Mothership Zeta: Issue Six is out!

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Cover by Elizabeth Leggett

It’s time for the sixth quarterly issue of Mothership Zeta, featuring another beautiful cover from Elizabeth Leggett.

As always, in the coming months we’ll be bringing you some of the content from the zine, for free. If you want all the awesome content we offer, you can buy individual issues for a mere $2.99 at the following locations:

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The Story Doctor is (In) by James Patrick Kelly

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The incomparable Jim Kelly is back, story-doctoring the equally incomparable Maurice Broaddus’s “At the Village Vanguard (Ruminations on Blacktopia)” for your delight. Learn how Maurice works his magic in this original story.

The Story Doctor is (In)

by James Patrick Kelly

Not every story needs to be told in the same way. In my experience, the gene for experimentation in a writer’s DNA is most frequently expressed in the short form. While the straightforward craft of building upon the three-sided foundation of plot, character and setting works best for most readers—and writers—other strategies can pay unique dividends. Limiting narration to one point of view is not a law of nature, nor is sequential narrative required to earn one of the coveted spots here on the table of contents at Mothership Zeta. What is important at the end of the day is whether the reader has a sense of a time and a place, whether she can appreciate the motivations of someone who takes action and whether she understands the importance of the matters under consideration by the writer.

Case in point: “At the Village Vanguard (Ruminations on Blacktopia)” by Maurice Broaddus. By my count there are eight points of view on display in this intricate story, with only one brief dip into the point of view of the character who is arguably the protagonist, Astra Black, born Livinia Watson II—and that is actually a brief transcript of her final transmission. The vast majority of this story is told in first person narration by friends, colleagues, rivals and enemies. To call it jumpy would be an understatement, but Maurice manages his transitions so adroitly that soon the reader settles in the rhythm he has established. The story purports to be part of a historical feature from a future news outlet and is told in reminiscences, or perhaps testimony, as the many characters try to understand Astra and the meaning of her sacrifice. While the exact nature of her sacrifice is this story’s subject, we are told at the outset that the lunar colony survived “a terrorist threat which nearly ended it” because of “the heroic actions of the Science Police Officer, Astra Black.” Since the narrative consistently refers to Astra in the past tense, most readers will intuit that her heroism will cost her life. So we know the ending almost as soon as the story starts. This one is not about suspense in the traditional sense.

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At the Village Vanguard (Ruminations on Blacktopia) by Maurice Broaddus

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We are putting the shine on Issue 6, so while you wait, please enjoy this story!

To use a phrase in the text below, this story is “straight up blackity-black,” indicative of Maurice Broaddus’s singular voice. If you’re not already a fan of Afrofuturism, this will hook you.

At the Village Vanguard (Ruminations on Blacktopia)

by Maurice Broaddus


In this, the 25th anniversary of the founding of the lunar colony, First World (colloquially called Blacktopia by its residents), The Indianapolis Recorder, the nation’s oldest-surviving African-American newspaper, continues its series re-visiting key events. Their reporter interviewed (and re-interviewed) many of the principals in order to piece together a picture of the terrorist threat that nearly ended it and the heroic actions of Science Police Officer, Astra Black.


Jiminy Crootz (aka J-Croo, Science Police, Senior Investigator. Retired.)

When the alarms sounded for the converter station, I had no doubt she would beat me there. The gate surrounding the solar panel farm had been slit open, like someone wanted to perform a Caesarean but only had a rusted pair of clippers at their disposal. The backdoor of the converter station had been battered in. The air, heavy and re-breathed, like the filters weren’t working at full efficiency. Panels ripped open, wires everywhere. Nanobots probably skittered across the room like roaches in my aunty’s old kitchen. The farm was strictly a backup source of power for the lunar colony, so it wasn’t as heavily guarded as say the nuclear fission power station or the magnetic generators. But there was still a man down and Astra Black stood over his body.


Dr. Hensley Morgan (aka Dreamer, ranking Science Council member)

Astra had an elegance about her, like the waltz of a First Lady. When she walked, she stepped with purpose. Long strides, though only the balls of her feet ever seemed to touch the ground. At first glance, nothing about her stuck out as exceptional. Average height and build. Hair drawn back in Afro puffs. But she had this way about her. Continue reading…

The Indigo Ace and the High-Low Split by Annalee Flower Horne

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We are putting the shine on Issue 6, so while you wait, please enjoy this story that’s…

Part detective story, part family drama, part superhero action, all fun: Annalee Flower Horne delivers the goods and a well-placed Hamilton reference.

