Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
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Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of April 16, 2018

by Anna O’Brien

Rakicevic Nenad

Wonder Woman, shape-shifters, antiheroes, zines, and author interviews, oh my! We were busy this week on the LSQ blog. Don’t believe us? Check out all our content from this past week:

  • On Monday, Beth McCabe discussed a few of her favorite heroes on the silver screen and why James Cameron can kiss her ass in her column “Breakfast Anytime”;
  • On Tuesday, LSQ posted another interview with an Issue 033 author: Emily Lundgren. We talked to Emily about her short story “The Last Shaper and Witch City’s Waypoint“;
  • On Wednesday, Jennifer Karr talked about the quintessential antihero and why this character is so damn fascinating in her column “The Wordy One”;
  • On Thursday, blog editor Linda Codega (@_linfinn) gave us a peek into zine culture and what it has meant to the fanfic industry in her column “The Fandom Files”;
  • On Friday, blogger Wendy Van Camp (@wvancamp) shared an interview with YA fantasy author Scarlett Van Dijk (@scarlyrose), who discussed her Sky Stone series.

Author Interview: Scarlett Van Dijk

by Wendy Van Camp

Scarlett Van Dijk is a young Australian writer of young adult fantasy stories. She currently has two novels released, Sky Stone and Guardian Core, of the Sky Stone series.

My name is Scarlett Van Dijk and I was born in 1993. I am an Australian author of young adult fantasy stories. Besides authoring, I work as a radiographer and like to keep myself fit with pole fitness. I enjoy dancing, reading, role player computer games, and desktop publishing. I keep two mischievous, attention-seeking kitties who are constantly getting in the way while I’m trying to write.

When and why did you begin writing?

Right back in the beginning, my love for writing began with school and writing short stories and poetry. However, the first time I thought to try my hand at something more was when I was fourteen years old. However, this novel flopped badly (I didn’t have a plot . . . kinda important). I began writing Sky Stone, my first full novel at the age of fifteen although this was originally supposed to be a standalone novella. I had no idea that it would become a novel length story which would become the first in a trilogy.

I guess the reason I love writing is because it gives me a release and a way of expressing myself. I love the act of creating something that came to life in my mind and then sharing it.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first considered myself a writer when I began writing Sky Stone. I had a purpose and an idea I could get down on paper and wanted to share. This was the first time I had put effort into a story, based on my own motivation not for a school assignment and I intended to see it finished.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest release is Guardian Core, book 2 of the Sky Stone series. It continues the story of Skyla, a girl who had been stripped from her home in modern day Australia, and sent to the medieval land of Branzia. After becoming a legend throughout Branzia, she believes she can finally live in peace with her true love. However, the life of a Sky Guardian will always be filled with obstacles. In this instance, she must help to found a safe haven for all Sky Guardians, the Guardian Core. Soon this promising future is threatened and Skyla is torn between her own personal battles and her duty to the Sky Guardians she must protect. With her biggest weakness exposed, every step becomes a struggle.

What inspired you to write this book?

After writing Sky Stone, the first book in this series, I actually planned never to write another novel! It was soooo much effort! But, keeping an author from writing is like keeping a moth from a flame; you know it could end badly for you but you can’t avoid the temptation. Without expecting it, ideas for a sequel to Sky Stone formed in my mind and I couldn’t push them down. Guardian Core was born from my daydreamer’s mind. I can’t pin point an exact inspiration for Guardian Core but it is likely that music was involved. Music has been a major inspiration for my daydreams and story ideas for a long time.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Generally, I write in first person past tense, occasionally mixing it up just to keep myself versatile. Some people frown upon the use of first person point of view, however I love how it gives readers a more intimate feel for the main protagonist. I can easily express my main character’s fears and emotions, her thoughts and motives. My style had changed as I have grown up writing, and will likely continue to change as I mature.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

