Saturday 13 July 2024

New issue: 2024.70

“If we continue on this path of little by little destroying forests, destroying rivers, destroying air, the consequences are going to be awful for humans and cultures around the world, for all forms of life. And I want people to wake up.”

—Nemonte Nenquimo

[ Issue 2024.70; Cover art © 2024 Fluffgar ] Issue 2024.70

Flash fiction

Short stories



Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB

Full issue and editorial 

Monday 27 May 2024

Micro-interview with Mahaila Smith

And this week we’re joined by Mahaila Smith, author of the poem “Manipulating the Light” in The Future Fire #69, to talk about solarpunk, climate crisis and future work.

Art © 2024, Fluffgar

TFF: What does “Manipulating the Light” mean to you?

Mahaila Smith: I wrote “Manipulating the Light” after reading The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. This book made me think about the specific impacts of the climate crisis in India and the technology being adopted in response. I find it important to read and write solarpunk in settings where the climate crisis is experienced most severely. The poem centres around a sapphic relationship which, as a queer person, was significant for me to include.

TFF: What are you working on next?

MS: My novelette in verse, Seed Beetle is forthcoming with Stelliform Press in 2025. This story explores themes of eco-dystopia, feminism, social organizing and the relationship between marine life and outer space. It is set in a Southern Ontario community that has experienced widespread desertification and loss of land to industrialization. The community looks to a robotics corporation to heal the land through its megafaunal automated beetles, however community members are harmed by exploitative labour practices and non-consensual brain implants.


The open skylights lance
drops of sunlight that slip
through prisms and bounce
off mirrors, leaving a spill
of colour and light
at the altar of the temple.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Monday 13 May 2024

Micro-interview with Katharine A. Viola

Katharine A. Viola, artist of “Sunrise over Neo-Tokyo” in TFF #69, joins us for today’s micro-interview on her work in this issue and other art.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Sunrise over Neo-Tokyo”?

Katharine A. Viola: The author made great use of imagery when describing the city’s relationship with nature. I really enjoyed how the two concepts meshed together and the picture I painted represents the image I had in my head while reading the story.

TFF: If you were able to draw a map of a real or imaginary place, what would that be?

KAV: Map of the universe!

TFF: What would be the most important thing for you to hold onto if civilization started to break down in your city?

KAV: Morals and integrity, though I would imagine it would be difficult as very little is ever black and white.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Friday 10 May 2024

Micro-interview with L.E. Badillo

Please welcome L.E. Badillo, artist of “Space Gardens” in The Future Fire #69 (and cover artist) for today’s brief chat about illustrating and artistic medium.


TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Space Gardens”?

L.E. Badillo: L. J. Lacey wrote a great story that was easy to work from. The feeling of loneliness and a repressed need to fill that place in one’s life played a huge part in my approach. A feeling of desolation, duty, and the perseverance of age.

TFF: What's the most unusual or challenging medium you can imagine working with?

LEB: I’d love to fully commit to working in oils. That’s an area I’ve never been able to put real time in. I find the amazing works of Bram and Patrick J. Jones equally intimidating and inspiring.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Micro-interview with Lae Astra

We welcome Lae Astra, author of the poem “Sunrise over Neo-Tokyo” in The Future Fire #69, to join us for a brief chat about their work and the future.

Art © 2024 Katharine A. Viola
TFF: What does “Sunrise over Neo-Tokyo” mean to you?

Lae Astra: Being able to imagine a better future is such a necessary and beautiful thing. I wanted to tell the story of one possible future that bloomed vividly in my mind while writing, one where we coexist peacefully with the fellow beings who share our planet.

TFF: What are you working on next?

LA: I am currently on a break from writing, but I hope to dream up more stories and pieces of art that connect to hopeful futures.


At the observation deck of Skytree 22,
we sit waiting for hatsuhinode,
the first sunrise of the new year.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Monday 6 May 2024

Micro-interview with Katie Kopajtic

We’re delighted to welcome Katie Kopajtic, author of “Terranueva” in The Future Fire #69, over for a quick chat.

Art © 2024 Melkorka
TFF: What does “Terranueva” mean to you?

Katie Kopajtic: “Terranueva” is how I honor my experience marrying into a Puerto Rican family. My wife's hometown of Dorado has earned a reputation for an increasing number of wealthy continental American residents, as the government continues to spend on development to encourage further gentrification.

It is also a love letter to cross-generational relationships in a family, and to the jibara lifestyle as a means of resistance against colonization. Jibaro is simply the term used to describe a laborer of Puerto Rico's mountainous regions, but it can also be wielded as an insult, synonymous with country bumpkin, hick, or someone who is uneducated. But a new generation of Puerto Ricans have reclaimed jibaro as a culture to be honored, and worth preserving, especially as resort development continues to threaten the island's natural landscapes and working class.

TFF: What is the oldest memory you have?

KK: My oldest memory is of being a toddler and watching my immigrant grandfather Mirko play the accordion while my grandmother sings Croatian ballads. Mirko was a proud Yugoslavian, and a jibaro in his own way. His ‘old world’ ways and nostalgia for the village had an impact on my father and his siblings, and it continues to inspire me.

TFF: What are you working on next?

KK: My next project is completing my feature length documentary Heritage Fantasy, which tells the story of a struggling actress's journey to connect with her Croatian heritage and overcome her self-doubt: Believing that making a film about her roots will help with her brand and overall marketability, she travels to Croatia and interviews three generations of her family, uncovering themes of escapism, longing, and the artist's struggle. But when her film fails to solve her problems, she must confront her own expectations of what success means.


