Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.
Now in our 9th year!

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of March 5, 2018

by Anna O’Brien

Happy Women’s History Month, dear readers! Here at LSQ we love to celebrate women, both historical and well, living :) Here’s a run-down of the fantastic posts we featured on the LSQ blog this week, all written by fabulous female authors.

  • Bright and early Monday morning, the LSQ blog started something new: a monthly news flash. On the first Monday of every month, the blog team will bring you some important dates and reminders from the LSQ family and some others odds-n-ends from the speculative fiction world;
  • Monday afternoon, blog editor Jen Gheller recommended three YA books featuring a diversity of characters rarely seen in fantasy novels in her column “YA Girl“;
  • On Tuesday, we had our first interview with an Issue 033 author — this week we talked to Holly Schofield about her featured story, “Heart Proof”;
  • On Wednesday, Beth McCabe put together an extra-special multi-generational post about Dungeons and Dragons and daughters in her column “Breakfast Anytime“;
  • On Thursday, Calee Jordan explained her opinion on vampires in her column “The Heart of the Genres“;
  • Then finally — Friday! Tracy Townsend, in her column “A Place Where it Rains,” examined Black Panther‘s Wakanda and how it doesn’t fit the stereotypical sci-fi setting. And that’s a good thing.

Wakanda Is Not Your Genius Bar

by Tracy Townsend

When LSQ offered me a seat at their blog’s table and let me choose any theme for my recurring column, “A Place Where It Rains” came to mind immediately. It’s a reference to Italo Calvino and his assertion that “Fantasy is a place where it rains,” a gloriously simple way of saying speculative worlds must have the small details drawn in that make them real and lived-in.

I’ve always loved world-building. It’s one of my favorite things about storytelling, both from a writer’s and reader’s perspective. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is exactly the kind of film this column was intended to talk about. As much as I delighted in the writing, the acting, the drama, and the depth of its conflict, one of Black Panther’s most stunning achievements is its elegant refutation of blandly homogeneous “futuristic” environments. Simply put: for all its technological marvels, Wakanda is not your Genius Bar.

Image copywrite Marvel Entertainment

Sci-fi world-building often relies on visual shorthand, especially in film. If a creator wishes to reinforce the presence of advanced technology and scientific research, they reach for a familiar array of stock images. Glowing arrays of buttons; stainless steel surfaces; tight jumpsuits; HUD displays; sterile, seamless environments defined by their surgically precise commitment to sleek modernism. These sci-fi backdrops are the sparse, clean spaces of an IKEA showroom passed through the Apple corporation’s marketing department. In the Marvel cinematic universe, the only discernible differences between one of Tony Stark’s private labs and a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility is the conveniently placed wet bar in the former and the overt militaristic touches in the latter.

With rare exceptions, this sci-fi shorthand has taught viewers to see natural spaces, organic lines, and bursts of physical color as primitive. Indeed, “tech-washing” is as real as whitewashing in sci-fi storytelling. When deployed within narratives meant to represent a minority perspective and experience, it can be similarly damaging.

And Black Panther is having none of it.

Let’s start with Wakanda itself. Nestled between mountains and astride a fertile valley, its tallest buildings sport rounded walls, rows of windows, and verandas facing a river whose banks are still green. The spaces between its busy urban blocks sport climbing greenery and clusters of sturdy stone buildings and bustling open-air marketplaces.

Image copyright Marvel Entertainment

There is no rush to prove Wakanda’s wealth or technological prowess through a canvassing shot displaying neon signs and skyscrapers from a tidied-up version of Blade Runner, or a sense-of-wonder Tomorrowland. Wakanda is urban, but only in part, and even that part has not rejected its surrounding space. It has grass. Dirt. Color on the walls of its buildings and in the weave of its people’s clothing (no featureless, sleek jumpsuits here — even T’Challa’s Black Panther armor, which bears the marks of its cultural origins, patterns of weaving and raised seams evocative of African artists’ traditional use of the sacred triangle).

