Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Uncanny Magazine 2015 Award Eligibility

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

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

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

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

Novelettes (7500-17,500 Words):

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu

The Oiran’s Song by Isabel Yap

Find a Way Home by Paul Cornell

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

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

Short Stories (Under 7500 Words):

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

Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained by Sunny Moraine

Anyone With a Care for Their Image by Richard Bowes

Pockets by Amal El-Mohtar

The Lamps Thereof Are Fire and Flames by Rosamund Hodge

Translatio Corporis by Kat Howard

Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows by Maria Dahvana Headley

Those by Sofia Samatar

When the Circus Lights Down by Sarah Pinsker

Dr. Polingyouma’s Machine by Emily Devenport

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

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

Restore the Heart into Love by John Chu

Planet Lion by Catherynne M. Valente

In Libres by Elizabeth Bear

Three Voices by Lisa Bolekaja

The Rainbow Flame by Shveta Thakrar

Woman at Exhibition by E. Lily Yu

Midnight Hour by Mary Robinette Kowal

Ghost Champagne by Charlie Jane Anders

The Half-Life of Angels by Sarah Monette

Catcall by Delilah S. Dawson

The Sisters’ Line by Liz Argall and Kenneth Schneyer

Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon

I Seen the Devil by Alex Bledsoe

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

Interlingua by Yoon Ha Lee


Thank you so much for your consideration.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 8 Cover and Table of Contents!


All of the content will be available in the eBook version on the day of release.

The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on February 2.

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

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


“Round Three” by Priscilla H. Kim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max and Amal Duel for Uncanny Reasons!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Pledge for SF/F Convention Accessibility

(Cross-posted from
I would like to build a world where our first thought about any given convention is “Yay, convention!” not “is this even remotely accessible for Caitlin?”
As many of you know from recent posts and Tweets, the World Fantasy Convention this year had another accessibility failure. Many of us have lost count of the number of times such a thing has happened with an SF/F convention. Though some conrunners are working towards improving this situation (Yay! — and SFWA even posted an accessibility checklist), others have decided it’s too expensive to make their conventions accessible, or that accessibility is “PC Bullshit.” (Michael found out over the weekend that was said at a regional convention’s board meeting recently.)
Accessibility is not PC Bullshit. It is the law in the United States, and it has been for 25 years.
We can and should do better.
All members of a convention should be treated with dignity. These are people— our friends, fans, and colleagues– who have the same right to an inclusive experience at these events as any of the other paying members. volunteers, or guests.
If conventions build this into their planning and budgeting from day one, this can and should happen.
The onus is on conventions to be accessible to all of their members, not for people with disabilities (and their caregivers, where applicable) to have to “figure something out” when conventions don’t consider accessibility to be as important as, say, registration or con suite.
Mari Ness posted a personal policy that she would no longer attend a convention unless certain things happen with accessibility at that particular convention. She worried at the end of her post that it will have no effect since she has a “very small voice.”
Let’s make that voice HUGE.
We (The Thomases) and Mary Robinette Kowal talked, and we think a similar pledge cosigned by the SF/F community is the best to see substantive changes with the convention community. This was the lesson shown by Veronica Schanoes’s and John Scalzi’s harassment policy pledge posts. Though things are still very much a work-in-progress, almost every convention now at least has a code of conduct.
Here is the SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge on Mary’s website.
We hope you will consider signing it. We understand if you can’t, but we believe that together we can make this happen. No hard feelings if you don’t, and thank you for the taking the time to read and consider it.
Lynne, Michael, and Caitlin

Ten Upcoming Sci-Fi/Fantasy Chicago Theater Productions

(Guest post by Tiffany Keane)

Within the past decade, mainstream media has embraced science fiction and fantasy, with the genre arguably at its most popular levels in entertainment. This popularity has inspired the theatre community, which has started to embrace its inner geek. From long–standing theater companies with extensive sets and elaborate costumes to independent groups of performers working with shoestring budgets, Chicago nerds and geeks are creating works for the stage that explore humanity through the lens of the supernatural and unknown, and celebrate geekdom in all its artistic forms.

