So here we go again, it’s 2019, which means it’s time for my big end-of-year-ish recommendations post!
For your consideration
In 2018 I published The Tea Master and the Detective (Subterranean/JABberwocky Literary Agency Inc.),a gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes in space, where Holmes is an abrasive down-on-her-luck scholar, and Watson is a traumatised ex-transport ship discharged from the army who brews tea for space travel. It’s gotten a lot of press from people who aren’t me:
“a window onto a beautifully developed world that widens the meaning of space opera, one that centers on Chinese and Vietnamese cultures and customs instead of Western military conventions, and is all the more welcome for it.”
Amal El-Mohtar, The New York Times
The Tea Master and the Detective is the Sherlock Holmes retelling I always wanted and now I have it. And I want so much more of it.
This novella reads like the lovechild of Sherlock Holmes and the Ship Who Sang, dropped into a wormhole inside a space capsule made of Asian history.
I need a spaceship who brews tea in my life.
It’s set in my Xuya universe but absolutely no prior knowledge of the universe is required. You can read an excerpt here, and get the ebook here (North America) or here (UK and other countries). The US edition is officially out of print at the publisher’s–there are a few copies around already in warehouses, so grab one if you see it! There’s also a brand new non-North EU print edition. (Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon ES | Amazon IT | Amazon FR).
(PS: because several people have asked: the f/f Beauty and the Beast retelling with a dragon, In the Vanishers’ Palace, from JABberwocky Literary Agency Inc., is a novel for awards purposes–it’s at this uncomfortable 48K length, but that’s just the way things turned out 🙂
Also, yes, the Xuya series as a whole is eligible for whole series, see Tea Master above for the instalment published this year)
And here’s my list of things I loved this year! (I will update when/if I find time to read other stuff but wanted to get this out there first)
Fran Wilde, “Ruby, Singing” is a heartbreaking story of gems, murder, and memory.
T Kingfisher, “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society”: a hilarious take on the fairy lovers that skewers several well-known myths.
Elizabeth Bear’, “She Still Loves the Dragon”: a powerful and lyrical tale of a woman and a dragon, and fire and love and what it all comes to mean.
Iona Sharma’s “Refugees; or a Nine-Item Representation of a Better World” : a gut-punch, evocative tale of people who take in refugees for temporary respite, and the impact it has on them.
Ian Muneshwar, “Salt Lines” : a story of a man and a monster, and everything that separates them–and everything that doesn’t. So powerful.
Isabel Yap’s “Asphalt, River, Mother, Child”: this one is dark and informed by current events (in the Philippines, specifically), which makes it all the more poignant and urgent. It takes an unflinching look at the police killings and the toll they take–and the prices to be paid, in the end.
Vanessa Fogg, “The House of Illusionists”: heartbreaking and harrowing, the story of teachers and their child students in a city under siege, and the power of magic.
RSA Garcia’s “The Anchorite Wakes” : a compelling story of religion, and the bond between an anchorite sister and an abused child. Dark and imaginative.
Izzy Wassterstein, “Unplaces: An Atlas of Non-existence” is a short and super poignant list of places that do not exist, and how they connect to the life of the narrator, a queer researcher hiding for militias in a supremacist America overrun by Lovecraftian monsters.
A.C. Buchanan, “Girls Who Do Not Drown”: a story of a small town and the sea, and a girl’s inner strength.
Zen Cho’s “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” is the story of an imugi (as the author says, “the failboat of the dragon world”), a Korean creature who must earn its ascent to dragonhood–except, of course, that things don’t go quite as planned. It’s sweet and powerful and just right. (there’s also a very sweet story coda here)
Usman Malik, “Dead Lovers on Each Blade, Hung”: a super creepy story of a missing woman, drug dealers, and snakes. Does exactly what horror is supposed to do: gets under one’s skin and clings there.
Stephanie Burgis, Spellswept: an ambitious woman has to save a party held in an underwater ballroom from utter disaster–and to find the man of her heart. Very sweet and with Steph’s usual eye for distinctive and memorable characters.
Juliet Kemp, A Glimmer of Silver: a great compelling good at life on an ocean planet and the way accommodations are reached (or not) between very different people and creatures. (note: the original publisher of this was The Book Smugglers)
Premee Mohamed’s The Apple-Tree Throne: set in an alternate 19th-Century England, this is the story of a veteran returning from a war and his uneasy relationship with the family of his dead commanding officer–while the ghost of said officer haunts him. Haunting and elegiac, and infused with a strong sense of atmosphere and memorable characters.
Tade Thompon’s Rosewater is probably not eligible for anything save the UK awards, as it was already published in the US once–the 2018 Orbit edition marks its first UK publication, though). Even if you’re not nominating, though, you should check it out, because it’s a super original alien invasion story chockfull of ideas and atmosphere.
Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand is an enchanting epic fantasy set in a Mughal Empire-inspired world, dealing with power and oppression and love and the dreams of the gods
CL Polk’s Witchmark: a queer sorcerer hiding his identity teams up with an immortal to find a murderer. Flirting, kissing, bicycle chases, and investigation amidst political intrigue in the wake of a war
Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning: post-apocalyptic fantasy with magic, a hard-bitten heroine and her new assistant who kill monsters in a world where the Navajo monsters are real and the First Nations reservations have become beacons of civilisation.
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra: so I originally read a self-published version of this, and it was already pretty awesome. I’m so glad that this book has got a large editor behind it and the cover and buzz it deserves. It’s dark Harry Potter on steroids, with bonus metaphysics, and it never quite went where I expected it to go.
Juliet Kemp’s The Deep and Shining Dark is queer epic fantasy with chewy characters, an intriguing magic system, and the best good chaotic trans magician.
Fiction things I haven’t read but which I believe you should check out: Yoon Ha Lee’s Revenant Guni (novel), Claudie Arseneault’s Baker Thief (novel)
Best Related Work
Marissa Lingen, “Hard Enough”: on genre definition, hard SF and cliques and so much that I just want to cheer about.
Best Fan Writer
Liz Bourke, for her “Sleeps With Monsters” column at Tor.com and her columns in Locus and the work she does in general highlighting women and queer and marginalised folks.
Bogi Takács, for eir website “Bogi reads the World”, championing of diverse literature and regular worldbuilding threads.
Charles Payseur, for Quick Sip Reviews, for its focus on short fiction and queer short fiction in particular
Best Fan artist
I’m totally biased as she’s a friend, but I think Likhain is still doing stellar work. This year, she did a bunch of really awesome pieces, most notably those two linked prints for In the Vanishers’ Palace: link to the prints here and here.
I believe Tasha Suri (mentioned above) is eligible.
Jeannette Ng is in her second year of eligibility (following the publication of Under the Pendulum Sun by Angry Robot, which is just the kind creepy Gothic fantasy that sticks in the mind, and which you should check out if you haven’t).
Rivers Solomon is also in their second year of eligibility.
Izzy Wasserstein (see “Unplaces: An Atlas of Non-existence” under short stories) is also eligible.
ETA: RSA Garcia (see above “The Anchorite Wakes”) should also be eligible.