Princess Shuri’s lab, poised at the mouth of the vibranium mines, would be the obvious place for Coogler and his design crew to have given in to the shorthand of the sci-fi Genius Bar. It has its share of sleek, silvered metal surfaces and glowing heads-up displays. Far more importantly, it has its own nuance, grounded in the literal geology of Wakana itself. Meters of raw stone frame many shots, sharing the backdrop with the familiar steel walls. As the camera pans, we see the stringers of staircases glossed with colorful tribal art, high-concept cultural graffiti claiming the space as decidedly Wakandan.

Image copywrite Marvel Entertainment

Even the sci-fi throwaway of the hologram display is re-imagined into a physical form: Shuri’s “sand table,” which models three dimensional objects of all sizes and descriptions, and which interacts with the Kimoyo beads used to communicate with others, provide medical aid, and interface with other technology. The physicality of the sand table — sleekly effective and entirely natural — is a reminder of how much Wakanda is a nation in touch with its dirt.

Sci-fi’s standard “futurism shorthand,” the Genius Bar homogenization we’re so (over-)used to seeing, is allergic to dirt. It is polished to a mirror sheen, a palace to practice or live in science while at the same time being divided from the natural world science shapes. But Wakanda doesn’t need polished steel to prove itself. It does not exist to confirm our shallow cliches. Instead, it exists for itself and its people (something the characters are made to grapple with, too, by virtue of thoughtful screenwriting). Dirt is not a marker of shame, of “less-than” status, any more than the sheep pastures dotting the city’s margins are regarded as an eyesore. The King of Wakanda spends time in the fields leaning against a split-rail pen as surely as he spends time in his throne room. Both spaces belong to his people. Both spaces are home.

Image copyright Marvel Entertainment

Dirt is beauty. Dirt is life. The Wakandans who thrive on technology modeled through the sand table and powered by vibranium are painted, pierced, and plated, physically and visually connected to their home’s literal land and its fusion of multiple tribal cultures. The Necropolis cavern where the newly-crowned king makes his meeting with his ancestors is a place of rough stone, uneven cobbles, slabs grown soft with moss, and a pit of rich, red earth meant to bury the king and welcome him back to the world reborn. M’Baku’s throne room, all polished glass and beveled slate, is framed in wire-hung birch rods, half a brutal club armory, half an art installation.

Image copyright Marvel Entertainment

Technology exalts culture in Black Panther, and vice-versa. It’s that balance which asserts the film’s place not only in the MCU, but in Afrofuturism itself. Sci-fi visuals that marry cultural identity with technical fabulata make Black Panther a compositional feast. It is a film made by storytellers who clearly know that any sci-fi world which confuses sterility for “the future” — any world that puts a stainless steel shelter up against the rain — has missed the point of building a world meant for people to live in.

Vampires Ruin Everything, even Helen Harper’s Strong Women

by Calee Jordan

Confession: I am a vampirist. Is there a word for vampire discrimination? A hater of vampires? Well, maybe not hate; I don’t hate vampires, but I’m biased against them.

Vampires are violent drug addicts craving blood and suffering personality shifts when deprived of their blood.  So characters be wary when a hungry vampires lash out because they are dangerous as well as arrogant.  Vampires make characters (yeah, and me) feel inadequate. In their arrogance, vampires think they are better than everyone else because they’re stronger, faster, older, and richer. When they turn, they somehow become hotter, taller, and sexier than everyone else. And when they’re around, people experience bloody deaths, destruction, and darkness.

Whenever a vampire appears within a book, I expect nothing but blood and darkness.

So, vampire discrimination–I have that, and my bias against vampires is strong.

My vampire disdain may be part of my disliking the Bo Blackman series by Helen Harper. Harper writes fantasy/sci-fi about paranormal creatures in England and Scotland.

I happened upon Harper’s Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series on Hoopla. Witch Ivy Wilde, Lazy Girl’s main character, immediately hooked me. She was funny, smart, talented and underestimated; yet the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment expelled her for cheating and assault. Ivy was awesome. So I binged two more of Harper’s paranormal series—Highland Magic series and the aforementioned Bo Blackman series.

