Writing Better Futures in Times of Crisis


Is dystopia a model for living or a warning to prevent? Could certain narratives, (such as the zombie apocalypse/every man for himself scenario) be dangerous to societal thinking? How can science fiction and speculative narratives promote community mindedness in an uncertain future? Is it the responsibility of the author to create stories with all these ideas in mind?

To debate these questions, we’re gathering science fiction and speculative fiction authors who’ve written utopian and dystopian stories. BookSwell Read & Relate vidchat salon host Cody Sisco will welcome guest host Kate Maruyama along with guest authors Cecil Castellucci, Matthew Kressel, PJ Manney, Nisi Shawl, and Sherri L. Smith.

Watch Now

BookSwell Read & Relate: Writing Better Futures in Times of Crisis

About BookSwell’s Read & Relate vidchat salon

To keep connections alive between readers and writers during troubled times, BookSwell is organizing Read & Relate, a virtual video chat salon celebrating books, writers, and the literary life.

We’ll be using Zoom to conduct the salon and the feed will also be shared via Facebook Live. Audio and video may be recorded and re-shared via BookSwell’s social media channels.

The Exposition Park – Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library of the Los Angeles Public Library system is a collaborating partner on the BookSwell Read & Relate series. The library hosts events online in support of the Library at Home program of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Cecil Castellucci is the award winning and New York Times Bestselling author of books and graphic novels for young adults including Shade, The Changing Girl, Boy Proof, Soupy Leaves Home, The Year of the Beasts, Tin Star, The Female Furies and Odd Duck. In 2015 she co-authored Star Wars Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure. She is currently writing Batgirl for DC Comics and The Little Mermaid for Dark Horse Comics. Her two newest graphic novels are Girl on Film (Boom!) and The Plain Janes (Little Brown). Her short stories and short comics have been published in Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Womanthology, Star Trek: Waypoint, Vertigo SFX: Slam! and many other anthologies. In a former life, she was known as Cecil Seaskull in the ‘90s indie band Nerdy Girl. She has written two opera librettos Les Aventures de Madame Merveille (World Premiere in 2010) and Hockey Noir: The Opera (World Premiere 2018). She is the former Children’s Correspondence Coordinator for The Rumpus, a two-time MacDowell Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles.

Matthew Kressel is a writer & software developer. He is a three time Nebula Award Finalist and a Eugie Award Finalist. His short fiction can be found in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Analog, io9, Nightmare, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year – Volume 3, as well as many other magazines and anthologies. As a coder, he created the Moksha submissions system, in use by many of the largest SF publishers today. He is the co-host of Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in New York with Ellen Datlow. Find him online at @mattkressel or at www.matthewkressel.net.

PJ Manney is the author of the P.K. Dick Award-nominated (R)EVOLUTION, book 1 in a series with (ID)ENTITY, and the upcoming trilogy’s end (CON)SCIENCE, as well as non-fiction about technology, future humans, and empathy-building through storytelling. She was a former Chairperson of Humanity+, teleplay writer (Hercules–The Legendary JourneysXena: Warrior Princess, numerous TV pilot scripts) and film executive.

Kate Maruyama‘s first novel was Harrowgate (47North, 2013). Her short works have appeared in Arcadia MagazineControlled Burn, and Stoneboat; on SalonDuendeEntropy, and in an upcoming Asimov’s among other journals; as well as in numerous anthologies, including Winter Horror Days (Omnium Gatherum Media, 2015) and Halloween Carnival 3 (Hydra, 2017). Maruyama edited Nicole Sconiers’s speculative short fiction collection, Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage (Spring Lane Publishing, 2011), has been a jury chair for the Bram Stoker Awards, and is a two time juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards. She teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles in the MFA and BA programs among other places. She writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles, where she lives with her family.

Nisi Shawl is an African American writer, editor, teacher, and journalist best known for their science fiction and fantasy dealing with gender, race, and colonialism, including the Nebula finalist novel Everfair. Their most recent publication is the collection Talk Like a Man, part of PM Press’s Outspoken Author series. They live in Seattle, where they’re working dilegently on their next novel, Kinning, a sequel to Everfair.

Sherri L. Smith is the author of seven award-winning young adult novels, including the 2009 California Book Awards Gold Medalist, Flygirl, and the cli-fi speculative novel, Orleans. Her books appear on multiple state lists and have been named Amelia Bloomer and American Library Association Best Books for Young People selections. She teaches in the MFA Writing program at Goddard College in Vermont. Her newest novel is The Blossom and the Firefly. Learn more at www.sherrilsmith.com

About Cody Sisco

Cody Sisco is an author, publisher, and literary community organizer.

