Clicky

22 SFFH Books We’re Looking Forward to in March 2024

Written By Maria Haskins

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and reviewer of speculative fiction. She lives just outside Vancouver with a husband, two children, several birds, a snake, and a very large black dog. Her work has appeared in several publications, and is also available in her short story collections Wolves & Girls (2023), and Six Dreams About the Train (2021).

Maelstrom and Other Martian Tales, by Kage Baker

This short story collection includes all of Kage Baker’s Mars stories in one neat package: the novellas “The Empress of Mars,” (which won her the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award) and “Where the Golden Apples Grow,” plus “Plotters and Shooters,” “Maelstrom,” and “Attlee and the Long Walk.” I mean, do I really need to say anything more? This collection will give you a ticket right into Baker’s captivating future Martian society with its Celts and colonialists, ice Haulers, missionaries, frontier people, and terraformers. Yes, it sounds freaking amazing. As of right now, it looks like it’s only available in hardcover.

Small Gods of Calamity, by Sam Kyung Yoo

I was lucky enough to read (and blurb) an advance copy of this novella, and I had high hopes because I’d already read some great short fiction by Sam Kyung Yoo (for example, “Nextype” in Strange Horizons, or “The End of a Painted World” in Fantasy Magazine.) Turns out, my high expectations were exceeded and then some. This is a gripping supernatural murder mystery, set in South Korea, where Kim Han-gil, Seoul’s only spirit detective, is investigating a string of apparent deaths that might have ties to a tragedy in his own past. The story plays out partly in our everyday world and partly in the dangerous world of spirits and ghosts: “Ghosts that speak in smoke. Spirits with teeth like glass.” Wrapped inside that story of spirits, magic, and murder, is a deeply moving story about two people, scarred by tragedy, coming together and connecting against all odds. My only hope now is that this is not the last time I get to meet spirit detective Kim Han-gil.

Baby X, by Kira Peikoff

In this near-future science fiction thriller, companies can create egg or sperm from any cells taken from a person, meaning that celebrities “face the alarming potential of meeting biological children they never conceived.” Profiting off this technology is a black-market site called The Vault, dedicated to stealing celebrity DNA. To protect himself, famous singer Trace Thorne hires Ember, a bio-security guard, to ensure his biological safety. Things get complicated when Ember starts falling for Thorne, and a woman claims to be pregnant with his child. This whole DNA-stealing-for-pregnancy tech-idea sounds both creepy and invasive and I’m interested to see how it’s all put together in this mix of thriller/romance/tech-shenanigans.

Be the Sea, by Clara Ward

Ward’s book is set in 2039, in a world beset by environmental problems, “complicated by bioengineered microbes and a plot to silence scientists” (which definitely sounds like believable near-future stuff). Marine scientist Wend Taylor is on board a zero-emissions boat headed across the Pacific together with nature photographer Viola Yang and her cousin Aljon. On their journey to Hawai’i the three trade stories: “Story by story, the trio rethink secrets, flying dreams, and how they experience their own minds.” And once they arrive at their destination they get pulled into new mysteries and discoveries. You can get a taste of Be the Sea in Ward’s short story “Dream the Sea,” set in the same world as the novel, and out right now in Small Wonders. Final note: Ward will be donating 100% of their royalties from this book to conservation efforts for the global ocean.

The Invisible Hotel, by Yeji Y. Ham

Described as a “work of literary horror in the gothic tradition” and “a startling, speculative tale of political and ideological adolescence in the long afterlife of the Korean War,” this book by Korean Canadian author Yeji Y. Ham follows Yewon, a young woman who has recurring dreams of a hotel with infinite rooms where a quiet terror stalks her. Real and surreal horrors surround Yewon in waking life too, and I am intrigued by the description of how Yewon’s mother washes the fragmenting bones of their ancestors in the same “decrepit bathtub” where Yewon and her siblings were born. You can find a tantalizing excerpt of the book on the publisher’s website. The very first lines read:

In the bathtub
I was born,
the bones were quiet.

