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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is author and game designer Kimberly Unger! Her work includes the short stories “The Aborted Robot Uprising of TastyHomeThings” and “Wishes Folded into Fancy Paper,” as well as the science fiction technothriller Nucleation, her debut novel. The Extractionist, her sophomore novel publishing on July 12, features a hacker who extracts people unable to get themselves out of virtual space.

Cover of The Extractionist by Kimberly Unger

I’ve come to the realization that the idea of “dumbing down” needs to die.

Writing is research, pain and simple. Any topic you don’t have a personal expertise in (which is likely a LOT of things) takes a certain amount of asking questions. Way back when I first started learning to write I leaned into that way too hard. I write science fiction (and the occasional textbook) so the desire to provide well-researched, nuanced takes on future technologies is a strong one. I’d go so far as to say I do research sometimes just for the fun of it. The idea that anyone might not want to understand the difference between a fresnel lens and an optical pancake lens, even as a passing thought, keeps me up at night.

From talking to other new authors, it feels like this is not an uncommon problem. Anyone who’s working in a space that has some area of specialty feels this pain. You could be digging into corset making in the 17th century or researching bookbinding in the 18th. Faster than light travel? Bleeding edge automotive engineering? Any time I meet a starter author in a critique group or at a writing event, I hear the same concern.

“I don’t want to dumb it down.” Which is often followed by, “Readers are smart, they’ll know if I’m faking it.”

I know, in my case at least, this is a very “young” set of ideas that haven’t yet come in contact with the realities of finding an audience. Research leads to deeper understanding, not just of the subject matter itself, but of the way any given subject is commonly presented and understood. By doing the research, the author gets to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. They consult the experts, read the material, and if they’re lucky, they get to hear all the cool stories. The job from there should be using this new understanding to add believability to the worlds and characters, but sometimes the desire to show just how cool the subject really is overrides the more pressing needs of the narrative.

And, because I’m just that kind of person, I started to examine my own fears around this process. What about this research, this deeper understanding, compels you to add more, to wander off into the weeds a bit as you craft your story? I mean, after all, we do the research in order to build a believable world. Why does that believability come with such a high narrative cost? Why is “dumbing down” the response we have as writers to something that is often intended to be a support piece, rather than the core of everything? And, as such self-examinations usually provide, I found a couple of recurring themes rolling around in my head. I don’t know if they’re in your head too, but let’s take a look.

But there’s so much more to know…
One of the things I run across is that the “popularly understood” version of a thing is often not at all nuanced. When you start to dig into something, well, to misquote a popular ogre, “it’s got layers.”

Image of Shrek and Donkey with "Layers!" across the bottom
Source: I made this from a screenshot using Photoshop.

The reader, however, is often only familiar with the final image or the action they’ve been instructed to take. They are blissfully unaware of the handwaving that gets done in service of communication of an idea. Because, while it might be nice to know that radiation comes in a myriad of types, ranging from the optically pretty to the kill-you-dead, most people just know enough to put on sunscreen even if it’s cloudy. The depth and breadth of the subject matter has already, repeatedly been edited by experts down to the immediate day to day useful. To bring research into writing is merely a question of editing, something we writers are required to develop as a skill. We are focused on making a subject useful to our story and as such to our readers.

Those decisions you make around just what pieces of your research to include are not “dumbing it down,” they are making it more accessible.

Bringing the receipts
There is a certain hesitation in researching outside of your wheelhouse. Decades of being told to “stay in our lane” at work, at school, in society, on the freeway — okay, maybe it’s a valid criticism on the freeway — mean that many of us are nervous about getting called out for a misstep, or a factual error. Remember in the premiere of The Expanse, when Uncle Mateo pops open his helmet in a hard vacuum to readjust a wire, then closes it up again?

Image of the Open Helmet Scene from The Expanse
Source: https://www.syfy.com/the-expanse/photos/the-science-of-the-expanse-season-1-episode-6#196535

Where research is concerned, it feels like new writers try very hard to convey that right answer within the text itself. To stop the question of veracity before it even leaves a reader’s lips (or keyboard). This is especially true when the research we’ve done uncovers a fact or a figure or an image that goes against the idea most people have in their heads. In the case of The Expanse, it was the idea that a person could be exposed to hard vacuum and, well, not explode. After all, everybody knows that air pressure is what holds people together and if your suit gets opened up, then WHAMMO.

