Ukrainian literary magazines of 1920’s and Rem Koolhaas

Design and art direction of most sff literary magazines is far from good. Most of them concentrate on the subject matter – content of the stories. Well, that’s a given. After sorting that out, some award-winning, critically acclaimed giants like Clarkesworld or Apex or Azimov’s or etc etc could hire one interesting graphic designer and typographer to spice up their publications.

And yet, most of them look like they are still far far in the 90s and in the best cases 2000s. Clarkesworld wins awards for art direction year after year for their cover art (and their covers are fucking bad-ass, that’s true), yet the rest is not good. I know absolutely fuck all about publishing and graphic design and still can do the same as the best of them.

Kudos to all of them, but I wanna do things differently.


Clarkesworld #140, 05/2018, case in point.

There is not enough aesthetics in SFF publishing. When there is so much space for imagination, for creativity, for direction with fan art, with illustrations and portraits and yet magazines don’t embrace it. That led me to some not-that-deep research in modern design.

First, I researched the current trends in more hip publications. Desginer, fashion, art mags – and they are so coool. That led me to read “Art, Fashion, and Work for Hire: Thomas Demand, Peter Saville, Hedi Slimane, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Cristina Bechtler in Conversation” where I found an echo chamber of my own ideas on art critique and approaches to perception of art (and they were thinking about it in early 00s).

That’s  were I learned more about Pete Saville (the one who did album covers for Joy Division and New Order) who talked about the intersection of arts (design, sculpture, and architecture) and the integrity of vision. He said that he would probably want a professional to help him with realizing an idea for a building, if he ever had one, but wouldn’t want Rem Koolhaas to do it for him.

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Qatar National Library by Rem Koolhaas

Watching me research this bullshit, Dasha recomended me to have a look at how the writer and publishers from the age of Ukrainian Renaissance in the late 1920’s.




Look at how these nerds designed stuff. Damn NERDS, i love them

That the Universal Magazine #1 from 1929. 300% more daring and interesting than anything done in SFF today. And they had no InDesign or QuarkXpress.

As a result, I now have a growing fascination with modern design and simultaneously with old soviet literary magazines and plan to do some more daring things with design for Three Crows Magazine.


(No) Rest

I’ve felt stuck in a loop of fantasy novels and stories lately, with so many arcs and reviews, guest aricles, and more, that i think it is a time for a pause.

It is a humbling and exciting position to be able to hold books before they hit the shelves and/or amazon, but it feels like a race against time to read them, analyze, reread and write a review, that I feel that sometimes my critiques can lose focus, miss something.

So that’s why I’m  (personally me – TCM still accepts arcs) not accepting any arcs until May. Instead i’ll concentrate on broadening my own horizon that felt somewhat constricted lately. That includes reading:

  1. Finishing His Dark Materials
  2. Three-Body Problem
  3. Some Eugene O’Neill plays
  4. Some Tenessee Williams plays
  5. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let me go
  6. Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories
  7. Alan Moore’s From Hell and/or Jerusalem


Looking for recomendations on great modern romance novels and more experimental prose. Tweet them @ me.


It is disconcerting to see progressives eat themselves in their confusion. Those that we all look up and try to follow their example usually turn out as confused and misled as the rest of us. Two major occurrings showed that US SFF community, corporate executives, and creators themselves have been so stuck in one up-ing each other in who is more liberal that they forgot that the rest of the world has been happening long before and after the US. First example – the inflated outrage over the casting choice for Netflix adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s “The Witcher”. Second – with the recent example of Amélie Wen Zhao.

The Sword of Destiny has two blades.

Nothing warms my heart more than the crying fanboys who are angry at women and minorities in their favourite franchises. Their racist/sexist suffering gives me strength to read more of the slushpile. Diverse casts are a no-brainer, but have their own caveats.

But when a bunch of Netflix executives, probably afraid of ComicsGate or GamerGate backlash, announced that the cast of a polish cultural heritage would be diverse within the American standards – of course there was outrage. Polish culture and Eastern Europe has had its own trouble with diversity, oppression, and representation. Historic oppression of Jews (and typecasting jewish actresses in roles of witches), continuous oppression of Roma people, ethnic conflict with Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Germans, and more. The Witcher addresses some of the above, and the show had the chance more of those. Instead they chose the easy way out and pretended to diversify their cast.

This not only unnecessarily opened a lot of minority actors and actresses associated with the roles to the sort of treatment that made Kelly Marie Tran leave social media. It put the writers and directors of the series under unnecessary pressure. And what is worse, Netflix hired white people after all, but not polish or at least of polish descent – but b-list British and American actors. The coward’s way out.

This all seemed like either a cheap publicity stunt that backfired, or Americans applying their own standards and ways of life on the rest of the world. It baffles me that their INDIVIDUALISM that should’ve died out with the JFK-praising generation, is stronger in the Trump era and especially among the anti-Trump people.

None of the above was necessary.

The history of the world started on July 4th, 1776

Amelie Wen Zhao wrote a YA fantasy book – Blood Heir (don’t confuse with Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke which we review in TCM #2 ) that is basically Game of Thrones + Anastasia in Russian Imperial Siberia/China border.

NEWSFLASH, until 1861 there was slavery in Russian Empire and tight-arsed aristocracy lost and won serfs by hundreds playing preferans in smoke-filled salons. It was horrible and ugly. Just like any kind of slavery. Depicting it in fantasy, if done properly, can be realistic, grimdark, and enhances the landscape of SFF.

And yet we have the same output – inflated outrage that there was not enough black people in a book that touches on the issues of slavery, and those that were – were not depicted in the best way possible. Every work of art has a racial aspect to it and every community’s criticism of this art has the right to exist and should not be silenced – whether it is right or wrong is a part of the discourse. But when white authors and readers (who often haven’t even read the book) thought that a couple posts by black reviewers gave them the right to outrage and began brigading Wen Zhao and her publishers in the best traditions of r/drama, it looked like they simply hyped on the situation to earn points in American liberalism.

