Looking for something to read for Black History Month, but you’d rather look to the future to than the past? Afrofuturism is Speculative Fiction (as well as art, film and music) from a Black perspective- offering up alternate pasts, imaginative presents, and fantastic futures rooted in rich African cultures.
On August 1, 2020, The Hugo Awards were streamed live. Check out the winners below.
Best Novel: A memory called empire / Arkady Martine.
During a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court, Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident–or that Mahit might be next to die. Now Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future. Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them.
Best Short Story: “As the Last I May Know” / S.L. Huang
An alternate history short story looking at decisions and consequences, and what it takes to pull the trigger.
Best Series: The Expanse / James S.A. Corey
The Expanse is set in a future in which humanity has colonized much of the Solar System, but does not have interstellar travel. In the asteroid belt and beyond, tensions are rising between Earth’s United Nations, Mars, and the outer planets.
The series initially takes place in the Solar System, using many real locations such as Ceres and Eros in the asteroid belt, several moons of Jupiter, with Ganymede and Europa the most developed, and small science bases as far out as Phoebe around Saturn and Titania around Uranus, as well as well-established domed settlements on Mars and the Moon.
As the series progresses, humanity gains access to thousands of new worlds by use of the ring, an artificially sustained Einstein-Rosen bridge or wormhole, created by a long dead alien race. The ring in our solar system is two AU from the orbit of Uranus, and passing through it leads to a hub of starless space approximately one million kilometers across, with more than 1,300 other rings, each with a star system on the other side. In the center of the hub, which is also referred to as the “slow zone”, an alien space station controls the gates and can also set instantaneous speed limits on objects inside of the hub as a means of defense. — from Wikipedia
Best Related Work: “2019 John W. Campbell Award Acceptance Speech” / Jeannette Ng
Jeannette Ng won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2019 for her book, Under the Pendulum Sun. In her acceptance speech, she called out John W. Campbell’s fascism. This led to the name of the award being changed to The Astounding Award for Best New Writer.
“In an alternate world where aliens have integrated with society, pregnant Nigerian-American doctor Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka has just smuggled an illegal alien plant named Letme Live through LaGuardia International and Interstellar Airport … and that’s not the only thing she’s hiding. She and Letme become part of a community of human and alien immigrants; but as their crusade for equality continues and the birth of her child nears, Future — and her entire world — begins to change”–Provided by publisher.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Good omens [videorecording] / written for television by Neil Gaiman ; directed by Douglas Mackinnon.
In the beginning and eleven years ago, two immortal beings decide that it might not be time to start an Apocalypse. Having followed the wrong boy for years, Aziraphale and Crowley must now try to locate the whereabouts of the real Antichrist. Perhaps the story of Agnes Nutter and her famous prophecies will hold the answer?
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: “The Answer” from The good place. The final season [videorecording] / Universal Television LLC.
Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason are four cosmically bound friends in the fight for their eternity, alongside their former torturer, Michael. Michael, in a fit of panic, had relinquished his role as the Architect to Eleanor, so that she and the gang could help four new residents become better people. Unfortunately, the Bad Place doesn’t exactly make their task easy, and its latest move places Chidi in a dire situation, putting his relationship with Eleanor and the others in jeopardy.
Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book: Catfishing on catnet / [by] Naomi Kritzer.
When outsiders threaten the administrator for the CatNet online community, a sentient AI who loves cat pictures, and a threat from her past catches up to her, Steph and her friends–both online and in real life–must save her.
Astounding Award for Best New Writer: R.F. Kuang
R.F. Kuang’s first novel is The Poppy War. A war orphan rises from her humble beginnings to become a powerful military commander, and perhaps her country’s only hope for survival.
What would happen if aliens landed in Lagos, Nigeria? How would the government handle it? The army? The people? Okorafor suggests that the aliens are there not only to dialogue with humans, but with all living creatures. The aliens select three people from completely different backgrounds as their liaisons with the Nigerian government. The alien ambassador is a telepathic shape-shifter named Ayodele who primarily takes the shape of a beautiful Nigerian woman, but who will shift to look like people from the lives of those she encounters, such as an aunt or father. Some of the people of Lagos fear the aliens, others see only their own gain. All of them together create the perfect recipe for utter chaos. It’s going to be far more difficult to bring Ayodele to the President than expected.
The three main characters, Agu, Adaora, and Anthony, served as wonderful point of view characters for the chaos enveloping their town. I especially enjoyed those instances when animals or inanimate objects served as the point of view. Even though there is a ton of action in this book and a surfeit of plot, I felt as though it dragged a little. In fairness, some of the characters were also impatient with the progression of things, so I’m not alone there. Still, if you enjoy science fiction and stories about alien invasions in particular, you won’t want to miss this book.
Review by Jessica A.
This is the second book in a series following Sunny Nwazue. In the previous book, Akata Witch, she learned that she is a Leopard Person with magical abilities and was initiated into Leopard culture. In this book, she is learning with her very strict mentor Sugar Cream, who also happened to write the Nsibidi book that Sunny’s been trying to read. After her brother gets in trouble, Sunny uses her abilities to help him, which lands her in serious trouble with the Library Council, the governing body of Leopard People in Nigeria.
