The Strange and Familiar Nominees for the 2019 Hugo Awards

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The nominees for the 2019 Hugo Awards were announced this morning via streaming webcast straight from Dublin, Ireland, home of the 77th annual World Science Fiction Convention, and the lucky honorees represent the daring, strange—and familiar—flavors of sci-fi and fantasy that defined last year.

All six authors vying for Best Novel this year are prior Hugo nominees, and three of them—Mary Robinette Kowal (The Calculating Stars), Rebecca Roanhorse (Trail of Lightning), and Catherynne Valente (Space Opera)—even won, though none of those trophies was for a novel. The three others facing off in the category—Naomi Novik (Spinning Silver), Becky Chambers (Record of a Spaceborn Few), and Yoon Ha Lee (Revenant Gun)—are celebrating nominations for consecutive novels, though not all were published in consecutive years. (Also worth noting: Roanhorse, Novik, and Kowal’s novels are contenders at this year’s Nebulas.)

There are fresher faces elsewhere on the ballot, including P. Djèlí Clark, nominated two times this year, for Best Novella for The Black God’s Drums and Best Short Story for “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington.” Alix E. Harrow also celebrates her first nomination for her short story “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” while the Best Novelette category features first-timers Simone Heller and Zen Cho—who, we’re pleased to say, picked up her nomination for “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” a lovely story of love, perseverance, and dragons that was published right here on The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

As ever, an established career and a dedicated fan following have their perks: in its third year, the Best Series Hugo sees its first repeat nominee, for Seanan McGuire’s October Daye urban fantasy series, while Aliette de Bodard, Yoon Ha Lee, and Becky Chambers are nominated for series whose recent individual works are also recognized in other categories this year.

With additional nominations for familiar names like Jo Walton and Ursula K. Le Guin (who earned her second posthumous nomination), what is perhaps most notable about this year’s slate—aside from the uniform excellence of the works recognized—is the how very traditionally Hugo they are. After a number of years during which the most storied honor in genre became mired in political gamesmanship, controversy, and no small amount of anger, this year’s ballot seems to do nothing more than speak to the year in SFF that was 2018, as it was seen by the WorldCon fandom.

And that’s the way it should be.

The Hugo Award winners will be announced in August at Dublin 2019. The complete list of nominees follows.

Best Novel

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
The first of a pair of prequel novels to Kowal’s award-winning novelette The Lady Astronaut of MarsThe Calculating Stars (also a Nebula nominee) delves into the alternate history that resulted in humanity establishing a colony on Mars in the middle of the 20th century. In the spring of 1952, a huge meteor hits Chesapeake Bay, taking out most of the Eastern United States. Mathematician and former military pilot Elma York and her scientist husband Nate are there to witness the destruction, and Elma knows immediately that this is an ELE—an extinction-level event—and that humanity must look to the stars if it has any hope of survival. Although her experience as a pilot and her math skills earn Elma a place in the International Aerospace Coalition as a calculator, she begins to wonder why women can’t be astronauts as well—and she’s more than willing to confront racism, sexism, and more personal enemies on her quest to become the first lady astronaut. This is one of those books that seems to have come along at just the right moment, bringing together fascinating, inspiring characters; compelling, plausible worldbuilding; and a message that resonates—especially today. Read our review.

Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager)
This standalone followup to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit explores what happens to those passengers on the generation ships humanity used to escape Earth who don’t know how to leave their vessels behind. The Exodans are the largest concentration of humanity anywhere in the universe; they are the descendants of those who left a poisoned Earth two centuries before on a flotilla of hope. The novel explores what happens to them after the ship reaches its destination: both to those who venture forth into new lives, and those who stay behind. Chambers’ books are celebrated for their warmth and diverse characters, but her worldbuilding is also stellar; it’s a delight to spend more time in this universe. Read our interview with the author.

Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Lee brings the Hugo and Nebula award-nominated Machineries of Empire trilogy to its conclusion in mathematical style with a brainy, fast-paced final entry. Shuos Jedao wakes up in the body of a much older man rather than the 17-year old one his memories led him to expect. He’s shocked to discover he’s now a general, commanded by Hexarch Nirai Kujen—a tyrant hiding behind an easy smile—to conquer the haxarchate using an army compelled to obey his every command. Worse—he quickly discovers that the soldiers despise him for a massacre he doesn’t remember committing. Worst—someone is hunting him, seeking to bring him to justice for his crimes. The first two books in the series stretched imaginations and taxed brains, and this one is no different—and no less worth the effort it takes to puzzle it out. Read our review.

Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga Press)
Valente spins a truly nutty disco ball of a sci-fi story that begins with the Sentience Wars that nearly eradicate all intelligent life in the universe; when they end, the scattered survivors regroup and begin a new tradition designed to avoid future apocalypses: the Metagalactic Grand Prix, a universe-wide competition of song and dance open only to recognized sentient species. When any new species emerges onto the universal stage to declare itself sentient—like, say, humanity—they must send contestants to the Grand Prix to prove their worth and quite literally sing for their lives (though alien singing doesn’t always sound like a Top 40 hit). Place anything but last and the upstart civilization is a part of the club. If they come in last, they’re quietly exterminated, in the name of preserving universal peace. (Tough choices, people…and not people.) When Earth is unexpectedly pulled into the next contest, the task of saving humanity falls to a has-been rock star named Decibel Jones, who must grapple with the demons of his past while venturing reluctantly onto the largest stage of all-time. It’s a a second chance to be a glitter-bombed rock star. or die trying—along with everyone else. Inspired by her dual love for Eurovision and Douglas Adams, this one is pure Catherynne Valente, from the first page to the last. Read our review.

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Drawing on Eastern European folklore and the classic fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin, Novik tells the story of Miryem, daughter in a family of Jewish moneylenders led by her incompetent father. With their fortunes on the wane due to his poor business sense, Miryem must step in and turn the family business around. Inspired by a mixture of desperation and genius, she responds by spinning debts into gold—gold that attracts the attention of the Staryk, emotionless fairies who bring winter with them. The Staryk give Miryem Fairy Silver and demand she transform it, too. Miryem does so by turning the beautiful metal into jewelry that attracts the attention of the rich and powerful—but her success brings her more Staryk attention, and thus more problems. Novik’s first standalone novel to come along in the wake of the Nebula Award-winning Uprooted had a tough act to follow, but Spinning Silver—expanded from a short story included in anthology The Starlit Wood—is every bit as enchanting. Read our review.

Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga Press)
Roanhorse’s buzzy debut is set in a post-apocalyptic world comparable to Mad Max: Fury Road in intensity, with worldbuilding drawn from the author’s Indigenous American heritage. In an America devastated by rising sea levels, the Navajo Nation has been reborn as Dinétah—and with it have come the old gods and monsters of Native American legend. Maggie Hoskie is a monster-hunter, gifted with the power to fight and defeat these beasts. Hired by a small town to locate a missing girl, she teams up with a misfit medicine man named Kai Arviso, and the two dive into a mystery that takes them deeper into the dark side of Dinétah than they could have imagined—a world of tricksters, dark magic, and creatures more frightening than any story. Trail of Lightning is an audacious take on the conventions of both urban fantasy and the post-apocalyptic novel, binding them together in a way that could only and ever happen in Dinétah. Read our review.

Best Novella

Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells ( Publishing)

Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing)

Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor ( Publishing)

The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark ( Publishing)

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson ( Publishing)

The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press / JABberwocky Literary Agency)

Best Novelette

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog)

“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (

“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander ( Publishing)

“The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine #25)

“When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld #145, October 2018)

Best Short Story

“The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine #25)

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)

“STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)

“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine #23)

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)

Best Series

The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older ( Publishing)

The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross ( Publishing)

Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)

The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press)

Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work

Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works

Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee (Dey Street Books)

The Hobbit Duology, written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan (YouTube)

An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000, by Jo Walton (Tor)

The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 (Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, John Picacio)

Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon (Tin House Books)

Best Graphic Story

Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)

Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)

Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden (First Second)

Paper Girls, Vol. 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)

Saga, Vol. 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Annihilation, directed and written for the screen by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer (Paramount)

Avengers: Infinity War, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Studios)

Black Panther, written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler (Marvel Studios)

A Quiet Place, screenplay by Scott Beck, John Krasinski and Bryan Woods, directed by John Krasinski (Platinum Dunes/Sunday Night)

Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley (Annapurna Pictures)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate,” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Simon Cellan Jones

Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab,” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs

Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning

The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett

The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy,” written by Megan Amram, directed by Trent O’Donnell

