This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: The Expanse Expands, an Intergalactic Empire Falters, and a Killer Stalks a Fantasy City

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Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S.A. Corey
The eighth book in The Expanse book arrives just as excitement over the continuing television adaptation of the series reaches a fever pitch. As this penultimate entry opens, human space is controlled by the Laconian empire and Winston Duarte, who seeks to make evolution happen on his timeline using the same alien technology that operates in the ring gates humans use to travel between thousands of livable worlds. The survivors of the gunship Rocinante work with the growing rebellion to throw off Duarte’s control. Their best hope might just be Duarte’s own daughter, who doesn’t relish the idea of being part of her father’s ultimate science experiments. Fast-paced, smartly plotted, and nuanced—this is one of the best SF series of the decade.

Miranda in Milan, by Katharine Duckett 
Reinterpreting the Bard through a queer prism, Katharine Duckett’s rich debut novella provides a more complete journey for Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Arriving in a Milan falling under the control of her father, Miranda is more or less imprisoned in his castle. The servants hate her, and when she is allowed outside—accompanied always by her Agata—she is veiled. A miserable life is lightened when she meets Dorothea, a maid of the castle, who shows Miranda a series of secret tunnels—and much more. The two forge close relationship as Miranda discovers the existence of magic both occult and physical.

Black City Dragon, by Richard A Knaak
Knaak is a frequent author of tie-in novels, contributing books to massive shared worlds like Pathfinder and Warcraft, but his latest is an original—and the third book in a series following Nick Medea, a denizen of 1920s Chicago who has devoted his life to guarding the gate that offers passage between the human and faerie realms. Despite his recent victories, however, more and more malevolent fey are slipping into the Windy City, which has kept Nick and his shapeshifting faerie partner Fetch scrambling. As the duo continues to encounter evidence that suggests Nick’s ancient enemy, a dangerous dragon, has returned, his lover Claryce is dodging attempts on her life… or her most recent one, anyway—she’s the latest incarnation of an immortal, and her past lives may hold the secrets to Nick’s latest troubles.

A Parliament of Bodies, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
For the past four years, Marshall Ryan Maresca has been toiling away at an impressive feat for storytelling and worldbuilding, exploring, in four interlocking series, every facet of a fictional city through the strata of the people who inhabit it: criminals, peacekeepers, political power players, and hapless heroes alike. In A Parliament of Bodies—the third volume in the Maradaine Constabulary sub-series, following police Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling as they attempt to foils the foul schemes of the criminals and killers who would despoil the grand city they serve—Maradaine is plagued by a string of bloody crimes dubbed the Gearbox Murders. A fiend with a penchant for feindish invention is trapping his victims in cruel machines of death, and the poor unfortunate souls so tortured seem to have been chosen at random. With few clues to go one, Rainey and Welling can only wait for the next corpse to appear—but the killings are growing more elaborate, and after a dozen mangled bodies appear on the floor of parliament, the case may be taken out of their hands altogether.

A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine 
Martine’s ornate debut space opera constructs a fully realized world. The new ambassador from a small mining Station, Mahit Dzmare, arrives at the court of the ever-expanding Teixcalaanli Empire to find that the previous ambassador is dead. Very likely, she was murdered—though no one will admit that, or the fact that Dzmare is the next most likely victim. Aided by her expertise in the Teixcalaani language and an outdated—and possibly untrustworthy—memory implant from the prior ambassador, Dzmare must negotiate both her own survival and that of the Station in the face of an implacable empire. Meanwhile, the aging emperor seeks to become immortal by any means science can grant him, even as his army plots a coup. In the tradition of Ann Leckie and Iain M. Banks, this is bold, complex space opera with a political bent.

What new SFF is on your radar this week?

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8 Novels That Reexamine Literature from the Margins, by Katharine Duckett

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Today we are joined by the author Katharine Duckett, who discusses novels that reimagine landmark works of literature from the prospective of the marginalized voices at their margins. Her debut novella, Miranda in Milan—a revisionary continuation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest—is out March 26, 2019.

Across literature, men’s voices predominate. It can still be hard for women and nonbinary authors to secure adequate shelf space for their stories, and the imbalance only worsens as you look back through the centuries of the written word. Characters sharing these identities are often reduced to deferential background players or stereotypical harpies, never given full inner lives of their own.

In my new book Miranda in Milan, I strive to expand the interiority of a Shakespearean heroine whose motivations and emotions are completely eclipsed by those of her father, and drew inspiration from the rich history of adaptations of classic works that center marginalized voices.