For this series I am going for two word titles, based on the title of the first book, Sky Stone. Sky Stone was an obvious title to me, referring to the pendent which sends Skyla to Branzia and gives her Sky Guardian’s abilities. Guardian Core was chosen in a similar way, based upon a major idea in the book, the Sky Guardian’s new haven. In this way, I have decided upon a title for the third book that is currently being written, Magic Spawn.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There is a running message through the Sky Stone series. That is for young people to realize they don’t need to struggle alone, to share their load and allow others to be there for them.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I think many of my ideas are based on experiences from both my own life and those of people around me. However, I also think they are based on my own wishes and fantasies. Skyla is based fairly strongly on myself. I think myself as self-sacrificing and Skyla also portrays this characteristic of always putting others first despite possible personal harm. A fantasy of mine is to have the power to actually do something meaningful–Skyla has this power as her ability to fight and wield magic, among other things.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The most influential of authors to my life is Tamora Pierce, author of the Song of the Lioness series. As a child I hated reading. I blame this on undiagnosed Irlen Syndrome which I was diagnosed with at the age of about eleven. Concentrating of reading for long periods was difficult for me and so I avoided it as much as possible. Even so, I still enjoyed writing short pieces. When I was about thirteen I finally picked up my first fantasy novel and read it without anyone telling me to. This was one of Tamora Pierce’s books. If I hadn’t picked up that book from my school library, I would not have gained my love for reading fantasy, and definitely never would have considered taking up writing as a hobby. Tamora Pierce’s genre also influenced what I like to write about: sword and magic fantasy based in a medieval setting. She also wrote about young women who had overcome overwhelming odds to accomplish their goals.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

If I could ask for an author mentor, I would ask Brandon Sanderson. Since first reading his Mistborn series I have been in awe of how he could reel me in as a reader, make me believe one thing was happening, and then turn the whole world on its head with plot twist after plot twist. Each of his characters are expertly crafted so that you can relate to both the bottom dwelling thief or the high born lord. His worlds are so different from anything I have read about before and are so thoroughly thought out that you feel as if you know his fictional worlds . . .can you sense my awe?

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I designed and created my own book covers. I use Adobe Photoshop and Indesign to create covers using stock images for only about $30 out of my own pocket. I enjoy desktop publishing and have had a small amount of training in it from school and university.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

What I always want other writers to remember is why they started writing in the first place. Surely you didn’t start writing just for the money (hahaha . . .). You likely began because you loved writing, you loved expressing yourself and creating. Don’t get caught up on the ‘should’ and ‘have to’. Why write if you can’t write what you want, if you’re forced to write in a niche just because it ‘sells’. Every author’s goals are different: some just want to write, some want to publish, some want to make money. But, in the end, are you doing it for the same reason you began? Do you still enjoy it?

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you very much for reading, I truly appreciate your support. This year I hope to have the third and final book of the Sky Stone series, Magic Spawn, finished and published. Please follow me on any of my social media outlets to get the latest information on my writing. I’m always happy to have a chat so give me a buzz!

Scarlett Van Dijk
Adelaide, South Australia


Guardian Core



Bringing Back Issues (Zine Culture)

by Linda Codega

Fan-made zines have been made and distributed since some of the first inceptions of fandom culture. In a way, zine culture is fandom

 culture, and it’s almost impossible to separate zines like Spockanalia from Star Trek itself. Zines were the place where fans could show off and explore the parts of media they loved and wanted to see more of. While modern zines have roots in the commonplace books young girls kept in the late 1700s and early 1800s, fanzines and pamphlets existed in the Sherlock fandom in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Zines in their modern form truly emerged around the science fiction fandom.

While the Star Trek zines weren’t the first to be published and distributed at cons, they are certainly some of the most well known. Other fandoms that had a large zine subculture in the mid century include Sherlock, Dr. Who, and the Professionals.

This is the way that zines worked. Dedicated fans would get together and write fanfic, commission artists, and network with other writers via traditionally published science fiction magazines. Zines would be compiled, copied, and collated. Zines would be sold at cons, or traded with other zine publishers. Often zines would be ordered, and publishers and authors would keep dedicated mailing lists so that they could take preorders, network with new authors, and create a postal community of fans and zinesters.

In the 1970s and 80s, zines were usually black and white, with some illustrations and lots of stories. In the 90s, with more graphic design tools available and digital art libraries expanding, zines tended to look more and more professional, imitating traditional publishing. There were even publishing houses that would produce and distribute fan novels, sometimes for profit, sometimes with all proceeds going to charity.

