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Oct 29, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Poetry in SF

There’s a really interesting conversation between Lavie Tidhar and Shimon Adaf on Strange Horizons this week. It covers a lot of subjects – Israeli fiction, publishing, the relationship between biography and fiction, the relationship between speculative fiction and poetry. The latter is what most fascinated me, personally, and I’d like to quote one or two bits on that (though I do recommend reading it all):

Shimon Adaf: For me the affinity between speculative writing and poetry is a fact of writing. And I think that for you as well. You also started by writing poetry, in Hebrew, and you integrate poetry into your novels, mainly using the heteronym Lior Tirosh. How do you see the connection between these two modes of expression?

Lavie Tidhar: That’s true! For me, poetry was a revelation, that you can do things with words in a way I never thought you could. … In a way, when I look at my early Hebrew poetry, I think I’ve lost that part of me. They’re expansive, they’re not fully controlled, but the poems feel fresh to me still, they come from a place I may have lost. These days I mostly work poems into the novels and short stories, knowing no one is ever really going to make much of a reference to them.

Shimon Adaf: … I mean, for me, it started by trying to write kind of sci-fi poems. I was influenced by Samuel R. Delany’s work back then. I love the way he is able to fuse the epic spirit of poetry and the lyrical one in his work. I think that SF/F literature can serve as the true heir of the epic form of poetry in our era. But I can never forget the lyrical aspect that has to do with basic expression of the self, emotion, and experience. So I’m trying to marry the two in fiction through merging genres: injecting the fantastic into my autobiography and following where it leads, or vice versa, starting with my autobiography and letting it open to the encounter with the fantastic.

This is a good moment to link to Lavie’s own story “The Long Road to the Deep North”, also in Strange Horizons (and one of my favourites of the stories I’ve read this year), a science fiction story which contains poetry in Bislama. It’s integral to the story: to the very personal approach taken by the story, and to the future it posits, one in which many more voices are heard than in most SF.

Another science fiction story with poetry is the novel Always Coming Home by Ursula K Le Guin, which is full of poetry (and screenplays, and tales, and fiction, all contextualising the narrative of the woman Stone Telling) and which I love. There’s also Eleanor Arnason’s story “Knapsack Poems”, which I reprinted in Aliens: Recent Encounters, and Aliette de Bodard’s excellent “Scattered Along the River of Heaven”.

This makes me think of something I said at Stone Telling about poetry last year: “I like the poetic potential for voice — for direct speech or song. Due to the length I tend to work with in poetry (much shorter than my prose), it can be a very precise, very pointed voice, a direct statement or exclamation or confrontation. There’s no reason that prose can’t be or contain this too, but for me, poetry is a way to whittle down to this direct voice, to make it the only thing — to amplify it by way of having nothing else around it. To make it loud and impossible to ignore.”

The poems in Tidhar’s, Le Guin’s, Arnason’s and de Bodard’s works are not standing alone the way a poem published on its own page is, but in their contexts they speak, they are voices reaching out from the text. There’s a quiet, personal power there, and I wonder if that’s a power of poetry that’s been lost in English-language speculative literature in the fantasy pastiches of Tolkien’s poetry. There is more to poetry than terrible rhymes about elves! I would like to see more of it in all types of speculative literature: poetry as voice, speaking out from the text. I would certainly read it.

Oct 21, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

CALL FOR REPRINT SUBMISSIONS: Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women

Announcing an open call for reprint submissions for my next anthology, The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, to be published in late 2014 by Running Press (USA/Canada) and Constable & Robinson (UK). Its bite-size summary: “an anthology of powerful, important science fiction stories by women, showcasing the unforgettable contributions made to the genre in recent decades.”


Genre: Science fiction.
Word count: Up to 10,000 words.
Publication history: Must be previously published, from around 1980 onwards, and available for reprint in late 2014.
Multiple submissions: Up to 3 stories.
Payment: 2c/word (USD) on publication in late 2014, plus contributor copies.
Deadline: 30 November 2013. I will respond by the end of January 2014.
Submit to: alexmacfarlane [at] gmail [dot] com — put MAMMOTH WOMEN in the subject line.
Important: I am only interested in stories written by women.


I take a very broad definition of ‘science fiction’. If you feel that your work is at the boundary between science fiction and literary/historical/fantasy/other genres, please send it to me. (If you know that your work is, say, a secondary world fantasy about elves or a contemporary fantasy about vampires, please don’t waste my time.)

I want the anthology to encompass the full range of the world’s women, in the authors and in their stories. I welcome submissions from all women: women of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds, women of all countries, women of all religions, women of all sexualities, trans and cis and genderfluid women, women of all abilities, women of all classes.

Stories do not require a specifically feminist or female-centric approach. I am simply interested in excellent science fiction written by women. However, stories that contain sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, cissexist, ableist and other -ist/hateful/hurtful elements that go unquestioned by the narrative will not be accepted.

