September 9, 2015

Another Kick at the Uncanny: an interview with Lynne M. Thomas and Michael D. Thomas, editors-in-chief for Uncanny Magazine

Cover Artist: Matthew Dow Smith
Uncanny Magazine is an online Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine featuring passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture.  Each issue contains intricate, experimental stories and poems with verve and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs from writers from every conceivable background. Uncanny believes there’s still plenty of room in the genre for tales that make you feel.

Co-edited by Hugo Award-winner Lynne M. Thomas and Hugo Award-nominee Michael Damian Thomas, each issue contains new and classic speculative fiction, podcasts, poetry, essays, art, and interviews. Uncanny‘s contributors range from the award-winning leading voices of the field to exciting, emerging talents. (source: http://uncannymagazine.com/about/)

I had the chance to ask Lynne and Michael a few questions about their magazine and how things are shaping up with their Kickstarter campaign as they had into their second year. Enjoy!

Gef: Uncanny Magazine is ramping up for its second year, and much like the Kickstarter from last year, you're fully funded including the stretch goals if I'm not mistaken. It must feel gratifying that the magazine has found an audience in relatively short order, yes?

Lynne & Michael: The Uncanny Magazine Year Two Kickstarter is at full initial funding, and currently working towards stretch goals, which is indeed absolutely gratifying. We are thrilled at the response we’ve had to Year One of the magazine, and are looking forward to putting out even more great content from writers across the planet for Year Two.


Gef: What was the biggest stumbling block and/or wake-up call with getting Uncanny off the ground?

Lynne & Michael: We were experienced and confident about the content selection part of running the magazine. The biggest learning curve was very much on the running-a-small-business side of things, along with learning to create and edit eBooks in multiple formats. We are deeply grateful to our editorial colleagues in SF/F who were so generous with encouragement and advice as we worked our way through that process.

Gef: How much emphasis, or even awareness, is placed on carving out a niche for Uncanny compared to other periodicals in the genre? Is it simply a matter of wanting one more venue for writers to ply their craft and for readers to discover great stories?

Lynne & Michael: We have a definite vision for Uncanny Magazine that starts at the cover and goes all the way through the issue--stunning cover art, passionate science fiction and fantasy fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, and provocative nonfiction by writers from every conceivable background. Not to mention a fantastic podcast featuring exclusive content. We want content that makes people feel. Everything in Uncanny is meant take your breath away and stay with you after you’ve finished it.

Gef: While the evolution of a writer is something made readily viewable to readers through the course of a career, how about the evolution of an editor? How do you see your progression in the field over the years?

Lynne & Michael: We’ve definitely evolved. At each stage, we’ve learned new things and expanded what we do. Both of us started with nonfiction essays, moved to dark SF/F, and now edit a little bit of everything. We believe our taste and process becomes more refined at every step.

Gef: One of the things a fiction writer hears starting out is to try their hand at short stories before diving head first into a novel. What's your take on that advice? It's not a hard and fast rule, but is it something you find bears fruit more often than not?

Lynne & Michael: We’re not fans of that advice. There are certain tools and skills writing to one length can give you that are useful in writing to a different length, but novels and short stories are massively different things. One is not the stepping stone to the other: structures, plots, worldbuilding, characterization, and description often work very differently in the two mediums, and mastering one does not necessarily mean mastery of the other. There are many examples of novelists who have never written a short story and short story writers who don’t move on to novels.

Gef: Along with the website and the bimonthly ebooks, there are the podcasts and presumably the webcomic coming to fruition in Year Two. How large of a transmedia tent do you hope to build in the years to come with your Unicorn Space Ranger Corps?

Lynne & Michael: We only feel limited by time, funds, and the energy and enthusiasm of our excellent staff. As long as we can keep the Uncanny vision and standards, the sky’s the limit. Our Managing Editor, Michi Trota, our podcast producers, Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, our reader Amal El-Mohtar, and our interviewer Deborah Stanish have been working tirelessly to find new ways to bring our supporters additional, equally excellent content.

Gef: Prior to ebooks and the digital age really kicking in this last decade, my consumption of short fiction was basically whatever collection or anthology in bookshops that had Stephen King's name on the cover. Now I'm just gobbling the stuff up wherever I can find it. Do you see the digital age as a boon for the short story? Do you see pitfalls to it as well?

Lynne & Michael: It is a huge boon. Online/eBook/podcast short fiction is perfect for a commute, or when one only has a short amount of time and wants a break. The major pitfall is still figuring out the best way to find different revenue streams that make paying our creators professional rates sustainable.

Gef: So for those who are new to Uncanny Magazine, where do you recommend they start and what should they look forward to with the year ahead?

Lynne & Michael: We would suggest starting with either Issue 2 or Issue 5. Both have some of our most popular pieces and should give people a feeling for what we do at Uncanny.

Year Two will be more of the same, in the sense we’re planning to purchase and share a bunch of fantastic content we think will hit our readers right in the feels. We know there will be a novelette from Elizabeth Bear that explores what happens when the party cleric from your D&D game retires. We have some phenomenal solicited contributors including authors Seanan McGuire, Ursula Vernon, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Alyssa Wong, Carmen Maria Machado, Maria Dahvana Headley, Mary Robinette Kowal, Scott Lynch, Rachel Swirsky, Catherynne M. Valente, and Max Gladstone . There will also be numerous slots for unsolicited submissions.

Uncanny Magazine Year Two also plans to showcase original poetry by Sofia Samatar, M Sereno, Isabel Yap, and Sonya Taaffe, essays by Chris Kluwe, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Mark Oshiro, Jim C. Hines, Sarah Kuhn, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, and cover art by Julie Dillon, Galen Dara, and Katy Shuttleworth.



Now, as I post this, there are about 36 hours left in the Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter campaign, give or take, so if you're interested in maybe throwing a buck or two their way all you gotta do is click the following link to find out how (but hurry): Uncanny Magazine Year Two

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