Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
(Guest post by Tiffany Keane)
Within the past decade, mainstream media has embraced science fiction and fantasy, with the genre arguably at its most popular levels in entertainment. This popularity has inspired the theatre community, which has started to embrace its inner geek. From long–standing theater companies with extensive sets and elaborate costumes to independent groups of performers working with shoestring budgets, Chicago nerds and geeks are creating works for the stage that explore humanity through the lens of the supernatural and unknown, and celebrate geekdom in all its artistic forms.
Chicago, known throughout the theatrical world to be an artistic incubator, has been cultivating science fiction and fantasy theater for some time. Classic examples worth mentioning are Edge Theatre’s MacSith, a Star Wars themed retelling of Shakespeare’s Scottish play. Halcyon’s Theatre Company’s recent hit In Love and Warcraft explored the outlet of gaming and how avatars can mirror personal desires. The House Theatre’s The Hammer Trilogy created an original play of high fantasy, delighting audiences with an amazing story and dragon battle spectacle (including spectacular puppetry), and The Steppenwolf’s critically–acclaimed production of She Kills Monsters used the world of Dungeons and Dragons to explore family relationships, the creation of found-family, and understanding sexual orientation.
I have been privileged enough to be the Artistic Director of Otherworld Theatre Company, established in 2012 and dedicated exclusively to the performance of SF/F. Below, I have listed ten exciting new adventures that await the Chicago patron. Whether you’re a fan of off–Broadway musicals, opera, plays, or performance artists, if you want a night of SF/F storytelling at the theater, these productions are for you.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Sept 25 – Nov 8
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of The Tempest has garnered critical acclaim for its unique presentation of this classic fantasy tale about vengeance, sorcery, and the mysteries of the human heart, using modern music as a backdrop. Shakespeare’s enchanted island is transformed in this inventive production from Aaron Posner and Teller (of the legendary duo Penn & Teller), utilizing the intimate setting of the Courtyard Theater. Larry Yando returns to Chicago Shakespeare to take on the role of the mysterious sorcerer Prospero, who conjures a storm shipwrecking his old enemies. Set to the music of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, with choreography by Pilobolus, this Shakespearean fantasy is truly full of “such stuff as dreams are made on.”
The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
Sept 17 – Nov 14
Madeline George (author of 2013’s hit Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England) spins a SF tale based on her 2014 Pulitzer Award finalist work exploring love, communication, and technology over the course of 150 years. Four constant companions—all named “Watson,” including Sherlock Holmes’s partner, the Mr. Watson often paged by Alexander Graham Bell in his famous (mis)quote “Come here Watson. I want to see you,” an AI, and a tech worker who may not be all he seems—provide the connecting thread through the 140–minute play. With three actors playing different versions of their characters across multiple time periods, the play makes for “a brilliantly witty, time–jumping, loving tribute (and cautionary tale) dedicated to the people—and machines—upon which we all depend.”
All Girl Dracula
Oct 10 – Nov 21
With the ALL GIRL PROJECT, the Chicago Mammals are committed to creating extreme and unique opportunities for Chicago actresses to play roles that are rarely if ever performed by women. In this exciting adaptation of the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, Artistic Director Bob Fisher has turned the classic vampire story on it’s head: “Mina Murray is caught between a Carnivorous Ancient Evil and an Uncompromising Sadistic Zealot. Both Dracula and Van Helsing yearn for violence, even if their appetites are spurned by opposing goals. As she tries to protect the people she loves, will she be forced to decide which of these powerful villains is the lesser of two evils?”
The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls
Trap Door Theatre
Oct 15 – Nov 21
Trap Door Theatre’s mission is to bring obscure and challenging works to life on stage. Now entering its 20th season, the off–Loop theater company brings a tale of rediscovering one’s roots in a foreign country—all while having to fight folktales and magic without a guaranteed happy ending: “When Annie is sent to Russia to be immersed into her native language and culture, she finds herself thrust into an enchanting post–Soviet world filled with new friends still fighting the witches, bears and evil stepmothers that haunted all of our childhoods. Set in a deceitfully glamorous post–Soviet Russia, Annie and her new friends must fight the villains of common folklore in a world where things might not end up happily ever after.”
