I’ve been thinking of starting a new little series on this blog about what’s going on in the SFF world. While I do participate in the occasional tag or readathon, it’s still mostly book reviews (which is how I like it) but as I don’t only love books but also the SFF community, I think it’s time to add a little something to make this blog more interesting.
The reason I haven’t shared my opinions on current events in SFF is usually because there are other people out there who write about these things way more eloquently than I ever could. They are the bloggers I appreciate the most, and although I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as them, the time has arrived for me to at least give it a shot. I have no plan what to cover in these posts and I’ll be learning as I go along. 🙂
The Hugo Awards 2020 have been announced and I am so thrilled for the winners! Congratulations to all you wonderful people, and congratulations also to the non-winning finalists. This has been an amazing year of Hugo finalists, so even if you didn’t win, you can be damn proud of your work! I am especially happy that my own favorite A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine took home the Best Novel Hugo.
As for the ceremony… let’s just say there were problems. George R.R. Martin served as toastmaster and – since WorldCon went virtual due to Covid-19 – we got to see his pre-recorded introductions to each Hugo category and then cut to the live feed of him reading out the winner. These pre-recorded videos ran rather long and the stories GRRM had to tell about WorldCon and the Hugos were all about The Olden Days. He mentioned John W. Campbell several times, hitting us over the head with how he was “the greatest”, but not a word was said about the (formerly) John W. Campbell Award now being called the Astounding Award because Campbell was a known fascist and racist. George only had nice things to say about those old white guys, and literally nothing to say about any of the new talent being honored during the Hugo Awards. The mispronunciation of names and misgendering of finalists added to the general air of disrespect.
Now I don’t think George meant to be actively harmful when he recorded his bits with the frequent hat changes, but as toastmaster, you should take the time to look around and see what the field is like these days. And the very least you can do is show respect for the hard-working people who are nominated for one of the biggest awards in the genre.
For a more eloquent (and rightfully enraged) take, go read Natalie Luhr’s post George R. R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun.
The Trouble with NetGalley
Look, I love NetGalley. It’s a great service that helps connect reviewers and publishers and I’m all for it. But it has its issues. Recently, an audiobook feature was introduced (YAY!) and I was all aflame and requested a book I’d been excited for. And then I got approved despite my 71% feedack ratio!
Here’s the problem though. In order to listen to NetGalley audiobooks, you need the NetGalleyShelf App – so far, so okay – but that app is not available in my country! I don’t live in fucking Antarctica, I live in Vienna, Austria, which is right there in the middle of Europe. I have contacted the NetGalley support and asked them to either give me another way to listen to the approved audiobook or unapprove me, so someone else can get a chance to listen. I’ll let you know how things go. I’m not even mad, I’m mostly just sad that they throw out a feature which clearly hasn’t been thought through well enough and now an e-copy of Raybearer is just sitting there on my shelf and I can’t listen to it.
Special Edition Illumicrate
I’ve never subscribed to Illumicrate although I’m thinking of starting a subscription with them because their book choices are really up my alley. But what I’m most excited for is their tenth anniversary special edition box for Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I treated myself to this box and I cannot wait to see the book and whatever extras come with it.
Look at this gorgeous hardback. It will be signed and come with all sorts of goodies, but I am most excited about these covers!
Exciting August Publications
Now let’s move to some more happy news, the books coming out in August that I’m most excited for! There are a lot of book birthdays this month and all of these sound fantastic. Now all I have to do is catch up on the publications from the first half of 2020…
LINDEN A. LEWIS – THE FIRST SISTER
This sounds amazing and that cover is stunning! A woman with no name, falling in love with the person she’s supposed to be spying on? Secrets within secrets, a war, a Sisterhood… just reading the blurb, I have so many questions, which makes me super excited for this book.
First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.
MICAIAH JOHNSON – THE SPACE BETWEEN WORLDS
This is one of the very interesting YA titles coming out in August. Parallel worlds exist but you can only travel to those worlds where your counterpart is dead. What a cool premise, especially when there are plot twists. And I am expecting plot twists!
An outsider who can travel between worlds discovers a secret that threatens her new home and her fragile place in it, in a stunning sci-fi debut that’s both a cross-dimensional adventure and a powerful examination of identity, privilege, and belonging.
Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.
On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.
