Maram Magazine

I think we’ve settled on Maram Magazine as the name for the ‘making’ magazine I’m hoping to start. It will be a joint venture of Serendib Press and the Speculative Literature Foundation, which has recently redefined its mission somewhat, to a literature AND arts focus. (That gives us more leeway to do all kinds of things.)

Organizationally, I’m thinking of it as:

• SLF –> Portolan Project –> Maram Makerspace –> Maram Magazine

• Serendib House –> Serendib Press –> Maram Magazine

It may take us a while to go to full on ‘magazine,’ and whenever we start taking in money, we’ll need to sort out which parts of the project are non-profit and which are for-profit. But I realized last week that we can get started pretty quick, with a website and blogging. I’m envisioning something like columns for:

– writing
– cooking
– gardening
– textiles
– tech fun

– etc.

And then 3-5 bloggers in each category, to start. Unpaid, but you’re welcome to copy over pieces you’re blogging on your own site or elsewhere, and you get to promote your own stuff (in your bio). If you’re interested in blogging for this, and can commit to at least one post / week, comment below? I’ll ask to see a writing sample (a blog post is fine, doesn’t need to be published), so be prepared to e-mail that to me. I’d like a mix of local-to-me and based-elsewhere folks. International would be very cool.

ALSO, if you’re interested in helping with behind-the-scenes project organization (dreams of being a magazine editor?), no pay now, but quite possibly down the line, let me know that too. (Can be simultaneous with blogging for it, or not.) For that, you’d need to be willing to join the organizers on Slack (it’s easy to use).

We’ll also likely be teaching classes along with this (virtual for now, but in-person as well, eventually). In-person would be near me, if we manage to actually open Maram Makerspace. We were ABOUT to put down money last March on a space, with the plan to start holding classes by June, but then, well.

Questions on Indie Publishing

Hey, writers. For the 491 class I’m teaching this semester, I’ve been asking students to drop their business of writing questions to me, so that I can try to answer some of them as we have time in class. A LOT of them have questions about indie publishing, and given that much interest, I’m wondering whether it makes sense to do a broader presentation.

I’m thinking I might do a few, actually — one with just me presenting some basics of how you use Kickstarter to fund a book, for example, and then putting together a panel of experienced writers talking about their indie publishing record.

To be clear, there’s a BIG challenge with indie publishing, in terms of having your work taken seriously in the literary and academic sphere after you do so. There are ways to approach that, which may or may not succeed; that’s definitely one of the things I’ll be talking about.

So this is not necessarily ADVOCATING for indie; I’d just like to give people a clearer sense of where the publishing world is right now on this subject, and how you might approach it if you were thinking about it.

If I set up a larger Zoom presentation on this through the SLF, would any of you be interested? Let me know!

If you’re a successful indie-published author who might be willing to be on such a panel for us, drop me a line? No up-front pay, but you’d of course be welcome to pimp your books. 🙂

A Conversation with Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Hairston, Sheree Renée Thomas

Back when we could still meet in person, I was privileged to host a conversation about community, writing, and publishing with writer/professor Nalo Hopkinson, writer/professor Andrea Hairston, and writer/editor Sheree Renée Thomas (who has recently taken over as editor at F&SF).

Enjoy these brilliant women conversing, as part of the SLF’s Portolan Project! Click here for the video (with transcription).

“So I teach at Smith, and one of the things we’re really interested in is how women self-select and, you know, it’s ridiculous how easy it is to take it personally that it’s your work, as opposed to men who say they’re messed up. So the women decide that my work isn’t good. And the men decide – and this is like, you know, over decades and we still haven’t shifted this – that the editor doesn’t know crap.”

– Andrea Hairston

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The Speculative Literature Foundation is a nonprofit, dependent on the support of our members to keep doing what we do: grants, interviews, local chapters, panels and workshops, co-writing on Zoom, and more. If you’re enjoying our projects and programs, we’d love to have you join us — for $2 / month, come help us support developing great speculative literature and envisioning new, diverse futures!

http://speculativeliterature.org/membership/

A Book Club for the SLF

Okay, so here’s an idea I’d like to bounce off y’all. I was listening to Gary Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan’s Coode Street podcast, and they were interviewing Lisa Goldstein. A great interview, but at one point, she mentioned that her work wasn’t getting the attention it used to, and she didn’t really know why. The ‘new’ authors were getting all the attention, and she understood that, but still. (I mean, the woman won the National Book Award for The Red Magician, after all…)

And I realized that while I’ve been a fan of hers for years, and used to eagerly wait for her novels and devour them as they came out, at some point, they just fell off my radar. And this is true of other authors too — I had a similar realization earlier this year about Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s books.

