Fiction Affliction: Genre-Benders for October

Twenty-two new books sashay across genre lines this month, including three—three!—Ursula K. Le Guin collections. Connie Willis takes on modern technology; Margaret Atwood retells The Tempest; Jonathan Lethem introduces us to a psychic gambler; and Saga Press brings us a beautiful collection of new fairy tales.

Fiction Affliction details releases in science fiction, fantasy, and “genre-benders.” Keep track of them all here. Note: All title summaries are taken and/or summarized from copy provided by the publisher.

 

WEEK ONE

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy—John Joseph Adams & Karen Joy Fowler, editors (October 4, Mariner)
In its inaugural edition, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy featured a diverse array of authors, stories, and sources. John Joseph Adams scours the magazine racks and websites to find the very best stories, and this year’s guest editor, Karen Joy Fowler, is sure to curate a collection that encompasses all corners of the genres. Fowler knows firsthand just how different one author‘s writing can be from work to work, and she will bring a literary sensibility to her selections. However, she is also a longtime insider in the world of science fiction and fantasy, having won numerous Nebula and World Fantasy Awards and cofounded the James Tiptree, Jr. Award for works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore the understanding of gender. With this top-notch combination of series and guest editor, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy builds upon the foundation established in its first year.

Nemesis—Anna Banks (October 4, Feiwel & Friends)
Young adult. Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude. Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined. A thrilling futuristic fantasy in which the fate of the world’s energy source is in the hands of a prince and princess who are rivals, by the New York Times-bestselling author of the Syrena Legacy.

Swift to Chase—Laird Barron (October 7, JournalStone)
Laird Barron’s fourth collection gathers a dozen stories set against the backdrops of the Alaskan wilderness, far-future dystopias, and giallo-fueled nightmare vistas. All hell breaks loose in a massive apartment complex when a modern day Jack the Ripper strikes under cover of a blizzard; while tracking a missing B-movie actor, a team of man hunters crashes in the Yukon Delta and soon realize the Arctic is another name for hell; an atomic-powered cyborg war dog loyally assists his master in the overthrow of a far-future dystopian empire; following an occult initiation ritual, a man is stalked by a psychopathic sorority girl and her team of horrifically disfigured henchmen; and other glimpses into occulted realities a razor’s slice beyond our own. Combining hardboiled noir, psychological horror, and the occult, Swift to Chase continues three-time Shirley Jackson Award winner Barron’s harrowing inquiry into the darkness of the human heart.

Stranded—Bracken MacLeod (October 4, Tor Books)
Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him. Dismissing Noah’s warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

Haunting Muses—Doreen Perrine, editor (October 1, Bedazzled Ink)
In this collection of lesbian stories, ghosts, be they actual or the metaphorical ghosts of memories, aren’t necessarily evil and hauntings may or may not be bad. How do we move beyond the foul spirits or integrate the shining beings who haunt us in the cruelest or the best ways? And how do we or our characters reconcile these ghosts into transformation and healing within present reality?

Crosstalk—Connie Willis (October 4, Del Rey)
In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage proposal—to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding. But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely—in a way far beyond what she signed up for. It is almost more than she can handle—especially when the stress of managing her all-too-eager-to-communicate-at-all-times family is already burdening her brain. But that’s only the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, she begins to see the dark side of too much information, and to realize that love—and communication—are far more complicated than she ever imagined.

 

WEEK TWO

Hag-Seed—Margaret Atwood (October 11, Hogarth)
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge. After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall? Margaret Atwood’s novel take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, retribution, and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.

The Graveyard Apartment—Mariko Koike (October 11, Thomas Dunne Books)
One of the most popular writers working in Japan today, Mariko Koike is a recognized master of detective fiction and horror writing. Originally published in Japan in 1986,The Graveyard Apartment is the suspenseful tale of a young family that believes it has found the perfect home to grow into, only to realize that the apartment’s idyllic setting harbors the specter of evil. This tale of a young married couple who harbor a dark secret is packed with dread and terror, as they and their daughter move into a brand new apartment building built next to a graveyard. As strange and terrifying occurrences begin to pile up, people in the building start to move out one by one, until the young family is left alone with someone… or something… lurking in the basement. The psychological horror builds moment after moment, scene after scene, culminating with a conclusion that will make you think twice before ever going into a basement again.

Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016—Ursula K. Le Guin (October 11, Small Beer Press)
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of our foremost public literary intellectuals and this collection of her recent talks, essays, introductions, and book reviews is the best manual we have for traveling the worlds explored in recent fiction; the most useful guide to the country we’re visiting, life.

City of Weird—Gigi Little, editor (October 11, Forest Avenue)
City of Weird conjures what we fear: death, darkness, ghosts. Hungry sea monsters and alien slime molds. Blood drinkers and game show hosts. Set in Portland, Oregon, these thirty stories blend imagination, literary writing, and pop culture into a cohesive weirdness that honors the city’s personality, its bookstores and bridges and solo volcano, as well as the tradition of sci-fi pulp magazines. Including such authors as Rene Denfeld, Justin Hocking, Leni Zumas, and Kevin Sampsell, editor Gigi Little has curated a collection that is quirky, chilling, often profound—and always perfectly weird.

Iron Cast—Destiny Soria (October 11, Amulet)
Young adult. It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

 

WEEK THREE

The Secret History of Twin Peaks—Mark Frost (October 18, Flatiron Books)
From the co-creator of the landmark series, the story millions of fans have been waiting to get their hands on for 25 long years. The Secret History of Twin Peaks enlarges the world of the original series, placing the unexplained phenomena that unfolded there into a vastly layered, wide-ranging history, beginning with the journals of Lewis and Clark and ending with the shocking events that closed the finale. The perfect way to get in the mood for the upcoming Showtime series.

Sun Born (North America’s Forgotten Past)—W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O’Neal Gear (October 18, Tor Books)
A thousand years ago, the mighty Cahokian civilization dominated the North American continent from its capital near modern St. Louis. From Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico, settlers and priests carried word of the power of their gods. People who wouldn’t bow to that power were conquered or slaughtered. At the heart of the empire stood a vast city, teeming with tens of thousands. Power rested in one being, Morning Star, a god resurrected in the body of a living man. With Sun Born, W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear take readers back to this amazing place with a tale of murder, magic … and the battle for a people’s very soul. An old enemy has returned to Cahokia, bringing with him emissaries from a civilization that rivals Cahokia. It becomes apparent to the gods-possessed Lady Night Shadow Star, human sister of Morning Star, that they could be conquered by this technologically advanced culture. The fact that the living god, Morning Star, is unwilling—or unable—to play a role in the outcome is a conundrum with horrific possibilities.

The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas—Ursula K. Le Guin (October 18, Saga Press)
Every novella by Ursula K. Le Guin, an icon in American literature, collected for the first time—and introduced by the legendary author—in one breathtaking volume. Ursula K. Le Guin has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Newbery Honor, the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. She has had her work collected over the years, but never as a complete retrospective of her longer works as represented in the wonderful The Found and the Lost.

The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories—Ursula K. Le Guin (October 18, Saga Press)
A collection of short stories by the legendary and iconic Ursula K. Le Guin—selected by the author, and combined in one volume for the first time. The Unreal and the Real is a collection of some of Ursula K. Le Guin’s best short stories. She has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Newbery Honor, the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. She has had her work collected over the years, but this is the first short story volume combining a full range of her work.

A Gambler’s Anatomy—Jonathan Lethem (October 18, Doubleday)
Handsome, impeccably tuxedoed Bruno Alexander travels the world winning large sums of money from amateur “whales” who think they can challenge his peerless acumen at backgammon. Fronted by his pasty, vampiric manager, Edgar Falk, Bruno arrives in Berlin after a troubling run of bad luck in Singapore. Things don’t go much better in Berlin. Bruno’s flirtation with Madchen, the striking blonde he meets on the ferry, is inconclusive; the game at the unsettling Herr Kohler’s mansion goes awry as his blot grows worse; he passes out and is sent to the local hospital, where he is given an extremely depressing diagnosis. Having run through Falk’s money, Bruno turns to his old friend Stolarsky, who, for reasons of his own, agrees to fly Bruno to Berkeley, and to pay for the experimental surgery that might save his life. Berkeley, where Bruno discovered his psychic abilities, and to which he vowed never to return. Amidst the patchouli flashbacks and Anarchist gambits of the local scene, between Tira’s come-ons and Keith’s machinations, Bruno confronts two existential questions: Is the gambler being played by life? And what if you’re telepathic but it doesn’t do you any good?

