Calico in Conversation: Monsters Are People with J.L. Gribble

Steel Victory Launch 1Welcome to Part Two of Calico In Conversation with J.L. Gribble. If you missed Part One: Boosting Confidence, feel free to click here to catch up!

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through June of 2016.


Let’s move on to influences: as writers, we all have them. What do you think influences your writing the most?

There’s never a simple answer to that question! I draw my inspiration from the other media I consume (books, television, movies, graphic novels, role-playing games, etc.), courses I’ve taken in school, and the people I meet around me. But that’s a pretty cliche answer in and of itself, so instead I’ll talk more about the challenges I’ve set for myself in my writing.

My favorite take on the concept of immortality is that presented in the television show Highlander: The Series, where even people who live forever are still people. I wanted to write about paranormal monsters who are also still people first. In addition, my debut novel, the thesis I wrote for graduate school, started out as a reaction to the Twilight craze. I wanted to write about a vampire who can be a romantic creature, but whose story wasn’t necessarily a romance. Thus, the character of Victory, a vampire in a mature, adult relationship, was born. But characters don’t exist in a vacuum, so I gave her a family, friends, and a career. The conflict of the novel was born from taking all of those things away, one by one.

The rest of the Steel Empires series continues along the vein, with other challenges that I decided to set for myself. Steel Magic could be considered a coming of age story for Victory’s daughter, inspired by a class I took in college on the female coming-of-age novel. Book 3, Steel Blood, was deliberately structured around the scenes set by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. And book 4 is going to be a time travel book…because I freaking love time travel stories.

Interesting…. It’s funny, because you’re reminding me of a post written by Alex Bledsoe regarding his Eddie LaCrosse series, wherein each book of the series was written in response to a particular THING the author was inspired by or wanted to explore. I can’t begin to explain HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS APPROACH. While I haven’t read Bledsoe’s series (and I’ve only read your first book), I imagine it gives each book a unique approach, despite the characters and the world tying it together into one series. Thoughts?

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Culture Consumption: March 2016

Yes, yes, I know I’m hideously late, but April is a busy month, and my brain didn’t want to compose a blog entry. So it’s well past time, once again, to look at all of the culture I’ve been consuming from the month before. Quite a fun month, I must say, so feel free to join me to look at all the books, comics, movies, and television I finally got under my belt in March!

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Don’t Be Rude: Why You Should Watch Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal

On Saturday, August 29th, the final episode of Hannibal season three aired in the United States. It has not been renewed by NBC, nor has it been picked up by streaming services Netflix or Amazon. Given Bryan Fuller’s commitment to American Gods, as well as the casts’ moving on to other projects, the final episode of season three is very likely a series finale. Fuller and the production company have said they’d like to come back. The cast has said they’d like to come back. Perhaps, in a few years, that may happen: we’ll get what would’ve been season four as a mini-series or a movie on another network. Maybe it’ll even get Kickstarted! But right now, that’s a pipe dream, and to be honest, season three provided a fantastic series finale.

Art by Risa Rodil
Art by Risa Rodil

Today’s post isn’t to talk about that finale. Rather, it’s to lead into something else entirely: now that the show is over, it’s the perfect time to watch and see what all the fuss is about. You don’t have the worry about the show getting canceled, because it’s already canceled. You don’t have to worry about it not coming to a satisfying end, because it did. All you have to do is curl up and start watching, get addicted, and join the rest of us who identify as Fannibals in hoping that Bryan Fuller will get to continue his vision in some form or fashion. After all, he never did get around to introducing Clarice Starling.

I thought it might be fun to interview myself, as if I were the prospective viewer who hadn’t yet watched the show. I polled my FB friends to find out what reservations they had to watching, and that, combined with my own experience of watching the show, is the basis for the following “interview.”

So please, don’t be rude. Read on to learn why, after four books and five film adaptations, you should give Bryan Fuller’s vision a shot.

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Wolves Without Teeth: Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Winners and the Nominees that Might Have Been

So. The 2015 Hugo Awards were announced last night. I forgot all about it, because I was remembering why I never wanted to work in the food industry again while volunteering at a concession stand at a baseball game to raise money for charity. This morning, I woke up to a thunderstorm, a playful cat, a husband playing Bloodborne, and the Hugo Results.

I have a few links I want to share before I talk about the winners (or lack thereof):

1) Announcing the 2015 Hugo Award Winners: Winners, winners! Read all about it!

2) Tobias S. Buckell: What the alternate Hugo Ballot would likely have been: Toby uses the 2015 Hugo Award Statistics, crosses off all puppy nominees, in order to figure out what the fiction categories MIGHT have looked like without slates informing the ballot. He also has some great thoughts about those nominees, as well as the nominees who were on the puppy ballots and withdrew their nominations.

3) 2015 Hugo Award Statistics: I love looking at this every year, but this year is particularly fascinating. The “what-if” nature of the ballot is endlessly fascinating for me. I would’ve been SO MUCH MORE ENGAGED in this year’s awards if the ballot hadn’t been hijacked by the puppies.

4) Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters: A really great piece that talks about the controversy, the awards ceremony, and what happened after. Kudos to George R.R. Martin for his Hugo Loser’s party.

And now, for my thoughts on some of the winners:

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There And Back Again: Some Observations on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy

I have a new tradition. Every year, when a Hobbit movie comes out, I take a vacation day so that I can see one of the first showings. It accomplishes two things: 1) I can pay a matinee price for my ticket and 2) I can avoid the crowds. It’s a day of fun and excitement, and I love sitting in the theater and immersing myself back into Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth.

