Check Out Speculative Fiction's Rising Stars

Posted by Cybil on March 8, 2021

 
Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things content-related, she has found joy as a freelance writer and reviewer of speculative fiction for publications such as FIYAH literary magazine and Publishers Weekly. Through her reviews, she has made a hub of bookish content for herself surrounded by book lovers alike.  

We asked Wint to share some the authors she's watching as rising stars of the speculative fiction genre to help you expand your Want to Read shelf!

In fantasy, there are the classics—the popular go-tos of the genre. The staple books and authors will always have their place, but we can't deny that a new age is upon us.
 
This year has promised us so many debuts, but there are authors in the last three to four years who have cemented their works as must-reads. From reimagining history to rethinking the possible future, these authors bring an unexpected ingenuity. They explore the intricacies of humanity, morality, and consequence in inventive ways. Though some of these authors have more of a catalog, others have left an unerasable mark only with their debuts.
 
Here are eight authors whose minds are bound to impress you. From novellas to (reasonably sized) novels, there's a story for many fans of speculative fiction.
 
Make sure to look out for some of their 2021 releases, too!
 

Cadwell Turnbull

In his debut novel, The Lesson, Cadwell Turnbull brought us “colonizing aliens” set in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and managed to explore issues of race, culture, sex, and exploitation through mystery, tragedy, and romance. He is an author who excels at using science fiction to reimagine a trope in a setting that is inherently shaped by preexisting colonialism. With that connection, Turnbull explores the intricacies of humanity. His upcoming novel, No Gods, No Monsters, assures me he’ll continue to put more heart into his speculative works, so let’s keep an eye out for it!

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P. Djèlí Clark

With his most anticipated novel, A Master of Djinn, being published this year, it is a great time to check out the undeniably masterful work of P. Djèlí Clark. Before you check that out, delight your sensibilities with Ring Shout and see for yourself the talent Clark has with writing ingenious alternate-history, speculative fiction in short fiction. The evidence in this story will get you hooked enough to get you ready for his first novel-length work. Make sure to check the Fatma el-Sha’arawi series to get sucked into the world.

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Rivers Solomon

Rivers Solomon’s debut, An Unkindness of Ghosts, created a captivatingly vivid reimagining of the institution of slavery and hierarchical oppression in an atmospheric futuristic world. They feature queer and neurotypical characters flawlessly and with so many nuances to them that effortlessly makes this piece heavily character- and plot-driven. With their 2021 release, Sorrowland, on the horizon, I recommend you check out their small but mighty catalog of genre-breaking works!

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Rebecca Roanhorse

By no means a newer author, Rebecca Roanhorse graces this list for her variety of works in the genre. Across all age groups (middle grade, young adult, and adult) and differing prose style (a plethora of short stories and novels), she has thoroughly left her mark on the SFF community. So much so, that choosing a starting point isn’t necessarily easy. So this once, I’ll opt for her highest-rated book, Black Sun—the first in an epic adventure series set in the Pre-Columbian Americas—that promises to takes us all by surprise.
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Stephen Graham Jones


Nothing goes better with SFF than mystery and horror. In a genre that’s inherently inventive in its elements, speculative fiction lends itself well to the stuff of nightmares. Jones exemplifies how to find more disquieting ways to frighten his audience, making both us and his characters question what’s real. Admittedly, he may not be for everyone, but I implore you to try Mapping the Interior and get a short yet good sense of his work. The incorporation of his Blackfeet identity and straight-shooting narratives weave stories you haven’t read before.
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Afia Atakora

As for the 2020 debut authors I want you to look out for, I highly recommend Afia Atakora. In her debut, Conjure Women, she creates a lushly written intergenerational story that explored the spirituality and freedom through a mother and daughter—pre- and post-Civil War—who have the power of conjure. With beautiful prose and themes of morality and the pursuit of personal and communal justice, you'll be entranced until the very end.
 

Micaiah Johnson

I can’t stress how much I want people to read The Space Between Worlds! Sometimes I can’t even fathom how to pitch this better than saying “read it!” But her amazingly vivid and immersive cross-dimensional, multiverse story will automatically bring you in. Even better are the amazingly written characters, gems of humor, and exploration of the economic disparities that exist in a world not too different from ours (of course, minus the technological advancements). If you’re looking for a self-contained standalone adventure that isn’t a behemoth of a book, this is for you.
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Fellow fans of science fiction and fantasy, who are your favorite new voices in the genre? Share your picks with us in the comments.

