The Magazine and Website of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field

Locus Online
Sub Menu contents

Recent Posts

Recent Comments



Site search


A collaborative blog by Locus editors, contributors, and other invited guests. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine or Locus Online.




Alvaro Zinos-Amaro


Alan Beatts
Terry Bisson
Marie Brennan
Karen Burnham
Siobhan Carroll
John Clute
F. Brett Cox
Ellen Datlow
Paul Di Filippo
Michael Dirda
Gardner Dozois
Andy Duncan
Stefan Dziemianowicz
Brian Evenson
Jeffrey Ford
Karen Joy Fowler
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Theodora Goss
Elizabeth Hand
Cecelia Holland
Rich Horton
Guy Gavriel Kay
James Patrick Kelly
Mark R. Kelly
Ellen Klages
Russell Letson
Karen Lord
Brit Mandelo
Adrienne Martini
Tim Pratt
Cat Rambo
Paul Graham Raven
Graham Sleight
Maureen Kincaid Speller
Peter Straub
Rachel Swirsky
Paul Witcover
Gary K. Wolfe
E. Lily Yu

J. Daniel Batt Guest Post–“Towards the Frontier”

The Santa Lucia mountains hug the California coastline between Monterey and San Luis Obispo and stare out at the dark, cold waters of the Pacific. For centuries, perhaps back to the Chumash legends, lore tells of dark figures materializing upon the edges of these mountains to gaze across the ocean. When the early migrants came to California, these figures were waiting for them. The myth of the Dark Watchers was reinforced by John Steinbeck, the Golden State writer that championed the plight of the migrant agricultural worker. In his story “Flight”, he described one of these watchers as “a dark form against the sky, a man standing on top of a rock.” Steinbeck’s reference of these creatures is even more shocking against his usual cast of common, authentic American characters.

The mythology was picked up by Steinbeck’s son Thomas. Thomas Steinbeck, remembering his father and grandmother’s retellings of the phantom observers, collaborated with artist Benjamin Brode to craft an art book in honor of the Dark Watchers: In Search of the Dark Watchers: Landscapes and Lore of Big Sur. Thomas Steinbeck begins: “And if for a brief moment they entertain the least suspicion… the Dark Watchers will literally evaporate in front of your eyes like the fog.” Later, attempting to establish their history, the younger Steinbeck notes “The early Spanish explorers, as well as the later Mexican ranchers and their vaqueros, called them ‘Los Vigilantes Oscuros.'”

On the Weird California forums, a user named Joey gave his own account: “I’m a long distance runner and most of my training is in up in the good old Californian Mountains. I had a long run scheduled so I headed out. I headed to Veterans Park here in the San Fernando Valley. Time of day was 2:00 pm I was running and up in an area where no human could climb without gear I saw a black figure in plain day light. I never seen anything like it up in the mountain. Was darker than dark could not explain it. A year past and today again January 24th I saw it again and in the same spot.” Another user, C. Gardner, commented: “Up here in the Eastern Sierras, we see the Dark Watchers all the time. They are always out at dusk and dawn. All you see is just a tall dark silhouette. They almost look like horses standing on their hind legs with the assistance of a walking stick. Its pretty creepy, and nobody has ever seen them close up. They disappear the moment you try to get closer.” They are watchers and observers only.

Imagine the immigrants slowly venturing into the expanding frontier–to the unexplored, unknown wild. California was so far removed from early European settlers that some maps showed the territory as a separate island. Those pioneers crossed the Sierras and settled the varied topography only to discover the mythological Watchers, looking at another frontier. The Dark Watchers are a unique mythology representative of the Golden State–spirits ever gazing into the unknown.

California is seen simultaneously, alternating throughout history, as both the frontier and the staging area to explore the frontier. For the early wanderers coming from the north to settle the western coast around 17000 BCE, California was their frontier. From then until now, for millions, California is synonymous with the frontier–the embodiment of the unknown and, within the unknown, the possibility for the strange and wonderful.

Near the end of 1890s, with the settlement of California, the US government declared that the American frontier had vanished. Yet, from California, hinted at by the occasional glimpses of the Dark Watchers, the vision for further frontiers was glimpsed. The frontier is that unexplored, uninhabited territory on the border of what is known.

Moving from mythology to science fiction (often called the literature of the frontier), Captain Kirk has challenged us to explore the “Final Frontier.” In the fiction of the future, California is home to Starfleet. In Roddenberry’s vision, the exploration of the new Final Frontier is staged within the Coastal State. As an unintended potential precursor to that future, SpaceX, based in Southern California, has recently laid out the plans for humanity to become multi-planetary. In Northern California, citizens and industries in Monterey are working towards the establishment of a spaceport.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction extols California as “pure [science fiction], that California was not discovered but invented… California [is portrayed] as the promised land, where the streets are paved with gold; and California as a place in which one may construct an advocated world.”

Out of this spirit of the invented frontier, myself and my fellow co-editor Jaym Gates have launched an anthology titled Strange California–a collection of 26 all-new speculative fiction stories exploring the complex mythologies of the Golden State. Viewed as the ever-present frontier, the borders of California are easily imagined to contain a myriad of oddities and wonders. With a brilliant artist, support team, and publisher, we’re now raising support for Strange California through Kickstarter. Visit the project at:

Whether you’re from California or not, if you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy, this anthology has something for you.

Strange California celebrates the frontier that is at the heart of speculative fiction. The land of California has been a draw to those seeking the frontier for centuries. California not only creates this diversity of thought and experience, but invites it. It calls for us and we find from it a call to it akin to Carl Sagan’s own words, “Somewhere, something wonderful is waiting to be known….”


About the Author 

jasonDaniel Batt is an editor, writer, and designer. He serves as the Creative and Editorial Director for the 100 Year Starship and is the founder and organizer of the annual Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Writing. His novels include Young Gods and Dreamside and his short fiction has appeared in Perihelion, Bastion, Bewildering Stories, A Story Goes On, and other periodicals. He’s most recently edited the science fiction anthology Visions of the Future published through Lifeboat Foundation. He lives in California, where he has had firsthand experience with its weirdness.

Traveler of Worlds: All Kinds of Enwonderment

Today is the release day of my new book, Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, so it seems appropriate to say a few words about it in this space.