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales—Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe, editors (October 18, Saga Press)
Once upon a time. It’s how so many of our most beloved stories start. Fairy tales have dominated our cultural imagination for centuries. From the Brothers Grimm to the Countess d’Aulnoy, from Charles Perrault to Hans Christian Anderson, storytellers have crafted all sorts of tales that have always found a place in our hearts. Now a new generation of storytellers have taken up the mantle that the masters created and shaped their stories into something startling and electrifying. Packed with award-winning authors, this anthology explores an array of fairy tales in startling and innovative ways, in genres and settings both traditional and unusual, including science fiction, western, and post-apocalyptic as well as traditional fantasy and contemporary horror.

Firewalk—Chris Roberson (October 18, Night Shade)
Five years after stopping a sword-wielding serial killer in the mysterious coastal city of Recondito, FBI investigator Izzie Lefevre and homicide detective Patrick Tevake remain haunted by the murderer’s last words. Izzie’s ancestors were “mambos,” voodoo priestesses who claimed to communicate with the dead and protect the faithful from evil spirits. Patrick’s Polynesian great uncle told stories of Recondito’s supernatural menaces that lurk in flame and shadow. The killer’s last words have brought up a past both Izzie and Patrick thought they’d long since left behind, and neither has been able to shake the feeling that their case was never completely solved. So when Patrick, now working with the vice squad to investigate a dangerous new street drug, discovers a connection between the street drug and the serial killer’s victims, he realizes that their instincts were right: the threat is far from over. Reunited again, he and Izzie will discover that Recondito is a city of dark secrets, and their own pasts may be the key to unlocking them.

 

WEEK FOUR

The Terranauts—T.C. Boyle (October 25, Ecco)
It is 1994, and in the desert near Tillman, Arizona, a grand experiment involving the future of humanity is underway. As climate change threatens the earth, eight scientists, four men and four women dubbed the “Terranauts,” have been selected to live under glass in E2, a prototype of a possible off-earth colony. Closely monitored by an all-seeing Mission Control, this New Eden is the brainchild of ecovisionary Jeremiah Reed, aka G.C.—”God the Creator”—for whom the project is both an adventure in scientific discovery and a momentous publicity stunt. In addition to their roles as medics, farmers, biologists, and survivalists, his young, strapping Terranauts must impress watchful visitors and a skeptical media curious to see if E2’s environment will somehow be compromised, forcing the Ecosphere’s seal to be broken—and ending the mission in failure. As the Terranauts face increased scrutiny and a host of disasters, both natural and of their own making, their mantra: “Nothing in, nothing out,” becomes a dangerously ferocious rallying cry. With characteristic humor and acerbic wit, T.C. Boyle indelibly inhabits the perspectives of the various players in this survivalist game, probing their motivations and illuminating their integrity and fragility to illustrate the inherent fallibility of human nature itself.

Dark Detective: An Anthology of Supernatural Mysteries—Stephen Jones, editor (October 25, Titan)
Eighteen stories of supernatural detective fiction, featuring sleuths who investigate fantastic and horrific cases, protecting the world from the forces of darkness. Each writer offers a tale of a great fictional detective, including Neil Gaiman’s Lawrence Talbot, Clive Barker’s Harry D’Amour, and the eight-part “Seven Stars” adventure by Kim Newman (Anno Dracula).

Isra-Isle—Nava Semel (October 25, Mandel Vilar Press)
This novel is inspired by a true historical event. Before Theodore Herzl there was Mordecai Manuel Noah, an American journalist, diplomat, playwright, and visionary. In September 1825 he bought Grand Island, downriver from Niagara Falls, from the local Native Americans as a place of refuge for the Jewish people and called it “Ararat.” But no Jews came. What if they had followed Noah’s call? In Nava Semel’s alternate history Jews from throughout the world flee persecution and come to Ararat. Isra Isle becomes the smallest state in the US. Israel does not exist, and there was no Holocaust. In exploring this what-if scenario, Semel stimulates new thinking about memory, Jewish/Israeli identity, attitudes toward minorities, women in top political positions, and the place of cultural heritage.

A Darkly Beating Heart—Lindsay Smith (October 25, Running Brook)
Young adult. No one knows how to handle Reiko. She is full of hatred; all she can think about is how to best hurt herself and those people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt at her home in Seattle, Reiko’s parents send her to spend the summer with family in Japan, hoping she will learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping backward in time into the nineteenth-century life of Miyu, a young woman even more vengeful than Reiko herself. Reiko loves escaping into Miyu’s life . . . until she discovers Kuramagi’s dark secret and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

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