Tor.com content by

Sarah Gailey

Fiction and Excerpts [2]
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The Hubris of Icarus: Women Who Fly Into the Sun

Crete is not an island.

Crete is a fleet in space, under attack, housing the last of an under-equipped race of people, all of whom are desperate to survive, all of whom depend on the ability of an exhausted group of pilots to defend them from the vacuum of space and the predators that live there.

Crete is a heavily armed underground bunker in a district that has been erased from textbooks and maps and oral history and a people’s understanding of their nation’s geography.

Crete is a damaged shuttle, aswim with radiation, a fragile little poison pill attempting to re-enter an atmosphere that will destroy it.

Crete is not an island. Crete is a prison.

And Icarus knows someone who can help him escape.

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Taste of Marrow

A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the dam that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway.

Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: “And not a soul escaped alive.”

In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they’ve become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

Sarah Gailey’s hippo mayhem continues in Taste of Marrow, the sequel to rollicking adventure River of Teeth. Available September 12th from Tor.com Publishing.

[Read an Excerpt]

Get Caught in Hippo Mayhem with River of Teeth Chapters 1-3

Note: TODAY ONLY (Aug 8) the ebook of River of Teeth is on sale for .99 at your preferred retailer!

Imagine an American frontier infested with feral hippos. Sound outlandish? It’s not: the U.S. government once considered hippos for meat production. Only Sarah Gailey could bring this alternate history of America to life with such humor, depth, and vibrant detail in River of Teeth, her fantastic fiction debut about the hard-living, knife-wielding mercenary cowboys tasked with taking back the Mississippi from the bloodthirsty ferals who have claimed it.

This is the fun, fast-paced alternate vision of America you never knew you needed, packed with a diverse cast, romance, betrayal, and of course, man-eating hippo mayhem. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge. Available now, River of Teeth is the first in a duology from Tor.com publishing—its sequel, Taste of Marrow, publishes September 12th.

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River Song in Hades

Kidnapped.

Searched for, endlessly, tirelessly, by a mother who wants to love and protect her from what she is, and what others would use her for.

A change of name. A change of identity, from child to threat. Shaped by forces vaster than anyone’s understanding, into something new and different and wonderful and terrible.

Married to a man who might be a monster, but who is always the hero of his own story. Guided to him over and over by a fate she’s stopped resisting.

Escape, but not really. Life as a prisoner, but not really that, either. Life marked by a connection she didn’t choose—a connection that chose her.

A connection she can’t escape.

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Meet the Hippos From Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth

Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth features a diverse cast of memorable characters: Winslow Remington Houndstooth, leader of the gang tasked with clearing the Mississippi of feral hippos; Regina “Archie” Archaumbault, charming con artist; Hero Shackleby, the quietly deadly poisons expert brought out of retirement for one last job; and Adelia Reyes, assassin extraordinaire. (And then there’s Cal. That’s really all we need to say about Cal.)

But none of these mercenaries would be quite as bad-ass without their trusty hippo steeds.

So we want to introduce you to the hippos at the heart of Sarah’s alternate history adventure, and asked Sarah herself to provide the stats on each–from size to breed to quirky traits and middle names–to accompany these original illustrations by Gregory Manchess!

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The Art of Asterculture

Star-wine is very difficult to make. It’s a complex and sometimes dangerous process. But one must have a hobby, and this is mine. Here’s how it’s done.

First, I harvest the stars. People think that you’re only supposed to harvest the ripest stars—the ones that are near to bursting out of their skins, hanging loose off their nebulae—but actually, those stars only make up about half of the crush. I also grab a few unripe ones, the ones that are still cool enough to grab with bare fingers. They warm up when they’re in the basket alongside the fully-ripe stars, but not all the way, and their slight bitterness adds complexity to the press that you can’t get from just aging. To get a really good sense of terroir, I also let a few comets and loose moons drop in with the crush. People won’t tell you to do this, because they want you to think you’re just drinking stars, but honestly… the wine that comes from people who think like that is crap. It’s three-dollar-a-bottle crap and I don’t think you should drink it. That’s my opinion.

