Launched in January 2004 to promote literary quality in speculative fiction, the Speculative Literature Foundation addresses historical inequities in access to literary opportunities for marginalized writers. Our staff and board are committed to representing racial, gender, and class diversity at all levels of our organization. This commitment is at the heart of what the Speculative Literature Foundation stands for: equal access to create and advance science fiction, fantasy, and horror literature. We strive to enable writers at any stage of their career and of any age, any ethnicity, any gender expression, from any location and of any economic or social status, who want to learn about, or create within, the speculative arts.
More than thirty volunteers, directed by Mary Anne Mohanraj, work on an ongoing basis to:
- Present individual and organizational grants and awards.
- Raise funds for redistribution to quality work, by individuals and organizations.
- Develop booklists and other materials to use in outreach efforts to schools and libraries.
- Provide information and education to speculative fiction readers, writers, editors and publishers.
Mary Anne Mohanraj
Founder and Executive Director
Mary Anne Mohanraj (she/her) is author of Bodies in Motion (HarperCollins), The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and ten other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages. The Stars Change is a Lambda and Rainbow Award-finalist science fiction novella. Previous titles include Aqua Erotica and Wet (two anthologies edited for Random House), Kathryn in the City and The Classics Professor (two erotic choose-your-own-adventure novels, Penguin), The Best of Strange Horizons, Without a Map, (Aqueduct Press, a collection co-authored with Nnedi Okorafor), The Poet’s Journey (picture book), and A Taste of Serendib (a Sri Lankan cookbook).
Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated magazine, Strange Horizons, and serves as editor-in-chief of Jaggery, a South Asian literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon and Maneki Neko Con. She serves as Executive Director of both DesiLit (desilit.org) and the Speculative Literature Foundation (speclit.org), and directs the Kriti Festival of South Asian arts and literature (kritifestival.org).
Mohanraj has taught at the Clarion SF/F workshop, and is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mohanraj lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, with her husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog.
Managing Director & Podcast Producer
Sue Bedry (she/her) earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian and French from the State University of New York at Albany and a Master of Letters degree in Russian and French literature from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Originally from Rochester, NY, she now lives and works in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. She has worked in fundraising and development since 1999. She is also the administrator and co-founder, with SFF writer, editor and teacher Rick Wilber, of the Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Award. This award was founded in 2014 to encourage high school authors in the Tampa Bay area to explore the genres of science fiction and fantasy and to experiment with the short story format.
Kunj Bhatt (she/her) has a MA in Sociology with an emphasis in gender and the Asian diaspora. She currently lives in Southern California, reading and writing anything that calls to her (mostly speculative works). At the moment, she is working on a contemporary children’s middle grade novel set in India about family and the experiences that define us. Once in a while you can catch her on Twitter and Instagram: @monsoonschai.
Grants and Outreach Coordinator
Catherine (she/her) has been published in Adelaide Literary Magazine and children, churches, and daddies. A vampire connoisseur who loves all things narrative and music, Catherine daylights as a freelance writer while writing fiction.
Phoenix Alexander (he/him) is the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction and Fantasy at the University of California, Riverside, where he curates one of the world’s largest collections of catalogued science fiction.
He completed his Ph.D. in the departments of English and African American Studies at Yale University and worked as a curatorial assistant at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library for three years, alongside his studies. Prior to coming to UCR he was the Science Fiction Collections Librarian at the University of Liverpool.
Phoenix is a queer, Greek-Cypriot scholar and writer of science fiction himself. His work has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Black Static, Safundi: the Journal of South African and American Studies, and Science Fiction Studies. He is a full member of the Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA), and served as a judge for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 2021 and 2022.
His research interests cover the intersections of librarianship and curatorial practice, speculative fiction, and social justice. His work is informed by the question of how archives can serve as literary “home places” (after Carla Peterson’s definition) for marginalized creators who have been historically undervalued – and whose work has had to take on new and innovative forms for recognition.
