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When I saw the e-mail, I was annoyed. You see, the sender’s name was Nicholas, and the only Nicholas on my mind was the one at work — and it was just too early in the morning to think about work. But I groaned and looked a little more closely.

It was not Nicholas from work.

It was Nicholas Whyte, writing from Ireland. Nicholas Whyte, the 2019 Hugo Administrator.

Nicholas wrote with the news that Shimmer had been nominated in the Semiprozine category. I was still in bed, so stayed there and sobbed for a good while, certain I had read wrong. When I thumbed out of the e-mail, I saw that there was another one. Also from Nicholas. Nicholas, it’s not even 7am here, what could you possibly…

Nicholas was also telling me that I’d been nominated as Best Editor (Short Form). WELL.

Only my pillowcase knows how much I cried. (Here’s the whole list of Hugo awesome!)

o m g

Even as I work on this post, I can’t quite believe it. Surely they miscounted. How could it be? But it is. As writers, we’re supposed to always have the words, but sometimes you stare at that blank page for a long time, wondering if they will ever come. Blinking cursor, blinking cursor…

First, the thank yous, to Matt Dovey, Wren Wallis, Maria Haskins, Alex Acks, Suzan Palumbo, Lindsay Thomas, and Alexis A. Hunter who instigated the #AHugoForElise hashtag and made this a thing people were talking about. If not for that, I’m not sure either I or Shimmer end up on the ballot — but they did, and we did, and I can’t breathe right when I think of all the kind things they said, and the love they all showed me for the work we and I did at Shimmer.

By Wren’s daughter, Murderchild.

Shimmer was the magazine of my heart, but I never expected it to be that. I came to read slush and learn stuff, and then go on my merry way. Only, my merry way turned out to be with Shimmer, and Beth and Mary Robinette, and Sean, and I’m so glad it did. I met so many fabulous people, who taught me about fiction, about this genre we all love, and about myself. I learned what I was capable of, but also what our genre was capable of — and both are pretty damn great.

That hashtag was hard to follow in the beginning. In the early days, I muted it, but then a wise voice said “hey, they love the work you did, enjoy that.” So then that imposter part of my brain said “yeah, this could be it — enjoy what’s there.” I couldn’t allow myself to believe that anything more might happen. And then it did.

For everyone who thought of Shimmer, thank you. For everyone who thought of me, thank you. So much of the work editors do goes unseen and is lost in the rush to get a new issue done and out before we have to do it all over again. Much creative work is done alone, be it editing or writing or drawing, and it is a good and necessary thing that we lift our heads up every now and then and hear everyone who has said “your work matters.”

We heard you. Thank you for honoring everything that Shimmer was.


Ravens & Writing Desks

Five years ago (!) Rings of Anubis was published by Masque Books. When Masque passed on the sequels, Apokrupha picked the books up, which meant we needed covers and a new design aesthetic, which was terrifying and exciting. When I sent editor Jacob a link to my dream cover artist, I never imagined it would work out as perfectly as it did.

This summer, the final Folley & Mallory book — The Ebon Jackal — shall arrive and with it, another smashing cover from Ravven. Ravven was kind enough to endure an interview from yours truly, because I was curious about her and her work — because she’s made some astonishing covers through the years. While I absolutely want to show you the work she did for The Ebon Jackal, I wanted you to know her better, too! Soon: the reveal of the final Folley & Mallory cover and a preorder link! Now: interview!

You have done the art for best selling authors such as Annie Bellet, Shay Roberts, and Daniel Arenson. How long have you been creating book covers and how did you get started?

I started doing covers back in early 2012, if memory serves. It was a panic decision due to quitting my job as a web developer and designer, mainly building ecommerce sites (which I liked) for a terrible company (which I didn’t). After a week of total panic, I dove into building a portfolio of book cover art and haven’t regretted it at all since!

Did my Folley & Mallory book covers pose any specific challenges for you?

