From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Category Archive for ‘Non-Fiction’ rss


Rose Lemberg, Author Of Geddarien

Rose Lemberg was born on the outskirts of the former Habsburg Empire. She spent many happy years in Berkeley, CA, where she also received her doctorate. Rose is a newly minted professor at a large Midwestern university. She lives in a beautiful modernist house with her toddler, husband, books, and tortoises. In her so-called spare time, Rose writes articles, sleeps, paints, and writes fiction. Her first story was published in the Warrior Wisewoman anthology. Geddarien is her second published story. Her speculative poetry has appeared in Star*line, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Abyss and Apex, and other venues.

Tell me a little about Geddarien. What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

A vision of winter in Luriberg. An architect sits by the window. He sketches buildings of frozen water — towers, bulbous monastery roofs; the city is coughing; snowflakes melt into rain as they fall. None of this made it into the story.

Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t really get ideas. The world is full of secret noise. Cities talk to me. I have a door in my bathroom that opens to other places. Instead of a heart I have a firebird. When I was little, other children did not want to play with me because I was too strange.


A Conversation With Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay, author of the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Ysabel, is a writer steeped in myth and history. His books, deep and well-researched jewels that unfold like flowers as you read them, have earned him numerous awards, including a World Fantasy for Tigana and a Mythopoeic Fantasy for Adult Literature for The Summer Tree. Recently he talked with author (and fan) Alaya Dawn Johnson about his recent accolades, his writing process, and the fate of his Howie.

Alaya Dawn Johnson: First, congratulations on winning the World Fantasy Award for best novel. I think it was very well deserved. The Howie is a very dignified — and hefty — award statuette (in fact, from the back of the room, he looked like an Easter Island sculpture). Is he in a place of honor or holding down shopping lists?

Guy Gavriel Kay: Easter Island’s a cute description, Alaya! It is a substantial object, a good weapon, in fact. Colonel Mustard in the Living Room with the Howie. And, for the moment, he is on the living room mantelpiece, at my two sons’ insistence because, ‘That’s where these things go!’ Who am I to argue?

ADJ: I have been a huge Dorothy Dunnett fan for years, and when I discovered that you had not only known her but been very influenced by her Lymond Chronicles it was like a bolt of lightning in my brain. I discovered that there’s this fascinating genealogy of many writers I love that goes back to Dunnett’s masterwork and it makes a great deal of sense. Why do you think those books, though they’re not at all in the fantasy genre, have had such an impact on certain kind of fantasy novel — particularly writers like you and Ellen Kushner.

GGK: Dorothy was unmatched at the revelation of character through action, as opposed to stopping a narrative to ‘do’ the character-stuff, which so many writers (and that includes the serious ones) end up doing. She was also a role model in terms of the value, the necessity of doing your homework, your research. She exemplified as a writer the notion that entertaining stories are not remotely inconsistent with complex thought and character. All of these elements in her work (and more) will be noted by a wide variety of writers, and that extends far beyond and outside fantasy.


Saturday Morning Cartoon: Astro Boy

A little while ago a teaser trailer was released for Astro Boy, a 3D CG-animated theatrical film from Imagi Animation Studios (who also created the latest TMNT movie). The film has a star-studded cast, including Freddie Highmore as Astro, Nicholas Cage as his creator, Dr. Tenma, and Kristin Bell, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Eugene Levy, Nathan Lane, and others. The film is scheduled for release next year, when presumably, you’ll believe a boy can fly (and shoot rockets from his shiny metal ass).

This isn’t the first theatrical outing for Astro Boy, nor is it the first time he’s been animated. To back up for a moment, Astro Boy was a Japanese comic, or manga, created by Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), who many consider the father of anime, essentially the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney. The original manga serial of Tetsuwan Atom (“The Mighty Atom”) ran from 1952 to 1968, and spawned a highly popular anime series in 1963. This is most notable because it was not only the first anime, but it was the first anime to hit the US shores, as Astro Boy; NBC ran 104 of the 193-produced black-and-white episodes, which have been released by The Right Stuf on DVD. Take a look at the opening of this historic and influential animation


Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis — No Hope On The Horizon

I’m so disappointed with Stargate Atlantis lately, as anyone who’s been reading these column can probably tell. To be honest at this point if I wasn’t writing this column I don’t know if I would still be watching the show. I’d probably break up with it for good and catch the final episodes sometime in the spring on rerun. Sadly, the following episodes did not alter this opinion. There were some good things going on but at the end of most of them I just want to scream, “This is what you’re going out on!? These episodes are what you want us to remember of the show!?”.

First off, apparently Carson Beckett is now some planet-wandering healer/medicine-man? I must have zoned out on a previous episode and missed this, or they never mentioned it and it’s simply a weird retcon, either way it feels forced. But Carson is back and that’s never really a bad thing in my book!

