Sunday, February 7, 2021

Celebrating BIPOC Creatives

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Promo for BIPOC Artists, Authors, and other Creatives.

I always hesitate to pick one person to talk up, or even a few, because there are so many wonderful BIPOC creators out there. So, instead of feeding you a fish, I'm going to show you a river full of fish. (I assume you know how to fish!) Keep in mind this is one river among many, but it's a good one. And I'm particularly proud because SFWA had a small part in helping this happen. (As in, we handed over money and these amazing people did all the heavy lifting.)

In fall of 2020, the first every FIYAHCON happened. It's a conference for BIPOC in speculative fiction. They deftly proved that not only can BIPOC creatives be found to staff conference panels, they made an entire convention of these sparklingly creative people. 

And they inaugurated the IGNYTE Awards. The Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre. I encourage you to check out all the nominees in this wide array of media. Follow the link for more information, but here's the list below. Go forth and feast!

Best Novel – Adult

for novel-length (40k+ words) works intended for the adult audience

The Dragon Republic – R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)

WINNER | Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)

Jade War – Fonda Lee (Orbit)

Storm of Locusts – Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga Press)

Kingdom of Copper – S. A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)

Best Novel – YA

for novel-length (40k+ words) works intended for the young adult audience

Pet – Akwaeke Emezi (Make Me a World/PRH Children’s Books)

Everlasting Rose – Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform)

Slay – Brittney Morris (Simon Pulse)

War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi (Razorbill)

WINNER | We Hunt the Flame – Hafsah Faizal (FSG BYR)*

*BYR: “Books for Young Readers”

Best in MG

for works intended for the middle grade audience

WINNER | Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky – Kwame Mbalia (Disney Hyperion)

Just South of Home – Karen Strong (S&S BYR)*

The Mystwick School of Musicraft – Jessica Khoury (Audible/HMH BYR)* **

Other Words for Home – Jasmine Warga (HarperCollins)

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe – Carlos Hernandez (Disney Hyperion)

*BYR: “Books for Young Readers”

** audiobook released in 2019

Best Novella

for speculative works ranging from 17,500-39,999 words

The Deep – Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes (Gallery/Saga Press)

The Survival of Molly Southbourne – Tade Thompson (Tor/Forge (

The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday – Saad Z. Hossain (Tor/Forge (

WINNER | This is How You Lose the Time War – Max Gladstone & Amal El-Mohtar (Gallery/Saga Press)

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djèlí Clark (Tor/Forge (

Best Novelette

for speculative works ranging from 7,500-17,499 words

WINNER | Emergency Skin – N K Jemisin for the Amazon Forward Collection

While Dragons Claim the Sky – Jen Brown for FIYAH Literary Magazine

Circus Girl, The Hunter, and Mirror Boy – JY Neon Yang for

The Archronology of Love – Caroline M. Yoachim for Lightspeed

Omphalos – Ted Chiang for Exhalation: Stories

Best Short Story

for speculative works ranging from 2,000-7,499 words

Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island – Nibedita Sen for Nightmare Magazine

Dune Song – Suyi Davies Okungbowa for Apex Magazine

And Now His Lordship is Laughing – Shiv Ramdas for Strange Horizons

Canst Thou Draw Out the Leviathan – Christopher Caldwell for Uncanny Magazine

WINNER | A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy – Rebecca Roanhorse for Mythic Dream

Best in Speculative Poetry

Heaven is Expensive – Ruben Reyes, Jr. for Strange Horizons

Elegy for the Self as Villeneuve’s Beast – Brandon O’Brien for Uncanny Magazine

WINNER | A Conversation Between the Embalmed Heads of Lampião and Maria Bonita on Public Display at the Baiano State Forensic Institute, Circa Mid-20th Century – Woody Dismukes for Strange Horizons

