Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Apr 7

Happy Friday, geek friends and nerd pals! I have been scouring the interwebs for interesting tidbits, and boy did I find some.

First and foremost: The Hugo Finalists are heeeeeeere! You will notice some repeats from the Nebulas, which is neither unusual nor unexpected in these cases (Obelisk Gate and All the Birds in the Sky, what what!). If you want a look at how the rules changes from last year may have affected this year’s nominations, our own Alex is happy to oblige.

There are always trend pieces making the rounds, but I happened to see three in a row. Things what are Hot Right Now: dystopiasspace opera, and killer flus. (Not mutually exclusive, let us note.) Dystopias always seem to be on-trend to me, but I welcome additions to the ranks. Space opera, on the other hand, does seem to be having its day in the Sun (heh); Wired and I have a lot of the same favorites, which means you should definitely read them. And killer flus are like little black dresses — perennial and inescapable. If that’s all a little heavy for you, have some talking cats too.

Speaking of space opera! There’s a gorgeous new cover for Ann Leckie’s forthcoming Provenance, which we will not get until October, argh. If you haven’t read the Ancillary trilogy, never fear: this is a new story, so you can jump right in. But you have several months between now and October, so you definitely could read them, I am just saying.

And last but not least, here is a sci-fi short film that I found delightful and eery as all get-out, plus it is only five minutes long: Strange Beasts.


Now for recommendations! Here’s something brand new and something old (because in publishing, 2015 was like a decade ago).

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey coverAmbiguous near-future astronaut stories are also hot right now! We just talked about Spaceman of Bohemia, which I read back to back with The Wanderers. Whereas Spaceman goes unabashedly surreal, Wanderers sticks hard to the science-possible. Three astronauts from around the world are hired by a private space-exploration company called Prime Space (it’s all very Elon Musk) and sent into a seventeen-month-long simulation to prove that not only is a landed mission to Mars possible, but they’re the right crew. As the story — told skillfully from multiple points of view — develops, astronauts Helen, Sergei, and Yoshi each develop a different view of what is actually going on.

There are comps to be made with The Martian; Howrey gives us technical action, company politics, and pencil-pushers as well as problem-solving and astronaut body-humor. But she also delves deeply into the emotional fault-lines of her characters, which gives us some of the funniest and most moving moments (occasionally at the same time!). Helen’s grown daughter Meeps, a struggling actress, absolutely steals every scene she is in, as does Yoshi’s wife Madoka. And Sergei’s sons, oof! My heart breaks. So, to wrap this up, my short recommendation is: come for the Hijinks Involving Space, stay for the incredible characters.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro coverIshiguro excels at writing books that are not at all about what they seem to be about, as you know if you’ve read Let Me Go. That one appears to be about boarding school and is actually about, ahem, medical ethics (I am resisting the urge to spoil it for you, you’re welcome). The Buried Giant does not actually have a giant in it — ogres yes, pixies yes, knights yes, dragons yes!, but not a giant to be found. For a while you’re pretty sure it’s just about two olde time British people who can’t remember anything, then it’s about King Arthur, and then you get to the ending and it’s about — Well, I don’t want to spoil it, but it wasn’t what I thought.

And yet despite all of this confusion and ambiguity (which ultimately does have a point), I couldn’t put it down. The Buried Giant is a dreamy walk through an ancient England that barely knows itself from one day to the next, and that contains surprises both wondrous and horrible around every turn. From the troubled relationship between the Saxons and the Britons, the role of the early Catholic church, the long-deferred quest of Sir Gawain (who I could not help picturing as a Monty Python-era John Cleese), to the perils facing an aging couple in a harsh world, Ishiguro balances a ton of depth with a deceptively simple style. A slow burn of a novel, this one is for Ishiguro fans, readers who enjoy open-ended plots, and my fellow Arthurian completists.

This newsletter is sponsored by Macmillan Teen.

We have a YA Science Fiction & Fantasy prize pack to give away! Click here to enter for a chance to win, or just click the image below:

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships March 24

Salutations and felicitations, my fellow SF/F fans!

If short stories are your bag (as I suspect they are, given how many of you clicked that flash fiction link last time), I have excellent news for you: Lightspeed magazine is offering a free three-month trial subscription to new folks, or a free three-month extension to existing subscribers. I’m a fan — their monthly issues regularly feature some of my favorite authors both established and newly minted, and they published the Queers Destroy Science Fiction and Women Destroy Science Fiction special issues. Nota bene: they are a digital-only publication.

We’ve been talking about fairytales on the regular here, so perhaps you will be as delighted with this round-up as I am: fairy- and folk-tale collections other than the Brothers Grimm! I need that “Beauty and the Beast” one ASAP.

I don’t usually have time for convincing people that genre fiction is worth their time (because obviously!?), but this piece of recs for those who think they only like genre-bending lit-fic is excellent. For anyone in your life who has ever wanted “genre but, you know, GOOD.” Assuming you have not already killed them with your brain.

Do you have a minute for outer space? Because scientists would like your help discovering exoplanets! (Side-note: the current administration would like to shut down the DSCOVER program, which could help us identify the climate of exoplanets; how is Elon Musk supposed to save humanity without that info, I would like to know?) (I jest.) (Kind of.)

Moving right along … You may recognize this week’s sci-fi pick as having popped up around the site before; I have fallen hard for this book. And if you have already read my second pick, could you please email back so we can gush about it? K thx.

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař

cover of Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav KalfarIn the Czech Republic, a scientist named Jakub Procházka boards a spaceship on a mission to collect and analyze cosmic dust from a mysterious intergalactic phenomenon. The eight-month mission, funded by corporate sponsors and made possible by political wheeling and dealing, is the pride and joy of the country and Procházka is a national hero. So far it sounds 100% plausible, right? Vast chunks of this book are in fact extremely possible, up to and including Jakub’s response to meeting a giant alien spider-thing that may or may not be a figment of his imagination.

