Sam Powell

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Meet the Authors of Summer’s Biggest Sci-Fi and Fantasy Adventures

And the prose is just gorgeous.GR: For someone who hasn’t read speculative fiction in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? To name a few: Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Klune, Becky Chambers, and more!Be sure to add the books that   pique your interest to your   Want to Read shelf! Jemisin, Jacqueline Carey, Martha Wells, Kate Elliott, and Aliette de Bodard are all writers I hugely admire.GR:   What are some new fantasy books you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends?TS:   So many, but I’ve been particularly enjoying A Master of Djinn by P. The first book is amazing and will convince you to read the rest. At the core, I think, The All-Consuming World   is a meditation on the things that we do in abusive situations, how we handle them, how we adapt when we’re made to feel like such abuse is normal. I’ve never read anything from her that didn’t blow me away. Djèlí Clark, which is a murder mystery set in an alternative history Egypt, and The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid, a darkly folkloric Jewish fantasy. Against the backdrop of a near-utopian world, they are seeking the answer to the question of what humans still need.GR: What sparked the idea for this book?BC:   It’s a big hodgepodge of pet interests and inspirations thrown in a blender. My standalone novella To Be Taught, If Fortunate would fit the bill here. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, and on the sci-fi end, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Same with C.S. I am very much behind the times.GR: For someone who hasn’t read speculative fiction in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? But many people love a good, heartwarming story of found family and overcoming injustice, so I would probably recommend The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Portals connecting one part of a world to another. Deeply magical in the best way.GR:   What’s one fantasy world, object, or invention that you wish were real?TS:   Mirrors that act as portals to other places. Becky Chambers’   A Psalm for the Wild-Built   will be available on July 13   in the U.S. TJK:   Either
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
by Alix E. With the first three I think it is their interest in society and culture, blending the sociological with the personal. But, OK, here’s the one:  
A Memory Called Empire
  by Arkady Martine. Almost everyone I know has loved those two books, no matter what their usual reading preference.GR:   What’s one sci-fi or fantasy world, object, or invention that you wish were real?MB:   There’s little I like better than a good portal fantasy, and I’ve always dreamed of finding my own portal to elsewhere. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, and Octavia E. Lee Smith goes hard where few others dare to tread. GR: For someone who hasn’t read speculative fiction in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? Klune. Le Guin, Tamora Pierce, and Diana Wynne Jones. I loved Lee Mandelo’s creepy, visceral exploration of loss and Southern masculinity in Summer Sons. But I love the idea of a bad monk: someone who can’t—or doesn’t want to—overcome their ambition, their desire, their attachment to the world. In fact, it was pitched to the publisher as a “comedy about grief.” This can be a very tricky line to walk, as everyone experiences grief differently.   TJK:    I had the honor of reading an early copy of
Light from Uncommon Stars
by Ryka Aoki.   BC:    I’m going to be brutally honest here: My past year and a half has been a gauntlet of deadlines, and the pandemic really ate up my mental bandwidth. On the face of it, it seems absurd. Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Nnedi Okorafor, Samuel Delany, Charles Yu, and Brian Evenson.GR: What are some new sci-fi and fantasy books you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? I also recently discovered Octavia E. Start with those, and realize there’s more to SFF than spaceships and secondary world epic fantasies. Yap is a brilliant writer, and this story collection highlights why everyone should be reading her work. It’s short, it’s not part of a bigger series, and it was very much written to be user-friendly for people who don’t read sci-fi or aren’t well-versed in STEM fields.GR:   What’s one sci-fi world, object, or invention that you wish were real?BC:   Replicators. It’s a wonderfully powerful book with exquisite prose, an abundance of queerness, and so many doughnuts. Aoki is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and I can’t wait for everyone to read her book.GR: For someone who hasn’t read speculative fiction in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? Shelley Parker-Chan, author of She Who Became the Sun 55077538
