Where It’s At: Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas

Some of the most exciting and fresh voices in science fiction and fantasy are coming out in short form. While short stories have long been where authors develop their craft and where innovation happens in the genre, novellas are currently a hot commodity for authors who are challenging the status quo. Novellas are where women, writers of color and LGBTQIA voices and characters are breaking through what has long been a white, male-dominated genre.

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Some of my favorite recent science fiction and fantasy novellas have come from Tor.com publishing. Here are some to try:

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy
Danielle Cain is an anarchist punk traveler in an American wasteland who goes in search of Freedom, Iowa, where her friend Clay last lived before he killed himself. Danielle finds an anarchist community the likes of which she had once dreamed, but there is a catch: A blood-red deer with three antlers has been summoned to protect the town from those who threaten its anarchist utopian ideals–who want to take power instead of share it–and suddenly the deer kills someone without warning. Danielle is a queer woman and the story is rich with trans and queer characters. There is a creepy, atmospheric tone throughout and I loved that I had no idea just where it would go. Tor.com is releasing a follow-up novella, and I can’t wait. Killjoy is also an alum of Seattle’s own Clarion West writer’s workshop.

The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
Mokoya and Akeha are twins born to the Protectorate, a fierce, forbidding woman who rules their land, but they are promised to the Monastery on a bargain until their hidden powers are discovered, bringing them back to the palace. The first of two stand-alone novellas that launch the Tensorate “Silkpunk” series, Yang’s fantasy storytelling unfolds like a fable, with mysterious magic systems, fortunes that define fate and political tensions boiling up in the kingdom. Yang is a queer, non-binary, postcolonial intersectional feminist and Black Tides explores a world where individuals choose and confirm their gender when they are ready, but grow up gender neutral. Once again, Tor.com is finding fresh, new voices who are pushing at the boundaries of status quo SFF.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells
The first in the Murderbot diaries, this is about a robot programmed only to kill, save and obey its contract who becomes sentient. And with sentience comes preferences which includes, in this case, the desire to not be bothered with doing its actual job. It just wants to watch endless hours of TV and to have its deviation from programming go unnoticed. Funny and whip-smart.

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
Jones is a horror author whose work often explores psychological terror as well. Fifteen-year-old Junior wakes up in the middle of the night in his family’s home on the reservation when he sees his dead father’s ghost in fancydancer regalia. This is a creepy story with a slow burn and a twist ending.

Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman
The first in a gaslamp fantasy series, Charlotte Gunn lives in a world where she needs to hide both her talents as an artist and her burgeoning magical talents as well. Anyone with magical abilities must be turned in by their families to the Royal Society, where they must serve the country and give up the possibility of marriage or civilian life. Charlotte finds herself embroiled in a dark plot when she finds out her father owes money to a nefarious man. Can she protect herself and her family without revealing her hand?

~posted by Misha S.

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