Kalfař uses the lens of speculative fiction (magical scientific realism? Could that be a thing?) to dig deep into post-Soviet Union life in the Czech Republic, as well as the mysteries of Life, The Universe, and Everything. (My phrasing, not his, although I suspect Douglas Adams would approve.) Jakub has spent his life trying to atone for his father’s crimes under the Communist regime, and is struggling to understand his relationship with his wife Lenka — and also not die in outer space. He is not an extraordinary person, but rather a person in extraordinary circumstances. Whether he’s fighting for sanity, for survival, or for his marriage, he is deeply compelling. Like all good sci-fi, Spaceman of Bohemia asks big questions and gives us a great story in the process. This one is for lovers of near-future, thoughtful, and/or deeply weird novels.

The Sea Is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia, edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng

The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast AsiaWhile the cover is not my favorite (I’m a photo-realism junkie, what can I say), the contents of this anthology are absolutely must-read, especially if you’re a fan of Nisi Shawl’s Everfair. The writers in this collection look not only at steam technology, strange beasties, and the occasional bustle, but at colonialism, empire, and often-overlooked countries.

This is a gorgeous example of what can happen when editors go in search of voices — particularly since, as they say in the introduction, “[O]ur anthology presents a range of authors and characters that is predominantly women, and hella queer.” And what a range of stories these writers produced! All of these pieces stand successfully on their own. I still find myself referencing “The Last Aswang”; “The Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso” and “On the Consequence of Sound” both deserve to be read right next to World Fantasy Award-winner The Chimes for their evocation of the power of music. Others are more “hijinks ensue” in style, but none are slight — each of these stories has a strongly-beating heart. Combined, they create a gorgeously textured alternative vision of our world. This collection is one of my favorites from the past year — there’s a story in here for any reader, and quite likely more than one.

This newsletter is sponsored by Unbound Worlds Cage Match 2017.

Enter for a chance to win a library of sci-fi and fantasy reads! Cage Match is back! Unbound Worlds is pitting science fiction characters against fantasy characters in a battle-to-the-death tournament, and you can win a collection of all 32 books featured in the competition. Enter now for your chance to win this library of sci-fi and fantasy titles!

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships March 10

Happy Friday, space cadets and armchair magicians!

In case you missed it amongst all the other headlines, two much-beloved authors are releasing much-belated sequels. Neil Gaiman has not only announced a sequel to Neverwhere, but also announced its title: The Seven Sisters. Gaiman was inspired to write the sequel by his work with refugees in past years, which sounds hugely promising to this reader. And Philip Pullman has more things to say about Dust! He’s not just writing a continuation, but a full companion trilogy for His Dark Materials. Called The Book of Dust, the trilogy will start with baby Lyra (!) and extend to a decade past The Amber Spyglass. While Gaiman is only a few chapters into Seven Sisters, the new Pullman is supposed to hit bookshelves in October of this year.

The much-anticipated Girl With All The Gifts is now available on your TV screen. Anyone watched it yet? I’m currently neck-deep in an X-Men re-watch before I go see Logan (which is the best worst idea I’ve had in a while), but the reviews have me curious. (Don’t click any of those if you don’t want spoilers!)

Eleven excellent authors wrote flash fiction inspired by the words “Nevertheless, she persisted” for International Women’s Day on, and that line-up is all killer, no filler.

I don’t know about y’all, but it has been a pretty intense winter. So I was delighted to see not one, but two, highly entertaining just-for-funsies posts come across my dash. For your enjoyment, I give you:
– The best action figure photography in the history of ever, probably, courtesy of Instagram’s hotkenobi.
10 sci-fi curse words, so you can get around those pesky censors. (Seriously though, I am on board with Make Frak Happen 2017.)

And how about a freebie to top things off? There’s a give-away running for Rin Chupeco’s Bone Witch, and today is the very last day. Get thee to the entry form!

And now, for two very different books:

Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett

cover of Elysium by Jennifer Marie BrissettI was recently reminded by Nisi Shawl’s post that Elysium is essential reading for sci-fi fans, and so I’m adding my voice to hers to tell you to read it ASAP.

With its experimental structure, this is a novel that rewards readers who go along for the journey. It jumps characters and time frames, and puts its protagonists through life after life, apocalypse after apocalypse. Through this repetition, we start to see the world of Elysium take shape, and the struggles of humanity to survive and protect their loved ones at any cost.

Brissett’s genius is in pulling off the complex structure and by investing us wholely in the characters. We see them in different forms, different genders, different emotional configurations, but their personalities shine through in each chapter and keep us rooting for them, and desperate to know what happens next. It’s also a book I wanted to start over again as soon as I finished it, which is a rare book indeed. Elysium is a truly monumental book, especially when one considers that it’s a first novel. Give it your time and attention, and you will not be sorry.

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

cover of Wintersong by S Jae JonesIf you have been craving a fairytale that includes elements of Labyrinth’s Goblin King, Goethe’s Der Erlkönig, and the story of Orpheus, all while telling a gorgeous story about sisterhood and the power of creativity, then you are going to love S. Jae Jones’ debut novel.

Liesl is a brilliant composer, but it doesn’t matter — she’s far too busy keeping her family together, running their inn, and supporting her younger brother’s budding career as a virtuoso violinist. She’s also a young woman in a time (I’m guesstimating 1800s) when women’s contributions to the arts were largely overlooked or disregarded. And, perhaps most importantly, she’s the target of a Goblin King who is looking for a new bride.

