5 SFF Books About Pyromancy

Pyromancy, as it was originally described, is the act of divining the future by looking at flames. Similar to other methods of divination that date back to ancient Greece, like knissomancy (using incense smoke) or osteomancy (using arrangements of bones).

But, in today’s SFF scene, pyromancy often refers to the ability to control fire, and pyromancy appears in countless sword-and-sorcery novels.

We’ve compiled a short list of some of the most prominent books that involve fire magic!

Pyromancer by Don Callander

pyromancer by don callander

While it’s a bit on the nose, Pyromancer is, in fact, about fire magic. As the first book of Callander’s Mancer series, the book follows Douglas Brightglade as he comes to master his abilities over fire. Along his journey, Brightglade makes many friends, animal and human, who help him take on the Ice King.

This story has often been described as simple, with a fairly basic plot of good against evil, but it’s a quick, fun read for anyone that loves old sword and sorcery fiction.

This classic fire vs. ice story was first published in 1992 by Ace, and reprinted again fairly recently. If you’re looking to read this story, I suggest finding an older printing, because the new edition is full of typographical errors.

Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher

beyond redemption micheal r fletcher

While this book sparked some controversy over it’s use of mental health issues as fundaments of magical power, it does feature pyromancy.

In Fletcher’s world, there are two kinds of people: the “normal”, sane people, and the Geisteskranken, which translates to The Insane from German. Within the second group, there are various different people who gain power from their relative insanity. The Hassebrands in particular, are adept at fire magic.

This grimdark SFF book follows a group of murderers as they attempt to capture and kill a young boy Morgen, who they believe will become a new god. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, as Fletcher goes into very dark territory. If you’re looking for some wicked fire magic, this book is for you, but make sure you read something more lighthearted—like Pyromancer—after you finish it.

The Castes and the OutCastes by David Ashura

a warrior's path davis ashura

This trilogy consists of A Warrior’s Path, A Warrior’s Knowledge, and A Warrior’s Penance. The first book won the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award for fantasy, and was a finalist for multiple other awards.

In this series, which is loosely based on Indian mythology, there are the castes, and the outcastes. The main character, Rukh Shektan, is born into the Caste Kumma, and becomes a renowned warrior, skilled with both fire magic and the blade.

The characters are well-developed, and the world presents enough similarities to traditional fantasy books that it feels familiar, but has aspects of political intrigue, deception, and action that make it unique.

This sword-and-sorcery series has been likened to The Wheel of Time, the works of Zelazney, and other big-name fantasy series.

The Fire Mages by Pauline M. Ross

the fire mages pauline m ross

Even thought The Fire Mages is part of the Brightmoon series, it can be read as a standalone book. The story follows Kyra as she navigates a world of magic and deception. Magic in this world requires specific symbology written on magic paper, with very few magicians capable of using their powers without these things.

As such, fire magic is pretty dangerous, seeing as how the mode for power is flammable paper.

The book reminds me of a mix between The Name of the Wind (thinking about Kvothe’s struggle with money and school) and The Armored Saint by Myke Cole.

It’s a fun ride, and the characters are well-thought out and the world is full of rich details. Definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of traditional fantasy magic.

Firestarter by Stephen King

firestarter stephen king

Moving out of the realm of fantastical magic-wielders, Firestarter imagines a world where experimental drug trials leave some individuals with psychic abilities. The main character, Charlie McGee, has a very strong pyrokinetic ability, which she often uses to protect her and her father from secret government agents who are hunting them down.

Firestarter is a sci-fi horror story, typical of King’s style as a writer. The book was first published in 1980, and was adapted as a film in 1984. The reboot of the film comes out later this year, starring Zac Efron as Charlie’s father, Andy, and Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Charlie.

If you like stories about powered people hunted down by shadow organizations, then Firestarter is a must read.

If you liked this post, consider checking out some of our other Top 5 book lists!

Top 5 Desert Fantasy Books With Sandy Cities

For a long time, the fantasy genre was dominated by stories about tall stone castles, misty forests, and knights in medieval armor. This intense focus on the medieval European landscape kind of defined fantasy as a genre. Just saying the word “fantasy” inspires thoughts of dragons, knights, and maidens in despair.

But there are plenty of other kinds of fantasy out there that don’t take such heavy inspiration from the Middle Ages. One of the most interesting fantasy genres is desert fantasy. Authors of desert fantasy replace the mountains and ancient forests with vast seas of sand and massive trade-center cities.

Here are the top 5 desert fantasy books that feature sandy dunes, complex cities, and a fresh take on the fantasy genre.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

When this book first came out in 2012, it was a big hit. It was one of the most popular desert fantasy books by far, and it still stands as a great example of non-European fantasy.

But it was planned as a series—The Crescent Moon Kingdoms. But it’s been 10 years and we haven’t seen a second book released. It has a title and a description on Goodreads, but no official news about its publication date.

The story follows a number of interesting characters, including a ghul hunter, a holy warrior, and a shapeshifter. All the characters are investigating a series of murders that are all connected, and when they end up banding together, they realize there’s a plot much bigger than anyone realized. In the kingdom of Dhamsawaat, the Falcon Prince is brewing up a revolution, and it’s up to the ragtag band to stop him.

The author, Saladin Ahmed, is a quite prominent writer for Marvel, working on numerous Spider-Man comics.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt the Flame is part of the Sands of Arawiya series, and is succeeded by the book, We Free the Stars. This book was published in 2019 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. The kingdom of Arawiya was inspired by ancient Arabia,

The story follows Zafira, a hunter of rare artifacts. She disguises herself as a man to avoid scrutiny as she acts as a champion for her people. When she sets out to find a precious artifact that can heal her people, the Prince of Death, right hand of the sultan, is put onto her trail. During the course of their hunt, the two champions realize that something much bigger is stirring in the world, something neither of them can control.

