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Max and Amal Go to the Movies! Rogue One

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amal El-Mohtar: I HAVE! I LOVE IT!

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

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

That can’t be right!

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

Amal El-Mohtar: FUCK the Nazis.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



(New title for column: ANYWAY.)

You were saying, about it and The Great Escape.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amal El-Mohtar: RIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amal El-Mohtar: Ahhhh! OK.

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

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

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

Max Gladstone: That makes total sense to me.

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

Amal El-Mohtar: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(But yes.)

Amal El-Mohtar: (nose-wrinkling)

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


Amal El-Mohtar: MUTTER GRUMP

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

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

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

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

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

So that’s me. Where are you?

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

Max Gladstone: Hah. Yes. Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max Gladstone: (Yeah, that was weird.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(But yes.)

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

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

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

Max Gladstone: Yes!

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

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

Amal El-Mohtar: AHAHA OMG YES!

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

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

Max Gladstone: Hahahaaha!

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

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

—actually go on, guess,

Max Gladstone: Steven Universe?

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

Max Gladstone: Hamilton?

Amal El-Mohtar: …No the OTHER thing.

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

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

Max Gladstone: Ah! Yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amal El-Mohtar: YES, right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max Gladstone: Yes!

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

Amal El-Mohtar: Whaaaaaat!

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

Amal El-Mohtar: I didn’t even notice!

Is that… A mistake?

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

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

A post shared by Justin Bolger (@theapexfan) on

Amal El-Mohtar: AMAZING!

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

Max Gladstone: Conclusions are hard!

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

What about you?

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

Max Gladstone: Yes to all of that!

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

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

May the Force be with them!

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

Uncanny Magazine Issue 15 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 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!


Julie Dillon- “Submerged City”

The Uncanny Valley (3/7)

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)

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

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)

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)

Stephen Graham Jones by Julia Rios (3/7)

Sarah Pinsker by Julia Rios (4/4)

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

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

Two Uncanny Magazine Stories are Nebula Award Finalists!

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

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

From the SFWA Nebula Award announcement:

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

Uncanny Magazine 2016 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll Results!

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

Liz Argall’s Things React to Monster Girls Don’t Cry

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

For Issue 14, Liz’s Things react to “Monster Girls Don’t Cry” by A. Merc Rustad!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 14 Cover and Table of Contents!


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

John Picacio- “El Arpa”

The Uncanny Valley

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)

Ann Leckie- “The Unknown God” (2/7)

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)

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)

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

Maria Dahvana Headley by Julia Rios (2/7)

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

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

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

(Guest Post!)

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

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

A Quartet from Navah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Quartet from Joe

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Liz Argall’s Things React to Seasons of Glass and Iron!

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 13, Liz’s things react to Amal El-Mohtar‘s reprinted story “Seasons of Glass and Iron” from the Saga Press anthology The Starlit Wood!


Uncanny Magazine 2016 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 that they might have missed and which categories these stories are eligible in (especially for the Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards). 2016 was the second full year of Uncanny Magazine (Issues 8 through 13). We are extremely proud of the year we had.

This year, Uncanny Magazine is still eligible for the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are also eligible for the Best Editor (Short Form) Hugo Award. (Note: If you are nominating the Thomases in this category, please nominate them together. They are a co-editing team.)

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):

The Virgin Played Bass by Maria Dahvana Headley

Love Is Never Still by Rachel Swirsky

You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong

Snow Day by Catherynne M. Valente


Short Stories (Under 7500 Words):

Lotus Face and the Fox by Nghi Vo

The Creeping Women by Christopher Barzak

The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar by Rose Lemberg

The Sincerity Game by Brit Mandelo

The Shadow Collector by Shveta Thakrar

The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven by Kelly Sandoval

The Artificial Bees by Simon Guerrier

Big Thrull and the Askin’ Man by Max Gladstone

The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One by JY Yang

Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands by Seanan McGuire

The Sound of Salt and Sea by Kat Howard

The Drowning Line by Haralambi Markov

El Cantar of Rising Sun by Sabrina Vourvoulias

A Hundred and Seventy Storms by Aliette de Bodard

The Words on My Skin by Caroline M. Yoachim

An Ocean the Color of Bruises by Isabel Yap

Under One Roof by Sarah Pinsker

My Body, Herself by Carmen Maria Machado

Not a Miracle But a Marvel by Tim Pratt

The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight by E. Lily Yu

Rooms Formed of Neurons and Sex by Ferrett Steinmetz

Don’t You Worry, You Aliens by Paul Cornell

Kamanti’s Child by Jennifer Marie Brissett

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander

The Green Knight’s Wife by Kat Howard

White Hart, Black Knight by Alex Bledsoe

Can’t Beat ‘Em by Nalo Hopkinson

A Trump Christmas Carol by Roz Kaveney, Laurie Penny, John Scalzi, and Jo Walton


Talking Nerd Music with the Doubleclicks

As the Doubleclicks, musician duo sisters Aubrey and Angela Webber create delightfully geeky, sweet, and sometimes snarky songs. Since debuting on YouTube in 2011 with a weekly songwriting project, the Doubleclicks continue to make meaningful music that has audiences both laughing and crying about dinosaurs, nights in watching Netflix, and what would be the Worst Superpower Ever. They’ve toured the country appearing at cons and other events, been featured on programs like The Nerdist and NPR, and produce a touring variety show called #NerdNightOut. Managing Editor Michi Trota recently had a chance to catch up with Angela and talk about celebrating one’s geekiness, addressing issues of inclusivity, and what fandoms inspire the Doubleclicks’ music. 

