Speculative Fiction : The Year in Review (Arisia 2015)

The first panel I sat on at Arisia was Speculative Fiction : The Year in Review with Morgan Crooks and Gillian Daniels (mod).

I went into this panel knowing there was no way I'd touch on even half the books I made note of in preparation.  Just listing off titles does not make for a very interesting panel, and does not make for any sort of organic conversation on a topic.  Of course, this being a blog post and not an organic discussion, there will be lists of books.

Our discussion ranged from favorite new title from the past year (a surprisingly difficult question to answer), Utopia vs Dystopia in Speculative Fiction, YA vs Adult, issues with diversity, and what makes for good Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Taking part in the panel made for a fantastic time, and I hope to take part again next year.  A few honorable mentions were made, bringing up books published beyond 2014, in particular the works of Elizabeth Bear and titles published by Angry Robot.  Actually, Elizabeth Bear came up a lot because she has short stories in pretty much every collection mentioned (even if not recorded here).

I should have taken better notes beyond titles mentioned, but since I didn't, you're about to get a whole bunch of book recommendations.

Some notable titles mentioned by my fellow panelists:

The Three-Body Problem / Liu Cixin (translated by Ken Liu) - a Chinese science-fiction novel that starts in China's Cultural Revolution and comes forward to a today where aliens make first contact through a video game, preparing us for their arrival.

The Summer Prince / Alaya Dawn Johnson - set in a post-apocalyptic, futuristic Brazil where every year young men compete for the honor of becoming the Summer King, and the King must die for the land.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August / Claire North - Harry North dies only to start his life over again with all the knowledge of his previous lives.  One of a handful of people throughout the world who re-live their lives again and again no matter what changes they make.  And then on one of his lives he receives a warning about the end of the world, and it's up to him to stop it.

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History / Rose Fox & Daniel José Older (eds) - Historical speculative fiction of minority groups and marginalized people.  Sword & Sorcery beyond tales of conquerors and European castles.

Clockwork Soldier / Ken Liu (Clarkesworld Magazine) - Fantastic short story on the ethics of androids and the lines between artificial and living intelligence.

If You Were a Tiger, I'd Have to Wear White / Maria Dahvana Headley (Uncanny Magazine) - The animal stars of Hollywood are locked into a retirement community called Jungleland, while a visiting investigative report attempts to interview Leo, the MGM Lion, and to cover whatever scandal he can dig up for a column.

Monstrous Affectations / Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant (eds) - An anthology of stories about monsters, and what makes one a monster.

Hieroglyph : Stories and Visions for a Better Future / Edd Finn & Kathryn Cramer (eds) - a collection of stories inspired by the idea that good Science Fiction influences scientific discovery and innovation.  Contributors include Cory Doctorow, Neil Stephenson, and Elizabeth Bear.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves / Karen Joy Fowler - A book on human perception, family, and the mutability of memory.

The Goblin Emperor / Katherine Addison - The half-breed Emperor's son is taken from a life of neglect and abuse when his family dies and elevated to Emperor himself.  He must learn to navigate the political and ceremonial world he now finds himself standing alone in.

Some of the titles I brought to the discussion:

Of Bone and Thunder / Chris Evans - No, not that Chris Evans.  Perhaps best described as Lord of the Rings meets Full Metal Jacket.

The Girl With All the Gifts / M. R. Carey - A zombie story like none other.  A tale of humanity, desperation, and evolution.

We Are All Completely Fine / Daryl Gregory - Eventually survivors are expected to return to a normal life, even those who have gone through ordeals that no one sane would believe.  These five survivors are brought together by therapist Jan Sawyer.  Have they truly escaped the monsters, or have they been with them all along?

Ancillary Justice / Ann Leckie - A space opera narrated by someone who has never before been human, or confined to a single body, from a culture that has no language distinction for gender.  Once a starship used in the conquering of worlds, Breq now seeks answers and vengeance.

Lovecraft's Monsters / Ellen Datlow (ed) - Renowned authors have created enhancing and unsettling tales set within the Lovecraftian mythos.

Upgraded / Neil Clark (ed) - A fantastic collection of short stories of humanity and cyborgs.

The Mirror Empire / Kameron Hurley - Neighboring cultures and parallel realities clash in what may be the end of the world.

So many many more titles deserved to be mentioned, but there just wasn't time to touch on all of the fantastic books that came out in 2014.  I absolutely loved the new books by Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Robin Hobb, and Elizabeth Moon.  Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey reignited my love of Star Wars novels, and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness was a fantastic ending to a trilogy I struggled through.

I need to get myself signed up for the Arisia forums, Morgan and I started hashing out a panel idea for Arisia 2016, and that seems to be the way to get your ideas submitted.  Plus, even I don't manage to get an idea approved, I'd like to take part as a panelist again, and I feel I have a better chance of that if I proactively pursue it instead of being surprised by an email that someone recommended me as a panelist.  No idea who did that for me this year, but whoever you are, thank you.


  1. Thanks for mentioning Long Hidden! Please also name my co-editor, Daniel José Older--I certainly could not have edited the entire book myself. :)

    1. Updated! Thanks for that correction.

  2. I read Ancillary Justice recently and I'm posting a review of it on my blog. Thanks for the recommendation! I enjoyed the book immensely.


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