The episode “Outsiders” starts with the team heading to a planet to bring Carson medical supplies. Carson is there to treat some folks that are victims of one of his earliest sketchy ethic moments, helping the Hoffans develop a plague that is deadly to 2/3 of the human population. The plus side of the plague is that those who survive it can’t be fed on by the Wraith and are in fact poisonous to them. Now, this is one instance where Carson actually showed some care. Once he realized the drug would be deadly to many humans, he stepped back and was like, ‘Oooooh, too sketchy for me. I’d rather return to Atlantis and perform painful experiments on living sentient beings.’

Okay he didn’t actually say that.


A Conversation with Tobias Buckell, Author of Sly Mongoose

Tobias S. Buckell is a Caribbean-born speculative fiction writer who grew up in Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has published four books and numerous stories in various magazines and anthologies. He is a Clarion graduate, Writers of the Future winner, and Campbell Award for Best New SF Writer Finalist.

What drew you to science fiction?

In Grenada, my family lived on a boat and there was no TV, so I started reading at about 4 or 5. My mother needed something to babysit me, and figured out that if she taught me to read, I’d take care of myself for hours on end. I started reading Clive Cussler at young age, probably 6 or 7. After picking up an Arthur C. Clarke novel, I had the feeling that my imagination had been exploded and was never put back the same again. I thought, I want more of that. I look at literature as the dreams of mankind. Science fiction is the daydreams, the imagination of humanity.

Tell me about your first story.

My first story was for the Writers of the Future Contest, a military science fiction story. Being male, I’m almost stereotypical in the fact that I love action adventures. I’m horribly predictable in that regard.


The Rosicrucian and Goldenstonian Manifestoes

The Rosicrucian and Goldenstonian Manifestoes, published in 1615, are filled with references to the Kabbalah, Hermeticism and Alchemy. They describe two men of great learning, esoteric understanding and healing power, named Rosenkreutz and Goldenstone, who founded the secret society two hundred years earlier, in 1398.

The author of the manifestoes, Lutheran theologian and mystic Johannes Valentine Andrae, claims to have discovered the tomb of these two men in London, in 1601, but the tomb was open and the men were still alive.


A Conversation with Dr. Nnedi Okorafor author of The Shadow Speaker

There’s a discernible new voice in Young Adult Fiction. That voice is distinctly Nigerian…and American. Dr. Nnedi Okorafor thrives in a realm of fiction called African Fantasy.

This genre combines elements of speculative fiction, magical realism and traditional fantasy with a decidedly cultural twist. Not all of these books are set in Africa, but do contain aspects of African folklore. Also, instead of the traditional Celtic setting, stories have a more earthy approach to magic.

Nnedi was born in the United States to Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents and you can see that influence in her work. But, her path to writing was an unusual one. Absent are any anecdotes about knowing she wanted to write since she was a small child, though she was always an avid reader. Favoring the maths and sciences, she envisioned a career in either entomology or veterinary medicine.

All this changed when following her freshman year at college, she made the difficult decision to undergo surgery to correct scoliosis, a condition involving curvature of the spine. Nnedi found herself among the one percent of people paralyzed after the surgery.

Nnedi credits that experience and having to learn to walk again with releasing her creative juices. Undeterred by advice not to pursue her passion, she changed majors. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric (Creative Writing) and earned a PhD in English in 2007. The rest, shall we say is history.


Randym Thoughts: Oh No — It’s Santa Movie Season

Santa Claus has starred in a lot of movies. I can only assume he uses the money from his acting gigs to upgrade his workshop, what with technology always advancing. Hard to build iPods with chisels, ya know?

But, sadly, not all of his movies are good.

Here are some examples of the not-so-great ones. Some I made up. Some are real movies. Some I made up, and then found out they were real movies. How sad.

See if you can guess which are real, and which are bogus (answers are at the end). And just so the existence of hyperlinks does not give away which are the real ones, the false movies are linked to random Christmas-related material as well. If you are reading this at work, be aware that the YouTube videos will auto-start.


1. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Let’s just get this one right out of the way. A highly underrated classic that is often (unfairly) cited as the worst Christmas movie ever. But like all of the best science fiction, it was prophetic, with the Martian society reflecting our own future society. Children are treated as adults in small bodies, and medicated with sleep spray when they get too precocious. The concerns of the anti-hero, Voldar, predicted modern issues around the impacts that mass production of frivolous goods have had on our society. If the deep philosophical themes of this film had been taken to heart, it may well have helped us to avoid our current financial crises as caused by credit consumerism.

Indeed, I believe that history will mark this as one of the most important films of the 20th century.

Okay, sure, they have a robot made of a cardboard box and duct tubing. But come on, who’s to say someday we won’t build disposable robots exactly like that, huh? Again, just further proof that this move was revolutionary in its visionizing.