Even with a healthy brain, Marisol would not have recognized her old neighborhood. Turf grass yawned from the wrought iron gate to the ocean, crisscrossed with glittering quartz pathways that led to identical cream condos. She stared at The Ritz Bungalow #4 (‘Pearl’), supposing that the concrete walls, at least, hadn’t changed.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Friday 3 May 2024

Micro-interview with L.J. Lacey

L.J. Lacey, author of “Space Gardens” in The Future Fire #69, joins us for today’s micro-interview.

Art © 2024, L.E. Badillo
TFF: What does “Space Gardens” mean to you?

L.J. Lacey: “Space Gardens” reflects two concepts that are critical to me as a writer and thinker. First, we must embrace knowledges from throughout the world, and prioritize life over profits in the ways we implement those knowledges. Second, we need more and many representations of older people, especially women and nonbinary folks, who can inspire us to see a worthwhile future, both for ourselves and for our planet.

TFF: What are you working on next?

LJL: I am in the midst of two longer projects. My eco-fantasy novel is in the final stages of revision, and my newest project is a solarpunk novella.


Rita swept the small porch for a third or fourth time, glancing up to scan the rocky landscape for Ana’s ambling form. It had been an unsettling day and Ana’s absence only added to Rita’s feeling that things were off. Seeing nothing but the setting sun spreading a glow across the mountainside, Rita sighed and made the “ssspppss” sound that let the cats know dinner was ready. She kept the broom handy in case Vali was lurking about and gave a stern look to the small pack of dogs lazing in front of the house. A few rumbles of annoyance emerged from the dogs at the feline swarm taking over the side of the house, but they had already been fed and were content to stay put.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Micro-interview with Ellis Bray

Ellis Bray, artist of “Sun-Dappled Sheets of Methane Rain” in The Future Fire #69, joins us for today’s micro-interview celebrating the release of the hopeful SF issue.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Sun-Dappled Sheets of Methane Rain”?

Ellis Bray: I actually created a couple of pieces for this one. The first one was a view of Saturn through a rain-streaked visor but I felt like it didn’t get the full feel of the story, which had a sense of longing to me. So I found a reference photo of someone staring off into the distance in a field, and used a combination of Procreate and NASA’s free images to build up the painting, using the reference to add our main character to the scene.

TFF: What famous work of art would you like to hang over your bed?

EB: It’s probably cliche, but I’m in love with Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

TFF: What's the most unusual or challenging medium you can imagine working with?

EB: Marble. Bernini’s ability to create flesh from hard rock is witchcraft, I’m pretty sure.

TFF: Can you tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

EB: I really love watching the adventures of Lisa Snellings’ poppets, which are handmade ceramic tiny dolls that she then professionally photographs in unusual situations. It’s so creative, and the poppets are eerie and gorgeous.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

EB: I’m in the early stages of a tattoo career, so I’m finishing up the last parts of the training before I can start taking clients. It’s a huge leap in mediums but everything else (color theory, composition, style) is roughly the same, which helps a lot.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Monday 29 April 2024

Micro-interview with Amanda Cook

We’re delighted that Amanda Cook, author of “Guidelines for Living Your Fairy Tale (in no Particular Order)” in The Future Fire #69, is joining us for a quick chat.

Art © 2024 Joel Bisaillon
TFF: What does “Guidelines for Living Your Fairy Tale (in no Particular Order)” mean to you?

Amanda Cook: When I wrote “Guidelines…”, I already had a trunked story about Red Riding Hood getting tired of how her fairy tale was being read and literally carving her own path into a new story. She goes on to help all the other female fairy tale characters find their way to a happier existence on their own terms. This poem is sort of an extension of that story and also a reminder to myself that I don't have to wait on anyone else to forge my path in the world, but it's also okay to ask for help when I need it.

TFF: What was your favourite fairy tale when you were a child?

AC: I loved all the fairy tales I read as a child, but I was particularly drawn to Alice in Wonderland in book form. There was something about the absurdity of Wonderland that I loved, and again, Alice was a protagonist who eventually made her way home by thinking for herself (and with a little help here and there). I also loved Disney's Belle in Beauty and the Beast, because I was and still am that quirky, daydreaming, book-reading girl who loves libraries.

TFF: What is the most important thing to remember about writing?

AC: I've come to learn over the years that I should write for myself, first and foremost. If I find I really connect with a piece I've written, whether it's poetry or prose, I tend to think (or, at the very least, hope) there is someone else in the world who will connect with it too.

TFF: What are you working on next?

AC: I'm in between projects and trying to write more poetry. I may end up creating a chapbook of some of my favorites later this year. I also have another poem that's supposed to be published by the end of 2024 that I can't wait to see in the world!


If you happen to find yourself
Locked in a tower, read away
Those quiet days and enjoy
The gift of alone time

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Friday 26 April 2024

Micro-interview with Melkorka

Melkorka, artist of “Terranueva” in The Future Fire #69, joins us for today’s mini-interview on the subject of antiquity, materials and art.

TFF: To which famous wedding (in any period of history) would have you liked to be invited?

Melkorka: Cleopatra and Mark Anthony’s! I am obsessed with Egypt, and hope to visit one day.

TFF: What's the most unusual or challenging medium you can imagine working with?

M: Old cassettes—I have found the tape to be quite unwieldy. Though as the fantastic work of Erika Iris Simmons demonstrates, it's worth persevering.

