Of Mangoes and Radium: Cooking the Books with Brooke Bolander


Of Mangoes and Radium: Cooking the Books with Brooke Bolander

Fran and I sat down with Brooke Bolander, the author of many fine and searing short stories, and the recently released The Only Harmless Great Thing (from publishing), a book of radiation poisoning, elephants, Coney Island and two great injustices…

Yes it’s a new Cooking the Books episode! (check out the Booksmugglers exclusive content right here, with bonus answers from Brooke).

Ready? Subscribe to the Podcast here! Or on iTunes! Or click play below:
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Visit additional Cooking the Books content over on the The Booksmugglers!

(thanks as always to our friend Paul Weimer, who helps out with the kitchen cleaning–this time it was lots of cocktail testing!)

Podcast #034: Of Mangoes and Radium – Cooking the Books with Brooke Bolander

And here’s Bo’s recipe:



  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 oz Saler’s Apertif
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon ginger-lime curd (recipe below)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup/rich syrup

Mix all the ingredients in a shaker and dry shake (without ice) vigorously until combined. Add ice and shake some more until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and enjoy!

Lime-ginger curd:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup ginger juice
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, unsalted

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a saucepan until combined. Add the lime juice and ginger juice and stir until they’re combined as well.

Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly (if you don’t, the eggs in the mixture will cook and you’ll have some super-funky dessert scramble) until the mixture thickens to a custardy consistency.

Trust me, it is way, way simpler than it sounds. Custard is the easiest thing in the world to make, so long as you don’t stop whisking.

Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.

Pass through a fine mesh strainer; you’re probably gonna have a bit of cooked egg white in there no matter what you do and this will take care of that.

Transfer to a jar and let cool before using in the cocktail or just eating by the spoonful; this is a no-judgment zone.

Even if you’re not a drinker, you’re probably gonna enjoy this stuff if you in any way dig tart sugary things.

Brooke Bolander writes weird things of indeterminate genre, most of them leaning rather heavily towards fantasy or general all-around weirdness. She attended the University of Leicester 2004-2007 studying History and Archaeology and is an alum of the 2011 Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UCSD. Her stories have been featured in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Nightmare,, and various other fine purveyors of the fantastic. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy awards, much to her unending bafflement. She can be reached at her website ( or on Twitter @BBolander.

Cooking the Books is a mostly-monthly podcast hosted by Fran Wilde and Aliette de Bodard.

Check out our archives.

Awards consideration/recommendation post


Awards consideration/recommendation post

Belatedly posting this because it’s been a busy year, but here goes…

For your consideration

In 2017 I published a bunch of things, but here’s one I was particularly happy with: “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” is basically my homage to the Great Bake Off. With dragons in human form, a Gothic devastated Paris, and creepier magic than my main characters had originally bargained for…

It’s on the Locus 2017 Recommended Reading List, which means I’m not the only one thinking it’s decent 🙂

You can read it online at Uncanny Magazine (it’s listed as a reprint in the July 2017 issue, but the original publication date was April 2017, which makes it eligible for awards! The original publication was as a pre-order reward for my novel The House of Binding Thorns: it’s a standalone set in the universe, though you’ll get some Easter eggs if you’ve read the books.).

And now for the stories & things from other people I absolutely loved this year:

Short story

Fran Wilde’s “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” is an amazing gut-punch of a read–about the people we see and the ones we don’t, and how quick we are to deny people their humanity.

Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience ™” is a strong read about Native American culture, appropriation and all the ways in which it hurts.

Elaine Cuyegkeng’s “House that Creaks” is the sort of horror story that just sticks in the mind long after reading it–about a haunted house and how it became that way, and political dissidents, and the force of memory and sorrow and anger.

ETA: oops, this is from 2016!

Nghi Vo’s  “Twelve Pictures from a Second World War” manages to use its very brief amount of words to picture something haunting with sense of loss–and to show us a side of WWII in non-Western countries that often gets set aside in SFF.
Rose Lemberg’s amazing novella, “A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) is a masterpiece of worldbuilding that brings together two very different characters with vastly different histories, and tracks the consequences of their meeting–effortlessly rich and romantic, laden with worldbuilding that both feels familiar and strange, this definitely stuck with me long after I’d read it.
Tade Thompon’s The Murders of Molly Southbourne takes a wild premise (every time Molly bleeds, her blood creates a double who turns murderous on her, and whom she then has to kill), amps it up to eleven, and turns it into a detailed, twisty thriller that follows Molly from childhood to adult, asking questions about free will, identity and the price of survival on the way. A gruesome and neat little horror book.
Martha Wells’s All Systems Red is a fast paced SF romp with an unforgettable protagonist, the misanthropic Murderbot, whose only dream is to watch TV series—except that those pesky humans keep getting into trouble…


I don’t always do poetry, but Brandon O’Brien’s “Birth, Place” is amazing–beautifully evocative, with an ending that lingered in my mind. I want to frame entire pieces of it on my wall, as a reminder for hard times.

