Experience an Alternate History Space Program with Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut Series

Monday, July 2nd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky

Mary Robinette Kowal’s “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2014 (after some shenanigans that caused it to be weirdly disqualified in 2013). All that — not to mention her other accolades, including multiple Nebula nominations for her popular Glamourist Histories fantasy series — helped make it one of the most talked-about SF stories of the last decade. Read the complete text at Tor.com.

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” is the tale of Elma York, who led the expedition that paved the way to life on Mars, and the impossible decision she faces when she’s given the opportunity to return to space years later. Mary returns to the world of “Lady Astronaut” with her debut science fiction novel The Calculating Stars, available tomorrow from Tor Books. Fast on its heels is the sequel The Fated Sky, shipping in August. Tor.com offered us the following teaser back in September.

The novels will be prequels, greatly expanding upon the world that was first revealed in “Lady Astronaut.” The first novel, The Calculating Stars will present one perspective of the prequel story, followed closely by the second novel The Fated Sky, which will present an opposite perspective — one tightly woven into the first novel. Kowal elaborates: “The first novel begins on March 3, 1952 about five minutes before a meteorite slams into the Chesapeake Bay and wipes out D.C. I’ve been doing historical fantasy and I keep saying that this is historical science fiction, even though I know full well that ‘alternate history’ is already a genre. It’s so much fun to play in.”

Omnivoracious selected The Calculating Stars as one of 15 Highly Anticipated SFF Reads for Summer 2018, and just today the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog picked it as one of the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of July

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Can a Trilogy Have Six Books? The Legends of the First Empire by Michael J. Sullivan

Thursday, June 28th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Age of Myth-small Age of Swords-small Age of War-small

Every time an author wraps up a trilogy, we bake a cake at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters.

Of course, this sometimes leads to anxiety. Is the series really wrapped up? Are there going to be more books? It’s not like the publisher slaps a sticker on the book saying Finito!, exactly. What if we bake a cake, and it turns out there’s four more books? Won’t we look stupid.

Ah, the hell with it. It’s cake! We’ll be forgiven. Probably. In that spirit, we were all dressed up to celebrate the arrival of Age of War, the third and (final? maybe?) book in Michael J. Sullivan’s The Legends of the First Empire series, when one of Goth Chick’s interns did some actual research (i.e. spent five minutes on Sullivan’s website). Turns out there’s a whopping six books planned for the series. Who knew?

Fortunately for those of us on staff who love cake (meaning, like, everybody), the first three books in the series will be the only ones published by Del Rey, so Age of War is an ending, of sorts. Good enough for us. Cake for everyone!

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Future Treasures: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

Monday, June 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Empire of Silence-smallI’m definitely in the mood for an immersive, baroque space opera, with aliens, mystery, epic space battles, and even space gladiators. Wait, space gladiators?

Well, I’m not inclined to be picky right now so, sure, bring on the space gladiators. They’re a major part of Christopher Ruocchio’s debut novel Empire of Silence, the opening volume of The Sun Eater, which Eric Flint calls “epic-scale space opera in the tradition of Dune.” It arrives in hardcover from DAW next month.

Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in th galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives — even the Emperor himself — against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

Christopher Ruocchio is the co-editor (with Tony Daniel) of the new Baen anthology Star Destroyers, and (with Hank Davis) the upcoming Space Pioneers.

Empire of Silence will be published by DAW Books on July 3, 2018. It is 624 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Sam Weber, who also painted the cover to Medusa Uploaded and Ken Liu’s The Wall of Storms.


The End of an Era: The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year’s Best Science Fiction Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection-small The Year’s Best Science Fiction Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection-back-small

We lost Gardner Dozois last month. It was a terrible blow to the field. I’ve seen plenty of somber discussion among fans about whether or not Gardner was the finest editor science fiction has ever seen, and there’s no doubt in my mind he’s in the running.

Gardner devoted his entire career to science fiction, and his accomplishments were extraordinary. He won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor 15 times during his 19-year tenure at Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Nineteen years is an amazing run, but it’s barely half the 35 years he spent as editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, the de facto SF yearbook. I read the sixth volume in 1989 and I’ve looked forward to every one ever since.

The last volume will be published in less than two week, and its publication is bittersweet. It’s not the final book we’ll have from Gardner. His huge fantasy anthology The Book of Magic — with brand new stories by George R.R. Martin, John Crowley, Tim Powers, Scott Lynch, Eleanor Arnason, Garth Nix, Ysabeau Wilce, Liz Williams, Kate Elliott, and many others — is coming in October, and The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction is scheduled to be published in February. But the arrival of the final Dozois Year’s Best is very definitely the end of an era.

There will never be another editor like him. Cherish this book while you can.