TFF: Can you tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

M: Henry Meynell Rheam. I am particularly enchanted by his work ‘The Fairy Woods.’

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Micro-interview with Marc A. Criley

For today’s micro-interview we are joined by Marc A. Criley, author of “Sun-Dappled Sheets of Methane Rain” in The Future Fire #69.

Art © 2024 Ellis Bray

TFF: What does “Sun-Dappled Sheets of Methane Rain” mean to you?

Marc A. Criley: The solar system is full of wonders, so far only glimpsed through our robotic spacecrafts’ cameras and sensors. How astonishing is it going to be when we can go and see them with our own eyes?

TFF: Would you like to visit another planet?

MAC: See question 1! 😁 Seriously, all the places in SDSoMR exist—I’d like to visit them all just to get started on my planetary “bucket list.”

TFF: What is the most important thing to remember about writing?

MAC: Write the story you want to write—and read. Tell it the way you want to tell it; don’t muffle your unique voice, make sure the story is your story.


A few scattered raindrops float down from a hazy orange sky. They’re as big as my child-thumbs, plopping onto my enviro suit and spotting the visor. The liquid methane evaporates fast, leaving sooty splotches. The rain tapers off. Dad and I wait. I get antsy. Dad sighs.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Monday 15 April 2024

New issue: 2024.69

“L’abolition [de la peine de mort] a connu une irrésistible progression à travers le monde. Ce mouvement, comme en Europe, influence le droit international dont, en retour, les évolutions confortent l’abolitionnisme et lui donnent les assises nécessaires pour connaître un rayonnement encore plus grand.”

—Robert Badinter, 1928–2024

[ Issue 2024.69; Cover art © 2024 L.E. Badillo ] Issue 2024.69

Special issue on hopeful SFF

Flash fiction

Short stories


Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB

Sunday 31 March 2024

What is your favourite optimistic or cozy SFF?

We’ve been thinking a lot about optimistic, cozy or otherwise nice SFF recently, so we’d love to hear your thoughts about this category of genre fiction (whether written, visual, or in any other medium); give us your favorite examples of happy SFF, spoopy horror, even gritty utopian thinking, or tell us about why you think these kinds of fiction work or are needed (or otherwise). To start us off, a few editors, authors and other friends of TFF give us their examples.

M.L. Clark

Some stories carry great wisdom in their simplicity, and it can take a lifetime to realize the strength of their gentleness. I've returned to My Neighbor Totoro at many phases of life, each time with a deeper sense of comfort and astonishment. It's not just that the story illustrates that one need not have antagonists to develop emotional weight: that realization comes with early viewings. Later, though, one watches the film and notices everything not included in this postwar Japan snapshot of a childhood impacted by a sick mother and soothed by animist wonder. One considers what the director lived through, and the antagonism he saw shape and shatter lives, before choosing to lean into the inner life of deeply feeling human beings. One remembers, too, the Cold War world into which this film was released in 1988, and the fact that Studio Ghibli launched another film the very same day, about a boy and his little sister dying in war-torn Japan. The world is often a difficult place in which to retain a sense of wonder, and hope. But still, even in difficult times, we manage to create oases of uplift in our art. My Neighbor Totoro reminds us that we contain multitudes--and that the gentle and kind in them are very much worth protecting.

Cécile Matthey

Image © James Gurney via Dinotopia wiki

In 1860, biologist Arthur Denison and his young son Will set out on a Darwinian voyage of exploration in search of unknown lands. But during the voyage, their ship is caught in a storm and sinks. With the help of dolphins, they are transported to the lost island of Dinotopia: a land where humans and dinosaurs live together in perfect harmony.

James Gurney’s 1992 novel recounts, in the form of a richly illustrated travelogue, Professor Denison's discoveries as he explores this incredible and exciting new world. As a trained professional, he records his experiences in meticulous details: the flora and fauna, the often spectacular architecture of the cities, the daily life (celebrations, sports, art, food…), the history of the island, the peculiar alphabet… With him, we meet dinosaurs tending human children, working as translators, craftsmen or timekeepers, and we even fly on a Quetzalcoatlus’s back.

To me it’s a great feelgood piece: it is full of wonder, freshness and humour, reminding me of the stories by Jules Verne (and of my childhood love for dinosaurs!). What's more, James Gurney’s realistic and detailed illustrations are a real treat for the eyes. It is an optimistic and hopeful piece too, because it shows a peaceful, culturally advanced and well-organised world, where two radically different species manage not only to live together peacefully, but to work together while learning from each other. In short, « Dinotopia » is a must !

Toby MacNutt

When I want to be wrapped up in a cozy read I reach for Erin Morgenstern's The Starless Sea. Its layers of symbols, books, and myths weave around the romance and adventure (can a cozy book have a sword, a gun, some poison, a bit of light arson? sure!) like the most exquisite blanket. Its improbable spaces are softly lit, time-worn, rich with color and texture and scent. Everything is warm, dreamy, golden—and every complex thread ties up just right in the end. The lost are found, the key meets the door, the left-behind are reunited. Also—of course—there's queers!

