New Books in Science Fiction podcast

New Books in Science Fiction

Marshall Poe

Bestselling and award-winning science fiction authors talk about their new books and much more in candid conversations with host Rob Wolf. Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction

155 Episódios

  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Ryka Aoki, "Light From Uncommon Stars" (Tor Books, 2021)

    43:36

    Ryka Aoki’s new novel, Light from Uncommon Stars (Tor Books, 2021), is packed with as much variety as a box of lovingly prepared assorted donuts from your favorite, funky-but-long-standing neighborhood donut shop. One of the book’s primary settings is, in fact, a donut shop, but unlike other Los Angeles donut shops it is run by a family of refugees from a faraway galaxy. The story revolves around three women—the matriarch of the outer space family, Lan Tran; Shizuka Satomi, a world famous violin teacher, who is also contractually obliged to deliver souls to hell; and her newest student, Katrina Nguyen, a trans runaway fleeing an abusive home who has no formal violin training but is a brilliant musician with natural talent. With a book focused on musicians, Aoki relied on narration to convey the power of Katrina’s performances. “When one is a poet and writing novels, sometimes … I feel at a horrible disadvantage. I still write at the speed of a poet. … But during certain moments, I'm really glad I'm a poet because I know darn well that I can convey music through words. … I can use imagery. I can use analogy, but mostly I can vary my sentence structures. I can play with clauses. I can concatenate my grammar. I can write sentences so that one sentence jams into the next. I layer sentence fragments occasionally to build a collage of meaning. And these are all things that are poet tricks.” The themes of Light from Uncommon Stars are as varied as its cast. The books is about talent and genius, creativity and love, and the sacrifices—or deals with the devil—that some people may make to achieve success. Ryka Aoki is a poet, composer, and teacher. Her mixed collection Seasonal Velocities and poetry collection Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul were both finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards. And is also the author of the novel Hey Mele Ah Hilo. 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Cadwell Turnbull, "No Gods, No Monsters" (Blackstone, 2021)

    35:27

    Cadwell Turnbull appeared on New Books in Science Fiction two years ago to discuss his debut novel, The Lesson, about an alien invasion and colonization of Earth, centered around Turnbull's native U.S. Virgin Islands. He returns to talk about his second book, No Gods, No Monsters (Blackstone, 2021), which, rather than aliens from another planet, features monsters who live among us as our friends, neighbors and even relatives. While ostensibly about the fantastical, the novel is grounded in reality with complex characters whose experiences touch on difficult but important issues like police violence, othering, and even fake news. While the two books have different characters and storylines, Turnbull calls them “sister books.” Aliens and monsters “are both versions of human fears manifested through these speculative elements,” Turnbull says. “One is dealing with a threat from without, and one is dealing with a threat from within. And they both have similar thematic concerns.” Among the topics Turnbull discusses in the interview are the human propensity to deny uncomfortable truths; the challenge of those with different beliefs accepting the same version of reality (even when reality is captured on video); how monsters can provide a window on intersectional marginalization; and how writing can be like solving a puzzle. 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

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  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    S. Qiouyi Lu, "In the Watchful City" (Tordotcom, 2021)

