Stephen Blackmoore is the author of the novels City of the Lost, Dead Things, Khan of Mars, and the upcoming Broken Souls. His short stories have appeared in the magazines Needle, Plots With Guns, Spinetingler, Thrilling Detective, and Shots as well as the anthologies Deadly Treats, Don’t Read This Book, and Uncage Me. He can be found online at stephenblackmoore.com and on Twitter at @sblackmoore. He is a scintillating conversationalist and brutally handsome.
Kima Jones is a 2013 PEN USA Emerging Voices fellow in poetry, a Voices at VONA alum and 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow in poetry. Kima has been published at The Rumpus and PANK among others. Kima lives in Los Angeles and is writing her first poetry collection, The Anatomy of Forgiveness. You can find her online at thenotoriouskima.com and on Twitter @kima_jones.
Daniel Jose Older is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and composer. Salsa Nocturna, Daniel’s ghost noir collection, was hailed as “striking and original” by Publishers Weekly. He’s co-editing the forthcoming anthology, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and his urban fantasy novel The Half Resurrection Blues, the first of a trilogy, will be released by Penguin’s Roc imprint in January 2015. Daniel’s essays and short stories have appeared in The New Haven Review, Salon, Tor, PANK, Strange Horizons, and Apex. His music, ponderings, and ambulance adventures live at ghoststar.net and @djolder.
Andrea Phillips is a writer, game designer, and author of A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling. Her current ongoing project is The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart, a serial pirate romp and treasure hunt. She’s also written for The Walk, an iOS fitness game; America 2049, a human rights Facebook game; and the alternate reality game Perplex City. She wins awards, does talks and stuff, and has beaten all of the levels on Candy Crush. All of them. You can find her online at deusexmachinatio.com and on Twitter @andrhia.
Lili Saintcrow was born in New Mexico (which probably explains everything, given the nuclear testing) and spent her childhood bouncing around the world as a military brat. She fell in love with writing in second grade and has done it obsessively ever since. She currently resides in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her children, dogs, cat, and assorted other strays, including a metric ton of books holding her house together. You can find her at lilithsaintcrow.com, on Twitter at @lilithsaintcrow, and on Facebook.
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria, winner of the 2014 Crawford Award. Her short fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in a number of places, including Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, and Weird Fiction Review. She is nonfiction and poetry editor for Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts. Visit her in California, or at sofiasamatar.com. She is also on Twitter @SofiaSamatar.
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He is the author of the novels Blackbirds, Mockingbird, The Blue Blazes, The Cormorant, and Under the Empyrean Sky. He is an alumni of the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab and is the co-author of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. He lives in Pennsyltucky with wife, son, and two dopey dogs. You can find him on Twitter @ChuckWendig and at his website, terribleminds.com, where he frequently dispenses dubious and very-NSFW advice on writing, publishing, and life in general.
When I was approached to write for the historical fiction speculative anthology, Long Hidden, I spent the first two months wondering what I would write about. I charted key historical events and time periods from the 1500s to the early 1900s that I might be interested in writing about. I was able to narrow my choice down pretty quickly because a character revealed herself to me during the charting process. I decided to focus on the period of United States history known as The Great Migration, which spanned from about 1910 through the early 1970′s. It’s reported that some six million black Southerners migrated North and West during this time. With a protagonist and setting in mind, I set out to write the past.
I began my research by reading Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer prize winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. The 600+ page book focuses on the lives of three migrants who left the South for very different, but ultimately the same, reasons. Along the way Wilkerson expertly gives context to the stories of the three protagonists by juxtaposing them with lesser known migrant narratives, newspaper articles, census reports, lynching reports, the history of the towns they comes from and the cities they travel to, as well as the lives of more widely recognized migrants. Our three protagonists travel to the big cities of Harlem, Los Angeles, and Chicago to encounter loss and success in these new, big worlds. In the North, West and Midwest, they are country, backwards, unsure, poor and responsible for the family and friends waiting to join them. They learn the Jim Crow laws of these new regions quickly. While they were no longer in the South, the evils of racism and empire endured. Theirs wass an acute hunger—for work, for freedom, for education, for respect, and often, for food.