But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
SHVETA THAKRAR – STAR DAUGHTER
All I needed to know was “the daughter of a star and a mortal”. Add comparisons to Neil Gaiman and Laini Taylor, and you got me. The gorgeous cover is just an added bonus at this point.
This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.
The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.
Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.
Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.
ROMINA GARBER – LOBIZONA
I have been so excited for this for so long. Mixing immigrant experiences with myth and magic sounds just up my alley. That’s what fantasy is all about. Reflecting our own world back at us through a magical lens.
Some people ARE illegal.
Lobizonas do NOT exist.
Both of these statements are false.
Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.
Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.
Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.
As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.
ALICIA JASINSKA – THE DARK TIDE
Another one that’s been on my wishlist forever. The buzzword here was St. Walpurga’s Eve and the fact that the yearly sacrifice is a boy instead of the stereotypical girl. I’m honestly not sure if this will turn out as good as I hope but I’m willing to give it a shot.
The Wicked Deepmeets A Curse So Dark and Lonely in this gripping, dark fairy-tale fantasy about two girls who must choose between saving themselves, each other, or their sinking island city.
Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.
Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen’s attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice.
Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.
When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.
NNEDI OKORAFOR – IKENGA
Nnedi Okorafor has written a Middle Grad novel!!! Look, I don’t need much more than Okorafor’s name on a book in order to buy it, but – as usual with her fiction – this also happens to sound fantastic. The Akata books are some of my favorite YA novels, so I can’t wait to find out what this book for younger readers will be like.
Nnedi Okorafor’s first novel for middle grade readers introduces a boy who can access super powers with the help of the magical Ikenga.
Nnamdi’s father was a good chief of police, perhaps the best Kalaria had ever had. He was determined to root out the criminals that had invaded the town. But then he was murdered, and most people believed the Chief of Chiefs, most powerful of the criminals, was responsible. Nnamdi has vowed to avenge his father, but he wonders what a twelve-year-old boy can do. Until a mysterious nighttime meeting, the gift of a magical object that enables super powers, and a charge to use those powers for good changes his life forever. How can he fulfill his mission? How will he learn to control his newfound powers?
Award-winning Nnedi Okorafor, acclaimed for her Akata novels, introduces a new and engaging hero in her first novel for middle grade readers set against a richly textured background of contemporary Nigeria.
JORDAN IFUEKO – RAYBEARER
This is the book I got on NetGalley (cross your fingers for me that I can still listen to that audiobook somehow) and that should tell you how excited I am for it. Everything about this sounds great. A bond closer than blood, a mission to destroy the one you love, a new Black author for me to discover? Yes, please, give it to me.
Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood.
That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
LAURA LAM & ELIZABETH MAY – SEVEN DEVILS
I didn’t much like the only Laura Lam book I have read so far, but this sounds too good to pass up. Fighting an empire, a ragtag crew of women, deadly missions – it has all the ingredients for a fun space opera and I will definitely see if it delivers.
This first book in a feminist space opera duology follows seven resistance fighters who will free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire — or die trying.
When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.
Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.
When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.
Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.
challenges, readathons, Podcasts, and current reads
The Sword and Laser Podcast is reading Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett this month, a book I’ve had on my TBR for a long, long time. I’ve just started it and I can already tell I’m going to love it. By the very first line of chapter 2, I knew this was my kind of book. It messes with your mind and it sets up a puzzle right from the start. And I like me some puzzles.
I’m participating in the Series Crackdown‘s tenth anniversary readathon throughout the month of August and I’ve just finished my first book. Check out all the info and my TBR here.
My next read will be Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender because it ticks several of the boxes I’m in the mood for. It’s a book by a new-to-me Black author (one of my reading challenges this year), it is a finalist for the World Fantasy Award (which I love), and it fits into one of the Series Crackdown readathon prompts. I’m also reading Tehanu by Ursula K. LeGuin because it’s short and it’s the one Earthsea novel I’ve been most excited for.
The state of the state of SFF
I hope to do posts like this once a month, although I can’t guarantee that it will always be posted around the same time of the month. This is my first foray into doing something other than reviews or tags and I still have a lot to learn – both in terms of content as well as formatting and organizing these posts. But I like the opportunity to briefly weigh in on the topics that are talked about in the SFF world or things that are going on in my reading life. I hope you get something out of this (even if it’s only a rapidly growing TBR due to the new publications) and if my motivation doesn’t fail me, you’ll see another State of SFF post in September.