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Max and Amal Go to the Movies! The Girl With All the Gifts

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

Amal El-Mohtar: TO THE MOVIES!

Max Gladstone: The Girl with All the Gifts!

She has so many gifts—

You guys—

Much Pandora, many things in boxes!

Amal El-Mohtar: Get ALL the Gifts!

Max Gladstone: Perhaps we should set the stage for the movie a little? Because this is one I imagine many people in our audience (hi, audience) haven’t seen?

Amal El-Mohtar: So, Max, before we began this column in earnest we totally had a list of movies we wanted to cover. You made a list, I made a list, we compared our lists, we had a system.

Max Gladstone: We had, at least, something adjacent to a system.

Amal El-Mohtar: It was a good almost-system! So good that I feel almost-bad for abandoning it nigh completely in favour of talking about whatever interesting movie we’ve both recently seen.

In this case: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

Which we watched largely because you were visiting me and my husband insisted it was amazing.

Max Gladstone: Ssh, we don’t want to reveal our Highly Scientific Selection Process.

Amal El-Mohtar: OH, you’re right, I will totally edit that part out.

Max Gladstone: Which totally isn’t “We are trapped in a satellite and Pearl keeps sending us movies.”

Amal El-Mohtar: MAX NO!

Max Gladstone: Aaaand now I’m recasting MST3K with Steven Universe characters.

We must stop this or else there will be no column.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

Amal El-Mohtar: (Would Pearl even send us this movie? Oh man—actually, this is surely the quintessential Gem Horror Film. SUCH ORGANIC.)

Max Gladstone: (I recently as in just this morning read a really interesting Strange Horizons review of SU that pointed out that strawberries grow in sandy ground, like the kind of ground you’d get after you crushed and shattered a lot of gems.)

Amal El-Mohtar: (WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!)

Max Gladstone: (I thought it was just a Beatles reference!)

(ANYWAY.)

Amal El-Mohtar: ANYWAY.

YES.

So this film is based on the book by M. R. Carey.

Max Gladstone; Film! Book! Carey!

MR not Jacqueline!

Amal El-Mohtar; I refuse to take the bait for that OBVIOUS DIGRESSION.

Max Gladstone: Bait? Who’s bait? Oh look a chocolate! *gets chocolate* *is trapped under box*

Amal El-Mohtar: When the book came out, everyone seemed to be talking about it but also not talking about it?

So I knew that there was a SHOCKING TWIST, and also that there was something to do with zombies.

Max Gladstone: Yes.

This is what I also knew about this book.

In fact, that kind of turned me off the entire project of the book?

Amal El-Mohtar: SAME! Because I HATE ZOMBIES.

Max Gladstone: For me it was that I hate twists.

Or, rather, I have a chip on my shoulder about stories you can’t talk about without talking about the twist

So it was really weird, and blessedly cool, to see this movie blow past the twist in the first five minutes.

Amal El-Mohtar: Ha! I sympathise with that at the same time that I actually kind of love twists when they aren’t over-hyped OR being ruined for me in advance, which I concede is sort of contradictory, but here we are.

And yes!!

So, full disclosure, we are obviously going to spoil the heck out of both book and film because, you know, Big Twist in First Five Minutes.

Max Gladstone: Well, so, here’s the thing about twists.

A good twist does not prevent you from describing the movie to a prospective viewer.

The Usual Suspects is a heist story told by crook Kevin Spacey to the police in the aftermath of the heist’s utter failure, about how all his friends got killed by this arch-criminal. You can even stop before the comma of that sentence and it sounds like a compelling flick.

Similarly, “Bruce Willis is a psychiatrist who, after his own near-death experience, tries to help out this kid who believes in ghosts” sounds like a movie I’d go see.

ANYWAY.

But yes! Spoiling the heck out of the movie.

Let’s maybe scroll down some spoiler space?

Amal El-Mohtar: Oh that’s a really good point.

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By that token, Melanie is a brilliant child being kept prisoner with other children in a military facility. She’s in love with her teacher, Miss Justineau, and consistently cheerful in the face of having guns pointed at her while soldiers strap her into a wheelchair to take her to and from her classes. Every now and then Dr. Caldwell comes by and comments on her “exquisite mimicry.” This is all Profoundly Uncool. How could anyone treat these sweet children in this terrible way?

The answer is:

BECAUSE THEY ARE ZOMBIES!

Sort of.

