Two new sales

I’m happy to announce that my poem, “The Mikveh of Past Meanings,” will appear in Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, edited by Claire Trévien and Gareth Prior. I am very excited about this project and cannot wait to see the final product.

I have also sold a SFnal short story, “Stalemate,” to Lackington’s for their Institutions issue. It’s been accepted a while ago, but it’s finally possible to announce! I love Lackington’s, and am very much looking forward to the fourth issue.


Let’s Talk about Category Structure and Oppression!

The essay mirrored below was written by Shweta Narayan. I mirror it here because it is important, insightful, and timely; it draws on Shweta’s research into cognitive science to help us understand how we process and are affected by cultural concepts (such as ‘bird’, ‘whiteness’). Comments should go to Shweta’s Livejournal entry or its Tumblr crosspost, but if these avenues are not accessible to you and you wish to comment, you are welcome to comment here.


Originally posted by shweta_narayan at Let’s talk about category structure and oppression!

This has been a v long-brewing post; I’ve been meaning to make it, or something like it, since 2009. Many thanks to Rose Lemberg, Arachne Jericho, Sonya Taaffe (sovay), and Nathaniel J. Smith (elsmi) for helping me finally get it together in a coherent fashion. Any errors or problems are my doing, not theirs.

We tend to have this idea that categories, like “bird” or “food” (or like “human” or “white”, which is what this is all really about) are like solid boxes. Entities are either in them or out of them, with a clear and unchanging boundary, and everything inside is an unsorted & equal jumble, and everything outside ditto.

This notion gets strongly underscored by our cultures, so it can be hard to … er… unpack. But the fact is, cognitive categories aren’t actually like boxes. They have internal structure, and fuzzy boundaries (which people can draw in different places, and move depending on context), and these things matter hugely in how we think about and deal with oppression.

I’m going to start by talking about research on the category “bird”, because there’s been a lot of it (c.f. Eleanor Rosch‘s work in the 70s and early 80s, which kicked it off), and it’s pretty neutral so it’ll be easier/less triggery for people to think about the category structure.

So! The “bird” category has (somewhat culture specific) internal structure. For example, most Americans will agree that a robin is a better example of a bird than an albatross, and an albatross is a better bird than an ostrich. (And while bats are not birds, they are better birds than horses are, and horses are better birds than refrigerators are; so the gradations continue to some extent outside the category boundary).

This internal category structure has a number of cognitive effects/characteristics:

1) If you ask people to just write down as many birds as they can, they’ll list the more prototypical (category-central) ones first. More peripheral members of the category do not come to mind at first.

2) In reaction time tasks where people are asked to respond yes or no depending on whether or not a presented item is a bird, people will press yes faster, with fewer errors, for prototypical birds.

3) The structure that emerges from these two experimental measures matches the structure that emerges if you just ask people to rank birds in order of which ones are the “best” birds. Once you ask people to structure their categories they have really strong, consistent, and replicable intuitions about that structure.

4) People’s idea of similarity is asymmetric: they will, for example, say that albatrosses are more like robins than robins are like albatrosses.

5) People reason from the prototype to the whole category, but not the other way around. So, for example (according to experimental results), people reason that if all the robins on an island caught a disease, the ducks would catch it too; but not vice versa.

6) People’s use of linguistic hedges (really, sort of, technically, etc) is based on prototypicality too. So you can say an emu is technically a bird, but you can’t say a robin is technically a bird.

7) Over time, some characteristics can become more prototypical. Others can’t. The US adoption of the eagle as a standard animal has made it a more prototypical bird; and the hooked beak has become a more prototypical characteristic than it used to be. But yeah, eagles can still fly. An emu is never going to be a prototypical bird.

This is all pretty innocent when it comes to birds! But there is evidence that this sort of category structure is everywhere in human cognition (e.g. people will say 4 is a better even number than 1374.) Now, robins excluding emus from the bird-category, or claiming to understand how emu-ness works because of their experience as robins, might sound like the stuff comic strips are made of; the human dynamics are less funny, and far more harmful to their targets.

So, moving domains to socially relevant categories:

1) Able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men are considered to be prototypical humans (prototype here = privileged default). So. If you ask people to think of famous people, they will think first of famous able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men. And their exceptions will normally fall outside this prototype in only one or two ways.

