- Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
- Fiasco, the game by Jason Morningstar
- Stranger Things Happen Fiasco playset by Benjamin Rosenbaum
- Bonus content: The Ant King and Other Stories by Benjamin Rosenbaum
- Clockwork Phoenix 5
- Black Static #52
- Interzone #264
- LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction – Issue 6
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #200
- Uncanny Magazine
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies
- Mothership Zeta
- New York Review of Science Fiction
- Galaxy’s Edge
- At 25 new/renewing subscribers, BCS will raise our submissions word-count limit to 11,000 words.
- At 50 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll raise our word-count limit to 12,000 words.
- At 100 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll raise it to 13,000 words.
- At 200 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll raise it to 15,000 words!
- First 50 subscribers: Your choice of a back issue, and an EXCLUSIVE Weightless Books Uncanny Space Unicorn Full-Color Vinyl Sticker and a cover art postcard! Plus, we’ll randomly draw 2 winners for Uncanny mini-swag packs: a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch and a set of cover art postcards!
- At 100 new/renewing subscribers, every new subscriber will receive an EXCLUSIVE Weightless Books Uncanny Space Unicorn Full Color Vinyl Sticker, and an ebook of your choice of 2 back issues. Plus, we’ll draw for a spiffy prize pack of a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch, a set of 3 signed cover-art posters, and an official Uncanny Magazine tshirt!
- At 150 new/renewing subscribers, all new/renewing subscribers will receive: an EXCLUSIVE Weightless Books Uncanny Space Unicorn Full Color Vinyl Sticker, ebooks of your choice of 3 back issues, and we’ll draw 4 winners for their choice of signed books by: Alex Gordon, Ann Leckie, or Kameron Hurley, or custom-blended Uncanny Magazine tea based on specific Uncanny Magazine stories, plus a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch for each winner!
- At 200 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll draw for a mega-swag pack that includes an EXCLUSIVE Weightless Books Uncanny Space Unicorn Full Color Vinyl Sticker, postcards, a patch, signed cover art, custom-blended Uncanny Magazine tea based on specific Uncanny Magazine stories, an Uncanny Magazine tshirt and a tote bag!
- At 300 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll draw for a SECOND mega-swag pack that includes an EXCLUSIVE Weightless Books Uncanny Space Unicorn Full Color Vinyl Sticker, postcards, a patch, signed cover art, custom-blended Uncanny Magazine tea based on specific Uncanny Magazine stories, an Uncanny Magazine tshirt and a tote bag! And we will add a Samsung Galaxy Tab E 9.6” 16GB (Wi-Fi) tablet to that swag bag!
When I taught English, there was only one Rule of Literature I wanted undergrads to take away from my classes: different readers want different things, and different writers want to write things in different ways, and good literature comes in all shapes and vowel sounds — don’t let Aristotle tell you otherwise. To illustrate this, I coined the “Hemingway/Wilde fallacy,” inspired by arguments about whether prose should be clear and simple vs. poetic and textured and complex. Hemingway fans tend to hate Wilde and any other writer they accuse of “florid” style, finding little to enjoy in Woolf, say, or Garcia Marquez. That preference is just that, of course, and has no bearing on the degree of Wilde’s skill or the value of his work, and yet that preference has edged perilously close to universal ruledom — a vestige of twentieth-century taste that emerged in a particular but hardly timeless aesthetic context.
As someone who appreciates Hemingway and Wilde, I’ve always been mystified by this skirmish. So I drew up a lesson based on the two names that most frequently came up as benchmarks of — or anathema to — Good Literature in these Eurocentric diatribes, using names most students on a Eurocentric campus would recognize. I pulled a passage out of The Sun Also Rises and another from The Picture of Dorian Gray and demonstrated just how precise both authors were with their words, and how poetic both results. Put simply, the Hemingway/Wilde fallacy operates under the misapprehension that there’s only one way to ink a cat.
