Want to beta-read a short SF story?


I’m looking for a couple of beta-readers for a short SF story that’s about 7400 words. If you have time, I’d love to get your reader responses. Just drop your willingness into the comments here on my site and I’ll send the password along.

Here’s a teaser.

 Wary of Iguanas

by Mary Robinette Kowal

The iguana was probably some kid out for a joyride. A wetware patch covered nearly its full back in a web of gold and silicone. Tilda opened the window and leaned out to pluck the iguana off the branch. That was the thing about animals with amateur mind-riders — their instincts were slow.

She dropped the iguana into a carry-crate and threw a cloth over it. “No trespassing signs apply to anything with an intelligence on board, but I’ll drop your critter near a street sign.”

“Most people would euthanize the thing.” Helmut pulled a fresh wetware patch out of the fridge and opened the sterile packet. “You’re a softie.”

“It’s not the iguana’s fault his person is an idiot.” Still, given the nature of her contract with the German government, she couldn’t take the chance that it was a joyrider. Tilda carried the crate past the row of benches that dominated the saddle room and set it outside in the hall. “Go ahead and start calibrating and I’ll join you in a minute.”

My Favorite Bit: Arianne ‘Tex’ Thompson talks about ONE NIGHT IN SIXES

My Favorite Bit iconArianne ‘Tex’ Thompson is joining us today with her novel One Night in Sixes. Here’s the publisher’s description.

The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

And the daylight is running out. Elim’s so-called ‘partner’ – that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick – has disappeared inside the old adobe walls, hell-bent on making a name for himself among Sixes’ notorious black-market traders. Elim, whose worldly station is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn’t dare show up home without him.

If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner fast. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.

What’s Tex’s favorite bit?



At the time, doing a fantasy Western sounded dead easy.

“Right,” I thought.  “I’ll just rip the stuffing out of American history, shove it through a wormhole, and then mash whatever comes out the other side into a smooth supernatural paste – cowboys and Indians and fishmen and the whole nine yards.  Call of Cthulhu meets Howdy Doody.  It’ll be great!”

Seven years, eighteen gray hairs, and half a million words later…

Well, it was a mixed bag.  The research made me sweat.  The history made me cry.  But right from the beginning, the dialogue was a delight.  Because when you inflict a line like this on the world –

Here, go dish you up some of that pie.  They got apple raisin with calf slobbers on it, and it’s going quick.

– you not only thrust the reader face-first into what Mel Brooks once called “authentic frontier gibberish”, but effortlessly justify the hours you spent marathoning Deadwood episodes and wallowing in 19th century slang.  (Calf slobbers is meringue, by the way – and no, I didn’t make that up.)

But the dangerous thing about words is that if you ever stop to wonder where they come from, they will suck you in quicker than a UFO drive-by.  Like, how can you have a Western without using words like adobe, lasso, mustang, pueblo, stampede, or palomino?  They’re all derived from Spanish – so where in this secondary-world frontier fantasyland are all the Spanish-speaking people?

Well, all right – in our world, Spanish is a Romance language originally brought to the New World by the conquistadors.  In frontier fantasyland, the only seafaring humans are near the poles, because the temperate waters are dominated by fishmen, so… okay, maybe the Roman Empire was more of an AtlanteanEmpire.  Maybe that’s since broken up and spread out, so instead of (human) Frenchmen and Italians and Spaniards, we have the (aquatic) freshwater Emboucheaux, deepwater Taglienti, coastal Castamarín, and so on.

And granted, their languages won’t be the same as ours, because the people speaking them aren’t the same as ours.  Fishmen use sign language to communicate underwater, which would almost certainly have an effect on their spoken languages too, and they actually have neuter-sex individuals, so Latin’s grammatical neuter gender probably would have stuck around.  (This was the point where I realized I was in over my head, and threw up the bat-signal.  Jason Wells-Jensen heroically answered the call, and saved my speculative-linguistic bacon with no less than three constructed languages.)