Uncanny Magazine: You’ve spent quite a bit of the summer on tour across the country. That’s a lot of travel and energy to share with your fans! What’s your favorite part about touring?

Angela: The shows! It’s really fun because each city has a different personality, but all of them will sing about cats with us. I feel very excited and warmed about the state of humanity when I’m in a room full of nerds.

Uncanny Magazine: You’ve released three full studio albums, two EPs, a demo album, and several individual songs. You’ve developed an enthusiastic and supportive fanbase, much of it online, since your first YouTube project in 2011. How have platforms like YouTube and Patreon affected your ability to interact with your fans? 

Angela: YouTube, Twitter, and our mailing list have been the biggest help in connecting with our fans. I’m really glad that we’ve been able to connect with folks from the very beginning, and that they have stayed in touch and followed us from our very low–fi early YouTube videos from my basement to the tours and conventions and albums that we do today. Being able to connect directly with an audience is such a huge benefit of the internet, and makes it possible for folks like us to skip the need for a manager, PR company, radio placement team, label, booker, and agent, and just get our music straight into the hands of the folks who want it. Patreon and Kickstarter are great media through which our fans have generously supported us through the years. It’s really cool to be able to make the things for our people with no one in–between telling us what to do and how to do it. 

Uncanny Magazine: Three years ago you released “Nothing to Prove,”* a song which pushed back against the idea that nerds and geeks, especially if they’re not men, have to prove their “nerd cred.” Do you think gatekeeping and issues of inclusion in geek communities have improved since then?

Angela: That’s a complicated question! Over the years, the issue has evolved from “fake geek testing” to “GamerGate” to twitter hacks and trolling about the election, race, Ghostbusters… On the one hand, there is still a strong, vocal contingent of trolls trying to ruin people’s day for no good reason. On the other hand, I do think the conversation about inclusiveness in the geek world has improved, opened, and elevated, and that’s great. Amazing groups like Geek Girl Brunch, Black Girl Nerds, and countless podcasts, inclusivity–based conventions and sites have developed a strong voice, and that is rad. I don’t think we’re ever going to get rid of the voices of negativity and trolling, but we can remember they are a tiny amount compared to the rad people focusing their energy on elevating the nerd world and underrepresented voices!

Uncanny Magazine: Finding inspiration in and being able to poke fun at the fandoms we love is often at the heart of your music. You’ve referenced shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X–Files, as well as Dungeons & Dragons, superheroes, cats, and dinosaurs—are there any fandoms or characters you haven’t yet written about that you’d like to?

Angela: It’s hard to know where we’ll go next. We usually start with a message and the feelings, but you’re right—nerd stuff does often sneak its way into what we’re doing. We just released a song and music video called “Lord of the Rings”—the books and movies are a big emotional part of my life, so it was amazing to be able to dress up as the characters and majestically reclaim that franchise in our own way. The song, ultimately, is about something much different than the Lord of the Rings, but it was definitely great to get that out there. 

I don’t know what nerdy place we’ll go next, but we have some songs about self–esteem and depression coming soon that I’m sure will be inhabited by the dorky stuff that’s on our mind when the songs come together.

Uncanny Magazine: You’ve been outspoken about creating inclusive, welcoming spaces in nerd communities. Why is this so important to you?

Angela: I think it’s just intuitive. Until I found geek culture, I felt like a broken person who would never fit in, who was just “built wrong,” and it made me angry and vengeful. Geek culture was there for me when I needed it, and I think that we should offer that same sense of acceptance to everyone. The forces of negativity are still around, but we need to approach folks with empathy to demonstrate that we can be in here together, and welcoming in voices that are different than our own can only elevate us.

Uncanny Magazine: What are some books, TV shows, games, or other nerdy things that you’re particularly enthusiastic about right now?

Angela: We’re playing a lot of Betrayal at the House On The Hill—the expansion just camp out (and we were asked to write for it!) so we are experiencing the cool tone of the new haunts and mechanics there. We’re also playing lots of Fiasco—as always—a game we like so much that we decided to start a podcast (Gosh Darn Fiasco!) so we can play it with our friends. We’re also loving Luke Cage, Steven Universe, Supergirl, and can’t wait for iZombie to be back. The piece of media I’m most excited about is nerd–inspired rapper/producer Sammus’ new album. We heard some of the tracks on tour with her last year and it’s going to blow people’s minds when it comes out. She says tons of important stuff about the world (not just the nerd part) and she rules.

Uncanny Magazine: Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Angela: Folks can subscribe to us on YouTube for upcoming videos and check out our live online show #DoubleclicksLive on Thursday, November 17, 2016, 6pm Pacific/9pm Eastern. People can RSVP and request songs on our Facebook event page, too!

Uncanny Magazine: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!

*Editors’ Note: Michi appears in the music video of “Nothing to Prove.”

banana-768x503The Doubleclicks ( are a folk–pop sister duo, featuring clever lyrics about dinosaurs, literature, love and the Internet—with a cello, guitar, and meowing kitten keyboard. Their latest CD President Snakes debuted in the top 10 Billboard comedy albums chart, and their 2014 release Dimetrodon was funded by a $80,000 Kickstarter project. Their songs and YouTube videos have been viewed over 3 million times and are featured on BoingBoing, Kotaku, Huffington Post, and on NPR shows Live Wire, All Things Acoustic, and State of Wonder.