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 read less

Alastair Reynolds, "Eversion" (Orbit, 2022)
03-11-2022
Alastair Reynolds, "Eversion" (Orbit, 2022)
In Alastair Reynolds’ Eversion (Orbit, 2022), the setting keep changing—the epoch, location, and technology—but the characters remain more or less the same as they carry out an expedition to a mysterious object at the behest of a private investor. The novel starts on a tall ship in the early 1800s in waters in the Arctic, then jumps to a paddle-steamer near the Antarctic, then a dirigible over Antarctica, and eventually concludes in the future on a submarine-like explorer under the ice of Europa, the Jupiter moon. The story is a puzzle, challenging the reader to figure out which if any place and time is real. Adding to the mystery is the reader’s dependence on a first-person narrator Silas Coade, the expedition’s physician. Is the story a book he is writing, a delusion, a series of alternate realities or something else? Reynolds says his original intention with Eversion was to “recap the entire history of science fiction … We were going to start in a kind of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe mode. And then it was going to go into sort of Jules Verne and then maybe a bit of H.G. Wells, then a sort of early pulp sleuth thing.” That would have been followed by classic space opera and episodes in the styles of Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov followed by 1960s and ’70s new wave. “But once I started writing the book, I realized that there was no way I could bring sufficient variety to the craft to make those episodes work,” he says. “So I cut it down drastically to four or five episodes for the finished product. Reynolds is a former research fellow at the European Space Agency. He’s been writing fiction full-time since 2004 and has 19 novels and more than 70 short stories to show for it. His work has been shortlisted for the Hugo, Arthur C Clarke and Sturgeon awards. He’s won the Seiun, Sidewise, European Science Fiction Society and Locus awards, and his stories have been adapted for stage and television. Brenda Noiseux are Rob Wolf are co-hosts of New Books in Science Fiction. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Virtual Reality as Immersive Enclosure, with Paul Roquet (EF, JP)
06-10-2022
Virtual Reality as Immersive Enclosure, with Paul Roquet (EF, JP)
Paul Roquet is an MIT associate professor in media studies and Japan studies; his earlier work includes Ambient Media. It was his recent mind-bending The Immersive Enclosure that prompted John and Elizabeth to invite him to discuss the history of "head-mounted media" and the perceptual implications of virtual reality. Paul Elizabeth and John discuss the appeal of leaving actuality aside and how the desire to shut off immediate surroundings shapes VR's rollout in Japan. The discussion covers perceptual scale-change as part of VR's appeal--is that true of earlier artwork as well? They explore moral panic in Japan and America, recap the history of early VR headset adapters on trains and compare various Japanese words for "virtual" and their antonyms. Paul wonders if the ephemerality of the views glimpsed in a rock garden served as guiding paradigm for how VR is experienced. Mentioned in the episode Yoshikazu Nango, "A new form of 'solitary space'...." (2021) Haruki Murakami's detailed fictional worlds of the 1980's onwards: real-feeling yet not actual history. Walter Scott's Waverley novels: can we also understand the novel as an immersive machine that leaves readers half in their actual world? Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), with its interplay between enclosure and expansion, and its shrinking/expanding motif) Ian Bogost on e-readers C S Lewis's wardrobe as portal in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) Lukacs focuses on the dizzying and transformative scale in Naturalism in "Narrate or Describe?" (1936) Wearable heart monitors as feedback machines for watching scary movies. The pre-history of Pokemon Go is various games played by early users of VR headsets on trains. Sword Art Online is a breakout popular example of Japanese stories of players trapped inside a game-world Thomas Boellstroff, Coming of Age in Second Life We Met in Virtual Reality Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash (1992) coined the concept of the metaverse. Recallable Books Madeline L'Engle The Wind in the Door (1973). Cervantes, Don Quixote (1606/1615) Futari Okajima Klein Bottle (1989) Collections such as Immersed in Technology, Future Visions, Virtual Realities and their Discontents; also, other early VR criticism of the 1990s including early feminist critique, scattered across journals in the early to mid 1990s . Paul feels someone should put together those germane articles into a new collection. Read the transcript here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
89* Charles Yu with Chris Fan: The Work of Inhabiting a Role (Novel Dialogue Crossover, JP)
15-09-2022
89* Charles Yu with Chris Fan: The Work of Inhabiting a Role (Novel Dialogue Crossover, JP)