Goodreads: Summarize your new book in a couple of sentences.Shelley Parker-Chan:   She Who Became the Sun is a queer reimagining of the rise of Zhu Yuanzhang, the 14th-century monk turned rebel who expelled the Mongol conquerors of China and became the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it is worth putting at the top of your reading list. Or Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series.GR:   What’s one sci-fi world, object, or invention that you wish were real?CK:   Talking AIs, even if that’d result in us all being enslaved or summarily set on fire. CK:   Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, maybe. BC:   I am cringing about how shameless this plug is about to be, but wanting to provide people with a nice, accessible entry point to science fiction is a huge part of why I do what I do! But I did my very best. Klune’s   Under the Whispering Door   will be   available September 7 in the U.S. I recommend  
The Broken Earth Trilogy
  all the time for people wanting to get back into speculative fiction. NV: Likely T. Jemisin, Seanan McGuire.GR: What are some new fantasy books you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? Older favorites are Ursula K. Cassandra Khaw’s   The All-Consuming World   will be available on September 7 in the U.S. Pollan calls the folk hero an “American Dionysus”—and as soon as I heard that, I thought: Wouldn’t it be fun to recast Johnny Appleseed as a literal Dionysian figure, an even more wild character than the one from the folktale I grew up with? Kingfisher’s A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking.   Becky Chambers, author of A Psalm for the Wild-Built 55077657
Goodreads: Summarize your debut novel in a couple of sentences.Becky Chambers:   A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a solarpunk science fantasy about a traveling monk and a nature-loving robot who go on a philosophical road trip together. Portals to other worlds. Are you itching to embark on an epic reading adventure? Indie horror-romance author R. My desire to bring all those elements together helped me begin crafting The Jasmine Throne.GR:   What was the most challenging part of writing this book?TS:   The number of characters and points of view. For all its glitz and glamour, the Roaring Twenties has some real evil lurking in the wings.GR:   Who are some of your all-time-favorite speculative fiction writers?NV: Ooh, Sarah Monette/Katherine Addison, Aliette de Bodard, Cassandra Khaw, Angela Carter, Zen Cho, T. It would be very useful to be able to travel without needing to drive or catch a flight, and I’d accept a few wrong turns into other dimensions in return for that kind of convenience. Khristine Hvam’s narration is phenomenal. Some of the novel’s more submerged cosmological elements have been kicking around in my head for at least a decade.  
Cadwell Turnbull’s   No Gods, No Monsters   will be   available September 7 in the U.S. I wanted the novel to honor individual and collective action where each person is important. Shelley Parker-Chan’s   She Who Became the Sun   will be available   in the U.S on July 20. Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne is tender and ferocious by turns as it takes on the patriarchy. Across the three story lines, Appleseed explores climate change, manifest destiny and extractive capitalism, settler colonialism and climate refugees, futuristic iterations of geoengineering and bioengineering (including nanobees and supertrees), depleted national parks, ecoterrorism and rewilding, a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, shape-shifting fauns and witches, a sci-fi heist and the crossing of a vast glacier, extinct trees growing out of 3-D–printed creatures, the abandoned nuclear repository under Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and then maybe a couple of other really weird things.GR: What sparked the idea for this book?MB: The novel was sparked by a line in Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, where Pollan relates the story of Johnny Appleseed while explaining the domestication of the apple. And don’t miss exciting new reads from T.J. I wanted to make sure that while talking about mortality and death, there was still some levity to the book so it didn’t get too bogged down in darkness. And Ted Chiang. Pacat. And…that’s not easy to hold in one’s head.GR:   Who are some of your all-time-favorite speculative fiction writers?CK:   P. Octavia Butler is also a major favorite. It’s gentle, warm, incisive, and empathetic. Butler, China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, N.K. Wallace must grapple with the man he was and the man he could be, all while finding himself falling for the owner of the tea shop, the man whose job it is to help ghosts like Wallace cross over to what comes next.GR: What sparked the idea for this book?TJK:   
A Christmas Carol
  by Charles Dickens was a big inspiration for this book. Ultimately,
Under the Whispering Door
is a funny book about dying, and through it, a thread of hope and optimism.GR:   Who are some of your all-time-favorite speculative fiction writers?TJK:   I have so many! It’s a book version of one of those sweeping, addictive Asian historical TV dramas! GR: What sparked the idea for this book?SPC:   I’ve always been interested in the idea of monks—people who set aside worldly interests in favor of dedication to worship. The twilight sleep that Daisy goes through was a horror, and the United States was dealing with massive waves of anti-immigrant sentiment that I suspect have never really gone away, only gone underground. I hate cooking. It turns out it’s a lot easier to wildly invent a far future, where the big time gaps mean there’s less need to detail how exactly we got there from our present. Djéli   Clark. Matt Bell’s   Appleseed   will be available in the U.S. I also tend to lose