They got called out on it. It probably would have been nice if everyone had just shrugged and said “oh, they must have discovered something new about space,” rather than pointing fingers. But since they did their research, they had the more nuanced answer to hand (see “There’s so much more to know” above) when they needed it. Maybe not the perfectly correct answer, but their depiction was accurate enough once people started asking the question. This exchange turned into a moment of dialogue between the author and reader that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

It’s a dialogue, not a monologue…
It’s those dialogues, whether it’s on Twitter or around the dining table, that can illuminate just how effective making those facts accessible can be. Writing shares the same flaws as any other form of communication. In order to make valuable use of your research, you’re going to want to simplify it as much as the pacing and cadence of your story requires. Not because your readers won’t understand, not because you’re “dumbing it down,” but because you need to make that information accessible. Accessible engenders discussion and discussion becomes a teachable moment.

So do your research, distill it down and use it to support your stories. You’re not insulting anybody by simplifying. You’re not going to lose readers by failing to provide a three page explanation on the physics of magma to support exactly why a lava tube is on the lee side of the volcano for your hero to escape through. (Though, if you have access to that paper, could you send it along so I can have a look?)

The idea that a streamlined, accessible story can only be had at the expense of “dumbing down” your research needs to die. Once you’re past that, then your work really starts to live.

Photo of Kimberly Unger KIMBERLY UNGER made her first videogame back when the 80-column card was the new hot thing and followed that up with degrees in English/Writing from UC Davis and Illustration from the Art Center College of Design. Nowadays she produces narrative games, lectures on the intersection of art and code for UCSC’s master’s program, and writes science fiction about how all these app-driven superpowers are going to change humanity. [Unger writes about fast robots, big explosions, and space things.] She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works in the future of virtual reality on the Meta-Oculus gaming platform.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is Saara El-Arifi! The Final Strife, her epic fantasy debut novel and the first book in The Ending Fire trilogy, is scheduled to release in the US and Canada on June 21 and the UK on June 23. It’s described as a novel with “roots in the mythology of Africa and Arabia that ‘sings of rebellion, love, and the courage it takes to stand up to tyranny’ (Samantha Shannon, author of The Priory of the Orange Tree)”—and one in which “three women band together against a cruel empire that divides people by blood.”

Cover of The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi

Routes to my roots
By Saara El-Arifi

Image of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate

Was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat:

What pangs excruciating must molest,

What sorrows labour in my parent’s breast?

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley, 1793.

Though this article is entitled Routes to my Roots, it isn’t really about me. Instead, this is dedicated to the Black women who came before. Six months ago, I had never heard of Phillis Wheatley. Now, it’s rare a day passes where her name doesn’t cross my mind. Her story is a tragic one, though not uncommon; enslaved in West Africa and brought to America to serve the Wheatley family. It was when Wheatley put pen to paper for the first time that her destiny diverged from the norm, and she became the first Black person in the western world to publish any form of literature. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in London in 1793 to the bemusement of the world’s scholars. Here was an educated African writing poetry! How quaint! And a woman! How delightful!

Wheatley was the subject of harsh scholarly criticism stemming from racism. Though this criticism has evolved, it hasn’t gone away. Many Black critics of the twentieth century condoned her writings as mere reflections of her indoctrination into white life. And it cannot be denied that the poem ‘On coming to America’ heralds her capture from Africa as ‘mercy’. But as I read through the damning accounts of her work, claiming she sounded too whitewashed in her writings, I began to see the shards of a mirror looking back at me. I cannot and will not claim to have lived through the trauma of enslavement, but the echoes of the criticism still struck me between the eyes. As Wheatley wasn’t just the first Black person to publish literature, she was the first writer of the Black diaspora.

Her conflicting double identities of African and American placed her in a unique space that paved the way for writers like me. We straddle multiple worlds but belong in neither. Is my identity fully African and fully European, or am I half of each? I don’t speak of genetics here, my heritage is predominantly North and West African, but what of the part of me that isn’t blood and bone and flesh?

Race in itself is a concept imagined, it is a fallacy that it is based in the biological as genetic disparity is as vast for those within one category as those without it. But what Phillis Wheatley calls on, is not a reckoning of race, but an acknowledgment of her existence. Assimilation is a dangerous tool of empire, it erases one’s past identity while adapting to a new cultural standard. But once that has happened, who are you? A Black body with white words?

