Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
Now in our 9th year!

A World Without Sex—Conflict without the Coitus

by D. M. Domosea

In this month’s column, we apply our thought experiment to armed conflict and aggression and consider how women might be affected by war and military service in a world sans sex.

Trigger Warning: This article discusses rape in the context of conflict and military service.

You’d be hard-pressed to find speculative fiction that doesn’t include conflict between warring factions or soldiers and assassins training for war. Authors who seek to create non-patriarchal systems for their fictional worlds should carefully consider how they portray two key aspects of conflict: those who participate in war and those who are victims of its atrocities. Imagining war in a world free from the decidedly male-prioritized trappings of sex might assist the writer in this endeavor.

Let’s first discuss the victims of war. While humankind as a whole has matured through history, and knives and spears have turned into machine guns and bombs, rape has endured as a personal, insidious, and horrific weapon used by nearly all civilizations at some point in their histories. It is still used today in some regions of the world.

Removing sexual intercourse from the human equation would not remove the atrocities of war and the myriad ways humans have to hurt, humiliate, and terrorize each other. After all, vaginal rape isn’t the only form of rape, and penises are not the only weapons used to perpetrate it, which means women are not the only victims of “battlefield rape,” though they tend to be the most frequent. The absence of sex might, however, remove the impetus of perpetrators to conduct such violent acts, which is primarily to dehumanize and humiliate victims. It could also remove the stigmatization of victims by communities that tend to shame and blame rape victims.

Women and girls are also often kidnapped, enslaved, and forcibly integrated into their enemies’ communities, which leads to an existence defined by domestic rape. For example, consider the experience of “comfort women” used in World War II-era Japan. If you remove the aspect of male sexual gratification, you potentially eliminate such horrific practices. I say ‘potentially’ because soldiers who seek empowerment as a way of dealing with wartime stress may find other violent ways to fulfill those needs, for which civilians (primarily women and children, in this case) would be the likely target.

This brings us to the other aspect likely to change in a world without sex: the overall gender makeup of armies and militias and how women are treated in these groups. With some exceptions—from the very real Amazon warriors to the female fighting force led by the Trung sisters against China in first century Vietnam—militaries and war have historically been the domain of men. One recent study provides some answers as to why that is: namely, aggressive male competitiveness and chance.

The twentieth century thankfully ushered in new ways of thinking about gender equality, and women were slowly integrated into militaries around the globe, if only initially in the most benign ways. My own military experience was characterized by a dichotomy of increasing opportunities with continued restrictions. And of course, members of the LGBTQ+ communities continue to experience issues with serving in the military, due in large part to a culture that prioritizes and rewards “traditional” masculinity.

In general, modern speculative fiction writers (though not all) do a decent job of including women in their fighting forces, though they often appear as elite assassins, magic-wielders, or leaders who are kept distant from the battlefield. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers comes to mind: women serve as pilots who deliver the “real warfighters” to the battle. A lack of sex, sexuality, and sexual-based bias (or, a non-patriarchal world) might provide more equitable roles for women in the services.

Opportunity is, of course, only half the problem women face in the military with the other half being sexual harassment and assault. More than one-hundred years since the first woman openly enlisted into the U.S. Navy, our modern-day armed forces provide no shortage of anecdotes of the sexual harassment and assault of women. From the enraging Tailhook scandal to the shocking abuse of female recruits at Lackland Air Force Base, the culture of sexual exploitation, denigration, and harassment remains an insidious part of the U.S. military.

I clipped a political cartoon from a newspaper years ago in which a male soldier berates a female soldier for all of the above-mentioned problems that have ensued since women were “allowed to join” the armed services. When asked how she suggests they deal with these problems, she replies: “Get men out of the military?” It’s a significant piece of political commentary, because of course, the problem isn’t a female one. A sex-free world would be a potential solution to these problems, or perhaps one in which war, military service, and national defense isn’t viewed as the sandbox of men in which women are allowed to play at the edges, so long as it doesn’t create “problems” for the institutions.