This is how a lot of casual erasure happens. (btw it’s also what’s happening when editors “just happened to think of” a lot of poets/writers/artists who aren’t marginalized, and when poets/writers/artists “just happened to think of” prototypical characteristics to portray.)

2) If someone is not an able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian man, it will generally take people longer to categorize them as human. And the further they are from this prototype the longer it will take to make the judgment. Now, if people take that extra time, we’re probably good; but do they? When they sort resumes / run job interviews, when they’re trigger-happy cops, etc?

3) (horrific examples tw) Consider the structure of the category “American citizen”, which often gets treated as either-or. But the prototypical citizen is white, abled, and Christian (at least). Consider who counts: who gets protected under US law. And consider whose ID gets checked, who gets stop & frisked. Whose mass incarceration and state-sanctioned murder is business as usual. Who gets called “an illegal”, or told to “go back home”, regardless of their actual documentation. Who gets demands for their birth certificate once elected to high office. Whose languages are considered ok if spoken in the US, whose accent if they’re speaking English.

(Non-Americans, when we talk about American privilege, we need to understand that it does not apply equally to all people with US citizenship; it applies only to the people who get counted as “proper” Americans, according to this category structure & the context.)

3b) (Horrific example tw) Where you draw the category boundary can be person and culture specific. Which is okay with birds, you’ll only annoy scientists if you decide an emu isn’t a bird, but what about the category “human”. What about the people who decide that if you’re Black, or disabled, or a trans woman or all three, then you’ve fallen outside the human category and your murderer isn’t really a murderer? The murderers who call their Black victims “it”? The settler laws about Aboriginal Australian people, that only recently categorized them as human?

3c) This also applies for categories like whiteness. Who counts as white depends on who’s drawing the boundary, where, when, for what purposes. I think we do need to talk about which people’s whiteness is marginal/conditional and can be revoked by category-central white people. We can’t do that, however, without also talking about how people in these groups benefit from conditional/marginal whiteness, by mostly gaining white privilege while denying whiteness whenever questions of race/racism come up. I am suspicious of people who will only talk about how their whiteness is marginal when other people are talking about racism.

3d) Obviously I could go on, but consider also the category of English. Whose English counts as actual English? And within that, whose is proper English?

So yeah (3) tl;dr: This is how a lot of active casual bigotry happens.

4) Am albatross is more like a robin than a robin is like an albatross; a queer WOC is more like a cishet white man than a cishet white man is like a queer WOC. Which characters in stories count as “relatable”?

Everyone is expected to relate to a cis straight white anglophone American man. We’re all like them, they’re just (default, category-central) people after all! But they’re not like us. We’re the albatrosses, here. How can the poor robins be expected to relate to us? This is why they think it’s so ludicrous that they should be expected to read about marginalized characters (who are nothing like them!!) but think it’s normal and fine that marginalized people should be expected to read about category-central characters.

Conversely, it’s also why they think they know our experience perfectly well and can talk over us; after all, we’re just like them, except in a few (stereotyped) ways. They’re default people! Unlike us.

5) (Horrific example tw) While people know perfectly well that diseases will spread from category-central members of humanity to peripheral ones, they often don’t realize it goes the other way too. In the 80s, a lot of people thought AIDS was a “gay disease” – it wouldn’t hit straight people! (And bi/pan/polysexual people don’t exist after all, c.f. the erasure caused by (1)). Sooo yeah, they didn’t care, till it did start hitting a lot of straight (white) people.

6) (TERF warning.) Consider how some TERFs say, “Of course I think trans women are women! – Technically. But like, not real women.”
So long as they can make that linguistic hedge in some form – so that they’re not actually expected to treat trans women as fully women, as fully human – they’re fine with it. This is part of how they contradict themselves so blithely without hitting cognitive dissonance.

This is one method of moving the goalposts. Our understanding of categories is fluid and context-dependent, and we shift from thinking about the prototype to the whole category and back more than we normally consciously realize, and we can use the same word, often, to refer to either; and oppressors can use that to pretend they’re speaking in good faith and being “reasonable”, while in fact they’re changing their definitions on the fly to suit their convenience.

7) Consider whiteness again. Within a US context, some groups (e.g. white Jewish Americans) have become more white than they historically were, and benefit from co-signing whiteness. They are still not category-central; their inclusion may still be marginal; but by default, they are now on the inside of the category boundary. Whereas other groups (e.g. South Asian Americans) do not get to cross the line no matter how strongly they buy into whiteness, because Blackness, and therefore darkness, is an exclusionary feature. But what that means, too, is that South Asian Americans do get privileged over other groups, most notably Black Americans, and need to understand that the power dynamics of whiteness do not end at the boundary of whiteness.

