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Announcing the Journal of Unlikely Academia ToC

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

It’s been a long wait, but we’re delighted to announce the Table of Contents for the upcoming Journal of Unlikely Academia. We received a lot of excellent submissions, and we had some difficult choices to make, but we promise it’s worth the wait. It’s going to be a wonderful issue and we can’t wait to share it with you, which we’ll be doing in early July. So, when July rolls around, you’ll be able to read the following stories (in no particular order) featuring the unlikely world of academia, learning, and the things people do in the pursuit of knowledge…

Follow Me Down by Nicolette Barischoff

And Other Definitions of Family by Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Candidate 45, Pensri Suesat by Pear Nuallak

The Dauphin’s Metaphysics by Eric Schwitzgebel

The Librarian’s Dilemma by E. Saxey

Minotaur: An Analysis of the Species by Sean Robinson

Soteriology and Stephen Greenwood by Julia August

The Shapes of Us, Translucent to Your Eye by Rose Lemberg

So, please join us in July for The Journal of Unlikely Academia. It’s going to be fabulous, and we can’t wait for you to read it.

An Unlikely Mini Interview with Caroline M. Yoachim

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

Do you find clowns to be a) creepy b) downright terrifying c) mildly amusing d) laugh out loud funny e) some combination of the above or f) none of the above (please supply your own alternate adjective/description)?

It really depends on the clown and what they happen to be doing at the time. A clown doing some juggling at the state fair? Amusing! A clown with red eyes and pointy teeth knocking on the window of my car? Significantly less amusing.

On a related note, what is you earliest clown-related memory, and how did it scar you and or shape your view of clowns?

When I was two years old, my mom made me a clown costume for Halloween. She spent a lot of time working on it, and it was kind of big, so I wore it for Halloween three years in a row. Maybe I developed a profound empathy for clowns, having been one myself. . . or maybe the costume had no impact on me whatsoever.

What lead you to take the particular approach to clowns you used in your story, Everyone’s a Clown?

I was looking around for ideas for clown flash stories, and decided to start by searching for clown songs on YouTube. Eventually I found a video of “Everybody Loves A Clown” where a little girl stands and stares at Gary Lewis while he sings the entire song. It was actually kind of creepy to have a kid just stand there and stare, like she could see something I couldn’t--and that was the seed for the story.

Unrelated to clowns (or not, as the case may be), what else are you working on/have you published recently/have upcoming that you’d like people to know about?

I actually do have another clown story! “The Carnival Was Eaten, All Except the Clown,” appeared in the final issue of Electric Velocipede and was later podcast at The Drabblecast.

I also have several stories that have nothing to do with clowns. “Four Seasons in the Forest of Your Mind” is forthcoming in the May/June issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and I recently did a “Tasting Menu” of food-related flash stories at Daily Science Fiction. I have a complete list of my publication on my website.

Open for Submissions

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

We’re now officially open for submissions for Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix.

This anthology will be appearing in e-book and trade paperback format in October 2015. We’re looking for original clown-related fiction of up to 1038 words.

Submissions will remain open until May 31st, the 178th anniversary of the death of Joey the Clown (aka Joseph Grimaldi), impoverished, alcoholic, and depressed, at the age of 58.

See our full guidelines.


Clowns: The Perfect Gift for the Clowns in Your Life

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

We’re in the last week of our Kickstarter campaign. What Kickstarter campaign, you ask? Why, the Clowns anthology! Who else but Unlikely Story would dedicate a whole anthology to clown flash fiction?

I could enumerate the reasons why you NEED a copy of this book, but I won’t. Instead, I’d like you to take a moment to think about all the reasons why your friends and relatives need this book, nicely gift-wrapped and sitting, waiting, watching, from under the darkly festive Halloween tree.

Who else might need a copy? Your partner’s annoyingly cheerful-yet-creepy ex who keeps hanging around? Your boss or other co-workers? Your local or national elected officials? Your probation officer? You know who in your life needs this book, and you know the reasons why. Look around, they’re all around you.

Clowns make a perfect gift for all occasions. You have five days left.


An Unlikely Kickstarter

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

As unlikely as it may seem, we have launched a Kickstarter. Actually, it’s not all that unlikely, really. We received so many incredible submissions for Issue #11.5: The Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia, we couldn’t possibly contain them in one issue. Like clowns in a car, we couldn’t help wanting to fit in more. So we decided -- why not try to put together an anthology? Our very first! So that’s what we did.