The word “enwonderment” is not a real word; it’s one that Bob Silverberg made up in the 90s. In one of the conversations in this book, which roams far and wide–travel, art theory and history, music, films, politics, reading habits, and of course Bob’s long and prolific career, in and out of science fiction–I asked him what he meant by the term “enwonderment.”

His answer:

“There are words like ’empowerment’ that are bandied about very freely, especially here in California. Enlightenment is also frequently heard. As well as I can remember this, I thought I would create ‘enwonderment’ as a kind of analogous noun that explains what science fiction is supposed to do.”

If you read Bob’s monthly editorial at Asimov’s, or his occasional essays elsewhere, it’s clear that he has managed to preserve his own sense of “enwonderment” over sixty years as a professional writer, no small feat. I was curious about the role that community, particularly the science fiction community, might have played in that, since the human brain seems to require access to and frequent engagement with other people’s neurons to thrive and be healthy and experience wonder. Bob didn’t think community played much of a role:

51HAwq2-+BL“I don’t think it’s related to community. I rarely talk about science fiction with my colleagues. What I talk about with them is writing, or the business side of writing. We are not discussing the miraculous new Earth-like planet that was discovered the other day, or the flyby of Pluto. That has not been my experience of the community. Though we’re all watching the same things.”

Like many of Bob’s observations throughout the book, that struck me as interesting. Before I had had much interaction with other members of the s-f community, I think I had idealized what the subjects of discussion might be, naively imagining that there would be much fevered discussion about artistic responses or intellectual discoveries or scientific breakthroughs. In reality people tend to be more pragmatic, and they don’t necessarily want to get into long, detailed conversations about something they’ve just spent eight or ten hours working on in a professional sense (i.e. science fiction). But of course once in a while, unabashedly nerdy raptures or rants do happen. Those impromptu sessions are delightful. And on subject-specific panels at conventions it’s always possible to go deep on a particular technical or thematic aspect of s-f, even “enwonderment” itself.

I was also curious if anything besides literature sparked in Bob the “sense of wonder.” He suggested that some of the exotic plants in his far-out garden might, or might have at least done so once upon a time. But ultimately familiarity “leads to a lack of strangeness. And wonder requires a certain amount of strangeness.”

Again, how true.

And yet my experience in writing this book, and in the long correspondence and eventual friendship with Bob that presaged it, may provide a flip-side to the grimmer extrapolation of that comment (namely, that as everything becomes more familiar to us, we lose all wonder). Bob is an exceedingly complex man. As Gardner Dozois points out in his lovely introduction to Traveler of Worlds, “the depth and breadth of his erudition, and the range of topics that interest his restless intellect” are remarkable. I find that no matter how many times we’ve talked about something, I always discover something new and unfamiliar in the workings of Bob’s mind, even if it’s just a subtle shading of opinion or unexpected witticism. And in those little startlements–in those glimmers of strangeness–there’s ample room for my curiosity and my wonder to be born anew.

It happened many times throughout the year of working on this book, and I expect it will continue to happen indefinitely.

May the same experience hold true for you when you read it.


About the Author 

Alvaro is co-author, with Robert Silverberg, of When The Blue Shift Comes and Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg. Alvaro’s more than thirty stories have appeared in magazines like AnalogNatureGalaxy’s EdgeLackington’sMothership ZetaFarrago’s Wainscot and Neon, as well as anthologies such as The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of MoriartyThe Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper TalesThe 2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure GuideCyber WorldThis Way to the End TimesHumanity 2.0 and An Alphabet of Embers. Alvaro’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Review of BooksThe First LineAsimov’sStrange HorizonsClarkesworld, SF Signal, The New York Review of Science Fiction, Foundation and Intergalactic Medicine Show; he also edits the roundtable blog for Locus.



James Aquilone Guest Post–“Kickstarter: How to Fund Your First Novel in 3 Days”

The odds are against you. Most Kickstarter projects fail, and the publishing category is near the top of that list, with nearly 70 percent of campaigns not reaching their funding goals. Unsurprisingly first-time novelists have it the toughest. There are a ton of articles detailing why it’s a terrible idea for newbies to launch a Kickstarter. Had I read any of them before I launched my campaign, I may have listened to the naysayers. They make a great case against crowdfunding. After all, you have no following, no track record, and no idea what you’re facing. Yet plenty of first-timers succeed on Kickstarter and other platforms. Against the odds, I funded my project, Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device, in three days and tripled my goal in three weeks.

How did I do it?


1. Social Media, Social Media, Social Media

Social media has been my bread and butter. You can’t count on traditional, paid ads to spread the word. I ran several Facebook and Twitter ads and saw absolutely nothing from them but a dent in my wallet. I landed half of my backers through posts on Facebook pages and groups. The key? Make it interesting and mix it up. Post the cover, the video, the Kickstarter image, excerpts, artwork, etc., and also remember to include the short link with every post. (You can track the clicks on Bitly.) And don’t be afraid to push the limit. Post just past the point of where it feels spammy. You need to reach thousands of people just to get a few clicks, so prepare to become a posting machine.

2. Make It Marketable

For a first-time novelist, a high-concept novel is an easier sell. You don’t have much time to win over a backer, so a book that can be quickly pitched with an engaging premise is going to help. Popular sub-genres with rabid, in-built audiences help too—zombies, vampires, space opera, epic fantasy, etc. My book, Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device, follows the exploits of a zombie detective and his homunculus frenemy.

3. Don’t Forget the Excerpt

A writing sample is paramount. Who’s going to buy a book from an author whose work they’ve never read? It seems obvious, but after compiling SF Signal’s Crowdfunding Roundup for four years, I saw many writing campaigns that didn’t include an excerpt. That’s asking a lot from potential backers. If your excerpt is amazing, it won’t matter that it’s your first novel. It’s just a matter of getting it in front of as many eyeballs as possible. I posted the first chapter of my book on my website, as a note on Facebook, and on guest blogs. You can even post it directly on your campaign page or as an update.

And if you have any short stories published online, link to them as I did.

4. Awesome Artwork

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Yeah, right. My campaign has succeeded, in large part, because of the amazing artwork by Ed Watson. Good art not only draws in readers—it makes your campaign page look professional. I didn’t stop with a cover, though. I included sketches of my characters and a map, and even incorporated the artwork in the headers. The more art the better.

5. Get Advice

Kickstarter allows people to view your campaign before it launches, and it’s a good idea to get as many people—especially those who’ve run successful campaigns—to check it out. I avoided a bunch of newbie mistakes because of advice I got from friends who looked over my pre-launch campaign.