We Hunt the Flame is often considered a young adult series, but it stands on the line between adult fantasy and young adult desert fantasy.

The Eyes of the Tamburah by Maria V. Snyder

The Eyes of the Tamburah is the first book in the Archives of the Invisible Sword series, and is often considered a young adult novel. The book was published in 2019, so it’s a fairly new addition to the desert fantasy genre.

The story follows Shyla, an 18-year-old outcast. Her sun-colored eyes maker her a sun-kissed, a child marked by the Sun Goddess as a sacrifice. But instead of meeting a gruesome death, Shyla was raised by monks.

Soon after leaving the monks, Shyla ventures into the underground desert city of Zirdai and starts working as a kind of Tomb-Raider-esque archaeologist. When a precious religious artifact is stolen, Shyla is blackmailed into finding it, but ends up getting caught in the middle of a deadly turf war.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

As the first book in The Song of Shattered Sands series, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai sets up the whole desert environment. From the tallest spire of the desert city’s towers to the gnarled, magical trees that pepper the windswept plains outside the city walls.

In this book, we meet Ceda, a pit fighter and a rogue, trying to unravel the mysteries in her late mother’s diary. Little does she know; she holds the secrets that the Twelve Kings tried to purge from existence. Finding foes at almost every turn, Ceda must navigate the dark streets of Sharakhai to finish what her mother started and free the people of the desert from the kings’ tyranny.

This book is one of my favorites, and it has such rich lore and backstory. Many of the elements are inspired by Arabic folklore, specifically Egyptian. The Song of Shattered Sands includes 6 full-length novels, a prequel novella, and a handful of other novellas/short stories.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

The Blue Sword is the oldest book on this list, having been first published in 1982. The book is first of the Damar series, which includes four other books.

The Blue Sword takes place in the desert land populated by Homelanders and Hillfolk. The protagonist, Angharad “Harry” Crewe, is captured by the Hillfolk King and taken deep into the desert. Harry is then trained to be a master warrior, and develops a keen sense of respect for the Hillfolk. As Northern invaders threaten their sovereignty, Harry must be the bridge that brings the Homelanders and the Hillfolk together.  

There are plenty of other desert fantasy books out there that we didn’t mention, and the genre is still growing! If you have a favorite book that wasn’t mentioned here, feel free to leave a comment below!

And if you liked this blog, consider checking out some of our other content:

Top 5 Sci Fi Books with Weird Landscapes

It’s been a while since we discussed any Top 5 Sci Fi Books on Signals from the Edge, so I figured it’s high-time we do.

I wanted to take a look at some of the weirdest landscapes throughout science fiction. These include neutron stars, landscape structures dictated by vocal ques, and sentient slime beings in deep towers.

Here are the top five sci fi books with weird landscapes!

Know of a weirder book? Leave a comment below to tell us about it!

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley

Aliya Whitelely has a track record of making weird, uncomfortable fiction. Her novella The Beauty was my first introduction to her work, but Skyward Inn was certainly more unsettling.

In this novel, we have two different weird landscapes that are connected to one another. We have the Earth as we know it (well, kind of), and we have the planet Qita, which has been conquered by Earth.

Both of these landscapes are connected, to the point where what happens on Qita, happens on Earth. At one point in the novel, Earth’s land starts to turn to mud, and then slime, and then a flood sweeps all of the inhabitants up into a central location—the Skyward Inn. But not only is the land itself turning to sludge, so are the people.

Like we said, everything is connected, the planets, the people, the land. Skyward Inn is certainly a slow-burner, but it’s one of the most disturbing sci fi books I’ve read.

The Helliconia Trilogy by Brian Aldiss

As far as weird landscapes go, Brian Aldiss certainly hit the nail on the head with his Helliconia Trilogy. Published in between 1982 and 1985, Helliconia Spring, Summer, and Winter all take place on the planet of Helliconia, an Earth-like planet in the Batalix-Freyr system.

The series doesn’t really follow a certain main character because the timeline spans across thousands of years. Instead, the books focus on the evolution of civilization on Helliconia, a planet that’s similar to Earth enough to support life, but different enough to make it incredibly difficult.

For example, seasons on Helliconia last for hundreds of years, with winters being equivalent to Earth’s Ice Age, and summers being scorching hot. Accompanying the seasonal differences are some new diseases, such as bone fever and fat death, both of which are viral eating disorders.

All-in-all, the Helliconia Trilogy isn’t nearly as weird as Skyward Inn, but it certainly gives a lot more backstory and scientific information about life on this non-Earth planet to make it bizarre.

Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward

Dragon’s Egg is one of those old sci fi novels that stands out because of its weird premise. Published in 1980 by Ballantine Books, Dragon’s Egg focuses on the development of the Cheela society, a group of incredibly tiny people that live on the surface of a neutron star.

If that’s not a weird landscape, I don’t know what is! The whole environment of the novel is other-worldly. The Cheela inhabit the neutron star, as mentioned, and when humans eventually show up to explore their home, the rapidly out-develop the humans in terms of technology.

Time on the Dragon’s Egg, as the neutron star is called, moves much more quickly for the Cheela, where 30 human seconds is one Cheela year.

This book is a pretty fun read if you can get over the dense, scientific worldbuilding.