Chicago, known throughout the theatrical world to be an artistic incubator, has been cultivating science fiction and fantasy theater for some time. Classic examples worth mentioning are Edge Theatre’s MacSith, a Star Wars themed retelling of Shakespeare’s Scottish play. Halcyon’s Theatre Company’s recent hit In Love and Warcraft explored the outlet of gaming and how avatars can mirror personal desires. The House Theatre’s The Hammer Trilogy created an original play of high fantasy, delighting audiences with an amazing story and dragon battle spectacle (including spectacular puppetry), and The Steppenwolf’s critically–acclaimed production of She Kills Monsters used the world of Dungeons and Dragons to explore family relationships, the creation of found-family, and understanding sexual orientation.

I have been privileged enough to be the Artistic Director of Otherworld Theatre Company, established in 2012 and dedicated exclusively to the performance of SF/F. Below, I have listed ten exciting new adventures that await the Chicago patron. Whether you’re a fan of off–Broadway musicals, opera, plays, or performance artists, if you want a night of SF/F storytelling at the theater, these productions are for you. 

The Tempest
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Sept 25 – Nov 8

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of The Tempest has garnered critical acclaim for its unique presentation of this classic fantasy tale about vengeance, sorcery, and the mysteries of the human heart, using modern music as a backdrop. Shakespeare’s enchanted island is transformed in this inventive production from Aaron Posner and Teller (of the legendary duo Penn & Teller), utilizing the intimate setting of the Courtyard Theater. Larry Yando returns to Chicago Shakespeare to take on the role of the mysterious sorcerer Prospero, who conjures a storm shipwrecking his old enemies. Set to the music of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, with choreography by Pilobolus, this Shakespearean fantasy is truly full of “such stuff as dreams are made on.”

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
Theatre Wit
Sept 17 – Nov 14

Madeline George (author of 2013’s hit Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England) spins a SF tale based on her 2014 Pulitzer Award finalist work exploring love, communication, and technology over the course of 150 years. Four constant companions—all named “Watson,” including Sherlock Holmes’s partner, the Mr. Watson often paged by Alexander Graham Bell in his famous (mis)quote “Come here Watson. I want to see you,” an AI, and a tech worker who may not be all he seems—provide the connecting thread through the 140–minute play. With three actors playing different versions of their characters across multiple time periods, the play makes for “a brilliantly witty, time–jumping, loving tribute (and cautionary tale) dedicated to the people—and machines—upon which we all depend.”

All Girl Dracula
Chicago Mammals
Oct 10 – Nov 21

With the ALL GIRL PROJECT, the Chicago Mammals are committed to creating extreme and unique opportunities for Chicago actresses to play roles that are rarely if ever performed by women. In this exciting adaptation of the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, Artistic Director Bob Fisher has turned the classic vampire story on it’s head: “Mina Murray is caught between a Carnivorous Ancient Evil and an Uncompromising Sadistic Zealot. Both Dracula and Van Helsing yearn for violence, even if their appetites are spurned by opposing goals. As she tries to protect the people she loves, will she be forced to decide which of these powerful villains is the lesser of two evils?”

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls
Trap Door Theatre
Oct 15 – Nov 21

Trap Door Theatre’s mission is to bring obscure and challenging works to life on stage. Now entering its 20th season, the off–Loop theater company brings a tale of rediscovering one’s roots in a foreign country—all while having to fight folktales and magic without a guaranteed happy ending: “When Annie is sent to Russia to be immersed into her native language and culture, she finds herself thrust into an enchanting post–Soviet world filled with new friends still fighting the witches, bears and evil stepmothers that haunted all of our childhoods. Set in a deceitfully glamorous post–Soviet Russia, Annie and her new friends must fight the villains of common folklore in a world where things might not end up happily ever after.”

Steppenwolf Theatre
Oct 21 – Nov 15

The Steppenwolf for Young Adult’s production of George Orwell’s dystopian classic follows the success of last year’s Animal Farm. With a long history of creating productions geared toward bringing young audiences, families, and teachers into the theater world, 1984 utilizes a multi-media production to bring Orwell’s world of suspicion, totalitarianism, and rebellion to life: “Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth located in the nation of Oceania, part of a vast empire in a constant, shifting war against other superstates. Dissent is not tolerated (not even in thought), and Winston and his fellow citizens are under perpetual electronic surveillance by their ever-watchful ruler Big Brother. When Winston falls in love with a co-worker, their illegal affair pushes them to rebel and face the darkest and most dangerous corners of the regime.”

