Have you visited the Blender lately? Although I haven’t been adding new content to the blog in many moons, I have been adding new titles to the blender now and again. Recently I finally made a big push to update the blender, adding over 90 titles. These titles range across all genres, and include older titles and titles published since my last big update about a year ago. I have also been making a push to include more diversity in selections included in the blender. This was no hardship, as there are fantastic books by authors of color and from the LGBT community that tell stories that skillfully blend genres. I’ve also added some additional YA blends, although the focus of the blender remains adult titles. And one other things I’ve tried to do is cast my net beyond the big five publishers, showcasing some small presses and indie author. There’s a lot farther I could go with promoting diverse books, and I know it. But I’ll keep trying.
Now that the Blender database is getting close to 1000 titles, I also hope to add some Top Ten lists to the results (and this space) so that folks don’t get overwhelmed when they get close to 100 titles for the more popular blends.
So I hope you keep blending away and enjoy some of the new content. Here are just a favorites and notable books from the most recent update:
Did you know that at the turn of the last century, the US government considered importing hippos as a source of food? True fact. And this whackadoodle but true fact is the germ that grew into an alternative history novella set around 1890 where ranchers raise hippos like cattle, while riding the more intelligent breeds like horses. Quite a visual! Winslow Houndstooth is putting together a crew for a job that involves hippo wrangling and revenge. The story combines alternate history, magic, non-binary romance, and–my favorite–a caper plot. This was a lot of fun, and those wanting to read it and the sequel novella can get them both in the single volume (with some additional stories) titled American Hippo.
Click through for an interactive map of contemporary fantasy by state at https://www.genrify.com/uf_gazetteer/
One of the pleasures of reading contemporary or urban fantasy, as opposed to epic fantasy, is the fact that it is set in our own world. The intersection of magic and the mundane can be hugely appealing. If a novel is set in an imaginary land, you know to expect magical things on the page. But crack open an urban fantasy set in Chicago or Atlanta and you don’t know what to expect. Wizards? Werewolves? Vampires? Dragons in disguise? Maybe some or all of these, maybe something even more unexpected. There is always a bit of narrative distance when you place a story in a fictional land. While the reader can bond with any well-written character, it take a little more effort to put yourself in the shoes of an epic fantasy character, whether they be pig-farming peasants or high-born nobles. On the other hand, urban fantasy characters inhabit lives and landscapes that resemble our own — they own houses or rent apartments, they eat at restaurants, hold down jobs, and walk city streets.
When you are reading any kind of book set in the real world, it is especially fun to read one set in your own hometown. If the author has done his or her job well, you can walk the same streets and see the same sights in books that you see when you walk to work. Maybe the characters eat at your favorite deli or BBQ joint, hang out in the park down the street, or work in an office building you’ve walked past a million times. They talk like you, and drink that weird soda that no one else drinks (what the hell is cheerwine, anyway?). And every time you have that moment of “hey! I know that place!” it can bond you to the story, as long as the author gets it right (I haven’t read all of these, so forgive me if they don’t, in fact, get it right). Readers who live in big cities like Chicago or San Francisco get this treat all the time, but I’ve searched for urban fantasy set in every state. I got close, with only a couple of voids. I didn’t do any international urban fantasies (I’ll do those in a future post), no YA, and I didn’t include any historical fantasies, despite there being quite a few great ones set in cities like Chicago, LA, and SF. I did, however, dip into paranormal romance and supernatural mysteries when I needed something for a state. The image of a map at the top of the post takes you to an interactive map showing my pick for the urban fantasy that best represents each state (or sometimes just my favorite, if there were many to choose from). Because some places like New York has had a lot of books set on its streets, I’ll list some of the other novels set in the state in the full gazetteer below. (more…)
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend BookExpo in Chicago, where I saw the books that publishers are excited about for fall. I came away with a huge list of books for my own TBR pile. It also reminded me that while I did a list of anticipated books in the science fiction and fantasy genres for 2016, I only went through July. Now there are lots of new titles appearing on publishers’ schedules and a ton books I hadn’t even dreamt of when I made my first list for the year, in January. So, I decided I would round up my anticipated SFF reads for the second half of 2016. I’ll try and update this list as new titles are announced. These are things I’m personally looking forward to, but what looks good to you? (more…)
Apologies up front how long it has been since the blender last got an update. I had a hell of a year last year, and had to focus on my work and my health. I hope to be much better going forward about making regular updates to the blender, to make sure that not only do new titles get added but I continue to add older titles that exemplify interesting blends.