Here are more compelling literary works that reimagine the experiences of women who were silenced, sidelined, or slandered in their original appearances in the canon.

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salemby Maryse Condé
Tituba was a real historical figure and one who is given a featured role in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, but we learn little of her history or her reasons for testifying in the Salem witch trials. Condé’s deeply detailed novel, originally written in French, complicates and lends depth to Tituba’s trajectory, imagining her as a biracial woman whose religious and cultural identity is grounded in West African tradition. While the historical record indicates that Tituba was likely a Native woman from South America, Angela Y. Davis notes in her foreword to the English translation that Condé’s sharp, smart take on Tituba is just as valid as any other narrative, as historians have largely ignored this influential figure. “Should a Native American Tituba be recreated, in scholarly or fictional terms, this would be true to the spirit of Condé’s Tituba…Tituba’s revenge consists in reminding us all that the doors to our suppressed cultural histories are still ajar.”

Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin: Le Guin’s novel brings to life Lavinia, the second and last wife of Aeneas, in a lyrical and lucid take on the world of The Aeneid. While her presence in Virgil’s epic is a crucial one—her marriage to Aeneas is prophecy, and a key part of the future founding of Rome—Lavinia never speaks a word, and we have no insight into how she views her husband or the bloody battle he wages for her hand. Le Guin employs the metatextual device of granting Lavinia visions of Virgil, who recently completed his epic poem and now lies ailing on a traveling ship, regretting that he didn’t give this insightful and intelligent young woman a greater role in his great work.

Mary Reilly, by Valerie Martin
In this narrative that runs parallel to the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Mary Reilly is a dutiful servant in the household of the kind and mild Henry Jekyll. She develops an unusually close relationship with the master of the house, and as his behavior becomes more erratic and inexplicable (a development that coincides with the sudden appearance of his unsavory assistant, Edward Hyde), Mary reflects on her own father’s dualistic nature, his transformations driven by drink and his treatment of Mary almost as reprehensible as some of the acts in London that she begins to get wind of, dark crimes that may involve Edward Hyde himself.

Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
A classic of this genre, Rhys’ feminist and anti-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre gives us the full story of the “madwoman in the attic.” Antoinette Cosway is a Creole heiress born in Jamaica whose early life is marked by tragedy, and whose fortunes worsen when she is married off to Mr Rochester (unnamed in the book) as her mind begins to break down. Born in Dominica, Rhys brings firsthand knowledge of the ravages of the colonial system to bear in her text, and highlights the oppression of women and people of color under the white supremacist patriarchy of the mid-1800s.

Indigo, by Marina Warner
Another Tempest-based story, Warner’s novel gives us the voice of a character who is never able to speak in the book at all. Warner modernizes the story of Sycorax, the witch on the enchanted island who dies before the story of The Tempest ever starts, and envisions her as an indigo maker living in the Caribbean whose techniques are eventually appropriated by the British. The novel spans centuries, moving from the colonial to the post-colonial era and radically rethinking the characters of Miranda, Caliban, and Ariel.

The Mere Wife, by Maria Dahvana Headley
Grendel’s mother is a shadowy and oft-debated figure in Beowulf, with translations of her role in the poem vacillating between demon, lady, and warrior. Headley firmly chooses “warrior,” transporting the characters of the epic to the privileged sphere of the suburbs and transforming the story into a struggle that deals largely with class and privilege. Grendel’s mother becomes a fierce defender of her unusual son, whose nature makes him an outcast from society, and battles the Beowulf character (recast as a cop and former soldier) for her child’s very right to exist.

Circe, by Madeleine Miller
Circe is an antagonist of The Odyssey, a predatory woman who transforms Odysseus’s crew into swine when they have the misfortune of visiting her island and turns a romantic rival into a monster with the use of poison. But Miller gives us a more nuanced view of the daughter of Helios, making her into both a believable woman and a being whose concerns and views on the nature of her story extend beyond the mortal world. Miller, who also gave Achilles and Patroclus a love story in her first book, The Song of Achilles, infuses Circe with mythological allusions and inventive twists on the old gods and demigods of Greece.

The Cassandra, by Sharma Shields
This recently published novel transports the saga of Cassandra, disbelieved prophetess of Troy, to a World War II setting. Mildred Groves is a young woman with the ability to see the future, a gift that becomes complicated when she goes to work at the Hanford Research Center (an actual nuclear production complex, now decommissioned) early on in the war’s unfolding. Hanford exists to aid the war effort by manufacturing the processed plutonium that will eventually end up in the first atomic bombs, and only Mildred can see what will become of humanity if the project succeeds. Plagued by nightmares, Mildred becomes desperate to change the future, taking actions she hopes can alter the course of time.

