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Today’s guest is science fiction writer and editor S.B. Divya! Her fiction has appeared on Tor.com, Uncanny, Apex Magazine, and many other publications, and it can also be read in her collection, Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse and Other Possible Situations. She is also the author of Runtime, a 2016 Nebula Award finalist for Best Novella, and a co-editor of Escape Pod, a 2020 Hugo Award finalist for Best Semiprozine. Her first novel, the near-future science fiction thriller Machinehood, was just released last month.

Machinehood by S.B. Divya - Book Cover

Through the Eyes of Women

As I was outlining my novel, Machinehood, I came up with three point of view (POV) characters — two protagonists and one antagonist. I figured out their story arcs, planned my main plot beats, and was set to start drafting when it occurred to me that all three of my main characters identified as women.

(Two asides here: first, I consider myself a nonbinary or gender nonconforming woman, depending on your definition. I made sure to include people of other genders, but they aren’t main characters in this story. Second, all three of the POV characters are also people of color, but that discussion belongs in an entirely different post.)

The lack of male protagonists made me pause and consider: should I include one? Would male readers, who are often the target audience for a techno-thriller, be put off by solely inhabiting the headspaces of women? Given that the story takes place in 2095 with no major male-eradicating disasters, there were plenty of men in the cast. It’s just that they were side characters, supporting the ones who drive the plot.

When it comes to my short fiction, I’ve told stories from the standpoints of a variety of genders, but predominantly, I tend to write about women. This has been true from the very first stories that I wrote in my teens. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t place myself, or people like me, as the main characters. I’ve been a fan of science fiction since the age of 10, and I found plenty of books early on that were written by women and featured female protagonists. I guess I got lucky because I’ve heard from others that they defaulted to writing male characters when they started out. That’s all they had read.

I have also heard that boys (and men) don’t like reading books about girls (or women) because they can’t relate. That’s what tripped me up when it came to writing my first novel. I wanted the book to have broad appeal. Would I turn off half my audience if I didn’t give them a viewpoint that resembled their own?

That’s when I checked myself.

How many science fiction novels had I read with multiple male POV characters with nary a woman’s view to be had? How many movies have no female protagonists? If people who aren’t men (more than half the world) can spend hours following male thoughts and feelings in narratives, then the converse should also be true, regardless of the genre.

That settled it. I decided that these three women’s stories were the ones I wanted to tell, so I forged ahead and wrote the book with only their viewpoints.

This might be where you expect me to say that male readers and editors couldn’t relate to the book or rejected it, but I’m happy to say quite the opposite has happened. Maybe because it’s 2021, but so far, the reception from men has been just as positive (or not) as that from people of other genders. Men seem to have no trouble relating to the tough-as-nails fighter Welga, nor to the more domestic and scientifically-minded character, Nithya.

I’m happy that my trepidation proved wrong, and my instincts right. I told the story the best way I could, and that should always be a writer’s most important consideration. I think my teenage writer-self would be proud.

Photo of S.B. Divya
Photo Credit: Sargeant Creative
S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She is the Hugo and Nebula nominated author of Machinehood (Saga), Runtime (tordotcom), and the short story collection, Contingency Plans For the Apocalypse and Other Possible Situations (Hachette India). Divya is the co-editor of the weekly science fiction podcast Escape Pod, with Mur Lafferty. She holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing and worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author. Find her on Twitter @divyastweets or at www.sbdivya.com.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is poet and fantasy author E. J. Beaton! Her debut novel, The Councillor, is often described as “Machiavellian fantasy” (for more about that classification, see her essay here). The Councillor was recently published in the US, Canada, and internationally and will also be available in Australia on May 18.

The Councillor by E. J. Beaton - Book Cover

The Imperfection of Clever Women
by E. J. Beaton

How clever are women allowed to be in novels?

That’s a question no one should need to ask. If women are equal to men, then surely, we must be allowed to be equally represented on the page in all our messy humanity – clever in some ways, unwise and naïve in other ways, and negotiating everything in between.

But there is often a prickliness in the reception of female characters. We judge female intelligence with a readiness to find women wanting. If a female character seems too clever, then she must be a Mary Sue, with everything too easy for her. If she seems not clever enough, she becomes a disappointment in the arena of logic. A character who is clever yet flawed will often receive these criticisms at the same time: she is too clever for some readers to like, and not clever enough for others.