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

There are a few things that make the landscape of Amatka weird. First, it’s just eerie. Lakes freeze and thaw without the interaction of weather, and most of the population live on underground mushroom farms.

But what really makes the landscape of this novel weird are the rules around it. Everything in the colony of Amatka must be named vocally, from farm machinery to buildings in town, else they become “gloop”.

And stuff really starts to kick off when more and more things start turning to sludge, and the conspiracies that government has been indoctrinating their people with poke through the surface.

Amatka was originally published in Sweden in 2012, and was translated to English in 2017. It stands as one of the most politically-charged and weird sci fi pieces out there to date.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Let’s be honest, no list of weird science fiction worlds would be complete without something by Jeff VanderMeer. He’s often regarded as one of the most prolific writers in the New Weird movement, where his fiction continuously crosses back and forth over the horror, science fiction, and fantasy borders.

I recently read Annihilation for the first time, the first book in the South Reach Trilogy, and inspiration for the 2018 film with Natalie Portman.

The landscape of Area X in the novel is one of the weirdest places that I’ve encountered in my reading of science fiction. The contrast between the Lighthouse and the Tower, diametrically opposed pinnacles, set an unsettling vibe over the whole book. Not to mention that dolphins with human eyes, moss-covered human statues, sentient slimes, and creatures molting human skin.

Annihilation is as weird as it is profound, and it’s one of the most thoughtful books I’ve read in a while.

Classic Sci Fi Book Covers That Made The Genre

As someone who has a keen appreciation of old art, I find that many of today’s sci fi book covers lack a certain luster. In the course of forty or fifty years, we’ve moved away from book covers of full illustrations, painstakingly painted by hands by leading artists in the genre. Today, most sci fi book covers have an abstract quality that doesn’t say much about the book.

I know the adage, of course: “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” And yeah, for the most part that’s true. But as attention spans decrease and the flashy effects of TV and video games influence our tastes in science fiction art, book covers had to adapt to draw in new readers. Where there were once detailed oil paintings, there are now abstract, digital designs.

In this article, I want to showcase some of the classic sci fi book covers that helped defined the genre and influenced not just future art, but writing as well.

Darrell K. Sweet’s Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein

Darrell K. Sweet is a big name when it comes to sci fi and fantasy illustration. He’s best known for his fantasy book covers for The Wheel of Time, The Lord of the Rings, and The Shannara Chronicles.

His grasp of fantasy concepts is really quite spectacular. As a kid, rummaging through library book sales and second-hand bookstore shelves, his art stuck out to me as an embodiment of the books themselves. His portrayals of Rand al’Thor, Gandalf, and the Eagles inspired me to not only read those books, but to explore his art as well.

classic sci fi book covers red planet

Aside from fantasy masterpieces, Sweet was also known for his covers of Heinlein novels. While simple, the cover for the 1981 edition of Red Planet perfectly embodies the sci fi feel of Mars, while not being so weird it’s inaccessible.

The image of a massive Martian monster striding through a marsh of big frond leaves is serene, isn’t it?

Frank Frazetta’s The Moon Trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Frank Frazetta has a very specific style, and he’s gained renown for his work on Conan and Tarzan novels. He pits the classic, muscular heroes against hideous monsters with malicious eyes and sharp teeth.

He did a set of covers for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Moon Trilogy, which was originally serialized in Argosy magazine from 1923 to 1925. Later, the series was reprinted in a few different editions, and Franzetta did the cover art for the 1978 reprint.

The art for The Moon Men, specifically, gives me a Hercules vibe, crossed with the scene from Star Wars where Luke is facing off against the Rankor. Frazetta does a great job of portraying conflict, and as I looked into more of his work, he has a keen sense of contrast. A lot of his paintings and classic sci fi book covers have a clear delineation from dark to light, making them super interesting.

Chris Foss’ Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov

The Foundation series is one of Asimov’s best works, and it was recently adapted for television. But, before it came to Apple TV, it had a lot of different imagery associated with it.

The series has been reprinted multiple times, but the edition that sticks out to me is the 1976 reprint with covers by Chris Foss.

classic sci fi book covers chris foss

Foss’ paintings usually focus on mechanical things, like spaceships, vehicles, or robots. He’s done designs from the Dune universe, as well as other military science fiction books.

Perhaps the most intriguing part about his illustrations for the 1976 Foundation books is the simplicity of them. The covers place an immense focus on the space ships, which perfectly reflect light and seem almost like a photograph. And the background is almost pure blue, presenting an interesting contrast between the hard light of the ships in the foreground.

Bruce Pennington’s Out of their Minds by Clifford D. Simak

Bruce Pennington is one of those sci fi illustrators that took their game to the next level. He’s worked on over 200 book covers for big-name writers, including Asimov, Heinlein, Aldiss, and Herbert.

However, the classic sci fi book cover that stuck out to me was for the 1973 edition of Clifford D. Simak’s Out of Their Minds.

Now, I’ve never read this book before, but I really want to. The cover Pennington did is fantastic. It’s weird, bright, and unforgettable. It features a huge tower/tree that resembles a brain, set against a barren landscape. It’s eerie. The truck is made of vertebra, and the rocks on the ground resemble molars.

I think this is a great example of how science fiction book covers can entice readers to pick up the book and give it a shot. All the other editions of Simak’s novel don’t stand out to me, but Pennington’s sparks a keen interest in what inspired the art.

At the end of the day, all I wanted to do with this article was talk about some vintage sci fi book covers that stand out more than some modern book covers ever could. I think the golden age of science fiction had a lot of problems – racism, sexism, imperialism, etc.—but it certainly had fantastic art.