Oct 21 – Nov 15
The Steppenwolf for Young Adult’s production of George Orwell’s dystopian classic follows the success of last year’s Animal Farm. With a long history of creating productions geared toward bringing young audiences, families, and teachers into the theater world, 1984 utilizes a multi-media production to bring Orwell’s world of suspicion, totalitarianism, and rebellion to life: “Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth located in the nation of Oceania, part of a vast empire in a constant, shifting war against other superstates. Dissent is not tolerated (not even in thought), and Winston and his fellow citizens are under perpetual electronic surveillance by their ever-watchful ruler Big Brother. When Winston falls in love with a co-worker, their illegal affair pushes them to rebel and face the darkest and most dangerous corners of the regime.”
Otherworld Theatre Company
Oct 31 – Nov 22
Playwright Stuart Bousel weaves a dark romantic tale in the gothic thriller “Gone Dark.” Within a society of vampire hunters, slayers are summoned from around the world to convene after the death of their leader: “Ned Dalton is tormented by his last hunt and haunted by foggy and untrustworthy memories. As events begin to unfold around him, he begins to realize the hunt may not be over yet and that the dead may indeed rise again.” Otherworld Theatre has tailored the production as a site-specific piece, incorporating the historic church serving as the play’s theater setting as the backdrop for the story. Audiences will follow a designated guide leading them through the narrative, allowing them to explore the vampire hunters’ society and watch the horror unfold, up close and personal.
Nov 12 & 19
Geek–themed circus and performance art shows have been growing in popularity in Chicago. As one of the first such Chicago–based performance groups, Raks Geek is bellydance, flow arts, and fire company established by geeks for any and all fans of geekdom. Performances have included everything from a bellydancing Wookie and stormtroopers to LED flow spinning and firespinning to the themes from Tron: Legacy, Transformers: The Movie and The Fifth Element. Using the backdrop of pop culture references, their performances have gone viral and made waves on MSN, The Daily Mail, and Cheezburger.com. The performers blend artistic and technical mastery with their favorite themes from nerd culture, resulting in performances that are mesmerizing to watch and a joy to behold. (Editor’s Note: Uncanny’s Managing Editor, Michi Trota, is a member of Raks Geek and will be performing in these upcoming shows.)
Improvised Star Trek
The iO Theater
Nov 6 – Dec. 11
What happens when you take a troupe of improv comedians and put them on the “set” of the USS Sispyhus, a lesser–known Starfleet vessel? You’ll have to attend a performance of Improvised Star Trek to find out! After a successful initial run from 2009–2010 at the iO Theater, the comedians behind Improvised Star Trek retooled the show as a podcast, releasing two episodes per month. Now for the first time in five years, they’re back with live at the iO Theater for a limited time, with six Friday performances at the iO theater, beginning November 6. This show is a must for Trekkies and fans of SFF comedy.
Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience
Broadway in Chicago
Dec. 1 – Jan 3
Whether you camped outside a bookstore for three days awaiting the release of the Deathly Hallows or you don’t know the difference between a horcrux and a Hufflepuff, the comedy, magic and mayhem of Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff makes for an entertaining and hilarious visit to the theatre. The fast-paced show, which has made audiences aged six to Dumbledore (who is very old indeed) roar with laughter all over the world, is perfect for the entire family. Created by former BBC Television hosts Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, the play takes on the ultimate challenge of condensing, or “potting,” all seven Harry Potter books into 70 madcap minutes, aided only by multiple costume changes, brilliant songs, ridiculous props, and a generous helping of Hogwarts magic. The show also invites audiences to engage with a real life game of Quidditch, but according to Clarkson and Turner’s unique set of rules.