    34:01

    It’s no coincidence that one of the main characters in S. Qiouyi Lu’s In the Watchful City carries with ser a qíjìtáng, or cabinet of curiosities. Lu’s novella is, itself, a cabinet of unusual mementos, with many smaller objects carefully folded into the larger structure. On one level the plot is simple. The qíjìtáng is full of stories, and its owner, Vessel, who hovers between life and death, needs to add one more story to ser collection in order to have a second chance at life. (Vessel’s pronouns are se, ser and sers). So se asks Anima, one of eight people who provide surveillance for the city-state of Ora, for aer story. (Anima’s pronouns are ae, aer and aers). But Anima’s life isn’t so simple. Ae serves as a node in the city’s Hub, which aer monitors by entering the consciousness of animals (including a gecko, raven, and wild dog during the course of the story). In this way, Ae can travel anywhere and yet aer body is fastened by a stem to a tank of amniotic-like fluid. Lu likens Anima’s experience of being both fixed and all-knowing to our relationship with the internet. “We're sitting in front of a computer, and, physically, our body is stationed in front of this machine. But through this network, we're able to explore so much,” Lu says. “We’re able to go to faraway lands, see through the eyes of someone else.” The topics ae covers in aer New Books interview include aer inspirations for the novella (such as China’s facial recognition technology), aer interest in linguistics, including neopronouns, and aer fascination with experimental narratives. Lu is also a poet, editor, and translator and runs microverses, which publishes speculative flash fiction, poetry, and other short forms of storytelling. 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Jackson Ford, "Eye of the Sh*t Storm" (Orbit, 2021)

    26:50

    Jackson Ford has some things in common with his protagonist, Teagan Frost. Both use nom de plumes. And both can move sh*t. With her telekinetic powers, Teagan can move inorganic objects while Ford (aka Rob Boffard) uses his creative powers to move plots at a rapid clip. Ford, and his publisher, Orbit, have also moved the cultural needle—specifically, by bringing three books with sh*t (asterisk and all) into the world. The most recent contribution, Eye of the Sh*t Storm (Orbit, 2021), is the third in Ford’sThe Frost Files series and continues Teagan’s attempts to learn about her origins while managing her government handlers and keeping Los Angeles safe from those with strange psychic powers like hers. “Teagan is not a typical superhero because she resents her ability to move things with her mind,” Ford says. “She would much rather learn how to cook, be a professional chef, and own her own restaurant… Her ability has forced her into a life she has no desire to be a part of.” In his New Books interview, Ford discusses (among other things) profanity, pseudonyms, and why Teagan, despite her extraordinary power, still needs the help of regular people. Born in South Africa, Ford splits his time between London and Vancouver. Under his real name, Rob Boffard, he is the author of the Outer Earth series and Adrift. 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Gautam Bhatia, "The Wall" (Harper Collins, 2020)

    35:38

    Gautam Bhatia’s debut novel The Wall (Harper Collins, 2020) is set in Sumer, a city enclosed in an impenetrable, unscalable barrier that seems sky high. To its inhabitants, whose ancestors have lived there for 2,000 years, the place is more than a city or even a country—it’s their universe. Sumer’s residents know something is on the other side but have no desire to explore beyond the wall. They are content with what they have, living comfortably with the resources, rules and hierarchies that have sustained them for centuries. But every couple generations, some people crave more. In this generation, a group calling themselves the Young Tarafians are determined to breach the wall once and for all. “It's not that there is some kind of very visible and wretched oppression that's keeping people down,” Bhatia says. “At the end of the day, the resources are distributed in a way that everyone has enough for at least a decent standard of life. So it's not meant to be a dystopia, and that's part of the point. … Rebellion need not only come from a situation of desperation … but you still may want to rebel and alter things.” When the troika of powers that rule Sumer—the civil government, the scientists and the religious elite—prosecute the Young Tarafians’ eloquent leader, a young queer woman named Mithila, each side has an opportunity to make their case. “It's actually taking a great risk by going beyond the wall. And for what? That makes the conflict between those who want to go beyond the wall and those who want to stay a much harder conflict to resolve,” says Bhatia, who is a lawyer and constitutional scholar. “Both sides have good arguments. It shouldn't be a very clear binary between who’s right or wrong.” 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Sarah Gailey, "The Echo Wife" (Tor Books, 2021)

