An Interview with Fran Wilde

Author PhotoFran Wilde was kind enough to stop by today to talk about her debut novel, Updraft. If her answers to my questions leave you hungering for more, well you’re in luck! It just so happens Fran is doing a Reddit AMA today, and you can ask her questions of your very own. Also, if you happen to be local to the Philadelphia area, Fran will be taking part in The Future of Philly Sci Fi and Fantasy at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Wednesday, September 9, along with Michael Swanwick, Jon McGoran, Gregory Frost, Siobhan Carroll, and Stephanie Feldman. Six wonderful authors talking about the local Philadelphia speculative fiction scene – this is event not to miss! But for now, back to the interview. To start things off, I will introduce Fran by shamelessly stealing from her author bio…

Fran Wilde is an author and technology consultant. Her first novel, UPDRAFT, debuts from Tor on September 1, 2015. Her short stories appear in Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Nature, and, while her nonfiction interviews with writers appear under the banner “Cooking the Books” at, Strange Horizons, the SFWA blog, and at You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

ACW: Welcome, Fran! First off, congratulations on the publication of Updraft! I feel incredibly lucky to have read an early copy of this novel. It’s been tough waiting for the book to be out in so I could squee about it without spoiling it for anyone, so I can only imagine how you’ve felt! To start things off, care to give us a taste of what Updraft is about?

FW: I feel incredibly lucky to have you as a beta reader.

Updraft is about a city built on towers of living bone; it’s about secrets and laws, monsters, songs, wind and silence. It’s the story of Kirit and her friend Nat, and how breaking a law leads to consequences unimaginable and deadly.

ACW: I love everything about the world you’ve built for this book, and the characters are amazing. You’re currently working on the third book in the series. Were there any challenges you faced writing the second and third books as opposed to the first? Was it easy to slip back into the characters’ voices, or did you have reintroduce yourself to everyone before they would start telling you their stories again? If you can say without giving too much away… Did anything about the characters or the direction the story took surprise you while writing the second or third book, or did you have everything more or less mapped out in your head from the beginning?

Updraft was written, initially, in six weeks. Then I revised the second two thirds completely, over another few months. At times, it felt like the story was spilling out of me. Cloudbound is similar in some ways, but there were new directions I wanted to go, and new themes I wanted to explore (and upend). The hardest part is getting all the details right – the tower names, secondary characters’ eye color. Thank goodness for notes, and copy editors.

And yes! A lot surprised me about the second book! I didn’t want to write in the comfort zone of the first book, so I’m glad for that. I loved writing it for that reason.

UpdraftACW: Because I’m a bit of a process nerd, I’d like to talk a bit about Updraft’s origin story. The first novel started life as a short story, correct? When did you realize it was actually a novel, and how did you go about expanding it? Are there bits of the story that remain intact more or less the way you originally wrote them, or did everything change as the world expanded?

Correct. The first book began as a short story – the second short story I’d written in this world. The first short story is actually part of the second book (take that, process). I realized with the help of beta readers that there was much more to it. Lots of things changed. The singing and wind, the wings and the towers? Those stayed the same. So did the characters in the stories.

ACW: On another process-related note, you did some rather unique research while writing the first book – indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel. Could you tell us a bit about that and how it impacted the flying scenes in your books? What other types of research have you done for the series, and what’s your favorite bit of odd, or new knowledge you gained?

I wrote a whole post about the wind tunnel for iO9! It was a great thing to do – I learned so much about how a body moves in that space, and how small changes impact things like roll and lift.
As far as other research, I did a lot of background reading on monsters. I grilled my resident scientist for details about chemistry. I looked at a lot of high-altitude foods. And sinew – how it was used for sewing and light construction. And cephalopods. Lots of research about them.

ACW: Let’s talk about Cooking the Books for a moment. You started the series in 2011, and you have interviewed some amazing authors about the intersection between food and fiction. The series has since morphed into a podcast, and gained a sibling series, Book Bites. Do you have a favorite recipe from the series? What’s your personal go-to comfort food when you’re writing? Does cooking help you work out plot problems, or are there other things you turn to when you need to distract your brain so it can do its work?

When I’m writing, anything crunchy is my go-to. That’s dangerous because potato chips are crunchy, and so is popcorn. But snow peas and carrots are where I’m at these days. Sigh: less fun, but better for me.

Cooking is hard for me when I’m on a deadline. I get very distracted. And I’m a *terrible* baker except for cookies. Too much measuring. I like to see what I have in the fridge and improvise.
But when I have time, cooking with family and friends is one of my favorite things to do.
Favorite recipes from the blog? There are too many. I’d rather hear what other folks’ favorite recipes are from the blog. What are yours?

ACW: One of my personal favorites is blowtorch-cooked marmot, courtesy of Elizabeth Bear. It’s not something I would cook personally, but it’s…certainly memorable as far as recipes go. But back to fiction writing – how different is your writing process for your short fiction and poetry versus your novel process? Are you able to work on short fiction while you’re deep in a novel, or do you have to completely separate the two? Songs play a key role in Updraft, so I also want to ask – what is your songwriting process like? What made you want to include actual lyrics, versus simply alluding to the fact that characters are singing?

