Category Archives: Columns

Book Review: SPECIES IMPERATIVE by Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda has been churning out Hard Science Fiction novels for the better part of the last decade-and-a-half for DAW books. One thing I’ve always thought and said about DAW books is how fine a job they do to ensure a writer’s books remain available for readers, especially through issuance of omnibus editions. These two points bring me to Species Imperative, an omnibus of Czerneda’s trilogy of the same name comprising Survival, Migration, and Regeneration. Two of the books in this series/omnibus made the final ballot for the Prix Aurora Award. Set a few hundred (?) years into the future, Czerneda places humanity as part of an interstellar organization where many alien civilizations coexist. Our point person over the course of the three novels is Mac, a biologist initially only interested in life on our planet.
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The Three Hoarsemen (Episode 17): Holiday Wish Lists and Comics, with Patrick Hester

As the year’s end approaches, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson tempt the fates by doing a THIRD episode for the month. Joining them is the man who was the unintentional catalyst for this podcast, Patrick Hester. They pause in their assorted biscotti, chili, and laundry activities to take on the topic of wish lists, their usefulness, and what is currently on them.

Then the discussion turns to all things comics. It’s really nerdy.
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[GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Alex Bledsoe on Creating The Firefly Witch

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Alex Bledsoe! – Sarah Chorn

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now live in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls, write before six in the morning and try to teach his three kids to act like they’ve been to town before. If you want to keep up with Alex in real time, follow him on Twitter as @AlexBledsoe, on Facebook, and/or on Google+.


On Creating THE FIREFLY WITCH

by Alex Bledsoe

When I first had the idea for Tanna Tully, the Firefly Witch, it was a totally different time.  I wrote a novel manuscript* in the late 80s/early 90s that established the character and her world, and that conception remained essentially unchanged going forward.  When I started writing short stories about her in the mid-90s and continuing through today, I saw it as a continuity with those original ideas.
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The Three Hoarsemen (Episode 16): The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson, with Karen Burnham

John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson gather for the SECOND episode of December! This time out they are joined by Karen Burnham to talk about William Hope Hodgson’s classic The House on the Borderland. Topics include the novel’s unique storytelling, possible interpretations, and where it falls in the spectrum of SF/F.

Fred has posted a companion piece to this episode on his blog as an introduction to both Hodgson and the book.

And even though we discussed our recent genre culture consumed in last week’s episode, we still manage to have more to talk about.

Total running time: 1 hour 11 minutes.

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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 12/9/2014

Crowd funding is the in thing for obtaining money to fund a variety of projects, with Kickstarter being the most prominent of these sites. With new projects going live daily, it’s a chore to keep up with, let alone find, interesting genre projects. The Crowd Funding Roundup will be our effort to bring projects we think are interesting to your attention so you can, if you so choose, decide to help out. These posts are a collaborative effort between James Aquilone and JP Frantz.

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Special Needs in Strange Worlds: An Interview with Mercedes M. Yardley

Mercedes Murdock Yardley is a friend of mine. We talk frequently, and commiserate about health issues neither of us can control, just deal with as best as we can. She’s an up-and-coming author with several books under her belt, and more on the way. She’s creative, and passionate, and an absolute joy to talk to.

One of the things that always gets me about her writing, especially now that I know her on a personal level, is how certain aspects of her life fuel her books. Her books are dark and delicious, with a shocking (and quite refreshing) innocence, and an undertone of deep, profound loss, all of which is reflective of the life she has lived, and the challenges she faces daily.

I asked her if she’d be willing to open up with me about her life, her son with Williams Syndrome, and how it has all impacted her writing. This conversation is the result of that. Huge thanks to Mercedes for being willing to talk about these tender topics.

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The Three Hoarsemen (Episode 15): World Fantasy Convention Wrap-Up and the Media We’re Consuming

As December descends and the Holidays loom, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson saddle up after FAR too long an absence for a guestless catch-up episode.

Jeff recounts his adventures at the World Fantasy Convention (sporting his homemade Three Hoarsemen t-shirt), and then the gentlemen discuss the books, comics, and shows that have been vying for their hard-fought entertainment time (and funds).

Even as an interim episode, it still runs close to an hour!

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[GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Jacey Bedford on Creating Daniel Lorient in EMPIRE OF DUST

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Jacey Bedford! – Sarah Chorn

Jacey Bedford is a British author who lives behind a keyboard in Pennine Yorkshire with her songwriter husband, Brian, and a long-haired black German Shepherd dog called Eska. She’s had short stories published on both sides of the Atlantic and her first novel, Empire of Dust was just released from DAW. You can learn more about her on her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter (@jaceybedford) as well as on her Artisan page.

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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 11/26/2014

Crowd funding is the in thing for obtaining money to fund a variety of projects, with Kickstarter being the most prominent of these sites. With new projects going live daily, it’s a chore to keep up with, let alone find, interesting genre projects. The Crowd Funding Roundup will be our effort to bring projects we think are interesting to your attention so you can, if you so choose, decide to help out. These posts are a collaborative effort between James Aquilone and JP Frantz.