6. Make a Unique Video

I went a different way with my video. Instead of prattling on about the book in an iPhone video, I let my characters do the talking. Using text and artwork, I put together a 95-second clip (with the ProShow Gold program) that introduced my characters and gave a brief synopsis of the book.

The experts say the video is important, but I’ve seen fiction campaigns succeed without one. If you do a video, keep it short, make it fun, and feature your artwork.

7. Set a Low Goal

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing situation. If you don’t make the goal, you walk away with nada. Sure, it can be expensive to publish a book, but you don’t need to reach profitability through your project. You can use it to offset your costs. Think of it this way—if you don’t Kickstart the book, you still have to come up with all the costs on your own. Why not make $500 to $1000 to help you along before your book is released? Traditionally published books take months or years to make a profit. Sometimes they never do. That’s the risk you take. I set my goal at $1000, which would have made the campaign profitable, but I had my eye set on a higher total. I’m nearing it now and I didn’t have to spend weeks worrying about whether I’d make my goal. 

8. Have Fun

Look at the campaign as an extension of your book. From the video to the blurb to the rewards, make it unique, engaging, and entertaining. As a first-timer, you’ll have to work a little harder to land backers and attention. I have a $1 reward level, where I promise to buy a donut with the money and put the backers name in the book. It’s been a popular reward with a number of people commenting on it and having fun with it. And of course I get donuts, which is always a win!

A Final Word

Of course, crowdfunding your first novel isn’t always a good idea and what worked for me won’t necessarily work for you. Either way, research, plan, and work hard. And good luck!


About the Author

James Aquilone is a writer and editor from Staten Island, New York. His short fiction has been published in such places as Nature’s Futures, The Best of Galaxy’s Edge 2013-2014, Unidentified Funny Objects 4, and Weird Tales Magazine. He Kickstarted his first novel, Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device, against his better judgement.

Visit him at

Josh Viola Guest Post–“Cyber Punks”

Full disclosure: My story “wysiomg” appears in the forthcoming anthology Cyber World co-edited by Josh, but that wasn’t the motivation for this post, which covers the sort of material I would normally wish to bring to the attention of Locus readers.–Alvaro


One particular night a couple of decades ago officially branded me a cyber punk.

I was about ten years old and hosting a sleepover in my family’s single-wide trailer. As you’re probably imagining, a sleepover in a trailer park can be a little unappealing, so I was feeling plenty of pressure to show my friends a fun time or they might never come back.

Thankfully, I planned ahead. I had just the thing waiting for them in the living room.

When my friends finally showed up, they left their bikes on the porch and I led them inside to see the box.

My trailer was like any other in the neighborhood: linoleum floors, threadbare carpet, floral wallpaper, and faux wood paneling. But just then it was the most perfect place in the world because of the box.

One friend pointed and said, “Holy crap!”

Another said, “Oh my God, is that—”

Exactly,” I said, swelling with pride.

We cracked open the box. We had to do it together; they’d have killed me if I’d opened it without them. Carefully, I pulled out a cardboard tray and removed a gray cartridge.

“Boys,” I declared, “tonight we’re playing Shadowrun.”

If you aren’t familiar, Shadowrun is sixteen-bit perfection: an early-nineties video game released on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Data couriers, evil AIs and enough violence to shame John Rambo. It was my first introduction to cyberpunk and, to this day, it is still one of my favorites.

Once the video cables were in place and a semi-static picture flickered on the television screen, we stayed up well past midnight saving Seattle from evil megacorporations. That night, I glimpsed a strange and different world. A world that’s much more recognizable and familiar today.

Several more experiences deepened my appreciation for cyberpunk. One was Akira, the closest thing I could imagine to an acid trip. The film was such a genuine sensory experience, I could literally smell the streets of Neo Tokyo. In that moment, Disney was out and Otomo was in.

Then I saw a little movie you may have heard about. It’s called Blade Runner.

Talk about flipping a switch in my skull.

The film came out about a year before I was born, but it showed me the future like an oracle. I was eleven when I saw it for the first time on my old sofa, a hand-me-down that carried the unmistakable scent of Grandma’s house. Despite its cheap, worn upholstery, that couch was the most comfortable thing in existence.

I remember the couch so vividly because, as I watched the movie, I realized how different Deckard’s world was to mine, and how badly I wanted to live in that film. My living room was cast in warm hues from frosted light bulbs and felt like some friendly, oversized terrarium. Blade Runner flashed with electric red, cobalt blue, neon yellow and phosphorescent green. Deckard’s reality seemed precision-cut by machines—foreign, beautiful, and adamantine. How could my soft, pastel existence compare?

The film was such an atmospheric experience that, to this day, when I visit new cities, I like to walk the streets at night, soaking in the glow and imagining myself inside Ridley Scott’s tech-noir universe.

So now I’m told that cyberpunk is passé?


Cyberpunk isn’t dead. It’s changed, sure. Maybe it’s on the verge of a midlife crisis, trying to reinvent itself with an upgrade—preferably one that still commits to a pink Mohawk and safety-pin-festooned leather jacket. It’s re-making itself in the shadow of our new, distributed, global culture.


The cyberpunk future I knew, with its tropes of machine-mind interfaces, virtual realities and weak governments subsumed by a multi-national megacorp, seemed fantastic–much like today’s present.

Today, almost two decades into the new century, we live in a cyberpunk world where weak governments turn to corporate-backed mercenaries to supplement military forces. Where terrorist organizations are working to shut down the electric grid. Where hackers steal passwords and credit card numbers by the millions. Where computer viruses destroy businesses overnight. Where artificial limbs are controlled by impulses from the brain. Where virtual worlds grow ever more realistic, immersive, and affordable to the masses.

I wanted to assemble Cyber World, a cyberpunk anthology and companion soundtrack, out of a desire to reconcile the grit-and-neon aesthetic of the glittering eighties with the compelling and often frightening cyberpunk reality of the new century…and to extrapolate what “cyberpunk” might mean in the future.

With the help of my co-editor, Jason Heller, our fantastic writers—including Paolo Bacigalupi, Alyssa Wong, Cat Rambo, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Paul Graham Raven, E. Lily Yu, and many others—the synthwave sounds of Celldweller, and the art of Aaron Lovett, I believe we’ve captured something special. Perhaps even magical.

I hope Cyber World will transport other cyber punks into this retro-future, the better to appreciate and safeguard the world we have today.