Doctor Who: “Rosa,” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

Neil Clarke

Gardner Dozois

Lee Harris

Julia Rios

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas

Catherine Tobler 

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

Sheila E. Gilbert

Anne Lesley Groell

Beth Meacham

Diana Pho

Gillian Redfearn

Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

Galen Dara

Jaime Jones

Victo Ngai

John Picacio

Yuko Shimizu

Charles Vess

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews

Fireside Magazine, edited by Julia Rios, managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, social coordinator Meg Frank, special features editor Tanya DePass, founding editor Brian White, publisher and art director Pablo Defendini

FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, executive editors Troy L. Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders, editors L.D. Lewis, Brandon O’Brien, Kaleb Russell, Danny Lore, and Brent Lambert

Shimmer, publisher Beth Wodzinski, senior editor E. Catherine Tobler

Strange Horizons, edited by Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, Vanessa Rose Phin, Vajra Chandrasekera, Romie Stott, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons Staff

Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine

Galactic Journey, founder Gideon Marcus, editor Janice Marcus

Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet

Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, & Susan

nerds of a feather, flock together, editors Joe Sherry, Vance Kotrla and The G

Quick Sip Reviews, editor Charles Payseur

Rocket Stack Rank, editors Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

Best Fancast

Be the Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace

The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe

Fangirl Happy Hour, hosted by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams

Galactic Suburbia, hosted by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch

Our Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders

The Skiffy and Fanty Show, produced by Jen Zink and Shaun Duke, hosted by the Skiffy and Fanty Crew 

Best Fan Writer

Foz Meadows

James Davis Nicoll

Charles Payseur

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

Alasdair Stuart

Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist

Sara Felix

Grace P. Fong

Meg Frank

Ariela Housman

Likhain (Mia Sereno)

Spring Schoenhuth

Best Art Book

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press)

Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon, by Julie Dillon (self-published)

Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer (Ten Speed Press)

Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, edited by John Fleskes (Flesk Publications)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—The Art of the Movie, by Ramin Zahed (Titan Books)

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, edited by Catherine McIlwaine (Bodleian Library)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Katherine Arden (2nd year of eligibility)

S.A. Chakraborty (2nd year of eligibility)

R.F. Kuang (1st year of eligibility)

Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)

Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2nd year of eligibility)

Rivers Solomon (2nd year of eligibility)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform)

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt)

The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown)

Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)

The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (Scholastic)

Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House)

Who are you pulling for at this year’s Hugo Awards? Let us know in the comments.

The post The Strange and Familiar Nominees for the 2019 Hugo Awards appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Revolution on Mars, Life on the Moon, and a Visual History of D&D

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Red Rising (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Pierce Brown
Return to the first volume of Brown’s revolutionary space opera trilogy with this special edition reissue of his bestselling debut. The Red Rising series has taken on the status of new genre classic, telling the story of a color-coded solar empire modeled on ancient Roman swagger and built on ruthless genetic manipulation. In this series-opener, Darrow, a laboring Red on Mars, grows weary of people treated like a tool to be used and thrown away by the ruthless, ruling Golds. Pulled into a vast conspiracy, he undergoes painful surgeries in order to pass as one of the aristocratic elites, and takes place in a deadly sort of gladiatorial games; winning them will position him to increase his status and take down the system from the inside. This exclusive B&N edition features an alternate cover and full-color endpapers, as well as a new preface by the author.

The Dream Gatherer, by Kristen Britain
Twenty years and five sequels ago, Kristen Britain launched a beloved epic fantasy series with The Green Rider, following the titular central heroes in a sort of postal service/spy network. The series draws on her own history as a former ranger with the National Parks service and her current life in the desert—as someone who has spent her life out in nature, her descriptions of her fantasy world feel rich and vibrant. The central heroes of the story, the Green Riders themselves, are a sort of combination of postal workers and spies. To celebrate the two-decade milestone (and ease the wait for the next full-length volume), Britain offers up the titular novella—featuring series faves the Berry Sisters—and two additional short stories, each featuring illustrations she created herself. It’s a must for fans.

Restless Lightning, by Richard Baker
The sequel to Valiant Dust and the second volume in the Breaker of Empires military sci-fi series. set in a 32nd century in which technologically advanced superpowers dominate older, backwards empires. Sikander North is a prince of Kashmir, vassal to the Commonwealth of Aquila, an interstellar power. He’s avoided a court martial for his actions defending the empire in the previous book, but is reassigned to a remote outpost of little import. Naturally, of course, that puts him on the front lines of a brewing alien revolt, and putting a stop to it will require him to break all the rules and defy orders once again. This is military science fiction adventure in the classic mold.