These attitudes reflect the sexism we direct towards women in real life. We expect women to fit into certain boxes, and then we angrily claim that they have failed to do so.

But what if we approach female intelligence with a willingness to embrace women as full human beings, not to cut them down? How might we view intellectual women then?

Logic and emotional intelligence

If you’ve mixed in academic circles, you’ve probably noticed that it’s possible to be very clever about some things and lack knowledge of other areas – sometimes, enormous areas.

For example, someone can be a specialist in their particular field, yet be totally ignorant of other domains of knowledge. Or a person may be skilled in several academic disciplines, yet unable to apply their knowledge practically in a workplace or in everyday life. In other cases, they might have a laser-like focus on certain pieces of scholarship, yet gloss over sub-genres of knowledge that fail to pique their interest.

A similar gulf can occur between logic and emotional intelligence. It is interesting to explore the development of one kind of intelligence in a character who already possesses another. If a woman has spent her childhood immersed in study, it’s only natural that she may need to do a bit of learning when it comes to relationships. That journey towards social development can reveal something of the struggle to become a well-rounded person.

Friendships, working partnerships, romantic and sexual relationships… these things can all prove challenging for someone who hasn’t had much practice. We can make space in stories for women who are intellectual but need to work at their emotional intelligence. Importantly, this can mean allowing time for the interpersonal elements of the story. A clever woman need not only go around conducting experiments or practising deduction – she can also navigate her urges, struggle with her desires, and work out how to manage the chaos of her insecurity.

Clever VS infallible

Even a highly intelligent person is apt to make mistakes. This applies as much to women as it does to men, but often, we mete out a different judgment to women when they stumble. Clever female characters often bear the burden of strict expectations, and especially the expectation of consummate skill.

Yet women are complicated beings, just like men. When we unburden female characters of the need to be perfect all the time – when we allow them to be intelligent but also fallible – we reflect the real experience of being a woman. Female intellectuals who err can remind us of the times that women falter on the path to success in a tough job. They can illustrate the reality of trying and persisting, of learning and developing, and of wanting to smack oneself in frustration over an obvious mistake.

If we deny female characters the messiness of errors and slip-ups, we are asking them to be less human than men. I think women deserve the same breadth of psychology on the page.

Sex and the intellectual

Sexual desire can prove a double-edged sword for women. Sometimes, a sexual element is expected in women’s stories and discussions in order for them to appear “interesting” to the public – take the proliferation of female comedians focusing on sexual material, for example. Yet the same sexual element can be used to write off women’s work, to deride it as juvenile or immature.

The bare fact of the matter is that intelligence and sexual desire are not incompatible. Women can seek out sexual experiences and pursue a career; they can focus on logic at some times, and focus on desire at other times. Classifying sex as a distraction from the serious or the political means simplifying female subjectivity, in a way that infantilises women.

If we don’t call rape scenes juvenile, then why should we see female desire as immature? Is sex only permissible when it is violent or miserable? And are women not allowed to desire it – even when the female gaze is a disruptive force, pushing male aesthetics aside?

Layers, layers, layers…

The books I love most contain a compelling story arc, but they offer more than a bundle of plot twists – they include a rich writing style, emotional depth, and character development. These layers of a novel sit beneath the surface like the tiers of an opera cake. They might look easily arrayed, in their delicious confection, but they take hours of work to build, and in combination they make something that is beyond a single ingredient.

A complex female character is a layered creation, too. Triumphs and errors, logic and emotion, work and desire can all swirl together in a woman’s story. An intelligent female character can engage with all of these elements within one narrative.

How clever are women allowed to be on the page? Very clever, I’d hope.

They should also be allowed to err, to desire, and to feel. Just like the rest of us, off the page.

We are, after all, gloriously imperfect.

Photo of E. J. Beaton E. J. Beaton is the author of the fantasy novel THE COUNCILLOR, published in March 2021 by DAW Books, to be followed by a sequel. You can read an excerpt here.

To learn more about E. J. Beaton, visit her website where you can find blurbs and read her essays on bisexual visibility, Machiavellian fantasy, motivation, and more. You can also follow her on Twitter or on Instagram.