About the Author


Joshua Viola is an author, artist, and former video game developer (Pirates of the Caribbean, Smurfs, TARGET: Terror). In addition to creating a transmedia franchise around The Bane of Yoto, honored with more than a dozen awards, he is the author of Blackstar, a tie-in novel based on the discography of Celldweller. He is the editor of the Denver Post number one bestselling horror anthology, Nightmares Unhinged, and has published Bram Stoker, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning writers. His next anthology, Cyber World, co-edited by Jason Heller, will be available this November. Blood Business, co-edited by Mario Acevedo, will be available in 2017. He lives in Denver, Colorado, where he is chief editor of Hex Publishers. He can be found on the web at

Sharman Apt Russell Guest Post–“BFF: Science Fiction and the Environmental Movement”

In 1864, a hundred years after the start of the Industrial Revolution, the American scholar George Perkins Marsh wrote about the impact of a society rapidly cutting down its forests, destroying its topsoil, and polluting its water. Marsh thundered, “The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature has established, and she avenges herself upon the intruder by letting loose her destructive energies.” He predicted an impoverished Earth with “shattered surface,” “climatic excesses,” and the extinction of many species, perhaps even our own.

In his own way, Marsh was an early science fiction writer.

About the same time, the conservationist John Muir was saying more plaintively, “Are not all plants beautiful? Or in some way useful? Would not the world suffer from the banishment of a single weed? The curse must be within ourselves.”

In the next hundred years, we would parse out that curse. The Age of the Anthropocene had so begun. And science fiction—in short stories, novels, and anthologies—was there to chronicle this brave new epoch, paralleling almost every major environmental concern.

I know because I was reading those books, having lived most of my life in the last half of the twentieth century. The stories I inhaled as an adolescent and young adult crept under my skin, entered my bones, and whisper to me still in their archaic language of the middle of the night. I went on to become an officially-designated environmental and “nature writer” who still reads and sometimes writes science fiction. My homage, below, to the way science fiction has kept pace with the march of the environmental movement is purely arbitrary, a list of the texts I personally remember. For each category, many readers of this will be able to list many others.

Nuclear war: On the Beach (1957) by Nevil Shute, A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) by Walter Miller, “A Boy and His Dog” (1969) by Harlan Ellison.

Pollution: okay, actually, I have not read John Corbett’s 1934 “The Black River,” about an oil spill destroying Los Angeles—but I learned about it from the anthology Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction (2014) and have searched for a copy ever since. Anyone out there have one? As a college student majoring in environmental studies in the 1970s, however, I did read Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson, which opens with a sci-fi-ish fable. And Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976) by Kate Wilhelm, which starts with the devastating effects of pollution, includes climate change and nuclear war, and works up to cloning.

Overpopulation: John Brunners’s Stand on Zanzibar (1968), Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside (1971), and Thomas Disch’s 334 (1972). Of course, Harry Harrison’s “Make Room! Make Room!” (1969) was turned into the film Soylent Green (1973) starring the quintessential craggy and superficially pensive sci-fi hero of that time, Charlton Heston.

Climate change: from Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962) and The Burning World (1964), science fiction has always addressed Marsh’s nineteenth-century fears of “climactic excesses,” “the shattered surfaces” of Earth, and the extinction of many species, perhaps even our own. Sometimes the problem was solar flares, sometimes aliens. In the last few decades, science fiction has directly addressed global warming caused by human activity, including George Turner’s The Drowning Towers (1987) and John Barnes’s Mother of Storms (1994). The 21st century has seen a spate of such books, coined by the phrase cli-fi, tweeted by Margaret Atwood to describe her own work (MaddAddam Trilogy).

Two recent cli-fi books point to two very different approaches: Green Earth (2015) by Kim Stanley Robinson and The Water Knife (2015) by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Green Earth is an updated, mashed-up version of previous books Robinson has written in his series Science in the Capitol. This is global warming in the developed world, with likeable characters who are healthy, smart, powerful, and privileged. Kayakers paddle on the National Mall as Washington DC floods. Hikers in California mourn the loss of favorite alpine meadows. We read this book while traveling in an airplane, or at home surrounded by our middle-class stuff, and we think—yes, I recognize these people. This could really happen! Green Earth is deeply, weirdly—refreshingly—hopeful. Its most science-fictiony leap may be the thought experiment of American politicians and scientists teaming up to save the world together.

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi is Mr. Hyde to Robinson’s Dr. Jekyll. The United States has fallen apart into warring states, with refugees from the south desperately trying to reach the north. Bacigalupi draws directly from scientific research (environmental writers William DeBuys’s The Great Aridness and Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert) about what extreme drought will look like in the Southwest, mixes into that the horrific violence of the drug cartels happening along the border now, adds everything we know and feel about corrupt politics and amoral multinational corporations—and the result also feels frighteningly real. Yes, we think. Get the family in the car! We’re moving to Canada.

To my mind, both books are powerful examples of a new “nature writing” rooted in the tradition of science fiction as the literature of the environmental movement.

And there, I’ve said it: science fiction has long been the unofficial literature of the environmental movement, whether that was consciously recognized or even welcomed by either the genre or the activists. Perhaps this was inevitable. The Age of the Anthropocene—the current geologic era defined by the degree to which human activities are shaping the planet we live on—requires what might also be the defining quality of science fiction: some serious and imaginative thinking about the future.


About the Author

Sharman Apt Russell’s most recent nonfiction, Diary of a Citizen Scientist, won the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, whose recipients include Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson. She is the author of some dozen books published in a dozen languages. Her debut science fiction Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Yucca Publishing, 2016) begins in a Paleoterrific utopia and spirals out to some very strange places. Knocking on Heaven’s Door is available in audible as well as print and digital. For more information, go to

Ada Palmer Guest Post–“World Building and Change in Terra Ignota”

I started going about building the science fiction future for my Terra Ignota series, not by trying to predict things that will happen, but by looking for things that have already been changing in the last two centuries, and will with certainty be different in some way in the future. This is a different way of thinking about plausibility, one that comes naturally to me because I’m trained as a historian, so I tend to think in terms of long-term change, and never assume that anything—whether a belief or a technology—will be the same in different times and places. Whether or not you think it’s plausible that we’ll have flying cars in 2450, it’s a certain thing that we won’t have the same transportation system we have now, since transportation technology and transportation culture have changed so many times since industrialization, and are clearly still changing. Thus many different possible transportation systems—self-driving planes, tunnels through the Earth, teleportation technology—are all more plausible to me than the only truly implausible thing: stasis.

