Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David." The Museum and the Music Box March 18, 2015 The Museum and the Music Box Noah Keller History is rotting away, just like the museum. The Thyme Fiend March 11, 2015 The Thyme Fiend Jeffrey Ford It's not all in his head. The Shape of My Name March 4, 2015 The Shape of My Name Nino Cipri How far can you travel to claim yourself?
From The Blog
March 24, 2015
Protecting What You Love: On the Difference Between Criticism, Rage, and Vilification
Emily Asher-Perrin
March 23, 2015
Language as Power in Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Katharine Duckett
March 16, 2015
What Changes To Expect in Game of Thrones Season Five
Bridget McGovern
March 13, 2015
Five Books with Fantastic Horses
Patricia Briggs
March 13, 2015
Is Ladyhawke the Best Fairy Tale of Them All?
Leah Schnelbach
Showing posts by: Amal El-Mohtar click to see Amal El-Mohtar's profile
Mar 26 2015 2:00pm

Rich and Strange: “The New Mother” by Eugene Fischer

Asimov's Welcome back to Rich and Strange, where we’re taking a turn towards print again: this week’s story, “The New Mother” by Eugene Fischer, headlines the current issue of Asimov’s, making it the first Asimov’s story I’ve read before seeing it nominated for an award. It’s good to be reminded that, as much as I discover loads of amazing stuff in online venues, and as much as the gratification of reading and sharing stories online is instant, there’s staggeringly good stuff an extra click or two away.

Full Disclosure: Fischer introduced me to Gunnerkrigg Court and for this I will be forever grateful. He’s a good friend and I’ve had the privilege of seeing early drafts of “The New Mother,” as well as suggesting emendations to it. I’m delighted to see its quality recognized by Asimov’s, giving me the opportunity to crow about its many felicities here.

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Feb 26 2015 10:00am

Rich and Strange: “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander

Lightspeed 57 Hereabouts on Rich and Strange, I like to keep things from getting same-y—odd streak of tiger/beast-lover stories notwithstanding—since part of my project with this column is to broaden my own reading as well as comment on the stuff I like. So I’m delighted to add a no-holds-barred pulp action cuss-fest to the roster with Brooke Bolander’s amazing “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead,” from this month’s issue of Lightspeed.

Full Disclosure: I’m a columnist for Lightspeed; my first column there will appear next week. Brooke Bolander and I follow each other on Twitter and share a passion for cucumbers so intense that it may well lead to some sort of unexamined bias in her favour.

[Knock that shot back before you get shot in the back]

Feb 19 2015 3:00pm

Rich and Strange: “Tiger Baby” by JY Yang

Burnt Bright Artwork copyright © 2015 by Likhain

Happy Lunar New Year, readers! This week’s rich, strange story briefly features the event, which is actually a very happy coincidence, as I was reading the most recent issue of Lackington’s for this column anyway.

Full Disclosure: JY Yang was almost completely unknown to me before I met her at LonCon3, shared a panel with her on Writing SF/F in Non-Western Modes, and listened to her say super smart things. Now I follow her on Twitter so as to see her saying more smart things.

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Feb 12 2015 12:00pm

Rich and Strange: “In Loco Parentis” by Andrea Phillips

Circuit brain

I first became aware of “the Singularity” as a thing around the time when everyone seemed to be sick of talking about it, when the subject as a spur to storytelling seemed exhausted. As a consequence I lacked a crowd of enthusiasts telling me to read this or that, or explaining its intricacies to me in depth; my knowledge is cursory at best, and my ability to relate its relevance to this other thing I really want to talk about is limited. But here goes.

I’m utterly fascinated by stories that look at humans as augmented by or enmeshed with computers in our current smartphone / smartwatch / wearable camera context. There’s a keen difference to me between that idea of the Singularity as inevitable sublimation of humanity-as-we-know-it, and taking stock of the ways in which we’re already entwined with our intelligent technologies to the degree that everything’s changed, but everything’s also pretty much the same.

Enter “In Loco Parentis” by Andrea Phillips.