4. Santa Claws (1996)

A boy finds his mommy in coitus with a man in a Santa Clause hat, and so of course shoots them both dead. Years later, he’s become the creepy, ponytail wearing neighbor and obsessive fan of a “sexy” B-movie scream queen, Raven Quinn. Raven finds herself naked quite a bit, along with many other women who are costarring in her latest project, “A Scream Queen Christmas.” Oh, and she’s struggling to find holiday cheer as her marriage falls apart. But mostly, she’s naked. The neighbor will do anything to make Raven happy, and that includes going nutters, dressing up as Santa, and killing anyone he feels has disrespected her. His weapon? A garden claw. Because nothing says Santa like a garden claw. True fact — they love to garden in the North Pole. This fine movie is a holiday stalker romance to rival Twilight, but for adults. You know, the kind of adults who stay up late to watch skinemax movies, but don’t expect that high level of quality.

9. Santa Claus: The Clone War (2008)

This film reveals the adventures of Santa in the period of time between “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” Santa sees his workload double and quadruple as divorce becomes more and more common, leading to an exponential increase in Christmases for every child and their parents. Unable to maintain the massive increase in workload, Santa clones himself an apprentice. But his apprentice falls under the corrupting influence of the Winter Warlock, who, unbeknownst to Santa, is a Dark Lord. In the end, Santa must battle his own clone to save Christmas. Be sure to also check out the action figures, ornaments, happy meals, Lego sets, and other merchandise available soon everywhere near you.


Fantasy Pioneer Charles R. Saunders Continues to Build His Legacy

Charles R. Saunders has been writing African-inspired fantasy fiction since 1971. He has also written screenplays, radio plays, non-fiction and political opinion columns. For several years, he was the main editorial writer for a daily newspaper. Born in Pennsylvania, he now resides in Nova Scotia, an eastern Canadian province. We have Saunders to thank for bringing color to the world of fantastical fiction. He is an African American man, writing stories based on fictitious Africa. His work is full of rich imagery, exquisite scenes and heroes that before him, didn’t exist in the genre. The author of the Imaro and Dossouye series, was gracious enough to grant an us interview.

Samuel Delany was our first African American writer in the sci-fi realm. How did his work influence you?

I didn’t find out that Samuel Delany is black until long after I started doing my own writing. I had read his books before discovering his ethnicity. However, I can’t say he was a major influence, because he was writing science fiction, and I was writing fantasy. He is our pioneer, and he has set the bar very high for those of us who follow him.

Tell us about your very first story? Was it a novel or a short story?

The first story I wrote that was not an English composition assignment was an origin-of-Imaro story, which eventually became the “Place of Stones” section of the first Imaro novel.

What do you love/dislike about writing?

What I like is the creative process … transferring my imaginings from my head to the blank page. When that process goes well, it’s a natural high. What I dislike about writing is writer’s block. I hate writer’s block, and avoid it as much as possible.


Audience Participation: Why Don’t Readers Comment On Fiction?

This month, Fantasy Magazine online turned one year old. It was in November of last year that we started publishing fiction and non-fiction on a weekly basis. Last June we launched the second version of our design and revamped the non-fiction offerings a bit. Over this time traffic has increased and we’ve gained more new readers, plus had some really amazing discussions (particularly on Fridays).

I’m really happy we have such a high level of participation from our readers, but we can’t help but notice that the comments section of our fiction is sparse or non-existent in many cases. We know you’re reading the stories (I’m obsessive about stats), but you rarely comment on them.

This is not limited to Fantasy, I know. Most online magazines offer a way for readers to comment on stories, whether on the page itself or in a forum topic. The only place where I see consistent commentary on stories is the Escape Artists forum. The audience there is vocal and brutal, but very engaged (which is awesome).

Recently, Sheila Williams mentioned that though the Asimov’s forums are very active, readers rarely discussed the stories.

…mostly they get on there and argue politics; we call it the basement. …they hardly ever talk about the stories. There are a handful of dedicated readers that talk about the stories, but they are the minority. What I have seen in the past in the ’70s and the ’80s, there were dozens of letters coming in a month. We don’t get the letters anymore. I think back in the ’80s we had more correspondence coming in on the stories than I see in the comments on the forum.

You would think that there would be far more commentary on stories on the Internet, considering how easy it is to broadcast your opinions to the world. Yet in the case of SF/F mags, we seem to see less.

I’m sure this doesn’t mean that readers aren’t liking the stories. They may be congratulating the author personally or writing opinions on their own blogs. That’s fine, too. But we, the editors, really like seeing what the readers think, too.

If you read a great story online or in print, what moves you to comment on it at the magazine itself? Assuming they’ve made it easy by providing a forum post or other comment section, what would make you take that extra step? What keeps you from doing it? Is there something editors can or should do to encourage readers to comment?