Ever since I first learned how to read, speculative fiction has been my happy place.
How could it not be? From fantastical worlds to near-dystopian realities, speculative fiction has the ability to transport the reader to an exciting new setting where we can fall in love with incredible characters, human or magical or otherwise. And, while it's taken some time for speculative fiction to earn its due literary respect, we're finally here. In fact, these days everyone from startups to academia is touting the benefits of reading speculative fiction. Why? Well, as the author of a recent Medium article succinctly pointed out: science fiction and fantasy can inspire, motivate and warn us.
Speculative fiction encompasses works in which the setting is anything other than the "real" world. It may involve supernatural, futuristic, or other imaged elements. It might be science fiction, fantasy, superhero fiction, science fantasy, horror or supernatural (or paranormal) fiction. Basically, any story that is outside of the grounded-in-reality every day world and explores something "unusual" is a work of speculative fiction.
Harry Potter? Speculative fiction.
The Lord of the Rings? Speculative fiction.
World War Z? Speculative fiction.
Diversity is at the heart of speculative fiction, and the reason is two-fold. First, we're writing diverse characters (human and non-human alike). Secondly, we're writing diverse worlds, some much like our own but only slightly different, and some wholly unique. Luckily, there's a few ways literary orgs are supporting diverse writers writing these wonderfully new diverse worlds!
Since 2014, the Speculative Literature Foundation has annually offered two diversity-centered grants: Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds, both intended to foster the creation of speculative fiction work rich in diversity.
Writers may apply for either or both grants. Please note: your project does not need to center on identity issues. SLF also do not expect or want work that simply attempts to check off all the boxes in a tokenistic way, but rather are looking for writing that offers deep characterization, complex cultural landscapes, and strong literary quality overall.
For example, an excellent novel is Nicola Griffith’s award-winning Slow River, which features queer women protagonists; another is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series, whose white male protagonist deals with a host of personal disability issues, while ethnic, gender, and other issues play out in the cultural background.
The 2019 grant period is open for applications now and this year I am honored to be a judge.
More information about the grant, as well as instructions to apply, can be found here.
Ya'll, last night I got to party like the villain I am.
This summer, Walt Disney World is giving visitors the chance to have a wickedly good time with their favorite Disney villains -- Hades, Jafar, the Evil Queen, Maleficent (who has returned to her fire-breathing glory after a mishap in 2018), Dr. Facilier, and more -- and enjoy special dark treats (LIKE FREE MICKEY BARS, PEOPLE) this summer. The park, which had limited attendance to this ticketed-only event, stayed open until a glorious 2am, and was fully decked out for the villainous event, with "devilishly divine" special treats, ride enhancements (LIVE pirates in the newly-renovated Pirates of the Caribbean ride), special edition event merch, and a live DJ.
The Villain Castles
For more information on the event, click here.
THANK YOU to Disney for the invite, and the spectacular time!
Oh,A post-apocalyptic fairy tale featuring a biracial, bisexual, axe-toting kickass handicapped woman who’s not about to be a victim to any big bad wolf? Sign. Me. Up.
It all began with the Cough, an infectious, air-borne disease that could kill even the healthiest person in twenty-four hours flat. Like any good world-ending virus, the Cough spread quickly, decimating the modern world and quickly pivoting humanity’s few survivors—mostly those immune or who’d somehow managed to hide, literally, from the virus—into a new world where resources are scarce and survival is contingent on one’s ability to find enough food and shelter to stay alive, all the while avoiding both infection and the worst of all monsters: other humans. It’s a post-apocalyptic fairy tale set in the new future, though for Red the dangers lurking around the corner are ones that have plagued mankind for centuries: intolerance, fear, hubris, power-seeking, and various other destructively antisocial behaviors. (There’s a monster, too, but its existence somewhat pales in comparison.)
