Guest Post: TJ Kahn Reveals the Unheard of in Fantasy

The Unheard of in Fantasy: Advocacy for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing in fantasy and science-fiction

Imagine that you are a huge fantasy or science-fiction fan. You’ve watched every Game of Thrones episode. You own all of the merchandise. You’ve seen the “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” trilogies so often your friends never need to ask what gifts you want for the holidays. Even your cat is named ‘Aragorn’.

Now picture the next big movie you’re excited about is announced. You watch all the actor interviews, cling to every spoiler and hint dropped by the studios, and the week before the premier you have your head shaved to carve your favorite clan symbol into your left temple.

Except when the movie comes out, you can’t watch it. It’s in a foreign language and the only way for you to enjoy it is with a small glass device attached to your chair that keeps slipping. You can watch the words or the action, but not both. At the end of the film all of your friends are going on and on about the wonderful fight scene with the main heroes but all you saw was your subtitles dropping away when someone bumped your chair going to the bathroom and you scrambled to put it back.

Oh sure, you could wait for it to come out dubbed in English, but you’ll have to wait for an entire week. A week of all of your friends ruining the best scenes because they’ve seen it already. Or avoiding all social media and TV because you don’t want to stumble on any spoilers. And when it does come out, you’ve scene all the best scenes already because it’s all people put on your fan sites since opening night.

Now imagine you’re Deaf.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

The Nebulas this year were an amazing, dazzling, staggering blur, and an overall splendid time. (I got a selfie with William Gibson plus shared french fries with an astronaut!). But there was one sad thing for me, which was that in all the shuffle and mistimings, I didn’t get a chance to deliver the speech I’d prepared.

I’ve been spending some time post-Nebulas thinking and reflecting on everything I’ve learned from the SFWA Presidency, and all the valuable things I’ve discovered and learned as a result of my time in office. Over the next few weeks, I’ll publish the blog posts I have been putting together, one dedicated to each year, and then a final recap. It seemed a logical thing to kick that series off by sharing that speech, which contains a number of things I wanted to say to the SFWA family at large. I hope this serves.
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Where I’ll Be: Cascade Writers Workshop

If you’re coming to the Cascade Writers Workshop, this is where you’ll find me.


9:30-10 AM: Registration and meet & greet with tea & coffee! Conference Room

10 AM-11:50 AM: Critique group meeting 1:
Curtis Chen & Cat Rambo: Breakfast Area

3 PM-4:50 PM: Critique group meeting 2
Curtis Chen & Cat Rambo: Breakfast Area

8 PM- 8:50 PM: Getting To The Finish Line, Cat Rambo, Conference Room
Do you have trouble saying goodbye–or getting through the middle? Cat Rambo will show you strategies to get from a kernel of an idea, a stalled beginning, a soggy middle, or a dead-at-three-quarters to the end.


9 AM-10 AM: Meet & greet with tea & coffee! – Oak room

10 AM-11:50 AM: Critique group meeting 3:
Curtis Chen & Cat Rambo: Breakfast Area

3 PM-3:50 PM: Respect The Hustle, Spencer Ellsworth, Cat Rambo & Jaym Gates, Conference Room
Selling a short story, a book or an article will net you a paycheck–but how do you turn that into income? How do you take freelancing seriously, and combine fiction writing with other ventures to make your writing and editing skills bankable? In other words, how do you get the hustle, keep that hustle, and respect that hustle?

7:30 PM-11 PM: PUB NIGHT! Lovecraft Brewing, 275 5th St, Ste 101, Bremerton, WA 98337
Come across the street to Lovecraft Brewing to drink, eat, buy books from the Liberty Bay Books table, and hear our panelists read from their work!


9 AM-10 AM: Meet & greet with tea & coffee! – Conference room

10 AM-10:50 AM: Critique group one-on-one meetings:
Curtis Chen & Cat Rambo: Breakfast Area

2 PM-2:50 PM: Workshop wrap-up, board meeting & feedback! – Conference room

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Guest Post: Walnut & Pumpkin Risotto by Ben Isham-Smith

Raised by an Italian mother (don’t let my embarrassingly anglicized name fool you), the kitchen formed the hub of all activity in our home growing up. Not just for cooking meals, but also entertaining, welcoming guests, and even eating.