In Highland Magic’s Integrity Adair, runaway Sidhe-turned-thief, appealed to me. Like Ivy Wilde, Integrity Adair had everything that a reformed romance reader would love. Both women were smart, opinionated, and active—despite Ivy Wilde’s desire to slump on the couch and let someone else do the work. Even better, Helen Harper’s women avoid all the strong heroine clichés:

  • Neither woman is cowed or saved by a strong man. Sometimes, the women save the day, but other days, someone else has a better plan, so collaboration is needed.
  • Their successes and failures are due to their intelligence as much as their luck and smarter villains. Just as in real life.
  • When they make mistakes, they avoid the blame game that some heroines display. Instead, each woman owns up to her flaws—usually internally, but eventually externally.
  • They are multifaceted and have lives and interests beyond the story line. They balance the problem at hand with other issues. Again, like real life.
  • Plus, they don’t wander around in the stock wardrobe of t-shirt, leather pants (or jeans), and ass kicking boots. Nope, they wear whatever is available and appropriate for the moment, so they avoid the stereotypical girl power persona.
  • And man, are they funny. I laughed uproariously and highlighted several one liners from both women as both women adeptly defuse situations and convey personality within a humorous sentence or two.

Still Harper’s strong women aren’t perfect Mary Janes. Integrity likes to torture her friends and enemies with horrible jokes and puns, and Ivy often reverts to her laziness and slob-like behavior when frustrated.

And they all suffer infernal lip biting. Why? <shaking frustrated fists to the ceiling>. When nervous, thinking, planning, attracted, whatever—they bite their lower lip. Must they? Chew a nail, suck the lower lip, tap a finger, pick at something, and save the lip biting for the bedroom.

And yes, they suffer that internal romantic monologue—“He’s so hot.”  “Does he like me?”  “Why can’t I resist him?” etc.

Save me from stereotypical girly indecisiveness and sexual attraction especially when everything else isn’t stereotypical. 

Okay, I’m off point.

Lastly, I read the Bo Blackman series.

Bo Blackman is a novice detective turned vampire, entangled in a demon murder investigation that incriminates her. As she evades the police and investigates the murder, London’s five vampire familes become involved, and the bad situation becomes bloody (as I predicted). Meanwhile, the series’ hot, powerful vampire and independent woman struggle through an unresolved “when will they” romance (My Shocking Transition to Fantasy and Sci-Fi) {kind of a spoiler} as the vampire families implode.

Harper’s strong women are great, but despite my previous love and binge of Harper’s works, Bo Blackman was harder for me to enjoy. I couldn’t like this story, and I want to point to my vampire disdain. However, I’m not a blind discriminator. My dislike is much deeper than that.

In fact, I should like Bo. She has several excellent heroine qualities—intelligence, independence, luck, action, etc.—that I appreciate. She commands respect from humans, witches, demons, and vampires alike. With each book, she becomes stronger and more capable.

However, Bo falls into the strong woman stereotypes:

  • As she becomes stronger, she becomes less feminine and less collaborative. Being alone and working independently is acceptable, but Bo constantly pushes her relationships and emotions aside to accomplish her tasks. In several situations where she needs it, Bo pushes away reasonable help, particularly male help. She acts like a petulant teen rebelling against strong males in her life rather than a rational person weighing her needs and wants.
  • She becomes more violent as her humor withers, resolving many of her issues through violence rather than communication or planning.
  • She dresses like a slob; since she is strong and action oriented, she limits herself to ass-kicking boots, a leather jacket, and comfortable clothes. Unlike other Harper women, she lacks fashion diversity as her character becomes more predictable.

And the vampires may be to blame for these flaws (yep, my vampire rant had purpose) since they are stereotypical vampire traits:

  • Male and female vampires alike often appear unemotional or disinterested. As they become stronger, they respond less emotionally.
  • They revert to violent rather than emotional reactions to situations.
  • Other than the sardonic quip, vampires rarely show emotion.
  • Vampires establish a uniform style; admittedly, their fashion is often elitist, but these creatures become mired in their styles and rarely deviate from them.

So vampires aren’t good strong heroines. They strip away feminine characteristics until distinctions between male and female faint.

Vampires ruin good plots.

A Woman’s Roll

by Beth McCabe

Illustration: Angelica Alzona,

My daughter Mikah has Dungeons and Dragons in her DNA.

