The State of SFF – October 2020

Aaaaand it’s time again for another State of SFF.
There are more adaptation news, some updates about awards, a surprise book by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal, and of course new releases to look forward to.

Quickie News

  • The inaugural IGNYTE Awards are being announced on the weekend of the convention, that is October 17th-18th. Mark your calendars!
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  • Also, the World Fantasy Awards will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention which runs from October 29th through November 1st. I have read three out of the five nominees for Best Novel and can tell you it’s a super exciting ballot!
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  • The winners of the Dragon Awards have been announced and the award for Best SF Novel and Best Fantasy novel respectively went to John Scalzi for The Last Emperox and Erin Morgenstern for The Starless Sea. The Best Horror Novel award went to T. Kingfisher for The Twisted Ones. Find the other winners behind the link.
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  • The Arthur C. Clarke Award went to Namwali Serpell for her novel The Old Drift. It sounds really good and the book beat a tough competetion, so I’ll definitely check it out.
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  • Author Terry Goodkind (1948-2020), most well known for his long-running Sword of Truth series, passed away in late September.  I still haven’t read any of his books although Wizard’s First Rule has been on my shelves for ages.

The Mandalorian Season 2

I don’t know about you but I could definitely use some more Baby Yoda in my life. Thankfully, the second season of The Mandalorian is coming very soon.

It will be available on Disney+ on October 30th and, from what I’ve found on the interwebz, this season will be all about the search for “the Child’s” homeworld. I honestly don’t care, as long as there’s Baby Yoda, great music and costumes, and those lovely little emotional moments that made season 1 such a feel-good show. This is the way!

Adaptation News

The Test by Sylvain NeuvelThe Test, a science fiction novella by Sylvain Neuvel will be adapted into a movie, starring John Boyega. It is the story of an immigrant taking a citizenship test and, from what I’ve heard, there will be some sort of twist at the end. Comparisons with Black Mirror come up a lot as well.

I haven’t read this Booktube SFF Award finalist yet, mostly because I’ve heard mixed things. Negative reviews come especially from reviewers who are immigrants themselves or who have taken a citizenship test. I may still pick up the book but I’ll definitely keep those reviewers’ opinions in the back of my mind.

SURPRISE BOOK FROM BRANDON SANDERSON AND MARY ROBINETTE KOWAL

Brandon Sanderson may just be the hardest working author in SFF. This guy juggles projects like none other, writing multiple series for various audiences, and somehow managing to publish at least one book a year. Even more impressive, therefore, that he teamed up with Mary Robinette Kowal (winner of the Hugo Award for the amazing The Calculating Stars) and produced an audio original science fiction story called The Original.

I will definitely get myself a copy and report backt to you but one entire Audible credit for a 3.5 hour audiobook seems a bit steep. So I’ll wait until this is more reasonably priced, especially since we’re talking about Sanderson here and I’m fully expecting this to turn into a series at some point.

Exciting October Publications

T. KINGFISHER – THE HOLLOW PLACES

I’m not a big horror reader, but I do love everything T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) writes. Her horror novel The Twisted Ones (here’s my review) made me scared of my own apartment (well, the shadows moving in it… I swear they moved by themselves!), and that’s what all the best horror novels should do. This follow-up is high on my to-read list.

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Pray they are hungry.

Kara finds the words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring this peculiar area—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more one fears them, the stronger they become.

With her distinctive “delightfully fresh and subversive” (SF Bluestocking) prose and the strange, sinister wonder found in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s LabyrinthThe Hollow Places is another compelling and white-knuckled horror novel that you won’t be able to put down.


V. E. Schwab – THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE

I had this on last month’s expected publications but as it’s 2020 and nothing is certain, it got pushed back. I’m still hesitant about this book but that doesn’t mean I can’t look forward to it with all you Schwab fans. 🙂

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A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.