I set my series four hundred years in the future, about as far from us as we are from Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, and the invention of the modern scientific method.

For example, one factor that I’m sure, thinking historically, won’t be the same in four hundred years is the size of nations and governments. We’ve seen the size of nations change fundamentally three times since 1600. Renaissance nations were effectively the size of what contiguous territory their rulers/people could conquer and hold, and “France” or “Spain” meaning a king and what he ruled more than a defined spot on a map, since countries shifted constantly as borderlands changed hands. This transitioned to the age of ambitious empires, when mostly-European conquerors competed to snatch up territories, and for a while the majority of political entities on Earth were the subjugated dominions of a few rival powers. As the nineteenth century turned to the twentieth, this transitioned again to the post-colonial era, shaped largely by the nationalist idea that every people has a right to self-determination, and that territories on a map should ideally correspond to populations with shared cultural identities. Later in the twentieth century, as the success of the United States demonstrated the advantages larger nations have on the world stage, the Soviet Union and European Union, the growth of China and India as world players, and efforts to create international bodies such as NATO and the UN, have all been experiments in the direction of a transition toward macro-nations. That’s the change that seems to be going on now.

It would be easy to call such macro-nations The Next Big Thing in Government, but if we’re looking four centuries in the future, not just one, it seems more likely to me that we will have at least two more big changes in something which changed three times in the last four centuries. So I tried to imagine a second transition, past macro-nations, caused by the new tensions between them, and the new kinds of people that will grow up in a world of macro-nations.

And just as I’ve tried to think, not one, but at least two changes into the future about the size of nations, I’ve done the same for lots of other aspects of the world which can’t plausibly stay the same because they’re already changing: the speed of transportation, medicine and lifespan, gender and gender pronouns, dominant languages, the penal system, art, identity and nationalism, movies and entertainment, education, pets, the length of the work week, space tech, race relations, what age people see as “adulthood”, what people find “sexy”; these have all changed substantially at least twice in the last four centuries.

I’m sure my answers about how they will change in the next four won’t be right, but the science fiction world I’ve created with them is plausible to me because all the things that have to be different are different. And that gives us a glance at a world a bit more alien than a lot of science fiction, alien in time and culture rather than setting. Alien to us the way we are to Shakespeare.


About the Author

Ada Palmer is the author of Too Like the Lightning (Tor Books, May 2016) and the forthcoming Seven Surrenders (Tor Books, December 2016) and a professor in the history department of the University of Chicago, specializing in Renaissance history and the history of ideas. Her first nonfiction book, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, was published in 2014 by Harvard University Press. She is also a composer of folk and Renaissance-tinged a capella music, most of which she performs with the group Sassafrass. Her personal site is at, and she writes about history for a popular audience at and about SF and fantasy-related matters at

Gregory Wilson Guest Post–“Creativity and Collaboration”

Moicarus-coverst of the time, authors are used to flying solo. Well before we start thinking about submitting work for publication, we’re scribbling in journals, writing poems mostly for ourselves, coming up with characters and places and plots for short stories and novels which we think are cool—us, not some mythical other reader who floats in the aether, ever out of reach. As we mature as writers we become more aware of our reading audience, of course; as Damon Knight says, writing for ourselves alone is Stage One writing, valuable in its own way but not really equivalent to work which is intended to convey theme and concept to other people. And even if we don’t collaborate with other authors, when we begin to submit work to agents and publishers we become aware of other people involved in the transaction of writing: the gatekeepers, slush pile readers and acquisitions editors who need to love our work as much (or more!) as we do before agreeing to publish it in publically available form. Even if we self-publish, we need to be aware of potential readers and what they might value. But none of this changes the fundamental solitary nature of creative writing in prose and poetry—we come up with the people and places and ideas, others react to and tweak and alter them.

In the progress of my own writing career I got very used to this solo approach. I certainly appreciated what my editors did for my work, but I still imagined myself as the initial source of the creative process—though oddly, in other aspects of my professional life as a professor, both with colleagues and students I tend to lean towards collaboration and group discussion, even a decent amount of collaborative work in my creative writing courses.

And then came Icarus. When I first developed the concept, about a young man with wings falling into the heart of a massive dormant volcano on another planet and the creatures he finds there, I thought of it in prose—though, as is often the case, the visual image (this time from a Cirque du Soleil show) was always in my mind as I was writing. And I wrote it as a novel in the usual way, on my own, with several beta readers I trusted providing feedback as I went, before submitting it to agents and publishers. It came close but didn’t get picked up, and it was on the back burner until I met Ron Garner from Silence in the Library Publishing and we began chatting about graphic novels. I had always known Icarus was a very visual story, and when Ron started describing what it could look like in visual form, I got as excited as he was.

But I had no experience in writing a graphic novel, and I assumed it was mostly just a matter of sending the book to the artist (decidedly not me!) and being ready to consult on the characters and world after that. I was… very wrong. First of all, Icarus is indeed a visual story, but that wasn’t enough on its own—I had to create a visual outline, highlighting the major visual cues and making suggestions about character appearance, set piece pictures at high points in the story, and so on. And an 84,000 word novel isn’t suitable for an (ultimately) 150 page or so graphic novel, and that meant we needed a script—which was written by Keith DeCandido, who did his usual professional job in adapting my story for use in the graphic novel medium. And space restrictions which are a reality of any visual medium in print meant additional compression, particularly in dialogue; the letterer, Kris Siuda, did tremendous work to create space to fit the dialogue which remained. And we had two artists, not just one, so both the work of Matt Slay and Mark Dos Santos went into representing the final product. And there was layout to be done, started by Glenn Haumann from Comic Mix and continued by Kris and Ron. And, and, and….

You get the idea. Icarus the novel was written by me, read by a couple of others, and (had it been published in its original prose form) edited by a couple of people after that. Icarus the graphic novel was written by me, read by a couple of others, edited by Ron, scripted by Keith, artistically rendered by Matt and Mark, lettered and color corrected by Kris, laid out by Glenn and Ron, and the list continues. It truly was a group effort, which was frankly kind of terrifying. It has my name on the cover, sure, but what happens when it’s actually the work of a lot more people than just me? Is it really mine anymore?

