With Our Crooked Hearts, Melissa Albert returns to mine the rich vein of fraught familial relationships she tapped in The Hazel Wood series. From secretive mothers and destructive daughters to wild magic and bloodthirsty antagonists, this new novel has everything I loved from Albert’s earlier series and then some.
Themes? Who needs themes? The only connective tissue in my ten favorite short science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories that I read in May is that they’re all freaking great. Race into the future, sink into the past, and hope you don’t encounter a magical force that could squash you like a bug.
Written like a memoir, Nghi Vo’s latest historical fantasy novel Siren Queen begins with a reflection on memory and truth and the fuzzy place where the two collide and break apart. Then our narrator, first known only as Sissy, the nickname her younger sister gives her, takes us back to before her Hollywood fairytale begins. Sissy’s infatuation with film starts in childhood, and as she stumbles into background and extra roles, becomes an obsession.
It’s time once more for me to share some of the upcoming young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror I’m most excited about. May and June are bringing in a lot of fantasy, as per usual, but with some really interesting twists. We’re also getting an unexpected yet eagerly anticipated crop of horror novels. And the queer books, my heavens, the wonderful, delightful, fabulous queer books! I don’t think my bookshelves can handle all these preorders.
April had me in a contemplative mood, it seems. My ten favorite short speculative stories dealt with depression, death, moral gray areas, trauma, and grief, as well as a couple of gruesome murder stories for good measure. Make yourself a nice cup of herbal tea, wrap yourself in a blankie, and get ready to feel some feels.
Did you know that thousands of speculative fiction books are published every year? Did you also know that although most are in the 300-400 page range, books can be as hefty as a doorstopper or as brief as a novelette? The more you know.
Here are ten great science fiction, fantasy, and horror novellas and novelettes—or what I’ve decided to affectionately call anti-doorstoppers—from the last few years that you may have missed.
Like many of you, I was enticed to give Our Flag Means Death a try from other queer fans tweeting about it. I knew from the moment we saw Blackbeard nursing Stede back to health that I would see it through to the end, but I was also suspicious. Queerbaiting is so pervasive that it’s often the only “rep” we get (looking at you, Supernatural). As much as I wanted to trust Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, and David Jenkins, and as much as I loved the diversity in the cast, experience has taught me to keep my expectations below rock bottom. I kept waiting for the bait and switch, for the show to swing back toward cisheteronormativity and act as all those little moments were out of control fan headcanons.
I cannot fully explain how ecstatic I was to be proven wrong.
My spotlight on my ten favorite short speculative fiction stories from March 2022 is no theme, all vibes. A missing town, a possessive lake, a dying demigod, a reanimated dragon, a vanishing house, a dead brother, and a bit of gold alchemy, cultural appropriation, and HR-mandated self-care breaks for spice.
A group of teens are united by an ancient prophecy to help the Chosen One slay the wicked king and restore peace to their kingdom. But the story doesn’t start there. No, F.T. Lukens starts So This Is Ever After once the evil is defeated. This is what comes after “The End.”
The first time Bastián meets Lore, they’re children. Lore escapes their bullies and collides with Bastián at the shores of a local lake. Bastián takes Lore to a hidden world under the surface, one that no one has seen in years. The land under the lake has shifted from reality to legend to lore as far as the rest of the town is concerned. Years later, the two meet again when Lore’s family abruptly relocates to the lakeside town to escape the consequences of something terrible Lore did. Like Bastián, Lore can still see the world under the lake, but now the lake is no longer confined to its banks. All over town, but especially in their new home, the lake washes over them. Carried by its seiches are alebrijes, little papier-mâché creatures created by Bastián and imbued with their regrets and anxieties.
As much as Lore wants to keep the truth about what happened back home hidden, Bastián wants to hide what they see as their faults and failures. But the more secrets they keep, the more the lake and the alebrijes demand acknowledgement. The teens may show their friends and families a calm surface, but underneath deep waters are churning into whirlpools of emotions.
I have been a librarian for more than a decade, and a school librarian for nearly half of that. I didn’t get into this field to wage a war against a political system that has declared me the enemy. All I wanted to do was to make fun displays, teach teenagers research skills, and provide them a vast array of books to act as what the inimitable Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop called “windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors.” Yet here we are in the middle of a fight that will have devastating long term effects regardless of who comes out on top.
I’m exhausted, afraid, and frustrated. But mostly I’m angry.
While last month my short speculative fiction reading veered toward dark, emotionally heavy tales, for February I opted for light and warmth. This month my ten favorites showed love in all its myriad forms, from friendship to romance to familial and beyond, as well as a splash of something unsettling and chilling for good measure.
There’s a bumper crop of new young adult fantasy and science fiction coming your way! From monsters and monster hunters to gods and demons, from outcasts and dreamers to wannabes and rebels. These are some of the books I’m most looking forward to for March and April 2022.
In Pet, Akwaeke Emezi’s 2019 young adult debut, we followed Jam and Redemption as they hunted down an all-too-human monster with the titular creature, an angel from another dimension. Two years later Emezi has bestowed upon the world the follow-up, a prequel about Jam’s eventual parents, Bitter and Aloe, and the brutal world they hoped to spare their future child from.
Lucille is terrorized by police brutality and anti-Black racism. Assata, a group of Black activists, are marching seemingly every day in defiance of their oppression. Meanwhile, behind the gates of the exclusive art academy Eucalyptus, Bitter hides in her craft. Ever since she was little, she’s been able to bring her artwork to life with a little blood and a whole lotta will. As the police crackdowns get worse and her friends suffer the brunt of it, Bitter is pushed from the sidelines to the frontlines. An act of passionate and furious creation brings forth monstrous creatures not unlike Pet, angels bent on total destruction.
The duology begins with Wings of Ebony and Rue struggling to find her place in her new life. A bold Black girl raised in the East Row (a fictionalized version of Houston, Texas’ Third Ward) Rue and her younger half-sister Tasha were separated after their mother was killed by an unknown assailant. Rue’s biological father, a man she had never met and knew almost nothing about, took her to Ghizon, a magical world off the coast of Madagascar, and left Tasha behind. A year later, Rue has access to magic but feels isolated. Nearly everyone in Ghizon has gray skin, making her stand out even more. In their highly stratified society, Rue fits in nowhere…and doesn’t want to.
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