Gone Dark
Otherworld Theatre Company
Oct 31 – Nov 22

Playwright Stuart Bousel weaves a dark romantic tale in the gothic thriller “Gone Dark.” Within a society of vampire hunters, slayers are summoned from around the world to convene after the death of their leader: “Ned Dalton is tormented by his last hunt and haunted by foggy and untrustworthy memories. As events begin to unfold around him, he begins to realize the hunt may not be over yet and that the dead may indeed rise again.” Otherworld Theatre has tailored the production as a site-specific piece, incorporating the historic church serving as the play’s theater setting as the backdrop for the story. Audiences will follow a designated guide leading them through the narrative, allowing them to explore the vampire hunters’ society and watch the horror unfold, up close and personal.

Raks Geek
MCL Chicago
Nov 12 & 19

Geek–themed circus and performance art shows have been growing in popularity in Chicago. As one of the first such Chicago–based performance groups, Raks Geek is bellydance, flow arts, and fire company established by geeks for any and all fans of geekdom. Performances have included everything from a bellydancing Wookie and stormtroopers to LED flow spinning and firespinning to the themes from Tron: Legacy, Transformers: The Movie and The Fifth Element. Using the backdrop of pop culture references, their performances have gone viral and made waves on MSN, The Daily Mail, and The performers blend artistic and technical mastery with their favorite themes from nerd culture, resulting in performances that are mesmerizing to watch and a joy to behold. (Editor’s Note: Uncanny’s Managing Editor, Michi Trota, is a member of Raks Geek and will be performing in these upcoming shows.)

Improvised Star Trek
The iO Theater
Nov 6 – Dec. 11

What happens when you take a troupe of improv comedians and put them on the “set” of the USS Sispyhus, a lesser–known Starfleet vessel? You’ll have to attend a performance of Improvised Star Trek to find out! After a successful initial run from 2009–2010 at the iO Theater, the comedians behind Improvised Star Trek retooled the show as a podcast, releasing two episodes per month. Now for the first time in five years, they’re back with live at the iO Theater for a limited time, with six Friday performances at the iO theater, beginning November 6. This show is a must for Trekkies and fans of SFF comedy.

Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience
Broadway in Chicago
Dec. 1 – Jan 3

Whether you camped outside a bookstore for three days awaiting the release of the Deathly Hallows or you don’t know the difference between a horcrux and a Hufflepuff, the comedy, magic and mayhem of Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff makes for an entertaining and hilarious visit to the theatre. The fast-paced show, which has made audiences aged six to Dumbledore (who is very old indeed) roar with laughter all over the world, is perfect for the entire family. Created by former BBC Television hosts Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, the play takes on the ultimate challenge of condensing, or “potting,” all seven Harry Potter books into 70 madcap minutes, aided only by multiple costume changes, brilliant songs, ridiculous props, and a generous helping of Hogwarts magic. The show also invites audiences to engage with a real life game of Quidditch, but according to Clarkson and Turner’s unique set of rules.

Bel Canto
Lyric Opera
Dec 7 – Jan 17

Ann Patchett’s best–selling novel Bel Canto took the literary world by storm—now, in a new work curated by Lyric’s creative consultant, Renée Fleming, this riveting story of magical realism inspired by a real-life event becomes a powerful opera: “Superstar American diva Roxane Coss has flown to Peru to sing at the vice president’s home for a visiting Japanese mogul who is an opera buff. Dignitaries of every nationality are there—but an international crisis explodes when terrorists storm the mansion and take everyone hostage. Isolated for months, unlikely alliances form between captors and captives as fear and anger mingle uneasily with desire and even love. Music is the one universal language—but can it draw forth the humanity that exists in us all?”

(Editor’s Note: This is the first in series of blog posts highlighting SF/F theater productions in various cities.)

Uncanny Magazine Issue 7 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 December 1.

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

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

This is the FIRST ISSUE partially funded by our Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter! Thank you so much to our Kickstarter backers, Patreon patrons, and subscribers. You make this magazine possible, you magnificent Space Unicorns.


Uncanny Magazine Issue 7 Table of Contents

“The Archivist” by Julie Dillon

“The Uncanny Valley” by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas (11/3)

“Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon (11/3)
“And the Balance in Blood” by Elizabeth Bear (A Novelette!) (11/3)

“A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights” by Karin Tidbeck (12/1)
“Interlingua” by Yoon Ha Lee (12/1)
“I Seen the Devil” by Alex Bledsoe (12/1)

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (11/3)

“The Call of the Sad Whelkfins: The Continued Relevance of How To Suppress Women’s Writing” by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Luhrs (11/3)
“Please, Judge This Book by Its Cover” by Aidan Moher (11/3)