But that is not all, said the Cat in the Hat – no, that is not all!  If the indigenous peoples of frontier fantasyland were first contacted by non-humans, that changes the equation considerably.  The fishmen aren’t mammals, so they don’t carry human/livestock diseases – so if they got to the New World first, there wouldn’t be huge, devastating epidemics paving the way for big conquests.  They probably couldn’t even penetrate the drier inland areas, water-bound as they are.  Which means they couldn’t just steamroll the locals – if they wanted to stick around, they’d have to figure out some way to co-exist.  So by the time the “guns, germs, and steel” Euro-Nordic humans from across the water finally do establish a toehold in Upper Canadia, the more southerly native populations will already have had generations of inter-species trade with the fishmen (who are probably acting as a natural disease barrier in whatever major river-systems they’ve worked their way into), and THAT means that when these cultures inevitably collide… well, suffice to say that Dances With Wolves, it ain’t.

“Dang, Tex,” you may be saying. “It’s called My Favorite Bit, not My Favorite Backstory Bloatfest.  What does any of this have to do with anything?”

Well, strange as it is to say it: my favorite bit is English.  I love how infinitely bendable and pliable it is.  I love how it’s the Katamari Damacy of languages, constantly growing and picking up new words as it rolls along.  I love how pulling a single thread of English through that wormhole to fantasyland ended up dragging linguistics in after it… and history… and biology… and culture… and then real actual people, like Jason, who have since become some of my best friends.

In the story, the language barriers between all these different people are a huge deal, with misunderstandings leading to fatal consequences.  But backstage, the roots and branches of my own everyday language have connected me with more ideas and people than I ever would have found otherwise – and the book and I are both enormously improved because of it.



Barnes & Noble




Arianne “Tex” Thompson is a home-grown Texas success story.  A relentless fantasy enthusiast dual-wielding a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in literature, Tex has since channeled her interests into an epic fantasy Western series, kicking off July 2014 with the release of ONE NIGHT IN SIXES.   She is also an active member of SFWA, Codex, and Novelocity, and currently serves as editor for the DFW Writers Conference.  Find her online at and on Twitter as @tex_maam!

Wanted for consultation: Native Igbo speaker

In the latest Glamourist History book, I have a discussion of glamour in different parts of the globe. One of the participants is a native Igbo speaker. Although she’s speaking in English during the conversation, I have a couple of phrases where she uses her own terms rather than the European ones. I’m looking for someone who speaks Igbo to look at the terms I came up with. I took an online tutorial, but that’s only going to get me so far.

I’m worried that I’ve come up with a term that’s a) a real word or b) slang for questionable activities.

There are around a dozen words to look at and I can offer a $50 honorarium for doing so.

EDITED TO ADD: Thank you so much. I was able to work with someone to translate those terms.

My Favorite Bit: Kameron Hurley talks about THE MIRROR EMPIRE

My Favorite Bit iconKameron Hurley is joining us today with her novel The Mirror Empire. Here’s the publisher’s description.

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

What’s Kameron’s favorite bit?



My Favorite Bit: These Aren’t Your Typical Ents

When my epic fantasy novel The Mirror Empire was making the rounds, looking for a publisher, I found myself overcome with a desire to build dangerous terrariums. I’d spent the last nine months writing about flesh-eating plants, and terrarium building seemed like a good creative outlet that wasn’t writing. It turns out, as many already know, that nurturing carnivorous plants is trickier than it looks. Despite care with filtered water and non-enriched soil, I watched my pitcher plants and Venus fly traps shrivel and die.

I was reminded of this vision of death when my first round of structural edits came back on The Mirror Empire after it found a home at Angry Robot Books. My editor had highlighted my favorite chapter of the whole book, the one where the reader finally gets a look at the semi-sentient trees I’ve been foreshadowing throughout the narrative, and said that though the chapter was “entertaining-ish” it really didn’t add much to the story, and perhaps I should consider shortening or cutting it.

A bolt of cold terror cut through me. I starred at my favorite chapter, where the non-magically-gifted head of the militia outsmarts a gifted assassin by exploiting her knowledge of the herds of sentient trees that roam the woodland. I loved that chapter to pieces. I loved the pacing, the character moments, the horror, the weirdness, and of course – the bizarre trees that snarl up the dead from the ground and deposit them into these big pitcher-like growths swinging from their crowns, to be devoured and digested in delicious plant juices.

