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Paul Jessup, author of The Adventures of Petal, the Paperdoll Pirate

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

To be honest, this one was written because I wanted to write a pirate story, plain and simple. I like pirates, pirates are cool and things blow up and they storm into places and swashbuckling and ARRR MATEY and all that fun stuff. So I wanted to write a pirate story, but it’s me. And I can’t ever just write something normally.

So I decided, hey, what can I do differently? Well, we were making paper dolls with my daughter and the idea just clicked. Pirates made of paper doll, made of popsicle sticks, all that fun stuff. To make it a quest for being, for finding the creator of the world who had abandoned it goes back to movies like Puff the Magic Dragon and The Brave Little Toaster. In fact, you could say The Brave Little Toaster was a huge influence.

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Nicole Kornher-Stace, Author of Jane

Nicole Kornher-Stace was born in Philadelphia in 1983, moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again by the time she was five. She currently lives in New Paltz, NY, with one husband, three ferrets, the cutest baby in the universe, and many, many books. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several magazines and anthologies including Best American Fantasy, Ideomancer, GUD, Goblin Fruit, Lone Star Stories, Farrago’s Wainscot, and Idylls in the Shadows. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her first novel, Desideria, is currently available on Amazon.

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For the Love of Fan Fiction

Every time I have read an article about fan fiction it has highlighted the fact that it is a vast factory of weird sex dreamed up by peculiar people. Somewhere, in a dark and dingy basement, a mysterious stranger is madly typing and posting the new gay adventures of Harry Potter. Equally depraved readers are gobbling the stuff up.

The fan fiction writer and reader is always this funny, weird “other” person. In reality the fan fiction writer and reader is probably just a regular Jane who loves Star Wars and writes stories about Leia. I say Jane because most people who read and write fan fiction are women. Mary Ellen Curtin, who has studied Star Trek fan fiction estimates 80 per cent of writers are female. My completely unscientific observations would support this figure, with slight variances depending on the sub-genre and fandom in question.

Which is precisely why I started paying attention to fan fiction a few years ago. I had heard about the disparate female and male submission numbers to speculative magazines. To make a long story short, there’s generally a higher number of men submitting stuff. Apparently, women don’t write as much speculative fiction as men.

But low and behold speculative fan fiction seemed the opposite: this was a country governed by women. So I decided to take a look around fan fiction land to see exactly what kind of stuff women were writing and why. Turns out they are writing all kinds of things, not just Harry Potter Does Hermione. Some of it is good, some of it is bad, but what struck me was that this seemed to dispel the old mantra I had been told dozens of times: women are just not good at fandom.

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Spotlight: January Authors D. Elizabeth Wasden, Darren Speegle & Chantel Tattoli

A few months ago in an editorial, I asked why we don’t often see as many comments on our fiction as we do on our non-fiction. The answers, opinions, and suggestions our readers offered were very illuminating and much appreciated. Since that time we’ve seen a rise in comments on fiction (which makes us very happy!) and we’re working on other ways to engage readers. One experiment we’re trying is to collect Author Spotlights together once a month or possibly every other week. Though fiction that appears in each month is not necessarily related, I do feel that the pieces and their authors are in conversation — with you, the reader, and with each other, if only by accident of placement. These spotlights are a continuation of that conversation — I hope readers enjoy them and are moved to ask questions, make connections, and think about the stories in different ways.

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The Best Fantasy Story of 2008

The polls are closed and the votes tallied and we’re ready to announce our readers’ choice for the Best Fantasy Story of 2008. Thank you everyone who participated int he poll and particularly those of you who commented on the stories themselves.

Because there were so many great stories to choose from, there were a lot of contenders for the top spot. Four stories pulled ahead of the pack and deserve special mention before we get to our winner:

On the Finding of Photographs of My Former Loves by Peter M. Ball

This story resonated a lot of our readers and left them with little more to say than “Brilliant” and “This moved me to tears.”

The Shadow in the Mirror by Mari Ness

Willow Fagan said it best: “I think it’s really interesting how, despite the haziness of the setting, the story held my attention and seemed solid, even as so much of the story was about ephemeral things like dreams, memories, shadows. This made it a very interior story, and the vagueness of the external world reinforced that almost all of that world didn’t much matter to the narrator…”

Watermark by Michael Greenhut

“I really love how much this story accomplishes in so little space” editor Cat Rambo remarked, which was a sentiment often echoed in praise for this short and powerful story.

Keepity Keep by Carole Lanham

One of the commenters called it brilliant and said “It bounced along, slowly growing darker.” “The ending is surprisingly dark,” said another, “but perfect nonetheless.”

And finally, the best story of 2008 as chosen by our readers:

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The End Is Near! Best Story Poll Closes Friday

One last reminder — vote for the best Fantasy story of 2008 by this Friday. Also, any substantive comment left on the 2008 stories enters you in our drawing for a $25 Amazon.com gift card.

The five stories with the most votes thus far:

  • Erased by Elena Gleason
  • Watermark by Michael Greenhut
  • Yell Alley by Nicole Kornher-Stace
  • Keepity Keep by Carole Lanham
  • The Shadow in the Mirror by Mari Ness

Read and Vote!

