Archive for the ‘interviews’ Category

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Diana M. Pho!


Diana M. Pho (also known as Ay-leen the Peacemaker) is a scholar, activist, performer, and general rabble-rouser. She is best-known for running Beyond Victoriana, an award-winning, US-based blog on multicultural steampunk, and the oldest-existing blog on this topic. For several years, she has traveled the country as a professional convention speaker about social justice issues and fandom. Her published work can be found in Steampunk Magazine: Issues 1 – 7Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of StyleSteaming into a Victorian Future, the Journal of Victorian Culture Online, Overland magazine, and The Anatomy of SteampunkShe also has work that will be featured in the forthcoming books Steampunk World, edited by Sarah Hans, Like Clockwork, edited by Professors Brian Croxall and Rachel Bowser, and The Steampunk User’s Manual by Jeff Vandermeer and Desirina Boskovich.

Diana currently lives and works in New York City as an editor for Tor Books & blogs for You can follow her academic work on

Interview by Michi Trota.

1) You often write about steampunk “outside of a Western-dominant, Eurocentric framework.” What is it about steampunk that you find so appealing? What would a truly multicultural steampunk world look like?

What got me into steampunk was a fascination with 19th century history and literature combined with my love of SF/F, cosplay, and theater. What makes me continually return to steampunk is its possibilities for storytelling during a dynamic era full of conflict, struggle and hope, and how I believe it parallels our current times as we undergo the next technological revolution. As much as I adore 19th century aesthetics I’m fascinated by early modern industrialization and its sociopolitical implications. Hey, I dig that waistcoat and those spats, but let’s talk about changing gender roles, worker’s movements, the fight against slavery, and anti-imperialist campaigns too, shall we?

I also think that steampunk as an art movement gives the opportunity for people of color and other marginalized backgrounds to address their own histories in an empowering way: stories that had been lost, erased, or oppressed. When I think of “multicultural” I want to see stories told from all different perspectives in a way that creates a multifaceted conversation between different peoples and communities. A “truly” multicultural steampunk world addresses the complexities of industrial change, talks about it from the perspectives of the disadvantaged as well as the privileged, and the challenges that arise from these changes.

In order to achieve that, I’m all for critical mass of voices. A single author or a single book (or a single form of media) cannot best create a “multicultural steampunk world” (though it can certainly contribute toward one). I want to see artists and creators on all different levels build an immersive dialogue that translates into a multicultural world.

2) You’re also known as Ay-leen the Peacemaker. How did you choose this name?

The name started off as a joke and a play off of the very Western name “Irene” (which also means peace). And since steampunk has pulp, I wanted a western “gunshooter” aspect to it so put on “the Peacemaker” at the end (it is also the legit name of my prop gun). Years later, others have pointed out serendipitous factoids. The Colt .45 ‘The Gun that Won the West” is nicknamed the Peacemaker. The anti-imperialist General O.T. Shaw, the titular “Warlord of the Air” in Michael Moorcock’s classic forerunner to steampunk, also was known as the Peacemaker. Those connotations are purely coincidental, but I like to chalk it up to destiny. 😉

3) How do you use your work to challenge your readers?

In a nutshell: that learning can be fun! Or maybe, that all peoples have a history worth telling, and stories that should be more widely known, especially when we live in a society that tells us that our stories aren’t worth telling at all because of willful destruction, fear, shame, or ignorance.

4) What is the most uncanny thing that’s ever happened to you?

I was really into ghosts as a kid (and still am, actually). One of my best friends in middle school lived in a haunted house. We’d have sleepovers where we’d try to detect the spirits and find cold spots. We did the Ouija board thing too and had some really creepy interactions.

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Jim C. Hines!


Jim C. Hines is the author of fifty published short stories and nine fantasy novels, including the Magic ex Libris series about a magic librarian from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Princess series of fairy tale retellings, and the humorous Goblin Quest trilogy. He’s an active blogger, and won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. He lives in mid-Michigan with his family. You can find him online at

Interview by Michi Trota

1) You’ve written several novels and maintain a blog with almost daily entries. How do you balance keeping up your blog while writing books?  

