The Blog

Please Won’t You Be…My Patron?

Hello! Most folks reading this probably know me already, but for those who don’t: I’m Saladin Ahmed, fantasy writer and author of articles on geeky subjects, as well as of the odd twitter rant.


If you’ve enjoyed my novel, my FREE ebook of Arab/Muslim-themed science fiction and fantasy, my articles on race and geek culture, or my musings on twitter, please read on to learn how you can help keep me writing. If you’re not familiar with my writing, please check out the links above to see if this is work that you’d like to support!

I am writing this because I am in a very tough financial spot and have had success in the past using crowdfunding to convert reader enthusiasm into a means of keeping afloat financially as I write. I’m hoping to raise $5000 dollars to assist with childcare over the next six months. I am the primary caregiver for our amazing four-year-old twins. Between this, my day job as a freelance editor, and the incredibly draining time/energy-suck of severe Major Depressive Disorder (which I was finally diagnosed with this year, after decades of fearing/avoiding treatment), I have very little time for writing. Having the kids in preschool at least gives me a fighting chance.

Some of the projects I will be working on over the next six months with your support:

–Finishing THE THOUSAND AND ONE, the sequel to my debut novel THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, which won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Crawford, Gemmell, and British Fantasy Awards. I’d hoped to be finished with THE THOUSAND AND ONE by the end of 2013. Life with kids and mental illness, it turns out, has a way of destroying one’s best-laid plans. But I am close! About 75% of the novel is finished, and – if I’m able to focus on writing – I fully expect to have a polished draft wrapped up in the next two months.

As a sort of pre-teaser, here is a free short story featuring holy warrior-turned-renegade Layla bas Layla, one of the novel’s main characters.

–Writing an article on my great-grandmother Aliya Hassan. Aliya Hassan, daughter of some of the earliest Arab Muslim immigrants to the US, was an astonishing woman. A private detective in New York City in the 1950s. A friend of Malcolm X’s. A mostly-devout Muslim who was nonetheless an ace card player. A student of the martial arts. Co-founder of one of the largest social service agencies in Michigan.


She was also my great-grandmother. She named me, and she was the first person who told me stories from THE 1001 NIGHTS. I’ve been wanting to write about her for years. And with your help, I can!

–Writing an article on the politics of pre-Comics Code comics. Those who follow me on twitter have probably seen my tweets detailing the seemingly inexhaustible treasures of – an online archive of comic books from the 40s and 50s, eg:


These explorations have sparked some thoughts on pulp politics of race, gender, war, and patriotism. With your help, I can collect these thoughts – and some of these gorgeous old illustrations – into an article.

–Finally writing two short stories that have been knocking around in my head, one set in the CRESCENT MOON KINGDOMS world of my novels, one a historical fantasy about early 20th century New York City.

–Continuing my @tweetthenights project on a more regular basis. For those who’ve not seen it, this is my attempt to edit the definitive translation of the earliest extant 1001 NIGHTS manuscript into tweet-sized bites.

This is not my first time passing the hat online. I’ve done three fund drives over the past three years. I’m painfully aware that I’m going back to the well here. But each time I’ve closed a fund drive, several people have written afterward to ask if they could still help in some way. And I ‘meet’ new readers and friends online every day. While I could certainly use help from my diehard supporters (you know who you are!), I’m hoping this fund drive will also reach folks who are new to my writing and willing to help out.

The most effective means of helping out is via a donation to my Paypal account ( I will post nightly totals on twitter, and will close to donations once I’ve reached $5000. I am currently investigating Patreon and a number of other crowdfunding tools, but Paypal is still the quickest, cheapest, and most efficient tool I’ve found.

Awesome! Please direct them to And thank you thank you thank you in advance for your kindness and generosity.

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I am positively delighted by this fan art of THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON characters by “adi-fitri,” from

 Doctor Adoulla Makhslood

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood

Run, Doctor! Run!

Raseed bas Raseed

 Raeed bas Raseed, the Dervish desert-ninja-warrior-monk assistant to Dr. Adoulla Makhslood. I imagine his clothing are robustly functional and modest due to the discipline of his order.

Raseed bas Raseed under the turban.

