Saturday, July 1, 2023

Sacraments for the Unfit by Sarah Tolmie



I'm pleased to announce the release, in both trade paperback and e-book editions, of Sarah Tolmie's Sacraments for the Unfit. It is available now at This is Sarah's fourth collection of fiction from Aqueduct. 

The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic brought out the ritualist in many of us. In this collection of contemporary weird short fiction, a variety of different persons and beings try to fill up their days in varying states of isolation and mystery, real or imaginary. An angel outlives the Apparat that used to employ him; a deity complains about no longer feeling seen; a museum curator living alone begins to inexplicably alter; a medievalist suffering from vision loss gets into a strange relationship with the ghost of the codicologist M. R. James; enigmatic objects begin to work themselves out of the ground by the grave of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, prompting scholarly speculation. Sacraments For the Unfit is a series of vignettes about the transformations that can happen while staying in place. 

Read a sample from the book:

Advance Praise

“These stories could be the mad progeny of Umberto Eco and Ursula K. LeGuin: fiendishly cunning thought-twisters that shimmer with compassion and charisma.”
 —Helen Marshall, author of The Migration


Friday, June 2, 2023

The 2023 Pride Bundle

As in past years, Aqueduct has titles in the year's Pride Bundle. For those of you who read e-book editions, this is a great deal. Here's the scoop:

 We're back with another queer-themed bundle to celebrate Pride! This year, we have a total of seventeen books on offer, with eight in the main bundle and another nine in the bonus. It's a big bundle, but it was still hard to narrow it down: every year, there are more and more writers out there who are creating intelligent, nuanced, and queer SF/F.

Because this is for Pride, we looked for books that depicted queerness in all its aspects. You'll find profoundly hopeful work as well as darker themes, but what you won't find is stories in which being queer means you're evil, nor any in which it's a purely doomed and tragic fate. Instead, these are stories that showcase the myriad ways that queerness manifests — the many ways that we have chosen to be.

You can read more about the bundle here, and make sure to click on each cover for a synopsis, reviews and preview of each book!



  • Support awesome authors by paying however much you think their work is worth!
  • Pay at least $20 to unlock another 12 bonus books, for a total of 17!
  • Read all our books on just about any tablet, ereader, laptop or
    even your smartphone.


The Unbalancing by R. B. Lemberg

[STARRED REVIEW] "Lovingly crafted with a deep and rewarding world full of complex characters who are often LGBTQIA+ and/or neurodiverse, this is an outstanding novel from a rising star in fantasy fiction."

– Booklist

The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia

[STARRED REVIEW] "Naseem Jamnia's brilliant and insightful novella, The Bruising of Qilwa, explores questions of identity and belonging in a nuanced medical mystery. . . . Jamnia has built an intricate, multi-layered world full of magic and queerness."

– Shelf Awareness

Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller

[STARRED REVIEW] "Highly recommended for any reader interested in speculative fiction that concerns itself with queer themes, particularly messy or emotional ones."

– Booklist

Martha Moody by Susan Stinson

"This 'speculative western' first came out in 1995 but was just reissued. The first sentence is magnificent in the way it's a microcosm of the whole book, as well as a glimpse at the way Stinson writes so beautifully about fat bodies: 'I was crouched next to the creek baiting my hook with a hunk of fat when I heard a rustling on the bank upstream.'"

– Alison Bechdel, Elle Magazine

Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks

"Fire Logic is a delightful, feminist fantasy epic featuring a ragtag bunch of misfits, swashbuckling, romance, and some weird elemental magic."

– Bustle

Our Fruiting Bodies by Nisi Shawl

"Nisi Shawl's Our Fruiting Bodies is a wilderness of untamed magic to explore, ever changing underfoot, beauty thorned and fertile with meaning, nurtured by the most talented of keepers. Shawl trusts their readers to be attuned to the mysteries of the imagined, rather than sated by formula or convention."

– Indrapramit Das, author of The Devourers

We're Here - The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2021 by L.D. Lewis and series editor Charles Payseur

"With this lovely anthology, Lewis and Payseur collect 15 speculative shorts that range widely in tone and genre, but all circle themes of love and identity...There's something here for any reader of speculative fiction to admire."

– Publishers Weekly

Uncommon Charm by Kat Weaver and Emily Bergslien

"An enchanting and poignantly subtle story told with deft humor and thoughtful absences, where the initiation into mysteries is both esoteric and deeply personal."