Since the last update, I have added over 200 titles, mostly published in 2015 and 2016. Here are some of my favorite titles among those newly added to the database. The bulk of what I tend to add seems to trend toward science fiction and fantasy blends. One reason for this bias is that I read those genres for review, and just come across the blends most often. But I also think some of the most interest blends are happening in the speculative fiction genres. These are genres that just naturally like to take narrative risks. But there are plenty of blends of all genres that are new to the blender. (more…)
Usually when people think of science fiction, it is a rule-based setting. Near future, far future, alternate past – the “what if” of a good science fiction novel usually sticks with what could be, if things develop according to the way society is trending and the rules of science allow. But what then do you do with science fiction that adds in something fantastical? For my purposes you get a Science Fiction/Fantasy blend.
Psychic powers are one of the most common fantasy elements that get added to what can otherwise be straightforward science fiction. There is no scientific basis (at this time!) for psychic powers. No proof that they exist or could exist, or would exist if the conditions were right. But they are irresistible to authors in many genres. Some even bother to walk through scientific example of why the powers manifest. But really, they’re just cool. The great thing about genre blends is that authors feel free to borrow whatever cool bits they like from other genres. It’s a big part of why I like blends. So with no further ado, here are some great examples of SF with psychic powers
Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
Asimov’s classic series is the story of a galactic empire in decline. Hari Sheldon is the inventor of psychohistory, the ability to see the future through the use of history, psychology and statistics. He foresees the end of society and brings together humanity’s greatest thinkers to create a safe hold, a foundation at the edge of the galaxy. But that’s not even the psychic part! There is a character of Mule, whose ability to control others through their emotions makes him a dangerous man, and a threat to Hari’s plans. There’s some other psychic stuff running through the series, but none of this makes it any less of a classic of the science fiction genre. (more…)
As part of a presentation I’m doing for the Biennial National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals, I have gathered together some of my favorite online RA sources. I thought I would share them here.
Keeping track of what you read:
- What’s new to NLS
- Bestseller Lists
- In the news
- Coming to Theaters (or TV screens):
The explosion in publishing for science fiction, fantasy and horror makes me believe that 2016 will be an amazing years for these genres. Orbit has stated they are expanding their publishing efforts, Houghton Mifflin has added a new SFF imprint, Marvelous SFF podcast/book club Sword and Laser seem to have started up a publishing endeavor, and of course there is the ongoing boom in self-publishing. I have so many books I want to read, and I’m lucky enough that my gig as the science fiction and fantasy columnist for Library Journal means that I will probably not only get to read most of these, but I can share my joy (or occasional disappointment) with them in my reviews for librarians around the country. But let’s face it. I’d read most of these even if I didn’t have to. Of course, print magazine publishing being what it is, my deadlines mean that I’ve actually read some of these, which I will note throughout. So without further ado, here are the titles I am most excited about for the first half of 2016. There’s a couple of titles scheduled later in the year (Crosstalk by Connie Willis, Cloudbound by Fran Wilde are just two examples) that I will undoubtedly devour, but that’s so far out that you never know if the pub dates will shift. I’m sure there are so many more great ones coming, so if I missed something you’re dying to read, feel free to tell me in the comments!
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Read, LOVED)
City of Blades (The Divine Cities, book 2) by Robert Jackson Bennett (Read, LOVED)
This Census-Taker by China Mieville
Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers (Read, LOVED)
Feverborn (Fever) by Karen Marie Moning
As a librarian and a book reviewer, I read a lot of books. This year I actually read fewer books than I have in a long time, due to a perfect storm of moving, changing jobs, and dealing with a serious illness. I got some help on the reviewing front, sharing my Library Journal column on science fiction, fantasy, and horror with a co-columnist which helped quite a bit. I still managed to read about 175 books in 2015, reviewing 146 for Library Journal.