The Poisons We Drink, by Bethany Baptiste

Baptiste’s debut novel is set in an alternate version of the United States, a place divided between humans and witchers, where “love potions are weaponized against hate and prejudice, sisterhood is unbreakable, and self-love is life and death.” The book follows Venus Stoneheart, a witcher in Washington D.C. who brews illegal love potions to support her family. After tragedy strikes, Venus is pulled into the corrupt world of politics, power, and magic in D.C. In an interview at Dr. Bickmore’s YA Wednesday, Baptiste says that the book grew out of the grief journal she started writing after the 2016 election, a journal that became “a tribute of Black sisterhood, the struggles and strides of Black people, and the strength it takes to wake up early each day in a country that doesn’t love you.”

The Truth of the Aleke, by Moses Ose Utomi

This fantasy novella is the second installment in Utomi’s Forever Desert series, and it takes place 500 years after the events of the first novella in the series, 2023’s The Lies of the Ajungo. The Truth of the Aleke is set in the City of Truth where seventeen-year-old Osi is a Junior Peacekeeper. The City has survived three centuries of being besieged by the Cult of Tutu, but things come to a head when Aleke, the mysterious leader of the Cult, commits a massacre in the City and steals the sacred God’s Eyes. In the aftermath, Osi is sent out to “destroy the Cult of Tutu, bring back the God’s Eyes, and discover the truth of the Aleke.” An intriguing sidebar: In an interview at Black Gate, Utomi mentions that the Forever Desert series is intended to be a trilogy of standalone novellas, and that the third novella will again jump forward 500 years (!).

Sign-up for Letters From The Psychopomp

a weekly letter from The Psychopomp about Death, and the latest from Psychopomp.com:

    These Fragile Graces, This Fugitive Heart, by Izzy Wasserstein

    I was already a fan of Wasserstein’s short fiction when I read an advance reading copy of this novella (check out her wonderful “She Blooms and the World is Changed” in Lightspeed, for example), and she absolutely hits it out of the cyber-noir park with this book. It’s described as a “queer, noir technothriller of fractured identity and corporate intrigue.” In the story, we follow Dora, a trans woman with a complicated past who is investigating a murder mystery. Making matters more difficult is that the murder involves the anarchist commune Dora once called home, but which she left under less than ideal circumstances. It’s a terrific tale with a noir vibe, a hard sci-fi edge, and real human depth as Dora tangles with nefarious corporate powers, old friends, old exes, and family.

    Inhumans and Other Stories, edited and translated by Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay

    This is a collection of early science fiction written during the colonial period in India, and it includes the first English translation of a cult classic: the satirical 1935 novella “The Inhumans” by Hemendra Kumar Roy (described as “one of the giants of early Bangla literature”). Also included in the anthology are Jagadananda Ray’s “Voyage to Venus” from 1895, Nanigopal Majumdar’s “The Mystery of the Giant” from 1931, and Manoranjan Bhattacharya’s “The Martian Purana” from 1931. The anthology will give English-speaking readers a look at Kalpavigyan, “science fiction written to excite Bengali speakers about science, as well as to persuade them to evolve beyond the limitations of religion, caste, and class…” Chattopadhyay, the book’s editor and translator, is a World Fantasy Award–winning editor, and also the producer of Kalpavigyan: A Speculative Journey, the first documentary film on Indian science fiction.

    Jumpnauts, by Hao Jingfang

    A science fiction thriller by the author of the award-winning novelette “Folding Beijing”? Translated by Ken Liu? And set in the same fictional universe as “Folding Beijing”? I’m in. Jumpnauts is set in 2080, a tense future where the world is divided between the Pacific League of Nations and the Atlantic Division of Nations. Enter a totally unexpected third party: an alien race that is trying to communicate with humanity. Three scientists come together to try to secure peaceful first contact and avoid a military confrontation with the aliens. As the scientists try to decode the signal sent by the aliens, they realize “the answers don’t only lie in deep space, they also lie deep in humanity’s past.” Like I said, I am in.

