Ethical Empire built the gate to heaven, and their employees hold the keys. By offering custom-built afterlives through full-brain uploads, they answered the needs of a society pushed to the brink by climate change and cascading antibiotic failure. But for Zoe, who works daily to assess the sins of users and decide who’s worthy of salvation, heaven is not so simple. Despite the urging of the angels on her shoulder, she is determined to uncover heaven’s secrets, no matter the cost.
It’s fitting that Tochi Onyebuchi’s first adult novella, Riot Baby, comes out the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The roots of activists like MLK run deep through the story, not the sugar-coated, hand-holding, civil rights Santa Claus version the majority likes to champion but the impassioned preacher who wrote fiery words decrying those who stood in the way of progress. Onyebuchi’s story is a clarion call for action and an indictment of pacifism. And it’s a damn good story, too.
Earlier this year, we paired Witchmark and Stormsong author C.L. Polk with Alyssa Cole, award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance, for a chat about the intersections between science-fiction, fantasy, and romance as a genre. We knew that these two would have a lot to talk about, both regarding writing practices and the craft of two characters falling in love. What transpired was a lively, insightful conversation about bridging genre gaps, sex and consent, how relationships are part of worldbuilding, and the magic of love.
A soul is an ineffable thing. It cannot be seen or smelled, but your senses detect evidence that it exists. A smile, a sob, a kinesthetic or verbal tic, a way of walking, the peculiarly human brightness in someone’s eyes. We’re not androids, all of these things come together to say. We are not manufactured things. We are organic and singular. We are human.
The same, argues N. K. Jemisin’s latest, The City We Became, can be said of the metropolis. You can see the contours of a city’s soul in its skyline at dusk. You can hear its soul in the ambient chatter of its Chinatown, the musical haggling in its souq. You smell it on its buses and you hear it creak beneath your boots as you ascend the five flights of your walkup, arms burdened with grocery bags.
The way a city affects, attacks, adores you, all captured in the way you utter its name.
The current wave of speculative fiction from underrepresented groups continues to provide the SFF world with peeks into oft-forgotten slices of the globe. Interesting settings are huge draws in science fiction and fantasy, so little wonder we’ve been enamored by these sojourns into non-EuroAmerican spaces. The African continent stands in the front lines of this charge, offering stories that overturn long held views about its history and future, or at least provide some long desired nuance. However, our fascination with Black Panther, Children of Blood and Bone, and Who Fears Death? is mostly steeped in the fantastic or futuristic representations of these African locales, and not as much the contemporary.
Pray, where are the SFF books about the African locales of now?
Y’all, Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a miracle. It’s a gift from Anansi himself. This book. This book. THIS BOOK.
Dead. I’m dead. I have died. It is so good it killed me. Murdered by my own ARC. Please bury me in my To Read pile.
FIYAH, a literary magazine dedicated to Black Speculative Fiction, seemed to come out of nowhere at the beginning of 2017 with its premiere issue. But FIYAH has a deep history due to seeds planted well before the magazine was announced in September 2016.
FIYAH was birthed from the minds and effort of a collective of Black SFF readers, writers, and fans who all congregate in a vantablack subspace time coil we call the Niggerati Space Station (NSS). Its purpose is to allow Black SFF writers to share, discuss, vent, build, or what have you, on all things speculative fiction. It functions as an incubator of creativity, a safe space to dream our dreams of the Black beyond.
We love a good retelling—whether it’s a favorite fairy tale, ancient myth, or epic tale, it’s always great to see old things made new. Part of the reason we love these stories is because they’re so malleable; with themes that span the breadth of the human experience, tales of love, revenge, and adventure can find a home in any place and time, with characters that feel both familiar and fresh at the same time.
As we started thinking about of favorite retellings of classic stories, so many brilliant adaptations, updates, and re-workings came to mind. Here are just a few that we adore! Please feel free to add your own in the comments.
Game designer Orion D. Black has left their job at Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons department, calling out the company for paying lip service towards diversity and change while exploiting BIPOC, especially Black freelancers, and silencing and ignoring criticism of systemic problems. This comes within a month of members of the RPG community asking for more accountability at the company, highlighting interactions with WotC online, and in gaming and professional environments.
This final published volume in the Star Ka’ats series reads more like a continuation than a conclusion. Young humans Jim and Elly Mae are well settled in with the telepathic alien Ka’ats. But not everyone on the world of Zimmorra is happy. A few of the cats who were rescued from Earth before it presumably exploded into nuclear war have not taken well to the Ka’ats’ laws and culture.
One cat in particular, Boots, whom Jim rather likes, sneaks off to hunt, which is a major crime among the Ka’ats. Jim catches him and frees his mouselike prey, and warns him against breaking the law. Boots is not a happy cat, and he has no desire to stop hunting. Hunting is what he is.
This is a general crisis, but there may be a solution. Thanks to the metal the humans helped the Ka’ats find and manufacture, the Ka’ats and their robots have built a spaceship. They plan to head back out among the stars and find lost Ka’at colonies.
Written by George Brozak and Joe Menosky
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 3, Episode 5
Production episode 144
Original air date: October 2, 1996
Captain’s log. Voyager has detected signs of a wormhole that has appeared in a region of space several times. That indicates that it may come back. Since it’s been there before, the other end may be fixed. It’s a long shot, but worth investigating. Tuvok also detects a nearby Class M world that has Bronze Age technology, but sensors are also picking up a replicator of a type in common use in the Alpha Quadrant.
Series: Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch
After a journey nearly as arduous as anything its characters faced in the apocalypse, Naughty Dog’s sequel to 2013’s stellar, heart-rending horror thriller The Last of Us launched to a different, more hostile world than that in which it debuted. As it did everywhere else, COVID-19 waylaid plans and shifted on-sale dates, but the biggest source of frustration for the award-winning studio was a major story leak that spread all over the internet in April.
As a big fan of the first game who was skeptical of the need for a follow-up, I spent the last four weeks avoiding gaming Twitter and Reddit as much as possible, which still did little to actually stop me from doomscrolling social media in the midst of a very real pandemic and time of historic civil unrest. So, basically, I was a giant ball of anxiety before my copy of one of the most distressing games I’ve ever played even arrived at my home—but I went in clean.
Head below for the full list of fantasy titles heading your way in July!