Finally, it might be tempting to say that a world without sexual-based divisions and distractions might mean a world without war altogether. After all, such a reality would have been likelier to engender greater female participation in all aspects of conflict throughout history, including the decision to go to war. As the late Robin William’s once said: “If women ran the world, we wouldn’t have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days.” A bit sexist and condescending, yes, but the real joke is that while we might believe this to be true based on a sexist stereotype, it’s wrong to assume women wouldn’t have as much invested interest in conflict.

This is why writers who seek to create non-patriarchal-based worlds should pay attention to how they portray the motivations, participants, and victims of armed conflict. Take care not to translate war as a singularly male pursuit that is carried out in the primary interests of men while everyone else merely assists with, accepts, or endures its devastation.

(My Car Was) Kissed by an Angel

by Anna O’Keefe

I do a lot of driving. Hours a day. Much of it on mind numbing highways. But, I have learned how to block the tedium of the drive out. In recent months I have allowed my brain to wander way too much. Building story lines, daydreaming about spending time with someone important in my life, upcoming events. There have been times I am snapped back to my drive to find I was lost for a few seconds. I have no idea where I am, not certain what road I am on, which direction I am heading, if I am going to or coming from some place, and where that some place is. Admittedly, not the safest way to share the road with so many other drivers, many of them also distracted. When I have these moments they have been scary. And always a soft gentle voice in my soul says, “Pay attention!”

One Friday night right before the holidays, I was slugging my way through rush hour. Stop, start, stop, start. Cars weaving in and out of lanes as drivers send text messages. Other drivers not wanting to wait, zoomed past on the shoulder. Brake lights ahead of me were flashing on and off like red dominoes falling, standing up, and falling once again. Friday traffic has its own kind of crazy.

Before long I allowed my mind to wander. After a while the car in the lane next to me, who had been straddling the line for miles, came over a bit too close. My mind snapped to attention and I veered to my right to avoid a collision when I heard this awful scraping sound. Shit, shit, shit! I hit a car. I slowed down, put my blinker on, and moved over. I had no idea who I hit. No one moved over to the shoulder with me. I sat there waiting. Shortly an old station wagon stopped a good bit behind my car. I had to wait for a break in the traffic to safely get out and walk back to the wagon. I saw no damage to this car.

A tiny man got out of the car and without a glance at his car and said simply,“Let’s go look at your car.” We walked up to the passenger side of my car and along my rear side panel was a long scrap and a slight dent, just before the gas cap.

“Well, that don’t look bad, baby,” said the old man.

That’s when I looked up at the other driver. He was not very tall and had a scruffy gray beard that tapered into a point that ended about his belt buckle. A tattered skull cap was pulled down almost to his eyes. The light was not the best, but the damage didn’t look all that much. I said I wanted to check out his car, as I feared much more damage.

As we walked back to his driver side and were still a few feet away, he said, “Just my mirror got scrapped a bit.” He moved his eyebrows up in an amusing way. “Nothing too dire.” He shrugged his shoulders. We hadn’t even gotten to his car.

But as I looked, I could see what he said was correct. His driver side mirror was slightly scraped but no other damage.

“Do you want my information?” I asked.

He shrugged. “That is up to you, baby, but I am good. Nothing really happened. No harm.” Conversation was tough with the din of traffic.

“Okay, I can take care of mine.” I offered. He shrugged so offhandedly and in such a good manner that it made me smile. I could have been saying the sky was up, his response was just so laid-back.

He turned and made his way back to his driver door and stopped before getting in.

“Hey, baby,” he yelled into the wind. “Don’t forget to pay attention. You be well, baby girl.” And with that he got into his car and pulled out. I made my way back to mine and, sitting behind the wheel, wondered what just happened. I felt this warm feeling go right through me. I couldn’t help it. It was like I had been kissed on the forehead by a grandfather. His energy was just so sweet.

