What’s in Spoon Knife 3?

Spoon Knife is Autonomous Press’ annual anthology of original stories by queer and/or neurodivergent authors. Spoon Knife accepts short fiction of any genre, plus memoir and the occasional poem. Each volume of Spoon Knife has a different team of editors and a different theme.

The 2018 Autumn Equinox saw the publication of Spoon Knife 3: Incursions, edited by Nick Walker and Andrew M. Reichart (who are also the co-creators of the Weird Luck stories, a growing body of interconnected speculative fiction tales).

So, what’s in Spoon Knife 3? Twenty unique and wonderfully strange pieces by twenty authors representing three generations of queer and neurodivergent literary talent. Let’s take a walk through the table of contents and see what each piece is about…

The Bob Show, by Jeff Baker (fiction)
A fugitive hiding out at his eccentric brother’s home discovers his brother’s TV picks up shows from another reality.

Future Dive, by Alyssa Gonzalez (fiction)
A hilarious but all-too-plausible glimpse of a future dominated by the gig economy.

9-5, by Eliza Redwood (poetry)
A short poem about soul-deadening office jobs.

A Twentieth-Century Comedy of Manners, by Old Cutter John (memoir)
An autistic software designer creates an unintentional disturbance in a corporate hierarchy.

Only Strawberries Don’t Have Fathers, by Judy Grahn (fiction)
Released from a psych ward and hired as a gardner, a sensitive soul becomes witness to the evolving relationships within a family of humans and a family of cats.

Stag, by RL Mosswood (fiction)
A depressed man is revitalized by an erotic encounter with the supernatural.

Life on Mars, by B. Allen (memoir)
A childhood suicide attempt leads to a revelation.

Black Dogs, Night Terrors, and Lights in the Sky, by Sean Craven (memoir)
How do you conduct yourself in the world, when your world is full of monsters and weird visitations?

The Trumpet Sounds, by Alexeigynaix (memoir)
How does one make sense of an encounter with a Mystery too big to fit within the bounds of language and rationality?

Vigilance, by Mike Jung (fiction)
An autistic superhero faces a world-destroying cosmic force.

Spacetime Dialectic, by N.I. Nicholson (poetry)
When you look in the mirror and catch a glimpse of an alternate version of yourself looking back at you, it can lead to some interesting dialogue.

Kill Your Darlings, by Verity Reynolds (fiction)
An alien secret agent, stalking a historical figure in an alternate timeline, learns that her mission has some unforseen complications.

B3: Or, How an Autistic Fixation from the Past Blew the Lid Off My Future, by Andee Joyce (memoir)
A fascination with an old Top 40 song sparks a life-changing creative awakening.

Who Is Allowed? by Alyssa Hillary (poetry)
Being autistic in academia means navigating a system that’s determined to exclude you.

Unworldly Love, by Steve Silberman (memoir)
A gay writer’s memoir of sexual awakening.

The New World, by Melanie Bell (fiction)
In a utopian culture of scholars without gender or sexuality, the gender and sexuality of outsiders becomes a controversial topic of study.

Heat Producing Entities, by Dora M. Raymaker (fiction)
Two young thieves from very different backgrounds have to figure out how to deal with each other when they both go after the same item.

Space Pirate Stowaway, by Andrew M. Reichart (fiction)
A powerful being trapped in the form of a cat stows away on a pirate ship that travels between universes — but there’s something else on board that’s far more dangerous.

The Scrape of Tooth on Bone, by Ada Hoffmann (fiction)
A timid lesbian robot mechanic who can channel the spirits of the dead gets caught up in the deadly intrigues of rival paleontologists.

Waiting for the Zeppelins, by Nick Walker (fiction)
Agent Smiley of the Reality Patrol finds himself in dire peril when his plan to stop Sigmund Freud from destroying London goes awry.

You can order Spoon Knife 3 direct from Autonomous Press, or from Amazon, or through your local bookstore.


Weird Luck Interview Part 4

Welcome to the final installment of this four-part Weird Luck interview series? In parts one, two, and three, press partners Andrew M. Reichart and Nick Walker talked about the origins of Weird Luck, their unique approach to worldbuilding, neurodivergence in the WL universe, and the expandable possibilities of the WL multiverse. In this week’s installment, you’ll read the backstory of the WL comic, plus Andrew and Nick reveal the future of WL and give us details about the Argawarga relaunch.

– N.I. Nicholson

Ian: Now I’m thinking about the recent discussion about the webcomic in this whole thread and wondering: at what point did you all decide to include and launch a webcomic in the Weird Luck, and what spurred the idea?

Nick: I bear the blame for the idea of doing a webcomic.

Comics were a central obsession for me throughout my childhood and teen years. I mean, I wasn’t just another kid who loved comic books; I was drawing comics before I could write, and while I was still in grade school I acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of comics — not just comic books but newspaper comic strips all the way back to the days of The Yellow Kid and Mutt & Jeff. 

In fact, Agent Sojac’s name comes from the nonsense phrase “Notary Sojac,” which regularly appeared on signs and such in the backgrounds of the old absurdist newspaper comic strip Smokey Stover. That’s what kind of comics geek I am.

But once I was out of high school, the struggle to survive as an autistic person with no financial resources or familial support derailed my plans to pursue a career in comics. Too busy just trying not to be homeless, and by the time I had enough stability in my life to make substantial creative projects viable I’d gotten sidetracked into other things. I got into writing eventually, but not back into creating comics.

Meanwhile, from 1996 to 2015, I was a core member of a group called Paratheatrical Research. The work of Paratheatrical Research involved using a combination of intensive physical movement work and trance states to access and forces in the personal and collective unconscious. Essentially doing deep Jungian work via the methods of experimental physical theatre.

Andrew got involved in Paratheatrical Research as well. In 2013, we were involved in some Paratheatrical Research work that focused on exploring the archetypal forces known as the Muses. When I started connecting with the Muses, they made it quite clear to me that it was time to get back to the creative dreams of my youth — writing fun weird speculative fiction, and making comics.

By that time, I’d become a fan of several webcomics, and really liked the medium — especially its DIY accessibility and the way it fostered regular reader/creator engagement.

