Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
Now in our 7th year!

Happy Birthday Diana Paxson!

by Cheryl Wollner


Yesterday, wasn’t just President’s Day. Yesterday Diana Paxson–Pagan Priestess and multiple Locus award winning author–was born.

Happy birthday, Diana Paxson. You brought us into worlds mixing 5th century history and myth in The Wodan’s Children series (1993, 1995, 1996). You provided us with The Chronicles of Westriawhere Nature reigns after the collapse of our civilization. You taught us to embrace magic and the mystical and to have faith, no matter what that looks like to each individual.

To honor her birthday this week:

  • take your notebook out into nature and get some writing done in the fresh air (depending on where you live, you might want to bring a coat this time of year).
  • read some of her nonfiction work on Paganism, goddesses and runes
  • check out the Society for Creative Anachronism and join up with hundreds of people crafting and recreating the lifestyles of medieval times (Diana Paxson just casually created this organization at Berkeley in 1966)
  • write what you desire to write

Happy birthday, Diana Paxson!


Happy Birthday Andre Norton!

by Cheryl Wollner


Happy birthday, Andre Norton (17 Feb, 1912 – 17 March, 2005)! A pioneer for women writing genre fiction, Andre (born Alice Mary Norton) graced our bookshelves with female written science fiction as early as 1934 with . her standalone novel The Prince Commands. Though she published her earlier work under the male pseudonym Andrew North, we can now celebrate her achievements as the woman she always was no matter the name on the book jacket.

There’s a reason she’s known as the Great Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy. During her lifetime, she wrote over 20 book series! She published in nearly every category in genre fiction: fantasy, science fiction, crime novels, romance, historical fiction. She influenced female authors as prominent in the field as Elizabeth Moon.

A true believer in life long learning, we can all listen to her words today in celebration of her birthday:

“… we are each shaped from our birth, not only by the blood and inheritance that lies behind us, but also by those we love and by whom we are loved in turn, by the knowledge given to our thirsty minds, to the learning of ourselves.”

Happy birthday Andre Norton. May we all continue to be inspired by your legacy.


Book Review: “The Hero is You” (Kendra Levin)

by KC Maguire


Usually I review young adult and middle grade speculative fiction books here, but if I find a craft or craft-related book that I think is really worthwhile, I’ll add it to the mix. That was definitely the case with Kendra Levin’s The Hero is You  (2016). It’s not a traditional craft book, but rather a book about a writer’s process based on Levin’s many years of experience as a life coach for authors and artistic professionals. She takes the unusual approaching of re-crafting the classic hero’s journey from literature as a structure to guide a writer’s process in a fascinating and effective way. The book can be read straight through or in chunks that are relevant to particular parts of an individual’s journey. It’s definitely a book many writers will dip back into, in whole or in part, over the years. She also includes a ton of really wonderful exercises geared toward writers who are better trying to understand their process and what gets in their way. So while you’re learning about who you are and how your process works, you’re also writing if you undertake the exercises. Levin is so well read and experienced that she draws from literature, psychology, her own coaching practice and observations from her own life and career to illustrate the points she makes in each chapter. The entire book is around 200 pages so you could easily read it in one sitting without doing the exercises, but even reading without attempting all the exercises, I found that I wanted to take my time with it and really pause to mull over the issues she raised in each chapter and section. The book is extremely hard to describe, and no description would probably do justice to the unusual but highly effective approach Levin takes here. I wholeheartedly suggest dipping into a copy and experiencing the fascinating approach to a writer’s process firsthand.


REVIEW: The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)

by Cheryl Wollner


I recently blogged about how Celia Bowen, the protagonist from The Night Circus (2011,) has joined my list of Favorite Female Characters. She’s a surprising addition to this list, because despite the novel’s high praise and awards, I did not enjoy the novel.

Two magicians pit their students against each other in a game of competing schools of magic. The Circus becomes the arena as the two students–Celia and Marco–struggle to understand the game they’re forced to play and the rules which will determine who wins and survives. But as they compete, the two fall in love and must determine how to stop the game, at all costs.

THE PROS:

The romance is (usually) believable. This is the first romance story I’ve read in years that’s built slowly and (somewhat) believably. Celia travels with the Circus around the world while, Marco manipulates the Circus from a distance and spends most of his time in London. The characters fall in love over a decade, and one of the characters in the novel describes the Circus tents they create as “love letters” to each other. I haven’t read YA in years, and found it refreshing that despite being a YA novel, Celia and Marco do not remain teenagers for long. The breadth of the novel helped its believability.