On Valentine’s Day, 1980, an elf named Terra Coriander met a cleric called Hwong (“high in wisdom, low in intelligence”). A few years later their corporeal bodies, aka my husband Kevin and I, spawned our very own future Dungeon Master.

Mikah shared some thoughts about the joys and challenges of world creation.

Beth: What happens in a typical face-to-face D&D session?

Mikah: A group (usually about four or five people) sits around a table with a set of dice and character sheets detailing their characters’ professions, abilities, and possessions. The Dungeon Master describes where they are and what’s happening, and the players ask questions about what they see and what they can do. It’s interactive storytelling crossed with a board game where you and your fellows work together to defeat monsters (and hopefully stay alive).

Beth: How did you get interested in D&D?

Mikah: When I was 15 I began playing with my homeschooler group. I couldn’t even imagine being the Dungeon Master back then! I must have played in five or six games before I even thought about attempting to figure out what was going on behind the DM screen (which is just a piece of cardboard that screens off the DM’s dice rolls and notes). Our DM Andrew, with his mysterious instructions and confidence in knowing everything that was going on in our fictional world, seemed like a literal wizard.

Beth: What does it take to build a world? What kind of background do you have that helped?

Mikah: Running a game takes work, but building the world itself is actually the easy part. Most DMs end up becoming DMs due to having a whole world in their head already. Years of reading fantasy and sci-fi novels are an absolute must. Story-rich video games are also huge influences, especially with Dungeons and Dragons-rules-based games such as Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, favorites of mine.

Weapons of Legacy, The Neverwinter Vault

Beth: How do you prep for a session?

Mikah: I sketch in the parts of the world where I predict the players are going. This includes quests, NPCs (Non-Player Characters) likely to be present, nearby shops (players always want to be able to load up on supplies), monsters in the area, and ways to advance the “plot” of the game.

Beth: What makes a D&D session cook?

Mikah: The end of a pitched battle is always an exciting time. Also solving a big question, such as What does this key go to? or, Why did the prince go missing? Battles seem exciting, but they’re likely to drag a session down, since they involve long stretches of players waiting their turns. The bigger a choice I can give the players, the better the game, since the characters can all interact and argue about what to do next. And stuff. Chests full of interesting treasure are the best possible lure I can put in a room.

Beth: Tell us more about NPCs (Non-Player Characters).

Mikah: The more interesting I can make the NPCs, the more fun people have engaging with them. A randomly generated shopkeeper will just slow things down, whereas a manic troll shopkeeper spouting anarchist propaganda might end up with the group inviting him along on their quest!

Beth: Woman DMs are pretty rare. Have you connected with others? Do you think being a woman helps and/or hinders being a DM?

Mikah: I have interacted with a few through Google+, which became a huge tabletop tool for running games in Google Hangouts. But very few, and I’ve only met one in real life. Being a woman is a hindrance, partly because there are so few of us playing. If you go into a game store that hosts tabletop role playing games, you’ll rarely see a single woman. Every woman I’ve played with has some cringe-worthy tale of a game where she was singled out or generally had her character humiliated for no reason. It’s hard to stick with playing after an experience like that, much less run a game of your own.

Beth: It sounds like we need more women in role play to get a critical mass of support. What is your advice for women who’d like to try playing?

Mikah: It’s all about finding the right group. It’s a very word-of-mouth, invite-only pastime, but once you start talking to people about it, someone is likely to know of a game or two going on, or at least network you towards a guy who knows a guy. I mentioned that some game stores host games, although I also noted that can be a discouraging place for a woman to start. If you get so frustrated you just want to start a group of your own? Welcome to the other reason most people become DMs! I recommend my friend Chris Kutalik’s blog on his game Hill Cantons, and the links under “Fellow Travelers” from similar world-builder blogs, for advice and inspiration. Otherwise, it’s a matter of getting the manual, learning the rules, and believing that you can actually do this.