Often I’ll work on short stories in between novels. The process is the same – sketch and brainstorm, figure out themes, write a whole bunch of words, throw it all out. Start again. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’m chased by the feeling that I want to push harder, do more with each story. Novels too, but stories run faster. [That is SUCH a good pun. Will anyone get that I wonder.]

ACW: Other than the third novel, what else are you working on currently, or do you have coming up that you want people to know about?

I’ve got a couple more novels in the works – one is in editing, several are nascent. There’s a gem universe novella coming from next spring — “The Jewel and Her Lapidary,” as well as more gem universe stories, and several bone universe stories. And I have a project I can’t talk about yet, but I should be able to do so soon.

ACW: Ooh! I can’t wait to hear more… Thanks for stopping by!

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Non-Binary Authors to Read: Where to Start – Part 3

Here we are, Part 3 of my series highlighting non-binary authors (including agender, androgyne, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, genderfluid, etc.) whose work you should read and recommending a starting place. These authors are fabulous, their work is fabulous, and I’m delighted to share it with you. I’m also pleased with the new-to-me work I’ve discovered through the recommendations in the comments, so keep it up! Now, onward to the next round of stories…

A. Stiffler is an agender artist who co-creates the excellent webcomic, Chaos Life, with their wife, K. Copeland. My recommended starting place is, as you may have guessed, Chaos Life. All of it. It’s a delightfully geeky webcomic, which the creators describe as semi-autobiographical. There’s no overarching story, other than day to day life. You can dip in and out of the archives at pretty much any point, and find anything from one-panel thoughts about queer life, to a multi-panel musing on the inner life of cats, to an info graphic concerning various kinds of cheese. It’s delightful and sweet, and did I mention queer and geeky? Plus sometimes there’s cake or Batman or horror movies or sex toys. It’s really hard to go wrong. In fact, I keep getting distracted from writing this post by flipping back through the archives and snickering at things like Homo Hint and User Unfriendly. So go forth and enjoy!

Polenth Blake is a speculative fiction author who likes mushrooms. My recommended starting place for Polenth’s work is Never the Same, published at Strange Horizons in September 2014. The story concerns human colonists on an unnamed planet, centering in particular on the world’s only psychopath. The story provides a fascinating look at neural atypicality and society’s perceptions of such, including the narrow boxes society likes to put people in. There are literal boxes in the story as well, one which holds the world’s only murderer, a scientist who killed a fellow terraformer, right before the world’s ecosystem failed. Throughout the course of the story, the main character no only has to cope with the negative assumptions and stereotypes heaped upon them , but also works to solve the mystery of the sludge that may or may not be the cause of the failing ecosystem. On top of that, the main character’s sister is running for president, and the main character’s brother has murderous intentions toward her. This is a threat to the main character not only from the perspective of losing a sister, the one person who seems to love them unconditionally, but if she dies, they know they’re like to be blamed. No one believes a psychopath, because everyone knows psychopaths are inherently violent, untrustworthy, and not fit to be part of society. Many people in the colony don’t even view the story’s protagonist as human, despite the fact they are far better at following the rules than others and, as they point out, violence typically involves passion, anger, emotion, or at very least caring – things they are without. The family relationships are at the heart of this story, but there’s a lot more going on here – enough that it could be unpacked into a longer work, but which amazingly works perfectly at the short story length. It’s not an easy balancing act, but Polenth manages it, which makes this a very worthy recommended starting place.

A.C. Buchanan is a New Zealand author, and the editor of the new speculative fiction magazine, Capricious. My recommended starting place for their work is Blueprints from the wonderful anthology, Fat Girl in a Strange Land published by Crossed Genres. The story centers on a member of the staff at a facility dedicated to the care of children who are left behind when their parents sign up to move to Terra Nova, leaving behind the polluted and dying Earth. The reasons, or excuses, for the children being left behind are various – medical conditions, developmental issues, and so on. But the one thing they all have in common is that they are overweight. There are government regulations about weight limits on the ships transporting passengers to Terra Nova, but most of those left behind assume those rules to be arbitrary at best, and bullshit at the worst. The story takes a painful look at the idea of inclusiveness. There’s a better, bright world out there for humanity, but it isn’t for everyone – those who are ‘inconvenient’ or ‘aesthetically unpleasing’ might just be left behind. Blueprints explores the harmful stereotype that people who are overweight simply aren’t trying, they’re lazy, unhealthy, etc. That they are people who don’t deserve a better future the way everybody else (who can pay) does. Another thing the story touches on is the idea of the refugee experience. The protagonist is able to pay to be smuggled to Terra Nova, but is immediately jailed, and again experiences the harsh truth that the future isn’t for everyone. Despite the darkness, Blueprints is still a story filled with hope, making it a worthy starting place for A.C. Buchanan’s work.