Charles Yu won the 2020 National Book Award for Interior Chinatown but some of us became fans a decade earlier, with How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010). That novel brilliantly uses SF conventions to uncover the kind of self-deceptive infilling that we all do every day, the little stories we tell ourselves to make our world seem predictable and safe when it’s anything but. In this crossover episode, which originally aired on Novel Dialogue, where critics and novelists sit down together in peace, He speaks with John and with science-fiction scholar Chris Fan, Assistant Professor at UC Irvine, senior editor and co-founder of Hyphen magazine. The conversation gets quickly into intimate territory: the pockets of safe space and the “small feelings” that families can and cannot provide, and that science fiction can or cannot recreate. Graph paper and old math books get a star turn. Charlie’s time as a lawyer is scrutinized; so too is “acute impostor syndrome” and the everyday feeling of putting on a costume or a mask, as well as what Du Bois called “double-consciousness.” Mentioned in this Episode: --Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) --W. E. B. Du Bois on “double-consciousness” (and so much more): Souls of Black Folk (1903) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Joma West, "Face" (Tordotcom, 2022)
08-09-2022
Joma West, "Face" (Tordotcom, 2022)
People have always cared about their social status and how others perceive them, but advances in technology have changed how we ascend the social ladder, giving us new tools to manipulate our image and new measures of success as we seek “friends,” “likes” and the ever-elusive virality. In Joma West’s debut novel Face (Tordotcom, 2022), climbing the ladder is everything. The way you act and dress, who you couple with, how you move and talk—it all adds up to “face,” which, in turn, determines your job, where you live, who you befriend and the quality and quantity of opportunities available to you. Every second—at home, in public or on the “In”(ternet)—is carefully choreographed. It’s a cold world, where even children are curated to advance social standing. With everyone—even enslaved “menials”—hiding their thoughts and feelings, people turn to anonymous confessors to express their emotions. Through a Rashomonic narrative where the reader re-experiences the same scenes from different characters’ points of view, West reveals the tensions underlying every interaction and the emotional cost of living in a society that values external success over internal well-being. “Face is a game, a way of life, a survival mechanism,” West says. “It's essentially everything that you are when you're on the hierarchy. If you're a menial you have no face, so it doesn't matter, but if you're someone on the social ladder of any kind, your face is everything. And it is what ensures that you are at the level that you're at, and it also ensures how you climb the ladder as well.” Joma West is a third culture writer whose work straddles both fantasy and science fiction. Rob Wolf is a writer and co-host of New Books in Science Fiction. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
F. Brett Cox, "Roger Zelazny" (U Illinois Press, 2021)
26-07-2022
F. Brett Cox, "Roger Zelazny" (U Illinois Press, 2021)
Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) combined poetic prose with fearless literary ambition to become one of the most influential science fiction writers of the 1960s. Yet many critics found his later novels underachieving and his turn to fantasy a disappointment.  In Roger Zelazny (University of Illinois Press, 2021), F. Brett Cox surveys the landscape of Zelazny's creative life and contradictions. Launched by the classic 1963 short story "A Rose for Ecclesiastes," Zelazny soon won the Hugo Award for Best Novel with …And Call Me Conrad and two years later won again for Lord of Light. Cox looks at the author's overnight success and follows Zelazny into a period of continued formal experimentation, the commercial triumph of the Amber sword and sorcery novels, and renewed acclaim for Hugo-winning novellas such as “Home Is the Hangman” and “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai.” Throughout, Cox analyzes aspects of Zelazny's art, from his preference for poetically alienated protagonists to the ways his plots reflected his determined individualism. F. (Francis) Brett Cox is the Charles A. Dana Professor of English at Norwich University. In addition to his critical study of Roger Zelazny (recently awarded second place for nonfiction in the 2022 Locus Awards), he has published over thirty short stories, most of which appear in his collection The End of All Our Exploring: Stories (Fairwood Press, 2018). He has also co-edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (Tor, 2004). Daniel Moran earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. in History from Drew University. The author of Creating Flannery O’Connor: Her Critics, Her Publishers, Her Readers, he teaches research and writing at Rutgers and co-hosts the podcast Fifteen-Minute Film Fanatics, found at  and on Twitter @15MinFilm. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
85* Pu Wang and John Plotz look back on their Cixin Liu interview
21-07-2022
85* Pu Wang and John Plotz look back on their Cixin Liu interview
Our first August rebroadcast was John and Pu's 2019 interview with SF superstar Cixin Liu (you may want to re-listen to that episode before this one!). Here, they reflect on the most significant things that Liu had said, and to ponder the political situation for contemporary Chinese writers who come to the West to discuss their work. They consider whether our world is like a cabinet in a basement, and what kind of optimism or pessimism might be available to science fiction writers. They compare the interview to a recent profile of Liu in The New Yorker, and ponder the advantages and disadvantages of pressing writers to weigh in on the hot-button topics of the day. Discussed in this episode: Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End Jiayang Fan, “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds” (New Yorker interview/profile) Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution Isaac Asimov, The End of Eternity George Melies (dir.), A Voyage to the Moon Fritz Lang (dir.), Metropolis Frant Gwo (dir.), The Wandering Earth Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov Transcript available here. Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Darts and Lasers: The Future of Science Fiction, Afro-Futurism, and Feminist Speculative Fiction