So one day in the Spring of 2013, Andrew and I were walking to a Paratheatrical Research session together, and I proposed out of the blue that we collaborate on a webcomic. Of course, the idea that it would be part of the Weird Luck saga went without saying, because it was me and Andrew.

It took a while to get rolling. We realized that the two of us didn’t have time to both write and draw it, certainly not draw it at the level of skill we were envisioning, so we had to find an artist who was into the idea. Eventually, Andrew got the extraordinarily talented Mike Bennewitz on board — Mike was already the cover artist for Andrew’s Weird Luck novels.

Then we spent a while experimenting with what proved to be a false start. See, the main setting of the Weird Luck webcomic is the city-state of Tal Sharnis, which was created when an interdimensional disaster caused two cities in different universes to merge with one another into one reality-warped hybrid city (the disaster also tore both cities out of their native universes and transported them to the desolate chaotic wasteland of the Plateau of Leng). One of the two cities that got fused together in this disaster was also called Tal Sharnis, and before the disaster (which everyone now calls the Great Merger) it was located on Amarantis, a world that plays an important role in the Weird Luck saga. The other city was a version of late-20th-Century San Francisco (well, really the greater San Francisco Bay Area, including Oakland, Berkeley, the Marin headlands, and the Bay itself).

Well, the original plan was for the webcomic to take place in this version of San Francisco in the time shortly BEFORE the Great Merger. When it was still San Francisco, and still located on a version of modern-day Earth, but reality is starting to come apart at the seams a bit as the moment of the Great Merger slowly approaches.

We spent a bunch of time working on that story before we realized it wasn’t catching fire for us as a team. Mike wanted to draw exotic alien locations, and wanted some of the characters he drew to be nonhuman and/or too wildly exotic to blend in on 20th Century Earth. Andrew and I wanted a story that would connect more closely with Andrew’s novels, a story where we could bring in space pirates and that sort of thing.

So we went back to the drawing board, and in the end the result is the Weird Luck webcomic we’ve got today, which we’re having a great time with and which is proving to fit perfectly with the sort of Weird Luck prose stories we’re feeling inspired to write these days.

That prequel story in the pre-Merger Bay Area, though… that story is going to be told someday. I might do it as a second webcomic with a different artist who likes drawing modern-era city life, or maybe as a solo novel, somewhere quite a ways down the road.

Man, nothing about Weird Luck has a short answer…

Ian: Wow. That is pretty fascinating. That managed to answer two of the next follow-up questions I had planned. But your mention of the novels brings me to this question: Tell us a little about the origins of Argawarga Press. 

Andrew: In the late 90s, I figured I should grab some sorta unique domain name before they were all snatched up by ‘domain name trolls.’ I picked ‘argawarga.’ In Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, arga warga is onomatopoeia for the sound of being eaten alive by wild dogs. I read that book once and it changed my life. The word appeals to me because I’m a werewolf, I guess.

Now we’re turning a big corner, becoming an imprint of Autonomous Press, relaunching with the publication of our first non-Andrew book, Dora Raymaker’s Hoshi and the Red City Circuit.
– Andrew M. Reichart

Argawarga dot com was a Web 1.0 static HTML site that I wrote by hand. Basically a porto-blog, consisting of my writing and art. I wrote a couple of books, got an agent. He wasn’t able to get any traction with the books, bless him, partly because he wasn’t very experienced, and partly because they didn’t fit any mainstream market at the time. They’d be fine in the late 60s or early 70s, maybe, but they were far too skinny and genre-bendy for the 00s.

Not long after, though, self-publishing took a turn thanks to ebooks and print-on-demand. We now lived in a world where you didn’t run the risk of printing thousands of copies that sit in storage till you figure out how to move them. I’d had an interest in self-publishing forever, since the punk zines of the 80s, really. But two mentors inspired me to finally undertake it now: Micaela Petersen of Sto*Nerd Press and The Blunt Letters, and Clint Marsh of Wonderella Printed and the journal Fiddler’s Green. Their projects were very different from what I was proposing to do, but their gumption and vision made it seem perfectly reasonable to just, like, offer bound printed matter to the public.

So, I published my first two books under Argawarga Press. And then my third, and my fourth. And now we’re turning a big corner, becoming an imprint of Autonomous Press, relaunching with the publication of our first non-Andrew book, Dora Raymaker’s Hoshi and the Red City Circuit.

Ian: Without giving away too many spoilers, what do the both of you envision for the future of Weird Luck as well as the newly launched Argawarga imprint?

Nick: We’re going to keep on writing and publishing Weird Luck stories for a long time to come. We have a lot of story to tell, and we keep on generating more. As I noted earlier, what’s been published so far is the very small tip of a very big iceberg.

We’re in the early stages of co-writing a series of Weird Luck novels, which will initially be published in weekly installments on the Weird Luck website and will eventually become available in paperback from the Argawarga Press imprint. Insurgent Otherworld is the first of these collaborative novels; it will be followed by Gods of the Endless Plateau, and then others in the years to come.

In late spring of this year, Autonomous Press publishes Spoon Knife 3: Incursions, the third volume of the annual Spoon Knife literary anthology. Andrew and I were the editors for this volume, and, like the previous volume, this one features two new Weird Luck short stories — one from each of us. We aim to continue releasing new Weird Luck short stories in every future volume of Spoon Knife. 

The webcomic has been on hiatus for a bit, but new webcomic pages are in the works. We’re just getting into the part of the webcomic that introduces Smiley, one of the central characters in the Weird Luck saga. Readers already got to meet a much younger Smiley in my novelette “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez,” which appeared in volume two of Spoon Knife. The middle-aged Smiley of the webcomic is even more troublesome. Middle-aged Smiley is also the protagonist of my upcoming story in Spoon Knife 3: Incursions. Smiley has a gift for making any situation a whole lot more complicated and chaotic than it needs to be, so we’re looking forward to springing him on Agent Sojac and the rest of the gang in Tal Sharnis.

Andrew: As for Argawarga Press, we’ve got a big couple of years ahead, with five Weird Luck titles forthcoming — re-releases of my four books in new paperback and ebook editions, plus Insurgent Otherworld. Then when we finish Gods of the Endless Plateau, Argawarga will publish it as well, probably in 2020.