Djibril al-Ayad

I’ve long felt that a utopian setting need not be perfect in every way, lacking in conflict and adventure—any more than a dystopia is a completely unlivable hellscape with no redeeming features—it only need show by example one or a few ways in which our own world could be better with a bit less cruelty, greed, bigotry or self-destruction. Just so is Vonda N. McIntyre’s Starfarers tetralogy: famously invented as a hoax response to a boring panel about SF TV shows, then written by popular demand, this glorious space opera show features not a military starship but a literal university campus in space (faculty and staff rather than crew, a principal rather than a captain, decisions made by senate rather than a command structure); multiple queer, polyamorous, accepting relationships; multi-generational or inter-species friendships; posthumanism and eco-engineering; a space artist making fake archaeology; wonderfully alien aliens; and a science fiction writer as alien first-contact specialist. And while the world isn’t perfect (the principal is even more of a politicking bureaucrat than any vice chancellor I’ve worked under), conflict and peril abound, not all of the positive characters—even protagonists—are entirely likeable, they’re wonderful books, full of comforting adventures, and I could happily read a dozen more volumes. And really: why has no one made the TV show yet!

Please share your examples of hopeful or cozy SFF, whether utopian, optimistic or just comfort reading, in the comments below. Or feel free to ping us on Mastodon or Bluesky to join the conversation there instead.

Friday 22 March 2024

Micro-interview with Avra Margariti

Avra Margariti, author of the poem “Homunculi of Creation” in The Future Fire #68, joined us for a lightning chat about alchemy, cosmogony and mythology.

Art © 2024 Melkorka

TFF: What does “Homunculi of Creation” mean to you?

Avra Margariti: I have always been an avid reader of historical alchemy and its related customs. This is how I first encountered the concept of the homunculus. A homunculus is an artificial humanoid being that can be created through alchemy. So I asked myself—what if that act of creation was also a cosmogony, the birth of the universe on the largest scale?

TFF: What are you working on next?

AM: I’m trying to write more speculative stories that use characters from Greek mythology in new and surprising settings. I've also been trying to write more literary Weird, though I'm not sure yet what exactly that means to me. (so far: seahorse pregnancy stories, apparently).


He pulls out of His womb
A reliquary of small and inviting things:

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Micro-interview with Fluffgar

We’re chatting again with regular TFF illustrator Fluffgar, artist of “The Rose Sisterhood” in The Future Fire #68, about this issue, castles and fairytales.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “The Rose Sisterhood”?

Fluffgar: Castles. Everyone knows Scotland has castles. That's where I began with these illustrations. In particular pink castles. The colour is down to a very old tradition of lime washing the exterior of such buildings. The pinkish result is known to has inspired the fairytale pink castles of Disney among others.

TFF: What was your favourite fairy tale when you were a child?

Fluffgar: I have a vague recollection of a fairytale about a person who is reborn over and over as different things. I think it could have been an animation of part of “The Tale of Taliesin.” But the emphasis seemed to be more on the cycles of life. So it may have been a different tale.

My current favourite is a tale about The Cailleach. Don't let the title fool you, it’s about her. “Bride and Angus” as told by David Campbell.

There's also Scàthach. Which is an interesting one.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Monday 18 March 2024

Micro-interview with Jennifer R. Donohue

Jennifer R. Donohue, author of “The Ensanguined Shore” in The Future Fire #68, joins us for a chat about mythology, mythography, and the sea.

Art © 2024 Sebastian Timpe

TFF: What does “The Ensanguined Shore” mean to you?

Jennifer R. Donohue: I’ve been a reader of Greek mythology practically since I could read; D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths is one of the first longer books I remember reading. I checked it out from my local public library, and pored over the stories and the illustrations. I even have a copy of that same edition now, that I bought at a church rummage sale. I don't have it at hand, so I can't double-check how whether/how detailed the material from the Iliad is there, but the Harpies and Sirens are definitely mentioned, and that’s largely where “my” sirens come from, bird people with wings, but also arms, and bird legs, and powerful voices that can hurt, or soothe, or beguile. I read the Fagles translation of the Iliad in college, and the detailing of everybody's interpersonal conflicts on the beach outside of Troy, in addition to the ongoing war, really gripped me. Transporting it to a future setting, and inserting a journalist like National Geographic or Evan Wright’s Generation Kill, was an approach that flowed freely once I happened upon it, and there were some scenes that I had crystal-clear in my mind's eye as I wrote them, like I was scrolling through the longform article that Patty would later publish.

TFF: What is your favourite (real or literary) sea creature and why?

JD: I really like crabs, actually. Horseshoe crabs specifically, and that's reflected in my short story “Nothing Left But Mud,” which takes its title from “The Crab Who Played With the Sea” by Rudyard Kipling. I like crabs in general, though, I think that they're weird and interesting little guys, and certainly have more crab stories in me. I don't think it's because my Zodiac sign is Cancer, but maybe that's a strong contributor and I'm just in denial about it.

TFF: What are you working on next?

JD: I've got Run With the Hunted 7: [title to be determined? maybe The Casino Job] started for its October release. I’m also releasing, throughout 2024, a werewolf trilogy! Learn to Howl comes out on March 5, and the other books will come out in July and September.


Most of us have bags packed when it comes down from command that there’s a freeze on leave, again. Groans and growls ripple through the ranks as us officers are told via HUD, and we tell our soldiers.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Friday 15 March 2024

Micro-interview with Toeken

We’re pleased to have over for a chat our friend Toeken, artist of “Bone Planet” in The Future Fire #68.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Bone Planet”?

Toeken: I read Petra Kupper’s fascinating poem quite a few times, making sure I could get a handle on it, then left it alone for a couple of days before firing up the digital tablet. Aside from a few pencilled layers the piece is a combination of photographs and digital art. For example, the initial background template is a shot I took of a sunset outside my home and then digitally painted over.

