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  1. Your weekly CICADA-scope!

    Time for your weekly dubious celestial advice.
  2. Week of 4/16: CICADA-scope

    Aries: Everything happens for a reason. The reason is that cursed music box everyone warned you not to open. Taurus: Everyone told you that your dream to become a monstrous sphinx that demands passerby answer riddles or be eaten was unrealistic, but you’ll have the last laugh in the end. Gemini: Look on the bright side! There’s nothing to see on the dark side. Nothing at all. Nope. Keep focusing on the bright side and please don’t look at the dark side. Please. Cancer: People always claim to hear the ocean in seashells, so you don’t get why everybody looks so nervous when you tell them about the noises you hear in there. Leo: Get in touch with your family this week. Make sure to stock up on candles and goat blood. Virgo: As an earth sign, it’s very important that you consume a generous helping of topsoil every day. Libra: For reasons the stars cannot tell you right now, it is absolutely vital that you memorize the following sequence of characters: 325-1866-98723-183-273455-q-x-9387-p. Scorpio: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try going out and lying facedown in the Pit until everything starts to make sense again Sagittarius: You will be bitten by a radioactive octopus this week, resulting in a truly baffling array of new superpowers. Capricorn: It would be best to avoid Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Aquarius, and Pisces for the foreseeable future. Aquarius: Avert conflict this week by displaying your giant threatening eyespots and hissing loudly. Pisces: No guts, no glory. Better start accumulating guts now while the glory exchange rate is still good. images © xenia_ok/Shutterstock.com; painterr//Shutterstock.com
  3. What's your favorite superhero? (For legal reasons, we are unable to use licensed character names)
  4. In this issue, we're chatting with author Russell Nichols about his piece, "Man of Straw." Russell Nichols is a speculative fiction writer and endangered journalist from Richmond, California. His story about a black vampire on trial in Boston was included in the Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1. Find his work in Terraform, Nightmare Magazine's POC Destroy Horror special issue and other anthologies. He left the States in 2011 to wander the world, living out of a backpack with his wife. Look for him at russellnichols.com. CICADA: Thanks for chatting with us, Russell! Can you give us an intro to yourself and your work? RUSSELL NICHOLS: Of course. I’m a natural-born writer, originally from Richmond, California. My wife and I sold our stuff back in 2011 and we’ve been vagabonding around the world since then. The stories I tell take many forms as screenplays, stage plays, speculative fiction and nonfiction. I’m a journalist by trade, a nomadic reporter unstuck in time, looking back to the future. CIC: “Man of Straw” is definitely set in the future, with its bionic birds and government-sanctioned cloning, but it is also a terrifyingly close and recognizable future in a lot of ways. How did you go about building the world for this story? How does setting this story in the future help you examine existing systems of oppression? RN: My first trip to this world was a few years ago, for a story called “u wont remember dying.” It was a shorter experimental piece set in a hospital, so I didn’t have time to explore the area. When I went back for this follow-up story, I was able to zoom in on details that stood out to me, reflecting themes of reality vs. artificiality, endangerment, fear, and so forth. A near-future setting like this one allows me to look at things from a different angle. It’s like a distorted mirror and, as a journalist, I’m constantly asking questions about how systems of oppression could evolve and what that might mean for the most vulnerable. Then I bring the answers back, tragic as they may be, to hold up to the present. CIC: Once he is discovered putting up the scarecrows, Marcus says, “That’s how they see me. Might as well own it, know what I’m saying?” Can you talk a bit more about the parallels between Marcus and the scarecrows? RN: Marcus would be the one to ask, but I haven’t seen or spoken to him since he went missing. From the outside looking in, I saw Marcus as a man grasping for identity. Here he was, murdered by a cop, then resurrected days later. This is post-trauma on a whole 'nother level. How do you process that? How do you deal with that survivor’s guilt? Without the necessary support, I think he began to fixate on how bigots saw him. He internalized their fear of him, their judgment of him, reciting straw man arguments that he was “brainless” and so couldn’t get hired for a job, for example. But again, this is just one man’s opinion. Maybe Marcus meant something completely different when he said that. Unless he turns up, we’ll never know. CIC: You describe yourself as an Afrofuturist writer—tell us a bit about what Afrofuturism means to you and to your work. What voices within that movement are particularly exciting to you right now? RN: Art Curator Ingrid LaFleur defines Afrofuturism as “a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens." This has always been critical to our survival. If you can’t see yourself in the future, you can believe you don’t have one. That said, we can’t talk about tomorrow without the context of yesterdays. It’s this cycle of time that has Afrofuturist voices ride on, from W. E. B. Du Bois to Octavia Butler, from Sun Ra to Janelle Monáe, and so many more. Right now I’m listening to music by Flying Lotus, watching films by Wanuri Kahiu and appreciating art by Tim Fielder. For me, Afrofuturism means using science and technology like two turntables, mixing the past and future to spin new stories in the beat of the moment. CIC: Writers often write and rewrite and pick at a draft endlessly. How do you know when to call a piece “done”? RN: I’m from the school of thought that a piece is never done. But I know interviews can’t last forever. We’re all working with limited time here. I’ve got deadlines to meet and there’s only so many questions I can ask. Some characters want to go on and on, telling me their life stories, and I have to cut them off. Some run out of things to say early. Others run out into the night, never to be heard from again, and the ending writes itself. CIC: You mentioned that you and your wife have been “vagabonding around the world” since 2011. What’s one of your favorite experiences you’ve had since you started traveling? RN: That's tough, picking just one. But a definite highlight was staying with an Indian camel driver and his family in Rajasthan. It was this remote village in the Thar Desert, cut off from everything. Never seen so many stars in my life.
  5. Your weekly CICADA-scope!