Zines were still underground until the 90s, passed around at cons and traded for other pieces. Since zines were the place where early fanfic writers distributed the majority of their slashfic, they tended to be secretive, subvert things. Some people used their real names, some used fake names or chosen sobriquets such as ‘Artemis’ or ‘Red Noun,’ rather than any kind of traditional pseudonym.

When the internet became more prolific, many authors and slashfic publishers turned to blog sites to host their work independently. The audience for fic expanded as dissemination became free for consumers. Zines were still being produced, but it was not considered cost effective, and it was no longer the only means of sharing fic and developing fandom communities.

Zines have begun to rise in popularity within the last ten years. Using social media, people are getting in touch, organizing, and creating more zines than ever! Platforms like Tumblr and Twitter are allowing artists, organizers, and writers to get in touch and organize.

Older zines are not forgotten, and in fact, there are multiple places that catalog and record zines published in the 70s-90s. Zinedom is working to catalog and archive stories published during this time, and has a lot of recommendations for where you can send your old zines so that universities and other organizations can archive and catalog fanwork.

If you’re interested in modern zines, check out ZineSubmissions, Zine-Scene, ZineHunter, and FandomZines, all of which periodically post calls for submissions and updates on zines that are being organized.

So join in the fun! Draw, write, and purchase more zines! And don’t forget to share.

Why We All Love Antiheroes

by Jennifer Karr

Loki from the Thor movies, Sebastian Morgenstern from The Mortal Instruments, Severus Snape from Harry Potter, Kylo Ren from Star Wars, Killmonger from Black Panther—let’s admit it, we all love the bad boy. He’s always the hottest male character, the most intriguing, the one we all fantasize about. His are the bits we go back to read or watch, over and over. He’s the one we always sort of hope the heroine will end up with—or, at least, make out with—even though we know we shouldn’t. He’s the one we sort of hope will win; and he’s the one we mourn when, as is inevitable, he fails at the finish.

Why is that? The bad boy antihero is, objectively, an absolute jerk. He’s hateful and harmful and does things like skewer his dad with a lightsaber and toss his cousin off a waterfall. He’s the villain, however you cut it. When we meet him in real life, he’s an asshole, and, if we have any sense, we run screaming. So what makes the antiheroes of science fiction and fantasy—these hateful, murderous jackasses—so appealing?

Let’s start with the obvious: sex. The antihero is always alluring: the seducer. The fact that he’s evil only makes it better: he’s the forbidden seducer, and what’s forbidden is always irresistible. The antihero’s sexuality is often a lot more overt than the regular hero’s, and couched in terms of sizzling seduction: where the hero is saying, Let’s live happily ever after, the antihero is saying, Let’s retire to this shadowy corner here and do terrible things to each other. And who doesn’t occasionally fantasize about doing just that? The antihero allows us to exercise our fantasies, in a way that most heroes, constrained by the necessity of goodness and decency (at least to some degree) do not.

Similarly, the antihero is often more emotionally interesting than the hero: while the hero needs some basic heroic strength, the antihero can be weak. He’s screwed up, hiding dark secrets, deals with conspiracies and inimical plans. He’s often in a lot of psychological pain, and there’s usually a good reason for that. He’s dark, and it’s in darkness that mysteries gather. These mysteries might be horrible, evil, world-shattering; but they are mysteries, and thus utterly captivating. This is probably part of the reason why Kylo Ren has generated approximately a billion times more interest and speculation online than Poe Dameron: we know Poe the moment we see him. His actions aren’t always the wisest, but they are motivated by clear, noble intentions, and performed in a spirit of unselfish bravery. We know already how his story is going to end: he’s either going to lead the Resistance to triumph or die heroically in the attempt. So far, so predictable.

