Hank Green: ‘I used all my power to make YouTube powerful, good and strong’

The brother of author John Green reveals the pressure he felt writing his first novel, and reflects on the what has become of the video platform that made their names

A few weeks ago, billboards began sprouting up around Orlando, Florida, with advertisements for Hank Green’s first novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. On the face of it, this was not such a remarkable thing. After all, Green is a local boy and, being one half of popular YouTube channel Vlogbrothers (3.1 million subscribers, 711m views), it could be expected that his publishers might shell out for marketing. Except this was all paid for by his own brother: young adult novelist (and the other Vlogbrother) John Green – and just one part of John’s larger effort to promote Hank’s debut across the globe. (Among others, a professional women’s Frisbee team in Texas, AFC Wimbledon, the Netherlands’ national quidditch team and ...

Notes from the Fog by Ben Marcus review – brilliantly bleak short stories

Laughter echoes through medical and corporate dystopias as well as suburban living rooms in this impressive American collection

“As you live your life,” remarks one narrator in Ben Marcus’s brutal and brilliant story collection, “you will, on occasion, be cut open and explored. It is what life is, part of the routine.” Elsewhere, a woman, Ida, visits her father in his care home and tells him that his ex-wife is ill. “Illness is the only category,” he says, and later, wandering the halls, Ida confronts the stark truth of that statement: “She saw people in beds all alone, connected to bags, mouths agape, struggling to breathe. She saw men in ill-fitting gowns, sprawled on the floor. Women with no hair, sobbing in their chairs.” Reading this, you won’t be surprised by Marcus’s own description of his stories, given at a recent event in London: “Some are grave and ...

Rosewater by Tade Thompson review – a stellar SF debut

This expertly judged cyberpunk-biopunk-Afropunk thriller is set in Nigeria in the aftermath of an alien invasion

Tade Thompson’s debut novel, published in the US in 2016, is brilliant science fiction, at the cutting edge of contemporary genre.

The setting is Africa, 2066, in the aftermath of a global alien visitation that has swallowed the whole of London and rendered America “dark”. The aliens – whatever they are – don’t really interact with humanity, although they have released microscopic fungal spores into the air to create a “xenosphere”, a shared telepathic space accessible by a select group of human psychics called “sensitives”.

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The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas review – a dazzling genre-defying debut

Era-hopping sex, trauma and therapy … four scientists make a world-changing discovery in a novel that breaks the rules of detective fiction, space and time

A door bolted from the inside, blood, bullets and and unidentifiable corpse. These are the classic ingredients of the locked-room mystery, but when Kate Mascarenhas deploys them in her genre-defying debut, she doesn’t play by the rules of detective fiction, or even the rules of space and time. As the novel opens, we learn that time travel was invented in 1967 by a four-strong group known as the Pioneers. There’s aristocratic cosmologist Margaret; Lucille, who has “come from the Toxteth slums to make radio waves travel faster than light”; enigmatic Grace, “an expert in the behaviour of matter”; and Barbara, a specialist in nuclear fission.

Their discovery is, of course, world-changing, but only some of them will get to share in it. Time travel throws ...

The best recent science fiction novels – review roundup

Salvation by Peter F Hamilton; Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce; Space Opera by Catherynne M Valente; Early Riser by Jasper Fforde; and Supercute Futures by Martin Millar

It’s not hard to work out why Peter F Hamilton’s books are bestsellers: he writes long, complex, absorbing novels crammed with cutting-edge ideas and multiple storylines and utilises a number of popular sub-genres to great effect. What we have in Salvation (Macmillan, £20), the first in a new series, is an investigation into a crashed alien starship, corporate and political intrigue, espionage, murder mystery and a far-future war story. When the ship is discovered at the edge of human space, the authorities send an undercover team to investigate the vessel and its mysterious contents. What follows is the revelation of what they find, the complicated backstories of the principal investigators and their tangled personal and political motivations, and a superbly atmospheric series of ...

Is the future female? Fixing sci-fi’s women problem

When sci-fi fan Molly Flatt was asked to write a story about women in the future, she re-examined her relationship with the male-dominated genre – and why she remained immune to ‘the Scully effect’

Recently, I was asked if I could write a short story for a science fiction collection about “women inventing the future”. Could I write it in four weeks? I considered it. I have three day jobs, a two-year-old and was then knee deep in promotion for my debut novel. Out of those four weeks, I figured I’d have three days to write the thing – if granny could step up. “No problem,” I said breezily, and hung up. Then I panicked.

What on earth did “women inventing the future” mean? Was I supposed to write some sort of feminist space opera, full of menstruating aliens? A utopian version of the singularity, with robots who liked to ...