As I slowly made my way home I thought about that little old man. Questions where popping into my brain: How did he know his car did not have any damage? How did his mirror, if nothing else, not break or worse yet, get knocked off? Why did he keep calling me baby? And why didn’t it bother me — something that I would have felt was intrusive from a stranger, but I wasn’t in the least bit put off.

I still had thirty minutes to my drive. I was, of course, more vigilant and aware than I had been in months. But in the back of my mind, the questions swirled around. There was something about him that I couldn’t put my finger on and couldn’t quite shake.

When I pulled up to the house I turned the ignition off and sat in the quiet of the interior of the car with only the occasional pinging of cooling engine. I closed my eyes, searching for insight and understanding.

Suddenly I knew. The answer came to me so clearly. I had just been kissed by an angel, or rather my car had. Delivering a much needed reminder. Protecting me from something far worse.

At first I thought​, “How is that possible? That old man, an angel?​” But the feeling persisted and grew warmth in my heart. I smiled and thanked him for his help.

In the light of day, the damage was no worse than what it appeared in the dark in the side of the road. The damage was minimal and I had no plans on repairing it, nor buffing the evidence of that kiss out. Each time since, when I fill the gas tank, I run my hands over the scratch and slight dent and smile. My mind doesn’t wander while I drive as much now. When it drifts, thoughts about the little old man pop into my mind, drawing me back to the road. I can hear him whisper, “Take care, baby girl,” and I do. .

What are the angels in your life? I would love to hear your experiences.

With love and light,
Anna O’Keefe

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of February 18, 2019

by Anna O’Brien

There was a week of mighty fine posts

And twas this blog on which they did host

Five days worth of stuff

More than enough

Content of which you want most

Dearest readers! Poorly rhyming stanzas aside, here’s what our fantastic bloggers were up to this week:

  • On Monday, Calee Jordan discussed the reader’s perspective when faced with a series of books versus a collection in her column “The Heart of the Genres”;
  • On Tuesday, Beth McCabe featured two women SFF authors from the 70s and 80s that you might not know about, but you really should;
  • On Wednesday, we continued our Year 10 extravaganza with a behind-the-scenes interview with LSQ editor Caroljean Gavin;
  • On Thursday, Tiffany Meuret got real about writing about race in her column “Writing While Woman”;
  • On Friday, we interviewed Mariah Montoya, Issue 036 author of the story “Death’s Armchair by the Sea.”

Issue 036 Author Interview: Mariah Montoya and “Death’s Armchair by the Sea”

by Jen Gheller

We’re back with another Issue 036 author interview. This week we’ve chatted with Mariah Montoya about her story “Death’s Armchair by the Sea.”

LSQ: How did you decide on the different, nontraditional forms Death took on throughout the story?

Mariah: Whenever death is personified, it always seems to be a ghostly male figure with a black hood. I was bored with this. I’m always interested in seeing women representations of traditionally male roles, and Death seemed like an intriguing female character to start with.

LSQ: Living to 105 out of sheer willpower is quite a task. What inspired you to create a character like Matilda?

Mariah: I’ve heard some extraordinary stories about people whose mindsets kept them going even when deterioration or death seemed physically inevitable. I think the mind is capable of so many things. Also, my narrator needed to witness someone clinging to life with every fiber of her being in order to appreciate just how beautiful and fragile life is.

LSQ: There are countless takes on what happens after we die. How did you come up with the concept of dutiful grim reapers who gently take souls to a motherly Death?

Mariah: I had some family members on the verge of death – after writing this story, they did end up passing – and I wanted to envision more than just a light for them. A sweet embrace and gentle arms to carry them onward felt right.

LSQ: What was the hardest part about writing this story?

