AMA on Twitter with Drip! April 4 at Noon EST

What it says on the tin!

So last week I launched a Drip account, a subscription service affiliated with Kickstarter. Now Drip’s invited me to do an AMA with them on Twitter next week! (If you’ve never taken part in such a thing, it stands for Ask Me Anything.)

Given how quickly things on Twitter tend to zip by, you can get your questions in early by submitting them through this form. The fine folks at Drip will then administer them, so I’ll always be responding to a question they’re asking, which should help keep everything readable, manageable, and moving along! I look forward to hearing from you!

In related news — I’m so grateful to everyone who’s subscribed! I’m still a little stunned by how quickly the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker tier filled up, but all the others are unlimited, and involve varying degrees of participation in choosing what I read/write about next.

And of course, if you sign up before April 6, during my Foundational period, you’ll also get a villanelle called “Foundations” written specially for subscribers, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

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Drip Launch!

So today’s the first day of 2018’s first Mercurial Retrograde. Let’s skip the part where you’re an eminently sensible person who doesn’t believe in such nonsense; Mercury’s Retrograde believes in YOU. It believes in your capacity to miss deadlines, travel poorly, succumb to accidents, and drastically miscommunicate with your fellows, and it is here to support you in all these endeavours.

In other words, it’s the perfect day to launch a subscription service!

(There’s even a video I recorded at great cost to my personal well-being because as it turns out I can listen to myself speaking without any problems but watching myself is a sea-bridge too far. I HAVE A FACE? IT MOVES? AUGH.)

$2 CAD a month gets you access to everything I’ll write there, with higher tiers at $5, $7 and $12 giving you voting and nominating powers over what I read/discuss next. The next 15 days are the Foundational period, which gives you additional now-and-future perks: if you subscribe to any tier during this time, you’ll also get a poem I wrote specifically for subscribers and this project, called “Foundations.”

A last note about the $12 tier, because it’s a little special: it gets you a yearly postcard from the Oracle of Buses, a mantle I put on when I’m on a bus and feeling especially liminal, containing an answer to a question you haven’t asked.

But it’s limited, and there are only 4 3 spots left, so check it out soon if you can!

I wrote a public post about the project here, about the need I feel right now to dive into slower, deeper work; I’d welcome your thoughts and feelings on the matter. There’ll be more such posts during the next couple of weeks too.

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Upcoming Appearances: Penguicon, Blue Met Festival, Wakefield Writers Festival, CONvergence

Happy day after the Vernal Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere), friends! I hope you all felt empowered to Skip Leg Day.

I’ve got a ton of academic work to get through between now and June, so I’m very sad to say that I won’t be at Wiscon or the Nebulas this year (in spite of how wonderful the guests and programming look, gah, you should absolutely go!). But I will venture out of Ottawa for the following events:

April 29: Blue Metropolis Festival, Montreal

I’ll be on a panel with Su Sokol, Melissa Yuan-Innes, and David Demchuk talking about Mary Shelley and SFF!

May 4-6: Penguicon

This will be my first ever Penguicon! It’s been recommended to me for years and years, and I’m delighted to have been invited to be a Guest of Honour along with so many excellent people, including Mary Robinette Kowal, Mary Anne Mohanraj and Mark Oshiro, all of whom I’m very excited to get to see and spend time with.

May 24-27: Wakefield Writers Festival

I’m really looking forward to taking part in a localish festival, especially one to which I’ve also never been before — details as they develop!

July 5-8: CONvergence

LIKEWISE so excited to go to CONvergence again! It was my very first GoH experience ever, back in 2016, and I’m deeply touched that they’ve invited me back for their 20th anniversary gueststravaganza. It’s an absolutely amazing con run by brilliant, dedicated, generous people, and I highly recommend it.

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First OTHERWORLDLY column at the NYT Book Review

My first column for the NYTBR is here! The print version will be in this week’s Sunday edition. In it I review Del and Sofia Samatar’s Monster Portraits, Subterranean Press’ Weight of Words anthology, and Jo Walton’s Starlings.