Hugo awards: women clean up as NK Jemisin wins best novel again

Jemisin’s third win in as many years signals an end to the influence of the rightwing ‘Puppies’ groups, with female authors winning all major categories at sci-fi awards

Author NK Jemisin has scooped her third Hugo award for best science-fiction novel and, in doing so, has become the standard-bearer for a sea change in the genre’s diversity, as women – especially women of colour – swept the boards at last night’s ceremony.

Taking the stage to accept her third win in three years for her novel The Stone Sky, Jemisin told the audience at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California, on Sunday that “this has been a hard year … a hard few years, a hard century,” adding: “For some of us, things have always been hard, and I wrote the Broken Earth trilogy to speak to that struggle, and what it takes to live, let ...

The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett; Tommy Catkins by Stephen Palmer; Sam Hawke’s City of Lies; One Way by SJ Morden; and Candas Jane Dorsey’s Ice and Other Stories

After recent forays into science fiction and magic realism, Robert Jackson Bennett tackles epic fantasy in Foundryside (Jo Fletcher, £14.99). The ancient city-state of Tevanne is ruled by four merchant houses who have mastery of a powerful form of magic known as scriving: the ability to effect change through the control and manipulation of objects. Sancia Grado, a young girl scraping a precarious living in the teeming city, has a special ability that is both an asset and a curse: when she touches an object, she instantly comprehends its fundamental nature and recalls its history. She has to keep her body covered at all times to protect herself from sensory overload, but her ability helps in her profession as a thief; when ...

Arthur C Clarke award goes to ‘classic’ novel exploring the limits of pregnancy

Anne Charnock’s novel Dreams Before the Start of Time, which focuses on changing reproductive science, hailed as ‘rich but unshowy’ by judges

A novel set in a world where infertility has been eradicated and artificial wombs have become the preferred method of gestation has won this year’s Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction.

Beginning in London in 2034, Anne Charnock’s Dreams Before the Start of Time examines the reproductive decisions of several characters in the same group of families, over multiple generations. Two friends, Millie and Toni, bear children who will in turn experience very different methods of birth over the following decades – in one case, adopting an orphan who was left to gestate in an artificial womb; in another, a man who creates a daughter using only his DNA.

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The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup

The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri; 2001: An Odyssey in Words edited by Ian Whates and Tom Hunter; Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi; The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer and One of Us by Craig DiLouie

Francesco Dimitri’s The Book of Hidden Things (Titan, £8.99) rapidly draws the reader into the story of four childhood friends, now in their 30s. Every year for almost two decades they have met up in their hometown, the small Italian village of Casalfranco. When Arturo, at whose insistence this pact was formed, fails to show up, the three concerned friends investigate and discover that he’s been leading a secret life: not only has he been growing marijuana on a large scale, but he has supposedly cured a young girl of leukaemia. They also learn that he’s written a manuscript entitled The Book of Hidden Things, which suggests that he has access ...

Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison dies aged 84

Prolific writer and critic, whose credits include a Star Trek episode and the short story A Boy and His Dog, died in his sleep

The award-winning writer Harlan Ellison has died at the age of 84.

In his career, Ellison wrote over 1,800 short stories, screenplays, novellas, essays, critiques and teleplays, winning eight Hugo awards. His wife Susan confirmed the news via her friend Christina Valada on Twitter.

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Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison dies aged 84

Prolific writer and critic, whose credits include a Star Trek episode and the short story A Boy and His Dog, died in his sleep

The award-winning writer Harlan Ellison has died at the age of 84.

In his career, Ellison wrote over 1,800 short stories, screenplays, novellas, essays, critiques and teleplays, winning eight Hugo awards. His wife Susan confirmed the news via her friend Christina Valada on Twitter.

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The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada review – an eco-terror mini epic

The old live longer while the young die off in this sprightly Japanese satire

The high concept of Yoko Tawada’s surprising new novel, translated by Margaret Mitsutani, is that old people are living longer than ever, but children are dying before adulthood. It’s hinted that this may be due to some environmental collapse, which has isolated Japan from the rest of the world. The main thread follows four generations of a family struggling with what this means for their youngest member, Mumei.

In 144 pages we get a mini-epic of eco-terror, family drama and speculative fiction. “We must save Tokyo even if it means sacrificing all the outlying prefectures!” But this is no dystopian novel like The Children of Men. Tawada’s interest is satirical as much as tragic, with public holidays chosen by popular vote (Labour Day becomes Being Alive Is Enough Day) and a privatised police force whose ...