For more central but still not default people (both within and outside the category!), aligning with & co-signing the category-center brings clear advantages. That’s not true for people who are always, definitionally, excluded.

I’m going to start my wrap-up by talking a bit about derailing (getting in before defensive-privileged-commentors do so, haha). Often it works by changing the category under discussion – forcibly redrawing the boundary, and thereby changing the center of the category & what’s being talked about. Example that I see all the time: “Trans women are awesome!” gets derailed with “ALL women are awesome!” By making the category “all women”, the derailer does not merely extend the statement to more people. No, by changing the category and evoking the new category’s cisnormative prototypes, they change the subject entirely – recentering themselves and pushing trans women off to the margins.

“Not All Men” works in sort of the opposite way. By creating this hypothetical subcategory of Not-All-Men and forcing attention to it, it derails discussion away from, & attempts to undermine statements about, the category as a whole.

So! When talking to other people, in fandom and outside it, we need to be aware of category-centrality as well as membership. Especially because categories like whiteness are not boxes, but rather spectrums, with a central core of “real”, unarguable members, and an uneven periphery of conditional members, who can get kicked out by the category center as convenient, but still benefit from some or all of the privilege most of the time. Understanding this helps us understand the mechanics of derailing, and the mechanics of marginalization/exclusion done by not-central members to even-more-non-central members, as well as the mechanics that central members use against us all.

Why An Alphabet of Embers is Love

When I first envisioned the anthology, I knew that I wanted to do more than to create a book: I wanted other artists to create art that relates to the book. The whole process of fundraising for An Alphabet of Embers became just that, art enabling more art to be born.

The adventure began with a brilliant cover by the Hugo award-winning artist Galen Dara – this art is also being offered as postcards and posters to the Kickstarter backers!


And then I wrote the lyrics and commissioned a piece of music from one of my favorite creators, Emily Jiang; and as a stretch goal that has been reached, the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours will be writing lyrics and music as well!


BACT: C.S.E. Cooney, Amal El-Mohtar, and Caitlyn PaxsonEmily Jiang

And then I asked a bunch of poets to write science poetry about forgotten and overlooked figures of science and technology, for a bonus chapbook called Spelling the Hours! The book will include work by Sofia Samatar, Sonya Taaffe, Michele Bannister, Mari Ness, and many others! And it will be wonderful.



Spelling the Hours

Spelling the Hours


And then Bogi Takács started creating Ember Letters for backers, and we are almost to a full set – some of these will be offered, free of charge, to backers who pledged at the 25$ level and higher:

Pofembers-small-jpg Kofembers-small-jpgJofembers-small-png
And I have been drawing critter pictures for backers (more information and pictures in this entry!)


for Isanah

for Isanah


for Stuart

for Stuart

And then Kythryne Aisling of Wyrdling Studios created an exclusive series of Phoenix jewelry especially for the project. A piece will be included in the 200$ treasure boxes and two higher-tier rewards! In addition, Kythryne offers 5$ off a custom jewelry piece worth 50$ and higher, to every backer who pledged 25$ and more! (offer good for two years).



Phoenix pendant


But wait, there is more from Kythryne: she is also creating jewelry inspired by the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours’ “Ballads from a distant star,” a cycle of music that will include the song BACT are composing for us.

DSC_7774_400w DSC_7778_400w

But wait, that’s not all! Our 8k stretch goal includes a whole joke issue of Stone Telling, choke-ful of rhymed mermaids, illustrated by B&W photographs of Mippo the plush hippo! Shweta Narayan and I will be co-editing this marvel of marvels, should we reach 8k!



Mermippo wants YOU!

Mermippo wants YOU!


And ALSO, Saira Ali of Kitabiyat press will be creating broadsides of one story from An Alphabet of Embers, printed on a 19th century letterpress, and sent to all backers who pledged 45$ and higher, for no additional charge (but we need to hit 8k for that to happen).