Programming Director and Volunteer Coordinator
Angeli Primlani is a Chicago-based playwright, director, producer and actor. She was culture and features writer and online editor for The Prague Post in the Czech Republic. She was the founding Artistic Director of Accidental Shakespeare Theatre Company. Her play The Black Knight premiered with Lifeboat Productions in spring of 2022. She’s written essays, articles, scripts, plays and instructional materials for so long she really can’t remember what all she did anymore. She vaguely remembers a story about M&Ms going to the Dark Side and a few NPR pieces. Her first novel The Marlen of Prague, Christopher Marlowe and the City of Gold was published by Guardbridge UK. She is easily bribed with pie.
Portolan Project Director
Dr. Shaun Duke is an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his M.A. and Ph.D in English from the University of Florida and a B.A. in Modern Literature from University of California, Santa Cruz. He studies science fiction, postcolonialism, Caribbean literature, spatial theory, fan cultures, and social media.
In addition to his academic work, he is a writer of genre fiction and a freelance editor at The Duke of Editing. His fiction has appeared in Curiouser Magazine, Stupefying Stories, and elsewhere. He also hosts and produces two podcasts: The Skiffy and Fanty Show, a four-time Hugo Award finalist podcast dedicated to examining the literary, cinematic, and cultural world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror; and The Joy Factory Monthly, a geeky podcast dedicated to joyful conversations about nerd topics. His podcast work has sent him around the world to participate in conventions, conduct interviews, and more.
Areej Akhtar is a final-year student at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), majoring in English Literature and minoring in Religion. Her undergraduate thesis explores the influence of The Thousand and One Nights on the emergence of speculative fiction in South-Asian literature. As part of her thesis, she is also translating Urdu renditions and reimaginations of the Nights into English. She is interested in excavating buried literary histories of the Global South with a particular focus on Muslim women’s narrative representations.
Malon Edwards has been writing short stories since he was eight years old. His first story was about two astronauts who take a rocket ship to the Moon, where one decides to stay, all alone.
These days, his stories—sometimes steampunk and urban fantasy, other times horror and cyberpunk—are often set in an alternate or near-future Chicago and feature people of color. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Malon now lives in the Toronto area with his wife and their two children. He has volunteered for the Speculative Literature Foundation since 2008.
N. K. Jemisin
N. K. Jemisin is the first author in the genre’s history to win three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards, for her Broken Earth trilogy. Her work has won the Nebula and Locus Awards, and she is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow. The first book in her current Great Cities trilogy, THE CITY WE BECAME, is a New York Times bestseller. Her speculative works range from fantasy to science fiction to the undefinable; her themes include resistance to oppression, the inseverability of the liminal, and the coolness of Stuff Blowing Up. She’s been an instructor for Clarion and Clarion West writing workshops. Among other critical work, she was formerly the science fiction and fantasy book reviewer at the New York Times. In her spare time she’s a gamer and gardener, responsible for saving the world from KING OZZYMANDIAS, her dangerously intelligent ginger cat, and his destructive sidekick, the Marvelous Master Magpie.
Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series (Tor Books) explores a future of borderless nations and globally commixing populations. The first volume Too Like the Lightning was a Best Novel Hugo finalist, and won the Compton Crook Award, while Ada received the Campbell Award. She teaches history at the University of Chicago, studying the Renaissance, Enlightenment, heresy, atheism, and censorship. She composes music including the Viking mythology cycle Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok, and performs with the group Sassafrass. She studies anime/manga, especially Osamu Tezuka, post-WWII manga and feminist manga, and consults for anime and manga publishers. She blogs and podcasts at ExUrbe.com.
In the science fiction and fantasy field, Debbie Notkin has been a bookseller, a book editor, a book reviewer, a convention organizer, and more. In her other lives, she has been a publishing professional, a body image activist, and an economic justice activist. She was a founding Board member of the James Tiptree Jr. Award (now the Otherwise Award) and she believes deeply in the power of speculative fiction to heal ourselves and the world.