Michael Matheson is a genderfluid Canadian author and editor. My recommended starting place for their work is Jenny of the Long Gauge from Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse. This story is soaked in style. It has a weird west feel, but set, as the anthology’s title suggests, in a post-apocalyptic world. A sample of the prose, the killer opening lines in fact, give the reader a hint of what’s in store: His heart hangs from the gallows where she left it. His skin and bones she took with her, and his name he traded away long ago. In this grim world, Jenny is a trader, traveling through dust storms and offering hides for gold. But in properly post-apocalyptic style, the hides she’s trading just happen to be human. She also has bones on offer that medicine men use, but there are fewer and fewer medicine men around. Jenny’s people, the Nakota, are being driven away in the fight over scare resources. Jenny doesn’t take kindly to this new exploitation of the First Nations, just as she doesn’t take kindly to people trying to steal from her, or the suggestion that women are good for nothing but whoring in this new world. So Jenny travels the ruined land with her trusty long gauge, searching for a better life, and refusing to let anyone take anything away from her. Despite the bleak setting, the story is fun in its own way – playing on the archetype of the tough, lone survivor. The visuals are striking, and as mentioned, the stylish language alone makes this a worthy starting place for Matheson’s work.

I hope you will seek out work by all of these authors, and please keep making your own suggestions for non-binary authors to read in the comments!


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Non-Binary Authors to Read: Where to Start – Part 2

The sibling series to my Women to Read: Where to Start series at SF Signal continues! Here are four more non-binary authors whose work you should be reading, and a recommended starting point. As with the first installment of the series, I use non-binary as a title but include androgyne, generqueer, genderfluid, gender neutral, neutrois, and gender non-conforming, among other identities. Now, onward to the authors and their stories!

An Owomoyela is a neutrois author and one of the editors of Strange Horizons. My recommended starting place for se’s work is All That Touches Air, published in the April 2011 issue of Lightspeed. There’s a temptation to call this a first contact story, but it’s really more of a first connection story. At its heart, it centers on a moment between a human and an alien species, and them truly trying to understand each other for the first time. As a child, the protagonist witnesses what is essentially a government-sanctioned execution. A man named Menley is brought to the Ocean of Starve, stripped of his envirosuit, and left to have his body colonized by the planet’s dominant species, the Vosth, a silver swarm-like fog. Eight years later, Menley’s body returns to the colony’s protective shell, wanting to be let inside. While the story isn’t horror, it plays with horror tropes with the image of Menley’s colonized body pressing a hand to the door, and the flat way the Vosth telepathically speak.  The Vosth in Menley’s body single out the protagonist among all the colonists as their chosen ambassador, repeatedly attempting to communicate, and insisting they remove their envirosuit and experience the air. There’s an extra layer of eeriness added to this request by the fact that in the years since witnessing Menley’s ‘death’, the protagonist has become a kind of agorophobic – wearing their envirosuit at all times, even indoors, removing it only to shower. The Vosth are not only asking for trust, but asking the protagonist to break themselves down and face their fears in order to move forward. In addition to being an excellent story, this piece if full of elegant and evocative language. The Ocean of Starve, and the Vosth’s repeated phrase “All that touches air belongs to us”, are simple phrases that contain multitudes, building a world and hinting at its history without bringing the story to a grinding halt so the author can explain everything. All of which makes All That Touches Air a wonderful starting place for Owomoyela’s work.

Jei D. Marcade is a Korean-American author. My recommended starting place for eir work also happens to be eir first published story – Superhero Girl, which originally appeared in Fantasy Magazine and was reprinted in Prime Book’s Superheroes edited by Rich Horton. I’m a sucker for superhero stories, and this one effectively packs a punch (no pun intended…okay, maybe a bit of a pun intended) in just a few thousand words. Like Owomoyela’s story, Superhero Girl plays with horror tropes and imagery without being horror. It opens with the eerie imagery of a ghostly woman in the static of a television set, whispering a name and asking the main character to come find her. The ‘ghost’ in question is Ofelia, who claimed to be a superhero, always running off on the main character, her lover, with the excuse of needing to save the world. At its heart, this is a love story. Marcade gives us a main character willing to be completely swept up in their beloved’s world, no matter how unbelievable that world might seem. It’s innocence that manages to avoid naivety; the main character deliberately chooses Ofelia’s truth over other options because the world she paints is  better and brighter. Even so, hints of darkness creep around the edges of Ofelia’s tale. There are scars she blames on a battle with ‘robot ninjas with laser-bladed throwing stars'; she shaves her head, and sleeps too much, looking worn-out and frail. Marcade leaves the truth of the story open. The reader, like the protagonist, gets to decide whether they buy into Ofelia’s worldview. I’m also a sucker for stories that do open-ended endings well, and combining that with the superhero genre makes this an excellent starting place for Marcade’s work.