Dec 7 – Jan 17
Ann Patchett’s best–selling novel Bel Canto took the literary world by storm—now, in a new work curated by Lyric’s creative consultant, Renée Fleming, this riveting story of magical realism inspired by a real-life event becomes a powerful opera: “Superstar American diva Roxane Coss has flown to Peru to sing at the vice president’s home for a visiting Japanese mogul who is an opera buff. Dignitaries of every nationality are there—but an international crisis explodes when terrorists storm the mansion and take everyone hostage. Isolated for months, unlikely alliances form between captors and captives as fear and anger mingle uneasily with desire and even love. Music is the one universal language—but can it draw forth the humanity that exists in us all?”
(Editor’s Note: This is the first in series of blog posts highlighting SF/F theater productions in various cities.)
Coming November 3, THE SEVENTH ISSUE OF 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 December 1.
Great news! eBook subscriptions are also now available through Amazon! Have the new issue of Uncanny Magazine sent directly to your Kindle device!
This is the FIRST ISSUE partially funded by our Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter! Thank you so much to our Kickstarter backers, Patreon patrons, and subscribers. You make this magazine possible, you magnificent Space Unicorns.
Uncanny Magazine Issue 7 Table of Contents
“The Archivist” by Julie Dillon
“The Uncanny Valley” by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas (11/3)
“Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon (11/3)
“And the Balance in Blood” by Elizabeth Bear (A Novelette!) (11/3)
“A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights” by Karin Tidbeck (12/1)
“Interlingua” by Yoon Ha Lee (12/1)
“I Seen the Devil” by Alex Bledsoe (12/1)
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (11/3)
“The Call of the Sad Whelkfins: The Continued Relevance of How To Suppress Women’s Writing” by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Luhrs (11/3)
“Please, Judge This Book by Its Cover” by Aidan Moher (11/3)
“The Alien Says Don’t Take Your Meds: Neurodiversity and Mental Health Treatment in TV SF/F” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (12/1)
“Everyone Has a Ghost Story” by Deborah Stanish (12/1)
“The Thirteenth Child” by Mari Ness (11/3)
“Something Different from Either” by Sonya Taaffe(11/3)
“Aboard the Transport Tesoro” by Lisa M. Bradley (12/1)
Yoon Ha Lee interviewed by Deborah Stanish (12/1)
Alex Bledsoe interviewed by Deborah Stanish (12/1)
Podcast 7A (11/3)
“Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
“The Thirteenth Child” by Mari Ness, as read by Erika Ensign
Ursula Vernon Interviewed by Deborah Stanish
Podcast 7B (12/1)
“A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights” by Karin Tidbeck, as read by Erika Ensign
“Aboard the Transport Tesoro” by Lisa M. Bradley, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Karin Tidbeck Interviewed by Deborah Stanish
(Guest Blog Post by A.C. Wise.)
As authors, it’s natural to be protective of our work. We pour our hearts into our words, and when someone comes back with a critique – even a solicited one – it can sting. There’s often an urge to puff up, get defensive, and say: That’s not what I meant, or You’re reading it wrong, or even simply, You are wrong. However, there’s a stark difference between legitimate criticism and complaining for the sake of complaining, like those one-star Amazon reviews trashing a book because the customer didn’t like the box it came in, or the shipment arrived a day late. The best criticism is aimed at making a piece stronger, and it is worth listening to—especially when you are writing about a character (or characters) unlike yourself.
As a cisgender author writing about trans characters in The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, I am sharply aware of the need to listen. Trans stories aren’t necessarily mine to tell, but at the same time, I don’t believe that means I should only write about people exactly like me. What it does mean is that I need to tell the stories that aren’t mine with as much respect and care as possible, and I need to listen when someone tells me I got it wrong. This holds true for all authors writing someone whose experience is outside their own.
It isn’t easy. There is no universal experience, no one true way to be trans, or male, or neuro-atypical, or anything. We are all human beings; we all have our own backgrounds and baggage and things that will strike a nerve. Something that makes me sit up and say: Hey, that isn’t me, you’re doing it all wrong, may reflect another person’s experience perfectly. Or it may not. The trick is to listen to what the people who might share common experiences with your characters that you don’t are saying to you about how they’re written, and try to understand their perspective.
