Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Uncanny Magazine Won a Hugo! So Did Folding Beijing!

Oh, Space Unicorns. We have so much glorious news to share. We’ll talk about the Kickstarter in our next post (EVERY STRETCH GOAL REACHED), but first…

UNCANNY MAGAZINE WON A HUGO AWARD FOR BEST SEMIPROZINE!!!

And “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu) WON A HUGO AWARD FOR BEST NOVELETTE!

We are so honored. This is such a major honor for our first year of publication. Thank you to all of our readers, creators, and staff. This award is only possible because of your support and brilliance.

Here are Lynne, Michael, and Michi giving their speeches!

And here are Hao Jingfang and Ken Liu giving their speeches!

It is all amazing and a little overwhelming. There are articles all over the world for these wins, including China due to Jingfang’s historic win and the Philippines because of Michi being the first Filipina winner in Hugo Award history.

You can read Michi’s speech on her website.

And Charles Tan made this GIF of Michael!

via GIPHY

Shine on, Space Unicorns!

I Want to Write A History of Inequality, by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu

(Guest Post by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu.)

My Hugo nomination has brought a sudden burst of media interest in China.

Some have asked me how my life will be changed; I want to tell them there will be no change at all.

The nominated story, “Folding Beijing,” was published two years ago in Chinese. After that, my life has gotten busy. I’m busy with the natural flow of life, a river that won’t be interrupted because of a few waves spraying foam against the bow of the ship.

I’m not a fulltime writer, and I won’t become one in the future. I have a job that requires dedication, that makes me run to catch the subway every day, traverse the bustling city, swipe the card at the office door, and work late and long hours to meet deadlines. Writing is like the crystalline bubbles in a tributary of my life; I know where the main stem of my life lies.

I wrote a story about inequality, and it has won some recognition and praise. I suppose you can say this is some sign that inequality is a problem that resonates across the globe. Indeed, inequality is a troubling problem. Why do we have inequality in the world? And why is it so hard to eliminate?

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Let me be clear: “Folding Beijing” represents just one of the many ways I’ve thought about inequality. It may be the most vivid, but it certainly isn’t the most important.

I’ve been troubled by inequality for a long time. When I majored in physics as an undergraduate, I once stared at the distribution curve for American household income that showed profound inequality, and tried to fit the data against black-body distribution or Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution. I wanted to know how such a curve came about, and whether it implied some kind of universality: something as natural as particle energy distribution functions, so natural it led to despair.

In one sense, the entire economic history of dynastic China can be understood as the history of struggles against inequality. Numerous dynasties engaged in reform measures such as land redistribution into equal tenements, enacting laws to prevent the wealthy from acquiring large estates by squeezing off small tenants, etc. But even if land ownership was relatively even at the beginning of a dynasty, waves of mergers into large estates eventually swept through the country until tax reforms by the middle of the dynasty had to accept unequal land ownership as a fact. Indeed, if the regimes had insisted on resisting the economic impetus driving such mergers, the economy of the country would have stayed at the relatively primitive stage of inefficient household farms. Throughout this process, successive Chinese governments committed many violent errors and acts of tyranny, but their intentions and goals were often positive.

If we broaden our perspective to today’s world, the problem remains unsolved. Some small countries or city-states which stand near the top of our global economic value chain have indeed mostly achieved equality, but down the value chain live many larger populations still mired in poverty.

If the chance presents itself, I want to write A History of Inequality in the future, chronicling humanity’s millennia-long war against inequality (and our repeated defeats). We still see no sign of true victory, at least not at this moment.

I may not get a chance to write such a book for a long time.

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Actually, part of my job actually involves research into this question.

I’m employed by the China Development Research Foundation. I’ve been there since the day I got my PhD, more than three years ago now.

From time to time, people ask me: What sort of investment do you make?

I have to clarify this: the foundation is a nonprofit research organization that makes no investments at all. We were founded by the Development Research Center of the State Council (DNC), but our operations are independent. Most of our projects involve: research on specific topics, organizing conferences, knowledge exchange with other research institutes, public interest work, and so on.

The foundation is responsible for organizing many research conferences. Every March, an international conference called “China Development Forum” is held at Diaoyutai (the government’s guesthouse complex), and the last one was attended by both the premier and the vice premier, as well as more than eighty of the executives of the Fortune Global 500.

The foundation also has specific research projects directed at questions of policy. Some of the research is commissioned by the government, others by private companies. These projects cover economics, sociology, and management. The results of the research are generally presented as policy proposals, delivered to the commissioning party or the DNC.