I hardly ever get to do steampunk covers, so it was enormously fun to work on these! Steampunk does require a bit of “frankensteining” (creating a model or a costume from many different images and painting in the rest), and you have to be careful that the overall image doesn’t get too stiff as a result of having many bits of different images composited together. I love the main character’s model, and she was fun to work with.

Are there any artists you take inspiration from?

SO many! I envy and adore Chris McGrath. John Jude Palencar. The old Thomas Canty covers.

Ah! I love John Jude Palencar. Do you have a favorite book cover (that someone else has made, not your own)?

Again, so many – either because of the artist, or because they do something that I’m terrible at, such as stunning typography or symbology/high concept covers. I love the Toby Daye covers for Seanan McGuire, as well as the Dresden series covers – both done by the same artist, Chris McGrath.

Some artists work with ink and paper, others with tablets and pixels. Has technology changed the way you work? Has it made it easier to get what’s in your head onto the cover?

It’s made it easier, certainly. My line drawing skills are poor, so my traditional art pieces were always very stiff. Having access to digital media allowed me to come closer to the image in my mind without being held back by my stupid fingers. Also, graphics tablets have made an enormous difference in the quality of the artwork and I couldn’t work without my Wacom tablet.

You do a lot of different covers—urban fantasy, steampunk, romance; do you have a favorite genre to work in? To read?

I read mainly fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy. (I don’t read a lot of the really steamy PNR stuff though.) Science fiction has always been my first love. I enjoy all of the different genres that I work in, although I don’t consider myself to be a very good romance artist because I don’t read in that genre, so it’s more difficult to understand what that audience needs. I love steampunk (that’s also the main type of cosplay that I do).

In addition to being an artist, you’ve also written poetry and fairy tales. Does one form inspire the other for you, or are they wholly separate pursuits?

It’s all escapism, to be honest. I’m someone who has always wished heart and soul for that magic door, the wardrobe in an empty room, the portal to fall through into someplace magical. So both my personal art and the things I write are made of a wish for magic coupled with despair. 🙂

What are your favorite video games? Do games inspire your art?

Same as above – I love gaming and it’s all portal fantasy for me. I mainly play MMOs (you name it, I’ve tried it, but currently mostly FFXIV) due to a sense of permanence. I like feeling as though I can always escape to that world and be someone different whenever I need to.

Do you have a dream cover that you would love to design—either in terms of who the author is, or the kind of story being told?

I’ve said recently that I would love to do a cover with a badass, sexy, older woman on the cover. There are rivers and oceans of books out there (that I do honestly love) with teenage main characters, but as I get older I see fewer and fewer books with people like myself. Although being just a bit younger than Madonna, I certainly don’t feel old or boring or weak…I dream of being that tough, kickass woman in leather.

If you could redesign one book from the last two hundred years, what book would it be and why?

My ultimate dream would be to do covers for Charles de Lint’s Newford books. So, not a single book but a number of them. Many of them have gorgeous covers already, especially the John Jude Palencar covers, so it’s an entirely selfish wish!

Has the world at large over the last year changed the way you approach your work, or has it changed the work that emerges from you?

The world currently is…not great for most people. For a lot of us it’s been pretty bleak and hopeless, and to be honest that is why I love being able to do this. My work is either fantasy/escapism, or tough UF heroines who are fighters. Both are acceptable responses to an increasingly dark world.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming covers you can tease us about?

No covers that I can hint about, but I am working on (slooooowly working on!) ideas for a graphic novel and a tarot set. You’ll hopefully see one or the other in the next decade or so, haha.

Tarot! That would be amazing. Ravven, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, and for all the work you’ve put into the Folley & Mallory covers. You really captured the spirit of the books.

To see more of Ravven’s artwork, please visit her site, www.ravven.com, and if you’re considering self-publishing your books, be sure to find the premade covers she also offers. They’re beautiful and inspiring!

And now, because you’ve been so good, here’s the cover for The Ebon Jackal! In this final book, Folley stares into that abyss and becomes the very thing that stares back at her… Three generations of women come together for one explosive conclusion!