We’ve also got books coming out that are (as far as we know) outside the Weird Luck Saga: the aforementioned Hoshi and the Red City Circuit by Dora Raymaker, and a sort of tangential prequel, Resonance, which may come out as soon as next year. And she’s got a direct sequel brewing, which will make Hoshi fans glad.

Finally, for folks who like rare collectible stuff, I guess I could mention that every year I make a limited edition zine/chapbook, Weird Luck Tales, that includes a couple of Weird Luck stories. There are still a few copies left of last year’s No. 5, featuring my story “Monsters” from Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, plus “Things that Crawled from the Shadows,” which appeared on weirdluck.org. I made two limited editions of 99 copies each, one for the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, and one for NecronomiCon in Providence. I’m in the process of making the exclusive edition for participants in this year’s Outer Dark Symposium, and I’ll have a second limited edition for sale later in the spring. Weird Luck Tales No. 6 includes my story from Spoon Knife 3: Incursions, “Space Pirate Stowaway,” and the backup story “The Art Collector’s Dream Diary,” published on weirdluck.org this spring.

And I’ve got other Weird Luck stories in the works as well, which I’m submitting to various oddball genre markets. There’s lots of Weird Luck stuff yet to come.

Thanks for reading our Weird Luck interview series! We hope you’ve enjoyed this revealing look at the WL multiverse, the rich backstories behind it and its creators, and the exciting future that lays ahead. To make sure you don’t miss a post, like AutPress on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow the Weird Luck Facebook page for even more WL updates!


Weird Luck Interview Part 3

Welcome to this third installment of the Weird Luck interview! If you haven’t already read parts one and two of this series, you can check them out in the previous blog posts. Previously, AutPress partners Nick Walker and Andrew M. Reichart discussed WL’s origins, worldbuilding, and collaboration. This week, you’ll read about how all the pieces — the novels, upcoming serials, and webcomics — all fit together.  

— N.I. Nicholson

Ian: Next, I’d like to ask about how all the pieces fit together in the Weird Luck universe, especially so that newcomers just getting into Weird Luck understand. I (think) I get how the webcomics, Andrew’s previous novels, and Insurgent Otherworld fit together, but how would you summarize or explain this to someone whose first exposure is to only one of these: say, they’ve only read the webcomic, or they’ve only read City of the Watcher?

Nick: The Weird Luck saga is an ever-growing web of interconnected stories. Most of the stories are in prose form, except for the webcomic — though in the future there’ll be more stories in comic form with various artists.

Most pieces of the Weird Luck saga are designed so that they can be enjoyed as standalone stories by anyone who’s never read any of the other pieces. But the idea is that the more pieces you read, the richer your experience, as you get more and more sense of how all the pieces fit together into a bigger picture.

There are aspects of the big picture — mysteries and hidden plot arcs — to be discovered and figured out as one puts together more of the pieces and stumbles on hints within various stories. That’s part of the fun for both us and the reader.

You can read just one piece — just the webcomic, or just one short story in an anthology somewhere — and if we’ve done our job right, that piece is perfectly enjoyable on its own. But we’re always hoping people will want to follow us down the rabbit hole and keep reading more pieces, getting deeper into the intricacies of the bigger tales we’re weaving out of the various pieces.
— Nick Walker

If you think of any saga made up of a series of stories — the Harry Potter books, for instance — there’s a bigger picture that emerges over time; puzzling things that eventually fit into place as you read more of the books. But one thing that makes the Weird Luck saga unusual and brain-twisting is that it’s non-linear. A new reader can start reading with any piece, and read the pieces in any order. And we’re not writing and publishing the pieces in the order in which they take place.

Also, the overall Weird Luck saga isn’t centered around just one single central character or small group of characters. Different characters have their different story arcs. You read any given piece and you’ll get part of the long-term arc of that piece’s central character — and probably also part of the long-term arcs of various other characters. A character who’s central in one piece might be a minor character in a bunch of other pieces. That’s part of the fun, part of the puzzle. Figuring out the story arcs, motives, etc., of the various recurring characters, based on the glimpses you get of them in various stories that take place at various points in their lives. There are characters and events that are important to the big picture but that one only gets to learn about one glimpse at a time in the course of reading stories that center around other things.

You can read just one piece — just the webcomic, or just one short story in an anthology somewhere — and if we’ve done our job right, that piece is perfectly enjoyable on its own. But we’re always hoping people will want to follow us down the rabbit hole and keep reading more pieces, getting deeper into the intricacies of the bigger tales we’re weaving out of the various pieces.

One of the most interesting things about doing it this way is that different readers will have different experiences depending on where they start reading. If you start with the webcomic, you encounter Bianca and you’re like, “Whoa, what’s her deal? Seems like something’s kind of creepy and sinister about her? What’s her species like? How’d she get her job? How’d she lose those fingers?” And if you keep reading the webcomic over time, you’ll eventually learn everything you need to know about her. Or, you could read my novelette “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez” in the Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber anthology, to find out the truth without having to wait for the webcomic to get to it. On the other hand, if you read “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez” before you read the webcomic, then your experience of Bianca showing up in the webcomic is entirely different, because you already know her backstory, so it’s sort of like watching the first season of Hannibal, where the viewer already knows Hannibal is a serial killer but the other characters in the show don’t know it yet.

One example of what I mean about story arcs emerging a piece at a time is the Witch-Queen of Gomothrax. The Witch-Queen is a very important character in the Weird Luck saga. She’s had a major influence on the big-picture-level story. But she hasn’t yet appeared in person in any published piece. Instead, readers are getting little hints. You see Gomothrax, her home, at the end of Andrew’s City of the Watcher trilogy, but you don’t get to meet her. She’s mentioned in Insurgent Otherworld, in a letter written by Cordy’s friend Chiku, a researcher of occult artifacts, who reveals some interesting things about her history. And near the end of “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez,” we learn in passing that Smiley grew up on fairytales in which the Witch-Queen was a character. More of her story will emerge in the future, one small fragment at a time.