You’d think post-modernism would have jolted us out of aesthetic philosophy cum moral certainty, but no. The Hemingway/Wilde fallacy is embraced by editors, not just scholars, and it confuses even seasoned writers, who are nervous about writing fiction in the present tense, writing from second-person or even first-person POV, using frame stories, using long paragraphs, using adverbs, or daring to tell rather than show (is the folktale completely verboten, then? a pity). It’s fair for editors to post, on Submission pages, that certain styles will be hard sells for their press (as someone who dislikes second-person POV, I get it); an editor’s own preferences shape each publication, and that’s a good and inevitable thing. From where I sit as scholar, writer, and editor, however, I contend that it’s not fair to tout our preferences as Universal Ruledom for Good Literature, to the point where writers feel corralled within a single tense, a single POV, and a single more conventional prose style for fear of being labelled “bad” writers. It’s heartbreaking to see exciting and capable authors Twitter-worry that the novel they long to write in present tense “isn’t allowed”; and it’s liberating to read commentary by Raya Wolfsun and Matt Moore (to name the two I read just today) that defends heterogeneity in writing and publishing.
Maybe these laments and defences are signals that the twentieth-century template isn’t as valued or authoritative as it used to be. It may be true that writers must honour the wider taste if they wish to sell their work — but taste is partly a product of what we’re used to seeing, so let’s expose ourselves to contrast before we doom ourselves even further to sameness. It may also be true that editors see a lot of bad fiction written in present tense, or second-person, or florid language — but let’s acknowledge our selective perception and admit we see even more bad fiction written in past tense and third-person POV, full of “masculine” nouns and verbs, and short on “feminine” adjectives and adverbs. Weak writers also write weakly in the common template, and I’ve accepted second-person POV stories for Lackington’s despite my bias because they were well done. Popular fiction continues to be published in first-person or present tense or both, so why this reluctance, this anxiety? Why this haste to “vilify,” as Wolfsun puts it, non-template writing features when these features are skillfully used? Advice that may be of use for rookie writers shouldn’t guide all writers and shouldn’t shape the bulk of our literature, for pity’s sake. I’m grateful to writers who create off-template, and to the editors who appreciate variety. Every time I see a well-written story that refuses to toe the line, I smile a satisfied smile and grow a little as a reader. More of that, please.
Lackington’s publishes speculative fiction and art four times a year and is looking for:
Stylized prose can be sparse and simple, diamond-cut like the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin. It can be sumptuous like the writing of Oscar Wilde. It can be epic, archaic, experimental, mythic, rhythmic, and it can be quiet and subtle, too. Story and character are indispensable, but so is wordcraft. We trade in aesthetics, so make us gasp with unexpected words and give us inventive voices, structures, and narratives. Many editors reject heavily stylized prose out of hand. We welcome it.
I’m very excited to announce a completely new thing today: the Stranger Things Happen + Fiasco Bundle!
A couple of years ago Benjamin Rosenbaum proposed a Fiasco playset based on Kelly’s collection Stranger Things Happen. Fiasco is a storytelling game where players make up and tell each other stories with different playsets that allow them to bring in different elements, tropes, and tones to the stories. Ben wrote the playset and Steve Segedy of Bully Pulpit Games put the bundle together.
Get the Bundle.
“Fiasco is one of the greatest storytelling RPGs I’ve ever played. I highly recommend it.”
— Wil Wheaton
About Stranger Things Happen
Stories from Stranger Things Happen have won the Nebula, Tiptree, and World Fantasy Award. Stranger Things Happen was a Salon Book of the Year, one of the Village Voice’s 25 Favorite Books of 2001, and was nominated for the Firecracker Alternative Book Award.
“Pity the poor librarians who have to slap a sticker on Kelly Link’s genre-bending, mind-blowing masterpiece of the imagination, Stranger Things Happen.”—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia, for NPR’s You Must Read This
“My favorite fantasy writer, Miss Kelly Link.”
—Alan Cheuse, NPR, All Things Considered
About The Ant King and Other Stories
* “Give him some prizes, like, perhaps, “best first collection” for this book.”
—Booklist (Starred review)
“A terrific range of tales, showcasing an active, playful mind and a gleeful genre-blender.”
