Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing December Releases in Science Fiction

Fiction Affliction is a monthly column written by Royal Street author Suzanne Johnson that examines upcoming releases by genre or sub-genre. Check back every day this week for coverage of December releases in epic fantasy, young adult paranormal, and urban fantasy. Today’s column examines SCIENCE FICTION.

The Symptoms: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, aliens nipping at your…helmet. Ah, it’s time for love in the far reaches of space. Which is just as well, since Earth has become nothing but a pile of dust and bones, with a few straggling survivors.

The Diagnosis: Ten new science fiction books hit the shelves in December: three space operas filled with tales of love; three dystopian sagas; two alt-histories taking us from Atlantis to World War II Europe; a collection of hard science with some fiction thrown in; and one genre-bending tale of the Wild Weird West.

The Cure: Ready, set, launch. All the fun’s going on in space this month—unless you’re ready to tackle a zombie Bat Masterson and replay the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, where things are most definitely not okay.

Love and Rockets, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes (Dec. 7, DAW)

Space: The final frontier. Or is it? Many say there’s no frontier more forbidding than a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. But what if one’s a human and the other’s an alien? Love and Rockets is an original collection of space opera stories where authors take love (unrequited or not), on a spaceship, space station, or planetary colony—and  add enough drama, confusion, and mayhem to ensure that the path to true love is seldom free of obstacles. Original stories by Lillian Stewart Carl, Steven H. Silver, Mary Robinette Kowal, Russell Davis, Monica Valentinelli, Kelly Swails, Jay Lake, Jody Lynn Nye and more.

Alien Tango, by Gini Koch (Dec. 7, DAW)

It’s been five months since marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt started working with the aliens from Alpha Centauri, and she and Jeff Martini are getting closer. But when an experimental spacecraft is mysteriously returned to the Kennedy Space Center, Kitty and the rest of her team are called in to investigate. Now the team must survive murderous attacks, remove a space entity from a group of astronauts, and avoid an unhinged woman with a serious crush on Kitty’s high school boyfriend.

Songs of the Dying Earth, edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois (Dec. 7, Tor Books)

The best of today’s fantasy writers return to the unique and evocative milieu of Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth to create their own  adventures. With an introduction from Dean Koontz, the anthology contains original stories from George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, Elizabeth Moon, Tanith Lee, Tad Williams, Kage Baker, and Robert Silverberg, along with fifteen others.

The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale, by Mike Resnick (Dec. 7, Pyr) Read an excerpt.

The year is 1881. The United States of America ends at the Mississippi River, and beyond lies the Indian nations, where the magic of powerful Medicine Men has halted the advance of the Americans east of the river. An American government desperate to expand its territory sends Thomas Alva Edison to the town of Tombstone to discover a scientific means of counteracting magic. Hired to protect this great genius: Wyatt Earp and his brothers. But there are plenty who would like to see the Earps and Edison dead. Riding to their aid are old friends Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. Against them stand the Apache wizard Geronimo and the Clanton gang. Battle lines are drawn, and the Clanton gang sends for Johnny Ringo—but what shows up instead is The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo, returned from the dead and looking for a fight. Think you know what happened at the O.K. Corral? Think again, as five-time Hugo winner Mike Resnick takes on his first steampunk western.

Back to the Moon, by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson (Dec. 7, Baen)

Decades after the last footprints were left on the moon, the U.S. is preparing to return to the lunar surface in a new class of rockets. But their return to the moon turns into a rescue mission when a Chinese manned flight runs into trouble. Four Chinese astronauts are stranded on the moon, and the American mission must launch with only a skeleton crew. Can the U.S. mount such a mission successfully—or will thousands of years of instilled honor prevent the Chinese astronauts from accepting a rescue?

Atlantis and Other Places, by Harry Turtledove (Dec. 7, Roc)

A collection of stories from the New York Times bestselling king of alternative history. A famous naturalist seeks a near-extinct species of bird found only on the rarest of lands in “Audubon in Atlantis.” A young American on a European holiday finds himself storming an enchanted German castle in “The Catcher in the Rhine.” Centaurs take a sea voyage aboard “The Horse of Bronze” to a land where they encounter a strange and frightening tribe of creatures known as man. London’s most famous detective, Athelstan Helms, and his assistant Dr. James Walton are in Atlantis investigating a series of murders in “The Scarlet Band.” The collection includes these and eight more stories of ancient eras, historical figures, and adventure.

The Keep, by F. Paul Wilson (Dec. 7, Tor Books)

The bestselling first book in the Adversary cycle, source of the cult-classic film, hits trade paperback for the first time. An ominous message—Something is murdering my men—is received from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle in the Transylvanian Alps. Invisible and silent, their enemy selects one victim per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpse behind. When even an elite SS extermination squad can’t solve the problem, the panicked Nazis bring in a Jewish expert on folklore to figure it out. But another visitor is on his way—a man who awoke from a nightmare and set out to meet his destiny.

Ghost Country, by Patrick Lee (Dec. 28, Harper)

For decades, inexplicable technology has passed into our world through the top secret anomaly called the Breach. The latest device can punch a hole into the future, and what Paige Campbell saw when she opened a door into seventy years from now scared the hell out of her. She and her Tangent colleagues brought their terrible discovery to the president—and were met with a hail of automatic gunfire after leaving the White House. Only Paige survived. Fearing a terrifying personal destiny revealed to him from the other side of the Breach, Travis Chase abandoned Tangent—and Paige. Now he must rescue her, because Doomsday will dawn in just four months unless they can find the answers buried in the ruins to come.

Age of Odin, by James Lovegrove (Dec. 28, Solaris)

Gideon Dixon was a good soldier—just bad at everything else. Now the British Army doesn’t want him anymore. When he hears about the Valhalla Project it seems like a dream come true. They’re recruiting from service personnel to take part in unspecified combat operations. The last thing Gideon expects is to find himself fighting alongside the gods of the ancient Norse pantheon. The world is in the grip of one of the worst winters it has ever known, and Ragnarok—the fabled final conflict—is looming.

Engineering Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Dec. 28, Solaris)

The universe shifts and changes: suddenly you understand, you get it, and are filled with a sense of wonder. That moment of understanding lies at the heart of Engineering Infinity. Whether it’s coming up hard against the speed of light and the enormity of the universe, realising that terraforming a distant world is harder than you thought, or realizing a hitchhiker on a starship consumes fuel and oxygen with tragic results, it’s hard science fiction where the sense of wonder is most often found. This hard sci-fi anthology collects stories by some of the biggest names in the field including Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross, and Greg Bear.


Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson is waiting for the Steampunk-Bonanza tie-in, with zombie Hoss and Little Joe. Her new urban fantasy series, scheduled to begin with the release of Royal Street in April 2012 by Tor Books, is set in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Find Suzanne on Twitter.

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