Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
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In Praise of Used Bookstores, Part I


Even those of us who have embraced e-readers still appreciate the feel of a book in our hands. And sometimes — often, in fact, for sf/f fans — you absolutely need to acquire a particular hard to find book.

Perhaps someone has recommended a book that sounds great, but it’s out of print. Or you’ve discovered an author you love from the past, and you want more. Or maybe you just like to browse in an expertly curated sci-fi or fantasy book section.

That’s where your friendly local used bookstore comes in.

For example, a few years ago we were looking for a copy of Voyage from Yesteryear by James Hogan, published in 1982, for our daughter. Eureka – she found it on the shelf of her local used bookstore.

Could I have gotten it online? Sure, Amazon would have sold us a used copy for two dollars more, and the shipping would have cost more than the book. Not to mention the instant gratification and way better karma we got by buying it at a real bookstore.

Gimme that west coast vibe.

I spent most of my life on the East Coast. In the communities where I lived in the Northeast, used bookstores had been going the way of curious anachronisms.

Landmarks like the Strand in New York City, of course, are still there; but even the tiny used and rare book warrens that once dotted Harvard Square have mostly given way to a limited number of larger, more commercial stores.

Our own local new-and-used bookseller in New Hampshire reduced their used sf/f and general fiction inventory. They only considered taking books for credit in segments they felt were marketable, such as military history and recent best sellers.

Now I live on the Other Coast. Here in the west, used bookstores appear to fall into the category of required sustenance. I’m not just talking about icons like Powell’s Books in Portland and Moe’s in Berkeley. Perhaps the best part of the west coast used book vibe is the preponderance of smaller community stores.

Meet my local.

King’s Books in Tacoma, WA, is across the street from my apartment (and two doors down from Harmon’s Brewery, my other local. I can drink and read!) King’s was founded by two alumni of Powell’s Books in 2000. For me it epitomizes the way communities here welcome book stores in general, and used bookstores specifically.

A brief digression: It’s practically illegal in Tacoma to speak of King’s without at least mentioning the official book store cats, Atticus and Herbert.

Atticus…or Herbert? One of these days I’ll get them straight.

The store has great feng shui, displaying a well-curated selection of new books just inside the entrance, then drawing you deeper into its substantial innards with shelf upon shelf of books of every description.

King’s has a splendid collection of fantasy and sci-fi. The monthly Sword and Laser book club is one of the most popular of several book groups. A poster of Frank Herbert, a Tacoma boy, is prominently displayed on the wall.

Feminist science fiction spoken here.

The owner of King’s, sweet pea Flaherty (yes, that is his legal name), offers a fascinating perspective derived from decades in the book business. Although he’s happy to discourse on any aspect of the business, his own interests lean toward science fiction, feminist literature, and the intersection of the two. (How he got here is an interesting story in itself.)

Other staff members are also well-informed and helpful when it comes to both new and used sf/f. “It helps that several of us read it ourselves,” sweet pea says.

I asked him what people generally come in looking for.

“There’s a resurgence of interest in the classics, such as Asimov and Tiptree,” he said. “But we stock a lot of newer writers, too, with an emphasis on women authors. And quirky. We like quirky.”

Speaking of James Tiptree, Jr., sweet pea gave me a glimpse into how the used book trade offers insight into the evolution of women’s sci-fi publishing.

An early James Tiptree, Jr. book cover.

Tiptree, who began publishing in the late ’60s, was really Alice Sheldon. Because of her personal history and her work as an Army intelligence officer during WWII, she was able to write with a macho edge that few women at that time could exhibit. No one suspected her true gender until she was inadvertently “outed” in 1977. She used her pseudonym right up to her death in 1987 and protected it fiercely as long as she could.

“When everyone thought she was a man,” sweet pea said. “Her books were designed with spaceships and astronauts. Other women, even those writing hard sci-fi, got soft fantasy covers. Once everyone knew she was a woman her covers changed, too.”

sweet pea agrees emphatically that bookstores are an integral part of the community. In addition to book groups, King’s hosts a wealth of literary and cultural events, many of which mine Tacoma’s own rich arts scene.

Next month I’ll venture off my own block to explore some other Northwest booksellers. Good book shops are a treasure, and in spite of my west coast fixation, I know they exist all over the world. I hope you have one near you!


Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of June 11, 2018

by Anna O’Brien


Hello dear readers! Here’s what we were up to on the blog this week:

  • On Monday, LSQ‘s ed-in-chief introduced us to some LGBTQIA+ comics in celebration of Pride month;
  • On Tuesday, Wendy Van Camp reviewed an oldie but a goodie: Contact;
  • On Wednesday, Lale Davidson provided a glimpse into the myriad of ways nature creates magic;
  • On Thursday, Calee Jordan opined on the rapidity of plot in novels in her column “The Heart of the Genres”,
  • On Friday, Rebecca Buchanan interviewed speculative fantasy poet Sandi Leibowitz.

Author Interview: Sandi Leibowitz

by Rebecca Buchanan


[Here we sit down with poet and author, Sandi Leibowitz. A widely-published poet, Leibowitz just released her first collection, The Bone-Joiner, with more collections planned for the future. Leibowitz will also be reading some of her poetry live, for those in the New York City area this summer.]

Question: How do you define your personal spiritual path? Are you solitary, or eclectic, or part of a tradition?

Sandi Leibowitz: I don’t consider myself a very spiritual person. I don’t follow any religion. I jokingly refer to myself as a JAP — Jewish Atheist Pagan (I was just telling someone that I made this term up decades ago and have started to hear other people using it): Jewish by upbringing (kinda sorta, which means, only culturally, not religiously); atheist by belief system; and pagan by attraction to old goddesses and gods of different cultures, primarily Ancient Greece, since these are the first gods I read about. I often celebrate pagan rituals, but only in the privacy of my own home or at least my own company.

Q: You recently published your first poetry collection, The Bone-Joiner. First, congratulations! Second, what sort of poems are included in the collection and how did you decide what to keep and what to set aside?

SL: Thank you! The poems are all speculative fantasy poems, mostly steeped in myths and fairy tales, though many are based in nothing but something from my own fancy. Many are dark, because that’s often where my imagination leads me. Some are humorous. Some celebrate the beauty of the world.

The question about deciding what to put in and what to keep out is an interesting one. I wanted to create a book that didn’t have too narrow a focus (e.g., all fairy tale poems), and did have that balance between light and dark. I decided to start with the title and had a few contenders. I decided on “The Bone-Joiner” because I thought that would catch people’s notice and not sound like anyone else’s work. I picked some of my favorite of my poems — but not all; I’m saving them for other collections!

At the same time, I also created two other possible chapbooks — and I didn’t want the books to contain any of the same materials, so some of the poems slated for the chapbooks were removed from The Bone-Joiner. I then looked for similarities among the poems, ways to group them, and came up with five sections, each given a title from one of the poems from that section: 1) Witch-Love: primarily about sorcerers and witches, often spells; 2) Lady Mary Speaks of Dreams: poems that are about dreams or dream-like, and poems based on fairy tales, with their dream-like imagery and symbolism; 3) Awakened – about ghosts and other creatures awakened from the dead; 4) Invasion – about dangerous beings; and 5) Attic Dust – poems centered on inanimate objects (or are they?).

Q: What sort of research went into the poems? What does your writing space look like?

SL: Some poems are born of my imagination and require no research (“Island of Crows” is based on a dream I had); others are based on myths, stories, etc., with which I’m very familiar. If I need to do research (such as for “Rusalka,” “Kosode-no-Te,” and “Attic Dust”) I’ll either use the internet or the internet in combination with books of myth I own.

I work pretty much exclusively in my “library” (I hate to call it an office; that sounds too much like work). It’s a book-lined room with teal walls, a wonderful painting of dancing people and dogs and a cat, and odds and ends like a miniature brass cauldron, an Aladdin’s lamp, a tiny cloth mermaid sitting in a French turquoise glass cup, a dragon-handled hourglass, antique marionettes, and stuff like that. My desk is completely awash in papers that are in danger of sliding to the floor and causing me to scream and rend my hair. In other words, a freakazoid mess.

Q: Which poem was the most difficult to write, and why?

SL: Probably “Sycorax Awaits the Birth of Caliban” and “Lizzie Siddal’s Blessing” were the hardest to write because I wrote them both a long time ago (especially “Sycorax”). A really long time ago. So long ago I don’t remember how hard I might have worked on them back then. But when I finally figured out that I was a writer of speculative poetry (the term didn’t exist when I started writing as a kid, and probably didn’t exist — or, at any rate, I was unaware of it, when I first wrote “Sycorax”), I went back to these two and knew I could do a much better job on them. With “Sycorax,” I wanted to create a unique voice, especially considering she was not only a witch, but also lived completely alone for who knows how long. Plus I needed to alert readers that this is a Shakespearean character who is never seen onstage.

Q: Where can curious readers find The Bone-Joiner?

SL: Curious readers may find The Bone-Joiner on Amazon.

