Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Not as Crazy as You’d Think: The Borderline Protagonist in Fantasy

(Guest Blog Post by Mishell Baker)

As an author who shares a little-understood diagnosis with the protagonist of her novel, lately I’ve found myself writing and talking a great deal about Borderline Personality Disorder: in the novel itself, in an informal introduction to the disorder from a patient’s perspective at SF Signal, in self-disclosure on my own blog, and conversations both online and in person about all of these things. My urban fantasy novel Borderline was intended as a quirky, entertaining romp through Hollywood and fairyland, but the protagonist Millie and her inner landscape of BPD have proven as mysterious to many readers as the arcane components of the novel. (For the basics, I recommend this summary on the NIH’s web site

When I begin a dialogue about BPD, the responses can at times be disheartening. Even once the first barrier of unawareness is passed, I immediately run into palpable waves of dismay and loathing. It would be difficult to find a mental illness that has a worse reputation than BPD among those who understand it. The hallmarks of the related dysphoria have spawned the reductive “Crazy Ex” stereotype: intensity, neediness, impulsivity, addiction, self-harm (particularly when faced with abandonment), fits of terrifying rage, and inability to hold long-term jobs, relationships, or even identities.

Why, then, would a writer choose to saddle her protagonist — the character for whom audience identification is most important — with a disorder that provokes such an antipathetic response in nearly everyone who understands it? The obvious answer would be, “To raise awareness,” but what good is awareness if it brings only revulsion? So there must be something else at work if the experiment is to succeed, and in the process of creating Millie I discovered something interesting. A Borderline (if you’ll forgive the reductive label for the sake of brevity) is uniquely qualified to excel in a fantasy narrative — especially a story wherein the existence of magic is a well-kept secret.

Millie spent the first twenty-six years of her life unaware of the existence of magic, and now has to accept (and operate within the rules of) of a magical parallel universe, all within the space of a week. A tall order, but perhaps the most powerful advantage a Borderline has in adjusting to an influx of fantastic knowledge is that for her, paradigm shifts — those moments when we realize that the rabbit we’ve been looking at is actually a duck — come more easily. Borderlines tend to question everything. Their world is never stable; everything is continually reinvented and recategorized, and drastic paradigm shifts are regularly accomplished with minimal supporting evidence. Sometimes this learned malleability is dangerous — it could make Borderlines vulnerable to cult leaders, pyramid schemes, and conspiracy theories — but at other times it can be extraordinarily useful. Borderlines are so accustomed to finding out everything they know is wrong that it may not take much effort to convince them of a shocking truth.

Another fantasy-relevant bug in Borderline cognition is the defense mechanism known as “splitting” – the tendency to sort people or ideas into extremes of black and white. In the real world this is catastrophic in relationships and discourse, but from Tolkien to Rowling, fantasy realms have long been welcoming habitats for ethical extremes. The intensity with which a typical Borderline yearns to cooperate with “good guys” and destroy “bad guys” serves her well in a universe where such categories cleanly manifest. The very same polarity of idealization and devaluation that makes a Borderline difficult to relate to in real life renders her heroic once she is placed into a context where swift identification and categorization of morality is important to survival. Those who vacillate when faced with True Evil rarely live to tell the tale. By nature, a realm with an extreme ethical binary can only be a fantastic one, but if the story you’re writing happens to be a fantasy, a Borderline can serve well as a protagonist even if her course of treatment has not yet managed to bring her “splitting” under control.

Perhaps the most infamous Borderline trait — and a common feature of “Crazy Ex” stories — is intensity of emotion. This intensity is seen as so excessive by neurotypical adults that it is usually dismissed as a performance, leading to the historical confusion of Borderline Personality Disorder with sociopathy (the name itself comes from the now-rejected theory that those with the disorder are not fully sociopaths, but just at the border). For the Borderline herself, the disorienting gulf between her emotions and others’ responses contributes in part to a staggering suicide rate: Borderline Personality Disorder is fatal to one in ten people diagnosed with it. Fantasy, however, is merciful to volatile people. Intensity is organic to magical worlds: curses cripple, enchantments enthrall, worlds hang in the balance. In many plotlines involving magic and monsters, cool detachment is not only unnecessary but perhaps even contraindicated.

So in fantasy, at least, a Borderline is in her element. And if we can imagine a context in which a stigmatized disorder does not destroy the life of the person who suffers from it, what questions does that raise? In the absence of magic, could we find a context in which a person with Borderline Personality Disorder could thrive: where mental flexibility can be crucial, and where the caustic fuel of emotional intensity can be burned to good purpose?

My own experience suggests that this is not so far-fetched. While there is no cure for Borderline Personality Disorder, those with the diagnosis are not doomed to miserable lives. With carefully practiced coping skills to blunt the most painful edges of the disorder’s symptoms, and with a context that makes use of an intense and agile mind, some of the more intractable quirks of Borderline cognition and motivation can be every bit as useful as they are frustrating.