If anything happened in our home, it happened in the kitchen.

Few recipes stir up the memories and emotions I associate with then as risotto does. My mother had her own go-to risotto recipe that had evolved over the years she had learned it from her own mother, and it became a monthly tradition for her to cook up a batch of risotto rice, leek and chicken, which would keep us going for days.

I’m a big fan of meals that can be cooked in a pot. Not just because they can often be a bit more ‘hands off’ than other types of recipe (I’m infuriatingly lazy), but also because I find there’s more room to improvise and tweak it in line with your own personal preferences.

This risotto recipe is a bit braver than more traditional takes on the Northern Italian dish. It matches traditional risotto elements, like white wine, onion and garlic, with a much more outlandish pumpkin and walnuts. If I’m honest, I don’t think my Italian grandparents would approve (in fact, I know they wouldn’t – they never forgave me for my lazy tiramisu recipe) but if I didn’t deliberately undermine them at every given opportunity, then what kind of grandson would I be?

The truth is though, despite my tweaking on it, the recipe does still remind me of learning to cook in our home kitchen in the middle of the Berkshire countryside. And if a recipe can stir up intense memories like that, then it’s served its purpose.

One of the greatest cooking fallacies is that making a good risotto takes a lot of time and skill. Well, you’ll be glad to hear it only requires a good amount of time, and simply no skill. Fortunately this means that even someone as clueless as me can make it.

All this recipe needs is a lot of patience, and definitely a lot of stirring. Your arm might take a little while to forgive you, but the dish you get at the end more than makes up for it

If you’re making this in autumn or fall then you might already be drowning in pumpkin-inspired dishes (pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies, even pumpkin peanut butter), but this is too good not to try. Furthermore, it’s a great dish to break out for Thanksgiving as a vegetarian alternative to the more traditional meat-heavy meals on offer.

That said, I still love to break it out year-round, and enjoy it just as much in the summer.

Pumpkin & Walnut Risotto
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
55 mins

Servings: 2 people
1 cube Vegetable Stock
500 ml Water boiled
50 g Butter
1 White Onion. Finely Diced
1 Stick of Celery. Finely Diced
1 Garlic Clove. Finely Diced
150 g Arborio Risotto Rice
125 ml White Wine
150 g Pumpkin Puree
25 g Butter
50 g Roquefort Cheese crumbled
50 g Walnuts chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add the vegetable stock cube to the boiling water and stir in thoroughly.
  2. Heat up a large frying pan over a medium heat, add 25g of the butter.
  3. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and celery. Cook for 10 minutes until softened.
  4. Stir in the rice, until the grains start to turn translucent at the edges.
  5. Turn up the heat a notch to medium-high, adding in the white wine. Stir until all the wine has disappeared. Add the dried sage.
  6. Slowly stir in the vegetable stock by adding in one full ladle at a time, stirring continuously until fully incorporated and the rice is cooked. Do this over the course of about half an hour.
  7. Stir in the pumpkin puree and take off the heat. Place a lid on top and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
  8. As the risotto rests, melt the other 25g of butter in a separate frying pan add the walnuts to toast.
  9. Serve the risotto. Top with the crumbled roquefort cheese and buttered toasted walnuts.

About the author:
Ben is a former semi-pro cyclist and big eater. Now he is just a big eater. He writes about food and drink for lazy cooks at The Eat Down.