Kylo, on the other hand, is anything but predictable. He’s got secrets; secrets that are driving the story forward, secrets we are desperate to know and understand. In contrast to Poe’s wholehearted, straightforward devotion to the Resistance and saving the galaxy, Kylo is full of self-doubt, horribly split between his own desires. He’s both terrible and pitiful; laughable, even, in his pathetic aping of Darth Vader—a childish pantomime that he renounces. He commits unspeakable crimes, like killing his own father—and then expresses true, heartfelt sympathy and understanding for Rey’s plight. He saves her life by killing his mentor, Supreme Leader Snoke—and then launches a vicious attack on the Resistance when she refuses his honest pleas to join the Dark Side. At the end of The Last Jedi, he is Rey’s mortal enemy, vowing to destroy her—and he loves her still. Kylo Ren is many things, but he is not simple, he is not easily understood, and so he is a truly fascinating character.

All true antiheroes—as opposed to plain, straight up villains—are fascinating in this way. They make us think. Like Rey, we sympathize with their pain, even as we recoil from their evil. They ask us the uncomfortable questions: what if I were in this situation? Would I do any better? Unlike Voldemort, for instance, or Emperor Palpatine, whose evil is straightforwardly simple and inhuman, it’s only too easy to imagine oneself in the antihero’s shoes. We all have darkness in us, we all have rage—and we all have a breaking point, beyond which we cannot be pushed. There is always the possibility that we are, or will be, the antihero, rather than the hero, of our own story.

The antihero also embodies the hero’s darkness: the inner evil they must renounce, but can never entirely destroy. This is probably why the antihero is so often a close relation of the hero: Killmonger is T’Challa’s cousin, Kylo Ren is romantically involved with Rey, Sebastian Morgenstern and Loki are the brothers of their respective heroes. These close relationships emphasize the antihero’s connection with the hero; and they make it impossible for the hero to dehumanize or completely hate them. This is important, for the antihero is not a demonic villain with inhuman motivations à la Supreme Leader Snoke. The antihero is who the hero could have been if circumstances had been different. It’s only too easy to imagine T’Challa becoming as embittered as Killmonger if he were abandoned as a child in a world that treated him as a second-class citizen; Clary Fray might have turned out as psychotic as Sebastian Morgenstern if she’d been the one poisoned with demon blood and raised by a zealot. No antihero can be entirely condemned, either by us or by the hero; no hero can entirely sever their connection with their dark mirror.

Ultimately, this extends to us, the viewer or the reader, as well. We all have darkness; we all have weakness. What makes a hero rather than the antihero is how one chooses to act on that inner evil. We all hope to be able to resist that evil—we would all rather be Rey than Kylo Ren, T’Challa rather than Killmonger—but there’s always the possibility that we won’t. The antihero of fantasy and science fiction acknowledges that possibility, addresses our human evil, while warning of the terrible danger of succumbing to that evil. No one can say that any of our antiheroes lead good or happy lives; and that they always fail in the end underlines the ultimate message of fantasy and science fiction: while we cannot destroy our own darkness, it is never worth it to give in.

Issue 033 Author Interview: Emily Lundgren and “The Last Shaper at the Witch City’s Waypoint”

by Anna O’Brien

We have yet another fabulous author interview up today. This time around Emily Lundgren spoke to us about her Issue 033 short story “The Last Shaper at the Witch City’s Waypoint“. Check out her story and what she has to say about it.

LSQ: Your story, in a way, is about languages and communication not only among those of the same kind, but also between those of different kinds. Can you comment on this? 

Emily: I think it’s Bahktin who theorizes something along the lines of “storytelling creates community/culture,” and I had that idea in mind when I was writing this piece. I’m a firm believer that writing, especially in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, should carry some kind of meaning—because I believe that the stories we tell ourselves, tell ourselves (actually I think, that’s a Michael Martone quote). Besides that, Kit’s only link to the others is through reading. When he meets Shar, it’s the books that bind them together. In that way, the story itself is also a relationship between the writer and the reader.

LSQ: You’ve accomplished an intricate and nicely rendered combination of a mystical and futuristic setting. Does this reflect the types of stories you like to read? What are some pieces that have greatly influenced you, either for this piece or in writing in general? 

Emily: Thank you! Yes, it definitely reflects the types of stories I love to read. Just recently, I’ve been enamored with JY Yang’s Tensorate series (from Tor), The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of War. I should also include the Binti trilogy (also from Tor) by Nnedi Okorafor. What I love about both—but especially Yang’s, is their ability to bind together tropes of fantasy and tropes of science fiction into their world building. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber was also life-changing for me in terms of the style/lyricism that I use in my writing.