“The Alien Says Don’t Take Your Meds: Neurodiversity and Mental Health Treatment in TV SF/F” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (12/1)
“Everyone Has a Ghost Story” by Deborah Stanish (12/1)

“The Thirteenth Child” by Mari Ness (11/3)
“Something Different from Either” by Sonya Taaffe(11/3)

“Aboard the Transport Tesoro” by Lisa M. Bradley (12/1)

Yoon Ha Lee interviewed by Deborah Stanish (12/1)
Alex Bledsoe interviewed by Deborah Stanish (12/1)

Podcast 7A (11/3)
“Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
“The Thirteenth Child” by Mari Ness, as read by Erika Ensign
Ursula Vernon Interviewed by Deborah Stanish

Podcast 7B (12/1)
“A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights” by Karin Tidbeck, as read by Erika Ensign
“Aboard the Transport Tesoro” by Lisa M. Bradley, as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Karin Tidbeck Interviewed by Deborah Stanish

Listen. Learn. Write Better.

(Guest Blog Post by A.C. Wise.)

As authors, it’s natural to be protective of our work. We pour our hearts into our words, and when someone comes back with a critique – even a solicited one – it can sting. There’s often an urge to puff up, get defensive, and say: That’s not what I meant, or You’re reading it wrong, or even simply, You are wrong. However, there’s a stark difference between legitimate criticism and complaining for the sake of complaining, like those one-star Amazon reviews trashing a book because the customer didn’t like the box it came in, or the shipment arrived a day late. The best criticism is aimed at making a piece stronger, and it is worth listening to—especially when you are writing about a character (or characters) unlike yourself.

As a cisgender author writing about trans characters in The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, I am sharply aware of the need to listen. Trans stories aren’t necessarily mine to tell, but at the same time, I don’t believe that means I should only write about people exactly like me. What it does mean is that I need to tell the stories that aren’t mine with as much respect and care as possible, and I need to listen when someone tells me I got it wrong. This holds true for all authors writing someone whose experience is outside their own.

It isn’t easy. There is no universal experience, no one true way to be trans, or male, or neuro-atypical, or anything. We are all human beings; we all have our own backgrounds and baggage and things that will strike a nerve. Something that makes me sit up and say: Hey, that isn’t me, you’re doing it all wrong, may reflect another person’s experience perfectly. Or it may not. The trick is to listen to what the people who might share common experiences with your characters that you don’t are saying to you about how they’re written, and try to understand their perspective.

As authors, we know words matter; we know stories matter. The stories we choose to tell, and the words we use to tell them are important. They carry weight. They carry an extra weight when it comes to stories that are already under-represented—stories about queer people, people of color, stories that have historically been pushed to the margins and ignored. Even though the culture is changing, it’s a slow change. There are few enough positive stories out there that the ones perpetuating negative stereotypes and tropes, or further marginalizing already marginalized characters, hurt even more.

I can’t promise that I got everything right in The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again. However, I can promise that I did my best to write my characters from a place of respect. And I can promise to listen when you tell me I got it wrong, and to try to do better the next time.

Now, to seal my promise with a toast, I’ll leave you with a cocktail recipe designed especially for Uncanny Magazine by the Glitter Squadron’s own bartender supreme, Sapphire.

From Sapphire’s Little Black Book of Cocktails

The Uncanny Unicorn (Shot)

1/2 oz Chambord

1/2 oz Pinnacle Rainbow Sherbet Vodka

1/2 oz White Creme de Cacao

Edible Glitter Garnish


Using a spoon against the side of a shot glass, slowly pour Chambord, Creme de Cacao, and Rainbow Sherbet Vodka to create a layered effect. Top with a dusting of edible glitter.


I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t normally create shots; I prefer to sip and savor my cocktails. But some cases call for it. The Uncanny Unicorn is an uncannily sweet drink, best enjoyed as a short, sharp shock, or a shot, as the case may be. Even in small doses, the Uncanny Unicorn might be enough to make you think you’re in space, even when you’re standing on firm ground looking up at the stars. The Space Unicorn Ranger Corp and the Glitter Squadron have a lot in common. They both kick ass and save the world in their own way—whether it’s with art, poetry, stories, and essays that set the way you see things askew in the best possible way, or whether it’s with sequins and high heels, both set out to shake up the status quo. And that is a something worth toasting. Cheers!


(Editor’s Note: A.C. Wise’s collection The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again was released on October 20 and is now available from Lethe Press. For another marvelous A.C. Wise tale, please check out her Uncanny Magazine story “The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate.”)

