Columns Archives

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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CONVENTION ATTENTION: Context27 in Columbus, Ohio

Context27 logoLast month I attended Context27, a small and cozy speculative fiction convention in Columbus, OH. Context is a writers convention, and this year’s guests of honor where Jonathan Maberry and Betsy Mitchell. Other guests included Laura Resnick, Jennifer Brozek, Maurice Broaddus, Jerry Gordon, Jason Sizemore, Daniel and Trista Robichaud, Lucy Snyder, Ferrett Steinmetz, Michael West and more. Along with panels and workshops, the convention also had a flash fiction contest, well-appointed dealer room, a live recording of the Funky Werepig podcast, a consuite, and of course, parties! This was also my first time on panels, but more on that later.

For a small additional fee, attendees could sign up for one of the many workshops, which included Writing for Young Adults, Crafting a Compelling Plot, Characterization Through Dialog,Anthology Editing, and Point of View, among many others. The panels were also primarily writer and publishing focused, and included topics such as Busting Writer’s Block, Hot New Writers, Classics You May Have Missed, Getting a Day Job in Publishing, The Care and Feeding of Beta Readers, Skewering the Tropes, The Art of the Short Story, Social Media for Authors and Readers, Homebrewing Science, Podcasting, Publishing Disasters, Tales from the Slushpile, The Future of Magazines and Periodicals, What is an MFA and Do I Want One,and about a bazillion more. I really have no idea how all this incredible programming was jammed into 48 hours.
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Sean Russell was a fairly prolific Canadian fantasy writer who, over the course of eight years (1991 through 1998) churned out unique fantasies which blended fantasy together with the history of 19th Century science before turning his pen to something in the Tolkien “traditional” Epic fantasy vein with The Swan’s War trilogy. Since then; however, Russell stepped out of the SFF genre and has been crafting historical naval fiction under the name Sean T. Russell. But back to The Swan’s War, the subject of this column which begins with The One Kingdom published in 2001 under EOS, HarperCollins’s then SF imprint. Prior to reading The One Kingdom, I read and enjoyed Russell’s linked duologies Moontide and Magic Rise and River into Darkness so my expectations for an engaging fantasy read were relatively high. Those expectations were met, which I’ll expand upon below in this installment of “The Completist.”

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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 10/15/2014

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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Lost in Animeland: Fall 2014

Fall season, traditionally probably the biggest of the anime seasons, is finally upon us! There’s an enormous avalanche of shows, more than even I can watch. Even restricting ourselves to only the SFF shows, it’s a pretty long list. I’ll go over some that stood out from the first and second episodes I’ve watched so far.

One notable thing is that there are quite a few new seasons for older shows starting up. Psycho-Pass, Fate/Stay Night, Log Horizon, and Mushishi are all getting new seasons. I’m not going to talk about them here, since as far as I know none of those make for great starting points, but you can go back and watch from the beginning!

As usual, these impressions are based on the first few episodes only. No spoilers for beyond that point!
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Last week, I attended the Austin Comic Con (aka Wizard World Texas). Oddly, the show ran Thursday through Saturday. No Sunday at all. Since Saturday was Yom Kippur, I only went on Thursday evening, which ran from 4:30-9, and Friday, 2 until sundown.

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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Melanie R. Meadors! – Sarah Chorn


A writer of speculative fiction and lover of geeky things, Melanie R. Meadors lives in central Massachusetts, in a one hundred-year-old house full of quirks and surprises. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on on more than one occasion. Her short fiction has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and was a finalist in the Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest in 2014. For her day job she is the Publicity Coordinator at Ragnarok Publications as well as a freelance publicist. She’s also a contributor to www.GeekMom.com.

Coping With Special Needs in Urban Fantasy

by Melanie R. Meadors

A wizard who is the best paranormal detective in Chicago. A psychometrist who works at NYC’s Department of Extraordinary Affairs. The newest van driver for the St. Edward’s Parish coroner’s office who seems to just walk away from whatever accident she has.

Urban fantasy fans might recognize the above characters. I myself have gone on many adventures with them. But lately it’s occurred to me that these characters give me something more than just adventure. I see some of myself in them, and relate to them in ways that perhaps others might not.

No, I’m not magical (or AM I?). But if you look at the daily lives of these and other urban fantasy characters, you’ll see that their powers don’t come without a price. With urban fantasy, instead of having special needs in strange worlds, they have special powers in this world. And they have to still have to find ways to function in this world as normal people.

That sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
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Watching the Future: From Other Shores

Movies treated science fiction well this summer, in terms of quality and popularity. The period between the middle of April and the Labor Day weekend saw the release of four major motion pictures—Godzilla, Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Guardians of the Galaxy—that not only fit comfortably within any reasonable definition of the genre (which often stretches to include superhero movies and the kinds of action fantasies that seem a cross between Three Days of the Condor and The Andromeda Strain mixed with the pace of Raiders of the Lost Ark, to the point that the defining material becomes so thin that it resembles Silly Putty pulled so tightly across a newspaper’s surface that one can read the headline through the dermis-colored, taffy-like material) but also allowed one the pleasure of watching without feeling the need to scour one’s brain beneath a chemical shower after the end credits rolled. Yes, studios served some unpalatable cinematic dishes—both Transformers 4: Age of Extinction and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles passed through multiplexes quickly, leaving unsuspecting viewers with only the mildest cases of cultural indigestion, while The Purge: Anarchy and The Giver made one leave the theater feeling as if having snacked on two five-pound bags of Haribo sugar-free gummy bears—but for the most part, the summer served genre fans with reasonably entertaining, if modestly satisfying, offerings.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Tina Connolly! – Sarah Chorn

Tina Connolly lives in Portland, Oregon with her family, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared all over, including in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her debut fantasy novel IRONSKIN wasd released by Tor Books in 2012. The sequel COPPERHEAD was reelased in 2013. Her latest book is SILVERBLIND. She is a frequent reader for Podcastle, and narrates the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. In the summer she works as a face painter, which means a glitter-filled house is an occupational hazard. Her website is tinaconnolly.com.

Special Needs in the IRONSKIN Series

by Tina Connolly

This post is kind of a melange of issues as I thought through what had been important to me over the course of writing my trilogy. In the world of the Ironskin series, some people were hit by fey shrapnel in the Great War five years earlier-the ironskin. Each person hit by fey shrapnel has to deal with both the physical effects of the injury-grotesque scarring-and the mental effects-a sort of emotional curse. The ironskin must cover their scars with iron, or the curses will affect all those around them with rage, or fear, or depression, or…
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