He and I were in the Clarion West class hailed as the future of science fiction. Three Black women, three Asian women (including me), three Jewish men (including Ben), people from five different countries altogether: nowadays that may seem quaint, and that’s part of what we talk about in this interview. The world has changed a lot and as an author always exploring the limits of what it is to be human, Ben has gotten a front row seat to the challenge of asking questions that are relevant not just now, but ten years from now. Edgy questions about gender in one decade can become absurdly sexist by the next. Gender is one of the many concepts he explores in his upcoming novel, The Unraveling.
I’ll confess I have always loved the concept behind Dragons by the Yard. Written by Debbie Daughetee and adapted for comics by Kelly Swails, it’s the story of Anna, a girl who sews dragons to sell at the Rose Bowl Swap Meet. One day she meets a mysterious woman who sells her an unusual fabric, and Anna makes seven little dragons out of it. Then the magic happens.
Currently, four issues of this wonderful tale exist, but Swails has four more scripts ready to go. Kymera Press is currently running a Kickstarter to turn those scripts into finished comics. Most of the money from the Kickstarter will go to the international team of artists, women who’ve worked for Marvel, DC, IDW, Dynamite or other big houses. They are featured in the brief video below.
Everyone’s heard of Frankenstein, and most people also know its author, Mary Shelley, but on the 200th anniversary of that novel’s publication, Kymera Press is doing something very, very cool. Mary Shelley Presents is a graphic novel series about other Victorian women horror writers. These women were famous in their own day, but their legacies have faded over time. Now, with the help of Kickstarter, Kymera press seeks to assemble the multiple stories of this series into one trade paperback that they will then bring to life — okay, okay… I’ll hold off on any other Frankenstein metaphors…
Instead, let me introduce Debbie Daughetee, owner of Kymera Press, and have her tell the story of this book in her own words. Then head on over to Kickstarter to support the trade paperback edition!
Emily Mah: Mary Shelly is a beloved matriarch of horror and this book looks so gorgeous. Can you give us some background on how it came to be?
Debbie Daughetee: Nancy Holder and I have been wanting to work together for a long time. So when the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein loomed, I talked to Nancy about doing something to celebrate it. Neither of us wanted to revisit Frankenstein as it’s been done to death in comics. Finally, we had the thought to have Mary Shelley and her creature introduce horror stories written by Victorian Women.
Mary Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, did much for women’s rights and for women writers. It was a natural fit with Kymera Press’ mission statement of supporting women in comics. These Victorian women were as famous in their time as Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker, and yet most people haven’t heard of them. Resurrecting their voices is a fun and interesting adventure for us.
She has also illustrated for magazines such as Lightspeed, and art directed, Women Destroy Fantasy and Queers Destroy Science Fiction. But I’ll let Elizabeth and her gorgeous art speak for themselves.
Emily Mah: You’ve illustrated several stories for DreamForge, that I’m aware of. How many have you done for them and what were the stories?
Elizabeth Leggett: I have been profoundly lucky. DreamForge has found some of the most talented writers and they have let me play in their sandbox through illustration. The first two pieces I did for them was for Lauren Teffeau’s short story, “Sing! And Remember.” The first was the cover image and the second was a black and white design.
My next contract was for David Weber’s story, “A Certain Talent.” This one is close to my heart because I was not only allowed to illustrate the main character, but also conceptualize Jim Moore (Jane Lindskold’s husband) as the power player! Next, I needed to leave my comfort zone and illustrate Jennifer Donohue’s story, “The Fundamentals of Search and Rescue.” Good heavens. wreckage sites are a challenge to draw!
My last illustration for last year was for John Jos Miller, “The Ghost of a Smile.”
One of my favorite stories from last year was “Ghost of a Smile”by John Jos. Miller, with this gorgeous illustration by Elizabeth Leggett. John was kind enough to answer a few questions. Those of you who are unfamiliar with John may, in fact, have read his books. He’s worked in genre fiction for decades, writing everything from media tie-in to Wild Cards, the shared world series edited by George RR Martin and Melinda Snodgrass. Read on to learn more about his work.
Emily Mah: You’ve been in the business a long time and written a lot of excellent books, from media tie-in to the Wild Cards shared universe. Can you give a rough overview of your work to date?
John Jos. Miller: Yeah, it’s been awhile. Somewhat longer than I’d like to admit, though I did get an early start. I don’t remember exactly when I started writing stories, but I was collecting my first rejection slips when I was about fourteen. I made my first sale to a pro publication when I was sixteen (anyone else remember Witchcraft and Sorcery, which started out as Coven-13?), but the magazine folded before it could print the story, or more importantly, pay me for it. That started an unfortunate trend that lasted for three or four other stories, but finally I sold to one that lasted long enough to both print the story and pay me (it was, in fact, the last story of the last issue of the original run of Fantastic Stories, so perhaps I deserve at least partial blame for killing that one). I had actually written and sold three novellas to Space & Time in the interim, but given the vicissitudes of small press publishing, those didn’t appear until after the story in Fantastic, and Space & Time was such a good ‘zine that even I couldn’t kill it – in fact, it’s still being published today.