Here’s a taste:

More than any other genres, I think, science fiction and fantasy are in constant conversation with their past, present and future. Entering those worlds as a child meant growing into an awareness of how deeply they depend on a kind of exchange between readers and writers — almost inevitably, new works of science fiction and fantasy inherit a sense of engagement, whether it shows up as homage, critique or collaboration. Three recent books of short fiction, each of them fantastically hybrid, join the conversation and demonstrate just how overt its dynamics can be.

Of the three books, the one I’m most passionate about discussing is Monster Portraits–it took a lot of wrangling to make my feelings about that book into something intelligible. So if you’re in the mood to do me a personal favour, please pick up a copy, read it, and join me in flailing about it in an attempt to interpret my emotions through dance.

This column will appear every 8 weeks, so look for the next one towards the end of April! So many great books coming out between now and then!

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Appearances: Washington DC Fly-by Visit!

Oyez! I’m going to be in DC tomorrow through Friday doing some really neat public events that it’d be great if you could come to!

Canadian Authors: S.K. Ali, Amal El-Mohtar and Canisia Lubrin

Wednesday, Feb 14
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM EST
4450 Wisconsin Ave. NW

“The Canadian Embassy, the Ottawa Writer’s Festival and DC Public Library are proud to present S.K. Ali, Amal El-Mohtar and Canisia Lubrin.These Canadian authors will read excerpts from their work and speak on their experiences as writers. The event will take place in the large conference room and is open to teens and adults.”

Culture Blast: An Evening with Five Canadian Writers

Thursday, Feb 15
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST
IA&A at Hillyer

9 Hillyer Court Northwest

“Join us for our February Culture Blast featuring five Canadian writers who will each read an excerpt from their writing, followed by a moderated discussion on the importance of culture and stories to an open and vibrant democracy. Featured authors include Canisia Lubrin, S.K. Ali, Cherie Dimaline, Amal El-Mohtar, and Aviaq Johnston. The conversation will be moderated by Matthew Davis.”




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NPR Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s THE NIGHT MASQUERADE and Kim Purcell’s THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER

A couple of reviews I wrote went up on NPR these last couple of weeks! Here are samplings of them:

Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

9780765393135_custom-c05e841327d3ad168eb2474a1a7bc93d8d5c71fe-s400-c85The Night Masquerade picks up where Home left off, with Binti learning, through her newly enhanced senses, that her home — and her dear friend Okwu, a jellyfish-like alien from a race called the Meduse — is under attack from the Khoush, Earth’s dominant ethnicity and the Meduse’s ancestral enemies. With the help of her new friend Mwinyi — a member of her father’s people, the Enyi Zinariya — she navigates the desert while plagued with nightmares of violence, knowing she must find a way to broker a peace once and for all. But Binti’s story is nothing quite so straightforward.

This is Not a Love Letter
by Kim Purcell

9781484798348_custom-437cf096e51455d722918e87d0c62cf151bd1d44-s400-c85Every now and then I read an article or essay musing about whether or not young adult literature is “too dark” — whether there’s too much sex, too much violence, too much sadness. The premise of these essays is usually that teenagers exist in some pristine unspoiled state until they pick up a book about drug use or self-harm that makes them unhappy.

This is of course not the case — and I’m glad that Kim Purcell’s This is Not a Love Letter exists for teenagers who have to look after their parents, navigate hostile social environments, and cope with trauma.

That’s that for now — towards the end of this month I’ll be covering Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman, and around the same time my first Otherworldly column for the New York Times should appear. Things! Stuff! So much things, so many stuff!

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LeVar Burton Reads “The Truth About Owls”

I’ve been waiting since October to talk about this.

Back in October, on our last day in Portland, my agent, DongWon Song, took Stu and me out to lunch at a sandwich shop — one of those places where you find yourself eating a sandwich and saying it’s the best sandwich you’ve ever had, because Portland.

Towards the end of the meal, DongWon — smoothly, calmly — leaned over to show me an email on his phone. I started reading it.

I saw “LeVar Burton.”

Then I burst into tears.