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Convention Attention: John Wenger on 35 Years of Attending Conventions

My friend John has been to a lot of conventions, and I mean a lot. I don’t want to make him feel old, but he attended his first convention the same year I was born. When he mentioned that he’d kept the program books from most if not all of the cons he’d attended, I knew I had to snag him for a Convention Attention interview! He even let me snap photos of a bunch of the program books. Just wait till you see the artwork on these, everything from book cover quality to copyright infringing fan art.

In a way, I’ve got John to thank for the existence of this monthly column. He’s the guy who talked me into going to my very first scifi convention a few years ago. I had a fantastic time, and couldn’t wait to go to another one, and then another one, and then another one.

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[GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds – Anne Leonard on THE DANCERS OF ARUN by Elizabeth A. Lynn

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Anne Leonard! – Sarah Chorn

Anne Leonard has been writing fantasy and other fiction since she was fourteen and finally, after a career with as many detours as Odysseus, published her first novel, Moth and Spark, in February. She has a lot of letters after her name that are useful when trying to impress someone. She has worked in libraries, academia, and the legal field, and before becoming a full-time writer was a practicing attorney. She lives in Northern California with her husband, teenage son, and two black cats.

THE DANCERS OF ARUN by Elizabeth A. Lynn

by Anne Leonard
Most of the sci-fi and fantasy books that I read over and over as a teenager have long since vanished from my bookshelves. One set which has not, however, is a trilogy collectively called The Chronicles of Tornor, by Elizabeth A. Lynn. The first two books, Watchtower and The Dancers of Arun were published in 1979; the third, The Northern Girl, was published in 1980. All three of the paperbacks that I have are blurbed with a quotation from Joanna Russ, “An adventure story for humanists and feminists.”
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Joshua Palmatier’s THRONE OF AMENKOR Trilogy

I’m taking another short trip into the past for this installment of The Completist, only about ten years have passed since the publication of the first book in this series (2005), and five years since I read the trilogy. I turn my focus on Joshua Palmatier’s “Throne of Amenkor” trilogy of books; a series about a haunted throne and the street urchin/thief who becomes tied to the throne. At the time Joshua’s debut published, he might have been overshadowed a bit by two other authors debuting at the same time – Patrick Rothfuss (a DAW stable mate) and Scott Lynch (who tells Lies about a thief named Locke). Joshua’s books are fun, engaging, and where they have an edge over Lynch and Rothfuss’s series is the fact that the series is complete.
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[GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds – R. Leigh Hennig on Coping with a Loved One’s Disability

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author/editor R. Leigh Hennig! – Sarah Chorn

R. Leigh Hennig recently moved with his wife and three young children from Rura Penthe, er, Rochester, NY to Seattle. Leigh works as a network engineer by day, and when he’s not working on Bastion Magazine in the night, he’s writing his own short stories as well. He’s also an avid soccer fanatic (center back for his Tuesday night team — a defensive rock, and about as fast as one as well) and is probably more dedicated to Arsenal than the Pope is to Jesus.


Coping with a Loved One’s Disability

by R. Leigh Hennig

It’s a cool, sunny fall afternoon in Seattle. I’m in my backyard enjoying a Founder’s Breakfast Stout, grilling burgers, while my children—five, six, and eight (the youngest is a girl)—run about and play. The youngest two are chasing each other through the grass blindly, their shirts pulled over their faces. They laugh and squeal and carry on like the wonderful lunatics that all five and six-year-old children are. I smile. Behind them labors my eight-year-old, trying to keep up. He wobbles awkwardly as he swings his arms far out to his sides, attempting to maintain his balance. His left foot turns in sharply while the other struggles to compensate, despite the corrective action of braces and seven surgeries. More are planned. I still smile, but it’s a burdened smile.
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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 11/12/2014

Crowd funding is the in thing for obtaining money to fund a variety of projects, with Kickstarter being the most prominent of these sites. With new projects going live daily, it’s a chore to keep up with, let alone find, interesting genre projects. The Crowd Funding Roundup will be our effort to bring projects we think are interesting to your attention so you can, if you so choose, decide to help out. These posts are a collaborative effort between James Aquilone and JP Frantz.

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[GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Erin Lindsey on Why Disabilities are Hard to Write

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Erin Lindsey! – Sarah Chorn

Erin Lindsey is on a quest to write the perfect summer vacation novel, with just the right blend of action, heartbreak, and triumph. The Bloodbound is her first effort. She lives and works in Bujumbura, Burundi, with her husband and a pair of half-domesticated cats.


Why Disabilities are Hard to Write

by Erin Lindsey

Disabilities make people uncomfortable.

Did you cringe just a little bit reading that sentence? I certainly cringed writing it. It’s not even true, strictly speaking. A more accurate version would be: Some disabilities make some people uncomfortable sometimes. But I’m making a point here, so indulge me.