Looking back at all that reading, some titles float right to the top as favorites. I participated in the twitter hashtag #libfaves15, which was fun but difficult to limit to only 10 titles. I also ran down my favorites for Library Journal, but that was an even more torturous limit of 5 titles. So here I thought I would run down my favorites in several SFF genres, NO LIMITS! I’m not going to give full reviews here as i reviewed all of these in Library Journal, but I’ll just give a brief note about why I loved them. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a lot of my favorites were genre blends!
Why? This had a great Indiana Jones vibe with adventuress heroine Owl and plenty of exotic locales. Owl is prickly and difficult, giving the author plenty of room for character growth over this new series.
Why? Because Kadrey has managed to turn this series in a new direction, more of an old-skool urban fantasy with Stark as a supernatural P.I. Of course, he’s still Stark (aka Sandman Slim) so there’s all the seediness and profanity that series regulars love.
Why? This is one of my favorite urban fantasy series (although it’s not really urban), with a fascinating world and a continuous storyline (don’t jump in here) with tension building slowly to a major showdown between humans and Others.
Why? I like the angsty melodrama of this new series. Delilah’s struggles when she realizes she is not human and her imprisonment in the carnival is dark, dark dark. Not a bad readalike for Bishop’s Others series, actually.
Why? After the amazing California Bones, the second book (Pacific Fire) was a bit of a disappointment. But Van Eekhout brings it back with this final volume. Another heist plot (yay!) and more of the character bonding that I loved so much makes this a great ending for the series. (more…)
Another year begins, and there are plenty of new releases coming in January to satisfy genre readers who like to mix things up a little. I can personally vouch for City of Light , Keri Arthur’s new series that presents readers with a really interesting new world that meshes SF and Fantasy in a way that reminded me of Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling world. I also loved Tim Power’s new title Medusa’s Web, which shows his usual gonzo inventiveness. City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett was a fantastic follow-up to City of Stairs that manages both to take the series in a new direction but also satisfy fans. Finally, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders is a beautifully written mix of SF and Fantasy, funny and melancholy and just lovely. I haven’t read Carol Goodman’s latest and so I’m not positive what the fantasy element is, but I’ve loved everything she’s written, and her books often have a gothic vibe. I’m also tempted by the latest book in the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne. Hopefully you find something good here to tempt you to start the new year out blending things up!
Last night was the official Syfy network premiere of the new space opera tv series The Expanse, although some folks watched the show online when it went up a couple of weeks ago. Tonight will be episode two, setting the hook even deeper to get viewers sucked into this new series that promises to bring the network back to its science fiction roots. So far, it’s a stylish adaptation, with some nice acting and great scenery. I can’t wait to see how it develops as the season goes on and how faithful it remains to its source material. I promise not to spoil anything for those who haven’t watched yet!
This season of The Expanse is based on the first book of James S.A. Corey’s series, Leviathan Wakes. In this novel, humanity has spread throughout the solar system, but no further. Divisions in human society have developed between the major outposts of Earth, Mars and the outer planets, with mutual distrust between all factions. It’s a canny choice, keeping the action close to our planetary home and the actors human. It makes the series more accessible to readers (and now viewers) who are not necessarily long-time SF fans. The other clever thing the authors (Corey is a pseudonym for two sf writers, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) have done to bring in a wide readership is to have the first volume adopt some of the trappings of another popular genre, the mystery. There is a missing person case, a hangdog cop and plenty of noir atmosphere.
If you have been loving the show so far or are a fan of the books that the show is based on, I have some suggestions of books to read.
The book (and presumably series) has two main points of view, that of Jim Holden and focused on him and his crew, and a second point of view with noir-tinged belter cop Miller. If you like the shipboard bits with Holden and how his crew work together, here are some books to try: (more…)