If this was what my editor thought of my favorite chapter, I thought – how bad was the rest of the book?

I’ve told my agent and others that I work best under deadlines. The adrenaline of a deadline helps me focus and prepare my best work. It turns out there’s another way to give me a spike of adrenaline: the fear that the book I’m about to send out the door and have book bloggers and colleagues review is a piece of crap.

It doesn’t matter how many books I write: the fear is still there. The fear that somehow, this one is the crappy one.

That editorial note freaked me out, and I attacked the book with new vigor.

I loved my evil sentient trees. I loved my witty militia-leading heroine. I was not going to cut them. So I needed to make them – and all the events leading up to them – crisper, tighter, more interesting. I needed to justify this chapter.

I ended up cutting about 10,000 words from the manuscript, and completely reimagining several plot lines. I gave my characters more personal stakes instead of just concentrating on the overall story stakes. I kicked at my dialogue and my character relationships and turned a rather messy book with some good ideas into a more succinctly plotted and powerful book.

On the downside, I’d already send out the first version of the book to other authors for blurbs. I still wince at that. On the upside, I kicked the book into shape, all because I wasn’t going to lose those damn semi-sentient trees.

An editor’s job isn’t so much to be prescriptive: I think a lot of writers outside the publishing game think you have to do what editors say all the time, or that they rewrite your books for you. But great editors simply point to problems. They tell you where things are lagging, where you lost them. They make suggestions. If, like me, the suggestion is to cut out your favorite part of the book, you need to sit down and take stock of exactly what that means. Does it really mean cut it out, or does it mean you didn’t do a good enough job justifying it being there?

It’s often harder to go back and fix everything that came before than it is to just cut the chapter. A writer who got that edit who thought editing was prescriptive might have just cut the chapter and moved on. But I’m not that kind of writer. I’m here to write the best book possible.

So it should surprise no one that I’m trying again to raise those carnivorous plants in terrariums, now. I’m taking what I learned from last time and giving it another go, because failure doesn’t mean you give up. Failure means you work to get better. Failure means you’re on to something great. You just need to put in the work to transform a failure into a pitcher plant.

A really big one. With sharp, nasty teeth.


Kameron Hurley


Barnes & Noble


Read an excerpt on


Kameron Hurley is the author of The Mirror Empire, as well as the award-winning God’s War Trilogy, comprising the books God’s WarInfidel, and Rapture. She has won the Hugo Award, Kitschy Award, and Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer. Hurley has also been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award, BFS Award, and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed MagazineYear’s Best SFEscapePodThe Lowest Heaven, and the upcoming Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women.

My Hugo acceptance speech plus thoughts on what it’s like to be given one.

I am slightly calmer now, although I do keep looking over at the Hugo to make certain it is real.  There are three questions people kept asking me after the Hugos.

  1. Who did your hair? – Dolly and Rhonda who were amazing and wonderful.
  2. Did you write the lyrics to the Retro Hugos song? – No. Those were written by the very clever Mark Osier and sung to the tune of “Anything Goes.”
  3. What does it feel like to win a Hugo? – I grew up reading Hugo award winning work. I mean, I’d pick things out specifically because of that and still do. These people seemed like they were in a sort of heroic pantheon, so the idea that I have a story in that group? It’s sort of baffling and overwhelming. If I think about it too much, I get a little teary.

Here. You can listen to my voice shaking in my acceptance speech.

And a transcript… plus one bit in brackets that I forgot because I left my speech in my reticule.

I had actually just said, “I’m calling it for Aliette. But it might be Ted.” That I was not expecting, thank you all very much.

I’d like to thank Ellen Klages, who let me read the story out loud to her on a long drive to WisCon. I want to thank my Dad, who used to work in programming at IBM back in the punchcard days, and inspired me to write a punchcard punk universe. I want to thank Mike Fink, the astronaut who let me ask him questions. ( Astronaut! Oh my god!) And Gardner Dozois for asking me to write him a story. [Thank you to Patrick Nielsen Hayden who ran the story on]

And I also want to thank my grandmother, who is– who passed away in March at the age of 109, (I know, a hundred and nine!) whotaught me about aging gracefully and that 65 is not old. 70 is not old. 80 is not old. And even when you are old, you can still be wonderful and powerful.