Issue 033 Author Interview: Holly Schofield and “Heart Proof”

by Anna O’Brien

With the recent release of Issue 033 comes interviews of the nine authors found within its pages (or pixels, depending on your media of choice). We start with author Holly Schofield and “Heart Proof” which is this issue’s featured story. Here’s a tip on how to best enjoy these interviews: it’s a two-part process like this: a) go read “Heart Proof” and b) now read what Holly has to say about it.
LSQ: The concept of sacrificing a culture’s greatest treasures instead of memorializing them, say, in a museum is key in your story but is presented as a benefit to society. What made you think of these actions in this way? Does this speak to today’s culture whereby via technology, almost everything seems to be kept nowadays?
Holly: My hope is that the reader will finish the story and contemplate our rampant consumerism, our chase of the “new and improved”, and our rapidly-growing  disinterest in antiques. And that they will think about those things in conjunction with concepts of planned obsolescence, respect for handcrafted products, and “bespoke” items (which, I predict, will be an increasingly growing trend due to the advent of 3D printers). The concept of “detachment” from material goods that appears in Buddhism philosophy and other belief systems is also intertwined in the story.
LSQ: The concept of religious doctrine shaping a culture is ever present in your story. Was this modeled on any particular real-life examples?
Holly: The transference of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next is a complex issue that no culture has yet perfected. I find it fascinating to think how much information is now stored in the cloud and how much could be lost due to the decline of printed books. I wanted to explore a method of knowledge transfer that was counter-intuitive and see how it played out.
I think that organized religion–or, rather, overly-strict doctrines and overly-rigid interpretations of well-intentioned philosophies–has caused huge difficulties in our maturation as a species. I’m sure that every reader can think of several global and local examples.
LSQ: Can you speak to the title of this piece?
Holly: I do like using puns in titles and hiding them in stories. Since this story has a more serious tone than some of my pieces, I restrained myself and simply let the wordplay between the heatproof nature of her invention contrast with the emotional resistance in her heart.
LSQ: Forging iron, the volcanic landscape for the sacrifices, Kamik’s fireproof box — can you comment on the theme of fire in this piece?
Holly: I wanted to portray a female craftsperson rebelling against a destructive imaginary religion. Her occupation and the setting (which is based on the drive-through volcano on St. Lucia combined with various Canadian hotsprings) served both those needs.
LSQ: What was most challenging about writing this piece?
Holly: The combination of how female roles are cast in society, old age grinding a person down “like spices in a pestle”, and the death from cancer meant it intersected in my personal life in several dimensions.
LSQ: Was there anything in particular that inspired this piece or drove it forward in your mind?
Holly: My starting point was a female blacksmith in a culture where that was unremarkable. Then I simply listened to what Kamik was telling me. I hope you enjoying reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

To Wakanda and Beyond

by Jen Gheller

When you think about fantasy worlds, what comes to mind? For me, it’s Narnia, Middle Earth, the wizarding world, and Alagaësia. These worlds are abundant with dragons, elves, orcs, and talking animals, but they lack a major feature: people of color. Maybe some of them have a few token non-white characters, but it’s hard to believe that in an entire world full of fantastical creatures, only a handful of characters of color exist or are important enough to play a role in the story. Even books with more contemporary settings, such as the Harry Potter books, have this flaw. Fortunately, this is starting to change. Marvel’s Black Panther recently debuted, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year. Its setting, the fictional African country of Wakanda, is one of the most stunning places my imagination has ever been. Wakanda is what Africa might have been had it not been colonized, and it proves that Africa and African-inspired settings can be just as rich, if not more so, than, say, an enchanted castle in Scotland or a world that lays behind a wardrobe. I would love to see more places like Wakanda in the world of spec fic, and I’ve already found a few.

First, we have Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch and Akata Warrior. These books take place in Nigeria and follow Sunny Nwazue, an albino Nigerian-American, as she discovers and hones her latent magical abilities as a Leopard Person. Within the broader Nigerian setting, Sunny and her friends also spend time in Leopard Knocks, a secret magical town where one can buy insanely hot pepper soup, books about juju, and visit the four-story hut that is the Obi Library. Even the magic, or juju, the characters wield is rooted in African spiritualism. More advanced Leopard People are able to call up spirits called masquerades, who are just as likely to kill you as to help you. One major antagonist in both books is Ekwensu, a masquerade of chaos who emerges from a giant termite hill. What’s scarier than a giant, evil spirit who could literally crush you like a bug?

