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Interview: Ted Rabinowitz on “A Dog of Wu”

Tell us a bit about “A Dog of Wu.”

It’s a cheery little tale of genetic manipulation and environmental decay.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I was thinking about different breeds of dogs, and I took it the next logical step. (At least it seemed logical to me.) The inspiration for the opening scene was a news item about worker revolts in coastal China. And the Last City, of course, is my hometown.


Was “A Dog of Wu” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I grew up in a place that was (by American standards) scary and chaotic; but I was also part of a community that was quite regimented. So the divided world of the story feels familiar – the sense of imposed order clashing with something that might be anarchy.


What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

A deep desire to read my next one.

And also that even in a system that messes with basic humanity, people are still people. Their core motivations remain. That doesn’t absolve people of responsibility; but it does mean that societies that ignore human nature will eventually fail.


The Wrong Sword by Ted RabinowitzWhat are you working on now?

I’m working on two novels. The first is Hero’s Army, a sequel to my 2012 historical fantasy The Wrong Sword. The second is Conjure Man, a kind of Faust story set in a New York where sorcery has displaced finance and tech startups as the hot new industry.











“A Dog of Wu” appears in the March/April 2018 issue of F&SF.

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You can purchase a copy of Ted Rabinowitz’s The Wrong Sword by clicking on its image, or following this link:

Interview: Susan Palwick on “Hideous Flowerpots”

flower potTell us a bit about “Hideous Flowerpots.”

I started writing this story over ten years ago, but the previous version — which didn’t include the scene in the gallery — couldn’t find a home anywhere.  Editors told me they didn’t know what it was about, but the story kept pulling at me. It finally clicked when I added that first scene last year.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

The story was partly sparked by two events:  1) an observation of Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s that all five year olds know they’re artists, and all fifteen year olds know they aren’t, and 2) a conversation years ago with a gallery owner who, when I mentioned some art projects of my own, looked down her nose at me and said, “Many people believe they’re artists who aren’t.”  (I hadn’t even pulled any unfortunate macrame out of a B. Kliban bag when she said that.)


Was “Hideous Flowerpots” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I’ve suffered from more than my share of writer’s block, which is almost always a function of the Inner Gallery Owner, all those voices telling us we aren’t real writers/artists/seamstresses/whatever and shouldn’t even bother.  I also have an ambivalent relationship with visual art; my grandparents were successful commercial artists, and although I had some ability when I was younger — one high-school art teacher wanted me to go to art school — I shied away because I was intimidated by the family legacy. No one else in my family was writing, so going into English felt safer.  Now I regret not doing more to develop that side of myself. In the past ten years I’ve started weaving, and I enjoy the design aspects of that very much; it gives me real joy.  But I’ve met too many people who won’t let themselves create because they feel that nothing they make will be good enough, and that makes me very sad.


Was there any aspect of this story that you found difficult to write?

The group-therapy scene was hard to write, because I wasn’t sure how to make it convincing. I was afraid it would come across as too sentimental or old-fashioned (that seventies encounter-group vibe!) or be dismissed for being too feminine.  This is obviously a very gendered story.  At the same time, it’s not just Lauren’s story; Elena and the others are conducting a kind of cultural guerilla warfare, one person at a time.  They’re trying to undo the pervasive sense of inadequacy that comes from living in a consumer culture where every billboard tells you that you aren’t good enough unless you buy Product X.  I’m still not sure that worked; I’m afraid readers will think the story’s simply and only about Lauren, even though Elena explicitly says otherwise.


What would you want a reader to take away from “Hideous Flowerpots?”

I hope it will make readers ask questions. What would it be like to live in a society where everyone felt good enough, where we put more energy into making things of our own than buying stuff?  What would it be like not to have to be fascinated by celebrities because we found ourselves and each other fascinating?  But on the most basic level, I hope the story will spur some readers to do whatever they’ve had trouble giving themselves permission to do. Write your own story.  Paint something.  Decorate a hideous flowerpot.


What are you working on now?

I’m working on a Master of Social Work degree (I retired from twenty years as an English professor last May), and that’s keeping me from getting much writing done!  But I have a lot of projects in progress, including two stories I hope to finish by next autumn. I’m a very slow writer at the best of times, so we’ll see.


“Hideous Flowerpots” appears in the March/April 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here:

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here:

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Interview: Marc Laidlaw on “A Swim and a Crawl”

Marc LaidlawWhat was the inspiration for “A Swim and a Crawl,” or what prompted you to write it?

For the last few years I have spent increasing amounts of time on the north shore of Kauai, and finally moved here. One of my good friends is well-known for swimming the miles and miles of the Na Pali coast, and I had wanted to join her for at least a few miles of the swim, but I had a lot of trepidation about it. I had no idea what to expect, and it took me quite a while to build up the courage to make the attempt. This story was written well before I made that first attempt, when I was able to just indulge the fantasy of being afraid and of trying to imagine what the journey might be like.

