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New Books in Science Fiction

Author: Marshall Poe

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Bestselling and award-winning science fiction authors talk about their new books and much more in candid conversations with host Rob Wolf. In recent episodes, he's talked with Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries) about endearing-but-deadly bots, Sam J. Miller (Blackfish City) about “hopeful" dystopias, Daryl Gregory (Spoonbenders) about telekinesis and espionage, Meg Elison (The Book of Etta) about memory and the power of writing, Mur Lafferty (Six Wakes) about cloning and Agatha Christie, Maggie Shen King (An Excess Male) about the unintended consequences of China's one-child policy, and Omar El Akkad (American War) about the murky motivations of a terrorist.

130 Episodes
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Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby (Tor.com, 2020) tells the story of two siblings—Ella, who is gifted with powers of precognition and telekinesis, and her younger brother Kevin, whose exuberant resistance to systemic racism earns him a one-way ticket to jail. Onyebuchi’s first novel for adults is as much a tale of the siblings’ bond as it is a portrait of white supremacy, police brutality, and the anger of Black Americans at centuries of injustice. The book’s publication just months before the murder of George Floyd and the Covid-19 pandemic might seem prescient, yet the novel could have been written at any point in the last several decades (or centuries) and still felt timely. Kev is born during the riots in Los Angeles that followed the acquittal of the police officers who brutally beat Rodney King. A few years later, the police killing of Sean Bell leads Ella to run away from home, afraid that her anger, harnessed to the supernatural powers she can’t yet control, might cause her to hurt those she loves. “She's changed as a result of having seen [Sean Bell’s murder] in a way that I think a lot of people were changed when they saw footage of Laquan McDonald's death or Philando Castile’s, these immensely traumatic visual experiences,” Onyebuchi says. Onyebuchi rejects the notion that anger must be productive. “When I started writing Riot Baby, I was very angry, and I feel like one of the things that happens during these periods of American unrest, particularly along a racialized vector, is this idea of productivity, that the anger has to be productive,” he says. “And there was a part of me, a very large part of me, that was essentially ‘Screw that. I'm not here for respectability politics.’ Black people have been playing the respectability politics game since time immemorial. And in the history of modern America, what has it gotten us? And that was a lot of what powered the omnipresence of anger in the book, this idea that it doesn't have to be productive.” Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Brian Greene is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he is the Director of the Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics, and co-founder and chair of the World Science Festival. He is well known for his TV mini-series about string theory and the nature of reality, including the Elegant Universe, which tied in with his best-selling 2000 book of the same name. In this episode, we talk about his latest popular book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe (Random House, 2020) Until the End of Time gives the reader a theory of everything, both in the sense of a “state of the academic union”, covering cosmology and evolution, consciousness and computation, and art and religion, and in the sense of showing us a way to apprehend the often existentially challenging subject matter. Greene uses evocative autobiographical vignettes in the book to personalize his famously lucid and accessible explanations, and we discuss these episodes further in the interview. Greene also reiterates his arguments for embedding a form of spiritual reverie within the multiple naturalistic descriptions of reality that different areas of human knowledge have so far produced. John Weston is a University Teacher of English in the Language Centre at Aalto University, Finland. His research focuses on academic communication. He can be reached at john.weston@aalto.fi and @johnwphd. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In his new book, Planet Auschwitz: Holocaust Representation in Science Fiction and Horror Film and Television (Rutgers University Press, 2020), Brian Crim explores the diverse ways in which the Holocaust influences and shapes science fiction and horror film and television by focusing on notable contributions from the last fifty years. The supernatural and extraterrestrial are rich and complex spaces with which to examine important Holocaust themes - trauma, guilt, grief, ideological fervor and perversion, industrialized killing, and the dangerous afterlife of Nazism after World War II. Planet Auschwitz explores why the Holocaust continues to set the standard for horror in the modern era and asks if the Holocaust is imaginable here on Earth, at least by those who perpetrated it, why not in a galaxy far, far away? The pervasive use of Holocaust imagery and plotlines in horror and science fiction reflects both our preoccupation with its enduring trauma and our persistent need to “work through” its many legacies. Brian Crim is Professor of History at the University of Lynchburg in Viriginia. Craig Sorvillo is a PhD candidate in modern European history at the University of Florida. He specializes in Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. He can be reached at craig.sorvillo@gmail.com or on twitter @craig_sorvillo. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Velocity Weapon (Orbit, 2019) by Megan E. O’Keefe centers on siblings: Biran, a member of an elite cadre that controls the interstellar gates by which humans travel among star systems, and his sister, Sanda, a gunner who finds herself waking 230 years after her last battle on an empty, enemy spaceship, believing she’s the last human alive. O’Keefe’s characters search for truth in a universe where the secrets are centuries old and where A.I.s depend on humans as much as humans depend on A.I.s. Among the many themes O’Keefe’s space opera explores are the limits of human perception. In Sanda’s case, her reality is controlled by a spaceship. “They are elements of horror when you can’t trust the environment you live in, when the only thing keeping you alive might be dishonest,” O’Keefe says. O’Keefe challenges Tolstoy’s claim that “all happy families are alike” by giving Biran and Sanda an upbringing in their two-dad home that is as happy as it is unique. “I enjoy taking the opportunity to explore a family that is actually united—they have their squabbles, of course—but they love each other and are trying to do the right thing in an impossible situation.” Velocity Weapon, which was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award, is the first book in O’Keefe’s Protectorate trilogy. The second book, Chaos Vector, is scheduled for publication in July. Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Laura Lam’s new book Goldilocks (Orbit, 2020) takes readers into space with an all-female crew bound for a distant Earth-like planet. The all-female crew isn’t the only twist; there’s also the fact that the five astronauts steal their spaceship. The crew aren’t mere bandits, but the spacecraft’s original crew, who’d been shoved aside by a reactionary patriarchy intent on confining women to home and family. “As a little girl, I thought sexism was on the way out. And in the last few years, I’ve realized, ‘Oh no, it’s definitely not,’” Lam says, discussing her motivations to write the book. When NASA confiscates the spacecraft of Valerie Black, a billionaire entrepreneur who Lam describes as a “cross between Elon Musk and Sigourney Weaver,” Black steals it back. She and her crew “know they’re the best people with the skills and training to find this new planet, which is humanity’s last hope because Earth has only 30 years left of habitability due to climate change,” Lam says. Lam found inspiration in the unsung women who’ve played a role in the history of spaceflight, including the Mercury 13, a group of women who’d passed the same physiological tests as the seven men of the Mercury project in the late 1950s. “The Mercury 13 really helped me focus the book. … There are all these women who have been influential in space flight, but we still haven’t had a woman on the Moon,” Lam says. Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (University of Georgia Press, 2019), edited by Leslie M. Harris, James T. Campbell, and Alfred L. Brophy, is the first edited collection of scholarly essays devoted solely to the histories and legacies of this subject on North American campuses and in their Atlantic contexts. Gathering together contributions from scholars, activists, and administrators, the volume combines two broad bodies of work: (1) historically based interdisciplinary research on the presence of slavery at higher education institutions in terms of the development of proslavery and antislavery thought and the use of slave labor; and (2) analysis on the ways in which the legacies of slavery in institutions of higher education continued in the post–Civil War era to the present day. The collection features broadly themed essays on issues of religion, economy, and the regional slave trade of the Caribbean. It also includes case studies of slavery’s influence on specific institutions, such as Princeton University, Harvard University, Oberlin College, Emory University, and the University of Alabama. Though the roots of Slavery and the University stem from a 2011 conference at Emory University, the collection extends outward to incorporate recent findings. As such, it offers a roadmap to one of the most exciting developments in the field of U.S. slavery studies and to ways of thinking about racial diversity in the history and current practices of higher education. Today I spoke with Leslie Harris about the book. Dr. Harris is a professor of history at Northwestern University. She is the coeditor, with Ira Berlin, of Slavery in New York and the coeditor, with Daina Ramey Berry, of Slavery and Freedom in Savannah (Georgia). Adam McNeil is a History PhD student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Tyler Hayes's The Imaginary Corpse (Angry Robot, 2019) offers an escape from the unending stress of the Covid-19 pandemic with three simple words: plush yellow triceratops. Nothing could be farther from our collective coronavirus nightmare than the Stillreal, where Hayes’ protagonist, Tippy (the aforementioned triceratops), runs