REBECCA ROANHORSE – BLACK SUN

I liked Rebecca Roanhorse’s Urban Fantasy debut novel well enough, although I didn’t think it was all that original (my review). BUT! She brings something new to the SFF table in that she writes fantasy inspired by Native myths and culture and I’m here for that. Plus, look at this cover! How could we resist?

50892360. sy475 A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade


ALIX E. HARROW – THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES

Suffragist witches. Do you need more? Okay, fine. It’s Alix E. Harrow who completely captured my heart with her Hugo-winning short story and made quite an impact with last year’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January (my review).  I don’t even care that January didn’t work for me so well, I will read whatever Harrow writes because she is one hell of a talent!

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In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.


C. L. POLK – THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN

It’s the author of the Kingston Cycle, everyone! I only read the first book so far (my review) but it was so charming that I’m definitely picking up Polk’s newest novel.

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Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?


YOON HA LEE – PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT

Yoon Ha Lee does amazing things with science fiction. His Machineries of Empire trilogy kept blowing my mind over and over again (my review) and I don’t even really care what his next book is about. Look at that dragon on the cover, read that tagline, and tell me you don’t need this book!

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Dragons. Art. Revolution.

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…


SARAH TOLMIE – THE FOURTH ISLAND
illustrated by Rovina Cai

This is my only anticipated publication where I don’t know the author but it sounds too good to miss. Secret islands that can only be accessed in moments of despair? Okay, I’m in. The book also seems like it has lyrical writing, and I’m always a fan of illustrations. So… no idea if it’s any good, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

49247276Dark, mournful, and beautiful, Sarah Tolmie’s The Fourth Island is a moving and unforgettable story of life and death on the hidden Irish island of Inis Caillte.

Huddled in the sea off the coast of Ireland is a fourth Aran Island, a secret island peopled by the lost, findable only in moments of despair. Whether drowned at sea, trampled by the counter-reformation, or exiled for clinging to the dead, no outsiders reach the island without giving in to dark emotion.

Time and again, The Fourth Island weaves a hypnotic pattern with its prose, presaging doom before walking back through the sweet and sour moments of lives not yet lost. It beautifully melds the certainty of loss with the joys of living, drawing readers under like the tide.


ASHLEY POSTON – AMONG THE BEASTS AND BRIARS

I’ve only read Poston’s contemporary romance novel Geekerella but it was such delightful fun that I’ve been wanting to pick up her other books ever since. This appears to be her first secondary world fantasy novel and the fairy tale vibes are strong.

38880861. sy475 Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.


News from the blog

I thought I’d take this opportunity to add a sort of monthly wrap-up to my blog. I’m not a huge fan of proper wrap-up posts, especially if I’ve written a full review for all the books anyway. But a quick overview doesn’t hurt, right?

What I read in September:

  • Jessica Townsend – Wundersmith
    cute – fun – friendship – magic
  • Mishell Baker – Impostor Syndrome
    complicated characters – diversity front and center – heists in Fairyland
  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
    found family – plot twists – complex relationships – POC cast
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Mexican Gothic
    creepy – atmospheric – character growth – dark secrets
  • Octavia E. Butler – Kindred
    slavery – multi-layered characters – moral questions – perseverance
  • Micaiah Johnson – The Space Between Worlds
    questions of identity – many twists – Mad Max: Fury Road vibes – LGBTQIA+
  • Maria Dahvana Headly – Beowulf: A New Translation
    very readable – big tough men slaying “monsters” – rhymes occasionally

September was such a good reading month. I only read seriously good books, ranging from 4- to 5-star ratings on Ye Olde Goodreads.

Currently reading:

  • Evan Winter – The Rage of Dragons (okay but not worth the hype so far)
  • Martha Wells – Network Effect (Murderbot is the BEST)

This brings us to the end of this month’s State of SFF. For November, there won’t be many anticipated publications, but among the ones we get, there are some reaaaaally big ones.