The Ebon Jackal ebook is yours for pre-order, and don’t fret — if you want a paperback for your shelves, that will be along this summer (June 11!). I won’t stop hollering about it, either, so there’s no chance of you forgetting.

None whatsoever. <3


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A Horse of a Different Color

This weekend at the grocery store, there was great excitement concerning the penny horse. This is, of course, the mechanical horse at the front of the store that kids can ride for a penny.

Lately, the penny horse hadn’t been looking or running so great. The penny horse had surely lost the use of one leg and the saddle had been lost years before. Its broad nose was worn smooth where once there had been black paint. For a couple weeks, the horse was mostly out of order.

This weekend, there was a new horse at the front of the store. The chestnut coat gleamed, black mane streaming back in the wind as the kids rode and discovered what a smooth and quiet ride was now offered. The saddle was padded and there were reins to flick, and what more does one want for a penny.

I sat near the penny horse while I waited for a friend, and had the chance to talk to the five year old unicorn queen. She wore a silver tulle skirt, with a unicorn sweatshirt, and a plastic pink headband that was shaped into a tiny crown. She was five, she proudly told me, her brother only one, but very capable even so.

“Is this a new horse??” she asked me, because clearly I was the horse authority.

“Oh, I think so,” I said.

Her eyes lit up. “I like this horse,” she said, then showed me the unicorn on her sweatshirt. It was made out of those sequins that you can roll up or down, and they change colors. One way, the unicorn was silver. The other way, the unicorn was pink.

We decided the pink was amazing — pink was her favorite color, and green was her brother’s, and purple is mine, though pink is super close these days because it’s so bright and lovely.

“[Brother] can ride with me, mom,” she kept saying over and over, and when her mom was finally done in line, the brother joined the unicorn queen on the new penny horse. She held him tight, his little legs not yet reaching the metal stirrups. He laughed and flicked the reins and she cuddled him the entire time, insisting it was the best horse ever.

I don’t know why I’m putting this here, other than to keep the memory for myself and share it with whoever may wander by. It made me think of what joy could still be had for a penny; a smooth ride on a new, shiny horse, with someone you love clutched to your chest; a plastic crown balanced on your head, a sequined unicorn waiting to be swept into a new color whenever you wished it.


Walking Through It

Resolutions? Nah. Goals? Yes.

Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began. It’s solid advice, right, but starting can be tricky as heck. 2019 is very much a blank slate for me. I’m starting over in so many ways, and it’s exciting, but also terrifying, because who knows what’s over that mountain I’m about to climb? (It’s either a chasm or another mountain, right? Maybe it’s a river…maybe there’s a BAKERY. I digress.)

Dearest Lindsay sent me an amazing thing as 2018 wound down; I don’t usually take much stock in astrology, but HOLY HECK, this Leo post from AstroPoets:

If you’ve felt trapped in 2018, you won’t in 2019. Trapped in the sense that you know there’s more you can do, but various personal and professional obligations have held you back from your true ambitions. This new year is a return to those ambitions and to your very healthy Leo resolve. When you decide to do something, you do it. There haven’t been as many yes people as you’ve needed around. This has been difficult for you, as you thrive on encouragement more than any other sign. Learning to say yes to yourself, without applause, is important. It’s small and it’s daily. It’s a very big lesson you’ll learn at the start of this year. Don’t forget that there are people who would risk anything for you, and that to achieve your biggest ambitions, you have to risk everything for yourself, too. There’s a green door. Walk through it.

[stares in Leo]

This really speaks to me — on fronts that I can talk about (Shimmer) and those I don’t really have permission to (oh ho cryptic). Especially the applause part ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Also — the green door? We’ll come back around to that in a minute because yeah. We will.

So, goals! (Goaaaaaaaallllll!) One goal is surely starting to eat like a human person again, and not a mindless beast who is inhaling everything that crosses their path. A related goal is to get back into the gym, because my body and brain are both happier when I move. Gymbrain is a great thing (endorphins??); everything wakes back up.

