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Brain Picking: Hot New Trends and Writers

This coming Monday, I'm doing a presentation for a group of Michigan Librarians entitled "Beyond Sparkly Vampires: Hot New Writers and Trends in Science Fiction and Fantasy". I have a little over an hour to try to introduce these people to the popular subgenres and up-and-coming writers.

I've got a rough outline put together with some names and titles already. However, the LJ brain collective is vast, with far more knowledge and memory than any single drone, so I figured I'd open this up and ask for suggestions.

Topics I'm planning to touch on include:

  • Series vs. Standalones (with the series still coming in as the most popular)

  • Young Adult
  • (still huge)
  • Media Tie-ins
  • (movies, TV, video games ... look at Buckell's latest Halo novel)
  • Urban Fantasy
  • (both serious and not-so-serious ... and yes antonstrout, I'm planning to mention you)
  • Paranormal Romance
  • (and possibly a few other "boundary-blurring" categories)
  • Nonwhite/Nonmale/Nonstraight Protagonists (don't know if this is a trend, but it's something I want to talk about)
My questions for the group mind:

1. What hot books/writers would you suggest including as examples for these categories?
2. What hot new trends am I missing? (Aside from the were-jaguars)

Thanks in advance.

I love events like this. They invited me as a Michigan author to come speak to a room full of librarians. And then they're going to pay me for my time? Gosh, let me think about it.

I did set a rule for myself, though. The obvious temptation is to tell all of these wonderful librarians about ME and MY BOOKS and GO BUY THEM NOW NOW NOW! So I figure I'll introduce myself as a local author, give a little bit of my background and credentials (i.e., why the heck should they listen to me), and then say right up front that I'm not going to talk about my books until the final five minutes. I figure a five minute indulgence in a 75-minute presentation is reasonable, and it lets me shut off that sales/publicity part of my brain for the other 70 minutes.

Tune in tomorrow for a Very Special Episode of LJ, as Jim finally confronts his parentheses addiction. (Or maybe not...)

Nightmare, by Steven Harper
Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy
Red Hood's Revenge


( 74 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 23rd, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
Sounds like an interesting time. I wonder if there will be 'hot' librarians there? You are talking about SF/Fantasy right, so there has to be at least one hot librarian who studies the occult or something...
Apr. 23rd, 2009 12:41 pm (UTC)
I used to hang out with some of the Library Science grad students, and I quickly discovered that ALL librarians are hot. Also, they can kick my ass at Trivial Pursuit without breaking a sweat.
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(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rarelylynne - Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
For Stand Alone books, I like A. Lee Martinez (In the Company of Ogres, A Nameless Witch).

I'm a YA person, so I could go on about YA for hours, but my latest obsession was Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments trilogy, which just concluded.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
Ooh, and Clare would also let me talk a little about fanfiction and some of the online fan communities. (Not getting into all of the drama and conflict, but just making folks aware of what's out there.)
(no subject) - cissa - Apr. 24th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:17 pm (UTC)
Faeries! The faery craze is making its way into books. I'm seeing more and more books about faeries in both YA, Romance, and in the adult Sci-fi/Fantasy sections.
"Wicked Lovely" by Melissa Marr (I just read this and enjoyed it very much)
"Tithe" by Holly Black
"The Fairy Godmother" by Mercedes Lackey

This is just my prediction and I don't have anything to back it up other then my own observations but we'll be seeing Steampunk showing up in novels (in a directly wrtten to be steampunk sense). North America is a little slow picking up these treads compared to other places but anything Steampunk is huge right now in the convention scene, online, and its going mainstream. It will only be a matter of time before authors write steampunk inspired books and the industry starts seeking the good ones.

Edited at 2009-04-23 01:19 pm (UTC)
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:32 pm (UTC)
I'd also add rj_anderson's first book, which was published as "Knife" in the UK and will be out next week as "Faery Rebels: Spellhunter" in the US.

ETA: edited for her correct username.

