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Editor’s Note for the November/December 2019 issue

The first thing we bought for this issue was the cover art by Bob Eggleton, a piece he titled “The Sky House.”
Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December, cover by Bob Eggleton

From there, it was a matter of finding the right writer to pen a tale worthy of the illustration, and we turned to reader favorite (and ours, because we’re readers too) Charlotte Ashley, who’s most recent appearance in the magazine was another cover story, “The Satyr of Brandenburg,” back in our March/April 2018 issue. She turned in a tale that is as delightful as it is unexpected, and the perfect accompaniment to this castle in the sky.

The rest of the issue is a balance of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, with a couple stories that blur those boundaries or just make them altogether meaningless. The complete table of contents can be found below. Gregor Hartmann, Matthew Hughes, Michael Libling, James Morrow, M. Rickert, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Andy Stewart, and Marie Vibbert all return to the magazine, and we welcome Sam J. Miller and Rebecca Zahabi, who are making their F&SF debuts. Plus you’ll find a poem by Jane Yolen, columns by our usual assemblage of experts, and cartoons for the print edition.


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

If you’re looking for a copy of this issue, you can find F&SF in most Barnes & Noble stores, as well as many local independent booksellers. You can also 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.

71st Year of Publication


“How I Came to Write Fantasy” – Michael Libling
“The Joy in Wounding” – Charlotte Ashley
“A Geas of the Purple School” – Matthew Hughes
“Bird Thou Never Wert” – James Morrow
“The Vicious World of Birds” – Andy Stewart


“Rejoice, My Brothers and Sisters” – Benjamin Rosenbaum
“Evergreen” – M. Rickert
“A Hand at the Service of Darkness” – Gregor Hartmann
“It Never Snows in Snowtown” – Rebecca Zahabi
“Knit Three, Save Four” – Marie Vibbert
“Shucked” – Sam J. Miller


“Swing Between” – Jane Yolen


Books to Look For by Charles de Lint
Musing on Books by Michelle West
Television: Those Were the Days by David J. Skal
Science: Portable Power by Jerry Oltion
Curiosities: The Arrogant History of White Ben by Clemence Dane (1939)) by Paul Di Filippo

Cartoons by Nick Downes

Cover: “The Sky House” By Bob Eggleton


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

C. C. Finlay interviews Kelly Link on “The White Cat’s Divorce”

Kelly Link“The White Cat’s Divorce” was commissioned by the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, for their 2018 exhibit “Dread & Delight: Fairy Tales in an Anxious World” and was published in the catalog for the show. Which is not an ordinary venue for speculative fiction! How did that come about?

Emily Stamey, who conceived of the exhibit and then curated it, contacted me to see if I would be interested in writing a fairy tale for the catalog. I went to high school in Greensboro, and then grad school at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, so that was a strong inducement. I went down and met with Emily, and we went through the pieces that she was hoping to include in the exhibit, and then I came home again and wrote the story.


Was your process different for writing this story, just because it might reach a different audience or had a different kind of venue?

Not really! Any audience, whether they are encountering this kind of story in a genre magazine or an art catalogue, will have some familiarity with fairytales. They’re more or less in our DNA. But when I sent it off to her, I didn’t know entirely what she would think since she was a new editor for me. Fortunately it turned to be more or less what she had in mind when she invited me to contribute.

I’ve been working on a new collection of stories, all of which have roots in various fairytales — “The White Cat’s Divorce” is based on Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy’s “The White Cat”. You can find it here:

But it’s also based on my working relationship with Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. The three of us (and sometimes other writer friends) work together on a regular basis. We’re engaged in our own novels/stories/etc, but we also spend a fair amount of time talking with each other about our projects. Holly wrote a trilogy of contemporary young adult novels that are loosely connected to the original fairytale (the first novel in Holly’s series is WHITE CAT) and she tells a version of the fairytale that made me reconsider what’s at the heart of that story. It’s also incredibly funny. So I’d had “White Cat” on the brain for a long time.


You and your husband Gavin Grant recently opened a bookstore. How did that happen and where should people go if they want to buy all the books?