These are the challenges Phillis Wheatley faced, the ripples of which still permeate through writers of the diaspora today. My battle with my conflicting identities led me to creating a world that is wholly me. The Final Strife is set in a land that is both beautiful and broken. Plagued by issues of empire, while also celebrating arab and afro culture, queerness and gender non-conformity, it is the product of my lived experience. To truly know me is to walk a day in the Wardens’ Empire—the ruling country in The Final Strife.

In order to publish her poetry Wheatley was forced to include endorsements of those who had tested her intellect, to prove she, a Black woman, had indeed written the poems. As I scanned the list of men who had provided signatories in order to allow this Black woman to publish, these white gatekeepers, I am reminded of how, in many different ways, these barriers often still exist. This should have been a disheartening feeling, but it wasn’t, because it made me realise how far we have to go. I cannot wait to read more fantasy worlds borne of cultures outside of Europe, to discover new writers finding new identities, new stories and characters.

Now I said Wheatley’s story was a tragic one. And though she found fame and success, she died at thirty-one, penniless. Many consider her unsuccessful in her endeavours since she had no money to her name, but her achievements spread out across time, through generations. We are the ones made richer for knowing her.

Photo of Saara El-Arifi
Photo Credit: Mustafa Raee
With a DNA profile that lights up like a satellite photograph of earth, Saara El-Arifi’s heritage is intrinsically linked to the themes she explores in her writing.

She was raised in the Middle East until her formative years, when her family swapped the Abu Dhabi desert for the English Peak District hills. This change of climate had a significant impact on her growth—not physically, she’s nearly 6ft—and she learned what it was to be Black in a white world.

Saara knew she was a storyteller from the moment she told her first lie. Though her stories have developed beyond the ramblings of a child, she still appreciates the thrill of a well-told tale.

THE FINAL STRIFE is Saara El-Arifi’s debut novel, the first part of a trilogy inspired by Ghanaian folklore and Arabian myths.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is Rachel Gillig! She is the author of One Dark Window, which is described as “a dark, lushly gothic fantasy about a maiden who must unleash the monster within to save her kingdom.” It’s coming out just in time for spooky season—on October 18!—but until then, you can find her on Twitter or Instagram.

Cover of One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig

Maidens, Monsters, and the Lines that Blur Between Them

The monster/maiden dynamic is a familiar one. It wears many faces. It lives in all genres, particularly fantasy, dispersing itself throughout the subgenres. It’s been a favorite trope of mine since I watched Beauty and the Beast at the ripe age of five. But this blog won’t be about romance or tension between the monster and maiden. Rather, I’d like to reflect on, in writing my own monster/maiden book, the built-in constraints of the maiden, and how the foil of the monster can help undo them.

Part of why the monster/maiden dynamic is so successful is because it comes with integrated conflict—light against dark. The maiden and the monster are natural foils. Her virtue and beauty stand in contrast to the monster’s atrocities—physical or moral. Over the span of the story, it is often the maiden’s virtue that wins the day. Her goodness erodes the monster’s darkness.

Don’t get me wrong—I love these stories to my core. But in the world of fantasy, where a reader can escape so thoroughly into a book, I wanted to experience a different kind of maiden. One whose contribution is not merely to redeem others. A maiden who does not deliver the monster, but becomes one herself.

My maiden character, Elspeth, is the first-person narrator of One Dark Window, my upcoming gothic fantasy novel. But my monster was the first character I created. He is called the Nightmare, and he is the amalgamation of two inspirations. The first is the yew tree from A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, and the second is his namesake, the creature in the 1781 painting The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli. Both of these monsters are captivating, terrifying entities. They are not necessarily villains, but neither are they “good.” For me, they stir feelings of wonder and dread. They keep their own rules. Without the constraints of morality or beauty, they have enviable power.

It is that kind of power—monstrous, without constraint—that I wanted for my maiden character, Elspeth. Because, deep within the maiden/monster trope, maidens are far more constrained than their counterparts. While the monster is released from the expectation of goodness, the maiden is tethered by morality. She must be good. Or beautiful. If she has righteous anger, she must swallow it, or find a way to let it out that does not make her any less lovely or loveable. She’s allowed a flaw or two, but she often shoulders the beauty and morality of the story. Above all else, the maiden must remain an unflagging contradiction to the dark, uninhibited freedom of the monster.

