Alex Hughes, the author of the award-winning Mindspace Investigations series from Roc (the latest of which is Vacant), has lived in the Atlanta area since the age of eight. She is a graduate of the prestigious Odyssey Writing Workshop, and a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers. Her short fiction has been published in several markets including EveryDay Fiction, Thunder on the Battlefield and White Cat Magazine. She is an avid cook and foodie, a trivia buff, and a science geek, and loves to talk about neuroscience, the Food Network, and writing craft—but not necessarily all at the same time! You can visit her at Twitter at @ahugheswriter or on the web at

We Are the Worlds

by Alex Hughes

A friend came to me about a year ago, and told me that she’d been hearing a lot about this Doctor Who thing. She and I had been roommates years ago, and she respected my opinion on TV shows. Now, even though she didn’t like “the whole aliens thing” she wanted me to show her a few Doctor Who episodes so she could understand what it was all about. I said sure, and we watched the first weeping angel episode, the Pompeii episode, and one set in Victorian England. She had a very skeptical look on her face when we finished, and I assumed that was that.

Two months later, she came back, and she told me that she’d been binge watching Doctor Who on Netflix for weeks. I was surprised, and asked why. She told me that while she still wasn’t crazy about “the alien thing” that the show wasn’t really about the aliens. It was about us, about humanity. And that it gave her hope at the end of the day that we might yet work things out. I smiled. I had just converted one more poor unsuspecting soul into the world of geekdom.

What my friend realized on her own was something us geeks have known for a very long time. Science fiction and fantasy aren’t about the aliens, or at least not often. Most of the time the stories we tell are stories about us, about our hopes and our fears, and our choices to embrace the very best of humanity, the very worst, or anything else in between.
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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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Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Love is the Law, The Last Weekend, and the forthcoming mystery novel I Am Providence. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Weird Tales,, Best American Mystery Stories, and many other magazines and anthologies. A significant number of his short stories are Lovecraftian—in addition to the ones collected in The Nickronomicon, he has pieces forthcoming in the anthologies Letters to Lovecraft and Shadows Over Main Street. After that, Nick will probably be done.

The Outsider and the Other: Why Write Lovecraftian Fiction?

by Nick Mamatas

Why would anyone write Lovecraftian fiction? is a question that goes unasked in these days of renewed attention for H. P. Lovecraft. Perennially popular within the field of speculative fiction, Lovecraft has been, over the last decade and a half, canonized. He’s been published by both the Library of America and Penguin Classics, and derivations are ubiquitous. Throw a few tentacles into a short story, or the final boss of a video game, and a significant fraction of Lovecraft fandom will materialize and consume. They’ll kibitz and complain, mind you, but with a mouthful of suckers. Writing about Cthulhu or cosmic horror generally is in essence like writing about sensual vampires, or generation starships that have been adrift so long that their inhabitants no longer realize that their home is an ark and not a planet-it’s a set of tropes. And here I am, with a collection of my own tropey and ropey Lovecraftian fictions, The Nickronomicon, just as the issue of H. P. Lovecraft’s racism and anti-Semitism are again coming to the fore.
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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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Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. His anthologies as editor include Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek for Baen, Mission: Tomorrow and Galactic Games (both forthcoming), also for Baen, Choices and Gaslamp Terrors (forthcoming), Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, Beyond The Sun and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter as @SFFWRTCHT.

5 Fantasy Series Military Fantasy Fans Don’t Want To Miss

by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

As the co-editor of Baen’s new anthology of high fantasy with a military feel, Shattered Shields, I have spent a lot of time reading and researching military fantasy. But unlike military science fiction, it’s not a clearly defined subgenre, so most of the books falling into the category must be discovered within other categories. Everyone’s heard of big series like Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Erickson’s Malazan, and Cook’s Black Company, but there are other high fantasy series with great military elements. So here are a few recommendations for military fantasy fans of series they might want to discover.
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Michaele Jordan is the author of the period occult thriller Mirror Maze and her stories have appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, The Crimson Pact, Volumes 4 and 5 and Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can visit her website at while waiting for the upcoming steampunk adventure Jocasta and the Indians.

