A.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories appearing in print and online in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed, and the Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, an online magazine publishing three issues of fiction per year with various unlikely themes. Follow her on twitter as @ac_wise.

Women to Read: Where to Start – When it Ends – April 2014 (Apocalypse Edition)

by A.C. Wise

It just so happens the first two stories I wanted to talk about this month dealt with apocalypses, so I figured why not make it a theme?
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[GUEST POST] S.G. Browne on The Writing Life

S.G. Browne is the author of the novels Big Egos, Lucky Bastard, Fated, Breathers, and the forthcoming Super Duper, as well as the novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus and the ebook collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel. He’s a Guinness aficionado, ice cream snob, and a sucker for It’s a Wonderful Life. He lives in San Francisco.

The Writing Life: We Are Not Alone

by S.G. Browne

“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing: isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

The above quote was taken from Robert De Niro’s presentation for the screenwriting category at the 2014 Academy Awards. I don’t know who wrote the words that De Niro spoke but whoever it was nailed writers to the post.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Michael j. Sullivan! – Sarah Chorn

Michael J. Sullivan is the author of The Riyria Revelations, The Riyria Chronicles, and his recently released science fiction thriller, Hollow World. He’s been published in just about every way there is including, small presses, self, and the big-five. He spends part of his time trying to help aspiring authors learn the intricacies of publishing through a regular column on Amazing Stories, and soon he’ll be featuring author interviews on Adventures in Science Fiction Publishing. Michael has written twenty-three novels, published nine, and has been translated into fifteen foreign languages. His works have appeared on more than eighty-five “best of” or “most anticipated” lists including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Audible.com.

Being Atypical in HOLLOW WORLD

by Michael J. Sullivan

I’ve been a big fan of Sarah Chorn for a really long time. Not just because of her amazing reviews, although that is reason enough, but because of her resiliency in weathering storms in her own life. Luckily for me, she’s a fan of my writing as well, and I’m grateful for her years of support. With the approaching release of Hollow World (April 15th from Tachyon Publications and Recorded Books), she invited me to do a guest post. So here I am.

I guess I should start out by setting the stage. Hollow World tells the story of Ellis Rogers, who travels far into the future (much further than he intended) in search of a cure for a recently diagnosed terminal illness. What he finds a world where disease, war, and even death has been eliminated. It sounds like utopia, and for some people it very well may be, but there’s a cost…isn’t there always a cost? In the case of Hollow World, genetic engineering has advanced to the point where everyone is identical, and trying to establish individuality in such an environment breeds its own set of problems.
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Seth Skorkowsky was born beneath the pine trees of East Texas and grew up with a love of camping and outdoors. His teen years were spent ingesting heavy doses of Dungeons & Dragons and Clive Barker novels, but attributes Fritz Leiber as the single greatest influence on the atmosphere of his fantasy writing. Later this year will see the publication of two short story collections, Mountain Of Daggers and Sea Of Quills. His first novel, DÄMOREN, was just published by Ragnarok Publications.

The Story Behind DÄMOREN

by Seth Skorkowsky

Every story has a different process in which it was created. When I decided to write Dämoren, I only had a few things to go on. I knew the rules in which demons could possess people and die. I had a holy revolver that could kill them. However, I still had no hero, no plot, and no conflict. The only other thing I had was a series of scene flashes that I wanted to show, but no real link between them.
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Lorie Ann Grover is a young adult novelist and board book author. She has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and was a 2003 Washington State Book Award Finalist. Her works have been further honored by VOYA, Bank Street College, the New York Public Library, Parents Magazine, and Girls Life magazine. Lorie Ann is a co-founder of readergirlz, an advocate for teen literacy awarded the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize. She also co-founded readertotz, a board book blog to celebrate the best works for the youngest readers. For more information, please visit LorieAnnGrover.com

Why I Wrote About Gendercide

by Lorie Ann Grover

I just didn’t think it was possible. Today? How could gendercide still be occurring? This is what I wondered back in 2004 when I ran across a snippet of an article talking about the killing of female infants. I was dumbfounded and then outraged as I considered the reality: for male preference, females were being killed in the womb or shortly after birth. My anger against the atrocity found release in writing my fantasy novel, Firstborn. Sadly, as my book launches ten years later, gendercide continues in 45 countries around the world. “There is an entire system, a social machinery, that says we don’t want females,” says gender activist, Rita Banerji.
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Jon Sprunk is the author of the fantasy epic Blood and Iron as well as the Shadow Saga trilogy (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, and Shadow’s Master). He’s also a mentor at the Seton Hill University fiction writing program. For more on his life and writing, check out www.jonsprunk.com.