track of mealtimes while I’m working, and I get very hangry, which is likewise a less-than-ideal pairing. But I also wanted to twist the story of this man whose ambition and capacity for violence enabled him to become the ultimate patriarch. Jemisin is a more recent one. There was something about the book, about Maya and Rita, that made me come back to them repeatedly and wonder what to do   with them. It’s the Roaring Twenties again, everyone’s sold their soul, and there’s magic running through the power lines.GR: What sparked the idea for this book?NV: The Chosen and the Beautiful came about due to about 20 years of thinking about the blank places in The Great Gatsby, a talk with my agent, and the image of paper flowers being thrown up into the air and coming down as real ones.GR:   What was the most challenging part of writing this book?NV:    Some of the research was difficult to get through. I prefer to put as little thought and effort as possible into feeding myself, but I also like to eat healthy, so these two traits are in constant conflict. I hate doing the dishes. The cost of writing a bunch of new books is that I haven’t had much opportunity to read others. A Master of Djinn   by   P. How would that change the meaning of his ambition, and rise, and rule?GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?SPC:   Nailing Zhu’s character was definitely the hardest part. If I had the ability to make them, I’d use them every damn day.    Matt Bell, author of Appleseed 55659625
Goodreads: Summarize your new book in a couple of sentences.Matt Bell:   Appleseed is an epic speculative environmental novel spanning a thousand years of past, present, and future. I didn’t want to do too much too fast and undercut the emotional weight of those leaps. Luckily I have two more books in the series to tease out every layer.GR:   Who are some of your all-time-favorite speculative fiction writers?CT:   I’m pretty predictable. Both of them are electrifyingly good.GR:   For someone who hasn’t read speculative fiction in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre?TS: I think it depends what they like to read that’s not speculative! This helped to inform the character of Hugo, who is the ferryman and owner of the tea shop where Wallace is taken to after his death.GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?TJK:    Though this book deals with the heavy topic of death and what comes next, it’s a comedy. The other challenge was the cosmology underpinning the story, which requires a few conceptual leaps to make sense. Add to that my love of subtlety and subtext and the writing process became a tug-of-war between all these disparate goals. Maybe it’s a wardrobe that opens up into one particular snowy woods, dumping you out near a famous lamppost.  
Don’t forget to add these new sci-fi and fantasy novels to your Want to Read shelf, and tell us which of these books you’re most excited about in the comments below! I’ve been loving the   Murderbot   books a lot, too (another series, sorry!). In the past I’ve written more intimate stories focusing on a small range of characters, so writing a novel with a larger scope and a big cast stretched my writing muscles. I’m very interested in narratives where individuals and groups of people converge around significant events for very different reasons. Ms. All the hype is real. Malik, Stephen Graham Jones…that list goes on!GR: What are some new sci-fi books you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? If I could summon any dish I fancied at any time, I would have no other wants. However, instead of a man alive being forced to shine a light on all his faults like Scrooge was, I wanted to explore what happened when a man like Scrooge died and what it would look like to not have the power to change the life already lived. My TBR is taller than me at this point, and I’ve only just started chipping away at it. Pretty soon I’d written the novel’s first sentence, all the while imagining a furred hand stretching toward black dirt: Chapman plants an apple seed…GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?MB: Probably figuring out the near-future story line, both in its world-building and its plot. They’re all excellent writers, though, and I return to them often as a student of their work.GR: What are some new fantasy books you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? Kingfisher’s a beyond-worthy successor to Terry Pratchett’s brand of humor that cuts, and there’s a sentient sourdough starter—how can you go wrong? Or just portals. on July 13. Jemisin, Nghi Vo, Peter Watts, Naomi Novik, Ursula Vernon, Usman T. I particularly love the audiobooks. T.J. Kingfisher, and José Luis Zárate, for sure!GR: What are some new mysteries you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? There’s something fundamentally mysterious about the origins of world-conquering ambition in ordinary people.   CK:    The Murderbot Diaries series, definitely. I won’t mention it is part of a duology, and the second book is just as good.GR:   What’s one fantasy world, object, or invention that you wish were real?CT:   I love portals. That’s the basic summary (leaving out some other weirdness).GR: What sparked the idea for this book?CT:   I’ve always been a fan of urban fantasy and paranormal fiction (some of my favorite TV shows growing up were   Buffy the Vampire Slayer,   Angel, and   Charmed) but the idea really came together while I was reading the genre with my wife. That was hard to do. How can someone who is born the lowest of the low—told over and over by the world and everyone in it that she’s worthless—possibly conceive of becoming the emperor? It comes out in September, and it should be on everyone’s reading list. Harrow or This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, both of which I adore.GR:   What’s one fantasy world, object, or invention that you wish were real?TJK:   The magic system in Freya Marske’s upcoming