Thank you all very much.

2014 Hugo for best noveletteMany, many thanks.

After the awards, John Chu, Aidan Moher, and I went over to the fan village to circulate. When I won my first Hugo (and I love that sentence. Ee!) John Scalzi took me around to the fan parties, rather than going to the Hugo Losers’ party.  This year it was called the Hugo Nominees party, but I still think that the tradition of the winners going among the fan parties is an important one. Sure, it gives the other finalists time to commiserate and look at the stats, but — and I think this is more important — it gives the people who actually voted for the awards a chance to see the thing and hold it.

I mean, the Hugo awards are by and for the fans. It only seems sensible to let them share in the joy of that night. I remember what it was like to read those works, before I was writing. I remember the first time I saw a Hugo live and in person (At Ursula K. Le Guin’s house — OMG!!!! So name-dropping but also so much squee there) and the sort of awe it gave me, even though I totally understand the popularity aspect and that it’s technically just a hunk of metal. (A very, very pretty hunk of metal and, in my case, glass)

But here’s the thing — we joke about “It’s an honour just to be nominated,” which is totally true. There are a lot of stories in any given year and to be noticed by a significant enough number of readers to make the ballot– that’s an honour. To be given a Hugo is amazing. So I take the award out with me to let folks see the tangible representation of the very great honour they have given me.

Because that’s what an award is. It’s not a hunk of glass or metal, it’s a tangible representation of the fact that a given work has made a connection with readers. And that connection? That is all any writer wants.

So thank you again, and again for the honour.

And the very pretty tangible award, which is totally going on my mantle because OMG rocket.

History is repeating in Ferguson – Here, have some sources.

anti-Negro propagandaIn May of 1919, W. E. B. Du Bois published an essay called, “Returning Soldiers.”

We return from the slavery of uniform which the world’s madness demanded us to don to the freedom of civil garb. We stand again to look America squarely in the face and call a spade a spade. We sing: This country of ours, despite all its better souls have done and dreamed, is yet a shameful land….

We return.

We return from fighting.

We return fighting.

He wrote it because of the racially motivated riots that swept the country in the summer of 1919, which became known as The Red Summer. These were cases of whites attacking blacks, while claiming to be protecting themselves.  They would fabricate stories of white women being attacked, or attack thirteen year old boys.

I know about this and the Atlanta Race Riot and Brownsville Affair of 1906, and the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, and The Colfax massacre and the Hamburg Massacre of 1876 and scores of other cases, because I was doing research for a book. Not because it was taught in schools.

And this history of our country should be taught, because we’re repeating it right now in Ferguson. Anyone who says that this situation is unprecedented isn’t paying attention.

How to watch the Retro Hugos tonight, + my WorldCon schedule

A peek at my Retro Hugos dress and shoe. Ready for 1939? #LonConTonight at 8:00pm in London, I’ll be hosting the Retro Hugos with Robert Shearman. There’s an opening number. A 12 piece band. Sound effects. And a dress based on one from 1939.

You can watch the entire thing streaming at

I am spending most of today in rehearsal until my hair and makeup team arrives. La!

Meanwhile, at the rest of WorldCon, here’s where to find me.


10:00 – 11:00, Panel: The Deeper the Roots, the Stronger the Tree, Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL), with: Abigail Sutherland (M), Zen Cho, Mary Robinette Kowal, Adam Roberts, Kari Sperring
13:30 – 14:30, Autographing 8 – Mary Robinette Kowal, Autographing Space (ExCeL) – Please note: this is opposite the Regency Dance, so I am planning on leaving early so I can head over there.

18:00 – 19:00, Panel: Writing Costume and Clothing in Fiction, London Suite 2 (ExCeL), with: Mary Robinette Kowal (M), Aurora Celeste, Gail Carriger


08:00, SFWA Meeting ?

13:00 – 13:30, Reading: Mary Robinette Kowal, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)

18:00 – 19:00, Panel: Full Spectrum Fantasy, Capital Suite 8+11 (ExCeL), with: Max Gladstone, Jennifer Stevenson, Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Amal El-Mohtar, Mary Robinette Kowal


16:00 – 17:00, Literary Beer, The Bar (ExCeL)

20:00, Hugo Awards

And now I’m off to rehearse.