Animé Can Be Art

by Michaele Jordan

I’ve talked about French animation before. But I left out one very important name. This wasn’t an accident or an oversight. I felt that Michel Ocelot had to have his own column, if only for his revolutionary work in cut-out and silhouette animation.
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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.

SF Signal welcomes back A.C. Wise and her continuing series of essays on Women To Read!
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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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Jennifer Marie Brissett is a Jamaican-British American who came to the U.S. when she was four and grew up in Cambridge, MA. For three and a half years, she owned and operated the Brooklyn indie bookstore, Indigo Café & Books. She has a Masters’ from the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing and has published stories in The Future Fire, Morpheus Tales, Warrior Wisewoman 2, and Halfway Down the Stairs. Her work has been short-listed for the 2013 storySouth Million Writers Award. Elysium, her debut novel, will be published by Aqueduct Press in December 2014. She currently lives in NYC. Her website can be found at

The Inspiration for the novel ELYSIUM

by Jennifer Marie Brissett

As I worked on the first few chapters of Elysium—not knowing exactly where I was going except that I had a seed idea of gender swapping—my grad school mentor suggested that I consider using a theme. I thought about that for a little bit and then it came to me, I mean the whole book came to me, not word for word or even chapter for chapter, but the story and even the structure of the book all flowed from the theme that appeared in my mind: the story of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous.
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[GUEST POST] Guy Hasson’s Impressions from the Con

Guy Hasson is the CEO and head writer of New Worlds Comics. His sci-fi series, Wynter, was called by many reviewers “The best science fiction series on the shelves today.” He is also the author of The Emoticon Generation and Secret Thoughts. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Impressions from the Con

by Guy Hasson

We just got back from our first convention, in which we had a booth and sold our first trade paperback ever, the Goof TBP.

Here are some of the thoughts and experiences we had at the con.
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Scarlett Amaris likes playing devil’s advocate on the dark side of the moon. She spends a large amount of time tracking through ancient ruins and decoding old texts in the Pyrenees. Her more esoteric work can be found at and She’s also co-written scripts for the infamous horror anthology, The Theatre Bizarre (2011), the award winning, critically acclaimed documentary The Otherworld (2013) and the upcoming feature films, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space (director: Richard Stanley), and Replace (director: Norbert Keil). Saurimonde is her first novel and she’s currently finishing up Saurimonde II before getting started on Demon Priest – The Misadventures of Abbe Sauniere, her next erotic horror endeavor.

Melissa St. Hilaire likes to bask in the center of chaos watching supernova explosions. She spends most of her time daydreaming, researching, and scribbling. She wrote film and music reviews for The Heights Inc. Her poetry has appeared in the periodicals Shards, The Outer Fringe, and The Laughing Medusa. She co-authored several scripts for Tone-East Productions. Her debut book, a memoir titled In The Now, was released in 2012. In 2013 she released Saurimonde, a dark fantasy novel, with co-author Scarlett Amaris. After finishing up Saurimonde II, her next projects will include a follow-up to In the Now called Medicated and a sci-fi epic called Xodus.

The Pros and Cons of Co-Writing

by Scarlett Amaris and Melissa St. Hilaire

The Pros

Scarlett: Collaborating is a tricky beast. Especially on a writing project.
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Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and YA author. She has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has an original horror film in development. Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and has three times been short-listed for Best Novel. She has also been short-listed for a World Fantasy Award. Her new novel is Poison, a wicked tale of Snow White.

Spinning the Tale

by Sarah Pinborough

The world has changed. We still love romance, and we all want a happily ever after, but the events of fairy tales aren’t exactly what most women are looking for these days. Most fairy tales end with a handsome prince riding in and saving a damsel in distress and whisking her away to life in a castle. Now, women may still occasionally dream of marrying a rich man and having an easy life, but we’ve learned that there is no such thing as ‘easy’ and actually what we want is mutual respect and a little adventure of our own. And we don’t need men to save us from them. And, to be fair, most men don’t want that either. They like women to be fully rounded individuals with hopes and dreams beyond ‘getting the guy.’
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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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Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. grew up in the United States and Canada but he prefers to think of himself as British. He attended the University of Waterloo where he earned an Honors B.A. in English with a Minor in Anthropology. He has lived on Prince Edward Island, met the sheep on Hadrian’s Wall, eaten at the first McDonalds in Moscow, excavated a 400 year old Huron Indian skeleton and attended a sperm whale autopsy. Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders, Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War and Romulus Buckle & the Luminiferous Aether are the first three installments in his new steampunk series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. He currently resides in California. Find out more at hos website and follow him on Twitter as @RichardEPreston

Airship Versus Flying Kraken Battle Tactics: A Steampunk Primer

by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.