Max Gladstone: nom nom nom

So, in the film, this reveal happens maybe five minutes in. Which is great, because it’s a necessary element of scene-setting. It’s either the end of the first act or the middle of the first act depending on how you want to run the act breaks for this film. We know, all of a sudden, most of the stakes and context behind our central characters’ relationships as they understand them—though that will be broken open over the course of the movie, because many of the characters are lying to one another, or mistaken, or incompletely representing themselves.

Amal El-Mohtar: Yes! Everything about the setup and the reveal are wonderfully, economically done. We start by wondering why on earth these poor children are being called “friggin’ abortions” by aggressive awful guards, with Miss Justineau’s tearful affection towards them being our natural representative—and then there’s the revelation that, if they get a whiff of human effluvia, their jaws distend and they become these teeth-clacking horrifying creatures lusting for your flesh.

And what’s brilliant about it is that Miss Justineau knows this, but maintains her sympathy, while the guards know this and don’t.

And that’s a fantastically subtle piece of storytelling: showing you two equally true facts and two equally plausible positions on the subject.

Max Gladstone: Right. And perspective is hugely important here.

Miss J. has a limited perspective on her charges in one way, because she doesn’t tend to see them (or other zombies) being clacky chomping death monsters, while the guards do. On the other hand, the guards never see zombies as people, even limited-edition conscious zombies like Melanie.

Amal El-Mohtar: LIMITED-EDITION ZOMS!

AAHHHH!

Max Gladstone: They’re both wrong—and they both become deeply uncomfortable when presented with the limits of the boxes into which they’ve put the kids. Miss J sees them as children, which they aren’t—quite—at least not the way she thinks of children… and the guards see them as zoms, which, again, they aren’t. Quite.

Amal El-Mohtar: I am super restraining myself from jumping in immediately with my reading of this as a decolonial text about the limits and uses of respectability.

Max Gladstone: Why wait?

Amal El-Mohtar: No, no, I just think that there’s a ton of REALLY FASCINATING things to talk about besides that. Like Glenn Close’s role!

Max Gladstone: Right! Excellent! Glenn Close, as Dr. Caldwell, Avatar of Science.

Amal El-Mohtar: Can you think of another instance of that role—the hardcore pragmatic scientist for whom the ends justify the means—being played by a woman? Because I can’t!

Max Gladstone: Hm, I’m trying to! I feel like I’ve seen it done before but I can’t think of a specific role. Maybe Sigourney Weaver in Avatar, but that’s not really the same kind of role.

So, we have Glenn Close Dr, Caldwell, who really, really wants to eat your brain—I mean study! Study your brain!

Amal El-Mohtar: HA!

Oh man I hadn’t even thought of that comparison!

That the only character in this movie who is SUPER INTO BRAINS is the doctor trying to cure zombie-ness!

Max Gladstone: I think that’s a big part of why it works!

Over the course of the film we’re forced to slowly accept Melanie’s zombie-ness—she’s not human. She’s like human in many respects, she’s deserving of compassion as are all sentient beings, but she is very different. But at the same time we see that all the humans, especially Caldwell, have their own sort of insuperable automatic behaviors.

Paddy Considine’s Sgt. Parks, our resident Man of Action, at the film’s more-or-less exact midpoint, says something like, when your life’s on the line, you never know what you can do, what you’re going to do, until it’s done.

Amal El-Mohtar: OH MAN that is such a good point that I absolutely at no point thought of during the film and this is making me (almost) want to watch it again!

Max Gladstone: By what right are we supposed to think that the downfall of humanity is bad? Well, zombies are all automatic behavior—they have no will, no personality, just chompings. Dr. Caldwell’s stated position is that Melanie and the other limited edition zoms are pre-zombies—creatures that exhibit human behavior without sentience.

But again and again we see humans exhibit pre-sentient, conditioned, automatic behavior. To the extent that, in the film’s climax, when Caldwell has sedated Melanie and wants to operate on her, she’s staggering around and moaning just like a zombie, and she literally wants to eat Melanie’s brain to survive.

Well, okay, “use” and “titrate” instead of “eat” but you see where I’m going with this.

Amal El-Mohtar: I DO.

I DO SEE.

Max Gladstone: So there’s a strong Buddhist read here as well.

Amal El-Mohtar: Haha the only Buddhist thing I am seeing here is “the world is on fire.

So please tell me more.

Max Gladstone: Hahahah

IT IS THOUGH.