Inspirations for BLOOD AND IRON

by Jon Sprunk

The first book in my new epic fantasy series, Blood and Iron, came out in early March. Briefly, it’s about a war for freedom in an ancient land ruled by sorcery and powerful cults.

Today I’d like to tell you about what inspired me to tackle this series. Sources of inspiration are a tricky thing to track down. There are lots of reason why I why like to write, but why did I write this story specifically?
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from the incredible Elizabeth Bear! – Sarah Chorn

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction. She lives in Massachusetts with a Giant Ridiculous Dog. Her partner, acclaimed fantasy author Scott Lynch, lives in Wisconsin. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website. On April 8, 2014 Elizabeth Bear released the third and final book in the Eternal Sky trilogy, Steles of the Sky.

On Writing Disabilities

by Elizabeth Bear

It’s kind of funny to realize as I write this that I originally wasn’t going to submit a piece to Sarah’s blog series, because I didn’t feel like I had much to say about writing disabled people in science fiction. But after the second colleague suggested that I would be a good fit for the series, I had to stop and consider why they would think so.

And I realized that it’s probably because I write a lot of disabled protagonists. From Jenny Casey and Genevieve Castaign in Hammered and the sequel books–an amputee with neurological damage and a girl with cystic fibrosis–to the aneurotypical Michelangelo in Carnival from Matthew Szczgielniak with his maimed hand and congenital adrenal hyperplasia sufferer Lily Wakeman in Whiskey and Water to Tristen and Perceval Conn in the Jacob’s Ladder books, one of whom has albinism and the other of whom has lost the power of flight–now that I actually stop and think about it, it seems like most of my protagonists are “imperfect” in some way.

I have written characters with forms of epilepsy and characters with bipolar disorder. I have written anxiety sufferers and paraplegics and I have helped invent entirely new, science fictional syndromes. I have written more than my share of characters with post-traumatic stress disorder. That last, frankly, is because I don’t know how to write people who don’t have PTSD.

I’ve been trying to learn, though. You all are so unpredictable.
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Sharon Lynn Fisher writes books for the geeky at heart – sci-fi flavored stories full of adventure and romance. She has a passion for world-building and twisty plots, and themes that recur in her writing include what it means to be human and symbiosis in human relationships.

Her latest release is The Ophelia Prophecy, a biopunk flavored, post-apocalyptic tale out now from Tor. A mix of light science, heavy moral conflicts, and sizzling sexual tension, The Ophelia Prophecy is sure to please the romance reader looking for something different, or the SF fan looking for something hot.

After Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express and Sharon binge-watched all 110 episodes of Space Ghost Coast to Coast-because, you know, Zorak-they chatted about The Ophelia Prophecy, freaky orange cats, and praying mantis sex.

Heather Massey: Describe a typical week for Sharon Lynn Fisher.

Sharon Lynn Fisher: I’m not sure there’s any such thing – a result of being a freelancer and a half-time single parent! My working hours (which can occur at any hour, any day of the week, in any state of dress) are divided between my contracted fiction, new writing projects, and my work as senior editor for SilkWords, a new “pick your own path” romance short story site. Whatever is left goes to my daughter, my boyfriend and HIS daughter, and one freaky orange cat.
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Katherine Addison‘s short fiction has been selected by The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her new novel, The Goblin Emperor, was just published by Tor. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

Tolkien, Orcs, Elves and Goblins

by Katherine Addison

I write a lot of different things, but one of my first and deepest loves is the genre that sometimes gets called “epic fantasy” or “secondary-world fantasy”: stories that take place entirely in imaginary worlds. Unsurprisingly, I came to Tolkien early, I loved–and love–him deeply, and he is undeniably one of a handful of very profound influences on my writing. (Tolkien, Wolfe, and Kushner are the three fantasy writers I most want to be able to write like, which probably explains a great many things about my books.) I love the world he invented, and I strive in my own writing to give the same sense of depth that he does, the same intense sense of history. And if I could write travel narrative as well as he does…well…that would be shiny.
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Catherine Lundoff is a former archaeologist, former grad student and former bookstore owner turned professional computer geek and award-winning author and editor. She is a transplanted Brooklynite who now lives in Minneapolis with her wife and the two cats which own them. Silver Moon (Lethe Press, 2012) is her latest book and “Medium Méchanique” in Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam (2013) and “The Light Fantastic” in Luna Station Quarterly (2013) are her latest stories. Visit her online at her website www.catherinelundoff.com, facebook and Twitter as @CLundoff.