I’ll be using October to pick up a few spooky reads. Maybe I’ll finally tackle Dracula… I have a 2020 witchy release on my TBR, as well as a Middle Grade horror novel by Katherine Arden that may make it into my reading queue during the next few weeks. I’ll let you know next time.

Until then: Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. 🙂

 

The State of SFF – September 2020

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another State of SFF. This time, I’ll look at what happened in August, new and old awards, a September readathon, TV adaptation news, and of course new releases for the month of September. I hope you’re all safe and healthy!

The inaugural IGNYTE Awards

FIYAHCon is hosting its inaugural IGNYTE Awards and I am so excited! Look at that ballot.

I am so happy that both Pet and War Girls made it onto the YA shortlist and I hope that The Deep by Rivers Solomon wins Best Novella. I am also glad that Fonda Lee’s amazing Jade War is getting some well-deserved recognition. Plus, you know, all the other amazing finalists.

You can still vote until September 11th, so go to the link above and follow the voting process. Give your favorites a vote and then let’s all be excited together for the announcement of the winners.

The Dragon Awards Shortlist

I, like many others, was very surprised to see this year’s Dragon Award finalists. I haven’t been following these awards very closely in the last few years because the finalists weren’t the type of books I enjoy. The morose baby canines had decided that the Dragons were their awards where their kind of fiction could shine and that’s totally okay. I’m following enough SFF awards as it is and I have no problem with certain awards going to works that don’t personally appeal to me.

Except this year’s ballot looks a lot like other SFF awards ballots. It has works that showed up on Best of the Year lists or were generally buzzed about a lot and that’s quite a departure from previous Dragon Awards.

Although The Ten Thousand Doors of January is wrongly classified as science fiction (it’s a portal fantasy… there’s really not much wiggle room there), this list looks pretty awesome! I’m especially happy to see Fonda Lee and Leigh Bardugo on this ballot as well as Tade Thompson, although I haven’t yet read the third entry in his Wormwood Trilogy.

It does make me wonder, however, what prompted this development. As we don’t know how many people nominate or vote in the Dragon Awards, we can only make assumptions and educated guesses. Technically, anyone with an e-mail address can participate in the voting process and the Puppies have praised the Dragons for being the One True Fan Award where the great masses give prizes to actually beloved works of fiction. I guess the masses have really good taste.

readathon – SOS: Space opera September

Thomas from SFF180 is hosting this month-long readathon that’s all about Space Operas. The definition is used very loosely and I think as long as your book is set (predominantly) in space or involves a space ship, you’re good to go. There’s also a Goodreads group for the readathon if you’re looking for recommendations or discussions.

SFF180 Readathon 🚀 SPACE OPERA SEPTEMBER - YouTube

There are a few challenges to fulfill which help you collect points towards your intergalactic career. You start out as a Space Cadet and can then go on to become a Space Admiral or, if you choose the rebel track, a Space Pirate. That sounds like so much fun and I’d love to participate, but for me, September will be all about 2020 releases. Maybe I’ll manage a couple of books for this readathon, though…

I also want to recommend Thomas’ Youtube channel in general. His reviews are always insightful and in-depth and even though we don’t agree on everything, I appreciate his opinion on SFF books.

Adaptation News

Jade City by Fonda Lee is coming to TV! Yes, this month’s State of SFF is filled with great Fonda Lee news. If you haven’t yet read the brilliant Jade City and its follow-up Jade War, I can only envy you for still having that story ahead of you. If you like mafia movies and magic, complex characters and family dynamics, great fight scenes and political intrigue, then these books are for you.

I cannot wait to see how the Greenbone Saga will translate to TV but I am expecting epic battles and great character actors. I have no idea if I can even access Peacock, the streaming service that is producing the series, but I certainly hope that I can buy the first season once it’s out.

Author event got Zoom-bombed

Behold What Has Arrived. 'Raybearer' by Jordan Ifueko Is Now Available! –  Nerds and Beyond

In utterly depressing news, a virtual author event with Black writers Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles) and debut author Jordan Ifueko (Raybearer) was zoom-bombed by racist scum. The two writers were called the n-word repeatedly and Salsa music was played in the background, making it impossible for the authors to be heard.