One thing that is good to write when you are working through fears is…a horror story. I love swimming, and I love the sea, but I believe just about anyone can give themselves chills if they imagine being aswim in the ocean…and to tap into even more fear, to be afloat in the ocean at night. (To swim at night in a prehistoric sea, full of hungry leviathans, is where my thoughts naturally tend…but I didn’t attempt that story this time. It is one of my oldest fear-fantasies though.)


What inspired the imagery you used in the story’s conclusion, and could you elaborate on ending at all?

I’d rather not elaborate on the ending. I will just say that this is a story for anyone who has committed completely to something, and then changed their mind when it was too late. The final image came to me as I was writing, so the story itself, and the main character’s particular predicament, inspired it. But it’s not too different from certain images in, for instance, the Tibetan Book of the Dead.


Anything else you’d like to add?

In a much lighter vein, the Frankenstein book I mentioned the last time I did one of these has now been self-published for Kindle. (Perhaps I’ll get it together to put out a print version eventually, but for now it’s Kindle only.) You can find it here:

And fans of the Gorlen Vizenfirthe stories, eight out of nine of which have appeared in F&SF, may be interested to know that I am at work on a novel that picks up some time after what I thought was the final story, “Stillborne.” It’s going well, but I do not have an ETA or a prospective publisher or anything else to dangle.


“A Swim and a Crawl” appears in the March/April 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here:

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here:

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Clicking on Mr. Laidlaw’s photo will take you to his website.

Interview: Charlotte Ashley on “The Satyr of Brandenburg”

Charlotte AshleyTell us a bit about “The Satyr of Brandenburg.”

This story features the protagonists of another short I published a couple of years ago, “La Heron,” doing the things La Heron does, which is wander around trying to make a living by the sword without getting involved in the upheavals that are going on in the world. In this story, she has gone to compete in a series of exhibition matches in Sardinia that feature odd and curious people of the otherworlds being treated like a circus sideshow.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I knew I wanted to return to the characters I introduced in “La Heron” and to flesh out the world a bit. Europe in 1599 is about to undergo massive social, political, and cultural upheavals, but the rich and powerful haven’t really figured that out yet. They are still playing with some of the most unprecedented wealth the world has ever seen.

I was inspired by the real-life duel between Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint Georges (who was an “American,” born to an African slave) and the Chevalier d’Éon (who was a trans woman.) Both duelists were among the greatest sword fighters of their time, both were incredibly accomplished human beings, but it was treated as a bit of a freak show by the hosts. Well, I have opinions about people who dehumanize others for their own entertainment.


Could you go into some detail on whatever research you may have done on the real-life duelists who inspired this story?

I knew much more about the Chevalier de Saint-Georges going into this story than I did d’Éon. Saint-Georges was a mentor to Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (father of the author Alexandre Dumas) and did a lot of dashing about being a war hero and a gentleman, not to mention his career as a musician and composer. Racism as we understand it wasn’t the same during his career as it is now, but times were about to change. Black “Americans” in France had their rights stripped in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, mostly at the behest of sugar plantation owners in the Caribbean. But during the prime of Saint-Georges’ career, he was just a Frenchman doing Frenchman things. Very awesome things.

I wanted to capture that aspect of the Early Modern period: Europe had changed so fast, geopolitically, technologically, and philosophically, that great powers hadn’t necessarily got a good grip on it yet. Everything was new, so anything was possible. Why shouldn’t someone be a black composer-duelist-politician-soldier? Or (in d’Éon’s case) a lady soldier-spy-diplomat? Or (in Donshead Doombellow’s case) an honourable pirate-captain-ogre? Society was open to it: as long as it didn’t disrupt the status quo.


What was the most difficult aspect of writing “The Satyr of Brandenburg,” and what was the most fun?

It’s tough to write a sequel or companion piece to a short story. You have to balance the expectations of readers who know what happened before with readers who don’t know anything about the characters. And in a short piece, you don’t have time to rehash very much. Hopefully, by the time I revisit them, I can go even further afield with the big-picture story.

On the other hand, writing these characters is incredibly fun for me! I wound up writing so much more than what appeared in the final manuscript. I could have written banter and battles all day long.


Do you foresee any more adventures for La Héron and Sister Louise Alexandrine in the near future?

Absolutely. I am trying to ignore the novel writing itself in my lizard brain because I’d like to do at least one more shorter story first, but it’s hard! I have all that banter and battle to spill, and a big picture I’m just dying to reveal!


What are you working on now?

I have two things on the go. One is a novella set in La Heron’s world, albeit 100 years later and somewhere quite different. It’s a sort of steampunk murder mystery with ogres and bankers.

