Arguably, all science fiction/fantasy works serve as a mirror to reality in some fashion. The Blood Trials is no different. When I wrote the novel, I sat down with the explicit intention of creating a world that perpetuated the worst aspects of Anti-Blackness, so that I could have a conversation on-page about the most pervasive and insidious bigotries that run deep in American society. It’s a conversation that I invite ...Read MoreRead more
Thoughts on writing genre-bending novels and the potential to be shunned by both communities
Expectations. Readers, publishers, the entire literary canon–everyone’s got expectations. What in their minds are tried and true conclusions drawn from decades of statistics and industry experience. Data that categorizes works of fiction according to things like age group, target audiences, and genre.
There are as many definitions of genre floating around as there are opinions about ...Read MoreRead more
We’re all trapped on a bus.
The bus is barreling towards a cliff.
Beyond the cliff is a canyon plunge any of us will be lucky to survive.
Even if we survive, none of us know how we’ll climb out of that deep canyon.
Some of us want to yank the wheel.
The bus is going so fast that yanking the wheel could cause the bus to roll.
There might ...Read MoreRead more
Greetings from the past.
I write these words six weeks before you will read them. I used to do this all the time, back in the glory days of print. Hell, I spent most of the ’90s writing a monthly guide to interesting websites, which came out two months after I submitted it.
I’ve been writing six columns per year for Locus for fourteen years and I have not missed ...Read MoreRead more
Rebecca Roanhorse is the New York Times bestselling author of Trail of Lightning, Storm of Locusts, Black Sun, and Star Wars: Resistance Reborn. She has won the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards for her fiction, and was the recipient of the 2018 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. The next book in her Between Earth and Sky series, Fevered Star, is out in April ...Read MoreRead more
Since February 24, 2022, Ukraine has been under invasion by Russian regular forces. The Russians have destroyed houses, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure facilities, and they are targeting and killing civilians. But I say they will not be able to win – because Ukrainians are resisting and will continue to resist as long as they can. This is the 21st century – another century, another Nazism. We are calling it ‘‘Russaism’’ ...Read MoreRead more
Science fiction has a longstanding love-hate relationship with the tech tycoon. The literature is full of billionaire inventors, sometimes painted as system-bucking heroes, at other times as megalomanical supervillains.
From time to time, we even manage to portray one of these people in a way that hews most closely to reality: ordinary mediocrities, no better than you or I, whose success comes down to a combination of luck and a ...Read MoreRead more
Last year in this space I mentioned the field’s ongoing engagement with older genre history, and while there are some titles of a similar ilk in this year’s crop, there are also, it seems to me, more studies of recent fiction and contemporary trends, as well as forward-looking surveys on a diversity of aesthetic spaces. Perhaps, given the current state of world affairs, this heightened attention on futurity is less ...Read MoreRead more
As Locus’s statistics keep revealing, there’s so much SF and fantasy being published these days that any one person can’t keep track of everything. What I happen to have read in a given year is an emergent property of many things: whether I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous work, whether I’ve had a book recommended to me or seen it reviewed positively, what I happened to notice on a bookshop shelf ...Read MoreRead more
I spent 2019 and 2020 serving on award juries, and as a result I read nothing but new SF, fantasy, and horror (in staggering quantities). This year, I eschewed all such responsibilities, and as a result my reading was more scattered, and included older books and lots of work outside the genres we’re covering here. I feel less informed about the field as a whole than I did in my ...Read MoreRead more
2021 was a tumultuous year for me personally, but I’m ending it in a much better place than I began (psychologically speaking). I fervently wish the same for all of you, and I think we all hope that 2022 might, somehow, be less tumultuous than the last few years. Through it all I’m always amazed and impressed by the writers who keep writing and the editors who keep editing, through ...Read MoreRead more
2021 saw my reading fall off a steep cliff. To be fair, it never really recovered from last year’s lockdowns. Even as Melbourne (my city) returned to a resemblance of normality late in 2020, I felt little urge to read, feelings only exacerbated when we entered our fifth and sixth lockdown (thank you, Delta) in 2021. (Fun fact: Melbourne broke the record, held by Buenos Aires, as the city that ...Read MoreRead more
Of the three dozen books I reviewed for Locus last year, there were a few that particularly stood out. Because last year was, well, such a year, I’m afraid some of them might have been overlooked, and taking advantage of my chance here to shine the spotlight a little brighter on those I think might have been missed.
Femi Fadugba’s The Upper World introduces Esso, who is having the worst ...Read MoreRead more
Well, the world didn’t stop burning and COVID refused to go away, but 2021 was slightly better than 2020, and it was a superb year for speculative fiction. It was also a year in which I found great balance while reading outstanding work from Big Four publishers, independent presses, and self-published authors. This matters because it speaks volumes about the quality of work out there and the fantastic way in ...Read MoreRead more
“As rough as the year has been for the country, it’s been a great time for reading.” As I write this, a New Year is around the corner, bringing with it the hope of better times. And yet, this opening line from last year’s “Year In Review” piece still holds true: it’s been another rough year, but the reading has been awesome!
My 2021 reading choices were anthology-heavy, mostly because ...Read MoreRead more
This issue of Locus is the 20th anniversary of my first column on short fiction for the magazine. It also contains my last such column. (Not to worry (or perhaps to worry?) I’ll still be contributing occasional work to Locus.) That issue also contained my first “end of the year summary” essay, so this is my 21st. While I expect I’ll continue writing these in coming years, it seems worthwhile ...Read MoreRead more
For me, 2021 was a year of increasing challenges. Just when it seemed like things might be looking up, something awful would jump out of the shadows and bring it all back down again. Fiction, especially of the romance and speculative genres, helped me keep my head above water even during the worst of it.