Captain Buckle hurdled over tentacles, moving beneath dozens more that lashed back and forth in the darkness overhead. “Have at the monster, mates!” he shouted into the teeth of the wind, and slammed his axe down upon the joint of a thick, writhing arm. The blade sank deep into the jellyfish muscle beneath, sending up gouts of yellow blood. The tentacle snapped back reflexively, nearly tearing the axe out of Buckle’s hands as it whiplashed away.

(From Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.)

In Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War, the second novel in my Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin steampunk adventure series, the airship launch Arabella is caught in an ice storm and attacked by a flying alien beastie which resembles a mythical kraken. Kraken encounters with airships are rare but zeppelin crews, operating in earth’s alien-creature-filled post-apocalyptic skies, understand the tactics needed to handle of this kind of situation.

What follows is an airship vs. flying kraken battle primer, complete with Crankshaft Air Corps tactical notes, employing the Arabella incident an example.

Please Note: a gorgeous illustrated schematic of this battle sequence is featured inside the new Steampunk User’s Manual by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovitch. The artist is Locus Award winner Jeremy Zerfoss. TOR.COM has an exclusive look at the illustration and an exclusive FREE ROMULUS BUCKLE SHORT STORY, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” on their website here.)

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[GUEST POST] Jeff Carlson Has Alien Sex

Jeff Carlson is the international bestselling author of Plague Year, Interrupt, and The Frozen Sky. To date, his work has been translated into sixteen languages worldwide. His new novel is Frozen Sky 2: Betrayed, available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords. Readers can find free excerpts, videos, contests, and more on his website at

Jeff Carlson Has Alien Sex!!!!

by Jeff Carlson

Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer, not an artist. I have a loud imagination. That’s how I write my stories. I follow the voices and pictures in my head. But I can’t draw to save my life, and artistic composition is beyond me.

When I first released my sequel to The Frozen Sky, I hurt my brain trying to wrap myself around the angry or sarcastic comments posted about the cover. Granted, the heroine is pretty, and people do judge a book by its cover. Understood. We’re a visual, quick-thinking species, but I groaned in frustration at every outraged declaration that I was a sexist ape. The heroine is practically a poster child for The Empowered Female.
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[GUEST POST] Gail Z. Martin on What’s Ahead for DEADLY CURIOSITIES

Gail Z. Martin writes epic and urban fantasy, steampunk and short stories. She is the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle series and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series of epic fantasy books, as well as the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world and coming in 2015, Iron and Blood, a Steampunk novel, co-written with Larry N. Martin. Gail is a frequently contributor to US and UK anthologies. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures. Find her at, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on, at blog and She leads monthly conversations on Goodreads and posts free excerpts of her work on Wattpad. An original novella set in the Deadly Curiosities universe, “The Final Death”, is available free on Wattpad


by Gail Z. Martin

Imagine an antique and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina that exists to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands.

Now picture, if you will, a family that has been the proprietors of that shop for over 350 years, along with their undead silent partner, secretly watching over the people of Charleston and averting disaster and supernatural destruction. The latest proprietor is Cassidy Kincaide, whose gift is the ability to read the history of objects by touching them. Add in Teag Logan, Cassidy’s best friend, who has the ability to weave magic into fabric or weave hidden data into information (best hacker ever), and their silent partner, Sorren, a nearly six hundred year-old vampire who has been tracking down and destroying cursed and possessed objects for centuries, and you’ve got the recipe for a lot of adventure.