I want to return to short stories this year: writing them, and (oh my gosh) reading them for pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I loved reading for Shimmer, but reading for pleasure is an entirely different thing (which is maybe why I’m enjoying the hell out of Moby Dick). Reading when you’re assembling a specific magazine is not exactly reading for pleasure; you may love the stories, but they may not fit the puzzle you’re building. Reading for pleasure is just allowing the story to take you where it will. I’m reading How Long Til Black Future Month? by NK Jemisin to help me with this goal. I want to see how stories work from a craft POV again — not an editorial POV.

I’m also…writing a book? What? It’s the first book I’ve written since I finished writing Folley & Mallory, and well. It sure is a thing. I am filled with doubt and wondering why anyone will care about this book when nothing I’ve written has garnered much attention. Why do I keep on? Why do I do this thing? That’s also a goal: to remember the WHY. I just love writing, right? I’d do it if no one read it and it never sold, so that’s a big answer, and one I need to sit with. (Learning to say yes to yourself, without applause, hello.)

But this new book. I’m kind of pantsing it, y’all. I have some basic ideas, and know my characters, and my setting, and there’s kind of a plot, but there’s certainly nothing as formal as an outline yet. I’m trusting myself (!) to know how this all works; I’m kind of leaping off the top of that mountain and seeing where the descent takes me. Just to remember what it is to fly?? We’ll see.

But that green door.

This is one of the first images I kept when I was poking around with the new book’s aesthetic. It’s an image I painted in ink during Inktober. It’s a green door. I’m walking through it.

I have the key, but what’s inside?

2018 Loves

Ahhh, it’s that time of year when the book or story you poured your heart into isn’t on anyone’s favorites list, wheeee! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

I’ve read less this year so far, but that was intentional, given I had a book of my own to write (and did, thank you very much). The most notable change in my reading was reintroducing myself to poetry, perhaps no surprise, given a good local friend writes it. Hanging with them definitely was an influence (peer poet pressure perhaps). Here’s some of what I loved, even if it wasn’t published this year, even if it isn’t on any other list.

Finding Baba Yaga, Jane Yolen
Take Me With You, Andrea Gibson
Prelude to Bruise, Saeed Jones
The Dream of Reason, Jenny George
Eating in the Underworld, Rachel Zucker

“Mothers Lock Up Your Daughters, Because They Are Terrifying,” Alice Sola Kim, Tin House
“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine
“Siren,” Alex Acks, Sword & Sonnet
“This Lexicon of Bone and Feathers,” Carlie St. George, Sword & Sonnet
“With Lips Sewn Shut,” Kristi DeMeester, Apex Magazine
“A Dead Djinn in Cairo,” P. Djeli Clark, tor.com (2016)
“Down Where Sound Comes Blunt,” G.V. Anderson, F&SF
“Frozen Meadow, Shining Sun,” Emily McCosh, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
“The Bodice, The Hem, The Woman, Death,” Karen Osborne, Beneath Ceaseless Skies
“It’s Easy to Shoot a Dog,” Maria Haskins, Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Circe, Madeline Miller
Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller
The Mere Wife, Maria Dahvana Headley
Blood Binds the Pack, Alex Wells
Creatures of Want and Ruin, Molly Tanzer
The Terror, Dan Simmons

A Journal of Solitude, May Sarton
The Cooking Gene, Michael W. Twitty
The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit

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2018 In Review

The year that was at least three years long.

Apparently it’s the season when we recount all we’ve done in a year, and 2018 was a strange one for me. I don’t feel accomplished at all. I don’t do the work that garners awards, but nevertheless, here is the work I did.

This spring, Black Static published my novelette “Sanguinary Scar,” set in a flooded New York City. It is a story of women, their bodies, and taking back consent.

In May, The Dark reprinted “The Sea Half-Held By Night,” set in a bleak Canada where a whaling community is haunted by the horrors it has wrought.

