137 episodes

Bestselling and award-winning science fiction authors talk about their new books and much more in candid conversations with host Rob Wolf. In recent episodes, he's talked with Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries) about endearing-but-deadly bots, Sam J. Miller (Blackfish City) about “hopeful" dystopias, Daryl Gregory (Spoonbenders) about telekinesis and espionage, Meg Elison (The Book of Etta) about memory and the power of writing, Mur Lafferty (Six Wakes) about cloning and Agatha Christie, Maggie Shen King (An Excess Male) about the unintended consequences of China's one-child policy, and Omar El Akkad (American War) about the murky motivations of a terrorist.

New Books in Science Fiction Marshall Poe

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    • 4.7 • 3 Ratings

Bestselling and award-winning science fiction authors talk about their new books and much more in candid conversations with host Rob Wolf. In recent episodes, he's talked with Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries) about endearing-but-deadly bots, Sam J. Miller (Blackfish City) about “hopeful" dystopias, Daryl Gregory (Spoonbenders) about telekinesis and espionage, Meg Elison (The Book of Etta) about memory and the power of writing, Mur Lafferty (Six Wakes) about cloning and Agatha Christie, Maggie Shen King (An Excess Male) about the unintended consequences of China's one-child policy, and Omar El Akkad (American War) about the murky motivations of a terrorist.

    P. Djèlí Clark, "Ring Shout" (Tordotcom, 2020)

    P. Djèlí Clark, "Ring Shout" (Tordotcom, 2020)

    P. Djèlí Clark’s new novella, Ring Shout (Tordotcom, 2020) is a fantasy built around an ugly moment in American history—the emergence of the second Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century.
    The story follows three monster hunters: Maryse Boudreaux, who wields a magic sword; Chef, who had previously disguised herself as a man to serve with the Harlem Hellfighters during World War I; and Sadie, a sharpshooter who calls her Winchester rifle Winnie.
    The monsters are Ku Kluxes—member of the KKK who have transformed into huge, six-eyed, pointy-toothed, flesh-eating demons.
    The idea to turn hate-filled racists into larger-than-life demons came from Clark’s work as a historian. (In addition to an award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Clark is a professor of history at the University of Connecticut.)
    When reading narratives of formerly enslaved individuals collected by the Federal Writers' Project, he’d been struck by the way they described the KKK. “They often talk about them … wearing simply a pillowcase, sometimes having bells on them, sometimes having horns or tails. And they speak of them as haints, that is as ghosts and spirits,” Clark says.
    Clark’s two careers—historian and fiction writer—have grown side by side (his first major publication, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, was published the day he defended his PhD.) While he has tried to keep the careers separate (by writing under a pen name), Clark believes they complement each other.
    Fiction can help restore stories lost to history, he says.
    “Finding the voices of enslaved people, finding out what they thought is very difficult. There weren't a lot of people going around asking them what they thought during that time. And so what you have to do, for instance, if you're trying to understand an enslaved person, you might read a lot of court records or you might try to read what their owners thought and then you have to speculate and piece together that enslaved person's life.”
    Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.
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    • 32 min
    Jasper Fforde, "The Constant Rabbit" (Viking, 2020)

    Jasper Fforde, "The Constant Rabbit" (Viking, 2020)

    In Jasper Fforde’s The Constant Rabbit (Viking, 2020), residents of the United Kingdom live among human-sized anthropomorphized rabbits.
    The rabbits make fine citizens—more than fine, in fact. They in live harmony with the environment (embracing sustainable practices like veganism, for instance). They have a strong sense of social responsibility. They’re also smart: The average rabbit IQ is about 20 percent higher than the average human IQ.
    Yet despite their upstanding qualities, the haters keep hating.
    Fforde is an accomplished satirist and uses humor to spotlight some of our ugliest impulses, including racism and xenophobia. In The Constant Rabbit, a populist party known as TwoLegsGood has parlayed leporiphobia (fear of rabbits) into a successful political movement. In control of the government, TwoLegsGood is planning to segregate the nation’s more than 1 million rabbits in a “MegaWarren” where they will be under round-the-clock surveillance and their freedoms curtailed.
    TwoLegsGood’s treatment of rabbit has echoes of all caste-based and hate-filled societies, from Jim Crow to apartheid to the Nazis. “When it comes to the sort of demonizing of the minority other, there's just so much to draw on. You don't need to go to any specific place in the world or a specific time. You can just pick and choose from here, there and everywhere,” Fforde says.
    “The rabbits are being got rid of because they're not human. But, of course, one of the first things that any discriminatory group will do against another group of humans will be to dehumanize them, to make them non-human. And this is often done through language. We had a politician recently in the in the U.K. who started referring to immigrants a plague.”
    The novel’s first-person human protagonist, Peter Knox, denies having animus toward rabbits—in fact, he finds himself falling in love with one—and yet he’s forced to come to terms with the fact that he, too, has played a significant role in their oppression.
    “I think the book is hoping to say to people, ‘Look, you cannot look at the hate groups and say “These people are the hate groups. I'm nothing like them.” In fact, perhaps what you should be thinking is “Maybe I am complicit, and in what ways could I possibly be so?” ’
    Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.
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    • 44 min
    Diane Cook, "The New Wilderness" (Harper, 2020)

    Diane Cook, "The New Wilderness" (Harper, 2020)

    Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness (Harper, 2020) is a poignant portrait of a mother and daughter fleeing the polluted cities of a near-future dystopia for a hand-to-mouth existence in the country’s last undeveloped tract. It’s also one of the unusual works of speculative fiction that’s been embraced by the world of high literature by (just this week) reaching the final round of the prestigious Booker Prize.
    Although Cook has lived mostly in cities, she loves spending time in nature and wrote some of The New Wilderness while trekking across the high desert of Oregon.
    “There is something about the expansiveness of lands that are empty that make my imagination feel a lot freer than it usually does in a city,” she says.
    For Cook’s protagonist Bea, the Wilderness State offers the only hope for saving the life of her 5-year-old daughter, Agnes. But as Agnes’ lungs heal from the city’s smog, her relationship with her mother grows strained, suffering rifts that might be typical for a mother and daughter but are magnified by the strain of having to invent a nomadic way of life in a remorseless expanse.
    “The Wilderness State is this very extreme place and this very extreme situation so it pushes everyone to a very extreme version of how they would normally be,” Cook says.
    Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.
     
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    • 36 min
    Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, "NeuroScience Fiction" (Benbella Books, 2020)

    Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, "NeuroScience Fiction" (Benbella Books, 2020)

    In NeuroScience Fiction (Benbella Books, 2020), Rodrigo Quian Quiroga shows how the outlandish premises of many seminal science fiction movies are being made possible by new discoveries and technological advances in neuroscience and related fields. Along the way, he also explores the thorny philosophical problems raised as a result, diving into Minority Report and free will, The Matrix and the illusion of reality, Blade Runner and android emotion, and more. A heady mix of science fiction, neuroscience, and philosophy, NeuroScience Fiction takes us from Vanilla Sky to neural research labs, and from Planet of the Apes to what makes us human. The end result is a sort of bio-technological “Sophie’s World for the 21st Century”, and a compelling update on the state of human knowledge through its cultural expressions in film and art.
    Dr. Rodrigo Quian Quiroga is the director of the Centre for Systems Neuroscience and the Head of Bioengineering at the University of Leicester. His research focuses on the principles of visual perception and memory, and is credited with the discovery of "Concept cells" or "Jennifer Aniston neurons" - neurons in the human brain that play a key role in memory formation.
    Dr. John Griffiths (@neurodidact) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, and Head of Whole Brain Modelling at the CAMH Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics. His research group (www.grifflab.com) works at the intersection of computational neuroscience and neuroimaging, building simulations of human brain activity aimed at improving the understanding and treatment of neuropsychiatric and neurological illness.
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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Madeline Ashby, "ReV: The Machine Dynasty, Book III" (Angry Robot, 2020)

    Madeline Ashby, "ReV: The Machine Dynasty, Book III" (Angry Robot, 2020)

    Writers and readers of science fiction love stories about artificial intelligence, robots, and mechanical beings whose sentience mirrors, matches or exceeds that of humans.
    The stories stay fresh for the reasons stories about humans do—sentience confers individuality, which provides endless permutations for character and plot.
    Madeline Ashby’s trilogy, The Machine Dynasty, explores the limits of sentience, the meaning of free will, and what it means to look, act, and feel like a human but be denied basic human rights.
    Published in July, the third book, ReV (Angry Robot, 2020), shows readers the results of a final face-off between self-replicating humanoid robots and humans. That the robots, known as vN, want their freedom, is natural. What isn’t natural is the failsafe programmed into their consciousnesses that requires them to aid humans in distress or danger—or self-destruct.
    With the failsafe in place, humans use and abuse the vN as they please—as mates, sex objects, laborers. “The failsafe became a way to talk about free will and consent,” Ashby says.
    Robot stories are usually written from a human perspective, but Ashby tells the story from the perspectives of the vN. “There's a ton of science fiction stories about humans who can't tell robots apart from other humans. But there are very few stories about robots who can't tell humans apart from each other, or robots who are the ones judging what a human being actually is.”
    Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.
     
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    • 56 min
    Premee Mohamed, "Beneath the Rising" (Solaris, 2020)

    Premee Mohamed, "Beneath the Rising" (Solaris, 2020)

    Premee Mohamed’s debut novel, Beneath the Rising (Solaris, 2020) came out in March, but don’t call her a new writer.
    “I find it funny that people refer to people who have just started to get published as new writers. I finished my first novel when I was 12. I'm not a new writer. What I am is new to publishing, and it's so weird to me that people conflate the two, as if you just started writing at the moment you started getting published,” Mohamed says.
    She’d completed the first draft of Beneath the Rising in 2002, around the time she’d received her undergraduate degree in molecular genetics, but it wasn’t until 2015 that she decided to try and publish it. Until then, writing was “very much my private little hobby.”
    Beneath the Rising combines horror, science fiction and fantasy in its portrayal of the complicated friendship of Nick and Joanna (Johnny). They’d been close since they were young children despite many differences (she’s a rich, white, world-famous scientist; he’s a poor, brown, ordinary guy). But their relationship gets tested when Johnny’s latest invention—a clean reactor the size of a shoebox—unleashes Lovecraftian monsters, and, in the process of helping Johnny battle this cosmic evil, Nick uncovers secrets that change his view of Johnny.
    The monsters pose the ultimate foil for Johnny, who, like many scientists, wants to both understand the world and control it.
    “As a scientist,” Mohamed explains, “she wants [the monsters] to be understandable, to be comprehensible. And, of course, they can't be reduced down to something you can study in the lab and that just drives her berserk.”
    Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.
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    • 32 min

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