As for how the largest pieces we’ve published so far (or are about to publish) fit together chronologically…

  • The biggest single chunk of story so far is Andrew’s City of the Watcher Trilogy,which consists of the novels Weird Luck in the City of the Watcher, Time-Traveling Blues in the City of the Watcher, and Cannibal-King. Because it’s a time-travel story, all three books of the trilogy take place more or less at the same time.
  • Andrew’s story “Monsters,” which appears in the Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamberanthology, takes place about 6 months after the end of Cannibal-King. 
  • Insurgent Otherworld begins about 24 hours after the end of “Monsters,” and takes place over the course of a couple of months.
  • The opening scene of the Weird Luck webcomic takes place about 9 months after the end of Cannibal-King and just a few weeks after the end of Insurgent Otherworld. 
  • Next year, right after we finish serializing Insurgent Otherworld on the Weird Luck website we’ll begin publishing our next collaborative novel, Gods of the Endless Plateau, in weekly installments on the site. Gods of the Endless Plateau begins immediately after the end of Insurgent Otherworld, and takes place over a long enough period of time that parts of it will be concurrent with the first few volumes of the webcomic.
  • My novelette “Bianca and the Wu-Hernandez” takes place 28 years before the opening scene of the webcomic.
  • Andrew’s novel Wallflower Assassin takes place sometime after the first several planned volumes of the webcomic.

Stay tuned for the final part of this interview series! Next week, you’ll read about how the Weird Luck webcomic came into being, plus Nick and Andrew chat the future of WL and the relaunch of Argawarga Press as part of the Autonomous family. To make sure you don’t miss a post, like AutPress on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow the Weird Luck Facebook page for even more WL updates!

Weird Luck Interview Part 2

Greetings, readers! If you’ve read the first part of this four-part Weird Luck interview with our press partners Andrew M. Reichart and Nick Walker, you’ve read a little bit about the origins of the concept. (And if you haven’t, you can go read it in last week’s post.) In this week’s installment, they discuss worldbuilding, the expansiveness of the WL multiverse, and collaborative possibilities.

— N.I. Nicholson

Ian: I’ve read various materials and guides to world-building, including more recently N.K. Jemisin’s Worldbuilding 101 seminar notes. With that in mind, what approaches did you take to world building when it came to Weird Luck?

Andrew: Well, I reckon our story’s not typical. Our shared multiverse has continuity going all the way back to the tabletop roleplaying games and stories we collaborated on in high school. In fact, I can trace narrative continuity back to the first D&D game I ran when I was 12. It all ties in, and we’ve invented dozens of worlds along the way.

I was interested in alternate worlds ever since I read the Narnia books and Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion stuff. So that sort of interdimensional travel was a staple of my RPGs in junior high and high school. We co-created the Reality Patrol in high school. Characters have appeared who go back that far — I won’t name names, but Nick might want to. In any event, our world-building has been an organic process over decades, drawing inspiration from innumerable sources.

To point to a few specific sources: my City of the Watcher trilogy is a bit of a satire of portal fantasy, indicting it as a colonialist trope. “Ooh, primitive world in crisis, I the White Man from Earth will set things right for you and reign over your poor primitive selves!” As we say in California, “Yeah no.”

What we see of the magical world of Kaios is awful. An oppressive military dictatorship, a racist class hierarchy, a genocidal war against tribal peoples, and a blatantly complicit middle class (this last item being a critique we don’t see nearly enough of in world-building, IMHO). A hierarchy well deserving of destruction.

However, there’s also an indictment of revolution in the trilogy, insofar as (spoiler) everything goes fucking awry. This isn’t because I oppose, per se, militant self-defense against the status quo up to and including its violent destruction. I just think it’s realistic to acknowledge that, unlike the heroic battles of good vs. evil in epic fantasy, in real life this is always an awful process, likely to fail, and almost certain to instate a new status quo that is also awful.

Changing gears to our most recent example of worldbuilding: many of my contributions to the city of Tal Sharnis are rooted in recent real-world political concerns of mine. Patterns of gentrification & displacement, abetted by capital, city government, and police violence. The dehumanization that underlies policing, incarceration, and punitive models of “justice.” Pitfalls of grassroots organizing, including disorganization, infighting, co-opting, scenesterism, bad strategy, and ineffective tactics. Organizing against small-scale fascist groups which on the one hand may pose credible and growing threats, yet whose ratio of “spectacle” to “actual harmfulness” is the inverse of the dull yet massively deadly status quo. Etc.

Things like these get morphed in their translation from our world into Tal Sharnis, taking on a flavor and a life of their own as they draw influence from the local conditions. So, as an example, the True Guardians of Bifrost are earthling-supremacist, not white-supremacist. Which has its own unique implications, since the two are not deeply analogous. My intent is not to create direct satire of things in our world, as a simplistic 1:1 substitution. On the contrary, I present analogies as tools for thinking about how power operates, how the status quo preserves itself, and what sort of political effort actually results in substantive change, rather than just tokens.

Nick: Yeah, we’re definitely atypical. We’ve been collaborating on the shared worldbuilding project that evolved into the Weird Luck saga since we met in the Princeton High School art room when we were both fifteen. And, as Andrew said, it all ties in — every single bit of fiction and art and gaming we’ve done, since we met and in some cases since before we met. Andrew can trace narrative continuity back to his first D&D game, and I can trace the genesis of Agent Sojac back to a peculiar recurring daydream I had when I was in elementary school.

We ran some epic roleplaying games in our late teens and on and off through our twenties. Running roleplaying games — the old-school, tabletop, pencil & paper kind — is something I highly recommend for anyone doing worldbuilding. Readers are going to poke at your fictional worlds to see if they have real depth and coherence, and one of the best possible ways to prepare for that is to invite a gang of roleplaying gamers into your world as beta-testers, to poke at it first.

I don’t recall any moment where either of us said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if all these game worlds and stories and stuff we’re creating all interconnected as part of one intricate multiverse.” It was just somehow obvious from the start that that’s what we were going to do, that anything we created should be integrated into a single ever-more-complex canon. The more interconnections, the more it suited our synchronicity-oriented aesthetic.

Andrew and I think very differently from one another. Not in the sense of disagreeing, because we largely agree as far as opinions and whatnot go, but in the sense that his mind works very differently than mine. Or mine works very differently than his? At least one of those statements is true. And that’s an asset, because each of us tends to focus on different aspects of the worlds and settings and characters and stories we’re building.

Andrew’s got a strong focus on the sociopolitical, and I’ve got a strong focus on the psychological. Andrew has a cinematic imagination —his books really demand to be made into high-budget action movies. I have a mind that can keep track of enormously complex continuity and how it all fits together, and I get fascinated by the intrigues and chemistry between characters.

