Narrative Praxis is the Name of My Muse Cover Band

In another life, I was an academic. More precisely, I completed a M.A. in Folklore Studies from the University of Oregon, and then spent several years applying to PhD. programs in Media Studies, Radio, Television Film, and more — with a proposed dissertation topic investigating the mainstreaming of geek culture. I completed my M.A. in 2007, and applied to programs for the cohorts of 2007-2010. I got on the wait list at a couple of schools, but was never offered a position in a cohort.

So now, in 2014, when superhero movies dominate the big screens and are taking over the smaller screens, when Game of Thrones is a toast of the town, and SF Dystopias have helped cement the strength of YA literature as a cultural juggernaut, I can look back at those programs that rejected me and wonder what might have been. Was I too early? Did I see the wave because I was inside the subject group, but pushed for it too early for the academy to see it? Probably.

But here’s the thing: By *not* pursuing a PhD, I saved myself possibly over a hundred thousand dollars in student loans, and have ended up with a burgeoning pair of careers in SF/F publishing as a professional and as an author.

And my scholarship? It hasn’t gone away. Not getting into a PhD program didn’t quash my academic interest in SF/F and cultural studies. Instead, I focus on praxis.

Narrative Praxis.

Praxis Wordcloud

Praxis Wordcloud, from

What do I mean by narrative praxis? Simply put, praxis is putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to a theory or worldview. For me, Narrative Praxis is putting my scholarly and cultural perspectives into my fiction.

The Ree Reyes books examine bricolage, textual poaching, my own idea of narrative farming, and more. They literalize the metaphor of “we tell ourselves stories to learn how to deal with the world,” and more.

For lack of a PhD appointment, I turned my scholarship into prose. I’m far from the only person to write fiction infused with critical theory, and I’m far from the best at it, since my focus in the Ree Reyes books is more on the fun than on the theory, though they are far from mutually exclusive. My notion of narrative praxis is directly informed by the work of several of my colleagues – both scholars and writers themselves – Alyc Helms, and Darja Malcolm-Clarke, who have both masterfully incorporated critical theory into their prose works.

Shield and Crocus takes my thoughts about the New Weird and Superhero genres and puts them into dialogue with one another, showing how one genre can shore up the weaknesses of the other. But I do it on the back of an action-adventure story. And instead of possibly a few hundred academics reading my essay on how the New Weird and Superhero genres have interesting contrasts that could speak usefully to one another, I *show* how those genres can speak to one another by making the culture that others can comment on. Not that scholarship is not cultural work – it is. But I’m using the age-old trick of putting my argument into a story to make it both more digestible and less direct.

And a new project I’m working on (the one that I’m fast-drafting right now) is applying my love of narrative genres and the relationship between genre tropes and assumptions and our social lives to fiction.



I don’t have a PhD. I don’t get introduce myself as Dr. Underwood. There are days I wish I had, and I could.

But I’m still a scholar, and (occasionally) a teacher. I have a platform for sharing my views on the world, my praises and my critiques. And I couldn’t be happier to be in a place where I can change the world with stories.

The Daily Deal!

Shield and Crocus is the SFF Kindle Daily Deal today, on sale for just $1.99.

This means if you’ve been meaning to buy the book and haven’t gotten around to it, today’s your day to take the plunge.

And if you’ve already bought the book, and loved it, this is a great chance to buy a copy to send to a friend who you think would enjoy it </subtle>

The KDD is a big deal in the ebook sales world, so I’d love any signal-boosting folks could give. I’ve prepared a ready-made tweet for you to ease the process:

Monsters, heroes, and a city built in the bones of a titan – SHIELD AND CROCUS, a Kindle Daily Deal for just $1.99 

Newsletter drive

Hi folks,

I’m working on beefing up my newsletter as a way to reach out to readers directly, good marketing strategy and all.

As an incentive, I’m going to release the original short story version of “Shield and Crocus” written at Clarion West in 2007 to my newsletter when I hit 50 subscribers. And if we hit 50 before the end of August, I’ll do a subscribers-only giveaway of a Cool Prize.

Subscribe to Michael R. Underwood’s mailing list

* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

Rocket Talk!

