So Long and Thanks for All the Space Unicorns!

So here we are, Space Unicorns. After five years, 31 issues, and countless essays, my time as part of Uncanny’s editorial staff has come to an end. The previous issue, Issue 30/Disabled People Destroy Fantasy!, was my last issue as Managing Editor, and this issue in your hands contains the last five essays I had the honor of working with as the magazine’s Nonfiction Editor. It’s an absolutely fantastic collection of essays to cap my tenure at Uncanny—Keidra Chaney, Alexandra Erin, Jeannette Ng, Brandon O’Brien, and G. Willow Wilson have written pieces that are incisive, insightful, and brilliantly, unreservedly reflective of each writer’s specific voice. It was an absolute pleasure to edit these pieces, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

I also hope you’ll join me in cheering on Chimedum Ohaegbu, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, and Angel Cruz as they move into their new Uncanny roles. Working with Chimie since she started with Uncanny as an intern has been such an unexpected gift—she’s an immensely talented writer and editor and I know she’s going to do an amazing job as Managing Editor. Elsa is a writer and editor who I greatly respect, and her love and understanding of nonfiction made her a natural choice to take over as Nonfiction Editor. I can’t wait to see the pieces she’ll solicit for Uncanny in 2020! I’ve been so impressed with Angel’s thoughtfulness and skill (her Uncanny essay remains one of my favorites) and I’m so pleased she’ll be the new Assistant Editor (also yay, there will still be a Filipina on the Uncanny team!).

I’ve worn both managing and nonfiction editor hats for such a long time that even though I’ve known for almost a year that this day was coming and it was my choice to go, I still can’t quite grasp the fact that it’s actually happening. Uncanny’s influence on the rhythms of my life has become far more expansive than I could have conceived of—I’m so used to planning around the regular cycle of essay solicitation to development to issue production/layout and promotion (with a yearly Kickstarter thrown in for good measure) that my brain still grinds to a halt at the idea that I may actually have free time again (don’t think I can’t hear a bunch of you out there laughing at the notion that I’ll have free time!). It’s not that I’ll miss all that work, per se (ok, I’ll miss it a little bit, especially laying out those gorgeous covers); there will always be more work.

But first and foremost, to me, Uncanny has been a community of dedicated, passionate, empathetic, and ridiculously talented folks who I have been so fortunate to have shared the last five years with. It never mattered that I didn’t get to be physically around them very often because their presence was deeply felt in every piece of Uncanny’s operation. Every single person involved with Uncanny brings something unique and amazing to the table, and I will always cherish what I’ve learned from working with them all. I’ll miss what it feels like to be a part of this team more than anything, but I’m also so excited for the fresh energy and new ideas Chimie, Elsa, and Angel will bring in their new roles (and if I’m honest, I’m a bit envious of the fantastic new dynamic this team will share).

I’ll be forever grateful to Lynne and Michael Thomas for taking a chance on an unknown editor they’d never worked with before by giving me the opportunity to be part of Uncanny’s editorial team from the get-go. While Uncanny has always been their vision, I have never felt anything less than an equal, valued, and respected colleague whose own creative ideas, skills, and opinions were given weight and helped shape what Uncanny has now grown into. I’m so proud of the work I’ve put into this magazine and the career it’s helped me build, but especially of the fact that my time with Uncanny has allowed me greater leverage to do my part to widen the doorway of SF/F and create a more equitable and integrated industry that truly reflects the vast diversity of its fans and creators.

Being the first known Filipina to win a Hugo Award is both an honor and a responsibility, and no matter where I go after Uncanny, I will always carry that with me. Because the thing I’ve learned about occupying what is, for better or worse, a gatekeeping position in SF/F, is that you have an obligation to oversee those gates with empathy and respect, and that keeping them open to greet others with joy, rather than having them shut and demanding proof for entry, is what creates a healthy and vibrant SF/F culture. (Also, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally throwing assholes out those gates.)

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling anxious and somewhat terrified over what life beyond Uncanny will look like. One of the worst effects of being marginalized in a culture that regularly belittles one’s worth and the validity of your own accomplishments is the ever-present fear—sometimes tiny, sometimes LOUD—that what you’ve managed to do is a fluke, that your honors and accomplishments don’t truly belong to you, that you’re nothing without the title you’ve become known for, that you’ll be forgotten once everyone’s moved on and you’re no longer “useful” to know. You fear that you won’t matter because you’ll be alone, and it’s not as if erasure of marginalized people’s contributions is anything new in this genre.

That fear is all lies, though, and here’s why I know that: because of everything that I experienced as Managing and Nonfiction Editor at Uncanny and being part of that incredible team. Because I made Hugo Award history and have four shiny fucking rockets on my mantle. Because of five years and 31 issues of gorgeous, moving, experimental SF/F fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from creators of every conceivable background (and a sixth year to come, starting with this issue!). Because of you, the Uncanny community—editors, staff, writers, readers, fans—and your incredible support, enthusiasm, and commitment to creating an inclusive, exciting, and welcoming SF/F culture. Because you all show up, issue after issue after issue, boosting stories and poems and essays and art that you love, cheering for what brings others joy and hope and inspiration to imagine worlds beyond what we can conceive of for ourselves. Uncanny hasn’t been perfect but perfection has never been the point—growing, learning, and doing our best to make things better is what every Space Unicorn strives for. I will always be grateful for these reminders that what we do matters and that it does make a difference.

So this isn’t “Goodbye” so much as “See you later,” because I’ll still be around, writing (I missed having brain space to write and I have SO MANY IDEAS, even fiction ones!), editing (I’m co-editing the upcoming 12th volume of the WisCon Chronicles with Isabel Schechter), firespinning, and torturing everyone on Twitter and Instagram with my food pics. I may even take a little vacation—an actual one without work or a con to visit (gasps and shock all around I’m sure). My role might be different, but the Uncanny community will always be my home, because once a Space Unicorn, always a Space Unicorn.

Thank you, Space Unicorn Ranger Corps, for an amazing five years of beautiful stories, creative visions, and life-changing friendships, and for the opportunities, relationships, and adventures yet to come. I love you all.

Michi Trota

Michi Trota is the Nonfiction Editor of the Hugo Award-winning and World Fantasy Award finalist Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy; she also served as Managing Editor for the magazine from 2014-2019. She is a four-time Hugo Award winner, and the first Filipina to win a Hugo Award. Michi is also co-editor of the upcoming WisCon Chronicles Vol. 12 with Isabel Schechter. Her essays have been published in The Book Smugglers, The Establishment, and Invisible: An Anthology of Representation in SF/F, and she was the text writer for the 2018-2019 exhibit Worlds Beyond Here: Expanding the Universe of APA Science Fiction at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, WA. She’s spoken at C2E2, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and on NPR. Michi is a firespinner with the Raks Geek Fire+Bellydance troupe, past president of the Chicago Nerd Social Club Board of Organizers, and lives with her spouse and their two cats in Chicago. She can often be found on Twitter at @geekmelange posting about publishing, pop culture, Filipina identity, food, her cats, and often yelling about The Good Place.

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Photo credit: Michael Wilson

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