Letterpress magic

Letterpress magic


To round out the sheer awesomeness that is An Alphabet of Embers, we will create an audiobook if we reach 9k 😀 😀 😀

Is that all? No, that’s not all! For higher-level backers, I will be creating: custom poems, non-fiction essays about linguistics and folklore, and treasure boxes full of TREASURE. There are a few more poems, boxes, and essays left!

And of course, I am already reading submissions to create the very best anthology of marvelous, short, surrealist, magical, beautiful writing  – which, thanks to our backers, will also now be lavishly illustrated!!

An Alphabet of Embers is going to be a work of many people – writers, poets, artists, musicians, jewelry-makers, and even hard-working blue plush hippos, as well as your intrepid editor and Team Stone Bird. So thank you, all of you, for getting us this far; and we’ll get farther yet. So if you’re dithering, dither no more 😀 😀 There are only 57 hours left to pledge!



Whimsical critters for An Alphabet of Embers

Shortly before we hit goal, I promised to draw cheerful critters for the next 5 backers of An Alphabet of Embers. I have recently discovered the program Artrage, which is a natural media simulator for Tablet computers. I can no longer use natural media due to disability, but e-drawing with Artrage is proving to be relatively pain-free.

I got so excited about these drawings that I made more than 5. Here they are, for your enjoyment. Bidders are listed by their twitter handles or initials for the sake of privacy – if you’d like to be listed by name, ping me and I will be happy to do so 🙂

For @rhiannonrevolts,  who asked for a bird of prey:


A happy osprey carrying a fish

A happy osprey carrying a fish


For Saira Ali, who is a backer and *also* is planning to offer broadsides for AoE as stretch rewards:


Calming polka-dot manatee

Calming polka-dot manatee


For PA, who requested a kitty:

Cat acceptance!

For @scturbull, who got us over the funding threshold:


For Sonya Taaffe, a pair of Russian river fish (prompt was oceanic invertebrates; don’t ask).

A sturgeon and a ruffe
For MTP, an aardvark with a social message:

Not ALL aardvarks

for @coraa, a badger:

For @mangoheroics, who requested a dragon or perhaps an owl:

Never enough owls
And finally, for isanah:

SEAL of approval

WE’RE FUNDED! HURRAY!! But wait, there’s SO MUCH MORE!


And we are now officially OPEN to submissions. Submissions guidelines have been updated and are available here!


But wait! We’re not done! Still 9 days to go!



Available now: one postcard with a random Letter of Embers drawn by Bogi Takács, for backers who pledge at the 25$ level and higher! TWO random Letter of Embers postcards for those who pledge at the 45$ level and higher!

IF WE REACH 8000$, one broadside of a piece from An Alphabet of Embers, printed on a 19th century letterpress will be available for no additional charge for all backers who pledge at the 45$ level and higher! These broadsides will be created by Saira Ali of Kitabiyat Press, who is co-editing In Other Words!



6500$ – internal B&W illustrations, for a more beautiful book!!

7000$  – an anthology-themed song from Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, recorded as a VIDEO and sent to ALL backers! It will be amazing!! These people ROCK! They rock EXTREMELY HARD!

8000$ – a JOKE issue of Stone Telling! (details below!)



So you know how I am really averse to rhyme, and also strongly dislike everything that has to do with mermaids? It’s become something of a competition among certain poets to try to sell us rhymed mermaid poetry – so far, to no avail. If you have ever felt this dreadful urge, fret no more: the MERMAID issue of Stone Telling is for you! Shweta and I will look for the mermaidest, rhymiest poetry to showcase in a special April 1st issue (or, if we can’t resist it, earlier). We’ll also accept limericks, nonsense verse, and assorted ridiculousness, all to be lushly illustrated with artistic B&W photographs of the Mippo as a mermippo, like this:


This is your chance to inflict this marvel of marvels upon the world of extremely serious speculative poetry. Plus, it’s sure to cheer you up on those days when absolutely nothing else does. Almost guaranteed to be better than cats! (Warning: may include cats).

Spelling the Hours

Today, I wanted to talk a bit about Spelling the Hours, a bonus poetry chapbook that is offered for our higher-tier backers of An Alphabet of Embers (you can get an ebook of both An Alphabet of Embers and Spelling the Hours for 20$, and a paperback of both books + ebook versions for 45$). It is a collection of science poetry specifically, focusing on forgotten figures of science and technology, especially women, queer people, trans people, PoC, and members of other underrepresented groups.


