Hello, fiends and fauns! I have just returned from a vacation that included the very alien-planet-looking Joshua Tree National Park, and am full of SF/F thoughts. Let’s talk about this year’s Nebula Awards, stand-alone fantasy, Oppy, dragons, and camping in SF/F!
This newsletter is sponsored by Wednesday Books.
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Silvana picked her favorite stand-alone fantasy novels, and some personal favorites (Temper! Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge! The Black God’s Drums!) as well as lots that are new to me made the cut.
This ode to Oppy the Mars Rover (and dive into robots in SF) gave me all the feelings.
Speaking of feelings, this is a lovely piece on two fantasy novels that process the aftermath of trauma.
Any round-up of sci-fi-themed music videos that includes Janelle Monae is all right with me.
This post about how to build your own dragon was not what I was expecting, but I will accept it nonetheless and will be trying to figure out where to get my own Bombardier Beetle.
Fantasy thrillers is not a sub-genre I read often, but this review of two new ones makes a compelling case.
And this riff on the new Game of Thrones-branded Oreo cookies cracked me up.
Given how much I read, it’s probably inevitable that most real-life situations remind me of books. And since I went camping this week, today we’re looking at a few of my favorite books about roughing it in sci-fi and fantasy!
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: This is the first book I thought of, mainly because it takes place in the Pacific Northwest and there’s a whole section about how to make acorns edible. Lauren and her traveling companions are fleeing the destruction of their community, searching for a safe place to start again — there’s a lot of peril along the way, as well as a beautiful spiritual journey.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: And this was the second book I thought of, likely because the Traveling Symphony bits of this book were my favorite. A caravan of people putting on theatrical productions for the survivors of a pandemic? Amazing. Jumping between the moment that a killer flu hits civilization and then 15 years in the future, when the world has changed dramatically, this mid- and post-apocalypse novel feels all too possible, and highly compelling.
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd: Another cataclysmic novel; people start to develop magical powers but lose their memories in the process, and civilization begins to unravel. Includes hunting, gathering, and wilderness peril as well as dangerous cityscapes, and this was one of my favorites of last year.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: There is a theme developing here, in that surviving an apocalypse often involves camping. Of course, it helps if you’ve been training your whole life for this to happen, and you have superpowers — with the awful caveat that those powers are why you’re on the run in the wilderness. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, what are you even waiting for! Trigger warnings: harm to children.
Ammonite by Nicola Griffith: You’re probably tired of hearing me talk about this book, but there is a fantastic survivalist section in the middle that made me incredibly grateful for extreme-cold-rated sleeping bags.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson: Camping may go with apocalypses (apocalypsi?) in sci-fi, but anyone can camp in fantasy… including a demi-god. Hiding his true nature, Demane signs on with a caravan and then finds himself relying on his powers when a terrifying creature starts killing his brothers-in-arms.
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri: Some folks choose the wilderness life, and some have it thrust upon them. Such is the plight of Mehr, the illegitimate but pampered daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled tribeswoman. When her family is threatened, she agrees to a marriage and pledges her fledgling magical powers to the service of the Emperor, and a harrowing trip across the desert is only the start of her troubles.
Honorable mentions are, of course, due to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I liked the camping bits!) and the Lord of the Rings, which maybe wins for Most Camping Of Any Epic. When will REI start carrying lembas, is my question.
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, or on Twitter as jennIRL.
Your fellow booknerd,