Cordelia—or as she prefers to be called, Red—is a biracial, bisexual survivalist with a penchant for science fiction and horror, and a prosthetic leg. She’s also the sole survivor of her family—her white father, black mother, and older brother all having been…lost…to various consequences of the Cough that hit a little too close to home to be entirely fiction. Come hell, high water, or copious amounts of treacherous hiking, Red is determined to make it to her grandmother’s house—which waits three hundred short miles away—without being gobbled up by any wolves, literal or figurative, along the way. She’s determined and resilient, without being unapproachable or unrelatable. In fact, quite the opposite, Red persists as the embodiment of all the better parts of humanity that have disappeared in the wake of the Curse. She’s fierce, but fair. Strong, but compassionate. And she’s always, always prepared. In fact, if there’s another woman I’d want to be traipsing through the apocalypse with, you bet your picnic basket it’s Henry’s Red Riding Hood.
An author with a special knack for refitting classic fairytales into modern tales, Christina Henry’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in The Girl in Red reads as dreamily as the fairytale it was inspired by, but takes a poignant look at some of today’s most pressing social issues—racism, women’s rights, and even the power of government in a world where the balance between control and protection is as razor thin as the sharp edge of Red’s axe. It’s a fable fit for the current age, when the space between science fiction and reality is often blurry, and the monsters we fear most are the ones waiting within ourselves for a chance to pounce. Oh, and it's badass as hell.
Releases June 18, 2019 from Berkley.
Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for the ARC.
I am so excited to finally share this! In the first Black Spot Books anthology, several of my fellow authors and I have joined forces to bring this dark collection of winter tales to readers just in time for the holidays!
About A MIDNIGHT CLEAR
Six stories of not-so-merry Yuletide whimsy from the authors of Black Spot Books.
A woman so cold she hardens to ice on a winter’s eve. Risen from his grave before his time, a winter god alters the balance between seasons. A wolf’s holiday season is interrupted by a strange curse. From a murder at the Stanley Hotel to demons of Christmas past, present, and future, and a mad elf and Santa’s Candy Court, the authors of Black Spot Books share their love for winter holidays in this collection of dark winter tales, destined to chill your bones and warm your heart for the Yuletide season.
About the AUTHORS
Sam Hooker writes darkly humorous fantasy novels about thing like tyrannical despots and the masked scoundrels who tickle them without mercy. He knows all the best swear words, though he refuses to repeat them.
Alcy Leyva is a Bronx-born writer, teacher, and pizza enthusiast. He graduated from Hunter College with a B.A. in English (Creative Writing) and an MFA in Fiction from The New School.
Laura Morrison lives in the Metro Detroit area. She has a B.S. in applied ecology and environmental science from Michigan Technological University. Before she was a writer and stay-at-home mom, she battled invasive species and researched turtles.
Cassondra Windwalker is a poet and novelist writing full time from the coast of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Her hobbies include hiking, photography, and having other people's demons over for tea.
Dalena Storm has lived in India, Japan, Germany, and on both United States coasts. She currently resides in a converted general store in the woods of Western Massachusetts with a rare Burmese temple cat, a professor of magic, and an infant with an astonishing ability to resist sleep.
Seven Jane is a bestselling author of dark fantasy and speculative fiction. She is a member Women's Fiction Writing Association. She is a contributor to The Nerd Daily and is represented by Gandolfo, Helin & Fountain.
Women fiction writers are coming!
SATURDAY, JUNE 8, will kick off the very first International Women’s Fiction Day, hosted by the Women's Fiction Writers Association, the premier organization for women's fiction. The day is intended as a celebration of the aspiring writers and published authors who create women’s fiction, those who work in the publishing and bookselling industries to bring these stories to market, and most importantly, those who love to READ this genre.
I've been part of the WFWA for many years, first as a member, then a contributor, a columnist, and now as the Director of Internal Communications. I cannot say enough about all the amazing things this organization does, and I am so excited to kick off Women's Fiction Day and show our support for all the incredible women who make this genre so inviting, supportive, and rewarding.
Join the Celebration
When a Scottish businessman’s corpse is dredged from the bogs of the Thames, so begins the unfurling of the seedy underbelly of Victorian London, replete with all the depictions—both trope and true—of murder, corruption, and sexual fetishes that marked the period.