– Caitlin Starling, author of The Death of Jane Lawrence

Night Sky Mine by Melissa Scott

"Mature, balanced, absorbing work, with a richly detailed, enchanting backdrop: something of a breakthrough in overall technique, and Scott's best so far."

– Kirkus Reviews

The Silences of Ararat by L. Timmel Duchamp

"Duchamp tells the story in straightforward style, using a setting only slightly removed from the here-and-now and characters many of us will recognize as drawn from some of our neighbors. The magical component, while crucial to the plot, doesn't divert attention from the relevance of the story to the world we see on the nightly TV news. Not always a comfortable read—nor is it meant to be—but well worth tracking down."

– Asimov’s On Books by Peter Heck

Queer Weird West Tales by Julie Bozza

"a varied and entertaining set of stories … Bound to be something for everyone to enjoy."

– Matt the Womble, Runalong the Shelves

The Feast of Panthers by Sean Eads

"…If you love history with a twist, I highly recommend "A Feast of Panthers," an incredible story with paranormal aspects that are at times gruesome and frightening…"

– Queer Sci Fi

The Dragon Eater by J. Scott Coatsworth

"The only thing wrong with this book is that it ended. Scott Coatsworth has produced an adventure that is a rich mélange of science fiction and fantasy, creating the world of Tharassas and its denizens with vivid detail... It's going to be hard to wait for book two. Five stars."

– Ulysses, Liminal Fiction

Perishables by Michael G. Williams

"Stephen Colbert meets Stephen King."

– Book Nerd's Brain Candy

Unfinished Business by Catherine Lundoff

"And we are here in October where the weather and season turns; the nights darken as we start to feel more comfortable at home rather than wandering in the dark. Like many of you at times like this, I love to hear tales of ghosts and the things that go bump in the night. Queen of Swords Press has just launched a new series of mini-collections of short stories and novella collections. In Unfinished Business, this starts with the work of Catherine Lundoff and provides a smart, scary and progressive set of horror tales – perfect for a dark and stormy night."

– Runalong the Shelves Book Blog

In the Deep by Kelly Jennings

"…as gritty and complex as the first novel-length adventure… // Strongly reminiscent of C.J Cherryh at her best."

– Gwyneth Jones, author of the Aleutian trilogy, winner of the World Fantasy, Clarke, Dick, and Tiptree awards
Get the Pride Bundle at

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Susan diRende's Knife Witch



I'm pleased to announce the release, in both print and e-book editions, of Knife Witch, Susan diRende's debut fantasy novel. It's available now from Aqueduct Press at


 Read a sample at



A village kitchen girl has few choices in life until a slip of her knife causes invading barbarian pirates to think she’s a witch. They kidnap her to get the “witch” bounty offered by their home coven. She goes willingly enough with only the clothes on her back and her favorite boning knife.

Dubbed “Knife Witch” by the barbarian captain, Volzh, and his crew, she saves the ship—twice—thanks to what they insist is magic and she protests is nothing more than an itchy disposition and her mad skills at carving and filleting. They start to think of her as “their” witch, and she starts feeling responsible for them as if she actually had the power to protect them. Which is not what she wants. She doesn’t see herself as capable of defeating anything larger than a chicken headed for the soup pot. That she manages to skewer a kraken before it sinks them all does not help her case. Side note: the kraken is telepathic and develops an amorous fascination with her.

Claiming she’s just a kitchen girl, she goes on to wreak havoc with the evil coven, an even evil-er Empire, the kraken determined to marry her, a world-breaking volcano, and the gods themselves.

Be as must be. 

Advance Praise

Knife Witch by Susan diRende offers seafaring, kraken-haunted adventure centered on a kitchen maid from a coastal village whose “luck” turns out to be witchery. She soon endears herself to a band of pirate raiders and to the reader. It’s pure pleasure to discover, along with diRende’s spiky narrator, how magic and other forces work in this novel’s archipelago universe. Thoughtful readers will appreciate diRende’s dissections of monstrousness and barbary, but the tale itself is primary: you have to root for this sharp young woman with knives stashed in her hair as she outwits every power ranged against her, from small-town bullies and corrupt witch councils to far greater natural—and supernatural—entities.”
 —Lesley Wheeler, author of Unbecoming and Poetry’s Possible Worlds

“Susan diRende’s unique voice marries funny to fantasy in this rollicking feminist tale of a kitchen worker who discovers she’s a powerful witch after she’s captured by pirates. She takes on krakens and kings, not to mention other witches, all while protecting others (including a dog and the pirates) and doing good (mostly). And she does it her way.
   Anyone who thinks feminism — or, for that matter, fantasy — can’t be funny needs to read Susan diRende.”
 —Nancy Jane Moore, author of For the Good of the Realm

Friday, May 26, 2023

Coming Soon: Adventures in Bodily Autonomy


I'm pleased to announce that Aqueduct Press will be publishing an anthology of fiction, Adventures in Bodily Autonomy, edited by Raven Belasco, later this year, in support of abortion rights. 