Zamia Banu Laith Badawi

Zamia Banu Laith Badawi - the colours of her garment hint at her lioness form. While there’s no mention of any facial marks in the book, I gave her some that kind of resemble whisker spots.

Zamia in lioness form.

Litaz Daughter-of-Likami

Litaz, alkhemist.

Dawoud Son-of-Wajeed

Dawoud son of Wajeed, magus.d

Mouw Awa the Manjackal


Pharaad Az Hammaz, theFalcon Prince


Stuff like this makes me feel like VERY lucky author!

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The World Science Fiction Convention And I (And You?)

I will be at Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention, in San Antonio, Texas this weekend!

In addition to attending the Hugo Awards ceremony (my novel THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON is up for Best Novel) and being on panels (contemporary Sword and Sorcery, writing a series), I will be giving a reading. Schedule details here.

I don’t expect to use the entire hour of my reading slot, however. Thus the main reason for this post: a sort of unorthodox, last minute talent search/mini-showcase. I will have 10-15 minutes of extra time on my hands during my Worldcon reading. And I figure I might as well use them to boost a newer writer. So:

If you  are a fantasy or science fiction writer of color with no more than one book* out…
And you are able to get to Worldcon in San Antonio this Sunday, Sep. 1st @ Noon…
And you’d like to read with me to an adoring crowd of maybe seven or eight people…

Then email me at and tell me a bit about yourself and your work. No need for anything at all formal, just a few lines about you and/or what you write.  I’ll pick a co-reader as quickly as possible,  based on my own opaque, capricious, obscenely subjective set of criteria.

Now the neat part: Thanks to the generosity of an *incredibly* awesome donor who will remain anonymous for now, a Sunday day pass to Worldcon will be provided for you!

Check out cool panels and readings! Meet some awesome writers! Attend the Hugo Awards ceremony! Read your own work to an audience (possibly a tiny audience, but still) of dedicated SF/F fans! Avoid using exclamation points as gratuitously as I!

Questions can be directed to the email address above. See you in Texas!

*Note:  You needn’t have a book out, or even be professionally published yet.

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I’ll be at GenCon in Indianapolis this weekend as part of their Writers Symposium. I’ll be talking fiction, reading from my work, and generally geeking out with dozens of writers and thousands of gamers. The full schedule of Writer’s Symposium panels, seminars, and readings is here:

I’ll be on back-to-back panels on Fri afternoon from 3-6. Topics include worldbuilding, outlining, and mastering short fiction.

On Saturday at 4pm I’ll be in the dealer’s room signing books. Right afterwards, at 5pm, I’ll be reading with author Joel Shepherd in Room 3.

I’ve been intrigued by GenCon since I was nine years old, and couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the festivities. Hope to see many of you there!

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A few days ago I asked the internet for some fundraising help and offered up my ebook collection ENGRAVED ON THE EYE for free.

The response has been nothing short of astonishing. Through the incredible generosity of readers, colleagues, and wonderful strangers, I’ve raised enough to cover all of the expenses described. THE FUNDRAISER IS NOW OVER! I will return any donations made after 8am EST today, August 5.

I can’t thank you all enough. I’ll do a follow-up post in the next day or so with more extensive thanks, thoughts, and reflections.

And ENGRAVED ON THE EYE will remain free in all formats on Smashwords:

Happy reading, warm wishes, and  a hundred thousand thank yous!

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Cap In Hand: The Darker Side of The Writing Life

[Update: The fundraiser is now closed. Thanks to your generosity, I've raised enough to cover all of the expenses below. I can't thank you all enough for your support and for all of the kind notes about what my writing has meant to you! And I can't wait to meet readers in Indianapolis and San Antonio!]

This is a difficult post to write.

A little over a year ago, I hit a very hard time in terms of my mental and financial health. In desperation, I broke a long, self-imposed silence about some of these issues, and posted a very public plea for help. To say that I was overwhelmed by the generous response would be an understatement. Readers, friends, colleagues, and total strangers came together for me. Within a few days I’d made a slew of new internet friends who understood what I was going through, and who offered crucial psychic support and help developing a strategy for reclaiming my mental health. People also donated over $7000 dollars of their hard-earned money, which still feels like a miracle when I think on it (more actually came in, but I returned all payments that came after the listed expenses were met).