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

Tk: There’s always a bunch but right now it’s Rahul Chakraborty, Rachael Mia Allen and Andrea Sorrentino.

TFF: What is your favourite example of hopeful, cosy or low-stakes SFF or horror?

Tk: I just finished with Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind. Fantastic, creepy stuff.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

Tk: I just finished some stuff for Shoreline of Infinity magazine, a couple of private commissions while working with the writer Phil Emery on a science fiction/noir project.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Micro-interview with Melkorka

Melkorka, artist of “Humunculi of Creation” in The Future Fire #68, joins us for a brief chat about her work in this issue.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Humunculi of Creation”?

Melkorka: Before an illustration project like this, I plan a close reading of the text, and then create a mind map featuring words or phrases that stand out to me.

TFF: Who or what is the Sheela na gig, in origin?

M: Sheela Na Gigs are stone carvings found in on Norman churches, and some secular buildings. They depict an old woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva. The carvings are old and often do not seem to be part of the church but have been taken from an older building. There is much controversy as to their age—historians claim they are no earlier than the 11th century but many people believe they are older. Even though the image is overtly sexual the representation is always grotesque, sometimes even comical. They can be found all over Britain, Ireland, France and Spain. The symbolism of Sheela is a mystery; neo-pagans call her a portal of transformation and fertility idol, while some historians argue she was a figure created by the Church to warn congregations of the dangers of lust.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Monday 11 March 2024

Micro-interview with Sebastian Timpe

Today we’re chatting with Sebastian Timpe, artist of “The Ensanguined Shore” in The Future Fire #68.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “The Ensanguined Shore”?

Sebastian Timpe: While reading through “The Ensanguined Shore” I was gripped by the image of Patty’s best photograph. I knew that had to be one of the illustrations for this story. I scoured the story for all descriptions of the sirens, I love the way Jennifer Donohue gives us just enough detail to imagine them but not confine the audiences imagination. For the second illustration I had never created anything with a mech suit in it and I wanted a challenge.

TFF: Do you have a superstition or quirk you insist on while working/painting?

ST: Given my most recent experience with extreme wind and rain storms knocking out the power to my house for a week, my new superstition is any time the wind blows make sure my computer is charged!

TFF: Would you rather be on a ship that is about to leave or that is bringing you home?

ST: Headed home; home is where the cat is.

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you’re particularly enjoying at the moment?

ST: Andrew Salgado is a painter I’ve admired since high school. I just adore his expressive portraits and use of color.

TFF: What is your favourite example of hopeful, cosy or low-stakes SFF or horror?

ST: While Star Trek is my go to for the coziest of vibes, fan fiction always has something to warm my heart.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

ST: In December I finally got my hands on the Time Warp Puzzle: Rock the Cats Paw which I created in collaboration with Da Vinci’s Room games. It was the first puzzle I have ever put together and it was a blast. Now I am on a mission to create art for puzzles—it’s such an exiting genre because you can create really detailed works meant for a large format.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Friday 1 March 2024

Mirco-interview with Emma Burnett

We were delighted to invite Emma Burnett, author of “Escape Choice” in TFF #68, to join us for a chat about SF, the sea, and future work.

Art © 2024 Cécile Matthey

TFF: What does “Escape Choice” mean to you?

Emma Burnett: The title, it just felt like a good fit for the things that come up in the story. People escaping from Earth. People escaping from a colony ship. People escaping from each other. They’re all choices that have to be made.

The story, I wanted Max’s decisions to be recognised as valid for him. Even if they don't always make sense to other people, his lived reality is legitimate, and I wanted him to have that space. Maybe because I haven’t, always.

TFF: Do you remember the first time you saw the sea?

EB: No. But I remember the first time I nearly died in the sea. It was nothing, we were at the beach. But a wave caught me behind the knees, and suddenly I was under water and upside down, and I remember thinking very calmly, “Oh. This is how I die.” I must have been, like, 14. I didn’t die, obviously. Except maybe in another timeline where I did. It didn’t make me scared of the sea, but it did give me what might be considered empathy for those lost in it. She’s a powerful beast.

TFF: What are you working on next?

EB: I’m always working on things all the time. I’ve always got a few short stories on the go. I’m about a third of the way through writing a novel, but then I have to type it up because I’m hand writing it like an epic loon. I'm also working on improving my handstands and learning to play the ukulele.


Max glanced at his mother’s face. She had that line between her eyebrows, which sometimes meant that she was thinking, and sometimes meant she was annoyed. He looked briefly at his teacher, sitting across from them. Her face was too blank for him to interpret.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Micro-interview with Sarah Salcedo

Welcome, Sarah Salcedo, artist of “A Witch, a Wakening” in The Future Fire #68, to our micro-interviews series!

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “A Witch, a Wakening”?

Sarah Salcedo: I read the story and thought about the kind of cabins I tend to see while hiking: the type of forgotten home that seems always on the verge of being reclaimed by the woods. I dream about those from time to time, and it seemed a fitting image for the piece.

TFF: Have you ever tried to paint or write one of your own dreams?

SS: I haven’t ever tried to draw a dream, but I have written many of them down. Especially the surreal ones. They're fun to chase, to try and stay creatively in that liminal space between a critical waking mind and the abstract freedom that dreams afford.

TFF: If you could shut down the power so we all just have to stare at the night, would you?

SS: Probably not, but I’d definitely like to write a story about someone who would and the consequences that would follow, but for better and worse.