Well, without getting too far into it, and recognizing that there are lots of different traditions and ways around Buddhism, the questions of “liberation” and “wakefulness” are at the heart of a lot of Buddhist teaching. So, the goal is to be liberated from suffering. But why are you suffering? Because of clinging—not only to specific sights, sounds, emotions, but to the consciousness that underpins them—the notion that these thoughts and experiences are in some sort of absolute and context-independent way.

So one part of liberating practice is meditating on the codependent origination of phenomena—you figure out where things came from, and discover they’re not essential substances at all. Including, and this is the tricky thing, thought.

Amal El-Mohtar: This sounds an awful lot like turning into a tree.

Max Gladstone: Hahaha yes!

A lot of our thoughts, if we ask ourselves why we’re thinking them, end up being sort of reflexive—we have them because we’ve been conditioned to have them.

Which raises the question: why are we acting or thinking this way? Often it’s not actually because we want to, or because we’ve given the matter any thought—it’s because we’re responding automatically to stimuli. We’re preconditioned by our history and surroundings, including culture, upbringing, systemic racism, our own view of our history, etc. We’re thinking in the way context has made us think. If we trace the causes of our mental formations, we gain a little bit of metacognitive perspective—enough, perhaps, to free us from unquestioned allegiance to our environment, and the cycle of perpetual suffering where people keep hurting each other forever.

So I see that playing into the question of automatic behavior and the existence of free will (and the relevance of consciousness) in this film.

Make sense?

Amal El-Mohtar: It makes total sense! I am persuaded! And that COULD dovetail neatly into my view of this as decolonial—which is likewise a process of questioning received defaults that have shaped us, uprooting and responding to them.

Max Gladstone: ++

Decolonialism is wicked Buddhist, I think. Or at least the approaches have a great deal in common.

Amal El-Mohtar: But I want to talk about fast zombies first.

Max Gladstone: ZOOMBIES.

Amal El-Mohtar: So, broadly speaking, I hate fast zombies. I feel like it’s cheating.

But.

Touching on what you point out about the ways in which the film shows us humans behaving in zombie-like ways? The zombies’ speed makes it extremely difficult for us to tell who’s a hungry and who’s not.

Max Gladstone: TRUE.

Amal El-Mohtar: That speed is also super effectively contrasted with the zombies’ behaviour of congregating in groups and standing utterly still in order for the fungal infection to achieve the second part of its lifecycle: LITERALLY TURNING THEM INTO TREES.

This film isn’t using fast zombies as a cheap scare tactic—it’s using speed very, very deliberately to position them as human in motion and alien in stillness.

Max Gladstone: Oh, wow, yes! Which then effectively transforms the natural environment around our human (or near-human) protagonists into a threat.

Amal El-Mohtar: (I only just noticed the pun in ZOOMbies by the way.)

(Because I am not fast like a zombie.)

Max Gladstone: (It sneaks up on ya.)

(Not entirely unlike)

(A ninja.)

Amal El-Mohtar: I have just vacillated between whether to respond to that with a facepalming gif, a Max No, or silent ellipses.

I chose none and all of them.

Not entirely unlike

YOUR PROTAGONIST Melanie, beautifully portrayed by Sennia Nenua!

Max Gladstone: She’s SO GOOD.

Amal El-Mohtar: She’s so amazing it’s hard to even talk about how amazing she is. This girl is what, maybe 13?

Max Gladstone: She’s so, so very sharp.

Amal El-Mohtar: And she absolutely holds her own against GLENN CLOSE.

Their scenes together were some of the most scintillating in the film. Melanie is so loving and careful and smart, and it comes across so profoundly that all she wants is to learn, all she wants is for these adults to teach her about who she is and how to be in the world, but all they can teach her is to hate herself and hate her hunger and wear a LITERAL MASK TO PROTECT THEM FROM HER and ok I can restrain the decolonialism no longer here we go.

Max Gladstone: Woooooo! Go!

Amal El-Mohtar: I was absolutely shocked at the film’s ending. I thought it was the most radical thing I’ve seen on a screen in a long time. But I’ve had some difficulty articulating its nuances to myself.

I guess the thing to say at the outset is that the film is not a 1for1 analogue, and that’s a feature, not a bug (as it were). Obviously this fungus is literally colonizing humanity, and humanity is fighting back—BUT LOSES. How could that be about resisting colonialism, you might justly ask? How does that not simply position a young black girl as somehow INVADING WHITENESS and playing into the rankest bullshit of white supremacist narratives?

Well! Because it lulls a hegemonic audience into an ironic sense of security, given that this is a horror film.