It’s a day-to-day balancing act. The past year has been a particular challenge, since I’ve been working on two different novels, which is more than I’ve done in the past. I try to keep my fiction writing as my top priority, meaning I don’t work on the next blog post until I’ve made progress on whatever novel or story I’m working on that day. Though there are days when a particular topic gets under my skin, and I can’t focus on fiction or anything else until I’ve written an essay for the blog and gotten it out of my system.

2) You often write about social issues, like addressing privilege, understanding rape culture and the need for greater diversity in SF/F. Since you’ve been writing about these issues, do you think there’s been any change for the better (or worse) in how the SF/F community handles discussions about these issues?

I hope so! I think there has been some change in parts of fandom — conventions, online fandom, fanzines. I’m seeing far more conversations about representation and inequity and other problems in the genre. Those conversations aren’t always pretty. Often they’re infuriating and painful and ugly. But I think we’ve reached a point where it’s very difficult to keep sweeping these problems under the rug and pretending they don’t exist.

I think the internet has helped a lot here, by providing a voice and platform to people who have historically been silenced, as well as helping to create connections among people who might have felt isolated or alone in their frustrations.

I rarely go a day without reading something that makes me want to put my head through my desk. For example, “You wrote about an overweight bisexual heroine, therefore this is a TOTAL SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR BOOK!” But overall, I do think we’re seeing change for the better, and I’m hopeful for where the genre and community are going.

3) How do you use your work to challenge yourself or your readers?  

I’m not deliberately setting out to challenge my readers, though I’d like to believe that all fiction can challenge people, if only by showing them the world through other people’s/character’s eyes. As for myself, I try to push myself to do something new and challenging with each book. I get bored doing the same thing over and over, and it’s harder to grow if you stop climbing. Often, that comes in the form of writing stories that scare me. The best example I’ve got is a story I did last year called “Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy,” which was a humorous story about cancer. I was terrified of getting it wrong, of being insensitive, or just flat-out failing to pull it off. It was one of the hardest things I’ve written, but I’m also incredibly proud of the result, and I learned a bit more in the process.

4) What is the most uncanny thing that has happened to you?

That’s a tough one. In a lot of ways, I have a pretty canny life. I think the ghost squirrel who lives in our attic keeps most of the weirdness at bay.

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Kat Howard!


Kat Howard is the World Fantasy Award-nominated author of over twenty pieces of short fiction. Her work has been performed on NPR as part of Selected Shorts, and has appeared in Lightspeed, Subterranean, and Apex, among other venues. Her novella, The End of the Sentence, written with Maria Dahvana Headley, will be out in September from Subterranean Press. You can find her on twitter [email protected]

Interview by Deborah Stanish

1. Let’s talk about your process – how do you nurture a story from the first flicker of an idea to completion. Are you a researcher? Note taker? Or do you just dive in and let the story carry you?

It really depends on the project. In most cases, I’ll start with the idea – the opening line, or the voice of the character, or the thing I want to do with the story. Quite often, at that point, I’ll just start writing. Which sometimes works well – my recent story, “The Saint of the Sidewalks” in Clarkesworld started from a picture that Libba Bray posted on twitter as a 140 character writing prompt, and it almost wrote itself. I only needed one polish-pass after I did the zero draft. And sometimes, trying to take an idea and just start writing blows up in my face – “Hath No Fury” in Subterranean had eight different beginnings, and I had to rewrite the end twice, and that was just to get it in draft. I probably cut as many words as there are in the published version.

I love to do research, so I do often look for ideas that give me an excuse to immerse myself in a topic, and if I know I’m going to need to do research, I do most of that before I start writing. And for longer projects, I am trying to make myself better and doing some planning before I write, so that I don’t get through an entire zero draft and realize that I’ve forgotten to put in something important, like the plot.

2. With the twitter handle “KatWithSword” it should come as no surprise to readers that you practice the art of fencing. Both writing and fending require a great deal of mental energy and strategy. Does the combination of writing and fencing cause any sort of creative synergy?