LSQ: The shapes that the main character, “Kit,” shifts to are predominantly canine. Was there any particular reason for this? 

Emily: It just so happens that I’m currently in my last year, last semester at the Northeast Ohio MFA program, so the thesis I’m working on is a collection of short stories. Each story is meant to stand alone with its own cast of characters, but they do have overarching themes or motifs that are reoccurring. Actually, I have one other short story called “Trees Struck by Lightning” from last year in Shimmer, and it has reverse werewolves. It just so happens both of my “shaper” stories from my collection found wonderful homes!

LSQ: How was it to write this from the perspective of “Kit?” Was it challenging in any way to get into his character and see things through these naive eyes with his own language and own world? 

Emily: Funnily enough, I borrowed Kit from a novel project from very, very long ago that I’ve never been able to finish. I got frustrated that I had him floating around and never got to “use” him, so I picked him up again as a narrator for this story, just to relive the glory days. I was surprised though, with how easy it was slipping back into his narration. Coming up with ways to describe things (especially technology) from narrators who don’t recognize it is always difficult, though! I think you have to strike a balance between authenticity to your character, and not boring the reader with dramatic irony (they’ve figured it out, but the narrator hasn’t).

LSQ: What was the most difficult aspect of this story to write and why?

Emily: Out of my entire thesis collection, this is the weirdest, most “experimental” story in the bunch because it doesn’t follow a traditional story structure. I deliberately began writing to showcase language/style first. Normally, character comes first for me, then world, then plot. So I think the scariest part was mixing up that order—letting my sentences do the work first—then world, then character (last). I’m so glad to see it find such a perfect home at Luna Station. [editor’s note: aw, shucks]

LSQ: Are you working on any other projects currently? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?

Emily: Just the thesis, though my thesis ends with a weird west novella that is a prequel to a novel project I’ve been working on since 2011 (not the one with Kit, though). Finishing that novel is priority #1 after I graduate this spring. Looking forward to getting back to it—and getting it finished up!

My Two Cents on Heroes, or: Bite Me, James Cameron

by Beth McCabe

DC Comics

Long before Hollywood started letting Charlize Theron, Zoe Saldana, Emily Blunt, Gal Gadot et. al. play kick-ass roles, little girls dreamed of power. 

When I was growing up, comic book heroes were male. Heck, everyone of consequence in our world was male. Publishers tried to get us to buy Supergirl and Batgirl, but we weren’t stupid. We knew they were just bratty kid sisters.

We shrugged, accepted our sorry lot in life, and bought a Superman. Or an Archie. But those of us lucky enough to get our sticky little hands on Diana Prince and the Amazons found a hero of our own with awesome power, strength, and heart.

(Note for purists: although the original WW was introduced almost two decades before BG and SG, my introduction to her was the WW reboot around the same time the latter two appeared.)

Lynda Carter’s TV series portrayal doesn’t get enough credit. It was cool. But it took a really long time, and a director of the female persuasion, Patty Jenkins, for our hero to make it to the big screen.

So I got seriously pissed when Director James Cameron (Avatar, Terminator) disrespected the movie. This was personal.

If you missed this mini-tempest . . .

Last summer the Guardian interviewed Cameron (who was, by the way, promoting a re-release in his Terminator franchise). He said of the movie and Gal Gadot’s portrayal: “All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over ‘Wonder Woman’ has been so misguided . . . she’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing . . . I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards.”

He went on to hold up his creature, Sarah Connor of Terminator, as a more suitable role model for us girls because she was not “objectified”. And also, somehow, because she was “troubled”. Gee, thanks.

Many women responded with variations of essentially the same message: who the ____are you to tell us which characters we should love, admire, and emulate?

Jenkins said: “James Cameron’s inability to understand what Wonder Woman is, or stands for, to women all over the world is unsurprising as, though he is a great film-maker, he is not a woman . . . There is no right or wrong kind of powerful woman . . . and the female audience . . . can surely choose and judge their own icons of progress.”