This is not hyperbole. Messily, noisily, I found myself weeping in a sandwich shop in Portland because — well, Community already did this in jest so I feel it’s some kind of self-parody for me to say, completely earnestly, everything that got played for laughs there. (YOU CAN’T DISAPPOINT A PICTURE!)

LeVar Burton Community gif

LeVar Burton — of Reading Rainbow, of Star Trek: The Next Generation, two pillars of my childhood emergence into books and science fiction — was asking for permission to read “The Truth About Owls” on his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads. It’s episode 14.

He says, of the stories he reads on this podcast, “the only thing these stories have in common is that I love them, and I hope you will too.”


I keep reaching for more words to really spell out the heart of how much this means to me, why it’s undoing me to the degree it is. I think, maybe, it’s that LeVar Burton specifically — his face, his voice — was my first experience of seeing a character also be the person behind the character. I was watching Star Trek and Reading Rainbow at the same time, and I was so young; it seemed to me that Geordi LaForge walked out of a starship and into a diner where he became LeVar Burton. It seemed like a kind of reality-bending power — which is also the power of books, the power of that colourful butterfly touching the world with magic and wonder. That butterfly touched LeVar Burton and he became Geordi LaForge.

And now it’s touched this story, and made it into a story read by LeVar Burton.

I’ve only listened to half the story so far — blown away, already, by the production of it (there’s music! SOUND EFFECTS!) as well as LeVar’s reading — and suspect I’ll have to take it in increments because I’m just feeling so much. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out to Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein, the editors of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Storiesthe anthology where this story first appeared. It’s literally a rainbow of good reading.

I’ve said before, and will say again forever, that this story wouldn’t exist without Julia’s kind insistent shepherding of my insecurities out the door until I wrote it for her. It was a very hard story to write. Thanks, too, to Tessa Kum, for introducing me to the Scottish Owl Centre; to the Scottish Owl Centre, for patiently putting up with my repeat visits and being at the heart of two award-winning stories now; to CSE Cooney, for brain-storming this story’s core with me; to Strange Horizons, for reprinting it online and inviting me to talk about its genesis.

All these things are inexorably tied up, for me, with the fact that LeVar Burton is reading my story on his podcast, and I expect to be reeling from this for quite some time.




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ConFusion Schedule!

Weather and borders willing, I should be at ConFusion in Novi, Michigan in — ten days! TEN DAYS! Here’s my programming schedule:

Steven Universe Sing-Along
Friday 9PM in Marquette
Amal El-Mohtar, Maggi Rhode
(Come sing with us! The songs are all super short and fun!)

Immigration and Refuge in Science Fiction
Saturday 10 in Manitou
Travel stories are classics in any genre, but in science fiction, stories of travelling to a new home are often about colonization, or about intrepid explorers amongst the (primitive) aliens. Let’s talk about the science fiction stories that better reflect the experiences of immigrants and refugees in the real world.
Alexandra Manglis, Amal El-Mohtar, David Anthony Durham, John Chu

Reading: Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar
Saturday 3PM in Keweenaw

Autograph Session
Saturday 4PM in St Claire
Bring stuff and I’ll sign it! I may even have fountain pens with pretty inks to do so!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a Case Study in Storytelling
Saturday 5PM in Isle Royal
Our panel of writers discusses the structure, pacing, characters, themes, and world-building in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Also the swords, floaty rocks, and tiny fluffbeasts.
Amal El-Mohtar, Annalee Flower Horne, Annalee Newitz, Delilah S. Dawson, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl

Poetry In Novels
Sunday 10AM in Isle Royale
Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass include lengthy poems, placing them in a long tradition of long-form fiction that incorporates poetry into the work. How does writing poems for prose fiction differ from writing poems that stand alone? What distinct techniques does it require? Where do poems within stories exist in the landscape of genre poetry today?
Amal El-Mohtar, Clif Flynt, Jeff Pryor, Josef Matulich, John Winkelman, Mari Ness

A Novel Look at the Short Story
Sunday 2PM in Charlevoix
Short stories require a different approach to pacing, character, world-building, exposition, and plot than longer works. Let’s explore the tools we use to convey important information to the reader when we have a lot fewer words to do it with.
Lucy A. Snyder, Jessi Cole Jackson, A. T. Greenblatt, Benjamin C. Kinney, Scott H. Andrews, Amal El-Mohtar


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2017 in Creative Work

Happy New Year!