Now, obviously, I can just go catch up with both of those authors’ works, and I am, but it points to a larger question. As indie publishing has exploded the number of books published each year (and not just books — short stories, podcasts, narrative games, etc. and so on), we have a massive filtering problem.

And obviously, lots of people are working on this — there have always been review sites trying to highlight the best work, there are podcasts added to that now, there are awards, a host of techniques that surface texts. But it’s still sort of surprising to me that I had managed to lose track of these excellent authors whose work I loved.

I should never be aimlessly browsing, looking for something worth reading, when there’s another Nina Kiriki Hoffman book I haven’t read.

Maybe this problem will solve itself, as Amazon (and hopefully other booksellers) become better at tracking our preferences, letting us subscribe to authors, making sure that I pre-order the next Ellen Kushner Swordspoint novel as soon as she adds it to their system, so it will just drop into my Kindle on release day with a great trumpeting fanfare. (Your Kindle should have fireworks cascading across the screen when one of your favorite authors comes out with a new book.) (Which reminds me, Stephanie Bailey, we should make sure Amazon is set up to let folks pre-order Vegan Serendib.)

Okay, so that was a lot of preface for my question, sorry. What I was trying to figure out was whether there was anything the SLF or I could do to help with this a little. And I was thinking about the Great Conversation, which was a thing they talked about when I was in college at the U of C, the idea that academia was essentially a conversation among humanity, searching for truth, using the Socratic method to argue with each other in these texts across time and space.

And it made me want…a book club? A periodic thread to our podcast? Something where we would bring together an author like Lisa Goldstein and an author like Benjamin Rosenbaum, and maybe a brand new first novel Jewish spec fiction author and have a conversation about their work, making connections, helping to explicate how they were responding to each other.

And of course, that would all connect really well to building out teaching modules for the Portolan Project — you could sketch out a ‘Jewish fantasy’ module very easily from there, using the podcast conversation as a basis for it.

I was talking to Jed Hartman about it, and he was pointing out that the idea of the SLF doing a ‘book club’ wasn’t really scalable. But it kind of is, if you go about it the right way. Let’s say it has four parts:

1) we record the podcast / video, possibly doing it live like a convention panel, so that we can simultaneously host a Discord conversation with as many people as care to join

2) we put that up, so people who couldn’t attend live can still listen / view (forever!)

3) we find a teacher to build out the accompanying teaching module, putting together a recommended book & short story list, some study questions, and a lesson plan (ideally geared both towards high school and college teaching), and put all that up as part of the Portolan Project

4) the SLF chapters in Chicago and the Bay Area might build out actual book club segments around these (and we will hopefully have a lot more chapters and a lot more book clubs eventually….)

What do you think? I immediately run up against the problem of time — I don’t know that I have the time to really organize this well, especially as an ongoing thing.

It makes me wonder if we need more people to help, and then that runs up against the question of labor should be paid.

But also, academics are paid by their departments and are supposed to do a certain amount of service as part of that, so maybe some would be available even without my spending a lot of time fundraising for this project (which again, time is the problem).

But on the other hand, course development is really a lot of work, and I don’t want to undercut the arguments for paying for that. But maybe putting together a single lesson rather than a full course might be okay?

I’m going to take this to the ICFA (academic SF folks) mailing list, I think, and see what people think there, but I wanted to run through some of it here first. Thoughts? Better ways to do this? Aspects I’m missing?

Why a Podcast, Mary Anne?

Why pour hours and hours of your life into this project? It started because I always have the most interesting conversations with Benjamin Rosenbaum, and I thought others might enjoy them. But that alone wouldn’t have been enough to sustain the project.

I realized that what is actually important about this podcast has to do with gatekeeping and curation — with who gets to be part of the conversation and who doesn’t, with whose work is highlighted, getting reviews and awards, and whose work is excluded, pushed to the margins.

That’s always been a tension between speculative fiction and mainstream lit. — even writers as brilliant as Ursula K. Le Guin and Samuel Delany at times struggled to have their work taken seriously by the literary establishment. When I was going through creative writing grad school — an MFA program, a Ph.D., then teaching — it was clear that for the most part, the academy still didn’t really know what to do with non-realist work.

It could carve out exceptions — Shakespeare is okay, even if he gives us fairies and sorcerers and magical storms and monstrous creatures. Frankenstein is allowed, and King Arthur made it into the canon, not to mention Grendel and the Faerie Queene. Eventually they made room for the magical realists, Marquez and Allende, and even Rushdie, with his time travel and telepathy. But those were still the exceptions that made the rule, and if you look at the literary & critical conversation today, realist work still dominates quite thoroughly.