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Where I’ll Be: Origins 2019 Author’s Library Panel Schedule

Thursday, June 13:

10am-11am: Short Stories: How do you plot something that’s only 5k? How do you know it’s going to come out that long? Tips and tricks to crafting a good short story. Lucy Snyder (M), Carlos Hernandez, Cat Rambo

3pm-4pm: Reading for Writers: How important is it for a writer to be well-read? Are there books every writer should know? Come for a lively debate on something every writer knows something about: reading. Mercedes Lackey, Cat Rambo, Tracy Chowdhury, Addie J. King, Gregory A. Wilson (M)

Friday, June 14:

10am-11am: Effective Illusions: How do you make a reader feel as though they’re actually there in the world you’ve created? Join our panelists for tips and tricks on building worlds that are evocative, enchanting, and above all, so immersive you can lose yourself in it and forget you’re reading. Carlos Hernandez, Cat Rambo (M), Doc Myers

Saturday, June 15:

10am-11am: Professional Writing Organizations: What is SFWA and what does it offer? What about HWA? IAMTW? Which ones should you join—if any? Cat Rambo, Jennifer Brozek, Aaron Rosenberg (M)

3pm-4pm: Branding & Marketing Yourself and Your Content: Running a podcast, releasing short fiction for free, blogging, Tweeting, etc. All the different ways to identify and bring more attention to your writing and your brand. Larry Dixon, Michael R. Underwood, Robyn King, Cat Rambo, Gregory A. Wilson (M)

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Where I’ll Be: Gen Con Writer’s Symposium 2019

A favorite moment with Christopher Negelein from last year’s Gen Con!

I’m looking forward to another chance to participate in the Writers Symposium at Gen Con this summer! Indiana is the state I was raised in, and there’s lots of chances to see old friends as well as my brother Lowell. I also did well in this year’s hotel lottery, so socializing will be easier.

The first Gen Con I ever went to was back when I was a teenager and first playing D&D. It’s always amazing to see how far the game has come as well as how much more mainstream it’s become, as well as how much more diverse. The Writers Symposium is always well-organized and a great chance to hang with fellow writers who also happen to be gamers.

I’ll be participating in the Worldbuilders fundraising event once again as well, come play Settlers of Catan with me.


12 PM Ballroom 2
What Can SFWA Do For You
Cat Rambo (M)

1 PM Signing Table
Cat Rambo, Patrick Tomlinson

2 PM Austin/Boston
Writing Steampunk and Weird Western
Cherie Priest, Cat Rambo (M)

5 PM Ballroom 1
Tee Morris, Anton Strout, Cat Rambo, Steve Drew (M)


10 AM Austin/Boston
Science Fiction: What’s Next?
Cat Rambo, Patrick Tomlinson, Toiya Finley, Corry Lee, Kirk Dougal (M)

4 PM Atlanta
The Ins and Outs of BookBub
Christopher Morgan, Elizabeth Vaughan, Cat Rambo, Corry Lee (M)

5 PM Atlanta
MESSAGE! Writing Books with Timely Themes
Carol Berg, Karen Bovenmyer, Melissa F. Olson, Cat Rambo (M)


1 PM Ballroom 2
Witty or Sh*tty?: How To Be Funny, and When Not To Be
Patrick Tomlinson, Bryan Young, Scott Lynch, Cat Rambo (M)

4 PM Ballroom 3
When the Mob Rules on Social Media
Patrick Tomlinson, Cat Rambo, Keith Law (M)

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Guest Post: M. H. Thaung Discusses How and Why Do People Make Bad Decisions?

When I read or write fiction, I like seeing characters make bad decisions and then deal with the consequences. However, if they make those decisions for implausible reasons, they can appear silly or inconsistent rather than attracting sympathy. If they’re forced into decisions because of overwhelming external factors, they may come across as lacking agency. In both cases, the decision seems made purely to further the plot rather than arising naturally. For me, the sweet spot is when readers can appreciate straight off (or shortly afterwards) that a character has made a misstep with likely repercussions, but it’s understandable why they ended up in that situation.

In my day job in a pathology lab, mistakes can have serious, even fatal, consequences. We try our hardest to minimise them as well as spotting and correcting them as early as possible. When (not if—we’re human, after all) a mistake happens, we investigate the reasons and see what we can do to prevent a repeat. Additionally, at corporate level, we are expected to attend courses on how to make systems safer. Such training can be a chore, but for me it has one significant plus: it’s fertile ground for ideas about where characters may go wrong.