Max Gladstone: *chinhands*

Amal El-Mohtar: You think you know, heading into this movie, what you’re rooting for. You think you’re rooting for Tolerance and Understanding via Miss Justineau. You think you’re rooting for a cure that will eradicate difference and eliminate Melanie’s hunger via Dr. Caldwell.

Max Gladstone: Hm, interesting. Not certain I’m with you there, but, please continue!

Amal El-Mohtar: And you think that, consequently, you’re rooting for Melanie—that rooting for these things is rooting for Melanie.

Max Gladstone: *nod*

Amal El-Mohtar: But the ending strips that way. You’re not rooting for Melanie—you’re rooting for part of Melanie, the part that is sweet and smart and like you, the part that loves listening to your stories, the part that works hard to protect you from the parts of her that threaten you.

And what Melanie says, by putting the match to the seed pods, is that you’ve not been rooting for her at all.

Unless you literally turn into a tree.

Then you’re rooting for her just fine.

(I’m sorry.)

Max Gladstone:

Ow.

Amal El-Mohtar: OK I welcome you to chime in here as I further gather my thoughts about the ending. What was the part you disagreed with?

Max Gladstone: Mostly the sequence you present!

Let me see.

I don’t have an undergirding theory here, but, we’re not on Justineau’s side at first. We start off with Melanie—we’re rooting for her, against this screwed up system, against the soldiers, against the teachers. We do like Miss Justineau when she shows up, but that’s because (1) the movie plays a trick on us by having her come in to relieve the jerk teacher, so she’s not immediately and intuitively associated with the soldiers and authority, and (2) Melanie likes her.

The film gets a lot of its power by testing the affection we form for Melanie in those first few minutes. Do you still like her now? How about now? How about now?

And because it’s well-balanced and effective, the answer is yes. It has to work a lot harder to encourage empathy with the humans, who, at rock bottom, fear her and want to imprison Melanie (though in Miss J’s case, she commits actual armed rebellion to try to save Melanie, so that’s a thing. Even though she doesn’t seem to have a plan.)

Amal El-Mohtar: Oh, absolutely! I may have skipped a few steps, but that’s totally in line with what I mean—a big part of why we have affection for Melanie is because she’s SO exceptional and SO polite and SO remarkable, even in the face of all this violence exerted against her.

Max Gladstone: Hm, interesting. Again, I’m not sure that’s so?

We have affection for this kid who’s looking at her cat photos and counting to herself…

That I don’t think is conditioned on her performing niceness…

Amal El-Mohtar: You don’t think an audience’s relationship with Melanie would be different if she was shown to be sullen and furious and fighty at the outset? Instead of sunny and sweet?

I think the enormous contrast between the guns pointed in her face and her very genuine warmth is a huge part of the effect.

Max Gladstone: She would be a different character, certainly, and the effect would be different, but I don’t think it would be particularly difficult to get the audience to empathize with her

If anything, I think her niceness marks her as a bit uncanny in the opening scenes.

Especially given what’s going on around her.

Amal El-Mohtar: I agree that it’s uncanny—I spent a portion of that first act trying to figure out how much of it was genuine—but let me put it this way: it felt extremely familiar to me as a tactic for moving through a hostile world, of working extremely hard to be beyond reproach in even the most extreme and provoking of situations in order to protect oneself from attack.

Max Gladstone: Sure.

Amal El-Mohtar: And I felt that was a deliberate storytelling choice—that the dynamic would be different otherwise. And obviously I’m not saying it would have been impossible to empathize with her! Only that it would be a different dynamic, and I’m fascinated by how the story chose this dynamic.

Max Gladstone: Okay, I can see that. I got the impression you thought our ability to empathize with Melanie at all was contingent on her presenting in this way; it doesn’t seem to me that this is a necessary precondition of empathy. And that the film positions her niceness as being uncanny itself—which I think supports your point in a way.

Amal El-Mohtar: No no, not contingent—but connected! And yes, I think so too. This is an uncanny response to an uncanny situation.

This is also what I mean by it not being a 1for1 analogue: I definitely see a parable about respectability in the way Melanie’s positioned, but that’s not ALL I see.

But it maps on so effectively on to elements of my own experience, I can’t help but foreground those. To grow up speaking more than one language and learning which is valued in which context; to feel that you’re expected to hide parts of yourself until those parts are useful to others; even the scene where Melanie’s communicating with the feral children, seamlessly switching from speaking to them in their language and to the adults in theirs, is uncomfortably tidy.

In its associations, I mean.

Obviously the scene itself is very… Messy.

Max Gladstone: *nod* Yeah, that make sense! How does that feel, seeing it portrayed in this way  this context and on screen?

