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.
Fiction and Excerpts 
I was once an evangelical holdout against smartphones. I’d missed the start of their rapid encroachment into the United States because I was living in southern Kazakhstan from 2009 to 2011, and when I came back they were suddenly everywhere, ubiquitous and attached to people’s hands like a new appendage. I’d barely been able to get functional Internet access for two years and had come to like the lack of constant connectivity, but after a few months of living in New York City and running out of space in the notebook where I had to furiously scribble down Google Maps directions before leaving the house, I broke down and gave up my hand-me-down flip phone for an iPhone. Now it’s hard to imagine life without it, even though I’m aware of the way its programs are playing on my automatic responses, encouraging me to make it an indispensable part of myself, rewiring my brain to crave its reassuring notifications and little endorphin hits of fresh emails.
John Wiswell’s new short story “The Tentacle and You,” out this month in Nature: Futures, is a brief, clever take on the way these kinds of novel adaptations creep into our lives and take over, with a science fiction twist.
Dealing with dementia, with shifting rules of reality, can make you prone to magical thinking. If I say this word, she’ll remember. If I show her this picture, there will be a spark of recognition. You scan the face of someone who doesn’t know you, even if they raised you, even if they were married to you, and hope you’ll recall the incantation, the trick, to make them remember, even for a moment or two.
Naomi Kritzer’s “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” first published and podcasted in Issue 25 of Uncanny Magazine, unfolds in this realm where the boundaries of the fantastical world and the concrete blur. As one might expect, it’s a story about a haunting, but not necessarily one that occurs after death: this ghost story starts unfolding while everyone involved is still living, and unravels the idea of what it means to be a ghost, or to exist in a house with one.
A woman in New York City finds herself doomed to perpetually celebrate her early-mid-life birthday, cycling through the same rote interactions with friends and searching for a way to escape the pattern while struggling to convince anyone of what she’s going through. This describes the plot of the Netflix series Russian Doll, but it also encapsulates the essence of Alice Sola Kim’s short story “Now Wait for This Week,” which appears in Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams’ anthology A People’s Future of the United States and bears striking similarities to the show.
In Russian Doll, the protagonist, Nadia, resurrects in the bathroom of her birthday party every time she dies, which usually doesn’t take more than a few hours; in Kim’s story, the narrator’s friend Bonnie finds herself reliving the same week over and over, ending up back at her birthday, death or no. Both narratives build to a breaking point in which repetition becomes its own transcendently powerful ritual; both feature women who, in their increasingly frenzied quest to convey the truth of their quandary to everyone else, endure a familiar cycle of trauma and gaslighting. Perhaps most crucially, both come to realize that they can’t move the fulcrum of their pocket universes alone: they’re not on a solitary hero’s journey, but one that requires collective action and a redefinition of what it means to descend into the labyrinth of the psyche and emerge intact.
“I think hard times are coming,” Ursula K. Le Guin said to the audience assembled in her honor at the 2014 National Book Awards, “when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”
Long acclaimed for her stunning short fiction, Brooke Bolander is breaking into full-length books with her heart-wrenching debut The Only Harmless Great Thing, out this month in print and ebook worldwide from Tor.com Publishing. (Read an excerpt here, and learn more about the story behind the book with this essay from Brooke.)
If you’re in the New York area, don’t miss your chance to see Brooke read from and discuss this radically visionary alternate history with authors like Maria Dahvana Headley (The Mere Wife, Magonia), Amal El-Mohtar (The Honey Month), and Sunny Moraine (Singing With All My Skin and Bone) at events in Brooklyn and Manhattan this January. Check out the details below!
Want to keep up on the latest from Tor.com Publishing authors like Seanan McGuire, Charles Stross, Paul Cornell, Nnedi Okorafor, and many more? Sign up for the monthly Tor.com Publishing newsletter!
Every last Tuesday of the month, we’ll send you news on books like Down Among the Sticks and Bones and The Delirium Brief, including sneak peeks at chapters and cover art, interviews and guest posts from our authors, and other fun features. We’ll also include recommendations for Tor.com original short stories you can read for free online, and a photo of the month from our Instagram at @TorDotComPub (which usually features cats, the Flatiron Building, or science fiction/fantasy authors!).
Sign up for the newsletter here, and follow Tor.com Publishing at @TorDotComPub on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more news on all of our titles!
