Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach is one of 2018s highlights

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach
Art by Jon Foster.

I find myself dismissing hyperbole when I’m reading reviews and rolling my eyes when I see book cover blurbs filled with wild statements of praise. Something’s always the greatest thing ever in the history of things, and if the review is online it seems inevitably to be followed by an exclamation point or two to encourage readers to click through and make sure the blogger makes the requisite Amazon percentage. And yet sometimes you need a bit of hyperbole in your life.

I first encountered Kelly Robson‘s work two years ago when Tor.com published her fantasy novella, Waters of Versailles, a light, funny and perceptive story of love, plumbing and nixies impressed me enough that I reprinted it in my annual best of the year. It went on to be nominated for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, and was just Kelly’s second published story.

She followed it with a series of smart, interesting and always entertaining science fiction, fantasy and horror stories culminating with two strong stories this year, “A Human Stain” (gothic horror) and “We Who Live in the Heart” SF). I suspect “We Who Live in the Heart” could spawn a much larger work, because who doesn’t want to read about people living in the nasal passages of sky whales! (See? Exclamation point!)

All of this, however, pales beside her forthcoming work, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach, which is coming out from Tor.com Publishing in March (NB: I work for Tor.com but didn’t acquire this story. Feel free to deduct exclamation points if you feel that’s appropriate.) I was lucky enough to get an early copy of this book-length work and I wasn’t sure what it could be. I had no cover, no description, just an oddly titled Word file. But, gee, it turned out to be smart and good.

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach opens in 2267, and it quickly becomes clear that the intervening 250 years have not treated our world gently. Global climate catastrophe has seen mass extinction events, radical climate change, and people driven underground to survive the harsh new world. Even underground, though, humanity has found a way to thrive. Cities (hells) have been dug out of the rock, people have survived, and culture has evolved. Kelly introduces us to Minh, a biologically modified scientist described as “an old grandmother from the waist up, but instead of [two] legs it had six long octopus legs”, who has spent her life working to restore river ecosystems and to help establish humanity on the surface of the planet.

A skilled scientist and an adept project manager, Minh has had great successes in her long career, and yet surface reclamation projects are going poorly and losing the support from the banking companies that control the world’s finances necessary to for those projects to continue. She fears nothing more than her beloved Calgary will be abandoned and surface reclamation will cease. Her assistant, Kiki, one of the delights of the book, has a different perspective. She’s young, smart, ambitious, at the beginning of her life and career, and is desperate to succeed. When she finds the chance to become involved in a crazy, exciting new project she grabs it with both hands, taking shocking action that I don’t want to spoil, but it’s powerful.

The new project involves mounting a team to map the Tigris and Euphrates river systems, to closely examine them, collect data and use that data as the baseline for restoring the system. To do this, Minh, Kiki, and Minh’s associate Hamid must travel back in time 4500 years to a point when the river systems were largely unaffected by human activity. The explanation Kelly provides for time travel is fairly consistent and logical, though by story’s end I did have a question or two. Those questions matter little though when compared to the rich, engaging story she has told. The three time travellers, and a company tour guide are all convincingly and well-drawn, the story never lets up, and the human and scientific extrapolation is fascinating.

The cover copy talks about merging time travel with climate fiction and historical fantasy, all of which is fair. The story is much more alive, though. Rich, nuanced characters, deeply compelling story, and a powerfully conceived world make Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach one of the best novellas of recent times, one of the highlight books of 2018, and something to look for on awards ballots come 2019. It also removes any doubt about one simple fact. Kelly Robson is one of the best, most exciting and most complete new storytellers working today. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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ToC Reveal – The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume 12

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Vol 12 - April 2018
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Vol 12 – April 2018

With the manuscript safely in the hands of my editor in Oxfordshire, I’m happy to announce the final table of contents for The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12. As anthologists always do, I wish I’d had more space to include other stories that I loved published during the year, especially novellas, but I think that these selections are very strong.