A fantasy novel isn’t the only place where a Borderline can have a happy ending. For now, though, it’s possible that the idea of a fulfilling and dignified future for the Crazy Ex is too drastic a paradigm shift for many. Luckily, we have fantasy: a dress rehearsal for hope, a place where even the most comfortably settled minds can give themselves permission to train for the impossible.

(Editors’ note: Mishell Baker’s Borderline was released on March 1st and is now available from Saga Press.)

Mishell Baker (Vanie Poyey, Headshots LA)Mishell Baker is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and her short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede. She has a website at and frequently Tweets about writing, parenthood, mental health, and assorted geekery at @MishellBaker. When she’s not attending conventions or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children. Borderline is her debut novel.

(Photo by Vanie Poyey)

Uncanny Magazine Issue 9 Cover and Table of Contents!


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 5.

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

Great news! eBook subscriptions are also now available through Amazon! Have the new issue of Uncanny Magazine sent directly to your Kindle device!


“Strange Companions” by Katy Shuttleworth

“The Uncanny Valley” by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas (3/1)

“Love Is Never Still” by Rachel Swirsky (3/1)
“The Shadow Collector” by Shveta Thakrar (3/1)
“Big Thrull and the Askin’ Man” by Max Gladstone (4/5)
“The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven” by Kelly Sandoval (4/5)
“The Artificial Bees” by Simon Guerrier (4/5)

“Just Another Future Song” by Daryl Gregory (3/1)

“Men of Their Times” by Jim C. Hines (3/1)
“Furry Fandom” by Kyell Gold (3/1)
“The Transmigration of George R. R. Martin” by Javier Grillo–Marxuach (4/5)
“Closing the Gap: The Blurring of Fan and Professional” by Mark Oshiro (4/5)

“Fox Girl Cycle 1” by C. S. E. Cooney (3/1)
“The Book of Forgetting” by Jennifer Crow (4/5)
“god–date” by Brandon O’Brien (4/5)

Rachel Swirsky interviewed by Deborah Stanish (3/1)
Simon Guerrier interviewed by Deborah Stanish (4/5)

Podcast 9A (3/1)
“The Shadow Collector” by Shveta Thakrar, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
“Fox Girl Cycle 1” by C. S. E. Cooney, as read by Erika Ensign
Deborah Stanish interviews Shveta Thakrar

Podcast 9B (4/5)
“Big Thrull and the Askin’ Man” by Max Gladstone, as read by Heath Miller
“The Book of Forgetting” by Jennifer Crow, as read by Erika Ensign
Deborah Stanish interviews Max Gladstone

Liz Argall’s Things React to The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar

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

This month, they’re reacting to Rose Lemberg’s “The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar” from Uncanny Magazine Issue 8.

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Pockets by Amal El-Mohtar Is the Favorite Uncanny Magazine Story of 2015!

Space Unicorns! We have tabulated the results of the Uncanny Magazine 2015 Favorite Short Story Poll, and “Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar came in FIRST PLACE!



Congratulations, Amal!

Amal will be receiving a FANCY CERTIFICATE suitable for framing.







And now, the rest of the results!

Second Place: “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu

Third Place: “Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon


Thank you, Space Unicorns, for participating!

Julia Rios Is the New Uncanny Magazine Reprint/Poetry Editor!!!

Excellent news, Space Unicorns!

The fabulous Julia Rios will be the new Uncanny Magazine Reprint/Poetry Editor starting with Issue 10! 


Julia Rios is a Hugo Award-nominated editor and podcaster, plus a writer and narrator. She was a fiction editor for Strange Horizons from 2012 to 2015, and is co-editor with Alisa Krasnostein of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and the Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction series. She is also a co-host of the Hugo-nominated podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show. And those are just some of her wonderful accomplishments!

We couldn’t be more thrilled to be adding Julia to our phenomenal team.

Uncanny Celebrates the Favorites of 2015 and Joins Instagram

Happy New Year, Space Unicorns! We’re excited to see what 2016 brings, because 2015 was a fantastic year. We’re thankful for all the support and enthusiasm Uncanny Magazine has received, and while we have our personal favorites, we’d like to know which stories YOU loved from Uncanny in 2015.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2015. (You can find links to all of the stories here.) The poll will be open from January 11 to January 25, 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 coming weeks. We can’t wait to hear from you about the Uncanny stories, poems, nonfiction, and art that made you feel!

The creators who come out on top in the polls will receive a snazzy certificate!

The start of a new year is always a good time to try new things, so in that spirit, you can now follow Uncanny Magazine on Instagram as @uncanny_magazine! To kick off our Instagram account, we’ll be highlighting our favorite quotes from Uncanny’s short fiction from 2015. Starting on Monday, January 11, we’ll post one quote per day on Instagram, Monday through Saturday. Be sure to check out Uncanny’s Instagram page to get “the whole picture.”

Uncanny Magazine 2015 Award Eligibility

It’s the time of year when people post their year-in-reviews to remind voters for the different SF/F awards what’s out there they might have missed and which category it’s eligible in (especially for the Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards). This was the first full year of Uncanny Magazine (Issues 2 through 7). We are extremely proud of the year we had.