WW Director Patty Jenkins (credit Steve Granitz/WireImage)

After the backlash, Cameron doubled down, seemingly obsessed (surprise) with Gadot’s “kind of bustier costume that was very form-fitting”: “She’s absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. To me, that’s not breaking ground. They had Raquel Welch doing stuff like that in the 60s.”

That’s what Wonder Woman looks like.

Dude, would you prefer her in a burka? Sweat pants? A bowling shirt? And how do you feel about Aquaman’s sexy tats? Oh. His appearance doesn’t matter.

I loved Sarah Connor. Who could forget the scene where she does chin-ups on her metal bed? But Connor was damaged, ultimately sexless, and sad. And she became strong for the one reason women have historically been allowed: to protect her offspring.

She was a great ass-kicker in a time when very few movies let women kick ass, so credit to Cameron where it’s due. But conceptually she wasn’t so different from a Victorian woman allowed to flaunt convention by pushing a horse cart off her child. Sarah derives her power and her motivation from the males, human and otherwise, in her life.

Wonder Woman wants to save the world.

I get that the WW movie isn’t perfect.

Cameron isn’t the only non-fan, of course, and not all the nay-sayers are men. That’s a good thing. I hate it when we all think alike. And the critics have their points. For example, how did a young Amazon whose only experience of romantic love was woman-to-woman fall so quickly for Hot Male Prom Date (and erstwhile mission commander) Steve Trevor?

And – yes, I’m talking to you purists again – other critics note that the film moves Diana’s origin story farther away from the purity of the Amazons and closer to Zeus’ creepy intervention.

But I viewed my personal choice as follows: bitter satisfaction that the movie is not a perfect feminist manifesto. Or a global fantasy about weaponizing truth and beauty in the fight against evil. Hmmm. Tough one.

“There is another.”

In 1977 we watched Carrie Fisher blast away phalanxes of Storm Troopers in Star Wars: A New Hope. And I had my second hero. I drove away from the theater so pumped that I was convinced my little red VW was a Jedi Starfighter and the Resistance was depending on me.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

I’m sad that Fisher is gone, and angry that she was body- and age-shamed after the 2015 release of The Force Awakens. That was just another side of the same ugly judgemental coin: Wonder Woman is too sexy, grown-up Leia not sexy enough.

But Fisher’s legacy lives on, and will — as long as little girls dream of power.

Note: I’m happy just to have a lot of women busting heads in movies. For a more nuanced argument, check out Christina “DZA” Marie’s LSQ post We Need to Destroy the “Strong Female Character”


Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of April 9, 2018

by Anna O’Brien

Starting to smell like spring around here. Why don’t you take a break from catching faeries and check out all the interesting things that our bloggers have been writing about this week?

  • On Monday, we started the week with an interview with Kat Weaver, an Issue 033 author, discussing her short story “On Your Honor“;
  • On Tuesday, Wendy Van Camp gave us a book review on The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan;
  • On Wednesday, our very own editor-in-chief Jennifer Lyn Parsons reminisced about some childhood books and their impact on her writing as an adult;
  • On Thursday, Jacqui Lipton discussed something very important to the writing industry: contracts, in her monthly blog “On the Books”;
  • On Friday, yes Friday, blogger Imelda Corazon came to talk more about the heroic journey, this month diving into the underworld in her column “Musings on Heroism.”

Rebirth and Renewal: The Underworld Journey as a Heroic Beginning

by Imelda Wistey

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Carl G. Jung


In the archetypal hero’s journey, the katabasis, or journey to the underworld, is an iconic component for the hero’s process of transformation. The underworld, of course, can be an actual underworld, or it can be interpreted as a state of darkness for the individual. Many mythological tales from around the world speak of the underworld journey not only as a realm of the dead but also as an environment of knowledge and discovery. In this post, I will talk about how the underworld journey is a process for rebirth and renewal to usher in new beginnings.



The concept that the hero has to undergo trials to attain a semblance of enlightenment goes hand in hand with the underworld journey. Joseph Campbell mentions in the monomyth that this underworld journey is the “crossing the threshold” into the “belly of the whale.” However, I also like to think of the katabasis as more of a state of unknown that heroes must venture into in order to experience the symbolic death and rebirth into required knowledge and understanding before setting off to complete the rest of their tasks. It’s only after encountering this dark unknown that a transformation and rebirth of the hero can happen.