If it’s funded, Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix will reprint the five stories from the current Unlikely Coulrophobia mini-issue, and bring you additional flash fiction stories by Mari Ness, Kristen Roupenian, Evan Dicken, Line Henriksen, Holly Schofield, and J.H. Pell. We’ll also re-open to submissions. The more funding we get, the more stories we can add. The anthology will feature cover art by Linda Saboe, and black and white interior illustrations by Bryan Prindiville. More funding means more illustrations, too.

That’s the short version. For more information, visit our Kickstater page. We have some fabulous rewards to offer -- microfictions by Sara K. McNeilly, limericks by Mari Ness, story critiques by Evan Dicken, and Bernie Mojzes and A.C. Wise, original art by Linda Saboe, and Bryan Prindiville, and, of course, copies of the anthology. If for no other reason, you should visit our Kickstarter page to watch the truly horrifying video we put together. If you ever wanted a mix of the Unlikely Story editors embarrassing themselves and clown imagery to keep you from sleeping, this is the video for you. Then maybe you could throw us some money out of pity? Or because you believe in this project (we sure do!) and because you want more heartbreaking, funny, horrifying, lovely, and gut-punching stories like the ones we just published in Issue 11.5. We promise not to let you down.

Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia Issue 11.5, April 2015

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

Table of Contents

Five Things Every Successful Clown Must Do by Derek Manuel
Perfect Mime by Sara K. McNeilly
A Million Tiny Ropes by Virginia M. Mohlere
Everyone’s A Clown by Caroline M. Yoachim
Break the Face in the Jar by the Door by Carlie St. George

Stories illustrated by Bryan Prindiville.

Fact: Like magpies, clowns covet shiny objects.
Keep your eyes closed.

Editor’s Note:

Dear Reader:

It is with profound apologies that we bring you this mini-issue, Issue 11.5, known amongst the initiated as The Journal of Unlikely Coulrophobia. Last year on this date we launched our first April Fools issue, The Journal of Unlikely Story Acceptances: intentionally bad stories by good writers. We expected this year’s sacrifice offering to be likewise light-hearted.

It is not.

Clowns have proved to be an unexpectedly fertile ground for authors to explore not just silliness and horror, but so much more. In the exaggerated greasepaint features of the clown we find reflected none other than ourselves, the internal made external, both our internal beauty and our hidden evils.

Fact: Most species of clowns have teeth like sharks;
they go all the way back.
Rarer clowns have baleen, but it isn’t the krill they strain.

In 1970 my parents moved to the Philadelphia area. I was five. New house, new bedroom, new bedroom furniture. New school. New baby brother. A lot of upheaval and anxiety. Somewhere in there, my parents decided that I needed something fun for my room. They bought a huge picture of a brightly colored, grinning clown. I hated it. My parents didn’t believe me, and hung it anyway. I woke screaming throughout the night. My parents were not dissuaded: money was an issue, and this expensive picture was going to bring me joy whether I liked it or not.

Fact: Clowns can remove their bones at will.
That’s how they fit so many in cars,
and how they slip under your door.

After none of us slept for days on end, I won that argument. Still, I remember that damned thing watching me as I slept. Maybe that’s why this issue exists.

Despite this formative moment, we weren’t looking for generic evil-clown stories. Yes, we love Tim Curry, but it’s more for how he fills out a corset than for his greasepaint. We were, frankly, overwhelmed with the number of stories that came in that tickled our funny bone while simultaneously tearing out our hearts, that made us laugh and shudder at the same time. We couldn’t possibly publish them all here. But we also couldn’t bear to let these stories go.

Which is why we’re putting out an anthology. Yes, that’s right, an anthology of clown flash fiction. And by “we are” I mean, “we are trying to.” The Kickstarter project for this anthology is (hopefully) launching today, and running for 30 days. If it’s funded, we’ll have our first ever print book, possibly the first ever anthology of clown flash fiction in the history of the world, featuring these stories, the stories we love but couldn’t fit in the issue, and an open call for additional submissions.

You know you want this. Don’t listen to reason. Listen to the thing under the bed, the thing hiding in the closet, the thing that softly honks in the darkness, and visit our Kickstarter page now.