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Today’s Women in SF&F Month guest is R.S.A. Garcia! She received the 2015 Independent Publishing Book Award (IPPY) Silver Medal for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror E-Book for her science fiction mystery novel, Lex Talionis, and her short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies including Abyss & Apex, Devil’s Ways, and Sunspot Jungle: Volume Two. Her short story “The Sun from Both Sides” appears in The Best of World SF: Volume 1, which recently published in the UK and will be released on June 1 in the US. A prequel/sequel story, “Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma,” can be listened to or read on Clarkesworld.

Lex Talionis by R. S. A. Garcia - Book Cover


The things I love have not always loved me.

This is one of my truths as someone who identifies as a woman. As someone who is a black woman. As someone who is a West Indian black woman.

The things I love, whether they are my country, my family, the men around me, have not always loved me. They have not always seen me as a person with my own dreams, my own rights, my own needs. They did not see someone who deserved to have their viewpoints cherished, their intelligence and talent spotlighted, and their beauty acknowledged.

I was often not the default. I was not the hero, or even the fun fast-talking sidekick. I was not the woman on the pedestal, the one worthy of protection, the siren call no one could resist, or the ultimate desire of a driven hero. Often, I was the first to die, or the background character, or the annoying woman, angry for no reason. And some wanted me to think this is who I was in truth.

What I was worth.

But not only did I know that wasn’t true—mostly because I grew up in a country where my society and my media looked like me, and there is so much unexplained power in that alone—experiencing these stories and worlds through that default gaze helped teach me about a different world. Helped me to learn empathy.

I learned to see parts of myself in the default cis white male hero. I learned to see my own struggles in the cis white female heroine. I learned there was a big world out there, made up of so much more than the heroes and heroines these stories and societies focused on, and it imagined futures for itself. Yes, some of those futures I was barely present in, barely acknowledged.

But right then, in that moment, I was part of the world. So that meant I could be part of the future as well. And unlike now, the future was not set.

So that is why this post is not about the things that did not love me.

In this month that celebrates Women in Science Fiction, this post is dedicated to just some of the things I loved that loved me back. To the things that made me who I am, in some small way.

I have read every kind of literature, but my favourites were always speculative fiction, romance and mystery, and their many, many sub-genres. From science fiction, fantasy and horror, I lost myself in the question of ‘What If?’. It is my belief that speculative fiction is the study of humanity in extraordinary circumstances, and the best speculative fiction asks more questions than it has answers. It makes you think, makes you question, makes you grow. All literature can do this, but the satisfaction I gained reading for this in speculative fiction could not be matched elsewhere for me. Except in genres like mystery and romance, where I learned human nature, and the beauty of intimacy and our deepest, most personal dreams and desires. The intellectual and emotional satisfaction these genres brought me—the comfort they provided in a difficult childhood and even more difficult youth—was priceless. The stories I read inspired my life’s work.

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson showed me my own people, beautiful and flawed, living in a fascinating future underpinned by our own wonderous technology and Carnival traditions, even if over-shadowed by old problems. Until I read it, I had not seen an explicit future in which the people of the Caribbean had a place. It made me brave enough to write my own futures, this time explicitly about my own country, Trinidad and Tobago, because I have learned when you find something good, celebrate it by building on it.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys was far more complex than I could appreciate the first time I read it, but when I had to re-read it for school, it struck a bitter chord in me, the price women are often forced to pay for having the courage to live their own lives boldly, to love unwisely. It was also stunningly beautiful writing, born of a woman from our seas who wrote a better story than the one it was based on. I’d loved Jane Eyre, and to see one of us surpass it taught me there was no limit to reimagining our pasts, even if that past was more bitter than sweet.

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson - Book Cover Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys - Book Cover

I was not just grateful for books. I have always loved the arts, and film is an important part of that.

There were the shows unforgettably made in my own image, in my own country, like Calabash Alley, Rikki Tikki, Mastana Bahar, Beulah Darling, Scouting for Talent, Twelve and Under and Westwood Park. Shows that spoke to who I was and taught me to be proud of where I came from.