You Can’t Write About THAT: Staying True to Your Writing Passion in the Age of the McBook

(Guest Blog Post by Kameron Hurley)

Selling my first novel – about a bisexual bounty hunter who chops off the heads of deserters in a world at perpetual war, with bonus bug magic and shapeshifters – wasn’t as easy as you might think. What I heard from publishers again and again was, “I don’t know how to market this,” even though it read like every great post-apocalypse movie I’d ever watched and many reviewers would later compare it to Herbert’s Dune.

I found the “I don’t know how to market this” thing to be a mind-boggling excuse, because I’d written the book I wanted to read. And if I wanted to read it, surely there were other people out there who wanted to read it too. What I would slowly come to realize over the years is that the people like me, who like the types of books I write – the wild, weird, punching and magic and genderbending books – were not the types of people who publishers were used to selling to. They had an Ideal Consumer in mind, and that Ideal Consumer seemed to be scared of women outside of prescribed roles, queer people who aren’t just sidekicks, and any setting weirder than something from Tolkien. Clearly, you know, the world is FULL of people who actually DO love to read books about and including all of those people and things. Full to bursting, in fact. But there was no marketing machine in place at bigger publishers to tap into this audience, or even to speak to existing readers about the unique hook my work offered (see: punching, genderbending). In fact, many of those things were aspects of the book that some publishers actively try to keep off the back cover of the books.

In one of my conversations with an editor who bought my first novel, they said that my work was going to be pretty niche. I would have a small but devoted readership, like the one Catherynne M. Valente was building at the time. I was never going to sell loads of books, they said. I should just be happy with that. But I didn’t want to be a niche writer. If I was a niche writer, then I would have niche ideas that few people would ever read. I didn’t want to write from the margins. I wanted to push to make the margins mainstream. Maybe I saw where things were headed. Maybe I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t just want to sit out here on the sidelines, being someone whose work was only discussed in academic circles, if at all.

The irony here, of course, is that Catherynne M. Valente herself went on to become a New York Times bestseller. We are all not nearly as niche as editors and publishers at first assume. The readers are there. They are hungry. Sometimes it’s up to us as writers to convince the machine of this.

What I learned pecking at the edges of the publishing industry, trying to get into bigger publishers, is that I wasn’t the sort of writer who was going to give up and write dudebro medieval fantasy or vampire erotica in order to make a career. If you love to write those things, that is great! You will make more money than I will right out the gate. But that just wasn’t what I wanted to write. My strategy, instead, was to build a small but fervent pool of core readers and fans who would help launch my work out of the margins and into the mainstream.

That is not an easy road. It’s not the fast way to make a living at this, or to build a readership. But it would allow me to write what I wanted to write without giving in to the appetite of the machine. Best of all, if I had “Kameron Hurley readers” instead of just “epic fantasy readers” or “science fiction readers” then it freed me to write Kameron Hurley novels, whatever those were, instead of being boxed in by the success of any one series. Nurturing a core audience means that you can always, reliably, sell a certain number of books. And then you work to break out from there.

I have had long conversations with other writers in the industry who purposefully write in clear, simple prose, with page-turning, formulaic plots that employ recognizable tropes and themes in approachable settings. We see these sorts of formulas applied to blockbuster movies all the time, and yes: they work. One of the things I’ve learned from these writers is to focus more on plot, and clarify my language. I’ve also learned that I can do this while still writing Kameron Hurley stories, and be true to who I am as a writer and what I want to achieve, without giving in and writing like they do.

How to do that?

It’s said (I believe by, again, Valente) that readers will forgive your work for including one of these three things: a wholly unrecognizable world, strange and dense prose, or a complex, convoluted structure. You can do any one of these three and still sell very well. Two of three, and yes, you’ll be a harder sell. Three of three, and you are probably writing a niche book.

So I choose one or two, and compromise on the third. Then I focus hard on the story itself, because that’s why readers are here, really – ideas and gender fluidity and polyamorous cultures are great, but if there’s no story driving the reader, none of it matters outside of academia.