Cover art by Linda Saboe

An Unlikely Interview with Fiona Moore

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

The mash-up of self-aware AI, modern day information pirates, and traditional pirate ballads in The Confession of Whistling Dixie, works surprisingly well, not to mention being a lot of fun. Could you tell us a bit about how this story came to be, and how you wove the elements together?

The initial idea actually came from a more traditional call for submissions — the horror publisher Knightworks Press put out a call for stories for an anthology called “Dead Men’s Tales”, that were a) about pirates, but b) the narrator had to be dead. Straight away I had the idea of doing a story about data pirates, narrated by the AI they’d developed to help them (who, of course, had never strictly speaking been alive). What with one thing or another I missed the deadline, but I was having too much fun with the story to stop writing it.

The songs came in when I sat down to write. Straight away, the first line, “Fifteen million petabytes on a dead man’s chest. Yo ho ho and a botnet of RAM” came into my head, and that was the point when I got a handle on Dixie’s character — that it was intelligent, and had a sense of humour of sorts, but that its points of reference for how to interact with humans, and how to understand the human world, were largely derived from the sources it had contact with, and that one of these would be pirate ballads. This also determined the medium by which it would attack the agent from the CIA; music is the lens through which Dixie sees everything, but it’s also Dixie’s main weapon.

In the first draft, I also included a few modern songs on pirate themes, which I then went through and edited out for copyright reasons. I think the version focused on traditional ballads is better, but the one which I do slightly regret losing is that, in the original version of the segment where Dixie talks about how it understands the concept of pornography, it sang a couple of lines of “Frigging in the Rigging” by the Sex Pistols.

Speaking of pirates, which historical pirate do you consider the most intriguing, and why?

I’m fascinated by Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Particularly because there’s no record of what happened to Anne Bonny after she was captured; some think she took a new identity and went back to piracy, and I would like to think she did.

Your writing profile is quite diverse. In addition to short stories, you’ve also written non-fiction business books and articles from an anthropological standpoint, guidebooks to television shows such as Battlestar Galactica and Blake’s 7, plays, and audio dramas. Do all these different types of writing mesh for you and inform each other, or do you find yourself compartmentalizing each form in a separate part of your brain? What appeals to you about each type of writing?

On one level, they mesh and inform each other. I tend to work on different projects separately, but I’ll be working on an article and then I’ll get an idea for a story, or I’ll get an insight into a character on a television show from a story I’m writing. I tend to write a lot about artificial cultures — speculating about the sort of cultures that AIs might develop, once they become truly independent — which seems to me to be a logical outgrowth of my anthropological research; after studying real-life human cultures, I can go away and speculate on what a really non-human culture might be like.

On another, they’re more complementary. I tend to switch from one type of writing to another: I write fiction as a distraction from my more academic and analytical work, but on those moments when the creative juices aren’t flowing, I’ll work on a more academic or critical article instead.

The appeal of both fiction and non-fiction-writing is the same for me: it’s the joy of discovery, of seeing the data, or the elements of a story or play, come together to make something new.

Authors are notorious for working strange jobs. Stephen King was a janitor and J.D. Salinger worked as the entertainment director on a luxury cruise line. What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had, and did it inspire any stories or teach you anything you’ve used in your writing?

The strangest job I’ve had was as a historical interpreter in a living-history museum based at a Victorian fortress. I alternated between playing the fort’s schoolmistress and a soldier’s wife. I’ve never directly put anything from the experience into a story, but it did teach me a lot about storytelling and holding an audience.

Some authors require complete silence when they write, others need their desk arranged a certain way, or their favorite tea mug at hand. What does your ideal writing space look like — either the place where you actually write, or the imaginary place where you wish you could write?

I do most of my best writing on the sofa, feet up, with my laptop. It’s my favourite place to write, as long as the cats will let me anyway. I like to listen to music or have the radio on while I work; background noise helps me focus.

Pick an author whose work you enjoy (past or present) and tell us about the book they never wrote, but you wish they had (e.g. Tolstoy’s long-awaited and even longer page count sequel to War and Peace.)

I’ve always regretted that Mervyn Peake never continued with the Gormenghast series; apparently he had lots of ideas of where Titus Groan would go next, but we’ll never know what happened to him in the end.