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Facing Facts: American Identity is Based on Alternate History

I have never read, nor will I ever write, an alternate history as creative and thoroughly wrought as the one I read in high school. Alternate history requires the author to change a few fundamental facts about the history of the world we live in. These alterations usually take the form of “what if the Confederacy won?” or “what if the Nazis won?” or “what if the Industrial Revolution relied on steam?” But the alternate history book I read in high school had a premise deeper than these ones—something slightly less reductive, more far-reaching. Something that didn’t boil history down to a single pivotal event, but that instead boiled it down to a feeling, to an idea.

I studied this particular book for a full year—in a display of singular dedication to an idea, the teacher designed her entire district-approved curriculum around it. The premise of this particular alternate history was “what if everything was fine?”

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Mean Hippos, Fjords, and Fiddly Bits: Making the Map for River of Teeth

About a year ago, I attended a panel on worldbuilding in young adult literature. All of the authors on the panel were young, brilliant, dynamic women. They wore flower crowns and they talked about mapmaking and spreadsheets. They were impressive as all get-out. I have never felt more intensely envious in my life.

I was jealous of their flower crowns, of course. I was also jealous of the easy way they talked about going in-depth on planning color schemes for each chapter they wrote, and the Pinterest boards they referenced for their character aesthetics. I was jealous of the way their worldbuilding all seemed to start from the ground up, because that seemed to me to be a whole other level of professional-writer-ness. My worldbuilding has always leached out from my character development—I write how a character moves, and their movement defines the world they live in. The women on this panel were talking about writing thousands of words about the world their characters inhabited, all before they put a single line of dialogue on a page. They were clearly worldbuilding masters. I was in awe.

It only took seven words for my awe to become fear. One of the writers leaned forward and grabbed her mic. She looked down along the table, her flower crown tipped at a jaunty, devil-may-care angle. Her lips brushed the mic, and her voice was a little distorted by her enthusiasm, and she said “Okay, but can we talk about maps?”

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Storytelling Through Costume: The Woman in White

You do not see the woman in white head-on.

Not at first. She is not looking at you. She is looking at something else, someone more important. She has a purpose. She has a vision. You are not worthy.

When she does look at you, she does not smile. You feel even less worthy, unworthy even to touch the hem of her robe. Or is it a cloak? Or a gown? It doesn’t matter. It’s too good for you.

She is too good for you.

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Storytelling Through Costume: The Badass Black Tank Top Walks the Line

She can accurately fire a pistol over her shoulder while riding a motorcycle between two semi-trucks full of spy robots.

No problem.

She can fling a knife across a room and knock the earring off the Big Boss of the major corporation that has been secretly ordering the assassinations of international political figures.

Piece of cake.

She can wield a flamethrower the size of a Prius while biting out the word “fuck” and lighting a cigar, her boot firmly planted on the jugular of the man she just finished beating up for calling her a girl.

Easy.

[But what to wear?]

A Well-Worn Story: Examining Iconic SFF Costumes

What is the significance of the red dress?

You know the dress I’m talking about. The dress. The red one. The woman wore it, the woman who you weren’t sure if you should trust or not, the woman who had everyone’s eyes on her. The red dress that was cut—well, you remember how it was cut.

[Every piece of a character’s costume is a word in a conversation between the creator and the audience…]

Women of Harry Potter: Luna Lovegood’s Relentless Optimism

Cynicism is tempting. It hovers constantly at the edge of every hopeful moment, whispering “it will never happen.” It looks intelligent. It looks wry and elegant and worldly.

And it has never managed to ensnare Luna Lovegood.

Luna has spent years being told to give up. She has spent years being told that if she doesn’t give up, she’ll be left alone, barefoot and reviled. She has spent years among the Ravenclaws, being treated as stupid because she will not bend to cynicism.

She is precisely what the rebellion needs.

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Women of Harry Potter: Evil in Authority

Who is the villain?

Is the villain the leader who starts the movement? The demagogue who decides to rally the tiny cruelties that live within the hearts of people who think of themselves as good? Is it the person who blows on the embers of hatred until they finally catch and erupt into an all-consuming flame?

Or is it the person who finds themself in a position of power, and chooses not to put the fire out? Is the villain the person who chooses to sit before that fire, warming their hands?

[Dolores Umbridge has surely never thought of herself as evil…]