Q: Which poems and collections and authors would you recommend to fans of speculative poetry?

SL: I have very specific tastes in my speculative poetry, so I will recommend the sorts of poets and writing I love. While I love science fiction movies and TV shows, I pretty much don’t like reading it, and I really dislike reading SF poetry. (Sorry!) My taste is for fantasy poetry that uses luscious language and vivid imagery, especially if it’s based on myth and fairy tale.

My favorite spec poetry web sites include: Mythic Delirium; Liminality; Through the Gate (which is either defunct or on hiatus, but still on-line); and Goblin Fruit (which seems to be permanently done but is still on-line).

Some print books:

The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry edited by Rose Lemberg

The First Bite of the Apple by Jennifer Crow

Ghost Signs by Sonya Taaffe

Songs for Ophelia by Theodora Goss

Hungry Constellations by Mike Allen

How to Flirt in Fairyland by C.S.E. Cooney

The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar

Orpheus and Company and The Poets’ Grimm are just two examples of anthologies of non-genre writers who are writing speculative poetry (the one based on myths, the other on fairy tales).

Some favorite speculative poets other than those listed above include: Ada Hoffman, Sara Cleto, Brittany Warman, M. Sereno, Lynn Hardaker,  Virginia Mohlere, Megan Arkenberg, Tim Pratt, Margaret Wack, Lynette Mejia, Alexandra Seidel. I am probably forgetting a whole bunch. Of course, these are only contemporary poets, and speculative poetry, like speculative fiction, has been around since humans have created art.

Q: Which book fairs, conventions, or other events do you plan to attend in the foreseeable future?

SL: In July I will be attending Readercon in Massachusetts and am waiting to hear if I will be presenting a poetry reading with a bunch of terrific poets (to be announced if and when it’s announceable).

On August 11, I’m moderating and reading at a wonderful event I’m titling “Poe’s Heirs: Contemporary Speculative Poetry” at the visitors’ center at Poe’s Cottage in the Bronx. We will have a panel discussion on speculative poetry; readings by each of the participants; a Q&A session; and a signing and book selling. The incredible group assembled are: Brittany Warman, Sara Cleto, C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez and (depending on availability) Mike Allen. I so love this line-up!

I plan to do a reading in Queens, either solo or with other Queens poets, and possibly in Manhattan, and even more possibly in New Jersey, hopefully soon, but haven’t gotten around to arranging that yet.


A Need for Speed

by Calee Jordan


Good grief. It’s 4 a.m.

Despite my frequent yawns and drooping eyelids, I’m still awake, still reading. See, there’s this book, an interesting story with a cool description, so I started reading just before bedtime.

I told myself I would read one chapter before bed.

Then the characters’ emotions engulfed me. The details had me swiping page after page to discover more about the story. Scenes filled my mind until I could see the landscapes, rooms, and conversations.  The story drew me in, making me wonder and worry about the characters.

So one chapter became two chapters, three chapters, four.

I need to sleep, but I haven’t reached the conflict yet.

I’ll stop when all the key characters have arrived and the characters’ difficulties have presented themselves. I’ll stop when I reach the conflict.

But who knows how many chapters that’ll require.

Now if my novel was a romance, I would’ve met the main characters already, probably by chapter two. I’d met the best friends cheering the hero and heroine as well as the naysayers warning the main characters away from the relationship. I’d know if the couple is resisting, if they’re dating, and which conflict they’ll experience mid-novel.  If I’m reading a romance, the couple has already kissed, fought, and exposed the obstacle impeding their epic romance.

Romances are like horses wearing blinders galloping through darkened tunnels focused only on the light—the happy ending—in the distance.  No matter how long the story is, a romance moves fast.  Without searching, I know the conflict I seek appears halfway into the story.

However, this novel is a fantasy (although sci-fi could keep me up just as late).  I’m not there yet; after more than a dozen chapters and nearly half the book, I haven’t spotted the conflict.  I haven’t even met all the characters.

Because while romances are sprinting plots, sci-fi and fantasies are. . .well, I can’t call them marathons. They’re like strolling through forested mountainside, stumbling into an unfamiliar patch of foliage, and settling on a cliff to take in the landscape while coddling a scraped knee. In other words, the whole story is a lot to take in, but everything is new and fascinating.

That’s how I felt as I delved into Ink by Alice Broadway. When her father dies, a girl discovers his secrets, which he and her mother hid from a town that knows everything about everyone. The story is great, but incredibly involved and detailed before I reach the conflict. 

