Once upon a time, there was a glorious city with towers that stretched into the sky, roads that stretched long into the beyond. The city had existed for many many years, and would continue to stand for years after, ancient and forever and steadfast. It was a city that cradled its inhabitants, that vibrated with energy and life.
Within one particular tower was a group of creative, clever people who were working very hard bringing art to the people of the world. This group of people cared so deeply about their work, and about each other. Every day was a joy.
And in a small corner of the tower was a desk covered in books from all corners of the world, each one loved and cared for by the desk’s keeper, who did their best to help brilliant works of fiction reach readers who needed them the most…
But when a sickness came to the world, the city, and their tower, were put under a spell to keep it safe.
The books were left to sleep inside, to be covered in moss and flowers, under protection until such a time came when the tower could awaken again.
* * *
I’m romanticizing here, of course, as I am wont to do. I do miss my desk, and my coworkers, and my books. But I’m also very glad we’re not in that office right now. I will admit that I’ve been struggling.
I will also acknowledge that talking about books right now is a privilege, and it’s something I’m reckoning with, especially as we move forward with conversations surrounding inclusivity in our industry, and on our bookshelves. These are not new conversations, but necessary ones, and we’re in it for the long haul. I have spent my time at Tor.com working to make this platform available to writers of color, to make sure our content includes ALL science-fiction and fantasy has to offer, and that we’re helping readers discover books that make them feel seen and validated.
Reading during this time is helping me stay connected to this community and the people I’ve built relationships with through this work. Books have always had my heart, and right now, my heart needs them.
I imagine you’re here because you feel much the same.
I’m going to try and share with you what I’ve been personally enjoying, regardless of release date (heck yeah, backlist titles!), and I might even push the genre boundaries a little bit. I’d love to use this space to chat with you about what you’ve been reading and enjoying. It’s okay if it’s fan fiction, it’s okay if it’s nothing. Loving books looks different for everyone, and is everlasting. We’re all doing our best. I’m here with you.
* * *
Since leaving the office in March, I’ve finished quite a few beautiful books. I began with The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee, the sequel to The Fever King. In The Fever King, we’re presented with magic as a virus that kills most everyone it touches. Those who survive develop powers. Among the few survivors is Noam, a queer Latinx teenager who is taken to a government facility to develop his technopathy. But of course, things aren’t always as they seem, and Noam has to learn who can be trusted, and how to use his strengths to fight the system. I’ll admit that the sequel was not at all what I was expecting, and I’m so glad for that. Lee took the story of Noam and Dara to unbelievable highs and lows in the sequel, dealing with abuse and survival with a deftness that absolutely took my breath away. It doesn’t shy away from important discussions, and I’m incredibly proud of Lee’s work here. Their next novel, A Lesson in Vengeance, is a queer dark academia, and will be published next year.
I also was lucky to get my hands on a copy of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (read: bugged my coworkers until they forked one over). This is both a change of pace for Schwab, and also incredibly on brand. I’m a huge fan of V.E. Schwab’s work and I feel very lucky to have gotten my hands on this one. It’s definitely a step in a different direction, but like…a very elegant and queer direction that had me texting the editor for spoilers when I was only halfway through: MIRIAM, WHEN DOES SHE [redacted].
I’m gonna have trouble talking about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. I was anxious to read this one and it is, without a doubt, a masterclass. This book has everything you could want in a gothic tale: big old weird house, a cast of characters you can’t trust, ghosts that might be metaphors but might also be real, and a commitment to aesthetics like I’ve never seen. Moreno-Garcia’s talent is just out of this world, like, how dare she, I can’t…like…..she did that. She really did that shit. I can’t even……and the girl on the cover is brown like me????? A truly special book. Just absolutely bonkers.
I was also so happy to read Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor along with the Tor.com readers. It’s a favorite amongst the TordotCrew, and getting to chat about this story together was really special. We needed something hopeful, and The Goblin Emperor delivered in droves.
I finished S.L. Huang’s Burning Roses, Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo and Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston in 24 hours, which I’ve only actually done once before in my life (as a teen, with Francesca Lia Block’s I Was A Teenage Fairy, still a favorite). All of these captured my heart and mind immediately. Empress of Salt and Fortune is a frame tale (!!!) that’s tells the story of a woman who changes an empire. Burning Roses is a fairy tale retelling, sort of, but is mostly about family and love and dealing with past trauma. Red, White, and Royal Blue is a rom-com about the son of the (female!) president falling in love with the prince of England. I know what you’re thinking: but Christina, RWRB isn’t technically SFF, why are you including it here? (1) Because it’s definitely a hopepunk AU right now, and (2) because it’s a goddamn BANGER.
* * *
I don’t normally like to be reading multiple titles at once. I value an immersive experience, and I do enjoy a book hangover after I emerge from a world I’ve just spent a significant amount of time and emotional investment in. But that isn’t always possible, and also, I’m trying to shove books into my brain like they’re Halloween candy right now, so here we are.
I’m excited to be reading N.K. Jemisin’s iconic work The Fifth Season along with fellow Tordot-ian Leah Schnelbach and the Tor.com audience, with Twitter discussions every Wednesday. Jemisin is just overwhelming me with this prose, and I find myself highlighting whole passages on my e-reader. As we watch the complexity of this story unfold, I stand in awe of Jemisin’s craft, and happy to take this journey slowly, along with my friends, to savor each piece.
I’m also reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern along with my mother. It’s not often that my mom and I get to read the same thing at the same time (often I finish something and hand it off to her after, as I did with The Night Circus), but both of us have been screaming about Morgenstern’s storytelling capabilities. It is, as she’s said an interviews, a story about stories, and a novel written by a person who loves books with their whole heart. I’m absolutely captivated, and this is another one where craft is at its peak.
* * *
It’s probably not a surprise to say that my list of things to read is quite long, and ever-growing. Listen, books are just so good, SFF is just so effing good right now and I feel like a king at a feast. The following is a very edited snippet. VERY edited. Like, I could go on for ages. If I drown in books I’ve yet to read, let me drown.
Currently lined up I’ve got:
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, a book I saw an early galley of on Twitter and have been practically salivating after ever since. Black witches??? Sign me TF up.
Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston, an unmissable fantasy from a powerhouse writer and a trusted editor. Listen, any time the word ‘conjure’ is used, I’m in. I am ALL IN.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, which is not only an incredible concept, but also is making me think about retellings and interpretation. But I’ll let Kalynn Bayron go off about that here.
Do You Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh, another Tordotfavorite. Admittedly I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, but NPR described this one as “slow, contemplative, moody,” which is very much my shit. It sounds absolutely bonkers, so naturally I can’t wait to dive in.
Each of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro—a queer! romance! with poetry! and Mark’s! pronouns! are updated! I’m excited!
How’s a boy to choose?
I’m sitting here looking over the spreadsheet I keep of all the forthcoming books, extending into 2021. This is only the beginning of what’s going to be a very good reading year. I can’t wait to share more with you, fellow book-lovers. Let’s meet back here soon, yeah? I’ll make tea for us.
Christina Orlando (they/them) is the Books Editor for Tor.com, they’re 19 and they never f*ckin learned how to read.