You can follow Rachel S. Cordasco on her bookish adventures at Bookishlywitty.blogspot.com and Bookriot.com.

Haunting, mesmerizing, moving: these are just some of the words that come to mind when I think about Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. Each novel is under 400 pages, and each packs into it so much psychological, emotional, philosophical, and ecological inquiry that you start to think that they must be huge, hulking volumes that should make your bookshelves cave in.

Now, you’ve probably seen a million reviews of this trilogy, and rightly so, for it deserves recognition and invites fascinating discussions. Therefore, instead of recapping the story or outlining the plot, I’m going to focus on three major mysteries/questions/problems in these novels and why they’re so compelling.

Oh, and by the way, there may be spoilers here. I’m not guaranteeing anything.
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Beth Cato resides in the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ. Her husband Jason, son Nicholas, and crazy cat keep her busy, but she still manages to squeeze in time for writing and other activities that help preserve her sanity. She is originally from Hanford, CA, a lovely city often pungent with cow manure. Her debut novel is The Clockwork Dagger.

Beyond Historical Fiction: Fear, Fantasy, and How I Came to Steampunk

by Beth Cato

I was eight years old when I fell for historical fiction. Laura Ingalls Wilder was my gateway drug to endless hours of medieval romps and pioneer adventures. I hungrily sought out all the Rosemary Sutcliff and Patricia Beatty books to be found.

Beatty’s books–in particular, her Hannalee books–pulled me into a stint of fascination with the American Civil War. In 5th grade, I won the school district’s annual library essay contest, writing that I wanted to grow up and write books about the Civil War, maybe even from a horse’s viewpoint.

In my teens, my interest turned towards fantasy, but my desire to write historical never went away. For years, I entertained the idea of writing an epic fantasy based heavily on the Inquisition. I would write a page or two and browse books on the subject matter, but I never made a serious effort.

The reason: fear.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Sarah Hendrix! – Sarah Chorn


Sarah Hendrix spends a lot of time reveling in chaos. Not only does she crush a heaping slush pile but she manages several minion duties. She is a PR for Apocalypse Ink Productions. She loves the developmental stages of a project and likes weaving seemingly unrelated things into a beauteous whole. To complete her love of all things unorganized, she has 2 cats, 2 teenage boys and a fiancé and she makes wearable art with small beads. Her stories can be found in the Space Battles #6 from Flying Pen Press, the In Situ, and the FISH anthologies both from Dagan Books, “Ordinary Hero” from Lakeside Circus and “The Coin Whisperer” in Abyss and Apex. You can follow her on her blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Portraying Disability in Short Stories

by Sarah Hendrix

When I wrote the first few words of “The Coin Whisperer” I didn’t know much about the main character, Paul. All I knew is he was relating a story to me about a friend who could tap into the stories that resided in the change in her pocket. Overall, what I wrote was pretty bland so, like a lot of short stories that I start, I set it aside. It wasn’t until a year later that the story and Paul matured into something I felt had a chance at being published.

Although I love the story, I was very apprehensive while writing it. Paul first revealed he was transgender, which wasn’t an issue at all, but then he revealed something that made me pause-Paul was mute. While writing I wanted his disability to be an element of the story but knew that wasn’t the focus. I wanted to portray Paul as an individual who happens to be mute, and has to find a creative way to tell someone something very important.
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Timothy C. Ward is the former Executive Producer of Adventures in SciFi Publishing. His newest story, Scavenger: Red Sands (Scavenger #1), is available on Kindle for $.99, and is the first in a serialized, five-part epic. Scavenger: Blue Dawn (Scavenger #2), will be released October 1. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases and to become a first 100 reviewer to get future stories for free.