The fact that your characters are transgender, pansexual, not white, and you deal with themes of genocide, identity, and betrayal? Readers care less about that than trolling internet comments might make you think. Readers are still, even now, most interested in a good story. Write a good story, and you can push up through the heap, nurturing your audience as you go. Create a mailing list where folks can subscribe and get links and news about your latest stories. Find a social platform you like – Facebook, Twitter, whatever – and have fun there talking about what it is you’re passionate about. I hear all the time from folks that being online doesn’t sell books, which is fine to say if you’ve got the support of a major publishing house, and you’re a major title with a major marketing budget. But if you’re writing at the margins, you aren’t going to start with that. This is where social media and online discourse work in favor of those without access to traditional budgets and channels.

Is it going to be difficult to convince people there’s an audience for what you write? Yes. Still. But it’s not impossible. And I feel that needs to be said out loud to new writers who feel their voices and subject matter are forever marginalized: it is not impossible. Please write what you want. We need your voice.

I get email and comments all the time from people thanking me for writing about genderqueer characters, about gay and bisexual characters, about polyamorous societies, about worlds they really have never seen before. Writing about things people have never seen before in mainstream-ish SF and epic fantasy books, all mashed up together into one gloriously brilliant ride, is what I got into the business to do.  I wanted stories about these sorts of people to no longer be niche books, and to do that I needed to make them not only protagonists, but heroes in the very epic sense of the word… and they needed to be driving powerful stories.

It’s true that sometimes I pitched my books as being something they weren’t, exactly. I chose the best of the bad fits. I said my weird bugpunk science fiction/fantasy noir novel was just science fiction.  I said that The Mirror Empire and Empire Ascendant – the genderbending, parallel universe swapping satellite magic fantasy – was just… epic fantasy. Sometimes you just pick the best of their boxes, and you parade around in front of the publishing industry as if they truly do fit, and you hope they don’t notice that you don’t. You hope they let you slip through so that your readers, the people you really wrote all this mad stuff for, can find you.

I won’t say that it isn’t still tough to keep in this wedge I’ve got in the door of the publishing machine right now. But the thing is, even if the door closes, I’ll have nurtured a core audience that I can always go back to, one that will always help me keep pushing in from the outside.

So in that sense, maybe, that editor was right, all those years ago. I’ve found the people who love my work. And the truth is that I’d never have found them if I was just trying to write the next McBook. I’d have made myself miserable writing more and more watered down books, trying to write just like everyone else, when what I really needed to do was learn how to tell a story, and learn how to talk to the readers who needed those stories most.


(Editor’s note: Kameron Hurley’s new novel Empire Ascendant, the second volume of her Worldbreaker Saga, was released on October 6 and is now available from all fine booksellers. For more of Kameron’s thoughts on writing, please check out her Uncanny Magazine essay “I Don’t Care About Your MFA: On Writing vs. Storytelling)

Uncanny Magazine Issue 6 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 October 6.

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Uncanny Magazine Issue 6 Table of Contents

Cover Artist

Matthew Dow Smith


The Uncanny Valley

New Fiction

Paul Cornell- “Find a Way Home” (Our first Middle-Grade story!) (9/1)
Isabel Yap- “The Oiran’s Song” (A Novelette!) (9/1)

Liz Argall and Kenneth Schneyer- “The Sisters’ Line” (10/6)
Keffy R. M. Kehrli- “And Never Mind the Watching Ones” (A Novelette!) (10/6)


N. K. Jemisin- “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters” (9/1)


Michi Trota- “Diversity Panels Are the Beginning, Not the End” (9/1)
Steven H Silver- “A Brief History of MidAmeriCon” (9/1)

Diana M. Pho – “Suspended Beliefs: Verisimilitude vs. Accuracy” (10/6)
David J. Schwartz – Masculinity Is an Anxiety Disorder: Breaking Down the Nerd Box (10/6)


Rose Lemberg- “A Riddler at Market” (9/1)
Dominik Parisien- “To A Dying Friend” (9/1)

Amal El-Mohtar- “Biting Tongues” (Reprint) (10/6)
Jennifer Crow- “The Book of Longing” (10/6)


Deborah Stanish Interviews Isabel Yap (9/1)

Deborah Stanish Interviews Liz Argall and Kenneth Schneyer (10/6)

Podcast 6A (9/1)

Paul Cornell- “Find a Way Home” as read by Erika Ensign
Rose Lemberg- “A Riddler at Market” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Deborah Stanish Interviews Paul Cornell

Podcast 6B (10/6)
Keffy R. M. Kehrli- “And Never Mind the Watching Ones” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Amal El-Mohtar- “Biting Tongues” (Reprint) as read by the author
Deborah Stanish Interviews Keffy R.M. Kehrli