Since J. Barton Mitchell and I are in the same writer’s group, I had the privilege of reading the script for the first episode of Derelict before it was cast. If you liked Mitchell’s book, The Razor, or are otherwise a fan of action packed, hard science fiction, you definitely don’t want to miss this. Mitchell has provided the following interview, discussing the project in depth, but first, check out the first episode, then go back the production of future episodes here.
Emily Mah: As a science fiction author, your novel Valley of Fires concluded the Conquered Earth series (and was awarded best science fiction novel of 2015 by the RT Book Review), which included Midnight City and The Severed Tower. Last November you had The Razor (picked by Amazon as one of the best Sci-Fi books of 2018). With Derelict, you’re exploring a whole new medium: narrative podcasts. Why turn to podcasting?
J. Barton Mitchell: I actually started on the film side of things, my first success was as a screenwriter, I came to fiction later on. As a result, I tend to think cinematically, even when writing books. The narrative podcast medium was kind of a natural fit because it’s sort of cinematic without visuals (odd as that sounds). It’s, basically, like you’re listening to a movie. The format also lets you do projects that would be completely impossible from a budget standpoint if they were in film or TV. Derelict would be over a $100 million dollar budget as a movie…but, as a podcast, I can make it in my basement, and it’s almost just as visceral and engaging. I think that’s really exciting. The other thing is that, for me, the best kind of storytelling is where the audience is allowed to participate in the storytelling process. In other words, they get to fill in the blanks with their imagination. The audio format allows for that in a major way, because (like a novel) it’s sans imagery. The audience has to imagine the visuals themselves. I think that’s really exciting too.
Emily Mah: So, no spoilers, but what’s Derelict about and why should I tune in?
Where can you find original short stories by John Crowley, Sofia Samatar, Sarena Ulibarri, Tina Connolly, Mary Ruefle, Elizabeth Hand, Paul Park, Jim and Karen Shepard, Paul Di Filippo, Akiko Busch, Safia Elhillo, Jeffrey Ford, Kij Johnson, Kirsten Imani Kasai, Renee Simms, and others all in one place? Now this is a Kickstarter campaign worth backing — one of the rewards is a special edition of this book.
Laura Christensen is a visual artist who has developed a technique for painting on found vintage photographs. Her seamlessly altered photographs are like stills from dreams: surreal, but real-seeming. By the time she finds a photograph, its chains of personal connections have broken. Subjects are freed to become characters cast and costumed, players in other stories. As an extension of this practice, she has invited 30 award-winning authors to write stories and poems in response to her art.
THEN AGAIN: Vintage Photography Reimagined by One Artist and Thirty Writers, is the singular anthology that assembles these richly imagined stories and poems with the captivating images that inspired them.
J. Barton Mitchell (the J. stands for “Jack”) is the author of the science fiction YA novel series Conquered Earth (published by St. Martin’s Press), and The Razor (published by Tor Books). He has also sold screenplays to Warner Bros. and 21st Century Fox, and created the comic book series POE for ‘Boom! Studios’.
I had the privilege of interviewing him (see the video below), and in preparation for that interview, read The Razor, and let me just say: Wow. It is excellent.
Here’s the back cover copy:
J. Barton Mitchell’s The Razor is a riveting science fiction thriller about a man struggling to survive the chaos on a prison planet.
Brilliant engineer Marcus Flynn has been sentenced to 11-H37 alongside the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals. A hard labor prison planet better known as the Razor, where life expectancy is short and all roads are dead ends.
At least until the Lost Prophet goes active…
In a few hours, prison guards and staff are evacuated, the prisoners are left to die, and dark mysteries begin to surface.
Only Flynn has the skills and knowledge to unravel them, but he will have to rely on the most unlikely of allies — killers, assassins, pirates and smugglers. If they can survive each other they just might survive the Razor… and claim it for their own.
A new science fiction and fantasy market is about to launch, and they’re calling for Kickstarter backers to help get them off the ground. DreamForge, headed up by Scot Noel, is recruiting “dreamers, heroes, and optimists” to back, submit to, and subscribe to this new magazine. Check out their Kickstarter video above!
This magazine is an exciting addition to the publishing market and Noel is open to all the subgenres of speculative fiction. The overarching theme is hope.
When college student Emery Driscoll is blackmailed into being a courier for a clandestine organisation, she’s cut off from the neural implant community which binds the domed city of New Worth together. Her new employer exploits her rare condition which allows her to carry encoded data in her blood, and train her to transport secrets throughout the troubled city. New Worth is on the brink of Emergence – freedom from the dome – but not everyone wants to leave. Then a data drop goes bad, and Emery is caught between factions: those who want her blood, and those who just want her dead.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Lauren for several years now and watching her writing go from strength to strength. She has a master’s degree in Mass Communication and worked for several years as a researcher in that field before moving to New Mexico. There, she attended the Taos Toolbox Writer’s Workshop and sold several short stories before earning her first contract with Angry Robot.
We recently sat down to talk about Implanted, her career to date, and her future projects.