Cold Iron, by Miles Cameron
Under a variety of pen names, Cameron has written extensively in historical fiction and epic fantasy, including, most recently, the expansive Traitor Son Cycle. He credits the remarkable levels of verisimilitude he’s able to bring to these stories to his military service, his training as a historian, and his enthusiasm for historical reenactments, which force him to learn how to recreate the past and give him insight into how people interacted, dressed, and lived in ancient times. His new series, Masters & Mages, kicks off with Cold Iron, telling the story of a talented young mage named Arnathur, who finds himself compelled to train under a legendary sword master after revealing his surprising skill with a blade and begins questioning that path even as he’s drawn into the intrigue surrounding a growing revolt. Cameron brings an intimate knowledge of history and warfare to a remarkably complex, real-feeling work of epic fantasy.

Roar of Sky, by Beth Cato
With the Breath of Earth series, set in an alternate San Francisco that’s part of a Japan-USA super empire known as the United Pacific, and taking place before, during, and after the great earthquake of 1906, Cato has created a genre unto itself—one combining elements of historical fiction, alternate history, steampunk, and urban fantasy. In this concluding volume, a weakened but defiant geomancer named Ingrid Carmichael (whose father was discovered to have magically caused the earthquake in the first place) flees to Hawaii to seek out her roots and evade the insane grasp of Ambassador Blum, who wants to use her power to further her own nefarious ends. Cato’s historically grounded worldbuilding and fierce protagonist have made this series a highlight of the past three years; we’re sorry to see this series reach its ending—but what a climactic ending it is.

The Silver Scar, by Betsy Dornbusch
The author of the Seven Eyes series returns with a satisfying standalone volume that takes place in a post-apocalyptic future America that looks a lot like the setting for an medieval epic fantasy, riven by religious divisions and competition for scarce resources. Trinidad is the child of Wiccans who martyred themselves for their beliefs; he has devoted his life to the Christian parish in what was once Boulder, Colorado. A powerful bishop arrives bearing a scar she claims was given to her by an angel, but Trinidad recognizes its true origin: a graveyard he learned of as a child, which has the power to heal. The only other person who knows about the graveyard is Trinidad’s childhood friend Castile, who has fallen in with terrorists; they kidnap Trinidad, believing he told the bishop about the graveyard. Reunited under the worst of circumstances, the one-time friends must brave a hostile journey and dangerous enemies as they journey to confront the bishop—and Trinidad does whatever he has can quell a brewing religious war.

The Son of Black Thursday, by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Sci-fi fans might best know Jodorowsky as the man who utterly failed to get a 14-hour film version of Dune into production, but his career encompasses much more than that legendary debacle. He’s also written for comics and penned novels, and now, publisher Restless Books is translating some of his fantasy-autobiographical books into English for the first time. The Son of Black Thursday tells the story of Jodorowsky’s family’s move from Ukraine to Chile, and his early life there—but adds into the mix a healthy dose of surrealism and the sort of sci-fi flourishes that have always characterized his work. It’s not so much a memoir as a science fiction version of Jodorowsky’s epic life.

Thin Air, by Richard K. Morgan
Earlier this year, a whole new audience was introduced to Morgan’s work via the Netflix adaptation of hs debut, Altered Carbon, meaning the timing is perfect for this new story from the English writer. Thin Air is more of what Morgan does best: dark, gritty sci-fi noir. In the future, Mars has become a battleground for ruthless forces back on Earth, even as a native independence movement gains steam among the red planet’s permanent residents. Hakan Veil is a professional enforcer with body tech that makes him deadly, but he’s tired of being the heavy on Mars, and just wants to back to a planet with a breathable atmosphere. In classic noir tradition, he gets his chance via one last mission: protecting a visiting investigator for the Earth Oversight organization. The ensuing events threaten not just the balance of power on Mars, but the lives of Veil and his client; as Morgan’s regular readers will expect, things are going to get bloody fast.

