Lee Mandelo (he/they) is a writer, critic, and occasional editor whose fields of interest include speculative and queer fiction, especially when the two coincide. Summer Sons, their debut novel, is a contemporary southern gothic dealing with queer masculinity, fast cars, and ugly inheritances. Their other work can be found in magazines such as Tor.com, Uncanny, and Nightmare, and they have been a past nominee for various awards including the Nebula, Lambda, and Hugo. Aside from a brief stint overseas learning to speak Scouse, Lee has spent their life ranging across Kentucky, currently living in Lexington and pursuing a PhD at the University of Kentucky.
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Growing up in Bullitt Co., KY alongside the evolution of the internet, Lee spent their early years hunting down questionable fansubs on dial-up, reading all the gay comics they could find, and experimenting with fashion ranging from gender-ambiguous goth to sporty femmeboy. Their exploration of gender over the years has been fairly public, as they began writing a column—“Queering SFF”—for Tor.com in 2010 at the age of nineteen. More than a decade later, they consider themselves a gender-nonconforming guy, using he or they pronouns in daily life, but “genderqueer” is a word that still has a warm place in their heart. (And if you're curious about sexuality, let's just toss our hands up and say "predominantly gay, but who knows.")
Their short fiction has been featured in multiple magazines and anthologies, as well as being reprinted in collections such as Transcendent 2: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, ed. Bogi Takacs, winner of the 2018 Lambda Award for Transgender Fiction. In terms of criticism and nonfiction, Lee is a regular contributor to Tor.com as well—not just the QSFF series, but also book reviews, essay cycles like "Safe as Life: A Four-Part Essay on Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle," and more. Once in a blue moon, they appear as a speaker for events such as for the lecture series Out to Lunch at the University of Connecticut.
As for their academic career, Lee has pursued degrees in English and Contemporary Literature, including on a Master’s granted on fellowship to the University of Liverpool in 2014. After a five-year stint holding traditional jobs ranging from distance education to law, they recently returned to the world of scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky with research focused on queer theory, sexuality, and transgender masculinities. During the course of the program, they’ve also been awarded the Wimberly C. Royster Graduate Excellence Awards in Arts and Sciences grant.
Splitting time between prose work, teaching courses on gender and power, and engaging with as many queer materials possible from contemporary visual art to horny fanfiction, their daily life in Lexington involves a fair amount of reading-induced eye strain. While they enjoy visiting bigger cities like Chicago as often as possible, for the Culture, there’s something about Kentucky that always pulls them back: chosen family, or the trees and hills, or the vibrant small communities of writers and queers they always find, or all of the above. Favored hobbies include cooking, petting dogs, taking too many photos, and lifting weights—plus attending local drag shows and LGBTQ+ community events.
[Represented by Tara Gilbert of JDLA.]
If you're interested in discussing a speaking engagement, guest lecture, or other appearance, please get in touch using the site contact form.
Unabridged Bookstore, w/ Sam J. Miller
7:30pm CT / 8:30pm ET (Virtual)
Joseph-Beth Booksellers Lexington
7pm ET (In person)
Tubby & Coo's Mid-city Book Shop
w/ Annalee Newitz 7pm ET (Virtual)
Copper Dog Books
7pm ET (Virtual)
A Room of One's Own Bookstore
6pm CT / 7pm ET (Virtual)
Carmichael's Bookstore - Louisville
w/ Alix Harrow 7pm ET (In person)
Charis Book Circle
"Out for Blood: Queer Tales to Tell in the Dark" Panel / 7pm ET (Virtual)