As the plot unfolds, Liesl must weave her way through a maze of obstacles to get at the heart of the Goblin King’s challenge, which is also the heart of her own story. Capricious and captivating by turns, the Erlking is both her tormentor and her best ally in unleashing the talents that Liesl has been suppressing. Jae-Jones packs so much story between the opening and closing pages of Wintersong that I felt like I had read at least two books by the time I was done, and was gripped by every page.

A reading suggestion: have some Mozart close to hand, at the very least. This book will make you want to listen to all the classical music, and made me wish I knew much more about it than I do!

This newsletter is sponsored by Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar.

Raised in the Czech countryside, Jakub Procházka has gone from small-time scientist to premier national astronaut. When a dangerous solo mission to Venus offers him a chance at heroism, he takes it, leaving behind his devoted wife Lenka, whose love, Jakub realizes too late, he has sacrificed.

Alone in space, Jakub finds a companion in a possibly imaginary alien spider. Over a series of philosophical conversations, the pair form an intense emotional bond. But will it be enough to see Jakub through a clash with secret Russian rivals and return him safely to Earth for a second chance with Lenka?

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Feb 24

Happy Friday, nerd-friends and geek-pals.

First things first:
– A correction is called for; despite it being on the cover image and everything, I had Lara Elena Donnelly’s name wrong last issue. Mea culpa!
– And a MUPPET ARMS! The Nebula has announced the 2016 nominees and I cannot stand how excited I am about the list for Novel. I have read all but Borderline (must get on that) and could not agree more with their nominations! I am trying to ration exclamation marks but it’s not working!?!

For today’s issue, I have a book listicle spectacular for you. Ready, set, TBR:

I have no real feelings about 50 Shades of Grey but I do love this post about eight sci-fi/fantasy books sexier than it.

Here is a list of Middle-Eastern inspired SF/F and while it’s light on authors actually from the Middle East, I extremely cosign their recommendation of Alif the Unseen. Before she was the pen behind Ms. Marvel, G. Willow Wilson wrote a killer tech-punk action novel, plus genies! It’s also one of the few books out there that plays equally with technology and fantasy.

Want some comics that scratch the fantasy itch? Christine has five recs for you. Points of interest: Mike Carey is the same writer as M.R. Carey (The Girl With All The Gifts) and Marjorie Liu is the author of the Hunter Kiss urban fantasy series as well as Monstress. Multi-tasking!

Japanese speculative fiction in translation! I’ve been a fan of Japanese noir for some time, but haven’t delved much into speculative fiction yet, so this is exciting. I have my eye on Mr. Turtle in particular, as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were very important in my formative years.

And finally, how about some color on the silver screen? Jessica has a wish-list of diverse fantasies she’d love to see adapted.

Speaking of things I’d love to be adapted…

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

ninefox gambit by yoon ha leeWow, you guys. SERIOUSLY WOW. This space opera belongs on your shelf next to the works of China Mieville, Iain M. Banks, and Cixin Liu. The sequel The Raven Stratagem comes out in June and I will be counting down the days. (Bonus: just listed for the Nebula Award for 2016 Novel!)

Captain Kel Cheris has kept her head down and worked her way quietly through the ranks, but a battle with heretics that goes sideways draws the attention of the higher-ups to her mathematical talent. Her skills get her assigned to a mission that is all risk and little reward, and which requires her to be pseudo-possessed by the centuries-old ghost of a brilliant and insane tactician. (And this is me simplifying the plot!)

Lee has built an empire in space in which the mechanics of calendars are all-important, heresy not only disrupts governance but changes the way the universe works, and everyone’s motives are inscrutable and suspect. The action sequences are intense, the plotting is top-notch, the conspiracies are shocking, and the characters are fantastic. Truly, I do not have superlatives enough to tell you how much I enjoyed Ninefox Gambit.


Uprooted by Naomi Novik

uprooted by naomi novikThis one made the rounds of favorites when it came out in 2015, but I recently ran into someone who hadn’t read it yet and it reminded me that some of you might need a push! Naomi Novik is best-known for the Temeraire series, which just recently came to an end (long live fussy dragons during the Napoleonic wars!), but this stand-alone novel is gorgeous.

Inspired by a Polish folktale, Uprooted follows a young woman named Agnieszka as, against all expectations, she is chosen by a wizard to be his … housekeeper? Kind of? In exchange for a village girl every ten years, the Dragon (title, not literal dragon) protects the village from the ravages of the very-angry forest on its borders. Agnieszka is not expecting to be taken since she’s neither the most beautiful nor graceful nor bravest nor, well, you get the idea. But what she has in spades is moxie, and is thus the perfect person to star in an epic adventure.

There are a bunch of twists and turns to this fairytale rewrite, which always makes me happy. Novik knows the tropes well and isn’t afraid to spin them around until they lead off in unexpected directions. Evil forest, terrifying wizard, plucky young heroine, royalty in peril: all are there, but none are what they seem. And while the ending is satisfying, I hope someday that I get to return to Agnieszka’s world. Maybe now that Novik is done with historical dragons, we’ll get a sequel?

This newsletter is sponsored by our giveaway.

We’re giving away a pair of Apple’s fancy new AirPods (which are an audiobook lover’s dream). Enter here for a chance to win, or just click the image below:

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Feb 10

Greetings and salutations, good readers.

As if we didn’t have enough bad news in our lives, physics students have done the math on the zombie apocalypse and we are all doomed. According to their initial calculations, it would only take 100 days before the human population would be unsustainably decimated. Why physics students are working on epidemiological models I cannot say, but I am delighted that these findings were presented for peer-review.

Last week I gave you some short fiction; to balance the scales, have some long series! You’re going to need to stock up on lengthy reading material for your zombie-apocalypse bunker, after all.

If the apocalypse arrives in 2017, it will be EXTRA ironic because then we’d miss Good Omens coming to a screen near us in 2018. The BBC are turning one of the funniest end-of-the-world novels of possibly ever into a six-part series, and I cosign the heck out of The Nerdist’s dreamcast.

