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Speculative Fiction

Readers' Cafe

Autonomous
The Barrow Will Send What it May
Black Blade Blues
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Dark Wings Descending
The Deep
The Descent of Monsters
False Bingo
Gideon the Ninth
Jonny Appleseed
The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion
The Phoenix Empress
The Prey of Gods
The Priory of the Orange Tree
Stories to Sing in the Dark
A Study in Honor
A Taste of Honey
The Tiger's Daughter
The Traitor Baru Cormorant
Upright Women Wanted
Wake, Siren Ovid Resung
Witchmark
Autonomous / ANNALEE NEWITZ

Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can't otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.

Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack's drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.

And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

Lambda Award Winner

The Barrow Will Send What it May / MARGARET KILLJOY

Margaret Killjoy's Danielle Cain series is a dropkick-in-the-mouth anarcho-punk fantasy that pits traveling anarchist Danielle Cain against eternal spirits, hypocritical ideologues, and brutal, unfeeling officers of the law. The story continues with The Barrow Will Send What it May.

Now a nascent demon-hunting crew on the lam, Danielle and her friends arrive in a small town that contains a secret occult library run by anarchists and residents who claim to have come back from the dead. When Danielle and her crew investigate, they are put directly in the crosshairs of a necromancer's wrath -- whose actions threaten to trigger the apocalypse itself.

Lambda Award Finalist

Black Blade Blues / J. A. Pitts

Sarah Beauhall has more on her plate than most twenty-somethings: day job as a blacksmith, night job as a props manager for low-budget movies, and her free time is spent fighting in a medieval re-enactment group. The lead actor breaks Sarah?s favorite one-of-a-kind sword, and to avoid reshooting scenes, Sarah agrees to repair the blade. One of the extras, who?claims to be a dwarf,?offers to help. And that?s when things start to get weird. Could the sword really be magic, as?the "dwarf"?claims? Are dragons really living among us as shapeshifters?? And as if things weren?t surreal enough, Sarah?s girlfriend Katie breaks out the dreaded phrase? ?I love you.?? As her life begins to fall apart, first her relationship with Katie, then her job at the movie studio, and finally her blacksmithing career, Sarah hits rock bottom.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf / MARLON JAMES

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: "He has a nose," people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy's scent--from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers--he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.

Lambda Award Finalist

Dark Wings Descending / Lesley Davis

Goodness may appear in many forms; evil need only take one.The Chicago PD Deviant Data Unit specializes in the dark and cruel aspects of criminal behavior. When a serial killer who leaves his victims oddly posed starts terrorizing the city, Detective Rafe Douglas leads the team tasked to find this sadistic killer. Still recovering from severe injuries sustained in the line of duty, Rafe?s tenuous hold on what is real is further tested by someone who wants in on the case and won?t take no for an answer.Private Investigator Ashley Scott experiences the world through unveiled eyes. She alone can see that Hell?s inhabitants are breaking free from their confines and are bringing their evil to Earth. She believes the killer isn?t human and knows she has to convince Rafe there are more things happening in the Windy City than anyone could possibly realize.

The Deep / Rivers Solomon

Yetu holds the memories for her people - water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners - who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one - the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities - and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past - and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they'll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity - and own who they really are.

Lambda Award Winner

The Descent of Monsters / J Y YANG

JY Yang continues to redefine the limits of silkpunk fantasy with their Tensorate novellas, which the New York Times lauded as "joyously wild." In this third volume, an investigation into atrocities committed at a classified research facility threaten to expose secrets that the Protectorate will do anything to keep hiddenYou are reading this because I am dead. Something terrible happened at the Rewar Teng Institute of Experimental Methods. When the Tensorate's investigators arrived, they found a sea of blood and bones as far as the eye could see. One of the institute's experiments got loose, and its rage left no survivors. The investigators returned to the capital with few clues and two prisoners: the terrorist leader Sanao Akeha and a companion known only as Rider.

Lambda Award Finalist

False Bingo / Jac Jemc

In Jac Jemc's dislocating second story collection, False Bingo, we watch as sinister forces (some supernatural, some of this earth, some real, and some not) work their ways into the mundanity of everyday life. In "Strange Loop," an outcast attempting to escape an unnamed mistake spends his days taxiderming animals, while in "Delivery," a family watches as their dementia-addled, basement-dwelling father succumbs to an online shopping addiction. "Dont Let's" finds a woman, recently freed from an abusive relationship, living in an isolated vacation home in the South that might be haunted by breath-stealing ghosts.Fueled by paranoia and visceral suspense, and crafted with masterful restraint, these seventeen stories explore what happens when our fears cross over into the real, if only for a fleeting moment.

Lambda Award Finalist

Gideon the Ninth / Tamsyn Muir

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won't set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon's sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

Jonny Appleseed / Joshua Whitehead

WINNER, Lambda Literary Award

"You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine" is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel.

Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez," and his former life, to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The next seven days are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother) . Jonny's world is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages - and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life.

Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion / MARGARET KILLJOY

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy pits utopian anarchists against rogue demon deer in this dropkick-in-the-mouth punk fantasy that Alan Moore calls "scary and energetic."Searching for clues about her best friend's mysterious suicide, Danielle ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa, and witnesses a protector spirit -- in the form of a blood-red, three-antlered deer -- begin to turn on its summoners. She and her new friends have to act fast if they're going to save the town -- or get out alive. "Intelligent and fiercely imagined." -- Alan Moore "A dark story of the human need for power." -- Eileen Gunn "Daring anti-fantasy." -- Nick Mamatas"A unique bite of punk culture.

The Phoenix Empress / K Arsenault Rivera

Once they were the heirs to a prophecy that predicted two women would save an empire.Now Shefali is dying -- and her wife is unaware of the coming tragedy. Shizuka is too busy trying to reunite a fractured empire and right the wrongs of her ancestors.As the Imperial Army gathers against a demonic invasion, Shizuka must do all she can with an empire on the brink of civil war.

The Prey of Gods / NICKY DRAYDEN

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes - the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .

An emerging AI uprising . . .

And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It's up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there's a future left to worry about.

Lambda Award Winner

The Priory of the Orange Tree / Samantha Shannon

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction--but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tan?? has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

Lambda Award Finalist

Stories to Sing in the Dark / Matthew Bright

The speculative shines bright in the dark with these stories by Matthew Bright: a boy with a secret begins work at a strange library housing all the books never written; Dorian Gray's love of beauty struggles in the face of AIDs-era San Francisco and the Castro; the tomb of the Empress is adrift in space and hungry for the concubines aboard her; two men in an old film finally realize that they are trapped but still they seek the means for finally declaring their love for each other. These and other tales of the queer fantastic should be the perfect bedtime read.

Lambda Award Finalist

A Study in Honor / Claire O'Dell

Set in a near future Washington, D.C., a clever, incisive, and fresh feminist twist on a classic literary icon - Sherlock Holmes - in which Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes will use espionage, advanced technology, and the power of deduction to unmask a murderer targeting Civil War veterans.

Dr. Janet Watson knows firsthand the horrifying cost of a divided nation. While treating broken soldiers on the battlefields of the New Civil War, a sniper's bullet shattered her arm and ended her career. Honorably discharged and struggling with the semi-functional mechanical arm that replaced the limb she lost, she returns to the nation's capital, a bleak, edgy city in the throes of a fraught presidential election. Homeless and jobless, Watson is uncertain of the future when she meets another black and queer woman, Sara Holmes, a mysterious yet playfully challenging covert agent who offers the doctor a place to stay.

Watson's readjustment to civilian life is complicated by the infuriating antics of her strange new roommate. But the tensions between them dissolve when Watson discovers that soldiers from the New Civil War have begun dying one by one - and that the deaths may be the tip of something far more dangerous, involving the pharmaceutical industry and even the looming election. Joining forces, Watson and Holmes embark on a thrilling investigation to solve the mystery - and secure justice for these fallen soldiers.

A Taste of Honey / Kai Ashante Wilson

Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Dalu??a, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Dalu??an soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.

The Tiger's Daughter / K ARSENAULT RIVERA

Even gods can be slain

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach -- but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

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The Traitor Baru Cormorant / Seth Dickinson

In Seth Dickinson's highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire's civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free. Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it's on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help.

Upright Women Wanted / Sarah Gailey

Esther is a stowaway. She's hidden herself away in the Librarian's book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her -- a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

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Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung / Nina MacLaughlin

I am the home of this story. After thousands of years of other people's tellings, of all these different bridges, of words gotten wrong, I'll tell it myself.

Seductresses and she-monsters, nymphs and demi-goddesses, populate the famous myths of Ovid's Metamorphoses. But what happens when the story of the chase comes in the voice of the woman fleeing her rape? When the beloved coolly returns the seducer's gaze? When tales of monstrous transfiguration are sung by those transformed? In voices both mythic and modern, Wake, Siren revisits each account of love, loss, rape, revenge, and change. It lays bare the violence that undergirds and lurks in the heart of Ovid's narratives, stories that helped build and perpetuate the distorted portrayal of women across centuries of art and literature.

Drawing on the rhythms of epic poetry and alt rock, of everyday speech and folk song, of fireside whisperings and therapy sessions, Nina MacLaughlin, the acclaimed author of Hammer Head, recovers what is lost when the stories of women are told and translated by men. She breathes new life into these fraught and well-loved myths.

Lambda Award Finalist

Witchmark / C L POLK

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn't leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can't hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles' healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient's murder. To find the truth he'll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he's ever seen.

Lambda Award Finalist

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