Benson is a forgotten TV show now, but in my household a black man rising from butler to challenge his former employer for the Governor of his state was a powerful thing to visualize. My family was headed by a strong black grandmother who raised all her children to go after an education and their dreams because she had once been denied both. It is sad that so much of US TV is homogenously white now, but mainstream TV in the 70s and 80s had gems like Benson, Good Times, Differ’nt Strokes, The Love Boat, Julia, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, 227, Charlie & Co., Family Matters and Webster, that showed me faces like those around me. Faces like mine. People living their best lives in my skin. Without them, I would not have learned there was a space in the wider world for me, a table I could sit at with others like me while we laughed and loved.

A table that also included people like the incredible Trinbagonian actors, Lorraine Toussaint and Geoffrey Holder, and even Nichelle Nichols and Billy Dee Williams, all of whom showed me myself in the future—the place I loved to live in, the place where I was in control of the stories. Where I wasn’t limited by the challenges or discrimination of the present. Where I was the fast-talking sidekick, the ultimate beauty, the woman on the pedestal. From them, from these shows, I learned the power of possibility. That things do not have to stay the same.

But most of all I am thankful for the community of speculative fiction writers that have welcomed me and nurtured me and inspired me. Women, especially black women, that have awed me with their talent and wisdom and generousness. And I do not just mean the giants of the field, the best-selling authors who gave back, and the critical successes who pushed boundaries and made a way for all of us. I don’t just mean the women at the top of the entire genre right now.

I mean the heroines actively plugging away behind the scenes to make spaces more welcoming, more inclusive for those that have found comfort and inspiration and things to love in genres that often don’t love us back. I mean the writers brave enough to take those baby steps to try to bring that love to those things themselves, so that others will not have to feel same chill of not belonging, of pushback against inclusivity and broadening horizons.

To you, the founders of awards like the Carl Brandon and the Ignytes, and of magazines like FIYAH, and societies like the Black Science Fiction Society; to all the persons and women of colour working to make safe spaces in existing organisations like the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the Romance Writers of America; to those established magazines who open their submissions up to all nationalities, ethnicities and genders; to workshops and writing friends creating Discords and Slack, Whatsapp and Facebook groups that help writers at all stages of their careers; to those who turn their blogs and websites over to promoting, and teaching, and informing women and black women, and anyone else who are historically marginalized and coming into these genres we love; those who expend their energy to review new authors of colour, to review women and queer persons, to push the film and publishing industries to do better by constantly holding them to account in studies, essays, Twitter threads; to those who report on the flaws and failures and get backlash for never backing down from speaking truth to power, both in their fiction and non-fiction; but especially to those who do all of this in Trinidad and Tobago and the West Indies, where so few understand the courage and importance of what you do…To you I say, I appreciate all that you are. All that you do.

You are my true loves.

You are my present.

You are my future.

Thank you, so much, for loving me back.

R. S. A. Garcia Photo
R.S.A. Garcia

R.S.A. lives in Trinidad and Tobago with an extended family and too many cats and dogs—none of which belong to her. Her debut science fiction mystery novel, Lex Talionis, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and the Silver Medal for Best Scifi/Fantasy/Horror Ebook from the Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY 2015).  She has also published short fiction in international magazines, including Clarkesworld, Abyss and Apex, Internazionale Magazine (Italy), and in several anthologies. Learn more about her work at rsagarcia.com.

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It’s now April, and for the tenth year in a row, this month is dedicated to highlighting some of the many women doing wonderful work in speculative fiction! Starting tomorrow, this blog will be featuring guest posts by women doing work in science fiction and fantasy on weekdays throughout the month.

They will be discussing a variety of topics—their inspirations and those works that influenced their paths; creating their stories and characters; the reception of female characters with certain traits, like intelligence and power; dark fantasy and horror; dreams and fantasy; food and fantasy; obstacles encountered when writing, and when trying to write during a global pandemic; and far more than I can adequately sum up here. I’m incredibly excited to share all of their essays with you throughout this month!

The Women in SF&F Month Origin Story

In case you are unfamiliar with how April came to be Women in SF&F Month here: It started way back in 2012, following some discussions about review coverage of books by women and the lack of women blogging about books being suggested for Hugo Awards in fan categories in March. Some of the responses to these—especially the claim that that women weren’t being reviewed and mentioned because there just weren’t that many women reading and writing SFF—made me want to spend a month highlighting women doing work in the genre to show that there are a lot of us, actually.

