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Best American Series
Photo courtesy of HMH Books

NYCC 2019 ‘Best of American Sci-Fi & Fantasy Series’ Panel

One of the most fantastic and accessible panels at New York Comic Con that any aspiring writer, actor, or any other artist, as well as any geek, should attend is the Best American Sci-Fi & Fantasy series book panel. 

Now, I know tossing around the word “should” may be passive-aggressive, but damn it, this is too good not to talk about. 

For those of you who may not know, the Best American Series is a compilation of the best short stories in different genres from magazines around the nation and is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  These genres range from mystery, sports, travel, horror, comics, and of course – Sci-Fi & Fantasy. 

Featured in the panel were some of the authors of the selected pieces, which included multi Hugo and Nebula Award winners N.K. Jemisin and Seanan McGuire, as well as Annalee Newitz, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Brenda Peynado

What’s fantastic about the panel is that the authors provide the audience with an inside look at where their mindsets were when composing the pieces, as well as the different techniques they utilized in their writing. 

One of the most important ideas that permeated with each author’s discussion on their pieces was challenging the reader on popular conventions, in terms of both theme and technique. Sci-Fi and Fantasy, as genres, are known for encouraging readers to explore new ideas and perspectives through the lens of fiction. 

For example, during the panel, the moderator asked Jemisin on what her thoughts were on utilizing template techniques and how it played into the creation of her piece, “The Story Teller’s Replacement.” She answered, “I have spent probably the bulk of my career reacting against those templates. There’s too many of those because too many of them are so restrictive and are in so many ways shallow.”

Much in the spirit of Sci-Fi and Fantasy writing, each author brought their individual experiences on the topics they explored, which range from framing devices and language exploration to perception, race, identity, and other socio-political themes. 

When asked about exploring her ideas within the piece, Jemisin stated that “[I] was reacting against the fairy tales of my childhood in which [the] princess who did something so evil as complain about a pea in their bed, some of them made themselves more feminine and also made themselves sound like really horrible people to me as a child. So, I kind of wanted to just mess with that, I was not interested in the whole princess paradigm the whole idea of princesses was something that had a lot of potential to play with and just keep me going.”

This particular book series panel at Comic Con is at least two years old now, and the overall publication, edited by John Joseph Adams, has utilized guest editors from at least 2015. Currently, the guest editor is award-winning writer, Carmen Maria Machado, known for Her Bodies and Other Parties.  One of her short stories is also featured in the 2018 edition of the book, which was edited by NK Jemisin. 

Definitely check out the anthology series, as well as the previous editions online or preferably at your local bookstore! If you have any thoughts on The Best of Series, or sci-fi/fantasy in general, leave us a comment below or follow me on twitter @jadkaado and the site at @TheWorkPrint. 

About Jad Kaado

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