    Those Beyond the Wall, by Micaiah Johnson

    This sci-fi thriller is set in the same universe as Johnson’s brilliant and award-winning novel The Space Between Worlds (which I might have mentioned in my recent essay/reading list about multiverses here at Psychopomp). In this book, we find ourselves in Ashtown, “a rough-and-tumble desert community” where the Emperor rules “with poisoned claws and an iron fist.” The Emperor relies on Scales, a skilled mechanic and proficient fighter, to help him keep his grip on Ashtown, and when the community is shocked by a series of incomprehensible deaths, Scales is tasked with stopping an invisible killer. I loved Johnson’s take on the future in The Space Between Worlds, and the way she delved into the nuances and complexities of identity, community, and belonging, and I cannot wait to read this.

    Through the Night Like a Snake: Latin American Horror Stories, by multiple authors       

    Ten Latin American authors. Twelve translators. Ten stories where “horror infiltrates the unexpected, taboo regions of the present-day psyche.” With stories about a mysterious fog, a boy exploring the house of a dead fascist, and a story where Kermit the Frog dreams of murder (!) this sounds like an amazing anthology. It features stories by Tomás Downey, Mariana Enriquez, Mónica Ojeda, Lina Munar Guevara, Maximiliano Barrientos, Julian Isaza, Giovanna Rivero, Antonio Diaz Oliva, Claudia Hernández, and Camila Sosa Villada.

    A Voice Calling, by Christopher Barzak

    Well, hello there: this is a Psychopomp title so maybe I’m biased? But also: this book is fabulous. It’s the first novella published by Psychopomp and I scored an early reading copy (staff perk!) and can report that it’s a wonderfully dark, strange, and gorgeously wrought tale. Barzak tells the story of a haunted house which twists its way into the lives of every family that inhabits it through the years. This isn’t just a haunted house story, though. It’s also the story of a community, and about how the house–and the fate of the people affected by the house–becomes a communal tragedy. Barzak’s prose has a mournful, elegiac, almost choral tone as the community, together with one voice, tells us the story of Button House, its deep and terrible roots, and how it consumed all who approached it.

    Bury Your Gays: An Anthology of Tragic Queer Horror, edited by Sofia Ajram

    If the title doesn’t pull you in (how can you resist?), I offer you this description by the publisher, Ghoulish: “A manifestation of ecstasy, heartache, horror and suffering rendered in feverish lyrical prose. Inside are sixteen new stories by some of the genre’s most visionary queer writers.” The list of contributing authors include such luminaries as Cassandra Khaw, Joe Koch, Jonathan Louis Duckworth, Meredith Rose, Charlene Adhiambo, and more.

    Forgotten Sisters, by Cynthia Pelayo

    You know you’re in for a great dark fiction/horror ride in the company of Cynthia Pelayo and this book is her fairy-tale/horror/psychological-suspense adaptation of H.C. Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”. The story is set in Chicago where two sisters, Anna and Jennie, live near the Chicago River in their old family home. After a string of inexplicable drownings, two detectives come calling on the sisters and their investigation might stir up old secrets from Anna and Jennie’s past. I’ve read an excerpt of this book (it’s available on the book’s Amazon page) and it definitely has me hankering for more.

    The Weavers of Alamaxa, by Hadeer Elsbai

    This is the sequel to Elsbai’s fantasy debut, The Daughters of Izdihar, and the final book in her Alamaxa Duology which is inspired by Egyptian history and myth. The weavers of the story “weave” elemental magic, and the main characters are two of these magic-weavers, Nehal and Giorgina, who end up heavily embroiled in a conflict with the Ziranis, a group of fundamentalists opposed to the weaving of magic. The two weavers were brought together in the first book in spite of their many personal, and magical differences, and now they’re facing an even bigger threat in their struggle to smash the patriarchy and expand the rights of women, including the right to study and use their magic. It’s a tale of a tale of “magic, war, betrayal, sisterhood, and love”, and all that sounds pretty awesome to me.