Let’s start off with my favorite adult spec fic books. C.L. Polk closed out their ...Read MoreRead more
First, I must confess that a major change in my personal life – working full time in a business not connected to publishing – cut into my reading (and reviewing and editing) in 2021. Luckily, most of what I did get to read was outstanding.
Like most folks, I loved Arkady Martine’s first Teixcalaanli novel, A Memory Called Empire (Tor), an imaginative blend of space opera, murder mystery, and interstellar ...Read MoreRead more
Here we are, two years into a pandemic, with half of the nation arguing with the other half like grumpy uncles at a holiday dinner, and the planet deciding whether it’s time to raise those sea levels a meter or ten or just blow us all away in megastorms, and I’m sitting at home, reading. And not books about stopping climate change or improving our civic character, but space operas. ...Read MoreRead more
As is usual with these end-of-the-year columns, I’m not sure what the best approach would be, particularly given that my 2021 standouts are mostly continuations or conclusions of long-running series. Maybe, first, then, Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, the one book that stands alone.
Doerr is a known entity in literary fiction circles. His All the Light We Cannot See ran the table of celebrity book clubs and award ...Read MoreRead more
It doesn’t seem to ever go away. It spreads, mutates, develops new strains, infects every age group, and sometimes seems immune to immunization. Its symptoms may range from the severe to the indifferent. Even if you think you’re safe from it, you might occasionally need a booster shot. By now, it’s become an accepted part of the fabric of modern life.
I’m talking about SFF, of course. Or whatever you ...Read MoreRead more
From 1811-1816, a secret society styling themselves “the Luddites” smashed textile machinery in the mills of England. Today, we use “Luddite” as a pejorative referring to backwards, anti-technology reactionaries.
This proves that history really is written by the winners.
In truth, the Luddites’ cause wasn’t the destruction of technology – no more than the Boston Tea Party’s cause was the elimination of tea, or Al Qaeda’s cause was the end ...Read MoreRead more
Who’s the best fictional leader?
Optimus Prime? Jean-Luc Picard? Captain America?
I’m willing to wager that all three of those iconic characters would be among the most popular contenders if the question were asked in a general poll, and for understandable reasons. When I was ten years old, sitting in front of a television set on a Saturday morning, Peter Cullen’s voice as Optimus Prime ordering, “Autobots, roll out!” made ...Read MoreRead more
Margaret Thatcher was the least science-fictional world leader in modern history.
Her motto was “There is no alternative,” a phrase she repeated so often it became an acronym: “TINA.”
She was referring to capitalism, asserting that there is no conceivable alternative. It was a cheap but remarkably effective rhetorical device, treating a demand as an observation. The true meaning of TINA isn’t “No alternative is possible,” but rather, “Stop trying ...Read MoreRead more
My novels have been characterized as being “Afrofuturistic,” but to be honest I never thought of the subgenre while writing them. When I write I generally don’t think of any subgenre before I sit down to create the work. My thinking when writing is usually concentrated more on story and narrative construction, not on the genre. Mostly all that is happening is that I have a story to tell, I ...Read MoreRead more
When I was a baby writer, I obsessively collected career advice from established writers, reading books and essays and attending panels on ‘‘How I broke in’’ featuring established pros. It’s a testament to the irrational, burning desire to publish that I continued to do this long after it became apparent that there was nothing of contemporary applicability in these discussions.
I mean, it was entertaining to hear a writer describe ...Read MoreRead more
Here’s some feedback I’ve received from editors, agents, and marketing managers in response to my work over the years:
“This is just a jumble of words.”
“I think this suffers from a failure of the imagination.”
“This is sorta too emotional.”
One of the most difficult skills a writer must learn – whether writing novels, screenplays, marketing copy, or news articles – is how to receive, process, and ...Read MoreRead more
I care about monopolies for exactly one reason: self-determination. I don’t care about competition as an end unto itself, or fetishize “choice” for its own sake. What I care about is your ability to live your life in the way you think will suit you, to the greatest extent possible, and taking into account the obvious limits when other people’s needs and wants conflict with you realizing your own desires. ...Read MoreRead more
Like most authors, I have more experience writing beginnings than I do endings, but perhaps not in the way one would expect. Some of this is an artifact of the linear way we have evolved to see time. It’s how many of us were taught to approach narrative. For many years I began every story with a scene, an inciting incident, a mood, a situation, and wrote until I figured ...Read MoreRead more
It’s a little dangerous, after selling a story to a professional science fiction or fantasy publication, to start calculating the odds of pulling in an award nomination. The draw is inexorable though – the Nebula Awards, the Hugos, World Fantasy, Locus. It’s the stuff of legends. Through the years, now-familiar SF/F names have stood to accept these awards, held them up to the light and heard that applause. It’s accomplishment, ...Read MoreRead more
Last summer, the pandemic was in its first wave and the nation was in chaos. A lack of federal leadership left each state to figure out how to interpret the science, and many states punted public health decisions to counties or cities or even smaller units, like universities.
Leaders, left to their own, often winged it, letting wishful thinking trump prudence in the drive to find ways to “reopen safely.” ...Read MoreRead more
“Nice try, but she should go read Tom Clancy to see how it’s done.”
That was a review on my first novel, Aurora: Darwin. I remember being a little stumped by this at the time because I hadn’t been trying to emulate Tom Clancy at all. I’ve never actually read any of his books, and as far as I’m aware he doesn’t write science fiction…. Perhaps it was the ...Read MoreRead more