This year, Uncanny Magazine is eligible for the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award for the first time. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are also eligible for Best Editor (Short Form) Hugo Awards.

If you are an SFPA member voting for the Rhysling Awards, you can find all of the Uncanny Magazine Issue 2-7 poetry here.

The stories listed below are eligible in either the short story or novelette categories of the SF/F awards. If you are a SFWA member nominating for the Nebula Awards, you can find eBook copies of these stories in the SFWA Forums.

Novelettes (7500-17,500 Words):

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu

The Oiran’s Song by Isabel Yap

Find a Way Home by Paul Cornell

And Never Mind the Watching Ones by Keffy R. M. Kehrli

And the Balance in Blood by Elizabeth Bear (counts as a Novella for the World Fantasy Award)

Short Stories (Under 7500 Words):

The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History by Sam J. Miller

Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained by Sunny Moraine

Anyone With a Care for Their Image by Richard Bowes

Pockets by Amal El-Mohtar

The Lamps Thereof Are Fire and Flames by Rosamund Hodge

Translatio Corporis by Kat Howard

Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows by Maria Dahvana Headley

Those by Sofia Samatar

When the Circus Lights Down by Sarah Pinsker

Dr. Polingyouma’s Machine by Emily Devenport

You Are Two Point Three Meters from Your Destination by Fran Wilde

The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate by A.C. Wise

Restore the Heart into Love by John Chu

Planet Lion by Catherynne M. Valente

In Libres by Elizabeth Bear

Three Voices by Lisa Bolekaja

The Rainbow Flame by Shveta Thakrar

Woman at Exhibition by E. Lily Yu

Midnight Hour by Mary Robinette Kowal

Ghost Champagne by Charlie Jane Anders

The Half-Life of Angels by Sarah Monette

Catcall by Delilah S. Dawson

The Sisters’ Line by Liz Argall and Kenneth Schneyer

Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon

I Seen the Devil by Alex Bledsoe

A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights by Karin Tidbeck

Interlingua by Yoon Ha Lee


Thank you so much for your consideration.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 8 Cover and Table of Contents!


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 2.

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

Great news! eBook subscriptions are also now available through Amazon! Have the new issue of Uncanny Magazine sent directly to your Kindle device!


“Round Three” by Priscilla H. Kim,

“The Uncanny Valley” by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas (1/5)

“The Virgin Played Bass” by Maria Dahvana Headley (1/5)
“Lotus Face and the Fox” by Nghi Vo (1/5)
“The Creeping Women” by Christopher Barzak (2/2)
“The Sincerity Game” by Brit Mandelo (2/2)
“The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar”
by Rose Lemberg (2/2)

“The Spy Who Never Grew Up” by Sarah Rees Brennan (1/5)

“Gatekeepers: The Nerd/Jock False Division” by Chris Kluwe  (1/5)
“Growing Up in Hyperspace” by Max Gladstone (1/5)
“Creating a Welcoming Fannish Community” by Isabel Schechter (2/2)
“Quest for an SF/F Grandmother” by L.M. Myles (2/2)

“tended, tangled, and veined” by Kayla Whaley (1/5)
“The Exquisite Banality of Space” by Leslie J. Anderson (2/2)
“Narrative of the Naga’s Heirs” by Bryan Thao Worra (2/2)

Maria Dahvana Headley interviewed by Deborah Stanish (1/5)
Christopher Barzak interviewed by Deborah Stanish (2/2)

Podcast 8A (1/5)
“Lotus Face and the Fox” by Nghi Vo, as read by Erika Ensign
“tended, tangled, and veined” by Kayla Whaley, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Nghi Vo Interviewed by Deborah Stanish

Podcast 8B (2/2)
“The Sincerity Game” by Brit Mandelo, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
“Narrative of the Naga’s Heirs” by Bryan Thao Worra, as read by Erika Ensign
Brit Mandelo Interviewed by Deborah Stanish

Max and Amal Duel for Uncanny Reasons!

As many of you might recall, there was a promise on the last day of the Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter that if we reached all of our initial stretch goals, Uncanny authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone would create a Shakespearean Duel Video .

We expected some quoting as they sat at their computers. Nope. Max and Amal took it to another level, and BEYOND!

Space Unicorns, please enjoy the short film, Max and Amal Duel for Uncanny Reasons! With Special Guest Navah Wolfe!

Thank you to everybody involved in the making of this soon-to-be classic film.

Thespians: Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone, Navah Wolfe, a Pile of Towels, and Introducing John Clute
Director: Jennifer Gunnels
Camerapeople: Jennifer Gunnels, Ruby Katigbak, Jess Wick
Safety: Marie Brennan
Grip: John Chu
Producers: Miriam Weinberg, Marco Palmieri, Sarah Gulik
Editor: Max Gladstone

But WAIT! There’s MORE! Shockingly, MISTAKES WERE MADE! Here is the DVD Making Of Extra, Max and Amal Make Uncanny Bloopers!