{spoilers out of sequence} I stuck with Leora (Ink’s main character) as she lost her father, prepared meals at home, grieved her father’s loss, experienced daily life in the village, enjoyed her favorite breakfasts, completed her final exams, graduated, interviewed for career placement, received her career placement, recalled the history of ink marks, recalled and recited the fairy tales that led to their ink marks, practiced her drawing, cleaned the inking shop, met her new boss, remembered an unspeakable memory (a minor conflict that worries Leora but no one else), endured advice from her mother, suffered a complicated frenemy, shopped at the local market, walked in the snow, discovered a feather (a symbol) in the snow, questioned her confusing job placement and boss, witnessed a banishment, recalled another memory, suffered injuries at the hands of her frenemy, lied to friends and family, wondered about her mother, and wondered about her father, AND THEN her father’s ink and banishment was discovered.  This conflict wasn’t a surprise since her father’s issue was in the back cover summary, but I endured a lot of town life before I reached that big reveal, which occurs in the final fifth of the book.

I was exhausted by the end of this long, treacherous hike.  I had to stop often to reflect and regroup, so I spent weeks on Ink instead of my normal days, and the audio book hours felt twice as long despite my satisfaction at the end.

Attempting Ursula Le Guin’s Gifts was even more daunting. I discovered the clan, its village, the various gifts, and some history as the main character lived life. Two weeks and six chapters later (I think. I hope I achieved six chapters.), I gave up when the main character recalled how his father “captured” an unexpected bride in a nearby village of ungifted people.  And again, the story was beautiful.  The details were fascinating.  The characters and environment were lush, but the story was so long and full that I lost track of what I read and where I was and where the story was going.  I had to stop; I was lost.

I understand the slower pace.  Fantasy/sci-fi plots can’t be a sprint since the world building, which romances don’t require, is slower.  An environment must be built.  Rules of the world must be described and explained. Characters’ personality quirks and interactions must be experienced.  I appreciate the depth and detail of a good fantasy/sci-fi world.  Understanding the culture, its rules, the character, and everything else story-related allows me to enjoy the story’s nuances without groaning my frustrations over sieve writing (see Editors save me from Sieves).

And then the story begins so many chapters later.

As much as I enjoy a good meander through the woods, this slower pace can be a struggle.  But as a product of my environment—a binge reader and watcher, an enthusiastic speeder in real and faux life—I beg of you.

I need some speed.

 


How Nature Makes Magic Real

by Lale Davidson


In a hemlock grove atop a snowy mountain, silence blooms. Minutely needled branches quiver. Water drips from a crotch of snow between crossed logs into a black pool. More silence.  Nothing is as beautiful as this. No poem, no words, no sculpture, no painting. Nothing human-made can approach this three dimensional physical plane, where the points of depth and dimension are plotted by each hemlock needle.

Don’t listen to the theorists who have traveled so far from the physical that their heads float like balloons above their bodies, attached only by a tiny string. They have tried to convince us that reality is perception, that we shape what we see with our language, and therefore can never truly see the world as it is.

We know better. If you stop, breathe and look, you will see.

They got it backwards. We are part of nature. The landscape shaped us, shaped the brains that made the language. Landscape shaped our stories. The fallen logs beside the still water tossed up the elves. The creek burbled fairy laughter, the snow-covered boulder created Hansel and Gretel’s frosted house impossibly far from the path of human treading. When you hear a woman screaming in the forest and follow the sound into the mouth of a mountain lion, a thousand myths are born. The seal’s soft round eyes created the selkies who shed their skins and became us. The change of seasons, the unceasing variety of bird call and flower petals commanded our tongues to shape new sounds. The order of the needles divided our sounds into segments, giving birth to language.  And now, when we go back to the source, the land speaks us, and we call it magic.


Book Review: Contact

by Wendy Van Camp


Book Name: Contact
Author: Carl Sagan
First Published: 1985
Locus Award for Best First Novel in 1986

Dr. Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1934. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cornell and gained a double doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1960. He became a professor of astronomy and space sciences as well as a director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He would go on to take a leading role in NASA’s Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo expeditions to other planets.

Dr. Sagan received many prestigious awards in his field of study. As a scientist trained in both astronomy and biology, he has made large contributions in the study of planetary atmospheres, surfaces, and the history of the Earth. For twelve years, he was the editor-in-chief of Icarus, the leading professional journal devoted to planetary research. He was a co-founder and president of The Planetary Society, a one hundred thousand-strong organization that is the largest space interest group in the world.

He is also an author or co-author of twenty books, including The Dragons of Eden (1977) which won a Pulitzer. His other books include Contact (1985), Pale Blue Dot (1995), and The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark (1996).