20-07-2022
Darts and Lasers: The Future of Science Fiction, Afro-Futurism, and Feminist Speculative Fiction
It’s stardate 99040.01 and lead producer Jay Cockburn is temporarily taking over command of Darts and Letters for an episode. For this episode, as part of the week’s theme of “ideas in strange places” we boldly go into the strange new worlds of science fiction, revealing how it’s long been a vehicle for radical thought. We dig into post-scarcity, Afrofuturism, and feminist speculative fiction as we set our phasers to fun and go where no podcast has gone before. This episode is a rebroadcast from our catalogue. We’re revisiting some of our favourites until the new season of Darts and Letters launches on September 18th. First (@10:54), Cory Doctorow is a journalist, activist, blogger, and author of many books including the post-scarcity speculative fiction novel Walkaway. He takes us through the idea of a post-scarcity world as he breaks down the idea of abundance and what we might do with it, or not. Then, (@34:52), Nalo Hopkinson is a science fiction writer, editor, professor, and author of Brown Girl in the Ring. She talks to us about Afrofuturism as a critical lens and different ways of seeing the future for different communities — and re-imagining the present. Plus, be sure to read her own recommendation: Sister Mine. Finally, (@49:43), Batya Weinbaum is a poet, artist, professor, and the editor of FemSpec, an academic journal of feminist speculative fiction. She charts the history of feminism in science fiction and how art, including novels, helps drive social, political, and economic change. —————————-CONTACT US————————- To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. If you’d like to write to us, email darts@citedmedia.ca or tweet Gordon directly. —————————-SUPPORT THE SHOW—————————- You can support the show for free by following or subscribing on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or whichever app you use. This is the best way to help us out and it costs nothing so we’d really appreciate you clicking that button. If you want to do a little more we would love if you chip in. You can find us on patreon.com/dartsandletters. Patrons get content early, and occasionally there’s bonus material on there too. —————————-CREDITS—————————- Darts and Letters is hosted and edited by Gordon Katic; this episode our guest host and lead producer is Jay Cockburn. Gordon Katic is our editor. Our managing producer is Marc Apollonio. Our research assistants for this episode were Addye Susnick and David Moscrop. Our theme song was created by Mike Barber. Our graphic design was created by Dakota Koop. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Nandita Dinesh, "This Place That Place" (Melville House, 2022)
19-07-2022
Nandita Dinesh, "This Place That Place" (Melville House, 2022)
A nameless young woman from This Place, and a nameless young man from That Place are stuck together when That Place, the occupying force, imposes another curfew on This Place. Author Nandita Dinesh never identifies the country, but the two protagonists share a language and much of their culture. They’re also falling in love. The young woman from That Place is a De-programmer, whose job involves interviewing the military troops now patrolling outside the house where she’s holed up with the young man. He is a Protest Designer, skilled at waiting out curfews, although his brother is supposed to be getting married the next day and there’s a lot of conversations about that. While confined with the young woman, the young man explains his strategies for passing time while under curfew. He wonders how his family and neighbors will react if he marries her. Where would they live? They swap stories about their families and respective homelands, and want to imagine strategies for ending the conflict, but nothing seems doable. This is an allegory for military occupations, like what we’re currently seeing in Ukraine, but it’s happened all over the world. This Place That Place (Melville House, 2022) is also a glimpse at what it might be like for hapless citizens to be imprisoned in their own homes. Nandita holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and an MA in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. An amateur cook who loves experimenting with Indian cuisines, Nandita has conducted community-based theatre projects across a range of contexts and in 2017, she was awarded the Elliott Hayes Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dramaturgy by Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas. She was born and raised in Coimbatore, India and now lives in San Francisco with her husband and a 90-pound Doberman Mix named Mila. Nandita is currently working on projects across literary genres — a book that lies somewhere between a novel, a memoir, and a play being the next in line! G.P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped Mystery Series and a prolific baker of healthful breads and pastries. Please contact her through her website (GPGottlieb.com). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
84* Cixin Liu Talk About Science Fiction (JP, Pu Wang)
07-07-2022
84* Cixin Liu Talk About Science Fiction (JP, Pu Wang)