Astounding, by Alec Nevala-Lee
Harvard-grad Lee has published three novels and several short stories, earning a reputation as one of the smartest young SFF writers out there. His first non-fiction work focuses on the Golden Age of Science Fiction, a period roughly between 1935 and 1950, when John W. Campbell and Astounding Science Fiction seemed to single-handedly define—and regularly redefine—the genre, with the able assistance of three of the era’s most important writers: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard (yes, that L. Ron Hubbard). In this history-cum-narrative, Lee examines what made Campbell and his writers so important, and doesn’t flinch away from these icons’ later wanderings into the fringe. The end result is a welcome analysis of one of the most significant periods in science fiction’s history, explored by a talented writer with a clear love for the genre.

Red Moon, by Kim Stanley Robinson
Robinson leaves the waterlogged Big Apple of New York 2140 to explore humanity’s future off-planet in Red Moon, as a political conspiracy unfolds on Earth’s satellite in a novel that harkens back to his landmark Mars trilogy. In the near future, the moon has been colonized by both the United States and China. The uneasy peace between the two countries is threatened when American Fred Fredericks is somehow involved in the poisoning of Governor Chang of the Chinese colony. Fredericks finds himself fighting for his life as he and an illegally pregnant Chinese woman named Qi race to return to Earth. As always, Robinson employs careful research and exacting worldbuilding as he traces current events into an entirely plausible future—it’s a novel that considers, among many other things, what role blockchain might play in our lunar colonial future.

A Conspiracy of Truths, by Alexandra Rowland
Rowland’s major debut (she self-published the novel In the End in 2012) is a story about stories. Chant, a member of an order of wandering storytellers, finds himself arrested on baffling charges of espionage in the realm of Nuryevet, a country run by five elected rulers. A Conspiracy of Truths has a bifurcated tone: half-comic in the exaggerated grandiloquence of Chant’s stories and self-regard, and maybe more than half-tragic in the events that inevitably unfold. Our narrator knows the power of stories, and his weaving of them from the depths of his incarceration ends up being the seismic event that shakes the very foundations of Nuryevet.

Dungeons & Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer
Experienced players of the world’s most popular tabletop game, don’t miss this one: this official history is a deep dive into the visual development of Dungeons & Dragons, with more than 700 pieces of artwork drawn from all five editions, plus various supplements and side modules; licensed magazines; advertising and merchandise; and a whole lot more. The publisher bills it as “the most comprehensive collection of D&D imagery ever assembled,” and we’re inclined to agree: this thing is a beast. And the exclusive B&N edition includes even more to love, like a variant cover and six fold-out pages featuring additional maps and illustrations.

What’s new on your shelves this week?

The post This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Revolution on Mars, Life on the Moon, and a Visual History of D&D appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

Reassessing 6 Works from an Astounding Era of Science Fiction

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Alec Nevala-Lee’s new book Astounding is a fascinating, essential history of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction” from the point of view of John W. Campbell, writer and, for decades, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine (read our full review here).

During his tenure as an editor, Campbell discovered and nurtured a group of writers who would go on to stand with the biggest names in the genre’s history. Men (and they were almost always men) like Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard were among Campbell’s inner circle. None of the works produced during the Campbell era were produced in a vacuum, but were created with at least some degree of collaboration with the legendary editor whose vision of the future, for better and worse, shapes our view of science fiction to this day.

Here are six key works that represent the Campbell era’s lasting influence on the genre.

Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
The title is apt, given the sheer volume of later work inspired by Asimov’s lynchpin series, the one-time Hugo winner for the best sci-fi series ever. Ultimately composed of seven novels published over more than fifty years, the saga began as a series of eight short stories and novellas published in Astounding beginning in 1942 (this structure remains in the books as we know them, with sections with distinct beginnings and endings that tie into an overall story, much like a serialized TV drama). Foundation tells the story of the titular future organization, established to preserve the best aspects of civilization following an inevitable collapse. Though the work is distinctly Asimov’s, it’s origins were decidedly collaborative, reflecting a time when John W. Campbell saw Isaac not as the science fiction superstar he became, but as a gifted student to be molded. The two collaborated on breaking out the initial story, but Campbell’s influence is most keenly felt in the idea of “psychohistory.” In the galaxy of Foundation, large-scale human behavior is predictable to a scientific certainty, even as the behavior of individuals remains subject to chance and whim. It ties into Campbell’s ideas about psychology and the perfectibility of the human mind—ideas that ultimately led him to work with L. Ron Hubbard.