Deadly Curiosities, the first book in my new urban fantasy series, came out in July of 2014. The second book (we’re still working on a title) comes out in 2015, and it’s already being written. So what’s in the cards for Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren?
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Tom Calen Tom Calen is the author of the bestselling horror series, The Pandemic Sequence (comprised of The Tilian Virus, The Tilian Effect and The Tilian Cure), as well as the science-fiction series, Scars of Tomorrow (comprised of Torrance and The Ignota). A New York City native, Tom holds a degree in English and spent several years toiling in the world of business before abandoning all reason and deciding to write full-time. He finds the worlds in his novels far less frightening than the corporate world. His books The Tilian Virus and The Tilian Effect both reached #1 on Amazon’s Bestselling Science-Fiction Series list, and both were the #1 Hot New Release in horror and science-fiction.From Castle Rock to Arakis, Middle Earth to Westeros, Tom eagerly devours as many science-fiction, fantasy, and horror novels as time allows. He credits George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Stephen King as the major influences on his style. Tom is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association, and International Thriller Writers, Inc. He is currently living in Nicaragua, where he is working on his seventh book.

Goodbye to Our Star Trek Future

by Tom Calen

Robotic limbs? Check. Cloned mammals? Check. Tablet devices? Check. Holographic touchscreens? Genetic engineering? Check. Nearly every gadget and doohickey in Star Trek? Check, check, check.

There’s no denying that real-life technology has made drastic surges forward over the last fifty years. Tech that was once only available in episodes of The Jetsons and Star Trek are now found in homes around the world. We carry it in our pockets (iPhones), on our wrists (smart watches), and on our faces (Google Glass). We use it to shop (credit cards, and now Apple Pay) and to go to war (stealth bombers and unmanned aerial drones). These technological advances have undoubtedly made our lives more convenient. But, as a writer who has recently dabbled in penning science fiction, I politely ask: Please STOP! You’re making my job more difficult.
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Erik Williams is a former Naval Officer and current defense contractor (but he’s not allowed to talk about it). He is also the author of the novel Demon and numerous other small press works and short stories. He currently lives in San Diego with his wife and three very young daughters. When he’s not at his day job, he can usually be found changing diapers or coveting carbohydrates. At some point in his life, he was told by a few people he had potential. Recently, he told himself he’s the bee’s knees. Erik prefers to refer to himself in the third person but feels he’s talked about himself enough and will grant your eyeballs the freedom they deserve. Visit Erik at his website or follow him on Twitter as @TheErikWilliams.

Five Essential Horror Novels You Didn’t Know were Horror Novels

by Erik Williams

Sure, you’ve all heard of “essential” horror novels everyone should read. That’s easy. So instead of making an easy list, I’m going to hit you with five books that not only do you need to read but read with the understanding, regardless of whatever genre they claim to be in, they truly are horror novels at their core.
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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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Scott Taylor is an avid reader, writer, and have worked as a senior editor for Black Gate Magazine and Director of Publishing at Skull Island Expeditions. He’s also done freelance work for Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf. He is currently the Art Director for TSR/Gygax Magazine. On the side he also work as a freelance art director, art agent, and art blogger at his own ‘shop’ Art of the Genre. Scott’s greatest passion is to work in conjunction with great artists and authors to produce inspired pieces of fantasy and outstanding games. Because of the wonderful fans on Kickstarter he has successfully run seven ‘dime store’ fantasy book projects with artists like Jeff Easley, David Deitrick, Jeff Laubenstein, Janet Aulisio, Brom, Rk Post, and Todd Lockwood. He’s also managed to found the micro-press Art of the Genre to produce products for the public. His current project, The Folio: Neo-Retro Gaming Modules for 5th Edition, marks his eighth Kickstarter.

A Disturbing Trend in Art Direction

by Scott Taylor

Fantasy art director Jim Pinto is often fond of saying that there is no art in RPGs, and by inference, we can extrapolate that he also means there is no art in fantasy publishing at all. Art, by Pinto’s definition states that, and I paraphrase only a bit here, ‘the work is serving a direct purpose, it is not serving itself’. So, creation for the sole sake of expression is ‘art’, and all else becomes illustration. He also indicates, and I feel correctly indicates, that there is rarely expression by the artist who must interpret an author’s or art director’s vision from less than one hundred words.
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