So Andrew will come to me with a vision of some story he wants us to tell, something that sounds like a pitch for a really interesting action movie. And I’ll immediately see how it can be tweaked to make it fit in perfectly with all of our existing narrative continuity, and a dozen ways that we can create connections between this story and other stories. And so the canon grows, ever more rich and complex and ever more cohesive and intricate in its interconnections.

Readers are going to poke at your fictional worlds to see if they have real depth and coherence, and one of the best possible ways to prepare for that is to invite a gang of roleplaying gamers into your world as beta-testers, to poke at it first.
— Nick Walker

In our collaborative novel, Insurgent Otherworld — which we recently finished publishing in serial form on Patreon, and which we’re about to start re-serializing in weekly installments on the Weird Luck website so everyone can read it — you can really see our styles interacting and complementing one another. Andrew’s parts of the book are full of the street-level politics of Tal Sharnis: the warfare between fringe groups like the True Guardians of Bifrost and the Unravelers Curse-Coven, the police brutality of the Monster Hunters, the grassroots resistance to a gentrification plan by a predatory development company. My parts of the book deal mostly with the way the leadership of the local bureau of the Reality Patrol responds to these events in the city, and how Cordy and Bianca each find ways to fit in once they’re transferred to that bureau to help respond to those events, and the contrast between Cordy’s naive enthusiasm and Bianca’s devious manipulations. And by the end of the story, Andrew’s threads of it and mine come together seamlessly.

I may have drifted more into talking about our collaborative synergy than about worldbuilding, but for us those may not be clearly separable.

Ian: Wow. When I started reading the Insurgent Otherworld installments on Patreon, I could maybe sense a little bit that what was happening with Weird Luck was a sort of long-term collaborative synergy that’s been in the works for several years. As an outside observer, it seems to me like a rather organic process. I also loved how RPing, particularly D&D, factored into Weird Luck’s backstory and love your suggestion to writers to allow roleplaying gamers to beta-test their fictional worlds. 

Here’s my next question: How does your creation/expansion of the Weird Luck universe encourage crossovers/linkages between Weird Luck and other universes (Verity Reynolds’ Non-Compliant Space, for example)? In other words, how do you foresee that Weird Luck’s structure and artifacts might allow like-minded authors to forge stories that take place in its universe? 

Andrew: Well, the simple answer is: there’s a hypothetically infinite multiverse, with an unlimited number of ways to get from one world to another. There’s tech and sorcery and magical beings — in fact, somewhere there could very well be any tech or magic that anyone might wanna come up with. Does some new idea destabilize the status who? Not a problem; there is no real interdimensional status quo. Even the Reality Patrol varies from one place to another, sometimes so much so that branches may be at odds or even unrecognizable. The multiverse is a chaotic mess.

So, anything can be “canon.” And frankly Nick and I can probably integrate anything… ’cause we’ve been doing exactly that for decades. We’re masters of retcon (especially Nick truth be told). Hell, the party in my eighth grade D&D game had a frickin’ spaceship. That’s… not exactly in the rules, haha.

Nick: We’re excited about other authors and comic creators and such referencing and playing with the Weird Luck canon, as long as they check in with us about it first and become collaborators rather than appropriators.

At present, Verity Reynolds, Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon, and some mysterious person named N.I. Nicholson all have open invitations to explicitly tie their stories in with the Weird Luck canon. That might happen in a small way — just small mentions and references, like if a character in a story by one of those authors says, “Don’t do that, you’ll bring the Reality Patrol down on us” — or it might involve more elaborate crossovers. Either way, we have understandings with all three of those authors that their fictional universes and ours are part of the same big multiverse and canon. We’re looking forward to bringing even more creators into this conspiracy.

Verity Reynolds is the first author with whom we’ve started collaborating on significant crossover stuff, where characters from her stories come into ours and vice-versa. I love that sort of thing. It definitely requires some discussion in advance — but that’s a feature, not a bug, because discussions of that sort are fun and tend to generate all sorts of story and character ideas for all the authors involved.

We’ve already referenced Reynolds’ Non-Compliant Space canon in small ways in Weird Luck stories, like Cordy’s brief mention of Niralans in one of the letters she writes in Insurgent Otherworld. Very soon, Autonomous Press will publish Spoon Knife 3: Incursions, the third volume of the annual Spoon Knife literary anthology. Andrew and I are the editors of this volume, and we’re each contributing a Weird Luck story to it. Verity Reynolds’ short story in Spoon Knife 3, entitled “Kill Your Darlings,” features a Reality Patrol agent as one of the central characters and is the first major crossover story between her Non-Compliant Space stories and the Weird Luck saga.

I also have a Weird Luck novel in the works, featuring Bianca, which because of my other writing commitments probably won’t be completed and published for another six or seven years. But when it finally appears, it will include an appearance by Aqharan Bereth, one of the major antagonists in the Non-Compliant Space stories. My conversations with Reynolds about Bereth’s history with Bianca generated all sorts of fun ideas about both characters. So we’re looking forward to more of that sort of thing, with Reynolds and other authors.

Definitely important to check in with creators if you’re going to use any of their actual characters. But the Reality Patrol is huge   — one could put Reality Patrol agents into any story and they might be from a branch of the Patrol that operates somewhat differently from the branches you see in the stories by me and Andrew.

Somewhere down the road, I’d love to produce some anthologies where we invite a bunch of authors we know to write stories explicitly set in the Weird Luck universe —say, a book of Reality Patrol short stories written by half a dozen different authors. But we’ll want to publish a lot more of our own work first, so that potential contributors and collaborators have a better sense of the Weird Luck universe. Because so far, the bits of the saga that we’ve published are only a tiny tip of the iceberg.

Stay tuned for part three, where Andrew and Nick discuss how all the pieces in Weird Luck fit together. To make sure you don’t miss a post, like AutPress on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow the Weird Luck Facebook page for even more WL updates!

Weird Luck Interview Part 1

If you’ve been reading the AutPress blog, the Facebook page, you’ve seen some news and shares about the Weird Luck webcomic written by our partners Nick Walker and Andrew M. Reichart and illustrated by Mike Bennewitz. Perhaps you’ve also followed the Weird Luck FB page and you’ve read the webcomics.