The unknown reflects the underworld journey inward into the place of one’s own fears and shadows, haunting even the most optimistic adventurer. These shadows reflect the mythical aspect of the human condition: the repressed, often frightening elements of the psyche. The shadows, according to C.G. Jung, also symbolize “natural attempts to reconcile and reunite opposites within the psyche,” and naturally “heal the split” within one’s soul.[1] In many stories, the underworld may be a cave, a forest, or even an otherworld. But these are just placeholders for the actual delving into the shadowy realms of our souls. These places are symbols for the powerful transition that happens that is not exactly of our world. It is a world that mainly exists for pivotal self-reflection. Metaphorically, by being in the dark alone, it’s impossible not to face yourself. This is why, symbolically, the underworld journey is so important to the heroic transformation[2]. The hardest thing for people to do is to actually look at themselves, to really look and peer into the depths of their souls. People will avoid facing themselves because it is painful. It’s easier to ignore or dull the pain with outside distractions. In the underworld lies truths that cannot be hidden because within the dark, everything can come to light. This is where the underworld journey can take flight. Being courageous to look at the darkness within allows for a conscious transformation to take hold, a death of the shadow and rebirth into a new way of living.


Returning to Self

Because there are countless heroic experiences that happen in stories and in our lives, the transformation part of the heroic journey is a cyclical process. There are so many unknowns in this world that the only “known” thing is returning to self. Each transformation is another layer peeled, bringing you closer to your magical, authentic self. Yes, you are magical! Own it!  Little victories happen often if you let yourself take the time to acknowledge them. Unfortunately, for many of us, we don’t like to celebrate the little successes because we know there is still more to be done, more mountains to climb, rivers to cross, and monsters to defeat. But it’s important to take a moment after the underworld journey to admire yourself and accept that you are an amazing individual, even with those dark moments. If we don’t realize that we are constantly transforming, traveling into our own underworld journeys and coming out reinvigorated and wiser, then we don’t give ourselves the credit for striving and thriving in a world that can sometimes be unforgiving.


A New Beginning

You’re never the same person that you were yesterday. This change allows you to venture deeper into your being and grant you time to reconnect with your authentic self. This is a time of reprieve, a time after being submerged completely in the River Styx (not dipped by the heel, because, well…you know…) to unify your sense of self once more. The process of beginning again, albeit countless times, is a catharsis, a cleansing to start again on the next task and the next trial with full speed ahead. Each plunge into the dark abyss of facing yourself and all your fears will only lead you closer to recognizing the profound strength that already exists within the entirety of your being.


So much to muse about with the transformations of underworld journeys! Let me know your thoughts! Tweet me @imelda_corazon using the hashtag #heromusings and I’d be more than happy to continue this discussion further.



[1] Carl G. Jung (1964) 90. Jung is great in understanding the psychological importance of myth and mythmaking.

[2] (Spoiler!) In Black Panther, both T’Challa and Erik “Killmonger” take a shamanic “journey” by dying into the otherworld / ancestral plane to see their ancestors and are then “reborn” back into this world with greater understanding. In doing this, they also face themselves and recognize truths that only this underworld “journeying” could reveal to them.


Contracts with Agents and Publishers

by Jacqui Lipton

One question that’s come up a lot lately for me involves writers not being sure if they have a contract in place with an agent or publisher, particularly where the contract is not in writing.

Starting (*ahem*) with my usual disclaimer as always: Nothing written here is intended as formal legal advice and folks who need help with particular issues should consult an agent or attorney.

So on to contract basics …

The legal definition of a contract, at least under American law, is basically an agreement between two or more people where each provides “consideration” to the other. Consideration here doesn’t mean being nice to each other, although that’s always a plus in a business relationship. Consideration means that each person does something for the benefit of the other: for example, I’ll pay my agent a commission if she sells my book to a publisher. We both get something out of the arrangement. That something doesn’t have to be money, but in publishing, it usually is because we’re all about selling those books and stories!

Most of the publishing contracts we enter into as authors don’t have to be in writing to be valid and enforceable. American law does require certain contracts to be in writing, but typically contracts for things like licensing copyrights to publishers are not required to be written or signed to be valid.

