“We Are Each Other’s Harvest”: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi


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Before Jam was born, the world went to war. Not against each other but against monsters, people who did terrible things to others and those who permitted them to operate. A few people, later called angels, led the revolution and destroyed or locked up the monsters, often having to act monstrously themselves. Now there is peace and happiness.

In the town of Lucille, Jam, a selectively mute transgender Black girl grows up believing everything is perfect. After all, the town slogan is “We are each other’s harvest. We are each other’s business. We are each other’s magnitude and bond,” taken from Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem Paul Robeson. There is no hatred, no bigotry, no abuse. Or so they say. But Lucille isn’t a utopia for everyone. For some it is a monster’s playground, for others their own private hell. The monsters aren’t gone, they just learned to hide.

When Jam accidentally ...

The Worst Is Yet to Come: Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron


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Much to her disappointment, Arrah has no magic. Every year she attends a ritual that should reveal her powers, and every year she leaves as magic-less as she arrived. Her father, Oshe, is a skilled herbalist and potion-maker and her mother, Arti, is the third most powerful person in the kingdom. Her father’s love and her witchdoctor grandmother’s compassion make bearable her mother’s seething disgust at her daughter’s shame, as does the affection shared between her and Rudjek, the son of the king’s right hand also known as her mother’s nemesis.

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Arrah’s world is shattered. Children have been disappearing, and fear and distrust is spreading across the city. The temple priests cannot locate them and the orishas—the gods her people worship—are not responding to prayers. When a friend of Arrah’s is taken, she makes the ultimate sacrifice and trades years of her life to cheat ...

Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: August 2019


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Murderous foxes and swamp monsters, death and destruction, fairytales and future warnings, werewolves and weather dancers and cannibal children. August has brought forth some seriously disconcerting yet absolutely incredible short speculative fiction. Here are ten of some of the best.

 

“Breaking” by Maya Chhabra

In Maya Chhabra’s version of the future, science has “cured” death but not cancer. Those on the brink can have their consciousness backed up so that when they pass their remaining loved ones can still communicate with them. It’s supposed to make the end—no longer called death but the “break”—easier, but for Delhi teenager Sarita it only makes things worse. Chhabra writes simply yet evocatively, making Sarita’s fear and frustration palpable and truthful.

Cast of Wonders – Episode 370, August 18, 2019

 

“Daughters of Silt and Cedar” by Rebecca Mix

A father ties his young daughter to a tree and abandons her to die ...

Hugo Spotlight: The Devastating Alternate History of Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation


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In the lead-up to the 2019 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s novel, young adult, and short fiction Finalists, and what makes each of them great.

2018 was a damn good year for young adult fantasy. Granted, it was also a really bad year for letting Black women authors tell their own stories. Of all the YA fantasy published last year, only four—FOUR!—were by Black women. Lucky for you, three of them, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, are nominated for the Hugo Award’s Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book. The fourth, A Blade So Black, is frakking great and you should go read it right after you finish reading this. Until then, let me squee at you about how much I loved Dread Nation.

Dread Nation is ...

Hugo Spotlight: The Ambitious Risk-taking of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone


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In the lead-up to the 2019 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s novel and short fiction Finalists, and what makes each of them great.

After I finished reading Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone for the first time, I had to stop and release the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. The first book in the Legacy of Orïsha series is an ambitious, audacious young adult fantasy novel. With it’s intense action sequences, lush descriptions, compelling characters, and creative take on Nigerian culture and Yorùbán beliefs, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. Apparently others feel the same since it’s now nominated for a Lodestar Award.

This is no easy-going young adult fantasy with a happily ever after. Terrible things happen from page one, and things only get worse from there. When Zélie was little, her mother was murdered. Not just her mother, hundreds, perhaps ...

Hugo Spotlight: The Subtle Revolution of Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles


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In the lead-up to the 2019 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s novel and short fiction Finalists, and what makes each of them great.

I literally cheered out loud when I heard that Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles was nominated for a Lodestar Award. What can I say about it to explain my excitement? I could tell you that it’s masterfully written, that the dialogue is pitch perfect and the descriptions evocative. Or I could hype up the fascinating characters and the subtle ways Clayton uses them to explore and shatter tropes. Maybe I’ll talk about how Clayton breaks down how Western beauty standards can be used as both a tool and a weapon, depending on who is dictating the standards and whether or not another person can meet them. Eh, I’ll keep it simple and just say “it’s absolutely amazing.”

When we first meet Camellia, ...

Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: July 2019


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I can’t tell you how to while away the long summer days and hot, sweaty nights, but reading some short speculative fiction is an excellent use of your time, if I do say so myself. You could read a story about a faerie market or a murderous enslaved girl or little green aliens or robots or a ton of other intriguing premises. There were a lot of great stories this month, and choosing only ten to feature was quite the challenge. Here are some of the ten best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories I read in July.

 

Advice For Your First Time At the Faerie Market by Nibedita Sen

This whole issue of Fireside was wall-to-wall with fantastic short stories, but this one had to be my favorite. Nibedita Sen writes beautifully and intricately. There are moments when you think she might take the easy way out, ...