You may know Ruthanna Emrys from The Lovecraft Reread here on Tor.com, or from her acclaimed short story “The Litany of Earth,” which introduced Aphra Marsh, one of the last children of Innsmouth and survivor of the internment camps into which the U.S. government forced Cthulhu’s followers in the late 1920s. Next Tuesday, Aphra returns in Ruthanna’s debut novel, Winter Tide, the launch of her new Lovecraftian fantasy series! If you’re in D.C. or Baltimore, you’ll have the chance to celebrate Winter Tide with Ruthanna when the book comes out (and you can keep track of Ruthanna’s other upcoming events and convention appearances on her website)!
See full details below.
Paul Cornell’s Chalk, the novel he calls “the heart of all my work,” comes out today in print and ebook worldwide, and now there is a perfect auditory accompaniment for your reading experience.
In addition to being a compelling dark fantasy about bullying and youthful trauma, Chalk is a love letter to ‘80s pop music: one character in the book practices a form of magic based on the tunes that are topping the charts, and every teen in school is keenly aware of which musicians are in (or out) from week to week. We’ve put together a YouTube playlist of the songs featured in the book, including a few bonus hits from the era that speak to the Chalk‘s themes. Listen along to songs by David Bowie, Blondie, Kate Bush, Michael Jackson, Bananarama, Culture Club, and many more as you read (and check out those amazing vintage videos)! And if you haven’t had a chance to pick up Chalk yet, you can get started with this excerpt, with a letter from Paul explaining more about why he considers this book his most important work.
We’re thrilled to have several Tor.com Publishing and Tor authors on panels at this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books!
The Festival will be held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on April 22nd and 23rd, and features a wide array of authors, from Margaret Atwood to George Saunders to Roxane Gay, celebrating great books and talking about the latest happenings in literature. This year, you can catch Seanan McGuire, Ellen Klages, Matt Wallace, Brian Evenson, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow at various events and signings over the weekend: see more information below!
The 2016 Nebula Awards were announced yesterday by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, and we’re incredibly proud to have so many great books on the ballot from our first full year of publishing. Tor.com Publishing earned seven nominations for our novellas, novelettes, and short stories, and we want to congratulate all of our nominated authors for this recognition of their excellent work!
Caitlín R. Kiernan is an acclaimed writer of dark fantasy, and her new Lovecraftian novella Agents of Dreamland, out February 28th from Tor.com Publishing, pulses with hypnotic prose and mycological horrors. (Read an excerpt here.) This spring, the “Fungus Among Us” tour will take Caitlín across the reaches of the Northeast and New England, and you’ll have a chance to hear her read and discuss her newest work in Boston, New York, and Rhode Island!
See the full list of events below!
Tor.com Publishing is excited to announce that Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire has been selected as a 2017 Alex Award winner at the American Library Association Youth Media Awards!
The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002. The award is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust and administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association.
Every Heart a Doorway, the first installment in the Wayward Children series, tells the story of what happens to children who tumble into magical worlds after they return from their adventures and find themselves unable to cope with their old, mundane realities. In June, the Wayward Children series continues with Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which transports readers to the dark otherworld of Jack and Jill, the twisted twins (and fan favorites) featured in Every Heart a Doorway.
The Alex Award winners were announced today at the Youth Media Awards ceremony at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. See more about the awards and a full list of winners here.
Next Tuesday, you’ll finally be able to get your hands on Passing Strange, the new novella from Nebula and World Fantasy Award winning author Ellen Klages. Called “a moving and genuine love story” by The Washington Post, the book takes place in San Francisco in 1940, and revolves around the intersecting lives of six women discovering romance and danger in the boundaries where magic, science, and art intersect. You can read an excerpt over at the Book Smugglers, and if you’re in the Bay Area, Oregon, or Orlando, you’ll have a chance to see Ellen as she celebrates the release of Passing Strange with readings and events this spring!
See a full list of events from January to March below.
Malka Older’s debut novel Infomocracy features a thrilling global election campaign, which makes it the perfect read for this political season! Catch up with Malka on November 12th at 7:00 PM at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, MA, to hear her read from Infomocracy and talk about the parallels between her fiction and our own electoral politics.
Malka Older is a writer, humanitarian worker, and PhD candidate at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations studying governance and disasters. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015, she has more than eight years of experience in humanitarian aid and development, and has responded to complex emergencies and natural disasters in Uganda, Darfur, Indonesia, Japan, and Mali. Infomocracy is her first novel.
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