As an author, Cody’s speculative fiction straddles the divide between plausible and extraordinary. His Resonant Earth Series includes two novels thus far, Broken Mirror and Tortured Echoes, and a short story prequel, Believe and Live. Altered Bodies, the third volume in the series, is due out in early 2020.

In 2017 Cody co-founded Made in L.A., an indie author co-op dedicated to the support and appreciation of independent authors. His imprint, Resonant Earth Publishing, markets and promotes the Made in L.A. annual fiction anthology.

Cody is a Los Angeles Review of Books / USC Publishing Workshop 2017 Fellow and a co-organizer of the Los Angeles Writers Critique Group. His startup, BookSwell, makes the LA literary landscape easier to navigate, introduces readers to new writing, and interweaves digital and real-life literary experiences.

About BookSwell

BookSwell is a literary events and media production company dedicated to connecting readers and writers.

We help make the book scene easier to navigate, introduce readers to new writing, and interweave digital and real-life literary experiences.

Our passion is elevating underrepresented voices in publishing, including writers of color and LGBTQ, female/nonbinary, and indie writers.

BookSwell Read & Relate: a salon w/ guest host Mariano Zaro from Poetry LA

Save the date: April 24 at 6 pm

What is said and what is left unsaid in poetry?

How do we communicate across gulfs of understanding and secrets unspoken?

How do we interpret what we hear others say?

Our journeys to the present moment have all taken different twists and turns and making connections can be remarkably tenuous in our chosen homelands. Author and poet Mariano Zaro brings a potent nostalgia and intimate observations to the task of tracing a journey from his boyhood Spanish village to his coming of age and arrival in California.

Join Mariano and his featured guests, including Kim Dower, Alicia Elkort, and Steven Reigns, in a discussion of our journeys, making a literary life in LA, and poetic examinations of memory and destiny.

About BookSwell’s Read & Relate vidchat salon

To keep connections alive between readers and writers during troubled times, BookSwell is organizing Read & Relate, a biweekly virtual video chat salon celebrating books, writers, and the literary life.

We’ll be using Zoom to conduct the salon. Audio and video may be recorded and re-shared via BookSwell’s social media channels.

Join Zoom Meeting

Watch via Facebook Live

Mariano Zaro

Mariano Zaro is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Decoding Sparrows and Padre Tierra. His translations include Buda en llamas by Tony Barnstone and Cómo escribir una canción de amor by Sholeh Wolpé. Zaro’s short fiction has appeared in many magazines. In 2018, he received the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Short Fiction Prize. He is the host of a series of video-interviews with prominent American poets as part of the literary project Poetry.LA. Zaro is a professor of Spanish at Rio Hondo Community College (Whittier, California).

Kim Dower

Kim Dower has published four collections of poetry all from Red Hen Press: Air Kissing on MarsSlice of MoonLast Train to the Missing Planet, and Sunbathing on Tyrone Power’s Grave. Widely anthologized and nominated for four Pushcart Prizes, Kim Dower was City Poet Laureate of West Hollywood, from October 2016 to October 2018. She teaches poetry workshops at Antioch University, UCLA Writers Extension, and for the City of West Hollywood Library.

Alicia Elkort

Alicia Elkort’s poetry has been published in AGNI, Arsenic Lobster, Black Lawrence Press, Georgia Review, Heron Tree, The Hunger Journal, Jet Fuel Review, Menacing Hedge, Rogue Agent, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, as well as many others. Her poems have been nominated for the Orisons Anthology (2016), A Best of the Net (2018), and the Pushcart (2017 / 2019). Alicia reads for Tinderbox Poetry Journal. For more info or to watch her two video poems: http://aliciaelkort.mystrikingly.com/

Steven Reigns

Steven Reigns is a poet and educator and was appointed the first Poet Laureate of West Hollywood. He has published the collections Inheritance and Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat, and dozens of chapbooks. Reigns is 2019-2020 recipient of The Los Angeles County’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ COLA Fellowship and a fourteen-time recipient of their Artist in Residency Grant. He edited My Life is Poetry, showcasing his students’ work from the first-ever autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBT seniors. Reigns has lectured and taught writing workshops around the country to LGBT youth and people living with HIV. Currently he is touring The Gay Rub, (www.thegayrub.com) an exhibition of rubbings from LGBT landmarks, facilitates the monthly Lambda Lit Book Club, and is at work on a new collection of poetry. www.stevenreigns.com