What are some classic sci fi book covers that your really love? Let us know in the comments below!

Cool Indie Games For a Laid-Back Weekend

A topic we haven’t delved into very much on Signals is video games. Everyone has their own preference for what kind of video games they enjoy playing. Some people, myself included, love first person shooter games because they can get right into the action.

But, there’s something to be said about laid-back, simple video games that you can sit back and play with a cup of hot chocolate.

And there are certainly many cool indie games out there that fit the bill as relaxing while still being entertaining.

Best Indie Games to Chill Out With

When I’m looking for a new video game that I can play on a weekend morning or Friday evening after work, I tend to deviate toward games without a plot or story involved. As such, these games need refined gameplay and a simple premise to hold up their end of the deal.

Landscape-building and town-building games are particularly special, and happen to be some of the best indie video games out there.

There are a couple that made this list, which is as follows:

  • Dorfromantik
  • Islanders
  • Gris
  • Luna’s Fishing Garden
  • Bad North

Dorfromantik by Toukana Interactive

This is a delightful little game based around fitting hexagonal tiles together to form a vast landscape.

In German, Dorfromantik means “Village Romanticization”, and the game certainly stays true to that theme. Your goal is to create the most expansive landscape possible, connecting fields, forests, villages, rivers, and railways.

You’ll never play two similar games of Dorfromantik. All the tiles are randomly generated, so you can start fresh every game.

best of indie games

This game isn’t without its goals, but they are simple. Certain tiles have challenges associated with them, like pairing up 50 houses in one cluster. There’s a strategy element to it, but nothing overly complex.

Players are rewarded for completing challenges with more tiles to keep the game going. I find myself playing this game for hours at a time, completing quests and aiming for a high score.

Dorfromantik is a must for anyone looking for a cool indie game about building countryside vistas.

Islanders by GrizzlyGames

Islanders is similar to Dorfromantik, but instead of tiles, players are given buildings and farm pieces to place on a randomly generated island.

All the islands are different, and in my five hours of playing it, I don’t think I’ve seen the same island twice.

The goal is to rack up points by placing buildings and farms close to each other. The more points you have, the more buildings you can unlock.

cool indie games islanders

Once you’ve completed fleshing out one island, a new island will appear and you can build that one up from scratch too.

Unlike Dorfromantik, there aren’t any specific quests to complete. The goal is to complete as many islands until you can’t unlock any new buildings.

Islanders is fun, pithy, and something I play after a stressful day.

Gris by Nomada Studio

Gris deviates from the theme a bit because it does have a story. Well, a bit of a story. There isn’t any dialogue, and the minimal plot advances every time the player completes a level.

What I love about this game is its dedication to color. Each time you unlock a new level, the color scheme changes to reflect the character’s emotions.

gris cool indie games

Gris is short, I think I finished it in about 5 hours. But it’s one of those games you can play again and again, and you can go back after you’ve finished to find all the little trinkets hidden across the map.

Gris has won multiple awards, including Best Indie Game at the Italian Video Game Awards, and Best Art at the Titanium Awards.

For those of you looking for a simple game with a bit of a story, Gris is for you.

Luna’s Fishing Garden by Coldwild Games

Luna’s Fishing Garden pairs the relaxing nature of Islanders and Dorfromantik with a bit more structured gameplay.

You play as a young girl, who was lost in a storm and washed up on an archipelago full of fantastic creatures and characters. The goal of the game is to help rebuild the archipelago by planting coconut trees, cattail reeds, and other plants while also uncovering the mysteries of the archipelago’s inhabitants.

cool indie games lunas fishing garden

It’s a fun little game with more story than traditional fishing games. This game is great, as is another Coldwild game, Merchant of the Skies.

Bad North by Plausible Concept and Oskar Stalberg

For people interested in cool indie games with an element of combat, Bad North provides! This game is about protecting multiple different islands against Viking invaders.

It’s not super in-depth, more so about leveling up your generals with ancient artifacts and placing them strategically on the island.

bad north coole indie games

If you’re going to play Bad North, I suggest purchasing the Jotunn Edition. This edition gives you the ability to set skills for your characters before you start playing, and it adds fun names and themes for each of your generals.

At times, Bad North can get kind of intense, but visually it’s pleasing and a game I play all the time.

At the end of the day, you can play these indie games however you want. Play them to de-stress or play them with friends! For me, at least, gaming is all about having fun, and I won’t play a game if I’m not going to have fun doing it.

What cool indie games do you like to play? Let us know in the comments down below.

And if you liked this article, check out some of our other blog posts!

The Best Science Fiction Novellas Money Can Buy

Now, I love short stories. I love reading them, I love writing them, and finding a short story I really enjoy gives me a feeling I can only describe as ecstatic.

But, sometimes, a short story isn’t enough. Sometimes I need more, but not too much more, to flip that satisfaction-switch in my brain.

And that’s when I turn to science fiction novellas.

These long-short stories tack on a few thousand words and can often be read in one sitting, but they have more substance than short stories.

Here are my favorite science fiction novellas!

What Are Science Fiction Novellas?

Before we jump headlong into the best of the best, I want to clear up some things. There are many warring sects of the Internet that claim novellas have to be a certain length, while other corners of the web will vehemently debate you over one or two thousand words.

In this debate, I tend to follow this principle:

Novellas are between 20,000 and 40,000 words. The higher end of that spectrum is usually where I see markets like Tor.com cap their submission guidelines. And they would know, with the exorbitant amount of quality novellas they put out.