“Ben Rosenbaum is one of the freshest and finest voices to appear in science fiction in many years. The stories collected in The Ant King demonstrate his astonishing versatility, his marvelous imagination, and his ready wit.”
Today we’re very pleased to welcome the powerhouse of Book Smugglers Publishing to Weightless. They are launching here with two novels by Susan Jane Bigelow in her Extrahuman Union series, Broken and Sky Ranger, the Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac, and a subscription to same.
To introduce the series and celebrate today’s publication of the second book, Sky Ranger, here’s a post Susan Jane Bigelow wrote about where her series comes from when Broken first came out:
by Susan Jane Bigelow
Broken started the way a lot of these things do: with a post on LiveJournal.
A long time ago I got involved in a comment thread about superhero names, and I came up with a few that I liked: Broken, Sky Ranger, and Crimson Cadet. From that, the germ of a story began to grow. How could I not want to write about super-powered people with these names?
And so I did. I entered NaNoWriMo that year and managed to produce a very rough draft of Broken.
I love superheroes, and I always have. I grew up watching the old Batman TV show and Superfriends; later I devoured the Batman animated series, Superman, Justice League, and the 1990s cartoon version of X-Men. Superheroes are a mess of questions, most of the time. Why did they take separate “hero” names, and where did those come from? How did they deal with feeling different? How do they relate to one another?
Superhero teams are something that especially fascinated me. How do all these incredibly powerful people get along? What could possibly bring them together? How might they break apart?
Broken’s Extrahuman Union is a deliberate echo of these old superhero teams. It’s sort of like a mandatory version of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters that no one can ever leave!
Much as I loved traditional superhero stories like Batman and Peter David’s run on the Supergirl comic book, I started to seek out alternative ways of looking at them. The Authority, The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and The Maxx are comics that looked at superheroes through a darker, stranger lens.
And so Broken herself is descended from Supergirl, Jenny Sparks, The Maxx, and even Alita from the manga Battle Angel Alita.
The rest of the world of Broken owes a lot to 90s science fiction TV like Babylon 5 and to all the fantastic space opera I’ve read, like Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan saga.
The book also owes a debt to George W. Bush. If he hadn’t beaten John Kerry in 2004, I wouldn’t have been grouchy enough to spend an entire month writing about super-powered people living under an emergent fascist regime. Thanks, George!
But maybe the biggest and weirdest influence on the book is a line from the Butthole Surfers song “Pepper,” which is all about teens who go courting death. It goes “Some will fall in love with life and drink it from a fountain / That is pouring like an avalanche, coming down the mountain.”
This story—this whole series—is about Broken falling in love with life.
Sorry for the completely misleading title. It’s not meant to be clickbaity or edumactional, rather it’s a celebration of us adding two new ebook formats to Hal Duncan’s lovely chapbook, An A-Z of the Fantastic City.
Originally only available as a pdf, today we have added both epub and mobi formats thanks to ebook maker Frédéric Hugot of French science fiction publisher Éditions Critic.
Given the (dis)United Kingdom’s Brexit vote and the ongoing international upheaval I am very happy to have Scot’s author Hal Duncan’s book of international and fantastical cities remade and more widely available thanks to a French volunteer.
Here’s one of the 26 entries from the book:
The firm of Ackroyd, Moorcock and Sinclair, Solicitors, is the oldest existing company on record, dating back to the dawn of Albion in the foundation of Trynovantium, or New Troy, the settlement which was to go through a few more names—Caerlundein, Londinium—before settling on its present day nomenclature of London. From a small enterprise set up by three merchants to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the treaty signed between Brutus and the autochthonous inhabitants of a tiny village on the river Thames, this legal firm slowly established itself as an integral aspect of the growing city’s mercantile existence. Its history is, in many ways, the history of the city itself.