The last year has, in some ways, been better than the one before it. Between the aid of others and my own hard work, I’ve been able to pay bills and attend a couple of conventions to meet readers. My novel, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, has been nominated for most of the genre’s major awards, and won the Locus Award for Best New Novel! For the first time in my near-40 years of life I’m undergoing treatment for anxiety. It’s true that the circus of different therapists and medications led me on a dark, half-year parade during which I was not able to take on much freelance editing work, and very little writing got done. But this long-term investment is beginning to pay off: I’ve got a good therapist, I’m on what feel like the right meds. I’m taking on clients again. And I’m **writing.** Regularly and, dare I say it, well. If all goes well, THE THOUSAND AND ONE, Book II of THE CRESCENT MOON KINGDOMS, will finally be done by year’s end, and out next year. I think you’re going to love it. (The first public teaser follows this post.)

I am writing now, however, because I am in trouble again. This may be baffling to those on the outside, who see a book being nominated for awards and reviewed by NPR and translated into Chinese, and, understandably, figure “That writer’s set.” But, as any midlist novelist can tell you, having one’s first novel published does not equal riches. And buzz does not equal a living wage. Despite lean living and taking on as much freelance work as I can find, I’ve a pretty grim half-year before me. Things already look better for next year, particularly after my next book is done. But for 2013 I find myself in the position – hardly unique among creative types in our culture – of trying to figure out how to help make ends meet without, in essence, giving up writing.

So I’m asking for your help to raise funds for two specific expenses:

Childcare: While my wife moves heaven and earth to provide for our family, I am often our ‘front line’ in caring for our three-year-old twins. In the last year or so they’ve been in daycare full-time, and it’s been an incredible blessing. I miss them every hour they’re gone, but if I’ve any hope of continuing to write books, the kids will need to stay in daycare. By 2014 I will be earning enough to ensure this myself (provided I can write in the meantime). But meeting this expense for the next several months is looking unlikely without some sort of outside assistance.

Convention travel: The organizers of GenCon, the world’s largest gaming convention, have invited me to be a part of their Writers Symposium. It blows my mind: Dungeons and Dragons was a hugely formative influence on me, and now the folks who MAKE Dungeons and Dragons want me to come and read my work and sign books at their enormous party! I’m excited to meet the many readers who’ve said they’ll be there. I’ll be doing this as cheaply as I can — driving and splitting a hotel room 3 ways. But things have been tight enough these past couple of month that even gas, cheap food, and 1/3rd a hotel room could prove prohibitive.

Even harder for me is that travel to WorldCon – which requires an expensive plane ticket and big ticket membership – may no longer be on the table for me. This breaks my heart, since THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON has been nominated for the Hugo Award for best novel, which will be awarded at WorldCon. It’s very likely this will be the only time I’m nominated, and I’d really hate to miss it, even I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. But in the epic battle of airfare versus phone bill, phone bill wins every time.


The challenges I’m dealing with here — anxiety, depression, childcare, the piecemeal economic life of a working writer — are not unique to me. Many, perhaps most, professional writers, are dealing with some version of the same thing. My case is not the most dire, and I’m not the best writer struggling with these things. But if you care for my fiction, my writing on fantasy, my silly tweets and such — or if you’ve just been in this position yourself — I’d appreciate any help you can offer.

I fear I have very little in terms of concrete perks to offer people, which is why I’m not doing this via Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I have, as an advance ‘thank you’ for your support, made my ebook collection ENGRAVED ON THE EYE available for free. You can download it in a bunch of different formats here: . Please enjoy the stories, even if you’re not in a position to help!

I’m asking people to make paypal donations, which will all be kept anonymous unless requested otherwise, to This is also my personal email address, for those who might be inclined to write. Once the expenses detailed above have been met, I will make an announcement and return any additional donations.