I knew I’d have a lot of thoughts about the movies, about the film trilogy as a whole, once The Battle of the Five Armies came out. And ever since Friday (this year, the movie opened on a Wednesday, but I wanted a three day weekend, so I made myself wait until Friday to see it), I’ve been mulling over the film, considering my reactions to it, and listening to Howard Shore’s The Battle of Five Armies score. There’s so much I wanted to talk about, but my attempts at a post got long, unwieldy, and unfocused.

So in order to at least start the conversation, I’m going to make a list. The list will be below the picture and behind a cut, because there will be spoilers, and I won’t be responsible for ruining the movie for you if you decide to spoil yourself. Cool? Cool.

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Fiction Friday: “Night’s Slow Poison” by Ann Leckie

This week, I’m done posting Hugo-nominated stories from the 2014 ballot. Instead, I come with a story that I really, really wish was eligible for next year’s Hugo’s, but alas, it is not.

“Night’s Slow Poison” by Ann Leckie is set in the same world as her debut, Nebula-winning and Hugo-nominated novel, Ancillary Justice, but trust me when I say you need NO KNOWLEDGE of that book to read and enjoy this short story, which was originally published in 2012 by Electric Velocipede and reprinted in 2014 on Below, should you be so inclined, is the link.

Click here to read NIGHT’S SLOW POISON for free

Illustrated by John Harris
Illustrated by John Harris

“Night’s Slow Poison” is from the same setting as Ancillary Justice, and tells a rich, claustrophobic story of a galactic voyage that forces one guardsmen to confront his uneasy family history through the lens of a passenger with his lost lover’s eyes.


Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Fiction Friday: “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu

This week brings another short story from the 2014 Hugo Ballot, so while I’m at it: if you’re registered to vote, remember July 31st is the last day to get your votes in, so don’t delay!

For those of you who aren’t voting, but are still curious about the nominees, may I present to you John Chu’s “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere.” Published by on February 20, 2013, I have to say it’s another piece (much like A.M. Dellamonica’s “The Color Paradox”) that left me begging for more. Suffice to say, between that and the fact it’s been nominated for a Hugo, it’s definitely worth the read. 🙂 Just click the link below to go to’s website!

Click here to read THE WATER THAT FALLS ON YOU FROM NOWHERE for free

Illustration by Christopher Silas Neal
Illustration by Christopher Silas Neal

In the near future water falls from the sky whenever someone lies (either a mist or a torrential flood depending on the intensity of the lie). This makes life difficult for Matt as he maneuvers the marriage question with his lover and how best to “come out” to his traditional Chinese parents.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Fiction Friday: The Color of Paradox by A.M. Dellamonica

So I can’t promise this will be every week, but if I have something I want to share, this is where I’ll share it. I’ll try to focus on free fiction, so that if you’re interested, you can click a link and read it for yourself.

For the inaugural Fiction Friday, I bring you “The Color of Paradox” by A.M. Dellamonica, a short story published at For those of you familiar with Connie Willis’ time-traveling novels, you’ll appreciate this story even more, but regardless of one little shout-out, this is a great story that demands more. So much more. I WANT MORE.

Click here to read THE COLOR OF PARADOX for free

Illustration by Jeffrey Alan Love

“The Color of Paradox,” by A.M. Dellamonica, is a science fiction story about one of a series of time travelers sent back to the past in order to buy more time for the human race, which in the future is on the verge of extinction.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Remembering Calico Reaction: 2005-2013

On May 24th of last year, I closed my book blog. It was both a sad and liberating day. Sad, because there was a part of me that really, really wanted to hit the ten-year mark, and liberating because I was so burdened by the responsibilities I’d placed on myself, my reading, and my blog that I just wasn’t happy doing it any more. I don’t regret that decision, and I even miss those book-blogging days. However, as book blogging and fandom evolves, I’m glad I’m out.

Last week, Nancy from Picking Up the Pen reached out and asked if I followed’s Rocket Talk Podcast. I explained I did not, and she went on to tell me she was listening to the most recent episode on Gender Parity in the SFF Community and said that I was mentioned. Well, not me, but rather Calico Reaction.

I was flabbergasted, because it’s been a year since I’ve posted under that name, so I promptly downloaded the podcast to get the context and figure out why my blog–one that didn’t garner many nominations when the Hugos came around–was suddenly popping up on someone else’s radar.

The segment is about 45 minutes in, but I recommend listening to the whole podcast for the proper context. Gender parity in the SFF Community boils down to the annual Coverage of Women on SFF Blogs study that Renay @ Lady Business has been spearheading. It’s a great project, and it’s worth listening to the podcast and browsing through the studies to really get a sense of what’s being talked about and why, especially if you’re a blogger/reviewer in the SF/F community.

I won’t rehash the details, but I’ll say this: it’s nice to be remembered. More importantly, it’s nice to be remembered for something that I didn’t initially strive to do, which was feature mostly books written by women in my blog. But while I didn’t originally intend to become a showcase for women authors, it ended up happening anyway, because I wanted to have a firm grasp on the female voices writing in the genre I hope to one day debut in.

So here’s to Calico Reaction (the blog, not me) and whatever good it did for audiences it served. I was very lucky to have been able to blog for as long as I did, and I still consider myself incredibly lucky that it developed such an intelligent, engaging, and energetic following. I give many thanks to those who read it, those who helped me shape it, and to those who remember it even today.