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Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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All Cops Are Bastards Arkady Martine! Won the Hugo with her debut, and the just-published sequel is actually even better.


message 2: by TMR (new)

TMR Ooh intriguing list.


message 3: by Roberta (new)

Roberta Ragazzoni Jonathan Michael Erickson. A great writer discovered by mere chance that I can’t do without now. I’m looking forward to reading the last book of his Andromeda trilogy


message 4: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Lynch Before reading anything by Rebecca Roanhoarse, I strongly encourage everyone to read up on what actual Native Americans think of her work. Long story short, she is a fraud and her work is considered disrespectful among many indigenous people. There's an excellent article from Indianz.com titled "The Elizabeth Warren of the sci-fi set." Go check it out.


message 5: by Kate (new)

Kate An Unkindness of Ghosts was excellent - can't wait to read the author's other books!


message 6: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas Perez I really need to read Ringshout, all my friends have raved about it.


message 7: by Hilary (new)

Hilary The space between worlds was SOOOOOO GOOD!


message 8: by Claire (new)

Claire Christopher I devoured The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna when it came out this February. One of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read!


message 9: by bookcaked (new)

bookcaked Great list!


message 10: by Tanninsandtales (last edited Mar 08, 2021 12:03PM) (new)

Tanninsandtales Tade Thompson and Victor LaValle.


message 11: by TraceyL (new)

TraceyL Ouch - for each of these authors I've read one of the books listed, and either DNF'd it or gave it 1-2 stars.


message 12: by Julia (new)

Julia Awesome list but also Arkady Martine!!!


message 13: by Infinity's (new)

Infinity's  Bookshelf Lisa wrote: "Before reading anything by Rebecca Roanhoarse, I strongly encourage everyone to read up on what actual Native Americans think of her work. Long story short, she is a fraud and her work is considere..."

Before reading that article you should also read the many other indigenous people who criticized that article for gatekeeping being Indigenous. Here's an article written by an Indigenous person discussing her works and the flaws of the Indianz.com article. https://www.lareviewofbooks.org/artic...
She is of mixed race (African-American and Indigenous) and is not an enrolled member, but that doesn't make her non-Indigenous. There are lots of examples of non-Indigenous people appropriating Indigenous culture, don't attack a mixed race author for not being Indigenous enough!


message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa The Space Between Worlds had some potential, but in the end I was not a fan.


message 15: by Jhen (new)

Jhen (JhenPlanstoRead) Great list!


message 16: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Ross Lisa wrote: "Before reading anything by Rebecca Roanhoarse, I strongly encourage everyone to read up on what actual Native Americans think of her work. Long story short, she is a fraud and her work is considere..."

I know about the reactions from some Navajo, and I respect them, but I did want to point out that Roanhorse is "an actual Native American". She's just a Pueblo, married to a Navajo, though not Navajo herself.


message 17: by Sam (new)

Sam W. Pisciotta Lisa wrote: "Before reading anything by Rebecca Roanhoarse, I strongly encourage everyone to read up on what actual Native Americans think of her work. Long story short, she is a fraud and her work is considere..."

The Indianz article is an interesting read. Seems like Roanhorse could have avoided communication and relationship mistakes with more effort to connect. Then again, maybe the deck was always stacked against her. This article in The New Republic presents a different perspective and is also an interesting read. The article claims, "The Indianz.com piece was less a journalistic endeavor than a pile-on." You can find it by searching for: The New Republic--Reckoning With Anti-Blackness in Indian Country--Nick Martin.


message 18: by John (new)

John Discovering P. Djèlí Clark was one of the highlights of the dark days of 2020! Can't wait to read everything he produces!


message 19: by Michelle (new)

Michelle She is of mixed race (African-American and Indigenous) and is not an enrolled member, but that doesn't make her non-Indigenous. There are lots of examples of non-Indigenous people appropriating Indigenous culture, don't attack a mixed race author for not being Indigenous enough! >

I was just heading to link to this article and was glad to see someone had already done it. The good thing to do here would be to read a wide variety of Native authors and viewpoints.


message 20: by Keith (new)

Keith Hmm, I thought there were new writers in Europe, asia etc. Obviously not, at least according to goodreads


message 21: by Ross (last edited Mar 24, 2021 01:14PM) (new)

Ross Eberle Whoa, hi there!

S'mee again. You know, Ross Eberle Ross Eberle. I remember my first time seeing Goodreads' featured science-fiction and fantasy authors.

Back then, I only had some 5 or 6 books written. As of right now, I have 7! Plus, my next novel, which is going to be my longest one by far is well on its way. This novel will be the epic conclusion to my long-standing epic saga, Sky Fighters and Houndy Crunchers.

This is a book series which I've been writing since I was 14, 15, or 16. It is the Sky Fighters Novella Series, a coming-of-age epic saga, which involves two teenage boys, who live two distinct lives. After an attack on Earth by hostile, demonic aliens, the friendly, welcoming leader of a neighboring alien planet (Master Mantecado) hurriedly contacts 13 humans on Earth. His goal is to collaborate with said humans in bringing the Sky Fighters, an elite group of half-angelic warriors back from extinction. Both young men become highly-involved in the re-creation of the Sky Fighters. However, their greatest foes, the Python Demons have their sinister eyes upon them, as well as the rest of the multi-verse. Earth is now their newest target. They'll stop at nothing to take over or destroy it, Sky Fighter Land, and Evensongland outright.

The Sky Fighters also have mystical powers, including Elemental Attacks, Teleportation, Invisibility, and once they're strong enough, they grow a set of wings and are able to fly! The series is currently 7 parts in length. Plus, I am in the process of writing at least 1 more part for it, plus an additional standalone/spin-off title.

Here is the official series link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/2616... ...Enjoy! And by all means, tell everyone you know about me, so the administrators at Goodreads will add me to their future lists of the best Fiction Series' Rising Stars of the Future! Cheers!!


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