    43:59

    Where does DNA end and the soul begin? It’s a question that Evelyn Caldwell, the brilliant genetic researcher at the center of Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife, never asks as she develops her award-winning technique for human cloning, which takes DNA from “sample to sentience” in 100 days. In The Echo Wife, clones are tools, created for specific time-limited purposes—to serve as a body double to draw fire from potential assassins, for example, or to provide donor organs. The question of a soul never enters into it. “Clones aren’t people. …They’re specimens,” Evelyn explains. “They’re temporary, and when they stop being useful, they become biomedical waste. They are disposable.” Evelyn’s attitudes evolve when her ex-husband, Nathan, secretly uses the Caldwell Method to create Martine—a new wife scaffolded from Evelyn’s DNA but modified to be more docile and easy going. Because of Martine’s compliant nature (and complete reliance on Nathan for her knowledge of the world), Martine is eager to provide Nathan with the child Evelyn never wanted. Evelyn is horrified by Martine’s existence—not only because Nathan stole her DNA to build a twin who lacks what Nathan calls Evelyn’s “needless venom,” but because Martine’s pregnancy should be impossible (clones are usually sterile) and threatens the future of the Caldwell Method. Clones’ “inability to produce children is something that Evelyn uses to help maintain a sense of them being inhuman,” Gailey says. “So Martine's pregnancy … poses a huge threat to all of Evelyn's work.” The pregnancy also poses a threat to Evelyn’s sense of self as she and Martine join forces to deal with multiple crises—murder and betrayal foremost among them—in addition to the pregnancy and Evelyn’s unexamined childhood traumas that contributed to her becoming a brilliant and fierce maverick. Gailey’s debut novella, River of Teeth, was a Hugo and Nebula award finalist. In 2018, they won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. They are the author of seven novels. 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Andy Weir, "Project Hail Mary: A Novel" (Ballantine Books, 2021)

    42:15

    A story about an alien invasion typically revolves around diplomacy, military strategy, technological one-upmanship, and brinksmanship. But the invaders in Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary: A Novel (Ballantine Books, 2021) are anything but typical. Rather than a scheming sentient enemy, Weir gives us Astrophage, an opponent who is mindless—and microscopic. Astrophage, which is similar in its biology to a mold, lives on—and taps energy from—the surface of stars. “It’s not intelligent in any way. It doesn’t care about us. But it gets to the point where there is so much of it on our sun that the sun is starting to lose luminance—it’s getting dimmer. And a four or five percent dimming of the sun would be fatal to life on Earth,” says Weir, who was a guest on New Books in Science Fiction in 2014 to talk about his runaway bestseller The Martian. An unlikely antagonist deserves an unlikely hero. Enter Ryland Grace, a middle school science teacher, who long ago authored a scientific paper that declared water isn’t a prerequisite for life. This once-ridiculed thesis draws the attention of the woman mustering the worldwide response to Astrophage. Eventually, Ryland finds himself waking from a years-long coma without remembering how or why he got there 12 light years from Earth, where he must figure out how to cure our sun of its infection. While Astrophage is a deadly invader, another extraterrestrial plays a collaborative role. Thanks to the friendship that emerges between Ryland and Rocky, a hard-shelled, spider-like sentient creature with blood of mercury who breathes ammonia and hails from a planet with 29 times the atmospheric pressure of Earth, Project Hail Mary is as much a story about cross-cultural and cross-species exchange as it is a story of science, problem-solving and heroism. 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Adrian Tchaikovsky, "The Doors of Eden" (Orbit, 2020)