Alright, some non-apocalypse news. I have refused to watch Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle for a variety of reasons (JK, it’s basically because I am a jerk-purist about this book), but I was delighted to see this reading list from Teresa — she covers books that are read-alikes, books inside the book/series, actual history, all the angles! It makes my History Major heart grow three sizes. (I am still not going to watch the show.)

The following reviews are certified zombie and/or apocalypse free. (FOR NOW.)

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Empress of a Thousand SkiesThis is a book about a space princess on the run from a murderous conspiracy, and that is probably all some of you need to hear. For the rest of you, there’s a lot to love about Belleza’s debut. Following the aforementioned space princess Rhiannon “Rhee” Ta’an and soldier-turned-reality-star Aly, Empress introduces us to a galaxy in which a tenuous peace is about to be shattered. Rhee is the sole heir of her dynasty and is pretty sure her family was killed by the current Regent, so she’s spent the last ten years plotting revenge. Naturally! (This is where all those “Arya Stark in space” parallels come up.) Now that she’s turned 16, she’s ready to be crowned and to wreak her vengeance. But on the way to her coronation ceremony, everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

Poor Aly, the sidekick on a reality show about patrolling soldiers (I was initially skeptical of this future-TV spin, but it really grew on me as the plot developed), becomes the center of a new incident and is branded a traitor and murderer. And Aly is where the politics of Belleza’s galaxy really show up, as he’s the reluctant public face of a refugee population. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him into Rhee’s orbit. While they don’t actually meet in this first installment (who wrote that cover copy?), they’re definitely on a collision course.

The action is solid (spaceship fights! Hand-to-hand fights! Assassins! Religious cult archers! Deadly robots!), the world well-built, and the characters endearing. Belleza also neatly avoids a couple of my least-favorite YA tropes, although I’m not telling which because spoilers. For those looking for #ownvoices, this definitely qualifies and the main characters are clearly non-white. In conclusion, read this so we can yell at each other about the big twist, mmkay?

Amberlough by Lara Ellen Donnelly

Amberlough by Lara Ellen DonnellyI promised you cabaret last time, and cabaret you shall have! Donnelly has written a spy thriller set in an alternate world, and I absolutely devoured it. (Technically this is speculative fiction, folks, as there is no magic.) I’ve been trying to come up with my elevator pitch, and keep getting stuck somewhere around “It’s like if The Great Gatsby and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy went through a wormhole and then had a baby.” Baz Luhrmann would definitely be tempted to adapt this.

Cyril dePaul is a spy, and a louche one at that. His lover Aristide Makricosta is a smuggler, dealer, and cabaret emcee. Their arrangement involves them pretending they know nothing about each other’s real jobs while half-heartedly spying on each other, and also definitely not falling in love, not even a little. They live in Amberlough City, center of graft, whimsy, and liberalism. When Cyril falls into the hands of the conservative neighboring province’s spy forces, their relationship has to come to an end — but neither wants to let go. In the meantime, streetwise singer and small-time dealer Cordelia is just looking to keep herself in rent and food, but finds herself sucked into the darkest side of politics as the encroaching One State Party makes its move.

The plot is meticulously paced, as are the switches in POV (close third, in case that matters to you). The parallels to historical and current politics are obvious and, for some readers, perhaps a little on the nose. But what made this book such an incredible read for me were the character arcs. Cyril’s cynicism and self-interest; Aristide’s savvy and force of character; Cordelia’s political awakening; their interactions with the richly imagined and portrayed supporting cast, all held me from the first to the last page. Not to mention the ending! It hit me in the feelings place, I tell you what. This book is so vivid that a month after reading, I was still thinking about it enough to dreamcast it.


This newsletter is sponsored by Age of Order by Julian North.

Inequality is a science. Giant machines maintain order. All people are not created equal.

Daniela Machado is offered a chance to escape the deprivation of Bronx City through a coveted slot at the elite Tuck School. There, among the highborn of Manhattan, she discovers an unimaginable world of splendor and greed. But her opportunity is part of a darker plan, and Daniela soon learns that those at society’s apex will stop at nothing to keep power for themselves. She may have a chance to change the world, if it doesn’t change her first.


Age of Order by Julian North

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Jan 27

Hello, geek-friends and nerd-pals.

Our cyborg lives are upon us! Gizmodo rounded up all of the bio-tech achievements of 2016, and wow. As someone who can under no circumstances point to North when inside a building, I look forward to the day that implant reaches an affordable cost. I would prefer, however, not to have my brain zapped under any circumstances, please and thanks.

If your brain is scrambled by January and all that comes with the start of a new year, may we interest you in some SF/F short fiction? You’ve already heard me talk about Ken Liu’s Paper Menagerie, but AJ’s round-up on Book Riot includes several other excellent options.

There is no time like the present to reread The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, not least because the trailer has arrived for Hulu’s adaptation. I was (very) skeptical despite the A-list cast but this trailer has me converted, in particular thanks to the riffs on Offred’s pre-handmaid life. The first 10 episodes drop on April 26, and I’ve got it marked on my calendar.

Speaking of adaptations and TV, a quick note to say, WOW did the third episode of NBC’s Emerald City go off the rails. I have downgraded my “definitely going to watch” to “you get one more episode to prove you actually know what you’re doing here.”

In happier news, this examination of “The Twelve Huntsman” on had me in stitches. My plan for the weekend includes digging out my copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales so I can read it for myself. Also how has this not been rewritten as a novel yet?? If I am just missing it, please do point me at it; if you’re an author, please consider this a formal request.

And now, this week’s recommendations! I’ve been delving into some backlist while I wait for pub dates to roll along for my favorites from this year, and I have three genre classics for you.