And within the novella definition, there’s the novelette, which is anywhere from 10,000 to 17,000 words.

That being said, some novellas fall into a grey area. When trying to publish my cyberpunk naturalist novella, TechnoRonin, I found that 24k words was a weird limbo. Not long enough to justify printing, too long to publish in a magazine.

So, I guess here we are, back to square one.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

ISBN: 9780765397539

Publish Date: 2017

all systems red science fiction novella

Speaking of Tor.com, no science fiction novella list would be complete without All Systems Red.

The story follows a Murderbot who would rather spend its days watching romance sitcoms than killing. But as disaster strikes in the little expedition outpost, Murderbot is forced to kill or be killed.

It’s a pithy, fun novella, and a quick read. It’s the first book in Martha Well’s Murderbot Diaries, of which there are now six books.

Empire Star by Samuel R. Delany

ISBN: 9780553234251

Publication Date: 1966

science fiction novella empire star

I think I’ve mentioned Empire Star before, but it’s too good not to talk about it again.

Samuel R. Delany, one of the giants of science fiction, brings a unique take to the space opera genre. In Empire Star, a young simplex, Comet Jo, starts on a journey to bring a message to Empire Star. Throughout the story, we see Jo’s cognitive development framed against the every-growing conflicts around him.

Delany plays a lot with chronological storytelling in this novella, starting off in a linear fashion, and eventually moving to a less linear structure.

For that reason, Empire Star can be kind of difficult to read, but it’s well worth it in the end.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

ISBN: 9780765387868

Publication Date: 2016

the ballad of black tom science fiction novellas

While this one isn’t a science fiction novella in the strictest sense of the term, it’s definitely a story you’ll want to read if you’re a fan of weird horror.

The Ballad of Black Tom is loosely based on the H.P. Lovecraft story, “The Horror at Red Hook,” but written with a modern voice.

The story follows Tommy Tester, a thief disguised as a musician. He gets roped into an ancient ritual involving blood, Lovecraftian horrors, and arcane tools.

The books puts a good spin on the classic Lovecraft story, but from the perspective of a young black man in Harlem.

A good read, for sure, but make sure your lights are on.

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

ISBN: 09781596063174

Publication Date: 2010

the lifecycle of software objects science fiction novellas

This novella was Ted Chang’s first hardcover novella, but it’s still a work of art.

As the name suggests, it follows a fledgling artificial intelligence as it grows into a “digital pet”. Ana, the main character, raises the AI as her own over the course of 20 years.

The story plucks at our moral heartstrings, as it debates the questions surrounding AI: Are they human? Should we treat them as human?

Definitely a must read for anyone interested in advanced intelligence science fiction.

War Cry by Brian McClellan

ISBN: 9781250170163

Publication Date: 2018

war cry science fiction novellas

If you’re a fan of sci fi war stories, this one is for you. McClellan takes dieselpunk themes with tanks, bolt-action rifles, and airplanes and pairs it with shapeshifting wizards.

The story follows Teado and his small group of comrades as they attempt a risky resupply run, only to discover a magical secret that could change the war.

This science fiction novella is short, but it packs a great punch. Planes and monsters make a perfect pair.

And that’s a wrap! There are plenty of other science fiction novellas out there, and many speculative novellas beyond that. I personally really enjoyed Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey and Inside Job by Connie Willis.

What sci fi novellas do you love? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Spooky Speculative Fiction Short Stories

We’re all familiar with speculative fiction short stories that instill a keen sense of dread in our hearts. When we think of classic horror stories, we might throw our minds to Frankenstein, Dracula, or other Gothic terrors.

But there are many more stories out there that leave readers huddled under their covers, sleeping with the lights on.

As far as spooky speculative fiction short stories go, you might be familiar with the big ones. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, and Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” all ring a bell.

But from deep in the annals of long-gone spec fic magazines, there come new contenders for the throne of horror.

Keep reading, if you dare…

Mop-Head by Leah Bodine Drake

“Mop-Head” was first published in the January 1954 issue of Weird Tales. It was later included in various anthologies, the most recent being the Weird Tales Super Pack #1, released in 2018.

This horror short story is set in the open fields of Kentucky, where the Loveless children Dorothy and Harry Todd mourn the loss of their mother, Reba.

But alas! All is not lost; they have a friend in Mop-Head. He’s their confidante and saving grace, their only hope of seeing their real mother again.

Things get creepy as the mysterious amalgamated Mop-Head climbs from his old well, his sole purpose to fulfill his promise to the young Loveless children.

Drake’s style dribbles unsettling imagery throughout the whole story. Take, for example, the line: “From darkness and silence and damp, out of earth-mold and wet leaves and blown dandelions, of scum and spiders’ legs and ants’ mandibles and the brittle bones of moles, it formed a shape and a sentience.”

The slow buildup of horrifying imagery is what makes this story interesting, and the quick resolution in the end reassures us that everything will be alright.

Do take this story with a grain of salt. Written nearly 70 years ago, the dialect of the African American characters reads like Mark Twain, and was a bit off-putting.

Here’s a reading of “Mop-Head” by my friend Douglas Gwilym.

“Miriam” by Truman Capote

“Miriam” first appeared in the June 1945 issue of Mademoiselle magazine, and was one of Truman Capote’s very first short stories.

Unlike “Mop-Head”, there are no abysmal horrors to be found here. Instead, a mysterious little girl, Miriam, seemingly haunts an old woman named Mrs. Miller.