The plot is intricate.  Morgenstern balances 2 concurrent timelines that ultimately collide. No matter my thoughts on her writing style (see below), I have to admit she did a lot of leg work to get her 2 storylines to line up and feel as if everything is always rushing toward an inevitable conclusion.

THE CONS:

Overuse of Passive Voice. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve, Morgenstern over-uses passive voice to create the mysterious magical prose, fans rave about. Here’s an example below:

“The crowd grows thinner. Masks are returned to the baskets in the courtyard by the gates, jumbled piles of empty eyes and ribbons. Children are dragged away with promises that they may return the next evening.” (italics mine for emphasis)

We learn information REALLY late. We learn information as the characters learn it, which often left me confused about some of the basic principles of the world. It’s only in the very end that we get an answer about what magic is and how it works, for instance.

OPINION:

For me, I found the novel frustrating, both on a story level and a sentence level, but that does not make it awful. I read it with a few high school students as an assignment, and they’ve all really loved it. But would I recommend the book? No. Would I read it again? No. Personally, I’d say skip this one despite the hype, but let me know your thoughts.

Did you read it and love it? hate it? are you ambivalent? Let me know in the comments.


True Enlightenment- Beings Without Bodies

by Elora Powell


Have you ever gotten so engrossed in a story that you forgot where you were? Lost track of your body, and got swept away in the world the words built for you, only to be dragged back down into cold, hard reality by a sneeze, or a tickle in your throat, or a crick in your neck? Sometimes, it seems like it would be much for convenient to be pure thought, and not to have to fuss about with a physical body at all.

Bodies have an annoying tendency to complicate our lives. We get sick, become flustered or aroused, become injured. Chemicals in our brains inhibit us from thinking rationally, and feeling appropriately. People have been struggling with the skin we’re all stuck in for a long time now. The Gnostics, an ancient Greek sect, inspired by multiple philosophies, including Platonism and early Christianity, went so far as to say that all physical being was evil, and only the spiritual was good.

If someone were able to strip themselves of material concerns entirely, while still remaining alive and active, that would be an impressive feat indeed. Would it really make that person superior, though? Science fiction stories have generated a lot of conversation around the topic, and the verdict is still out.

Star Trek, of course, has dozens examples of incorporeal aliens, both good and evil, but one of the episodes that stands out the most is “Errand of Mercy” from the original series. Kirk and Spock go down to a seemingly primitive planet, Organia,  to warn the inhabitants of an impending Klingon invasion. The inhabitants frustrate the Starfleet officers with their passivity, until they reveal that their physical forms are illusions. They are actually super-intelligent, super-powerful energy beings. This episode stands out because it not only deals with the idea of energy beings being infinitely superior to physical ones, but it also depicts the formless Organians as having put away racism. Race is generally defined as a set of physical characteristics. So, without physical form, the Organians no longer deal with racism.

Following in the tradition of dense, thought-provoking science fiction like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film Interstellar (2014) imagines a future in which humans transcend physical form. This time, the enlightened race is so powerful that they can even reach through time, and write their own history.

The Stargate (1997-2007) television universe has its own version of this trope in the ascended race, the Ancients. On one of the many occasions on which he dies, Dr. Daniel Jackson is visited by one of these ascended beings, and joins them in their ethereal state. Stargate, though, paints a rather cynical picture of the enlightened ancients. While they have seemingly limitless power, they limit themselves by making rules against interfering with the physical world. Dr. Jackson learns these rules the hard way when he attempts to use his power to assist the surviving members of his team on their missions.

It might be nice, at least for a day, to be able to cast off the weight of the weaknesses of our physical bodies. But without that weakness, what kind of power would we have? And what would we do with that power?

Those questions are still relegated to the realm of speculation. We can, however, choose to look at the benefits of having physical form. Think of the pleasure of eating food, or of positive physical touch with people and animals. Consider the thrill of seeing a rainbow of colors streak across the sky, or the satisfaction of listening and dancing to good music. Maybe those hypothetical light beings, powerful as they may seem, are really the ones missing out.