It looked pathetic and dangerous. Borderline ComicsGaters. US YA-fantasy twitter community is not the healthiest environment (, and now this.

Once again, it might turn out as a cheap publicity stunt to hype up the book (understandably so – they cashed out 50k on the deal, unheard of for me), or another exercise in American Individualism. What’s worse – it’s probably both.

Riddles in the Dark

Why not create more original stories with diverse cast and honest representation? What’s up with white people wanting to make their inherently white heroes, with white privileges and white problems – in different races/ethnicities? It is not up for me to put my 2c into the discussion. Even if I tried, I could never put it better than Nnendi Okorafor (she’s got a PhD after all) regarding black Batman:


Write more stories. Different. Diverse. Honest to their core and to how you feel. Hold to the things you love, but not to those you hate. It is so much easier to be positive.

TOP SFF books of 2018


Since starting Three Crows, I’ve read so many more books than ever before. Here’s my personal top 10, cause I hate top 10 lists and will never consider them journalism and thus will never publish it on TCM site. Here it goes:

  1. Rosewater – a modern classic. Mandatory reading for everyone 18+ or anyone taking biology and/or literature classes in high school.
  2. The Tower of Living and Dying – everything that was beautiful about The Court of Broken Knives, but more and better. Looking forward to the House of Sacrifice.
  3. Rejoice – unlike what was depicted in this somewhat controversial, post-structuralist/postmodern (fight me on it) novel (read my review and interview with Steven Erikson) post-scarcity-fanboying aliens ain’t rushing to save us. Oh, how I wish they would. Instead, we got to do something. Go vote, be kind, protect a tree, punch a politician. Figure something out.
  4. The Fire Eye Refuge – the book with a heart of gold and unparalleled sincerity. (I will shove it down anyone’s throat until they praise it like I do).
  5. King of Assassins – RJ should’ve saved time and straight up beat me up and left me crying in a puddle of my own blood.
  6. Monster Baru Cormorant – Simply wrecked that little heart of mine, but technically it felt more of the same after “Traitor”.
  7. Bloody Rose – it took Nicholas Eames two books, and multiple breakfast atrocities I imagine, to singlehandedly revive the genre of pure adventure fantasy. That means something.
  8. The Armored Saint – Myke Cole at his best. If you want a war drama, stop allowing that wretched asshole of a man Clint Eastwood to make movies and pay attention to this man and his books (and turn them into movies, please).
  9. Embers of war – A space opera with a pinch of Banksianism (you heard it here first, folks) where a sentient, sensitive, and warcrime-comminting ship finds out if she can redeem herself. Can She? CAN SHE???
  10. Senlin Ascends – I felt the same way Senlin does during the last time I lost my mom in a supermarket while standing in a queue.

Submissions and Relocations

The last couple months have been absolutely wild. To put things in perspective:

  1. I have relocated to Katowice, Poland for the next three years at least. Had to live on the streets basically for a week with my baggage because my landlord is a fucking asshole, and had to look for a new apartment while looking for warm places.
  2. I interviewed Steven Erikson and Cristina Jurado (who are both way smarter than I am and the impostor syndrome hit hard this time)
  3. Chose some absolutely awesome stories for issue #2. We will publish the queen herself.
  4. Outlined a short story, a novella, and full-fledged novel – the first one in a couple years.
  5. Gained some more patreon support for Three Crows Magazine.
  6. Very glad that I reviewed Rosewater months ago and was right that it will be among the best of the year. Want to talk to Tade Thompson as soon as possible.

In other news, I have a very serious topic to discuss. The second submission cycle for Three Crows is coming to an end and my editorial board has noticed a trend. We receive a vast amount of submission from people who absolutely misunderstood what science fiction, fantasy, and horror are. A lot of authors submit their revenge fantasies, rape fantasies, teacher-student sex fantasies, stories around race-based insults, and more.

These authors wrap some of the most sickening ideas and illnesses in the distorted concepts of SFF/horror, and try to sell them as progressive. As unexpected as it may be, but most of them are white, male, and over 40 years old. And if the first couple stories I could attribute to statistical error, the next 10-20 blame on my awful marketing skills and advertising in the wrong places, but getting 40+ stories per cycle shows that this is a trend and a systematic error in understanding of SFF.

Two things scare me the most in this situation. First, people don’t read my guidelines. Compared to most semi-pro zines, we have a rather extensive list of requirements (rather basic ones at that) that we expect every author to fulfill. If you can’t format your manuscript properly and learn what we expect by simply reading the FREE STORIES on our site – what sort of reaction do you expect from the editors? Free advice – don’t be an asshole.

Second, and this one is much scarier. There are hundreds of writers, with absolutely distorted perception of reality, race, gender, and historical issues, that feel the need to express these issues and are oblivious enough to consider them publishable. I’m not advocating for censorship. At Three Crows I’m the filter, the gatekeeper, the quality control and state censorship. And Three Crows is not a democracy – if I think something is not okay, it will never be published here, and the author will probably not get published here in the future (unless I see the shift in prose and views). It baffles me that there are men sitting in their three-piece suits somewhere in New Zealand, writing n-word 24 times in one story and thinking – yeah, that’s some good stuff right there, better show it to the world. Faux-feminist dudes that write out detailed rape fantasies only to show the revenge of the victim, in the end, come in a close second. Get help, my dudes.

There are enough of weird and scary shit happening around. I and my colleagues will continue to do everything to give the platform to those who were silenced, underrepresented, and oppressed, but not those who oppress.