Capote’s sense for setting is unmatched, and he instills a cold, creepy tone into a once harmless story with this line: “Within the last hour the weather had turned cold again; like blurred lenses, winter clouds cast a shade over the sun, and the skeleton of an early dusk colored the sky.”

“Miriam” reminds me of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, but with far less of a clear answer as to what’s happening. There are many interpretations of “Miriam” and all of them are equally as creepy. This story definitely fits the bill as a spooky speculative fiction short story.

speculative fiction short stories
From the 2007 short film, Miriam, based on Capote’s story


“Spider Mansion” by Fritz Leiber

“Spider Mansion” was originally published in the September 1942 issue of Weird Tales. It comes from one of the founding fathers of sword and sorcery, Fritz Leiber.

The story starts of like all classic horror stories do, at an ancient mansion in the midst of a thunderstorm. Tom and Helen Egan call upon their old friend Malcolm Orne. They are much surprised when they’re greeted by a seven-foot giant instead of the three-foot tall Malcolm they used to know.

“Spider Mansion” operates on the fringes of science fiction, but right in the middle of horror. As the name suggest, there’s no lack of creepy crawlies in this speculative fiction short story.

And like “Mop-Head”, it should be read with a grain of salt. The slight racism of Malcolm’s character makes him that much more deplorable.

“The Portrait” by Nikolai Gogol

This is by far the oldest speculative fiction story on this list, and it falls in line with more Gothic, classic literature.

“The Portrait” by the Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol was first seen in Arabesques, a short story collection published in 1835.

The story follows the rise and fall of a young artist, Andrey Petrovich Chartkov, known in the story as Tchartkoff. He purchases an eerie painting of an old man with his last few coins, but is pleasantly surprised when the portrait produces a vast sum of money, seemingly from thin air.

speculative fiction short stories
A mysterious portrait of Nikolai Gogol himself

This story is a real slow-burner, and a bit long-winded at times, but the imagery, especially in the first few scenes, is incredibly profound.

Even in 1835, people where frightened of moving eyeballs in portraits!

You can read the full story here.

A Microfiction: “Active Imagination” by Michelle Wilson

While doing some casual reading on the web, I came across this microfiction piece by Michelle Wilson, published on 50-Word Stories.

It’s weird, and takes a turn at the end I never expected. But I like it, and maybe you will too.

Hopefully these spooky stories send a shiver down your spine, I know they certainly did for me. May you all have a hauntingly swell Halloween!

The Best Science Fiction Books For Teens

Young readers are starting to consume sci fi literature with voracious speeds, but for those just getting into the genre, where do you start?

Everyone raves about Divergent, Hunger Games, and Shadow and Bone, but what other science fiction books for teens are out there?

Here’s a selection of the best sci fi books for young adults, old and new alike.

Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert Heinlein

Length: 258 pages

ISBN: 9780345324412

Published In: 1958

science fiction books for teens heinlein

Heinlein enthralls readers with the tale of Kip Russell and his dream of traveling to the moon. Russell gets up to all kinds of shenanigans, but it all starts when he participates in an advertising jingle-writing contest in order to win a fully-paid ticket to the moon. Instead, he wins a used spacesuit, which he fixes and names Oscar.

To help pay for college, Kip considers selling the suit but decides to go out with it for one last walk, and suddenly he starts receiving signals from an 11-year-old girl called Peewee and an alien friend called Mother Thing. 

Moments later, a spaceship lands almost on top of him, and it is his alien friends, but the three of them are quickly kidnapped by the alien Wormface. The story follows their escape and adventures in space.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Length: 240 pages

ISBN: 9780544336261

Published In: 1993

science fiction books for teens lowry

The Giver is one of those books that people either love or they hate. Some middle/high schools make this book required reading, which might be why it’s loathed by so many. But, it’s a classic in the YA sci fi genre, and a large influence to more recent dystopian sci fi.

The Giver tells the story of 12-year-old Jonas, living in a small community where everyone gets a life-assigned role.

When the day to receive his life assignment comes, Jonas gets an unusual and high-status role called the Receiver. This role requires certain training from the present Receiver of town, which costs him his relationship with his friends and family and a lifetime of abnormal missions and events.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Length: 416

ISBN: 9781250056948

Published: 1962

science fiction books for teens l'engle

Another sci-fi classic, Wrinkle follows 13-year-old Meg Murry, the child genius brother Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe traveling through the universe to find Meg’s father disappeared while studying and working on the scientific phenomenon called the “Tesseract”.

A Wrinkle in Time was recently adapted into a film starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Length:440

ISBN: 9780061969577

Published In: 2010

science fiction books for teens lore

I Am Number Four is the first book in a seven book series, and it follows the lives of multiple refugee aliens on Earth.

John Smith, who is the titular number Four, is thrust into a galactic battle to avenge his home planet, Lorien, and to protect Earth from the Mogadorians. But, the high school kid can’t do it by himself, so he enlists the help of his fellow students and his few remaining alien compatriots.

If you are looking to start on a saga, maybe you just found it!

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Length: 96 pages

ISBN: 9780756416935

Published In: 2015

science fiction books for teens okorafor

Binti has won multiple awards, and is revered as one of the staples of modern Afrofuturism.

The main character, Binti, is the first of the Himba people to attend Oomza University, a high-status learning institution in the galaxy. But to attend, Binti must abdicate her place with her family to travel the galaxy with strangers who don’t respect her customs and beliefs.

Binti, and it’s subsequent novels, are an in-depth coming of age tale, perfect for anyone just entering middle or high school.