Because this year marks a migration in my own life, from New York to Los Angeles, and I’ve developed an interest in Western mythos, Western literature and the Black Western experience, the characters in my Long Hidden story migrate from various places in the South to Phoenix, Arizona. Once I finished Warmth of Other Suns, I sought out materials that were specific to the black American experience in Phoenix in the late 1800′s through the early 1900′s. I read census reports, and I read weather almanacs. I read old newspapers. The City of Phoenix published an African American Historic Property Survey that proved to be an invaluable resource to me. The survey chronicles the lives of blacks in Phoenix from 1868-1970. The first Phoenix migrants were just 3% of the population. They found community with other migrants and over time brought their families to Arizona. Phoenix’s very first Southern migrant arrived in 1863, a woman and domestic worker, Mary Green came to Phoenix with her white employer, Columbus Gray. Mary Green had her two children in tow.
In my story, “Nine” I write about Tanner and her family. Tanner owns a small colored-only motel in Phoenix, one of the only rest stops for black people traveling west during The Great Migration. Because Tanner is a small business owner, I had to think of her public and private needs, how she interacts as a public figure and behind closed doors. To make my story as full and historically accurate as possible given the speculative liberties I was allowed to take, I paid very close attention to details and researched every detail for exactitude. Was neon available in 1902? What about patent leather? What technologies in refrigeration existed? How much was a motel room? How much less was a motel room for colored people? What foods were available to my characters? What was their closest natural resource for water? How much was a newspaper? The average cost for a car? 98% of my research did not make it into my story, but I wouldn’t have been able to write the story without doing the research. I was able to generate ideas and think them through because I had background on my subjects. The speculative elements of my story were organic to the time and place because I did not try to force modern conventions, technologies or wants on them. My characters endure the trials of their time while their most interior selves are facing supernatural tests.
Research tends to be my favorite part of a project, and I will research at the expense of getting to the writing. Research is my favorite procrastination tool. I don’t want to under-research, but there also comes a point when you have to recognize that you’re putting the hard work off. For this reason, when it comes to writing the past, especially for a genre like the short story, as opposed to researching for a novel, consider limiting your research to 2-3 resources. Find a broader text that will give a condensed history of your time period and subject. Once you’ve narrowed your story down to place or place and industry, find another, more specific text. Keep notes, bookmark and highlight. Utilize the library— they often have hard to find first person narratives, newspapers and documentaries. Once you have a draft down, do a read specifically for modernity—have you written in anything that’s not of your specified time period? Unsure? Double check. Ask your writing partner or beta readers to check for modern elements in your draft. Be sure that you’re dialogue is of the time without being overwrought. Writing the past and the future is where I feel most at home, as opposed to writing contemporary, realistic fiction. Challenge yourself to choose new time periods, regions and industries for your characters as you write new stories. The past is as broad and alive and accessible to writers as the future.
All art for this post comes from Jacob Lawrence’s seminal work, The Great Migration Series. Lawrence painted the series between 1940-1941 at the age of 23. The complete series includes 60 panels. Jacob Lawrence lived and worked in Harlem.
This year, I was invited to guest-edit PANK Magazine’s 4th Annual Queer Issue. Please enjoy the work of the seventeen contributors and share the issue widely. Find the guest editor’s note below:
Much is being written about diversity in literary journals and magazines. It is a crucial conversation, certainly one worth having again and again. When PANK Magazine asked me to edit their 4th annual Queer Issue, I said yes knowing this was my opportunity to show up on a topic I’ve been more than vocal about. As submissions rolled in, I gave each entry the thoughtfulness I would want an editor to have with my work. A few things started to trouble me, mainly the lack of submissions by queer women, by queer black writers and queer writers of color, by trans-identified people, by queer, disabled writers. I took to my social networks and assured submitters that diverse and experimental submissions were welcomed and wanted. I asked for writing that wrestled the dominant narratives of queer literature.