Either way, you’ve been exposed to a just few slices of a massive, complex multiverse with a potentially infinite time span. What’s more: Nick and Andrew have been developing it for at least 30 years.

April is a big month for both the press and the Weird Luck fictional multiverse. For one, Argawarga Press is relaunching as an imprint of AutPress. Also, many more Weird Luck stories are headed your way.

With that in mind, I had the opportunity to chat with Nick and Andrew over email during late February and early March about the vast multiverse they’ve created, the Argawarga relaunch, and what the future holds for both. This is a four-part interview series, with a new post going live over the next several Wednesdays. Enjoy part one, and stay tuned for parts two, three, and four.

  — N. I. Nicholson

Ian: From what I’ve seen, one central idea to Weird Luck is Chronic Synchronicity Syndrome. A brief explanation of what this is can be found in this AutPress blog post from March 14. I’m curious to know: where and how did you come up with the idea for CSS, aka, “weird luck”?

Nick: Andrew’s the one who first started using the term weird luck, so I’ll leave it to him to talk about how he developed it. But the concept was brewing in our private mythos for a long time before we had a term for it.

The collaborative mythos that eventually evolved into the Weird Luck saga has its roots in our teen years. It was shaped by the usual geekery like roleplaying games (of the non-computer variety), comics, music, and that sort of thing — but also by heavy use of LSD. We had this hybrid of geek culture, punk culture, stoner/headbanger culture, and psychedelic mystic culture going on.

Nick Walker

Nick Walker

There’s this thing that happens on LSD where synchronicity seems to be everywhere. And not just while you’re actually on an LSD trip, either: if you’re doing LSD regularly, and using it to tap into the levels of consciousness where archetypal forces dwell, synchronicity has a way of accelerating in your life in general, even on the days you’re not on any drugs. Carl Jung talked about that, about how tapping into the realm of the archetypal correlates with increased synchronicity in one’s life.

So that was our reality, back in those formative years when we were first collaborating and laying the groundwork for what would grow into the Weird Luck saga. We were fascinated with synchronicity, immersed in it and finding aesthetic delight in the ways in which it manifested. And this came to inform our whole creative style. From very early on, from our late teens onward, our work was full of, and shaped by, this delight in synchronicity and in the phenomenon that we eventually came to call weird luck. 

Andrew: I came up with the term “weird luck” during those acid days of the late ‘80s, not just as a description of the experience of synchronicity, but as a fanciful attribute we possessed as individuals. “Not necessarily good, not necessarily bad, but always weird.”

Outcasts pervade our work. Deviation from norms, struggles against one sort of status quo or other — these are underlying concepts that manifest all over the place.
— Andrew M. Reichart

Over the years this idea stuck with me. While I was working on what eventually became my first finished book, I reflected on various improbable narrative conventions we tend to accept — not just the blatant things like the deus ex machina, but lesser coincidences that pepper ordinary tales, especially genre stories. It occurred to me: why not explicitly use Weird Luck, the cosmic trait that bends probability around an individual, as an in-system explanation for this sort of unlikely turn of events?

Since I knew the Reality Patrol would make an appearance at the end of this book, and since they’d presumably be aware of this phenomenon (and suitably wary of it), I went ahead and came up with their nomenclature for it: Chronic Synchronicity Syndrome (both Common and Extreme varieties).

Although this started as a small throwaway idea, I ended up liking it so much that I ended up naming the book Weird Luck in the City of the Watcher when I finished it in 2004.

Occasionally I notice a story by someone else that’s especially thick with such improbabilities, presumably because the writer is deliberately playing with these tropes in some fashion. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang being a brilliant example — though I can’t mention that film, as much as I like it, without giving a thumbs-down to its mediocre gender politics, bleh.) Of course, such characters have Weird Luck in my headcanon.

Andrew M. Reichart

Andrew M. Reichart

Nick: Yeah, Weird Luck is a great concept to have as part of one’s headcanon. When I’m enjoying any work of fiction, in any medium, I’m always noticing which characters register as queer to me, which characters register as neurodivergent to me, and which characters register to me as having Weird Luck.

I love the whole idea of the Reality Patrol having this medical-sounding term for it, Chronic Synchronicity Syndrome, because it references the way that phenomena like queerness and neurodivergence have been medicalized within cultures and social institutions in our own world.

Every authoritarian system tries to enforce certain norms, and has stigmatizing ways of categorizing the modes of being that deviate from those norms. The Reality Patrol can give the illusion of being enlightened in a Starfleet kind of way, because they’re cool with some forms of diversity that the dominant culture in our world is still definitely not cool with. But they’re still very much an authoritarian organization, so they’re inevitably going to be identifying some group or another as deviant and problematic. On an institutional policy level, the Reality Patrol is really good about gender diversity and racial diversity. But they’re definitely not cool with… whatever you want to call the spectrum of diversity that Weird Luck is a manifestation of. Karmic diversity?

And speaking of that spectrum of karmic diversity, one thing you’ll notice over time in the Weird Luck saga is that Weird Luck, like autism, definitely manifests differently in each individual. That’s something we play with a lot. It’s not just about how extreme a given individual’s Weird Luck is, or how good or bad, but also about each individual’s unique style of Weird Luck. What kind of weird synchronicities or improbable events keep recurring in their lives? It’s different for every character who has Weird Luck.

Ian: Oh! Nick’s last reply made me wonder about something. Since you’ve drawn parallels between how both autism and Weird Luck manifest differently in each individual and how both WL and queerness or neurodivergence have been medicalized, I’m curious about if/when such parallels actively impacted Weird Luck concepts at any point in their development.

Andrew: Well, outcasts pervade our work. Deviation from norms, struggles against one sort of status quo or other — these are underlying concepts that manifest all over the place.

Nick: Yep. We don’t do a lot of deliberately contrived parallels or analogies, because didactic fiction generally sucks ass. And apart from the parallels we’ve already mentioned, having Weird Luck isn’t really like being a member of an oppressed or marginalized group. The parallel breaks down if one attempts to force it to go anywhere. I mean, it’s not like people who don’t have Weird Luck have “Unexceptional Luck privilege.”