Prepare Yourself For Marvel’s Phase Four with These Must-Read Comics


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After that super exciting San Diego Comic-Con Marvel panel—Jane as Thor! Bisexual Valkyrie! Mahershala Ali! Monica Rambeau! Shang-Chi! Lauren Ridloff! Kate Bishop! X-Men!—comics nerds are understandably going through a period of very intense emotions. If you aren’t particularly well versed in Marvel lore or just need to brush up a bit, the following list should help you out. For each forthcoming MCU movie and TV show, here’s are my comics reading recommendations, plus a little background info on characters that non-comics readers may not be aware of. Don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to catch up!

 

Black Widow (May 2, 2020)

What we know: Movie starring O-T Fagbenle (Mason), David Harbour (Red Guardian), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Florence Pugh (Yelena), and Rachel Weisz (Melina). Directed by Cate Shortland.

Where to start: A lot of people have a lot of opinions about the MCU’s Black Widow, ...

War, Betrayal, and Dark Secrets in This Summer’s Upcoming Young Adult Speculative Fiction


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With the MASSIVE amount of amazing YA science fiction, fantasy, and horror dropping in July, August, and September, I might as well give up on trying to get my TBR queue under control. We’ve got sequels and anthologies, epic journeys and small town horrors, and all kinds of goodies to while away the hot summer nights and long sunny days.

 

July

Destroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller

In this fantasy-adjacent novel, two sixteen year olds deal can’t remember what caused one of them to fall out of a treehouse a few years before but both deal with the aftermath of that trauma in very different ways. Ash is battered by depression while Solomon spends more and more time lost in a fantasy land in his mind where monsters and humans are at war. In the real world, Ash investigates some acts of vandalism she believes are instigated by ...

The Toll by Cherie Priest Is the Southern Gothic Horror Novel of the Summer


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Like so many other small manufacturing cities across the country, Staywater, Georgia, began its slide into irrelevance in the mid-20th century and never recovered. But being overlooked works just fine for the residents, both the living and the dead. Vintage mannequins swap clothing when no one’s looking. Dolls locked in an abandoned house chatter to themselves. A long-dead townie hangs out at the local bar every night. Two old cousins, Daisy and Claire, guard their young charge, Cameron, with spells and wards. And out in the nearby Okefenokee Swamp, a monster lurks.

Titus and Melanie don’t know any of this when they make the mistake of driving through the swamp on the way to their honeymoon. After driving across a bridge that shouldn’t be there, Titus wakes up lying on the ground. Melanie has vanished. As Titus’ search for his missing bride intensifies, Dave, a bartender who also woke up ...

On the Road Again: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig


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One morning, a teenage girl named Nessie leaves her house and walks. She doesn’t know where she’s going. She doesn’t know anything. Nessie is the first walker, but others soon join her. As Nessie’s sister Shana and their father tag along to protect their walker, a community of people calling themselves shepherds form around them. They watch over the flock of walkers and protect them from those who would do them harm. Over time other, stragglers attach themselves to the ever-growing group of pilgrims. A washed up rock star uses the herd to get attention and stroke his ego and an ex-cop with severe head trauma finds relief from her chronic pain. CDC scientists Arav and Cassie follow the herd as they desperately seek a cure.

Looming over everything is Black Swan, an artificial intelligence device used to detect and predict outbreaks of disease. It brings in Sadie, its handler, ...

Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: June 2019


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Summer is officially upon us, and with it comes a whole new set of amazing short speculative fiction stories. There’s a little something for everyone in June, from a horror-filled family beach vacation to a sinister fairy tale to the perils of Martian exploration to marine biology in the age of climate change, and everything in between. Here are some of the ten best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories I read in June.

 

Beach People by Joanna Parypinski

At first glance, the premise of Beach People feels reminiscent of the horror movie Us — a family returns to their beachside cabin and encounters horrible things — but it soon takes on a horrible life of its own. Camilla’s parents are trying to repair their fractured family after the tragic death of their son. But something awful is watching them, haunting them, stalking them, infiltrating them. Joanna Parypinski ...

Love, Hate, and Everything Between: Wicked Fox by Kat Cho


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Young adult urban fantasy gets a jolt of diversity with Wicked Fox by Kat Cho. In this K-drama inspired tale, two teens fight against a host of magical odds, a task made more difficult as they develop feelings for each other. People they trust betray them, and their enemies might not be opponents after all—nothing ends up being as straightforward as they initially thought. Action? Check! Mystery? Check! Romance? Triple check!

Gu Miyoung has just moved to Seoul after many years away. New school, new students, new house, same old life. After the hell of her last school, all she wants to do is slide through her last two years of high school without making any waves. Unluckily for Miyoung, her plan is ruined before it even starts when a boy named Ahn Jihoon catches her becoming a gumiho (nine-tailed fox) and killing a dokkaebi (goblin) in the woods. Worse, ...

Celebrating 10 Great Parents from Young Adult SFF


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Every so often someone laments the lack of good parents in young adult fantasy and science fiction. This is usually followed up with the claim that good parents make for poor YA fiction because good parents don’t let their kids go off on dangerous adventures to save the world. To which I usually reply that they clearly don’t read enough YA SFF. Parents—yes, even the good ones—have a long history of involvement in young adult science fiction and fantasy, a trend that has actually been increasing in recent years.