The Problems with Writing Fan Fiction and How To Solve Them

by Timothy C. Ward

A few weeks ago I released Scavenger: Red Sands (Scavenger #1), an authorized fan fiction novelette set in the world of Hugh Howey’s novel, Sand. Hugh has opened up his world of Wool to fan fiction through Kindle Worlds, but Sand is not yet open and thus has only one other writer, Michael Bunker’s Dunes Over Danvar, writing in Sand‘s world. I’ve read all of the Silo Saga (WOOL, Shift, and Dust), but one scene in particular in Sand inspired me to create my own character in his story. Without that inspiration, I don’t know that I would have bothered. There are a lot of Wool fan fiction stories out there, and while the world is full of opportunity, I just never moved any into the top of my queue. Call that a case of running Adventures in SciFi Publishing and having a crazy reading schedule or maybe it’s a preconceived notion that I’ve already read the story of the Silo. The Last Prayer by Lyn Perry put a different spin on Silo life, focusing more on religious persecution, and while it was a good story, it felt very similar to Wool 1.
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Armand Rosamilia is a New Jersey boy currently living in sunny Florida, where he writes when he’s not sleeping. He’s written over 100 stories that are currently available, including a few different series: Dying Days (extreme zombie series), Keyport Cthulhu (horror series), Flagler Beach (contemporary fiction), Metal Queens (non-fiction music series)…He also loves to talk in third person because he’s really that cool. He’s a proud Active member of HWA as well. His latest novel is Chelsea Avenue.

Write What You Know: Locale

by Armand Rosamilia

“I don’t come across books like Rosamilia’s CHELSEA AVENUE often. Infused with the dreamlike quality of memory, Rosamilia here fulfills the full measure of the promise I first saw in his DYING DAYS series. Beautifully dark, this book held me entranced. I couldn’t get enough!” – Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of DOG DAYS and PLAGUE OF THE UNDEAD

I bring up this wonderful blurb from author Joe McKinney for two reasons… first, because I want to brag about it. But second, because of one of the lines he used…

“Infused with the dreamlike quality of memory”…

After Joe was kind enough to give me the blurb, we chatted about the book in detail and he could tell this was a real place from my past, and I was writing from memory about many good times in Long Branch, New Jersey. And he was right.
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Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay are a husband and wife writing team who agree on almost everything except whether or not 28 Days Later should be considered a zombie movie. Though their career has been focused primarily on nonfiction work with the Deseret News and the website Bloody Good Horror, they have also been recognized for their fiction and poetry. After years devoted to books (like The Anatomy of Fear) and articles in which they championed the idea that the horror film genre should be taken seriously, they hope the idea is finally catching on. You can follow them at their blog, www.inthemargin.net.

We Need a Halloween for Science Fiction!

by Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay

In writing and marketing our book The Anatomy of Fear: Conversations with Cult Horror and Science-Fiction Filmmakers, we discovered that there’s little to be done about the niche popularity of the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres. Occasionally, something like Lord of the Rings or The Walking Dead connects with the zeitgeist, but more often than not it is the individual project that benefits rather than the subgenre overall. Luckily for the horror genre, however, there is a time of year when people embrace it. From the second week of October until Halloween night, people are a little more friendly towards the creepy and macabre, and even normally uptight friends and family are willing to watch and read and go to Halloween Horror Nights and haunted houses.

But what about science fiction? There is no time of the year when people’s thoughts turn naturally to malevolent robots or genetic manipulation; there is no color that the leaves can turn that reminds us of time travel or spaceships. Halloween gets a full three weeks of scariness, so what about sci-fi?
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Christa Faust is a successful horror and crime writer. Her novel Money Shot for Hard Case Crime won the Crimespree Award and was nominated for several others. She has written tie-ins to Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Twilight Zone amongst others. She lives in Los Angeles, California, and loves vintage shoes and noir cinema. Christa is the author of three Fringe tie-in novels for Titan Books: The Zodiac Paradox, The Burning Man and the newly released Sins of the Father.


Alvaro Zinos-Amaro: The Zodiac Paradox, the first of your three Fringe novels, is an exciting, suspenseful thriller that does a great job of establishing the early relationships between Walter Bishop, William Bell, and Nina Sharp. How much of a Fringe fan were you before WB and Titan books approached you to write these tie-ins?

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Benjanun Sriduangkaew writes fantasy, science fiction, and has a strong appreciation for beautiful bugs. Her short fiction can be found in Tor.com, Clarkesworld,various Mammoth Books and best of the year collections. She is a 2014 finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her debut novella Scale-Bright is out now from Immersion Press.