    The Woods All Black, by Lee Mandelo

    I confess that the publisher’s description of this book hooked me with its first line: “The Woods All Black is equal parts historical horror, trans romance, and blood-soaked revenge, all set in 1920s Appalachia.” And then proceeded to hook me further with its last line, which calls it an “Appalachian period piece that explores reproductive justice and bodily autonomy, the terrors of small-town religiosity, and the necessity of fighting tooth and claw to live as who you truly are.” The book’s protagonist is Leslie Bruin who is working for the Frontier Nursing Service and has been assigned to the small community of Spar Creek to “vaccinate the flock, birth babies, and weather the judgements of churchy locals who look at him and see a failed woman.” Leslie soon discovers that something ugly and violent is bubbling under the surface in Spar Creek, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, something even worse might be haunting the woods surrounding the community.

    Dead Girls Walking, by Sami Ellis

    The description of this book is “a shocking, spine-chilling YA horror slasher about a girl searching for her dead mother’s body at the summer camp that was once her serial killer father’s home” and thank you so much for that because that’s all I need to put this in my TBR-stack. If you need additional reasons, Ellis (over on X) has described the book’s protagonist, Temple Baker, like this: “Temple Baker’s entire personality is being mad, being a lesbian, and having daddy issues (in that order tbh).” So yes, this one has been added to my reading pile.

    Different Kinds of Defiance, by Renan Bernardo

    Bernardo’s new short story collection is described as “a collection for the rebels at heart—for those who find courage where hope seems lost and for whom every act of resistance is an act of sheer will”, and if you’ve read any of his short fiction, you already know that this book is a must-read. Bernardo’s work has appeared in Apex Magazine, Escape Pod, Podcastle, the anthology Robotic Ambitions, and many, many other venues. To sample his stories, you could start with, for example, “A Shoreline of Oil and Infinity” in Escape Pod, or “A Short Biography of a Conscious Chair” in Samovar (translated from Portuguese by the author).

    The Emperor and the Endless Palace, by Justinian Huang

    What if I told you that the feeling we call love is actually the feeling of metaphysical recognition, when your soul remembers someone from a previous life?” That is the seriously intriguing tagline for this genre-bending novel about two men who are reincarnated again and again, their lives intertwined “by the twists and turns of fate”. They meet in the year 4 BCE, in an imperial court. They meet again in 1740, when “a lonely innkeeper agrees to help a mysterious visitor procure a rare medicine, only to unleash an otherworldly terror instead.” And they meet in present-day Los Angeles, where a college student “meets a beautiful stranger and cannot shake the feeling they’ve met before.” If all that sounds like a pretty amazing story to you (it sure does to me), then you need to get your mitts on this book ASAP.

    The Skinless Man Counts to Five & Other Tales of the Macabre, by Paul Jessup

    I am so excited about this new collection from Paul Jessup. The title story, “The Skinless Man Counts to Five” (published in Apex Magazine) is a dream/nightmare-tinged tale of strange and surreal space-horror, and this entire collection promises to be a dark and haunting trip full of “ghosts and butterflies, serial killers and dying stars, mermaids and monsters”. The collection includes several previously unpublished stories in addition to a rich selection of Jessup’s previously published work.

    Alien Clay, Adrian Tchaikovsky

    The more I read about this far-future novel by multi-award-winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky, the more intriguing it sounds. It’s set on a distant planet called Kiln where the environment follows “wildly different rules to Earth biology,” and where there are mysterious ruins from an alien civilization that seems to have vanished. The protagonist is a professor who has been exiled from Earth to the labor camp on Kiln for his political activism. Once there, he struggles to survive both the repressive camp regime, and the alien environment. In an interview on the British Science Fiction Association’s website, Tchaikovsky says that the book is about “alien ecology and human society and what happens when the two collide… The themes of connection and alienation, with other people, with the wider alien world, for better or worse.”