The future’s female? 2000AD’s all-women special

A new sci-fi edition has been written and drawn entirely by women, which the comic hopes will put an end to its boy’s club reputation

It’s one of the UK’s most venerable comic weeklies, but is 2000AD, home of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Robo-Hunter, still seen as a bit of a boy’s thing? More than 40 years after it first hit the newsstands, that image might be set to change, with a new issue created entirely by female writers, artists, colourists and letterers.

The 2000AD sci-fi special includes Batgirl artist Babs Tarr illustrating a Judge Dredd story, graphic novelist Tillie Walden writing and drawing one of the comic’s famous Future Shock shorts, and Irish novelist and playwright Maura McHugh penning a story about Judge Anderson, Dredd’s telepath colleague.

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Does Elon Musk really understand Iain M Banks’s ‘utopian anarchist’ Culture?

The tech entrepreneur has endorsed a vision of monolithic totalitarianism overseen by machiavellian machines – and one that is neither entirely utopian or anarchist

So, Elon Musk has claimed he is a “utopian anarchist” in a way he claims is best described by the late science fiction author Iain M Banks. Which leads to one very relevant question: has Musk actually read any of Banks’s books? In a series of novels, the Scottish author explored “the Culture”: a post-scarcity, hedonistic society where you could create your own drugs in your own body, change gender at will and where freedom was the highest and noblest sign of a civilisation.

Related: 30 years of Culture: what are the top five Iain M Banks novels?

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The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup

The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn, The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, Pandemic by AG Riddle, The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey, Awakened by James S Murray and Darren Wearmouth

Kaethe Schwehn’s gripping first novel The Rending and the Nest (Bloomsbury, £18.99) is an addition to the overflowing post-apocalyptic subgenre. In the aftermath of the Rending, which caused 95% of Earth’s population, animals and food inexplicably to disappear, a remnant of humanity scratches a living in scattered enclaves. Seventeen-year-old Mira lives with a disparate group of survivors in a midwestern settlement called Zion, where the sky is continuously grey and the temperature a cool 55F, strange new plants provide fruit for sustenance, and humans scavenge through the Piles – mysterious drifts of debris left over from the Rending. Mira is a complex, well-drawn character, by turns vulnerable and adolescent, then tough and resourceful, as everything she ...

I Still Dream by James Smythe review – the catastrophic rise of AI

Sophisticated artificial intelligence and societal meltdown are vividly imagined in this cinematic disaster novel

The central character in I Still Dream is a Cassandra figure called Laura Bow, a tech consultant whose ambivalence towards SCION, an artificial intelligence developed by her father’s company, pits her against her employers. Her story is told across a 50‑year timeline extending into the future and beginning in 1997, when she is a precocious 17-year-old coder. She has just made her own AI, which she names Organon after a Kate Bush song lyric. Organon becomes increasingly sophisticated as the novel progresses, combining the roles of personal assistant, companion and confidant: it picks a playlist for her when she’s running, and prevents her from sending rash messages while drunk; when Laura’s mother dies, it tries to console her by conversing with her in a simulation of her voice.

The doomsday scenario here is more prosaic than The ...

Ursula K Le Guin film reveals her struggle to write women into fantasy

New documentary shows author confiding that she once struggled to picture ‘a woman wizard’ and that ‘the Earthsea books as feminist literature are a total complete bust’

A new documentary about Ursula K Le Guin shows the late author reflecting on the impact of feminism on her work, revealing that she had been “a woman pretending to think like a man” and that her much-loved Earthsea books “are a total complete bust” as feminist literature.

Le Guin’s first three books about Earthsea centre on the male wizard Ged, with women “either marginal or essentially dependent on men”, according to the author herself. In director Arwen Curry’s forthcoming Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin, which Curry worked on with Le Guin for 10 years, the novelist speaks of how when she started writing, “men were at the centre” of fantasy and admits that “from my own cultural upbringing, I couldn’t go ...

New Doctor Who regenerated in fiction by Juno Dawson and Naomi Alderman

The 13th Doctor, as played on BBC One by Jodie Whittaker, will also feature in a novel and a short story by the two acclaimed authors

The award-winning authors Naomi Alderman and Juno Dawson are stepping into the Tardis, writing fiction featuring Jodie Whittaker as the 13th incarnation of Doctor Who.

Whittaker’s first series starring as the 13th Doctor will launch on BBC One this autumn. Alderman, who won the Baileys prize for her dystopian novel The Power, is writing a new short story featuring Whittaker’s Doctor “battling to save the universe alongside her close and trusted friends”. It will be included in the collection Thirteen Doctors, 13 Stories, due out in November.

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