Michael Damian Thomas (’92) and Lynne Thomas, Editors-in-chief of Uncanny Magazine, visited IMSA on August 8th. The Thomases both created and continue to run their online speculative fiction magazine, Uncanny, which publishes science fiction and fantasy stories (by definition speculative fiction is science fiction and fantasy and everything that falls under the two). They talked to all IMSA Speculative Fiction Studies class sections and shared their experiences, including Michael’s past in writing science fiction, the process of gathering submissions and reviewing stories, and the overall chaos plus boundless entertainment that comes with each sci-fi convention.
Most of the stories on Uncanny are by authors the Thomases directly reach out to; however, each month they also publish two stories from the 1,400+ submissions they receive. On top of the many stories they receive, the editors both give feedback to stories that come their way (after they pass an initial publishing subsection within the organization). Generally, it takes 2 to 6 weeks to give feedback. Speculative fiction includes such wild ideas, anything from werewolves to monster-run apocalypses, but what distinguishes each story is the author’s style of writing. Sometimes, a character may seem out of place within a story’s plot, specific setting traits might take away from a given world, etc. Michael and Lynne explained that their feedback tends to be suggestions, and the decision to take their criticisms or leave the story be is in the author’s hands.
In regards to speculative fiction in popular culture, Michael explained, “A tremendous amount of people are viewers or readers of speculative fiction of some sort. It used to be off in the corner for specific types of readers, but by now – post-Star Wars and post-Harry Potter – everyone is reading something that is science fiction or fantasy. Fiction has always been – and especially children’s fiction – has always been imaginative. It’s always taken speculative steps of weirdness and wonder. More readers are now reading speculative fiction than ever, whether they consider themselves a fan or not.” It’s a matter of finding one’s own gateway and taking steps to find what type of speculative fiction interests each reader. “There’s a full spectrum.”
When asked about the best part of the editing process, Lynne explained that the defining moment is when they get to tell an author their piece will be published. It’s the pure happiness in seeing someone else have their moment and watch another person’s wish come true: “Everyone on Twitter read this thing. This thing, my heart. As a writer, you get to watch everyone read your story, and it means so so much. It’s not about the money, that’s not why [writers] do it.” It’s for the pure sake of sharing something beautiful and creative with the world; a chunk of yourself in an often wayward, bizarre, and deep-hitting story. Without a doubt, this is why the Thomases work as editors, too. By day, Lynne works as a librarian and archivist in the Northern Illinois University Library’s special collections and Michael works as a caretaker at home for their disabled daughter. Putting together Uncanny is an opportunity for them to showcase just a handful of incredible science fiction and fantasy works.
Uncanny Magazine won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine, thanks to the efforts of the Thomases and their hard-working staff, who together earned the award in their first year of eligibility. Last week, Uncanny was announced as a finalist for the 2017 Best Semiprozine Hugo, and Michael and Lynne together as finalists for Best Editor – Short Form. We at IMSA wish them good luck!
Make sure to check out Uncanny Magazine: http://uncannymagazine.com/