Expanded Universe

Our Expanded Universe column features essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers, talking about anything SFF related that interests us. It might be broad themes such as “death” or “gender,” stylistic or technical issues like “how magical systems work” or “how do you build an unreliable narrator in a fantasy world?,” genre issues like “why is SFF ghettoized in the literary world and is this necessarily a bad thing?” or “what is grimdark and why is it important?,” a response to the work of a particular author or group of authors, or anything else that comes to mind. We’re interested in raising intriguing questions, broadening knowledge, and making meaningful distinctions. If you have an SFF speculation, obsession, area of expertise, or just want to climb on your soapbox, send Kat a query. Please include your name, e-mail address, and a short bio along with a brief summary of your intended essay.
We are interested in publishing diverse writers. We welcome writers of color and other groups.

Robyn Bennis: My path to publication (win a copy of The Guns Above!)

Robyn Bennis’s debut novel is The Guns Above, which blends steampunk, airships, and some of the saltiest dialogue we’ve read so far this year. Marion and I agreed that it’s a tremendously fun book, and today Robyn stops by Fantasy Literature to talk about her path to publication and her abiding love of a classic sci-fi television series.

We’ve got one copy of The Guns Above to give away to a random commenter, too!

Robyn Bennis



My path to publication is the most exciting and unlikely story you'll ever hear. It is a tale of action, intrigue, guile, glorious successes, crushing setbacks, and even more intrigue. It all started on a cold winter day in New York City. Daring hail and freezing winds, I scaled the outside of the Flatiron Building,... Read More

How reviewing for FanLit helped my writing career (Giveaway!)

Today we welcome back Dr. Kate Lechler who retired from FanLit so she could focus on her writing career.

I'm a writer and a teacher. By day, I teach English literature at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS, and at night, I write about genetically engineered dragons and unicorns. My work has appeared in Podcastle, Metaphorosis, and Arsenika, and is forthcoming from Superstition Review. From 2014-2016, I reviewed SFF for FanLit but in December I retired so I could concentrate on my fiction. But nobody writes in a vacuum, and I... Read More

A Day in the Life of Researching Irish Mythology and Celts (Giveaway!)

Today Erika Lewis stops by Fantasy Literature to discuss the research process for her Celtic mythology-inspired debut YA novel, Game of Shadows, which, in my review, I called “action-packed” and “perfect for YA readers ... who enjoy high fantasy.” And we’ve got one copy of Game of Shadows to give away to a randomly chosen commenter!

I didn’t set out on writing a book steeped in Irish Celtic mythology. Game of Shadows was about Ethan Makkai, a Los Angeles high school kid cursed (his word, not mine) with the unfortunate power to see ghosts. With an overprotective mother who borders on insanity when it comes to him never going anywhere alone, Ethan just wants a little freedom. He longs for a chance ... Read More

Writing What We Know (Or Not)

David B. Coe / D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels. As David B. Coe, he writes THE CASE FILES OF JUSTIS FEARSSON, a contemporary urban fantasy series from Baen Books, including Spell Blind, His Father’s Eyes, and Shadow’s Blade. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes THE THIEFTAKER CHRONICLES, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Read More

The Function of the Blade

A.J. Smith



A. J. Smith has been devising the worlds, histories and characters of THE LONG WAR CHRONICLES for more than a decade. He was born in Birmingham, UK, and works in secondary education. He is the author of The Black Guard (October 1, 2016) and The Dark Blood (December 1, 2016) from Head of Zeus, distributed by Trafalgar Square Publishing.

Swords are big chunks of toughened, often sharpened, metal. They have one practical application - to cut or pierce flesh. Some are better at cleaving or crushing armour, some are designed to be light and others designed to be duelling weapons - the clash of steel upon steel needing a particular kind of blade. In our modern world, where the sword is less of a life and death object, it has become a beautiful artefact to be studied and admired. There is now a romanticism attached to the blade, as if its status has become more... Read More

Aliens 101

Tade Thompson



Tade Thompson lives and works in the south of England. His first novel Making Wolf won the 2016 Kitschies Golden Tentacle award for best debut novel. He has written a number of short stories including “Budo” at Escape Pod. His horror novella Gnaw will be released in December from Solaris Books. Rosewater comes out 15th November, but is available for pre-order now.

Look, let's just get this out of the way right now: Aliens have been done.

They've been done to death. We've had aliens in almost any configuration imaginable. If you plan to write fiction ... Read More

The Mechanical Other

Matt Perkins



Matt Perkins is a Canadian author, software developer, musician, and all-around decent human being. His first novel, the alternate-Earth sci-fi thriller Winterwakers, is currently available on eBook and paperback. His writing has also appeared on  Read More

Greek Myths and Children of Icarus (giveaway!)

Caighlan Smith wrote her first novel, Hallow Hour, in her final year of high school in St. John's. Inspired by her love of fantasy and the supernatural, Smith's work combines the fun and action of video games with the urgency of post-apocalyptic survival. She is studying English at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Hallow Hour, the first book in the SURREALITY series, was signed with a publisher when she turned 19. To date, she has written 14 novels and one novella. Her great loves are reading, gaming and, of course, writing. Smith's newest YA Fantasy novel Children of Icarus is now out in the UK with publisher Curious Fox and will be released August 1st 2016 in North America by Switch Press. Pre-order it via Indig... Read More

Arabella of Mars: Why A Girl?

David D. Levine, by Janna Silverstein



David D. Levine is the author of novel Arabella of Mars (Tor 2016) (reviewed by Tadiana) and over fifty SF and fantasy stories. His story "Tk'Tk'Tk" won the Hugo, and he has been shortlisted for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Sturgeon. Stories have appeared in Asimov's, Analog, F&SF, Tor.com, multiple Year's Best anthologies, and his award-winning collection Space Magic (reviewed by Kat).

One commenter wins a copy of Arabella of Mars! Read More

Cover Reveal: Children of the Different

S. C. Flynn



S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian. He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him. S. C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. This path included two periods of being represented by professional literary agents, from whom he learnt a lot about writing, but who were unable to get him published. He responded by deciding to self-publish his post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different and, together with an American support team,... Read More

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.

Read More

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

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

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

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.
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

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

How to Make Fictional People Do All the Work, Part 3

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 Gailey. Gailey is a Bay Area native and an unabashed bibliophile, living and working in beautiful Oakland, California. She enjoys painting, baking, vulgar embroidery, and writing stories about murder and monsters. She livetweeted Star Wars and the internet got very excited about it, but mostly she writes short SFF and horror. Her fiction has appeared in Mothership Zeta and The Colored Lens, and is pending publication in lots of other places. You can find links to her work at  Read More

How to Make Fictional People Do All the Work, Part 2

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 Gailey. Gailey is a Bay Area native and an unabashed bibliophile, living and working in beautiful Oakland, California. She enjoys painting, baking, vulgar embroidery, and writing stories about murder and monsters. She livetweeted Star Wars and the internet got very excited about it, but mostly she writes short SFF and horror. Her fiction has appeared in Mothership Zeta and The Colored Lens, and is pending publication in lots of other places. You can find link... Read More

How to Make Fictional People Do All the Work, Part 1

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 Gailey. Gailey is a Bay Area native and an unabashed bibliophile, living and working in beautiful Oakland, California. She enjoys painting, baking, vulgar embroidery, and writing stories about murder and monsters. She livetweeted Star Wars and the internet got very excited about it, but mostly she writes short SFF and horror. Her fiction has appeared in Mothership Zeta and The Colored Lens, and is pending publication in lots of other places. You can find links to her work at  Read More