[Note: I loved Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s Scale-Bright, and talked to her about the myths and legends that inspired it. Indeed, in contrast to references to King Arthur, Roland, Robin Hood or William Tell, Scale-Bright’s mythological matter comes from a completely different tradition. Here, she reveals the secret references and allusions in the novella. You may want to read Scale-Bright before reading this. You should read Scale-Bright in any event. - Paul Weimer]

Beyond The Great Wall Of Europe: The Myths And Legends of SCALE-BRIGHT

by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

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


Jaym Gates is an editor, author, and communications specialist. She’s edited the anthologies War Stories, Broken Time Blues, and is working on Genius Loci. She is also the Communications Director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She is active in ensuring a safer, more respectful environment in SF. Follow her on Twitter as @JaymGates, or online at JaymGates.com.

My Own Damn Game

by Jaym Gates

My first Dungeons and Dragons game was with four industry veterans. Not just guys who had played for years, but guys who had actually developed the game. Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end.

Fortunately, the two running the game were merciful and gave me a chaos-oriented paladin. Our host had mead and scotch for us to bolster the usual snacks. It turned out to be handier than he’d perhaps planned. The Game Master (GM) began drinking heavily about two minutes into the game because one player wouldn’t stop punning, one had somehow ended up with a cross-dressing rogue, and I was being myself, which is just never good for anyone trying to run a serious game. We romped through the first half of the adventure, puns and lipstick flying, trying with all our might to break the GM.
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Why You Want to Enter a Writing Contest

MB Partlow is a writer, a cranky optimist, a domestic goddess wannabe, a voracious reader across any genre, and the Director for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

Why on Earth (or Any Other Planet) Would You Want to Enter a Writing Contest?

by MB Partlow

If you have a manuscript you’re working on or a finished novel hiding on your hard drive, you might want to expose your brainchild to the world through a writing contest. You could want feedback, fame and/or glory*. Or you could be a masochist.

Step one is to always read the directions carefully. You wouldn’t want to spread your foot-fungus medication on the wrong body part, and you wouldn’t want to submit your manuscript to the wrong contest or in the wrong category. Maximize your results by taking the time to carefully read through what and how to submit. Many contests are open to published or unpublished authors, while others, like the Zebulon, are open to both.

So why enter a writing contest?

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Nancy Kress is the author of thirty-three books, including twenty-ix novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won five Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Most recent works are After The Fall, Before The Fall, During The Fall (Tachyon, 2012), a novel of apocalypse, and Yesterday’s Kin, about genetic inheritance (Tachyon, 2014). In addition to writing, Kress often teaches at various venues around the country and abroad; in 2008 she was the Picador visiting lecturer at the University of Leipzig. Kress lives in Seattle with her husband, writer Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle.

“DNA Yet Again, Kress?”
or, Why I Write So Much About Genetic Engineering

by Nancy Kress

Every once in a while some critic says, “Science fiction is over. The future is here now. Science has caught up with science fiction and there is nothing left to write about.” To these people I say, “Huh? What are you talking about?”

Science is advancing at a dizzying rate, but that produces more to write about, not less. Bi-weekly, Science News dazzles me with fresh discoveries in all fields. So why do I mostly (not exclusively, but very definitely mostly) choose to write about genetic engineering in my fiction? Three reasons.
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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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Richard Lee Byers is the author of over thirty fantasy and horror novels, including a number set in the Forgotten Realms universe. A resident of the Tampa Bay area, the setting for many of his horror stories, he spends much of his free time fencing and playing poker. His newest work is a story written for Blackguards, a kickstarter anthology of assassins, mercenaries, and rogues. Friend him on Facebook, Follow him on Twitter as @RLeeByers, and read his blog on Livejournal.

Fantasy’s Scoundrels

by Richard Lee Byers

I started reading fantasy as a teenager, and from the start, I was drawn to its rogues and antiheroes. Which is not to say that I didn’t appreciate Tolkien’s Frodo and Burroughs’s John Carter. I did. But not as much as I dug Leiber’s Gray Mouser and Fafhrd, Brackett’s Eric John Stark, Howard’s Conan, or Wagner’s Kane. I think there are several reasons why, some relating to the characters themselves and some to their creators’ styles of storytelling and world building.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Corrina Lawson! – Sarah Chorn


Corrina Lawson likes to say she’s a writer, mom, geek, and superhero, though not necessary all four on the same day. Her fiction self is the author of the Amazon steampunk bestseller, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, and the Phoenix Institute psychic superhero series. Her non-fiction identity is as the Content Director and co-founder of GeekMom.com and co-author of GeekMom: Project, Tips and Adventures for Moms & Their 21st Century Families. She and her four kids have made an appearance together on the Take Me To Your Mother television show on NickMom.