Another important part of the foundation’s work involves public interest research intended to benefit children from rural, poverty-stricken parts of China.

I get emotional whenever I have to talk about this aspect of the foundation. I can’t express the depth of my admiration for my colleagues’ dedication to their task. These projects involve the most remote, poorest parts of China, and those working on them spend most of the year away from Beijing, staying in villages without modern conveniences, visiting each family one by one. Some of my colleagues kept on working even when they were pregnant, riding bumpy buses through dusty roads for hours to reach their destinations.

The foundation suggested a nutritional supplement program for children from rural, poor regions, and the program is now national policy. The foundation also built kindergartens for children in mountainous regions left behind when their parents left their ancestral villages to be migrant workers in distant cities. A poor county might contain a hundred tiny villages scattered in the mountains, and the foundation would build a kindergarten in every single village. These children might not see their parents for the whole year, and receive practically no education before they are old enough for school. We don’t necessarily know what it means to win the race of life at the starting line, but we certainly know what it looks like when children fall behind at the starting line.

Compared to the enormous population of China, the efforts of the foundation are so insignificant it is like trying to rescue a burning house with a single cup of water. But even such small efforts, maintained over years, may still make a difference.

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This is why I won’t leave my job. Even if I were to win the Hugo, it won’t have much impact on my life.

I need that persistence, that sense I’m part of a worthwhile effort, with a set direction. Secretary-General Lu Mai at the foundation has already spent decades traversing the country on behalf of children from rural, poor regions, and the children’s welfare is all he thinks about. Many of my colleagues are not interested in pretty words; they’ve spent years on their projects, having seen much and accomplished much, but rarely do they talk about what they’ve done. But I can see in them the hardened strength I need. Their actions tell me that in this superficial world filled with cynical laughter and ironic detachment, there are still some who hold onto their ideals and try to make them come true. Even the most magnificent fireworks will fade after a moment, but steady strides, one step after another on solid ground, will bring hope of change.

The foundation is a small group that can touch First Space, but chooses to cheer on Third Space. We’re not many, but we’ll never give up.

 

hao_jingfang2Hao Jingfang has an undergraduate degree from Tsinghua University’s Department of Physics and a PhD from Tsinghua in Economics and Management. Her fiction has appeared in English various publications, including Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Uncanny. She has published three full-length novels, Wandering Maearth, Return to Charon, and Born in 1984; a book of cultural essays, Europe in Time; and several short story collections, Star Travelers, To Go the Distance, and The Depth of Loneliness. In 2016, her novelette, “Folding Beijing” (translated by Ken Liu), was a Hugo finalist. Several of her stories, including “Folding Beijing,” are collected in Invisible Planets, an anthology of contemporary Chinese SF edited and translated by Ken Liu.

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Uncanny Magazine, Pockets, and Heat of Us Are All World Fantasy Award Finalists!

SPACE UNICORNS! UNCANNY MAGAZINE‘S LYNNE M. AND MICHAEL DAMIAN THOMAS, AMAL EL-MOHTAR’S “POCKETS,” AND SAM J. MILLER’S “THE HEAT OF US: NOTES TOWARD AN ORAL HISTORY” ARE ALL WORLD FANTASY AWARD FINALISTS

This is such an amazing and unexpected honor. A huge thanks to all of the World Fantasy Convention members and the World Fantasy Award jury for nominating Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, for Uncanny, in the Special Award, Nonprofessional category, and both Amal El-Mohtar’s “Pockets” and Sam J. Miller’s “Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” in the Short Fiction category. (Both stories are available for free on the website and in our podcast.)

We had many hopes for our first year of Uncanny Magazine, but even in our wildest dreams we didn’t foresee this much award attention.  Stories, covers, the podcast, and the magazine itself have been named as finalists for the Hugo, the Locus, the World Fantasy, the Chesley, the Spectrum, the Parsec, the Theodore Sturgeon, and many other awards. Thank you, you phenomenal Space Unicorn Ranger Corps for making Uncanny Magazine possible, and giving us the means to share these special pieces with all of you.  This is the best community of staff, contributors, and readers possible.

If it is possible to be both proud and completely floored, you’re looking at it.

Shine on, Space Unicorns!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 11 Cover and Table of Contents!

Coming July 5, THE ELEVENTH 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 August 2.