Nino Cipri is a genderqueer fiction writer with a background in theater. My recommended starting place for their work is The Shape of My Name, published earlier this year at It’s a time travel story on a truly personal level, with a time machine passed down through generations of a single family and only usable by members of that blood line. However, time travel is the background here. The heart of the story is the main character’s relationship with his mother, and her seeming inability to accept him for who he is, believing she gave birth to a daughter, not a son. The Shape of My Name is a story of layers – literal layers of wallpaper decorating the main character’s room, layers of time, layers of text written in Uncle Dante’s book, and struck out or erased as history is changed and rewritten. There are textual layers within the story as well, allowing it to be read in several different ways. It is a story about family, about a character becoming who they truly are, and even about pre-destination versus free will. The main character’s mother seems to believe her life is destined to go a certain way, because it’s written in the family book kept by Uncle Dante. The main character makes his own fate, choosing his own name, and in the end, that can be read as the source of the conflict between mother and son as well – one feels trapped, the other makes his own freedom. In addition to everything else going on, the story is soaked in gorgeous sensory detail. Each time period visited is rooted in a particular taste or smell – Rice Krispies in fresh milk, the medicinal scent in the main character’s room post-surgery, the rough feel and musty scent of an old blanket.  It is a lovely story, heartbreaking and hopeful all at once, and a wonderful starting place for Cipri’s work.

E. Saxey is a queer Londoner of no particular gender. My recommended starting place for their work is Melioration, from the Queers Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed. At flash length, this is another story that packs a lot into very few words. Jay is an academic in the field of linguistics, but not particularly enamored of college life – the social events, the sports clubs, and those who partake of them. Similarly, Jay is not enamored of the old-fashioned views of others on campus, for example, Pethridge, prone to hurling slurs and bullying his way through life. One of Jay’s colleagues, Morley, comes up with a solution, a little grey box that steals words and prevents a person from saying them again. Morley deploys the box against Pethridge, taking away his ability to use offensive language. While Jay doesn’t approve of Pethridge’s use of slurs, they don’t approve of Morley’s enforced censorship either. Jay briefly experiences the loss when Morley demonstrates the box again, proving that it really does work: It’s on the tip of my tongue, the dark of the moon, the back of beyond. The word’s gone. The word Jay loses comes back to them eventually, but the effect is more long lasting with Pethridge. The end of the story is chilling, shifting to twenty years later when Pethridge has become Prime Minster, much softened from his bullying younger days, but shadowed by the loss of the last word Morley stole from him. It’s impressive the number of things Saxey manages to pack into such a short story – the line between free speech and hate speech, the idea of defending something or someone you abhor for the greater good, the power of language, and the way people’s views evolve over time. It’s an impressive feat, and an excellent starting place for Saxey’s work. As luck would have it, Saxey further explores the academic setting, and similar themes, in their upcoming story in Unlikely Story: The Journal of Unlikely Academia, so keep an eye out for that as well.

Four more stories, and four more fantastic authors. I hope to be back with Part 3 and even more non-binary authors to read soon. In the meantime, keep leaving your own recommendations in the comments!

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August 18, 2015 · 9:37 pm

Non-Binary Authors to Read: Where to Start – Part 1

As you may know, every month, I contribute a Women to Read: Where to Start column to SF Signal. In the course of my reading, I keep coming across fantastic stories by non-binary authors, but lumping them in to a column focused on women would be nonsensical. While I do enthusiastically tweet about said stories, they deserve a series of posts all of their own – a sibling series, if you will. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, so here it is!  That said, I would recommend these authors either way; their work should be read not because of how they identify, but because it’s fucking amazing stuff. One last note before I get on with the recommending, I use the term non-binary, but I realize that isn’t everyone’s preferred identifier. For the purposes of this post, please understand non-binary to encompass androgyne, genderfluid, gender neutral, and gender non-conforming, among other terms. Now, onward to the fiction!

Bogi Takács is a neutrally gendered Hungarian Jewish trans person. My recommended starting place for eir fiction is Forestspirit, Forestspirit from the June 2015 issue of Clarkesworld. The story takes place ten years after a devastating war, and centers on a young boy and an artificial consciousness that was a soldier once upon a time. As the story opens, the young boy, Péter, comes to ask the artificial consciousness for help in protecting the forest where it has taken up residence since the war. The imagery in this piece is striking, as the consciousness (given the name Gabi by Péter) takes on various forms: “In the following fifty-three minutes, I try out twenty-four animal shapes. My shapeshifting raises no alarm or consternation besides the localized electric shocks. Maybe it is time to sneak inside? I could soak a millipede with myself as a light autumn rain, evaporate from its body into a different shape once it’s safely indoors.” Along with the striking imagery, one of the most appealing things about the story is the deep characterization Takács manages in less than 4,000 words. Péter is being raised by his uncle who is described as a green man, a protector of the forest. Though the uncle appears only briefly, we see the way he’s shaped Péter’s worldview – instilling respect for nature, and infusing that respect with a sense of magic. At the same time, there is a hint of cynicism in the uncle’s character, he recognizes Gabi as a former soldier, and thus there is wariness in their interaction, even though their goals are the same. Péter is shown to have a much more fluid view of the world. He accepts Gabi as an artificial consciousness and a literal mythological spirit, not seeing a conflict between the two. Overall, it is a fascinating and lovely tale, well-worth a read, and an excellent starting place for Takács’ work. I should also mention, Takács regularly posts recommendations and reviews of diverse SFF fiction and poetry on eir blog and twitter account, so check that out too!