Those Who Tell the Stories – Davian Aw for Strange Horizons

goddess in forced repose – Tamara Jerée for Uncanny Magazine

Critics Award

for reviews and analysis of the field of speculative literature

Jesse – Bowties & Books

Charles Payseur – Quick Sip Reviews

Maria Haskins

WINNER | Alex Brown –

Liz Bourke

Best Fiction Podcast

for excellence in audio performance and production for speculative fiction

PodCastle – Editors Jen R. Albert, Cherae Clark, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, Host + Assistant Editor Setsu Uzume, & Audio Producer Peter Adrian Behravesh

Nightlight Podcast – Tonia Ransom

WINNER | LeVar Burton Reads – LeVar Burton, Julia Smith, Adam Deibert, Brendan Byrnes, Mischa Stanton, Kristen Torres, Jenny Radelet, Josephine Martorana, Chris Bannon

Beneath Ceaseless Skies – Editor Scott H. Andrews

Obsidian Podcast – Co-Creators, Producers, and Writers Adetola Abdulkadir & Safiyah Cheatam

Best Artist

for contributions in visual speculative storytelling

Geneva Bowers

Nilah Magruder

WINNER | Grace P. Fong

John Picacio

Paul Lewin

Best Comics Team

for comics, graphic novels, and sequential storytelling

WINNER | These Savage Shores – Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, Aditya Bidikar, & Tim Daniel

Blackbird Vol. 1 – Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, & Triona Farrell

Excellence – Khary Randolph, Brandon Thomas, Emilio Lopez, & Deron Bennett

Coda – Simon Spurrier, Matías Bergara, Michael Doig, Jim Campbell, & Colin Bell

Bitter Root – David F Walker, Chuck Brown, & Sanford Greene

Best Anthology/Collected Works

The Mythic Dream – Editors Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Fiction in Translation – Editor, Translator Ken Liu

WINNER | New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color – Editor Nisi Shawl

This Place: 150 Years Retold – Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowel | illustrated by Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, Jen Storm | colour by Scott A. Ford, Donovan Yaciuk

A People’s Future of the United States – Victor LaValle & John Joseph Adams

Best in Creative Nonfiction

for works related to the field of speculative fiction

AfroSurrealism: The African Diaspora’s Surrealist Fiction – Rochelle Spencer (Routledge)

The Dark Fantastic – Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (NYU Press)

WINNER | Black Horror Rising – Tananarive Due (Uncanny Magazine)

Our Opinions are Correct – Charlie Jane Anders & Annalee Newitz

Tongue-Tied: A Catalog of Losses – Layla Al-Bedawi (Fireside Fiction)

The Ember Award

for unsung contributions to genre

Tananarive Due

WINNER | LeVar Burton

Keidra Chaney

Nisi Shawl

Malon Edwards

The Community Award

for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre

Beth Phelan

Mary Robinette Kowal

Diana M. Pho

Writing The Other – Nisi Shawl + K Tempest Bradford

WINNER | Strange Horizons – Gautam Bhatia, Vajra Chandrasekera, Joyce Chng, Kate Cowan, Tahlia Day, William Ellwood, Rebecca Evans, Ciro Faienza, Lila Garrott, Dan Hartland, Amanda Jean, Lulu Kadhim, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Catherine Krahe, Anaea Lay, Dante Luiz, Heather McDougal, AJ Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Clark Seanor, Romie Stott, Aishwarya Subramanian, Fred G. Yost, and the SH copyediting team and first readers

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Writing in the Time of Covid-19

9/11 Memorial Site NYC
I’ve read one novel centered around the 9/11 tragedy. I’ve watched one movie about it as well. Both stories had other plot threads, but the Twin Towers attack filled the background, enough to be the painful reminder I suppose it was meant to be. I remember that day so clearly, sitting with my little girl, watching in disbelief as the disaster unfolded on a television screen. It was traumatic, and when I visited Ground Zero in 2019, all those emotions I felt so many years ago bubbled to my surface, raw and fresh.

