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.

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

Crossing Genres, or Dear Robot as Literary Science Fiction

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 Kelly Ann Jacobson. Jacobson is a fiction writer, poet, and editor who lives in Falls Church, Virginia. She received her MA in Fiction at Johns Hopkins University, and she now teaches as a Professor of English. She is the author of several published books, including the novel Cairo in White, and her first book of poetry, I Have Conversations with You in My Dreams, will be published in 2016. Jacobson has edited several anthologies, including Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction and  Read More

Fantastic Romantics, Byron Edition

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 Terry Weyna, who has been on our staff since December 2010. Terry would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She longs to be a full-time reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, but nonetheless continues to practice law as a civil litigator in California. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious but aging Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a forever-growing personal library that presently exceeds 15,000 volumes.

Lord Byron, George Gordon, in Albanian dress



Why have the English R... Read More

Writing for Kids

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 Beth Durst. Durst is the author of nine fantasy novels for children, teens, and adults, including (click link to read our reviews) ConjuredVessel, and Ice. Her new middle-grade novel, The Girl Who Could Not Dream, which Read More

The Expanded Universe: Casual Othering and Literature of the Fantastic, 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 Gabrielle Bellot. Gabrielle Bellot grew up in the Commonwealth of Dominica. She has contributed work to GuernicaAutostraddle, Prairie Schooner’s  Read More

Casual Othering and Literature of the Fantastic

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 Gabrielle Bellot. Gabrielle Bellot grew up in the Commonwealth of Dominica. She has contributed work to Guernica, Autostraddle, Prairie Schooner's Read More

Categorizations in Genre Fiction: A Mini-Manifesto

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. Our guest today is Fran Wilde, whose first novel, Updraft, debuted from Tor Books on September 1, 2015. Her short stories have appeared at Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, and in Asimov’s and Nature. Fran also interviews authors about food in fiction at Cooking the Books, and blogs for GeekMom and SFSignal. You can find Fran at her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Fran Wilde, photo credit Dan Magus

Read More

SF or Fantasy? Who cares?

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. Our guest today is Gerrard Cowan, a writer and editor from Derry, in the North West of Ireland. His debut fantasy novel, The Machinery, will be published by HarperVoyager UK in September 2015. It is the first in a trilogy. His first known work was a collection of poems on monsters, written for Halloween when he was eight; it is sadly lost to civilisation.

One commenter gets a copy of The Machinery.

Gerrard Cowan



The fantasy and science fiction genres are closely related, so much so that they are often grouped together under one acronym: SFF. Many books and movies may appear to be s... Read More

The Fairy-Tale Archetype of the Sexy Witch

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 fairy-tale archetypes. 

The Witch in Snow White



This past spring, I taught a class on fairy tales and fairy tale adaptations (you can see some of my student’s final projects here). I structured the class around archetypal characters or relationships, such as the Trickster or the Sibling Rivalry. One of the archetypes that I find the most fascinating, however, is that of the sexy witch[1].

When I... Read More

Romani Power in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, 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 Jessica Reidy. Reidy attended Florida State University for her MFA in Fiction and holds a B.A. from Hollins University. Her work is Pushcart-nominated and her poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction have appeared in Narrative Magazine as Short Story of the WeekThe Los Angeles ReviewThe Missouri Review, and other journals. She’s Managing Editor for  Read More

Romani (Gypsy) Power in Sci-Fi and 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 Jessica Reidy. Reidy attended Florida State University for her MFA in Fiction and holds a B.A. from Hollins University. Her work is Pushcart-nominated and her poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction have appeared in Narrative Magazine as Short Story of the Week, The Los Angeles Review, The Missouri Review, and other journals. She’s Managing Editor for Read More

Myth & 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 Achala Upendran, a consulting editor, writer, and self-confessed "fantasy junkie" based in Hyderabad, India. She blogs extensively about fantasy literature, especially the Potter books at Where the Dog Star Rages. On her blog, you'll find think-pieces about the women of THE LORD OF THE RINGS alongside analyses of Taylor Swift songs. In other words, she's my kind of person. You can follow her on Twitter at @AchalaUpendran.



Fantasy, as a genre, uses big, mysterious elements and powers -- things not found on ‘our world... Read More

Exploration Blues

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 Carolyn Ives Gilman, who is a Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated writer and real-life historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Her novels include Halfway Human and the two-volume novel Isles of the Forsaken and Ison of the Isles. Her short fiction appears in many Best of the Year collections and has been translated into seven languages. In her latest work, Dark Orbit... Read More

Elite Groups in SFF

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I’ll be featuring 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. My guest today is Micah Dean Hicks, who is a Calvino Prize-winning author of fabulist fiction. His collection of Southern fairy tales, Electricity and Other Dreams, was recently published by New American Press and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. You can follow him on Twitter at @micahdeanhicks or at his website www.micahdeanhicks.com

... Read More

Tricksters in Fairy Tales

Huehuecoyotl, the Aztec trickster god



“They seek him here, they seek him there..."

This past spring, I taught a class on fairy tales and fairy tale adaptations to undergraduates at the University of Mississippi. We started the semester reading three stories: "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Rumplestiltskin," and "Cagliuso" (Straparola’s Italian counterpart to "Puss in Boots"). I chose these stories first so we could talk about trickster figures because, let’s face it, tricksters are fun.

The archetype of the trickster is older than recorded literature. Jack Zipes’ essay “Fairy as Witch/Witch as Fairy,” in his collection The Irresistible Fairy Tale, posits that stories about both witches and fairies may be descended from myths about pagan goddesses associated with the earth and with the feminine energies of both virginity and procreation. When it comes to trickster figures, their descent from anc... Read More

Against Speculative Poetry?

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I’ll be featuring 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. My guest today is Jennifer Schomburg Kanke, who is a visiting instructor at Florida State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Star*Line, and Goblin Fruit..

One commenter will win a book from our Stacks.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke



I'm ambivalent about the term "speculative poetry." Is it just another way of categorizing poetry, like "nature poetry" or "political poetry"— or is it something more? Perhaps the reason I resist it, preferring [m... Read More

Where Music and Fantasy Intersect

Welcome to my first Expanded Universe column where I'll be featuring 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. My guest today is Peter Orullian, author of the VAULT OF HEAVEN series.

One commenter will win a book from our Stacks.

Peter Orullian



I write epic fantasy. I’m also a musician. So, for me, when Kate and I corresponded on possible topics for an article, and she suggested “the intersection of music and fantasy,” I leapt at the chance to wri... Read More

Welcome to the Expanded Universe

Greetings, FanLit readers, friends, and potential contributors! We’re launching a new column, Expanded Universe, curated by me, for feature essays that discuss any aspect of speculative fiction.

How do we define the term “speculative fiction”? Well, that’s one thing that this column will end up addressing: given that all fiction exists in the realm of the imagination, what makes some fiction “speculative” and other fiction not? And where do we draw the boundaries within the term for genres like science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, New Weird, slipstream, horror... you get the drift.

The Expanded Universe



Expanded Universe will feature regular 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... Read More