In July, Beneath Ceaseless Skies published “Speak Easy, Suicide Selkies,” which is the selkie story I never intended to write. It is about women, their bodies, and taking back consent. I sense a theme here?

This July also saw the publication of The Quartered Heart, the fifth book in my Folley & Mallory series. It has three reviews on Amazon — “unrelentingly grim,” says one reader. I spent most of the year writing the final book in the series (also grim!), which should be out next year from Apokrupha.

This fall, Black Static #65 included “Marrow,” which is the little lost drone story you’ve always been hoping for. I’ve been told I don’t write horror, so I’m not sure how you’d classify this one at all. After the apocalypse, there’s a long way left to fall. (Yeah, I forgot to include this in my original post, so this is an edit to add it, holy shit where’s my brain. I love this story and if you follow that link above, you can see the smashing artwork it got. TTA Press has sincerely amazing art direction.)

This year, Sword and Sonnet was published; it is a beautiful collection of battle poet stories, all speculative in their natures. I edited this book alongside Aidan Doyle and Rachael K. Jones. I learned a lot in this process, too — I learned how to trust what I already knew, from all my years at Shimmer.

This year also sees the end of Shimmer, which I can’t even type without still tearing up. I have edited Shimmer for twelve years, and it is a hard goodbye, even though it’s time. We never did as much as I hoped we would. I have worked with so many wonderful authors, and fellow editors, and have learned much, about myself and others. I learned who liked me for me, and who liked me because I was an editor.

It has been the longest year.



“Write your story,” the WordPress prompt says. Okay, here’s my story.

Francesca Woodman

This year, my writing pals and I started a group, at the behest of one person who’d been saying since last year that we were all writers and needed a group, by gum. We’ve met four times now, and I think it’s keeping most of us on track with completing new work and meeting goals.

I have spent the summer thinking about a novella I want to write, and in many ways it’s a personal story, although it takes place in a distant year, in a world far different from our present one. It’s science fiction, and also not. It depicts the slow illness my mother struggles with and how it will eat her from the inside out no matter what we do.

I put together a rough outline to present at our recent group meeting, and while I knew there were some gaps in my ideas (it needed bridges and brainstorming, to get from one riverbank to the next), I wasn’t prepared for the “there’s nothing new here” comment.

I am pretty sure no one wants to hear those words leveled at their work, and I was certainly taken aback. A week and change later, I am feeling less enthused about the work than I once was. Despite another group member suggesting some excellent bridges across my weird river of plot, I look at the piece now and think “there’s nothing new here.”

Of course, we tell the same stories over and over; this is not a failing, I don’t feel. Harry Potter was not “new,” by any definition — this is the story that G.K. Chesterton told us we needed because it proves that dragons may be slain. Narnia and Middle Earth showed us the same. Beowulf showed us the same. Does that invalidate all stories that come later and tell us the same?

Maybe I should have asked for clarification — but I was really too surprised to say much, ha. What the comment has done, in addition to taking the wind out of my sails, is make me consider how I have approached crits in the past, and how I should do so in the future. Crits should attempt to help the writer put the best version of their story forward. How can I help this writer refine this idea, without telling them it is lacking, because who makes that kind of judgment? We write what we write for reasons that are not always apparent; perhaps I felt the comment so sharply given my personal intentions for the story, of which this person knew nothing.

Perhaps the comment will be helpful in the end; how can I add to what I have already, how can I make it into something new, though the ideas at the heart of it may never be that. How can I show this idea in a new light, from a new angle? How can I strip whatever cobwebs there are off and show how the silver still shines?

Which is, perhaps, the thing we do with writing every day.


What You Love

(Well first, holy shit, this WordPress editor is all new — I’m playing around with Gutenberg to see how it works, so we’ll see. Hey, drop caps. Midway in: well Gutenberg won’t let me even make a link, so that’s not the function we’re looking for, WordPress.)

They tell you to write what you love. That the love will shine through the work and all will be well. That people will see what you love and how you love and they will also fall in love and it will simply be a lovely explosion in every way possible.