I’d expected to be affected, but as tears welled behind my sunglasses, I felt sick and lightheaded. Hollowed out. So many young people roamed around the memorial laughing and smiling because they didn’t live through that day. The significance seemed lost on them. While part of me felt saddened that they may never grasp the horrors of 9/11 and how that day changed much of how we all went about life, another part of me felt relief that they didn’t own such a grim memory. The changes we watched happen have always been their norm. Standing there, I realized I was watching the effects of time on our world’s awareness and reality.

Covid is a different beast, an ongoing tragedy not pinned to one specific day in our past, and for most, this is certainly a time we will never forget. But, there are children who are too young to understand how much the world they could have known has transformed. One day, people will look at a memorial to those we’ve lost in this pandemic, and it won’t hold the same significance that it does for the rest of us. This, again, is the nature of time as our present becomes history.

So how do we make certain that people of the future know what we went through? How do we make sure they understand the impact on our lives, so that they might do or know better? Old newspaper articles and internet chronicles will float around, of course, and the events will be documented in history books. Other non-fiction texts will become references for research papers and book reports.

But what about fiction?

Fiction has always mimicked real life, and it has always endured and educated. Storytelling is the language of our ancestors, after all. It’s the vehicle for passing down legends, myths, folklore—and real-life lessons and experiences. Even though I can’t say I want to read Covid-19 fiction any time soon, I can say that telling writers they shouldn’t write about this awful point in time would be a mistake. However, my advice to anyone tackling that mountain is: Be wise and tread lightly.

As an editor, I would be quicker to lend an eye to an emotional story about how the pandemic has altered our connection to the world rather than a story focused on the virus and the horrors brought about in its wake. I’m still living through all of this, still thinking about old friends who lost their lives, still worried about my loved ones contracting a virus that could take them from me. Reading is my escape. It isn’t an escape if I pick up a book that carries me back to the fears I’m trying to avoid. But a book that resonates because it provides a lesson about humanity? That, I might be able to do, and so might others.

This is why I enjoy dystopian novels. Granted, I prefer witches and magicians, romance and happy endings, but dystopian is one of the genres outside of those realms that I love to venture into. Dystopian fiction teaches us about ourselves and reveals deeper truths about the (often faulty) constructs of our society, as well as becoming literary think-pieces on the future. Experiencing the last year has been a lot like walking inside a dystopian dream, from quarantines and lockdowns to corrupt government failures to an ever-changing landscape of life. I remember thinking that I never imagined living through times like these, and yet I have and I am. That gives me, as a storyteller, a unique perspective, as it does every writer alive right now. Whether we choose to infuse this experience into our fiction is up to us.

My hope is that writers handle any Covid-19 story inspiration with a delicate touch and much respect for their readers. I also hope that—even in this time of difficulty and change—writers are able to nurture their creativity and write about something, because the world needs stories. It needs feel-good tales and scary science fiction, colorful Regency romance and gritty vampire fantasy.

If a writer so desires, any of these stories can resonate with the times we’re living through. Over the last year, we’ve endured personal, emotional, and physical struggles, witnessed more bizarre events than I can count, and watched while our government let people die. We’ve also witnessed acts of heroism, kindness, perseverance, ingenuity, and triumph. All of the above can manifest through our fiction in ways that don’t perfectly mirror our current reality, allowing us to reach readers on planes they feel safe to explore.

This is literary alchemy, the writer’s gift of transmuting life into fiction. We are one-day ancestors, leaving behind stories for those who come after us.

We just have to write.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Put It In

What do you know about cholera? Or what came to be called the Spanish flu? How about yellow fever? Or Bubonic Plague (outside of your world history class)? Let's go with what these all have in common. 

What they all have in common is that they show up in the fiction of and representing their times. If you know much about yellow fever, it's likely you gleaned at least some of that knowledge from Civil War narratives and/or stories centered around New Orleans during the outbreaks. Cholera is a bit player in Victor Hugo's work. If you saw Les Miserable, the latter portion of the story takes place during a cholera outbreak. Valjean and Cozette are taking charity to cholera victims when the barricades go up. Spanish flu haunts WWI stories to a lesser degree than the trenches and miserable conditions, but it killed more people worldwide than the war did. If you're of a certain age, maybe you saw some of the orphan train movies that followed the aftermath of that pandemic. Bubonic Plague features in Chaucer's tales and most of us know that Shakespeare got a couple of plays out a plague quarantine. We have windows into those pasts because stories told around these sicknesses endure. 