In that vein, here are ten YA SFF novels where the parents are very much alive, are good people, and in some cases who even join the teen protagonist on their quest. There are, of course, a zillion more, so please add your recs in the comments!

 

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

In all of Heidi Heilig’s books, ...

Not All Heroes Wear Capes: C. B. Lee’s Sidekick Squad Series


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Welcome to the Sidekick Squad series by C. B. Lee, a fun, feisty trio of young adult science fiction novels about queer teen superheroes leading the resistance against a corrupt regime. In a future version of our world, where the earth was wracked by climate change, war, and natural disasters, Not Your Sidekick opens with everyone thinking everything is fine. The North American Collective controls what was the United States, Canada, and Mexico and caped crusaders and supervillains punch each other in nationally televised battles. Sure, sometimes information disappears and pre-Collective media is illegal, but the government has its people’s best interests in mind…right? When Jess, the superpower-less daughter of two superheroes, takes an internship at a tech company she discovers some dark secrets about what her government is really up to. Meta-humans are going missing and the Collective’s most famous hero is behind it.

The second book, Not Your ...

Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: May 2019


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May brought some truly great speculative short fiction. Stories about feminism, anti-colonialism, and environmental crisis, about people trying to be someone else, someone better, or just themselves. Of the dozens of stories I inhaled this past month, here are ten of the best.

 

Breath, Weeping Wind, Death by Emily McCosh

After waiting for an old woman to breath her last, Death takes a break on a rooftop terrace. There Death is visited by a little girl, the granddaughter of the now-dead old woman, who shares an honest conversation and some cookies. At once sad and sweet, this story of death and Death will tug at your heartstrings.

Galaxy’s Edge — Issue 38, May 2019

 

The Doing and Undoing of Jacob E. Mwangi by E. Lily Yu

In a near future Kenya, society is split into the Doers and the Don’ts. Doers work, create, and learn while Don’ts live ...

Heart on Fire: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad


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Fourteen years ago, a heartbroken Ifrit (djinn drawn to order) found a dying girl in the desert and saved the child’s life by surrendering hers. Eight years ago a gang of Shayateen (djinn draw to chaos) attacked the city of Noor and slaughtered thousands, all but two young girls and an old woman. Today, Noor is thriving once more, thanks in no small part to an alliance made between humans and Ifrit, but its future is uncertain. Citizens are being attacked by Shayateen and ghuls (undead monsters) and a rebellion is forming in the rest of the kingdom of Qirat.

In the middle of all this is Fatima, one of the three survivors. After witnessing a terrible, tragic death, she finds herself a human teenager with dangerous Ifrit powers. An Ifrit emissary pulls her into the intrigue at the maharajah’s court and soon she is the only thing standing in ...

Longing and Loneliness in Amy Rose Capetta’s The Lost Coast


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In the small town of Tempest, California, deadly secrets lurk in the shade of the towering redwood trees. When one of the five queer teen witches collectively known as the Grays disappears, the remaining four cast every spell in their repertoire to try and get her back. After each one fails, they turn to their fallback plan: cast a summoning spell for a witch with the right kind of magic to find Imogen.

Not long after, Danny and her mother arrive from Michigan. Danny has been searching for something—sex, girls, herself, something else undefinable and elusive—and finds the Grays. She is exactly what they need, even if she doesn’t know why or how. Slowly Danny eases her way into the Grays, discovering new friends and a growing attraction in the mini-coven. When two young men are murdered by magic deep in the forest, Danny realizes she’s the key to solving ...

American Gods Season 2 Review


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Look, I didn’t love the second season of American Gods. I’m not even sure I liked it all that much. I definitely didn’t actively dislike it, although that’s not saying very much. The first three episodes of the second season were mostly disappointing, and the rest of the season is, with a few big exceptions, more of the same. Although there was much to enjoy—I want a whole webseries set at Al Grimnir’s Regius Theater—the overall experience was mediocre at best, and downright aggravating at worst.

Spoilers ahoy.

What American Gods does well is tell stories about stories. Quoth Mr. Ibis, “Stories are truer than the truth,” and that might as well be the show’s tagline. No “coming to America” opening tales this season means that all the stories-about-stories have to be inserted directly into the main narrative. With Wednesday, we have learned to expect a thick layer of lies ...

Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: April 2019


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It took me a long time to come around to short fiction. For years I insisted I didn’t like it. Why read a short story when I could read a whole novel? What was the point of getting just a tiny taste of a world when I could sink into something long and sprawling? I could tolerate a collection of short stories by a single author who I already loved, but reading a bunch of short stories by people I’d never heard of? No, thank you.

What finally changed my mind were novellas and novelettes, especially those from Tor.com Publishing. Lengthwise, they worked as a good stepping stone between novels and short stories. More importantly, what with the incredible diversity (in characters, authors, and editors) and the fascinating stories, there was no way that I, a huge fantasy and science fiction fan, couldn’t not want to read them. And ...