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

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Uncanny Magazine Issue 11 Table of Contents

Cover
“Those Who Came First” by Antonio Caparo

Editorial
“The Uncanny Valley” by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas (7/5)

Fiction
“A Hundred and Seventy Storms” by Aliette de Bodard (7/5)
“El Cantar of Rising Sun” by Sabrina Vourvoulias (7/5)
“The Words on My Skin” by Caroline M. Yoachim (7/5)
“Snow Day” by Catherynne M. Valente (8/2)
“An Ocean the Color of Bruises” by Isabel Yap (8/2)

Reprint Fiction
“Travels with the Snow Queen” by Kelly Link (7/5)

Nonfiction
“We Were All Trini: Searching for Asian American Mirrors in SF/F” by Sarah Kuhn (7/5)
“So You Want to Start a Podcast” by Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky (7/5)
“The Death of Very Special Diversity Comics” by Sigrid Ellis (8/2)
“Myth Has Momentum, or: How I Accidentally Deified a Jar of Jelly” by Kelly McCullough (8/2)

Poetry
“Good Neighbors” by Jessica P. Wick (7/5)
“Phaya Nak Goes to the West” by Bryan Thao Worra (8/2)
“The Persecution of Witches” by Ali Trotta (8/2)

Interviews
Sarah Kuhn interviewed by Deborah Stanish (7/5)
Sabrina Vourvoulias interviewed by Deborah Stanish (7/5)

Podcast 11A (7/5)
“A Hundred and Seventy Storms” by Aliette de Bodard, as read by Erika Ensign
“Good Neighbors” by Jessica P. Wick, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
An interview conducted by Deborah Stanish

Podcast 11B (8/2)
“An Ocean the Color of Bruises” by Isabel Yap, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
“The Persecution of Witches” by Ali Trotta, as read by Erika Ensign
An interview conducted by Deborah Stanish

Do What Donna Says! by Tansy Rayner Roberts

(Editors’ Note: This guest post was written by Tansy Rayner Roberts for our Kickstarter Backer Alison Moore. Thanks, Alison!)

I’ve been listening to the brand new audio adventures of the Tenth Doctor and Donna from Big Finish Productions, and thinking a lot about why Donna is still one of my all time favourite Doctor Who companions.

A lot of those thoughts spiral around to the effect that she has on the Doctor, and while the feminist in me wants to protest that, I think it’s also something that should never be discounted – he is the protagonist of the show, and she is one of the endlessly changing supporting characters. She should have a profound effect on him, as it’s one of the main aspects that makes a “companion” distinct from all the others.

Let’s leave aside all the elements that most Donna fans cite first: her sense of humour, her lack of romantic attraction to the Doctor, her practical skills, how unbelievably revolutionary it felt in 2008 to have an actress in the role who was over thirty. All of these things are true and good.

But I think one of the most important aspects to Donna was how she demanded (and received) equality in her partnership with the Doctor. They worked together seamlessly as a team, their friendship was epic and enjoyable, and whenever there was a hint that the Doctor might not be showing her enough respect, she called him on his bullshit.

The scripts for these audio adventures (I can’t tell you how highly I recommend them) are clever and funny, and in many cases far superior to what David Tennant and Catherine Tate had to work with in 2008. This is a Donna who doesn’t have to prove herself, and a Doctor who trusts her completely.

Getting the companion-Doctor relationship balance right is one of the trickiest things that the show (in whichever format it comes) has to manage. Often, it comes down to the companion having strengths that the Doctor lacks, such as social skills, emotional maturity, a respect for humanity, and a perspective that belongs to a creature with a shorter lifespan. Other times, the companion comes with qualities that the Doctor himself values as his own, allowing them to talk as peers: Zoe Heriot, Liz Shaw, Romana, and Martha Jones had an education level that the Doctor valued and respected to the point of becoming competitive/jealous about their skills, and this often meant that his life experience/universe smarts were played up to contrast with their book learning.

But the companion can’t just be a collection of traits that the Doctor didn’t add to his character sheet that morning – she or he has to be someone that the Doctor will listen to, and despite her lack of education and wider life experience, Donna Noble never failed to make the Doctor listen to what she had to say.

In Technophobia by Matt Fitton, London has been affected by aliens who are draining humanity of their trust and understanding of machinery, which begins as mild superstition/dislike and turns into full-blown ignorance. Eventually, even the Doctor and Donna are affected… but because she relies less on computers and devices in real life, it bothers her less, while the Doctor is living through his ultimate nightmare. As he wavers, Donna’s leadership skills come into play, and his trust for her is such that he is able to let her make the plans around what resources they have left.