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Explore the Vast and Mysterious Universe in The Final Frontier, edited by Neil Clarke

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Final Frontier Neil Clarke-smallNeil Clarke is the editor of the acclaimed Clarkesworld magazine, as well as the Best Science Fiction of the Year series from Night Shade Books, now in its third year. He also dabbles in themed anthologies, and they have been excellent. They include Galactic Empires and a splendid collection of robot stories, More Human Than Human.

His anthologies pretty rigorously exclude any classic SF, and in fact tend to focus almost exclusively on stories published after 2002 (which I assume is when he began reading the magazines regularly). This laser focus on modern writers makes him almost unique among modern genre anthologists and — for me at least — means that his books have been an invaluable tool for discovering great new writers. If, like me, your exposure to science fiction skews pretty heavily towards the 20th Century, Neil’s fine books may be just the antidote you need to bring you up to date on where SF is headed today.

So I was very excited to see Night Shade announce a brand new reprint anthology from Neil. The Final Frontier arrives in three weeks and includes tales from Nancy Kress, Ken Liu, James Patrick Kelly, Carrie Vaughn, Peter Watts, Greg Egan, Vandana Singh, Michael Swanwick, Tobias S. Buckell, and many others. Here’s the description.

The vast and mysterious universe is explored in this reprint anthology from award-winning editor and anthologist Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year).

The urge to explore and discover is a natural and universal one, and the edge of the unknown is expanded with each passing year as scientific advancements inch us closer and closer to the outer reaches of our solar system and the galaxies beyond them.

Generations of writers have explored these new frontiers and the endless possibilities they present in great detail. With galaxy-spanning adventures of discovery and adventure, from generations ships to warp drives, exploring new worlds to first contacts, science fiction writers have given readers increasingly new and alien ways to look out into our broad and sprawling universe.

The Final Frontier delivers stories from across this literary spectrum, a reminder that the universe is far large and brimming with possibilities than we could ever imagine, as hard as we may try.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Future Treasures: Gate Crashers by Patrick S Tomlinson

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Gate Crashers Patrick S Tomlinson-smallPatrick S. Tomlinson’s debut novel was The Ark, a murder mystery set on a generation ship just before it arrived at its destination. Publishers Weekly called it “Impressive,” saying “Tomlinson’s pacing is beyond reproach, as he deftly crafts an ever more elaborate web of intrigue within the self-contained setting.” The Ark was published by Angry Robot, and it became the opening book in the Children of a Dead Earth trilogy, which wrapped up last year.

Tomlinson’s newest book arrives next week, and it looks like a standalone novel — an easier bite to chew if your reading time is as precious as mine this month. Joel Cunningham at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog says “Gate Crashers is a story of space exploration and humanity’s first contact with aliens, plus a healthy dose of irreverent humor.”

The only thing as infinite and expansive as the universe is humanity’s unquestionable ability to make bad decisions.

Humankind ventures further into the galaxy than ever before… and immediately causes an intergalactic incident. In their infinite wisdom, the crew of the exploration vessel Magellan, or as she prefers “Maggie,” decides to bring the alien structure they just found back to Earth. The only problem? The aliens are awfully fond of that structure.

A planet full of bumbling, highly evolved primates has just put itself on a collision course with a far wider, and more hostile, galaxy that is stranger than anyone can possibly imagine.

Gate Crashers will be published by Tor Books on June 26, 2018. It is 416 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover art is uncredited. Read Chapter One here.

See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming SF & fantasy here.


In 500 Words of Less: Early Review of Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart by Steven Erikson

Friday, June 15th, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Rejoice A Knife to the Heart US-smallRejoice: A Knife to the Heart
By Steven Erikson
Promontory Press (460 pages, $26 hardcover, October 2018)

I’ve been a Steven Erikson fan for a long time, ever since a friend handed me the first Malazan novel, Gardens of the Moon, when I was in university. You might have seen on here a few months ago that I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Steven at Can*Con in Ottawa, where he was Author Guest of Honor. That whole experience was cool all on its own, but following that I got the privilege of reading an ARC of his forthcoming novel Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart, which Bennett R. Coles has already called “a stunning work of literature.”

Honestly, the literature side of Rejoice is what surprised me the most. In our interview, Steven and I talked about how his first publications before Malazan were literary, which struck me since it’s rare for authors in our industry to jump genres like that. But what’s particularly interesting with Rejoice is that he takes the large-scale worldbuilding, extensive cast of characters and air of mystery of his fantasy work and applies is to the present day – or a twist on the present day, involving Earth’s first contact with an alien race. The novel’s already been described as “a first contact story without contact”; since this isn’t Independence Day or Close Encounters, the focus is instead on us, and how we’d react if an alien intelligence showed up and gave us a chance to improve ourselves.