Who Goes There?, by John W. Campbell
The “base under siege” mode of sci-fi storytelling has a long history, but few have done it better than Campbell did in this 1940 novella about a team of researchers in the Antarctic who accidentally thaw the alien pilot of a spacecraft that crashed into the ice many millions of years ago. The isolated crew is soon hunted by a shapeshifting “Thing” that can mimic the appearance of anyone on the team. If that all sounds familiar, it’s because the story was loosely adapted by Howard Hawks and company for the 1951 The Thing from Another World, and then later by John Carpenter in the surprisingly more faithful The Thing (and later still in the 2011 prequel). Campbell mostly gave up solo writing after taking over Astounding, but this story remains an influential standout among his limited output, perhaps suggested by his childhood dislike of his mother’s cold and distant twin sister.

“If This Goes On—”, by Robert Heinlein
Described by Astounding chronicler Nevala-Lee as Heinlein’s first great story, “If This Goes On—” is early Heinlein, a work that brings together a great many of the themes and ideas he’d continue to explore over the balance of his life, and evidences what became a customary fearlessness in his willingness to explore issues of politics and religion. Here, America is under the rule of Christian theocrats (the last free and open elections having occurred in 2012—make of that what you will) under President/Prophet Nehemiah Scudder. A devout army officer begins to question the arrangement when he witnesses the impact of sexual servitude on the women in the Prophet’s orbit. First serialized in Astounding in 1940, it announced Heinlein as a rising star and laid out a lot of the details for works in his interrelated “Future History” stories. It was collected as part of Revolt in 2100, a collection of Future History tales.

Final Blackout, by L. Ron Hubbard
Hubbard contributed work to several of the golden age pulps, writing across several genres. Though he’s best known today for science fiction tales like the Mission: Earth series and Battlefield Earth (well, maybe not best known) it wasn’t his primary focus in the era during which he was a part of John W. Campbell’s stable of writers. Still, he was generally seen as a reliable storyteller, and a purveyor of the type of action and fun that pulp readers frequently demanded. Final Blackout stands out among his work for its richly detailed portrait of a dystopian future in which the planet has been blighted by three decades of war. Into this world comes the Lieutenant, a statesman and leader who can help to put things right. It dovetails nicely with Campbell’s longstanding interest in the idea of humanity perfected: both Hubbard and the editor liked stories in which a noble, strong, smart, and virtuous man saves the future. That lofty vision was a direct influence on the development of Scientology, which both Hubbard and, initially, Campbell saw as a means of advancing the species one mind at a time.

Slan, by A.E. van Vogt
Though a relatively minor figure in Nevala-Lee’s book, van Vogt looms large in the history of science fiction. Though controversial for his style and politics (frequently relating to now-obscure debates over General Semantics and non-Aristotelian logic), his volume of output, if nothing else, ensures his place in the canon. Slan was serialized in Astounding in 1940, and represented something of a coup for Campbell: he’d promised readers that he’d introduce several new and talented voices, and van Vogt proved to be a get. The novel’s Slans are psychic, super-intelligent, highly evolved humans who find themselves hunted and feared by less-evolved world leaders. Its themes were wildly influential (cough X-Men cough), and the book became an early rally-point for fandom, as “Fans are slans!” became a slogan among those who felt that sci-fi readers were superior minds harassed by lesser intelligences. It’s unclear if any bullies were put off by the slogan. (But probably they were not.)

Nova, by Samuel R. Delany
Here is a novel significant in the history of sci-fi magazine publishing for having been rejected, despite the author having recently won a Hugo Award for Best Novel, because Campbell didn’t think his readers would relate to a story with a black protagonist. As Campbell grew older, his darker impulses came to the fore, and his ideas about human perfectibility became increasingly exclusionary. Though Astounding (which had, by then, been renamed Analog Science Fiction and Fact) had published works by women (C.L. Moore, Anne McCaffrey, and Leigh Brackett, among others), Campbell never seemed to consider their work particularly important, and writers of color were almost entirely left out, a fact that grew increasingly difficult to justify in the civil rights era and beyond. Black and queer writer Samuel R. Delany was one of the voices willing and entirely able to move the genre forward, and his Nova represents a moment, perhaps, when Campbell could have bridged the gap between his glorious—but very white—golden age and a more expansive future. But he said no, praising Delany’s skill while dismissing the potential of people of color to create transcendent SF. Though less experimental than Delany’s later output, this wildly entertaining space opera anticipated cyberpunk trends while paying tribute to earlier works; its ultimate publication as a novel remains a pivotal moment.

Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding is available now.

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