It’s a great story for them both, because we see how their friendship supports the Doctor even when he has lost pretty much everything else that is important to his identity – and even without their usual tools, they are still talking, talking, talking, back and forth.

(Did I mention how well this particular combination of characters works on audio? It’s great because Donna narrating action just sounds like Donna used to all the time anyway. THERE’S A BIG TRAIN, DOCTOR, WOW THIS ENGINEER IS KIND OF HOT, DOCTOR)

In Time Reaver, by Jenny T Colgan, the Doctor shows Donna one of his favourite places – an interstellar transport hub, and she picks instantly that he loves this place so much not (just) because it’s full of buccaneers and anti-establishment types, but because he gets to smugly compare so many different types of transport to his own TARDIS and always come out a winner. She not only points this out to him, she makes him admit it.

The Tenth Doctor, who was at times callous, ignorant, randomly cruel and vicious (but distracted us from his many problematic qualities by sheer force of being played by the adorable David Tennant) is at his best when Donna is at his side. He’s at his most likeable because he places so much value, respect, and trust in a woman who is perfectly ordinary in many ways. He listens to her, does not demean or dismiss her concerns, and laughs at himself when she pokes fun at him.

That thing where she makes him laugh at himself? It’s my favourite of many things that Donna does. She doesn’t humanise him – he’s often at his most alien around her, and she doesn’t mind that (cough unlike Rose and Martha, not that we’re comparing or anything) but she will mock him so thoroughly and so cleverly that he ends up mocking himself just to entertain her.

They use humour so thoroughly to communicate, and yet Donna can turn serious as sharply and dramatically as the Doctor can, in an emergency situation. Turns out that of all the potential qualities of a companion that we might list endlessly for hours, ‘good in a crisis’ should be right at the top.

He often lets her make the plans and/or decisions, not because she is more human than him, but because her plans are often great, and letting her make them allows him to be thinking the next step ahead – he trusts her to do her part, which is so empowering to see and so much nicer than the Doctor chiding everyone for being more stupid than he is.

I’m reminded of Agent Carter, and how the best moments of both seasons of the show are when we see men in positions of power recognising her experience and knowledge and allowing her to make the call. In Season 1, Peggy has to remind Dum Dum Dugan that Captain America trusted her –  when he asks plaintively what Cap would say about his best girl being in danger, she replies that he would say, “Do as Peggy says.”

Season 2 features the wonderful coda to that scene, in which Chiefs Thompson and Souza, who never agree on anything, shout the magical words, “Do as Peggy says,” under extreme pressure. They are both her bosses, and have both logged many hours ignoring, belittling, or over-protecting her, but in a crisis they know she has the edge over both of them in thinking fast and coming up with the best solution.

Revisiting Donna and the Doctor and their epic friendship all over again, I am reminded of that because it feels so satisfying to hear the Doctor trusting and believing in Donna to make the right call when he can’t.

The greatest weakness for me of Donna’s character was the very forced idea (expressed in a few lines of TV dialogue here and there) that she planned to travel in the TARDIS with the Doctor forever. It seemed so unlikely that a woman with such a strong sense of self would think in absolutes that way – and it set her up for one of the worst companion exits of all time.

Donna having such gleeful adventures – never mind Planet of the Hats, she wants Planet of the Boys, come on, find it for her – and thoroughly enjoying herself is, as it turns out, one of my favourite forms of entertainment. Here’s hoping that Big Finish allows the Doctor and Donna to travel together if not forever, then for many years to come.