My Favorite Bit: E. Catherine Tobler talks about RINGS OF ANUBIS

My Favorite Bit icon

E. Catherine Tobler is joining us today with her novel The Rings of Anubis. Here’s the publisher’s description.

As the nineteenth century turns into the twentieth, the world looks to a future of revolutionary science and extraordinary machines. Archaeologist Eleanor Folley looks back to Egypt’s ancient mysteries and her mother’s inexplicable, haunting disappearance. Agent Virgil Mallory, a man with ghosts and monsters of his own, brings evidence of a crime, taking them both on a thrilling adventure that carries them from Paris to Egypt, and from the present to the ancient past. Uncovering the truth exposes a dangerous game of life, death, and uncanny powers!

What’s E. Catherine’s favorite bit?



As I write this, there is a great discussion about how game developer Ubisoft couldn’t possibly include playable women in the newest Assassin’s Creed. “It’s double the animations, double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” said Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio. “It’s not like we could cut our main character, so the only logical option, the only option we had was to cut the female avatar.” ( “The history of the American Revolution is the history of men,” said Ubisoft’s Creative Director Alex Hutchinson in 2012.

And it seems not much is changing. More and more, it feels like women are being excised from stories, games, and history. We are told on a daily basis that our contributions don’t matter, told that wars are the concerns and history of men, not women. “Let me point out that women never affected the world directly,” Isaac Asimov said in his youth (

Eleanor Folley would beg to differ.

In Rings of Anubis, I set out to have an active protagonist, whose gender didn’t get in the way of whatever she wanted to do. Eleanor Folley knows quite well that what she likes best (archaeology, exploration, and adventure) has set her at odds with how a staid, 19th-century society believes she should behave. Every day, she tells society to go hang itself.

Eleanor Folley was not a lady–leastwise not a lady polite society would acknowledge as one of its own. She was reminded of this as the cloaked riders came out of the desert and she trained her revolvers on them. Her arms were steady, her stance the same, even if she looked like she belonged in the circus Mallory had mentioned. Wrapped in nightclothes and bed linens, her hair all aflunters, the circus could be the only proper society for her.

The horses were something out of a nightmare for Eleanor, the familiar sound of creatures bound in clockwork. Metal hooves struck the ground with a ceaseless fury. Eleanor concentrated on one target, but noted the rider carried only a spear. She looked at another to see he had but a sling. While the men held their weapons aloft, they made no move to use them.

She eased her fingers off the triggers and pointed her revolvers to the sky, walking slowly backward as the riders closed around them. Mallory did the same, and they now stood with backs braced together. Auberon and Cleo traced a circle around them, keeping the mechanical horses at bay with raised rifles.

Eleanor Folley isn’t about to let the world tell her she will never affect it directly without having something loud to say about that. Eleanor Folley isn’t about to think war is solely the realm of men–the history of men. She might be wrapped in nightclothes, she may have lost her boots, but by gum, she will not be overrun by her nightmares.

In Rings of Anubis, Eleanor sets out to uncover the truth of what happened the day her mother disappeared during an archaeological dig. Along the way, she discovers the life and history of Queen Hatshepsut, one of the most powerful women Egypt has ever known, and dares to believe that her mother may be connected to the queen and the great dark god Anubis.

History is not the realm of men alone. We need to dispel the world of this notion, and that’s why this is my favorite bit of Rings of Anubis.







E. Catherine Tobler’s fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her first novel, Rings of Anubis, is now available. Follow her on Twitter @ECthetwit or her website,

My Favorite Bit: Julia Rios talks about KALEIDOSCOPE

My Favorite Bit iconJulia Rios is joining us today with her new anthology, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Sicence Fiction and Fantasy Stories. Here’s the publisher’s description.

What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgender animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories!

Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices:

Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar

What’s Julia’s favorite bit?



Asking an editor to choose a favorite story from an anthology is sort of like asking parents to choose favorite children. They’re all brilliant, and brilliantly diverse, so comparing them to each other isn’t really fair. Given that, I had to go to a more meta level to find my Favorite Bit.