LGBT Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in the 1980s

by Catherine Lundoff

The 1970s, famed as an era of free love, political protests and hallucinogen-fueled utopias, gave way to the era of punk and New Wave, AIDS, and the politics of Reagan and Thatcher in the more conservative 1980s. And science fiction, fantasy and horror followed suit, with hard-edged military science fiction, dystopian visions, anti-hero sword and sorcery, vampires and of course, cyberpunk. None of these, on the face of it, seemed any more LGBT-friendly than the sfnal works of the previous decade, yet the number of portrayals of LGBT characters more than quadrupled.
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Sabrina Benulis lives in northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and a spoiled cockatiel. When she isn’t writing like a madwoman, you can find Sabrina enjoying old school video games, Japanese anime, and of course a good book. Archon, her debut novel, is the first installment in The Books of Raziel series. Her new book, the sequel, is called Covenant.

A Book Series is A Journey

by Sabrina Benulis

There really is an art to writing novels in a fantasy series, and by now I firmly believe that no matter how many books you read, this is a skill that someone can only firmly acquire through experience. Many times when I’m asked how many novels I’ve been contracted for in The Books of Raziel series and I say ‘three,’ people first congratulate my good fortune, and then they look at me flabbergasted. The next question inevitably is, “So how exactly can you write three books that are all connected?” or better still, “How in the world do you keep track of everything?”

The short answer is: it’s complicated.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Rhiannon Held! – Sarah Chorn

Rhiannon Held is the author of Silver and its sequel, Tarnished. In her day job, she works as a professional archaeologist. Held lives near Seattle, Washington. You can learn more about her and her books by visiting her website. The third book in her series, Reflected, was published on February 18, 2014.

Unable to Shift

by Rhiannon Held

When I conceived of my character Silver, from the urban fantasy series of the same name, in a lot of ways she was a reaction to the sometimes troublesome idea of the “kickass UF heroine.” I didn’t even think explicitly about making her disabled, I just wanted to reach out to speak to readers in a different way—not the aspiration of somehow magically being so cool and powerful, but the identification with a character who was struggling and succeeding despite obstacles the reader might recognize. I hope that I’ve succeeded and she does speak to people, even if I’m not dealing with a particular obstacle that an individual reader might.

Silver is a werewolf who was injected with silver nitrate. It removed her ability to shift into wolf form, deadened the muscles where she was injected so she can no longer use that arm, and gave her brain damage so she either sees the werewolf spirit realm or hallucinates—depending on who you ask.
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[Editor's Note: In 2011, Tom O'Donnell's epic fantasy novel, Gormstander Kron: Requiem for a Barbarian Emperor of Tulgarth was published by Minim Press. The book received an unfavorable review from SF Signal. After several repeated requests, we have finally agreed to post Mr. O'Donnell's response to that review.]

Response to SF Signal’s Review of Gormstander Kron: Requiem for a Barbarian Emperor of Tulgarth

by Tom O’Donnell

On March 3rd, 2011, SF Signal gave my novel what some have called “the most negative review of any book, ever”. Below, I will address and refute, point by point, the specific criticisms this review so unfairly aimed at Gormstander Kron: Requiem for a Barbarian Emperor of Tulgarth.
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Aidan Harte is a writer and sculptor. His fantasy novels Irenicon and The Warring States are published by Jo Fletcher Books, an imprint of Quercus. Spira Mirabilis, the conclusion of the trilogy, will be out in 2014. He studied in the Florence Academy of Art. His sculpture can be seen in Sol Art Gallery in Dublin and The sculpture Company in London. He works in the classical tradition informed by the early 20th century expressionists. He directed the IFTA winning, BAFTA nominated kids’ TV show, Skunk Fu, seen on BBC and Cartoon Network.

Soldiers of Misfortune

by Aidan Harte

For all the ignominy lately heaped on bankers, the blighters get things done. Without their innovations, their risk-taking, their credit, 14th century Italy could not have been at once politically fragmented, plague-ridden, war-racked and stinking rich.
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David Conyers is an Australian science fiction author and Arts and General Editor with Albedo One magazine. David Kernot is also an Australia science fiction author and editor with Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Their latest offering is Extreme Planets (from Chaosium), the first science fiction anthology of exoplanets, featuring fifteen tales of planetary exploration and colonisation by established names and newcomers to the genre.

Adventuring in the Extreme: Eight Exoplanet-inspired Science Fiction Novels

by David Conyers & David Kernot

Exoplanets or extrasolar planets, worlds orbiting stars other than our own, are being discovered at an accelerated pace and now number well over 1800. What is more fascinating is their sheer variety, and it seems cosy, stable, life-loving Earths are unusual. We are the odd-ones out in the vast galactic playground of exoplanets, but with such a variety, perhaps every planet is odd.
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Kathryn Ryan is a blogger and infrequent reviewer. She can be found posting on her blog, The Forged Forest, as well as on Twitter as @Loerwyn

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Drothe, a thief, finds himself navigating a conflict which threatens his personal and professional lives, one which has the all-too-real potential to destroy much more than just the criminal underworld of the city of Ildrecca.