Joseph of Arimathea, on his arrival with the Magdalene and her son, arranged the loan with which he purchased land for his new home through Ackroyd, Moorcock and Sinclair, using the Holy Grail as collateral. Where the Anglo-Saxon chronicles provide only the sketchiest accounts of comets and catastrophes, the records of this firm provide exhaustive detail on trade arrangements with the Norse, land disputes between the Normans, jurisdictional challenges from the North. It was this firm whose clerks drafted the Magna Carta, this firm who arranged Henry VIII’s divorce, this firm who took care of the British East India Trading Company’s most confidential colonial affairs. Even today most mortgages, leases, compulsory purchase orders and debt reclamations in London are arranged through Ackroyd, Moorcock and Sinclair, Solicitors, a situation which has led to all manner of conspiracy theories regarding the supposedly mystical alignment of various key buildings—Hawksmoor’s churches, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral. One merely has to enter these three names into an internet search engine to find website after website devoted to the secret truths to be found in a study of London’s streets. This firm was instrumental in the rebuilding of the city after the Great Sinking of London, when most of the city was swallowed up by its underlying swamplands, as recorded in the diaries of Richard Jefferies, published as After London (1885).
Personally, I have only respect for this long-established firm, having first-hand experience of their efficiency in ironing out the contractual legalities between my publishers and myself. I have found them most amicable to deal with, highly professional but also understanding enough of a writer’s persona to conduct business over an endless lunch rather than in an interminable meeting. And if they have imposed some grand occult design over the city of London, well, the resultant mystery is a majestic one.
I remember thinking this, as I flew down from Kentigern to Heathrow for that first meeting, looking out of the window of the plane, at a city between Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ Night, a city brilliant in the nine o’clock dark of autumn.
The city at night, at this time of year, seen from the sky, looks like a field of moss the colour of candlelight, a carpeting of broken glass, crushed underfoot and glowing orange. Tiny little bursts of sparkle flash here and there like sequins catching ballroom lights: fireworks going off all over the city. As the plane descends the blossoming is close enough to take shape, instances of anemones. We fly down into the shatterings of light until they’re all around us, the city so vast that they stretch back as far as the eye can see.
A little mystery in a city is no bad thing.
Laura Argiri’s novel The God in Flight was first published in 1996. The story of a Yale student’s romance with his art professor was one of the few gay historical romances at the time and was very well received:
“Argiri provides an enchanting menagerie of bullies and villains, friends and mentors. And her pair of lovers are as memorable as Mary Renault’s Alexander and Bagoas. Many readers should be delighted by this haunting blend of melodrama and fancy.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Argiri understands the way intellectual gay men in the late 19th century thought and felt.”—David Leavitt for the Los Angeles Times
“Art professor Doriskos Klionarios looks and sculpts like a Greek god. His teenage student, Simion Satterwhite, has a faunlike beauty and a genius for math. Their true love triumphs over child abuse, anorexia, homophobia, censorship, and the violence of bigots. This lush, effusive work [has] some satiric bite.”—Entertainment Weekly
“If a novel’s worth can be measured by the power and verity of the emotions it instills in the reader, then Argiri’s approaches the divine. It transforms and moves the spirit as modern fiction should and so seldom does, describing a love story with such true emotion that the heart aches reading it.”—Booklist
Over time the book fell out-of-print; Argiri had been too early in writing a novel in a genre that now has captivated many thousands of readers, regardless of their gender or sexuality, readers who simply enjoy a top-quality love story between two people at a time when that love is considered forbidden.
Happily for us, our friends at preeminent queer publisher Lethe Press are proudly reprinting this book and finally providing devotees of ebooks the chance to read this touching story. Here in Pride Month 2016, the book’s message is a timely affirmation: Love is stronger than violence. Joy is within reach, even if we have to work for it. We are strong enough!
We just added bestselling author Patricia A. McKillip’s latest book, a collection of stories Dreams of Distant Shores and I see that Tor.com has a sweepstakes running until June 17th.
Either way, buy it or enter the sweepstakes, it’s not a book to miss!
Apparently not everyone is playing Neko Atsume on their phones, some people are also reading a lot. We had a great month kickstarted along by two star magazines, Uncanny and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, who both ran very successful subscription drives.
These magazines, like Weightless, run on subscriptions and readers choosing DRM-free independence over globespanning humorless megacorporations. We appreciate the business, we’d like to stay in business, so we will keep working to make the site faster and easier to navigate and we hope readers will keep spreading the word, especially internationally as about half of our readers are from beyond these shores. Hello world!