As someone who writes layered, flawed women, I have a strong impulse to correct this—or simply erase all the expectations foisted on the maiden. But I did not do that in One Dark Window—I tried to explore them. Because women do have expectations put on them. Elspeth does indeed conform to the rules and expectations foisted upon her. She’s cautious, and takes care to hide her magic, her power—to present herself as nonthreatening. She swallows her rage. She keeps secrets out of fear that, if others knew who she truly was, they’d perceive her as monstrous and unworthy of love.

For me, this is the crux of the issue. The maiden is lovely not merely out of virtue, but out of fear. Because, in an unsafe world, the desire to be loved and be loveable—to be accepted without judgment—is a safety mechanism. Remove it, and the world is a dangerous place.

But I cannot stop myself from wondering—what would happen if the maiden no longer needed to be loved or loveable to be safe? Who would she be? Would we even call her a maiden anymore? She needs to find safety in her own inner power. And when she does not know what inner power without rules of constraints feels like, she needs a someone—or something—to show her.

A monster. A creature of wonder and dread that has never had to be lovely. A monster, who exists beyond restrictions forged from fear. A monster who, just like the yew tree from A Monster Calls, helps the maiden break things.

This is why I love the fantasy genre. It’s escapism, but with roots that touch reality. Because we’ve all been the maiden at one point—had expectations foisted on us, constricting rules that wear the guise of safety. We’ve all felt righteous anger and searched for our power and wanted to break things. Books give us a safe way to escape into these ideas. And escapism is more than slipping into the beautiful world or magic system or romance of a fantasy novel. Sometimes, escapism is a maiden’s fury, and the catharsis of watching her undo all her constraints and unleash a vengeful, horrible, monster.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Margaret Atwood I think about all the time. One that could so easily be about maidens who decide to become monsters. “The desire to be loved is the last illusion. Give it up, and you will be free.”

Photo of Rachel Gillig Rachel Gillig was born and raised on the California coast. She is a writer and a teacher, with a B.A. in Literary Theory and Criticism from UC Davis. If she is not ensconced in blankets dreaming up her next novel, Rachel is in her garden or walking with her husband, son, and their poodle, Wally.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is SFF author Tanvi Berwah! Her short fiction includes the Pushcart Prize–nominated story “Red Velvet Cupcake”; “River Stones,” which was on the FON South Asia Short Story Award shortlist; and “Escape,” a selection for Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA, which highlighted work by new voices. Monsters Born and Made, her South Asian–inspired YA fantasy debut novel “about the power of the elite, the price of glory, and one girl’s chance to change it all,” features sea monsters and a dangerous chariot race—and will be published on September 6!

Cover of Monsters Born and Made by Tanvi Berwah

Cover Designer: Natalie C. Sousa
Cover Artist: Sasha Vinogradova


“[Adults] are afraid of dragons because they are afraid of freedom.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

A deep, solid thump on the ground. Ripples of water in the cup. A building fear as the T-Rex steps into the paddock. And then the release as it roars. As a child this scene in the movie Jurassic Park scared me, and I screamed in a full theater, which is what my family often reminds me of. But I don’t remember the fear. I remember the feeling of awe when this real-but-fantastical creature came to life on the screen.

It was the beginning of an ongoing love of fantasy and science fiction, especially one with fantasy creatures–dragons, merpeople, chimerae, flying horses, sea beasts. My copies of books like Dragon Rider and Eragon are so worn that their covers have almost faded. What was it about these creatures? I wasn’t sure, but I kept looking for more and more of such stories.

That’s how I found Sean Kendrick and Corr in The Scorpio Races and Jon Snow and Ghost in A Song of Ice and Fire. Two characters and their dangerous, terrifying monstrous sidekicks. Both Sean and Jon are strong-willed characters who are, depending on who you ask, a mess. They’re both only teens, orphaned, struggling with their places in the world, and the beings they truly trust, in a way, are not people but their beasts that are capable of eating said people. And these creatures, too, seem to trust their humans in a way that defies what they’re meant to be–horrors without thought.

