Friday, February 12, 2021

The Gem

 Confession time: I joined a book club under protest. I didn't really want someone else telling me what to read. But it was pandemic lock down. Mom was bored. She wanted to talk to someone if only virtually and the neighborhood book club offered that option. But she wouldn't do it alone. Yes. It's true. I got guilted into joining book group. Some of the books have lived all the way up to my fears - they're hard, terrible subject books that I want no part of. Yeah, sorry, if you're gonna pick books where kids are being raped and killed you can pretty much fuck right off forever. BUT. There are glorious gems and this one is my absolute favorite.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender.

It is YA. Felix is Black, transgender, and queer. I won't recap the story but the writing is fresh and deep in Felix's head and heart. It's a book that sticks with you long after you've closed the back cover. I think the thing I love most is that I've read a lot of transgender stories that dwell on the moment of coming out and on the reactions and feelings of everyone surrounding that moment. Felix's story starts long after that so instead of dwelling on how Felix's reality impacts everyone else around him, this story is about who Felix IS right now, growing up, looking for love and acceptance. 

This is one of those books that I liked so well, I'll go fishing for every last thing Kacen Callender has written.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Spotlight on Author Mike Chen!

Mike Chen book cover collage: Here and Now and Then on the left, center and largest is WE COULD BE HEROES, and right side is A Beginning At the End


Alexia: I love this week’s topic because it gave me an excuse to reach out to one of my auto-buy authors and fangirl! And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect because my guest’s newest release kept me from going insane while I was stuck in bed with vertigo—which was definitely not fun, but the audiobook WE COULD BE HEROES was beyond exciting! Welcome, Mike Chen! 

Mike: Thanks so much for having me! And shoutout to Emily Woo Zeller, who narrated the audiobook. She did my previous one (A BEGINNING AT THE END) and when I found out she’d signed to do this, I messaged her and asked her to bring some of the chaotic disaster energy from her lead role in STAR WARS: DOCTOR APHRA. Game fans will recognize her from the recent Cyberpunk 2077 -- like my wife, who loaded up the audiobook and said, “Hey, it’s Panam!”

Alexia Chantel's Instagram story showing WE COULD BE HEROES audiobook playing with the words typed at the top: Vertigo reading problem? #audiobook
Alexia: Yes—Aphra! Emily was the perfect voice for this superhero tale. I like to think books have saved me from a lot of things over the years, but never have I been so sure of that statement than the past couple of years. I don’t get a choice about having a chronic disease and when it flares up or its tagalongs wreck havoc on my head, books—more specifically audiobooks—save the day! Mike, have you ever had a book be your lifeline? 

Mike: Not directly, but various creative arts felt like that to me as a teen. I can count on various songs and musicians that I would lean on as lifelongs. But I would use books as a means to feel accepted and seen, specifically Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and Timothy Zahn's Star Wars books -- Zahn's came at a time when being a nerd wasn't socially acceptable and it made it feel okay to love those things while Anne Rice fed my inner teen goth angst.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Celebrating BIPOC Artists: Abelle Hayford

Artist: Abelle Hayford
from their website
I'm a fan of Abelle Hayford's work, both creatively and for bringing attention to other amazing artists. One of my favorite February happenings is when @AbelleHayford kicks off #DrawingWhileBlack on Twitter. At one point they'd built a searchable dB of black artists who were looking for freelance/commission work from which I'd collected a wishlist of potential cover artists. Alas, the dB isn't up anymore (that may or may not be temporary), but the hashtag is one to follow if you're looking to discover great new-to-you artists for possible gigs or the simple enjoyment of their work. According to their pinned tweet, DWB will be underway at the end of this month (Feb 26-28).

Naturally, you should check out Abelle's work too, which is amazing:

Nope, I don't know them personally. I'm just a fan.

Monday, February 8, 2021

BIPOC comic creators

 This is an insane week for me I have deadlines and a few family emergencies, but that said, I still think we need to celebrate the BIPOC creators around us. What's a pulp writer to do?

This time around I'm taking the easy way out and shooting you a link to several people who have been movers and shakers in the comic book industry. Why?? because comic books have been a HUGE influence on me over the years and I don't think those creators get nearly enough recognition for that influence. 

Without further ado: Take a look.

Have a great week, guys, and please know that this is the very tip of the iceberg.

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