Someone slipped us a piece of good news this month that we will get to share with you later. Will it mean more good reading for you? Possibly!
May 2016 Bestsellers
We’re very happy to announce that today we have the first issue of Molly Tanzer’s new project, Congress Magazine, and to celebrate it we have Molly’s first Editorial. Technically we aren’t adding any new publishers this year to Weightless but since we’d already worked with Molly and Jeremiah on The Big Click this was an easy addition:
Welcome to the inaugural issue of Congress Magazine. Here, you will find what we like to call thoughtful erotica: stories that excite the mind and bewitch the senses as they draw the reader in with strong plots and unforgettable characters. Good smut can be good literature, as connoisseurs know, and we seek to insert ourselves into that grand tradition.
This month we present three original stories and a reprint for your pleasure. First, Livia Llewellyn, that mistress of the sinister and seductive, treats us to “Bohemian Grove, 1916.” Ms. Llewellyn’s story is imminently suitable for our summer debut, being full of sweat-dampened dresses, tanned thighs, rumpled suits, and private jaunts to private islands. And owls. Then, we have Robert Levy’s “My Heart’s Own Desire,” a transgressive triple threat of love, sex, violence, and drugs. Oh—wait, that’s four things. It’s hard to count when one’s fingers are so busy.
Following Mr. Levy we have the mysterious Matthew Addison’s “Wish Girls,” about a man who’s grown tired of his matched set of magical sexy cheerleaders. If it sounds like a good problem to have, imagine having two immortal, lithe, long-limbed, stacked cheerleaders always hanging around your apartment, eager and ready to please no matter what the request (or command). If it still sounds like a good problem to have… you’ll just have to read Mr. Addison’s story.
And finally, we have David Nickle’s “The Bicameral Twist.” When I approached Mr. Nickle about writing for Congress, he suggested the title “Bicameral” as a tease. Well, we love teasing here at Congress, especially when it’s followed by something more substantial… and Mr. Nickle certainly provided that. “Bicameral Twist” is as cerebral as it gets, but keep an open mind. You might learn something about yourself… from yourself.
Future issues of Congress may feature nonfiction, or comics, or essays, but we’re all fiction this month. Come August, expect more; we’ll deliver the goods right to your computer or e-reader.
While our content will always be free online, an issue costs just $2.99 here on Weightless. You can also subscribe to our full six-issue run through Weightless Books for just $17.94. A small operation, we appreciate your support, as it means we can keep purchasing great fiction and luscious covers, like this month’s, by Gerard Vlaz.
A magazine is only as good as its writers and its staff. I feel so lucky to have four such talented authors ushering us into existence. I’m also l lucky to have support from Jeremiah Tolbert, our publisher—and such a killer name, courtesy Nick Mamatas.
So, welcome. I sincerely hope you enjoy your time with us… and that we leave you craving more.
Editrix, Congress Magazine
There are less than two days left on the Small Beer Humble Bundle — get 21 ebooks for $15 or more . . . And please consider adding Franciscan Children’s under the Choose Your Own Charity, we thank you very much!
To celebrate the 200th issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, we’re having a Subscription Drive!
UPDATE: our first goal is unlocked! BCS has raised our word-count limit to 11,000 words.
Subscribe now, and help us raise it to 12,000 or even 15,000!
BCS #1 debuted in October 2008. Since then we’ve published 200 issues, 419 stories, and 201 audio podcasts. We’ve been a finalist for four Hugo Awards, five World Fantasy Awards, two Nebula Awards, one BSFA Award, numerous Aurora, Aurealis, Ditmar, and Parsec Awards, and won a World Fantasy Award. We’ve become the field’s go-to home for character-driven fantasy in secondary-world settings. Locus online said BCS “revived secondary-world fantasy as a respectable subgenre of short fiction… Not a trivial accomplishment.”