the Stuffed Animal Detective Agency. Which is not to say that the book doesn’t have its own nightmares or traumas; they’re just softened by the fact that all the characters are imaginary friends created by people (“actual people, out there in the real world,” as Tippy explains) who are forced to abandon them after suffering a horrible trauma (domestic violence, child molestation, and fatal car accidents, to name a few). So even though Tippy is a cheery sunflower yellow, his nature is informed by a violent incident that led his creator, eight-year-old Sandra, to surrender him to the liminal world of the Stillreal. There, he solves crimes that happen to other imaginary friends, like his roommate (a disembodied hand), or the hotelier (a towering eagle in a stars-and-stripes apron) whose inn serves as a rest stop for new arrivals. The Imaginary Corpse is a mashup of fairytale, comic book, noir and science fiction, making it thoroughly unclassifiable. “I set out from the beginning knowing this was a book for adults,” Hayes says. And yet it’s a noir with fuzzy edges. “The choice to make the book kind was one of my biggest driving goals… This is a kinder world than a lot of fictional worlds, than often our world is. I stuck hard on that, on the idea of community, the idea of compassion, the idea of empathizing and accepting people where they are.” Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Ken Liu’s second collection of speculative stories explores migration, memory, and a post-human future through the eyes of parents and their children. Whether his characters are adjusting to life on a new planet or grappling with moral quandaries—like whether a consciousness uploaded to a server is still human—they struggle with the age-old task of forging identities that set them apart from the definitions and limits imposed by society, biology—or their parents. “We all have the experience of not wanting to be labeled, of being put into categories that we naturally feel a sense of resistance to,” Liu says. On the episode, he discusses several of the stories in The Hidden Girl and Other Stories (Gallery/Saga Press, 2020) and talks about the art of translation and the role Liu has played in introducing English-speaking readers to some of today’s great Chinese science fiction writers. Liu was on New Books in Science Fiction in 2015 to discuss the first book in his epic fantasy trilogy The Dandelion Dynasty. Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In Docile (Tor.com, 2020), the debut novel by K.M. Szpara, people pay off family debts by working as indentured personal assistants to the ultra-wealthy. Tor describes the book as a “science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power.” Szpara describes the book as "really gay." As it turns out, both descriptions are true. Szpara could have kept the story relatively simply by making Docile a tale of exploitation and rebellion, but he isn’t content to portray the wealthy Alex simply as an abusive patron who brainwashes his compliant docile, Elisha. Instead, their relationship is complicated by society’s efforts to make servitude more palatable by providing dociles with rights (like the right to adequate food and medical care, the right to vote, etc.) and a drug (which Elisha scandalously refuses) that helps dociles forget their suffering. Szpara also dares to have Alex and Elisha fall—or at least think they are falling—in love. This raises a host of questions. Who is Alex falling in love with—the real Elisha or the man he’s created through his harsh “training”? Does Elisha have the agency to love after being dominated and manipulated into becoming Alex’s perfect companion? “People say to Elisha ‘maybe you just like this kind of sex because it's the kind of sex you were taught to have. Maybe you just like Alex because he taught you to like him. Maybe you only like playing the piano, or these clothes because Alex gave them to you.’ And then he has to ask himself: ‘But they're the things that I like. Do I have to not like the things that I like because they were thrust upon me?’” Szpara continues: “So many things are thrust upon us by people, by capitalism, by people who are making decisions above us and handing them to us and telling us to like them. At a certain point you just say, ‘Oh hey, I like this, and I accept it. You know, I like this new song by Lady Gaga even though I hear it a thousand times a day, and that's probably why I like it, but I just do. I enjoy listening to it.’ …We don't exist in worlds where we can always make pure and good decisions all the time.” Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