    The stars would like to assure you that everything is totally normal and fine.
  6. Week of 4/9: CICADA-scope

    Aries: There will be a new moon in Aries later this week. Please make sure to recycle the old one properly. Taurus: Few sounds are more soothing than gentle piano music, but you wish you could figure out where it’s coming from and why it seems to follow you endlessly. Gemini: You’ll find out who your real friends are this week through the cunning use of a powerful electromagnet. Cancer: Your academic career will result in all the science classrooms being plastered with a slew of new, weirdly specific lab safety posters. Leo: The stars regret to inform you that Leo has been cancelled for the foreseeable future. All current Leos will be reassigned to Virgo. The stars deeply apologize for any inconvenience. Virgo: Due to the recent influx of former Leos, the stars are experiencing a higher call volume than normal. Please hold. Your call is very important to us. To leave a message in the general celestial mailbox, press 0. Libra: Everyone thinks you sound terse and unapproachable in all your emails. Better liven them up with some exclamation points and smiley faces!!!! :) Scorpio: Sure, you can gain a lot of wisdom from classic literature, but maybe bricking people up in the catacombs isn’t the solution to every conflict. Sagittarius: The mail-in ancestry kit will be good fun until the DNA testing company informs you that the closest genetic match to your saliva sample is the medicinal leech. Capricorn: Remember: character is who you are when no one except The Eternal-Watcher-Who-Was-the-First-and-Shall-Be-the-Last is looking. Aquarius: Your lucky leathercraft tool this week is the stitching awl. Pisces: You’ll finally get the job of your dreams. Unfortunately, this also means you’ll show up to your first day without pants and all your teeth will fall out. images © xenia_ok/Shutterstock.com; painterr//Shutterstock.com
  7. Weekly Poll: Garlic bread.

    Garlic bread.
  8. Your weekly CICADA-scope!

    Join us as we grossly misinterpret heavenly signs.
  9. Week of 4/2: CICADA-scope

    Aries: March winds and April showers bring forth unholy powers. Taurus: The floor isn’t actually lava. It’s the walls you need to worry about. Gemini: Your relationship will enter a new and exciting stage this week when your partner presents you with the traditional gift of a silk-wrapped, partially digested moth. Cancer: Follow your dreams, but do so stealthily and at a safe distance so they never know you’re coming until it’s too late. Leo: Your alchemic career will hit a weird note when you somehow manage to transmute gold into a tasteful lead bust of 14th-century monk Nicolas Flamel. Virgo: Aim for the moon. Hit the moon. Field dress the moon. De-bone the moon. Cook the moon. Devour the moon. Libra: A lot of people refer to their partner as their “rock,” but this is actually pretty literal in your case. Scorpio: The hounds are on their way. Sagittarius: Work on your communication skills this week. Not everybody responds positively to sustained unearthly screeching in a range only audible to certain whales. Capricorn: An opportunity to build a new friendship will arise when you complete cytokinesis and divide to create a genetically identical copy of yourself. Aquarius: Yes, that person saw you reading fanfiction on your phone. Pisces: If you can’t become an inspiration to future generations, the next best thing is to become a cautionary tale. images © xenia_ok/Shutterstock.com; painterr//Shutterstock.com
  10. What heinous prank did you pull on April Fool’s Day, you fiend?
  11. New Flash Contest: "Letting Go"

    Hey all! From now on, we're going to be running Flash Contests every so often! These are little contests with brief prompts and quick due dates, and we'll publish our favorite entries in CICADA. This round's theme is letting go. We want to see poems of no more than 10 lines on this topic—visit our contest page to see the guidelines and submit your work! Go go go!
  12. Your weekly CICADA-scope!

    Time to plan your week around arbitrary celestial indicators.
  13. Week of 3/26: CICADA-scope

    Aries: Take some time to focus on the little things this week. Specifically, all the little things infesting your hair and clothing. Taurus: It will soon occur to you that the majority of your current problems could be easily solved with about 1.5 tons of fresh tuna. Gemini: Sure, having a pet can provide a lot of mental health benefits, but this probably doesn’t apply to that thing you keep in the attic. Cancer: It’s spring, and you know what that means, Cancer: molting season. Leo: Making new friends is simpler than you think—straw, burlap, and flannel shirts are affordable and easy to come by. Virgo: There’s something in your teeth. No, not there. Nope, you didn’t get it. Libra: If you’re feeling a little burned out, try going for a soothing nature walk in the dense and unspeakably ancient woods that surrounded your home overnight and appear to be getting closer to your door with each passing hour. Scorpio: Remember the old saying: early to bed and early to rise helps you grow hundreds and hundreds of eyes. Sagittarius: As it turns out, you can get away with a lot of things by calling yourself a performance artist. Capricorn: The odds of getting attacked by a shark are approximately one in 11.5 million, and the odds of getting a royal flush in poker are one in 649,740, which will make what happens to you on Thursday that much more statistically remarkable. Aquarius: Things might seem a little tough right now, what with the locust swarm and the pox upon your cattle and the plague upon your land, but seriously, you would feel a lot better if you took up yoga or started a gratitude journal. Pisces: The stars are wondering how you’d like it if they gazed at you through a telescope all night. Creep. images © xenia_ok/Shutterstock.com; painterr//Shutterstock.com
  14. What's your favorite spring activity?
  15. Plea for help

    Hey—we're glad you're reaching out here. I'll be online to talk, if you feel comfortable doing so. Also, I wanted to provide a few more resources for you: THE TREVOR PROJECT - an LGBTQ-focused crisis hotline http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ The hotline number is 866-488-7386. They also have a chat and text service if you cannot speak on the phone. TRANS LIFELINE - A crisis hotline staffed by trans folks for trans folks. US Number: 877-565-8860 Canada Number: 877-330-6366 http://www.translifeline.org/