Sunny Moraine is a the author of multiple novels and short stories and there are many places I could recommend as a starting place because I love their work. However, I will go with eyes i dare not meet in dreams, published at the Society Pages in June 2015. Not only is it the kind of story that leaves you breathless, it also appears in a venue that doesn’t traditionally publish fiction, and thus I’m afraid of it sliding under many people’s radars. The story concerns dead girls climbing out of refrigerators, as spelled out in the story’s killer opening line: “At 2:25 am on a quiet Friday night on a deserted country road in southeastern Pennsylvania, the first dead girl climbed out of her refrigerator.” The story rests uneasily, as it should. Dead girls are not meant to be comfortable things. No explanation is offered for their presence. They return, eerie and uncanny, but more importantly – undeniable. The story calls to mind the trope of women in refrigerators, female characters killed off solely to forward the male hero’s plot. A current of anger seethes under the story’s skin. While the text states the dead girls ‘do not demand witness’, they will not be forgotten either. They won’t set your mind at east by explaining themselves. They will not do anything other than be, and in a world where dead girls return, we cannot pretend that girls are not used up, discarded, and broken every day. We cannot pretend that violence, in all its subtle and unsubtle forms, isn’t a problem. Moraine tells the story in a very straightforward manner, one that makes it seems almost plausible. Dead girls could return, and what will we do then? For all that the story grabs the reader by the throat, the prose is still lovely, but not in a kind or forgiving way. Once you’ve started here with Moraine’s work, please do go seek out the rest of it. Everything they write is wonderful.

A. Merc Rustad is a queer non-binary writer and filmmaker. My recommended starting place for their work is How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps, which was originally published in Scigentasy in March 2014. I’m a sucker for list stories, tales that offer up a series of bullet points, and slide the narrative in-between them like the sharp edge of a knife. Rustad uses the form brilliantly here, interspersing lists and steps and how-to guides with more traditional narrative sections. Together, the two forms tell the story of Tesla, who would prefer to be a robot, and who is also working to save the life of an ‘obsolete’ service robot from a coffee shop. Tesla’s has a boyfriend so they can mutually keep up the illusion of being a heteronormative couple. Tesla’s boyfriend has a boyfriend, and Tesla would like to start a relationship with the robot, but is unsure of how to save the robot’s life, or what the robot’s wishes in the matter may be. It is a painful story of longing and desire for transformation, of trying to find a comfortable place in the world when almost everything about the world is uncomfortable. It is also a story of friendship, unconventional relationships, and finding love, acceptance, and happiness outside the lines society traditionally draws around those concepts. It is a story that ends with hope, but it rips your heart out along the path to get there. From both a structural and content standpoint it is an excellent starting point for Rustad’s work.

Pear Nuallak is an androgyne author and food blogger, and the culture and lifestyle editor for MouthLondon Magazine. My recommended starting place for their work is She Shines Like the Moon from the Summer 2015 issue of Lackington’s Magazine. The story centers on a krasue (a female spirit with the head of a young woman, and her internal organs trailing down from her neck), living in London. It is a story of displacement, imbued with a sense of loneliness for a character far away from their geographic home, and being the only one of their kind. Feeling out of place among humans, the krasue turns to the foxes in the forest with their brief, flickering lives, but also seeks out the rumors of a witch living in a hollow oak tree. The story is soaked in rich sensory detail – the krasue’s wardrobe, the smells and tastes of various meals. It’s relatively short, but manages to pack a lot in – the concept of the monstrous feminine, the idea of the other, and cultural appropriation. The story is beautifully written, and given that it hits many of my fiction story spots (see foxes and witches), it’s hard not to recommend it as a starting place. I will, however, cheat a bit and also recommend keeping your eye out for Nuallak’s story in the upcoming Academia issue of Unlikely Story. It’s lovely and contemplative, and again deals with themes of self and other, finding friendship, and finding your place in the world, all wrapped up with gorgeous language and mythology.

So there you have it, four fantastic authors whose works you should be reading. I’ll do my best to get Part 2 up soon with more recommendations of work by non-binary authors. In the meantime, feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments.


