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. His debut novel Summer Sons, which has been featured in publications ranging from NPR to the Chicago Review of Books, is a contemporary southern gothic dealing with queer masculinity, fast cars, and ugly inheritances. Two novellas, Feed Them Silence and an as-of-yet untitled project, are forthcoming in 2023 and 2024 respectively from Tordotcom Publishing. Other work can be found in magazines such as Tor.com, Uncanny, and Nightmare, and Mandelo has also been a past nominee for awards including the Nebula, Lambda, and Hugo. Aside from a stint overseas learning to speak Scouse, Mandelo has spent his life ranging across Kentucky, currently living in Louisville and pursuing a PhD at the University of Kentucky.
Represented by Kate McKean of Morhaim Literary.
Growing up in Bullitt Co., KY alongside the evolution of the internet, Lee spent his early years hunting down questionable fansubs on dial-up, reading all the gay comics he 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 the column “Queering SFF” for Tor.com in 2010 at the age of nineteen. More than a decade later, he's best described as a gender-nonconforming guy, but “genderqueer” is a word that still has a warm place in his heart. (And as for sexuality, let's just toss our hands up and say "predominantly gay, but open to whatever.")
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 his 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 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 Louisville involves a fair amount of reading-induced eye strain. While he enjoys visiting bigger cities like Chicago as often as possible, for the Culture, there’s something about Kentucky that always pulls him back: chosen family, or the trees and hills, or the vibrant small communities of writers, 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.
"Sexuality and Southern Dark Academia in Lee Mandelo’s Summer Sons," by Em Nordling, Tor.com October 2022
"Graveyard Gays: 6 Eerie Queer Ghost Stories for Halloween," by Alana Joli Abbott, Paste Magazine, October 2022
"The 60 Most Popular Horror Books of the Past Five Years," Goodreads September 2022
"7 queer horror novels that should be on your bookshelf," by Saumyaa Vohra, GQ & Them.us September 2022
"15 best books by LGBTQ+ authors in 2022," by Justin Krajeski, NBCNews, June 2022
Trisha Low, Tor.com, March 2022
"8 of the Best Queer Horror Books," by CJ Connor, Book Riot, January 2022
"Mandelo’s Debut Novel ‘Summer Sons’ Explores Gender, Fuel and Ghosts in the Blood," by Nicholas Reich, 100 Days in Appalachia, January 2022
"15 Wonderful Books By Trans, Genderqueer, And Nonbinary Authors Released In 2021 That Definitely Deserve A Place In Your Bookshelf," by Jay Hogan, Buzzfeed.com, December 2021
"Queerness and the Southern Gothic: Lee Mandelo’s Summer Sons," by Ellie Campbell, Ancillary Review of Books, September 2021
"The 20 Best Halloween Reads to Mark the Start of Spooky Season," by Keely Weiss, Harper's Bazaar, September 2021
"Cold Ghosts, Fast Cars, Hot Mess: 'Summer Sons,'” by Jake Casella Brookins, Chicago Review of Books, September 2021
If you're interested in discussing a speaking engagement, guest lecture, or other appearance, please get in touch using the site contact form.
If you'd like to send letters, gifts, or other forms of fan-support, I maintain a P.O. box [currently on hold due to a big move] as well as a general wish-list.
General policies: please don't send perishables (including homemade food, sorry!) or anything it would be rude to force an assistant to see-slash-handle (y'all know better).