All I can say to that is, please, if you’re hosting an online meeting or event of any kind, make sure the participants are safe from attacks! You don’t even have to be particularly tech-savvy to figure out how to protect your online event and especially your guests from harm.

In moments like these, I always think about what I personally can do to help these authors. It may not be much but I bought the audiobook version of Raybearer and am absolutely loving it! So consider Jordan Ifueko’s book a recommendation and maybe go out and buy your own copy. My review will be up soon-ish but I can already tell you there will be some gushing.

Exciting September Publications

SUSANNA CLARKE – PIRANESI

It is a rare book that can keep me not only interested but completely riveted for over 1000 pages. Susanna Clarke wrote such a book – Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Although this is not a sequel, it is her follow-up novel and probably my most anticipated release for the second half of 2020.

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Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.


ANDREA STEWART – THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER

I’m looking at this book with mixed feelings. The early reviews were so overwhelmingly positive that they make me a little suspicious. The premise sounds brilliant and I’m sure if it’s executed well I will love the story. But pre-publication hype makes things just a bit more difficult for me. Expectations are unusually high, so if the book is only good, I am bound to be disappointed. Which won’t keep me from picking it up, of course.

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In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.


NAOMI NOVIK – A DEADLY EDUCATION

I think we can all agree that an updated, adult version of the Magic School trope is in order. That someone of Naomi Novik’s skill has taken it on just makes things more exciting. I cannot wait to discover this school where you either graduate or die. Give it to me, now!

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Lesson One of the Scholomance
Learning has never been this deadly

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.


V. E. SCHWAB – THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE

Here’s my unpopular opinion: I think Schwab is completely overhyped. I like her ideas and some of her books well enough but I don’t believe she is the literary superstar that others see in her. But her newest novel sounds so good that I won’t be able to resist. And there’s always the chance that she has grown as an author and will sweep me off my feet with this book.

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A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.


S. L. HUANG – BURNING ROSES

“As The Last I May Know” just won a deserved Hugo Award for Best Short Story and Huang also ripped my heart out once before with her fairy tale retelling of The Little Mermaid. So of course, I look forward to turning into a sobbing ball of emotions again.

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A gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods, for fans of Zen Cho and JY Yang.

When Rosa (aka Red Riding Hood) and Hou Yi the Archer join forces to stop the deadly sunbirds from ravaging the countryside, their quest will take the two women, now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, into a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.
Burning Roses, a gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods, arrives in 2020.


JESSICA TOWNSEND – HOLLOWPOX

For the Middle Grade readers among you, here’s a treat. The final instalment of the Nevermoor Trilogy is coming out and I for one can’t wait to see where Morrigan Crow’s story goes next. These books are lovely, heartwarming, quirky, and inventive, and they’re just what I need when I’m feeling a little down.

53152954. sx318 sy475 Strange things are happening in Nevermoor…

Morrigan Crow faces her most dangerous challenge yet in her latest Wundrous adventure. The highly anticipated third book in the award-winning Nevermoor series from one of Australia’s bestselling and most loved authors.

Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts of the Accomplished Wundersmith, and control the power that threatens to consume her.

But a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realises it’s up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox, even if it will put her – and everyone in Nevermoor – in more danger than she ever imagined.


R. B. LEMBERG – THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES

I don’t know anything about this author but this sounds super intriguing. Comparisons to The Left Hand of Darkness are probably exaggerated but I’m willing to give it a try.

51600161Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night

The Surun’ do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But Uiziya now seeks her aunt Benesret in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.
Among the Khana, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother.
As the past catches up to the nameless man, he must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya, and Uiziya must discover how to challenge a tyrant, and weave from deaths that matter.

Set in R. B. Lemberg’s beloved Birdverse, The Four Profound Weaves hearkens to Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. In this breathtaking debut, Lemberg offers a timeless chronicle of claiming one’s identity in a hostile world.


