Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships for April 24: Beware the Trees

Happy Friday, shipmates! It’s Alex with some tree-filled books and news for this end of the week. Stay safe out there, space pirates, and I hope you’ve been getting more reading done than I have–to be honest, stress makes for a major lack of focus. (But I finally caught up on Project Runway, so that’s good, right?)

Probably my favorite video of the week: stunt people in quarantine

Very close runner up: baby rhino at the Denver Zoo!

News and Views

Cover reveal for Nnedi Okorafor’s next novella from!

I already squeed about the cover for C.L. Polk’s new novel, The Midnight Bargain, on Tuesday–but now you can build an online jigsaw puzzle of it!

The Smithsonian has Octavia Butler’s typewriter.

An amazing Twitter thread: David Bowie as ice lollies

Jim C. Hines is doing a Kickstarter for his new MG novelTamara Carter: Goblin Queen.

Lambda Literary is looking for some help to get through the pandemic crisis.

Grandmother Paradox is an essay that’s an in-depth look at Octavia Butler’s Kindred.

Essay: Will fantasy ever let Black boys like me be magic?

K.M. Szpara and N.K. Jemisin talk Docile, vampies, and Hanson fanfic has an interview with the artist for the Folio Society’s edition of A Clash of Kings.

Middle Earth temporarily bans fellowships of more than five.

Leslye Headland (creator of Russian Doll) has been signed on by Disney to make a new Star Wars TV show.

They’re going to make a movie from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

If you feel like getting punched in the heart by the Curiosity Rover, here you go.

LIGO/Virgo has detected binary black holes with unequal mass!

This is entirely true: geologists in lockdown

On Book Riot

3 Great Western-Inspired YA Novels

10 Books With Our Favorite Fictional Knights

Get Spellbound by These Magical Medieval Fantasy Books

Free Association Friday: Happy Tree Day!

Today is Arbor Day (which is also the earliest Arbor Day can be in April, fun fact), which is for planting trees! I guess this year, it’s planting trees that are small enough for one person to handle, at least six feet apart. Trees and forests make for settings and characters in SFF that vary from the life-affirming to mythic to utterly spooky. Here’s six (of many possible choices) that would make a good read under the branches of your favorite tree.

forest of a thousand lanternsThe forest is a major part of the setting for Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, a background for Xifeng’s struggle with the evil inside her as she follows her ambition. It’s where she’s told she still has a choice in things and that her path to power will be dark, and then the book circles back to that at the end. Gorgeous, dark stuff.

In The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, the tree is (haha) environmental; the entire setting is a city that has been overwhelmed by the exuberant (on a long time scale) roots and branches of a massive tree. It’s the second book in the series (read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms first; you won’t regret it) and the tree is a constant, living presence, the joyful revenge of life that has been too long kept in check by the false imposition of inflexible order.

The Trees by Ali Shaw is about an arboreal revolution; overnight, the trees grow with shocking speed, transforming an ordinary man’s world into a forest and leaving terrific destruction behind. The survivors begin to band together, and go forth into the new forest to discover if this is going to be an end to the world they know, or a renewal that leads to something new.

If you can find a copy, Walking the Tree by Kaaron Warren takes you to a fantastic continent dominated by a single, massive tree–and it’s a five year rite of passage for girls to completely walk around its base.

Sue Burke’s Semiosis gives us sentient, alien trees that occupy a world the humans thought they could safely colonize because they thought it would be the perfect home. It’s a character-driven first contact story with a vegetative twist.

An unspeakably ancient and terrifying forest fills Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock and its sequels. Ryhope Wood is an unspeakably ancient forest that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside; it functions as a labyrinth in the most mythological sense. And it’s home to mythagos, “myth images,” beings formed from human memories that deteriorate and die if they leave the forest.

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.