Arguably, all science fiction/fantasy works serve as a mirror to reality in some fashion. The Blood Trials is no different. When I wrote the novel, I sat down with the explicit intention of creating a world that perpetuated the worst aspects of Anti-Blackness, so that I could have a conversation on-page about the most pervasive and insidious bigotries that run deep in American society. It’s a conversation that I invite ...Read MoreRead more
Thoughts on writing genre-bending novels and the potential to be shunned by both communities
Expectations. Readers, publishers, the entire literary canon–everyone’s got expectations. What in their minds are tried and true conclusions drawn from decades of statistics and industry experience. Data that categorizes works of fiction according to things like age group, target audiences, and genre.
There are as many definitions of genre floating around as there are opinions about ...Read MoreRead more
Who’s the best fictional leader?
Optimus Prime? Jean-Luc Picard? Captain America?
I’m willing to wager that all three of those iconic characters would be among the most popular contenders if the question were asked in a general poll, and for understandable reasons. When I was ten years old, sitting in front of a television set on a Saturday morning, Peter Cullen’s voice as Optimus Prime ordering, “Autobots, roll out!” made ...Read MoreRead more
My novels have been characterized as being “Afrofuturistic,” but to be honest I never thought of the subgenre while writing them. When I write I generally don’t think of any subgenre before I sit down to create the work. My thinking when writing is usually concentrated more on story and narrative construction, not on the genre. Mostly all that is happening is that I have a story to tell, I ...Read MoreRead more
“Nice try, but she should go read Tom Clancy to see how it’s done.”
That was a review on my first novel, Aurora: Darwin. I remember being a little stumped by this at the time because I hadn’t been trying to emulate Tom Clancy at all. I’ve never actually read any of his books, and as far as I’m aware he doesn’t write science fiction…. Perhaps it was the ...Read MoreRead more
Authenticity as a lived principle—that is, the choice to become more truly and deeply oneself, whatever the cost—is as necessary as soil and rain. Without it, we wither. We put forth poisoned gourds. But if we speak truth, walk in truth, and cultivate truth, like strawberry plants, around us, we can offer what we’ve grown to others when they come with honest hunger to our door. In this slow way, ...Read MoreRead more
James Gunn was—indeed, still is—one of my heroes. While I didn’t meet him until 2002, when I first went to Lawrence for the Sturgeon Award ceremony, I already admired his writing, both fiction and non-fiction, and had benefited greatly from his expansive, benevolent influence on science fiction as critic, anthologist, conference organizer and educator.
Sitting rapt in Jim’s KU office as he talked about the field he loved, I realized ...Read MoreRead more
Around 11 a.m. on December 23, 2020, James Edwin Gunn died. He’s survived by his son, Kevin, and his cat, Annie—and by the many for whom he was ‘‘Science Fiction’s Dad.’’
Deepest condolences to all who cared about Jim, whose lives he touched and careers he influenced. This amounts to almost everyone in our field today, whether or not they’re aware of his intellectual parentage.
Career highlights: In 2007, SFWA ...Read MoreRead more
About a hundred years ago, in the village of Petrovichi near the Russian-Belarusian border, a baby was born in the Jewish family of Azimovs. The parents named their son Isaac. The exact date of his birth is unknown; it was sometime between October 1919 and early 1920. Nevertheless, the family, which arrived on RMS Baltic from the newborn Soviet Russia to New York on February 3, 1923, gave as the ...Read MoreRead more
In so many of our modern stories, saying the above phrase almost feels like an insult. It’s often a dour statement, juxtaposed against how characters will do anything to make romantic relationships work, or how the power of blood family can make evil people return to a path of righteousness.
But friendship? It’s often presented as a lower-tier relationship, something given to a secondary character to help the ...Read MoreRead more
I write as if from the memory of a dream. Bits and pieces of who I am and what I’ve experienced or longed for, forming parts of a whole. Fantasy made this easier. As a child of a country conquered three times over before it had the chance to know what it was, I told myself the things I couldn’t find, I could fill in.
Most fantasy writers don’t create ...Read MoreRead more
There is a line from a famous Puerto Rican song “La Borinqueña” that I’ve carried with me all my life: “Awake from your sleep, for it’s time to fight.” What I love most about these words is how they came about. Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodriguez de Tío was born on the island during Spain’s occupation in 1843. She came from a privileged background and was educated, which was a ...Read MoreRead more
Over the past few months, as I’ve struggled to write the fourth and final book in my epic fantasy series, Earthsinger Chronicles, I’ve thought a lot about endings. Recently, popular culture has seen the end of several long-running series: Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two of those series ended in ways that were wildly disappointing to many fans and should serve as cautionary ...Read MoreRead more
When I was sixteen, I skipped my appointment to get sworn in as a U.S. citizen because I was taking an Advanced Placement exam.
The instant the test was over, the Principal spoke over the intercom and called me down to his office, where I was mortified to see my mom waiting for me and mystified to find her in a rage. How could I miss that appointment? What was ...Read MoreRead more
When I got serious about writing in my teens, my literary opinions involved a lot of eyerolling.
Black and white false dichotomies attracted me, as they do many thirteen-year-olds eager to become Serious Artists™. One creed I held to be especially dear was that fake writers treat stories like games of pretend, and real writers remain conscious of their task—making art—at all times.