A Marvellous Light.   Cassandra Khaw, author of The All-Consuming World 54864319
Goodreads: Summarize your new book in a couple of sentences.Cassandra Khaw:   Functionally immortal cyborg criminals come back together for one last job: to steal a planet.GR: What sparked the idea for this book?CK:   It started life as a piece of tie-in media, but things, as they sometimes do, went awry, and it ended up being orphaned. Naomi Novik writes a banging story, and I’ll read anything she writes. I recommend the   Soulwood   series by Faith Hunter to people all the time (the fifth book came out recently). Doulas—or midwives—are usually associated with life in the birthing process. CT:   Can I only do one? It doesn’t hurt that the novel itself is delightful and oh so queer. Butler via Bloodchild, and: wow.GR: What are some new fantasy books you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? But that challenge is part of the fun!GR:   Who are some of your all-time-favorite speculative fiction writers?MB: Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite writers, and she was a huge influence on Appleseed. Fast-forward to 2019, and Sarah Guan, my editor, helped me discover that what I needed to do was make them into part of a novel.GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?CK:    Digging into the marrow of the book, honestly. The two big ideas that went into it were wanting to provide a counterpoint to the narrative that technology and nature are inherently opposed, and wanting to write a story that served as pure comfort for an adult audience.GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?BC:    Finding the entry point.    Tasha Suri, author of The Jasmine Throne 54816780
Goodreads: Summarize your new book in a couple of sentences.Tasha Suri: In an Indian-inspired fantasy world, a captive, vengeful princess and a maidservant with secret magic work together to bring down the princess’s tyrannical emperor brother. The man’s a genius. The book is out in November, and it has one of the most unique and thrilling magic systems I’ve ever read. I left it alone for a few years, but I couldn’t leave it alone completely. To act, in a way, as a ferryman (or woman), those whose job it is to help put spirits to rest. Maybe it’s an unlikely machine that lets its user travel at will through time and space. The novel follows several characters—some monsters, some not—as they try to navigate this new world of fear, paranoia, and simmering tensions. GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?CT:    Balancing all the narrative elements. Something of a holy trinity, I know.GR: What are some new sci-fi books you’ve been enjoying and recommending to friends? SPC:   Ava Reid’s The Wolf and the Woodsman is dark and hot and a devastatingly smart exploration of ethnic nationalism. MB: On the more fantastical side, I’d recommend N.K. I also just love that book and think more people need to read it!GR: For someone who hasn’t read speculative fiction in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? Books like Madeline Miller’s Circe, Natasha Pulley’s The Bedlam Stacks, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, Naomi Alderman’s The Power, Tana French’s The Likeness, Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander—aren’t they all fantasy, really? posted by Sharon
on June, 28 But I found I really enjoyed the challenge of delving into different characters’ heads and exploring a wider, more complex fantasy world.GR:   Who are some of your all-time-favorite speculative fiction writers?TS:   I have so many favorites, but certainly N.K. White women had only had the vote for two years when the novel starts, nonwhite women wouldn’t get it for decades. N.K. It begins in 1799, with a mythological retelling of the Johnny Appleseed folktale; it continues with a scientist turned rewilder in a near-future late-climate-change America, whose resistance group is trying to stop a megacorporation from unilaterally geoengineering the stratosphere; and concludes 700 years later with the story of a bioengineered clone stranded atop a giant glacier, who, after centuries alone, discovers a single new life. Once I had my main characters on lock, everything else flowed easily, but it took a lot of different iterations of them before I landed on the right thing.GR:   Who are some of your all-time-favorite speculative fiction writers?BC:   Ursula K. NV: Black Water Sister, by Zen ChoOf Dragons, Feasts and Murders: A Dominion of the Fallen Story, by Aliette de BodardPiranesi, by Susanna ClarkeThe Incryptid series, by Seanan McGuireGR: For someone who hasn’t read speculative fiction in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? Le Guin, Octavia Butler, N.K. Djèlí Clark, Kathleen Jennings, N.K. Le Guin, and that has remained true since forever. In addition, I came across