I’m unfortunately on injury retirement (injury pause? I’d love to compete again) right now, as I have a shoulder that insists that I can either write full time or fence, and I’ve chosen writing. But I fenced foil competitively for years, and I loved it.

One of the things I particularly loved was the strategy. Foil has right of way, which means that in the case of simultaneous hits, you need to be controlling the action in order to be awarded the touch. I always thought of it as a kind of structured poetry – like, you can say anything you want in a sonnet, but if you don’t follow the rules, it’s not a sonnet. It might be something great, but it’s not a sonnet. SO thinking like that – how to do what I want (win!) within the rules, was a great pleasure to me, and something that made the writing parts of my brain stronger.

Plus, this means that fencing uses a lot of the same language that writing does – there is a “conversation of blades” and when the judge determines right of way, she is said to be “reading the phrase.” I mean, that’s just marvelous.

3. How do you use your work to challenge yourself or your readers?

I am always trying to challenge myself as a writer. I want to say new things, take new risks, push myself to write better stories, whatever “better” happens to mean to me that day. I don’t ever want to sit back and rest. I’d rather fail spectacularly than be blah.

As to challenging my readers, I don’t know that I necessarily think about that in a concrete way when I write. I don’t say “I’m going to make this character a woman, because that will challenge the status quo!” But I do hope that what I write makes people think and feel, sometimes in ways that are outside of their comfort zones, and if I’ve done that, then I do think that I’ve challenged them. Any time you accept that the world is bigger or different that you thought before, you’ve seen a challenge, and accepted it.

4. What is the “uncanniest” thing that has ever happened to you.

Aaahh! You don’t want me to write that down, do you? Don’t you know that’s how this sort of thing spreads? Better not to talk about it. Just be quiet. Sit in the sun, somewhere nice and warm with no ghosts at all instead.

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Paul Cornell!



Paul Cornell is a writer of SFF in prose, comics and television. He’s one of only two people to be Hugo Award-nominated for all three media. He’s written Doctor Who for the BBC, Wolverine for Marvel and Batman and Robin for DC. His urban fantasies, the Shadow Police novels, are London Falling and The Severed Streets, out now from Tor.

Interview by Deborah Stanish

1. You’ve done it all – television, novels, comics, short stories, audio plays – how do you use short fiction to tell stories differently than other story telling formats?


It’s the hardest thing I do. It’s a very pure form, all about creating a situation and characters and working through a single concept. I think in many ways it’s the ideal mode for big idea SF.


2. Not only have you created amazing original characters, you’ve also played in some pretty fantastic sandboxes. If you could create a crossover using any character you’ve created or written for, what characters would you choose and why?


I have so many Doctor Who crossover stories in my head, notably a Patrick Troughton’s Doctor/Original Star Trek one that one day I will get to professionally write for someone!


3. How do you use your work to challenge yourself or your readers?


Just going back to writing a novel every morning is a challenge to oneself. There’s also the continual challenge to be honest, to not shy away from the tough stuff because you’re afraid of the audience. You’re not necessarily trying to please them, you’re trying to satisfy them, which can include engaging their darker emotions, and my own.


4. What is the “uncanniest” thing that has ever happened to you?


And here’s an immediate example of the above! I’m going to be honest: I had some impossible experiences in my childhood, about which I’ve written a novel which nobody’s heard about yet. Also, my numinous contact experience, which left me feeling I should choose a religion. That was a bit more than you were expecting, wasn’t it?


New Uncanny Mini Interview with Tansy Rayner Roberts!

Large Greyscale TRR

Interview by Deborah Stanish

1. You’ve won awards for both your fiction and non-fiction and have used these different platforms to communicate important ideas. If you were told, today, that you could only write one form for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?