    26:18

    In Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Doors of Eden (Orbit, 2020) the multiverse is filled with parallel Earths where evolution takes different twists and turns. The forks in the road and the paths species take vary from Earth to Earth, seeding sentience in a wide variety of organisms. In one, giant mollusks “understand and communicate profound truths about the nature of existence.” In another, a creature twice the size of the average human with traits of fish, salamander and slug creates a permanent ice age and must upload its citizens to supercomputers to survive. Toddler-sized rats pave the planet with Industrial Age warrens in a different Earth. And in still another version of our planet, giant immortal spacefaring trilobites establish themselves at the top of the evolutionary heap for all eternity. Tchiakovsky’s characters learn about the existence of other Earths because the boundaries between them have sundered, necessitating urgent action. No single species has the smarts or technology to fix the problem by itself, so they must create an all-star team of the best and brightest among rats, trilobites, humans and more if any their worlds hopes to continue. While mankind’s dominance of Earth has often been mythologized as inevitable, The Doors of Eden presents a countervailing narrative, one that elevates chance as the most important factor in our species’ success. “One of the big things you run into in studies of evolution is this assumption that we are what it was all aimed towards when, of course, we're only one rung of the ladder that's going to run a long way beyond us,” Tchiakovsky says. “If the conditions had been slightly different, we would have been very different. … How other sentient races might have developed from a completely different starting point was very much the point of the book, to be honest. I needed to find a plot that humans could get involved in that would showcase all of those different earths.” Adrian Tchiakovsky is the author of over 20 novels and winner of the Arthur C. Clarke, British Fantasy and British Science Fiction Awards. He lives in Leeds, England. 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Ginger Smith, "The Rush's Edge" (Angry Robot, 2020)

    40:01

    Space operas take readers far from Earth with stories about alien cultures and battles between good and evil. But while usually set in distant galaxies in the far flung future or past, they inevitably tell us, like any good science fiction, about our lives today. Ginger Smith’s debut The Rush's Edge (Angry Robot, 2020) takes place when humanity is spread across the galaxy and soldiers are born in labs, but it touches on subjects we grapple with now: blind loyalty to authority, the ethics of genetic science, and the prejudices that divide humans. Halvor Cullen is a VAT—a member of the genetically engineered Vanguard Assault Troops who are programmed to be loyal to their commander and addicted to the rush of battle. VATs are released from duty after seven years of service, but their bodies burn out quickly, and they die young. But it’s when they’re released from duty that things get interesting. How does a person programmed to be a soldier find purpose or meaningful relationships when they’re no longer a soldier? “VATs don’t get the chance to have a family or friends or the kinds of experiences we all take for granted,” Smith says. “Hal is learning a lot about what it means to be a human during this story. He knows about fighting but he doesn’t understand love, he doesn’t understand the difference between blind loyalty and the loyalty that people earn.” Smith wrote The Rush’s Edge in a response to a challenge from her husband. “I’d played around in fanfic, and my husband said, ‘you’ve got to write something original.’ I said, ‘Fine, I’ll write you a 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction
  • New Books in Science Fiction podcast

    Robbie Arnott, "The Rain Heron" (FSG Originals, 2021)

    30:03

    At the end of its life, the phoenix bursts into flames and a younger bird rises from the ashes. The roc is large enough to carry an elephant in its claws. The caladrius absorbs disease, curing the ill. The rain heron, which can take the form of steam, liquid or ice, controls the climate around it. Unlike the first three mythical birds, whose legends are hundreds or thousands of years old, the rain heron is a new entry in the library of imaginary beasts, introduced in the novel bearing its name by Tasmanian author Robbie Arnott. Set in an unnamed country beset by a military coup and climate disruptions, The Rain Heron (FSG Originals, 2021) is a story of survivors searching for peace but finding violence in both nature and society. The characters are tested and exposed by the titular creature, which exacts a price from those who dare covet it. “What I was really trying to do was create a mythical creature that embodies both the beauty and the savagery of nature,” Arnott says. “I wanted something that is totally captivating, the way many natural environments and phenomena can be, but also is really, really dangerous.” Arnott’s descriptions of nature are inspired by the beauty of his Australian home state of Tasmania, where he has spent long stretches hiking in the bush and fishing in the cold waters. “It always comes through in my writing a lot. There's lots of descriptions of natural places because that's generally where I've been and what I'm interested in. I tried living in a big city for a while and I just I just couldn't do it.” Robbie Arnott is the author of the novel Flames, which won the Margaret Scott Prize, was short-listed for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize for Fiction, the Guardian Not the Booker Prize, and the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. In 2019, he was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist. The Rain Heron was one of LitHub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021. 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 Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/science-fiction

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