Well… sure. It’s mine because I came up with the concept in the first place; it’s mine because I was the one with the original understanding of the characters and the place where they lived; it’s mine because I signed off on the look of the world and its people; it’s mine because the story and narrative was the one I originally conceived, and the themes are the ones I wanted to present. But more important, I’ve realized that in letting go of full control of the story’s execution I wasn’t letting go of the story itself. In fact, Icarus is a considerably richer story for all the different people who have contributed to its representation. The first time I saw Matt Slay’s cover art, a close up of Icarus’s arm as he falls into the heart of Vol, I was blown away, just as I was when I saw Mark Dos Santos’s first drawing of the ancient and awe-inspiring Salamander Kings. And when I finally got to see the full book, laid out on my widescreen computer monitor, I was deeply moved. My story had somehow inspired this brilliant work from brilliant people, and their work had inspired me in turn.

It’s a lesson I might have learned before but had forgotten: at its best, creative writing is communication, and communication is a function of community. I feel incredibly lucky to have found a community of such impressive creative people, and really excited to see how the next and most important group of people—the readers—will respond to the work we’ve done. All of us.


About the Author

GregorGregory-Wilson-Back-Cover-Photo-683x1024y A. Wilson is Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City, where he teaches creative writing and fantasy fiction along with various other courses in literature. His first academic book was published by Clemson University Press in 2007; on the creative side, he has won an award for a national playwriting contest, and his first novel, a work of fantasy entitled The Third Sign, was published by Gale Cengage in the summer of 2009. His second novel, Icarus, will be published as a graphic novel by Silence in the Library Publishing in 2016, and he has just signed a three book deal with The Ed Greenwood Group, which will be publishing his Gray Assassin Trilogy beginning with his third novel, Grayshade, in 2016.  He has short stories out in various anthologies, including Time Traveled Tales from Silence in the Library, When The Villain Comes Home, edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy, and Triumph Over Tragedy, alongside authors like Robert Silverberg and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and he has had three articles published in the SFWA Bulletin.

He is a regular panelist at conferences across the country and is a member of the Gen Con Writers’ Symposium, the Origins Library, Codex, Backspace, and several other author groups on and offline. On other related fronts, he did character work and flavor text for the hit fantasy card game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, and along with fellow speculative fiction author Brad Beaulieu is the co-host of the critically-acclaimed podcast Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans, a show which discusses (and interviews the creators and illustrators of) speculative fiction of all sorts and types.  He lives with his wife Clea and daughter Senavene–named at his wife’s urging for a character in The Third Sign, for which his daughter seems to have forgiven him–in Riverdale, NY.

Appreciations for David G. Hartwell (1941-2016)

We received more appreciations for the late David Hartwell than we had room to run in our March issue, but would still like to share them with our readers. The following memorials from his friends, admirers, and colleagues are just a small part of the outpouring of appreciations for his life. Further appreciations are welcome in the comments.–Locus


Chuck Gannon

I generally do not write memoriams. My first and last reaction is, “did I really know the person well enough?” This was my reaction when I read, with shock, of David Hartwell’s untimely passing from a stroke. But then I realized, looking at the Facebook threads begun in his memory, how many people qualified their statements with “I did not know him/never met him/never spoke to him, but….” And that changed my mind.

I do not claim to have been a fast friend of David’s; his circles and mine intersected only so much over the years. But he was always unfailingly friendly, as well as soft-spoken–to the point of seeming shy, at times. But his passions for the SF/F genre, for books, and for a life of the mind were as bright and vibrant as the stars that intrigued him.

David was the first person to publish my work in SF. Ironically, it was not fiction, although in the last two years, we had chatted about addressing that situation. But perhaps, being a nonfiction publication, it was ultimately more influential upon me, because it set in motion a string of events that led me to where I am today.

In 1989, friends of mine brought me to the first SF/F convention I had ever attended. I did not grow up in the fannish community, so when I entered the strange reality of Lunacon, the environment was terra incognita.

In the course of that convention (itself a tale with many odd excurses, such as meeting Tom Doherty in the rest room and having no bloody idea just who I was talking with), I sat in on a panel in a large room, almost filled to capacity, where the literary merits and particulars of SF were under discussion. Toward the end, I raised my hand, and asked a question about the aesthetic relationship, as the panelists saw it, between the evolution of SF in the 20th century and the (often helpful, often problematizing) temporally parallel modernist and post-modernist movements. One of the panelists–a distinguished looking fellow in a conservative sport coat and outrageous tie–asked me to provide more detail about where I saw the affinities and the bricolage between SF and these literary trends. I did so. On the spot, he asked if I’d be willing to write that up and send it to him for publication in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

For anyone sensitive to narrative structure, it has become obvious that this panelist was none other than David Hartwell. But for those who knew him, they were certain of that identity from the moment I mentioned the outrageous tie–of which David had an extraordinary and seemingly inexhaustible collection (I am not sure I ever saw him wear the same one twice). And those who knew David well will have realized it was him for another reason: his thirst for serious discussion of SF in all its shapes and forms. In this case, manifesting as a panel-ending solicitation for an article on a related topic, risking his time and energy on a completely unknown 29-year-old who had the great, dumb luck to ask the final question of the hour and thus have that coda-like request ringing in his ears loud and long enough to take action upon it.

The article was indeed long (and those who know *me* will not be surprised to learn that). But David ran it in its entirety, giving it a new, Tennysonian title (“The Ringing Grooves of Change”) and providing some (typically) excellent editorial comments and guidance as it moved to readiness. I was delighted.

Five years later, when market forces had driven my first freelance career into a ditch, I determined to ensure a secure professional foundation by becoming a professor. And so, the essay for which David had been the catalyst now sparked the conceptual fire that grew into my dissertation proposal. In modified form, it became the first chapter in that dissertation, which ultimately went on to become my first book, Rumors of War and Infernal Machines. When its second, American edition won the American Library Association’s 2006 Choice Award for Best Book, I dropped David a line to thank him for the seminal role he played in that almost 20-year journey. His reply was, predictably, very congratulatory while also being wholly dismissive of his influence.

I offer this story not because I believe it to be unique, but because, conversely, I suspect it is one of a vast throng of similar tales: of how David reached out and, without even knowing it, set someone on a course that would one day lead to a profound rendezvous with some aspect of the SF/F genre and/or community. I hope others will step forth with their analogous remembrances. I doubt there could be a more fitting tribute to a man who gave this field so much of himself, his energy, his vision, his passion: a bouquet of dreams given substance in this, the true “field of dreams.”