More interesting than the minor parallels, I think, are the intersections of Weird Luck with phenomena like queerness and neurodivergence. There’s a lot of that in our work.

One thing that particularly fascinates me is how Weird Luck can cause neurodivergence or alterations to the psyche.

Think about it: our psyches and personalities are shaped by experience. So are our brains — neuroplasticity is a thing; experiences create neural pathways; our perspectives and personas are physically manifest as webs of neural connectivity in the brain.

If you have Weird Luck, it affects your experience of reality. In particular, your experience of causality.

In other words, what does it do to a person’s perceptions of reality, and their personality, if throughout their entire lives they’ve experienced causality as less stable and predictable than most people experience it? Because weird shit happens no matter what they do, and it’s a common experience for them to have their actions produce results that could never have been reasonably predicted?

My academic work is mostly in psychology, so that’s the kind of question that intrigues me and that shapes how I write our characters. When a character has Weird Luck, I’m always asking: How has this particular character adapted to — or had their worldview shaped by — the experience of having causality be less reliable for them than it is for most people?

We can see this in the contrast between Agent Sojac and Smiley, for example. Two central characters who are vastly different from one another — and some of their core differences boil down to how they’ve responded in more or less opposite ways to growing up with Weird Luck.

Agent Sojac’s like, “Weird and wildly unpredictable things happen all the time, so you’ve got to be vigilant, well-disciplined, and well-prepared.” Which of course is a very Reality Patrol attitude and makes her a great agent. Whereas Smiley’s like, “Weird and wildly unpredictable things happen all the time, so what’s a fellow to do? Hope for the best and improvise, I suppose.” Agent Sojac survives despite her Weird Luck; Smiley has arguably only survived this long because of his Weird Luck.

Of course, it’s not just the characters who have Weird Luck who can be outcasts or divergent or queer or struggling against the status quo. Bianca, who’s one of my favorite characters and who’s definitely queer and neurodivergent, doesn’t have Weird Luck.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview in which Nick and Andrew discuss worldbuilding and collaborations with other creators. To make sure you don’t miss a post, like AutPress on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow the Weird Luck Facebook page for even more WL updates!

Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber

The Spoon Knife Anthologies: Groundbreaking Neurodivergent, Queer, and Mad Lit

[Pictured above: the cover of Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber]

You might already know how integral the Spoon Knife anthology is to AutPress’ mission. More to the point, it offers writers an opportunity to explore themes that intersect with neurodivergence and queerness, or neuroqueer existence. From the annual series’ debut in Spring 2016 to the upcoming third volume, our goals include publishing authors writing radical transformative work, uplifting voices that are generally marginalized by the mainstream, and being one of the paying outlets for writers that values work and compensates its authors.

Thoughts on Compliance, Defiance, and Resistance

Released in Spring 2016, our first Spoon Knife volume featured poetry, fiction, and memoir from more than 25 neurodivergent authors. That first anthology, edited by Michael Scott Monje, Jr. and N.I. Nicholson, collected a body of work in which contributors spoke to how they navigated compliance, defiance, and consent and in many cases, formed their own strategies of resistance. It was also one of the first wave of titles on the NeuroQueer Books imprint, the beginning of books that focus on queer issues, queering, sexuality, gender, and the intersections of gender, neurodivergence, and other aspects of identity.

Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber

The second collection reached out to both new talent and established writers to push literary boundaries and reveal neuroqueer experiences from within. Edited by Dani Alexis Ryskamp and Sam Harvey, the Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber anthology asked contributors to consider a question: What happens when experience itself becomes a series of tests that must be successfully navigated? This volume gathered work from authors from many marginalized groups, resulting in a volume of stunning, innovative neurodivergent, Queer, and Mad literature.

Spoon Knife 3: Incursions

Coming this spring: the series’ third volume, Spoon Knife 3: Incursions. This edition was edited by Nick Walker and Andrew M. Reichart, the co-creators of the Weird Luck universe of novels and webcomics with interconnected stories about interdimensional travel, alternate realities, and improbabilities becoming probable. Stories from Weird Luck have appeared in both the first anthology and the second edition and will also feature in this third collection. Expect more weird fiction, memoir, poetry in Incursions, which asked authors to consider the myriads of possibilities when one reality intrudes into another.

In 2019: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime

The series continues in early 2019 with its fourth volume, Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime. N.I. Nicholson is editing this collection, so expect a full volume of neurodivergent spacetime weirdness. Its submissions call is pretty fresh, so you have plenty of time to submit your own work. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out the first two volumes and stay tuned for Spoon Knife 3 later this spring.

Barking Sycamores: Breakthrough Neurodivergent Lit

[Pictured: a portion of Barking Sycamores’ Issue 14 cover.] 

This spring, Barking Sycamores approaches two major milestones. For one, the journal celebrates its fourth anniversary on April 1! Also, March marks two years since it joined the AutPress family. In that time, this literary journal centering neurodivergent voices has published 13 issues to date, with number 14 slated to roll out on March 1. We’ve released two annual anthologies, with a third coming this fall. Right now, we’d like to talk a little bit about Sycamores and each anthology.

Year One: Debuting Poetry and Artwork

Barking Sycamores said “Hello, world!” in April 2014, with one primary mission: to change the public discourse about autism by centering autistic creators and publishing their poetry and artwork. The journal later expanded to include short fiction and to welcome writers with all forms of neurodivergence. Although disability literature has a rich history, Sycamores was the first journal of its kind to focus solely on neurodivergent authors and artists.

Naturally, this focus meshed well with our mission, both with the primary imprint and NeuroQueer Books. We published the Barking Sycamores: Year One anthology in Spring 2016 and brought the journal on board, along with its founder N.I. Nicholson (who’s now the NeuroQueer Books imprint editor). This volume includes work by the Puzzlebox Collective, Thomas Park, Heather Dorn, and more than 35 other contributors.

Year Two: Expanding a Literary Mission

Barking Sycamores: Year Two continues the journal’s mission while expanding into newer literary territory. Issue 8 saw the addition of creative non-fiction, and it’s reflected in this second volume packed with first-hand neurodivergent narratives, poems, short stories, and artwork. Year Two includes work by more than 30 contributors such as Erin Human, Amy Sequenzia, Sean J. Mahoney, and Matthew Robb Brown.

