Kate Lechler

KATE LECHLER, with us since May 2014, resides in Oxford, MS, where she divides her time between teaching early British literature at the University of Mississippi, writing fiction, and throwing the tennis ball for her insatiable terrier, Sam. She loves speculative fiction because of what it tells us about our past, present, and future. She particularly enjoys re-imagined fairy tales and myths, fabulism, magical realism, urban fantasy, and the New Weird. Just as in real life, she has no time for melodramatic protagonists with no sense of humor. The movie she quotes most often is Jurassic Park, and the TV show she obsessively re-watches (much to the chagrin of her husband) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her personal blog is The Rediscovered Country and she tweets @katelechler.

Circus Love

E. Catherine Tobler has never run away to join the circus — but she thinks about doing so every day. Among others, her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and on the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award ballot. Her first novel, Rings of Anubis, launched the Folley & Mallory Adventures. Senior editor of Shimmer Magazine, you can find her online at www.ecatherine.com and @ecthetwit.

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Coming Up with Fantasy Names: A Somewhat Vague and Impractical Guide

Sam Bowring



Sam Bowring began writing at a young age, and had his first book published when he was nineteen. Since then he has written various other books and stage plays, as well as for various television shows. His critically acclaimed fantasy series THE BROKEN WELL TRILOGY has reprinted four times and sold over ten thousand copies. He recently started self publishing works too whacked out for traditional publishers, including a choose-your-own-adventure style gamebook entitled Butler to the Dark Lordand a series of short, punchy reads called Sam, Jake and Dylan Want Money... Read More

SFM: Lemberg, Brockmeier, Das, Bishop, Bolander

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few of the stories we read this week. 

“The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar” by Rose Lemberg (March 2016, free at Uncanny Magazine, Kindle magazine issue)

In this lush story, Lemberg shows us a long-distance romance developing between two makers-of-things. Maru lives in the desert and sings sand into glass; Vadrai lives in the Northern woods and uses deepnames to inscribe images into jewels. Each is enchanted with the work of the other, and through letters — over a four-year span, because lette... Read More

Ten reviewers … Ten novels … One great bundle of books!

Blair MacGregor writes fantasy—adventurous, epic, and dark. She is a graduate of Viable Paradise, chairs SFWA's Self-Publishing Committee, and runs a Patreon for self-defense and fight-scene writing. When not writing, she hangs out with family, camps alone, teaches and trains in Okinawan karate, and speaks to groups on resilience and wellness. She loves traveling to places both wild and domesticated. 

KATE: We usually use the Expanded Universe space for short essays on SFF topics. But today I've invited Blair McGregor to tell us about the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, which FantasyLiterature is participating in. Ten fantasy book bloggers and blog-sites (that's us!) collectively read almost 300 self-published fantasy novels, with the goal to choose ten of their favorites. And here's ... Read More

Strange Monsters: An entrancing musical/literary performance

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Strange Monsters by Peter Brewer & Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

I’ve been a fan of Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s short fiction for a few years. She captures a lovely intersection between the mundane and the mythic in her stories, so when she asked if I’d like to review her newest collection, I jumped at the chance. Strange Monsters (2016) is a music-and-words collaboration between Stufflebeam and Peter Brewer, a jazz musician and Stufflebeam’s partner. Over melodies both slow and easy, and chaotic and exciting, a cast of actors reads five short stories and five poems by Stufflebeam. The resulting listening experience is fulfilling, funny, and ultimately haunting.

The first story, “The Stink of Horses,” was inspired by a real-life quote from Chekhov about how dancers stink like horses. It tells the story of Marina Golovina, a mysterious Russ... Read More

SFM: Gilman, Levine, Johnson, Liu, Weir

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.



“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (April 2016, free at Clarkesworld magazine, Kindle magazine issue)

In “Touring with the Alien,” an unnamed alien species has landed impenetrable bubble ships on Earth and is sending out “translators,” apparently-human people who claim that they were abducted as children and raised by the aliens. The translators claim that the aliens do not pose a threat to humans … nor, indeed, are they very interested in humans at all. Gilman’s nar... Read More

Night Angels Chronicles: Traveling Around the World

Karen Hunt aka KH Mezek is the author of Key of Mystery, book I in the YA Urban Fantasy series, NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, published Feb, 2016 with Evernight Teen. Her essay "Reflections from Istanbul," an excerpt from her childhood memoir Into the World, won the 2015 New Millennium Writings Nonfiction Award. She is the author and/or illustrator of nineteen children’s books and numerous essays. Karen co-founded InsideOUT Writers, a creative writing program for incarcerated youth in Los Angeles. In 2015, she founded the MY WORLD PROJECT, connecting youth in remote areas around the world through art and writing. She is a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, a first degree brown belt in Eskrima, and a boxing and kick-boxing instructor. As a child, she traveled the world with her family; as an adult, she continues her life of traveling w... Read More