Spelling the Hours

Spelling the Hours


The person on the cover of this chapbook is Mary Alice McWhinnie (1922-1980), an American biologist and professor at DuPaul university, who was a world authority on krill. Here is a short blurb on her from the DuPaul university special collections department’s collection of her papers:

In 1962, she became the first woman to join the all male United States Antarctic Research Program working on board the National Science Foundation research vessel the Eltanin. From 1962 to 1978, Dr. McWhinnie made over ten research trips to Antarctica, most of them aboard the Eltanin or the RV Hero. In 1972, she earned the status of Chief Scientist on an Eltanin research cruise (Cruise 51); the ship’s first venture through the pack ice into Ross Sea. In 1974, she and her colleague Sr. Mary Odile Cahoon were the first two women to over-winter on the Antarctic continent, at the McMurdo research station.

The idea for this chapbook came to me because of the work of Sofia Samatar, whose poem Girl Hours we had the privilege to feature in the Science and Science Fiction issue of Stone Telling. Girl Hours is a poem about another woman in science, the astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt.

The body is not always the same, the body varies in brightness, its true brightness may be ascertained from the rhythm of its pulsing, the body is more remote than we imagined, it eats, it walks, it traverses with terrible slowness the distance between Wisconsin and Massachusetts, the body is stubborn, snowbound, the body has disappeared, the body has left the country, the body has traveled to Europe and will not say if it went there alone, the body is generous, dedicated, seated again, reserved, exacting,
                                                              brushed and buttoned, smelling of healthy soap,
                                                              and not allowed to touch the telescope.

If you haven’t yet, go read the whole poem . It is a piece that will never grow old, and it encompasses perfectly what this chapbook will be like, and it will of course be reprinted in Spelling the Hours. I’ll also be asking the contributing poets to write up short blurbs about the figures in their poems.

Thank you very much for your support so far, and please keep signal-boosting the Kickstarter for An Alphabet of Embers if you are so inclined. Every little bit helps!

Great Stories and Projects from Around the Web

Bogi Takács has a new story, This Shall Serve as a Demarcation, up at Scigentasy. I was a beta reader for it, and I love it. It’s an environmental, post-colonial SF with two non-binary protagonists in a supportive D/s relationship. It’s moving and heartfelt, and I think it’s one of the best pieces of Bogi’s work.

Scigentasy has also published A. Merc Rustad’s How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps, which is an excellent and powerful story about robots, asexuality, relationships, depression, and robots. TW: suicidal ideation.

J.Y. Yang has a beautiful, moving and poignant story at Strange Horizons: Storytelling for the Night Clerk:

The General Archives store a thousand carefully curated individuals born each year, selected at age 45 from what the state says are the different sectors of life. There is an entire department, a prestigious one, dedicated to this yearly selection. The data in the General Archives is needed for reports and scholarly studies, they say, like carefully prepared glass slides, dyed beautiful colours to highlight parts of anatomy. This is a historical record, they say. The Germans have a word for it: zeitgeist. A summation of the times.

Jeff VanderMeer has a name-your-price bundle of New Weird fiction, including such wonderful titles as Leena Krohn’s Tainaron, Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath, and Amal El-Mohtar’s The Honey Month.

Interfictions Online Indiegogo has just over 30 hours left, and they’re almost to their goal of reaching rates. I love IAF and Interfictions, and hope you can help!

Kitabiyat Press is taking preorders for In Other Words:

Saira Ali and Julia Rios are pleased to announce the table of contents for In Other Words, a chapbook of poetry and flash fiction to benefit Con or Bust. The chapbook will be hand-printed on a nineteenth century letterpress, and includes work from Hugo Award winning and nominated authors.

The full ToC is available at the preorder page, but this book will include work by Stone Telling contributors Nisi Shawl, Emily Jiang, LaShawn Wanak, Sofia Samatar, Amal El-Mohtar, JT Stewart, Lisa M. Bradley, and Yoon Ha Lee, as well as Stone Telling co-editor Shweta Narayan, and other wonderful authors. I had the pleasure of seeing a pre-print PDF for a review which we will run in the next Stone Telling, and the book is wonderful.

A stunning letterpress-printed broadside of Shweta Narayan’s poem Nettle-Stung, along with art by Shweta, is free with all preorders through next week. Honestly, it’s a steal.

And since I cannot not mention the kickstarter for An Alphabet of Embers, at least tangentially: below is the letter S of Embers, by Bogi Takács. Enjoy!