Does anyone imagine that those literary mentions of popular (at the time) culture date the stories in which they occur? They do, after a fashion, but it's not a bad thing. The pandemics and outbreaks documented in popular literature anchors the stories in a historical and cultural context. It's a fancy way of saying these stories that included the hard realities of everyday life offered modern readers a glimpse of what we had no way of knowing we'd end up facing - yet another pandemic. Looking back, we can see the repeating patterns of illness sweeping the world. Maybe we should have taken the warning. Maybe we thought we were too modern, too clever, too scientific to think that 'bad air' caused malaria, but we're clearly not so smart as all that because here we are. Living what our ancestors set down for us to read about in their fiction. Only now, we're living it. Same as they did.

So write about the time of Covid. I haven't. At least not on purpose - even though a weaponized pandemic is a part of my SFR series that was started several years ago. It wasn't this pandemic. If I were writing contemporary fiction, though, I would include the reality. It's a rich and textured landscape filled with loneliness and the longing for human interaction that's loaded with unseen danger. This is a place and a time where a single regrettable decision puts your heart in more than one kind of danger. Sure. We're all looking forward to looking back on our stories written at this time and laughing over how irrelevant and dated they seem. But our children's children might not laugh. They might read our stories and frown at one another over the lives we had to alter so suddenly and completely, or over the vast numbers of needless dead. 

Our reality has so much grim horror to it, so much pain; but it also has moments of shattering humanity and heartbreaking beauty in it. I can say this, and maybe you nod in comprehension, but it will take a fiction writer with a painterly hand to brush those images into a story so that it haunts the souls of readers who will look back at this pandemic and wonder what it must have been like. If you're writing, put your reality on the page. It means more than a writer trying to appear daring.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Is the pandemic infecting your writing?


view of Notre Dame Cathedral from a park across the street. Green trees frame the broken structure and scaffolding of the famous site.
Notre Dame Cathedral reconstruction August 2019

Do you pull real life into your writing? More specifically, is our current pandemic showing up in your books? Like the Notre Dame Cathedral above, our world is rebuilding, but do we want to see it in our books?

My fellow SFF Seveners have answered rather well this week, but it’s still a tough question to face as a writer. Which makes me wonder if it’s different from a reader standpoint?  

I’ve said it before and my stance hasn’t changed, I read for fun and to escape. Stress running high? Read. Exhausted from work or house projects? Read. Heartache that you’d rather not think about any more? Read. 

Reading clearly works for me and if I look back at the books I’ve read so far this year it’s pretty heavy in the fantasy category. I want to escape into fantastical worlds where the magic or creatures are what you fear. In fantasy I’m not looking for a book filled with characters in masks, unless we’re talking DUNE. 

I also read some contemporary romances. They were lovely stories where the characters got close, figuratively and literally. When I picked those up I wanted to escape into a heartwarming love story and hopefully have some good laughs along the way. I wasn’t looking for a real-time meet cute half hidden behind masks. 

Escaping into the past is fun and I read a couple historical fiction novels too. But no, they didn’t take place during any epidemics or pandemics. Same with the middle grade books I finished reading aloud to my kids. Those were tales as old as time…no, not fairy tales, just the struggles everyone goes through of fitting in and finding yourself. 

That leaves sci-fi. My other love. I can totally get into a good space opera, but my faves are near-future. And mankind vs. a deadly disease isn’t anything new in this department. So yes, I have and I will continue to pick up science fiction based on frightening viruses and alien controlled lifeforms. In fact, bring on more! If you’ve read one recently drop the title in a comment. 