So I decided to see if I could pull together an April event focusing on women in science fiction and fantasy, and thanks to a great many authors and reviewers who wrote pieces for the event, it happened! I was—and continue to be—astounded by the fantastic guest posts that have been written for this series. And I am so, so grateful to everyone who has contributed to it over the last decade.

The Favorite SF&F Books by Women Project

During the second Women in SF&F Month in 2013, Renay from Lady Business began the Favorite SF&F Books by Women Project (linked in the sidebar). She not only wrote about her personal experience with finding it difficult to find books by women when she was starting out as a young genre fan but also asked readers to submit up to 10 SFF books by women that they loved. Those individual recommendations were made into a list containing the number of times a work was submitted, and we’ve collected new book recommendations and added to the list over the last few years.

The latest entries were recently combined with the submissions from previous years, resulting in a list of 2,743 titles, several of which have been recommended more than once. (Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice has been recommended 58 times, and N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has been recommended 45 times!)

The latest version of the list will be the last we work on as part of this event. Unexpected changes to Goodreads API took it offline for part of last year’s poll and, in any case, the point has been made—and if you’re looking to read more speculative fiction by women, or for speculative fiction books that SFF readers recommend, there are 2,700+ titles to start with! Thank you to everyone who has contributed favorite books over the years, and a big THANK YOU to Renay for its creation and her work on this project. As she said in her 2019 essay:

“This is one way of remembering the past and writing the story for the future to look back on. It’s small, but history is a collection of small stories of human endeavors.”

A big thank you also to my husband, John, who developed the list website and merged the data from year to year.

This Week’s Schedule

I’m very excited about this month’s guest posts, which start tomorrow! This week’s schedule is as follows:

Women in SF&F Month Week 1 Book Cover Graphic

April 7: R.S.A. Garcia (Lex Talionis, “The Sun from Both Sides,” “The Bois”)
April 8: E. J. Beaton (The Councillor)
April 9: S.B. Divya (Machinehood, Runtime, Escape Pod)

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last week was an excellent week for new books, partly because Friday was my birthday but also because a book I had pre-ordered and a couple of ARCs showed up. This weekend’s post is focusing on the birthday gifts because I covered the other three books in 30 Anticipated 2021 Speculative Fiction Book Releases a few weeks ago:

  • Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan by Usman T. Malik
  • The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu
  • She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

This will be the only Leaning Pile of Books post this month since the tenth annual Women in SF&F Month guest posts start on Wednesday. I’m very excited about this year’s event, and I’ll be posting more about it on Tuesday!

The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip - Book Cover

The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip

Since picking up her collection Wonders of the Invisible World in 2012, I have wanted to read everything World Fantasy Award–winning author Patricia A. McKillip has written. (And I am still thrilled that she wrote a Women in SF&F Month guest post in 2013!)

Though I have now read more of McKillip’s work—and discovered a couple of new favorite books in the process, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and The Changeling Sea—there is still a lot of her oeuvre left for me to read. But I’ve been regularly adding her books to my TBR, and now The Bards of Bone Plain is among those I’m looking forward to reading for the very first time.

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Bards of Bone Plain. (This is no longer McKillip’s latest fantasy book, although that’s what the description below says.)


The latest “rich, resonant” (Publishers Weekly) fantasy from the World Fantasy Award-winning author of The Bell at Sealey Head.

Eager to graduate from the school on the hill, Phelan Cle chose Bone Plain for his final paper because he thought it would be an easy topic. Immortalized by poets and debated by scholars, it was commonly accepted-even at a school steeped in bardic tradition-that Bone Plain, with its three trials, three terrors, and three treasures, was nothing more than a legend, a metaphor. But as his research leads him to the life of Nairn, the Wandering Bard, the Unforgiven, Phelan starts to wonder if there are any easy answers…

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson - Book Cover

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King is Ms. Marvel co-creator and writer G. Willow Wilson’s second novel, a standalone historical fantasy book set on the Iberian Peninsula in 1491. Her first novel, Alif the Unseen, won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.

Buzzfeed News has an excerpt from The Bird King. (This is a book I wanted to read even more after looking at a sample, although I don’t think this is the same one I read.)


