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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Gone Home

Gone Home came out in 2013, so only I’m a few years late on this one. Standard warning of spoilers ahead versus my assumption that everyone else has already played this game apply.

Gone Home Gone Home doesn’t really fit easily in a single category, which is part of what makes it so appealing. The best way to describe it is a quiet adventure/exploration game. However, unlike most adventure games, there are no standard puzzles to solve. There are hidden rooms to uncover, a few combination locks to open, and keys to find, but the majority of the game is simply walking through an old, empty house, discovering letters, notes, and other objects that allow the story to unfold. Your player character is Katie, a college(ish) age woman, coming home to visit her family after spending time in Europe. As the game opens, you arrive at the house to find your family gone, without any explanation, leaving you alone to explore.

The game sets up a classic mystery trope, and the atmosphere – storm raging outside, creaky, creepy old house sounds, the occasional shadows at the corner of your eye – certainly sets you up for horror and jump scares. The setting is even slightly reminiscent of The 7th Guest and its sequel and The 11th Hour, but it isn’t a horror game. That said, to the game’s credit, it maintains the sense of tension throughout, even when nothing overtly threatening happens. The moodiness is only the backdrop to the real heart of the story. Continue reading

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Daredevil: The Good, the Bad, and the Stereotypical

DaredevilI’m finally caught up on the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil. I assume everyone has seen it at this point, but in case you haven’t, there will be spoilers (though most of them are tucked away behind the cut). As the title of this post implies, there were a lot of things I enjoyed about the series, and many that frustrated me. In this case, the bad and the stereotypical are pretty much focused on the same thing. But let’s start with the good stuff:

The fight scenes. They are brilliantly choreographed, often in one long take.  Many modern movies and tv shows rely on quick cuts, either to hide the use of stunt doubles, or as deliberate stylistic choices. Daredevil is having none of that. Like a good sex scene, a good fight scene should be a conversation, it should tell you something about the characters involved – how they move, whether or not they use weapons, what they key in on as an advantage or a distraction. In particular, the episodes Cut Man, and Stick, stand out  – the first for the brilliant single-shot hallway fight scene, the second for highlighting the fight-as-conversation.

The acting/casting. It’s pretty darn wonderful. The main actors in particular consistently nail the nuances of their characters, and reveal depths through tiny gestures. Well done all around.

The opening credit sequence. It’s lovely. The red wax/paint-like substance dripping down to take on the forms of religious iconography and the Hell’s Kitchen landscape is highly evocative, and the simplicity of the music pairs with it perfectly. Both set an excellent tone for the show.

The four main characters. Matt, Karen, Foggy, and Fisk, are all fully realized. The way they interact, meshing or clashing, is wonderful. They each have their own motivations, their own hang-ups, and their own strengths. And, as mentioned above, they are cast and embodied perfectly by the actors.

The lighting. Okay, I’m a little torn on this one. Everything is dim. It’s a thematic choice, tied into the main character’s blindness, and it’s interesting. No other show out there (that I’m aware of) is lit quite this way, at least not that consistently. It’s striking. But, without contrast, the novelty tends to wear off after a while. It’s a very nitpicky thing, but every now and then, I found myself wishing for a different color palette just to mix things up.

And now, behind the cut, the part where I complain about stuff (and where most of the spoilers lie)… Continue reading

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Summer Book Love

Let’s leave aside that here in the Philadelphia region, as soon as the calendar flipped over to June, the temperature dropped and people went scrambling for their jackets. It is in fact summer. And summer is the time to head down the shore (as they say), and stretch out with a novel on the beach. It’s a time to climb into the branches of your favorite tree, curl up with a good book, and disappear. It’s a time to find a rare patch of shade, or cling desperately to the air conditioner and enjoy some good fiction. Are you sensing a theme? In order to help you find that perfect book to stretch out or curl up with, allow me to squee at you about some fiction I’ve loved recently. (Warning, spoilers ahead.)