Fiction, of course. I didn’t even have to think about it. Having said that, what a horrible question, Deb! Why would you make me choose? I don’t always think of fiction and non-fiction being separate – and I can move from one to the other very comfortably. I recently wrote a superhero short story (for the crowdfunded anthology Kaleidoscope) which built on ideas I had been blogging about for years. I don’t think the story would have turned out as well (or as concise) as it did without all the prior work I’d done, honing my opinons on girls and superheroes down to a few key thoughts. More recently I’m deliberately tying my blogging in with the big fiction project I’m writing, which I love – it gets my head in the right space completely. Also non fiction comes easier to me so if I was only allowed to write fiction I’d feel a lot more stressed in the mornings! And I wouldn’t be able to write the essay that I promised Lynne and Michael for Uncanny.


2. Your fiction runs the gamut from historical to crime to space opera. Despite the different genres, is there a core philosophy that runs through all of your work?

I think so. There are certain types of characters and ideas that pop up across my various works – though I’m probably not as aware of my own patterns as other people are. Humour is a big one – even in my darkest and angstiest books (The Creature Court trilogy is the closest I’ve ever got to epic fantasy and it’s full of broken people) there is banter and snark. My feminism is both an active and subconscious part of my writing, and even when I was a baby barely-there feminist in my late teens, my novels were in conversation with some of the best and worst gender issues in genre fiction. I had an epiphany the other day that my stories are mostly full of wounded, emotionally damaged men and pragmatic, capable women – I don’t know what this says about me and I’d rather not think too hard about that one! Ancient Rome slides in everywhere, because once you accept a PhD topic it’s with you for life. My characters often refuse to admit they are in love, even inside their own heads, but I’m pretty shameless when it comes to sex scenes. If there’s a core philosophy that I come back to as a writer, though, it’s probably – ‘you think stories work like this, but I’ve read enough of them to know – maybe THIS instead.’ I write like a reader, I always have, and that makes me uncomfortably aware of what I’m doing. I can’t use a fairy tale or a trope or a tradition without bending it at least once, and questioning it, and tying it in knots.

3. How do you use your work to challenge yourself or your readers?

My focus is usually on challenging myself. My current project, Musketeer Space, came about not just because I had a killer idea (gender-flipped Musketeers in space, seriously, every time I tell people their eyes go wide and they get excited, I’ve never had an idea so audience-friendly in my life before) but because I could feel myself holding back too much as a writer. I’d had a novel that I believed in fail to find a publisher or an agent which hit my confidence hard, and the next one I wrote was my big unfinished goal of the year two years running. So Musketeer Space was about kicking myself into gear again. By making it a sponsored web serial, and forcing myself to post a chapter every week, I found my terror-adrenalin gland, the one that usually only fires up when I have a publishing contract and a hard deadline. I’ve also been using the project to work on some aspects that I want to get better at in my writing. Gender-flipping an 18th century novel set in the 19th century is fascinating, because it digs away at all the uncomfortable gender programming that apparently I still have in my head despite calling myself a feminist for my whole adult life. It’s amazing how often I tell myself ‘too many women in this scene, need to balance it, aaargh no, that’s not the point.’ My biggest current challenge is to get better at writing racial diversity, because I think that’s something that most white writers need to be aware of, and work on without making grand statements or demanding cookies. I’ve been doing this for some times in small, probably unadventurous ways, but when it came to Musketeer Space – my first big space opera – I knew it was important to have a cast that wasn’t mostly white. That’s the science fiction that I want to see, and read, because I think it’s far more credible apart from anything, so I’m trying hard to put my money where my mouth is.

4. What is the “uncanniest” thing that has ever happened to you?

I was raised with a strong sense of spirituality and pretty much ditched it as I became an adult. But I do get quite intense and detailed deja vu that knocks me around at times. I don’t know if it’s my memory playing tricks, but it always feels like – oh that very specific feeling about the future I had once with these 5-6 apparently random key details, that was about today, RIGHT THEN. I also used to have a very elaborate stress dream the night before school started every year which involved getting lost in architecture – pretty much every school plus every other complicated building I’d ever seen got amalgamated into this one crazy structure that I couldn’t find my way through. And I returned to the same dream on that same night EVERY YEAR, only the building itself developed and changed to factor in new experiences with different architecture. I had that dream since university ended, but I still feel stressed whenever those damned Hogwarts staircases start moving in Harry Potter films.