That might sound like this is a novel that preaches or proselytizes, but it really doesn’t. Instead what you see is snapshots of people’s lives around the planet, from politicians to scientists to media tycoons to refugees in developing countries, all facing situations beyond their control (and almost their comprehension) and needing to decide what they should do about it. If you’re hoping for flashy energy weapons or epic journeys like in the Malazan books, you won’t find it here – but the debates and conversations between the characters in Rejoice, and the steps they take in response to this alien influence, are often tense and always intriguing. At the end of the day, a lot of our way of life (regardless of political ideology or religious belief) is about having some measure of control over our lives, and when that’s taken away very interesting things can happen.

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Future Treasures: A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White

Thursday, June 14th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe-smallAlex White is the author of the ghostly mystery Every Mountain Made Low (Solaris, 2016) and Alien: The Cold Forge (Titan, 2018). His latest is a space opera romp that sounds like it might appeal to the role players in the audience. Publishers Weekly called it,

An entertaining throwback with some fun worldbuilding and two great lead characters. In the distant future, well after space has been colonized, almost all humans have magic powers, conveniently divided into RPG-like classes (machinists are great with tech, fatalists are perfect shots, etc.)

Here’s the description.

Furious and fun, the first book in this bold, new science fiction adventure series follows a crew of outcasts as they try to find a legendary ship that just might be the key to saving themselves — and the universe.

Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she got something real — the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction.

Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world — until she witnesses Mother murder a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah has only one lead: the killer also hunts Boots.

On the wrong side of the law, the two women board a smuggler’s ship that will take them on a quest for fame, for riches, and for justice.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe is Book 1 of The Salvagers series. Book 2, A Bad Deal For the Whole Galaxy, has already been announced; it arrives on December 11th, 2018. Book 3 will be titled The Worst of All Possible Worlds.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe will be published by Orbit on June 26, 2018. It is 480 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. Read Chapter One at Quiet Earth.


Experience Poul Anderson’s Complete Psychotechnic League from Baen Books

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Complete Psychotechnic League Volume 1-small The Complete Psychotechnic League Volume 2-small The Complete Psychotechnic League Volume 3-small

Art by Kurt Miller

When I learned last September that Baen Books was reprinting Poul Anderson’s classic Psychotechnic League stories, I wrote a brief history of the series. Here’s what I said, in part.

The Psychotechnic League began as a Future History, a popular beast among short SF writers of the 40s and 50s. Anderson published the first story, “Entity,” in the June 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, and set the opening of his series a decade in the future. The series continued for the next two decades, (appearing in Astounding, Planet Stories, Worlds Beyond, Science Fiction Quarterly, Cosmos, Fantastic Universe, and other fine magazines), eventually extending into the 60s. In the process, his “Future History” gradually became an “Alternate History,” as actual history trampled all over his carefully constructed fictional timeline.

That didn’t seem to bother readers though, and the tales of the Psychotechnic League remained popular well into the 80s. The series included some 21 stories, including three short novels: The Snows of Ganymede (1955), Star Ways (1956), and Virgin Planet (1957). The short stories and one of the novels were collected in a trilogy of handsome Tor paperbacks in 1981/82, with covers by Vincent DiFate. Now Baen books is reprinting the entire sequence in a series of deluxe trade paperbacks, starting with The Complete Psychotechnic League, Volume 1, on sale next month.

Volume 1 was released right on schedule last October, and Volume 2 followed in February. The third and final book will be released next month.

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Future Treasures: Space Pioneers, edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Space Pioneers Hank Davis-smallIt’s been too long since we’ve checked in with Hank Davis, the mad genius editor at Baen behind the anthologies Things From Outer Space and In Space No One Can Hear You Scream. I figured he had to have something interesting cooking and, sure enough, when I asked him to comment, here’s what he told me.

Coming in December this year, looking for stockings to stuff, is Space Pioneers, a rough of whose cover is now on Baen.com, though the author lineup thereon may be modified…

After that, still in the works is Overruled!, an anthology of stories about courtrooms, lawyers, and other low-lifes. In the future beyond that will be an anthology of military sf stories involving time travel, whose working title is Time Troopers, but that may change. I was going to handle the Psychotechnic League stories by Poul Anderson, but was felled by health problems at a crucial juncture, so it’s in other hands. (The timing of those problems is also why the first volume of The Best of Gordon R. Dickson came out without my usual tedious introductions and notes, but I’ll try to give better value in the next volume).

I do hope that Space Pioneers does well, since I could do a *series* of anthologies on this theme without breaking sweat. My hat’s off (dangerous move for a bald geezer) to my co-ed, Christopher Ruocchio, who did much of the busy work (contracts, nudging agents, etc.) while I was still recovering, and who also talked me into using two Poul Anderson yarns, a suggestion I had absolutely no problem with (and I have a third in mind if there’s a Volume II). And that’s the current state of the pipeline. I should remind everyone that these will all be mass market paperbacks.

Sounds like a great line-up! Space Pioneers in particular looks like a terrific book, and a splendid addition to Hank’s catalog of top-notch anthologies. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for it, and making some more noise about it here as we get closer to the release date.

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