  • “The Mocking Tower”, Daniel Abraham (The Book of Swords)
  • “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue”, Charlie Jane Anders (Boston Review)
  • “Probably Still the Chosen One”, Kelly Barnhill (Lightspeed)
  • “My English Name”, R. S. Benedict (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
  • “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”, Tobias Buckell (Cosmic Powers)
  • “Though She Be But Little”, C.S.E. Cooney (Uncanny)
  • “The Moon is Not a Battlefield”, Indrapramit Das (Infinity Wars)
  • “The Hermit of Houston”, Samuel R. Delany (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
  • “The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
  • “Crispin’s Model”, Max Gladstone (Tor.com)
  • “Come See the Living Dryad”, Theodora Goss (Tor.com)
  • “Bring Your Own Spoon”, Saad Z. Hossain (The Djinn Falls in Love)
  • “Babylon”, Dave Hutchison, 2084
  • “The Faerie Tree”, Kathleen Kayembe (Lightspeed)
  • “Fairy Tale of Wood Street”, Caitlin R Kiernan (Sirenia Digest)
  • “The Worshipful Society of Glovers”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny)
  • “An Evening with Severyn Grimes”, Rich Larson (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
  • “The Chameleon’s Gloves”, Yoon Ha Lee (Cosmic Powers)
  • “The Smoke of Gold is Glory”, Scott Lynch (The Book of Swords)
  • “Sidewalks”, Maureen McHugh (Omni)
  • “Concessions”, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Strange Horizons)
  • “The Martian Obelisk”, Linda Nagata (Tor.com)
  • “The Secret Life of Bots”, Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld)
  • “A Series of Steaks”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld)
  • “Belladonna Nights”, Alastair Reynolds (The Weight of Words)
  • “Eminence”, Karl Schroeder (Chasing Shadows)
  • “The Lamentation of their Women”, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com)
  • “Confessions of a Con Girl”, Nick Wolven (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
  • “Carnival Nine”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

My sincere thanks to all of the authors, agents, and editors who’ve helped make the book possible.  The book will be out in April 2018.

Note: The cover above is a partial. I’ll post the full cover when I have author’s names etc on the cover finalised.

Pre-order

 

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Call for stories: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 13

I edit The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year anthology series for Solaris Books. The twelfth volume in the series will be published in April 2018, and the thirteenth volume will appear in March 2019.

I am currently reading for the 2018 volume, and am looking for stories from all branches of science fiction and fantasy: space opera to cyberpunk, fairy tales to the slipstream, or anything else that might qualify. If in doubt, please send it.

Eligibility

This is a reprint anthology. Stories must have been published for the first time between 1 January and 31 December 2018 to be considered.

Deadline

The submission deadline for this year’s book is:

1 November 2018

Anything sent after this deadline will reach me too late, as I  deliver the final book to the publisher in late December. If a magazine, anthology, or collection you are in or you edit is coming out before 31 December 2018 please send galleys or manuscripts so that I can consider the stories in time.

Publication date

The thirteenth volume of the series is scheduled for publication in March 2019.

Format

Where possible, I prefer to receive book-length works in print (especially anthologies), but this is optional.  Books, stories etc can be sent to me via email. I prefer ePub, .mobi, .rtf or .doc files. PDFs are not accepted. I strongly suggest that authors check with their publishers that they are sending review copies out to me, as I don’t have the resources to follow-up every publisher to get material.

Postal address

When sending material please put “Best SF/F of the Year” on the envelope.

Jonathan Strahan
P.O. Box 544
Mt Lawley, WA 6929
Australia

Email submissions, recommendations, or information on publications can be sent to me via email at:

jonathan.strahan (at) gmail (dot) com

For publishers

I am eager to consider work you are publishing. If you produce a magazine, chapbook, collection or anthology with any original stories in it please let me know. I am happy to accept email submissions. The most important thing is to make sure that I get to consider the best science fiction and fantasy published during 2017.

If you are publishing online please email copies of stories to jonathan.strahan (at) gmail (dot) com as early as possible. This is particularly important for stories published between October and December which may otherwise be overlooked.

For writers

I do not need to receive manuscripts from authors of stories from venues that it’s likely I already receive regularly (I get Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, Interzone, Black Static, Postscripts etc, but not many of the smaller ‘zines and publications).