Reading & Protest

by Phoebe Wagner


National news outlets have been touting the rise in sales of George Orwell’s 1984. My Twitter and Facebook feeds have been sprinkled with comments about how it was time to reread the dystopian classic, particularly after “alternative facts” became a thing. People are following through with this desire to read 1984, according to the New York Times, who reported that orders had “[led] its publisher to have tens of thousands of new copies printed.”

Somehow, I missed George Orwell in high school, but my college fiction professor taught Orwell’s essays “A Hanging,” “Shooting an Elephant,” and “Politics and the English Language.” For the time period, I appreciated Orwell’s progressive views on colonialism and India, which lead me to read Animal Farm and 1984 three years ago. At first, when Orwell started creeping across my social media, I considered rereading 1984 some weekend, but after walking across campus from a solidarity march with Black and Muslim students, I questioned, why Orwell? Was he really the only voice who had addressed these topics, these issues that are currently be created by a largely white, straight, male administration? Orwell did not speak for the fellow students I had marched with.

Instead of Orwell, I’ve been thinking of stories that speak to the political world Americans find themselves in every morning. Reiterating and reliving my own perspective is helpful as a fight song or anthem, but since many of the executive orders coming down the pipeline have been aimed a minorities, listening to outside voices is necessary as an ally. Orwell is the Ivory-Tower approved choice, so I began thinking about who Orwell’s voice might not have included.

Quote from Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Butler’s work has come up in conversation almost as much as Orwell’s novels. One of my favorite Women’s March signs was “Octavia Warned Us.” For her examination of climate issues, fascism, race, and gender, this novel hits all the harrowing headlines of today.

Bitch Planet by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro. This comic explores a dystopia where women who don’t “stay in their place” as 1950s house wives are sent to a giant prison. In the wake of the “nevertheless, she persisted” trend, this comic seems more relevant each day, especially as the characters represent a variety of voices, body types, and sexual orientations.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Explanation needed? Much of Margaret Atwood’s work could make a list like this one, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Handmaid’s due to the way fanatical religion has been braided with politics this past election.

Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias. This near-future novel explores immigration issues when a biometric tattoo is used to identify those in American on visas and recent citizens. While not a wall, a biometric tattoo seems like another insidious way to separate humanity. As Vourvoulias is an activist and journalist, she brings a credibility to the ideas of immigration and “the other” as presented in the novel.


Favorite Female Character: Celia Bowen (The Night Circus)

by Cheryl Wollner


This is a first for me: a favorite female character out of a book I did not enjoy. The Night Circus (2011) by Erin Morgenstern, is a fantasy romance. Two magicians pit their students against each other in a game of competing schools of magic. The Circus becomes the arena as the two students–Celia and Marco–struggle to understand the game they’re forced to play and the rules which will determine who wins and survives. But as they compete, the two fall in love and must determine how to stop the game, at all costs.

I would rather have skipped The Night Circus to be honest (review to come), but I will at least have Celia Bowen as a bright spot from an otherwise dull reading experience.

Celia is an illusionist, with the power to manipulate matter around her. She can change the color of her dress, but also heal her broken bones and stitch up cuts in her skin. Her father and teacher, Hector Bowen, taught her magic through experience: when she was a child, he would cut her fingers open only for her to pull herself back together as a test of her skill. But even in an abusive, loveless relationship with her father, she pulls through as a character willing to love others.

She develops friendships with Isobel (set up as her romantic rival with Marco–but don’t worry, it’s not a love triangle), showing that women can be friends with other women. Her friendship with Herr Theissen, a clock maker, shows that women can be friends with men without the relationship turning romantic or sexual. Finally, she takes on the role of mentor and teacher to young twins who are born into the circus. Celia does not let her past trauma with her father, stop her from reaching out to the next generation of magicians to be the teacher her father was not.

Yet, it took me most of the book to appreciate Celia. Partly because I was frustrated with Morgenstern’s continuous use of passive voice to create mystery, but also because we always learn information at the last minute in this novel. Only when I knew that (SPOILER) Celia was controlling the Circus–using her mind to keep every tent and magical feat real and tangible–did I understand her. She’s a character who can’t relax or take a breath because she is the circus. Her control over her mind is immense and it is also her greatest weakness.