Term doesn’t start up again until next week — when I’ll be teaching Creative Writing at the University of Ottawa while continuing my doctoral dissertation at Carleton — so this week’s been a combination of gearing up for what’s ahead while looking at 2017 in the rearview mirror.

2017 was a year of enormous honours, of being bowled over again and again by gratitude and disbelief, of being supported through bad times and sharing deeply in the good. Most spectacularly, “Seasons of Glass and Iron” was nominated for seven awards and won three: the Nebula, the Locus, and the Hugo. But I also passed my comprehensive exams with distinction, taught two creative writing courses in one term and several workshops for children and adults, attended ConFusion, the Nebula Awards weekend, Wiscon (as Guest of Honour?!), went to Sweden and Finland for the first time to attend a conference (RECEPTION HISTORIES OF THE FUTURE, organized by the brilliant Arkady Martine) and the Hugos respectively, attended Can*Con in Ottawa right before the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, was a guest host for a year’s worth of Writing Excuses (the episodes of which start appearing this month!), gave several readings and performances, and holed up in a Catskills mansion with 11 other women to talk, write, and drink cocktails.

But what did I write?


  • Two speeches, one at Wiscon and one at SiWC, delivered before hundreds of people in spectacular company to standing ovations; the experiences were so enormous that I’ve shied away from publishing the texts, because I feel they could only be a shadow of what was shared between us in those ballrooms. (Still, I should.)
  • 17 full-length reviews and 12 bite-sized reviews for NPR
  • 4 review columns for Lightspeed
  • 1 full-length review for the New York Times (?!!?)


  • I taught a short fiction course at the University of Ottawa and a poetry course at Carleton (in the same term, while doing the rest!)
  • wrote a digital humanities essay about the intersection of data visualisation and anthology-building
  • a Comprehensive Exam
  • a revision (not yet final) of my Doctoral Research Project
  • a (sadly unsuccessful) SSHRC application.

It may not sound like much (I tell myself) but that’s about 24000 words of material and a lot of time, so, it ain’t nothing.


  • A very short story, “Anabasis,” about which more below
  • A very short story, “As Above” (haha I am making jokes) for the Rubin Museum’s Spiral magazine, which should appear this year
  • A video game tie-in short story for Living Dark.
  • Notes for novels

2017 Publications: 

I had only two original pieces published in 2017, and both are small, dense, furious and heart-broken:

  • “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds,” a fable about borders, refugees & generations of immigration in The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories.
  • Anabasis,” my first fiction on, under the auspices of its flash series Nevertheless, She Persisted. It shares themes with “A Tale of Ash”; I wrote “Anabasis” partly in response to this news story, and it has the distinction of being the only work of mine to be written entirely while crying, which is not really a metric I’ve ever thought to reckon, but here we are.

I had a few reprints appear too:

  • Wing,” originally published in Strange Horizons, was included in Jacob Weisman and Peter Beagle’s New Voices of Fantasy
  • Weialalaleia,” originally published in Ann VanderMeer’s Bestiary, was reprinted in Lightspeed.
  • Seasons of Glass and Iron,” originally published in The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales (and reprinted in Uncanny in 2016), was reprinted in Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 11.

Miscellaneous Other Stuff:

Most excitingly, 2017 saw the sale of This Is How You Lose the Time War, Max Gladstone and my co-written spy vs. spy epistolary time-travel novella, to Navah Wolfe at Saga Press. It’s due to come out in the Fall of 2019! Mark your calendars! I love it more than I can easily say, and can’t wait to share it with you.

Audio-wise, in addition to the Writing Excuses stuff, I narrated a lot of gorgeous work at Uncanny between January and October, before concluding that position in fierce pursuit of Moar Time; I appeared on Antony Johnston’s Unjustly Maligned, defending the V for Vendetta film; I was interviewed, brilliantly, at both Storyological and Eating the Fantastic, by Chris Cuvols and Scott Edelman respectively.