I’d like to share here how I set up my characters’ unforced errors, allowing them to make plot-influencing mistakes in a realistic manner. The concepts aren’t new, but using risk management ideas helps me to flesh out details. This isn’t an academic treatise, so I have cherry-picked knowledge from workshops on error, mandatory training and general wider reading. Also, the definition of “wrong” in this context might be fluid, but I’d view it as something suboptimal for the character’s intentions (and interesting for the reader).
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Notes from the Internet Presence for Writers Panel

This is from the panel on Internet Presence for Writers from Norwescon a few weeks ago. Participants were K.G Anderson, K. Tempest Bradford (moderator), Chimedum Ohaegbu, and myself.

Panel description: We’ve all heard the warnings, “Be careful what you put online; it’s forever!” Is this really a concern? We’re encouraged to have a heavy online presence, but sometimes it can feel like walking on eggshells. Hear pros share how they balance their fanbase and personal sharing, where it’s gone right and gone wrong.

One of the keys is to be findable on the Internet. You should have a website, and that website should have a means of contacting you. You would be surprised how many writer websites do not have the writer’s name on the front page.

Along the same lines, that website should look professional rather than amateurish. If you must have squid, Karen observed, make them professional looking squid.

Curate your presence and don’t be random about it. You want to think about your online presence. Look at your social media and the last 20-25 things you’ve posted. How many are positive? How many are negative? How many are informative? That’s the presence you’re projecting online. People are drawn to people who care about people.

Have a newsletter. Raven Oak’s was held up as an example.

Facebook groups are more useful than Facebook pages. (note from Cat: I’m been hearing this for a while and it did lead me to start up a group, which so far has been livelier and more active than anywhere else for me on Facebook.)

Post proportionately and consistently.

Don’t let social media overwhelm your energy. You must have something to promote or all of this is pointless.

Use Twitter tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to keep things manageable by scheduling posts. Twitter lists are also useful. Cat keeps a private list marked “interactives,” which is people who frequently interact or repost her stuff, which is the first place she pulls from when scheduling posts. Another is a public list, Women in Fantasy and Science Fiction. To see what lists you are on, go to your Lists page and click on “Member of”.

Explore Twitter hashtags like #writingcommunity, #writerwednesday, #followfriday. On Instagram, look for #bookstagram and other book-related hashtags.

Blogging is coming back, but you need to have content that people want. Mary Robinette Kowal has a series called Debut Author Tips, for instance.

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Guest Post: Thoughts on How and Why to Write Non-Human Protagonists by S. R. Algernon

As a writer, sometimes I find myself inspired to write by seeing other writers use a particular device and wondering what I can do with it. Having grown up with Star Trek and the Twilight Zone, and having encountered Babylon 5 in my teenage years, I felt confined by the typically anthropomorphic aliens, particularly the ones that were obvious stand-ins for Russians or Romans or other human cultures. The aliens were usually in supporting roles, and their biology, worldview and motivations were usually within human norms, not counting special abilities. I appreciated these characters and their stories, but I wondered how far writers could push the envelope in adopting an alien perspective. The Star Trek episode “Devil in the Dark” gave agency and purpose to a non-humanoid life form, and works like Lem’s Solaris, showed aliens that can be beyond alien understanding, but I wondered what stories could be told from non-human perspectives and how they could contribute to the genre.

Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle gave me a more expansive sense of what could be accomplished by setting a story within a non-human perspective. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin and “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang inspired me to consider reproduction and language that departed from the human norm. They drew me to non-human stories and came to enjoy stories that normalize aliens and de-normalize human experience,

It is important to distinguish between stories that aim primarily to tell an alien story and those that use the alien as a prop in an allegory about human society. While the latter trope is common (“Eye of the Beholder” in Twilight Zone, “Let This Be Your Last Battlefield” in Star Trek, etc.), they can be too neatly prepackaged, so that the audience merely interprets the message, as explained by the human characters, rather than engaging in an alien experience.

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Guest Post: Andrew Hiller Finds ‘S Wonderful at the Baltimore Faerie Faire

What fun! I really didn’t know what to expect when I accepted the Author of the Year recognition from the Baltimore Faerie Faire, but there was belly dancing, big bands, folk music, a hoard of really cool/fun people…

AND I was given a key to the Faerie Kingdom!
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