Backward in Time
B; R;;; F;;
Contravening the expectations of both springtime and
speculative fiction, this season’s science fiction and fantasy
authors are looking back as well as forward.
Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, her first fantasy novel for adults, made a
big splash in 2010 and landed a spot on PW’s Best Books list. Most authors
would follow a successful novel with a sequel, but Okorafor always goes her
own way; this year she’ll be releasing a prequel, The Book of Phoenix.
Also on the retrospective side are collections of short works from two highly
regarded novelists: The Very Best of Kate Elliott and Hannu Rajaniemi:
Collected Fiction. Elliott is famous for female-driven fantasy epics, and
Rajaniemi for intricate, brain-bending science fiction tomes, but both are
equally skilled at shorter lengths.
Our shared past beckons to alternate historians. Victor Milán’s The
Dinosaur Lords combines the age of dinosaurs with the age of knights in a
smashing fantasy conceit. In Ian Tregillis’s The Mechanical, a 17th-century
clockwork army turns the Netherlands into the first global superpower.
European legends influence Naomi Novik’s standalone novel Uprooted, a
beauty-and-the-dragon story. Viola Carr gives Victorian England a dark psychological twist with The Diabolical Miss Hyde, which opens the Electric
Empire series. And V.E. Schwab imagines not one but four different
Georgian Londons, and the daring people who travel among them, in A
Darker Shade of Magic.
Of course, there are still authors who look to the future, though their
visions are often grim. Lee Kelly’s City of Savages turns near-future
Manhattan into a camp for prisoners of war, where two sisters fight for survival while searching for the truth behind the city’s destruction. In Judd
Trichter’s Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, a man searches
for the pieces of the android who was his lover, hoping to reassemble her and
escape to a place where their relationship is legal. In the longstanding tradition of SF, these stories reflect the present while imagining what might lie
ahead. But anyone who thinks that speculative fiction is all futurism should
think again. Many writers and readers are using the tools of the genre to
question long-held assumptions about history, and they’re coming up with
some fascinating answers.
FANTASY & HORROR