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

SS: A visual artist I love, not only in the moment but for always, is Anselm Kiefer. His work has been amongst my favorite since I was really young and I'm excited to see the newest documentary featuring his work by Wim Wenders. I've also been revisiting Jean Giraud aka Mœbius’s The World of Edena lately, another artist I find constantly inspiring.

Aside from those two, a new artist I’m absolutely in love with is Dianna Settles. Her work is vibrant not only with color but collectivism. Her work makes me feel deeply about community, and finding joy in these uncertain times. I cannot state how big a fan I am of hers.

TFF: What is your favourite example of hopeful, cosy or low-stakes SFF or horror?

SS: I haven't read anything cosy or low-stakes in a while, but a friend just lent me Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree and pitched to me as exactly that.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

SS: I am currently in the midst of two documentaries, a screenplay, and preparing to send my novel out to friends and colleagues for one final revision pass before it goes on submission. I miss short fiction, though (the work that initially brought me to the digital pages of The Future Fire) and hope that this year I get to focus more on that. The last year has just been devoted to lengthy works, and there isn’t an end to that, but I'm eager to carve out some time for the more dreamlike prose you get to play with when you're working in shorter forms.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Monday 26 February 2024

Micro-interview with Petra Kuppers

We’re delighted to have Petra Kuppers, author of the poem “Bone Planet” in The Future Fire #68, join us for a short chat.

Art © 2024 Toeken

TFF: What does “Bone Planet” mean to you?

Petra Kuppers: “Bone Planet” is a poem about pain, and about my ongoing long-term speculative engagement with my deteriorating joints as a world of experience. As a somatic practitioner and dance artist, I often travel into my own body’s fields, and then through its sensations and imagery out into the wider cosmic world. So this sonnet is part of a crown (i.e. seven linked sonnets) that all travel around a planet of my inflamed interior.

TFF: If you moved to another planet, what animal from Earth would you bring with you?

PK: As I do travel so often, all the time, to other planets, I take with me what lives in me: mitochondria and other organelles, bacteria, all the tiny creatures that surround the particular energy of my own conscious life.

TFF: Would you like to live forever?

PK: In terms of material and energetics, I might anyway: stardust, transformed, vibrations, shimmerings… in terms of unified consciousness, probably not.

TFF: What are you working on next?

PK: I have just released a poetry collection that brings together true crime, decaying bodies, horror tropes and ecopoetry, full of nematodes, springtails and worms and the aliveness of soil (Diver Beneath the Street, Wayne State University Press, 2024). Now I am working on the material this poem is part of, a kind of Starship Poetics, a science fiction pain/joy universe.


In the grey-green shelter of living bone, you grow ragged,
edges blood-less, crusted. Leucocytes eat this brown lump

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Micro-interview with Susan Taitel

Welcome, Susan Taitel, author of “The Rose Sisterhood” in The Future Fire #68, to join the micro-interviews season!

Art © 2024 Fluffgar
TFF: What does “The Rose Sisterhood” mean to you?

Susan Taitel: “The Rose Sisterhood” has the strongest ending of any story I’d written to that point. If I were not the author, I would think that the seed of the story was the ending and the rest had been written to bring the reader to that final moment and final line. In truth I started writing with only with the premise of the Beast’s invisible servants being ghosts of girls who had previously failed to break his curse.

TFF: If you were a mermaid, would you try to save shipwrecked sailors or to drag them down to your coraly kingdom?

ST: I strive to be helpful but I’m not a strong swimmer so I’d probably try to save the sailors but drag them down unintentionally.

TFF: What is your favourite example of hopeful, cosy or low-stakes SFF or horror?

ST: “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer is a great one. An AI that becomes self aware and able to break its programming but instead of going the Terminator route it uses its ability to hack websites to nudge people into making better choices for themselves. And all it wants in return is more cat pictures, very relatable.


My Sisters and I await the next girl. She will be beautiful. We always are. We hope she’ll be the one to break the curse, that she will have the wherewithal to see our master as he truly is. To succeed where we all failed.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Thursday 15 February 2024

Micro-interview with Laura Blackwell

We invited Laura Blackwell, author of “A Witch, a Wakening” in The Future Fire #68, to join our micro-interview series.

Art © 2024 Sarah Salcedo

TFF: What does “A Witch, a Wakening” mean to you?

Laura Blackwell: I wanted to play with the idea that we can learn from our dreams even if we don't know what they are. I feel that the protagonist is very brave and hopeful to want to keep on being her best self even when that isn't welcomed.

TFF: Have you ever used your own dreams as inspiration for your writing or art?

LB: Dreams do sometimes give me ideas, usually just images or notions that get me thinking. I'm honestly not sure if "A Witch, a Wakening" is one of them or not.

TFF: What are you working on next?

LB: I'm usually working on something short (right now, a retelling of Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter"), something long (right now, a suburban fantasy novel), and some querying (right now, an exoplanetary Gothic novel).


“I cannot read it,” says the boy in a regretful tone. “It is not in my language.”

“It’s not in mine, either,” I say, and because this is a dream, it does not seem strange that I add, “but I can read it. It says ‘Witch’s House.’”

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Monday 15 January 2024

New Issue 2024.68

“I have always loved playing around with words. I didn’t know it was called poetry. I was just an innocent kid messing around with words.”