And there’s more to come! BCS this year will feature new stories by returning BCS authors Marie Brennan, Gregory Norman Bossert (whose first BCS story “The Telling” won the World Fantasy Award), Mishell Baker, Raphael Ordoñez, KJ Kabza, Grace Seybold, Stephanie Burgis, Walter Dinjos, and Tony Pi, plus Catherynne M. Valente, Kameron Hurley, A.M. Dellamonica, Claude Lalumière, and many more.
Ebook subscriptions to BCS are only $15.99 for a full year/26 issues. (That’s less than 30 cents a story!) Subscribers can get issues delivered directly to their Kindle or smart phone, and they get new issues early, a week before the website.
From now until June 3, if you buy a BCS ebook subscription or renew your existing subscription, you can help unlock our drive goals.
Since BCS #1 in 2008, over a third of our fiction has been novelette-length or longer. Longer stories work great to show awe-inspiring fantasy worlds, like you’ll find in every issue of BCS. Our word-count limit for submissions, 10,000 words, has always been among the longest if not the longest in pro-rate online magazines.
With your help, we’d like to make it even longer!
Every subscription makes a difference in helping us pay our authors, for their great stories of all lengths. With your support, we look forward to another 200 issues of BCS and great literary adventure fantasy!
Wearing my Small Beer Press hat (or T-shirt), we’re running a Kickstarter for what John Crowley calls the first science fiction novel. We’re offering the DRM-free ebook as one of the rewards which can also be acquired with a 1/2 price LCRW ebook subscription: 8 issues for the price of 4. Subscriptions will be fulfilled here on Weightless and current subscribers who choose this option will have their subscriptions extended.
The new issues of top UK sf&f magazines Interzone and Black Static are both on sale for 40% off this week: regularly $4.99 they are $2.99 each. Try one, try both, maybe subscribe. International magazines ftw!
Uncanny Magazine is once again recruiting for its Space Unicorn Ranger Corps! We named the Uncanny Kickstarter backers the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps after our amazing Space Unicorn mascot. Now, you can become a member of the Corps by subscribing here at Weightless Books!
This is the perfect time to join because Uncanny is going on sale! From May 3-17, a year’s subscription to Uncanny Magazine is $2 less than the typical current cover price (only $21.88)! It’s the least expensive way to subscribe we offer.
Each bimonthly issue of Uncanny contains new and classic speculative fiction, poetry, essays, art, and interviews. We seek out and share pieces we can’t stop thinking and talking about, because of how they make us feel. We’re also deeply committed to finding and showcasing fantastic works by writers from every possible point of view and background.
We debuted Issue One of Uncanny in November 2014 and we’ve been thrilled with Years One and Two. We’ve included original contributions from phenomenal authors such as Neil Gaiman, Maria Dahvana Headley, Max Gladstone, Ken Liu, Christopher Barzak, Sam J. Miller, Sofia Samatar, Catherynne M. Valente, Alyssa Wong, Elizabeth Bear, John Chu, Kameron Hurley, Charlie Jane Anders, Ursula Vernon, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Chris Kluwe, Hao Jingfang, Mary Robinette Kowal, Seanan McGuire, Mark Oshiro, Rachel Swirsky, E. Lily Yu, and Amal El-Mohtar, plus many newer voices. We can’t wait for you to read what’s coming next.
New or renewing subscribers to Uncanny Magazine from May 3-17, 2016 will be eligible for giveaways and a whole bunch of Uncanny swag!
There may also be random prize drawings throughout the subscription drive. You never know with the Space Unicorns…
Q: In a break from your novel-writing, you took some time to write an insightful essay about racism in science fiction and fantasy for Uncanny Magazine. Your starting point in the essay was the November 2015 decision that the World Fantasy Awards would no longer use a statue of H.P. Lovecraft as a trophy. Have you ever had to explain racism in SF/F to a child?
Hines: I’ve had conversations about racism with children before – most notably my own children – but it wasn’t specific to SF/F. It’s a challenging conversation, and depends a lot on the age and experiences of the child. My son has a very straightforward view that “treating people differently because of their skin color is dumb.” But then the question becomes how to talk about the historical and systemic roots of racism, the power structures that perpetuate it, the less obvious ways it plays out in day to day life, and so on.