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KGB Fantastic Fiction

KGBOne week from tonight, I’ll be reading at KGB Bar in NYC as part of the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series. I’ll be reading with N.K. Jemisin, who is fabulous. Copies of her books will be for sale, courtesy of Word Bookstores. I’ll be reading something from The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again. I had hoped to find a thematically-appropriate glittery dress for the occasion, but alas, so far my quest has been unsuccessful. Even though I don’t have copies of the collection on hand yet, I will have postcards with a bonus Glitter Squadron drink recipe. If the reading happens to inspire you to pre-order the book, don’t forget to let me know so I can send you your very own custom-made drink recipe on a Glitter Squadron coaster! The reading starts at 7 p.m., and it’s at a bar, so obviously there will be alcohol involved. Hope to see you there!

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Top Secret Glitter Squadron Swag!

Well, it’s not really all that secret since I’m telling you about it, but still…

Do you want your very own customized cocktail recipe, designed for you by the Glitter Squadron’s Bartender Supreme, Sapphire? Of course you do! As you may know, Bob, the Glitter Squadron Collection stories are interspersed with cocktail recipes, with a drink matched to each of the characters. So I thought to myself – what can I do to a) give something special to folks who preorder the collection, and b) drive people to drink? Why, I can get Glitter Squadron coasters, and write recipes on the back of them. So that’s just what I’m going to do!

If you preorder The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, I will send you your very own customized cocktail recipe. But wait, there’s more! I’ll even send you a nifty bookplate to stick it in the book when it arrives. (It’s possible I’ve seen too many infomercials.) Here’s a peek at what said bookplates and coasters look like.

Glitter Swag

The bookplates will be available to anyone, but the coasters and recipes are only for those who preorder… Something a little extra special to say Thank You!

In case you’re wondering, the art on the bookplates and coasters is by the amazing Staven Andersen, who did the cover for the collection. Staven’s work is seriously worth checking out. If you’re still on the fence about the whole Glitter Squadron thing, the first taste is free.  You can head on over to Ideomancer and read the original version of Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron, the story that started it all.

So, if you want your own Glitter Squadron recipe, drop me an email at a.c.wise [at] with proof of your preorder, and where you’d like your swag sent. If you’d like, you can prompt me with a particular flavor, base alcohol, or theme you’d like your cocktail built around. If not, well, I’ll just let my imagination run wild. If mixed drinks aren’t your thing, or don’t drink in general, just let me know. I’m more than happy to suggest a non-alcoholic, or non-mixed drink pairing. Otherwise, I look forward to getting you drunk!

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Coming Attractions 2: Still Attracted

Or should that be Coming Attractions 2: The Re-Attractioning? I don’t know what the hip kids say these days…

Anyhoo. Back in December, I wrote a post highlighting several 2015 releases I was anticipating. A few of them have come out, and I promptly devoured and adored them  (hi, Signal to Noise, hi, Karen Memory). A few I am still eagerly anticipating (hi, Updraft, hi, Against a Brightening Sky, why aren’t you out yet?!?). In the meantime, while I continue to eagerly await those releases, a whole new crop of books have found their way onto me radar. I’m excited about them, and you probably should be, too.

Exerpimental FilmExperimental Film by Gemma Files will officially come out December 3, 2015, and is currently available for pre-order. As a general rule, I’m a fan of Files’ work. As a general rule, I’m also a sucker for fiction about movies, in particular old movies, silent films, and/or obscure, mysterious pieces of cinema that may or may not actually exist. When you combine these – Files writing about film – it’s pure magic. each thing i show you is a piece of my death (co-written with Stephen J. Barringer), remains one of my favorite pieces of short fiction by Files, and is among my favorite short stories period. So a whole novel about early 20th century film, the uncovering of lost footage, and mysteriously a disappearing socialite/filmmaker? Sign me the fuck up! The subtle, creeping dread Files infuses throughout so much of her work is sure to be present here as Experimental Film also promises to be a ghost story. Needless to say (though I did kind of say it already), I’m very much looking forward to this one.

Inheritance of AshesAn Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet is due out in October, and is also currently available for pre-order. I have been looking forward to this book since July 2014 when I first heard Bobet read an excerpt at Readercon. I heard her read a second excerpt this year, and I’m certainly not waiting another whole year for the rest of it. Hints of Lovecraftian monstrosities against the backdrop of a Dust Bowl/Depression setting? Yes, please! The novel centers around two sisters struggling to survive and hold on to their family farm in the wake of a war against supernatural beings. There are twisty things; very bad bird-spider things that generally tend to flock, and were supposedly all wiped out when the dark god died, but things are rarely that clean and easy, are they? From the two excerpts I’ve heard, the voice in this novel is amazing, and the characters are ones I will happily follow on their journey. I’ll just be over here making vague grabby hands until the novel is released.

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An Interview with Djibril al-Ayad and Kathryn Allan

Accessing the FutureDjibril al-Ayad and Kathryn Allan co-editors of the new anthology Accessing the Future, were kind enough to stop by today to chat about their work. I’ll start things off as I usually do by shamelessly cribbing from their bios…

Djibril al-Ayad is the nom de guerre of an academic historian and futurist who has been editing speculative fiction for a decade, reading it for two, and writing it for three. He is the editor of The Future Fire magazine, and the owner of Publishing.