The Killing Moon, by N.K Jemisin, takes place in an Egyptian-inspired city-state called Gujaareh. It’s sort of a loose reimagining of Egypt, though Gujaareh is truly a world of its own. In Gujaareh are Gatherers who perform a dream-based magic to carry out the will of their goddess. Conflict arrives with a character from Kisua, a neighboring city-state with a differing belief system.

The last book I want to highlight is an alternate history. Everfair, by Nisi Shawl, offers a steampunk Congo Free State facing Belgium’s colonization. A safe haven called Everfair is created from land bought from King Leopold by the Fabian Society and African-American missionaries. What’s incredible about Everfair is the broad range of characters it contains. There are native Congolese, African-Americans, Europeans, East Asians; there are characters of differing faiths, abilities, sexual orientations, and economic standings. I’ve rarely read a fantasy novel with so many different kinds of people populating its pages.

These three books are just a few examples of fantasy that don’t adhere to the usual homogeneous structure. As much as I love Harry Potter, it’s painful to admit that there are maybe four characters I can name off the top of my head that aren’t white. The success of Black Panther shows we don’t need to model our fantasy worlds based on feudal Europe where people of color don’t exist.

LSQ News Flash! March 2018

by Anna O’Brien

Dear readers! Because we have amazing things going on here at LSQ, we need to let you know. So, forget CNN or whatever your media outlet of choice might be, because LSQ has you covered. At least for speculative fiction stuff. Feel free to check the weather elsewhere because all you’ll get here is reports of dragons. The first Monday of every month will be our blog’s news flash.

For the month of March, here’s what you need to know:

  1. ANNOUNCEMENT! LSQ is looking for a volunteer assistant editor! Details and application can be found here.
  2. Issue 033 came out March 1 and is available online and in print. It contains nine original speculative fiction stories by female authors and will blow your socks off.
  3. Submissions are currently closed but will open back up on March 15. Check here for details.
  4. Author birthdays to celebrate this month: March 20 Lois Lowry; March 27 Patricia Wrede; March 29 Elizabeth Hand and Mary Gentle. Cakes and streamers are recommended.
  5. Washington DC’s comic con Awesome Con is March 30 – April 1.
  6. A Wrinkle in Time hits the theaters on March 9!


Weekly Wrap-Up: Week of Feb. 26, 2018

by Anna O’Brien

We made it! It’s the weekend! Once again, we’re bringing you the past week’s posts all in one convenient package.

  • On Monday, Elora Powell had some thoughts on who the bad guys really are, in dystopian fiction and, well, the seemingly current dystopia in her post “Who Are the Bad Guys?“;
  • On Tuesday, Christina “DZA” Marie explained the myriad issues with whitewashing and how it differs from race-bending in her latest column on “The Bitch Shelf“;
  • On Wednesday, LSQ‘s editor-in-chief Jennifer Lyn Parsons examined three coming-of-age comics in her column “The Well-Tempered Pull List“;
  • Thursday was a BIG DAY over at LSQ because it was the release of Issue 033!!! Our blog featured an interview with the cover artist, Kirbi Fagan, to celebrate;
  • And Friday, Cathrin Hagey, did a double-take discussing mirrors and their representations in fairy tales in her column “What’s in a Fairy Tale?”

Mirror, Mirror

by Cathrin Hagey

Is anything more two-faced than a looking glass? Even the words—mirror in English and miroir in French, espejo in Spanish and spegel in Swedish—have roots hinting at our ambivalence toward an invention that sprang from nature and was perfected in the scientific age.