The Silent City and The Maerlande Chronicles by Elisabeth Vonarburg
These are out of print but not particularly hard to get; I got one from a used bookshop, one from, and someone in my book group bought a copy on her phone while we were still sitting in the coffee shop. Which is to say, I have already been gushing about these both in person and online and you are my next victims!

The Maerlande ChroniclesI picked up The Maerlande Chronicles (actually the sequel) at a used bookstore based entirely on the cover and the Le Guin blurb on said cover. What an absolute delight to find such a compelling, thought-provoking book by chance! Following the exploits of a young girl growing up in the far-future, it uses letters and diary entries to introduce us to a matriarchal society that is on the cusp of cultural evolution. In this book Vonarburg’s writing has some of the scholarly feel of Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (although with zero footnotes), supplemented with a transgressive and bold imagination similar to Le Guin and Atwood.

The Silent City by Elisabeth VonarburgAnd then there’s (actually first in the sequence) The Silent City, which looks at a future-albeit-not-quite-as-far-off city in which the technologically-enhanced elite have walled themselves off from the tumultuous and impoverished world and are slowly dying out. Enter the genetic experiments that produce Elisa, who might just save all of humanity. Here Vonarburg is really playing with our understanding of, and the taboos surrounding, sexuality and gender. Some of it is still subversive today, and some of it rings of the gender essentialism of its time (it was written in the 1980s). Regardless, it’s a fascinating and meticulously constructed novel, and these two books have gained a permanent spot on my bookshelves.

A note on order: I actually am not sorry I read Maerlande first, but the ending is deeply confusing if you haven’t read The Silent City or don’t have it immediately to hand. Do with that knowledge what you will!

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
I still haven’t managed to watch the Carmilla web-series, but I did dig up the novel that inspired it. (And by dig up I mean, borrowed it digitally from the library. Truly, my efforts were Herculean.) And I am so glad I did!

Published 25 years before Dracula, it’s a seminal work in the vampire genre. That is technically a spoiler (sorry!) as the nature of Carmilla, our pseudonymous antagonist, is the subject of the mystery the book is built around. But since it was published in 1872 I am pretty sure the spoiler statute of limitations no longer applies. It’s also an early example of the portrayal of lesbians in literature, and a stellar example of the Gothic novel.

The mental struggles the heroine Laura faces in her response to the strangely compelling Carmilla are classic fare (Repulsion! But also, attraction?! Not to mention gaslighting; it’s very confusing to be a Gothic heroine, y’all). Le Fanu managed to creep me the hell out despite the fact that I knew what was going on the whole time, which I consider an achievement. It’s a slow-burn plot-wise as almost all the action in the book takes place at the end, but it’s also a novella so it doesn’t take long to get there. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and definitely recommend it if any of the above sounds appealing.

And if not, never fear: our next installment involves space and cabaret!

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Wires and Nerve by #1 New York Times bestselling author Marissa Meyer.

Wires and Nerve cover image

In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new,action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder, Cress, Scarlet, Winter, and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

Swords and Spaceships

Swords & Spaceships: January 13 2017

Greetings, fellow Earthlings!

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by St. Martin’s Griffin.

Freeks by Amanda HockingMara is used to the extraordinary. Roaming from place to place with Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Carnival, she longs for an ordinary life where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. She gets her chance when the struggling sideshow sets up camp in a small town, where she meets a gorgeous guy named Gabe. But then Mara realizes there’s a dark presence in the town that’s threatening her friends. She has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she had in order to save everyone she cares about—and change the future forever.

Let’s have some good news, shall we?

In perhaps the most welcome and exciting press release I’ve had the pleasure to receive, Orbit Books has announced a new three-book deal with NK Jemisin (tired of hearing me talk about her? TOO BAD.). The first in the series is also Jemisin’s first novel set in our world and will deal with “themes of race and power in New York City,” due out in April of 2019. No one who’s read Jemisin’s work will be surprised by this description; she frequently deals with themes of race and power. But ever since I read her short story “Non-Zero Probabilities” I have been yearning for an urban fantasy from her, and now we’re getting one. I look forward to looking forward to that for the next two years.

LitHub recently published a selection of letters from Alice B. Sheldon as James Tiptree Jr. to Joanna Russ, and I am fascinated. Not least because I love the work of both authors, but because it gives us a look at the charade Sheldon maintained and her reasons for it. My first encounter with Tiptree’s work was “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” likely via The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3 — well worth a read if you haven’t already. As near as I can tell, the letters quoted are from this collection (which does not appear to be digitized, alas).

Did you watch the first episode of Emerald City last Friday? I did! And I definitely plan to keep watching. I knew it would be visually lush since Tarsem Singh is involved, and I was excited about having a Latina lead; beyond that, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed: it’s gorgeous to watch, Adria Arjona is beautiful and really good at looking creeped out, Vincent D’Onofrio is perfectly obnoxious as The Wizard, and while it is not without problems there was plenty of plot to intrigue me. ( agrees.) It also made me want to read the Oz books, as I have heard from friends that Tip’s character is a particularly exciting inclusion (I know, how have I not read them?). Our very own Annika has contemplated the magical systems of both the show and the books (spoilers if you haven’t read the books). This is just one of a plethora of sci-fi/fantasy shows hitting the channels this year; io9 has a guide for you, if you’re interested in adding some screen-time to your 2017.

If you’re looking to add some representation to your TBR, Nicole Brinkley put together a list of Seven Fantasies with Asexual Leads for Book Riot and I want to read all of them. (Except for maybe Jughead; I am just not an Archie fan, y’all.)

Will everyone please report to the bridge? An exact replica of the original Star Trek bridge exists in Ticonderoga, NY, and you can visit it. It’s currently closed, but you can buy gift tickets now; might be a good Valentine’s Day gift for the Trekkie you love, I am just saying. Special tours with the original Chekov, Walter Koenig, (RIP Anton Yelchin) will go on sale in February.