One of the joys of seeing how this book came together was discovering all the different forms a story might take. In addition to the expected straight up narratives, Kaleidoscope stories come in the shape of diaries (“Vanilla” by Dirk Flinthart), transcripts of police reports and phone calls (“The Lovely Duckling” by Tim Susman), and my personal favorite non-standard format: the research paper homework assignment.

Photo of Sofia Samatar’s story in Kaleidoscope Transcript: Walkdog / Sofia Samatar 1. Brief Description What is Walkdog? Well Mrs. Patterson you probably know better than me. However, I am writing this paper and not you, because I need the grade as you know very well, so here is what I know.  Walkdog contrary to it’s name is not a dog. It is more like a beaver or large rat. It lives mostly in sewers, but also creeks and rivers. It is nocturnel and believed to eat fish and also, excuse me, excrament.

Photo of Sofia Samatar’s story in Kaleidoscope Transcript: Walkdog / Sofia Samatar 1. Brief Description What is Walkdog? Well Mrs. Patterson you probably know better than me. However, I am writing this paper and not you, because I need the grade as you know very well, so here is what I know. Walkdog contrary to it’s name is not a dog. It is more like a beaver or large rat. It lives mostly in sewers, but also creeks and rivers. It is nocturnel and believed to eat fish and also, excuse me, excrament.

When Sofia Samatar turned in a paper by a student named Yolanda (complete with section headings, footnotes, and copious misspellings), I instantly fell in love. I thought, “Yes! This is a person who remembers being in school, being clever and lonely, and using homework as a dialogue with the teacher.” I was such a student, and I couldn’t help being drawn in by Yolanda’s voice because it felt so true. It turns out this is probably because Sofia was a bit like Yolanda and me when she was younger. Here’s a note she sent her teacher to excuse her paper’s tardiness back in her own school days:

Photo of a handwritten note from Sofia Samater to one of her teachers Transcript: MR. DIETZEL: As you no doubt expected, this paper comes with a written statement to excuse the heinous tardiness. My excuse is the fact that I change my topic in the middle of writing another (much, much worse) paper because I did not have enough to say on the subject to get the required number of words. This caused considerable and frantic plunging into literary sources to find another topic, and by the time I got it written and proofread by a peer, it was today. Also, over the weekend and on Monday, I was deathly ill. Please understand. Your Student, Sofia Samatar— No better at getting things done early than yourself. (teacher’s note in response)What can I say? ?

Photo of a handwritten note from Sofia Samater to one of her teachers
Transcript: MR. DIETZEL:
As you no doubt expected, this paper comes with a written statement to excuse the heinous tardiness. My excuse is the fact that I change my topic in the middle of writing another (much, much worse) paper because I did not have enough to say on the subject to get the required number of words. This caused considerable and frantic plunging into literary sources to find another topic, and by the time I got it written and proofread by a peer, it was today. Also, over the weekend and on Monday, I was deathly ill. Please understand.
Your Student,
Sofia Samatar—
No better at getting things done early than yourself.
(teacher’s note in response)What can I say? ?

Yolanda is not quite as clever and polished as young Sofia was. She makes a lot of grammatical and spelling errors, and she slips into personal stuff a lot more often than a student writing a research paper should. But there’s a kind of magic to this story because it makes the reader really believe in that research paper. This is something we found evident when we got our proofreader’s notes.

Our proofreader was wonderful. She caught all kinds of mistakes that slipped past both the authors and the editors. I feel just a little bit bad about not having thought to warn her in advance about what exactly she was going to see when she proofed Sofia’s story, though.

You see,our proofreader is a teacher.

Her notes on this story started by pointing out all the incorrect apostrophes and misspelled words, while noting that she thought this might be intentional. Somewhere along the way, though, she started looking at the story as a paper, and looking at it through a teacher’s grading lens. I don’t think Yolanda would have gotten a very good grade.

Screenshot of proofreader’s comment Transcript: Comment [36]: this footnote seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the ‘assignment’ – even with the ‘padding’ which constitutes the major part of it.