Amal El-Mohtar: It feels INCREDIBLE.

It feels—heh.

I am probably extrapolating here.

Perhaps too much.

But you know what the camera does whenever Melanie gets to eat?

It’s a little like that.

But less murdery.

Max Gladstone: Hahaha!

Don’t eat the cat!

Amal El-Mohtar: OMFG STU IS ALWAYS ACCUSING ME OF WANTING TO DO THIS!

BASELESSLY.

I HASTEN TO ADD.

Max Gladstone: As someone who has seen too many people cite “Save the Cat,” I felt sort of glorious watching Melanie bliss out on cat-murder—even though I like cats a lot. Cats are great and I do not condone their zombie murder

Amal El-Mohtar: I love cats! I have two of them! I want neither of them to get eaten by anything!

But only ONE of their people consistently refers to Millie as a PIE, STU.

*cough*

Anyway.

From here we could probably branch (snrk) out into where this story intersects with climate change stories and gets a bit VanderMeery.

Since domestic cats are pretty invasive and stuff, I mean.

Max Gladstone: Kill songbirds. Delicious little elf monsters.

But: Yes! Change! Ecolo-Gs!

Amal El-Mohtar: This isn’t a zombie story where Humanity Engineers a Plague, you know? We never learn where the fungus comes from.

Max Gladstone: Nope. It’s pretty clearly a cordyceps (I think they even call it cordyceps somethingorother), adapted to humans.

Which could easily happen as a result of climate change—certainly climate change releases stuff buried in permafrost, all humans die, is a doomsday climate change scenario that gets kicked around quite a bit.

Amal El-Mohtar: Yes! And since we never learn whether it’s aliens, or Science Gone Bad, or whatever, my headcanon has it as a naturally occurring phenomenon to recalibrate a population which has grown uncontrollably parasitic.

Because humanity is

[Agent Smith] a virus [/Agent Smith]

Max Gladstone: This is all Nausicaä backgroundfic.

Amal El-Mohtar: Aw man I still haven’t seen Nausicaä.

…Maybe we should watch it next.

Max Gladstone: Oh man! It’s so gooooood.

We should!

Amal El-Mohtar: But if we want that to happen probably we SHOULDN’T add it to the list.

Max Gladstone: I mean, setting aside normative language like “recalibrate.”

There’s a lot of evidence that habitat intrusion and climate change have introduced new strange pathogens and chaotic cascades we don’t understand yet.

IIRC this is probably where ebola came from, etc.

Amal El-Mohtar: (Is that normative? Can’t we recalibrate into difference?)

Max Gladstone: Let’s consult Merriam-Webster, the standard dictionary of the resistance.

Calibrate: 1:  to ascertain the caliber (see caliber 3) of (as a thermometer tube)

2:  to determine, rectify, or mark the graduations (see graduation 1)of (as a thermometer tube)

3:  to standardize (as a measuring instrument) by determining the deviation from a standard so as to ascertain the proper correction factors

4:  to adjust precisely for a particular function calibrate a thermometer

5:  to measure precisely carefully calibrate the dosage of a medicine; especially :  to measure against a standard

Amal El-Mohtar: OK but as per Merriam-Webster if my usage changes it

haven’t I

recalibrated

something

What were you saying above about metacognitive processes? >.>

Max Gladstone: Hahaha, yes, but against a standard or to bring it in line with an existing standard?

Hehehe.

Amal El-Mohtar: PROBABLY we should stop this from getting any sillier by which I mean I should stop and anyway I agree with you!

Max Gladstone: But we do have a situation where something has shown up and the new, post-event equilibrium for the Earth doesn’t involve humans living in it.

As far as humans are concerned, this is of course a major catastrophe.

As far as Earth is concerned, lingering heavy metal and radiation contamination is probably going to be a bigger deal than human absence from the biome.

(I bought a book about this recently, can’t wait to read it.)

One of the questions stories like this raise, for me, is, well, what would happen if all humans died?

What kind of moral event is that?

I mean, obviously it would suck to experience, and there are many people I don’t want to die—most, even!

Amal El-Mohtar: Most Magnanimous of Maxen, truly.

Max Gladstone: I guess it feels like it’s asking a different sort of question than “Would you want some specific human to die?” (The answer is no.)

I don’t know if this is making any sense.

Amal El-Mohtar: No it totally does! Which is also really interesting in terms of the ending—that Miss Justineau ends up positioned as potentially the last of her species because Melanie doesn’t want her to die.