So we talk about power and greed and fear. We talk about cultural misunderstandings and miscommunications. (We’ve been reading Janet Kagan’s Hellspark, which is a great book for discussing culture and taboo and miscommunication.) We talk about how things that happened decades or centuries ago still have a very real impact on people today, whether it’s housing segregation or the United States’ attempts to wipe out Native Americans.
Q: In the Uncanny essay, you ask “When we think about ‘prevailing attitudes on race,’ are we limiting our thinking to the prevailing attitudes of white people?” Why do you think this concept of “prevailing attitudes” has been allowed to persist for so long, and what can people do to rewrite the narrative?
Hines: History is shaped by those in power. Here in the U.S., that means our history has been taught through a dominantly white lens. While there are exceptions, we generally learn to focus on white figures and white voices, to the exclusion of other perspectives and attitudes.
As a white man in 2016, I think one of the most important things is to recognize those omissions in my own education and understanding, and to actively seek out other voices to start to fill those gaps.
Q: Your books and short stories are filled with protagonists and villains who are strong, smart, and funny regardless of their race, gender, or sexual identity. When did you first notice the gap between the portrayal of male protagonists versus female ones in the work of other authors?
Hines: Thank you. I don’t think there was a particular time or date when awareness switched on in my brain. Even today there are books I’ll read where someone else later calls out instances of sexism or racism or other problems that I completely missed in my own reading.
It’s something I try to be aware of, because when you’re flooded with representation in stories, it’s so easy not to notice when others aren’t. It’s an ongoing process, one that for me, required conscious effort.
It also helps a lot if you actively try to broaden the stories and authors you read. The more you read books that do a good job of portraying a range of well-written female characters, for example, the more it stands out when other stories fail to do so.
Q: Wealth and rights disparities can be a key component of science fiction and fantasy storylines nowadays. How do you think the future will judge those story lines and their authors?
Hines: That depends on the future, and whether we end up in the Darkest Timeline.
Realistically, the future will probably be as contentious as the present, with just as wide a range of opinions. I suspect people will look at our literature in the context of our times, just as we do to past works. And just as in previous eras, there will be areas where we fall short, where our own prejudices and assumptions shine through in our stories.
My hope is that the future judges authors and our stories honestly. Recognize the good without ignoring the bad.
Of course, this will all become moot when the ant people invade and put us to work in their vast sugar mines…
Q: “Rape Resources” isn’t a prominent link most SF/F authors have on their websites, but yours has that. Is it hard for you to move from talking with fans one moment about SF/F and the next about sexual assault resources?
Hines: Not really, no. Sexual assault issues are really important to me, and have been for more than half my life at this point. Statistically, we have so many people who have been sexually assaulted, and given the scope of the problem, we don’t do a fraction of the work we should be doing to combat that problem, and to support survivors. Posting those resources and writing about rape are small ways I try to change things.
Most of the time when I’m talking about rape with someone from the SF/F community, it’s either someone who wants to argue about it, or someone who’s been assaulted. The former can be frustrating, but I’ve done enough research and work to be able to present the facts for those willing to listen. The latter can be painful, but I do my best to listen and be supportive. It’s never easy, but it’s important.
Q: You’ve written more than a dozen novels, and you have a wide fan base that you stay in contact with through the internet, conventions, and other events. How do you keep life in balance?
Hines: By falling down a lot. Balance is a daily struggle. Sometimes it depends on my deadlines. If I have a book due, I need to make sure I hit that deadline, which might mean neglecting the internet and not getting as much time with my family as I want. Other times, when I start to feel burnt out, I have to walk away from the writing and play video games with my kids. Going to conventions and chatting with people online can take up a lot of time and energy, but it can also give energy back and help to refuel my excitement about the genre or a particular project.
Lately, I’ve had to say no to more projects, which is painful. I’ve turned down events and writing opportunities that I’d love to do, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I’ve got to prioritize.
If anyone ever figures out an easy way to maintain that life balance, please let me know!
