with fantasy.

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe
This had to be on my list, of course. I’ve been a novel editor for years, but The Starlit Wood was my first foray into editing short fiction—and it’s been pretty much a dream come true. This book was my love letter to fairy tales, and an homage to the fairy tale retelling anthologies edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow that I grew up reading and loving, the books that inspired me to become an editor. We worked with some of the most exciting voices in genre today: Naomi Novik, Seanan McGuire, Garth Nix, Daryl Gregory, Amal El-Mohtar, Genevieve Valentine, Aliette de Bodard, and more. And I’ve been lucky enough to co-edit this book with Dominik Parisien. I couldn’t ask for a better editorial partner and friend.

We challenged our writers to explore their stories in unusual settings, and to come at their retellings from unexpected angles, and they delivered. The result is a seriously diverse anthology with everything from science fiction, western, and post-apocalyptic stories, to traditional fantasy and contemporary horror. We also encouraged the retelling of lesser-known and non-Western fairy tales alongside the traditional Western ones, making for a really unique experience where the familiar and the unfamiliar co-exist.

We are thrilled by the response so far. Not only have the reviews been marvelous, three of the stories were chosen for the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eleven (edited by Jonathan Strahan): the novelette “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik and the short stories “Even the Crumbs Were Delicious” by Daryl Gregory and “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar. Naomi’s and Amal’s stories are also in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2017 (edited by Paula Guran)!

And in addition to all the wonderful stories, the book itself is a thing of beauty. Published in a gorgeous paper over board format with incredible illustrations by Stella Björg, it’s the beautiful book I always dreamed it would be. Start to finish, I couldn’t be prouder of The Starlit Wood.

The Mountain of Kept Memory by Rachel Neumeier
Oressa Madalin, princess of Carastind, has carefully cultivated the skill of being unnoticed—and getting into places she isn’t allowed. She’s the princess that everyone overlooks—but she’s always watching, gathering information. And she’s going to need it, because Carastind is on the brink of war, and it will be up to Oressa to stand between her country and a dire menace that threatens not just everything she holds dear—but the fate of the world.

Sometimes you read a book and instantly know that you’d love to work with the writer. I read Rachel Neumeier’s The City in the Lake years ago, and fell in love with Rachel’s gorgeous prose, cutting, heartbreaking characters, and deep, complex worldbuilding. She writes books that remind me of beloved formative writers like Robin McKinley, Patricia McKillip, and Guy Gavriel Kay. So, when we started Saga Press, I reached out to her agent, hoping against hope that Rachel might have a book for me.

The Mountain of Kept Memory is that book, and it’s everything I dreamed of. The worldbuilding is fascinating and intricate, the characters have firmly lodged themselves in my heart and will not be budged, and the romance—oh, the romance! I didn’t know until I read it how much I had been longing for a slow burn romance built on mutual respect and competence.

If you’re a longtime Rachel Neumeier fan, you already know the delights that await you in The Mountain of Kept Memory, and if you’re not—you will be once you read this book.

A Quartet from Joe

My first pick will be, in publication order of 2016, The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu.
There are few examples to point alongside of the accomplishment of Ken Liu’s early career as a short story writer and the acclaim he has achieved. You have to go back to right after World War Two to find writers who had his output — over 100 stories! – and award recognition. Ken’s titular story “The Paper Menagerie” is the only short story trifecta winner of The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. In my biased but sincere opinion, these fifteen stories collected here stand up with the greatest story collections in all of American literature.

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Iconic editor Terri Windling and the Endicott Studio stable of virtual salon patrons support what they term mythic fiction, works that incorporate fairy tales, myths, legends, and the numinous. Navah and I both love this kind of fiction — witness her co-edited (with Dominik Parsien) anthology The Starlit Wood. — so, it is a great joy to work with a writer like Kat Howard as she weaves a mythic debut novel in that tradition. Kat created a Tam Lin reimagining that is both completely refreshing and modern. It ranks up there with The Wizard of Pigeons by Robin Hobb and Stardust by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess.

What The #@&% Is That?: The Saga Anthology of the Monstrous and Macabre edited by Douglas Cohen and John Joseph Adams
What started as an internet meme has become one of the great anthologies of supernatural suspense you will ever find. But I do have a few favorite here from Douglas & John’s selections beginning with Isabel Yap’s story “Only Unclench Your Hand.” This should be on a few award lists next year. “Whose Drowned Face Sleeps” by An Owomoyela and Rachel Swirsky has a distinct style and defines haunting, while Scott Sigler’s “Those Gaddam Cookies” made me laugh one way, while Maria Dahvana Headley’s “Little Widow” about three young ex-cult members growing into their vengeance made me laugh in another. (Don’t judge, it’s all good.) And the cleverly constructed “#connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere” by Seanan McGuire is the creepiest story in the book for me. It’s written as a live set of tweets as amateur ghost hunters get in over their heads, and the immediacy of it really strikes a chord.

Gloriana: or The Unfulfill’d Queen by Michael Moorcock
I grew up reading Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion books, especially the Elric and Corum novels, which were perfect for my male adolescent angst. But it was Moorcock’s Guest of Honor appearance at a Readercon in 2000 that convinced me read him as an adult. I then saw his range displayed in the Byzantium novels, his short stories that knock down sacred cows and challenge my perceptions in ways that the best of world literature does, and in his novel masterpiece, Mother London. Then there’s what was to be Moorcock’s last fantasy novel, Gloriana, published in 1978. It was hailed, won the World Fantasy Award for best novel, but was also justly criticized for its near-final chapter.

I’ve had the great pleasure to reissue the author’s revised and preferred text which fixes that problem chapter, based upon the Gollancz Masterwork edition. This is Moorcock’s English epic fantasy built on the foundation of Mervyn Peake vs Tolkien, and Moorcock’s New Wave DNA is evident.

 

Navah Wolfe is an editor at Saga Press, Simon & Schuster’s science fiction and fantasy imprint, where she has edited critically–acclaimed novels such as Borderline by Mishell Baker, Persona by Genevieve Valentine, The Mountain of Kept Memory by Rachel Neumeier, and A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S. Durbin. She is also the co–editor, along with Dominik Parisien, of The Starlit Wood, an anthology of cross–genre fairy tale retellings, released in October 2016 from Saga Press. She was previously an editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, where she worked on many bestselling books, including some that have won awards such as the Printz Honor, the Pura Belpré Award, the Pen/Faulkner Award, the Stonewall Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Schneider Family Award. She has previously worked as a bookseller, a rock climbing wall manager, and a veterinary intern at a zoo. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two tiny humans, and one editorial cat. She can be found online at sagapress.com and on Twitter as @navahw.

Joe Monti has worn many hats in the book biz from bookseller, buyer, sales, agent, and editor. He is the editorial director of Saga Press. His authors have won the National Book Award, the Hugo award, the Nebula award, the World fantasy award, a Michael L. Printz award, and have been New York Times bestsellers. You can find him on Twitter @joemts.