With love and more thanks than words can express,
Saladin Ahmed


Oh, that teaser I promised!:


Revolution has come to Dhamsawaat. The Falcon Prince, whose coup had aimed to feed the city’s poor, now sits on the Throne of the Crescent Moon. But he quickly learns that stealing a kingdom is much easier than running one.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood forces himself to ignore the political turmoil boiling around him as he prepares for his long-awaited wedding to Miri Almoussa. His old friends Dawoud and Litaz in turn prepare to travel back to their homeland in the Soo Republic, accompanied by the tribeswoman Zamia Banu Laith Badawi, who hopes to put distance between herself and memories of her dead kinsmen and the warrior dervish Raseed bas Raseed.

Meanwhile, Raseed has left Dhamsawaat and his apprenticeship to Adoulla to journey back to the Lodge of God, hoping to purify himself of religious doubts and his troubling attraction to Zamia, and in the course of his journey he crosses swords with the master assassin and disgraced dervish Red Layla.

But the heroes’ paths cross again when the enigmatic Queen of the djenn herself appears with a dire warning for the world of men, and Adoulla and his old friends again leave peace and happiness behind as they set out to make things right in a world gone wrong.


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THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON nominated for Best Novel Hugo!

I am thrilled to announce that THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. A longer post will follow; I fear I’m a bit too stunned to be coherent right now!

Award recognition for THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON

Somewhat overdue announcing some of this, but there have been several exciting bits of recognition for THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON recently:

- THRONE was listed on a slew of ‘Best of 2012′ lists by book bloggers, magazines, and websites, including io9, Barnes and Noble Book Clubs, Fantasy Faction, Fantasy Book Critic, LitReactor, BookwormBlues, BoookBanter, and a bunch of others that I’m churlishly forgetting here.

- Reddit Fantasy’s Debut of the Year for 2012 was…THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON! The Reddit Fantasy Awards come with a jaw-droppingly cool plaque, too

- Adoulla and company have also found their way onto the prestigious Locus Recommended Reading List for 2012.

- Last, but certainly not least: THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON has been nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel! Um, wow.

All of this recognition, combined with the kind attention that THRONE has already received, is thrilling. Writing can be a profoundly isolating gig. Knowing that other folks give a damn about the products of one’s lonely toil — that they’ve enjoyed it, even — makes a difference, at least to this half-witted, scruffy-looking word-herder.

A Crescent Moon Kingdoms micro-mini world guide

One of the great nerdy thrills I’ve had since publishing my fantasy novel THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON has been seeing the Crescent Moon Kingdoms setting inspire RPG campaigns. Reader Rick Neal, for example, did a cool series of posts on his use of Mouw Awa as a villain in his D&D game, and other readers have written me about using elements from THRONE in Pathfinder and Amber campaigns. I think this sort of thing is super-neat, and I’d like to encourage it! So, here for public consumption, is a micro-mini Crescent Moon Kingdoms world guide that had previously only been available as part of a UK-exclusive ebook. I expect to expand this guide in the future, and to make it available as a proper ebook, but for now I hope you enjoy this glimpse!

Saladin Ahmed

THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON and its sequels are set in the Crescent Moon Kingdoms – home to angels and ghuls, bandit princes and warrior thieves, grinding poverty and opulent wealth, brewing revolutions and ancient magics. Read on to learn more about this unique new fantasy world!

(map by High Empress of Fantasy Maps Priscilla Spencer)


Abassen: The center of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms.  Abassen’s landscape is notable for its variety – deserts, marshes, riverlands, arid plains, and mountains all lie within its borders. The entire northeastern quarter of Abassen is a vast desert known as the Empty Kingdom – uninhabited, save for the proud Badawi tribesmen from whom all Abassenese are supposedly descended. In the south, the glittering city of Basrah, “Prince of Ports,” stands watch high over the sea. But it is Dhamsawaat, “King of Cities,” “The Jewel of Abassen,” that is the beating heart of the land, and thus of all the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. The largest city in the known world, Dhamsawaat is home to a thousand-thousand men and women from all over the Kingdoms – and beyond. Abassen is ruled by a monarch, “God’s Regent In The World,” known as a Khalif. The Khalif has typically ruled in close partnership with the city’s richest merchants. The Khalif of Abassen is also nominally the ruler of all the Crescent Moon Kingdoms – though in practice this claim to rulership has not always been recognized by the other kingdoms.