Uncategorizably: 2017 was my first full year being an Oracle of Buses. I declared my intention on October 12, 2016, and since then have inhabited the role whenever the mantle settled upon me while on a bus.

The Oracle is ephemeral: she answers by quote-tweeting the questions she receives (unless they’re from protected accounts), so it’s difficult to find her replies. I’ve been encouraged from some quarters to establish a hashtag, keep the replies organized in one place, but I’d like to sound out the community that’s formed around the activity first. There’s a magic peculiar to the intangible, and it suits me to have that liminal bus-riding space be one in which magic happens without being preserved — but I don’t know. Maybe folk want to look stuff over, return to their replies. For now, I just want to look back in gratitude and joy at this small beauty we share between us on Twitter sometimes.

So! To conclude.

Last year, around this time, I wrote the following:

This year I want to pour into a novel; that’s the only writing demand I’ll make of myself. Well — that, and keeping on top of my academic work. So by the end of 2017 I hope to be a novelist, ABD, and in good health; if I can manage that I’ll be very proud of myself.

Well, I’m ABD and in good health, but I am not yet a novelist; looking back on how busy the year was, I don’t even feel bad about it. I learned a ton, enjoyed brilliant conversations that taught me further, travelled widely, and while I’ve taken on a couple of short story commissions this year, I’ll not take on more. There’s a chunk of summer that looks free and clear; I’ll be sharing it between dissertation revision and novel-writing. So, again, by the end of 2018, I hope to have submitted my dissertation to my supervisor and a novel to my agent. That’s a ton of work — but it’s a gift to feel, right now, up to it.

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2017 Winter Solstice: Hermitage & Candles

The last of the shortest day’s light is dimming. Across from me is Rima Staines’ “The Storyteller” Advent Calendar, with 21 days’ worth of folk and fairy tales opened up so far. Outside my window is a lot of snow, a seasonable amount of cold, and a confusion of brown oak leaves still clinging to the trees; it didn’t freeze enough for them to fall before the snow did.

It’s been a deep few weeks. December — my birthday month — has been a bit of a rollercoaster. I got detained while travelling for the second time this year, which led to a Twitter thread going viral, which led to some 2000 new followers over the course of a weekend, which led to some media attention, which led, in turn, to hermiting; if I’ve not answered your kind wishes and anger on my behalf, I’m so sorry. I’ve been overwhelmed, and trying to keep on top of work obligations while heading into a holiday season of trying to give my loved ones as much attention as possible, and it’s all been much of a muchness.

Part of that hermiting has had to do with separating my email and social media accounts from my messed-with phone; I haven’t had a chance to get it examined or do a hard reset, so some of the ways in which I use the internet have changed. Without Twitter on my phone I can’t be an Oracle of Buses, or easily share photos of the world tilting into winter. It’s been fascinating, feeling out the faultlines in the ways I communicate — how much I’ve come to rely on combinations of text and image to convey feeling, to reach out. It’s one thing to take a deliberate hiatus; it’s rather another to feel this strange sort of interrupted.

But I’ve been working. I’ve finished marking, some fiction, some work for hire, some revisions, I’m reading books for January reviews, I’m applying for grants and thinking about next year’s teaching. I cleaned and decorated my flat for Christmas — a first, for me, as we usually converge all our Christmas cheer on my parents’ place — and threw a tiny party to give away a bunch of ARCs. I’m trying, too, in the deepening dark of this longest night, to take stock of this past year: the good, the bad, the ugly, the unbelievably beautiful.


I saw The Last Jedi a couple of days ago. I loved it. It makes much of sparks scattering, sparks being kept alive to light brighter fires, which strikes me as a very Solstice-y perspective. My birthday is on St. Lucia’s Day, which, before calendars changed, once overlapped with the Winter Solstice; in places of deep, dark winters, young girls wear crowns of candles to celebrate. I’ve loved seeing candles, oil lamps, electric lights burning everywhere this month: candlelight vigils in parks, Christmas lights jewelling trees, photos of friends’ menorahs and hearths. I imagine each light touching a new wick, blazing brightly, as we follow each other out of the dark.


Merry Solstice, everyone.

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