Yes! The owner of a small used/new bookstore in Easthampton had been trying to find new owners for quite some time. Thanks to the MacArthur Foundation, Gavin and I were in a position where we could take it over. It’s now called Book Moon and you can find us at Physically, we’re located at 86 Cottage Street in Easthampton, next door to the sushi restaurant. There’s a great cocktail bar down the street. Gavin and I originally met working at a new and used bookstore, Avenue Victor Hugo, in Boston. So this is a happy return for us.


We hear you’re working on a novel… but we’re afraid that if we ask about that, it will jinx things. What other kinds of things are you working on right now? (We admit we were pretty chuffed to see GHOST OF THE SHADOW MARKET by Cassandra Clare, you, and some other great writers in our local grocery store this week.)

I now have about 190,000 words of novel. I’m hoping to have a very messy first draft done by the end of the year, so that I can get to the pleasurable part: revising. I’m also about two stories away from having a collection’s worth of short stories. And if Cassie ever wants me to write more short stories with her, I’m down for that. It’s a blast.


Any general advice about zombies?

Don’t lick them.


“The White Cat’s Divorce” appears in the 70th Anniversary Issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here:

You can buy an electronic 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 (all formats):

Amazon US (Kindle edition):

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Visit Kelly Link’s website by clicking on her photo.

Interview: Amanda Hollander on “Madness Afoot”

Tell us a bit about “Madness Afoot.”

It’s an epistolary Cinderella story taken one step sideways as Prince Charming’s sister surveys the absurdity of her brother’s romance.


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

A friend of mine was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week and I wanted to write a fairy tale retelling to entertain her. My mind went to Perrault’s Cinderella, because the premise is so gloriously lunatic. I started thinking about the position Prince Charming occupies in popular imagination with fandoms (and critics) of the character’s various iterations. I lived in Los Angeles for nearly a decade while working on my doctorate and had many outside glimpses of celebrity culture. There is a real energy shift and palpable excitement when someone famous enters a room unexpectedly, but the sheer idolatry can be jarring. I always thought that even more than being a celebrity, how much weirder would it be as the sibling of someone famous? How would it feel hearing people speak in worshipful language and losing their minds over someone you remember sitting in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas and snarfing Apple Jacks? (I speak purely in the hypothetical and this is in no way a direct representation of my brother, Graham, whom it would be rude to name.) I always thought it would be a funny angle for a story, and then layered that over Cinderella. My friend loved the story and said to submit it to F&SF, so here we are.


Amanda HollanderHow has your career as a librettist influenced your short fiction work?

I should say first for the uninitiated, that in opera, libretto comes first and everything else follows, including music. Ideally, payment would come first and everything else would follow, but such are the vicissitudes of creative life. Anywho, a composer relies on a librettist to provide a lyrical and fully developed story that will complement their musical style, and a singer relies on a librettist to make the language singable via a performable, developed character. Then there are mechanical elements that influence how I write, especially how I use vowels (open vowels for high notes unless you’re a total sadist, etc.) and think about pauses, as singers apparently like breathing. My libretto writing itself was influenced by the fact that I grew up in an HOH (Hard of Hearing) household, so I’ve always been very conscious of clarity in word choice and consonant enunciation. This awareness translates well to opera. As an opera audience member, you need to be able to understand who the characters are, what they want, and how they relate within moments of their being onstage, so the audience needs language they can instantly hone in on. I also work with a team, so some of that will be done through my language, some through the composer’s music, some by a singer’s performance, then there’s direction, costume, set, lighting, etc. I think more visually than I did before.

Like opera, short fiction requires that the key information and/or questions are established immediately. One of the great examples in any genre is Carmen’s entrance with Habanera. You instantly know who she is as a character and what she’s about. It’s a genius melding of music and language. So thinking about that immediately in libretto writing helped my short fiction enormously, because I learned to stop and think more about character introduction. When Orsolya writes her first letter, you know in a few lines that she wants to go home, that her brother and a political crisis are preventing her, that she clearly occupies a position of some power (she has the right to interrogate palace employees) and that she is going to be a skeptical onlooker when it comes to this classic romance.