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith

Length: 448

ISBN: 9781405293983

Published In: 2018

science fiction books for teens smith

This book offers even more space-traveling fun! The main character, Cager Messer, who is transported to the Tennessee, his father’s lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon, next to his friends Billy and Rowan.

While Earth destroys itself by going through several simultaneous wars, the robots onboard the cruise start becoming more and more insane and cannibalistic, making the boys wonder if they will be stranded alone in space for the rest of their lives.

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Length: 464

ISBN: 9781481496346

Published In: 2017

science fiction books for teen suvada

Truly a book for our times, This Mortal Coil tells the story of Catarina, a girl trying to decrypt the clues for a vaccine against a devastating virus developed by her dad, the world’s most renowned geneticist.

This dystopian thriller is one of the best science fiction books for teens because it directly relates to the dangers of the world we’re all living in right now.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Length: 608

ISBN: 9780553499117

Published In: 2015

science fiction books for teens kaufman

Teen romance gets sticky when the end of the world is near! Kady’s planet gets invaded by enemies during a war between two rival megacorporations, and both Kady and Ezra are forced to evacuate together.

While new threats come to the surface, Kady realizes that the only one able to help her is her ex-boyfriend, who she swore never to speak to again.

A sci-fi novel with a touch of teen drama? Sign me up. Plus, there’s plenty to soak in, with a whopping 600 pages!

Did you enjoy our selection of the best science fiction books for teens? Let us know in the comments if you have read any of them or which you’ll be reading next!

And if you want some more great science fiction stories, interviews, and book recommendations, consider subscribing to Galaxy’s Edge Magazine.

6 Must-Listen-To Science Fiction Podcasts

Listening to a great science fiction podcast is one of the many joys of a long car ride. Frankly, they’re the only thing that keeps me sane when driving long distances. But if you’ve never delved into the world of sci fi podcasts, 2021 is the perfect time to start.

You might be interested in discussion-based podcasts, with author interviews and thoughtful conversations. Or, there are story-based podcasts, with ongoing plots and characters, a serialized drama, if you will.

And if you still haven’t found the perfect indie science fiction podcast for your ears, we got you! Here are 6 of the best science fiction podcasts out there.

  • The Geek’s Guide to The Galaxy
  • We Fix Space Junk
  • Within The Wires
  • The Great Chameleon War
  • Murmurs
  • The Geek State Podcast

The Geek’s Guide to The Galaxy

science fiction podcast

Created by John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley; hosted by Kirtley. The ongoing podcast is discussion-based, and it features interviews and conversations with authors and media people about fantasy and sci-fi in books, movies, comics, and games. It also talks about related subjects such as history, science, and critical thinking.

The podcast has 481 episodes. Each episode has an average length of 1 hour and 50 minutes, and you can listen to it on Youtube or Google Podcasts.

For more information, visit their website geeksguideshow.com.

We Fix Space Junk

sci fi podcast

Created and produced by Battle Bird Productions, the ongoing, story-based podcast, is an award-winning dark sci-fi sitcom, following the space tales of Kilner and Samantha, two repairwomen traveling the galaxy, dodging bullets, meeting new creatures, and carrying out odd jobs on the fringes of the law.

The podcast is hosted by Beth Crane and Rebecca Evans, alongside numerous voice actors such as Vicky Baron and James Carney.

The podcast has a total of 81 episodes. Each episode has an average of 10 minutes and can be listened to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. You can also buy special episodes of the podcast on battlebird.productions.

Within The Wires

science fiction podcast

Created and produced by Night Vale Presents, the Within The Wires podcast is an ongoing, story-based podcast with a dramatic anthology in the style of epistolary fiction.

Each season follows a different type of story, with different narrators and timelines.

The podcast is on its fifth season so far, a 10-episode season following Indra and Nan’s romantic relationship, all episodes in the form of voicemails narrated by Amiera Darwish. Janina Mathewson is the co-creator of the podcast, and the host of the show is Lee LeBreton with voice acting by Julia Morizawa.

The podcast has a total of 40 episodes. Each episode has an average of 16-18 minutes and can be listened to on Spotify, Youtube, Google Podcasts, and Audible. More information on nightvalepresents.com.

The Great Chameleon War

science fiction podcast

Created and produced by Justin Hellstrom, the ongoing, story-based podcast is a rated-m surreal audio drama about altering reptiles, cursed dreamscape explorers, and caustic imagination. They call it the Nesting Zone: a surreal rim of the jungle around Mt. Tahoma, prowled by transdimensional reptiles.

The Amanuensis (Justin Hellstrom) catalogs his expedition up the volcano slope and records stories of explorers caught in the evolving dreamscape. The podcast is currently on its second season, with 05 episodes.

Each episode has an average length of 20-30 minutes and can be listened to on many platforms, such as Youtube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podchaser, Transcripts, Deezer, Audible, and Google Podcasts.

You can also support them on Patreon and buy their merch available on their website thegreatchameleonwar.com.

Murmurs

science fiction podcast

A BBC Sounds original hosted by James Robinson and Ella Watts. The story-based podcast tells ten mind-altering tales from some of the best new drama podcasters.

The podcast has many writers, like Chris Sugden, Eno Mfon, Jesse Schwenk, Janina Mathewson from Within the Wires podcast, and Beth Crane from We Fix Space Junk podcast.

The podcast has ten episodes in total, with the last episode aired on January 16th of 2020. Each episode has an average of 20-30 minutes and can be listened to on Podchaser, Google Podcasts, and BBC Sounds.

For more information, visit bbc.co.uk. Be careful not to confuse it with Loud Murmurs (another podcast)!