I wanted to host a conversation that took science fiction and fantasy just as seriously as realist fiction. And then, beyond those genre conventions, I wanted to bring in writers who come from a really wide range of diverse backgrounds.

We’ve interviewed Cadwell Turnbull, for example, a Black writer who writes alien invasion set in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Coming up next, we’re interviewing Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, a lesbian couple who are both brilliant authors in their separate worlds, but also delightful to talk to together. We’ve interviewed authors from different countries (like up-and-coming Yudhanjaya Wijeratne) and different cultures (like Mexican Canadian Silvia Moreno-Garcia). We want to talk to people from diverse class backgrounds too, people who work with disability issues (like my Clarion teacher, Nicola Griffith), really, just as varied a pool of writers and editors and agents, etc. as possible.

And I’m definitely not going to claim that we’re the only podcast doing this kind of diversity work — I’m really pleased that the field has turned more and more towards celebrating and welcoming a host of diverse creators in recent years. I remember when the barriers were a lot higher than they are now, when if I wanted to write a lesbian character, I had my agent at the time asking me, “Do you have to make them a lesbian? We’ll sell a lot more books if you don’t…” It’s gotten better.

But even if it has gotten better, I think it still matters, who hosts these conversations. That’s the gatekeeping part, the curation. F&SF Magazine has had some great editors in the past, but I have to say that I’m super-excited to see Sheree Renée Thomas taking the reins — her work putting together the Dark Matter anthology was ground-breaking. Her vision changed the field, and I can’t wait to see what she does with F&SF.

I hope we can do the same kind of work with this podcast. How often does someone write a truly wonderful book, or story, or poem, and have it disappear, because no one ever heard about it? Podcasts can do an amazing job of bringing those stories to light. I hope we can highlight voices you might not have heard of otherwise, raising them up into view.

We talk about word-of-mouth in publishing a lot, about how it’s the most important factor in a book’s (or author’s) success.

Well, this is word-of-mouth made literal — a podcast is our mouths, offering you some words, about books and writers and ideas and culture, about how we have these conversations, and how we do this better, going forward.

If you want to hear the voices that we think are worth listening to, voices that have often been pushed to the margins in the past, then I hope you’ll consider supporting our podcast.

I’ll leave you with a clip from an interview I did with brilliant academic Farah Mendlesohn in a hotel room, back when we still went to conventions. Sorry the sound is a little soft — this was early on, and we were still learning our craft. The first minute or so is lead-in, then it gets interesting.

In this 4-minute clip, Farah explains to me how she realized that Narnia is in Canada, and what broader implications that held for the literary world. I thought it was fascinating; I hope you do too.

Less than 48 hours (and $500 left to raise) to go: https://www.kickstarter.com/…/slf-podcast-mohanraj-and…

(please like / comment / share for visibility!)

Halfway

Woot! Kickstarter for the podcast I’m doing with Benjamin Rosenbaum has passed the halfway mark — we’re now at $920 out of $1500 goal. If we can get to $1000 by the end of today (Sunday), I will be more confident that we’ll actually make it to $1500 in time — four days left! Eep. Please tell your friends.

Support us here: https://www.kickstarter.com/…/slf-podcast-mohanraj-and…

Almost There

Do you want to hear me and Benjamin Rosenbaum talking to fascinating writers, editors, agents, game designers, librarians, and more?

Every week, our dulcet tones could be filling your ears. We’d be accompanying you on your commute, keeping you company as you do chores, entertaining you while you weed the garden, and helping fill insomniac hours in the middle of the night. If you wear headphones, you can even listen to us while you ‘supervise’ the children’s e-learning…

Part of why I’ve learned to love podcasts in the last few months (basically since the pandemic started — I wasn’t really a podcast person before that), is because I get an extra little productivity boost from them — look, I’m entertained, WHILE I’m working, AND the work goes faster and more pleasantly, AND I’m sometimes even learning something too. It’s just SO SATISFYING.

Also, as an extrovert, the pandemic has me pretty lonely sometimes; it’s nice to have human voices for company, especially voices that are conversational and real, as opposed to the staged entertainment of a TV show (which I also consume a lot these days). I’m lucky enough to live with people, but it’s been a lot of these same three people since March. New voices = good.

We have just 5 days left on our Kickstarter — $650 raised towards our $1500 goal, which will pay for audio and video editing costs on our first season, which we’re hoping to launch in January. That may be the fastest turnaround on a Kickstarter ever. 🙂 In just a few weeks, we could be dropping episodes for your delight and entertainment.

The bulk of Kickstarter funding tends to happen in the last few days (which is kind of nerve-racking for those of us who run Kickstarters, but so it goes) — we’re here now. It’s all or nothing — if we don’t get to $1500, we don’t get any of it.

