There are times when we should all stand up and speak on behalf of something. Then, there are times when the best way to advocate is to step aside and let someone else speak.

African American History Month is one of those times.

So here's a roundup of great articles celebrating African American science fiction and fantasy authors. Hope you're ready to add a ton of amazing books to your to-be-read list!

A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction

Freedom to Read: The 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In

7 Black Women Science Fiction Writers Everyone Should Know

13 Coretta Scott King Award and Honoree Books to Read Now

This Month (And Every Month), Black Sci-Fi Writers Look to the Future

Read Harder: Read a Classic by an Author of Color

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If you like great fiction and also casually name-dropping awesome authors your friends have never heard of, boy do I have a treat for you.

It's called All About the Indies, it's' happening this Saturday in the D.C. area, and I'm gonna be there. So be sure to come say hi.

The deets:

All About the Indies
11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Saturday, February 18
Holiday Inn Hotel Arlington At Ballston
4610 N Fairfax Dr, Arlington, Virginia 22203

In addition to a wide variety of local authors, there will be panels and giveaways!

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There is plenty being said about this particular Presidential race, our new President, and the inauguration today.

So I'll just throw my two cents in with this wise and relevant quote:

If you'd like to explore this idea further, here's some recommended reading:

I also encourage you to check out these amazing resistance posters created by the artist who created the iconic Obama "Hope" poster.

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While some genres have a tendency toward light, quick reads (ahem, romance), fantasy has always gone the opposite way. This genre tends toward dense reads … the type of book that can double as a weapon to bludgeon an assailant with.

Over at Book Riot, I'm sharing seven fantasy series that will take you all year to read. Check it out!

What are your favorite fantasy series?

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A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be a guest on Carolivia Herron's Epic City radio show on Takoma Radio, 94.3 FM in Takoma Park, MD.

We chatted it up about why Adem is so easy to root for despite his great flaws, what the heck the Orpheus myth is, and what kind of fantasy creature I would be.

Listen to the full interview here!

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With each day of the 12 Days of Books Giveaway, I’m sharing a little about my writing journey so far. And, of course, new ways to enter to win!

"Where do your ideas come from?"

It's one of those questions every author (no, every creative) gets at some point. For some reason, we tend to think of ideas as these magical things that you have to have something special to acquire. Perhaps because we spend so much time focused on what is around us instead of what is inside us.

But ideas aren't some sort of alchemy performed by the chosen. Ideas are everywhere. They sit all around us, waiting to be picked up. Ideas are like coins in a special level of Mario Brothers.

The real question is, "How do you choose your ideas?"

This is much harder to do. It is much easier to catch an idea than it is to develop an idea--as I explained on Tuesday, my last idea took me five years to develop, and along the way I caught a ton more ideas, both for the rest of the Chronicles of the Third Realm War series and for complete new projects.

Even at a much faster writing pace of six months per novel, I have enough story ideas to fill my next six to ten years, easily.

So how do I pick what to chase? I try to consider factors like marketability and what readers will want, but ultimately it always comes down to what speaks to me.

I mean this quite literally. When I started writing Mud, the first few chapters came out at lightning speed, because Adem's voice nudged me right along, telling me his predicament (and then I had to figure out where that took him).

The same happened Rain. I did not initially intend to write any novellas to complement the Chronicles of the Third Realm War series, but Nia and Calipher's tempestuous, tragic romance clung to me ... and it proved itself to be the perfect way to bring you back into the origins of Terath's doomed fate.

I try to use my head in choosing my ideas, but it always ends up coming from my heart. Where my head comes in is in sticking with that idea long enough to turn it into something meaningful for readers.

Where do you find your ideas? 

12 DAYS OF BOOKS GIVEAWAY
New ways to win, every day until Christmas Eve

Today's way to enter: Leave a review for Mud on Amazon.

Get More Ways to Enter the 12 Days of Books Giveaway:

 

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Over at BookRiot, I've shared a list of lesser-known "punks"--subgenres of science fiction in the tradition of steampunk--that you will definitely want to check out for yourself.

(Except splatterpunk, which, whoa, is not for the faint of heart.)

Along the way of drafting this post, I ended up making up a subgenre of my own, because there is a serious trend emerging in science fiction that I could not find a name for.

Meet metapunk.

As I describe in the post:

Metapunk is a rising trend in speculative fiction where the narrative follows two stories, one inner story, and a secondary outer one that analyzes and dissects the inner story. Think Westworld or Cabin in the Woods.