And now: books!

Galactic Empires, edited by Neil Clarke
Galactic Empires Anthology, edited by Neil ClarkeEmpires, so hot right now! You’ll forgive me for not having read all of this 600+ page anthology yet, as I’ve been cherry-picking. Personal favorites Ann Leckie, Aliette de Bodard, Yoon Ha Lee, and Naomi Novik all have pieces here-in, and all are worth your time. If you’ve missed the Raadchai, Leckie’s brief tale of interspace espionage will scratch that itch (and if you’re unfamiliar with her Ancillary series, welcome aboard). De Bodard expands on the world of the Dai Viet (On a Red Station Drifting should be required reading for all space-opera fans, in my opinion) and offers a truly unsettling look at sentience and culture clash. Yoon Ha Lee gives us origami-inspired warships and moral ambiguity. I am here for all of it! You can see the full Table of Contents here to check if your favorites are included (I bet at least a few are).

Nine of Stars, Laura Bickle
Nine of Stars by Laura BickleI am a die-hard fan of the Dresden Files, the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, and of Walt Longmire, so the publicity for Nine of Stars had me curious. “Weird West” is a tricky thing to pull off (and I’m not qualified to comment on the inclusion of Native American elements aside from to say that at least Bickle has honored the original Navajo definition of a skinwalker, unlike a bunch of other writers I could mention), but I enjoyed this installment a great deal. This is the third book in the Dark Alchemy series and I haven’t read the first two, but I didn’t have any trouble following the action or feeling attached to the main protagonists, reluctant alchemist Petra Dee and her love-interest the supernaturally-inclined Gabriel. While Dee and Gabriel are far less grumpy than Harry Dresden or Kate Daniels, it’s still a good comp for those series; Nine of Stars has some nicely escalating villainy, an intriguing supporting cast, and a well-imagined rural West setting. I’ll be going back to read the first two, and recommend them to anyone looking for a good distraction and/or escapist contemporary fantasy.


Live long and prosper (at the very least, until the next newsletter).

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Dec 30

Hello on these final days of 2016! The future is basically tomorrow.

We’re giving away a $250 Barnes & Noble shopping spree. Go here to enter.

$250 Barnes & Noble Giveaway


My goal with this week’s newsletter is to explode your TBRs for 2017 — sorry not sorry. You all got gift cards to bookstores, surely? (If not, please join me in bombarding my library with hold requests.) To that end, we’re starting off with the top five posts, plus one, from Book Riot’s science fiction and fantasy coverage in 2016:

100 Must-Read SF/F Books by Female Authors
100 Must-Read Strange and Unusual Novels
7 Stand-Alone Novels for Fantasy Lovers
7 Stand-Alone Novels for Science Fiction Lovers
10 Fantasy Books with Excellent Feminist Heroines
Bonus: Your Middle-Earth Race Based On Your Hogwarts House

Those are, of course, all books you can get/read now. I am happy to report that the Gods of Future Books have smiled upon us as well; here are 14 of the most anticipated sci-fi/fantasy/related books coming in 2017, selected by yours truly and my fellow Book Riot contributors. (All descriptions taken from publisher copy.) Time to limber up your pre-ordering muscles, folks.

Cover Collage for Most-Anticipated Books Coming in 2017

The Cold Eye (The Devil’s West #2) by Laura Anne Gilman, January 10 2017 (Saga Press)
Picked by: Liberty Hardy
In the anticipated sequel to Silver on the Road, Isobel is riding circuit through the Territory as the Devil’s Left Hand. But when she responds to a natural disaster, she learns the limits of her power and the growing danger of something mysterious that is threatening not just her life, but the whole Territory.

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, February 7 2017 (Razorbill)
Picked by: Angel Cruz
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.
A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, February 7 2017 (W.W. Norton)
Picked by: Keri Crist-Wagner and Martin Cahill
In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.
Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones, February 7 2017 (Thomas Dunne)
Picked by: Jenn Northington
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson, February 14 2017 (Blue Rider Press)
Picked by: Jan Rosenberg
When the Twin Towers suddenly reappear in the Badlands of South Dakota twenty years after their fall, nobody can explain their return. To the hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands drawn to the American Stonehenge including Parker and Zema, siblings on their way from L.A. to visit their mother in Michigan the Towers seem to sing, even as everybody hears a different song. A rumor overtakes the throng that someone can be seen in the high windows of the southern structure.
On the ninety-third floor, Jesse Presley the stillborn twin of the most famous singer who ever lived suddenly awakes, driven mad over the hours and days to come by a voice in his head that sounds like his but isn’t, and by the memory of a country where he survived in his brother’s place. Meanwhile, Parker and Zema cross a possessed landscape by a mysterious detour no one knows, charted on a map that no one has seen.

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez, March 14 2017 (Nobrow Press)
Picked by: Ardo Omer
Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings that cover her room.
One day, Morpie, a mysterious pale girl, appears at school. And she knows all about Sandy’s drawings…Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting imagination of Lorena Alvarez.

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer, April 25 2017 (MCD)
Picked by: Martin Cahill
In Borne, the epic new novel from Jeff VanderMeer, author of the acclaimed, bestselling Southern Reach Trilogy, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined, dangerous city of the near future. The city is littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a bio-tech firm now seemingly derelict—and punished by the unpredictable attacks of a giant bear. From one of her scavenging missions, Rachel brings home Borne, who is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Rachel feels a growing attachment to Borne, a protectiveness that she can ill-afford. It’s exactly the kind of vulnerability that will upend her precarious existence, unnerving her partner, Wick, and upsetting the delicate balance of their unforgiving city—possibly forever. And yet, little as she understands what or who Borne may be, she cannot give him up, even as Borne grows and changes . . .