Some particular areas of interest:
– the role of women in science in the past, present and future around the world (eg: Sofia Samatar’s “Girl Hours”)
– gender that goes beyond the binary
– futures rooted in the cultural breadth of the present
– science, space, wonder
– large stakes/scope, personal stories, everything in-between
– beautiful prose, non-linear and experimental narratives

This is not a conclusive list. If you have a science fiction story that does completely different things, please send it to me. Surprise me. Delight me. I want the anthology to encompass a wide range of approaches to and interpretations of the genre.

Stories need not be in SFWA “pro” markets. Authors need not be widely published. I intend to include major authors and authors who should be major. That could be you. Please send me your work.

It does not matter if the story is still available online.


I also welcome recommendations. Got favourite SF stories by women that you think I must read? Please let me know. If you’re able to provide a link to the story, even better.

Editors and publishers, I would love to read your authors’ stories. If you’re able to provide an epub/mobi/PDF of your anthologies/collections/magazines, I would be delighted to read them. I’m happy to look at print copies too.

Please put MAMMOTH WOMEN in the subject line of all emails, whether submissions, recommendations or queries. Thank you!

Oct 9, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Bristolcon 2013

Later this month I will be at Bristolcon (26 October)! I will be wandering around, perhaps near/in the bar, and I will also be on a panel about SPAAACE and other forms of science (but really, it’s all about SPAAACE for me).

How Science Got Its Groove Back – Programme Room 2 (Summit Suite) – 17:00–17:45
Recently, both on TV and in real life we have seen resurgence in the kind of popular science that feels like it’s been missing for years. Is it all down to that Cox chappie? We’ve been inspired by the antics of Commander Chris Hadfield and his magic flannel, Felix Baumgardener’s breathtaking freefall from the edge of space, and the final flights of the shuttle fleet. How is science inspiring current and future generations? And how is this influencing SF?
With Peter Sutton (M), Cavan Scott, Rosie Oliver, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Dave Bradley

I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Oct 1, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Families in SF

Today I can also be found guest-posting on Liz Bourke’s Sleeps With Monsters column at Writing Families in the Future.

It’s about families in science fiction: how narrowly normative they are, how there are some (very few) awesome examples of variety, how I would like that variety to replace the norm.

Go read! Then go create more families in the future!

Oct 1, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

“Out They Come”


The new issue of Shimmer is here, with my story “Out They Come” in it!

It’s a story about anger and vomiting up foxes. I talked a little more about its origins in this interview with Shimmer, where I mention the image that inspired it:


A marginalia in a medieval manuscript, which I found here. It demanded a story. Indeed, it demanded two. If you want to read another story about vomiting foxes, read its sister-story, Brooke Bolander’s “Her Words Like Hunting Vixens Spring”: gestated by the same marginalia, but afterwards gone in different directions.

To buy the new issue of Shimmer in print or ebook, and read short snippets of all the stories, click click. My snippet is as follows:

She speaks so little, out they come: foxes. One after the other, falling like russet tears. They land on all fours and shake the saliva from their fur and bare their teeth, sharper than knives. She wants to say to the village, “I’m not sorry, I hate you all, you deserve this.”

They are her strength, come to fight.

Sep 19, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

oh, I love to hear those conkers fall

A good A Softer World today:


It reminds of two of my favourite tumblrs: and

Everyone needs terrible houses in their life. (The bonus is that sometimes the Belgian houses are actually pretty cool. Then there’s this.)

Sep 16, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane


I went into London today to submit my MA thesis.

Then I celebrated with a friend at a great place on the Strand where I had white port and tapas.


Sep 6, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Strange Horizons fundraiser

Strange Horizons are running their annual fundraiser to raise money for the next year’s content.

I am a huge fan of Strange Horizons. They published my story “Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints” last year, which remains one of my favourites of the stories I’ve written. They also publish a lot of awesome stories by other writers. Here’s an introductory list of reasons why supporting Strange Horizons will ensure the continued publication of some really interesting, fun, diverse science fiction and fantasy stories:

Lavie Tidhar, “The Long Road to the Deep North” (2013)

Nghi Vo, “Tiger Stripes” (2012)

Amal El-Mohtar, “And Their Lips Rang With The Sun” (2009)

Vandana Singh, “Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra” (2010)

Toh EnJoe, “A to Z Theory” (2013)

Karin Tidbeck, “I Have Placed My Sickness Upon You” (2013)

Helen Keeble, “In Stone” (2007)

Alberto Yáñez, “Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas” (2012)

They also publish poetry (I especially love the poems by Rose Lemberg: “In the Third Cycle”, “Between the Mountain and the Moon” and “The Three Immigrations”), reviews (need I remind you of “a chivalrous knight of archaic dimensions”), columns (my favourite is the Movements column by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz)…

I want Strange Horizons to keep publishing for a long time to come. More information about their fundraiser, including the prize draw for all donors, can be found here.