The Story Behind the Name

The journal’s name was deliberately chosen to sound strange but also characterizes the American sycamore tree without its bark: symbolic of what fellow AutPress editor Nick Walker called the “intense and chaotic nature of autistic sensory and cognitive experience” in his well-known essay, “What Is Autism?”. It was also originally meant to poke fun at the idea that autistic artistic communication is a fluke, a savant ability, or meaningless gibberish.

You certainly won’t forget the journal’s name or the work from neurodivergent contributors publishing in the online journal and in the yearly anthology. If you haven’t read Sycamores, pick up Year One, Year Two, or get both volumes with the Barking Sycamores Collection available in the AutPress store.


Mental Monsters and Snapshot Mindscapes

Short fiction has gotten the short end of the stick for much of its existence, despite the fact that it is perennially popular with critics and prize committees. While there are a number of short story artists who have forged a career in the form, many publishers shy away from volumes of short tales unless they come from an established writer. Fans of weird fiction, slipstream, speculative fiction, and horror realize the problem with this, though. So do fans. In an age where a number of writers are choosing to make their careers in short ebooks first, publishers need to sit up and take notice.

That’s why Autonomous Press has worked to invest in poetry and short fiction. We want to help a large number of fresh new voices find their audiences, and we want to connect the ways that readers and writers interact in this digital age to the distribution that makes it accessible to a wider reading community. That’s why we started the Spoon Knife series, and it’s why we started cultivating short works from individual artists.

We’re still just starting out as a company, but we have already managed to bring a couple of wonderful books by individual writers to the market, including Fable the Poet’s initially self-published chapbook. Fable is currently the poet laureate of his hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and his insightful characterization and frank discussion of topics like trauma, race, and mental health provide readers and listeners with a unique point of view that flows like music.

For those in traditional genres looking to devour short tales that are a little less directly reflective of everyday life, we have Ada Hoffmann’s Monsters in My Mind, which brings together over 40 strange tales that span horror, fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, and more. These are never before published works, and you can find more notes about each one on her blog.

Whether you are looking into our anthology series, the collection of work curated through Barking Sycamores, or these individually authored books, you are going to find that AutPress has taken steps to make NeuroQueer Books a place for unique points of view. We’re looking forward to bringing you more of that in the new year with additional volumes of Barking Sycamores and Spoon Knife. Until then, check out Ada’s book, as well as the new novel by Verity Reynolds.

Mixing It Up: Strange Storytelling and Weird Works

Say the word “storytelling” and a few different images might come to your mind. You may think of relaxing on the couch with an absorbing book or picture a group of entranced listeners sitting around a fire and drinking in a chilling ghost story. With our rich creative history, we’ve developed multifarious tools to tell our tales. Whether it’s a single-author book or an anthology, mixing up genres can provide fresh perspectives on storytelling.

Moving Beyond Genres With Monsters

Ada Hoffman’s latest release Monsters in My Mind is a great example of how both short stories and poetry become useful narrative tools. As a mix of flash fiction, prose poems, microfiction, and other forms, it’s evident of the delicious weirdness of which the human imagination is capable. Just as our reality can be neat and structured while messy, strange, and frightening by turns, Hoffman’s book is a unique container into which she’s packed artifacts like parallel universes, fantasy quests, reimaged fairytales, almost-sentient AI, velociraptors, and even cephalopods. This anthology is eldritch in all the right places, spilling far past the borders of the expected and predictable.

Strange Tales in Multi-Author Anthologies

The mix of voices in a multi-author collection results in a fabulous blend of shifting sceneries, intersecting timelines, and fascinating folk. For proof of that, just look at Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber. Woven together by editors Dani Alexis Ryskamp and Sam Harvey, the collection features individuals all attempting to navigate the test chambers in which they’ve been placed. For some, the goal is mere survival while others seek to escape and subvert. Examples from the cast of characters in this anthology include an early hominid targeted by the cruel leader of her hunting party, an agent in an interdimensional police force, autistic transgender women navigating landscapes of social connection and desire, and a guy who talks to his wheelchair.

Add Our Wonderful Weird Books to Your Shelves

Whether it’s oral histories born before the advent of the written word, captivating novels, or lengthy posts on one’s social media pages, we naturally engage in narrative acts. Sometimes, our singular or collective experiences extend into realms that are wild, unusual, or fundamentally bizarre. At AutPress, we’re a huge fan of strange worlds, weird storytelling, and genre-blurring books. Be sure to pick up a copy of Monsters in My Mind, Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, Barking Sycamores: Year Two and other anthologies from the AutPress store.


What to Read to Get Into the Halloween Spirit

Tired of the ordinary Halloween horror film fest? It’s time to get weird.

“Weird fiction” is a genre that blends the macabre with the supernatural, the mythical, the scientific…and the just plain weird. Since the Halloween season is a chance to let your imagination roam, don’t limit it to the usual ghosts, goblins, and axe-wielding murderers. Here’s what to read to get weird.

Monsters in My Mind

Ada Hoffmann’s short fiction and poetry anthology, Monsters in My Mind, appears in mid-October from NeuroQueer Books. Ada is a master of the weird, and the pieces in this collection encompass everything from mermaids to extradimensional worlds to sentient AI. The format makes them great for a quick dose of weirdness in your day – but once you pick this anthology up, good luck putting it down.

Weird Luck

Part of weird fiction’s weirdness is its refusal to stay politely within the bounds of any one format. The Weird Luck universe is an example: there’s a webcomic, a serialized novel on Patreon, multiple short stories hidden in various publications, and multiple novels, which will be re-released shortly. The Weird Luck universe has many entry points, and it’s a delight no matter which way you look at it.

Spoon Knife

Some folks read weird literature to step outside their daily existence and sense of self; others read it to step further in. If you’re in the latter category, the Spoon Knife anthology series is your weird fiction home. Blending fiction, memoir, and poetry with themes ranging from the technological to the mythic, the series just keeps getting weirder…and, for some readers, more relatable. Spoon Knife 3: Incursions comes out in 2018, so spend this fall getting caught up!

Whether your house is already decked out in skeletons and pumpkin spice or you’re still trying to decide what to do for Halloween, some weird reading can get you into the spirit and provide a cozy hobby for the fall.