Mariah: I was advised to reduce the number of characters (specifically to combine the characters of Matilda and Layla) so that readers would not get so confused or overwhelmed with the number of names and souls in such a short story. But the more I started to revise, the more I realized it didn’t feel right. I was not trying to explore the relationship between my narrator, a “runner” for Death, and a lone human. I simply wanted to explore what death might be like if people embraced it rather than feared it, and for this exploration, I needed a handful of different scenarios. It was hard to show how the accumulation of these souls, not just one stubborn woman, touched and changed my narrator.

LSQ: Are you working on anything else at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about your other projects?

Mariah: I am indeed working on another project right now, a cohesive collection of fairy tale retellings set in a world where technology, myth, and magic intertwine.

Writing While Woman: Getting It Wrong

by Tiffany Meuret

There’s been a lot of uproar in the bookish Twittersphere of late about people (usually white) stepping in piles of their own privilege and, instead of giving that rank shoe a good scrub (or tossing it in the trash all together), they are pasting a diversity sticker over the filth and carrying on with their lives. As a white woman writer trying to carve my own slice of the publishing kingdom, I find the behavior of my fellow authors rather upsetting most of the time, so with this little space I’ve been afforded, I’d like to announce that I am coming for my fellows. It is time to collect your bags and get that shit organized, and a first of many steps to this is knowing how to behave when you get things wrong.

Because you will. You have already. If you’re old enough to be reading this, you have gotten many things wrong. Since this is a writing column, we will be discussing things like problematic representation and outright racism (unintended, most likely, as the defense usually goes) in your words. We white people, no matter our circumstances, have been steeping in a potent tea of privilege since birth, a concoction so concentrated that we are often unable to distinguish it from reality. This is how books like The Continent, American Heart, and The Black Witch come to not only exist, but be championed by various facets of the industry. This is how publishing con men like Dan Mallory not only skirt around the edges of consequence, but thrive in their mediocrity and deception. Sometimes it is an intentional act of ignorance and hatred, and sometimes the author has no idea what they’re doing it until it blows up in their face.

There are many times when I do see how a prejudiced act was unintentional. Perhaps I see it as a mistake I myself have at one time made, or something I never considered outside the sphere of my own whiteness. But here’s when things get hairy—because while I understand how it happens, it does not excuse the happening. It’s usually at this point where white authors scrawl long, pleading half-apologies about their intentions or long, rage-laced defense testimonies bemoaning political correctness and artistic censorship. The main connective tissue between both screeds is a total mystification on the author’s part that they were not categorically accepted despite their faults. We white people, white women as much as men, are so used to being excused for our bad behavior that it absolutely astounds us when other people demand we confront and atone for our biases.

A reckoning is coming, and many of us are desperately under-trained in the arts of humility, grace, and self-betterment. And we are all the worse for it.

There might not be one singular right way to confront such heavy topics, and this is not meant to serve as some “Four Easy Steps to Assuage White Guilt” kind of article, but I felt it prudent to discuss considering the simmering tensions between authors and readers alike, and because of the outright attacks made against many people of color daring to speak out. The burden of education and growth should not always be on the shoulders of the victims of such bad representation. We white people need to be accountable for our own growth, and so here we are.

So, say you find your words on the receiving end of criticism. How should you proceed? Here are my recommendations, for whatever they are worth.

  1. Shut your word hole for a minute. Too many bad takes and lazy “apologies” have come on the heels of defensiveness and shock. Trust me, you are not helping yourself or the community at large by lashing out in the hot seconds following sincere critique. With this in mind, see step two.
  2. Check your emotions. Anger and defensiveness are masks for other, deeper feelings, such as embarrassment, disappointment, and fear. Start at the top and drill down. You will not learn, and you will not grow if you continually refuse to uproot the rot. So do it. It might mean coming to a conclusion about yourself that you do not like, but that is the point, isn’t it?
  3. Educate yourself. Read. Do not go screaming to the internet demanding to be taught. Teach yourself. There is an infinite amount of resources at your fingertips able to help you process your own failings and teach you how to correct them. Do the work. (I have included a few links at the bottom of this article as good starting points)
  4. Take action. This is where your mileage may vary. Taking action could mean making a sincere apology. It could mean major revisions to your work. It could mean pulling the work from publication all together. And before you say it, NO, THIS IS NOT CENSORSHIP. This is called accountability, and just because you may not see the issues in your work does not mean you get to blithely shoot harmful words at the world like fabric out of a t-shirt cannon. There are consequences to free speech, my friends, and when white people start baring teeth over things like “censorship”, what they’re really saying is that the consequences should not apply to them. They never have before, and they resent it happening now. If you’re still hung up on this, please repeat step two before moving on.