Autism and Superpowers

by Corrina Lawson

Please don’t be the school, please don’t be the school.

It was the school.

When I first started writing my Phoenix Institute superhero series, I was well aware that the psychic abilities that my characters struggled with were stand-ins for issues that many struggle with in real life.

My telepath needs to shut out overly strong mental voices threatening to overwhelm her. My firestarter must control his fire and thus not be a danger to anyone. My self-healer is so used to going beyond endurance that he doesn’t know how to relax.

From a writing standpoint, it’s necessary. No character should be ultra-powerful and without flaws.

But from a personal standpoint, it’s so much more. The negative side effects of these powers are stand-ins for problems caused by autism, mood disorder and mental illness.

Why? Because I have kids who struggle with all those things.
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Kameron Hurley is the author of The Mirror Empire, as well as the award-winning God’s War Trilogy, comprising the books God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture. She has won the Hugo Award, Kitschy Award, and Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer. Hurley has also been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award, BFS Award, and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Year’s Best SF, EscapePod, The Lowest Heaven, and the upcoming Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women.

Thundercats Ho! 5 Things I Learned When I Stopped Worrying About Genre

by Kameron Hurley

I get a lot of questions about what genre my books are. I mean, what do you call a book with space ships and magicians and shape shifters and aliens? (oh my!) How about a book with organic energy swords, satellites, empresses, orphaned scullery girls, blood magic and parallel worlds, like my latest book, The Mirror Empire?

In truth, I didn’t think too much about the genre of these books while I was writing them. With my God’s War Trilogy I chose to market it as the thing it was most like – science fiction. Maybe science fiction noir, like Blade Runner. And with The Mirror Empire, I did the same – it’s most like epic fantasy.

But for all intents and purposes, the genre of my work doesn’t really matter, especially while I’m writing it. If you asked me, honestly, what genre I wrote, I’d say it’s science-fantasy. It’s Thundercats. It’s Wonder Woman riding a kangaroo through space. I mean, what genre is that, really?

Here’s five things I learned when I stopped worrying about genre and just wrote the fricking stuff I love to write.
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Crystal Koo‘s short stories have been published widely, including venues such as The Apex Book of World SF 3, Maximum Volume: Best New Filipino Fiction 2014, Abyss & Apex, and Shanghai Steam. Her latest publication will be forthcoming in Philippine Speculative Fiction 9. She recently won in the 2013 Hong Kong Top Story Competition and was a Carlos Palanca awardee in 2007. Crystal was born and raised in Manila and currently works in Hong Kong, where she has been involved in the local music and theatre scenes. She blogs at http://cgskoo.wordpress.com and tweets @CrystalKoo.

Spaces for Speculative Fiction in Hong Kong

by Crystal Koo

A lot of people expect speculative fiction in Hong Kong to be a little hard to distinguish from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That retinue of berobed, be-sworded warriors with noble hearts is the Chinese water chestnut for all things speculative and it’s part of a very old genre called wuxia. Wuxia‘s imagery and principles can be found in popular Hong Kong fantasy films like Clarence Fok’s The Iceman Cometh and Tsui Hark’s steampunk Detective Dee series, both set in Imperial China. This imagery gets repeated time and time again, and for good reason – it’s familiar. It’s easy to do your world-building when people already know the lore, so it’s understandable why the tropes get reused (though sometimes very creatively). Spoiler alert, though: there are a lot more possibilities to Hong Kong speculative fiction than just finding out that the eunuch did it.
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Patrick Swenson began Talebones magazine in 1995, and in 2000 started Fairwood Press, a small SF book press. Ultra Thin Man is his first novel.