Farah Mendlesohn is a convention organizer, a charity manager, co-editor of the Hugo Award Winning Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, author of the Hugo nominated The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein and is currently working on a short book about Joanna Russ’s The Female Man.
Pronouns: Farah or they
Cat Rambo’s 250+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In 2020 they won the Nebula Award for fantasy novelette Carpe Glitter. They are a former two-term President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA). Their most recent works are space opera You Sexy Thing (Tor Macmillan) and science fiction anthology, The Reinvented Heart (Arc Manor), co-edited with Jennifer Brozek. For more about Cat, as well as links to fiction and popular online school, The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, see their website.
Our Course Instructors
Writing About Mental Health
Nancy Hightower has written essays about politics, spirituality, and mental health for NBC News Think, Sojourners, HuffPo, and Entropy, among others. She is the author of Elementarí Rising (2013) and a poetry collection, The Acolyte (Port Yonder Press, 2015). Her flash fiction “Medusa Gets a Girlfriend” won Wigleaf’s Top 50 in 2017 and from 2014-2016, she was the science fiction and fantasy reviewer for The Washington Post. She currently teaches at Fashion Institute of Technology and Hunter College.
Writing the SFF Novelette
Alec Nevala-Lee has published numerous stories, including ten novelettes and two novellas, in the magazine Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Three of his novelettes—”The Boneless One,” “The Spires,” and “At the Fall”—have been reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science Fiction by Gardner Dozois. He is the author of three suspense novels from Penguin, and his nonfiction book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (Dey Street / HarperCollins) was a Hugo and Locus Awards finalist and an Economist best book of 2018. His latest book is Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller, which was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and one of Esquire‘s fifty best biographies of all time. He is currently writing a biography of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis W. Alvarez for W.W. Norton.
Intro to Writing Speculative Fiction
Eden Robins loves novels best, but they take forever so she also writes short stories and self-absorbed essays at places like Catapult, USA Today, LA Review of Books, Apex magazine, Shimmer, Kaleidotrope, and others. Her debut novel When Franny Stands Up was named a best book of 2022 by the Chicago Reader, a best queer book of 2022 by Autostraddle, and Best Book of the Month by Bustle and Buzzfeed. She co-hosts a science podcast called No Such Thing As Boring with an actual scientist and produces a monthly live lit show in Chicago called Tuesday Funk. Previously, she sold sex toys, wrote jokes for Big Pharma, and once did a stand-up comedy set to an audience who didn’t boo. She lives in Chicago, has been to the bottom of the ocean, and will never go to space.
Intro to Screenwriting
Ted Schneider is a director, writer, actor, consultant and teacher. His fillm “Early Light” won the Soldier’s and Sacrifice Award at the 2020 Flicker’s Rhode Island International Film Festival. His first short, “Nothing Happened,” won awards at Trenton International Film Festival March on Washington Film Festival, White House Screening. His current film, “Iqaluit,” is screening in festivals such as the 30th Annual Arizona International Film Festival (2022) Flicker’s Rhode Island International Film Festival (2022) Boston Short Film Festival (2022) Detroit Trinity International Film Festival (2022). Upcoming: “Tell Me Something Else” Short Film (post-production). Earlier this year, Ted became the story editor for an untitled feature film project from East2West Entertainment.
As an actor, Ted has appeared alongside F. Murray Abraham, Amy Irving, Lynn Cohen, Bill Irwin, Michael Shannon, Reed Birney and Dierde O’Connell: Shakespeare, Chekhov and new works by Clare Barron, Naiomi Wallace and Lanford Wilson. He is a member of the theater and film group The Chekhov Project at Lake Lucille and holds a BFA in Theater Arts (Acting) from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and an MFA in Cinema Arts (Directing) from the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, Brooklyn College.