We writers are all on a journey. We all have a story, and we all want to share it with the world. Why not do it spectacularly?

Do the work. Learn. Your craft will thank you for it.


Links to get you started:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

LSQ Year 10 Special: Editor interview – meet Caroljean Gavin

by Anna O’Brien

This is Luna Station Quarterly‘s tenth year in publication and we’re celebrating in lots of different ways, one of which is showcasing the amazing women who sit on the editorial staff and, behind the scenes, curate the magic that culminates in a gorgeous speculative fiction journal every three months. Today, we’re happy to introduce to you of one of our editors, Caroljean Gavin.

Tell us about what drew you to LSQ. Why do you think it’s important for a publication to hold a unique place for women authors? How do you see the genre of speculative fiction fitting into this?
CJG: I came across LSQ on Twitter. I wasn’t familiar with LSQ so I decided to check out some of the stories. At that time “The Thing in the Walls Wants Your Small Change” was being highlighted [Issue 034 story by Virginia Mohlere], and I checked it out. I loved that story so much I instantly wanted to be a part of LSQ. The work spoke to me.
Speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc.) is so often seen as fun, entertaining: escapism. There is this Flannery O’Connor quote I love: “I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it is very shocking to the system.” Speculative work is often sparked by something in reality, whether an event from history, or a disturbing social, political, or environmental aspect of the present. Speculative fiction plays the “what if” game to yes, taking readers on a ride, but also to push the boundaries of their thoughts and perspectives.
Women have different concerns than men, and women who are writing for male-run publications, and publications where they have to compete with the mainstream male narrative, might not feel safe writing their truths through their fiction. Brilliant work might not get picked up because the stories don’t resonate with male editors. Whenever possible I go to women doctors because they at least understand the physical experience of being a woman. LSQ is like a woman doctor taking care of the stories carefully handed over to us.
Within the broad realm of speculative fiction, what are some of your favorite sub-genres and why? Please give us a few of your favorite authors and books and explain if/how they’ve influenced your own writing.
CJG: I was raised on fantasy and science fiction. The first movie I saw in the theater was Tron. Even though my parents raised me Catholic, my dad preached Tolkien’s works way more than the Bible. When I hit high school, I became all about horror (reading not watching – it’s complicated). But somewhere along the way, when I started writing I discovered I loved writing these weird stories that were like the real world but with crazy elements. I discovered the term “magical realism” and started finding authors who wrote in this way, so every time people treated me like a weirdo who didn’t really belong in workshop, I could clutch these books, and feel not weird, and not alone. They gave me inspiration and permission. The huge one was Aimee Bender. I am also a huge fan of Karen Russell, Kelly Link, Jonathan Carroll, George Saunders (also Borges, Calvino, Kafka…) but it was Aimee Bender’s “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” that was the closet to the stories and the voice I was working with that really more than influencing my writing in a direct way, told me that whatever I was, it was fine, actually more than fine to be that, but that I should try my best to be as that as possible.
As an editor for LSQ, can you tell us a bit about the top aspects you want to see in a submission?  
CJG: I’m a sucker for voice. Even in third person narration I want it to feel like an actual person with an actual personality is telling me a story. Emotional connection is also extremely important. The characters should connect emotionally to the world and the other people around them, and the author should make an effort to create an emotional connection to the reader. This is not easy. It’s not all lost loves and dead dogs. There is a huge difference between emotional connection and emotional manipulation. Go deeper. Go unexpected.
Tell us a bit about the road to accomplishing your MFA. How has that degree helped shape your writing?