Sagan produced and starred in the PBS series, Cosmos, which won Emmy and Peabody awards and brought the concepts of science into the living rooms of everyday people. The series was watched by 500 million people in 60 countries. A book by the same title came out in 1980 and was on the New York Times Bestseller List for seven weeks.

Co-producer with his wife, Ann Druyan, Sagan turned his popular novel Contact into a major motion picture of the same name which starred Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in 1997. At the time, Sagan was struggling with bone cancer and two years before his film would be seen the theaters, he lost the battle and passed away. His wife gives the following account of her husband in his last moments in the epilogue of Sagan’s last book Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium: “Contrary to the fantasies of the fundamentalists, there was no deathbed conversion, no last minute refuge taken in a comforting vision of a heaven or an afterlife. For Carl, what mattered most was what was true, not merely what would make us feel better. Even at this moment when anyone would be forgiven for turning away from the reality of our situation, Carl was unflinching. As we looked deeply into each other’s eyes, it was with a shared conviction that our wondrous life together was ending forever.”

“The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.” ― Carl Sagan, Contact

Fate comes into play in many factors of a life, a planet, and a universe. It was pure luck that the radio telescopes of the Argus project happened to point at Vega at exactly the right time in the night sky. If not, then the scientists would never have picked up the repetition of prime numbers that showed the first sign of life beyond our own planet. This is the theme of Contact. Based on Sagan’s studies as an astrophysicist and philosopher, he gives his idea about how our world might react to the knowledge of extraterrestrial life.

Contact is the story of Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, an astrophysicist and radio telescope engineer. She is a scientist working on the SETI project, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. We learn about her childhood and college years as a curious girl who loses her father at a young age. She becomes a rebel who asks questions about religious contradictions and turns to science as the answer.

After college and graduate school, she joins SETI and what is known as the Argus project, a large radio telescope array that is designed to search the universe. Late one night, a signal is picked up: prime numbers are repeated. The signal is confirmed to be coming from the star system of Vega, twenty-five light years away. Not only prime numbers are transmitted: two more messages are sent from Vega. One is a playback of the first Earth transmission into space (a speech that embarrasses many) but also a blueprint from a machine, one that is designed to transport people elsewhere.

There is much debate about the machine among the political forces of the Earth. There are also religious forces that wish to find answers. Two prominent American preachers, Rev. Billy Jo Rankin and Palmer Joss meet with Eleanor to talk about the religious implications of the message from Vega. As more about the machine’s blueprint is recorded, the more the tensions between the religious and the scientific communities increase.

The machine from Vega is built but later is destroyed by a bomb placed on one of its parts. The American who was supposed to travel in the machine is killed in the explosion. A second machine is built near Hokkaido, Japan. Eleanor is chosen to be America’s representative along with four others from other nations to use the machine to travel.

The machine is activated and the five explorers are shot through a wormhole. They enter a sort of cosmic mass transit system, viewing many star systems along the way. Eventually, they end their journey near the center of the galaxy where a docking station is the end of the line.

The five humans are deposited on what appears to be an Earth beach. When the others go off to explore, Ellie remains behind on the sand. She is surprised when instead of an alien, she is greeted by her long dead father. Eleanor and her “father”, who is one of the aliens who took the form to help make Ellie more at ease, talk about Earth’s place in the universe and how they traveled to this place. It is suggested that there may be a Creator after all and her “father” suggests that to find the signature of this Creator, she look at the number pi.

The five humans return to Earth using the same method that took them to the way station. Instead of the eighteen hours that they knew was their travel time, they are told that they were only gone for twenty seconds. There is no evidence to back up their claim for being gone as long as they had and since the camera Eleanor carried only recorded static, there is no proof of their journey through space.

Did Ellie and the others actually travel to the center of the universe or are they having delusions? Is the great machine nothing but a big hoax? Can their story be believed simply on faith? You will have to read the book to find out.

My first exposure to Dr. Sagan was via his PBS series Cosmos. Decades later I can still hear that lilting melody of its theme like a perpetual earworm. The show introduced me to concepts of science as a child and sparked not only an interest in the planets and the world around me, but in science-based fiction as well. The man had a way of explaining complex subjects in a way that was easy to understand. As I studied science, his name would come up time and again and I realize that his television series and books were only a small part of the amazing accomplishments this man gave to the world. I found the movie Contact to be wonderful in its idea of a great machine that would take us to the stars and that he chose a female protagonist to do the job. In the seventies, this was not a common occurrence. I am not surprised that his first novel won a Locust award for excellence. Contact is a book that I can recommend to people that enjoy “hard science fiction”. While there are some relationships that go on in the book, the focus is on the technology and scientific concepts that make the wonders in the book happen.