TESSA GRATTON – NIGHT SHINE

A girl called Nothing and a Sorceress Who Eats Girls is really all I need to know to want this book. Tessa Gratton impressed me with The Queens of Innis Lear and while I really don’t like the cover for her new book, I will definitely check it out.

51000875. sy475 How can you live without your heart?

In the vast palace of the empress lives an orphan girl called Nothing. She slips within the shadows of the Court, unseen except by the Great Demon of the palace and her true friend, Prince Kirin, heir to the throne. When Kirin is kidnapped, only Nothing and the prince’s bodyguard suspect that Kirin may have been taken by the Sorceress Who Eats Girls, a powerful woman who has plagued the land for decades. The sorceress has never bothered with boys before, but Nothing has uncovered many secrets in her sixteen years in the palace, including a few about the prince.

As the empress’s army searches fruitlessly, Nothing

and the bodyguard set out on a rescue mission, through demon-filled rain forests and past crossroads guarded by spirits. Their journey takes them to the gates of the Fifth Mountain, where the sorceress wields her power. There, Nothing will discover that all magic is a bargain, and she may be more powerful than she ever imagined. But the price the Sorceress demands for Kirin may very well cost Nothing her heart


And that’s it for this month’s State of SFF. Make sure to vote in the IGNYTE Awards if you’ve read the nominated works and want to push your favorites. Add all the interesting sounding books to your wishlists and, most important of all, stay kind and stay safe.

The 2013 Hugo Award Nominees…

have been announced. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the Hugos and for me, they have hugo awardsgotten worse and worse in the last years. But it’s decided by popular vote and that’s that. I don’t have a membership, so I didn’t nominate nor will I be able to vote but I’ve told my boyfriend that he can get me a supporting membership for next year, so I can add my vote to an award I follow, while I may not always approve.

Here’s the list (minus a few categories that I personally never know what to do with – best editor, best fan artist, etc.). Let’s talk about this below each category.

BEST NOVEL

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

What do I think?
You know I have to start with Redshirts, right? I know Scalzi is wildly popular and I can see the appeal in his Old Man’s War books. But Redshirst was such a lazily written book (Scalzi admits that on io9) with so many flaws that its good idea just didn’t merit a good rating from me, let alone an award nomination. Then again, the internet has prepared me for seeing this on the ballot.
A positive surprise is the latest instalment in Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga. While I still haven’t read any of those books, it’s heartening to see that volume 13 (or what is it?) of a series can still excite enough people to get nominated. Makes me want to read the series even more.
I doubt I’ll manage to read 2312 before the awards are nominated (Hugo or Nebula), and I’d have to start the Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) series at the beginning. But again, I’m happy to see two women on the ballot.
Throne of the Crescent Moon was a fun read that made me want to read Ahmed’s next book, but it wasn’t good enough to get an award. I’m missing Caitlín R. Kiernan on this ballot because even though it has only sublte sff elements, it was one of those books that just defy categorisation and blow minds.

BEST NOVELLA

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
The Stars Do Not Lie (PDF) by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)

What do I think?
Shame on me, I read only one of these. But I heard great things about Aliette de Bodard’s novella from Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings. And I am coming across Nancy Kress’ story all the time on the internet. It seems to garner endless amounts of praise. As for the one novella I have read: Brandon Sanderson is one of those authors that I can get behind. I’m still only partway through the Mistborn trilogy, but he is so fresh and original that – please, give him a Hugo already. Depending on the other novellas listed here, maybe not this particular Hugo (although I very much liked The Emperor’s Soul), but… come on. He deserves one.

BEST NOVELETTE

The Boy Who Cast No Shadow by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
Fade To White by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
In Sea-Salt Tears (PDF) by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
“Rat-Catcher” by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)

What do I think?
I have started listening to “Fade to White” but then work got in the way. I will finish that one and, seeing as she’s on the ballot twice, read at least one of Seanan McGuire’s novelettes. Cat Valente would be my blind choice, just because she is SO GOOD, but I’ll get back to you once I can make an informed decision.