Screenshot of proofreader’s comment
Transcript: Comment [36]: this footnote seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the ‘assignment’ – even with the ‘padding’ which constitutes the major part of it.

While many of the stories in Kaleidoscope are likely to be crowd pleasers, I think “Walkdog” might be one of the more divisive ones in the anthology. People are likely to love it or hate. I fall on the love side of the divide because beyond the clever formatting is a funny, sweet, and heartbreaking story. But in addition to all of that, I will forever cherish the bits of ephemera associated with it.


The book on the publisher’s website:

The Kaleidoscope blog:


Julia Rios is a Hugo nominated fiction editor at the online magazine, Strange Horizons. She’s also the co-editor with Alisa Krasnostein of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and with Saira Ali of In Other Words, an anthology of poems and flash fiction by writers of color. When not editing, she writes, podcasts, and occasionally narrates audio stories and poems. She’s half-Mexican, but her (fairly dreadful) French is better than her Spanish.

Anyone know a hairdresser in London who can make my hair do this…?

For the Retro Hugos ceremony, I’m wearing a dress based on one from 1939, the year of the first WorldCon. I want hair to match so… Do you know a hairdresser in London who would be available on Thursday 14 August to come to the con (ExCel, London Docklands) and put my hair up? Something like this?

1939 hair

I have chin length hair, but have human hair clip-in extensions that are a good match. And a bajillion bobby pins. I just am unlikely to be able to get away to have it done with the rehearsals. And yes, this is a paying gig.

EDITED TO ADD: Thanks for all the leads! I’ve booked the stylists for the evening. So Fancy!

Avoiding the paper-cut — Using language that matches the culture

I’m in the process of doing the language check on Of Noble Family, and have a little joke that I’m in the process of reworking. I thought that you’d like to see why I pay attention to language.

Jane worked the button free and felt a certain subtle shift in Vincent’s posture. “And attend to my husband’s needs, of course.”
He cleared his throat. “Is that safe?”
Jane undid another button. “His papers and correspondence? I shall endeavour to avoid a paper-cut at all costs.”

The problem is the paper cut. So far as I can tell, it’s not a concept in 1818. I suspect that this is because, with the way paper was made then, you didn’t have the sort of edges or paper to cause it. So… what to replace with? I started looking at the other things associated with correspondence in the day.

Slip with the pen-knife? No, that would actually be dangerous.

Burn with the sealing wax? Again. Dangerous and hence not funny

Something with the quill– Oh, oh, yes.

Jane worked the button free and felt a certain subtle shift in Vincent’s posture. “And attend to my husband’s needs, of course.”
He cleared his throat. “Is that safe?”
Jane undid another button. “His papers and correspondence? I shall be certain to take care when sharpening his quill.”

This is a better joke, and I got to it because I’m using language that reflects the culture. Doing so also forces me to really think about what is happening in the scene, and what the lives of people in the time would be like.

Just to be clear, because this always happens when I post one of these. When I do these vocabulary swaps, I don’t go for words that are meaningless to modern readers. If you think, “My! That’s authentic” it will pop you out the story every bit as much as an anachronism. But when writing in 1818, there are plenty of period appropriate synonyms that work for modern readers. And when there’s not a synonym? Well, that shows me a concept that doesn’t exist in the period yet. And maybe I should take another look at that section of the text.

Why I’m excited about UNCANNY MAGAZINE

The short form of this post is that you should go back Uncanny Magazine on Kickstarter.

The long form is that I’m seriously excited about Uncanny, a new magazine created by Lynne and Michael Thomas. For full disclosure, Lynne and Michael are some of my dearest friends, so I am not unbiased in my excitement about the magazine. Now, part of the reason that I adore them is because they are smart, love the SFF genre, and are darn good editors. Have you seen the Hugos at their house?

Point being that when Lynne and Michael said that they were starting a new magazine, I knew that it would be filled with the sort of fiction I like to read. It would also be a magazine that was run by people who are aware of and involved in the conversations that our industry is going through right now, which means not only good stories but essays that are relevant.

Doesn’t that sound nice? SFF stories from around the world, diverse voices, understanding of gender, disability, race — or, to put it another way, Kick ass SFF for the twenty-first century.