Now that I look back at my reader thoughts I can put my writer hat back on. And whew because THE MARS STRAIN, that was pitched as a cross between THE MARTIAN and OUTBREAK, featuring an infection disease scientist and astronaut who, in a race against time, work to stop the devastating impact of a deadly Martian virus, will be releasing this spring! 

I guess that means I’ll continue to write my fantasy books with the same themes, found family and discovering what you’re truly capable of. And that also means my next sci-fi WIPs, works in progress, won’t change either. They’re near future and it’s easy to imagine our triumphant dominance over coronaviruses and continue to pit my characters against greed, boiling their choices down to a discovery of self and revelation of what, or who, they really value.

Any creatives out there who’ve taken a step back to consider the consumer side? What did you come up with? 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Deconstructing a world on fire

I don't know if you've taken a peek at the world lately, but it's a mess. I kept a list of wtf moments in 2020 -- including but not limited to: global pandemic, declassified proof of UFOs, murder hornets, ten gazillion hurricanes of ever increasing horribleness, earthquakes, wildfires, fire tornadoes, that scary af explosion in Beirut, and this headline: "Scientists Revive Ancient Microbe That Has Been in a Dormant State for More Than 100 Million Years" (BBC News, 7/27/20) --  but have largely left off doing so in 2021. My mind is just too tired, honestly, and more than a little overwhelmed. It's hard to read, it's hard to sleep, and it's really hard to write.

Because, dude, how do we express the utter freaking swirling chaos that is our real life right now? And more importantly, how do we do that without creating an echo chamber for bad stuff, which is likely to turn off more readers than it lures? When you see this kind of stuff on the news, you don't really click on the TV and watch Contagion. I mean, most folks don't. They watch The Great British Baking Show or TikToks about puppies.

So our challenge as writers is to speak to the zeitgeist of 2021 without bringing our readers down. We have to acknowledge reality without piling on more badness. And those of us who write speculative fiction have been given a huge gift in this effort because we are gods.

Literally, we make and unmake worlds on the regular. It's like our job.

We can endure involuntary isolation and constant existential threats but also show the entire world reaching out with a big sciency hug to end that isolation and bring Mark Watney home. (The Martian)

We can feel the frustrating lack of agency as history washes us along in its tsunami when we read about an immortal girl who's perpetually forgotten. (The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue)

We can address inherited trauma by investing it with magic as a mechanism for justice. (The Deep)

All of the real-life, actual bad stuff hitting us right now can be deconstructed into core themes -- isolation, uncertainty, injustice, fear, who to believe, who to trust, who to admire. And then we can use not our real world but fictionalized speculation (spec fic, right?) to tell readers that we see them, we hear them, and there is hope.

In other words, absolutely we can write about this real world shitstorm. We do it all the time in spec fic. The trick is to bake reality into our made-up worlds so that reading our stories is not only an escape but also a validation of the struggle.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

New #UrbanFantasy: THE SHACKLED SPY by K.A. Krantz

Snow is falling and so must the old cosmic moat surrounding the Mid Worlds in the latest installment of The Immortal Spy series. Yep, that's right, Bix and the Berserkers are back, trudging through the ick of winter on another mission to save the Mids. 

The Immortal Spy: Book 6 

Sometimes the strongest chains are the ones we craft for ourselves.

The Mid World defense system is finally ready to launch, but the millennia-old barrier of highly destructive ether must be removed first. Only one very special artifact can hold such a powerful force. To take down the old and make way for the new, Bix and her team race to locate and reassemble the pieces of the containment device scattered across the Mids.

Alas, they’re not the only ones searching for the shards. In the wrong hands, the fragments are weapons of mass destruction. Fearful magical races and fearsome deities alike scramble to claim the pieces, but lurking in the ether are entities who will not go quietly…and who will stop at nothing to keep Bix from interfering in the burgeoning war.

Darkness will fall and armies perish when manacles break from the shackled spy. 

Buy The Shackled Spy Now in eBook or Paperback
Amazon  |  Apple Books  |  B&N  |  Kobo | Google Play

New to The Immortal Spy series? Start here.