Please do not send an SASE. This is not a submission, and I’m unable to return manuscripts or respond directly to stories sent to me.

If I am considering your story for inclusion in  The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, I will be acquiring non-exclusive World anthology rights in English and foreign languages in print, audio and ebook.

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2017 Debut genre novels – a list

As part of the preparation for an upcoming Coode Street Podcast discussion and to get ready for year-in-review season, I’m compiling a list of debut novels for 2017.  The criteria for making the list are simple:

  1. The book must be a novel (ie at least 40,000 words long; not a short story collection or something else etc).
  2. The book must be being published for the first time in the English language anywhere in the world.
  3. The book must science fiction, fantasy, horror or substantively related to those genres.

This is the current list, as of 19 September.

  1. Magicians Impossible, Brad Abraham (Thomas Dunne, September)
  2. Leila, Prayaag Akbar (Simon & Schuster, January)
  3. The Bear & The Nightingale, Katherine Arden (Del Rey, January)
  4. The Waking Land, Callie Bates (Del Rey, June)
  5. The Guns Above, Robyn Bennis (Tor, May)
  6. Hearts and Other Body Parts, Ira Bloom (Scholastic, March)
  7. Tropic of Kansas, Christopher Brown (HarperVoyager, July)
  8. Amberlough, Lara Elena Donnelly (Tor, February)
  9. The Prey of Gods, Nicky Drayden (HarperVoyager, June)
  10. Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer (Tor, January)
  11. American War, Omar El Akkad (Knopf, April)
  12. Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys (Tor.com, April)
  13. Blood Red Rose Rebellion, Rosalyn Eves (Knopf, March)
  14. Sputnik’s Children, Terri Favro (ECW Press, April)
  15. Year of the Orphan, Daniel Findlay (Penguin Australia, May)
  16. Daughter of the Burning City, Amanda Foody (Harlequin Teen, August)
  17. Caraval, Stephanie Garber (Flatiron, January)
  18. Wings Unseen, Rebecca Gomez Farrell (Meerkat, August)
  19. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Theodora Goss (Saga, June)
  20. Three Years with the Rat, Jay Hosking (Thomas Dunne, January)
  21. Spaceman of Bohemia, Jaroslav Kalfar (Hachette, March)
  22. Allaigna’s Song: Overture, J.M. Landels (Pulp L:iterature, July)
  23. Noumenon, Marina J. Lostetter (HarperVoyager, August)
  24. A Time and a Place, Joseph Mahoney (Five Rivers Capmanry, October)
  25. All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai (Dutton, February)
  26. Only The Devil is Here, Stephen Michell (Chizine Publications, November)
  27. The Art of Starving, Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen, July)
  28. Autonomous, Annalee Newitz (Tor, September)
  29. Under the Pendulum Sun, Jeannette Ng (Angry Robot, October)
  30. The Gatekeeper, Nuraliah Norasid (Epigram, March)
  31. Beasts Made of Night, Tochi Onyebuchi (Razorbill, October)
  32. Zero Repeat Forever, G.S. Prendergast (Simon & Schuster, August)
  33. Nyxia, Scott Reintgen (Crown, September)
  34. Walking on the Sea of Clouds, Gray Rinehart (Wordfire, July)
  35. The Tiger’s Daughter, K Arsenault Rivera (Tor, October)
  36. An Enchantment of Ravens, Margaret Rogerson (Margaret K. McElderry, September)
  37. Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders (Random House, February)
  38. Deer Life, Ron Sexsmith (Dundurn, September)
  39. An Excess Male, Maggie Shen King (HarperVoyager, September)
  40. Aberrant, Marek Sindelka (Twisted Spoon, April)
  41. A Poisoned Prayer, Michael Skeet (Five Rivers Chapmanry, May)
  42. An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon (Akashic, September)
  43. Lotus Blue, Cat Sparks (Talos, March)
  44. Barbary Station, R. E. Stearns (Saga, October)
  45. Godblind, Anna Stephens (Talos, June)
  46. Shadow Run, Adrianne Strickland & Michael Miller (March, Delacorte)
  47. Amatka: A Novel, Karin Tidbeck (Vintage, June)
  48. The Nine, Tracy Townsend (Pyr, November)
  49. Temporary People, Deepak Unnikrishnan (March, Restless)
  50. Heartstone, Elle Katharine White (HarperVoyager, January)