The Indigo Ace and the High-Low Split

by Annalee Flower Horne


Izzie Benitez was halfway through her chemistry homework when the red phone rang. She barreled through the coat closet and slid down the banister into her dad’s secret lair to answer it. “Azure Ace’s line.”

“This is the Mayor,” said the mayor, as if anyone else ever called the red phone. “Tell the Ace he’s needed at the Gem Depository. There’s a theft in progress.”


Izzie pulled out her mobile and called her father’s encrypted line.

“Azure Ace,” he greeted, in a voice auto-tuned to booming.

“The mayor called. You’re wanted over at the Coaltown Gem Depository.”

“Are there giant robots at the Gem Depository? Rampaging towards Steel City?” Something exploded on his end of the line.

“No, just thieves.”

“I hope they enjoy their thieving, then.”

“Can I take it?”

“Is your homework done?”


“You suck at lying.”

“Mom lets me fight crime when I’m at her house.” Continue reading…

Story Ideas from the Oxford English Dictionary by Karen Bovenmyer

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MZ’s nonfiction editor is back with more story-idea-generating words from the Oxford English Dictionary. Discover new words, story concepts, and reflections on how English evolves (or some say, steals words shamelessly and makes up the rest).

Story Ideas from the Oxford English Dictionary

by Karen Bovenmyer

I’ve been working with my editor on my first novel, which releases next year. It’s an LGBT historical pirate adventure set in the Caribbean of 1822, so I’ve relied heavily on the Oxford English Dictionary and Historical Thesaurus to check that I’m not using words and phrases that weren’t in common use yet. I also love to write science fiction and fantasy, so during my OED adventures, I keep a digest of interesting words for personal reference. Here are the ones I’ve collected during the last six months I think will inspire you the most—read this long-tongued article, get scienced, then get kilig, don’t be a rudesby, and sit down to make some autoschediastic stories. Send them out—don’t leave us any Nachlass! Stuck? Have a character puggle a latebricole from a dream-hole and act bahala na about it.

antelope (1417): A fierce and elusive mythical creature with long serrated horns, said to haunt the banks of the Euphrates river; (now more fully heraldic antelope) a heraldic animal representing this (often depicted also with a spiked nose, and a tufted mane and long tail). Now archaic or historical

Anthropocene (2000): The era of geological time during which human activity is considered to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate, and ecology of the earth. The Anthropocene is most commonly taken to extend from the time of the Industrial Revolution to the present, but is sometimes considered to include much or all of the Holocene

The Penelope Qingdom by Aidan Moher

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Childhood is a time for escapist fantasies and sweet friendships. Aidan Moher spins a heartwarming tale about magic real and figurative, the kind that brings two kindred spirits together and links them forever.

The Penelope Qingdom

by Aidan Moher

It was during the particularly frozen-solid Prince George winter of ’91, a few days after the new neighbours had arrived, that I first stumbled into the Penelope Qingdom.

“What are their names?” I asked my moms as they bustled about the kitchen getting ready. They’d invited themselves next door for a “Welcome to the Neighbourhood” dinner. We’d never had new neighbours before.

“Mr. and Mrs…Qw- Qwing?” said Mom. “They have a daughter. She’s eleven, too, so you’ll probably be in the same class after Christmas break.”

“You’d better be nice to her,” Mum muttered as she dug around the fridge. “And, I think it’s more like ‘Sching’ than ‘Qwing.'” Mom made a face and stuck out her tongue. The oven timer dinged—Mom took the lasagna out and put it on the counter. Mum appeared from the fridge with a bottle of wine.

“Can you grab this, Ivan?” Mom said, gesturing at the pasta. “Can’t let it cool.” Without waiting for my answer, she disappeared toward the front of the house to get our winter boots and jackets. Mum followed her with the wine. I wrapped the lasagna in a tea towel, met them in the mud room, and we left the house.