Pride is full of rainbows, and sometimes dragons

by Jennifer Lyn Parsons


I thought I would write about something for Pride this month, but what to focus on? Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness has been dissected many times. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is ground-breaking and a great fantasy representative. There are more options available to me than I can count, but I finally found my topic: comic books.

Still pleasantly faced with many options (Do I talk about Batwoman? Do I profile Magdalene Visaggio?) I decided this time to focus on fantasy stories in comics. No capes today, no superheroes. You might be surprised at how many choices are out there in the LGBTQIA+ fantasy comic genre. Yes, there are actually enough options for me to call it a genre! Yes, there are tons of wonderful fantasy comics out there!

I hope that the importance of LGBTQIA+ representation in literature, no matter the medium or format, is an obvious one, but maybe it isn’t. Perhaps this is your first experience touching the fringes of Pride and are wondering why it’s important. From my heart to yours, I tell you this: yes it really does make a huge difference in the life of every person that falls under the rainbow-colored umbrella. Knowing we’re not alone is important for everyone, but beyond that, knowing we’re valid, accepted, loved even if we were the only one like us is even more so.

So, let’s talk now about comics celebrating that rainbow, with characters who are valid, accepted, and loved. We’ll start with classic floppy copies available at your local comic book store (or big bookstore, if you have none nearby).

The Sandman: A Game of You” by Neil Gaiman and more amazing artists than you can shake a stick at

To be honest, The Sandman is the ultimate classic of the fantasy genre period. This is the one multi-volume story that I think anyone who has any interest in comic books and fantasy should read. That said, “A Game of You” is a gem within the dragon’s hoard of stories told in the series. It features no less than three queer characters, a no-bullshit witch, and has a another woman as its lead protagonist. It’s some of Gaiman’s most female-centric work and on top of it all is an amazing story.

The Spire” by Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely

Spurrier describes the book as “one part ‘Mad Max,’ one part ‘Bladerunner,’ one part ‘Dark Crystal,’ one part nutfuck insanity” and I have to agree. But in a good way. This is story a of Sha, the police detective who deals with religious zealots, a new Baroness in charge of the city, and her own modified biology while investigating a series of murders. It’s surreal and inventive.

Isola” by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl

This book. Such gorgeous art, I can’t even. The story is good too, though so far we only have three intriguing issues to give us a taste of this world. It’s a great time to hop on this book, where a soldier guards her queen, who has been turned by some kind of magic into a beautiful blue tiger. The prologue is available online and I double dog dare you to not want to read the series after seeing it.

Those are frankly the tip of the iceberg, but they’re some of my favorites. And now, for those who want to read something RIGHT NOW, I give you some web comics to choose from.

Goodbye to Halos” by Valerie Halla

You know that rainbow I’ve mentioned? This comic has characters from just about every color on it. A coming-of-age story about the main character, who falls from one world into another and discovers her powers, along with making strong friendships and figuring out the mysteries that surround her past.

Eth’s Skin” by Sfé R. Monster

Gosh I love this one. The art is gorgeous, the world is inventive, the story is utterly charming. I will warn you ahead of time that this is not a finished tale, and it hasn’t been updated in a while. Like the best fanfic on AO3 that’s left you hanging, this story will leave you wanting more. But trust me, it’s still worth the read. Maybe if we all read it the author will be encouraged to come back and continue.

Anu-Anulan & Yir’s Daughter” by Emily Carroll and “Corner Witches” by Sam

OK, OK, as an antidote to the unfinished stories above, I’ll leave you with a couple of short stories. These two webcomics are some of my favorite examples of the power of the medium. Both are interestingly of a similar theme, that of love that is sought and found through a sharing of magical items. They’re gorgeous and charming and lovely tales. I encourage you to go read them, they won’t take very long, well, unless you’re like me and need to pour over them over and over.

That’s my brief round up of favorites in the world of fantasy LGBTQIA+ comics. There are TONS more out there and remember I only focused on fantasy stuff I’ve actually read! If you want to explore some more, Comicosity has two stellar lists of comics that will serve you well. “We’re Here and We’re Queer: 35 Indie Titles Doing Right by LGBTA Fans” is a fantastic list of print comics you can find at your local store (and yes, often these are available digitally as well). “Out, Online, and Proud: 40 LGBTA Webcomics to Know and Love” will give you plenty of reading material to keep you going for a while.

