[GUEST POST] Shawn Speakman on The Story Behind “Unfettered”


Shawn Speakman is the author of The Dark Thorn, an urban/epic fantasy hybrid novel bestselling author Terry Brooks calls, “a fine tale by a talented writer.” He is also editor and contributor of Unfettered, a fantasy anthology featuring some of the best writers in the genre. When Shawn isn’t lying for a living, he runs The Signed Page and Grim Oak Press. You can buy the hardcover of Unfettered at Grim Oak Press and the eBook at various eRetailers!

The Story Behind Unfettered

by Shawn Speakman

The anthology is a magical thing.

The most powerful aspect of the format though is its ability to invent new fans.

When I was diagnosed with cancer and lacked health insurance in 2011, I knew I had to create something unique. I did not want to claim medical bankruptcy; that seemed like a missed opportunity on many levels. If enough of my writing friends would donate a short story, I could build an anthology that would eliminate that debt as well as be a book that could stand the test of time-my swan song, so to speak-if my cancer claimed me unceremoniously.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

As a critic, aspiring author, and a fan of fiction I always keep an eye out for what could be the next big thing. This could range anywhere from authors to series, from genres to themes. But who better to provide an opinion on the matter of The Next Big Thing than authors themselves?

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What do you think will be the next Big Thing in SF/F? What authors do you see leading the way? What genres or trends?

Here’s what they said…

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam writes speculative short stories. Her first professional publication, “The Wanderers” came out in this February’s Clarkesworld. Her second will be published in Strange Horizons this April. She reviews short fiction on her blog, Short Story Review.

I’ve always been bad at predicting the future, despite my claims as a kid that my dreams were prophetic; I tend to worry over the worst possible scenarios. But in terms of the future trends in speculative fiction, I’m optimistic. I’ve been noticing a strong focus on diversity in speculative short fiction. I mainly read short stories, so I will speak in terms of the next big thing in short story writers. As a bisexual woman, I was thrilled last month to read “Inventory” by Carmen Maria Machado in Strange Horizons, in which the main character’s relationships with women and men are depicted as equally important to her. I think in the future we will certainly see more of an emphasis on diversity in sexual orientations and gender identifications.

Some other writers I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future: I keep running into Damien Walters Grintalis’ work. Brooke Wonders’ “Everything Must Go” in Clarkesworld 74 blew me away, and I think Wonders will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. Helena Bell’s work has been popping up a lot lately; her Clarkesworld stories “Variations on Bluebeard and Dalton’s Law Along the Event Horizon” and “Robot” are worth checking out. I’ll be keeping an eye on Brooke Bolander as well. It’s great to see so many up-and-coming female short story writers in the speculative fiction field, and I think that this trend will continue as well.
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If you could get a new Wheel Of Time short by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, new stories from Shannara, Word/Void, Riyria, Demon Cycle, Vault of Heaven, Temeraire, Broken Empire, and more all in one collection, what would you say?

Well, if you haven’t heard of Shawn Speakman, perhaps you’ve heard of his website: The Signed Page where he makes available signed copies of new releases for fans who can’t make it to events where their favorite author appears in person. Or maybe you know him from Suvudu.com, the Random House speculative fiction blog where he’s a regular contributor or from the websites he runs for authors like Terry Brooks and Naomi Novik.

What you may not know is that Shawn suffers from Hodgkins lymphoma. Diagnosed in 2011 and without health insurance, his treatment has left him with thousands in medical bills. Faced with filing bankruptcy, Shawn sought another way out. A way he could make it through without dealing with the 10 year nightmare a filing would bring. Then his friend Terry Brooks offered him a short story Shawn could sell to help alleviate those bills and an idea came to his head. What if he did an anthology from some of the many author friends he’d made over the past few years from both Suvudu, The Signed Page and his other activities?

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