Visibility and Community Make Uncanny Magazine Feel

Today, we are happy to host Michi Trota, Uncanny Magazine’s managing editor with a special guest post about this year’s Kickstarter campaign – stretch goals, guys! GO, GO GO!


I’ve always been drawn to SF/F stories that leave me a puddle of emotions on the floor. The tragedy of Paul Atreides’ entrapment by fate? Heartbroken. The very first Star Wars film? Pure, unadulterated delight. Frodo’s final farewell to his friends in The Lord of the Rings? Begged my parents to tell me that wasn’t the end of his story. As far as I was concerned, the best SF/F was the kind that left your mind reeling, your heart raw, your imagination fired up, and your love of the genre re-kindled. I might have been terrible about actually finishing what I wrote, but those stories inspired me to at least try putting pen to paper to pour out those ideas, no matter how half-baked. They made me want to run out and share them with people I knew because THIS IS AMAZING YOU NEED TO READ/WATCH THIS THING AND DIVE INTO THIS WORLD WITH ME!

When Uncanny Magazine says it publishes SF/F fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art “that makes you feel,” it means we’ve chosen pieces we believe will inspire that level of OMG SQUEE! in our audience. Because very simply, what we share in Uncanny’s pages reminds us why we fell in love with SF/F, that the possibilities in this genre are endless and as varied as the people creating those worlds, and that there’s room for all of us in this community.

It’s been a successful founding premise for the magazine. Fourteen pieces published in Uncanny’s first year have been finalists for awards and published in six different Year’s Best anthologies. We’re a finalist for both the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award this year and both Kickstarters for Year One and Year Two hit every stretch goal. A vibrant, enthusiastic community continues to grow around the magazine, and we’re thrilled that after our first week of Kickstarting Year Three, the campaign has already reached its main goal! Dubbed the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps (because Space Unicorns are awesome and transcend any barriers between science fiction and fantasy), Uncanny’s community of supporters, contributing creators, and staff have spent the better part of two years creating a space where diversity is the default, there’s something for everyone, and all are welcome to share just what it is they love so much about SF/F.

That last part about sharing what you love is one of my favorite parts about building a sense of fellowship in SF/F. I’ve found there are few things quite as powerful and effective at building social bonds as shared squee. The joy and enthusiasm with which Uncanny readers will share our stories, essays, poems, and art tells us we’re doing our job right, especially when someone comes back and tells us they’ve started reading the magazine because a friend of a friend shared something we published and they loved it that much. When people share Uncanny pieces they’ve enjoyed, it opens the door for more people to join our community as both creators and fans. The more fans and creators we have investing their passion in Uncanny, the more the magazine grows and evolves.

SF/F’s greatest strength as a genre is that its stories are only limited by their creators’ imaginations. There’s room for everything, from sword-and-sorcery quests to sentient spaceships to talking storm lizards to folding cities to weird Western desert ghosts to telepathic alien lions and so much more. SF/F contains myriad voices and countless worlds, enough for everyone to see themselves reflected and included, as both characters and creators. And there’s nothing quite like the feeling (there’s that word again) of finding yourself in stories when you’re used to expecting otherwise.

A few years ago, I’d flirted with the idea of giving up on SF/F because I wasn’t finding stories that sparked my imagination anymore. I was tired of feeling tokenized and stereotyped (assuming women, particularly brown Asian women like me, were included at all those fantastical worlds). And between all the “fake geek girl” nonsense and fellow nerds acting as if asking for more inclusion was tantamount to taking away their clubhouse, it was feeling pretty lonely in nerdom. Who wants to be treated like an interloper and continually fight for your share of nerd pie (the pie is infinite!)?