As for me, the next book I’m going to sit and read is “The Tea Dragon Society” by Katie O’Neill. Lovely artwork and it’s about tea and dragons and memories. I’ll save you a cup! Happy Pride!


Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of June 4, 2018


Welcome to the weekly wrap-up! If you’re curious as to what we’ve been up to this week on the blog, look no further than this post where we break it all down for you.

GEORGE DESIPRIS

  • On Monday, we started the week off with our monthly LSQ News Flash;
  • On Tuesday, blog editor Jen Gheller gave a review of the book The Language of Thorns;
  • On Wednesday, Cathrin Hagey continued her column “What’s in a Fairy Tale?” and discussed the character of the “free spirit” and its various manifestations in well known stories;
  • On Thursday, we had our first Issue 034 author interview where we chatted with Virginia Mohlere about her featured story “The Thing in the Walls Wants your Small Change“;
  • On Friday, Jacqui Lipton gave us some tips on the legal definition of trademarks and their use in book titles in her column “On the Books.”

Trademarks and Book Titles

by Jacqui Lipton


A number of readers may have seen the recent furor in the romance publishing sector after author Faleena Hopkins obtained a trademark registration for the word “Cocky” as applied to her book series involving the exploits of the Cocker brothers. Her titles include “Cocky Biker” and “Cocky Cowboy” to name a few. Once she obtained the registration, she apparently threatened other authors who used “Cocky” in their book titles with trademark infringement suits, and approached Amazon asking them to remove from sale her competitors’ books with “Cocky” in the title. I don’t plan to go into all the legal ins and outs of this particular situation in this column, although there’s a very comprehensive blog post on the issues here if you’re interested in it.

What I did want to do today is set out some basic legal notes about trademarks and book titles, an area of trademark law which is often confusing to writers. As always, I must note that nothing written here is intended as formal legal advice and folks who need help with particular issues should consult an agent or attorney (or drop me a line and I’ll see if I can point you in the right direction).

So here are my top ten trademark and book title factoids for your reading pleasure:

  1.  Generally in the United States, you cannot trademark a single book title, although you can trademark a series title where the title is a source identifier for your line of books: for example, “Harry Potter” which identifies the entire J. K. Rowling series or “Thomas the Tank Engine” (likewise).
  2. Owning a trademark and registering a trademark are two different things. In the United States, registration gives you some advantages, but you can own a trademark whether or not you have registered it.
  3.  That said, a trademark — whether registered or not — is basically a source identifier that distinguishes one person’s (or business’s) products or services from those of another. So you can see how a book series trademark could work like this. Go back to “Harry Potter” and you’ll see that those two words immediately connote the series of books written by J.K. Rowling. It’s like how “Coke” generally connotes products made by the Coca-Cola company.
  4.  The fact that someone has registered a trademark doesn’t mean that the trademark or the registration is necessarily valid. Registration can usually be challenged (and in fact the “Cocky” registration is currently being challenged) on the grounds either that the trademark isn’t registrable and/or that it isn’t truly working as a trademark in the sense of distinguishing your products or services from others.
  5. You may have heard that you can’t trademark a common English word, or that you can’t register a common English word as a trademark. That’s not true. Provided that the word is operating as a source identifier rather than a general description, it’s arguably able to be a trademark and be registered as such. “Apple” is a common English word, but it’s registered for Apple computers because, in that context, it’s not describing apples (the fruit) but identifying the manufacturer (source) of the computer equipment.
  6. You may also have heard that you can only trademark, or register a trademark for, a common English word in a stylized version: for example, using a special color or font. That’s also not a requirement under American trademark law. You can register a stylized version of the word or the word itself, again provided that it’s acting as a trademark and not as a simple descriptive term. In the “Cocky” situation, the word was registered both ways: as a stylized version and as the regular word.
  7. Trademark registration does not mean that you “own” the word itself and that no one else can use it without your permission. What it does mean is that you have certain rights in the word in the context of using it as a mark for the goods or services for which it is registered. So, for example, if you validly register “Cocky” for a book series, you can’t stop someone from using “Cocky” in the context of, say, a food or beverage.
  8. Trademark registration does not even mean that you can stop everyone else from using your mark in the context of the same goods or services for which you registered it. Others can typically use the mark in the same context if they’re using it in a descriptive way or in an expressive way. This is one area where the law gets a little tricky and where you may need legal advice as to whether your use does, in fact, infringe someone else’s rights.
  9. You may have heard references to “trademark bullying”. That phrase has actually been used to describe Faleena Hopkins’ registration of the “Cocky” mark. Trademark bullying is not actually a legal term, but it’s often used by lawyers and others to refer to a situation where someone registers a trademark in the hope of knocking competitors out of the field, rather than with a view to seriously protecting their own reputation in the mark.
  10. Trademark and copyright law are not the same thing. A lot of coverage of the “Cocky” case in particular refers to the “Cocky” mark as a copyright. That’s incorrect. Copyright has nothing to do with the source of a particular product or service, but rather protects the expression of, say, the actual words in your book. Copyright typically doesn’t protect book titles or series titles. People often confuse copyrights and trademarks because they’re both intellectual property rights and because e-booksellers like Amazon have systems in place for rights-holders to send notices to Amazon asking for infringing works to be removed from sale (“notice and takedown” systems). If you’re confused about the difference, again you might find the blog post linked here useful.