CJG: My MFA road was long and winding. I started at the New School in ’02. It was insane to me that I got in there and it was like hitting the big time, but New York reality didn’t take long to settle in, and even though I did all the course work, I didn’t finish my thesis. I went back home to California and fell into a deep depression. I became a single mom, moved to North Carolina. I always regretted not finishing the MFA. One day I emailed the director of the low residency program at Queens University of Charlotte to see if they’d take the credits I earned so long ago, and not only would they, but they actually had a last minute space open up for the residency that was coming up in a few weeks from when I emailed. I sent them a portfolio that day and was accepted in the program the next day. That doesn’t answer the question. But from that I learned that failure isn’t permanent. If you have your heart set on accomplishing something, you can finish later or try again. I didn’t think I could for the longest time and it haunted me, but when I finally made up my mind to try, things came together miraculously.
Also, by being the girl who wrote weird things in “literary” MFA workshops, I learned a lot about developing a thick skin, and stepping away from my workshop’s critiques until I was able to process them, to see what was helpful, and what feedback just came from people who were never going to be an audience for the types of things I wrote.
Please tell us about your ukuleles and what happened to Moxie’s eye. 
CJG: I don’t actually play my ukuleles that much anymore, but for awhile I was obsessed with them. When I was younger I had such a hard time learning guitar but when I picked up the ukulele it was so much more accessible, especially for someone with small hands. I love singing along when I’m playing and playing covers, making my favorite songs my own, or showing off the softer side of a Metallica song.
I adopted Moxie from a shelter and they didn’t know what happened to her eye. I asked because I was afraid the other one might pop out at any minute. Not that I would have loved her less. It’s just good to be prepared for something like that. Actually when I adopted her, her name was Sweetie, and she was this scared, trembly thing. She didn’t respond to the name and I felt that an anxious, one-eyed, fluffy dog needed something more than Sweetie. I didn’t want her to identity with that name, didn’t want it to bring her down. So I called her Moxie and she immediately took to the name and started chasing the cat and barking all the time!
What’s the most common typo/grammatical error you come across? 
CJG: I actually don’t come across that many. Usually it’s a missing article, preposition, or other tiny word. And of course commas are mystical. No one in the world understands them.
Are you working on any writing projects currently? If so, can you tell us a bit about them? 
CJG: This is the hardest question. I have a short story collection I’ve been tinkering with forever. It’s like a best of album by now including stories from 15 years ago and stories from like two months ago. Mostly they’re some form of magical realism, or surrealism, or other brand of weirdness held together by a common, strong, first person voice. I tell people I write strange little stories about broken, smart-assy girls. So that’s what it is. I hope to actually get it published some day.
The other thing is this monster of a novel I’ve been trying to write for like 15 years based on a short story I wrote my first semester at The New School. The idea was that it would be a sort of mythologized autobiography based on my experiences with my mom and with growing up in a place plagued by fog, earthquakes, and landslides. I don’t even know how many times I have started it over. There are at least 100,000 words written in its name. So far I have not been able to get it right. I haven’t even finished a complete draft yet. I keep going at it, though. I’m not giving up on that one.

Women on the Edge, Part 2

by Beth McCabe

With a little help from my friends, this column has been revisiting favorite authors from the ground-breaking days of women in spec lit. Here are two more.

Vonda N. McIntire

McIntire has garnered an impressive share of kudos and recognition for her work starting in the 1970s.

Her best known novel is probably the 1978 Dreamsnake, which won Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards.

The book is set on a post-apocalyptic earth. It is the story of a healer named Snake and her quest to replace Grass, her rare, beloved dreamsnake, an essential element in her healing ability.