The Marriage of Sci-Fi and Noir

by Patrick Swenson

My novel The Ultra Thin Man has readers likening it to Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, and in truth, Hammett’s novel is a definite influence, as is the film of the same name. I’ve also seen a number of comments along the lines of: “I hope Nick and Nora at least have a cameo!” They do not, I’m afraid. In fact, only one character makes a cameo, and it was quite by accident. Dorothy, the daughter of the prime suspect in The Thin Man, is often called by a shorter name. In the first chapter of The Ultra Thin Man, I introduce “Dorie,” a supposed terrorist movement sympathizer. The spelling of her name is different, however. I’d forgotten about her name in Hammett’s book until a year after I finished writing my own. I reread Hammett’s novel after that, and then I remembered.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Dave-Brendon de Burgh! – Sarah Chorn


Dave de Burgh wanted to be an artist and speak French, but Fate saved him and pointed him in the direction of writing. He is a bookseller, so-parent to three wonderful Pekingese “kids,” reads Speculative Fiction voraciously, and is the luckiest guy in the world because he has a blonde, blue-eyed woman in his life who supports his need to write and be crazy.

He lives in Pretoria, South Africa, and when he’s not writing he’s probably secretly laughing at cognitively challenged bookstore-customers. He’s on Blogger, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, and Instagram, and he’s also a paranormal investigator with Paranormal Research Investigators of Pretoria.

His debut novel, Betrayal’s Shadow, was published on the 25th of April by Fox and Raven Publishing.

The Deaf

by Dave-Brendon de Burgh

When Sarah asked me to write a guest post for this excellent column, I suffered about ten seconds of ‘What do I write about?’ After all, I’m one of the lucky people – I don’t have any ‘disabilities’ at all (except perhaps for not being able to do Math even if I was faced with a firing squad), and I work in retail, which means I don’t get much exposure to people living with disabilities – not as much as, say, someone working in a hospital or community center.

But then I remembered that I am, in fact, very close to people with disabilities, and that I have been for years. You see, my girlfriend works with the deaf – she’s a teacher at a school for the deaf, and she straddles both worlds. Before I met Leana I had only the most basic (and biased) knowledge of the deaf community.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Kameron Hurley! – Sarah Chorn


Kameron Hurley is an award-winning author, advertising copywriter, and online scribe.  Hurley grew up in Washington State, and has lived in Fairbanks, Alaska; Durban, South Africa; and Chicago. She has degrees in historical studies from the University of Alaska and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, specializing in the history of South African resistance movements. Her essay on the history of women in conflict We Have Always Fought is the first blog post to be nominated for and win a Hugo Award. It was also nominated for Best Non-Fiction work by the British Fantasy Society. This past weekend, she won a second Hugo award for Best Fan Writer.

Hurley is the author of God’s WarInfidel,  and Rapture, a science-fantasy noir series which earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. She has been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Additionally, her work has been included on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Hurley’s short fiction has appeared in magazines such as LightspeedEscapePod, and Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as The Lowest Heaven, The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women and Year’s Best SF. Her fiction has been translated into Romanian, Swedish, Spanish and Russian. She is also a graduate of Clarion West.

In addition to her writing, Hurley has been a Stollee guest lecturer at Buena Vista University and taught copywriting at the School of Advertising Art. Hurley currently lives in Ohio, where she’s cultivating an urban homestead. Her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, will be published by Angry Robot Books in August 2014.

On Invisibility and Assumptions: Finding Distance in Writing About Chronic Illness

by Kameron Hurley

I’ve been invisibly sick for eight years now, but have found it nearly impossible to talk about in fiction.
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Sunny Moraine‘s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Apex, among many other places. Their work has also appeared in the anthologies We See a Different Frontier and Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. They are responsible for the novels Line and Orbit (co-written with Lisa Soem) and the Casting the Bones trilogy, as well as Labyrinthian (coming January 2015). In addition to occasional authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology; their academic alter-ego is a regular contributor to Cyborgology, concerning technology and fiction and reality and lots of other things. They can be found making words at sunnymoraine.com and on Twitter as @dynamicsymmetry.

Roads Through a Sequel

by Sunny Moraine

Ravenfall is not the first sequel I’ve written, but it’s the first I’ve had published, and like any part of the writing process, it’s taught me a few things.
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