    PART 2 OF THE LIST TO BE CHECKED

  51. Case of the Green-Dressed Ghost, Lucy Banks (Amberjack)
  52. Age of Assassins, RJ Barker (Orbit US)
  53. Golden Pearl, Cassandra Beck (Archway Publishing)
  54. Empress of a Thousand Skies, Rhoda Belleza (Penguin Random House/Razorbill)
  55. Frostblood, Elly Blake (Little, Brown)
  56. Zenn Diagram, Wendy Brant (Kids Can Press)
  57. Hawkweed Prophecy, Irena Brignull (Perseus Books Group/Weinstein Books)
  58. Felix YZ, Lisa Bunker (Penguin Random House/Viking Books for Young Readers)
  59. Found Audio, N.J. Campbell (Two Dollar Radio)
  60. Girl in Between, Sarah Carroll (Penguin Random House/Dawson)
  61. Best Kind of Magic, Crystal Cestari (Disney/Hyperion)
  62. Brave Man Seven Stories Tall, Will Chancellor (Harper)
  63. Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s Griffin)
  64. Last Namsara, Kristen Ciccarelli (HarperTeen)
  65. Mermaid’s Daughter, Ann Claycomb (HarperCollins/Morrow)
  66. House of Ash, Hope Cook (Abrams/Amulet)
  67. Bone Jack, Sara Crowe (Penguin Random House/Philomel)
  68. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Julie C. Dao (Penguin Random House/Philomel)
  69. Exo Project, Andrew DeYoung (Boyds Mills Press)
  70. More of Me, Kathryn Evans (Abrams/Amulet)
  71. I Liked My Life, Abby Fabiaschi (St. Martin’s)
  72. Kasper Mützenmacher’s Cursed Hat, Keith R. Fentonmiller (Curiosity Quills Press)
  73. Touch, Robert Flynn III (CreateSpace)
  74. Black Witch, Laurie Forest (Harlequin Teen)
  75. Secret Island of Edgar Dewitt, Ferrill Gibbs (Amberjack)
  76. Children of Eden, Joey Graceffa (Simon & Schuster/Atria/Keywords Press)
  77. Light Years, Emily Ziff Griffin (Simon Pulse)
  78. Breaking Light, Heather Hansen (Amazon/Skyscape)
  79. Graveyard Shift, Michael F. Haspil (Tor)
  80. For the Most Beautiful, Emily Hauser (Pegasus)
  81. Seventh Age: Dawn, Rick Heinz (Inkshares)
  82. Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan (HarperCollins/Morrow)
  83. Carmer and Grit, Book One: The Wingsnatchers, Sarah Jean Horwitz (Workman/Algonquin Young Readers)
  84. Gork, the Teenage Dragon, Gabe Hudson (Pengiun Random House/Knopf)
  85. Wintersong, S. Jae-Jones (St. Martin’s Griffin/Dunne)
  86. Next Forever, Lauren James (Skyhorse/Sky Pony Press)
  87. Gilded Cage, Vic James (Penguin Random House/Del Rey)
  88. Luster of Lost Things, Sophie Chen Keller (Penguin Random House/Putnam)
  89. Gods & Monsters: Food of the Gods, Cassandra Khaw (Rebellion/Abaddon US)
  90. Himself, Jess Kidd (Simon & Schuster/Atria)
  91. Hundredth Queen, Emily R. King (Amazon/Skyscape)
  92. Necessary Monsters, Richard A. Kirk (Resurrection House/Arche Press)
  93. Freya, Matthew Laurence (Macmillan/Imprint)
  94. Daughter of the Pirate King, Tricia Levenseller (Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends)
  95. Game of Shadows, Erika Lewis (Tor)
  96. Five Daughters of the Moon, Leena Likitalo (Tor.com Publishing)
  97. Toward a Secret Sky, Heather MacLean (Blink)
  98. Hidden Memory of Objects, Danielle Mages Amato (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
  99. Sleeping Seer, Morgan Blue Malory (43 Hours Press)
  100. Birthrights, J. Kyle McNeal (Elevate Fiction)
  101. Mask of Shadows, Linsey Miller (Sourcebooks Fire)
  102. Borrowed Souls, Chelsea Mueller (Skyhorse/Talos Press)
  103. Bones of the Past, Craig A. Munro (Inkshares)