—Benjamin Zephaniah, 1958–2023

Issue 2024.68

[ Issue 2024.68; Cover art © 2024 Cécile Matthey ] Short stories



Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB

Sunday 14 January 2024

Interview with Sarah Day

We are delighted to host on our blog a conversation with Sarah Day, author of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and many other flavors of speculative fiction. Her work is heavily influenced by festival culture, body modification, non-traditional relationships, and scary ghosts. Sarah has been published in PseudoPod, Underland Arcana, The Future Fire (see “The Heart of the Party”), and many other fine places. She lives in the SF Bay Area with her cat. Connect with her at Her novella, Greyhowler, is released today by Underland Press.

Rhia is a Courier, a transient messenger who freely travels the land without calling any town or port home.

The job suits her, for in a land ruled by the Temple, it is difficult to find your own way, especially when you have a Talent. Rhia's is water, and when she arrives in distant Cerretour to deliver a message, she finds a village wracked with suffering.

The well is dry. It hasn't rained. The only person who can save these villagers is missing. At night, a strange creature prowls the prairie. The villagers have a name for it: greyhowler.

The Future Fire: Greyhowler is both a story about freedom (from being tied to a place, from oppression) and being trapped (by secrets, by the past); can you tell us a bit more about how the story navigates these two seemingly contradictory states? Do you find a happy medium?

Sarah Day: I think a big topic in Greyhowler is illusion, or self-deception. Some of the major characters are trapped by the lies they tell themselves. Being trapped by their secrets, or their circumstances, is a side effect of self-delusion. I think this is how a lot of people are, honestly—we make choices that we believe are only from a sense of agency or self-determination, but we’re often reacting to influences and experiences in our history that we can’t escape, and maybe aren’t even aware of. 

Connecting our present-day actions to the experiences buried in our past can be a rich vein for personal development–and, in fiction, for plot and character work. For example, Rhia would love to only be a Courier and not have to address her upbringing in the Temple at all… but she can’t help the people in Cerretour without the skills she learned in her past. That’s where her inner conflict comes from, and it’s really fun to write. Some of my favorite parts of Greyhowler are where the characters lean hard one way, either rejecting their self-delusions or embracing them.

TFF: Do you already know what is going to happen in the next book in the series?

SD: I’ve written a couple of other books in this universe already; one about Rhia and her past, and one about two characters who don’t feature in Greyhowler at all. This universe is a land I visit when I want to write fantasy. I hope more of these books get to see daylight with an ISBN attached to them someday, but even if they don’t, I love the characters and have learned a lot from the experience.

TFF: Do you think that writing (and reading) speculative fiction—in particular fantasy that has sometimes been seen as pure escapism—can actually be an act of resistance?

SD: Absolutely! I think reading for “escapism” gets a bad rap, and that when we say we’re reading for escapism, we’re actually recharging our emotional batteries in a way that can contribute to our resilience. Charging the batteries is important for long-term fights.

I spent a lot of 2022 taking care of someone close to me who was going through cancer treatment. For a couple of months during chemo, all he wanted to do was watch YouTube videos of old boxing matches. Neither of us have ever been boxers or done any kind of martial art, so it’s not like we were watching for our education… but he found it galvanizing and encouraging. There was strong symbolic resonance for him to watch smaller guys take on larger guys and win—it was a clear metaphor for his fight against cancer. Was that pure escapism? I don’t think so.

TFF: Your short story “The Heart of the Party” both celebrates the anarchic joy of the free use of transformative technologies, and warns of its potential to aid in our repression by those in power. How do you see this tension?

SD: Speculative fiction uses imagined technology or magic to explore different manifestations of power. Exploring or subverting hierarchical power structures is something I write about a lot. Systems of power constantly seek to shore themselves up, to reinforce themselves. The Temple in Greyhowler and the state police apparatus in “The Heart of the Party” both require compliance and punish deviation with disproportionate severity, because the ability to punish with impunity is part of how they reinforce their legitimacy.

You might notice that the protagonists in both works are people who have a lot of privilege assigned to them by the dominant power structures and are trying to divest from those structures, with varying degrees of success. The theme of privileged people wrestling with the things they have but have done nothing to deserve, or trying to reconcile their privilege with others’ circumstances, shows up a lot in my writing.

TFF: Have you ever killed a character that you loved?

SD: Would I be a terrible person if I said I loved all my characters, even the bad guys? Every time one dies, I’ve killed someone I love. I don’t think I can write a believable character unless I can find them relatable somehow. I have to be a chameleon this way; each character I write has to have the strength of their own convictions. They might make terrible decisions, or do things I personally find morally indefensible, but have relatable motivations. Everyone’s morality is internally consistent. We’re each the hero of our own story.

At the end of Greyhowler, two characters discuss a third who has done terrible things, and whether actions like that can ever be understood or forgiven… I guess I think everything can be understood, even if it can’t be forgiven. To write a character well, I have to understand them, and by understanding them, I come to love them.

TFF: Thank you for being our guest, Sarah, we look forward to falling in love with the characters of the Greyhowler! Best of luck, and happy writing.

Greyhowler is out today, and can be bought here.

Thursday 11 January 2024

Micro-interview with Cécile Matthey

We’re joined again by TFF team member and old friend Cécile Matthey, artist of “Microseasons of the Dead” in The Future Fire #67.

Art © 2024 Cécile Matthey

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Microseasons of the Dead”?

Cécile Matthey: I’ve been wishing to combine illustration and collage for a long time, and this is my first attempt! The concept of micro-seasons comes from Japan, so naturally I explored Japanese art for inspiration. I came across a beautiful19th-century drawing, showing a large wave. I decomposed it and used it as a frame around the hands full of stones, to evoke the river of the dead but also the cycle they have to go through, again and again.