Except sometimes it’s not. I wrote what I loved. I mashed all the things I loved into one glorious thing: ancient Egypt, Victorian steampunk, creepy gods who roam the earth, dogs and dog men, impossible love, honey, correspondence between ladies who are the best of friends, meteorites, ancient astronomy, curses, the divide between real history and the history told by the winners, time travel, weird tombs, glorious food, women who are monsters and the men who love them, mothers and daughters and granddaughters and the ties that bind, the disasters of colonization, girls disguised as boys to make their way in the world, archaeology, skeletons both real and metaphorical, hidden cameos by real life historical people, airships, addictions, awkward  and hot gentlemen.

I wrote what I loved and it didn’t really go. Where do you go from there?

Sure, we don’t love one single thing, but it feels like starting all over, doesn’t it? How do we start? It’s too big. How does anyone ever write a novel? And yet, my shelves are full of them.

Okay, that was telling: I typoed “selves are full of them.” And well. Maybe that’s where you start. Because that calls to mind Ani DiFranco’s “32 Flavors.” I am thirty-two flavors and then some.

The new book is one that has plagued me for years — and I don’t know if I’ll talk about it much here. We’ll have to see how it goes. What I do know is, it has started talking to me, maybe because it knows it’s finally on deck. Its time has come. I keep finding fragments of the book everywhere, in other books, in poetry, in the world around me. All signs point to doing this thing, and what’s the other option, really?

As Alex likes to tell me, you’d just be writing another damn novel, so you might as well leap into this one. Because it’s been in my brain for so long. Why not.

A thousand why nots, omg — it could fail like the last one did.

But yeah yeah yeah, it could also fly. Someone said that about something once. Ultimately, it’s the writing we love, no matter how maddening that is. Help me, Jean-Luc, you’re my only hope!




When Assassin’s Creed Origins was announced, I was pretty excited. A game set in ancient Egypt? With a setting where you can just explore and not worry about Romans or gods trying to kill you? A game where you can wander around and pet cats, and scritch your pet falcon under the chin?

ACO provides the best of all possible worlds: you can fight Romans and gods, you can slay crocodiles, but you can also be chill and climb pyramids, and wander temples, and swim in the Red Sea. You can dive into shipwrecks (you can discover an underwater beer cache), you can learn about honey making and farming. The world here is huge and ready for exploring — and gets two more layers with expansions (the Red Sea is part of one expansion).

I could probably write entire books about this game, but I think I will talk about the Curse of the Pharaohs/The Hidden Ones expansions mostly, because they tie into the very novels I’ve been writing for four years. Anubis lurks in the shadows of the main game — you see him in statues, and only briefly in the underworld, but then you add the expansions and lo, there are jackal guards stalking you when you enter temples; they are golden and fierce, created in Anubis’s own image. When you explore tombs, you pass through cracks of light to find yourself in various Egyptian afterlifes. (Later, jackal guards slip back into the real world to stalk you there!)

The Duat is the afterlife that factors most heavily into my own novels, so it has been a real kick to wander Ubisoft’s version. The Duat is a kind of purgatory, where souls wait to be judged by Anubis. It’s filled with all kinds of strange monsters — Ubisoft has included sacred blue lotus everywhere, and the cities appear built into the skeletons of giant beasts.

The jackal warriors wander here, too. It was startling to see them, given the way I’ve written about Anubis and the Duat.

You can also explore Aaru, the reed fields where ships move as if in water, where those who were balanced in life spend the rest of eternity. Huge scorpions move through the reeds, antelope concealed until you startle them into motion.

You also get Aten, which is the disk of the sun; this realm is the complete opposite of the Duat. Where one is shadows, this one is blinding sun, the disk taking up most of the sky. In the afterlife, you also acquire a DEATH HORSE for your mount; Bayek wonders how he can ride such a thing, for he is still living.


I haven’t played the expansion to the end yet, but I begin to wonder if Our Hero has met with calamity. (I think Kadesh is the final realm we get, but I am not sure!)