I did not understand how deeply this narrative–and Sean and Jon–affected me until I found myself scribbling the idea of “WATER MONSTERS???” in my journal in 2018. I spent a lot of time scouring myths and folklore for monsters and discarding them. From the idea of monstrous water horses and wolves to krakens typically seen in pirate lore, I tried a lot of these creatures until I realized maybe I should try making up a whole new one. Which is how I ended up making a monster creature–a maristag–from scratch in my debut novel MONSTERS BORN AND MADE. Maristags are vicious and fanged and clawed. They have the body of a velociraptor and the head of a stag with multi-tined antlers that could rip anyone apart. They are angry and irritable and the kind of monsters that I loved growing up. And Stormgold the maristag is a perfect companion for my main character, Koral–another teen struggling for her place in a world that is bent on breaking her.

It’s a recognizable trope–a boy and his x–but one that endlessly fascinates me. Especially when it gives me those moments of exquisite tenderness that strip away the dichotomy of what it means to be human and animal. Sean’s bond with the water horse makes it come back to him, and Jon’s bond with his direwolf transcends the tangible world.

And although Sean and Jon don’t have ideal lives, the world is certainly worse for people who are not cishet men, so writing this trope with a girl gave a new dimension to this child’s dream of having a giant, terrifying beast be a friend to you, marking you as someone special.

Because why else do we read fantasy if not to continue the dreams that we used to have as a child–of being special and doing big, impossible things; of breaking dichotomies and finding feelings we are yet to name? And dreams of having a monster companion you could fly and cross the oceans on. A monster companion that will stand with you as you step outside your home and take on the whole wide world.

If only Icarus had a dragon instead of wax wings.

Photo of Tanvi Berwah Tanvi Berwah is a South Asian writer who grew up wanting to touch the stars and reach back in time. MONSTERS BORN AND MADE, her debut YA novel, is forthcoming from Sourcebooks Fire. Her short story, Escape, is out now in Foreshadow anthology from Algonquin Young Readers. She graduated from the University of Delhi with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Literature of English, and always found ways to fit in The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones in her academic life. A history and space enthusiast, she would’ve loved to be an astronomer, had her lack of mathematical skills allowed it. Find her at tanviberwah.com.

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Today’s guest is Mary McMyne. Her upcoming novel, The Book of Gothel, out July 26, 2022 in the U.S. and July 28, 2022 in the U.K., is described as a “lush, historical reimagining of the Rapunzel folktale from the perspective of the witch” for “fans of Wicked, Spinning Silver, and Hild.” You can connect with Mary on Twitter and Instagram, and learn more about her books on her website.

Cover of The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne

Why are fairy tales told the way they are told? What secrets do they hide? 

I’ve been obsessed with folktales—with once upon a time, with long ago and far away—since I was little, when my mother told spooky bedtime stories about goblins and fairies that changed the very shapes of the shadows in my room. I used to look forward to bedtime, when she would recite folk poetry from memory and tell stories about Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Snow White. But as I grew older, I began to question the versions of the folktales she told us, many of which featured passive heroines whose goals were fulfilled only because of the intervention of a passing woodsman or prince.

Folktales are by definition dynamic stories, which are passed down orally. From parents to children at bedtime, between weavers at the loom or tired workers resting their bones beside the fire. We all know that stories are changed by each telling, that every storyteller puts their own spin on a tale. The versions of European folktales that we know exist in those forms because of who recorded them, where, and when. The Brothers Grimm. Giambattista Basile. Charles Perrault. Apart from a few exceptions like Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, Western European folklore was largely recorded by men.

Given the number of passive heroines in classic stories, I’m a huge fan of feminist retellings. As a reader, I’ve always been obsessed with point of view, the way that stories can become utterly changed when told from a new perspective. I love it when an author takes a story that once seemed simple and complicates it by breathing life into a neglected character, turning the story kaleidoscopic, complex, like a clear prism held up to the light that flashes a rainbow.

One of my favorite retellings as a teenager was Wicked, because of the way Gregory Maguire completely re-envisions (goody-two-shoes) Dorothy and Glinda from the perspective of the (certainly cynical, but not quite wicked) witch, Elphaba. In my twenties, I loved Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, which reimagines (philandering, absent) Odysseus from the perspective of (long-suffering) Penelope and her poor hanged maids. I could go on with recommendations here: Circe by Madeleine Miller, Ash by Malindo Lo, The Lost Queen by Signe Pike, “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado, Grendel by John Gardner, Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I love a retelling that turns the source material on its head, that turns a vilified, overlooked, or flat character into a complex person, asking questions about why the story was told the way it was, revealing secrets that aren’t in the original.