Adulthood shrunk my head a few sizes. ...Read MoreRead more
Genres and sub-genres are always tricky things to pin down, and never more so than with works that live at the boundary between two categories. Ashes of the Sun has been called, among other things, “science fantasy”—it’s not the only way to describe it, but it definitely fits. (Aside—as with all genre discussions, your terms and definitions may vary! There are many different lenses with which to examine these categories. ...Read MoreRead more
Writers are in a retelling frenzy, borrowing from what already exists to pay homage or lend perspective, to modernize or fracture or fanfic. I believe it’s an act of love to take a story that’s in danger of disappearing and make it new, provided you have something to add to the mix. But what happens when the inspiration for your current novel is and has only ever been a movie? ...Read MoreRead more
Black women have always contributed significantly to the horror genre, though our roles have been massively downplayed and overlooked by the larger genre fiction community. As a result, Black women have had to carve out a space and make a way out of no way. Our relationship to trauma, our storytelling culture, our willingness to show that everyday life has the potential to be a horror in and of itself ...Read MoreRead more
Note: This piece was written before the murder of George Floyd.
Hello. I’m back. After nineteen years—but who is counting and those years went by really fast—I’m returning to Locus to reach out to the science fiction community from New York City during a crisis. When I was traumatized during 9/11 because I was looking out of my apartment window at the Empire State Building expecting it to be ...Read MoreRead more
Worldbuilding is like a jigsaw puzzle. You start with the edges, the essential outline and framework, and then work in, spiraling and spiraling until you find the last, perfect piece. Without the edge, the outline, you have no direction to go in. You start grasping around, putting together little groups of pieces here or there, hoping to find something that connects, but it all feels rather futile. And makes it ...Read MoreRead more
Last year, I read the same passage from my book, Creatures of Want and Ruin, for four different events: the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series at KGB Bar in New York City, at NecronomiCon Providence, at Noir at the Bar in Denver, and finally at Writers with Drinks in San Francisco. Given the reception to the readings, I can say with confidence that my performance improved every time—but it wasn’t ...Read MoreRead more
On a September morning in 2001, I watched from my fire escape in Brooklyn as the second World Trade Center tower fell. In the hours and days and weeks that followed, as the ash and debris rained down from the sky, as the stench of death permeated my neighborhood, as the countless hand-written missing person fliers went up, as soldiers with machine guns began to appear in train stations, I ...Read MoreRead more
When we speak of forging, it is usually one of two types: the first is when we create something new out of disparate materials— the type of forging usually associated with blacksmiths—but the second type is one we often associate with thieves, charlatans, and mountebanks; the kind where we create something that is fake with the intention of duping or deceiving others into believing that what we have created is ...Read MoreRead more
Yoshiki Tanaka’s Sieun Award-winning Legend of the Galactic Heroes (LotGH) series is simultaneously a work of science fiction (specifically space opera) and an in-depth historiography. Multiple texts exist within its two-thousand-plus pages, with a single unnamed narrator drawing on (fictional) memoirs, autobiographies, and other histories in order to craft their own interpretation of the galactic conflicts of the thirty-sixth century. Originally published in Japan between 1982 and 1987, LotGH was ...Read MoreRead more
Before we get started, let’s define what we mean by “the end of the world.”
Extinguishing all life on earth would be difficult. Every day, 800 million viruses and tens of millions of bacteria rain down from the troposphere onto every square meter of the planet’s surface. Extremophile microorganisms flourish at unimaginable pressures in the depths of the Marianas Trench. Russian cosmonauts claim to have found plankton surviving the vacuum ...Read MoreRead more
In April 2005 I was well settled into my career as a romance novelist, writing everything from paranormal romances to adult and young adult contemporary fiction for New American Library (now Penguin Random House). My life was simple: I wrote books, lots of books. And then one day I heard about a new massively multiplayer online role playing game called World of Warcraft (WOW), and my life changed. Not only ...Read MoreRead more
Observe Mars in the night sky. Depending upon its distance from Earth, Mars varies in brightness and clarity— but it is always unique. No other celestial body reveals itself so red to the naked eye. Certainly, it is the color of roses and poppies and wine, but those comparisons are not what early stargazers had in mind when they referred to the Red Planet.
To them, it was the color ...Read MoreRead more
My gratitude and appreciation to Natalia Burianyk, Anastasia Rohoza, Natalie Kononenko, Christine Worobec, Rachel Cordasco and Svitlana Taratorina for their input and support. All misunderstandings and misinterpretations are mine.
In American Gods, Neil Gaiman has Mr. Wednesday say of Czernobog and his family, “They’re not Rom. They’re Russian. Slavs. I believe.” Why would they be confused with the very un-Slavic Rom (“gypsies”)? Why is Czernobog, more often associated with ...Read MoreRead more
The week before I got an offer on my debut novel, I made the decision to give up on it.
The Imaginary Corpse was a labor of love: a noir-flavored fantasy cobbled together from childhood memories, my experiences in therapy, and a million literary and ludological ancestors. Writing it felt right in a way that no other manuscript had before. I built this world in a matter of hours, the ...Read MoreRead more
At first glance you might think this topic is too comic-nerdy for you, but I promise there’s a universal theme that applies to any reader. Oh, and comic nerds? Spoiler alert.
For the uninitiated, Thor is a character from Marvel comics, created in 1962 by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby. The easiest thing to say about the origins is that Thor was inspired by Norse mythology by way ...Read MoreRead more
The best science fiction I have read this year came in a series of emails from the future.
The Training Commission is a collaboration between authors Ingrid Burrington and Brendan C. Byrne, produced with sponsorship from Mozilla. It’s an epistolary work, a fragmented narrative in the form of electronic correspondence from a character on the run in a near-future USA that is both familiar and incredibly strange. Rich with worldbuilding ...Read MoreRead more
All ideas come from somewhere. For me, a book really starts taking shape when I have three separate ideas that come together. These ideas come from all sorts of places, but at least one of them is almost always from another piece of art. For example, for one of my novels, I found a gorgeous picture on Deviant Art that filled my mind with possibilities, and brought my story in ...Read MoreRead more