However, it’s a good idea to have all your contracts in writing simply so everyone understands what the contract terms are, and so there are no ambiguities: for example, which rights are you licensing to a publisher (print, ebook, audiobook, foreign rights etc)? For how long? What happens if you want your rights back or if the publisher fails to publish the book or stops publishing the book after a period of time?

Most publishers will give you a written contract that you or your agent will negotiate with them for exactly these reasons.

However, contracts with agents are often more fluid. Some agents will offer you a contract for one project and then keep working with you after that without putting a new written contract in place. Some agents offer “handshake” arrangements in the first place and never put your agreement with them in writing. Legally, this is just fine although, again, you may prefer to have something in writing so you all know what the terms are. Then again, the terms of agent contracts, particularly with established agents, are all pretty standard and well understood and a handshake is usually fine.

If you started with a contract in place with your agent for one project, and then kept working with her subsequently without updating the contract, as a general rule of thumb, whatever terms you agreed to (in terms of her commission etc.) will likely remain in place unless you agree to change them. Typically, agent contracts can be ended with notice by either party to the other, although some agency contracts have fixed terms. If your agent sells one of your projects, and then you stop working with that agent, that agent will likely still get royalties from the project (s)he sold, but you will be free to work with a new agent on new projects.

Because you don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, it’s a good idea to get a few key points in writing upfront (even if it’s only via email) as that will give a good indication of what you believed the agreement to be. But the key point is that contracts don’t have to be in writing, and they don’t have to be in formal written documents signed by both parties, to be valid. So it’s important to know what you’re agreeing to and whether discussions and emails with your agent or publisher are intended to be part of your contract terms or not.

Daring Wisdom

by Jennifer Lyn Parsons

I have an affinity for what I like to call “Wisdom books.” These are not the volumes that show up when you search for such a thing. Google that term and you’ll run into Siddhartha and sections of the Christian bible. No, I’m talking about the books that were put together to teach young people interesting skills and about various “amusements” they could engage in to pass the time.

One of the most popular was the American Girls’ Handy Book (and the companion for Boys of course). My mother gave me this as we were armchair history buffs and, steeped in The Little House books as I was, wanted further explorations of a similar time period. Lots of information on decoration making and party planning, but charmingly arranged seasonally.

These books are still in print, but they’ve been joined by a few others you probably have seen at the local bookstore. The Daring Book for Girls (and The Dangerous Book for Boys) follow in those same footsteps; full of activities and interesting things to learn and try for young folk, or those of us just interested in this kind of thing. They make great fodder for world building and story ideas, too.

I can say with confidence and pride that my first “wisdom book” like this was my Girl Scout handbook. Full of interesting information on the people, the future, arts and crafts, and yes, camping. Along with the badge book, it was a wealth of information and perspectives beyond my suburban neighborhood. I also got a lot out of my brother’s Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbooks. The information was similar, though not quite as empowering as my Girl Scout stuff, if I’m honest.

Nowadays I read wisdom books for pleasure, enjoying the peek into how kids a century ago had fun. A lot of it is surprisingly still relevant and useful (a square knot is always useful). Along with their modern Daring counterparts, they are a great collection of things to do when you put your phone down.

It wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say that all the details in these books influenced me greatly when I started writing fiction. Little things crop up in my stories in ways that I don’t think they would have if I hadn’t been exposed to this kind of book growing up. It’s all been marinating there for years and all that absorbed knowledge comes bubbling up when I least expect it, enriching my writing in some lovely, subtle ways that make me smile, regardless if anyone else picks up on it.

Now that I am grown up (and have been for a while now–lol) I still find myself looking for that wisdom book energy elsewhere. I’ve got “You Can Do It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown Up Girls” on my shelf for good reason. While I was writing this essay, I went digging and found the “Show Me How” series, Erin Bried’s series inspired by the wisdom of things our grandparents knew how to do, and a plethora of similar books.

I was lucky. I never really felt hemmed in by the gendered nature of these books, reading both sides happily and trying out the various activities inside. Maybe having a younger brother gave me better access to this kind of thing. But then, my parents bought me a Tonka truck when I was little, before my brother was born, so maybe they just knew me really well from the start.