The other hugeness of the expansion for me was the opportunity to explore Thebes, which also got me wondering if we’d be allowed across the Nile into the Valley of Kings, WHICH meant we might get to explore Hatshepsut’s temple??

Like Anubis, Hatshepsut and her court play a large part in my Folley and Mallory books; it’s her court Anubis draws them to, for Very Specific Reasons. When this location came up in-game, I shouted. I got chills. I never expected this to be part of ACO, and to find myself about to explore it… Beyond cool.

It’s not historically accurate, but I totally don’t care; it’s a little weird that they didn’t build the Anubis Chapel, given Anubis’s presence elsewhere in the expansion, BUT I can see why they didn’t — they kept the temple innards simple, because the story that plays there doesn’t require more. AND YET, this temple is lovingly made with a good eye on history, because you’ve got those rows of Hatshepsut pharaohs, you’ve got the ramps, you’ve got Mentuhotep II’s temple right nearby (that’s the wee pyramid), and it’s all extraordinary. (But apparently the discovery tour doesn’t reach there, boo!)

It’s a great game and these expansions are fantastic. If you have any interest in ancient Egypt, Ubisoft has done well by it. I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle Greece in Odyssey, too!



Leia Organa Solo

We are not taught how to age gracefully. Our culture tells us what has value: beauty, youth, health. Here’s how to mask your wrinkles. Here’s how to hide your gray hair. Never matter that wrinkles come from a body in motion. Never mind that hair losing its color is wholly natural — and happens to some people at early ages. Have some plastic surgery! You’ll be better in no time!

We are not taught how to love our bodies as they get older. We are taught that our peak is a ridiculously low number, that being one of the thirty under thirty is vital and necessary and desirable. If you haven’t published by the time you’re 25, you are surely doomed. If you haven’t found your Dream Job, your Dream House, your Dream Date by the time you’re twenty-one, all is misery.

Chrisjen Avasarala

We know nothing when we’re twenty-one. We know only a little more when we’re twenty-five. The world is vast and we will have seen almost none of it as we emerge from school (if we were so lucky to attend). We are told that what has value is youth! Beauty! We are not taught that experience has its own value, that scars and wrinkles are evidence of a life well and fully lived. Smile lines are not a curse — you smiled so much, your skin made a memory of it.

Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard

We rarely see older women in loving relationships, because we rarely see older women. We are shown that they are mothers, grandmothers, and do not have sexual or romantic partners because that time in their life has passed. We are taught that older bodies are not as beautiful as younger bodies. We are taught that slender bodies are the only bodies capable and worthy of physical affection. We are not shown how to operate bodies outside the norm, bodies with fault lines.

We are taught that giving something up because we can no longer do it is a failure. We are taught that coming to the end of a life is traumatic and that by merely becoming older, as is the way of every thing in this universe, we have failed. Physical beauty — the kind that is valued, because there is beauty in so many things — is temporary. Youth is temporary, no matter how we chase it with creams, salves, and ointments. “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments,” Carrie Fisher reminded us. “They’re the temporary happy byproducts of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”

Queen Ramonda

We are perhaps taught that all things come to an end, but never how to handle those endings. How do you stop doing something you’ve done for most of your life, because you can no longer safely do it? “I am angry because I am old,” my mother says, and when I jokingly say it’s better than the alternative, she now says she isn’t quite so sure. She is tired of everything. Tired of trying to live inside a body that has become a stranger. Tired and perhaps scared, because she remembers her grandmother coming to live with them when she could no longer be on her own; afraid of that old woman in the den who bore no resemblance to the grandmother she remembered.


Neither are we taught how to deal with memory, and what happens when sixty years ago feels more present than what happened yesterday. What did you have for dinner last night — I don’t know, but let me tell you about what it was like to move to a completely new community when I was a new bride, when my hair wasn’t gray, when I could stand up straight and walk across the world without assistance. And so we sit and listen, and keep that memory for when she will no longer be able to.

We are not taught how, but we try every day.