I will miss David a great deal; after all, who other than he shared the almost contentious conviction that Pynchon is, at the core, a modernist not a postmodernist? I will miss him hovering like a proud mother bird over his tables of used books, the treasure for which had both an insatiable appetite and also a near-evangelical zeal for sharing. I will miss his balance, his gentlemanly manner on panels (we sat our last together at Loncon), his dry wit, his strong tendency to depoliticize the field wherever possible, his elegant turn of a phrase, his slow smile, his omnipresent camera. And of course, his ties.

David’s last decade seemed to churn with a great deal of change and challenge, some being health-related issues. However, in recent years, it seemed he had found renewed energy on those occasions we met and chatted–although our talk never turned to personal matters: David was in many regards a very private person, and I never presumed to do anything other than respect those implicit conversational margins. But on the day before his passing, I had seen that he was on the same last-day panel at Boskone that I was, and so weighed whether I should make my departure a little later, just for the pleasure of touching base with David, and sharing our love of SF. But now that chair will be empty.

And we and our field are permanently diminished because of that.

Gerard Klein

I was terribly sad when I heard about the accident of David Hartwell. Then absolutely upset when my friend Robert Silverberg announced to me the brutal death of David.

I met him twice. The first time, some years ago, he came to my place in Paris and we had a very interesting dinner, at least for me.

One of my Bibles is his The World Treasury of Science Fiction (1989). I owe to him the honor to be represented in that Institution but that is not the reason for my admiration for his work. I think he was one of the best editors of all times in the science fiction field, at Tor and elsewhere, as was Ian Ballantine in the fifties and the sixties and later.

We met him, my wife Jackie Paternoster and me, a second time in November 2014, in New York at the Tor offices in the legendary Iron Flat Building. He gave us with his boss and collaborators a warm and kind welcome.

And I hoped to meet him again in NY or in Paris and to develop, beyond the admiration, a deep friendship such as I had and have with so many personalities of science fiction I read, admired and published.

I wrote to Bob: David lived by books, he died by books.

If it is true he fell in his house transporting a handful of books….

My English is not so good so I am not sure this is an appropriate sentence.

But I mourn him and partake the grief of his family and friends.

Mack Hassler

“Young David as Leader”

His coat of princely fit
Mixed with many colors ruled
Our realm. No one fooled
With Hartwell. Now his death
Strikes us hard. No breath
Nor tear suffices for the loss
That shall deeply cut across
The world of writers. Without him
We must stagger forward dim
In our vision for awhile,
Disoriented with no smile.
He assumed youthful command
In the field and led a motley band
Of believers with much compelling wit.

Henry Morrison

I first met David Hartwell either in his last days at Signet or his first days at Berkley, and we did a fair amount of business over the years. I was very happy to learn early on that David was knowledgeable about a lot of things in a lot of fields. He was one of the few people I knew who really loved science fiction. I’m sure he enjoyed the living from it, but I’m also sure he’d have enjoyed it just as much as a fan. Since we both lived in Westchester, we’d get together once or twice a year for lunch, and he’d fill me in on the world of science fiction, and then we’d get on to talking about the world in general.

Brad Linaweaver

David Hartwell made essential contributions to many specialized areas of science fiction–among them the libertarian contingent that should celebrate his memory for years to come.

Nick Mamatas Guest Post–“Influence Without Anxiety Or, What’s That Sneaking Around in the Corner of the Novelist’s Mind?”

I suppose I wear my influences on my sleeve — most of them anyway. My most recent novel, the dipsomaniac zombie story The Last Weekend, is a tribute to some of them. Mike Berry at the San Francisco Chronicle nailed it: “it is the shades of Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, John Fante and other hard-drinking scribblers who haunt the pages.” One boozy author most everyone has missed so far is Frederick Exley, whose “fictional memoir” A Fan’s Notes I freely used as a structural template. But there is a deeper influence at work in The Last Weekend as well, specifically Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

Before becoming the simple classic that it is, The Forever War was marketed as a satire. “What A Hitch!” reads the back cover call-out on the Ballantine edition I read years ago. On the front, a confident claim that the novel is science fiction’s own Catch-22. If that wasn’t enough, here’s something about protagonist William Mandella we’d almost never see on the cover copy of a novel today, in the Era of Spoiler Warnings: “Battling the Taurans was the least of his problems as he worked his way up through the ranks to major.” Interstellar battles? Fuggedaboutit! The real story is somewhere else.

Mandella’s story is about something wildly different; his disaffection from a rapidly changing world. The satire in The Forever War is occasionally brutal—rape is essentially institutionalized through the practice of confraternity/bunksharing, and there’s no side character or plot device to wag a finger and say, “That’s bad!” as would be typical in a twenty-first century milquetoast satire. (We must recall that satire’s goal is to critique vice, not just power. Journalists are supposed to “kick up and kiss down”; satirists piss on everything.) And then, as Mandella’s travels keep him young while humanity’s cultures continue to evolve, he finds himself entirely at the mercy of the crazed and hidden logic of war. “Strike Force Command plans in terms of centuries,” after all. “Not in terms of people.”

There is a broad stroke similarity between military science fiction and zombie apocalypse fiction. The former tends to focus on regular troops and the drama of the battlefield; the latter on civilians or “irregulars” trying to survive the drama of complete invasion and collapse. The enemies are frequently either the hive (in military SF) or the horde (in zombie fiction). Of course there are tons of exceptions as well, but we’re talking genres here, so we can make broad and reasonably accurate claims. The Forever War stands out, even after decades, even after the narrative of the Vietnam War has been eclipsed by those of Iraq and Afghanistan, because it violates the strictures of generic hardcore military SF. The particulars of the war against the Taurans are essentially irrelevant. It’s a critique of the form, and as Thomas Disch points out in his essay “Republicans on Mars—SF as Military Strategy”, “[u]nlike the various survivalist series and the Soldier of Fortune adventures of Pournelle, Drake, and Co., The Forever War said what it had to say once…. It is but a single book among entire ranks of paperbacks” that feature the exact opposite message.