It's been a favorite of mine ever since my first encounter with it through Charles Yu's amazingly meta-minded How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

Yu is one of my favorite authors, and this is his only full-length novel. While dissecting genre tropes with humor and heart, the author himself slips in and out of the story's narrative in a way that lends distance and perspective, while also blurring the lines between art and life.

As we become ever more sophisticated viewers, I think this trend will continue to expand on the screen and on the page. Which thrills me, because metapunk offers a brainy, twisty layer to my favorite genre that pulls the strings of its tropes in new directions and stretches the imagination to think in new, analytical directions.

What do you think about my new genre? Where have you seen it in action?

Check out the full list of punk subgenres (and add your own!):

Well Do Ya Punk? The Emerging "Punk" Subgenres of Speculative Fiction

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So it looks like I was wrong. I LIED. Because I thought that MUD's celebratory promo pricing was going to be over after Tuesday, but OMG IT'S STILL GOING.

So holy moly guys, I don't know how long this is going to last, but you can still get MUD for just $.99. Did you buy it yet? You really should. ASAP, before this goes away for real. Because I literally have no idea when it's going to end.

Get MUD for just $.99:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

mud-3d

Don't forget, MUD pairs perfectly with your free copy of RAIN. RAIN is the prequel novella to the series, and these two books share some secrets between them!

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So. Stranger Things. I know, everyone has already talked about it and I’m way behind.

I’ve been busy. So sue me.

But this show is incredible, the perfect blend of Super 8 and Fringe and Stephen King, and it absolutely must be discussed. (If you haven’t watched yet, go do it now—it’s only eight episodes. Spoilers to come.)

In particular, we absolutely must discuss the very excellent, horrifying monster of this show. Who doesn’t love a good monster, right?

 

demogorgon

But what the heck is this thing? Welp. I’ve got a theory.

What we know

The show doesn’t tell us much about the monster, but we do learn some things for sure.

  • It lives in the Upside Down.
  • It steals children (and teens).
  • It is a predator that eats meat, but not humans.
  • It hunts in our world (the Rightside Up?).
  • It can smell blood.
  • Its presence affects electricity.

So okay. That’s what the show spells out for us.

But in addition to that, we can observe a few more things. First, Eleven seems to be the first person from the Rightside Up to discover the monster. It also seems to escape the Upside Down about the same time that Eleven escapes from the lab.

Relevant themes

There are some delightfully geeky details in this show, particularly with the four boys and their play together.

First, let’s talk about one of my favorite topics ever: Comics. Specifically, X-Men #134, which Will calls dibs on after winning a bike race with Dustin on their way home, right before the monster takes him.

This issue is not a random mention.

X-Men #134 features a major moment within the X-Men universe: The one in which the Mastermind goes too far in his tinkering around in Jean Grey’s psyche, and unleashes the Dark Phoenix. Later in the episode, Dark Phoenix puts Mastermind in a coma with her telepathic powers.

Seeing any parallels in Stranger Things here? Anyone? Bueller?

eleven

So now that we’ve got that settled, let’s move on to the demogorgon. This monster is introduced right at the beginning of episode one, as the thing that kills Will’s character in the boys’ Dungeons and Dragons game.

(Tangent: So many points for positive portrayal of DnD. So many.)

What the heck is a demogorgon? Let’s turn to our handy dandy Monster Encyclopedia.

The demogorgon is a two-headed demon monster with blueish-green scales, a forked tail and mandrill heads. Depending on which head is used, the demogorgon’s gaze can charm its victims or drive them insane.

Most don’t realize, though, that the two heads contain separate consciousnesses, and that these two minds are constantly battling to destroy each other. The demogorgon is often told within the terms of a struggle to divide or unite them.

So what’s it mean?

We’ve got two metaphors here that both tie back to a duality and an inner struggle. Okiedoke. Now let’s go back to Stranger Things for a moment.

Remember when Eleven first showed Mike her powers, and then said “It’s me. I’m the monster,”?

So … what if she’s right?

I mean, Eleven and the monster are obviously the same being, as are the two heads of the demogorgon, or the two personalities of Phoenix.

But, my theory is, the monster is a psychological manifestation that stemmed from Eleven and the trauma she has suffered from the lab’s experimentation.

Beyond the thematic hints, Eleven is the first to discover the monster. As the lab begins to study the monster and its habitat in the Upside Down, the monster seems to be able to do something Eleven won’t: Destroy the scientists holding her hostage.