Best Fan Artist
And Likhain’s art continues to be amazing: she was up for a Hugo this year for Best Fan Artist. Below are two of the pieces she did as promo art for The House of Binding Thorns–she’s still eligible this year in Best Fan Artist, if you’re so minded to nominate her.
Ken Liu’s Wall of Storms took everything I loved about The Grace of Kings and made it better. If I had one criticism of Grace of Kings, it was that the book was scarce on women until the very end. Wall of Storms has them in abundance, and shifts from a war to control a kingdom to my favourite trope: court intrigue and manoeuvring of different factions who all try to pretend it’s for the good of the country. It deals with loss and legacy, and it also has the best engineering in fantasy sequence I’ve read in a long long time.
ETA: apparently this is a 2016 book! °_°
Stephanie Burgis’s Snowspelled is the perfect book to curl up with if you need a pick-me-up. It’s fun and fluffy but also quite effortlessly deep. Set in an alternate England in a fragile peace with the neighbouring elves, the novella follows Cassandra, once a star magician but now a broken woman who lost her powers. Expecting nothing but obscurity, Cassandra finds herself stuck in a mansion in the middle of the snowstorm—with a rogue magician to track, a powerful and haughty elf to placate, and worst of all, a persistent ex-fiancé who refuses to take no for an answer. It’s sweet and beautiful and just left me ready for the sequel. (ETA: it’s 42k, which might make it fall under the Hugo Awards 10% rule)
Yoon Ha Lee’s Raven Stratagem is also a sequel (to his great Ninefox Gambit, which I recommended last year to everyone who would listen to me). It expands the fascinating universe of Hexarchate by showing us characters from outside the assault section trying to take over a fortres: the hexarchs themselves (Mikodez ftw)), the civilians, the soldiers on space stations, and more factions beyond the ones we saw in Ninefox Gambit. And the ending left me hungering for more (book 3 is out next year!!).
Elizabeth Bear’s The Stone in the Skull reminded of me of why I love big fat epic fantasies: it’s got everything from creepy threats, lush worldbuilding and a great big cast of characters, but without the casual misogyny, gender essentialism and racism that throws me out of texts. The cast is diverse (yay toddlers in SFF!), and I felt like I’d barely read enough when the book ended.
Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun is a creepy Gothic fairytale that takes as a premise the sending of two Victorian missionaries to Fairyland. I hadn’t thought the finer points of theology could be this gripping, but the claustrophobic meditation on the nature of faith and stories that follows is a treat. And I’ll never forget the banquet at the midpoint of the book: Jeannette has a gift for the genuinely unsettling images and twists.
Foz Meadows’s A Tyranny of Queens is superlative portal fantasy: an epic cast of characters, wonderfully drawn societies and a thoughtful, nuanced treatment of abuse and PTSD. Only drawback is you’ll have to read the first book, An Accident of Stars, but trust me, it’s totally worth it.
ADDED: KJ Charles Spectred Isle  is queer historical fantasy and so much fun–set just after WWI and featuring an arrogant occultist and a jaded archeologist, it deals with London, ghosts, fen-monsters and growing and inevitable attraction!
Best YA novel
Cindy Pon’s Want is a fast-paced look at a dystopian Taiwan where the gulf between haves and have-nots is counted in years of good health.
Kate Elliott’s Buried Heart brought her Court of Fives trilogy to an awesome end, and tackled colonialism, revolutions, history and the way people have to make hard and impossible choices. I loved that Jess continued to have a relationship with her entire family, and all the different roles for characters from domestic to military.
Victor Fernando R Ocampo’s The Infinite Library and Other Stories is a breathtaking short story collection of loosely linked stories that run the gamut from whimsical to dark, but always infused with a sharp perception of what makes people. It’s a mite hard to find in the West as the publisher is based in Singapore but it’s well worth a read if you can track it down.
Best Related Work
Dimas Ilaw’s “The Shape of the Darkness as It Overtakes Us” is a gut-wrenching and utterly necessary read.
Best Fan Writer
I feel like Liz Bourke, D Franklin , Bogi Takács and Charles Payseur have been doing excellent work of reviewing and writing about genre this year, with an eye to boosting stuff that often gets missed, so do check out their work!
Also check out: JY Yang’s Red Threads of Fortune and Black Threads of Heaven (novellas), Corey White’s Killing Gravity (novella), Malka Older’s Null States (novel), Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka (novel), Fonda Lee’s Jade City (novel).