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What I Here Propound Is True: How Science Fiction was POEned

When There Were No Scientists

When Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809, science writing was either non-fiction or reserved for natural philosophical reverie. Interests in science and mathematics were still knotted with philosophy, allowing literature to attempt answering vital questions such as: Is man playing god? Does science negate the need for God? What is man’s relationship with nature?

The eighteenth century saw the publication of Gulliver’s Travels and Baron Munchausen’s tall tales, but the above questions began to be answered in the nineteenth century with works like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, published when Poe was five-years old. Poe came of age in a time when man’s “progress” was touted and the industrial revolution triumphed. As a result, Romanticism was at its height. The romantics were enamored of science, but distrusted man’s discipline to use science for good, as evidenced Percy Byshee Shelley’s apocalyptic poems and Mary Shelley’s novels.

Poe shared the same doubt, best expressed in an early poem “Sonnet: To Science” which argues that industrial progress zapped the romance out of everyday life, thus destroying the mysteries of nature. Even so, Poe avidly studied science, and could not deny that it could carry the individual into unknown terrain; be it Hades or the moon.

This sentiment was not Poe’s alone. In fact, the discoveries of steam engines, electricity, the railway, and Herschel’s telescope created a zeitgeist within nineteenth century American society. Anything was possible–so the nation’s periodicals well knew–leaving the reading public vulnerable to hoaxers, like Poe, who set out to depict what man was capable of by writing stories riddled in scientific expostulations, riffing on journalistic techniques and formats, and most of all manipulating readers’ hopes and fears.

Editor of some of the day’s premier magazines, Poe knew that periodicals published technical scientific articles side-by-side with fiction and poetry. Also at that time, technical scientific writing was written in fictionalized manners, using metaphor and allegory to better illustrate abstract ideas. To appeal to the general audience, many scientists resorted to using the short story form: “The neurologist Mitchell published textbooks about his patients’ phantom limb pains, but when trying to develop his theory that people’s bodies shaped their notions of identity, he turned to the short story form. Ironically, readers found Mitchell’s story so realistic that they mistook it for an actual case,” writes Laura Otis in her anthology Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century.

This mode of fictional science writing inspired Poe to test his own theory: that the reaction of art combined with factual details could yield new realities. The more absurd a story was, the more Poe strived to make it authentic, by writing the stories in what he called the “plausible, or verisimilitude style.” For Poe, a story’s success was based on whether its details were authentic enough to read as truth. This emphasis, executed in punctilious detail, set the bar for modern science fiction

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Randym Thoughts: The Future of Speculative Fiction Magazines

As both a speculative fiction reader and writer, I get chest pains every time I hear about another speculative fiction magazine closing down. The feeling falls somewhere between “What? They canceled Firefly?!” and “What? They canceled Christmas?!”

When it comes to large circulation print magazines, we are down to the “big three” – Asimov’s Science Fiction, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), and Analog Science Fiction and Fact. And even they are bleeding subscribers.

What dark forces threaten our pulp magazines? Are online magazines any better off? And how can both print and online magazines stand out and prevail in this crazy wired world of information overload and multimedia mania?

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Don’t Forget: Best Story Poll & Contest Still Open

Our poll for the best Fantasy story of 2008 is still open. Click here for links to all of our fiction from last year (just in case you missed some) and click here to vote. As it stands, the five stories in the lead (but not in this particular order) are:

We’ve still got a week to go, so there’s plenty of time to read some other stories and decide which you like best. If you’ve already voted and feel that your favorite should be in the top 5, say so in comments! The author who gets the chocolate will be most grateful, I’m sure.

And don’t forget that there’s a contest part to this as well. Leave a substantive comment on any of our 2008 stories talking about why you liked/didn’t like it, what was great/terrible, or anything else that’s relevant. We’ll then enter you in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

See the original post for details, full rules, and links. Poll and contest ends on January 23rd.

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Best of Fantasy 2008: Articles and Interviews

Last week we revealed our favorite columns of 2008, but there was a lot more non-fiction on offer. Interviews, articles, and more. Here are our favorites.


“The Chosen One” vs. The One Who Chooses by Naamen Gobert Tilahun — I particularly liked this piece because it highlights an all-too-common trope and then presents an example of a different, and mostly superior approach.

Female, Muslim, and Mutant by Jehanzeb — The first in our series of posts about Muslim characters in comics explores the character of Dust from the X-Men comics and the ways in which she breaks ground yet illustrates how far the writers and comic publishers still have to go.

A Conversation With Guy Gavriel Kay by Alaya Dawn Johnson — When two great fantasy writers sit down and have a conversation about myth, history, metaverses and Dorothy Dunnett, it has to be good.

David Anthony Durham – Epic Proportions by K. Tempest Bradford — David wrote one of the best debut fantasy books I’ve read in a long time, and I was really interested in exploring some of the aspects of race and gender the text brought up.

Justine Larbalestier & Ekaterina Sedia in the Fantasy Salon — I got these two authors together because I wanted them to talk about different ways of feeling Othered as non-Americans writing for American audiences. What I got was so much more.


What were your favorites?