The neighbour’s front door swung open before I could ring the doorbell. A girl with rumpled black hair greeted us. She wore jeans and a knit sweater decorated with the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701, naturally).

“Hello,” she said, her voice like dappled sunlight.

There was a moment of awkward silence. What do you say to a new neighbour? “My mom made her classic lasagna.” Not my finest first impression.

“I see that,” she said. Her grin was challenging and endearing all at once. I wasn’t used to such complexity in a smile.

The girl’s mother came to the door, martini in hand.

“Hello, Mrs…” said Mum, trailing off to avoid an indelicate pronunciation.

“Mrs. King. With a Q,” she added with a flourish—the way she’d probably said it a million times before. “But, please, call me Cathy. With a C.” Her tight blonde curls bounced as she winked with her whole face.

“Why ‘with a Q’?” I asked.

Mum smacked me lightly across the back of the head. “Don’t ask things like that!” she said.

“Hello, dear,” Mom said to the girl before Mrs. Qing could reply. She had an oddly irritating smile on her face. “What’s your name?”

“Penelope,” said Penelope.

“Well, invite them in!” called a man’s voice from deeper in the house. It wasn’t quite teasing, but almost.

Their home wasn’t much bigger than ours, but where my moms kept things spotless, chaos reigned in the Qing household. Respectable, understandable chaos—boxes stacked high in the hallways, furniture covered with old sheets, and walls half-painted; the detritus of an upheaved life—but chaos all the same. I loved it.

“Why don’t you show Ivan the basement while we share a cocktail with his parents, Penelope?” Mrs. Qing said as soon as the front door shut. Penelope’s face broke into a mischievous smile. She grabbed my hand and pulled me through a nearby darkened doorway and down a stairway. Continue reading…

Game Review: Have You Met My New Birdie? He’s a Lawyer by Rachael Acks

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Rachael is back again to amuse us all with zir adventures. This time we assigned zir the game Aviary Attorney (to continue the theme we started with Hatoful Boyfriend) and giggled behind our hands. Check out Rachael’s take and then, in the spirit of MZ, try out this fun game.

Game Review: Have You Met My New Birdie? He’s a Lawyer

by Rachael Acks

Paris is on the brink of revolution—when is it not—and there’s been a murder most fowl. A hapless society kitten stands accused with blood on her paws. And the right bird for the job is… not available, so it looks like you’ll be defending her instead. Good luck.

You might just be playing Aviary Attorney.

Like the game Hatoful Boyfriend, you could describe Aviary Attorney as “game type X, but with birds.” Dating game with birds, meet Ace Attorney with birds. And wolves, and foxes, and various felines, and a rabbit as the world’s worst prosecutor—he’s got no killer instinct, you know. There’s significantly less pudding in Aviary Attorney than Hatoful Boyfriend, with all that empty space filled by an array of puns, political class jokes, and plays on French language.

But boy, does it get dark. Crying over my fictional pigeon boyfriend did not even prepare me for the journey Aviary Attorney took me on. Maybe I should have known, considering the setting is a fictional 1848 Paris that stands on the brink of explosive mob violence, and the main character JayJay Falcon is an attorney who defends those accused of murder. In the first chapter, you defend a cat accused of gutting a frog over her father’s business interests. In the second, it’s a fox who’s accused of attempting to assassinate the king—an extremely dumb penguin who would be endearing if he weren’t so infuriatingly privileged that it makes you want to haul out Madame Guillotine yourself—and accidentally murdered his guard captain instead. And in the third chapter? The bird shit hits the fan. You’re assigned to track down a mysterious arms dealer who supplies the revolutionaries. You’ll end up only wishing it was that simple.

That all sounds really serious, right? And it is. When you’re looking at the spooky backgrounds of the crypts under Paris and spying on a lioness casually talking about torturing someone? Boy is it. But it’s also sublimely ridiculous.