To catch the people who killed her environmentalist father, the main character of Karl Schroeder’s Stealing Worlds (Tor Books, 2019) disappears into a virtual world of overlapping LARPs—live action role-playing games. But Sura Neelin soon discovers that the LARPs are more than games. They’re also an underground economy that meets players’ needs for food, shelter, services and everything else the non-virtual world also provides. Among the concepts she encounters is the idea that software can provide inanimate objects with self-sovereignty, allowing them to take charge of their own destinies. Sura discovers that self-sovereignty can apply to things like a river or a forest, giving them the ability to advocate for their own health and well-being—essentially putting them on an equal footing with humans who might try to exploit them. For Schroeder, who is both a writer and professional futurist, science fiction can be both entertainment and a laboratory to explore ideas like self-sovereignty. He’s been hired by governments and companies to write fictional scenarios to test the implications of new concepts and technologies. “What stories allow you to do is bring together immense numbers of different ideas and get them all spinning and interacting at the same time without people losing track of what’s going on,” he says in his New Books interview. “You can pile immense amounts of complexity into a narrative and people will understand it intuitively and seamlessly in a way that they will not understand a 400-page report.” Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
How does the world of book reviews work? In Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton University Press, 2020), Phillipa Chong, assistant professor in sociology at McMaster University, provides a unique sociological analysis of how critics confront the different types of uncertainty associated with their practice. The book explores how reviewers get matched to books, the ethics and etiquette of negative reviews and ‘punching up’, along with professional identities and the future of criticism. The book is packed with interview material, coupled with accessible and easy to follow theoretical interventions, creating a text that will be of interest to social sciences, humanities, and general readers alike. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
When Nino Cipri entered the Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest, they had no expectation of winning, so when they won, they were shocked. The prize came with a publishing contract, and suddenly Cipri was scrambling for a literary agent, negotiating a contract, and reaching a wider audience. “I wasn't really planning on writing a short story collection for probably another decade,” Cipri says. “I don't have the kind of output that a lot of other short story writers do. I was publishing maybe one or two stories a year.” Cipri’s modestly belies the maturity of their writing. The stories in Homesick: Stories (Dzanc Books, 2019) combines science fiction and horror to create complex tales about everything from ghosts and alien seedpods to difficult mothers and falling in love. Structurally, the stories vary. In addition to using third-person narration, there’s a story built on letters, a multiple-choice quiz, and a transcript of a series of recordings. What all the stories have in common is an interest in the meaning of home, and the presence of queer and trans characters. “For me personally, as a trans person, I'm always thinking about what does home mean when I literally don't feel at home in my body, or didn't for a long time. I do now. And what does home mean for a lot of trans and queer people when home is not a safe place for us,” Cipri says. Cipri is a queer and trans/nonbinary writer, editor, and educator. They are a graduate of the 2014 Clarion Writers’ Workshop and earned their MFA in fiction from the University of Kansas in 2019. Homesick is their first book. Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Some war stories emphasize heroism and a higher purpose; others emphasize brutality and disillusionment. The first kind of story got Dietz, the narrator of Kameron Hurley’s military science fiction novel The Light Brigade (Saga Press, 2019), to enlist in a war against aliens from Mars. The second is the story that emerges from their experience as they learn that truth—and reality itself—are two of the war’s biggest casualties. Hurley is the author of nine books. She has received numerous awards, including two Hugo Awards, a British Science Fiction Award, and a Locus Award. On this episode of New Books in Science Fiction, she discusses using a mathematician’s help to map her time-jumping plot, working with a hands-on literary agent, and making ends meet as a writer, among other things. Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The end of the world is no excuse for eating French fries. That’s a lesson 7-year-old Sunny Donelly learns from her father, Rob, who tries to give her as normal a childhood as possible in the post-pandemic landscape of Mike Chen’s A Beginning at the End (MIRA, 2020). Trying to be a good dad, Rob showers Sunny with attention and gives her fatherly advice, telling her, for instance, that lying is bad and that French fries aren’t healthy. But there’s an all-important thing he hasn’t told her: that her mom is dead, the victim of an accident during the outbreak that killed billions. Rob isn’t the only one trying to outrun his past with a lie. The other main characters—Moira Gorman, a former pop star, and Krista Deal, an event planner—are also hiding secrets. Set six years after the pandemic, Chen’s second novel imbues a San Francisco that feels almost like our own with a haunting sense of loss. But while trauma hovers over his characters’ lives, resiliency, loyalty and love ultimately prevail. What if “something absolutely catastrophic happened and you try to pick up after that?” Chen says, explaining the question that inspired the book. “The story I wanted to tell was… what if infrastructure and all the things that we’ve come to rely on are still existent in some form, but 70 percent of the people in the world are just gone? What you’re left with is not a survival tale but a trauma tale.” Chen appeared on New Books in Science Fiction last year to discuss his first book, Here and Now and Then. Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Science fiction and fantasy often feature characters who seek absolute control (over a kingdom, country, world, galaxy or universe), but few break down the secret to power as elegantly as Seanan McGuire in Middlegame (Tor.com, 2019), where her sibling protagonists subdue the forces of nature through the union of two fundamental arts: language and mathematics. McGuire sees elements of a “modern Frankenstein” in her novel about a brother and sister created by a ruthless alchemist. Instead of a hideous monster, her alchemist produces two brilliant siblings, whose rhyming names (Roger, a genius at languages, and Dodger, a math prodigy) belie their potential to control time and space. Life is easier for Roger, whose facility with words opens doors. Dodger, on the other hand, has had a harder time socializing; as a result, she is less trusting and keeps to herself. “Dodger is a math prodigy and a smart girl. And those are two things that tend to get you kicked in the teeth by the world over and over again,” McGuire says. Raised in separate homes, the siblings are at first unaware of each other. Middlegame is as much a story about their on-again off-again relationship as it is about the discovery of their power to manipulate time and their own alchemical origins. “It took me 10 years to write because I had to get good enough to write it first. The flow charts for Middlegame were kind of a nightmare in and of themselves,” McGuire says. Like Roger, McGuire (who also writes under the name Mira Grant) was a prodigy in English. She is also an all star among writers. The author of 36 books, she’s received numerous awards, including the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2010 and Nebula and Hugo awards in 2016 for best novella. She's twice won Hugo's for best fancast and in 2013 received a record five Hugo nominations. She says her prolific output is partly a result of a conscious choice. “If you’re somebody that wants to have more of a social life than I do or wants to have more of a family life than I do, you need to make different choices,” she says. “At this point I am functionally … an Olympic athlete. It's just that my sport is novel writing, so I'm in training every single day to be able to start and finish the next book in a timely fashion.” Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Famous Men Who Never Lived (Tin House, 2019) is set in two Brooklyns. In one, people ride in trams; in the other, they take subways. In one, the swastika is a symbol of luck; in the other, it signifies hate. In one, science fiction is literature; in the other, it’s considered mere genre. Helen (Hel) Nash, the main character in K Chess’s debut novel, comes from the other Brooklyn—the one with trams and innocuous swastikas. She is a refugee from a nuclear war, one of 156,000 Universally Displaced Persons who escape through an experimental gate from her timeline to ours. Like many refugees, she’s having a hard time adjusting. Not only has she lost friends and family—including her son, who she can never see again—but she faces a new world of unfamiliar laws, customs, and culture. It doesn’t help that most people in our timeline eye UDPs with mistrust. Hel’s and our world diverged around 1910. “It was fun to think about all the things that happened since nineteen hundred,” Chess says in her New Books interview. “For instance, light beer wasn’t invented until the 70s, so that might not exist in the other world. There are many things that could have gone very differently, both in large-scale world history and in small-scale inventions.” Instead of trying to assimilate, Hel becomes obsessed with establishing a museum to preserve her vanished timeline’s art and culture. She is fascinated—and frustrated—by the loss of the thinkers, artists and inventors who accomplished great things in her world but died prematurely in ours. “There was something especially poignant,” Hel thinks, “about knowing exactly what these men and women might have accomplished if only history had proceeded the way it ought to have.” In this episode, Chess discusses, among other things, why she doesn't like her book’s title, New York's resonance as a city of immigrants, human beings' attachment to the past, and how she built an alternate world through small but important details. Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Sarah Pinsker’s A Song for a New Day (Berkley, 2019) explores how society changes following two plausible disasters: a surge in terrorism and a deadly epidemic. In the Before, people brush against each other in crowded cities, gather in stadiums to watch baseball games, and hang out in clubs to watch live music. In the After, curfews and bans on public gatherings give rise to mega-corporations that allow people to work, study, shop, and socialize in virtual reality. The two eras come to life through the stories of Pinsker’s main characters: singer-songwriter Luce Cannon, who misses the Before, and Rosemary Laws, who comes of age in the After. The two collide when Rosemary starts recruiting musicians for StageHoloLive, a virtual reality entertainment company. In the After, most musicians would be thrilled to have Rosemary offer them an exclusive contract. But Luce is different. She would rather perform before a small flesh-and-blood audience (even if it’s illegal) than be turned into a holograph projected into millions of headsets. “Having two characters with vastly different worldviews is a great way to get some interesting conflict,” Pinsker says. A prolific short story writer, Pinsker has won Nebula and Sturgeon awards for novelettes. She is also a singer-songwriter, which helps explain the vividness of her portrayal of dedicated musicians like Luce. A Song for a New Day is her first novel. (A special thank you to Sarah Pinsker for allowing us to close the episode with an excerpt from her song Waterwings.) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Ah, science fiction: Aliens? Absolutely. Robots? Of course. But why are there so many priests in space? As Jim Clarke writes in Science Fiction and Catholicism: The Rise and Fall of the Robot Papacy (Gylphi, 2019), science fiction has had an obsession with Roman Catholicism for over a century. The religion is the genre’s dark twin as well as its dirty secret. In this first ever study of the relationship between Catholicism and science fiction, Jim Clarke explores the genre's co-dependence and antagonism with the largest sect of Christianity. Tracking its origins all the way back to the pamphlet wars of the Enlightenment and speculative fiction's Gothic origins, Clarke unveils a story of robot Popes, Jesuit missions to the stars, first contact between aliens and the Inquisition, and rewritings of the Reformation. Featuring close readings of over fifty SF texts, he examines how the genre’s greatest invention might just be the imaginary Catholicism it repeatedly and obsessively depicts, a faux Catholicism at odds with the religion's own intriguing interest in both science and the possibility of alien life. Jim Clarke is Senior Lecturer and Course Director of English and Journalism at Coventry University, where he lectures on Science Fiction and Fantasy literature. He is the author of The Aesthetics of Anthony Burgess, and has written extensively on JG Ballard, Doctor Who, and Iain M Banks. He is principal investigator on the “Ponying the Slovos” project, which investigates invented languages in translation. Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In science fiction, “near future” usually refers to settings that are a few years to a few decades off. But Craig DiLouie’s Our War (Orbit, 2019)—about a second U.S. civil war that starts after the president is impeached and convicted but refuses to step down—feels as if it might be only weeks away. Born in the U.S., DiLouie now lives in Calgary, Alberta. He is the author 18 books of science fiction, fantasy, horror and thrillers. Our War came out in August, a month before the U.S. House of Representatives launched its impeachment inquiry. When he started writing in 2017, “I was looking at the growing polarization in America and political tribalization, which is considered one of the five precursors to civil war,” DiLouie says. “I hope it stays in fiction.” The story is told through the eyes of a young brother and sister who are used as soldiers by opposite sides. He set the book in Indianapolis because “it's a quintessential American city… a very blue city in a sea of red, rural areas.” He says he strove to be even-handed, focusing less on politics and more on the human impact of civil war. “At any given time, there's hundreds of thousands of [children] fighting around the world,” says DiLouie, who read reports from the U.N. as part of his research into the psychology of child solders. A child soldier’s “loyalty is not based on an ideology… They end up staying and fighting because the militia becomes their family.” While the conflict in the book eventually ends, DiLouie makes clear that the children’s scars—physical and psychic—will last a lifetime. Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
As you may know, university presses publish a lot of good books. In fact, they publish thousands of them every year. They are different from most trade books in that most of them are what you might called "fundamental research." Their authors--dedicated researchers one and all--provide the scholarly stuff upon which many non-fiction trade books are based. So when you are reading, say, a popular history, you are often reading UP books at one remove. Of course, some UP books are also bestsellers, and they are all well written (and, I should say, thoroughly vetted thanks to the peer review system), but the greatest contribution of UPs is to provide a base of fundamental research to the public. And they do a great job of it. How do they do it? Today I talked to Kathryn Conrad, the president of the Association of University Presses, about the work of UPs, the challenges they face, and some terrific new directions they are going. We also talked about why, if you have a scholarly book in progress, you should talk to UP editors early and often. And she explains how! Listen in. Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at marshallpoe@gmail.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (1)

Nick Leshi

The Jade City episode was excellent and I've added the book to my must-read list. Looking forward to catching up on the other podcast episodes.

Jun 21st
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