One of the perennial points of contention in the world revolves around education — who should get educated (and to what degree), what should be taught, who should be excluded. Meanwhile, children in their classrooms ask, “Why do I need to know this?” Tell us one obscure thing you learned in school that you think is important, and why.

As an undergraduate, I had a professor who subscribed to Freudian theory, in defiance of all the criticisms of it. So I had to learn a lot about Freud, which I didn’t think was much use at the time, but which turned out to be surprisingly important in terms of understanding mid-twentieth-century films, like Forbidden Planet and Vertigo. Once you get your head around the fact that they’re all operating from a Freudian basis, they make so much more sense.

We all start somewhere, and the learning curve from first publication is a steep one. What’s your first ever published work, and how do you feel about it now?

My first paid publication was a poem which appeared in On Spec magazine. I was really proud of it at the time — I still am — but I find I can’t really get my head around writing poetry these days.

When your creative brain needs recharging are there any particular hobbies you turn to, people you talk to, or places you go to refresh yourself?

I like to go for walks around Portobello Road, usually winding up in a cafe somewhere. Alan Stevens, who’s my collaborator on the guidebooks, plays and some of the articles, and I tend to use each other as sounding-boards for new ideas or problems we’ve come up with when writing.

Twenty years is a geological microsecond, but is a vast stretch for a person, no matter how quickly it seems to slip away, and it can be interesting to think about what one’s characters might be doing twenty years in their futures. Do you see anything interesting in any of your character’s futures that you’d be willing to share with us?

I think Dixie is going to take over the world. Seriously. I really think the end of human civilisation has begun with Dixie and Mister Langley, we just won’t know it for a while yet.

We all have our favorite authors, some of whom everyone has heard of, and some of whom are relatively obscure. Who is one of the more obscure writers you love? What do you love about their work? Tell us which story or novel of theirs we should drop everything to read right now.

A Scientific Romance by Roland Wright — he is well known as a nonfiction writer, but I haven’t met too many people, in the UK at least, who read his novels. I first read the book in graduate school; it’s a beautiful story, ostensibly about an archaeologist who travels in time to the future, and pieces together what happened to our civilisation, but as you get into it, and as you realise that the narrator is decidedly unreliable, you start to see different meanings to the story’s events.

What else are you working on have coming up you want people to know about?

I’m going to be giving a keynote talk at the Telefantasy and Society Symposium at Lincoln University on 6 May — it’s going to be a great conference, with people from TV, publishing and academia sharing their insights, and I’d encourage everyone to come along if you can. Also, keep an eye out for volume 2 of the Battlestar Galactica book, coming out any day now from Telos Publishing!

An Unlikely Interview with Barry King

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

The title of Those Who Gave Their Island to Survive is drawn from Peter Gabriel’s ‘Here Comes the Flood’. To what degree did the song inspire the writing of this story? In general, do you frequently turn to music for writing inspiration?

I was cheating, really. Copyright law doesn’t cover titles, so stealing a snippet of a song is sometimes a convenient way to set tone and content from the outset for a known audience. This is a story I wrote for that X-er generation that built Internet culture. Gabriel is and was very popular in that crowd. Is it “fair use” to appropriate a line like that? I think so. Culture is all about borrowing and modifying: repurposing meaning for new variants on a theme.

But to actually answer the question, I have a very over-active right brain, and I (usually to my wife’s annoyance and/or amusement) find associations too easily, especially quotes and lyrics. ‘Flood’ is the kind of song that acts as a signpost to a story. Towards the end of writing it, I found myself returning to the song, because it was subconsciously providing a window into a particular state of dramatic tension. Later on, I looked up the origin of the song and found that it was taken from a dream that resembles my story, so I used the key line as the title.

But stories, for me, come from stewing a lot of things together. In this stew, the main theme, the meat, was the incoercible nature of play, which was appropriated from James P. Carse. His Finite and Infinate Games was a big influence on me early in life, and it continues to shape how I look at issues like privacy and access to information.

Speaking of inspiration, you’re also somewhat of a photographer and a cook. Do those pursuits feed into the same creative place your writing comes from, or are they a way to switch gears when your brain is stuck?

