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Nikan’s third battle for its survival in the bloody Poppy Wars has just ended, but shaman and warrior Rin cannot forget the atrocity she committed to save her people. She doesn’t want to live, but refuses to die until she avenges the traitorous Empress who betrayed Rin’s homeland. Her only hope is to join forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who plots to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new republic. But the more Rin witnesses in the fight for power, the more she fears her love for Nikan will force her to use her deadly powers once more.
We made it–it’s Friday! It is I, Captain Alex, and as you read this, there’s a good chance I’m on an airplane, on my way to Dublin for WorldCon. I’m looking forward to having a live view of the Hugo Awards in a bit over a week. But until then, here’s some news and book chat to usher you into the weekend!
News and Views
This week’s SFF Yeah! podcast is about unusual vampires.
Here’s a really great essay about “lifeboat thinking” in science fiction. It’s not just The Cold Equations.
Dragon Con has opened up voting for this year’s Dragon Awards. Anyone can vote by registering their email address.
Oh my god Snoop Dogg is Cousin Itt.
An A+ interview with Angelina Jolie, in which she talks about why we need more wicked women.
Andy Serkis will be directing the sequel to the deeply weird recent Venom movie. (I saw it. I still don’t know how I feel about it?)
Here’s a fun (and long) piece about the science behind Idris Elba’s character in Hobbs and Shaw.
So there are tardigrades on the Moon now. Whoops.
Free Association Friday
Honestly, I’m still just thinking about the SFF “lifeboat” essay, because it’s so good. (Also, because it never fails when I vent about how much I hate The Cold Equations, someone feels the need to explain it to me. Like I haven’t read the story and understood it and that’s why I loathe it.) And I think it’s something we really need to think about in our genre, when so many books become elaborate, byzantine plots to get characters in situations where murder is the only possible choice.
I’m certainly not saying all fictional violence is bad–I think we all know the difference between fantasy and reality. But it’s something to interrogate, when so much SFF is focused on violence as a solution to all of the questions it poses. (Movies are particularly bad about this, I think.) Why is it treated like the most interesting question one can ask of a person is how far they have to be pushed to pull a trigger?
So what are some books to read that push back against lifeboat thinking and the (very American) focus on violence as a way to solve problems? Or more broadly, deeply humane books that value life?
The essay mentions The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, because it’s all about figuring out solutions to tough choices… and trying to fit everyone on the lifeboat. Becky Chambers’s Record of a Spaceborn Few is so deeply compassionate that I can’t describe it without tearing up. Walkaway by Cory Doctorow imagines an apocalypse where your neighbor brings casseroles instead of guns (which is more accurate to how humans actually behave, by the way).
Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell is wonderfully slice-of-life, about a ship crew going about their business. Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds is about alien refugees trying to rebuild their civilization on a new world, with the help of a man and a woman who come from different civilizations. And perhaps Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels fit this bill… in which case, start with Excession.
See you, space pirates. You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’d like to know more about my secret plans to dominate the seas and skies, you can catch me over at my personal site.