  The fourteen tales in Adventures in Bodily Autonomy flow across alternate universes and through space and time to consider the issues of reproductive justice through fresh perspectives. There is an adventure here for everyone.

An astronaut on her way to Mars discovers she’s pregnant — can she keep her baby? Bee-like entities try to force a human to be their queen. In1930s Philly, a vampire offers a novel form of birth control. From a ghost, lessons learned too late. Women who cannot find a comfortable fit in their mythic realities. Future worlds where reproductive choices are different, but individual choice and external battles for that choice are just as real. 

Adventures in Bodily Autonomy will be released on October 16th, 2023, a date important in the history of women’s healthcare rights. On October 16, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York, Margaret Sanger opened the country’s first birth control clinic. Just nine days later police shut down the clinic, and Sanger served 30 days in prison.

For over 50 years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has fought to protect and advance reproductive freedom at the federal and state levels — including access to abortion care, birth control, pregnancy and postpartum care, and paid family leave—for every body. 

 Join the authors in supporting
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Kathleen Alcalá ~ Elizabeth Bear ~ Raven Belasco
Tara Campbell ~ Anya De Niro ~ Jaymee Goh
Cynthia Gralla ~ K Ibura ~ Ellen Klages
Annalee Newitz ~ Nisi Shawl ~ Sonya Taaffe
Cecilia Tan ~ Helena María Viramontes
~ ~ ~

One hundred percent of the royalties of Adventures in Bodily Autonomy are being donated to NARAL Pro-Choice America to help them continue their vital fight for women’s bodily autonomy and basic human rights.

Monday, May 1, 2023

The Language of Water by Elizabeth Clark-Stern


I'm pleased to announce the release of a debut novel, The Language of Water, by Elizabeth Clark-Stern, in both print and e-book editions. It is available now at

The dawn of the twenty-second century finds women in a new world where water—the lack of it or the over-abundance of it—shapes their inner and outer lives. Sara turns eighteen and longs to join the all-women’s Kurdish army to wrestle control of the headwaters of the Euphrates River from the grip of Turkiye’s first woman President, who calls herself “Ataturka.” These two women share a common enemy that has infected the globe: climate despair. And yet, in the darkest hour there is cause for hope. A new technology born of the secret substances of the Earth could transform the planet. Only the power structures of humanity stand in the way. Can Sara and Ataturka help one another create a new form of power defined by the depth and scope of their hearts, or will the Water War bitterly divide them? Will their passion for life, for love, for a world where all living things can flourish pull them down into the darkest cavern of the human soul or catapult them to the stars?

Read a sample from the book here:

"Elizabeth Clark-Stern has created a marvelous adventure that takes us into a mysterious future where the climate is out of control. Her characters vibrate with creativity, passion, and imagination as they bring an evolving world to life."
 —Beverly Olevin, Kirkus Award-winner for The Good Side of Bad

"I found this novel's complex characters and the richness of their relationships—in love and in war—tremendously compelling. Sara, Kethuda, Ruqia, and the rest of the cast are skillfully drawn. A story about the future devastation wrought by climate change has the potential to be a grim read, but instead Elizabeth Clark-Stern has written a gripping feminist tale exploring love and power, violence and forgiveness, despair and hope. The Language of Water is a page-turner and a paean to resistance."
 —Gwynne Garfinkle, author of Can't Find My Way Home