Mirror and miroir are derived from the Latin mirare (to look at), which is a variant of mirari (to wonder at), root of both admire and miracle. On the other hand, espejo and spegel originate from the Latin speculum (a tool used for looking at, including a “looking glass”). There are clearly two distinct, yet related, attitudes to a mirror—what it is, and what it achieves. It is a thing, a tool, but in active use a mirror becomes subject as well as object, a source of wonder, miraculous, amazing (amusing?). One interesting note: “An ancient Germanic group of words for ‘mirror’ is represented by Gothic skuggwa, Old Norse skuggsja, Old High German scucar, which are related to Old English scua ‘shade, shadow’.”1

Mirrors occur both naturally and by design. Our primitive ancestors surely saw their reflections in a pool of water now and again. The earliest manufactured mirror is a piece of polished obsidian 8,000 years old. And in 1835, German chemist Justus von Liebig ignited the global mirror industry with a breakthrough technique of applying a thin layer of silver to glass, thereby creating the first “true” reflection.

Glass has deep, elemental connections to fire (when molten) and to ice (when hard). A mirror embodies this duality and also light and shadow, self-awareness and self-deception. It is an exquisite symbol-in-waiting for a fairy tale. In A.S. Byatt’s essay “Ice, Snow, Glass,” published in Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales, the noted author dives into these “symbolic oppositions.”

At the beginning of “Snow White,” the queen sews by an open window framed with ebony, and pricks her finger. No glass separates her from the elements. Her blood drips onto the winter landscape below. She is inspired to wish for a daughter born with hair as dark as ebony, skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood. At the end of the tale, the daughter, Snow White, lies framed by a glass coffin, as still as death. She was “…the creation of an aesthetic perception and she becomes an object of aesthetic perception…”2

Snow White is a kind of mirror.

After the death of the mother, the new queen consults an oracular looking glass for confirmation of her status as the most beautiful woman in the land. Her perception of self is limited by what the mirror, literally, tells her. At first she sees her self in the mirror. But when the mirror concedes Snow White has become the most beautiful woman, the queen can no longer see clearly. Then her goal, her only goal, is to alter the mirror’s message by eliminating Snow White. She doesn’t want truth from her mirror. What she desires is the sight of an image she’s constructed in her own mind.

“Smoke and mirrors” is a metaphor for what leads us astray from the truth of a situation. Smoke clouds our vision; mirrors are trickier, for though they seem to offer transparency, they nearly always distort the facts. Which is the true self—the one that sees or the one seen? “Some ancient cultures believed the reflection was the true self, ‘the shadow soul,’ hence the myth that vampires and evil spirits have no reflection.”3

Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant…”4 Mirrors, and fairy tales, do this better than anyone.

Image by annca at, Creative Commons License

  1. Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed February 1, 2018,
  2. Byatt A.S. 1998. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore their Favorite Fairy Tales. Bernheimer K, editor. USA: First Anchor Books. Ice, Snow, Glass; p. 72.
  3. Hokin C. “Through a Glass Darkly: Mirrors, Myths and Magic.” The History Girls, accessed February 1, 2018,
  4. Poetry Foundation, accessed February 1, 2018,

Issue 033 Release! Cover artist interview

by Anna O’Brien

Today’s the day! Luna Station Quarterly is thrilled to announce the release of Issue 033! In it, you’ll find nine stories by amazing female authors and on its cover, well. See for yourself:

“Blind Circus” by Kirbi Fagan

Kirbi Fagan (@KirbiFagan) is our cover artist for this issue and she’s delivered the goods with a piece titled “Blind Circus.” We were lucky enough to snag Kirbi for a moment and pick her creatively amazing brain. Here’s what she had to say.

LSQ: Please tell us about Issue 033’s cover art, “Blind Circus.” What’s going on in this picture? Who is this person, does she have a story? What inspired you to create this?

Kirbi: This artwork was commissioned by Clark Huggins creator of the “Reckless Deck.” The deck is an idea-generating set of cards. I cherry-picked the first card, “Fantasy Hero”, and the other two cards, “Blindfold” and “Circus Attire”, where chosen at random. I ran with it! I tried dozens of ideas and found this image. When creating, too much freedom can be daunting. I’m an artist that likes to be put in a box. Give me an ocean and I’ll drown! At first I was using “Blindfold” in my sketches as part of a circus act, being blindfolded added a level of suspense. However, covering up a face I quickly lost the intimacy of the character and my favorite part to paint. I thought having a blindfold interpreted visually as a strong stream of light blinding across the eyes would be neat. When that didn’t work out this led me to using a shadow across the eyes. I thought it gave the character a mysterious narrative. Especially as shadowy faces are usually associated with evil characters. This challenged me to use light, color, and white “magic” to communicate that this character, though mysterious, is not “evil.”