Tansy Rayner Roberts is an Australian fantasy author, blogger and podcaster. She won the 2013 Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Tansy has a PhD in Classics, which she drew upon for her short story collection Love and Romanpunk. Her latest fiction project is Musketeer Space, a gender-swapped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers, published weekly as a web serial. She also writes a regular column for in which she is rereading the Empire trilogy by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts. Come and find her on Twitter!

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Mari Ness!



Interview by Deborah Stanish

1. As a writer who has embraced various storytelling formats, is it immediately apparent that an idea should be a poem, etc. or does that happen during the writing process?

Not at all – indeed, some story fragments have turned into poems, and some poem fragments have turned into stories. Two lines from an upcoming poem in Goblin Fruit that really didn’t work at all in that poem had to get pulled, and then insisted on turning themselves into a series of three stories for Daily Science Fiction, for instance, and I’ve had the opposite happen frequently. In some cases I’ve had to write a poem to get the story out, or write the story to get the poem out. It’s a very interconnected process.

2. Your bio states you’ve spent much of your life wandering and reading. Can you tell us one place and one book that has had significant impact on your work?

When it comes to places, I don’t think so. I stopped counting after Costa Rica, but I’ve wandered in more than 30 countries by now, not always or often on purpose or design, and lived in several different places and countries. So I don’t feel particularly inspired by or rooted in any one place, although I’ve occasionally used real geographies or settings here and there. When it comes to books – oh, that’s even worse. I could easily list a couple of thousand. If I can only pick one…hmm. Maybe Dr. Seuss’s ABC: I Can Read It All By Myself, because I could, and it was the first book that I could read all by myself. I was so proud. I insisted on reading it out loud to my bored parents – they made me stop at I – and then I went hunting for the next book because this meant I could find stories ALL BY MYSELF and didn’t have to wait to hear them or, worse, be good to hear them. (I only got Story Time when I was good, which I’m sorry to say was not a frequent occurrence.) And after that, the world of stories was MINE.

3. How do you use your work to challenge yourself or your readers?

I rarely consciously choose to challenge readers, although I did write a novelette featuring a wheelchair user as a hero since I thought more of that was needed, and I will occasionally try to challenge reader expectations. But for the most part, I’m trying to challenge myself, to force myself to become a better writer. I’m nowhere near where I want to be with that, so that’s my constant challenge: write better. Write a lot better. And after that, write better.

4. What is the “uncanniest” thing that has ever happened to you?

Oooh. Ghost story time! So. I’m twelve. I’m in a basement with my brother and our dog, because the sump pump had broken and the basement was flooding, and we were supposed to keep an eye on it while our mother was out getting the repair stuff. We heard the garage door open. We heard her car leave. We heard the garage door shut. Time passed. And we heard footsteps on the floor above us – although the garage door hadn’t opened again and we hadn’t heard the car. Or, for that matter, the opening of a door. Our dog’s ears perked up. (That doesn’t mean much. He was not exactly the world’s most intelligent dog, though he always meant well.) From where we were, we could hear the footsteps moving deliberately across the kitchen, then the dinette, then turning, moving towards the basement door — Where they stopped. Our dog watched the stairs intently. (I may have mentioned that he was not exactly the world’s most intelligent dog.) We didn’t move. The dog didn’t move. Until we did hear the garage door open and my mother’s car return and heard her walk through the kitchen and the dinette… …and she hadn’t seen anyone. Ok, so, as ghost stories go it’s not nearly up to the ones where the ghosts of the Donner Party leap out and EAT YOUR HEARTS AND LIVER WHILE YOU WATCH which was a campfire favorite, but it’s the story I’ve got.

Mini Interview with Maria Dahvana Headley!

Maria Dahvana Headley 
Maria Dahvana Headley

Mini-Interview by Deborah Stanish

1. Last year in Apex Magazine you talked about a “hoarded file of secrets”, we’re not going to ask you to share what’s in the file but can you tell us some of the things that have come out of that file and where you found them?