GlassFalconLast year, Masque Books published the first two volumes of E. Catherine Tobler’s Folley & Mallory Adventures in a combined paperback book as The Rings of Anubis. Think of The Mummy (the one with Brendan Fraser), and good the Indiana Jones movies. The books are adventures serials the way they should be – mix in steampunk and Egyptian gods, mystery and shape-changers, tense fights, lush settings, and a dash of romance, and you have the Folley & Mallory series. And yes, it is a true series now, because Folley & Mallory are back in The Glass Falcon, an excellent novella follow-up to the first two books (or book, depending on how you’re counting). This time around, Horus is added to the mix, along with a museum heist, and a journey through the Paris catacombs. Amidst all the turmoil, Folley & Mallory  get the chance to deepen their relationship and explore what they mean to each other. At the same time, Eleanor Folley spends some time figuring out her new place in the world. She’s a Mistral Agent now, a daughter of Anubis, and a shape-changing jackal. Through her connection with Anubis, she can hear the dead, but does that mean she now has to be at the beck-and-call of every restless spirit, and answer every whim of the jackal-headed god who can pop in and out of her thoughts at will? As with the first two installments in the series, there’s a deep sense of place (summer travel, all for the price of a book!), and a healthy dose of adventure. I’m still hoping someone will make a movie out of this series. The way Tobler describes the action and settings, the world is ripe for film! In the meantime, I’ll content myself with eagerly await the next book, which, rumor has it, it due out later this year.

Maria Dahvana Headley’s Magonia is the perfect book to curl up in a tree with and temporarily hide from the world. magonia Because this is a book that will rip your heart out, show it to you, stitch it back into your chest upside down, and gladly have you asking to have it ripped out again by then end. If you’ve encountered Headley’s prose before, you know it’s brilliant. In Magonia, it drips with gorgeous imagery, and trips along with a beautiful rhythm. There’s a girl, Aza, and her best friend, Jason, and Aza is dying of a strange disease that no one has ever seen before. But there’s also a city in the sky and strange ships and pirates and a world that needs saving and living sails that are bats and birds that nest in hearts and lungs and songs that remake the world. Magonia does several things that strike me as brilliant. It resists the sainted dying character narrative that seems popular in a lot of fiction. Aza is dying, but she’s still human. She’s angry sometimes, and she’s goofy in her own way, and she’s flawed, and she’s just trying to live her own life the way she wants to while the clock ticks down. Magonia also flips the traditional portal fantasy narrative. When Aza is swept away to another world, her first thought isn’t ‘finally’, it’s ‘how the fuck do I get home’. Because her home life is good. She has a loving and supportive family, a best friend, a budding relationship, and the world she’s swept into is magical, yes, but no one tells her the truth and she doesn’t know who to trust. Finally, I appreciate that Magonia doesn’t offer the reader a giant reset button. The world grows. It changes. As mentioned, the novel rips your heart out more than one, but it does it with a purpose – the changes that happen to the characters stick. The world is upended, and no one gets to go back to pretending that everything is fine, waving away all that magic and trauma. It’s real. Magonia closes with an ending that isn’t an ending, a story that extends beyond the page, but it is still completely satisfying whether there’s a sequel or not. Go read it. Just do that. Then we can talk.

NimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson started life as a webcomic, and was published as a trade paperback in May 2015. It’s dedicated to ‘all the girl monsters’, which just about tells you everything you need to know and why you need to read it. Well, maybe not everything. The story concerns a young shapeshifter, Nimona, who convinces the local villain to take her on as a sidekick. The story plays with high fantasy tropes, superhero tropes, mad scientist tropes, and subtly flips them on their heads. Archetypes are gently unfolded as the story goes along, revealing deeper characters. Nimona is an unreliable main character, but also a completely irresistible one. Like Aza in Magonia, she is flawed and human. Like Aza in Magonia, she is more than human. Nimona is destructive, and angry, but still a hero. You can’t help but get wrapped up in her story. Relationships lie at the heart of the tale – the relationship between villain and sidekick, villain and hero, citizens and government. On a more philosophical level, the relationships between self-perception and outside perception, and both of those perceptions versus who you want to be are also explored. The art is simple, but highly evocative. A point worth noting, since it’s unfortunately rare in mainstream comics, is Nimona’s appearance. Her head is dyed and mostly shaved, her body is pierced, and normally proportioned. As a shapeshifter, she could look like anything, but she chooses to look like an average human, rather than an idealized specimen. The story is cheeky and self-aware, keeping it from being obnoxious or checking off boxes in its trope flipping. Summer or otherwise, it is well worth reading.

There you have it, three fantastic reads for all your beach, tree, and air-conditioned sanctuary needs. I suspect I’ll be squeeing about more new books in the fall, and in the winter. I already have my eye on a few anticipated reads, and I expect to stumble across more that I didn’t know I needed in my life, but will fall in love with immediate. To that end – what else has come out recently that I should be reading? What’s coming out in the second half of the year that you’re thrilled about and that I should add to my anticipated reads list? There’s always room for more on my tottering to be read piles…

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Giveaway: The Flesh Made Word

FMWFree smut! Get it while it’s hot! Oh, who am I kidding? This one will stay hot indefinitely. Ten writers (including me) writing erotica about writing. What more could you want? The Flesh Made Word is published by Circlet Press, and it’s one of their rare print editions, being a publisher that specializes primarily in ebooks. What makes The Flesh Made Word extra special? There are blank pages for you to write your very own naughty, sensuous, and thrilling tales. All you have to do is comment below (or if you’re particularly shy, send me an email at a.c.wise (at) hotmail (dot) com, and I’ll enter you into the drawing. The winner will be chosen by the power of a Random Number Generator. The giveaway will be open until May 16, 2015.

The contributing authors include A.B. Eyers, Andrea Zanin, Benji Bright, Trish DeVene, Nadine Wilmot, Delilah Bell, Kannan Feng, Sasha Payne, Sunny Moraine, and yours truly. You can read an excerpt of my story at the Circlet website, and while you’re there, maybe pick up another book or two that catches your fancy? If you’re in a listening mood, you can also hear the full text of my story at the Nobilis Erotica podcast.

That’s it. Throw your name in the ring by May 16, 2015, and you might just get lucky. (See what I did there? See?)

 ETA: Random number generator says email entrant MLH is the winner. Thank you everyone who entered!

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An Interview with Margrét Helgadóttir

Margrét Helgadóttir was kind enough to drop by my blog today to discuss her debut novel, The Stars Seem So Far Away. Let me start, as always, by shamelessly cribbing from her author bio…

Margrét Helgadóttir is Icelandic-Norwegian, born and raised in East- and West-Africa and Norway. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. Margrét started submitting stories for publication autumn 2012 and has had success so far. She writes at http://margrethelgadottir.wordpress.com and tweets as @MaHelgad.

Stars Cover

ACW: First off, congratulations on the publication of your debut novel! Could you give us a taste of what it’s about?

Thank you so much! The Stars Seem So Far Away is actually not the classic novel, but it’s not a collection of stories either. I’d say it’s more a hybrid, a fusion of linked stories that through the book tells a larger story. It’s set in a distant future, where plagues, famine and wars rage across the dying Earth, and the last shuttles to the space colonies are long gone. Fleeing the deadly sun, humans migrate farther and farther north. The story is told through the tales of five survivors: One girl who sails the Northern Sea, robbing other ships to survive; one girl who hunts humans and lives with bears; one guerrilla soldier; and finally, two siblings who become separated when the plague hits Svalbard. It’s a pessimistic world, filled with death, misery, tears and despair, but I wanted to tell a story where there’s also hope, love, laughter and friendship. Hopefully I have managed this.