An Alphabet of Embers submissions guidelines

AN ALPHABET OF EMBERS submissions guidelines for writers.

UPDATE! UPDATE! if you have submitted a story to AoE and have not heard back, please query immediately – to the editorial address or as a comment to this entry.

I am seeking submissions for An Alphabet of Embers, an anthology of unclassifiables – lyrical, surreal, magical, experimental pieces that straddle the border between poetry and prose.

I am looking for work that is between 500 and 1400 words in length. Ideally, I’d like to accept a mix of pieces that can traditionally be labeled stories, and pieces that defy such definitions. If you’ve been told your piece is ‘too slight’ or ‘more of a vignette’, ‘too poetic’ or ‘too experimental,’ I’d love to consider it.

While I am looking for unusual and striking work that defies definition, I would be happy to consider work that falls within any speculative genre, including science fiction, fantasy, fairytale/mythic retellings, and of course surrealism, magic realism, etc. If it has a speculative element, I will consider it, though any straightforward treatment of genre tropes will likely be a miss.

I am looking for work that is evocative, beautiful, stirring; I envision An Alphabet of Embers as a book that moves us, emotionally and intellectually, to consider the world from angles new and old and new again. I want AoE to resonate with lyrical strangeness, and pain, and vibrancy, and hope. I am always keenly interested boundary-crossing work, and want to showcase a variety of voices and perspectives.

I am NOT looking for pieces that are unambiguously poetry. (Prose poetry is welcome).

I am committed to diversity of voice and theme in all my editorial projects, and this one will be no exception (here are my thoughts on looking for diversity of voice and theme, as an editor). This anthology is not specifically diversity themed; rather, I believe that every editorial project should be diverse, and every editorial project of mine has been, and will be diverse. Examples of my work include The Moment of Change (Aqueduct Press, 2012), and Stone Telling Magazine, which I co-edit with Shweta Narayan.

I welcome and encourage submissions from creators who belong to marginalized groups, including PoC, LGBTQIA creators, people of all ages, people of various levels of (dis)ability and income, people with neuroatypicalities, immigrants, and more. I’d love to see your work regardless of whether you have prior sales. This anthology is open to everyone.

I would love to consider work in a variety of Englishes. Your language variant is welcome here.


Pay: I will be paying SFWA professional rates at 6c a word for originals, and 3c a word for reprints.

Simultaneous submissions: NO.

Multiple submissions: YES, you can send me up to TWO pieces to consider, either in a single submission or in two separate submissions.

Please send me the piece(s) as attachment(s) in doc, docx, or .rtf format. Please use Standard Manuscript Format. If your piece has special formatting that needs a different submission process, please query first.

Please send your submission(s) to with SUBMISSION: “Your story title” .

Cover letter: please list whether the piece is unpublished; if it is a reprint, please give full information about the first publication of your submission. I prefer short cover letters – you are welcome to list 2-3 recent publications, but it’s perfectly fine not to do so. Please address your cover letter to Editors, or Ms. Lemberg.

Reading period: OPEN NOW, 7/28/2014. CLOSES ON September 30, 2014.

ETA: Since folks have been asking about rights, here is the relevant information:

Upon acceptance, we will ask for First World Rights in the English Language in both print and ebook versions, plus promotional rights (granting Stone Bird Press permission to use excerpts from the accepted work to promote the anthology). There is  an exclusivity period of 12 months from the moment of publication, excluding Year’s Best anthologies. After the exclusivity period ends, rights will revert to their respective authors. We do ask that you credit the first publication of the story as “first appeared in An Alphabet of Embers (2015)”.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. I’m looking forward to reading your work!

Submissions guidelines for artists:

I am planning to feature internal black and white illustrations in An Alphabet of Embers; I will be looking for mood pieces that echo and interpret the fiction, rather than straightforward illustrations. I enjoy both digital and traditional media.
Please do not send attachments, but rather send in a cover letter with a link to your online portfolio to with ART QUERY in the title. Artists of all backgrounds are very welcome.

An Alphabet of Embers, second day

MAJOR THANKS to our wonderful supporters – those who donated and those who spread the word – we’re very close to hitting 50%! Can we get to $3000 today?