Sure! The story The Psammophile, which I published last year in Unlikely Story: The Journal of Unlikely Entomology – is full of things from that secret file. It’s a riff on Thomas Browne’s Musaem Clausum, itself a thing from the secret file, though that’s a little more well known. The apocryphal notion of sweetening tea with a scorpion came from an old natural history book that got things quite wrong. A variety of other things in that story were presents for the secret file from my main collaborator, and I wrote the story itself as a present for him. The story The Krakatoan which I published in the anthology The Lowest Heaven and at Nightmare Magazine, has a little section about the eruption of Krakatoa, and the way that rafts made of pumice and containing skeletons drifted up on beaches for years after. That’s a fact I read in some old book about volcanoes, and that came from the secret file. It inspired the story, in many ways. The Tallest Doll in New York City, a Damon Runyon Valentine’s Day riff I published at a few months ago was inspired by something from the secret file, The Cloud Club, a private men’s club which used to be on the 66-68th floors of the Chrysler Building. That came from an article I read years ago about the demise of the club – someone went to visit it and took a lot of photos of the broken-down bizarre glory up there. It was only a few steps from that to me making up a love story between the Chrysler and the Empire State Building seen from the windows of the Cloud Club.

2. There has been a considerable amount of discussion in the media about adults reading YA novels – both positive and negative. As the writer of a soon-to-be released young adult novel what attracted you to write YA and why do you think so many adults are reading this genre?

Because it is awesome? I had a pretty wonderful time writing MAGONIA, which will be out in June, 2015 – and it’s YA mainly because it has a protagonist who is 16. So far, almost all of its readers have been adults, actually. I love the old YA classics, and this story was me playing with some of those notions – that idea of transiting to a completely different world, one that parallels our own – in Peter Pan, Wendy and her brothers fly out the window to Neverland, and in Alice in Wonderland, Alice drops through the rabbithole. So, this is a riff on that tradition of worlds so close to one another that they touch. In Magonia there is a sky kingdom full of ships, all above our heads, there all the time, and we just don’t see them from Earth. I think we all grew up with a hope that that kind of thing might be possible, and so it makes perfect sense to me that adults as well as teenagers would enjoy reading stories in that vein.

3. How do you use your work to challenge yourself or your readers?

One of the most frequent google searches arriving at my blog is “Maria Dahvana Headley story what I don’t understand help” – so it seems I’m challenging readers more than I think I do! Sometimes my stories – The Krakatoan comes to mind – have subtleties in terms of what actually occurs, plot wise. Other times – The Traditional – our heroes dive down the throats of giant world-destroying worms. Both things are fun to write – but I think my readers are sometimes asked to learn a new stylistic vocabulary with each one. I challenge myself by writing in a lot of different genre traditions, sometimes all at once. In Such & Such Said to So & So, which was published in Glitter & Mayhem and edited by Lynne, Michael & John Klima, for example, I got to play in the noir tradition, with a cop, a dame, a few femme fatales in cocktail form, and a cat at the door of a nightclub, who actually happened to be a real cat. It was a total genre mashup – wild fantasy combined with mid-century style cop noir. I had unspeakable amounts of fun writing it.

4. What is the “uncanniest” thing that has ever happened to you?

Someday I’ll do an anthology of real ghost stories told by speculative fiction writers. Uncanny things happen to me often actually, but there are a couple of ghost moments in my past. A long time ago, when I was very small, my entire family had just moved into our house far out in rural Idaho. We didn’t have bedrooms yet. We were all sleeping in one of the gymnasiums – the house was a former schoolhouse, long since abandoned, and it had two asbestos tile & cinderblock gymnasiums, as well as drinking fountains and shower stalls. Not in a glam way. In a condemned 1930’s-1950’s ghost building way. In the middle of the night, my parents sat bolt upright, because they heard and felt a threshing machine moving over and around us, all over the land. They were certain that something was landing on us, but when they looked out, nothing. So, a ghost thresher, or an alien ship? No one was ever sure.