I also notice that in my short fiction I’ve become much more cognizant of when I write lines that are easy to read but would be difficult to sing. (No current plans to torture anyone with my sung rendition of “Madness Afoot.”) Also, some wordplay is easy to understand when reading, but hard to hear when delivered through song, especially complex homophones, which differ from antanaclasis, which works better aloud than in prose. The biggest influence, though, has been how I think about breaks in the story structure. In libretti, breaks allow time for dramatic acting or for the orchestra to come to the front. When writing “Madness Afoot,” the epistolary form gave me a lot of opportunity to play around with the pauses and line breaks to build comedy. I’m also learning to use the same for pathos, because now I can hear the spaces. That extra beat can do so much, whether you’re giving it to the composer, the singer, the audience, or a reader. There’s music in the emptiness.


…and how is writing a libretto similar to or different from writing a short story?

Since for libretti I need to collaborate with a composer, I also need to understand their musical vision for the project, how many singers and instruments we have to work with, how the dialogue or frequency of lines impacts the character’s presence onstage, etc. For the whole opera do we have twenty minutes? An hour? Three hours? The scope of the story changes radically if there isn’t time to change costumes or sets because you don’t want to lose time for the performers. Also—I struggle with this constantly—in a libretto you always have to remember who’s onstage. I have a sticky note on my laptop that says “Who’s on first?” so I remember to check. In my first performed libretto, I wrote a scene where the chorus opens the opera, then sings nothing for the rest of the scene, but…I forgot to have them leave the stage. THEY WERE JUST STANDING THERE. A bunch of people milling around onstage with jack to do kills energy like you wouldn’t believe. The chorus is a bit like Chekov’s gun, in that respect. If they’re onstage, in one way or another, they must eventually go off! Thankfully, a mentor caught my mistake so I had a chance to fix it before submitting the final version. Now I mentally run through every character and the chorus when editing a scene to make sure they make their time onstage earned and, if they’re not needed, exit, preferably pursued by a bear.

Short stories, more than libretti, allow me to play around with form and extensive lines. I don’t have to consider a singer’s vocal chords or sanity. I could use a word like floccinaucinihilipilification and not worry that a beleaguered alto will stab me to death with a tuning fork, although that’s actually a terrible example because that word is highly singable! But, not a word most audience members would be likely to know, so I’d probably eventually be convinced by the composer to chuck it, though I pity the fictitious composer that would need to persuade me. One thing that’s hard to work is letter narration on a stage. For “Madness Afoot,” I got to use epistolary techniques, such as postscripts, valedictions, etc., which I love, perhaps obsessively. There’s a lot of room to mess around. Epistolary fiction would be very, very tricky to translate to stage. I can mess around with homophones and complicated syntax that would be truly nightmarish as part of sung performance. That said, I notice that all my lines are more concise and my storytelling is more precise as my libretto writing considerations bleed into my short fiction.


What are you working on now?

I have an opera, Quake, premiering in LA in 2020. I’m currently working with composer Nicky Sohn on a new opera based on the life of Korean independence activist Yoo Gwan Sun. We spent a month together in South Korea in January intensely working on it and now I’m drafting the libretto. I also start as a librettist fellow at American Opera Projects in October, so happily there will be a lot more opera in my future. As for fiction, I have a couple short stories I’m editing and a new middle grade novel I’m about to query with. And at some point I hope to sleep. I hear it’s great.


“Madness Afoot” appears in the 70th Anniversary Issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here:

You can buy an electronic 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 (all formats):

Amazon US (Kindle edition):

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):

Interview: Michael Moorcock on “Kabul”

Michael MoorcockTell us a bit about “Kabul.”

It’s story in a sequence of stories from the point of view of a Russian agent in London, mostly, leading up to the third world war. The recurring central character, a Jew, describes his experiences of those years until he is called into action with a Cossack division of cavalry in a world ravaged by nuclear strikes.


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

All my stories are very personal.  I wrote this sequence over forty years.


