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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


( 69 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Apr. 23rd, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)

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

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
Apr. 23rd, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm definitely a huge fan of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files (huge, huge fan), and more recently Kim Harrison's The Hollows series.

I also particularly fond of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, though I don't know if it falls under what you're looking for.

And I do believe that A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear might fall into your final category.
Apr. 23rd, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
Urban Fantasy
Yet another vote for Jim Butcher
Also, Charlie Stoss with his science/thriller/lovecraftian blends

Boundary-Blurring Romance
Robert J Sawyer, in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy
Apr. 23rd, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
From Stormsdotter
I was directed here from a friend of mine, Stormsdotter, who said that you were looking for bits on new writers and such.

Recently I have discovered the writing of Brent Weeks, who wrote the Night Angel Trilogy. One of the things that I both love and hate about the sci-fi/fantasy genra is that a standalone book is very rare. Most writers enter/create a world that they don't want to leave. On one level this doesn't bother me because I usually don't want to leave either. I'm not a patient person though. I hate waiting a year or three for the next novel of a series to come out.

One of the things that I really liked about the Night Angel Trilogy was that I got all three books pretty much at once. They were released a month apart, so that I didn't have the long time waiting. From what I have seen of interviews with Mr. Weeks, his next trilogy will be similar, with very little wait time in between.

AS for trends like Were-Jaguars (which I have seen previously, didn't realize that it was now a rising trend though)what I've noticed is the tendency for the main characters in most newer SF/F to be the darker/shady characters; vampires, assassins, necromancers, etc.

Wish I were a Michigan Librarian (or even just in Michigan) as this sounds like a wonderful topic that I'd love to come and hear more about.
Apr. 24th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC)
I see more and more of steam punk elements in fantasy these days (clockwork, steam engines and other odd machines fused with magic. Except for princesses, the Middle Ages are not cool enough anymore ;-)

Moreover I think that in future years we'll see more and more manga (not comic!!) and asian folklore influences. We're not there yet, but wait another 5 or 6 years and the writers who have been raised on that stuff will start publishing.

Apr. 24th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
more on topic
Since my last post was more of a gripe than a trend... or a gripe about a trend... here's my analysis of the current literary situation:
1. Mary Sue's are making a comeback - think Holly Black's YA Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside, Robin McKinley's Sunshine, hell, just about any fantasy chick lit, like Mary Janice Davidson's Queen Betsy series or Katie MacAlister's dragon books. Girl thinks she's normal, finds out she's special in some way, except instead of waking up to be a millionaire, she's fae, a dragon, a witch, whatever. Which brings me to...

2. Faeries. Laurell K. Hamilton, Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, and Holly Black get pretty traditional, while Yasmine Galenorm, Kim Harrison, and Charlaine Harris (to name a few) are giving faeries the same makeover that Hamilton originally gave vampires - make 'em real people, who like their lattes and small businesses. Either way, faeries are going to be the new vampires, trust me.

3. Vampires. I know what I just said, but vampires are still going strong, and have finally made dramatic inroads to YA, like a trickle-down effect. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes did some great stuff when she was in high school, for cripes sakes, but it didn't really stick. Now that Stephanie Meyer has opened the floodgates, we'll be seeing a lot more. She's like the new J.K. Rowling, although I side with Stephen King on her... ahem... writing abilities.

4. Main characters are no longer immune to significant, personal misfortune. Briggs's Thompson and Karen Marie Moning's Lane both get raped, Naomi Novik's Lawrence loses his dragon, every character in Natasha Mostert's books loses the love of their lives (BTW, her Season of the Witch is THE BOMB. Read it, recommend it.), Kai Meyer's Junipa goes into exile (his trilogy, starting with The Glass Word, is an awesome YA series). You remember when you realized Lyra and Will couldn't be together? Those kind of punches are coming more often than ever.

5. Urban fantasy/horror. All I've got to say is Kat Richardson, Katie MacAlister, Carrie Vaughn, T.A Pratt (his Marla Mason character is my personal idol. She really kicks ass like no other, no offense to your princesses.), Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, MaryJanice Davidson, Yasmine Galenorm, Jenna Black, and Keri Arthur. All of these except Pratt could fall under paranormal romance, too, because now writers are (no kidding, talk to Briggs about her editor demanding two love interests) more or less required to fit in conflicted love lives.

6. Alternate History. Kinda like urban fantasy, there is some blending, but Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, for example, is set in the alternate past. Add to her Shana Abe, who had a groundbreaking take on dragons, Jacqueline Carey's dramatic re-writing of Christian history (imagine if Christ had a hippie kid with the earth, who more or less advocated free love, sex, and alternative lifestyles while he and his angelic companions made many babies with the French people, who eventually become famous for their holy brothels. Yeah.) in her various Kushiel books, Faith Hunter and her whole angels (maybe aliens?) came down, judged the Earth, had kids with humans, and helped kick demon ass, and just for fun, Karen Chance and her time-jumping Cassandra Palmer, who's also a Mary Sue, and a paranormal romance. Categorize THAT.

Authors I'd like to see get more mention: Kat Richardson, Yasmine Galenorm, Keri Arthur, Catherynne Valente (like I need to tell you that), Carrie Vaughn, Jenna Black, maybe Alan Campbell (his books are mind-bending. Valente's world makes lyrical sense, while Campbell's is just... bizarre. But very different from anything I've seen before, so he gets a mention). Kate Thompson's Switcher series is a great YA find. Faith Hunter and her very different Chrisitan fiction that blends Christian kick-ass with pagan witchery that manages not to preach, Greg Keyes and his very cool Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series, a great straight-fantasy offering, Natasha Mostert, and Lilith Saintcrow. Oy.

Anyways, hope this helps. And don't be afraid to push your own books! You totally broke every mold with Jig, and I loved it. Haven't gotten to the princess series yet, but it'll probably be plane reading on the way out to Penguicon, along with Palimpset.
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Jim C. Hines


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