Also, a space unicorn.

Oh, and I have a story in the first year.

Check out some of the other contributors.

We plan to showcase original poetry by

… and essays by

Uncanny will also feature cover art by

The rewards are pretty cool as well. For instance… for $300, you get a guaranteed spot in one of my short story intensives. You know, the ones that sell out in less than a minute?

Now, please go back Uncanny on Kickstarter.

My Favorite Bit: Anna Kashina talks about THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS

My Favorite Bit iconAnna Kashina is joining us today with her novel The Guild of Assassins. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Kara has achieved something that no Majat has ever managed – freedom from the Guild!

But the Black Diamond assassin Mai has been called back to face his punishment for sparing her life. Determined to join his fight or share his punishment, Kara finds herself falling for Mai.

But is their relationship – and the force that makes their union all-powerful – a tool to defeat the overpowering forces of the Kaddim armies, or a distraction sure to cause the downfall of the Majat?

What’s Anna’s favorite bit?



Thank you for hosting my post. It feels so rewarding to be able to talk about my favorite bit, since in “The Guild of Assassins” my favorite bit is the entire book. Seriously.

Its prequel, “Blades of the Old Empire”, was originally written as a standalone, but one important plot point remained open: what will happen to Kara after she had become an outcast from her Guild? (I hope I am not giving any spoilers here, since this spoiler is already partially given in the cover blurb.) In addition, despite the way love interests resolve in the “Blades”, I kept thinking there was more to it. Which was why, despite thoroughly wrapping up all the major plot lines in the “Blades” I continued thinking about things that may or may not happen beyond the scope of the book.

Some of the scenes in “The Guild of Assassins” were written long before I finished its prequel. At certain points, when writing the “Blades” I simply had to follow up on some of the tensions by playing them out to the end and developing possible future interactions between certain characters, which absolutely had no place in the story. I was not sure this was actually going to happen in these character’s future, but I just had to see how it plays out, so I wrote those scenes down. Over time, they naturally fell into a certain order. By the time I finished the “Blades” I was surprised to realize that I have unintentionally created an outline and a backbone draft of its sequel, and that if I chose to use all of these scenes in a later novel, all I needed to do was to fill in what happened in between. At that time, I had no publication plans for these books, so I set them aside and tried to ignore the regret I felt when I thought about it.

When Angry Robot offered me a 2-book contract, my main thrill (after the initial one, of becoming a traditionally published agented author) was about the fact that I will actually get to write the book I had been dreaming about. I still was not sure how all the events in the book would work out, but I just could not wait to sit down and put it all on paper–and see. I was so inspired that I finished the first draft of “The Guild of Assassins” in less than a month, and even though I did considerably edit it afterwards, the frame of the story and many of the key scenes remained the same.

Writing “The Guild of Assassins” felt exactly like being in love. I wrote at every possible spare moment, words forming in my head as if they already existed somewhere and just waited to be written down. I think, with this novel, I have experienced the essence of why I always wanted to be a writer. Nothing compares to this feeling, when the world you imagined effortlessly falls into place, when the characters behave like real people, and you can spend all the time you need interacting with them while also being the one calling the shots.

As with the “Blades”, one of my favorite characters, the one that drove the story, was Mai. He is a joy to write about. In fact, he always acts on his own and all I have to do is write down what he does. When approaching a dialogue with Mai in it, I always felt curious at what he was going to say, and was often surprised at his responses and actions. For certain, none of it ever felt dull or predictable. He is at his best when driven to the limits, and he also has great chemistry with nearly everyone he encounters, positive or negative. One of my favorite chapters in the book is called “Diplomacy”, where Mai and Kyth talk behind closed doors and get to say everything they think about each other. Writing it was so much fun.

I saw some of the early reviewers describe “The Guild of Assassins” as purely character-driven. For me, this was definitely true. Watching the characters’ interactions, the way the chemistry develops between them, was my favorite bit.



Anna Kashina grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1994 after receiving her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She works as a biomedical researcher and combines career in science with her passion for writing. Anna’s interests in ballroom dancing, world mythologies and folklore feed her high-level interest in martial arts of the Majat warriors.