As I looked over the submissions and began accepting entries, I realized I was curating an edition of PANK comprised of first time PANK contributors. My intentions were not deliberate at the onset, but as I continued to edit the issue, my intention became clearer and more purposeful. The population that’s most often left out of the diversity conversation is that of the emerging writer.
I don’t want emerging to be synonymous with young or synonymous with the young and credentialed. There is no diversity in literature so long as publishers and editors aren’t willing to introduce new and complicated voices, but especially voices of color, to the conversation. Part of the work of diversifying literature has to be understanding that there are many Black American stories, many Latino stories, many Asian stories, many diasporic stories, many queer identities, stories from a range of genders, scopes and experiences. So long as we continue to publish the same type of writing again and again, the same writers again and again, as if they are the authority on any given experience, we are denying the possibility of story and in doing so, we undo the critical work of those writers.
Surely, there is room for more at the table. Poet and contributor, Ife-Chudeni Oputa says it more gracefully than I ever can in her her poem “After the Hour: 40”
How far does a voice carry when it is muffled
in the nape of a neck? How loud a promise
to kiss the listening backs of walls? Echo,
you uninvited spirit, was this your trick
For PANK Magazine’s 4th Annual Queer Issue, I am introducing sixteen writers who have never before appeared in PANK. For some, this issue is their first publication. Their art is as varied as their backgrounds and the lived experiences that landed them in these pages. They were chosen for their imaginative and inspired work; these are poems and stories that I continued to think about days after I read them. These writers were chosen because their art is the kind that stays with you and lives with you. You make room for this art in your mind and heart. These are writers I want to know as friends.
Part of queering literature is queering the lens with which we look at words. I chose the genre bending, the experimental, the hybrid. Too, there is form poetry, there is the epistolary, there is colloquialism and a range of represented politics because there’s no right way or one way to be queer, express queerness or write queerdom. We want you to ask yourself if you are reading prose or poetry. Fiction or an essay? I want you to look at each selection and ask yourself, what is this? What is it? The sixteen were chosen because they calcified the feeling that encourages me to enter the page wholly, spirited and with wonder. They are a reminder to never forget the music when rendering the line. As contributor Gala Mulakolova reminds us all, cut the cabbage beautifully.
The artwork for Queer 4 comes from visual artist, Dmitry Borshch’s series Exiled from Truth: Nine Allegories.
A very special thanks to PANK Magazine for having me. More thanks to each and every writer who submitted and trusted me with their work.
A few months back I was invited to be a part of the forthcoming anthology, Long Hidden, from Crossed Genres Publications. Crossed Genres publishes speculative, sci-fi, horror and fantasy fiction. The first book I read from this press was Daniel J. Older’s Salsa Nocturna, a collection of linked speculative stories set in New York City, detailing the adventures of one half-dead, half-living Carlos Delacruz and his comrades, all at various degrees of living and fully dead, as they fight with the ghost world to preserve and protect the city they love. I am so happy to have met Daniel through social media, but I can’t help but think of how many people haven’t read his book and don’t know about his exciting, new voice. If you haven’t, buy and read Daniel’s short story collection, Salsa Nocturna. If you don’t have the funds to buy it, pick it up from the library. If your library does not carry it, urge them to purchase it and offer to lead an evening book discussion. Use it for your book club’s selection or blog about it. We have to discuss the literature we love and care about.
Saying that, Crossed Genres is putting together the aforementioned anthology, Long Hidden, of speculative fiction from the margins of history. This anthology will be edited by Daniel J. Older and Rose Fox who are both incredible authors of speculative fiction in their own right. Some of the contributors include celebrated fiction writers Victor D. LaValle, Tananarive Due, Beverly Jenkins, Nnedi Okorafor and Nisi Shawl. Contributing emerging writers of fiction include Rion Amilcar Scott, Troy Wiggins and myself.