As authors, we know words matter; we know stories matter. The stories we choose to tell, and the words we use to tell them are important. They carry weight. They carry an extra weight when it comes to stories that are already under-represented—stories about queer people, people of color, stories that have historically been pushed to the margins and ignored. Even though the culture is changing, it’s a slow change. There are few enough positive stories out there that the ones perpetuating negative stereotypes and tropes, or further marginalizing already marginalized characters, hurt even more.
I can’t promise that I got everything right in The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again. However, I can promise that I did my best to write my characters from a place of respect. And I can promise to listen when you tell me I got it wrong, and to try to do better the next time.
Now, to seal my promise with a toast, I’ll leave you with a cocktail recipe designed especially for Uncanny Magazine by the Glitter Squadron’s own bartender supreme, Sapphire.
From Sapphire’s Little Black Book of Cocktails
The Uncanny Unicorn (Shot)
1/2 oz Chambord
1/2 oz Pinnacle Rainbow Sherbet Vodka
1/2 oz White Creme de Cacao
Edible Glitter Garnish
Using a spoon against the side of a shot glass, slowly pour Chambord, Creme de Cacao, and Rainbow Sherbet Vodka to create a layered effect. Top with a dusting of edible glitter.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t normally create shots; I prefer to sip and savor my cocktails. But some cases call for it. The Uncanny Unicorn is an uncannily sweet drink, best enjoyed as a short, sharp shock, or a shot, as the case may be. Even in small doses, the Uncanny Unicorn might be enough to make you think you’re in space, even when you’re standing on firm ground looking up at the stars. The Space Unicorn Ranger Corp and the Glitter Squadron have a lot in common. They both kick ass and save the world in their own way—whether it’s with art, poetry, stories, and essays that set the way you see things askew in the best possible way, or whether it’s with sequins and high heels, both set out to shake up the status quo. And that is a something worth toasting. Cheers!
(Editor’s Note: A.C. Wise’s collection The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again was released on October 20 and is now available from Lethe Press. For another marvelous A.C. Wise tale, please check out her Uncanny Magazine story “The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate.”)
(Guest Blog Post by Kameron Hurley)
Selling my first novel – about a bisexual bounty hunter who chops off the heads of deserters in a world at perpetual war, with bonus bug magic and shapeshifters – wasn’t as easy as you might think. What I heard from publishers again and again was, “I don’t know how to market this,” even though it read like every great post-apocalypse movie I’d ever watched and many reviewers would later compare it to Herbert’s Dune.
I found the “I don’t know how to market this” thing to be a mind-boggling excuse, because I’d written the book I wanted to read. And if I wanted to read it, surely there were other people out there who wanted to read it too. What I would slowly come to realize over the years is that the people like me, who like the types of books I write – the wild, weird, punching and magic and genderbending books – were not the types of people who publishers were used to selling to. They had an Ideal Consumer in mind, and that Ideal Consumer seemed to be scared of women outside of prescribed roles, queer people who aren’t just sidekicks, and any setting weirder than something from Tolkien. Clearly, you know, the world is FULL of people who actually DO love to read books about and including all of those people and things. Full to bursting, in fact. But there was no marketing machine in place at bigger publishers to tap into this audience, or even to speak to existing readers about the unique hook my work offered (see: punching, genderbending). In fact, many of those things were aspects of the book that some publishers actively try to keep off the back cover of the books.
In one of my conversations with an editor who bought my first novel, they said that my work was going to be pretty niche. I would have a small but devoted readership, like the one Catherynne M. Valente was building at the time. I was never going to sell loads of books, they said. I should just be happy with that. But I didn’t want to be a niche writer. If I was a niche writer, then I would have niche ideas that few people would ever read. I didn’t want to write from the margins. I wanted to push to make the margins mainstream. Maybe I saw where things were headed. Maybe I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t just want to sit out here on the sidelines, being someone whose work was only discussed in academic circles, if at all.
The irony here, of course, is that Catherynne M. Valente herself went on to become a New York Times bestseller. We are all not nearly as niche as editors and publishers at first assume. The readers are there. They are hungry. Sometimes it’s up to us as writers to convince the machine of this.