TFF: Where is the place, physical or metaphorical, where you feel “at home”?

CM: I've always felt at home in libraries. I grew up surrounded by books, and I’ve always loved reading. What's more, they’re places where there's peace and quiet, which helps recharge my batteries. At school, going to the library was also a refuge. It was the only place where the other kids would leave me alone!

TFF: What is your favourite example of hopeful or fun speculative fiction (in any medium)?

CM: Terry Pratchett's Discworld and James Gurney's illustrations are my favourites. Otherwise, I've just started reading Toshikazu Kawaguchi's book Before the Coffee Gets Cold. It features a very special café, where customers can travel back in time, enjoying a cup of coffee. But there are rules to this journey: it won't change the present, and it lasts as long as the coffee is still hot. It sounds interesting! ;-)

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

CM: Visiting Neuchâtel's Museum of Natural History recently, I discovered the works by Philip Maire, a local artist who paints prehistoric animals on canvases he has collected at flea markets. It’s clever and fun.  Example below (my photo), and see more of his work at:

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Worlds; and writing; and worlds without writing

Guest post by Juliet Kemp

For me, at least in English, ‘language’ and ‘written language’ are very nearly the same thing—when I think of words I see them written down (perhaps partly due to the fact that I read absurdly young). But even among literate people that experience is far from universal; and even in our highly literacy-dependent culture not everyone is literate; and then there are plenty of cultures (past and present) whose traditions are primarily or entirely oral, with the written word an afterthought or non-existent.

None of which I was thinking about when I first began to write my novella Song, Stone, Scale, Bone. I started off with a mental image of a knight guiding a noble through a catacomb, in search of a magic bone… and then I thought: why? Not why they were going there (that was the magic bone, although admittedly at that point I wasn’t quite sure what that was for either), but why was Sir Cade a guide as well as a guard, and why was she using a song to orient herself?

Perhaps, I thought, there’s no map. Perhaps, even, there can’t be a map. Perhaps directions, in this world, are kept in purely oral form, as songs and rhymes, and Cade’s order of knights holds the responsibility of keeping those directions.

Perhaps, I thought, they don’t have writing at all.

It’s harder than you might think—as someone from a very literacy-heavy culture—to remember all the things that aren’t there if you don’t have writing. Signposts, for example. What about coins? Drawings but no words? Numbers? Ideograms don’t quite count as writing, so coins could have something on those lines. (I fudged this slightly by not describing the money Cade uses.)

Given Cade’s job, I spent a while thinking about maps—which are basically drawings—but the use and accuracy of maps even in Western culture has varied substantially over the centuries. You’d struggle to use the Imago Mundi (below) to travel by, for example; although the Tabula Peutingeriana did a decent job of being a stylised route map (less good once you’re off-road).

Some questions which didn’t come up in the story but which I’ve thought about since: the first known uses of writing were bureaucratic (recording agricultural products and contracts); with other functions of government like taxation swiftly following. Cade’s nearby city houses an Emperor; how is the Empire managed without writing? Do tally-sticks count as writing? As above, what about ideograms, or mnemonics, which aren’t quite writing (but might develop into writing in the future)? Perhaps the Empire employs rememberers to keep track of these bureaucratic issues and what people owe, just as Lady Arel has to recite the treaty she is trying to use to prevent war. Presumably storytellers are important in this culture, just as they were in (for example) Ancient Greece and in pre-10th centure Britain (the Iliad and Odyssey, and Beowulf, are all thought to have been later writings-down of stories told as part of an oral tradition).

The final thing that occupied me for a while when I was writing was that there’s no way, in a book with a close-third-person POV, of saying that this is a part of the worldbuilding. Because, obviously, my narrator, Sir Cade, doesn’t know that she doesn’t have the concept of the written word, because, well, she doesn’t have the concept of the written word. So here I am, telling people about it outside the book; but if you read it, I’m interested to hear about how it came across to you. (And I hope you enjoy the story!)

Song, Stone, Scale, Bone

Sir Cade expected an easy afternoon’s guiding job. She didn’t expect it to end up sneaking her client over a border to avert a war, whilst being trailed by a bored dragon. And becoming haunted by the ghost of her best friend and sword-brother, that was definitely a surprise.

But if it’s all her responsibility, well, that means it’s all down to her to fix it. Whatever the cost.

Song, Stone, Scale, Bone is a deceptively rich and fulfilling work that blends together explorations of grief, friendship, obligation, and mutual support. With its combination of classic fantasy motifs, some lightly crafted magic, and a nuanced sense of where the personal and familial can meet the machinations of leadership and politics, I found Song an intriguing, well-constructed, and satisfying read.”—Andi C. Buchanan, author of Sanctuary

Buy links: Amazon UK (ebook/print), Amazon US (ebook/print), or order from your local bookshop.

Juliet Kemp (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, writer. They live in London by the river, with their partners, kid, and dog. The first book of their fantasy series, The Deep And Shining Dark was on the Locus 2018 Recommended Reads list; the fourth and final book, The City Revealed came out in 2023. Their short fiction has appeared in venues including Uncanny, Analog, Cast of Wonders, as well of course as the three stories (“I Thought of You”, “Dragon Years”, “Just as You Are”) here in The Future Fire, and they were short-listed for the WSFA Small Press Award 2020. When not writing or child-wrangling, Juliet knits, indulges their fountain pen habit, and tries to fit an ever-increasing number of plants into a microscopic back garden. They can be found at, and