And So It Begins: Introducing Ancillary Review of Books

Ancillary Review of Books is an experiment in utopian criticism—both in what we publish about and how we go about doing it.

For more about ARB, visit the about page.


We are excited to share the news that, after several weeks of preparations and back-and-forth via Twitter, emails, and other fora, that Ancillary Review of Books or ARB is now “live” to the world.

Of course…. we don’t have any content yet, but that’s the point of our early launch! Already, our editors are hard underway with three tasks:

  1. Creating awareness about ARB and its location at the intersection between SFF fanzines and more tradition reviews of books
  2. Commissioning reviews, essays, and columns to begin providing steady content for ARB starting in October 2020
  3. Expanding our editorial collective; we have several requests for folks to join outstanding and will be prioritizing editorial recruitment over the next few weeks

Among those contributions we’ve already commissioned, are reviews of Camilla Townsend’s Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs, Matthew Schneider-Meyerson and Brent Ryan Bellamy’s An Ecotopian Lexicon, Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowful: A New Translation, Mandy Suhr-Sytsma’s Self-Determined Stories: The Indigenous Reinvention of Young Adult Literature, Usman T. Malik’s Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan, a dozen others reviews, three essays, and more!

In addition to reviews, essays, and regular columns, ARB will also publish lists of recommended forthcoming books from university presses, fiction publishers, and indie presses. These lists will reflect our curated interest in surveying literature and culture that speaks to social justice and the utopian desires of good, life-giving speculative fiction! Our recommendations are also a list of books we’d like you to review.

What Makes ARB Different?

There are many publications out there—perhaps too many. ARB is an attempt to provide something relatively novel, while recognizing that with so many publications out there, we can only go so far.

But there—far—is where we’re hoping to go by bringing together editors and a network of contributions from all over the world who are interested in an admittedly broad range of topics: genre fiction, world literature, literature and media from below, work indie and conglomerate, but, as a through line, all writing and media interested in social justice, in thinking and producing a better world through the speculative magics and realities of utopian thinking, praxis, and critique.

ARB’s specialty is critical writing that makes apparent the utopian undercurrents of everything from mainstream SFF to academic monographs. ARB is edited by academics and alt-acs, folks who have grown increasingly skeptical of universities and academic writing alone as a place for political change. Some contributors are academic, most are not; some are SFF writers, most are not. ARB is, like our vision of utopia, a collective of voice, energies, ideas, and demands for change. We are you.

ARB puts our meaning into action in several ways:

First, ARB actively seeks out #ownvoices reviewers who respond to fiction, nonfiction, and cultural moments critically just as #ownvoices fiction writers bring their life-histories and cultures authentically to the page. True, not every critic will be from the same community as the writer (or as the folks discussed in a work of scholarship), but ARB tries hard to ensure equity across review assignments and among our contributor pool.

Second, ARB provides transparent information about the solicitation, commission, editing, and publication of all pieces. Information, for example, about the commissioning editor, method of commission, and length of process will be published at the end of each piece. Why? As Phillippa K. Chong argues in her book Inside the Critics’ Cricle, most people (especially those wanting to break into professional criticism) have no idea how things work behind-the-scenes, but who selects reviewers, whom they select, and what books get reviewed are all steps in the process in which inequity reproduces itself. By laying out what we do—and who does what—we hope to buck the Old Boy’s Club feel of book reviewing and criticism, as well as allowing us to track information that will help hold us accountable to the communities of readers, writers, and publishers we serve.

Third, ARB affirms that we will work with authors regardless of their experience, so long as they want to write and are invested in the sames ideas, text, and goals that drive ARB. This isn’t to say everyone will be published all the time, but that ARB will not discriminate against hard pitches (i.e. pitches to the editorial inbox by folks not personally known to any editor) on the basis of previous experience or any other aspect of their subjectivity. In order to carve out a more equitable space in the publishing world, we can’t rely on a hidden system of ol’-buddy-ol’-pals, but must be willing to actively cultivate, support, and work with new voices. Editors exist not only to make sure something gets published, but to help shape good writing—and we take that seriously.

For more about how and what to submit, visit our Write for Ancillary page.

Who Is ARB?

ARB is prepared for publication by an editorial collective in collaboration with a network of global contributors. The list of editors, their bios, and their commissioning interests can be found here.

Partnership with READ / REBEL

At present, ARB partners with with the Bookshop.org affiliate READ / REBEL. All of our links to in-print books resolve to READ / REBEL’s affiliate store page. Sales through Bookshop.org support local bookshops everywhere; if purchased via our hyperlinks, 10% of your receipt goes to READ / REBEL, who donates it 50/50 to (1) a prison book project and (2) a diverse SFF magazine. Read more about READ / REBEL and Bookshop.org here. As of July 2020, after just 7 months of operation, READ / REBEL has donated all proceeds to the tune of $1800 to support radical reading and writing.

Anything Else?

If you have other questions, see if they’re answered on our About ARB page. And, if that doesn’t help, reach out to us!

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