Add to this equation that Eleven and the monster seem to break free at about the same time, and I’m shipping this theory.

All in all, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of either of them, and I can’t wait to see what this incredible team comes up with next.

 

What do you think the Stranger Things monster is?

 

Bonus round: Get excited for season two of Stranger Things with this report of everything we know so far, and then make your own Stranger Things-style sign.

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This is a guest post from Em Shotwell, a wonderful urban fantasy author. Learn more about her debut novel Blackbird Summer at the end of this post!

Blackbird Digital MEDIUM (1)

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

When I was a little girl, I was in possession of two things that made life interesting: A big imagination and a crazy uncle.

My imagination kept me in trouble. I would daydream through tests, tell stories to my friends as if they were the truth, and drag my little sisters from one “adventure” to the next.

My crazy uncle also caused trouble. Besides screaming contests and letting me say words like “piss” when my parents were out of earshot, his favorite pastime was telling me stories as if they were the truth. Usually I knew better than to believe him, but there was one that always got me: The Jabberwocky.

jabber

The Perfect “Bad Child” Meal

My uncle lived in the woods. Not in front of a wooded lot in the back of a subdivision. Not in a grove of trees just off the road. The real woods. A creek ran behind his house, cutting through what my 8 year old self saw as a ravine (but was probably just a big ditch). Pine trees grew high and thick between fat, vine-tangled oaks.

Outside of his yard, the forest scrub was so thick with briars that you could barely push through them. (Not that I didn’t anyway. I have a scar on my foot to prove it.) During the daylight, this was the best kind of playground. Stomping through the woods exploring, while the adults sat on the porch visiting, was the most fun a wild little girl could ask for.

When the sun began to set, the mosquitoes always forced me and my cousins back to the house.

“You better come inside before the Jabberwocky gets you,” my uncle would say, without so much as a hint of mischief in his voice. “That Jabberwocky lives in them woods. He’s big and mean. He’s got teeth the size of a man and he loves nothing better than to eat up bad little children.”

I would listen intently, practically able to see the Jabberwocky—yellow teeth and all—waking up from his daytime slumber, and ready to hunt his supper. And since I spent as much time in detention as in the classroom—I knew that I would make the perfect “bad child” meal.

You Hear That?

My uncle also had cows that lived in a fenced off portion of his wooded property. Sometimes at night, the giant orange and white bulls would bellow. “You hear that?” uncle would ask. “That’s him. That’s that old Jabberwocky! Sounds like he got someone.”

“Nuh-huh. That’s just one of your dumb cows,” one of us kids would usually answer, to which my uncle would raise his brows with a worried look. He’d jump from his seat on the sagging sofa, and rush to the window to peak through the blinds.

“Hurry. Cut off the lights,” he’d whisper. “I think the Jabberwocky must be close. Sounds like he’s done ate one of my cows!”

I’d tell myself he was lying. That it was just a story. That no one would let those poor, dumb cows get eaten by a Jabberwocky. But when it was time to leave, I always held tight to Mama or Daddy’s hand until I was safely inside the car. Just in case.

The Woods at Night

When I was a little older, I became slightly obsessed with the idea of the Jabberwocky living in the forest. I was old enough to know I should be embarrassed to still believe (I also believed in unicorns and mermaids) so I kept it to myself. I read Through the Looking Glass and memorized The Jabberwocky poem.

I would recite to anyone who asked (or didn’t ask…all I needed was an audience, they didn’t have to be willing). I repeated it over and over in my mind, dissecting it.

It burbles. It has eyes of flame. It whiffles. What is a slithy tove, anyway?

I didn’t know, but I could imagine.

When we would visit uncle, I would listen to his stories, pretending to not believe, pretending to be cool, pretending to be brave, but knowing that I’d never dare go in those woods alone at night.

The cows were probably fine.

But maybe not.

 

Author Photo (1)About Em Shotwell

Em Shotwell is the author of Blackbird Summer (City Owl Press, 2016). She lives in South Louisiana with a husband who spoils her and two mini-superheroes who call her mom. Em think the most interesting characters are the ones who live on the sidelines, and that small towns often hide the biggest secrets. She is inspired by tall tales and local legends.

When she’s not writing about magical misfits and lovable weirdos, Em enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, and debating Doctor Who facts with her obsessed ten-year-old.

Visit Em online: www.EmShotwell.com / Facebook / Goodreads / Amazon / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest

Click Here to read Blackbird Summer today!
Click Here to add Blackbird Summer to your goodreads list!

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