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S.L. Huang

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Reading Around the World: Five Books from Five Different Continents

A few years ago, I read Kalpa Imperial and The Three Body Problem in quick succession, and I said to myself, I have GOT to make my SFF reading more global! And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from living overseas, it’s that the world is a bigger, deeper place with more richness in so many more ways than I ever could have imagined.

Like many readers, I try to seek out authors from all different perspectives and walks of life. It makes my reading experience that much broader and fuller and more enjoyable—and also, I think, helps me understand more of the world and thus become a more empathetic human. As geographic diversity in particular has become an important piece of that awareness, I’ve also become especially interested in reading more work in translation, and I want to give a shoutout to Rachel Cordasco’s website SF In Translation for the great reviews and recommendations. If you’re interested in spreading out your reading, that’s a good place to start. Here’s hoping we can increase the market for authors in all places, both Anglophone and non-Anglophone, and get more books to read from everywhere!

Now, to tempt you, here are five knockout reads from five different continents.

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Series: Five Books About…

In Defense of Power Fantasies

Most of the time, I hear the term “power fantasy” used as a criticism.

“That book is such a white boy power fantasy.”

“It’s just the author’s power fantasy.”

“This series is a gross nerd power fantasy with awful female characters.”

Let’s linger on that last one for a moment, and consider that we don’t usually consider a “nerd power fantasy” something that would star a woman as the main protagonist, the geek who gets her due. Instead, the criticism of something as a nerd power fantasy often grows out of the female characters being sidelined or seconded in favor of a less-competent dude (see: Ant-Man, Kick-Ass, The Matrix, and so many more).

[As someone who grew up nerd, I understand the geek desire for power fantasies.]

Writing Women With Sharp Edges

When I’m building female characters, one of my aims is to make them anti-Smurfettes.

The “Smurfette Principle,” for those who haven’t heard of it, is the trope in which an ensemble cast has a bunch of dude characters who are all differentiated by salient qualities—the Smart Nerd One, the Rough Army Veteran, the Handsome Smooth-Talker, the Thief, and so on. Then the ensemble will include one woman, but her defining quality will be her femaleness. She is The Girl.

A huge part of the problem with Smurfettes is, of course, the paucity of female characters itself. But hand-in-hand with this, I think when a demographic is not well-represented, creators strive to make the character inoffensive. “We can’t do that with our female character, because what are we saying about women?!” Nothing, of course, if there are enough other women in the cast! If the Smart Nerd One and the Rough Army Veteran are women too, it relieves the pressure on The Girl to be a “strong female character” who is competent in all ways but never extreme enough to raise an eyebrow. The common wisdom nowadays is to counter this problem by pushing for more women, all types of women, which I fully agree with—but I want to go a step further.

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Zero Sum Game

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

S.L. Huang’s Zero Sum Game is available October 2nd from Tor Books. Read the first 3 chapters below!

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