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Jan 7 2015 3:00pm

Rich and Strange: “The Boatman’s Cure” by Sonya Taaffe

Ghost Signs Sonya Taaffe Happy New Year, and welcome back to Rich and Strange, where I look with some depth at short fiction that has astonished and delighted me. This week I want to draw your attention to Sonya Taaffe’s novella “The Boatman’s Cure,” included as the concluding portion of her just-released poetry collection Ghost Signs, from Aqueduct Press.

Full Disclosure: I would be honoured to consider Sonya Taaffe a friend, but for the fact that she keeps my heart in a salt-encrusted bottle on her window-sill, and will insist on giving the bottle a shake whenever she knows I am reading her words.

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Dec 17 2014 4:00pm

Rich and Strange: “Nkásht íí” by Darcie Little Badger

strange horizonsWelcome back to Rich and Strange, a weekly reading of marvellous short fiction from around the web. Today’s review takes a look at “Nkásht íí” by Darcie Little Badger, published this week in Strange Horizons.

This week in Full Disclosure: nothing to declare! Except that this story is beautiful and hooked me from start to finish.

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Dec 10 2014 3:00pm

Rich and Strange: “No Vera There” by Dominica Phetteplace

Clarkesworld Issue 99 This week on Rich and Strange we head over to Clarkesworld, a venue that became one of my early favourites for online reading but that I’ve inexplicably been neglecting recently, to read Dominica Phetteplace’s “No Vera There.

Full Disclosure: I had never read or heard of Dominica Phetteplace before her good friend Christopher Caldwell recommended this story on Twitter. Christopher Caldwell is also my good friend and I have eaten his jambalaya, which is superb.

As it happens, so is this story.

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Dec 3 2014 1:00pm

Rich and Strange: “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone

This week I want to review a story published here at, because in addition to being elegantly written and intensely engaging it taught me something about the way I read short fiction.

Full Disclosure: I am writing this review of a story on! Circles are closing! Streams are crossing! But far more perniciously than that, Max Gladstone and I have dirt on each other. We share a Dark and Terrible Secret. It’s entirely possible that if we were to become enemies instead of friendly acquaintances we could mutually assure each other’s destruction.

Thank goodness I loved this story.

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Nov 19 2014 3:00pm

Rich and Strange: “Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy” by Saladin Ahmed

The Faerie Queene

I love Spenser’s The Faerie Queen. I love it with a geeky, earnest passion for its bleeding trees, its book-vomiting serpents, its undefeatable shield-maiden and her rescue of a woman named Love.

That said, I always read it with double vision—one eye always redacting, reading Duessa and the Saracen Knights against their ergot-laden grain. Of course the first really interesting female character we meet is a duplicitous evil-doer; of course being friends with the Queen of Night and getting her to spirit your boyfriend away before some (quite literal) kill-joy murders him means you’re a villain instead of a resourceful badass. It was strange, reading a book and loving it enough to spontaneously compose explanatory fanfic for its ugly parts, but that was most of my undergraduate English degree.

When I saw the title of Saladin Ahmed’s “Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy,” I straightened up out of a slouch. I felt my eyes brighten with hope. He’s going to do it, I thought. He’s going to write my fanfic.

[SPOILER: he’s the one with the beard.]

Nov 12 2014 1:30pm

Rich and Strange: “Stalemate” by Rose Lemberg and “Bonsaiships of Venus” by Kate Heartfield

Lackington's Issue 4 A new issue of Lackington’s magazine, edited by Ranylt Richildis, went up this week, book-ended by two searingly beautiful meditations on the relationship between aesthetics and utility. This week on Rich and Strange, I want to talk about Rose Lemberg’s “Stalemate” and Kate Heartfield’s “Bonsaiships of Venus,” both far-future science fiction stories told in awe-inducing language. They’re also two stories that fit together in a way that delighted me into much-needed catharsis after a hard week of reading very upsetting fiction.

This week in Full Disclosure: Ranylt Richildis and Rose Lemberg are good friends and have both published me in their respective zines in the past (Lemberg edits Stone Telling), and I’m friendlily acquainted with Kate Heartfield.