ACW: You were born in Ethiopia to Norwegian and Icelandic parents, and you’ve written a lot about growing up crosscultural. Are there any particular experiences from the many you’ve written about on your blog that you’d like to highlight? Or, are there any experiences from your upbringing that you feel particularly influence your writing?

Yes, I have reflected a little bit about my background and both the scars and blessings it has given me to be a child who moved lots between cultures whilst trying to develop my own identity. People who are born and have lived abroad in their development years, or are forced to move lots as a child, and/or have parents from different countries/cultures, might feel that they lack roots, that they always are outsiders and don’t really belong. I suspect my background has influenced my fiction writing to some degree. Many of my characters struggle with grief and a feeling of being lost, like in The Stars Seem So Far Away.

ACW: On a (possibly) related note – what drew you to writing/publishing in English, which is your second language? As someone who had a somewhat bi-lingual education, (but who, in the interest of full disclosure, should clarify that they are currently only minimally bi-lingual in any functional sense), I’m fascinated by translation and the way ideas move between languages. For you, as a bi-lingual (multi-lingual?) person, what it your writing process like? Are there certain concepts you feel are better suited to one language or another? Do you ever mentally translate between languages as you’re writing or brainstorming?

As a child and a teenager, I wrote many poems and stories, but as a grown up I stopped writing. I´ve wanted to start again for many years, because I felt there was something important missing in my life. And I do wonder if choice of language was the key all the time, because it was only when I started to write in English, my writing voice started to flow again and I found time to write on a daily basis. I don’t think in Norwegian, then translate it—I think in English when I write – it’s my writer voice. I might sketch up the plot in Norwegian, but it is a very rare thing. To be honest, it’s not like it’s a bed of roses. My English may be good, but my Norwegian is light years better. I struggle with all the things a person combats when dealing with foreign languages: the search for words, synonyms, grammar.

But I know my writing would be totally different in Norwegian or any of the other languages I know. When I write in Norwegian, I can be much more dramatic in my choice of words and how I express feelings, almost as if the harsh Nordic landscape and climate lurk between the lines. English flows differently. Its lexicon is so vast compared to Norwegian. I feel my writing becomes a smooth river, rather than a bumpy road. But I wonder if something gets lost in that river. Maybe I write in English because I can be distant. I still prefer to write poems in Norwegian.

ACW: Moving on to a different kind of translation skills, in addition to your book, you’re also a short story writer. How does your approach vary when working on a short piece versus a longer work? Are you the kind of person who can work on both simultaneously, or do you need to completely reset your brain to work on one form instead of the other?

Actually I have yet to combat the really long story. I have only written for two years and short stories have been my door into writing. It has been both a useful way to learn to write a story with a full plot and it’s been easier to find time and the writerly attention needed next to a busy day job. The Stars Seem So Far Away was my test – could I hold the concentration on a large project for several months? I have now started to write on two larger works, but I struggle with the time available to writing and that I am a slow writer, so I often find myself taking breaks to write smaller works. I guess I am the kind who can’t do both and that I will need to reset my brain if I ever is going to finish my larger plot ideas.

ACW: You’re also an editor for Fox Spirit Books. What types of stories appeal to you as an editor; what tips you over the edge from something you enjoyed to something you want to acquire for one of your anthologies?

I am not an experienced fiction editor yet, so I can’t fully answer your question. But so far, in my view, the stories that stand out usually have a strong writing voice and a natural narrative flow. They don’t have to be long. I’ve read flash stories that impressed me more than novellas. Language is to me part of the reader experience, and I will enjoy a story even more if the language is polished. Other than this, it’s difficult to say what makes me read a story twice. It can be a feeling in the story, a convincing character development, or an original setting. Since I edit anthologies it is also important not only to find good stories, but also stories that fit together and create a mood or a certain atmosphere in the book.

ACW: On a related note, how does your editorial brain play with your writing brain? Does one get in the way of the other, or do they lend each other strength?