Edited at 2009-04-23 01:33 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - peachtess - Apr. 23rd, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - rosefox - Apr. 23rd, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
There are so many good new authors. I'm sure you will touch on Cassie Clare, and Temeraire, Carrie Ryan's new Forest of Hands and Teeth

For non USian, Cindy Pon has a new one coming out next week, which is a magical China, and it feels very, VERy chinese called Silver Phoenix

Graceling, the Adoration of Jenna Fox.. . well, I wrote about all this stuff on my Norton reading post here.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Sherwood. Clare is definitely going onto the list. I'm not sure if Naomi Novik qualifies as a new writer anymore, though. I'm trying to focus more on the writers that a lot of these places might not have in stock yet, but should.
(no subject) - sartorias - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
I've got a few of those authors on the list already :-) I'm trying to focus more on the new/up-and-coming folks that libraries might not have acquired yet, but should. (Strout rather than Butcher, for example, since most libraries with even a mediocre SF/F section should have some Butcher...)
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
I'm with Christine. Steampunk. It's not "new", but it's definitely re-impressing its stamp on the genre.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
You know, I had considered including Steampunk as a category, and ended up omitting it. I may have to put it back in...

Any favorite Steampunk titles or authors? :-)
(no subject) - princessalethea - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
Two urban fantasies I've enjoyed recently were Ilona Andrews' Magic Bites (actually the second in a series) which has vampires and werecritters and is set in a post-magic-apocalypse Atlanta. I really liked the worldbuilding and the heroine was kick-butt but not ridiculously so. And Enchantments Inc. and sequelae by Shanna Swendson - I think it's getting described as Harry Potter meets Bridget Jones, which is actually not that far off.

For YA, my recent favorites are Percy Jackson, Michael Scott's books Alchemyst/Magician/Sorceress, anghara's Worldweavers books, the Mysterious Benedict Society, and Linda Buckley-Archer's Gideon Trilogy (which have great UK titles and horrible boring US ones).
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:42 pm (UTC)
OH! And I adore Philip Reeve's Larklight and the two sequels! Think Oswald Bastable goes steampunk.
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
I always advocate books with boys protagonists that I think boys wold like, since it seems that there is a huge dearth of books aimed at boys (yeah, yeah. gender stereotyping. another discussion entirely.)

That said, I loved D.M. Cornish's Monster Tattoo Series (Hornblower meets twisted fantasy), and The Compound by S.A. Bodeen (one shot SF book that isn't what it appears). And I think young boys would like these too.


Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Any more favorite boy books you'd recommend? I definitely need a few more YA titles/authors to suggest.
(no subject) - bearmountain - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cathschaffstump - Apr. 23rd, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 23rd, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
Steampunk. Relevant writers would be Cherie Priest, Jay Lake, uh...I'll think up some more. Just got to work, for god's sake....
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)
You're letting work interfere with the promotion of steampunk? For shame!
(no subject) - timakers - Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
Very fond of the four books in Scott Westerfield's Uglies trilogy. (grin) I was able to read them in one roiund, without having to wait for the next to come out.

Dr. Phil
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)
Westerfield is definitely big in YA, but I don't know that he'd fit as a new writer. I'm hoping to get more of the up-and-comers that the librarians might not have heard of yet, but should, if that makes sense.
(no subject) - bearmountain - Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
I second the A. Lee Martinez--some unique work there (he has a book coming out in May called Monster, which is quite excellent--I'll be reviewing for BSC.) I think one of the things that makes his work stand out is that he mixes sci/fi with urban settings--less of the fantasy (still there) more sci/fi themes. He wrote "The Automatic Detective" which was a kind of robotic hero type mixed with pulp mystery (think Dashel Hammet futuristic version of reality). Monster is almost a alternate version of the universe.

I'd also highly recommend Dog Days and New Tricks by John Levitt for an urban fantasy series. This series has some unique edges in the urban fantasy genre--not much focus on the "obvious" vampires, werewolves, etc. Very strong storylines/plots and Levitt tends to take into account legends from other cultures rather than just using the standard ones.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
Nnedi Okorafor. I'm reading Zahrah the Windseeker to Caitlin right now, and it is AWESOME. Also, Caitlin loves sprineas's The Magic Thief. MT skews on the younger end of YA, and Zahrah is in the middle.