[To the micro/macrocosm!]

Nov 5 2014 11:00am

Rich and Strange: “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” by Maria Dahvana Headley

Welcome to Rich and Strange, a weekly spotlight on short fiction I’ve thoroughly enjoyed! This week I want to look Maria Dahvana Headley’s “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White,” appearing in the inaugural issue of Uncanny Magazine.

It’s occurred to me that, given the permeable nature of professional relationships in our genre, I might change the name of this column to Full Disclosure, since I’m often hard put to find stories I love written by people or appearing in venues to which I have absolutely no connection. It’s a natural state of affairs in genre that we read a thing we love, meet the person who wrote it at a convention, strike up an acquaintanceship that becomes a friendship, and then find that we’re reading the excellent work of people we now chat with on a regular basis. So it goes – but I’ll always state those connections up front when they occur.

So for instance, this week in Full Disclosure, I reveal that I read “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” for Uncanny’s podcast (and was paid to do so); that I supported Uncanny’s Kickstarter; and that Headley once bought me a salad at Readercon. Personally what I think you should take away from this is that I loved “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” enough to tediously itemize the above because as we all know it’s actually about ethics in short fiction journalism.

[It was a tasty salad.]

Oct 30 2014 9:30am

Rich and Strange: “Witch, Beast, Saint” by C. S. E. Cooney

Grooming Earlier this autumn I was infuriated enough by a bigoted and incompetent review of a talented writer’s work that I decided to review it myself. The result was Rich and Strange, a commitment to review short fiction on a weekly basis, focusing on work in magazines that I’ve especially loved. I reviewed three stories—Sam J. Miller’s “We Are the Cloud,” Alyssa Wong’s “Santos de Sampaguitas,” and Kate Hall’s “The Scrimshaw and the Scream”—before taking up on the invitation of running the column here.

Partly in honour of Liz Bourke’s Sleeps With Monsters column but mostly just because it’s dazzling, the first story I want to single out for praise in this venue is C. S. E. Cooney’s “Witch, Beast, Saint: an Erotic Fairy Tale.”

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Nov 22 2013 2:00pm

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Cocktails: Tasting Notes for 11 Doctor-themed Doc-tails

Doctor Who Cocktails

Welcome back to Doc-tails, a two-part post in anticipation of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary! In part one of this boozestravaganza, we introduced you to the concepts and recipes for 11 cocktails—one for each incarnation of the Doctor so far. In this post, a veritable Companionship—Interrogation? Paradox?—of fans prepare the beverages in question, getting their geek on with photos and tasting notes.


Nov 19 2013 10:00am

Making 11 Cocktails for All 11 Doctors: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Doc-tails

Once upon a time on Twitter, I asked people to come up with easy to make Doctor Who themed drinks for the launch party of Queers Dig Time Lords. I was staggered by the enthusiasm and ingenuity with which people responded—but Al Kennedy of comics podcast House to Astonish took things a step further, coming up with drink components for all eleven incarnations of the Doctor, themed around one of their representative episodes (or books).

Very keen to see these bits and bobs come together as actual, buildable drinks, I asked alcohol architect Stephane Cote for his expertise—and what he came up with absolutely blew me away.

Armed with recipes, good company, and very little in the way of instinctual self-preservation, I journeyed forth into the wilds of Glasgow to find a cocktail bar that would enable us to drink our way through eleven Doctors. Blue Dog and its excellent staff were game, and thus did our adventure begin.


Nov 7 2013 6:00pm

Thor: The Dark World is SO MUCH FUN

Thor: The Dark World non-spoiler movie review

I have seen Thor: The Dark World and LO, I have loved it with a deep and abiding love that would take me back into the IMAX immediately if it weren’t for the fact that I need to pack for a trip to Brighton and the World Fantasy Convention therein. Apparently there were TWO post-credits Easter eggs! Let it be a testament to how excited I was to get home and write this review that I didn’t stick around to see whether or not there’d be a second one!