something curious I’d never heard of before: death doulas. When I came across the Hongwu Emperor’s backstory, I realized he was my bad monk. What if I made him not a man? If you love political intrigue, complex characters, and impeccable writing, then this is the book. It’s remarkable work that takes a vast amount of empathy, the same with anyone who works in the end-of-life care field. We’d read to each other or listen to audiobooks, and I realized that I loved the genre enough to try writing in it. Butler. And Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful is Gatsby revisited and queered and perfected.GR:   For someone who hasn’t read speculative fiction in a while, what’s a good book to lure them back to the genre? The idea of a “death doula” stuck with me, but instead of assisting someone about to pass, I wondered what it would be like for a doula to help those who have already died. I also just read an early copy of Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark, which I can’t wait to recommend to people when it comes out in 2022. Lucky for you, this season offers some stellar (and interstellar) new books for science fiction and fantasy fans!To help you discover your next out-of-this-world read, we asked the authors of eight of this summer’s most anticipated speculative fiction novels to tell you about their new novels and share their best recommendations for even more sci-fi and fantasy books.Allow Nghi Vo to sweep you back to the Jazz Age with her magical rewrite of   The Great Gatsby, or try Matt Bell’s centuries-spanning look at America in   Appleseed. Other favorites include Ted Chiang, Iain M. And this isn’t a new sci-fi book, or even what most people would call sci-fi, but I love   A Taste of Honey   by Kai Ashante Wilson and how it hints at the presence of high technology that, nonetheless, feels deeply fantastical still. T.J.  
Nghi Vo’s   The Chosen and the Beautiful   is available now in the U.S. Cadwell Turnbull, author of No Gods, No Monsters
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Goodreads: Summarize your new book in a couple of sentences.Cadwell Turnbull:  
No Gods, No Monsters
  is a contemporary fantasy novel about society adjusting to the realization that monsters from folklore and myth are real and coming out of the shadows. That’s what motivated the surface narrative of the story. My last one is a short story collection:  
Never Have I Ever
  by Isabel Yap. Her stories are a mix of layered characterization, darkness, and fun. Figuring out what our world could be like in 50 years required a lot more detailed thinking about our present world and the way events might progress from here if certain choices were made.   CT:    Easy. Klune, author of Under the Whispering Door
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Goodreads: Summarize your new book in a couple of sentences.T.J. Please. But there are people who work as death doulas, who assist those about to pass and their families in the final days of life. MB: I’ve recently loved Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, The Memory Theater by Karin Tidbeck, The Seep by Chana Porter, The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem, and The Deep by Rivers Solomon.   
Tasha Suri’s   The Jasmine Throne   is   available now in the U.S. My all-time favorite is Ursula K. I also didn’t want to undermine the very real and very important personal conflicts of the characters with god-level madness. Perhaps that’s why we like to reach into the mythic register for explanations: that these people are touched by god—or fate.GR:   Who are some of your all-time-favorite speculative fiction writers?SPC:   All hail the genius of Ted Chiang! Klune:  
Under the Whispering Door
is the story of Wallace Price, a selfish man who dies suddenly and finds himself in a tea shop, surrounded by the living and the dead. All I know is that if the opportunity ever arose for me to take such a leap, I’d be through the portal in an instant. Along the way, they fall in love and may even set an empire ablaze.GR: What sparked the idea for this book?TS:   I wanted to write a story that contained everything I’d wanted from a fantasy novel but hadn’t been able to find: a setting drawing on ancient Indian history, Hindu epics, and mythology; a thorny sapphic love story between morally gray women; and a cast of complex women and men dealing with the impacts of imperialism in different, often fraught ways. Banks, Sofia Samatar, William Gibson, Octavia E. Then take a look at the SFF shelves, and realize that there always has been.GR:   What’s one fantasy world, object, or invention that you wish were real?SPC:   As someone who has spent a lot of time traveling for work on deeply uncomfortable buses, boats, motorcycles, long-distance trains, and frankly unairworthy airplanes—please give me a teleporter. With Chiang it is the grappling with ideas and the tightness of his prose. I think they’re neat. SPC:   Books with speculative elements are tucked away in every literary genre, so lots of people are probably reading SFF without thinking it’s what they’re reading. Nghi Vo, author of The Chosen and the Beautiful 55169019
Goodreads: Summarize your new book in a couple of sentences.Nghi Vo: The Chosen and the Beautiful offers a new take on The Great Gatsby from the view of minor character Jordan Baker, if Jordan were queer, magical, and Vietnamese American.