Strangely Beautiful’s Uncanny Real-Life Magic

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, artist and the award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists and garnered numerous regional genre awards (see Kelly's reviews). The revised omnibus edition with new content releases as Strangely Beautiful from Tor Books on April 26. Leanna's MAGIC MOST FOUL saga began with Darker Still, an American Bookseller's Association "Indie Ne... Read More

Mystery in Fantasy

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers. My guest today is Gerrard Cowan. Cowan is the author of The Machinery (HarperVoyager UK), a fantasy about a world whose leaders are chosen by a machine - until the machine breaks. It will be available on paperback and ebook from March 24th. The Machinery is the first in a trilogy; part two, The Strategist, will be released in May 2016. ... Read More

Our Favorite Fools

The Fool in the Major Arcana



Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers. This is a continuation of my series on archetypes.

As Shakespeare will tell you, there are two kinds of fools: silly fools, and wise fools.

Well, anyone who tells you that there’s only two kinds of anything in this world is probably more than a little foolish themselves. But as I don’t want to be caught calling Shakespeare a fool, let’s just take the Bardic definition for granted.

Silly fools have no idea what they’re doing. They might be a bit dim-witted or just exceedingly ignorant, but they m... Read More

The Wildings: Exciting adventure with a cats-eye view

Readers’ average rating:

The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy

I was telling my friend about my story-in-the-making (it’s about an underground colony of cats!) and he said, “Have you read The Wildings, by Nilanjana Roy? You have to.” Wanting a model for my story — and also intrigued by the premise, a colony of cats in Delhi — I bought it immediately.

The Wildings follows a cat colony in the Delhi neighborhood of Nizamuddin as they encounter two of their biggest challenges in living memory: the appearance of a new and oddly powerful “Sender,” and the incursion of a group of ferocious feral cats into their territory.

The Sender, a cat who can communicate telepathically with other cats and form links for group communication, turns out to be Mara, a kitten who lives with Big Feet (humans) and who is afraid to come out into the ... Read More

Brains vs. Beauty: The Women of Harry Potter

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers. My guest today is Maya Sapiurka. Sapiurka is a graduate student in neuroscience whose main hobby is yelling excitedly about fandom on the Internet. She's pretty sure her dissertation work isn't going to start the zombie apocalypse, but no guarantees. You can read her science writing here and here, explore Harry Potter headcanons on her Tumblr, or follow her Twitter for the full science-fandom mash up exper... Read More

Put Fat Girls in Your SFF YA

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers. My guest today is Sarah Hollowell. Sarah is definitely not several raccoons in a trenchcoat. Her poetry (not about raccoons) has been in Apex Magazine and her essays (also not about raccoons) have been featured on The Butter and The Gloss. You can follow her on Twitter @sarahhollowell.
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Binti: Remarkable coming-of-age set in space

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Editor's update: Binti won the 2016 Hugo Award.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

In Binti, published by Tor.com, Nnedi Okorafor tells the story of Binti, a brave adolescent girl who is the only person from her tribe, the Himba, to ever be invited to attend Oomza Uni, the most prestigious university in the galaxy. She is a harmonizer, a skilled creator of advanced technology, but despite her tribe’s affinity for technology and innovation, they rarely leave their tribal lands. Binti sets off on her journey to Oomza Uni, knowing that her departure likely means she will be a pariah to her family and friends. What’s more, because of the Himba tradition of covering skin and hair with otjize, or red earth, she knows that she’ll likely be an outs... Read More

SFM: Shu, Lemberg, Salvatore, Bradbury, Pinsker

Short Fiction Monday: Here are some of the stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about, most of which are free to read online. This week we continue focusing on 2015 Nebula-nominated short fiction, along with some other stories that caught our attention.

“Everybody Loves Charles” by Bao Shu, trans. Ken Liu (2016, free at Clarkesworld magazine; Read More

SFM: El-Mohtar, Miller, Cooney, Pullman, Bear, Valente

Short Fiction Monday: Here are some of the stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. This week we continue focusing on 2015 Nebula-nominated short fiction, along with some other stories that caught our attention.



“Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar (2015, free on Lightspeed magazineKindle magazine issue), nominated for the 2015 Nebula award (short story)

Madeleine is in therapy after the death of her mother from Alzheimer’s. She and her therapist, Clarice, are discussing the loss of her mother and the odd side-effects from a clinical trial for an Alzheimer’s drug that Madeleine has taken part in. ... Read More

Titus Groan: A host of eerie eccentrics

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Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

I completed the first installment of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast series with a sense of exhaustion. It is a colossal book, written with such dense language that reading through it is like gorging on words. It was the book equivalent of eating a very rich, very large chocolate cake. Behind all the intricacies and techniques of the language is an equally strange story, one that does not easily fit into any particular genre. In my local bookstore at least, it is shelved in the "fantasy" section, seemingly because no one knows where else to put it.