What I learned pecking at the edges of the publishing industry, trying to get into bigger publishers, is that I wasn’t the sort of writer who was going to give up and write dudebro medieval fantasy or vampire erotica in order to make a career. If you love to write those things, that is great! You will make more money than I will right out the gate. But that just wasn’t what I wanted to write. My strategy, instead, was to build a small but fervent pool of core readers and fans who would help launch my work out of the margins and into the mainstream.
That is not an easy road. It’s not the fast way to make a living at this, or to build a readership. But it would allow me to write what I wanted to write without giving in to the appetite of the machine. Best of all, if I had “Kameron Hurley readers” instead of just “epic fantasy readers” or “science fiction readers” then it freed me to write Kameron Hurley novels, whatever those were, instead of being boxed in by the success of any one series. Nurturing a core audience means that you can always, reliably, sell a certain number of books. And then you work to break out from there.
I have had long conversations with other writers in the industry who purposefully write in clear, simple prose, with page-turning, formulaic plots that employ recognizable tropes and themes in approachable settings. We see these sorts of formulas applied to blockbuster movies all the time, and yes: they work. One of the things I’ve learned from these writers is to focus more on plot, and clarify my language. I’ve also learned that I can do this while still writing Kameron Hurley stories, and be true to who I am as a writer and what I want to achieve, without giving in and writing like they do.
How to do that?
It’s said (I believe by, again, Valente) that readers will forgive your work for including one of these three things: a wholly unrecognizable world, strange and dense prose, or a complex, convoluted structure. You can do any one of these three and still sell very well. Two of three, and yes, you’ll be a harder sell. Three of three, and you are probably writing a niche book.
So I choose one or two, and compromise on the third. Then I focus hard on the story itself, because that’s why readers are here, really – ideas and gender fluidity and polyamorous cultures are great, but if there’s no story driving the reader, none of it matters outside of academia.
The fact that your characters are transgender, pansexual, not white, and you deal with themes of genocide, identity, and betrayal? Readers care less about that than trolling internet comments might make you think. Readers are still, even now, most interested in a good story. Write a good story, and you can push up through the heap, nurturing your audience as you go. Create a mailing list where folks can subscribe and get links and news about your latest stories. Find a social platform you like – Facebook, Twitter, whatever – and have fun there talking about what it is you’re passionate about. I hear all the time from folks that being online doesn’t sell books, which is fine to say if you’ve got the support of a major publishing house, and you’re a major title with a major marketing budget. But if you’re writing at the margins, you aren’t going to start with that. This is where social media and online discourse work in favor of those without access to traditional budgets and channels.
Is it going to be difficult to convince people there’s an audience for what you write? Yes. Still. But it’s not impossible. And I feel that needs to be said out loud to new writers who feel their voices and subject matter are forever marginalized: it is not impossible. Please write what you want. We need your voice.
I get email and comments all the time from people thanking me for writing about genderqueer characters, about gay and bisexual characters, about polyamorous societies, about worlds they really have never seen before. Writing about things people have never seen before in mainstream-ish SF and epic fantasy books, all mashed up together into one gloriously brilliant ride, is what I got into the business to do. I wanted stories about these sorts of people to no longer be niche books, and to do that I needed to make them not only protagonists, but heroes in the very epic sense of the word… and they needed to be driving powerful stories.
It’s true that sometimes I pitched my books as being something they weren’t, exactly. I chose the best of the bad fits. I said my weird bugpunk science fiction/fantasy noir novel was just science fiction. I said that The Mirror Empire and Empire Ascendant – the genderbending, parallel universe swapping satellite magic fantasy – was just… epic fantasy. Sometimes you just pick the best of their boxes, and you parade around in front of the publishing industry as if they truly do fit, and you hope they don’t notice that you don’t. You hope they let you slip through so that your readers, the people you really wrote all this mad stuff for, can find you.
I won’t say that it isn’t still tough to keep in this wedge I’ve got in the door of the publishing machine right now. But the thing is, even if the door closes, I’ll have nurtured a core audience that I can always go back to, one that will always help me keep pushing in from the outside.