To make this anthology happen, Crossed Genres is asking for help through its kickstarter campaign. We know there are a million kickstarter campaigns and you don’t have the funds in this economy. Consider these questions: When was the last time you read an anthology of contemporary speculative fiction? When was the last time you rooted for a protagonist of color who had her own ideas about the world, her own community, lover, family and mission that was separate from saving her white friend during the end of the world?
How many $4 cups of coffee will you have this week? Trade a few of those corporate cups in and support living, working artists. The Long Hidden kickstarter has raised $2,000 of the $12,000 goal. Please contribute today.
Here’s why you want to support this anthology:
- You care about the publication of marginalized voices and revisionist history.
- You care about literature where you, your politics and interests are reflected.
- It matters to you that worlds are created in scifi and speculative literature where black people don’t exist, brown people don’t exist, women don’t exist, gay people don’t exist.
- You care about misrepresentation, misappropriation and erasure.
- You want to hold this anthology in your hands and give it the kind of rigorous attention and discussion it deserves.
- You’d like to see it in a college classroom as opposed to some of the other things you read.
- You care about artists getting paid for their work while they’re still alive.
Here’s how I want to help see this happen:
Although Crossed Genres’ co-editors invited writers to the anthology, submissions will open up on April 1st. I would love for you to be one of the contributing writers!
An Owomoyela, published author and speculative fiction writer, has pledged to critique a story of up to 8,000 words in exchange for a donation to Long Hidden. I bought An’s pledge, and I am donating it to an emerging writer of speculative fiction. Here are the contest guidelines:
1. In a blog, on your site, in the same manner that I am sharing this, tell me a little bit more about your writing interests in speculative, scifi, horror and/or fantasy fiction. How long have you been writing it? What’s your preferred genre? Are you working on a novel, short story collection, poetry collection, creative non fiction? In what ways do you consider your literary voice marginalized?
2. Discuss the Long Hidden anthology. Why does its publication matter? Have you read any other titles by Crossed Genres Publications that you’d like to share? Be sure to discuss the kickstarter campaign and link your readers to it.
3. What was the last book of speculative fiction from a marginalized voice that you read? Talk about it! Make me and your other readers want to buy it. Link us to it!
That’s it! You can either do a blog or a vlog and link me to it by March 31, 2013 by leaving a comment here AND linking me directly on twitter. My twitter handle is @kima_jones. I will announce a winner on April 1st. Preference will be given to emerging writers who have not attended writing conferences, retreats and MFA programs, who lack the most access to professional mentorship and critique.
Best of luck and happy writing! Feel free to ask any clarifying questions.
I am singing Shalimar’s 80′s hit as I write this. Tonight, I read for the first time, publicly, with the other five PEN/USA 2013 fellows. It was an amazing night and an amazing credit to the hard work we’ve all put into our emergent careers. The crowd was warm and the space was perfect. No detail went unnoticed from the beautiful floral arrangements to the pomegranates floating in champagne baths. The staff at PEN went out of their way to make sure our experience was rich and memorable. I am so privileged to be part of such an exceptional group of writers. This is more than I could have ever asked for.
Elle read an excerpt from her memoir about a mother, two kids in tow, off to visit her imprisoned husband. It was funny without forsaking the underlying sadness of the piece. (And Elle’s shoes were bossy, bossy, business.)
Krisserin read an excerpt from her novel detailing a young girl’s struggle with her growing breasts. Again, funny and heartbreaking and altogether awesome.
Terrance read a really wonderful excerpt from his memoir about the heartbreaking cycle of finding and losing surrogate mothers to fulfill his dream of one day being a dad. I was completely undone by his honesty and spot-on humor.
Tommy read an excerpt from his short story collection about a dysfunctional girlfriend and the trials of managing that dysfunction. Tommy is amazingly cool.