John and Pu Wang, a Brandeis professor of Chinese literature, spoke with science-fiction genius Cixin Liu back in 2019. His most celebrated works include The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End. When he visited Brandeis to receive an honorary degree, Liu paid a visit to the RTB lair to record this interview. Liu spoke in Chinese and Pu translated his remarks in this English version of the interview (the original Chinese conversation is at 刘慈欣访谈中文版 Episode 14c). Mr. Liu, flanked by John and Pu (photo: Claire Ogden) They discuss the evolution of Mr. Liu’s science fiction fandom, and the powerful influence of Leo Tolstoy on Mr. Liu’s work, which leads to a consideration of realism and its relationship to science fiction. Science fiction is also compared and contrasted with myth, mathematics, and technology. Lastly, they consider translation, and the special capacity that science fiction has to emerge through the translation process relatively unscathed. This is a testament to science fiction’s taking as its subject the affairs of the whole human community–compared to the valuable but distinctly Chinese concerns of Mo Yan, or the distinctly Russian concerns of Tolstoy. Discussed in This Episode: Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace Stanley Kubrick (dir.), 2001: A Space Odyssey E.M. Forster, “The Machine Stops“ Mo Yan, Red Sorghum Read the transcript here Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Vauhini Vara, "The Immortal King Rao: A Novel" (W. W. Norton, 2022)
30-06-2022
Vauhini Vara, "The Immortal King Rao: A Novel" (W. W. Norton, 2022)
King Rao–one of the protagonists from Vauhini Vara’s novel The Immortal King Rao (W. W. Norton & Company: 2022)—is like many of the tech founders we idolize today. King comes from humble beginnings—born into a Dalit family in a coconut grove in India–moves to the U.S., and launches a company that ends up dominating the world. But Vauhini’s novel is also the story of King’s daughter Athena, living in the world created by her father’s company: a world of social credit, “hothouse earth” and “Shareholder Government”. The Immortal King Rao presents a techno-dystopia that may be recognizable for us today. But it’s more than just a warning about the future–Vauhini’s novel weaves together scenes from the past and the near future to tell a story about caste in India and the growth of our modern-day tech sector. Vauhini Vara has worked as an editor at the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and the Atlantic, and as a journalist for those publications and others, including the Wall Street Journal, where she began her career. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her fiction has appeared in Tin House and McSweeney's and has been honored by the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the O. Henry Prize, and the Canada Council for the Arts. Her essay about grieving her sister's death, “Ghosts”—published in The Believer and adapted by This American Life—will be anthologized in The Best American Essays 2022. She is the secretary for Periplus, a mentorship collective serving writers of color, and a mentor for the Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Book Project. In this interview, Vauhini and I talk about The Immortal King Rao, how the experience of her family’s Dalit heritage motivated her to write the book, and what companies, perhaps, inspired the techno-dystopia seen in her novel. You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of The Immortal King Rao. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia. Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at@nickrigordon. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member!
John Scalzi, "The Kaiju Preservation Society" (Tor Books, 2022)
09-06-2022
John Scalzi, "The Kaiju Preservation Society" (Tor Books, 2022)
One could call The Kaiju Preservation Society (Tor Books, 2022) a pandemic novel because a) John Scalzi wrote it during the pandemic and b) the pandemic serendipitously leads the main character, Jamie, to a new job that sets the action in motion. But the book is not about the pandemic. It’s about Kaiju, Godzilla-like monsters who live in an alternate Earth. This alternate Earth is rich in radioactive elements, and the Kaiju produce energy from their own internal biological reactors. This makes them a danger when, say, they end their lives with in nuclear explosion that thins the walls between Earths, but it also makes them an object of fascination for unscrupulous humans seeking new sources of cheap energy. “So much of the way plant life and animal life on Earth works is through sunlight, which is just another type of radiation,” Scalzi says. “Plants photosynthesize, animals eat plants, other animals eat the animals that eat the plants and so on and so forth. But sooner or later it all comes back to sunlight. The only places where you don’t have that happen are in very specific places where, for example, there are sulfurous heat sources at the bottom of the ocean. And then things have evolved to take advantage of the energy source there. Well, in this alternate Earth, things like uranium and thorium in the crust are another possible energy source. It makes sense to me that life would evolve to take advantage either wholly or in part of that additional energy source. And then, of course, I just built out from there.” Scalzi has contributed in myriad ways to the art of science fiction through many novels, his past leadership as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the platform he provides other writers on The Big Idea, a feature that appears regularly on his website. His writing has earned numerous awards, including what was once upon a time known as the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, Hugos for Fan Writer and Best Related Book, and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. 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!