So in that sense, maybe, that editor was right, all those years ago. I’ve found the people who love my work. And the truth is that I’d never have found them if I was just trying to write the next McBook. I’d have made myself miserable writing more and more watered down books, trying to write just like everyone else, when what I really needed to do was learn how to tell a story, and learn how to talk to the readers who needed those stories most.
(Editor’s note: Kameron Hurley’s new novel Empire Ascendant, the second volume of her Worldbreaker Saga, was released on October 6 and is now available from all fine booksellers. For more of Kameron’s thoughts on writing, please check out her Uncanny Magazine essay “I Don’t Care About Your MFA: On Writing vs. Storytelling“)
Coming September 1, THE SIXTH ISSUE OF 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 October 6.
This is the FINAL ISSUE funded by our Uncanny Magazine Year One Kickstarter.
We are still running the Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter. Please consider supporting Uncanny so we can continue to bring you phenomenal stories, essays, poems, and interviews.
Uncanny Magazine Issue 6 Table of Contents
Matthew Dow Smith
The Uncanny Valley
Paul Cornell- “Find a Way Home” (Our first Middle-Grade story!) (9/1)
Isabel Yap- “The Oiran’s Song” (A Novelette!) (9/1)
Liz Argall and Kenneth Schneyer- “The Sisters’ Line” (10/6)
Keffy R. M. Kehrli- “And Never Mind the Watching Ones” (A Novelette!) (10/6)
N. K. Jemisin- “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters” (9/1)
Michi Trota- “Diversity Panels Are the Beginning, Not the End” (9/1)
Steven H Silver- “A Brief History of MidAmeriCon” (9/1)
Diana M. Pho – “Suspended Beliefs: Verisimilitude vs. Accuracy” (10/6)
David J. Schwartz – Masculinity Is an Anxiety Disorder: Breaking Down the Nerd Box (10/6)
Rose Lemberg- “A Riddler at Market” (9/1)
Dominik Parisien- “To A Dying Friend” (9/1)
Amal El-Mohtar- “Biting Tongues” (Reprint) (10/6)
Jennifer Crow- “The Book of Longing” (10/6)
Deborah Stanish Interviews Isabel Yap (9/1)
Deborah Stanish Interviews Liz Argall and Kenneth Schneyer (10/6)
Podcast 6A (9/1)
Paul Cornell- “Find a Way Home” as read by Erika Ensign
Rose Lemberg- “A Riddler at Market” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Deborah Stanish Interviews Paul Cornell
Podcast 6B (10/6)
Keffy R. M. Kehrli- “And Never Mind the Watching Ones” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Amal El-Mohtar- “Biting Tongues” (Reprint) as read by the author
Deborah Stanish Interviews Keffy R.M. Kehrli
Chris Kluwe is a former NFL punter, writer, one-time violin prodigy, rights advocate, and obsessive gamer. Kluwe graduated from UCLA with a double major in history and political science and played for the Minnesota Vikings for eight years. He is the author of the acclaimed essay collection Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities and has been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Salon. Kluwe has appeared at TED, discussing the topic of the future of virtual reality technology and its connection to building a more empathetic society, and he regularly makes presentations at major corporations, universities, and human rights organizations.
Interview by Michi Trota
You can support the Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter here.
1) You co-wrote your recent novel Prime: A Genesis Series Event with Andrew Reiner. What are some of the challenges and advantages of collaborating with another writer to create a shared universe?
There were a couple obstacles we had to overcome, the main one of which was figuring out who was going to write the darn thing. Andy and I have very different writing styles, and when we tried alternating chapters at first, it was very obvious who had written which one. We felt that was a little jarring, so we decided to go with a system where I would write a first draft of a chapter, Andy would make suggestions/edits, and then I would go back through and make it all internally consistent. I think it ended up working really well for us, and we’re doing the same thing for book two.