I really felt that the film wasn’t making a moral statement there about who deserves to live or die—but that there was a deep respect for agency in the deaths of Sgt. Parks and Dr. Caldwell, even as Melanie, exerting her own agency, made the world uninhabitable for them.

I’m still not sure what to do with that, to be honest, ethically speaking—just that it spoke to me as something that films don’t usually do.

Max Gladstone: Yes. And by the end the film has us so much on Melanie’s side that her decision feels at least sorta justifiable.

Amal El-Mohtar: It’s the fact that she waits for Caldwell to acknowledge her personhood, I think.

Max Gladstone: I can’t go all the way to “justifiable” because she’s literally killing the entire human race.

That’s part of it, yes.

Overall I think the film resists the very, very easy temptation to cast anyone as a “bad” guy.

Amal El-Mohtar: YES, exactly. From the first act, it’s so, so easy to empathize with everyone’s actions.

Max Gladstone: Everyone does their thing. Sometimes that works out well for people you like. Sometimes not.

It’s heartbreaking and it feels true.

Oddly, also, everyone gets exactly what they want. Or, dies in the process of getting there.

Gallagher dies getting the food they need. Caldwell dies in search of her cure. Parks dies looking for his daughter. Justineau wants to live and teach, and she gets to do that.

Amal El-Mohtar: OMG, you’re so right, AND I just noticed that each of those desires is neatly subverted!

Gallagher dies… And BECOMES food.

Max Gladstone: Hah! Yes!

Amal El-Mohtar: Caldwell dies succumbing to a different disease, turning into the zombie simulacrum you described above.

Parks—whose arc I interpreted as being partly about protection—ends up needing to be rescued by the girl he’s come to treat as a surrogate daughter.

Max Gladstone: (And who’s almost certainly in an identical position to his real daughter.)

Amal El-Mohtar: (RIGHT!!!)

Max Gladstone: (Well, not *identical* identical.)

Amal El-Mohtar: And in the tidiest reversal, Justineau wants to live and teach her imprisoned students—but ends up being the one imprisoned as she does so.  

Max Gladstone: I agree completely though I see Parks’s arc as being different: he talks about protection and about the survival of the species, but when the chips are down, he’s in all this because he wants to know what happened to his wife and his kid. And in his last moment, he learns.

Amal El-Mohtar: Aww, yeah. I totally forgot about that, you’re right.

Max Gladstone: That moment between Parks and Melanie is beautiful—and it’s only possible if he fully knows her, including that she’s someone who would set the trees on fire and release the spores.

Amal El-Mohtar: It so is. He’s not even mad.

Man, this was such a great film. I’m just remembering how when all these characters are together in the van for the first time I kept exclaiming how much I loved ALL of them and could see where they were all coming from!

Max Gladstone: It’s really great! It even is comfortable with the ending being sort of down-up.

Amal El-Mohtar: It’s a profoundly empathic film, even at its most frightening—the zombies, when eating, are so peaceful, so joyous.

Imagine, it says, being so hungry, and then eating.

Melanie is so, so beautiful, even when her face is covered in gore.

Max Gladstone: It’s blissful and effective.

And the fact that it doesn’t shrink from the ugliness or the beauty makes it feel profoundly ecological.

Amal El-Mohtar: Yes! Nature red in tooth and claw; Anne Rice (heavens help me) and her Savage Garden.

Max Gladstone: Which feels profound and real, compared to the sense I’ve received from some books that play this general “and then the world was reclaimed or transformed by nature” game, that we’re supposed to feel really great about the fact that the Forest has Reclaimed Everything.

We shall Stride Forth into Transformed Eden, etc.

Amal El-Mohtar: Hah, yes.

Turn to the nearest woman and call her Eve.

Max Gladstone: And I’m sitting here reading, like, motherfucker, I have friends with type 2 diabetes and a nut allergy.

Fuck your Eden fantasy.

Amal El-Mohtar: AAHHHH THIS.

OK once again Max you have sung a note I cannot top, so shall we leave it at Fuck Your Eden Fantasy?

Max Gladstone: Hahaha Yes! But just where I was going with that: I love how we get that kind of ecological, end-of-humanity note here, and it’s the zombie apocalypse. We’re not holding hands and humming. Even if something happens after us, it will look so, so different from us.

Everything changes. Some things are truly lost.

Amal El-Mohtar: YES. Exactly. And there’s tragedy and beauty in it, as Justineau continues to tell the children stories as a means to them making up their own, and it all comes so full circle that I get a bit dizzy.