The Soo Republic: The western frontier of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. The vast interior of the Soo Republic is largely jungle and rainforest, and those living in the interior are generally known as Red River Soo. A great number of the Republic’s people, however – known as the Blue River Soo – live in the brightly-painted cities and villages of the northern and eastern coasts. In the northwest, these villages line Guardian’s Bay – where the indestructible automatons who guard the Republic are built. In the northeast, they face the Jewel Isles, where the diamonds, rubies, and emeralds that sustain the Republic are mined. The Soo capital city, Zimbuk, with its libraries and academies, is the greatest bastion of learning in all the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. The Soo Republic is ruled by the Court of Three Pashas, a complex royal bureaucracy of Blue River Soo. The Court is headed by the Tripasharate, three men elected by, and chosen from, the blood of the High Line of Illuminated Pashas.

Rughal-ba: The Eastern frontier of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. Rughal-ba’s geography is dominated by steppes in the north, and jungle and swampland in the south.  In the southwest, the thin peninsulas of the Tiger’s Claw produce the finest spices – and the most skilled assassins – in the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. Rughal-ba is separated on its western side from Abassen by the Heavenly Wall, a vast, golden wall whose origins lie in myth and legend. By far, Rughal-ba’s largest city is the great fortress-capital Tamajal, which sits on the edge of the magically-tainted Red Lake. Rughal-ba is ruled by a High Sultaan, an absolute, autocratic ruler who is also considered an infallible religious leader.


Djenn: At the same time that He made men and women from clay and blood, God made the djenn – also called the Thousand and One – from smoke and fire. Like men, djenn have free will, and their drives and personalities are as varied as those of mankind. Even the least of the djenn commands powerful fire magics, and all djenn can fly.

Ghuls: Mindless creatures made to do the bidding of cruel men. Born of grisly sorcery, they are made from dirt, vermin, and the hate and fear of living men. There are several sorts – bone ghuls, sand ghuls, night ghuls, water ghuls, skin ghuls – but all are incredibly strong and difficult to kill.

Cyklop: The brutal, crimson-skinned one-eyed giants of the northwestern mountains, they avoid men, and are almost never seen outside of their rocky, barren homeland. Their strength is incredible, and they can only be killed by a single sword-stroke through the eye.

The Dargon Loong: A legendary monster of Rughal-ba, Dargon Loong is said to be a great golden beast that is half-serpent, half-lion. It is said that merely by breathing on a man, the Dargon Loong can put him to sleep, set him aflame, or even turn him to stone.


Ghul hunters: The ghul hunter dedicates his life – to the exclusion of all other pursuits – to the destruction of ghuls and other creatures born of cruel magic. Ages ago, when great hordes of ghuls plagued mankind, the ghul hunters were a highly visible and respected order. These days few men wear the magically unstainable white kaftan of the ghul hunters – and most of those who do are charlatans.

The Humble Students: Self-appointed ‘watchmen of God,’ the Humble Students are an austere order formed during the Abassenese civil war, and dedicated to seeking out – and punishing – worldly vice and immorality. They are openly scorned and officially unwelcome in the Soo Republic, but maintain a presence in Abassen – and a more powerful in Rughal-ba – as a sort of religious police force.

The Order of dervishes: Known by their blue silks, their turbans, and their forked swords, dervishes of the Order are among the best swordsmen and unarmed fighters in the Crescent Moon Kingdoms. Ascetics who derive more-than-human speed and prowess from their dedication to God, the dervishes are also – depending on the source – either hypocritical, intolerant bullies, or paragons of virtue.

Copyright 2012 Saladin Ahmed. / Permission granted to reproduce for noncommercial purposes. / Tips to happily accepted via paypal. / Check out THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you!


I am thrilled to announce that my debut novel THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON hits stores in the UK today! British reviewers have added many kind words to the already humbling collection of reviews: Starburst Magazine says “Ahmed has the power to mesmerise even the most hardened of fantasy fans,” SFX calls THRONE a “smartly written…strong debut,” and the British Fantasy Society raves “Throne of the Crescent Moon is a return to the essence of true storytelling.” I couldn’t be more excited to be reaching British readers, particularly via a great publisher like Gollancz.

UK readers, check out THRONE for yourself!