The Geek State Podcast

sci fi podcast

Created, produced, and hosted by Chris Luby, the discussion-based, ongoing pop culture podcast discusses the latest news, reviews, and conversations about various topics and genres: Star Wars, Marvel Universe, you name it.

The podcast has a total of 59 episodes. Each episode is an average of 1 hour and is available on various platforms such as Audible, Podchaser, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and even on their PodBean website thegeekstatepodcast.com.

Did you like our list? Do you know or already listen to any of the podcasts we mentioned? Let us know in the comments!

And if you enjoy this kind of content, keep following our blog for more topics!

5 Popular Sci-Fi Books from the Asian Diaspora

Science fiction has long been criticized for its lack of non-white, non-male writers, and that might have been the case in the early days of sci-fi literature. But in the 21st century, a large number of the most popular sci-fi books were written by the same denomination that were excluded from the genre.

In recent years, many exceptional hard science fiction, cyperpunk, and dystopian novels have come from the Asian and Asian-American diaspora.

Authors like Cixin Liu, Xia Jia, and Ken Liu have made waves in the genre—and beyond—with their fiction, and they’re not alone.

So, without further ado, here are five popular sci-fi books from Asian and Asian-American authors.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

popular sci fi books The Three Body problem Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem is perhaps one of the most famous Chinese science fiction novels. The novel won a Galaxy and a Hugo award, and has been the subject of much praise. In fact, Barack Obama plugged it, saying the book was “just wildly imaginative, really interesting.”

The novel is the first book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, first published as a novel in 2008. Ken Liu, a notable science fiction writer and translator, brought The Three-Body Problem to English readers in 2014.

The Three-Body Problem jumps back and forth between three, interconnected plot lines. But what ties the plot lines together is Cixin Liu’s understanding, and explanation, of complex scientific concepts, everything from astronomy to physics. The language is vibrant and visceral, and Ken Liu’s translation comes with footnotes to help readers understand the Chinese colloquialisms and references, which makes the novel all the more intriguing.

If you love reading marriages of science and class politics, this book is right up your alley.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

popular sci fi books Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit is intense, complex, and an absolute page-turner. As Yoon Ha Lee’s debut novel, it showcases his linguistic skill as well as his keen sense of plot.

Ninefox Gambit is the first of the Machineries of Empire series, and it won the Locus Award for Best First Novel in 2017.

The story focuses on a young military captain and the spirit of a 400-year-old general as they are thrust into the thick of an intergalactic war.

For readers inexperienced with Yoon Ha Lee’s distinct sense of style, this novel might come off as a bit jarring at first. The visceral descriptions, complex worldbuilding, and throw-you-right-in-the-middle-of-it beginning can make the novel feel inaccessible.

If this is the case, take a look at some of Yoon Ha Lee’s shorter works first. I suggest “Knight of Chains, Deuce of Stars,” and “The Starship and the Temple Cat.”

After you read some of his short stories, come back to Ninefox Gambit. It’s certainly a top-rated science fiction book, for new and old sci-fi enthusiasts alike.

Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan

popular sci fi books Waste Tide Chen Quifan

Originally published in 2013, Waste Tide was Chen Quifan’s debut novel. The book was translated into English by Ken Liu in 2019 and received rave reviews from Western audiences.

Waste Tide tackles issues of human waste, particularly e-waste, as well as class-politics in a dystopian future. The setting of the novel, the Silicon Isle, was based on Chen Quifan’s childhood home in the Shantou prefecture, China.

The Shantou prefecture has achieved notoriety as one of the world’s largest e-waste dumping sites, where a few businessmen made fortunes on the labor and misfortune of local waste-sorters. This too makes it into Waste Tide; when a sentient WWII virus incites a class-war, pitting the locals and waste-workers against the wealthy families reaping the benefit of others’ misery.

If you’re a fan of novels with environmental themes, vast scrap-heap vistas, and fights against social injustice, Waste Tide hands you all three and then some.

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

popular sci fi books Vagabonds Hao Jingfang

Vagabonds was originally published in 2016, and was then translated by Ken Liu and released to Western audiences in 2020. It is Hao Jingfang’s first novel, and it was met with high praise.

Hao Jingfang also landed a Hugo Award for her novelette, Folding Beijing, becoming the first Chinese woman to ever win a Hugo!

Science fiction is ripe with interplanetary and interspecies diplomacy, but Hao Jingfang takes that idea to the next level. Set 200 years in the future, the citizens of Earth and Mars are at odds and a team of young ambassadors must bridge the gap between their birth planet and humanity’s ancestral home.

Hao Jingfang has a background in both physics and economics, which she employs to expert degree in Vagabonds. If you’re a fan of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, Vagabonds is a book you have to read.

Clone (Generation 14) by Priya Sarrukai Chabria

popular sci fi books Clone Priya Sarrukai Chabria

This book is a bit different from the others we’ve discussed. While this Clone hasn’t won awards and gained worldwide recognition, it’s still a striking piece, and a worthy addition to this list.

Priya Sarrukai Chabria, a well-known Indian poet, weaves together the science fiction genre and the aesthetics of classic Indian poetry. The result is a haunting dystopian world of governmental control and quiet resistance.

If you’re looking for a different take on the cyperpunk/dystopian genre, Clone fits the bill. Priya Sarrukai Chabria’s unique voice and keen understanding of psychology makes for an engaging read.

NOTE: In 2008, Zubaan Books published Priya Sarrukai Chabria’s novel Generation 14, which was then reprinted under the title Clone in 2019. If you’re looking to buy this book, get the Clone edition. The first edition is quite expensive and hard to find.