My most loved

I tend to go for harder sci-fi, and McIntire does not disappoint. On my special bookshelf she was represented by:

  • Superluminal (1983), in which a young woman has her heart replaced with an artificial pump so that she can become an interstellar pilot.
  • The Exile Waiting, McIntire’s 1975 debut novel about a young mutant thief in a post-apocalyptic world.
  • Barbary (1986) is generally considered a YA novel, but that just makes me love it more. It’s a tale about a 12-year-old girl and her cat who move to a space station.

In an era when the most popular girls’ series featured well-scrubbed suburban baby sitters, McIntire shone at presenting courageous young women in challenging situations.

Other accomplishments

Pride of place on my bookshelf was held by the 1976 feminist sci-fi anthology Beyond Equality, co-edited by McIntyre, which includes the Nebula-winning “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” by James Tiptree, Jr., aka Alice Sheldon.

McIntire also wrote the novelizations for many of the Star Wars and Star Trek movies. And in reading her bio I discovered two fun things: she is a fellow Greater Seattleite, and she did graduate work in genetics.

McIntire’s work can be hard to find in print. Several of her books are available in audio format on Amazon, and like many of my recommendations from this period, they are good requests to make at your nearest used bookstore.

Tanith Lee

The great Tanith Lee, most likely known to LSQ readers, was a prolific British author of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.

She penned over 90 novels, 300 short stories, and a variety of other works. Her first publication was The Dragon Hoard, a children’s book in 1971.

As widely known as her works are, I was surprised to find out that during the course of her career Lee often met with resistance from publishers.

Perhaps this was partly a result of the fact that Lee, like many of the authors I’ve been recollecting, often explored overtly feminist and sexual themes. That doesn’t sound so earth-shaking today, I know.

Sadly, Lee succumbed to breast cancer in 2015.

My fave

It’s difficult to find a consensus on Lee’s most successful and/or most popular work. But choosing my favorite is easy: The Silver Metal Lover (1981).

This is the story of Jane, a wealthy 16-year-old girl in an imaginary world who falls deeply in love with a silver-skinned android minstrel. Silver is more complex than the other robots, and Jane moves to the slums with him, giving up all her privileges for love.

As she does so she finds herself in a way that would never have happened in her prior life.

It’s a little sappier than most of my favorites, but then, I was a lot more sappy in my youth than I am in my cronedom. And–not that there’s anything wrong with romance novels–other issues are explored as well: the role of art in society. The haves vs. the have-nots.

Love and metal

Revisiting Silver got me thinking about the depiction of human-machine love in books, movies, and TV, and how it might differ in the eyes of male and female writers.

I asked my husband if he remembered any examples of this topic. He said, “Yeah. I remember how you wouldn’t shut up about the robot with the guitar.”

More about this next month, so stock up on Kleenex and WD40 .



Just One. . . or Twelve — Whichever

by Calee Jordan

Is “one and done” not a thing anymore?

No, I’m not talking about one-night stands. Get your minds out of the gutter. This is a fantasy/sci-fi blog after all, not romance. Although I must admit, there is a distinction is most notable among the three genres, a distinction that romance has barely touched. I’m talking about: the series.

Romance fans probably disagree since dozens of romantic series come to their minds. Yes, romances—particularly paranormal romances—have series, too; however, more often, romances have collections rather than series. The authors tell their stories of meeting “the one” in only one, rarely two, novels. The romantic collection is a series of stand-alone novels about a big loving family or close-knit friends. Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City and Lisa Kleypas have great friend collections that make readers feel part of the gang while offering differing perspectives—friend, lover, supporter–of beloved characters. Yet, R.L. Mathewson and Judith McNaught are queens of the family. Neighbors from Hell (Mathewson) and the Montgomery family (McNaught) finesse these family collections better than anyone. Every single–well, eligible–bachelor and bachelorette in the family deserves his/her novel with cameo appearances from previous novels’ characters.

A reader cannot skip a book within a series, but a reader never loses the plot in a romantic collection.