Uncanny Cabin II: The Reckoning. A Review by Anne M. Gibson

In 2015, Uncanny Magazine ran a Kickstarter to fund their second year of publication. I’d supported them in 2014 and attended their writing retreat, Uncanny Cabin. So when I saw the same reward posted in 2015, I was all over that like a beagle at a buffet table.
I’m sorry, it was too awesome the first time for me to pass it up.
It was a wise choice.
The cabin is set in the woods of the Poconos in northern Pennsylvania. The spring sun filled our writing space on all three days. The furniture is comfortable. The food is fantastic. The sleeping arrangements are quite nice, when the Cabin’s fictional-malevolent-spirit isn’t locking one in one’s room.
And the people, well, let’s face it: we go to writing workshops as much for the people as we do the knowledge. It’s the people that make the knowledge useful, timely, and effective. And these people? They know their stuff. They represent decades of accumulated experience in the Speculative Fiction genre, from marketing to publishing to editorial. There was no topic I could ask about that they couldn’t answer. There was no insecurity or worry that I had that they could not address. And we had fun. Lynne, Deb, Mike, Ally, Fran, and Sarah filled my head with career and writing tips, tricks, and skills, while simultaneously making me laugh and helping me overcome my own insecurities.
Not much more one can ask, really. Except maybe for a ghost story. So we wrote one, live, on Twitter, in the form of an Agatha Christie retelling performed by stale peeps and a murdercabin . This marks the second year in a row where we planned to roast marshmallows over a campfire only to have the Cabin thwart our plans. One of the risks one takes when hanging out with an extremely talented and hard-working batch of writers, editors, and interviewers is that things get picked up and run with like the aforementioned buffet beagle.
I want Uncanny Magazine to succeed beyond Lynne and Michael Thomas’s wildest financial and professional expectations. I want this magazine, with its impeccable taste in stories, amazing podcast, and strong industry voice, to become as popular as Asimov’s or Amazing Stories. And at the same time, I really really want the Kickstarter to keep running so that I can jump on that buffet table of camaraderie, education, and illumination year after year.
(I’d be satisfied with their unmitigated success in all things they touch and an occasional invitation as an alumnus.)
Next year, Cabin, we’ll get our s’mores, and I’ll be here again unless someone beats me to the table.

Liz Argall’s Things React to Two Uncanny Stories!

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

This month, they’re reacting to TWO Uncanny Magazine stories! The first person who names the two stories correctly in the comments will receive a set of 6 Uncanny Magazine Cover Postcards!

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The Literary Foremothers of Roses and Rot

(Guest Post by Kat Howard)

What I write doesn’t ever emerge from a vacuum. I write because I want to say something, because I want to continue a conversation, because something has made me think or feel, and art is the best way I know to communicate those things. Sometimes the influences are more specific – more easily known and identified – than others. In this case, I can definitely call to mind the books, and the writing, that became Roses and Rot – and yes, I recommend everything listed.

Roses and Rot is my debut novel. It’s a riff on the “Tam Lin” ballad (I’ve changed enough that I don’t quite see it as a retelling, though you may certainly call it that) with a pair of sisters at the heart of the story. Set at a modern-day artists’ colony, it’s about art and sacrifice and love, about what a person might be willing to do, to get the thing they most want.

The first place Roses and Rot started, though I didn’t know it at the time – I was in high school, and thinking seriously about writing wasn’t something I did until I was almost done with my PhD – was with Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin. Dean’s book was the first place I met the ballad of “Tam Lin.” Perhaps more importantly, it was the first place that really made me see what a retelling could do. I was familiar with retold fairy tales, had devoured every anthology edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow I could get my hands on, but it wasn’t until Dean’s book that I saw a fairy tale as something completely shifted, made novel-length, made almost entirely new. There are others I’ve read, now, but that book – it’s one of the books that not only made Roses and Rot what it is, but made me what I am.

Another book that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to is Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls. I read it much closer in time to starting Roses and Rot, and Suma’s book really gave me the idea that I could tell a story that had sisters at the center. I could explore that complex and complicated relationship, and write something strange and magical about it.

I read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings right before I began my first draft, and it gave me the setting I wanted – someplace that was inside the real world, but outside of it as well. In her book, it’s a camp for the arts; in mine, an artists’ colony.

I read Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World right before my last revision, and it gave me fury, and passion, and the desire to talk about not only what it meant to make art, but what it meant to make art as a woman.

I read so much poetry – Denise Levertov and Anne Carson and Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath and Anna Akhmatova and H.D. and Rebecca Lindenberg. I read biographies of women artists – I want to specifically mention Elizabeth Winder’s Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953, because it was the story of Sylvia before she became Sylvia Plath, when she was still learning who she was and how to be herself, a state that I very much wanted to capture for the women in my book.

And while I didn’t read any new ones while I was writing Roses and Rot, this book became the book that it is because I steeped myself in fairy tales of all sorts, as a child and as an adult. I have always been – will always be – interested in what leads to ever after.

(Editors’ note: Kat Howard’s Roses and Rot will be released on May 17th from Saga Press.)

 

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Kat Howard lives in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in Year’s Best and “best–of” collections, and performed on NPR. Her debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out in May from Saga Press. You can find her on twitter at@KatWithSword.