A few weeks ago, I recorded an episode of Rocket Talk, the podcast, with host Justin Landon. We talked about Planescape, the New Weird, SHIELD AND CROCUS (as a new weird/superhero mashup), and then we had a bonus discussion about urban fantasy).

You can listen to the episode here.

Since I didn’t get to mention it during the chat, I want to plug a couple works that I think are worth looking at as part of a broader discussion of the New Weird and its effects:

THE CRAFT SEQUENCE (starting with THREE PARTS DEAD) by Max Gladstone
THE MIRROR EMPIRE by Kameron Hurley

and because it doesn’t get talked up enough, THE ETCHED CITY by KJ Bishop.

Happy listening!


June was a whirlwind, and now moving into July, we’ve come through the eye of the PROMONADO and are now going through the second half, with CONvergence and ReaderCon, as well as more podcastery.

Today, I’m on Adventures of Sci-Fi Publishing, talking about SHIELD AND CROCUS,’s new imprint, the Hachette/Amazon situation, and more. There’s also a giveaway for a SHIELD AND CROCUS bundle (paperback, audiobook, ebook).

And just a couple of days before that, my spot on the Reader/Writer podcast went live.

Fangirl Nation has a review of CELEBROMANCY– “a creative look at an intricate movie culture and works as a commentary on the power of that culture. Underwood continues to write a series that is engaging, filled with pop culture references and entertaining to boot.”

SHIELD AND CROCUS gets a mention on Literologie’s Summer Reading List.

And lastly, I squee about Beth Cato’s THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER for’s Writers on Writing segment.

Clockwork Dagger cover

Shield and Crocus super-bundle contest

Contest time!

I’m going to give away a three-pack of Shield and Crocus awesomeness – the paperback, a CD audiobook, and a copy of the ebook. I’ll sign and personalize the paperback.

cover to Shield and Crocus

How do I enter?

We’ll have a bit of fun inspired by Shield and Crocus. Comment on this post and tell me your favorite superhero, and what fantasy world you’d love to see them in, and why.

Deadpool in Ankh-Morpork or Wonder Woman in Westeros, and so on.

Enter by July 2nd, 12 Noon EDT, and I’ll select a winner at random to get the deluxe pack. Entrants from USA and CAN will be eligible for the full pack – entrants from elsewhere in the world are welcome, but the prize will be just the ebook.

AMA after-action

My fingers are still sore from last night’s amazing AMA over on Reddit’s r/fantasy community. I had questions about publishing, pizza, Shield and Crocus, writing technique, Geek-fu, the Ree Reyes series, fencing, board games, and tango – basically, my whole life. 🙂

Check out the AMA archive here for all of the fun.


Today is the day!

You can get Shield and Crocus on Amazon as well as several different bookstores. It’s also available in audiobook, performed by the amazing Luke Daniels.

If you’d like to read a preview first, has you covered.

What have others been saying about it?

“…with Shield and Crocus, everything I love in a summer blockbuster. was contained between two covers. I think it’s safe to say that summer is officially here.”
-Eric Christensen, Fantasy Faction

“Blindingly creative, Shield and Crocus delivers action-packed, four-color fantasy with a lot of heart.”
-Michael J. Martinez, author of The Daedalus Incident

“Audec-Hal is a city where dispassionate robots co-exist with mad sorcerers and unpredictable storms that warp the fabric of reality itself. Fans of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station or David Edison’s The Waking Engine will surely enjoy the mad inventiveness on display here.”
-Marie Brennan, author of A Natural History of Dragons

“The book is fast-paced, especially impressive considering the amount of world-building. The fight is desperate. The tyrants are villains in the truest sense. Superheroes + Epic Fantasy = Awesomeness.”
-Beth Cato, author of Clockwork Dagger

“I can’t say enough about the mythology and the world building. Underwood put a lot of thought into constructing the world of Audec-Hal, and it shows.”
-Beauty in Ruins



Sword & Laser Hangout

I had the marvelous chance to appear on the Sword & Laser podcast for one of their Google+ Hangouts! We did the interview live on Hangouts on Air, and now the video is archived on YouTube:

I’ve been a Sword & Laser listener and sometimes participant on Goodreads for a few years now, so it was very cool and somewhat surreal to be a guest on the show.

Big thanks to Veronica and Tom for having me on!