However, that’s not what sci-fi/fantasy series are. By series, I mean book after book after book with the same characters and conflict/issue that the protagonists steadily try to resolve. Sci-fi and fantasy genres have plots and problems too big to resolve in a single book. Each novel is a separate episode with a conflict, climax, and resolution that reveal more about the characters and locations, but the novel doesn’t resolve an overarching issue that drives the major plot, like a television show’s season.

In fact, I’ve read dozens of series that could not do their plots justice within one novel. The series has become the Netflix of the genres. They are long, action-packed stories with an overarching issue or conflict that cannot be resolved easily. Instead, the characters experience challenge after misadventure until the primary conflict is resolved. And each episode—oops, I mean book–has a beginning, conflict, and satisfying end that inches the protagonist a step closer to the bigger problem. These series are perfect for binge reading and hooking the reader.


Of course.

But are five, ten, twelve, twenty books necessary to finish a story? Ah, no, if the author eliminated all the subplots and story shifts. Here’s a litmus test to prove it:

Could s/he finish the real story plot within one book, two tops? Probably. Some books devote only portions of the book to the major conflict.

Couldn’t the other issues and challenges the protagonist faces in book after book be the next segment in his/her wild misadventures? So wouldn’t the slow march to the primary conflict and its inevitable conclusion be just a doughnut on a string leading readers around? Maybe authors worry their readers will lose interest after a conflict is resolved; however, I doubt it.  Readers (like TV watchers) can be loyal to great characters and will stick with the stories until the plot becomes formulaic or the characters no longer feel like familiar friends.

Do we need to trudge through her version of romance and ultimate marriage of two characters for three books only to trudge the exact romance and marriage from his perspective? No.

Do we need a cliffhanger at the end of the book when the issue is resolved within two chapters in the next book? No.

Are these drawn-out plots just the author’s cash grab? Well, $4.99 per book for twenty books adds up, and some authors increase the price as each book is released. One author, whom I will not name, began her series at $7.99 (for an e-book?!!), and thirteen books later, the final book is $14.99.

Is the protracted plot the reason these books are so appealing? Ah, well…yeah.

OK, I vented enough. Where’s that final book for $14.99

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of February 11, 2019

by Anna O’Brien

Dearest readers! Welcome to the weekly wrap-up, where we showcase all the posts that have appeared on our blog this week.

  • On Monday, Erin Wagner sung the praise of the arguably speculative fiction musician Janelle Monae;
  • On Tuesday, Wendy Van Camp chatted with fantasy author Lauren Anne Hill;
  • On Wednesday, we posted another Issue 036 author interview, this time chatting with Sarah McGill about her story “Down Among the Fireweed“;
  • On Thursday, fitting for Valentine’s Day, Tracy Townsend delved beyond allocentric relationships in SFF in her column “A Place Where It Rains”;
  • On Friday, Lale Davidson’s cat has fine sci-fi TV taste and she gave us proof.

Cosmic Cat

by Lale Davidson

Science fiction appeals to creatures of all kinds. Daisy, an American Bobtail mixed breed cat, watches the opening of season three of The Expansebased on the novels by James S. A. Corey about a future where few have the privilege to still live on Earth, and where most of the population mines for water in an orbiting dust belt. Daisy is one of the smartest cats I’ve ever had the pleasure to live with, so if she likes something, you should pay attention.

I adopted Daisy from the local animal shelter when she was still nursing kittens. She was a teen mother. When not stalking birds and other unsuspecting prey, she follows me around the house indoors and out, jumping into the middle of whatever I’m doing and tilting her head quizzically as if to say, “Whatcha doing, Hooman?” She’s the only cat I know who can purr and growl simultaneously. She can be a bit of a bitch, which only intensifies her allure. She occasionally watches TV but has discerning tastes. It seems to run in the family, because her son, Merlin, who was adopted by a friend, also tries to catch the pictures. Cats were one of the few creatures H.P. Lovecraft loved, and he portrayed them as the walkers between worlds.