‘I’m tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled. I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix. They will break no matter what I do.’ – Celia Bowen, The Night Circus

I’m thrilled to see a female character with such complexities to her strengths and flaws. While I do not recommend The Night Circus, maybe there’s some good Celia Bowen fanfic out there to try. If you know of any good Celia stories, let me know! I’d love to read more about this illusionist.


To Whom It May Concern, Let’s Write a Rom-Com

by Kiana Danielle (Write Inclusive! Author)


To Whom It May Concern,

Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray in ‘A Cinderella Story’

I’m not delusional, I know most romantic comedies are crap. The teen ones are filled with angsty kids that speak about life as if they’ve lived it six times over. And the adult ones are filled with people who haven’t learned how to communicate properly, despite existing on this planet for decades. The declarations of love are ridiculously long and way too well-worded for them to sound remotely realistic. But, I won’t for the life of me give them up. They’re my guilty pleasure and sometimes even my muse. My devotion to the genre started when I was very young after watching A Cinderella Story. After that, my spare time consisted of marathon after marathon of the 90s and early-2000s rom-coms. I watched anything I could record or get my hands on at the local library. No surprise here, it was mostly straight, white, cisgendered couples I was swooning over. The older I got the more I unconsciously assumed that only white people starred in swoon-worthy romances.

Everyone outside of that white bubble (or outside the default, wink, wink) struggled with love in a stereotypical manner. Films featuring black couples were riddled with violence and abuse. Both of which are very real, but insanely normalized in association with black culture. Same goes for films about Latinx couples. Asian romances were probably the most difficult for me to find back then. When I did manage to find some I noticed the women were supposed to be these delicate flowers, hiding from the sun. The men always got their pick of the bunch. It frustrated me so much that for a long time I gave up on seeing people of color fall in love. I mean, I wanted to witness well-rounded heroines and their equally impressive love interests. And white-led films were delivering that and occasionally more (see: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’s take on memory or (500) Days of Summer take on the “good” guy)

Solution? Let’s write one. Reasons?

  1. Do you really want Nicholas Sparks’s stories to bombard television and theater screens for every Valentine’s Day from now to eternity? We’re better than that, people.
  2. Other dating cultures are fascinating. The action of telling someone you like them differs from place to place. For example, in Japan, it’s the girls that buy the boys chocolate on Valentine’s Day. And one month later, on White Day, the boy returns the favor – if he’s interested in the girl.
  3. Since rom-coms aren’t exactly the hottest genre to be working in right now, I think it’s safe to say, there’s not going to be a lot of movement towards diversifying content. Time to take matters into our own hands.
  4. If I have to sit through another film where the guy obviously has more chemistry with his male friend than his actual love interest my heart’s going to give up.

I believe in us. I declare this upcoming Valentine’s Day a “Write a Rom-Com” day. Give it a try. It doesn’t have to be an actual screenplay. Just play around with some ideas. Think outside of the box. Remember, people who aren’t white, straight and cisgendered can and do fall in love. Let’s give them some happily ever afters. Share them with me below or on Twitter because that’s where I’ll be this Valentine’s Day. Wishing you a Happy Write a Rom-Com Day. Or, of course, if you’re celebrating, A Happy Valentine’s Day.

Yours Truly,

Kiana Danielle


Series Review: The Gryphonpike Chronicles

by Rebecca Buchanan


Series Title: The Gryphonpike Chronicles
Omnibus Edition: The Barrows
Books: Witch Hunt, Twice Drowned Dragon, A Stone’s Throw, Dead of Knight
Publisher: Doomed Muse Press
Author: Annie Bellet
Pages: Various
Price: free to $3.99

Her name is Killer — or, at least, that is what people call her. Once, she was an Elemental Elf, one of the ancient beings who sang the world into being. Then grief and pride led her to corrupt her own song, and she brought misery and destruction to the elemental realm. As punishment, she was stripped of her voice and immortality and sent to the mortal realm. Now mute, she must perform one thousand heroic acts to regain her rightful place.

And so Killer finds herself part of a motley crew of adventurers: Makha, a human paladin; her half-winter orc husband Azyrin, the shaman; Drake, the swordsman who hails from southern lands; and Rahiel the pixie-goblin sorceress who flies around on a miniature unicorn named Bill. As they travel through The Barrows, they encounter cursed villages, ancient ruins, undead dragons, necromancers, ghosts, monstrous wolves, and plain folk just trying to survive and provide for their families. With each monster defeated and each life saved, Killer draws that much closer to her goal … assuming that she wants to return home ….