Jim C. Hines is the author of twelve fantasy novels, including the Magic ex Libris series, the Princess series of fairy tale retellings, the humorous Goblin Quest trilogy, and the Fable Legends tie-in Blood of Heroes. He’s an active blogger at www.jimchines.com, and won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. He lives in mid-Michigan with his family.
Uncanny Magazine is an online Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine featuring passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture. Each issue contains intricate, experimental stories and poems with verve and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs from writers from every conceivable background. Uncanny is available DRM-free from Weightless in single issues and as a 12-month subscription.
To celebrate the sixth issue of LONTAR, we have an exclusive short interview by editor Jason Erik Lundberg with Ken Liu, whose “Running Shoes” is the lead-off story. Liu is the multi-award winning author of The Grace of Kings and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, and Hugo-winning translator of Liu Cixin’s novel The Three-Body Problem.
Jason Lundberg: Your story “Running Shoes” initially takes place at a sweatshop in rural Vietnam, and then moves to an American suburb. What relationship were you aiming to show between these two locales?
First, thank you very much for the interview, Jason! I’m honored to be part of LONTAR.
I don’t know if I had a specific aim in this story with the contrasting settings. We live on a planet that is not flat. Some of us are born through the veil of ignorance into conditions of great privilege; some of us are not. Is it moral to tolerate the world the way it is? Is it moral to seek to reshape it the way we want it to be? Is it moral to depict the world as it is? Is it moral to ignore the world the way it is? Is it moral to ask questions and have no answers?
I don’t have any answers. Only questions.
Q. The fantastical element employed here is an unusual one, that of haunting a pair of running shoes. What was the inspiration behind using this particular technique?
This story actually began as an entry in a writing contest based on a prompt. If I recall correctly, the prompt was a photograph of a pair of running shoes dangling from a wire, the sort of thing you see all over America. I looked at the photograph and wondered where the shoes had come from and how they had gotten there, and the story simply followed.
Q. Giang’s fate is heartbreaking and then uplifting. I’m currently reading your collection The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, and I’ve noticed that you’re quite adept at turning a plot in a very unexpected (and typically compassionate) direction. Is this a conscious decision when you’re crafting a short story, to subvert your readers’ expectations?
The only reader I have in mind when I write is myself. Every story I write, in some sense, is an argument with myself: about what is beautiful; what is true; what is the point of being alive and aware and thinking and moving; what is a story; what is a good story; what is a good story that makes me care and makes me weep.
I don’t think I try to subvert reader expectations. I work hard to satisfy my own expectations.
Q. Which authors either from Southeast Asia or writing about Southeast Asia do you enjoy reading? Could you give examples of particular works?
Space limitation means that I can’t list everyone I should, so I’ll just give a few examples. I’m reading through S.P. Somtow’s Dragon’s Fin Soup right now, and it’s fantastic. Colorful images and musical prose weave tales that are at once lush and stark in their beauty. I also really like the works of many Singaporean or Singapore-based writers like J.Y. Yang, Joyce Chng, Stephanie Ye, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, and others. LONTAR is a great venue for getting a sense of the exciting work being done by Southeast Asian writers.
Q. Shameless self-promotion time: what is next on the publication horizon for Ken Liu?
The biggest project I’m working on right now is the third book in the Dandelion Dynasty series. I have lots of ideas that still need to be distilled into a manageable plot. The second book in that series (and the first sequel to The Grace of Kings), titled The Wall of Storms, will be coming out from Saga Press in October of 2016 (and it’s bigger and better in every way, with even more intrigue and silkpunk technology!).
In August, Death’s End, my translation of the third and concluding volume in Liu Cixin’s Three-Body trilogy, will be released by Tor Books. Fans of the series will then see why this is my favorite volume in the series.
Finally, in November, Tor Books will publish my collection of translated Chinese SF, Invisible Planets. This, the first English-language commercial anthology focused on contemporary short-form Chinese SF, will contain award-winning stories by such luminaries as Liu Cixin, Chen Qiufan, Xia Jia, Hao Jingfang, and others.
I also have a few stories in anthologies edited by Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois, and others coming out later this year.