There are two fantasy retellings coming out this year that I’m especially excited about because they promise to do exactly that. I can’t wait to read Vaishnavi Patel’s Kaikeyi, out April 26, which Publisher’s Weekly says turns the Indian epic the Ramayana on its head by shining “a brilliant light on the vilified queen” and her ancient magic, illuminating the complexities of her character that are omitted from the classic version. And I’m excited to read Olesya Salnikova Gilmore’s The Witch and the Tsar, out in September, which promises to shed new light on the maligned and legendary witch Baba Yaga.

When I first set out to write THE BOOK OF GOTHEL, I wanted to write a retelling that speculated about the historical roots of the Rapunzel folktale in medieval Europe. I wanted to breathe life into the female characters who were neglected in the Brothers Grimm’s version. The mother, who craves the herb and births the child, but then is never referred to again. (That poor woman! Where is she when Rapunzel gets her happily ever after with her twins and the prince? What happens to her?) The witch, whose motivations for kidnapping Rapunzel go unexplored. (Yes, she’s mad that the baby’s father stole an herb from her garden, but why in the world does she want the infant as payment? How evil is she?)

There’s a long and terrible history in Europe of women being persecuted for witchcraft, especially women who lived on the margins or didn’t fit into the conventional roles prescribed for them by the Church. Most of these women, we now know, were maligned because of factors outside of their control. Widows were especially vulnerable, for example, as were women living in poverty. As a storyteller, I wanted to turn the stories we tell about witches on their heads, to ask whether the witches of the Brothers Grimm were really as evil as they were made out to be. THE BOOK OF GOTHEL is my attempt to ask how the witch would represent herself.

A manuscript found buried in an ancient Black Forest cellar, GOTHEL is the medieval memoir of Haelewise, daughter-of-Hedda—the peasant woman who would become known as the witch who stole away Rapunzel—written in ink on parchment in her own words. Born to a midwife and fisherman in 12th century Germany, Haelewise is a young midwife’s apprentice who has fainting spells and the ability to sense the movement of souls. When her mother dies, Haelewise, shunned by her village, escapes into the Black Forest to seek shelter in the legendary Tower of Gothel. But the wise woman who lives there isn’t what she seems, and soon, Haelewise must choose between safety at Gothel and entry into a dangerous circle of sorceresses and wise women who practice forbidden magic.

The magic these women practice is inspired by herbcraft, medieval folk beliefs, and stories of ancient gods and goddesses, not the diabolical witchcraft the Church claims it is. And the sorceresses and seers who teach it to her—a young woman named Rika with ties to the local Jewish community, a pregnant princess, and historical characters like Beatrice of Burgundy and Hildegard of Bingen—are different from the way they have been presented by historians and scribes.

From its magic system to its portraits of historical figures, GOTHEL is my attempt to interrogate history and fable, to ask why stories are told the way they’re told. Why did Hildegard invent her lingua ignota, the secret language she taught her nuns? What did Christian scribes leave out of their records? What artifacts did medieval clergy destroy? What happened to Rapunzel’s mother after the witch stole her baby? Did she and the witch know each other beforehand? And why did the witch want to kidnap Rapunzel and lock her in her tower?

I wrote GOTHEL so she could tell us herself.

Photo of Mary McMyne Mary McMyne’s poems and stories have appeared in magazines like Gulf Coast, Redivider, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, and the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Her fairy tale poetry chapbook, Wolf Skin (2014), won the Elgin Chapbook Award. Originally from south Louisiana, she earned her MFA in fiction from New York University. She is hopelessly obsessed with illuminated manuscripts and grimoires.

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The eleventh annual Women in SF&F Month is now officially underway—thank you so much to all of last week’s guests!

More guest posts are coming up Monday–Friday of this week, too. But before announcing the schedule, here are last week’s essays in case you missed any of them.

All of the guest posts from April 2022 can be found here, and last week’s guest posts were:

And there will be more guest posts throughout the week, starting tomorrow! This week’s guest posts are by:

Women in SF&F Month 2022 Week 2 Schedule Graphic

April 11: Mary McMyne (The Book of Gothel, Wolf Skin)
April 12: Tanvi Berwah (Monsters Born and Made, “Escape“)
April 13: Rachel Gillig (One Dark Window)
April 14: Saara El-Arifi (The Final Strife)
April 16: Kimberly Unger (The Extractionist, Nucleation)