Bellet is a fantastic storyteller. There are fights aplenty and narrow escapes. The characters grow and change and discover new things about themselves and one another. I also love how she takes the tropes of D&D and high fantasy — like the band of adventurers — and simultaneously exploits them and turns them on their head. Orcs, for example, are supposed to be bloodthirsty barbarians. In contrast, Azyrin is cultured and honorable, a devotee of the Storm God, bound to help any who need him. Rahiel, as a pixie-goblin hybrid, loves sparkles and glitter, but also likes to set things on fire and blow stuff up.

The theology of the series is also, not surprisingly, polytheistic. The Goddess Thunla and her unicorn consort Billarhian are widely worshipped, apparently by both humans and other species. Other Deities, such as the Storm Lord and the Summer Lady, seem to be specific to certain groups, but there is no evidence of religious jealousy or attempts as proselytization.

I first discovered Annie Bellet in the Nine By Night box set, which includes the first book in her Twenty-Sided Sorceress series. I loved it, and immediately began to look for more of her work. When I discovered that Witch Hunt, the first story in The Gryphonpike Chronicles, was free, I downloaded it, loved it — and then couldn’t find any more books in the series.

Happily, three more stories are now available, both as individual digital files and as an omnibus edition. The price is roughly equivalent, either way. If you’re curious, I recommend that you download the free edition of Witch Hunt. If you like it (and you will!), you can then either pick-up the individual stories or download the whole thing in the omnibus format.

I really really hope that Bellet writes more stories for these characters. I want to know more about all of them — and I want to know where they got that pearl, gosh darn it!

Highly recommended to fans of Shannon Mayer, CSE Cooney, Sarah Avery, Jolene Dawe, Juli D Revezzo, Lindsey Buroker, and Catherynne M Valente.


Fairy Tales for the New World Order: Circuits and Slippers, edited by Jaylee James


It is both gratifying and heartbreaking when reality begins to resemble sci-fi and fantasy: genre fiction gets an unexpected upgrade as the predictions of mere writers come true. This collection of twenty sci-fi infused fairy tales, published in September of 2016, came at exactly the right time. Now that dystopia is becoming the new normal, these stories are disturbingly relevant, and close reading is often a painful experience. The heroines/heroes of these tales–many of them competent scientists and engineers–challenge our understanding of gender norms and identity while saving the day, or at least fighting for clarity. As a further bonus Circuits and Slippers draws from classic and lesser-known tales from various world cultures. Appropriately, “Rapunzel,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Princess and the Pea” each get two re-tellings.

A sampling of what you will find: a new “Jack and the Beanstalk” set in a dystopia struggling with a food shortage; a truly interesting Red Riding Hood, who is both hunter and hunted in a fragmented, fascist society; a new version of “The Princess and the Pea” featuring a hybrid who must outwit the queen in a high-tech pea test; a zoo-specimen Rapunzel who believes herself to be the last of our species; a Goldilocks who is part of an “experimental procedure” that forces questions about her identity and the nature of reality; and my favorite, a retelling of “The Little Mermaid” stars a male cyborg in a beautifully rendered seaside setting.

Disaster, or any life-altering crisis, is always a crucial element in the landscape of dystopia. An illness or epidemic can serve as an equalizer in the power dynamic that controls human destiny. Doctor Paige Bell, the heroine of L.G. Keltner’s “Treating the Beast,” a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” is forced to reconsider history and the meaning of evil. She has no choice but to treat a corrupt official from a privileged background, Chancellor Beaumont, whose family is guilty of involvement with terrorists and a subsequent cover-up. Paige’s unwillingness to condemn his fascist actions is both poignant and infuriating: “There had been so many times when she would have given anything to tell this man just what she thought of him. Yet now, faced with the perfect opportunity to tell him that people were right to see him as a monster, the words wouldn’t come. Was it compassion on her part, or weakness? Was she right to question her assumptions?”

Paige is a scientist, trained to be objective. She is living in a world where she cannot be too careful and where she is still called upon to perform her duties as a doctor. But I prefer to cling to the advice that Paige’s dissident father gave her before his arrest: “Be brave. Act confident, even when you’re not. The world is too cruel for self-doubt.” I urge everyone to follow his advice, to keep writing and speaking out. There is so much work to be done.