The other is my ongoing serial, collaborative fantasy novel, The Archipelago ( I’m writing one of three intertwined storylines in this world, with “episodes” released once a month to subscribers. We should have a novel version of the whole storyline out this summer!


“The Satyr of Brandenburg” appears in the March/April 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here:

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here:

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle):

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Clicking on Charlotte’s photo will take you to her website:

Editor’s Note for March/April 2018

The March/April edition of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction features the return of the Faerie duelist La Héron in a new story by Charlotte Ashley, plus so much more.

The new issue can be found in most Barnes & Noble stores, as well as many local independent booksellers. You can order a single copy from our website or buy an electronic edition from Amazon, AmazonUK, and — now, available worldwide and in every electronic format — through Weightless Books.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar/Apr 2018, cover by Cory and Catska EnchThis month’s cover illustrates “The Satyr of Brandenburg” by Charlotte Ashley. The artwork is by Cory and Catska Ench. To see more of their work, visit their website at


Charlotte Ashley introduced regular readers of this magazine to the Faery duelist La Héron and her brawl-first, ask-questions-later assistant Sister Louise-Alexandrine three years ago in our March/April 2015 issue. The story was a finalist for the Aurora and Sunburst Awards, and since then Charlotte Ashley has become one of the magazine’s favorite new writers, bringing us an alternate history of Canadian settlement in “More Heat Than Light” (F&SF, May/June 2016) and another story of duelists, “A Fine Balance” (F&SF, November/December 2016). This new adventure was inspired by the famous fencing exhibition between the Chevalier de Saint-Georges (an Afro-French symphony conductor and professional duelist) and La Chevalière D’Eon (a transgender French diplomat, soldier, and spy) at Lilles in April 1787.


After publishing “Wormwood is Also a Star,” a story about Chernobyl, politics, and children with strange powers, in the May/June 2013 issue of F&SF, Andy Stewart found that he could not stop thinking about the damaged nuclear reactor and the political situation in the Ukraine, especially when he was reading profiles of young urban explorers sneaking into Pripyat armed with Geiger counters and cans of spray paint. The result is this hallucinogenic novella that goes into the heart of a great disaster to find something even worse.


Our other fantasy offerings this month include “Hideous Flowerpots” by Susan Palwick, a story about acceptance and healing, “The Next to the Last of the Mohegans” by Joseph Bruchac, making his F&SF debut, and “A Swim and a Crawl,” a dark fantasy about being caught between the ocean and the cliffs, by F&SF regular Marc Laidlaw.

For the science fiction portion of our title, we have “Deep Sea Fish,” hard science fiction about the exploration of Titan, written by Chi Hui, one of China’s celebrated young authors. This translation by Brian Bies is the story’s first appearance in English. We also have another story of humanity’s future, “A Dog of Wu” by Ted Rabinowitz. And Wole Talabi returns to the magazine with “The Harmonic Resonance of Ejiro Anaborhi,” a story about a young girl in Nigeria, a mysterious artifact, and the cost of social protest.

We also offer two lighter pieces that provide fresh twists on classic science fiction tropes, with William Ledbetter taking us on a hunt for “The Beast From Below” while Paul di Filippo, in his latest Plumage from Pegasus column, wants everyone to know that “The Varley Corps Want You.”

Finally, we close the issue with “Down Where Sound Comes Blunt,” a new story from World Fantasy Award winner G. V. Anderson. We aren’t going to tell you anything about the story because we don’t want to give anything away.

The issue also includes two poems, “Diaspora” by Mary Soon Lee and “After the Wolf,” a sneakily acrostic piece of verse by Jeff Crandall, making his first appearance in the magazine.


Charles de Lint recommends some Books to Look For by Richard Kadrey, Alice Hoffman, Mark Henwick, Kevin Hearne, and Kari Maaren, along with a look at a new book on the legacy of Hugo Gernsback. Michelle West’s Musing on Books column considers new work by Sarah Rees Brennan, JY Yang, Emily Winfield Martin, and Steven Brust. And for our monthly Curiosities column, rediscovering lost writers and books, Robert Eldridge reads the first English translation of the Korean classic The Cloud Dream of the Nine by Kim Man-Choong

In his latest film column, David J. Skal takes you to the fiftieth Sitges Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantastic, an annual October event on the Catalonian seaside just outside Barcelona, and covers a wide range of new international films, including a review of festival favorite “The Shape of Water.” Jerry Oltion makes his science column debut with a piece on “Naked Eye Astronomy.” And the print version of the magazine also offers up fresh cartoons by Arthur Masear, S. Harris, Danny Shanahan, Bill Long, and Kendra Allenby.


We hope you’ll share your thoughts about the issue with us. We can be found on:

So grab a copy in your favorite format and enjoy.

C.C. Finlay, Editor
Fantasy & Science Fiction | @fandsf

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