Happy Friday, sirens and Cylons! Today I’ve got two novellas for you, Waiting on a Bright Moon and A Dead Djinn in Cairo, plus queer classics, disability in science fiction, a new Tolkien book, and more.
This newsletter is sponsored by Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Need some queer classics? I’m looking forward to this post series on QUILTBAG+ Speculative Fiction, and the first book to be discussed — Jewelle Gomez’s Gilda Stories — has long been on my radar. Time to bump it up!
Remember Beren and Lúthien? We’re getting another “new” Tolkien book in August, this one called The Fall of Gondolin. As far as I can tell from the details released it will be a similar format — various drafts of an unfinished work, annotated/edited by Christopher Tolkien. Excited? Meh? I can’t quite decide yet.
I am here for all your Octavia Butler pieces, and this one is great because it delves into her life and work in ways that are interesting both for longtime fans and those new to her work. Bonus for Janelle Monae mentions!
Speaking of contributor Alex AND of Octavia Butler! Here’s the latest pairings of SF/F books and beers, and it has some of my favorites of each included.
Speaking of adaptations! If you’re in the UK, the mini-series of China Mieville’s City and the City should already be on the air. And if you are in the UK and have watched it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The SF/F version of Dear Abby: Daniel Mallory Ortberg did an advice column for Tor.com and it is GOLD.
Let’s talk about disability in SF/F, specifically in the Vorkosigan Saga. There’s a lot of great food for thought here, and I’m specifically thankful for the way Grace discusses the range of representation within one series.
Today in reviews, we’ve got a space story with magic and a supernatural story with clockwork. Both happen to be from Tor.com, who are killing it in the short fiction game.
Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang
You might recall me gushing about Yang’s Tensorate novellas and I’ve been on a short story/novella kick lately, so it was with great pleasure I stumbled across “Waiting on a Bright Moon.”
Set on an outlying colony of a far-flung interstellar empire, the story follows Xin, a human ansible. Using her magical talents and syncing via music, Xin opens transport portals with the rest of her cluster, each located on a different world. When a dead body comes through, it ruins her day; when it appears that the body is connected to an underground rebellion, it could ruin her life. As Xin contemplates her past and present, she’s also becoming closer to an intimidating starmage named Suqing.
Yang is exploring colonization, queerness, and magic, and doing it in 40-odd digital pages, and this is one of those stories that feels much bigger on the inside. I would happily read a series of books set in this world, but I also found it satisfying as a stand-alone. It’s a beautiful, tiny gem of a story, and I continue to follow Yang’s career with interest.
A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark
In the course of doing research for a djinn/jinn/genie stories round up (that I will link to as soon as it’s up online), I stumbled across this novella and fell in love. An alt-history story set in Cairo in 1912, it’s both a supernatural story, a romance, and a police procedural.
Special Investigator Fatma gets called in on an odd case: a djinn has committed suicide under very strange circumstances. Unfamiliar glyphs are carved on the site, and there’s no blood at all. The only witness is a prostitute who doesn’t want to talk to law enforcement. As Fatma starts to peel back the layers surrounding the incident, she finds herself working with an enigmatic woman named Siti who seems as likely to be a foe as a friend. On top of it all, she’s navigating gender politics alongside local political alliances.
Creatures abound, and the humans aren’t all that trustworthy either. Then there’s the clockwork technology laced through-out, which mixes and melds with the magic in interesting new ways. Clark’s vision of a Cairo teeming with magic and mayhem is compelling, and this is one of those stories that leaves me craving a sequel — I definitely need more of Fatma’s adventures.
And that’s a wrap! You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. 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.
May the odds be ever in your favor,