Growing up, Lynne M. Thomas was not particularly a fan of science fiction. Now with her husband, Michael Damian Thomas, she co-edits and publishes Uncanny Magazine, an online science fiction and fantasy magazine.
For her work with Uncanny Magazine, Thomas is a finalist for two World Science Fiction Society Hugo Awards in the “Best Semiprozine” and “Best Editor, Short Form” categories. She has been a Hugo Award finalist 11 times and has won four times in three different categories for her work as an editor and podcaster.
The Hugo Awards are given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. Winners will be announced Aug. 11 in Helsinki, Finland.
When not co-editing and helping publish Uncanny Magazine, Thomas is head of Distinctive Collections and curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University. She also contributes to the Verity! podcast.
Thomas met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to discuss her recent Hugo Award nominations, her previous wins and co-editing Uncanny Magazine.
Milton: Have you always loved science fiction?
Thomas: I’ve always loved to read, but I didn’t grow up reading much science fiction. I read mostly classics and some romance until I branched out more during college. My husband avidly read sci-fi and fantasy for years, though. Now I curate a science fiction and fantasy collection as one of 42 special collections at NIU. I need to know what’s happening in the field, so it’s crucial to know what is getting attention, and when to purchase books and add to the collection. … One of my favorite books has always been “A Wrinkle in Time.” I didn’t really think of it as science fiction at the time, but I re-read the book more or less annually. Meg Murry has always been a character I’ve really connected with. Being intelligent and kind were marked as more important than makeup and being pretty in that book, which was a powerful message to an awkward 11-year-old version of me.
Milton: What do you do for Uncanny Magazine?
Thomas: I edit and publish short fiction, poetry and essays relevant to the SF/F field. My husband Michael and I are co-editors of Uncanny Magazine. He is a freelance editor and publisher and I co-edit and work at NIU. As co-editors-in-chief of the magazine, we read the submissions that come in and work with the writers to make their writing. I am an editor, not a writer. I don’t write fiction at all. I am a consumer and curator, but not a producer in that sense.
Milton: Can you tell me more about your two Hugo Award nominations?
Thomas: This is my 11th time as a finalist for a Hugo Award. I’ve won the award four times. Being a finalist is fantastic and a bit humbling. It is a community-driven award. People vote because they feel strongly about it. To vote, you must pay membership and be a part of that community. It’s similar to the Oscars in that it is an award given for being recognized by your own community.
Milton: What do you do in your free time?
Thomas: I try to balance my work and get enough rest. We are also full-time caregivers to our daughter Caitlin, who has Aicardi Syndrome. I’m also an extremely slow knitter. When others might spend time watching TV, we typically work on the magazine. We publish a double issue six times a year, every other month. The magazine is published electronically, so it can go directly to your Kindle or other e-reader as an e-Book.
Milton: What features are published in Uncanny Magazine?
Thomas: We publish new short fiction from writers across the world. The magazine features short fiction stories, non-fiction essays and poetry. Each issue varies in length, but we usually publish six pieces of new fiction, four essays and four poems. We are opening for submissions again on June 2, for about a week.
Milton: What do you enjoy the most about being co-editor of a magazine?
Thomas: I think I enjoy reading the stories the most. I think it’s amazing to be the one that reads a story and chooses it for publication. I want people who read it and think, “This is the story I live for.” I want them to find themselves in the stories and poems and essays. That’s the moment we feel we are succeeding. That connection with our audience is so important.
Milton: Do you have any advice for writers?
Thomas: Read and write. Read widely, live, talk to people. Write, revise, edit and write again. Reading and writing critically and critiquing will help you move your craft along. Writing is no different than learning to play an instrument. You start very simply and learn how to play beautiful music, either alone or in an ensemble. That takes a lot of practice.