James Miller is dead, his body dumped in the river in an area of London which plays host to no respectable gentlemen and is the stomping ground of prostitutes, thieves, and other no-good types, all strung along the fishy quayside that is bordered in dark, dank water. When Miller’s untimely death is labeled a suicide, his daughter, Catriona, refuses to believe her father would have taken his own life and sets out instead to discover the truth about the true cause of his demise, as well as what he might have been doing in the London slums. Her investigation treks along two diverging and equally unsavory paths: one in which she discovers her father to be perhaps the most revolting of all the no-goods who she crosses on her journey further and further down the staircase of filth and despair of London’s darkest rabbit holes, and the other, which leads her to an even stranger and most ghostly end. Indeed, the story moves from murder mystery to ghost story when Catriona comes face to face with the Darkwater Bride herself, a woman who committed her soul to the murky water if she could live to exact vengeance on the men who’d put her there—men like Catriona’s father.
The narrative itself is somewhat stale and rambling, with a heroine that is often difficult to root for. Catriona spends a significant portion of her narrative trying to convince everyone—perhaps even herself—of her feminism, while her romantic interest (it’s almost unthinkable to imagine romantic interest in a story that bounces between child mutilation, sexual abuse, rape, and bizarre fetishes, but it’s there—as well it should be, as only when confronted with the worst evils of humanity might we crave the comfort of another), rookie detective Culley, mostly bumbles about, torn between his sense of duty to his commanding officer and the siren lure of the young woman he is driven to help. Unfortunately, even poor Culley’s good intentions don’t do him much good in the end. In fact, none of the characters are terribly likeable with the exception of the Darkwater Bride herself, which is a powerful device on its own: We turn our favor away from the innocent, stick our noses up at the obvious antagonists, and, in the end, pledge our loyalty to a woman with a fatal kiss and a drowning vengeance, because of all the darkness in this book, hers is perhaps the most recognizable—the most relatable to our own.
If you can overlook Catriona’s constant whinging and Culley’s cringe-worthy naivety, as well as moments of deep and utter grossness, there is a strangely astute depiction of the contrary nature of sexual empowerment and entrapment lurking between the lines of The Darkwater Bride. From brothel prostitutes and madams to the women who perform in the clubs, to even Catriona and the Darkwater Bride herself, theirs is the story more compelling than that of a hedonistic, repulsive man who meets his worthy end. Instead of a ghostly murder mystery, The Darkwater Bride might be better suited as a tiptoed traipse down the thin line women walk between being predator and prey when they are left with nothing other than their bodies to defend themselves. It’s not a story of death and decay, but one of survival.
At times distasteful and never for the faint at heart, The Darkwater Bride is a bit wobbly, though punctuated by passages of delicate prose so exceedingly beautiful and haunting that it makes a sharp juxtaposition against the rougher parts of the story. What truly elevates the tale, however, is the quality of the production. Dark, gritty, and atmospheric, this Audible production is filled with deviances the likes of which this reviewer hasn’t seen since Karen Moline’s Belladonna (1998). Regardless, the production is simultaneously so disturbing and oddly intriguing that at the end you’ll definitely need a shower, but you’ll listen eagerly for the full six hours before finding the will to pull yourself (somewhat guilty) away from the speaker. It’s horrifying and yet bizarrely invigorating—a story that is as powerful as it is visceral, so that in the end, the reader—like Catriona—might stand defiantly against the darkness and wait in the night like a single white flame against the dark, the very essence of The Darkwater Bride.
In this Audible Original, an epic audio drama fresh from the UK, a cast of skilled actors—including Adrian Scarborough (The King's Speech), Freya Mavor (Skins), Claire Corbett (Eastenders), and Jamie Glover (West End's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)—bring to life a mystical, terrifying world that combines a classic Victorian mystery thriller with a spine-chilling supernatural twist.
In late Victorian London, James Miller, a respected Scottish businessman, is pulled, dead and cold, from the Thames. Heartbroken and perplexed by his sudden death, his daughter, Catriona, is drawn into a mystery that soon reveals a dark underworld of secrets and corruption. She pairs up with local detective Culley for an investigation that stems deep into the grim, ghostly legends of England—particularly, that of The Darkwater Bride...and the power of her fatal kiss.