PROS: A persistent sense of humour; a great range of male and female characters; an interesting plot that doesn’t overwhelm.
CONS: Easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things; a potentially immemorable, safe plot; too many events crammed into too short a time frame.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun, engaging read that pulls you along but likely won’t leave a lasting impression.
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Stephanie Saulter writes what she likes to think is literary science fiction. Born in Jamaica, she studied at MIT and spent fifteen years in the United States before moving to the United Kingdom in 2003. She is the author of the ®Evolution trilogy; her first novel, Gemsigns, was published in the UK in 2013 and will be launched in the US in May 2014. Its sequel, Binary, will be released in the UK in April. Stephanie blogs unpredictably at stephaniesaulter.com and tweets only slightly more reliably as @scriptopus. She lives in London.

I Don’t Do Dystopia, But No One’s Noticed

by Stephanie Saulter

When my first novel, Gemsigns, was released in the UK a year ago, I was mostly delighted by the reception it got. Reviewers heaped praise on the book, calling it ‘smart’, ‘tightly controlled and paced’, ‘compelling’ and the like. But there was something else it was frequently called that I simply couldn’t understand.

It was called a dystopia.
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Steve McHugh‘s been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up ‘One boy and his frog’ was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A. It wasn’t for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel about a centuries-old sorcerer, Crimes Against Magic, the first book in The Hellequin Chronicles. The second book in the series is Born of Hatred and the latest is With Silent Screams. You can follow Steve at his website, on Facebook, and on Twitter as @StevejMchugh.

Times They Change

by Steve McHugh

Back in 1986 there was a film called Highlander. For those of you who haven’t seen it, just take my word for the awesomeness that was contained within that 90 mins. Now, when it first came out I was nowhere near old enough to watch it, so I probably didn’t see it until I was 10ish in 1989. But apart from having Queen do the soundtrack and having a Frenchman play a Scotsman and a Scotsman play a Spaniard, the thing that stuck with me the most were the flashbacks.
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John Richards was the co-creator/writer of the 2012 ABC1 sitcom Outland, about a gay science-fiction fan club (“Sensational writing, a great ensemble, and universal themes of love, loss, and friendship… a hit…” – The Weekend Australian. “Quite frankly, one of the best Australian series I’ve ever seen.” – Trespass Magazine). He also co-wrote the Eurovision-themed play Songs For Europe, was part of the Boxcutters and Splendid Chaps podcasts, and is a regular contributor to publications including DNA, Cult and Encore. His latest project is Night Terrace, an original sci-fi comedy audio series about two people lost in time and space, starring Jackie Woodburne (Neighbours).

SF Comedies on Radio and TV

by John Richards

There’s something about the fannish mind that lends itself to research. We like to collect the set, to see every episode, to discover all the hidden extras. We’ll read every book in the series, even if they’re increasingly terrible. I like to call this “The Piers Anthony Effect”.
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Chris Wooding is a London-based author of sixteen books which have been translated into twenty languages. He’s won various awards and has been published around the world. He also writes for film and television. This month, Titan books published The Iron Jackal, the latest book in his steampunk series Tales of the Ketty Jay.

What Is Steampunk, Anyway? – The Changing Fortunes of the Ketty Jay

By Chris Wooding

About six years ago, I had an idea for a story called Retribution Falls, about a ragtag bunch of inept sky pirates, all of them refugees from their own pasts, hanging together because they had nowhere else to go. I wanted to tell the tale of how a crew came to be forged from the most unpromising materials, and how this insignificant bunch of semi-alcoholic dropouts would go on and change the world.

But if I wanted to put pirates in the sky, I needed to put ships there, too. Among the fighter craft, huge frigates ploughed through the clouds, bristling with cannon. In order to keep them aloft, I needed aerium, an ultralight gas kept in ballast tanks, capable of lifting the largest loads.

Slowly, surely, the world began to be built around aerium. The land’s politics and history revolved around the struggle for aerium resources. The mindset of the civilisation was shaped by it. And what I ended up with was a world with a level of technology roughly approximating the dawn of the 20th century, except that the science of flight and aircraft manufacture was far more advanced. All of this was basically an excuse for me to write a ton of badass aerial dogfights, with machine guns blazing, while listening to Iron Maiden’s Aces High at full blast.

My publisher loved it when I showed it to them. But they told me one thing: for God’s sake, don’t ever call it steampunk. It’s a death sentence on the bookshelves. Call this book steampunk, and nobody will buy it.
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