I wonder what beings will make powder of the human-muching cordyceps for their wellness supplements.

As Paul Fidalgo once sang, “And when we’re all dead and seep into the crust / The beings to come can make oil out of us.”


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 16 Cover and Table of Contents!

Coming May 2, THE SIXTEENTH ISSUE OF 2016 HUGO AWARD-WINNING & 2017 HUGO FINALIST 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 June 6.

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

This issue will coincide with our Weightless Books Subscription Drive for a year’s worth of Uncanny Magazine eBooks. The drive will run from May 2-May 16. For that limited time, people can receive a year’s worth of Uncanny for $2 off the regular price. We will have some nifty giveaways for a few lucky new or renewing subscribers at particular milestones, too. (T-shirts! Back issues! Fancy custom tea blends! Tote bags!). And all new or renewing subscribers will get a vinyl Space Unicorn sticker and a Space Unicorn temporary tattoo!

Cover:

Galen Dara- “The Nas*T* Lady Doth Persist”

Editorial:

The Uncanny Valley (5/2)

Fiction:

Ursula Vernon- “Sun, Moon, Dust” (5/2)
John Chu- “Making the Magic Lightning Strike Me” (5/2)
Chinelo Onwualu- “Read Before Use” (5/2)

Naomi Kritzer- “Paradox” (6/6)
Hiromi Goto- “Notes from Liminal Spaces” (6/6)
K.M. Szpara – “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” (6/6)

Reprint:

Carlos Hernandez- “Origins” (5/2)

Essays:

Javier Grillo-Marxuach- “In Praise of Deus (Ex Machina)” (5/2)
Sarah Gailey – “City of Villains: Why I Don’t Trust Batman” (5/2)
Sam J. Miller- “Resistance 101: Basics of Community Organizing for SF/F Creators & Consumers; Volume Two: Deepening Your Engagement” (5/2)
Sarah Pinsker- “Meeting with Your Legislators 101 and 201” (5/2)
Mimi Mondal- “Missive from a Woman in a Room in a City in a Country in a World Not Her Own” (5/2)

David J. Schwartz- “How Deep Space Nine Almost Didn’t Fail Me” (6/6)
Kelly McCullough- “The Resistance—Becoming A Local Politician” (6/6)
LaShawn Wanak – “Learning to Turn Your Lips Sideways” (6/6)
Yamile Saied Méndez- “Nunca Más” (6/6)
DongWon Song- “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Eat the Damn Eyeball” (6/6)

Poetry:

Roshani Chokshi- “Dancing Princesses” (5/2)
Sonya Taaffe- “Twenty Seventy-One” (5/2)

Betsy Aoki- “What to expect from the Hadron Collider as a college roommate” (6/6)
Theodora Goss- “Seven Shoes” (6/6)

Interviews:

Interview with John Chu (5/2)
Interview with Hiromi Goto (6/6)

Podcasts:

16A (5/2)
Ursula Vernon- “Sun, Moon, Dust” (As read by Amal El-Mohtar)
Roshani Chokshi- “Dancing Princesses” (As read by Erika Ensign)
Julia Rios Interviews Ursula Vernon

16B (6/6)
Naomi Kritzer- “Paradox” (As read by Erika Ensign)
Theodora Goss- “Seven Shoes” (As read by Amal El-Mohtar)
Julia Rios Interviews Naomi Kritzer

The Fallacy of Agency: on Power, Community, and Erasure

(Guest post by Aliette de Bodard with art by Likhain)

We talk about agency a lot in writing: that attractive characters, suitable heroes, and role models are in control, or if they are not, this is because their character arc leads them to being in control—the conflict involved in being in charge of one’s own destiny being the quintessential, most interesting one in fiction.

I don’t want to suggest that having agency is not a worthy goal (it is!) but by over-focusing on it, often to the detriment of everything else, we devalue two things: powerlessness, and depending on others.

Madeleine, one of the characters from my book The House of Binding Thorns. For most of the book, she has little agency in the conventional sense: no overt power and no desire to gain any, and no hidden talent for either magic or diplomacy (both of which are the big power drivers in the universe). But she still has her story. (Art by Likhain.)