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, May 2 2017 (WW Norton)
Picked by: Jenn Northington
While waiting for your morning coffee to brew, or while waiting for the bus, the train, or the plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

Beren and Lúthien by JRR Tolkien, May 4, 2017 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Picked by: Kristen McQuinn
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a fully continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Dwarves and Orcs and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father’s own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.

Radiate (Lightless #3) by C. A. Higgins, May 23 2017 (Del Rey)
Picked by: Liberty Hardy
In the follow-up to Lightless and Supernova, C. A. Higgins again fuses science fiction, suspense, and drama to tell the story of a most unlikely heroine: Ananke, once a military spacecraft, now a sentient artificial intelligence. Ananke may have the powers of a god, but she is consumed by a very human longing: to know her creators.

The Refrigerator Monologues by Cat Valente, illustrated by Annie Wu, June 6 2017 (Saga Press)
Picked by: Martin Cahill
From the New York Times bestselling author Catherynne Valente comes a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.
In an entirely new and original superhero universe, Valente subversively explores these ideas and themes in the superhero genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humor as her fairy tales. After all, superheroes are our new fairy tales and these six women have their own stories to share.

The Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee, June 13 2017 (Solaris)
Picked by: Martin Cahill
Shuos Jedao is unleashed. The long-dead general, preserved with exotic technologies and resurrected by the hexarchate to put down a heretical insurrection, has possessed the body of gifted young captain Kel Cheris.
Now, General Kel Khiruev’s fleet, racing to the Severed March to stop a fresh incursion by the enemy Hafn, has fallen under Jedao’s sway. Only Khiruev’s aide, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, appears able to shake off the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.
The rogue general seems intent on defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev – or Brezan – trust him? For that matter, can they trust Kel Command, or will their own rulers wipe out the whole swarm to destroy one man?

The Stone Sky (Broken Earth #3) by NK Jemisin, August 15 2017 (Orbit)
Picked by: Jenn Northington
The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.
Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.
For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.
The remarkable conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed trilogy that began with the multi-award-nominated The Fifth Season.

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera, October 3 2017 (Tor Books)
Picked by: Angel Cruz
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.
Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.
This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.


See you in the New Year!

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships: December 16 2016

Hello nerdfriends and geek pals!

We’re giving away a 12-month Audible membership. Go here to enter.

Win a Free Membership to Audible


As promised, I’ve got gift suggestions galore. But so many of you were interested in last time’s link to the Guardian’s Best Of list for 2016 science fiction and fantasy that I decided to include a round-up of a few others! You’ll see some overlap, so here’s a TL;DR list of the most-repeated titles:

Infomocracy, Malka Older
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
The Devourers, Indra Das
The Obelisk Gate, NK Jemisin
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
Death’s End, Cixin Liu
Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer

The lists themselves:

– Book Riot’s own Best Of 2016 is here and you can sort by genre.
The Washington Post‘s Nancy Hightower picked five.
Barnes & Noble’s list is delightfully long and includes a bonus 12 honorable mentions.
Omnivoracious picked eight. asked 11 contributors to pick three each.
Publishers Weekly picked six.

And now, onto my Gift Guide for Procrastinating Nerds.

Let’s Start With Books

Staff (and personal) favorite Lauren Beukes got stellar new covers for her mind-bending older books, Moxyland and Zoo City. Get both for the dedicated Beukes fan or either to introduce them to the wonders of her imagination!
Price range: less than $20 each

We are happily not short on geeky coloring books. Pick your fandom: Game of ThronesD&D’s Monsters and Heroes of the Realm; there’s a whole line of Harry Potter ones; the rabbit-hole goes on and on. For a nice pairing and starter-kit, add a set of Pop of Color pencils.
Price range: less than $20 each

For the nerd who has everything OR doesn’t know where to start, I recommend Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, edited by Karen Joy Fowler and including favorites Sofia Samatar, Kelly Link, Charlie Jane Anders, and Ted Chiang.
Price range: $20ish

For the nerd who loves art, you cannot do better than Shaun Tan’s beautiful and epic The Singing Bones (there’s a great review on
Price range: $20ish 

For the classics-inclined geek, these new Penguin Galaxy covers are drool-worthy. They’ve got a cornucopia of standards, including Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Once and Future King.
Price range: $20ish 

This book was all the rage when it came out in hardcover a couple years back (to the point where it was on backorder for actual months), but I bet we don’t all own Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm AND WE SHOULD.
Price range: $20ish in paperback

If you’re looking to introduce someone to NK Jemisin’s work (or help out a completist), the Dreamblood Duology has a lovely new omnibus edition. (Bonus: we’re doing a giveaway of her Broken Earth books right now!)
Price range: $20ish 

What about a gift that keeps on giving? Here’s a genre-focused subscription box that’ll send a selection of themed books every other month!
Price range: $30+ per box

How about something for the armchair traveler and those looking for magic in our own world? Let me introduce you to Atlas Obscura.
Price range: $30+

For the Le Guin completist, while we’re all awaiting the illustrated Earthsea: have a beautiful boxed set of her short stories and novellas (which I can verify are well worth owning).
Price range: $50+

If the Penguin Galaxy covers appeal to you but are not quite fancy enough, The Folio Society has you covered (that illustrated Voyage of the Argo, though.)
Price range: $50+

Who doesn’t need a new Star Trek Encyclopedia, I ask you.
Price range: $100+

Now For Some Things Which Are Not Books

For the wickedest witch in your life: a Bellatrix enamel pin.
Price range: less than $20

For the gaming/Adventure Time enthusiast in your life: a BMO Light-Up journal.
Price range: $20ish 

For fans of The Martian: a “Science The Shit Out Of It” shirt!
Price range: $20ish

Beam us up, Scotty: an ugly sweater Star Trek-style!
Price range: $40ish

Listen, y’all, I own a cuddly Hulk from this seller and it is the best “late night lying in bed lurking on Tumblr” purchase I have ever made: get your own Nerd Plush.
Price range: $40+ 

For geek couture: I don’t know what to be more excited about from Elhoffer Designs, the Galactic vest and armwarmers or those Hogwarts sweaters.
Price range: $50+

For those strong in the Force: BB8 now has a Force Band!
Price range: $80 – $200

For the well-heeled gear-head: High-end gear gear.
Price range: $125+

But wait, there’s more! We’ve got a few Book Fetish posts that speak to your needs as well. For example, this one is entirely composed of Game of Thrones lingerie options. And for your comics-loving friends and relatives, a special edition.