The more stories I read as an editor, but also reading fiction in general, the more conscious I become of my own writing. I think I also can become inspired to try out new techniques, genres or point of views. I guess it was my editor mind that dominated when I plotted the project frames for The Stars Seem So Far Away and decided how I wanted the book to flow and the ingredients I wanted to include and when I should finish the project. But then again, I’m not sure I can put these two brains in two boxes.

ACW: Now that you’ve thoroughly conquered the worlds of short fiction, long fiction, and the editorial realm, what’s next for you? What else are you working on or do you have coming up that you’d like people to know about?

Oh, I don’t feel I have conquered these worlds at all. I feel I have much to learn about short story writing, and I have yet the really long fiction to combat. I also have much to learn about English and I still struggle with it. I’m also a slow writer and it can be a little bit frustrating, because I am bubbling over with story ideas. At the moment I am editing two anthologies, and this will require much of my time. I am also working on two larger projects and I must soon decide which I will concentrate on finishing first.

ACW: Thank you for stopping by!

Thank you so much for having me!

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It’s the Final Clown Down

It’s hard to believe it, but we are in the final stretch of the Kickstarter for Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix. We have 4 days to go, and while we’ve hit our funding goal, we’d love to be able to add even more stories to the anthology. With clowns, you can always fit in more than you think. Every $125 raised above our goal allows us to add another story. As of this writing, we have only $76 to go before we can add the next story.

On May 1, we’ll be re-opening to submissions for a month. We’ve updated our guidelines accordingly. The best way to get an idea of what we’re looking for with the anthology is to take a look at the current issue available free online. The five stories from the online issue will be reprinted in the anthology, along with six additional stories we already have in hand, and a to be determined number of new pieces from the open submission period.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the Kickstarter thus far. We could not do this without you! This is a new venture for us, and we’re very excited about it. Over the next few days, please do continue to signal boost the project if you can. True to the spirit of the anthology, we want to fit in as may clowns between our pages as possible.

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Cover Girls

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron has a cover. Are you ready? It’s an amazing, incredible, wonderful cover and I love it to pieces. I might even go so far as to say it’s fabulous. The cover art is by Staven Anderson, whose portfolio can be found here. You really should click through; there’s some gorgeous work to be found. I couldn’t be happier with the way the cover turned out. I’m still kind of stunned my hyper/flailing description of what I had in mind turned into a real piece of art. That’s the mark of a true professional. So, without further delay, here they are – my fabulous glittering cover girls, ready to kick ass and save the world.

Glitter Cover

I am so, so excited for this collection. Now that it has a cover and an official title, it’s starting to feel real. If all goes according to plan, you should be able to get your very own copy from the wonderful Lethe Press, and other fine retailers, this Fall.

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There Ought to Be Clowns

Unlikely Story #11.5: The Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia went live last night with flash fiction by Derek Manuel, Sara K. McNeilly, Virginia M. Mohlere, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Carlie St. George. It’s Unlikely Story’s fourth mini-issue, and our second April Fool’s Day issue. But, as it turns out, clowns are very serious business. We were pleasantly surprised by the intensity, and often heart-wrenching nature of the stories we received. There were so many good stories, in fact, that we decided a single issue couldn’t hold them all, and we needed to put together an anthology.  So we launched a Kickstarter.

Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix will include the stories from Unlikely Story #11.5: The Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia, and add stories by Mari Ness, Kristen Roupenian, Evan Dicken, Line Henriksen, Holly Schofield, and J.H. Pell. If we’re funded, we’ll also re-open to submission, and add even more clown stories. Plus interior illustrations by Bryan Priniville – more money means more art!

To prove how serious we are, we’ve put together possibly the least serious Kickstarter video ever. But we interspersed it with terrifying images of clowns, just to make sure you never sleep again. If you’re kind enough to fund our project, we promise not to tell them where you live.

The best way to get an idea of what we’re trying to do is to take a look at the current issue. Even if you can’t support us, please do spread the word!

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