BEST SHORT STORY

Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
Mantis Wives by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
Mono no Aware by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)

Note: category has 3 nominees due to a 5% requirement under Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.

BEST RELATED WORK

The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge UP)
Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
I Have an Idea for a Book… The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

What do I think?
There’s Brandon Sanderson again. I have been listening to Writing Excuses for a good while now and would definitely throw a Hugo their way. Then again, the Chicks dig… books have been on my radar for a while. Must check out. Soon.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL

Grandville Bête Noire written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Saga, Volume One written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics) (my review)
Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

What do I think?
I just orderer Saga Volume One and hope it will arrive early next week. That’s a graphic novel on which I haven’t found a single negative review so far.
Sadly, I must admit, I haven’t even haerd of any of the others. Joe Hill writes comics? Awesome, I’ll put book 1 in that series on my to-buy list. And I do like Paul Cornell (if mostly for his recommendations on the SF Squeecast).
EDIT (April 3rd): I have bought and read Saga Volume 1 and, at the moment, can not think of many other comic books that made me this happy. It combines so many awesome things I love about genre and stories in general and I am utterly in love.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (Long Form)

The Avengers Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
The Cabin in the Woods Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
The Hunger Games Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
Looper Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)

What do I think?
Alright, let’s go through this list. I have seen all of these and The Avengers is the one my boyfriend and I watched more than once. It is so much fun, Joss Whedon is the king of dialogue and I would happily watch this movie again, right now. That said, Cabin in the Woods did something that I think is important for awards. Its metaness, the way it takes the horror movie genre and turns it on its head, while still having engaging moments of fun and terror – it’s just awesome. I would probably give this one the Hugo.
Everything that needs to be said about The Hobbit has already been said by people far more eloquent than I am. It was too long, it was too much of everything. I loved that the dwarves got more backstory (and yes, I am a squeeing Thorin fangirl because Richard Armitage was Mr. Thornton in North & South and I will always love him) but there was NO NEED to turn this story into a trilogy. The book was more lighthearted, more fun, with not nearly the stakes of The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson should have known that he can’t reproduce the success the epic story had. Why try?
The Hunger Games? No. The movie had its good elements but it is basically another case of taking a nice book and putting the Hollywood-veil on it. None of the really important or good parts of the books were there, both Katniss and Gale (while nice to look at) were incredibly miscast – seriously, there is one story that requires the protagonist to look like the anorexic beauty ideal and you manage to find a girl who looks healthy and well fed? And where did Gale get all that muscle when the entire district is starving? I have more issues with the movie than the characters’ looks, mind you, but it lacked almost all of the thrill and intrigue of the novel. So no.
Looper was kind of lame. Am I the only one in thinking that? Apart from the fact that it was riddled with logical mistakes, I had trouble engaging with the story. So yeah, didn’t much care for it, and even Joseph Gordon Levitt couldn’t save it for me.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (Short Form)

Doctor Who:“The Angels Take Manhattan” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“Asylum of the Daleks” Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“The Snowmen” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
Fringe:“Letters of Transit” Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
Game of Thrones:“Blackwater” Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

What do I think?
Other than People, there are things other than Doctor Who!, there isn’t much to say. I loved the “Angels Take Manhattan” episode and I loved the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones. It’s meager pickings on this ballot because what if you don’t like Doctor Who? If I had to make a choice, I’d vote for “Blackwater” just because I like HBO and how they don’t bleep out cuss words or boobs. (I’m Austrian, there are boobs and swear words on TV constantly and the bleeping really only draws attention to something that is part of our every-day language, or points human anatomy out as a Bad Thing. I see boobies every day (being a woman), they’re not a bad thing and I don’t see why we have to pretend women don’t have boobs (or a butt) on TV. Who are we protecting? Anyway, this went off on a tangent, but it’s another reason why I’d give the Hugo to Game of Thrones.