It’s a very common, very human reaction to be just a little a bit on your heels in the presence of a disability. There are a lot of reasons for this, some understandable, others less so. For many, it’s the struggle to respond correctly, without any idea what that really means. Should you talk about it? Not talk about it? Ignore it entirely? What kind of reaction, if any, would be welcomed by the person with the disability? It’s nearly impossible to guess, and that can cause anxiety. In a certain way, I think the people who want most to respond correctly are the ones who work themselves into the tightest knots, because they’re so worried about inadvertently giving offense.

Why am I banging on about this? Because I think it goes a long way toward explaining why we don’t see more of disabilities in fiction, and especially in speculative fiction.

Writers like me are, quite simply, chicken.
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[GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Nalini Haynes on The 3 Ways People Deal with Disability

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Nalini Haynes! – Sarah Chorn

Nalini Haynes‘s first memory of reading was whining at her father who wanted her to read the same non-fiction book AGAIN (how many times can you read about logging trees without becoming bored, even aged four?). One day Nalini was tagging along and discovered a large hardcover book of poetry in a corner store; imagine her surprise when her father bought it for her! Her most-loved poem was ‘Triantiwontigongolope’ by C J Dennis, probably triggering a love of the fantastical.

Nalini’s earliest memory of SF was hiding behind her uncle’s chair terrified but unable to look away from the TV during Dr Who, aged about 3. By the time she was ten yeas old, her mother lent her adult SF books to stave off boredom. Nothing much has changed since then, except gaining a few kilos and a few wrinkles.

She hold three degrees including a Master of Social Science. Passionate about social justice issues, she has worked with disadvantaged people as a counsellor and educator. Nalini currently works her butt off for Dark Matter Zine, as well as studying Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT.

Nalini Haynes’s interviews, reviews and other writings can be found here. The ones she remembered to categorise, anyway.


The 3 Ways People Deal with Disability

by Nalini Haynes

Sarah invited me as a guest blogger, suggesting that I enlarge upon a comment I made as a response to another post. I’ve spent my mid-semester break thinking about writing my guest blog while life has been in the way of actually writing something. However, eventually I managed to put pen to paper, so to speak, and jotted a few thoughts down.
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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 10/27/2014

Crowd funding is the in thing for obtaining money to fund a variety of projects, with Kickstarter being the most prominent of these sites. With new projects going live daily, it’s a chore to keep up with, let alone find, interesting genre projects. The Crowd Funding Roundup will be our effort to bring projects we think are interesting to your attention so you can, if you so choose, decide to help out. These posts are a collaborative effort between James Aquilone and JP Frantz.

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Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Corinne Duyvis on Minding Your Metaphors

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Corinne Duyvis! – Sarah Chorn


A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Otherbound, her YA fantasy debut, released from Amulet Books/ABRAMS in the summer of 2014. It’s received four starred reviews—Kirkus called it “original and compelling; a stunning debut,” while the Bulletin praised its “subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege.” She is a co-founder of Disability in Kidlit and team member of We Need Diverse Books. Find Corinne at her Twitter or Tumblr.

Mind Your Metaphors

by Corinne Duyvis
(content warnings: ableism, “mercy killing”)

I’m a co-founder of the website Disability in Kidlit as well as an author who regularly writes disabled characters; both my recently published fantasy novel Otherbound and my upcoming sci-fi novel On the Edge of Gone feature disabled protagonists. On top of that, I’m disabled myself. It’s pretty safe to say I’m a huge fan of disability representation. Specifically, I’m a fan of accurate, respectful, and textual disability representation.

However, when writing science fiction and fantasy, it doesn’t just stop at featuring textually disabled characters. Many SFF stories contain disability metaphors. These span a wide range—from purposeful to unintentional, from obvious to subtle, and from well-done to inadvertently offensive.
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The Three Hoarsemen (Episode 14): Halloween Horror with David Annandale

Feeling their sap slow down with the onset of Fall, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson stumble northwards in search of maple syrup, strangely-shaped bacon and cheese curds. In their journey they stumble across David Annandale, professor of strange films, author of strange books, and lover of strange games. Join in the conversation with the latest Fourth Hoarseman as the boys discuss the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the legacy of splatterpunk, the horror implosion of the 90s, the scarier aspects of the New Weird, and old cheap movies.

After that…hold on to your wallet…the discussion turns to books, movies, comics, television, conventions, and other culture consumed!

Running time: Approx. 1hr 28min

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[GUEST POST] Special Needs in Strange Worlds: J. Kathleen Cheney on Trying to Write Blind

NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author J. Kathleen Cheney! – Sarah Chorn

J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, The Golden City came out from Penguin in 2013. The sequel, The Seat of Magic debuted July 1. Her website can be found at www.jkathleencheney.com.

Trying to Write Blind

by J. Kathleen Cheney

One of the more irritating bits of critique I’ve ever received: “Have your POV character feel her way around her bedroom so we know she’s blind.”

Seriously? Is that what people think a blind person does in their own bedroom? Feel their way along the walls like they’re a character in an exaggerated 1920s movie? Or are they the ‘magical’ blind person who goes the other way, never steps a foot wrong, and never walks into the corner of a table?
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