Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Sept 8

Happy Friday, warlocks and mecha warriors! This week we’re talking about genre-defiers Three Moments of an Explosion and Brown Girl in the Ring, plus witchy reads, a writing contest, dystopian fashion, and more.

cover of The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J WalkerThis newsletter is sponsored by The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian Walker.

#1 International Bestseller!

When the world ends and you find yourself stranded on the wrong side of the country, every second counts. No one knows this more than Edgar Hill: over five hundred miles of devastated wasteland stretch between him and his family. To get back to them, he must push himself to the very limit—or risk losing them forever.

His best option is to run. But what if his best isn’t good enough? A powerful postapocalyptic thriller, The End of the World Running Club is an otherworldly yet extremely human story of hope, love, and the endurance of both body and spirit.

Fall is a great time to get witchy, and Sharifah has some books that can help with that. I’d like to cosign Basic Witches, which is not at all the book I thought it was going to be, in a really delightful way.

Calling all writers: here is a short story contest! io9 and the Economic Security Project want you to write a story about the economics of the future, the prize is $12,000, and the deadline is November 1.

In NK Jemisin’s latest NY Times column she drops some love for JY Yang’s Tensorate novellas (which I also love!) alongside reviews of Provenance, Monstress Volume 2, and The Twilight Pariah.

For when real life isn’t twisted enough (lulz), have some more dark, grown-up fairytales.

In the discussion of Terry Pratchett’s last wishes, I’m firmly Team Steamroller. If you want to debate the pros and cons, Unbound Worlds has a post for that.

In the terrible, awful, no good very bad future, what will we wear? During their dystopian week, Vulture talked to the costume designers who brought dystopian fiction and fashion to the screen.

When reality and sci-fi collide, you get things like an International Space Station patch designed by LucasFilm, featuring our favorite sassy droids!

Today in reviews we have a short story collection and a near-future tale that both cross genre lines.

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville

paperback cover of Three Moments of an Explosion by China MievilleIf you’ve never read China Miéville, I like this a lot as a starting point. You could begin with Perdido Street Station (his excellent alternate-world dark fantasy), or The City and the City (his excellently weird murder mystery), or Embassytown (his excellent aliens-meet-humans sci-fi novel), if you were feeling in a specific mood. I wrote a whole post about where to start with his novels back in 2013. But Three Moments of an Explosion will give you horror, fantasy, and speculative fiction all in one gloriously varied package.

It’s a short story collection without a thematic through-line — each piece stands solidly on its own. There are assassins and therapists; vampires and film directors; floating icebergs and doctors working on dark experiments; lake monsters and monsters that only exist in the mind. Miéville plays with narrative structure, with character, with the conventions of science fiction and fantasy, and warps them in a way that has become his signature. If that sounds like a lot for one collection, that’s because it’s a collection with 28 stories — plenty of room to play! Three Moments of an Explosion is a chance to dip in and out of the mind and work of one of SF/F’s prominent writers, and then go forth into his novels armed and ready for the strange and complicated delights to come.

Already read Miéville but haven’t gotten to this one yet? Let this be your reminder not to wait any longer!

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

cover of Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo HopkinsonI’ve read Nalo Hopkinson before, but it was only this past week that I read her debut novel Brown Girl in the Ring. Let me assure you that it reads like the work of an author who knows their voice, knows their craft, and has been working for years. In a word, it’s stunning.

Set in a near-future Toronto in which the city has been abandoned by the wealthy and privileged for the suburbs, it follows the exploits of a family of women struggling on many levels. Ti-Jeanne has left her addict boyfriend Tony, given birth to her first child, and is torn between the love she still feels for Tony and the need to make a life that’s as safe as possible for her son. Her grandmother, Mami Gros-Jeanne, is trying to get Ti-Jeanne to be her apprentice and learn the medicine and magical lore that is her birthright, with little success. The aforementioned Tony thinks that if he does one last job for the local crime boss Rudy, he can buy his way out into a better life and take Ti-Jeanne with him. And Rudy — well, Rudy wants power and control, forever, and doesn’t care what he has to do to get it. And then the gods get involved…

Blending very real politics politics and drama with Afro-Caribbean mythology, Hopkinson tells a story that’s dark and violent, but ultimately hopeful. It’s also a whopper of a page-turner; I picked it up on a whim and then could not put it down. If you’re looking for a read-alike for American Gods, this belongs on your shelf. If you’re looking for #ownvoices stories, this belongs on your shelf. If you’re looking for a warped mirror held up to society, this belongs on your shelf. If you’re looking for stellar writing and distinct voices, this belongs on your shelf. Basically: this belongs on your shelf.

And that’s a wrap! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

I’ll be back!,