That’s what I tried to do with The Last Weekend. It’s a satire, and a complaint about zombie fiction, while also being zombie fiction. Like Mandella, my protagonist Vasilis “Billy” Kostopolos is brought into the battle and isn’t very good at it, but muddles through sufficiently well to eventually be the longest-serving “driller” of reanimated corpses. Though he’s an alcoholic, was barely functional prior to the apocalypse, and whines about the slow death of his literary ambitions constantly, Billy ends up being pretty proud of his work as a driller too. And there is no moral center, no handy side character to tsk-tsk and say, “But Billy, you’re a terrible person with bad ideas. Can’t you be a good Bernie Bro instead?” so that even the least discerning readers will know that I’m only funnin’ with them. (I’m not!)

Further, like the war against the Taurans in The Forever War, the fight against the zombies is essentially secondary in The Last Weekend. As one mostly positive review put it, “for readers looking for down-and-dirty zombie action, with a strong plot and lots of tension, you’ll most likely be disappointed with this book.” True, so far as it goes. See also the relative handful of one-star reviews of The Forever War on Elementary confusion between portrayal and advocacy with regards to the sexism in future military society, and the idea that war may not be swell. A few of them even complained about “swear words.”

But with all that said, except for readers of this essay (hello!), almost nobody reading The Last Weekend would think to themselves, “Aha, this is like The Forever War.” But occulted influences are not uncommon. Years ago I was on a panel with author Terry Brooks of Shannara fame, who minimized the influence of Tolkien on his work. Who really influenced him? “Faulkner,” he said in a word. Shannara is an intergenerational saga taking place in a region that’s seen better days, I suppose. An even more hard-to-spot influence might be Raymond Carver on Haruki Murakami. The world’s leading novelist of phantasmagorical weirdness, featuring people who turn into sheep and such, informed by the paragon of “dirty realism” in American short fiction? It’s somewhat more obvious if you read Japanese, but it’s there. Murakami’s Japanese is closer to English than is apparent from English translations. The content is very different, but the form hauntingly similar. When you read a book, keep in mind that you’re not only reading a snatch of conversation within a subgenre, but perhaps also the palimpsest of novel in a different genre entirely.


About the Author

Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including the recent The Last Weekend and the forthcoming Lovecraftian murder mystery I Am Providence. His short fiction has appeared on, and in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Weird Tales, and Best American Mystery Stories 2013, among dozens of other venues. His latest anthology is the hybrid crime/SF Hanzai Japan, co-edited with Masumi Washington.


Lisa Goldstein Guest Post–“Traveling in History”

There’s a passage in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost that gave me pause when I first read it:

“For I must tell thee, it will please his grace, by the world, sometime to lean upon my poor shoulder, and with his royal finger, thus, dally with my excrement…”

Thank goodness for the glossary, which defined “excrement” as meaning “that which grows out (such as hair, nails, feathers).”

I bring this up to illustrate how hard it is to write from the point of view of someone in a historical period. Should you have a character in Elizabethan times use the word “excrement” to mean “hair, nails, feathers”? That one’s straightforward: the answer’s no. But what about something more ambiguous, like having your characters say “thee” and “thou”? I think archaic speech tends to distance the reader from the people in the story, to make them seem old-fashioned and quaint, but I’ve also seen it done well, for example in In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker.

Then there are the social attitudes of the time. Sticking with the Elizabethans, should you have your character make an anti-Semitic remark? Such remarks were distressingly common for the time period, but you can’t suddenly stop and explain this; you have to stay within the point of view of your characters, and they would have no idea that anyone would find those comments objectionable.

I’ve been writing about other eras for years, and wrestling with these questions, but that barely prepared me for my latest book. Weighing Shadows is a time-travel novel set partly in ancient Crete, a place which even the stuffiest gentleman scholar admits was a matriarchy. And if Elizabethan England differs in a good many ways from the present, those differences are nothing compared to Crete. The concept of a matriarchy was so foreign to me that I had to stretch my mind in all kinds of ways, just to encompass the mindset of the people who lived there. And it didn’t help that very little is known about the place. (Well, it did help, actually, because I got to make things up. But in terms of their culture and traditions, even their language, I was thrown out in the deep end.)

I wasn’t the only one who had trouble with this. A number of books on Crete called a beautiful chair in the palace at Knossos “the throne of King Minos”–but a matriarchy would have a queen, not a king. One book, Minoans: Life in Bronze Age Crete by Rodney Castleden, says, “‘Women’ and their children are mentioned on the tablets too, without any reference to menfolk, implying slavery and absent males.” But wouldn’t the women and children be listed because they were more important? (Parenthetically, I don’t know why “women” is in quotes here.)

I have to admit, though, that sometimes I was just as clueless as these authors. At one point I wrote about a male artist up on a scaffolding painting a mural–then reread what I had written, beat myself up, and changed the artist into a woman.

There were so many things I needed to think about, to reassess. Who went out to work and who took care of the children? What kind of work did they do, and was it divided along gender lines? Did they have marriages, and if so what kind? They seemed to worship goddesses, but what about gods? What were their religious ceremonies like?

In addition to all of that I wanted to include other, more intangible parts of their culture, things like proverbs or table manners or smells. (I have to recommend Mary Renault here, an author who is absolutely terrific at this.) I wanted readers to feel as if they were visiting a culture far removed in time, a place where even a simple gesture might have a different meaning.

One of the things that helped me was the fact that my main character, Ann, came from our own time period, so I could use her as a stand-in for a present-day reader. I could have her feel puzzled when she was faced with something she didn’t understand, or comment on some difference between the two cultures. I’ve written a number of novels set solely in the past, and putting in Ann’s reactions made my job much easier, and gave me a freedom I never had before.

Just doing research isn’t enough, though. After all the books are read, after all the notes are taken, you have to somehow close your eyes and jump into your chosen milieu, to make an almost physical effort to locate yourself within it. I can state unequivocally that I didn’t do as good a job as Mary Renault. Still, I hope I gave readers a sense of what it would be like to visit ancient Crete, if only for a moment. To smell the cypress trees, feel the hot sun on their shoulders, take their seats in the arena and watch as men and women danced with bulls.


About the Author

Lisa Goldstein has written fourteen novels, among them The Uncertain Places, which won the Mythopoeic Award, and The Red Magician, which won the American Book Award for Best Paperback. Her stories have appeared in Ms., Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and The Year’s Best Fantasy, among other places, and her novels and short stories have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. She lives with her husband and their irrepressible Labrador retriever, Bonnie, in Oakland, California. Her web site is

© 2010 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved. Powered by WordPress, modified from a theme design by Lorem Ipsum