Issue 034 Author Interview: Virginia Mohlere and “The Thing in the Walls. . . “

by Anna O’Brien


We’re here today with a special interview with Issue 034 author Virginia M. Mohlere about her featured story “The Thing in the Walls Wants Your Small Change.” Come and join us as we talk dragons and curiosity.

LSQ: A tiny dragon and coins! What a fun story. Is this a modern take on the old theme that dragons sit on a pile of gold? Where did the idea for this story come from?

Virginia: This story came straight from a cartoon drawn by one of my favorite tumblr artists, iguanamouth:
(Please note: I did get their permission to send this story out for publication.)
Isn’t that the cutest thing ever? I was completely delighted by the sheer glee of that little dragon in the cartoon. Iguanamouth’s dragons have enough personality for 16 dimensions. And having lived in several creaky, old, urban apartments, I know what it’s like to hear Mysterious Noises and to have equally mysterious, impossibly cool neighbors. Though you can bet that if I’d ever lived in an apartment with a mini-dragon, I would still be living there today, like any sensible person would.
LSQ: What was the most enjoyable part about this story to write?
Virginia: Definitely the parts where Caro was trying to make friends with the dragon. I thought of it much like trying to make friends with a feral cat, except with small change instead of cat treats.
LSQ: To have a dragon be an active protector — what made you choose to write this creature in such a way?
Virginia: Having the story seed being something so utterly delightful meant that my dragon could never be villainous. But the scene where the dragon came out to protect Caro caught me by surprise – I had planned that scene differently, but then the dragon turned into a mad kitten, and I laughed my way through writing that part. It was pretty difficult to revise, because I wanted to slow down to get in sufficient detail to get across how hilarious my mental picture of this scene is. I’m not sure I was wholly successful, but fingers crossed.
LSQ: One could easily see a character different than Caro (a character who is not curious, not open-minded) either be scared off from the house or take a more malevolent approach to the scratching at the walls. Is there something behind the notion that her open outlook and acceptance r
esulted in her protection? Is there a larger theme here?
Virginia: I think curiosity is a trait that most of my characters carry, in part because I myself don’t know how to be incurious. I’d SAY that maybe that suggests that I should write an incurious character to stretch my writing muscles, but UGH, how boring. (Might have to do it anyway.) But thanks to Nana’s spirit pennies and jars of herbs, Caro carries a little bit of the woo-woo around with her. It falls within the scope of her “normal.” She’s also stubborn: she got out, and into a place she loves; she finally has a place that’s *hers*, a daily life that’s actively good, so she chooses to greet the scritches and the strangeness with as much of an open mind as she can.
Your point that her acceptance is what makes space for her protection is spot on. That’s part of friendship, right? You make room for a new friend, and when you make that room sufficiently large and safe, they can fill it with the them-ness that gives back to you.
LSQ: What’s your favorite dragon in literature and why?
Virginia: Thinking about my answer to this question made me want to write more and weirder dragons. As a little kid, I loved Smaug’s riddles and arrogance, and I always wanted to know what had caused him to lose that scale. I loved Eustace Scrubb as a dragon, and how it made him learn to be better. When I was older, the lady dragonriders of Pern meant a lot to me, and I desperately wanted a fire lizard of my own. Barbara Hambly’s Morkeleb the Black was so appealing that when spoiler spoiler at the end of Dragonsbane (can you spoil a book that old?), I threw the book across the room and refused to read any more Hambly for years, which was really only punishing myself.
LSQ: Are you currently working on other writing projects? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
Virginia: I’m currently working on a short (I hope) story about a witch with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility who’s deeply ticked off with her ex-boyfriend, and a novella about a young swordswoman who needs to dial back her revenge fantasies. I recently finished a novel, which of course means that I’m mostly lying under the coffee table shouting that it’s horrible instead of what I’m supposed to be doing, which is querying it.