Can you tell us about any research you may have done for this story?

I have been interested in modern Soviet-Russian history for fifty years.


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

The complexity of a world virtually destroyed by simple answers.


Why do you write?

Apart from music, I know no other way to make a living.  I’ve been doing it professionally for 65 years!


Who do you consider to be your influences?

In this case Isaac Babel, one of the great Russo-Ukrainian writers of the 20th century.

There are several fb pages where I can be contacted, including Jeremiah Cornelius and The Multiversal Resort.  A website, Moorcocks Miscellany, also exists.


“Kabul” appears in the 70th Anniversary Issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here:

You can buy an electronic 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 (all formats):

Amazon US (Kindle edition):

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):

Interview: Y.M. Pang on “Little Inn on the Jianghu”

Y. M. PangTell us a bit about “Little Inn on the Jianghu.

“Little Inn on the Jianghu” is a parody of wuxia (Chinese martial arts) stories. Instead of starring a hero with inhuman fighting ability, it follows an innkeeper whose inn is constantly being destroyed due to all the fighting.




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

I’ve watched my share of wuxia TV shows, especially adaptations of Jin Yong’s work. Innkeepers are truly the most unfortunate characters in wuxia–and in historical dramas, which feature similar tropes. Heck, it’ll be a stretch calling innkeepers characters, since they are unnamed and speak 1-2 lines before all hell breaks loose. I’ve always wondered, how on earth could these innkeepers stay in business when their inns are getting smashed 24/7? How deeply must they hate those jianghu “heroes,” who unceasingly choose inns as convenient battlegrounds and leave smashed tables and broken doors in their wake.

Surely some innkeeper somewhere has decided, “That’s enough,” and is looking to hunt down a jianghu hero in return. This is the story of that innkeeper.

My decision to write about “the unfortunate innkeeper” may also have been influenced by more than wuxia, subconsciously. When sharing the story with beta readers, some of them–who had little prior experience with wuxia–still understood the humour, because it reminded them of RPGs or westerns. Wuxia and westerns are basically first cousins. Just switch the swords for guns, and the inns for saloons. Both exist in worlds where lawlessness rules the day and businesses get screwed over either way.


Was “Little Inn on the Jianghu” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Not particularly. Though I will say: after working in retail for a couple of years, I sympathize with the innkeeper even more.


Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for this story?

I did some research about food, rations, and bamboo forests. But ultimately, the story is about depicting the world of wuxia, which is notorious for departing from actual history. The clothing and hairstyles, for instance, are likely not an accurate reflection of the historical period, which Innkeep Cheng points out.


What aspect of “Little Inn on the Jianghu” was the most fun to write?

The banter between Innkeep Cheng (poor guy, even I’m calling him Innkeep) and Yifeng. She is fully immersed in their wuxia world, while he sees through its seams but can do little about it.

Oh, and the climax.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

Among modern fantasy writers, Patrick Rothfuss has unrivalled prose, while also being top-notch in crafting plot and character. I really admire Brandon Sanderson for his tight plots, work ethic, and strong endings. And like many writers–nay, people–my age, I grew up reading Harry Potter.

But the author who influenced me most may not be an epic fantasy writer at all. It may be Katherine Paterson. The Great Gilly Hopkins and Bridge to Terabithia blew my mind as a fourth-grader. I’d encountered fictional tragedy before, in the TV adaptation of Water Margin that I watched intermittent episodes of as a child. But Paterson showed me how it can be done in modern literature, and influenced how I thought about plot, resolution, and character development–namely, not all progression needs to be in a positive direction.


What are you working on now?

I am editing a visual novel I wrote a few years ago (think of it like a choose-your-own-adventure book but played on a computer, with images). As usual, I also have a dozen short stories and novels in varying stages of completion. One short story is starting to become a novella, which is a tragically common occurrence for me.


“Little Inn on the Jianghu” appears in the 70th Anniversary Issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here:

You can buy an electronic 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 (all formats):

Amazon US (Kindle edition):

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):

Click on the author’s photo to visit her website.

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