These days (after the publication of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings) the word "fanta... Read More

Welcome to the Hope-and-Tragedy Era of Space Exploration

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers. My guest today is Jacquelyn Bengfort. Bengfort was born in North Dakota, educated at the U.S. Naval Academy and Oxford University, and now resides in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, Storm Cellar, District Lines, and the anthologies Magical and ... Read More

Casting 9 to 5: Magic as Profession

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers. My guest today is Valerie Valdes. Valerie teaches for The Brainery, which offers online writing workshops focusing on speculative fiction. Her latest work can be found in She Walks In Shadows, the first all-women Lovecraft anthology by Innsmouth Free Press. Valerie copy edits, moonlights as a muse and occasionally plays video games if her son and husband are distracted by Transformers. 

Some fantasy portrays mages and witches as mysterious p... Read More

SFM: Kushner, Wilce, Tolbert, Novik, Dunsany, Peralta

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 



“One Last, Great Adventure” by Ellen Kushner and Ysabeau S. Wilce (2013, free at Clarkesworld in Nov. 2015 issue, $6.99 for paperback magazine issue)

“One Last, Great Adventure” tells the story of the Hero, who is looking for one last heroic exploit before he retires from hero-ing. He gets a job killing a monster that, if he is successful, will get him a princess for a wife and a kingdom for an inheritance, allowing him to retire in comfort and wealth. He goes, with his friend Reynard, but the princess he’s been promised is not what he expected. Neither are... Read More

Why I Write About Gay Dragons

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers. My guest today is Annabelle Jay. If there’s one thing author Annabelle Jay believes with all her heart, it’s that there is no such thing as too many dragons in a book. As a fantasy writer with few other hobbies, she spends every day following her imagination wherever it leads her. A hippie born in the wrong decade, Annabelle has a peace sign tattoo and a penchant for hugging trees. She often gets confused for a student, though she is actually a young professor; when this stops happening, she will probably be very sad.

Annabelle Jay



I sit at my Outwrite Book Festival table, novels spread like yard sa... Read More

Radiance: A human life is as mysterious as an ecosystem

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Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente, tells the story of documentary filmmaker Severin Unck and her ill-fated film project on Venus in the 1920’s. In this alternate history, humans conquered the solar system around the end of the 19th century, and human colonies have sprung up from Mercury to Pluto and everywhere in between. These are not the planets as we know them, though — inhospitable balls of gas, icy rocks, or boiling oceans. Valente is writing in the tradition of Burroughs and Weinbaum; these are the planets of sci-fi’s pulp age, teeming with exotic life, seemingly just waiting for human visitors to make sense of them, to build cities of chrome and glass. In such a solar system the golden age of Hollywood, with its glimmering silent fi... Read More

SFM: Kingfisher, Jones, Ferebee, Swirsky, Lecky

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.



“The Dryad’s Shoe” by T. Kingfisher (2014, free at Fantasy magazine, $2.99 at Amazon for magazine issue)

“The Dryad’s Shoe” is a charming Cinderella retelling that features Hannah, a young woman who is far more interested in gardens and bees than fancy gowns and dukes’ sons. When the local duke holds a masquerade ball for his son, an enchanted titmouse informs Hannah that a nearby dryad-tree wants to grant the girl gifts of spectacular dre... Read More

Bitter Greens: Gorgeous historical novel blended with fairytale

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Kelly's new review:

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth is a marvelous re-telling of Rapunzel, woven together with historical fiction that gives the reader a glimpse into the life of Charlotte Rose de Caumont de La Force, the French noblewoman who first published the fairy tale. Forsyth, pursuing her doctorate in fairy-tale retellings in Sydney, originally published in this novel in her native Australia. It has just been released in the US.

Bitter Greens begins with the story of Charlotte, exiled from the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, and locked in a nunnery. Through her narrative, we learn that she was a vivacious courtier whose passion and wit would not be contained. Early in the novel, her mother tells the young Charlotte that she could have be... Read More

An Apprentice to Elves: A primer in in-depth worldbuilding

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An Apprentice to Elves by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette

An Apprentice to Elves, the third installment of the ISKRYNE series, is a book that depends on its thick world-building. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette have created realistic cultures that take some cues from Norse and Roman history and dramatized a cultural conflict between them, at the same time as developing relationships and characters rooted in these cultures. Most of the narrative is set in the Northlands, an icy forested domain whose natural defenses are harsh enough to help the Northmen stay safe. But a new enemy, the fiercely disciplined Rhean, invades from the south, hoping to colonize the Northlands and ... Read More

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