And don't forget Tamora Pierce!

ETA: Zahrah has the added bonus of having non-white protagonists.

Edited at 2009-04-23 01:59 pm (UTC)
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
I was just going to mention Zahrah the Windseeker. I bought that for my instant granddaughter and I almost kept it for myself. I fell right into that book, a rare thing for me with YA.
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rarelylynne - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
For series vs. standalones, you could discuss Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series versus his Elantris. I personally loved Elantris more than the mistborn series (i loved them both, to be honest, but I really loved the world he built in Elantris). Yes, mistborn is so much more sale-able and popular, though.

(I have parenthesis addiction as well. Is there a 12 step program???)
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
I haven't actually read Sanderson yet, and I need to. I'd have a harder time discussing them in depth, but could probably toss them out as another standalone vs. series example.

My name is Jim, and I have a parentheses problem. (But I can quit any time I want to!)
(no subject) - asakiyume - Apr. 23rd, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
Poor ol' traditional fantasy. We be clunky and old... ::sniff sniff:: Nobody loves it no more. ;-)

Kristen B. (being silly, but frankly intrigued by the rise of other trends and the submergence of traditional fantasy, for which I have quite a lot invested)

(I haven't had all my coffee yet, so I may not be making sense. -K)
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
I don't know ... Pat Rothfuss hasn't been doing too bad with his debut doorstop fantasy adventure. But overall, I'd say urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and the YA market are kicking our butts back in traditional fantasy/sword & sorcery land.

Clearly we need to include more sexy vampires in our books!
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Apr. 23rd, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
Well, Suzanne Collins is not a new writer, but she's switched from middle-grade to YA, and her new YA novel Hunger Games is taking over my group of friends by storm. We've been passing the book around, everyone is raving about it, several folks stayed up until the wee hours to finish reading it, and several of us have given it to our kids to read--and they love it too. It's book one of a series, and I suspect the rest of the series is going to be very popular.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
I look at your list and it really kind of depresses me, but that's another topic.

In any case, C.C. Finlay's new series of books with witches in the revolutionary war is coming out starting next week. The Patriot Witch comes out April 28th, A Spell for the Revolution May 19th and The Demon Redcoat in June.

Charlie's books, the Temeraire series, Elizabeth Bear's Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth and I believe Marie Brennen's Elizabethan books all combine history and magic into some great novels. I could probably dig up more, but I don't have time right now.

Another up and coming author, Amanda Downum, has the first book in a series coming out this summer. The Drowning City comes out August 25th. Spies, intrigue and a great cast of characters of diverse backgrounds.

Palimpsest by Catherine Valente is another beautiful book.

These books represent trends I'd like to see encouraged.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)

Also, Sarah Monette (truepenny)'s Doctrine of Labyrinths series is fantastic. Fascinating characters, and beautifully written.

(no subject) - stillnotbored - Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 23rd, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet is amazing (and full of non-white people, though subtly: people say things like "My grandmother was a Westerner; you wouldn't know it to look at me, but she had round eyes") and deserves far more attention than it's gotten. It's series fantasy, but rich and dark and not really like anyone I've ever read except maybe a little bit of K.J. Parker, whom you should also mention in the context of what I've seen called military fantasy or hard fantasy: epic sagas with all the mud and blood left in, grim and gritty and often full of misery in addition to the glory and honor and so forth. Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn books fall into that category, as does George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, but most librarians will have heard of those. Parker and Abraham are just as good.

Alternate history and historical fantasy are enormous and extremely popular. ccfinlay has a great trilogy coming out that's war for American independence + magic; first book is The Patriot Witch. Jo Graham's Black Ships (Aenead + magic) and Hand of Isis (Cleopatra + magic) are spectacular, easily as good as Judith Tarr at her best, and I'm probably Judith Tarr's biggest fan. Marie Brennan is about to follow Midnight Never Come (Elizabethan England + faeries) with In Ashes Lie.

