Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships for August 30

Happy Friday, shipmates! You made it! This is Alex to bring in the weekend with some news and desert-related book noodling. Oh, and a strong recommendation that you should watch Missy Elliott’s VMA performance because it’s sci-fi as all heck too.

News and Views

The Campbell Award has been renamed. More context on this over at Book Riot if you’ve missed what’s going on. Related: Was John W. Cambpell A F***ing Fascist, or Merely a Fascist?

Fonda Lee (author of Jade War) wrote us a great list about siblings in fantasy.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture forty years later.

New Wild Cards story over at!

The TSA has banned “thermal detonator” soda bottles from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in both carry on and checked baggage.

This week’s SFF Yeah! podcast is about the Hugo awards and the Blade trilogy.

S.L. Huang (author of Null Set) on the danger of swords. Somewhat related: a freelance photographer went to a medieval battle reenactment and got some amazing pictures.

I feel required to mention that the final trailer for Joker is out.

Marvel comics no. Marvel comics why.

I am excited about this documentary on Alien.

Here’s a long piece about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance‘s journey to the screen.

Thanks to some really questionable choices by big tech, the necessity of ethics is coming back into discussion–and science fiction is part of it.

How firenados work. This is some dragon-level stuff.

You had me at “16,000-year-old puma poop.”

And some cool, science-y nail art!

Free Association Friday

Apparently this August has been one of the top five warmest on record for my city, and I believe it. Colorado has a lot of land that’s near-desert or desert, rainfall-wise, and you can feel it most in the summer when the dry meets the hot. (Which is probably why so much of my writing, like my novels, is set in the desert.) So how about some desert books to capture this August feeling?

a curved dagger with a white hilt and jeweled base, set against a red-tinged backdropThere is a lot of desert-based fantasy, and so much of it is really good. Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand is my hands-down favorite because it’s so much about the wild, dangerous magic of the desert. City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty is a close second, though it spends a lot more time in the city of the djinn than out in the sands. That book starts in Cairo, which immediately brings to mind E. Catherine Tobler’s Rings of Anubis if you’re feeling a bit more steampunk to go with the magic, or N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon if you’re looking for something more ancient and deeply mythological. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed goes fully fantasy adventure–as does Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, with added gunslingers. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson combines hacking and magic in a fictional Middle Eastern state.

City of Bones by Martha Wells takes us to an entirely unfamiliar world, still fantasy, where relic hunters sift through bone. The start of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, has that same sort of combined fantasy and science fiction with blowing dust feel.

The weird thing I noticed as I was making my list of these books is that there’s so much more desert fantasy than there is sci-fi. Because while there might be science fiction that touches on a desert location, it lacks that deep connection to place that has provided so much meat for fantasy. With exceptions, of course. Technically speaking, any book set on Mars that isn’t about a transformed and terraformed version of it is about a desert planet; let’s just take Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars as the prime example of that. And of course, there’s the grandaddy of all desert SFF: Frank Herbert’s Dune. I’d also offer up Iraq + 100 as science fiction much closer to home; it’s short stories by Iraqi authors that imagine their country 100 years in the future.

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.