[When all you’ve got is a hammer…]

Nov 7 2013 11:00am

From Sindbad to Sci-Fi: Summing Up a Salon on Arab SF

Murat Palta illustration Terminator

I recently had the pleasure of participating in an event discussing “Arab Science Fiction” under the auspices of the Nour Festival, a London-based celebration of Arabic culture now in its fourth year. Conceived of, organised and produced by Yasmin Khan (and recently covered by the BBC), “From Sindbad to Sci-Fi” was a salon-style discussion involving Samira Ahmed, Ziauddin Sardar, Khyle Alexander Raja, and myself, moderated by Quentin Cooper.

The evening was to be divided into two parts: in the first half, each of us would be invited to speak for up to ten minutes about our relationship with or views about science fiction as related to the Arab world, and in the second, we would form a panel to discuss questions posed by Cooper, respondents, and members of the audience.

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Oct 31 2013 10:30am

Thor: The Dark World Is SO MUCH FUN

Thor: The Dark World non-spoiler movie review

I have seen Thor: The Dark World and LO, I have loved it with a deep and abiding love that would take me back into the IMAX immediately if it weren’t for the fact that I need to pack for a trip to Brighton and the World Fantasy Convention therein. Apparently there were TWO post-credits Easter eggs! Let it be a testament to how excited I was to get home and write this review that I didn’t stick around to see whether or not there’d be a second one!

[When all you’ve got is a hammer…]

Oct 15 2013 3:00pm

Legend of Korra, I Am Disappoint: Remembering “The Ember Island Players”

Last weekend’s episode of The Legend of Korra left me furiously disappointed for a multitude of reasons, but one element in particular threw the show’s failures into sharp relief: the extended sequence of Varrick’s propaganda film in support of the Southern Water Tribe, featuring Bolin playing Nuktuk, Hero of the South.

The film sequence itself was beautifully realised, but its place within the episode, and that episode’s place within the season, reminded me powerfully of the last time we saw characters in this universe watching themselves portrayed: back in Book 3, Episode 17 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, with “The Ember Island Players.”

Unfortunately, the differences between the episodes speak volumes about everything that’s gone wrong with Legend of Korra.

[Raise the curtain.]

May 14 2013 5:00pm

The Powerful Acts of Writing and Reading: A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

A Stranger in Olondria cover, Sofia Samatar

For a long time now I have been afraid of Sofia Samatar's fiction. Knowing the effect her poetry has had on me—in Goblin Fruit, in Stone Telling, in Strange Horizons—I have trembled at the thought of allowing her words any deeper purchase on my psyche. Given her ability to incapacitate me with a few well-turned stanzas, what havoc might she wreak with a whole novel?

Through some terrible and wonderful magic, A Stranger in Olondria has anticipated these fears and commented on them. With characteristic wit, poise, and eloquence, Samatar delivers a story about our vulnerability to language and literature, and the simultaneous experience of power and surrender inherent in the acts of writing and reading.

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Apr 4 2013 1:00pm

How to Read Poetry 101: Whys and Wherefores

Amal El-Mohtar How to read poetryWelcome, dear readers, to April, a month variously named sweet and cruel in poetry across the ages, and therefore uniquely appropriate to a series on How to Read Poetry. Over the next four weeks I want to transform you from a sheepish non-reader of poetry into a curious appreciator of it by doing the following:

  • Demonstrating that poetry is more than the dry dusty stuff people tried to cram down your throats in high school, and that you’re missing out on something awesome and important by shunning it wholesale.
  • Suggesting different ways of approaching poems you’re not understanding to help you figure out whether there’s something in here for you to enjoy or not.
  • Introducing you to the fantastic poetry of the authors whose fiction you may already love.

What I won’t do is hold forth about things like the difference between synecdoche and metonymy or why some bits of Shakespeare are written in iambic pentameter while others are written in trochaic tetrameter. I love that stuff, but for my purposes here it’s besides the point. You don’t need to know these things to enjoy poetry; you don’t need to be able to tell the difference between a sonnet and a sestina to be spellbound by them. Rhyme schemes, verse forms and prosody are fascinating things, but my sense is that they’re also intricate and elaborate window dressing that has for too long obscured the window itself.

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