I have to run but I hope that helps!
Apr. 23rd, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
You might want to mention the Worldweavers books in your YA category...
Apr. 23rd, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
umm... not sure if this is a trend
But lately, I've been noticing a lot of psychotic females. Lilith Saintcrow is the main author that comes to mind in my morning daze, with Karen Chance's new Midnight's Daughter coming in close second (maybe Anne Bishop's quadrilogy?), but it seems like every book has a female character that goes crazy, regularly. Maybe she blacks out, gets a nosebleed, yadda yadda yadda, but at some point she goes berserker. Total killing rage, and all that. I'm getting a little tired of the whole "She blacks out, and wakes up to a scene of carnage" thing, or, "The power made her crazy and she can't be blamed for her actions" thing. It's as if women can't handle the extreme power, or can't do that kind of damage without going crazy. It's always been a big thing in comic books (Pheonix, anyone?), but now it's making inroads to books. Part of it seems to come from the "Women can be as powerful as men" camp, saying that females can unlease mass destruction, but there's always some caveat of a man picking up the pieces for her, or hauling her off to safety when she's all pooped from taking down the house.

This isn't to say chicks have to be totally in control all the time, but when it becomes a regular fall-back, it becomes a cheesy plot device.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
Obviously I am legally obliged to mention Daniel Fox's "Dragon in Chains" - non-white series, I suppose, according to your categories. And non-straight to come, in later books. Fantasy with a Chinese tendency, basically: Taiwan vs mainland China, transposed to an imperial landscape. With a dragon. In chains.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
Me, me, me, me!

No, seriously: I'm noticing an increase in less-well-known paranormal things. Nicole Peeler has a Para-Rom coming out that stars a selkie for instance. Seeing lots more wendigos lately too. There was a lot of discussion at Norwescon about vampires from outside the western tradition, like the creepy things from Asia and Malaysia and various types of ghosts like the hungry ghosts of China, lyches, wights, and so on. There also seems to be a movement to make vampires back into monsters, rather than romantic anti-heroes, but it's limited to the darker side of the Urban Fantasy line at the moment. (See Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt.)

And of course... zombies. Mark Henry's snarky, foul-mouthed fashinonista zombie being one extreme and the totally creepy fast zombies of Carrie Ryan's THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH being another.

Personally I hope for more ghosts, but I'm not seeing it much. Maybe LIVING WITH GHOSTS by Kerri Sperring... but otherwise not so much.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, zombies of course. Taking it a little farther, zombie apocalypse or just apocalypse/post-apocalypse fiction in general. This has been more of a horror trend, but I've seen it spilling into sci-fi and fantasy as well.
(no subject) - mintos - Apr. 23rd, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 23rd, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
I've been curious about that, actually. What kind of response have you been seeing from the podcasting work? I'm guessing the CDs are going to be a popular freebie, in part because they're a big step up from the flyers and bookmarks the rest of us are putting out.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
If you were doing this in the fall, I'd have tossed my own name in, but such shameless hucksterism will have to wait for the actual book to land on actual shelves.

Have you seen this post about genre-blending? It's not exactly in-depth, but it is interesting.

And truepenny had a post a couple weeks back about series versus stories that take several books to tell. Editors dropped comments explaining the publishers' and reviewers' perspectives on it.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the pointers! And don't worry, there are always future opportunities for hucksterism!
Apr. 23rd, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
There are a number of GLBT characters in current YA releases... Clare has several as does Holly Black.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
Also, for urban fantasy/paranormal romance: Caitlin Kittredge and Jackie Kessler. :)
Apr. 23rd, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
Hey, here's something I learned yesterday: People tend to doubt my credibility when I start talking about were-jaguars.

That, and they start demanding Gencon podcasts...
Apr. 23rd, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
That was me. Also, will I be an example of what NOT to do?
(no subject) - jimhines - Apr. 23rd, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - antonstrout - Apr. 23rd, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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