Corry L. Lee is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, Ph.D. physicist, science educator, data geek, pansexual, and mom.
Her fantasy novel, Weave the Lightning, debuted in April 2020 from Solaris Books; book 2 in the Bourshkanya Trilogy, The Storm’s Betrayal, is due out April 2021. Her science fiction short story “Shutdown” won the Writers of the Future award.
In Ph.D. research at Harvard, she shed light on the universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang. At Amazon, she connected science to technology, improving customer experience through online experimentation.
Corry is a frequent panelist at science fiction and fantasy conventions, where she discusses writing, science, and speculative fiction. This year, she’s especially excited to talk about the science of lightning. Check out her upcoming appearances. Learn more about Corry’s inspiration and writing process through her interviews and guest blog posts.
Everything Corry does, she does with intensity. Recently, she’s been obsessed with nordic skiing, French pop music, and single origin coffee.
Tell me more about Corry…
Inspired by a childhood spent reading science fiction, Corry studied physics and applied mathematics in college while sneaking in writing time between classes and research. She continued on to a Ph.D. in experimental particle physics at Harvard University (while writing every free second). Teaching undergraduate physics, Corry won several teaching awards. In her thesis research, she discovered new decays of heavy, unstable particles created by the Stanford Linear Accelerator and recorded by the BaBar detector. BaBar and future “B-physics” experiments seek to understand a phenomenon called CP Violation, which will help explain why the universe is composed predominately out of matter (where did all the antimatter go?).
Ph.D. in hand, Corry focused on writing full-time. She won the Writers of the Future award for her short story, “Shutdown,” about a ballerina turned military commando. World Fantasy Award-winning author Tim Powers says, “‘Shutdown’ is a beautifully vivid and imaginative story — this is what science fiction is supposed to do.”
After having a kid, Corry realized she missed data crunching and having coworkers in the same time-zone. She ventured into the tech industry as a data scientist at Amazon. Applying her statistics and science background to online experimentation, Corry built tools and analyses to identify website changes that improved the shopping experience for Amazon’s customers.
Corry currently consults part-time on data science and online experimentation, while working on her next book.
When she’s not writing or thinking about data, you’re likely to find Corry at the theatre with her child, out hiking or cross-country skiing, sipping delicious coffee (though this is harder since her favorite coffee shop literally exploded), or reading a good book in the sun. That is, if she can find the sun. She lives in Seattle, Washington, and has come to embrace rainy days.
Corry’s thoughts on coming out & being queer
I came out in my late thirties, in July 2020. These are my thoughts from that time.
I am pansexual. It’s time I come out.
First, so we’re on the same page, pansexual means I’m attracted to people of all genders. (Some people use bisexual to mean this, but some use bisexual in a more limited way.) I’m attracted to women, men, and non-binary people.
From a practical perspective, this changes nothing in my life—and it changes everything.I’m in a monogamous relationship, and that hasn’t changed. But I’m no longer silencing my truth and implying by that silence that there is something wrong with who I am; this is a seismic shift.
I’m married to a man whom I love, and I’ve spent my life passing as heterosexual. For a long time that seemed fine. Safe. I told myself that even if I was attracted to women and non-binary people, it was my own business. Personal. I was in a monogamous relationship. I wasn’t looking for someone to date. Nothing was wrong with being silent.
As I struggled to find the courage to come out to my family and friends, I ended up framing it in terms of helping others see they were not alone. I told myself that I’d admitted my sexuality to myself; that was enough. I wasn’t looking for a new relationship, so coming out wouldn’t change anything for me—this had to be for other people. It was a lie.
I spent months looking for “the right time” to tell my husband. Intellectually, I knew he would be supportive. We both support LGBTQ+ rights. I’d even glanced off of my attraction to women in other conversations over the years. I failed to find that “right time” for months.
When I finally summoned my courage to have the conversation, I spent long minutes struggling for words, my voice locked in my throat. I couldn’t meet his eyes. I nearly chickened out five times. When I finally said “I’m pansexual” and he said “yep, that makes sense,” I cried. Deep, chest-shaking sobs. I was relieved. I was terrified. I felt like a dam had opened up inside me, spilling an ocean of shame and fear and self-loathing—which I hadn’t even known I’d locked away.
I hadn’t realized that I felt alone and afraid. I hadn’t realized how deeply I’d internalized society’s message that there was something wrong with me and that I had to stay silent. I hadn’t realized how much I’d locked away.
Part of me still flinches when I see two men or two women kiss. I hate that part of me and the culture that ingrained this reaction. I believe in marriage equality, believe that Love is Love. But still I flinch. I’m working on changing my reactions to match my beliefs. For years I’ve been seeking out queer media and literature as I grappled with my sexuality; now I make myself notice the flinch instead of pretending it didn’t happen.
Leaning into my discomfort lets me challenge it. I believe that between consenting adults, no lines should divide us. But that wasn’t what I was taught or the culture I steeped in during my teenage years in a predominantly White, conservative, homophobic small town in the 1990s.
In high school, when I told my mom I wanted to get a “dyke-y short” haircut, she asked, “Why would you want to do that?” her face twisting in horror and revulsion. I got the message. It was not okay to be interested in women.
I eventually got the haircut anyway. It felt right—more like me in a way I didn’t scrutinize. But by then I had internalized that it was acceptable only to be attracted to men. And I was. It seemed fine. If my head turned when certain women walked by, maybe it was just because they seemed like people I wanted to emulate.
As a self-reflective adult, I’ve realized that the narrative I constructed to keep myself safe and (relatively) accepted as a teenager left me feeling hollow. I wasn’t just attracted to men.
When I learned the word pansexual, it made my heart sing. But silence was easier. It felt safer.
The silence festered. My relationships are built on trust and open communication. I was holding something back. Something important. Something key.
Coming out wasn’t something I needed to do for others. I needed it for myself.
Only after I admitted “I’m pansexual” did I realized that for years I had locked this truth in a little box in my mind. A homophobic part of myself that I denied existed held the key, presenting convincing excuses for why the box shouldn’t be opened. I believed those excuses, and they served me once—making it easier to get by in a society that pathologized my sexuality. I was lucky. I found a wonderful partner within society’s heteronormative mainstream, which made it easy to pretend. “Easy.”
Now I see the harm of those excuses. While I shaped myself to fit society’s expectations, I fostered my own shame. Even as I expressed support for LGBTQ+ rights in public, I was afraid to admit my own queerness because, deep down, I still flinched. I was afraid and ashamed of myself.
Shame thrives in silence. Silence is violence. I’m done hurting myself.
I’m pansexual. I’m terrified to say it, but it’s getting easier. And now I can breathe.
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EMPIRE. REVOLUTION. MAGIC.
Gerrit is the son of Bourshkanya’s Supreme-General. Despite his powerful storm-affinity and the State’s best training, he can’t control his magic. To escape the brutal consequences, he flees.
Celka is a travelling circus performer, hiding both her link to the underground and her storm-affinity from the prying eyes of the secret police. But Gerrit’s arrival threatens to expose everything: her magic, her family, and the people they protect.
The storms have returned, and everything will change.