One of the biggest advantages of collaborating with Andy was that we could push each other one when it felt like one of us was flagging. Probably the hardest part of writing a book is simply forcing yourself to get all the way to the end, a daunting task when you first put words to paper, but having a teammate makes it much easier. I would highly recommend, if not a co-writer, at least a cheerleader, someone who will help you get through the doldrums and remind you that the book won’t write itself.
2) You’ve played football in the NFL, authored essays and a science fiction novel, are an avid gamer, and you’re also a cook. You clearly enjoy challenging yourself and trying new things. Is there a hobby that you’re not interested in trying?
Ummm, none that spring immediately to mind. I enjoy trying new things, and the world is a vast and fascinating place. You’ll never know if you like something or not until you try it (a lesson I’m trying to teach my kids).
3) What is the most uncanny thing that’s ever happened to you?
Probably playing in the NFC Championship game in 2010. The atmosphere was surreal. I don’t think the noise in the stadium ever dropped below 100db the entire game. Even though we ended up losing, it was an incredible experience.
We have an amazing team here at Uncanny Magazine. We receive thousands of submissions per year. Our wonderful Submissions Editors are the first readers of all of these stories. We thought it would be fun to ask them about their work here since a deluge of submissions will be heading their way as soon as the Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter reaches 100% funded.
Interview by Michi Trota
(You can support the Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter here.)
What makes a story uncanny to you?
An Uncanny story cannot be trusted. It lures me in, perhaps with an intriguing voice or an interesting use of genre elements, and then it surprises me. It subverts my expectations. An Uncanny story doesn’t take the path less taken; it forges a whole new one that carries my imagination off into the uncharted frontier of new ideas. An Uncanny story reinvents the wheel, and then it inspires me to do the same.
Jennifer R. Albert:
Uncanny stories are many things. They are weird and wonderful, familiar and fresh. They dazzle, delight, unsettle, and affect us. Uncanny stories are the ones you love desperately when you don’t know why, the ones that worm their way into your middle and stick there.
Uncanny stories have something special, a little different, a little skewed. They’re often beautiful; above all else, thoughtful. They’ve heft and depth, even if their flight is delicate. They stay with you. The best come back again and again, resurrected by some small thing, raised up from the subconscious to provoke further digestion. They all possess a germ of importance, regardless of style or content.
To me, what makes a story Uncanny is closely related to what makes a story awesome. And it’s really hard to describe. It starts with the usual things, of course—I can’t stop reading it, even if I really need to go attend to something else urgent; I am surprised while reading, at last once if not more; I feel like I am reading about real people in real places and situations (even if they’re aliens or magical beings or sentient trees).
But an Uncanny story is even more than that. There’s that shiver of recognition, that “Ohhhhh…..” that happens when I recognize that I’m being given a glimpse into an amazing writer’s unique imagination. That glimpse that makes me laugh out loud, or creeps me out. (or both!) An Uncanny story is fun. It’s smart. It’s unique. It’s…well, to borrow an old phrase: “I know it when I see it.”
I have an abiding love for the surreal, the strange, and the beautiful. For me, an Uncanny story is all of those things and more. An Uncanny story is unforgettable. An Uncanny story is thoughtful, and touches on relevant issues creatively. Uncanny stories get my brain moving in unusual ways, and they’re the ones I can’t wait to tell all my friends to read.
Kay Taylor Rea:
Uncanny stories have the bones of SF/F fiction fleshed out with wondrous weirdness. They’re pleasantly odd tales that twist and reshape themselves. They slip past standard genre definitions if you try to pin them down. They turn tired tropes in on themselves and emerge as something shiny and new. They’re odd and clever, sad and sweet, grandly sweeping and breath-stealingly intimate, guilelessly optimistic and rough-edged with realism. Uncanny stories are exactly what you expect right up until they’re not. Uncanny stories make you think, make you dream, and make you flip through the pages to read that great bit one more time.