Randomly, a friend suggested I pick up Chicks Dig Time Lords (which was co-edited by Uncanny Co-Editor-In-Chief Lynne M. Thomas), and those essays by women who loved Doctor Who (but didn’t shy away from its problems) was like finding home. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone anymore, and here was an entire book full of authors (All women! Including women of color!) for me to explore. I went to their blogs, read their work, followed them on social media, and found new writers based on their recommendations. It turned out I just hadn’t known where to look for the stories that would inspire me as I had been inspired as a child. Ken Liu’s “Paper Menagerie”? Tears shed over its recognition of the alienation that comes with assimilation. Sarah Kuhn’s One Con Glory? Unabashed squee (and not a little discomfort at recognizing bits of myself in the somewhat judgemental nerd protagonist). N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season? Heart shredded, mind blown, and pissed I had to wait an entire year for the sequel because how could it end right there?? Here was a community of SF/F creators and fans that included people like me, here were stories I couldn’t wait to share with others, that made me feel as if I was a part of a genre I’d loved for my whole life.

When Lynne and her partner Michael Damian Thomas explained their vision for what they hoped to build with Uncanny and asked me to join as Managing Editor, I jumped in with both feet because this was exactly the kind of SF/F community I wanted to create and encourage others to take part in. I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done over the past two years, or be more thankful for the opportunities Uncanny has made possible for so many.

It’s because of Uncanny I discovered there is a thriving community of Filipinx SF/F writers, creators, and enthusiasts, several of whom have been published in the magazine (the first stories I ever read by Isabel Yap and Alyssa Wong were in Uncanny, and M Sereno’s gorgeous, fearless way with words has helped remind me that I do actually like poetry). Which makes the fact that as Uncanny’s Managing Editor, I’m the first Filipinx to be a Hugo finalist in any category that much more meaningful. These connections and networks that Uncanny makes possible are helping to create support and space for even more voices and visions in SF/F, and it’s a wonderful thing to see.

Uncanny understands the importance of visibility, how it can inspire others and contribute to a more robust community (particularly if you’re used to seeing yourself erased right out of the genre you desperately want to be a part of), and that embracing these facts is not at odds with publishing “quality” work. In fact, this understanding is essential to encouraging and finding those stories that make you pause and go “Ah, here is something special.” When we see ourselves reflected and welcomed in a community, when we’re included in the default audience, it makes us want to participate, to create and contribute our best work, because we know our voices won’t be ignored, dismissed, or erased.

Not to put too fine a point on it, visibility and inclusion, in terms of both stories and their creators, are the building blocks of a sustainable, evolving, welcoming community. And a healthy community is one in which people feel they matter. To our supporters, our contributors, our audience: Uncanny is your magazine. As the Thomases are fond of saying, you are shareholders in Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps. None of this would be possible without your participation and enthusiasm. We can’t wait to get started on Year Three and we hope you’ll continue this journey with us. We remain committed to our mission to bring you “intricate, experimental stories and poems with verve and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs, from writers of every conceivable background,” and we will continue to push ourselves in exploring just what is possible in SF/F.

Because there is nothing like discovering worlds beyond your imagination and still finding yourself there to make you feel. You deserve nothing less. And this is what Uncanny does best.



Michi Trota is a writer, editor, speaker, communications manager, and community organizer in Chicago, IL. She is the Managing Editor for the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award finalist Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and is the first Filipina Hugo Award finalist. Michi writes about geek culture and fandom, focusing primarily on issues of diversity and representation, on her blog Geek Melange, and she is a member of the Chicago Nerd Social Club’s Board of Organizers. Topics guaranteed to get her talking for hours include comics, Doctor Who, and food geekery. Michi was a featured essayist in Invisible: An Anthology of Representation in SF/F (edited by Jim C. Hines). In her professional life, she is a content development and growth manager with over fifteen years of editorial experience in media. In her spare time, she spins fire with the fire+bellydance showcase, Raks Geek, and at the Chicago Full Moon Jams. You can follow Michi on Twitter @GeekMelange.

1 Comment

  • Jocelyn
    July 29, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Holy smokes, that cover is amazing!

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