It’s worth asking what kind of power is talked about when we say that a character “lacks agency”: overwhelmingly, this is an overt perception of power. It’s the act of being brashly in charge, of controlling things at a large scale, and disproportionately being in a position to inflict violence or go to war. The “covert” perception—political influence via quiet words in someone’s ears, shadow courts, or other means—is either inexistent or devalued. It’s also the act of having the title as opposed to having actual power: there’s a persistent fantasy that only the person named as being in charge gets any influence to do anything, as if spouses and advisors were just here for show—the Louis XIV fantasy of the absolute monarch pushed to absurd extremes (it’s worth noting that Louis XIV promoted this idea to try and silence the nobility, who controlled enormous amounts of land and power at the Versailles court).

The other thing about dismissing powerlessness is that it devalues and erases the oppressed. It’s saying, essentially, that the less power one has, the less worthy of a story one is. That if someone is truly oppressed, and the story isn’t about some brash rebellion, some gaining of that overt power, then it’s not worth telling. That being oppressed is some sort of grey, featureless state where nothing worth notice happens—that there are no sorrows, no joys, no everyday struggles, no little victories to be snatched. That, in short, the only story of oppression worth telling is the brazen breaking of it.

The other thing that overemphasising agency does is that it makes it sound like a bad thing to be dependent on others, and especially being part of a community you can rely on. This is problematic on several levels: the first and most important one is that we are not and were not meant to be self-reliant (raising a child, for instance, is seen today as the job of a nuclear family, but it’s frazzling and exhausting and really much easier if we come back to the way it was done: by the extended family/community). Admitting that one can’t do everything alone isn’t a moral failing or a weakness: it’s deeply and fundamentally human.

The second is that many things in life, especially the largest ones that genre narrative patterns are so fond of, are really achieved by several people. And, by “several people” I mean dozens or hundreds rather than just a hero and a sidekick (though frequently, even the hero being dependent on the sidekick is seen as a lack of agency). There’s a great symbolic weight put on a hero’s capacity to “shine” at the end by doing something all on their own, but the larger the thing is and the larger its consequences, the less realistic it is that a single Chosen one could actually accomplish it with no help.

And, finally, “being in control” is a bit of a fallacy as well: the underlying assumption is that there is some sort of ideal state where a person can master everything that happens to them. But, in real life, many things are outside our control, and that remains true no matter how much power we might hold: we don’t get a say in illnesses or natural disasters, to take just two extreme examples, but even small things, like a car accident happening along our commute, are also outside our control. And sometimes, the goal isn’t to take charge and change them—but to bow down, to accept, to recognise that we aren’t the masters, and to see how we might best accommodate unmovable facts. By promoting a narrative of agency, we’re also promoting a narrative of shame: that illnesses are always our fault and our moral failing—that not being cured means that you’re not doing enough, that being poor is because you’re not working with enough dedication; that failing to move unmovable facts is because we didn’t try hard enough.

This isn’t to diss agency: it’s something worth striving for, it certainly is a useful writing tool and a useful prism for looking at stories. But, as with all tools and lenses, it’s worth taking a good, long hard look at it: it cannot be the only lens we view the world through; and above all it cannot be the only tool we use to build stories—lest it impoverish us all.

(I was going to gracefully insert my book, The House of Binding Thorns—which is about Fallen angels, dragons in human shapes, and communities in a ruined and decadent Paris—into this blog post, but I honestly can’t find a way, so I’m just going to do it the blatant way. Book was just released and I’d be very grateful if you gave it a go!)

 

Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris, where she has a day job as a System Engineer. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Obsidian and Blood trilogy of Aztec noir fantasies, as well as numerous short stories. Recent works include The House of Shattered Wings (Roc/Gollancz, 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award) and The House of Binding Thorns, novels set in a turn–of–the–century Paris devastated by a magical war, and “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2015), a novella set in the same universe as her Vietnamese space opera On a Red Station Drifting.

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)

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 Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2016!

Happy New Year, Space Unicorns! 2016 was an incredible year and we’re excited to see where we’ll go in 2017. Everyone in the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps has been wonderfully supportive and your enthusiasm has meant so much to us. It’s been fantastic to see how much our readers have been enjoying Uncanny’s fiction and while we have our personal favorites, we’d like to know which stories YOU loved from Uncanny in 2016.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2016. (You can find links to all of the stories here.) The poll will be open from January 9 to January 30, after which we’ll announce the results. We will also be running polls to ask what your favorite poems, nonfiction, and cover art were in the following weeks. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories, poems, nonfiction, and art made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creators whose work comes out on top of each poll!

Did you know Uncanny Magazine is on Instagram? Follow us at @uncanny_magazine! We’ll be highlighting our favorite quotes from Uncanny’s short fiction from 2016. Starting on Monday, January 9, we’ll post those quotes on Instagram!

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