“A Burning Sword for Her Cradle” to Ellen Datlow’s Echoes


Thrilled to announce I’ve sold “A Burning Sword for her Cradle” to Ellen Datlow for Echoes: the Saga Book of Ghost Stories, out Fall 2018.

It’s, er. A story about war, immigration, hauntings passed down the blood, and the cost of the future. Basically “Aliette does horror”, which means food, strong-willed aunties and families. Also creepy ghosts because obviously!



Bao Ngoc has set her appointment with the witch at dawn–because it would make her leave the house in the dark, at a time when neither her sister nor her brother-in-law would be awake.

Things, however, never work the way they’re supposed to.

She’s made her morning worship at her ancestral altar, leaving oranges and apples for her parents’ spirits, mouthing the familiar litany beseeching them for good fortune, gritting her teeth against the agony in her chest. Now she’s rummaging in the kitchen for coconut water, opening the cupboard in the darkness. In the background, the familiar buzz of the fridge, a warbling Bao Ngoc keeps–with effort, with pain–from turning into the angry remonstrances of ghosts.

New Xuya novella forthcoming from Subterranean: The Tea Master and the Detective


New Xuya novella forthcoming from Subterranean: The Tea Master and the Detective

I’ve been sitting on this forever but am super happy to report that my novella The Tea Master and the Detective will be coming out from Subterranean Press in March 2018, with lovely art by Maurizio Manzieri.

This is my “Xuya meets Sherlock Holmes” book: in a galactic empire infused by Vietnamese culture, a detective and a mindship must team up to solve a mystery. Very loosely inspired by A Study in Scarlet, if Holmes were an eccentric scholar, and Watson a grumpy decommissioned war mindship. I had lots of fun writing this: it’s full of digs and references to classic Sherlock Holmes, plus all the detective stories ever. It turns out that grumpy mindship is best mindship when it comes to writing! Also, gender swapping everyone made for rather fun situations (the ending had me tearing out my hair but I’m so happy it all worked out).

Many thanks to Fran Wilde, Genevieve Cogman, Tade Thompson, Liz Bourke, Lynn O’Connacht, Ava Jarvis, Stephanie Burgis, Seth Gorden, Samantha Henderson, Fran Wilde, Likhain, and Kate Elliott. As well as to John Berlyne, Yanni Kuznia, Geralyn Lance, and everyone involved with the book (I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!).

And special thanks to Vida Cruz, Victor Fernando R Ocampo and Tade Thompson for helping me with cover copy!

Here’s the summary:

A new novella set in the award-winning, critically-acclaimed Xuya universe…

Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.

As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…

Available for pre-order now as a lovely signed hardbound edition, coming out March 2018: it’s a limited print run so I don’t know how long it’ll last (my last limited edition chapbook sold out rather fast!). You can hop on to the Subterranean website to check it out and get your very own copy!

Buy Now

Free Xuya story: Crossing the Midday Gate


Free Xuya story: Crossing the Midday Gate

There’s a new Xuya story up at Lightspeed Magazine: “Crossing the Midday Gate” was originally published in Athena Andreadis’s wonderful To Shape the Dark. It’s now been reprinted, and you can read it free online.

It’s about intergalactic plagues, vaccines, court intrigues and second chances–and what to do when the entire world changes around you. Also badass older women bacteriologists ftw.

Read it free here.

Things I researched for this were numerous, but the original seed of this was Waldemar Haffkine and the Mulkowal deaths, stemming from contaminated anti-cholera vaccines [Wikipedia].