Last night, an Anonymous and Illustrious Patron of the Arts purchased the $600 reward, which means that I will be at Readercon 2015 with a Viking Extravaganza – I’ll recite an epic poem in Old Norse. I will provide translation, as well as a short introduction, for the small crowd of the donor’s choosing. I’m very excited!

Since it feels a bit lonely there at the higher-tier reward levels, I am adding a new, limited reward level at $100, called VOICE OF THE SEASTAR. I will write a poem for you! You will choose an element, a stone, and a texture for me to work with. If you’d like something more specific, we can talk! Previous work I’ve written for various fundraisers includes Godfather Death (for JoSelle Vanderhooft), Between the Mountain and the Moon (for Izlinda Hani Jamaluddin), Plucked from the Horo (for Brittany Warman), and more. $100 will buy a poem of up to 100 lines; please pledge $200 if you want epic length. In addition to poetry, you will get the following swag: a mention on our donors’ list, a postcard featuring the Alphabet of Embers cover art by Galen Dara, the trade paperback and the ebook versions of An Alphabet of Embers, the mp3 of “Embersong” (the theme song of the anthology, put to music and sung by Emily Jiang), and physical and ebook editions of Spelling the Hours.

And I’d like to end this entry on an industrial note, with a Letter F of Embers by Bogi Takács:


Diversity of Voice and Theme

In the description of An Alphabet of Embers Kickstarter, I wrote:

I am committed to diversity of voice and theme in all my editorial projects, and this one will be no exception. I will be looking for beauty and resonance from all quarters and in all forms. As always, I am invested in supporting creators that belong to marginalized groups.

Due to external conversations going on in the field, I want to unpack this a bit. “Diversity of voice and theme” has been my motto from the moment I started thinking about Stone Telling magazine, long before I read my first submission. I keep muttering it as we – Shweta and I – read submissions and make decisions. It is a useful phrase for us.

Diversity of theme: writing that showcases a range of settings, and protagonists who belong to a variety of demographics.

Basic diversity of theme, i.e. a variety of settings and protagonists, is not too difficult to accomplish; writers are happy to write to your editorial specifics. But if you, as an editor, are only considering diversity of theme, you run the risk of having only not-marginalized or lesser-marginalized authors write about marginalized protagonists. E.g. you may end up with stories set in Japan, Australia, Mali, Peru, but written entirely by white North Americans; you may run stories with queer and trans characters written entirely by straight, cis authors.

Diversity of voice is about featuring work by authors who belong to a variety of demographics. Women, men, and nonbinary authors; PoC, white people, and people who identify as neither (the distinction of PoC/white as it’s generally understood in a US American context may not be perfectly generalizable worldwide; the lines can be drawn differently elsewhere); authors who identify as LGBTQIA and those who don’t; atheists, agnostics, and people of various faiths; able-bodied and people who live with disabilities; people variously stratified by class; old and young people; neurotypical and neuroatypical authors; immigrants and those who never immigrated; people from a variety of countries writing in a variety of Englishes; and more.

This type of diversity is harder. It may not instantaneously appear in your slush; multiply marginalized people sadly tend to self-reject, and are often understandably wary of editors without a track record. I wrote previously about encouraging diversity, from an editorial perspective. You will likely have to reach out. You will likely have work to do, as an editor, to recognize and value different types of narrative, as diversity of voice often comes with diversity of storyshape, some of it will be unfamiliar to you. You’ll have to talk to other people, ask for opinions about some of the pieces you are considering. It’s sometimes a painful process. You’ll make mistakes; you will be called out on your mistakes. All this is a part of the process, a part of the struggle to diversify the field and our reading habits.

For me, the best editorial work lies in the balance between the two kinds of diversity. You will likely accept some work where there is a match between voice and theme. You will also accept some work where there is no match between voice and theme; e.g. an Indian author may not write about Indian protagonists, a straight person will write lesbian characters insightfully, a trans author will write about cis people, a person who’s never immigrated will write cluefully about immigration, etc, etc. This variety in voice and theme is key in order to avoid tokenization and to avoid limiting writers of all demographics to only their own experience. And when there is a mismatch between voice and theme, as an editor it is your job to work to distinguish between appropriative, disrespectful, underresearched, and plain clueless work, and work that engages well.

Diversity of voice and theme is hard editorial work, but it is rewarding and worthwhile.

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Rose Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their work has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Uncanny, and other venues, and has been a finalist for the Nebula, Tiptree, Elgin, Rhysling, and Crawford awards.

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