Lilliam read an excerpt from her young adult novel about two young girls in the Bronx confronting sexuality and consequences. Absolutely hysterical writing with a deep seated understanding of fear, loss and youth.
Harryette Mullen called my poem riveting. The end!
This was a night to remember til the end of days. Please enjoy the pictures from our reading at the Duncan Miller Gallery, Santa Monica.
A few housekeeping notes before I get into the blog hop!
My PEN/USA fellowship experience is keeping me very busy. I jumped to the moon when I found out my mentor for the year was none other than award-winning poet, Harryette Mullen, author of Sleeping With the Dictionary. Harryette’s input on my poetry collection is priceless as I am tied up reading the collections she’s assigned, rewriting poems, writing poems and going to classes. My first public reading as a fellow will be January 27th at the Duncan Miller Galley in Santa Monica. Come if you’re not a creep.
Simon Jacobs of PANK Magazine interviewed me on my poem AD 2012 that appeared in this year’s Queer Issue. I would love it if you read it.
Now, on to the hop! I was invited to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop by fiction writer, Sheree L Greer. Sheree is the author of the short story collection Once and Future Lovers; a VONA alum, her work has appeared in the Best Lesbian Romance 2012.
What is the working title of your book/story/whatever?
I am at work on two major projects (and several minor): a first collection of poems titled, The Anatomy of Forgiveness and an untitled novel draft of about 26,000 words. I started writing my novel back in July of 2012, and I hope to have a first draft completed by the end of Spring.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I decided to write a family history and felt poetry would be the best avenue for it because poetry protects the confession in a way that memoir simply can’t. Besides, I don’t read memoirs, so writing one would be hypocritical.
My novel idea came to me from newspaper clippings. I am a newspaper clipper, or rather, I am a newspaper copy and paster. There are a lot of really fantastical, remarkable and sometimes heartbreaking stories that are begging to be transformed into fiction. My novel draft is comprised of heartbreaking stories and a lot of imagination.
What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry is poetry. Fiction is fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
All unknowns like me. All unknowns with a point to prove, just like me.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Anatomy of Forgiveness is a collection of poetry detailing the trauma before and after an infertility diagnosis.
My untitled novel draft is still growing its legs, and I would not want to cripple it with a synopsis. I’m not really interested in discussing it too much because it’s so new, and I need to protect it from, you know, biters, copycats, soul snatchers and the like.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
That’s a good gotdamn question. Well, poetry works much differently in terms of publishing than fiction. I am going to diligently submit my collection to several contests and see who wants to play with me. As far as my novel draft, when I finally have a final draft, I will seek agency representation, but, again, it’s a hard fought war.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I’m still writing and revising. I hope to have a finished poetry collection by winter. I want to start sending it out for submissions at the top of 2014 or at the very latest mid-2014. As for the novel, again, I want to have a first draft by the end of Spring. I want to rest and recharge this summer and do nothing but read, sleep late, swim and enjoy fruit salads.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
This feels like a really odd question, and I am not sure how I should answer it. Fucking failure inspired me to write this book and every other book I want to write. I just don’t want to be a failure, and the weight of that fear keeps me working. I work hard, and I like a full plate with lots of projects on it. Too much time on my hands and I’m off doing God knows what. My writing partner and I have plotted about five years’ worth of work in Google drive; as soon as we are done with one thing, it is on to the next. The most important thing is to do what you say you’re going to do. Every day I remind myself to do what it is I’m supposed to be doing, and that’s always, always writing. Always, always reading.
The impulse to tell a story inspired me. I can’t shake it. I have so many stories inside of me; I have got to do something with them.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Hmm, well, the poetry collection is something of a genre bender, and I’m excited to introduce it to an audience. The novel draft contains a murder if you like dead bodies in your literature.
I’m really delighted to invite you to check out PEN/USA Emerging Voices 2013 Fellow in fiction, Lilliam Rivera’s, blog next week, Wednesday, January 30th, when she discusses her work in progress, My Shelf Life.