Feed out from more like. I love emerging patterns and try to capture or participate in them. Sometimes this is a photo of an alien structure in a commonplace plant, sometimes it’s getting three impromptu dishes to be ready at the same time and complement each other in flavour, sometimes it’s getting rhyme, meter, meaning, and tone to work together in a poem, sometimes it’s an elegant solution in code to a complex data problem—they’re all whole-brain exercises in that you have to trust yourself to do them, and when you do, they arise apparently out of nothing.

So in reading and writing stories, I love watching complex plots that emerge from simple motivations that fugue together into an inevitable conclusion. Good art mimics life, and life is nothing if not complexity arising from simplicity and headed towards an inevitable conclusion.

A similar question, related to your background in programming — particularly for a story like this one, does your day job help your writing, or does being so familiar with the subject matter ever get in the way?

Following the same theme, I’d say computers are the most complex tools we’ve ever made, but they are also made up of simple parts, and the conceptual baggage you need to understand them is actually very small. Most of what I do in my day job is re-interpreting those basic concepts in whatever the flavour of jargon, framework, and platform marketers have convinced us is the acme of our time and finding ways to use those latest variants to accomplish my clients’ ends.

There’s help and hinderance in this. Cyberpunk is very jargon-heavy, and so there’s plenty of window-dressing to borrow, and not always for good reasons.

For example, 3DES is an encryption standard that is both very well known in cryptography circles, and also somewhat distrusted, because it was made early on by IBM for the U.S. Government, and it is suspected, although not independently proven, to have some hidden flaw that only *ahem* a certain agency knows about. So when an expert cryptographer, like Marvin, uses it, it implies a certain degree of naïveté… or does it?

Well, if you know this about 3DES, like most security professionals and cypherpunks, you’d understand this implicitly, and know that Marvin uses it as a decoy message to hide his true intentions. Should a writer limit his audience’s access to a story? Thomas Mann wrote essential parts of The Magic Mountain in French, and if you don’t speak French, you miss some of the juiciest parts of the book. But he’s Thomas Mann. I’m not Thomas Mann by any means, so I have to keep a rein on the jargon, while still using valid lingo.

But the biggest way understanding computers on a fundamental level gets in the way of this kind of story is that there are some hoary old chestnuts of the genre I simply can’t stomach using: the magic box that decrypts passwords (Sneakers), blurred physical and virtual reality (Inception), nerve-like networks with instant sensing (The Matrix), and organism-like programs freely moving from device to device without being copied (Max Headroom).

What would any of those films be without those bits of magical hand-wavery? Very dull indeed.

Recent Reviews

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

Unlikely Story #11: The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography has been getting some nice buzz lately. For your convenience, we’ve gathered up some recent reviews. Congratulations to all our authors!

SFRevu and Quick Sip Reviews both cover the entire issue of Unlikely Story #11.

In her latest Clavis Aurea column at Apex, Charlotte Ashley gives an in-depth review of Curtis C. Chen’s It’s Machine Code.

Over at Skiffy and Fanty, Cecily Kane includes The Confession of Whistling Dixie in her Short and Sublime: February 2015 Round-Up.

An Unlikely Interview with Curtis C. Chen

Originally published at Unlikely Story. You can comment here or there.

The character of Margaret Fisher in It’s Machine Code is slightly reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (except on the other side of the law), the sweet, little old lady no one suspects, and thus everyone overlooks. Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the character, and the story in general?

I watched a lot of “Murder, She Wrote” as a child for some reason. And I’ve always been a fan of elderly characters who have a lot of accumulated life experience and suddenly encounter a new situation to which they can apply their expertise.

This story started as a terrible pun: “CSI: Computer Science Investigation.” I wrote a flash piece with that title, then realized it had to be the start of a larger story. Plot-wise, I struggled for a
bit with the “movie hacking” problem--typing at a keyboard is hardly exciting on screen, and on paper there’s also the risk of falling into an infodump spiral. So I decided to make the central crime something more tangible and hardware-related, instead of purely a software issue.

3-D printing is a relatively new technology, still in its infancy, but the printable handgun is already creating controversy. The benefits ultimately appear extraordinary, but at the same time it creates significant complexity in many realms from manufacturing to product control to the very concept of the original. How do you see this playing out in the future?

Well, my hope is that we’ll eventually all have Star Trek replicators and live in a post-scarcity economy. But that probably won’t happen for a few more years.