LSQ: You’ve done some covers for Marvel Comics. Is there a different process in creating art for an established comic versus creating something that’s totally your own? How do you put a bit of yourself into these covers? 

Kirbi: Not so different at all! Working as an illustrator, the artwork is always constrained by the client’s needs and wants. In the best situations, like with Marvel, those needs and wants align with my interests and some really special things can happen. When I’m trying to inject myself into a commission that feels too much like work, I try to focus on two things. First, the pure joy of painting and second, I try to put something in the image that I enjoy. I keep a huge working list of things that I enjoy visually and add to it often. I go to this list and see what might work with the project. The list can include all sorts of items such a bonnets, moss on red bricks, and 1950s Oldsmobiles.

When I’m creating for a client, my sketch is completely thought out. Creating the final feels much like painting by number. When I’m on my own I often don’t commit to a sketch which causes me to flounder. Clark gave me a lot freedom; many things were added that were not in the original sketch. In this animation you can see there is a bit of “searching” that wouldn’t happen with other client work.

LSQ: Please tell us a bit about how you’ve grown as an artist — excluding technique, are there aspects you do differently now as opposed to when you were younger? Have your tastes changed or remained the same?

Kirbi: I don’t waste time struggling! If I can’t get an area right it’s usually because I don’t have enough information. I’m unapologetic about seeking out more information which might mean going to see the object in person or posing in front of a camera. When I was younger I was extremely academic and “safe.” I’m not scared of ruining an in-progress work like I used to be. I’m willing to sling paint and do whatever it takes to make the work the best it can be. Lately, I’ve been working on some images that have more expression and to do so I’m sacrificing a bit of the realism I’ve been known for in the past.

“Alternative Space Program” by Kirbi Fagan

LSQ: Tell us a bit about the importance of creating art featuring female leads. Can you comment on the level at which these characters are occurring both on the covers of comics and other media? 

Kirbi: I find it so empowering to be a real influence on how women are represented in media. Most publishers are very aware of their newly liberated audience and in response many are seeking out female voices–like me–to be creators. It’s crucial young girls get to see themselves in the stories they read and even more important for boys to see girls outside of their paperback cliches. There have been situations where I didn’t like the way a young girl was represented and I was able to convince the publisher to show her in a stronger, less sexist and more flattering light and . . . they went for it! I’m truly in the trenches, trying to make changes and be passionate about it. In children’s publishing it’s common to hear, “girls will be a fan of a story about a boy lead but a boy rarely will read a story with a female lead.” The publishers’ solution is to create two different markets. It’s up to creators to get more creative. Create a character so fantastic we all love her! It’s up to the publishers to take a risk which I don’t feel they are all willing to do at this time.

LSQ: Among all your pieces, do you have a favorite? If so, which is it and why? If not, why not?

“Damsel” by Kirbi Fagan

Kirbi: Whatever piece I’m currently working on is my favorite. In my mind, there are two types of artists: one who works for a finished product they love and another who loves the labor of that product. I love the act of painting more than I love *a* painting. Does that make any sense? Many people don’t realize that the paintings I’m doing right now won’t see the light of day for some time and the work I did last year won’t be out till later this year or next.

LSQ: From the start of the creative process to the finished piece, do you have a step that is typically the most difficult for you? 

Kirbi: In the last few years I’ve moved in to a place in my development where I feel solid in my process and my process hardly ever wavers. When a client is involved, it’s about getting a non-visual person on board with the concept. When a client trusts my aesthetics, those are always my best pieces. I really have to sell my idea and create a sketch that captures what I envision the final looking like which is not always easy.

LSQ: Are there recent books or comics that have influenced some of your work? 

Kirbi: The world of writing and art can often derail me more often than inspire me. It’s easy to get caught up in looking at artwork and different styles. That’s something that I don’t think many people admit: I like so many different things (most artists do!). What influences me the most is my passionate students at the College for Creatives Studies in Downtown Detroit.