Kathryn Allan is an Independent Scholar of science fiction and disability studies (specializing in cyberpunk, feminist SF, and SF TV & film), Editor of Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure (2013), and the inaugural recipient of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship. She writes for both academic and fan audiences and has been published in such places as The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 7: Shattering Ableist Narratives (Ed. JoSelle Vanderhooft) and Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media (Eds. David Roh, Betsy Huang, and Greta Niu). She blogs and tweets as BleedingChrome.

ACW: Welcome! First off, let’s talk a bit about Accessing the Future. Where did the idea for the anthology originate, and how did the project come together?

Kathryn Allan: Thank you for having us! I first pitched the idea for a disability-themed anthology to Djibril because I was tired of seeing terrible, stereotypical depictions of disability in the SF I was reading and watching. Djibril had previously invited me to be a reader and associate editor for The Future Fire, so we already had an understanding of our general likes and politics when it comes to SF. Once I read the wonderful We See a Different Frontier (which Djibril co-edited with Fabio Fernandes), I knew that the timing was right to make my pitch. Happily, Djibril was on board and we both dove right into writing up our call for submissions and planning the crowdfunding campaign. It was amazing to see how our collaboration shaped the focus of Accessing the Future—I brought in my disability experience and scholarship to the table, and Djibril brought in his dedication to boosting intersectional stories from international authors. In the end, our Indiegogo campaign raised $8,300!

ACW: What was your process like for putting together the anthology? You had an open call for submissions, but were any of the stories solicited in advance? How did you go about selecting the stories and creating a balance in terms of theme, tone, etc.?

Djibril al-Ayad: We were very clear from the start that we didn’t want to commission or solicit any stories—partly because we wanted people to bring themselves forward as interested in the theme, and didn’t want to prejudge that; we wanted authors from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible, especially people whom we wouldn’t have known about in advance. And of course, we prefer not directly to solicit stories when we can’t make any promises about including them. Instead we made sure we got the word out as widely as possible, both in the usual SF circles, and in specifically activist, queer, feminist, international and disability-focused fora, to be sure of receiving stories from the full spectrum of backgrounds, themes, styles and areas. What made it possible to select as balanced and inclusive a table of contents as we did was the fact that when we had shortlisted all of the stories that we both absolutely loved, that we were willing to go to the wall for, we still had more than twice as many as we had room for in the volume. So we picked stories that included a good mix of physical disability, anxiety, chronic illness, deafness, autism; happy stories and sad stories; light hearted stories and fierce stories; adventures and dystopias. By the time we’d agonized over the last few pieces to include, I think we ended up with the best selection of stories and artworks we possibly could have.

ACW: I agree! On a somewhat related note, you both come from academic backgrounds, did that factor into the creation of the anthology at all? Kathryn, your academic work specifically is focused on disability in science fiction, so I’m sure you must have had some strong feelings about helpful narratives versus harmful ones, and the kinds of stories you wanted to see. Were there any particular gaps in the literature that’s out there that you hoped to fill with the stories in this anthology?

KA: My academic background—having completed a PhD (on the vulnerable body in feminist post-cyberpunk SF) while dealing with chronic illness—definitely factored into my desire to see an anthology like Accessing the Future come into being. I read and watched so many SF narratives where a person with a disability, if they are even in the story in any significant way, are simply cured by technology, or, even worse, disability is completely absent from the future (because of genetic engineering or other such technological interventions). I really wanted to see stories where people with disabilities get to be the hero as they are; where they get to be active participants in their medical care; where disability isn’t some sort of awful, tragic thing. I so wanted to see stories about the future that include people with disabilities in realistic and complex ways because we do exist and our experiences, hopes, fears, and dreams for the future matter.

DaA: My own scholarship hasn’t really fed into my editing directly (except through giving me the discipline and eye for detail to treat texts seriously). Perhaps surprisingly the movement has been in the other direction: involvement with socially conscious SFF and literary movements has enriched my understanding of postcolonial history, feminist informatics, disability and other access issues in conferences and classrooms. Academia is several years behind the SF convention on the subject of codes of conduct, for example.

ACW: Djibril, you co-edit The Future Fire, and you’ve also co-edited several other anthologies prior to this one. Is your process more or less the same across projects, or does it change each time? Was there anything different or surprising about working on this project you hadn’t encountered in your other editorial projects?

DaA: In a sense the process is very similar every time: we divide up stories to filter out the obvious non-fits, then rank favourites, and shortlist all the stories that we both love, as I said earlier. With the magazine it’s a little bit different, because individual editors can to an extent make decisions by fiat, although in practice 90% of stories we publish are seen and discussed by at least 2 or 3 people. But even with the anthologies, as I’ve had a different co-editor each time (now on the 4th), the actual process of making up our minds can vary quite a lot. In one case we had to discuss quite a lot what our criteria were, but when it came to discussions of quality, we were almost spookily in agreement; another editor was so passionate about shortlisting stories that that part was very easy, it was drawing up the final table of content that took a bit of strategic decision-making and sacrifice. With Kathryn, in contrast, we both had so many ideas and such different perspectives that we had some real fights!

