Next SFF Author: Karen Healey
Previous SFF Author: R.H. Hazard

SFF Author: Maria Dahvana Headley

Maria Dahvana Headley(1977- )
Maria Dahvana Headley
attended New York University where she studied dramatic writing at the Tisch School of the Arts Dramatic Writing Program. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, Elle, The Washington Post, and other publications. She is also the author of the memoir The Year of Yes. Maria Dahvana Headley lives in Seattle. Learn more at Maria Dahvana Headley’s website.


CLICK HERE FOR MORE BY MARIA DAHVANA HEADLEY.



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Queen of Kings: A historical/fantasy/horror hybrid

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

FORMAT/INFO: Queen of Kings is 416 pages long divided over a Prologue, Epilogue and three Books with each Book divided into numbered chapters. Narration is in the third person via several different POVs including Cleopatra, Marc Antony, Octavian/Augustus, Nicolaus the Damascene, Chrysate, Usem, Auðr, Marcus Agrippa, the Senate, Cleopatra’s children, and various minor viewpoints. Queen of Kings is self-contained, but is the first volume in a trilogy. May 12, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Queen of Kings via Dutton.


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The End of the Sentence: A beautiful novella

The End of the Sentence by Maria Dahvana Headley & Kat Howard

Malcolm Mays is very close to the end of his rope. After the collapse of his terrible marriage, after a horrific tragedy, he has spent close to his last dollars on a house in rural Ione, Oregon. His first sight of the house confirms that there’s plenty of work to be done, but also that there’s something good to work with. When he opens the front door to his new home for the first time, he finds a huge pile of mail written to the dead owner of the house from an inmate at the federal prison two hundred miles away in Salem.


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Magonia: What YA should be like

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Come for the wonderful voice (and attitude) of Aza Ray, the teenage narrator. Stay for a suspenseful plot, vivid characters, and fantastical worldbuilding.

Magonia (2015) is one of those books that, while still partway through the sample, I knew I wanted to buy. It’s difficult to create a truly original character voice, but Maria Dahvana Headley pulls it off with Aza Ray. She even pulls it off again with Jason, Aza’s best friend, though his voice is less distinctive (this shouldn’t be taken as a criticism;


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The Mere Wife: Uncomfortable but impressive

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

“… all my selves together at once, soldier, daughter, wife, victim, mother, monster.”

The Mere Wife (2018), which is up for a Locus Award this year, is billed as a “modern retelling of Beowulf.” Set in an upscale suburban housing development called Herot Hall, it follows two mothers and their sons. One of these is Willa, the wife of a wealthy plastic surgeon whose family built Herot Hall. Willa spends her days vapidly shopping,


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Beowulf: He was the man!

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

A couple of years ago I read Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife (2018) which was a finalist for the Locus Award in 2019. Set in a wealthy suburb, the story was a promoted as a “modern retelling of Beowulf” and told from the perspectives of the mothers. I admired this novel and was therefore eager to read Headley’s new translation of Beowulf which also happens to be a Locus Award finalist in the Horror category this year.


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Magazine Monday: Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 26, July 2012

Lightspeed Magazine is edited by the formidable John Joseph Adams, who has produced a long series of wonderful anthologies and is soon to launch a new horror magazine. One might be concerned that such a busy schedule would mean that something would get short shrift, but if that is the case, it certainly isn’t Issue 26 of Lightspeed.

About half of the content of this magazine, which is produced in electronic format only, consists of interviews, novel excerpts, an artist gallery and spotlight,


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Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Fall 2012 and Winter 2013

Welcome news: Subterranean Magazine, a quarterly publication, has announced that it will be available for free download from here on out. The announcement was accompanied by the free editions of the Fall 2012 and the Winter 2013 issues, each of which contains a number of excellent novellas — a length for which Subterranean Press, as well as the magazine, are known. Many, including me, consider the novella to be the ideal length for science fiction, fantasy and horror: it provides the author with enough space for world building, but not more space than many stories need.


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Magazine Monday: 2013 Nebula Award Nominations for Best Short Stories

Helena Bell’s “Robot” is one of three nominated stories that originally appeared in Clarkesworld. It is a bitter story of a woman abandoned to the ministrations of a robot when she becomes ill. It is told in the second person as a list of commands and instructions by the woman to the robot. As much as the robot seems to be a blessing to this woman, she speaks to it as if she hates and resents it, even as she is forced to rely upon it as her disease — and the robot — eat her alive.


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Magazine Monday: Nightmare Magazine, July 2013

Brit Mandelo’s story, “And Yet, Her Eyes,” opens with a sentence that snags attention immediately: “Sasha came back from Kandahar in pieces, a sack of broken glass in the shape of a woman.” The mood of the story is set in that single sentence, and everything that comes after is the piecing together of that broken glass as if it were a jigsaw puzzle, gradually forming a picture of deep grief and loss. Sasha is met at the airport by her lover, Liz, whom she would not allow to visit her in the hospital; she couldn’t be sure that the wounds to her face and head,


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Magazine Monday: Apex Magazine, Issues 55 and 56

The most recent two issues of Apex Magazine give us a chance to say goodbye to one editor and hello to the next, and offer an interesting contrast between two strong voices.

Issue 55 is Lynne M. Thomas’s last issue of the 26 she has edited. It is a strong issue, with stories that are beautifully angry — at disease, at societal expectations, at clichés.