Happy holidays, and may the shopping odds be ever in your favor!

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships: December 2 2016

Greetings, nerd-friends and geek-fellows!

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by us!

No need to mince words here: we are giving one lucky Book Riot reader $250 to blow at Amazon. Overstuff those stockings or get a jump on your New Year reading pile–up to you. Go here to enter.

$250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

There’s a lot of geeky movie/TV news in the offing, but before we dive into that I invite you to explode your to-read lists along with me thanks to this piece from The Guardian on 2016’s best SF/F. Obviously big fan of Jemisin and Chiang over here, and I adored Zen Cho’s book. There are several titles mentioned in that piece I’ve had on my TBR for ages (time to bump ’em up) plus a few I hadn’t heard of at all — always a delightful moment!

And now, to the screens.

– Anyone seen Arrival yet? There are linguists at USCD and Gizmodo who have thoughts. (If you haven’t seen it, their general thoughts about the role of linguistics vs. their very spoilery thoughts about plot are clearly marked, so you’re safe!)

– Anne Rice is planning a Game of Thrones-level TV adaptation of The Vampire Chronicles. While I have many qualms about her personally, I can’t help but think that if it actually happens this could make for some really good (or so-bad-it’s-good) binge-watching.

– In further Tolkien news, J.R.R. himself is getting a movie! A biopic, to be precise. Here I thought I knew a lot about the man (I once memorably won an argument with my 6th grade teacher about whether or not “philologist” was an actual word), but I learned four new things about him from this announcement alone, so I’m on board.

– Apparently Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame is a huge Patrick Rothfuss fan!? And is going to be the creative producer for both a Kingkiller Chronicles feature film and a TV series?! And maybe even a stage play!!? Is this the real life?!? (I can’t tell if this is better or worse for my dream that someone will someday adapt Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series for the screen.)

– I was going to save Michelle Yeoh’s Star Trek: Discovery casting news as “best for last,” but then I saw that while she is playing a captain she is not playing the captain. I have big love for the Kelvin-verse movie franchise (well, at least the first and third installments), but I haven’t watched Star Trek on TV since Voyager. I’m psyched that Yeoh will have some role, but until we get some actual news about the major players, I will remain skeptical.

– Parker Posey to is going to play Dr. Smith in Netflix’s Lost In Space remake, LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS. Because I come from a long line of nerds whose only compatible interests are nerd-things, we went to see the 1998 Gary Oldman/Matt LeBlanc remake in the theaters. (Yes, there were other people in that movie. No, I don’t remember anything about their performances.) In both the original TV series and the movie remake, Smith is a saboteur stuck in outer space with a sometimes obnoxiously good-natured family of scientists and a robot that shouts DANGER! The original concept is already a remake of the Swiss Family Robinson concept (another childhood favorite). So what I am saying is, I was already here for this. And now we’ve got a female saboteur with stellar comic timing, which leads me to believe that Netflix intends for this to retain at least some of the light-heartedness of the original. Put me down officially as “REALLY EXCITED.”

It’s almost like I planned a “space” theme; let’s not waste this segue and go to our first recommendation.

Radiance by Catherynne Valente
Radiance by Catherynne ValenteRecently out in paperback, Valente’s latest is an intergalactic opus and a love letter to cinema. Set in an alternate universe in which the Solar System was colonized via space cannon starting in the late 1800s (think A Journey to the Moon) and silent film retained a hold on the film industry well into the 20th century, it’s both incredibly elaborate and very simple.

The plot is the simple part: a young woman named Severin Unck, daughter of a famous filmmaker and documentarian in her own right, goes to shoot a vanished town on Venus. She disappears, is presumed dead. The elaborate part is the prose and structure of the novel. The book talks to you the reader and/or you the viewer, interweaves transcripts and script excerpts and diary entries and monologues. It is profoundly performative, and not what I would call an “easy” read. You have to pay attention to follow the many characters and viewpoints, the jumps back and forth in time and space (literally). It’s a book that teaches you how to read it as you go along; it winks at you, elbows you in the ribs, then spins you around to face in a new direction. You can get a little dizzy in the process, but I enjoyed every twist and turn.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Ben Krueger
Last Call at the Nightshade LoungeBailey Chen is whip-smart and has the college degree, the steel-trap mind, and the ambition to prove it. What she doesn’t have is a job. Or rather, a “real” job — currently, she’s the barback at her high school friend’s bar, living with her parents, and failing at networking her way into a better gig. This is her biggest concern until the day she discovers that not only are monsters real, but that an elite cadre of bartenders fights them with magical booze.

There’s no time like the holidays for a page-turning adventure story about cocktails, am I right? Krueger’s got a sometimes wry, sometimes slapstick sense of humor and a knack for creating entertaining characters who eat clichés for breakfast. Indeed, every time I expected the plot to go one way it turned another. Recipes are interspersed between chapters, so one can add it to the mixology shelf as well as fiction. Fun, rompy, and a great book to have in your pocket for the boozehounds on your gift list.


Speaking of gifts, the next installment of Swords and Spaceships will skip news so that there’s more room for a Gift Guide for Nerd Pals. See you then!