Aug 26, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane


I got an email today from a NASA employee saying that he and several other people working at NASA and elsewhere have an informal science fiction reading group that looks for stories that could inspire NASA and other agencies. He said they’re reading my story “Found”.

I’ve loved space exploration since I was a child. I remember the first time I saw footage from the Voyager mission and just being unspeakably awed. We did that. We people. We sent a thing there. I have a big book from a now-out-of-date BBC documentary series called Planets which I will never throw away because watching that series filled me with wonder. More recently, I found Wonders of the Solar System and I now rewatch it often because Professor Brian Cox’s enthusiasm for space does things to me. I have a friend who works on the Cassini mission and gives phenomenal talks at UK sff conventions and I’ve been to two of her talks now and I intend to go to more. I am writing a story about Enceladus because of her. I have another friend who does things with infrared that I’ll admit to not fully understanding, but his talk at Nine Worlds was really interesting, and he gave me an inflatable universe. (I believe they’re both planning to be at Worldcon 2014. Just sayin’.) If there is ever a chance for me to go into space, even in one of those Virgin planes that only goes up a little way, and I can afford it, I will do it. I hope humans go to Mars in my lifetime. I want to walk on another world.

In short: I love space, I’m endlessly fascinated and awed by space exploration.

Though “Found” isn’t set in our solar system’s asteroid belt, I tried to base it in what current space science I know about our solar system’s asteroids (alongside a dose of the “fiction” part). I tried to put some of my love of space in it. That some people at NASA think it merits discussion, that it provokes interesting questions about future asteroid missions and habitation —

Not sure there are words to convey how happy that makes me.

Aug 6, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Nine Worlds Schedule

Nine Worlds is this weekend! I will be there! Here is where you can find me:


8:30pm-9:45pm – Britannia – Electric Spectra: a queer poetry gathering
A friendly evening poetry session in our cosy Queer Library. Grab a pint, bring some friends, and share some poems! (Rated 18+)


11:45am-1:00pm – Britannia – Why is the Future so Binary?
With the endless potential for reimagining the world that science fiction offers, why do so many imagined futures stick to heteronormative, binary conceptions of sexuality and gender? Come and discuss the implications of futuristic technology for queer, trans* and genderfluid characters, and share recommendations for work exploring these possibilities.
With Tori Truslow, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Jude Roberts and Cel West.

1:30pm-2:45pm – Britannia – New Goggles: Diversity in Steampunk
‘Anachrotech’ genres like Steampunk give writers, makers, and musicians a chance to tinker with the past, resulting in, at best, a way to reclaim and subvert popular historical narratives and tropes; at worst, a nostalgia that uncritically repeats those tropes. Let’s trade in those rose-tinted monocles for new goggles, and discuss the importance of queering and diversifying the genre.
With Zen Cho, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Maki Yamazaki and Sam Kelly.

5:00pm-6:15pm – Caravelle – Women’s Worlds: Feminist Utopias in Literature
A panel discussion about feminist utopias throughout literature. How have they changed as feminism has developed, how do we imagine what we do not have, and how close are we to that reality?
With Alex Dally MacFarlane, Cel West, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Tricia Sullivan and Alison Morton


10:00am-11:15am – Britannia – Better History = Better Fantasy: Writing Outside the Binary
Fantasy worlds based on historical periods often lack gay, trans* and other queer characters. Blaming this on our own world’s history is a mistake: history is full of people living outside normative sexualities and gender roles! Sappho (and the queer women who wrote about her), sworn virgins, monks and nuns, Two Spirit people, shamans, the Chevalier d’Éon, and many more! Come and discuss queer people in history – and how to research them to make your fantasy worlds better.
With Alex Dally MacFarlane, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Koel Mukherjee and Hel Gurney.


Out now!

"...the 33 stories that MacFarlane has gathered for this volume dazzle with the virtuosity of their contributors’ talents."

- Publishers Weekly: STARRED REVIEW

"Works from around the world, some in translation, provide an invaluable snapshot of this moment in the genre as well as some tremendously enjoyable reading."

- Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2014

"The stories range widely in scope and form — from prose poems to metafiction — to capture a dynamic, forward-thinking genre that plays with history, myth and science."

- The Washington Post: Think science fiction is dominated by men? Think again.

"...ground-breaking and superbly conceived..."

- Nina Allan: Strange Horizons: 2014 In Review

Aliens: Recent Encounters

"...this [anthology] blew us away more than any other. Mostly because of the sheer volume of greatness contained in these 32 stories... These are classic stories of alien encounters, from some of the best science fiction writers working today."

- Best Books of 2013

Short Stories