All of these stories lend a new perspective to old tales, and I’d love to see more intersectional engagements with classic stories as well. As long as we keep reviving and retelling these narratives, it’s important to challenge their assumptions and deconstruct their norms, and every new adaptation is a starting point for fresh reimaginings. Let me know about some of your other favorite takes on literary women in the comments!

Originally from East Tennessee, Katharine Duckett has lived in Massachusetts, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, and currently resides in Brooklyn. She is a graduate of Hampshire College and Viable Paradise, and in addition to writing and working in publishing, she taught English with the Peace Corps after college and is a lifelong performer who has collaborated with Daniel Flores Dance in New York City to create multimedia theater pieces based on her fiction. Miranda in Milan is available March 26.

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Miranda in Milan Is a Sly, Subversive Sequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest

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Aside from the saga of Henry VI, William Shakespeare wasn’t exactly known for his franchises. Yet even when he wraps up his plays in tidy (if blood-soaked) little packages, the characters live on in the mind—well, the ones that are still alive, anyway—poised to face consequences for their actions even if we don’t see them play out on the page or on the boards. The man ruined lives, and the wreckage lingered once the players had left the stage.

With the queer revisionism of Miranda in Milan, debut author Katharine Duckett aims to open our eyes to what comes after the ending of The Tempest, and it is by no means tidy.

As Shakespeare leaves it, The Tempest‘s ending is a rather happy one. Prospero is restored as the Duke of Milan and surrenders his magic books. His daughter Miranda is engaged to Ferdinand, prince of Naples. The spirit Ariel is freed from Prospero’s control. (Caliban … well, things could be better for Caliban.)

All are forgiven, and enmity is forgotten.

Not so in Duckett’s gothic, sapphic continuation of the story. True, everyone boarded the ship and merrily made their way back to Milan. But once docked, it seems, few were forgiven, and nothing has been forgotten.

We watch all of the drama through the eyes of Miranda, who has gone from the exile and solitude of the island to the relative prison of her father’s castle in Milan. She is as isolated as ever, kept far from her betrothed, Ferdinand, and largely removed from her father’s attentions, for better and worse.

She can’t even find companionship among the household servants, who consider her monstrous, and keep her at arm’s length. The exception is Dorothea, a witch from Marrakech who now hides as one of Miranda’s servants; her presence is a welcome addition to the otherwise straight, white world of Shakespeare’s creation.

With some good old-fashioned sneaking and sleuthing, Miranda and Dorothea discover some of the castle’s most well-kept and dangerous secrets—secrets of Miranda’s own past—while growing closer in the process.

This is a diminutive novel, moving swiftly through masquerade balls and magic spells and Prospero’s (surprise-to-no-one) sinister machinations. But there is still time for a delicate sort of spellwork, and for a certain amount of self-discovery for Miranda, the heart of this narrative.

Seemingly keen to explore themes the original story pushed under the rug, Duckett brings a modern eye to the proceedings. As Miranda and Dorothea’s bond grows, she doesn’t shy away from making note of the problematic aspects of their relationship: the warped power dynamic of master and servant, Miranda’s slight but continued affections for Ferdinand, the inability of Dorothea to live freely.

Miranda’s sweet coming-of-age takes place against the backdrop of rather a haunted house, where secret tunnels abound and the ghostly visage of Miranda’s mother seems key to understanding and unwinding all of Prospero’s scheming.

That balance between love, fear, romance, and misery makes for a compelling reading experience—the book is easily consumed in a single reading session, and stopping might prove a challenge. Shakespeare would’ve been able to produce more and better words to describe Miranda in Milan, but all I can come up with is “lovely.”

Preorder Miranda in Milan, available March 26.

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Read the First Chapter of Katharine Duckett’s Shakespeare-Inspired Fantasy Miranda in Milan

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Ever wonder what happened to Miranda after the events of Shakespeare’s The Tempest? As author Katharine Duckett imagines in Miranda in Milan, it’s hardly the standard “happily ever after”—but her further adventures do include royal intrigue, magic, and a chance to find out who she really is. Get an exclusive peek at…

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https://io9.gizmodo.com/read-the-first-chapter-of-katharine-ducketts-shakespear-1831584269