I’m hesitant to make specific predictions, because things rarely go the way we expect them to, but I definitely expect more growing pains of the type you’ve described. When physical objects are as easy to
copy as a computer file, what rights does the original creator retain, and should we attempt to impose non-native restrictions on that technology? This is what’s happening with digital media and
anti-piracy laws right now, and I have no idea how that’s going to shake out. In the long term, I’m hoping that people will end up placing more value on experiences rather than things, which makes copy protection less of an issue for everyone.

In addition to your writing, you’re part of the podcasting team for SnoutCast, which focuses on puzzles, gaming, and interactive room escape and puzzle hunt games. For those who aren’t familiar with these type of games,could you talk a bit about puzzle hunts, and similar large-scale interactive games? Have you ever run/designed a puzzle hunt, or do you tend to stick to the player side of things?

There are lots of different flavors of puzzle hunts, and I encourage everyone to try them! My particular community creates original brain-teasers which “solve” to reveal hidden messages, usually linked to a central theme or overarching story for the event.

I’ve run dozens of puzzle events with my wife and different teams of friends, starting in 2001 with our version of “The Game,” a weekend-long driving hunt in the San Francisco bay area. Our biggest event was a Harry Potter-themed Game which included a train ride to get to “Hogwarts” (downtown Sacramento) and a custom-built “magic wand” (electronic device with motion sensing) for each team. Since July of 2010, we’ve helped organize Puzzled Pint events on the second Tuesday of every month — we started in Portland, Oregon, but have now expanded to twelve cities, including London and Montreal. You can find
out more about that at http://puzzledpint.com.

There’s a lot of cool stuff happening with puzzle games these days. We just concluded SnoutCast after five years and 213 episodes, and our archives include interviews with many other creators. You can also
visit friends-of-the-show http://puzzlepile.com and http://puzzlehuntcalendar.com for current puzzling news and event listings, respectively.

Authors are notorious for working strange jobs. Stephen King was a janitor and J.D. Salinger worked as the entertainment director on a luxury cruise line. What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had, and did it inspire any stories or teach you anything you’ve used in your writing?

Well, I used to be a software engineer, and I wrote this story called “It’s Machine Code”…

Seriously, though, I haven’t had too many strange jobs. The most unusual one, I suppose, was when a former tech industry co-worker hired me to write some articles for the Wired How-To Wiki as part of a
project sponsored by Intel. I got paid more per word on that gig than any other writing I’ve done before or since. I also did freelance tech blogging for a couple of years. That type of content production is very different from fiction writing; it was interesting and educational, but also split my focus too much, so I decided to stop. I have nothing but respect for my freelancer friends who can juggle a ton of different writing projects with different requirements all the time.

Some authors require complete silence when they write, others need their desk arranged a certain way, or their favorite tea mug at hand. What does your ideal writing space look like — either the place where you actually write, or the imaginary place where you wish you could write?

I personally don’t believe in writing rituals. For me, the greatest inspiration is a hard deadline and another person waiting for me to deliver. When I know someone is expecting a thing, I’ll finish it no
matter what; when my team has announced a date for a puzzle event, we’ll run that event, come hell or high water. I suppose my wish would be not for a specific writing space, but rather the ability to work in any environment regardless of the distractions which might be present!

We all have our favorite authors, some of whom everyone has heard of, and some of whom are relatively obscure. Who is one of the more obscure writers you love? What do you love about their work? Tell us which story or novel of theirs we should drop everything to read right now.

I have terribly mainstream tastes, so I’m afraid I don’t know a lot of very obscure authors. But here are three books I didn’t expect to love as much as I did, in no particular order:

-- THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin, which does everything right and then some. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but this hooked me from page one and didn’t let go until the very end.

-- THE SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson, which plays on the surface like a YA novel but has the dark, resonant undertones of the best future dystopias.

-- A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME by Sarah MacLean. I’m reading category romance as part of my continuing education in writing compelling
characters and relationships, and there’s plenty of both in here. Don’t judge.

What else are you working on have coming up you want people to know about?

I have a short story, “Ten Days Up,” in the Baen anthology MISSION: TOMORROW, which will be published in the fall of 2015. Follow me on Twitter (@curtiscchen) or bookmark my bibliography web page for further announcements!

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