Cover reveal for “A Thousand Beginnings and Endings”


Cover reveal for “A Thousand Beginnings and Endings”

Happy to reveal the cover for Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh’s A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, in which my story “The Counting of Vermillion Beads” will appear. It’s a retelling of Tấm Cám, except set in a science fantasy palace where girls compete to become high-ranking officials of the Everlasting Emperor–and it’s about sisterhood and families and the threads that never really can be snapped.

And best of all, it’s only one of a stellar lineup that includes Shveta Thakar, EC Myers, Cindy Pon. Eeeeeeeeeeeee!

The wonderful cover is by Feifei Ruan.

The book is not out till June 2018, but you can preorder it now!

Where to Buy

Amazon US
Preorder Now

New story: Children of Thorns, Children of Water at Uncanny Magazine


New story: Children of Thorns, Children of Water at Uncanny Magazine

My story “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” has now been published at Uncanny Magazine. You can read it here.

This is set in the Dominion of the Fallen, my Gothic ruined Paris with Fallen angels, dragons, alchemists and magicians (aka my love letter to 19th Century Gothic fiction and manga and anime like Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler, which includes novels The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns ). It’s a standalone: an excellent introduction to the universe, and a good return to it if you’re already familiar with it!

What you get: dragons, creepy magic, cooking (!).

In a Paris that never was, a city of magicians, alchemists and Fallen angels struggling to recover from a devastating magical war…

Once each year, the House of Hawthorn tests the Houseless: for those chosen, success means the difference between a safe life and the devastation of the streets. However, for Thuan and his friend Kim Cuc, — dragons in human shapes and envoys from the dying underwater kingdom of the Seine — the stakes are entirely different. Charged with infiltrating a House that keeps encroaching on the Seine, if they are caught, they face a painful death.

Worse, mysterious children of thorns stalk the candidates through Hawthorn’s corridors. Will Thuan and Kim Cuc survive and succeed?

Read Online!

If you’ve already read and enjoyed it, why not try The House of Binding Thorns in which you get to meet again Thuan (aka, the queer, bookish dragon prince with amazing talent for getting himself into trouble), as well as a host of other characters?

(or you can also pick up the full issue of Uncanny Magazine, which has fiction by Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw and other fine folk)

The Dominion of the Fallen Reading Order (Novels Only)

Book 1. The House of Shattered Wings | Book 2. The House of Binding Thorns


With thanks to Stephanie Burgis, Kate Elliott and Fran Wilde

It was a large, magnificent room with intricate patterns of ivy branches on the tiles, and a large mirror above a marble fireplace, the mantlepiece crammed with curios from delicate silver bowls to Chinese blue-and-white porcelain figures: a clear statement of casual power, to leave so many riches where everyone could grab them.

Or rather, it would have been, if the porcelain hadn’t been cut-rate–the same bad quality the Chinese had foisted on the Indochinese court in Annam–the mirror tarnished, with mould growing in one corner, spread down far enough that it blurred features, and the tiling cracked and chipped in numerous places–repaired, but not well enough that Thuan couldn’t feel the imperfections under his feet, each one of them a little spike in the khi currents of magic around the room.

Not that Thuan was likely to be much impressed by the mansions of Fallen angels, no matter how much of Paris they might claim to rule. He snorted disdainfully, an expression cut short when Kim Cuc elbowed him in the ribs. “Behave,” she said.

“You’re not my mother.” She was his ex-lover, as a matter of fact; and older than him, and never let him forget that.

“Next best thing,” Kim Cuc said, cheerfully. “I can always elbow further down, if you insist.”

Thuan bit down the angry retort. The third person in the room–a dusky-skinned, young girl of Maghrebi descent, who’d introduced herself as Leila–was looking at them with fear in her eyes. “We’re serious,” he said, composing his face again. “We’re not going to ruin your chances to enter House Hawthorn, promise.”

They were a team: that was what they’d been told, as the House dependents separated the crowd before the House in small groups; that their performance would be viewed as a whole, and their chance to enter the House weighed accordingly. Though no rules had been given, and nothing more said, either, as dependents led them to this room and locked them in. At least he was still with Kim Cuc, or he’d have been hopelessly lost.

For people like Leila–for the Houseless, the desperate–it was their one chance to escape the streets, to receive food and shelter and the other tangible benefits of a House’s protection.

For Thuan and Kim Cuc, though… the problem was rather different. Their fate, too, would be rather different, if anyone found out who they really were. No House in Paris liked spies, and Hawthorn was not known for its leniency.