In order of preference, a story is Uncanny when it’s:
1. Effortlessly takes me out of my day-to-day experience and/or makes me question my day-to-day experience
2. Tone creates a palpable atmosphere/mood but doesn’t hit me over head
3. Authentic characterization
4. Fresh, experimental and unique
To me, an Uncanny story is not any one kind of story; it’s a feeling. So many of my favorite stories in this magazine have had something to do with identity and perception. While the stories are always about other realities, there’s an aura of connectedness and belonging which is relatable to someone who reads speculative stories to understand themselves better. A beauty in the work itself is something I also find; whatever the mood or tone, it’s a short story, told well.
For me, an Uncanny story has an emotional core that wounds or heals — or both at once. It employs the speculative to create that emotional effect. If speculative fiction is about exploring the conceptual possibilities of this and other worlds, Uncanny stories are those which explore sociological, emotional, and connective spaces. Those spaces can be as small as a pocket or as large as a planet; they are always intense.
Alyssa Wong is a 2013 graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Black Static, and Tor.com. Her story “The Fisher Queen” was nominated for the Nebula, Shirley Jackson, and World Fantasy Awards. Her poem “For the Gardener’s Daughter” appears in Uncanny Magazine #4.
Interview by Michi Trota
You can support the Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter here.
1) Your Nebula Award nominated story, “The Fisher Queen,” uses a lot of elements common in folk and fairy tales. Are there any particular folk tales or fairy tales that you’ve found inspiring?
There’s a Filipino folk tale about a lazy girl named Pina whose mother accidentally turns her into a pineapple. I always liked that one because it felt like something my own mom might do in a moment of exasperation.
I’ve loved fairy tales since I was little. When I was growing up, my favorite was “Little Red Riding Hood,” because I wanted to marry a wolf (this was a poor idea). My current favorites are “The Twelve Brothers and The Snow Queen”; both are about girls who embark on quests and who have to make intense personal sacrifices to complete them.
2) You’ve spoken before about your enthusiasm for fanfiction. How do you think fanfiction affects readers’ and creators’ relationship with the original source material?
I like fanfiction because it’s a way for fans to connect deeply with the source material and explore that connection in ways that aren’t given a lot of screen time in canon. Maybe you’re really into the xenobiology on a certain planet and you want to write about how that works. Maybe it’s the relationship between two, or three, or more characters that you want to focus on. I love that fanfiction gives fans and creators the opportunity to pick up underutilized threads in the source material and extrapolate those ideas into something new.
3) What is the most uncanny thing that’s ever happened to you?
Catch me in person sometime and I’ll tell you the story of Faceless Ghost Grandma. Other than that, my life hasn’t been terribly uncanny.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of The Glamourist Histories series of fantasy novels. She has received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Hugo awards, and the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. Her stories appear in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor, recording fiction for authors such as Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters. Her story “ Midnight Hour” appeared in Uncanny Magazine #5. Visit maryrobinettekowal.com
Interview by Michi Trota
You can support the Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter here.
1) You recently completed your Glamourist History series. Each one is a little different in structure: you’ve done a romance, a spy story, a political thriller, a heist, and you’ve described the last book as your “grimdark” story. Looking back, did you have a favorite out of those different story types?
I really enjoyed the heist novel structure, but the one that I found most interesting was the grimdark. Why? Because my initial approach to the novel was thinking about Downton Abbey and how it is structured based on soap operas. What I discovered was that when you apply that structure to a fantasy novel, it naturally veers into grimdark. That was a little bit surprising, but made sense when I thought about it. In soap operas, things are heightened and always, always getting worse. There’s just not as much blood and dirt as in a fantasy novel.
2) You’re an experienced puppeteer and recently completed a several week-long puppetry workshop at the Jim Henson Studios. What was the most surprising experience you had at the workshop?
The workshop was heavily improv based. I haven’t done any formal improv since high school. What surprised me was how many exercises were like the POV exercises that I do when teaching writing. I suspect that a lot of writers would be well-served to take some character based improv classes.
3) Anyone who follows you on Twitter and Instagram knows that you love to make pies. What is your favorite pie – and which fictional character of yours would you most like to share it with and why?
I am a sucker for a pecan pie, which I almost never see and rarely make. If I could, I’d share it with Elma York, from “Lady Astronaut of Mars” because she’s based on my grandmother.