I remain frustrated with the harsh adults in this book, just as with the last one, but Sunny herself is a delightful character. I like the slow burn relationship she has with Orlu. I love how Nsibidi is a language that is both read and experienced and that the experience and words can change based on who is reading them and what they need to know at the given time that they are reading. It’s very complicated, but in an intriguing way. If you enjoy stories about learning of secret magical abilities, then you will enjoy this book.
Review by Jessica A.
We’re gearing up for Comic Con with comic reviews this week and next. Danville Public Library’s Comic Con is May 4 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
This book is outside of the regular Black Panther timeline, telling stories in that world but not as part of the main story arc. Three issues are devoted to a story by Nnedi Okorafor in which an enormous monster attacks Wakanda, causing an earthquake and rendering the vibranium in the capital city null. Next are two issues by Aaron Covington, where King T’Challa must reconcile with his past to deal with a threat in the present. Finally, a Venomized Black Panther Ngozi goes home to Nigeria for a wedding in a story by Okorafor.
Okorafor’s first story arc features a T’Challa who is not as humorless as he is often depicted and who respects the freedom of all his people, and the fact that freedom can come in many forms. Her story at the end had me a little confused, since I had not encountered Ngozi before. She was first introduced in Venomverse: War Stories # 1, as part of an out-of continuity story. (The Venomverse books posit, what happens if x character has Venom?) Covington’s story gives a little more background to T’Challa’s character and brings back a villain who hasn’t been seen in Black Panther comics for a few years now.
As a Black Panther and Nnedi Okorafor fan, this book was right up my alley. This book is a good stepping on spot for anyone who hasn’t kept up with the main Black Panther books. (I know this because I’m quite a bit behind myself.) This book is a lot of fun. While there are no more issues in the Long Live the King series, Okorafor is moving on to Shuri, so keep an eye out for that.
Review by Jessica A.
Here are a few of Danville Public Library’s recent Fantasy and Science Fiction acquisitions.
Moonrise: The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures edited by Mike Ashley
“Before the Apollo 11 mission succeeded in landing on the Moon in 1969, writers and visionaries were fascinated by how we might get there and what we might find. The Greeks and Romans speculated about the Moon almost two thousand years before H. G. Wells or Jules Verne wrote about it, but interest peaked from the late 1800s when the prospect of lunar travel became more viable. This anthology presents twelve short stories from the most popular magazines of the golden age of SF – including The Strand Magazine, Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Stories – and features classic SF writers as well as lesser-known writers for dedicated fans of the genre to discover. Includes stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Judith Merril and John Wyndham.”–Provided by publisher.
Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
Halmey Dz and her partner Connla Kurucz are salvage operators, living just on the inside of the law. Theirs is the perilous and marginal existence—with barely enough chance of striking it fantastically big—just once—to keep them coming back for more. They pilot their tiny ship into the scars left by unsuccessful White Transitions, searching for the relics of lost human and alien vessels. But when they make a shocking discovery about an alien species that has been long thought dead, it may be the thing that could tip the perilous peace mankind has found into full-out war.
The War Within by Stephen R. Donaldson
“Stephen R. Donaldson, the New York Times bestselling author of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, returns to the world of his Great God’s War fantasy epic as two kingdoms– united by force–prepare to be challenged by a merciless enemy… It has been twenty years since Prince Bifalt of Belleger discovered the Last Repository and the sorcerous knowledge hidden there. At the behest of the repository’s magisters, and in return for the restoration of sorcery to both kingdoms, the realms of Belleger and Amika ceased generations of war. Their alliance was sealed with the marriage of Bifalt to Estie, the crown princess of Amika. But the peace–and their marriage–has been uneasy. Now the terrible war that King Bifalt and Queen Estie feared is coming. An ancient enemy has discovered the location of the Last Repository, and a mighty horde of dark forces is massing to attack the library and take the magical knowledge it guards. That horde will slaughter every man, woman, and child in its path, destroying both Belleger and Amika along the way. With their alliance undermined by lingering hostility and conspiracies threatening, it will take all of the monarchs’ strength and will to inspire their kingdoms to become one to defend their land, or all is lost…”– Provided by publisher.
The Women’s War by Jenna Glass
When a nobleman’s first duty is to produce a male heir, women are treated like possessions and bargaining chips. But as the aftereffects of a world-altering spell ripple out physically and culturally, women at last have a bargaining chip of their own. Meanwhile, in a neighboring kingdom, young Ellin finds herself unexpectedly on the throne after the sudden death of her grandfather the king and everyone else who stood ahead of her in the line of succession.
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back … different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief–no matter what actually happens during combat. Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on. Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero–or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.
Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor
“Binti, a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family’s concerns, Binti’s talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey. But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti’s spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination. There is more to the history of the Medusae-and their war with the Khoush-than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace. Collected now for the first time in omnibus form.” — publisher’s description.