KA: Friendly fights, I should add!

DaA: Absolutely, yes! We weren’t squabbling; we were both just so passionate about these stories. I think we both learned a lot from hearing about why the other loved a story that we were at first cool about, and I know I learned a lot about disability politics from talking over a few stories that were very good fiction otherwise, but not quite appropriate for this venue for that reason. I expect the experience with the next anthology to be different again…

ACW: To switch away from writing and editing a little bit, what pastimes do you turn to when you need to recharge your creative batteries?

KA: I really love gardening and just sitting outside watching the birds and bees. When I’m able to get out and garden, it creates a contemplative mental space—I’ve done some of my best thinking while pulling weeds! Otherwise, honestly, I’m usually just consuming more SF.

DaA: Heh, editing speculative fiction magazines and anthologies is actually my down-time… Reading and writing about SF is how I unwind and recharge from teaching and grading papers; but to some degree vice versa as well—I unwind from reading and editing hundred of stories by going to overseas conferences and teaching workshops on new media, digital publishing or archaeology.

ACW: Last, but not least, now that Accessing the Future is out in the world, what other projects do you have coming up, or that you’re currently working on, that you’d like people to know about?

DaA: From the TFF perspective we currently have an open call for stories for an anthology titled Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, which aims to bring together horror and wonder from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Near East—especially including authors from the region, and microfiction in languages other than English. This year we’re also celebrating the tenth anniversary of The Future Fire, and hope soon to announce details of a fundraiser and a celebratory anthology.

KA: I have an essay in Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein’s forthcoming Letters to Tiptree anthology (from Twelfth Planet Press) that I’m super excited about. Coming out of my Le Guin Feminist SF fellowship research, I’m working on an academic essay on disability in Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle. And my big on-going project is a writing a book on disability studies and science fiction.

ACW: Thanks for stopping by! I’ve been reading my way through Accessing the Future  this week, and I have to say, it’s a very strong anthology. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

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Readercon 2015

Readercon is almost here! July 9-12, I’ll be in Burlington, MA at one of my favorite local(ish) conventions. As the name implies, Readercon is focused primarily on the literary side of speculative fandom. While a few panels do cross over into other media, it’s mostly all about the written word. I’m only part of one item of official programming this year, a group reading from the upcoming anthology, The Monstrous, edited by Ellen Datlow. The rest of the time, I’ll be attending other panels and readings, trying to resist buying every single book in the dealers’ room, and hanging out and chatting with friends. I hope to see you there!

Friday 8-9pm Group reading from The Monstrous, a forthcoming anthology edited by Ellen Datlow.

Take a terrifying journey with literary masters of suspense, visiting a place where the other is somehow one of us. These electrifying tales redefine monsters from mere things that go bump in the night to inexplicable, deadly reflections of our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s a seemingly devoted teacher, an obsessive devotee of swans, or a diner full of evil creatures simply seeking oblivion, the monstrous is always there—and much closer than it appears.

Ellen Datlow will be introducing several contributors to the anthology, including Peter Straub, A.C Wise, Gemma Files, John Langan, Stephen Graham Jones

Room: Embrace/Empower

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Get Your Glitter On!

Glitter CoverWhen sea monsters rise, when space eels attack, when the world needs saving yet again, who do you call? The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron, of course. Sure, there are other superheroes, but they don’t have half the glitz, the glam, or the style of the Glitter Squadron. To heavily paraphrase the famous quote about Ginger Rogers, they do everything other superheroes do, but  they do it in high heels.

All of which is to say that The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again is now available for preorder! The collection will be out in October, but I’m plotting something extra special to send to folks who do preorder. On a totally selfish level, preorders do help with reviews and convincing bookstores to carry the work, but I also want to send you things! More details on will be forthcoming once I’ve figured out which of my Top Sekrit Plans to deploy.  I promise not send you an envelope full of glitter. Unless you’re into that kind of thing. In which case I WILL TOTALLY SEND YOU AN ENVELOPE FULL OF GLITTER. (You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. If you fully and consensually agree to receive such a thing, I will send you glitter, because glitter is awesome.)

Ahem. Anyway, if reading about queer and trans and cis women (and the occasional scantily-clad cis men) teaming up to save the world, and looking damned good while doing s,o is your kind of thing this is the collection for you. The book is also interspersed with cocktail recipes, so if none of those other things I mentioned are your cup of tea, you can at least get a good buzz on. The stories are a little bit pulpy, a little bit serious, and hopefully a lot bit glitteringly fabulous.

If you want a taste of what you can expect in the collection, you can read the original version of the story that started it all, Operation: Annihilate Mars! Or, Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron, over at Ideomancer.

Saving the world may be hard, thankless work, but that’s no excuse to be anything less than fabulous.

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