Happy Friday, Padawans and paladins!
A bunch of exciting announcements have come out of Star Wars Celebration, but the one that produced actuals screams of glee from me is that Ken Liu is writing a Skywalker novel [insert confetti space-canon here]! If you haven’t been keeping track, he’s the author of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories and The Dandelion Dynasty series, and I cannot wait to see what directions he takes our favorite space-cinnamon-roll Luke in. I should add that the only Star Wars novel I’ve read in the past decade was Bloodline (which was great, for the record); I am now officially cherry-picking their new offerings.
Does your TBR need some exploding? Liberty wrote a list of 100 must-read SFF debuts that should keep you busy for at least the next decade or so. Like she notes, it is so hard to believe that some of these were an author’s very first published book!
Do redshirts actually die more often on Star Trek? Well, it depends on how you do the math apparently. I do love it when people crunch fictional data — see also, this piece on braid-tugging and skirt-smoothing in the Wheel of Time.
This is a monster year for adaptations, what with The Handmaid’s Tale and American Gods both coming to screens, The Wheel of Time finally moving forward, and a bunch of others I’ve already lost track of. And we can add to the pile: China Mieville’s The City & The City is coming to TV.
Friday whimsy: Harry Potter books with cocktail pairings. Both for the drink recipes and the pairing notes (lolsob).
And now, for some recommendations!
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
I wish I could remember who recommended this book to me; I’m sure I didn’t find it on my own. It’s been a long-term favorite of mine ever since I picked it up, and a Swiss army knife of a recommendation because it hits so many notes so well. It’s also one of my favorite books because it illustrates beautifully how one can write a “political” book — in that the main character is queer woman of color who has a chronic illness, and those identities are heavily politicized — that is 100% space opera adventure, for all those folks who “just want a good story.”
Alana Quick is a sky surgeon, meaning she fixes spaceship engines and is damn good at it. But she and her aunt, who run their own business, are barely keeping their business afloat. So when a cargo vessel swings by looking for her sister Nova, it’s the opportunity she’s been waiting for. She stows away on the ship, hoping to find herself a permanent spot as ship’s mechanic, and then finds out that she’s put herself in the middle of a tangles web of shifting alliances and dangerous missions, all surrounding her sister’s special abilities.
Action! Adventure! Romance! People who are not as they seem! Strange beings! Strange powers! Explosions! Space! Truly, this book is a delight. Here’s me crossing my fingers that we eventually get another book of Alana’s adventures, because I need more! Side note: Koyanagi contributed a task to this year’s Read Harder Challenge.
Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Ursula K. Le Guin
If you’re looking for speculative fiction in translation, classic fantasy, and/or South American authors, Angélica Gorodischer is the answer to all of the above. The book is translated by Le Guin (!!) and follows the rise and fall of an empire over many narrators, each with their own distinct style and story to tell.
Gorodischer manages a few amazing feats in this book. In a series of vignettes with incredibly disparate narrators, often with no clear connections between them, she manages to give shape and depth to a nameless empire. Her timeline is enormously long, but the chapters each feel personal and compelling. And while it lies firmly in the realms of fable, folklore, and fantasy, Kalpa Imperial nonetheless feels contemporary and familiar.
I had the happy experience of reading this in close proximity to both Sofia Samatar and NK Jemisin, both of whom have written beautifully about the ebb and flow of empire. Pair those three with the stories in Galactic Empire, and you’ve got a beautifully multi-faceted look at genre fiction’s obsession with the various manifestations of political structures. Of course, you might just also want a story beautifully told — and this is that, above all else.
This newsletter is sponsored by Elves, written by Jean-Luc Istin and illustrated by Kyko Duarte.
Volume One of the critically-acclaimed and original dark fantasy saga Elves comes to US audiences for the first time this May.
The Blue Elves in a small port town have all been massacred. Lanawyn, a Blue Elf, and Turin, her human ally, set out to discover who is responsible. The trail they uncover together leads back to a warlike clan of humans who hate Elves.
Meanwhile, the Sylvan Elves have hidden themselves away from the world, jealously preserving their independence. Eysine, the City-State of the East, has always observed respect for the ancient pact between Elf and Man. But when a powerful army of Orks besiege the kingdom, Eysine must remind the Elves of the treaty that linked their two peoples.