BEST FANZINE

Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
SF Signal edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester

What do I think?
I am thrilled to so Elitistit Book Reviews on here. They were the first blog I followed. Ever. Their reviews are insightful, short and to the point, and they have this brilliant feature called The University of Fantasy. You take their “classes” by starting with the classic SFF books and work your way up to more complex books, etc. The only downside to their blog is that they don’t update as frequently as, say, SF Signal.
Never having heard of the other nominees, I will go check them out right now. I see this as a good thing, awards are also supposed to show you new things, after all.

BEST FANCAST

The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

What do I think?
I’d give it to the SF Squeecast all over. Not only are these girls (and guy, of course, Paul Cornell is awesome) charming and eloquent, they have recommended a good mix of well-known books and very obscure or older titles that I would never have discovered on my own. I have listened to many of their episodes multiple times because whenever Seanan is there, they also manage to have wonderful moments of silliness and friendship. I get the feeling that they actually like each other and don’t just get together for the podcst.
The SF Signal Podcast is another one I listen to regularly. But their episodes can go either way. I love their panel discussions, but some of the interviews aren’t as well done. It’s kind of a gamble with them. And since they already have a Hugo for their website, I’d go with the Squeecast.
I believe I’ve listened to the other nominees at least once, but for some reason didn’t listen to more episodes. That could be either because they’re not up my alley or because I didn’t have time. I can’t make a truly fair judgement but the SF Squeecast is my favorite out there and should thusly win the award.
I am missing one fantastic podcast – The Writer and the Critic – that I’ve been listening to religiously lately. Maybe they didn’t get nominated because both the presenters are Australian or because not enough people know about it (or because they say “fuck” on the show). But if I had voted, they would have been my number 2 choice.

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Zen Cho *
Max Gladstone
Mur Lafferty *
Stina Leicht *
Chuck Wendig *

What do I think?
I can’t say much here. I didn’t like the only Chuck Wendig book I’ve ever read (Blackbirds) and I have books from Stina Leicht sitting on my TBR pile that sound very intriguing. I’ve heard good things about Mur Lafferty and Max Gladstone. I hadn’t heard of Zen Cho but I just took a look at her webpage and one of her novellas immedately interested me. I hope I can get it anywhere other than Amazon.
It also makes me happy to see three women on the ballot.

Now I have rambled long enough. I want to hear what you think! Did you nominate anyone? Who would you vote for, what did you think of the books, novellas, movies and TV episodes nominated? Let me hear your opinions, people. Also, I am always happy for recommendations so if among the many nominees I haven’t read, there is one you want me to read, let me know.

Kerstin Gier – Ruby Red (The Movie)

I know that many people who come to my blog are looking for one of two things. The publication date of the third book in Kerstin Gier’s trilogy, Emerald Green (I can still only say Goodreads and Amazon list it as October 2013), or news about the upcoming German  movie of the first book, Ruby Red. The release date in Germany is March 14th and imdb lists another one for Russia. I still don’t know if the movie will be translated into English but if everything else fails, I’m sure you can buy the DVD with English subtitles. Do not despair.

gwen and gideon

Because it is a German movie and I’m a German speaker, I have sifted out some interesting movie clips, images, and tidbits from the interwebs. The links will all lead you to youtube, for your fangirl movie clip watching pleasure. Because I like you guys. And it’s Sunday…

Here is a clip of Gwendolyn/Gwyneth being dressed up by Madame Rossini.
I won’t translate the whole thing for you. The gist of it is that Madame Rossini calls herself a genius for incorporating modern fiber (light-weight stays) into an authentic Rokoko dress. When Gideon walks in, he calls Gwen “very authentic” and Madame Rossini loses it because he isn’t wearing his canary yellow tights and calls him a little rebel.