The first story, “What You’ve Been Missing” by Maria Dahvana Headley, is about the losses everyone suffers when a man is stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease.


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Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2014

To the dismay of all lovers of great speculative short fiction, the Summer issue of Subterranean Magazine is its last. This magazine was notable not just for the quality of its fiction, but for its willingness to publish short fiction at the novelette and novella lengths. The Summer issue ably demonstrates just what we’re going to be missing.

The magazine begins with Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Pushing the Sky Away (Death of a Blasphemer).” The first person narrator is in desperate straits, her water and morphine gone, lost in a building of endless hallways,


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Magazine Monday: Uncanny Magazine, Issues One and Two

Uncanny Magazine is a new bimonthly internet publication edited by Lynn M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas. The editors have explained their mission this way:

We chose the name Uncanny because we wanted a publication that has the feel of a contemporary magazine with a history — one that evolved from a fantastic pulp. Uncanny will bring the excitement and possibilities of the past, and the sensibilities and experimentation that the best of the present offers. . . . It’s our goal that Uncanny’s pages will be filled with gorgeous prose,


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SHORTS: McDonald, Marzioli, Downum, McGuire, Headley, Castro, Anders, Porter

Special Halloween issue of SHORTS: This week all of the stories reviewed in SHORTS feature zombies, haunted houses, vampires, intelligent rats, and various other types of creepiness and spookiness. Enjoy! 

The Modern Ladies’ Letter-Writer by Sandra McDonald (March 2016, free at Nightmare, Kindle magazine issue)

There are customary ways to begin a letter and end it, to address the envelope and set it to post. We have delivered to you (while you slept so prettily, your pale face a serene oval in the moonlight) this polite and improving manual of letters for the Fair Sex.


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SHORTS: Barthelme, McGuire, Hurley, Wong, Vaughn, Anders, Headley, Shawl, Bolander, Walton, El-Mohtar, Valente, Dick

Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

“Report” by Donald Barthelme (1967, originally published in the New Yorker, free at Jessamyn.com (reprinted by permission), also collected in Sixty Stories)

“Our group is against the war. But the war goes on. I was sent to Cleveland to talk to the engineers. The engineers were meeting in Cleveland. I was supposed to persuade them not to do what they were going to do.”

“Report,” by Donald Barthelme,


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SHORTS: Brown, McGuire, Muir, Headley, Bryski, Goss

SHORTS is our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we’ve recently read that we wanted you to know about.

While Dragons Claim the Sky by Jen Brown (2019, originally published in FIYAH Magazine Issue #10: Hair, available online for $3.99; free audio recording on PodCastle (Part 1 and Part 2), read by C. L. Clark)

While Dragons Claim the Sky tells the story of a skilled young mage as she takes a chance on discovering more of the world and her place in it.


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The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014: An enjoyable collection

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 edited by Rich Horton

I’ve been reading a lot of anthologies lately, including another of the several “Year’s Best” collections (the Jonathan Strahan one). I was pleased to find that, unlike some of the others, this one matched my tastes fairly well for the most part.

I enjoy stories in which capable, likeable or sympathetic characters, confronted by challenges, confront them right back and bring the situation to some sort of meaningful conclusion. I was worried when I read the editor’s introduction and saw him praising Lightspeed and Clarkesworld magazines,


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Women Destroy Science Fiction! The Stories: Special audiobook edition

Women Destroy Science Fiction! Lightspeed Magazine Special Issue: The Stories edited by Christie Yant, Robyn Lupo, Rachel Swirsky

Last June, Hugo-winning Lightspeed Magazine, which is edited by John Joseph Adams, devoted an entire issue (Women Destroy Science Fiction!, June 2014, issue #49) to female science fiction writers and editors. Under Christie Yant’s and Robyn Lupo’s editorial leadership, they accepted 11 original short science fiction stories and 15 original pieces of SF flash fiction. Rachel Swirsky chose and reprinted 5 stories previously published elsewhere.


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Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy: “Best” sets the bar high and these stories clear it

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 edited by Karen Joy Fowler & John Joseph Adams

Karen Joy Fowler is the guest editor of the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016. This is the second book in the annual series, which John Joseph Adams conceived of, and he still plays a large role in the selection process.

It is worth reading both Adams’ and Fowler’s introductions. Fowler’s is brilliant because she talks about the world, fiction, fantasy and language. Adam’s is instructive.


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The New Voices of Fantasy: A diverse and worthy collection

The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter Beagle

This collection of nineteen fantasy short works, edited by Peter Beagle, is definitely worthwhile if you like speculative short fiction. Many of them left an impact on me, and a few are true standouts. These stories are by relatively new authors in the speculative fiction genre and are all fantasy; otherwise there’s no discernable overarching theme.

These stories have almost all been published previously over the last seven years, and several of them are Hugo or Nebula winners or nominees.


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A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers

A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers edited by Victor LaValle & John Joseph Adams

In reaction to the Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States as well as to the rhetoric spewed by his far-right supporters such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, Victor LaValle & John Joseph Adams wrote to a diverse set of speculative fiction authors with this charge: “We are seeking stories that explore new forms of freedom, love, and justice: narratives that release us from the chokehold of the history and mythology of the past… and writing that gives us new futures to believe in.”

The “mythology” they refer to is the history we learned in school which taught us about all the great white men who accomplished all the significant events in American history.


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Next SFF Author: Karen Healey
Previous SFF Author: R.H. Hazard

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