Interview: Jackson Lanzing and Company Take Us All on a Joyride by Adam Gallardo

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Image of the cover of Joyride 1

Nice guy and industry insider Adam Gallardo secured this interview with one of Joyride’s creators and we couldn’t be more thrilled about this new graphic title! Have some fun IN SPAAAACE…

Interview: Jackson Lanzing and Company Take Us All on a Joyride

by Adam Gallardo

Joyride, volume 1 (BOOM! Studios / Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Marcus To, and Irma Kniivila / September 2016)

Joyride is that most elusive of creatures: a fun, engaging science-fiction comic book that is also whip-smart. In this age of grim and gritty stories, calling a comic “fun” might seem like an insult, but rest assured, it’s not. Co-writers Lanzing and Kelly, whose previous work together includes the well-received Hacktivist and Grayson, have crafted a story that moves along at a fantastic clip and is full of raucous action and likeable characters. Lurking beneath the shiny surface are some serious questions about family, friendship, and relationships, but it’s all kept light and none of it causes the story to drag—a balancing act that is nothing short of magic.

Lanzing and Kelly are aided in all of this by artist Marcus To and colorist Irma Kniivila. Their artwork recalls a brilliant retro-future while still feeling fresh and bold. To handles the emotional and tonal shifts with ease because the characters he draws are amazingly expressive.

The best part of all of this, from the reader’s standpoint, is that this is only the first volume of an ongoing series. Here’s hoping many more will follow.

Co-writer Jackson Lanzing was nice enough to answer some questions for us about Joyride, the process of creating the comic, and what might come next.

Mothership Zeta: The thing that struck me right away about Joyride was that, despite a backdrop of totalitarian oppression and high stakes for your heroes, you keep the tone light. Did you decide on that sort of tightrope walk from the outset, or was it dictated by the choice of Uma as a main character?

Jackson Lanzing: Marcus, Collin and I set out on this project with one overriding goal: bring a fun, teenage road trip into the relatively bleak science fiction landscape of comics. As kids who grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Farscape, and The Fifth Element, we had a real desire to go back to that technicolor craziness that once existed in our collective imagination when it came to what waited for us beyond the sky. In essence, we wanted to make space an adventure again.

From the very outset, we knew our characters would begin the story by essentially hotwiring a spaceship and heading into the stars. That came along with having a good reason for them to leave – not just something frivolous, but something true. And who among us hasn’t been a teenager who felt that the world was holding them down, blotting out the stars, keeping the world gray and flat and lame? None, say I. When I left my hometown, I found that the wider world was weirder – and more normal – than I ever could’ve imagined. So we translated those hopes and immaturity onto Uma, who immediately grabbed hold of the book and pretty much dictated tone to us.

Mothership Zeta: Issue 5 released

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Issue 5 Cover

Cover by Elizabeth Leggett

It’s time for the next quarterly issue of Mothership Zeta, featuring a beautiful cover from Elizabeth Leggett.

As always, in the coming months we’ll be bringing you some of the content from the zine, for free. If you want all the awesome content we offer, you can subscribe to the magazine at Weightless Books, or buy individual issues for a mere $2.99 at the following locations:

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NaNoWriMo: Pro or Con? by Mur Lafferty

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Our editor-in-chief reminds us why many of us write novels in November and some dos and don’ts to keep in mind.


NaNoWriMo: Pro or Con?

by Mur Lafferty


I have been an odd fan of NaNoWriMo for the past several years. I’m a fan because I’m fully in support of it. I’m odd because I’m utterly inept at winning it myself.

I have a variety of excuses. I still don’t know why it’s in November, which is a BIG travel month for Americans. Since I’m a pro writer already, it’s often that I’m already in a project’s phase (outline, editing, just finished and oh dear Gawd don’t make me look at the computer right now, etc) where 1,667 words a day isn’t what I need to be doing. I may have short work due – am I supposed to write 50k of a new novel AND write my 12k word novelette for Bookburners? 

Excuses, all. I know. 

But I like the energy NaNo gives to people. It energizes a lot of beginners, assuring them that quality doesn’t matter, what matters is getting it done. Since worrying about quality is possibly the biggest hurdle a beginning writer has to get over, allowing oneself to write excrement is a very freeing feeling. People learn that a large writing project is possible, and not something just famous authors with no day job, no kids, and unlimited funds can handle.

What a lot of people don’t know, however, is many pro authors either started their careers writing with NaNo, and many use it to launch new books. Authors I know of who do this include Mary Robinette Kowal (Ghost Talkers) and Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus). The Night Circus actually started off as a NaNoWriMo novel. 

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