Have another clip, this time it’s Gideon picking Gwendolyn up in a limousine.
I especially like the two girls going “Oh God, he’s touching her. And now he’s kissing her.” Leslie, honest as she is, tells Gwen that on second glance, Gideon isn’t half bad to which Gwen replies “meh”.

This is Gwendolyn’s mother telling the Circle that she is, in fact, the Ruby.
Those of you who have read the book (I’m assuming that’s everyone) already know why it was Charlotte who got the time travel education and not Gwen. Gwen’s mother explains how they blackmailed the midwife to change Gwendolyn’s date of birth, in the hope that it was Charlotte who had inherited the time travel gene. Charlotte’s mother takes the moment to call Gwendolyn clumsy and her brain the size of a pea. Charming, right?

gwen and gideon kiss

Here is Gwendolyn being officially named the Ruby.
When she and Gideon walk in, she asks him not to leave her alone. They tell her she will find her particular magic but, Gwen being Gwen, she doubts them and wants to know what the mission is. If you know the books, you know they’re not going to give her much of an answer.

This is Gwen taking Gideon out to have Indian food.
It’s pretty self-explanatory. But I do like Gwen calling Gideon “The Diamond. The toughest of them all” when he chokes on his Tandoori chicken a second time.

Here’s my personal favorite. Gwen and Gideon meet for the first time.
In the opening shot, Gwen narrates how insane her family is, how Aunt Maddy likes all things supernatural, how Charlotte thinks of herself as the eight wonder of the world. Then Gideon mistakes her for a waitress. I think it is because of things like this that every girl who has ever been called clumsy can relate to Gwen (or Gwyneth, depending on the language you read the book in).

This is Gwen’s first time travel (not youtube).
Her Aunt Maddy sends her to get her lemon drops and Gwen, feeling dizzy and strange, falls down the stairs and ends up… well, a couple of centuries ago, being accused of trying to steal some bread.

charlottegwen and lesliegwen and gideon dancing

If you still haven’t had enough of Ruby Red, you can check out the trilogy’s Facebook page. I’m sure it will cover all the news.

The 2012 Nebula Award Nominees…

have been announced. The list looks fantastic but I’m ashamed that I’ve read very, very few of the titles. Most of them are at least on my TBR, so I may just make March the Nebula nominee month and start catching up. nebula award logo

I’ve noticed something interesting since I’ve started blogging. First of all, I think a lot more about why I like or dislike a book. Secondly, I used to be only interested in awards for full length novels. Short stories, novellas or novellettes never did it for me. Being first and foremost a fantasy reader, I am quite comfortable with big books and I always thought short stories couldn’t capture me the same way a doorstopper novel could. But then I fell so thoroughly in love with certain authors’ writing (read: Catherynne M. Valente and Genevieve Valentine) that I had to read everything I could find. In my attempt to catch up on the nominees, I will still favor novels but at least I won’t completely disregard the shorter fiction. I have learned how powerful a story of merely a few pages can be.

NOVEL

  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (WINNER)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (my review)
  • Ironskin, Tina Connolly –> TBR
  • The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin  (my review)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (my review)
  • Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal  (my review)

NOVELLA

  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (WINNER)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake
  • All the Flavors“, Ken Liu
  • “Katabasis”, Robert Reed
  • Barry’s Tale“, Lawrence M. Schoen
NOVELETTE
SHORT STORY

ANDRE NORTON AWARD FOR YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

  • Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (WINNER)
  • Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Barnhill –> TBR
  • Black Heart, Holly Black
  • Above, Leah Bobet
  • The Diviners, Libba Bray –> TBR
  • Vessel, Sarah Beth Durst  –> TBR
  • Seraphina, Rachel Hartman –> TBR
  • Enchanted, Alethea Kontis
  • Every Day, David Levithan –> TBR
  • Summer of the Mariposas, Guadalupe Garcia McCall
  • Railsea, China Miéville –> TBR
  • Above World, Jenn Reese –> TBR

Thanks to SF Signal for providing links to many of the short fiction works!