  104. Emperor’s Horn, Jordan R. Murray (self-published)
  105. Gray Wolf Island, Tracey Neithercott (Penguin Random House/Knopf)
  106. Warlock in Training, TJ Nichols (DSP Publications)
  107. Apprentice Witch, James Nicol (Scholastic/Chicken House)
  108. Rebel Seoul, Axie Oh (Lee & Low/Tu Books)
  109. Sandcastle Empire, Kayla Olson (HarperTeen)
  110. Lucky Ones, Julianne Pachico (Penguin Random House/Spiegel & Grau)
  111. Shadows We Know by Heart, Jennifer Park (Simon Pulse)
  112. Gray House, Mariam Petrosyan (AmazonCrossing)
  113. Hook’s Tale, John Leonard Pielmeier (Simon & Schuster/Scribner)
  114. Return of the Vinetropes, Sherry Ross (ACC Art Books)
  115. Hour of Daydreams, Renee Macalino Rutledge (Forest Avenue Press)
  116. Bone Snatcher, Charlotte Salter (Penguin Random House/Dial)
  117. Strange Practice, Vivian Shaw (Orbit US)
  118. Poison’s Kiss, Breeana Shields (Penguin Random House/Random House)
  119. Wellside, Robin Shortt (Candlemark & Gleam)
  120. Day the Angels Fell, Shawn Smucker (Baker Publishing Group/Revell)
  121. Talon of God, Wesley Snipes (Harper Voyager US)
  122. Court of Broken Knives, Anna Smith Spark (Orbit US)
  123. Empire’s Ghost, Isabelle Steiger (St. Martin’s/Dunne)
  124. Otherwhere: Muddy Waters, Sara O. Thompson (Curiosity Quills Press)
  125. Song of the Current, Sarah Tolcser (Bloomsbury USA)
  126. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Jessic Townsend (Little, Brown)
  127. Heartstone, Elle Katharine White (Harper Voyager US)
  128. Lost Frost Girl, Amy Wilson (HarperCollins/Tegen Books)
  129. Scribe of Siena, Melodie Winawer (Simon & Schuster/Touchstone)
  130. Dragon’s Legacy, Deborah A. Wolf (Titan US)
  131. Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer, Leslie Peter Wulff (Skyhorse/Night Shade Books)
  132. Epic Crush of Genie Lo, F.C. Yee (Abrams/Amulet)
  133. American Street, Ibi Zoboi (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

My thanks to everyone who’s has helped with this list so far, including everyone on Facebook, Gordon, and Niall. Please let me know in comments if you have any changes/additions. I’m currently checking this list for accuracy.

Note: Once I’ve fact checked this list I’ll go through an add links etc.

 

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Greg Egan’s Uncanny Valley

Uncanny Valley, Greg Egan (Ilustration by Mark Smith).
Uncanny Valley, Greg Egan (Ilustration by Mark Smith).

I have been acquiring original fiction for Tor.com for a while now, both for the website and for their novella program.  The latest, and one of my favourites, is a new science fiction novelette by Greg Egan.

This is the blurb for “Uncanny Valley”:

Immortality, but at what price, in what form, and how could you be you? In the near future it’s possible to build a new you, a better you, one that could carry on forever.  But if you could carry on, if you could make choices about who you would be forever, how much of your past would you bring with you? Would you be tempted to maybe…edit? Adam isn’t all that he used to be, but he wants to be.

It’s classic Egan, powerful and challenging. The terrific artwork is by Mark Smith (another inspired choice by Irene Gallo), and the story will be out to read and own in August of this year.

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