So if you think you might want to throw a dollar or two (or more, we won’t say no) our way, please check out the Kickstarter for a trailer video and more info — and please, tell your friends. We’d love it if you could like / share / comment on this post for visibility:

https://www.kickstarter.com/…/slf-podcast-mohanraj-and…

And just so you know what you’re getting, I’ve included a little clip below from an author interview — Cadwell Turnbull talks to us about aliens, about the U.S. Virgin Islands, about why the alien invasion always seems to be in New York or D.C., and why a writer might want to do something different. Cadwell is smart and thoughtful and you will enjoy listening to him. (And after that, go pick up his first novel, _The Lesson_, which is beautifully written, rich in characterization, and thought-provoking. Need a holiday gift for yourself or someone else? Recommended!)

Winners of the 2020 Diverse Writers and Worlds Grants

The Speculative Literature Foundation is pleased to announce that Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is the winner of the 2020 Diverse Writers Grant and Tatiana Schlote-Bonne is the winner of the 2020 Diverse Worlds Grant.

Olorunnisola was awarded the Diverse Writers Grant for his work “How Dead Men Come Back Home.” He is an experimental poet, essayist, and writer of fiction. His work interrogates black histories, futures, identities and spirituality. He has been published in Popula, Jalada, Gertrude, Bakwa, The Account, Bodega, Kalahari Review, On the Seawall, and elsewhere. He has published a chapbook: “In My Country, We’re All Crossdressers” (Praxis, 2018). He is currently working on a full-length poetry collection and a dark fantasy novel set in colonial Africa. He is the founder of SprinNG, one of Africa’s foremost platforms dedicated solely to growing young literary talent, and the Fiction Editor at Kreative Diadem. He currently lives and writes in Lagos, Nigeria. Reach him at negrotheory@gmail.com.

Schlote-Bonne was awarded the Diverse Worlds grant for her work “The Afterlife Memoirs”. She is a 2nd year MFA candidate in The Nonfiction Writing Program at The University of Iowa. The Diverse Worlds grant will aid her in completing her work-in-progress: a young adult novel told from the perspective of Lucina, a mixed-race Japanese girl who’s awakened as a ghost and must resolve her unfinished business and learn how to haunt. Tatiana’s essays have been published in F(r)iction, Dogwood, Emrys Journal, and The Iowa Review blog. In her free time, she lifts weights and plays video games. Her website is tatiana-schlote-bonne.com.

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The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org) is a 501(c)3 non-profit supporting the best of speculative literature.

We’re currently running a Kickstarter to fund a new podcast about writing, culture, society, and more, “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum are Humans” — to learn more, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/…/slf-podcast-mohanraj-and…

Grant Information and Schedule: http://speculativeliterature.org/…/grant-information…/

Our two diversity grants are entirely funded by donations from the community. We welcome your general donations to support our grants, local chapters, and other activities, either here on Facebook or at our website; we’re also happy to accept stock gifts (contact director@speculativeliterature.org for more information): http://speculativeliterature.org/donate/

Become a member for just $2 / month! http://speculativeliterature.org/membership/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/speculativeliterature/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/speclit

Giving Tuesday

Hey, folks, it’s Giving Tuesday. I will try to do a proper SLF-related post soon (we’d love for you to become members!), but for the moment, let me remind you that there’s just 8 days left on our podcast Kickstarter! Eep.

We’ve raised close to $500, but have $1000 left to raise in the next 8 days, and Kickstarter is all-or-nothing funding — if we don’t make the full amount by the deadline, we get nothing.

If you’re at all interested in throwing a dollar or two at a project designed to help provide free creative writing and lit education, WORLDWIDE, please check it out here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/…/slf-podcast-mohanraj-and…

The podcast also offers quite a lot of Ben and me talking about various aspects of culture, society, race, gender, parenting, and more — as an example of that, here’s our first full episode. Or actually, probably 2 or 3 episodes — when Ben and I record, we tend to record for a long, long time. That’s why we need an editor. 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOK2Fm08seY

At this early point, we were still not quite sure what the podcast would become, and we were recording in May, so still very much shaken by the pandemic and trying to make sense of it all.

As it evolved, we started including more writing craft instruction, lit discussion, editor expertise, author interviews, so there’s all of that plus a lot more coming. Assuming we actually manage to fund this Kickstarter (fingers crossed)!

If it’s easier for you to donate directly through Facebook than Kickstarter, we’d certainly still appreciate the support!

(And if you can like / share / comment on this post to increase visibility (Facebook algorithms, bah), it’d be greatly appreciated!)