From award-winning author G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif the Unseen was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she delivers The Bird King, a stunning new novel that tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. Hassan has a secret—he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls? As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke - Book Cover

Hollow Empire (Poison Wars #2) by Sam Hawke

Hollow Empire is the sequel to Sam Hawke’s Aurealis, Ditmar, and Norma K Hemming Award–winning debut novel, City of Lies. The Tor-Forge blog has an excerpt from City of Lies and one from Hollow Empire.

City of Lies was one of my favorite books of 2018, an epic fantasy story following two siblings whose city is suddenly under siege for unknown reasons. The two narrators, a poisons expert/food taster and a spy, are both wonderful characters doing their best to pursue truth and justice in the midst of a bad situation. I found Kalina’s characterization particularly compelling, and you can read more why Sam Hawke wrote this woman “with a chronic illness who couldn’t fight to save her life” in her 2019 Women in SF&F Month guest post, “The Sewing Test.”


Moving from poison and treachery to war and witchcraft, Sam Hawke’s Poison Wars continue with Hollow Empire, a fabulous epic fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Naomi Novik, and Scott Lynch.

Poison was only the beginning…. The deadly siege of Silasta woke the ancient spirits, and now the city-state must find its place in this new world of magic. But people and politics are always treacherous, and it will take all of Jovan and Kalina’s skills as proofer and spy to save their country when witches and assassins turn their sights to domination.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s been a while since I did one of these features! Here are the blog posts that have gone up since the last one of these in case you missed any of them:

Since the pandemic started, there have not been as many books in the mail, and most of the ones that have arrived lately are covered in the 30 Anticipated Speculative Fiction Book Releases post mentioned above. There have been a few weekends that I thought about covering e-ARCs that I’d downloaded, but I ended up running out of time for various reasons. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of my weekend time on work projects and preparing for the tenth annual Women in SF&F Month in April—which I am very excited about! (Here is more about last year’s event if you missed it.)

Since I have missed some books I’d like to mention, I am covering an e-ARC that I just downloaded as well as a couple of others somewhat recently added to my Kindle in this week’s Leaning Pile of Books.

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu - Book Cover

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu

Writer, editor, and translator S. Qiouyi Lu’s debut novella will be released on August 31 (trade paperback, ebook).

Tor.com has more information on In the Watchful City, including quotes from both the author and editor. Here’s some of what the author said that made me especially curious about this upcoming novella:

The city in which the frame narrative is set, Ora, arose out of a fusion of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and a bio-cyberpunk take on surveillance, one extrapolated from current technology that I got to see in Hangzhou, China. The city is not one cohesive place, but layers and layers, facets upon facets; this novella sees Ora from multiple perspectives while also looking out into the world.

In the Watchful City is more than just an illustration of a city, too. It is also a collection of stories about diaspora, about power, about longing, about growth and transformation.

This sounds fantastic, and I must admit, I was also intrigued by the gorgeous cover illustration by Kuri Huang!


S. Qiouyi Lu’s In the Watchful City explores borders, power, diaspora, and transformation in an Asian-inspired mosaic novella that melds the futurism of Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station with the magical wonder of Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest.

The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora’s citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm.

All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item. As Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist, æ finds ærself asking a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?”

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers - Book Cover

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk and Robot #1) by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers begins a new series with A Psalm for the Wild-Built, coming July 13 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Her Hugo Award–winning Wayfarers series is known for its optimism, and A Psalm for the Wild-Built is also supposed to be a hopeful story.


In A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’s delightful new Monk & Robot series gives us hope for the future.

It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.

They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’s new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

The Helm of Midnight by Marina J. Lostetter - Book Cover

The Helm of Midnight (The Five Penalties #1) by Marina J. Lostetter

Marina J. Lostetter begins her first fantasy series with The Helm of Midnight, coming April 13 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). She is also the author of the science fiction trilogy Noumenon.

The Tor/Forge Blog has an excerpt from The Helm of Midnight.


Hannibal meets Mistborn in Marina Lostetter’s THE HELM OF MIDNIGHT, the dark and stunning first novel in a new trilogy that combines the intricate worldbuilding and rigorous magic system of the best of epic fantasy with a dark and chilling thriller.

In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power—the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city.

Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.

It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.