"The diverse ensemble of characters in Elizabeth Clark-Stern’s debut novel includes royalty and subsistence farmers, teens and the elderly, fierce warriors, and dedicated pacifists. Each character is compelling, complex, and struggling with the types of difficult decisions that can shatter souls. But the core protagonist in the novel, the only one truly powerful, is the natural environment.
    The action takes place in 2100, when climate change has created extremes in the global distribution of, and access to, water. The divide between Haves and Have Nots is an ever-­widening chasm. Regional conflicts sparked by dwindling natural resources are rampant. Agriculturalists have developed a plant, the pea cactus, that grows in harsh environments and can be processed into a variety of goods, but worsening floods and periods of drought make this, at best, a last-gasp measure.
    It is a world severely out of balance, but not quite out of hope. Clark-Stern captures the inflection point toward which we are barreling at break-neck speed, the moment when humans—having contorted ourselves to our limits in a desperate effort to maintain life as it was before climate change—are forced to decide if we want to die clinging to old ways or give up illusions of power and embrace something new.
    The Language of Water is a balm for nerves frayed by the fear of impending environmental disaster and a bracing vision of how balance might be restored to our off-kilter world."
 —Kate Boyes, author of Trapped in the R.A.W.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Mystique of the Woman Warrior by Elizabeth Clark-Stern

 The Mystique of the Woman Warrior                      

by Elizabeth Clark-Stern



 She is legend from the dawn of time: an army of women, strong, brave, caring nothing for fashion or male approval, advancing out of the mist to protect her community, her female sovereignty, her very life. From ancient Greece we have the myth the playwright Aeschylus called, “The warring Amazons. Men-haters.” Sadly this anti-male stigma prevails even in our modern time, where women who display Amazon-like qualities--confidence, independence, certainty, and, yes, fury--are condemned by people of both sexes who are intimidated by female power.

 Yet, I argue that even people who are threatened by strong women are fascinated by the “otherness” of a band of female warriors. Why? What makes them so different from a band of brothers? Does it have to do with our deeply engrained cultural expectations: men do the fighting, women stay home? Or does it go deeper than cultural conditioning, into the deepest longing of our souls?

 In her essay, Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche, Toni Wolff gives us clues. Arguably a warrior herself at the dawn of the creation of the science of psychology, Ms. Wolff wrote and first delivered this paper in 1934 at the Psychological Club in Zurich. She was an intimate and collaborator of Dr. Carl Jung, though the title of collaborator was never given to her in her lifetime. She was known more notoriously as his secret lover in a relationship that spanned forty years, alongside his marriage to Emma Jung. One glance at this essay, and an investigation of her life, reveals a woman of brilliant intellect and sensuality who served as Jung’s analyst during his mental collapse after the breakup with Freud.

 Ms. Wolff writes, “For self-knowledge and self-realization, it is important to understand structural forms of the psyche that may or may not correspond to the cultural period concerned. “ 

 Deep within our unconscious mind, archetypal structures have a life of their own that may be in conflict with external cultural or familial expectations. This has caused a great deal of anxiety, depression, and mental confusion in women  in whom the external role was dictated by society for a life of devotion to motherhood and family and nothing else. And yet, there she is, from antiquity: the Amazon, beguiling us not only as a myth, but as a vibrant archetype in our very souls.

Ms. Wolf writes, “She is independent of the male, because her development is not based upon a psychological relationship to him. Her interest is directed towards objective achievements which she wants to accomplish for herself.”

 If we look at Toni Wolff’s perceptions in light of revolutionary thinking about gender in our modern world, it is important to know that the archetype of the Amazon is a symbol of qualities that apply to a human of any gender, sexual orientation, trans-gender, or non-binary. You don’t have to identify as female to comprehend that there is a longing for wholeness in the psyche of every human being. In Ms. Wolff’s view, this wholeness is embarked upon when we become aware of structural forms within our psyches, ie, the Amazon, the Mother, the Medial Woman (one who mediates between the world of the psyche and the material world) and the Hetaira, one who has the ability to awaken creativity and originality and lead people beyond societal restrictions to the formation of the total personality.

What if the fascination with the woman warrior is a call to the heart of our souls to become unpredictable, bold, original, and true to our deepest nature? We see evidence of this fascination in our cultural media today. The brilliant Netflix film The Woman King has appeal for humans of all genders and sexual orientations. I watched it with two gay men, who were captivated. For my dime, the part of the story I loved the most was the relationships, those between the women warriors, the fierce young warrior trainee and the clueless but well-meaning Portuguese man and, most wonderfully, the mother and daughter who struggle to find love.  To me these relationships showed the full spectrum of a warrior woman, taking down the “man-hater,” stereotype of Aeschylus and showing us fully integrated, fully original human beings.

 I confess to a bias in this regard. Relationships are at the core of my novel, The Language of Water (Aqueduct Press, May 1. 2023 release) which features the women of the Kurdish YPJ in the northern Syrian province of Rojava. Our setting is 2100, a world teaming with too much water or, in Rojava, far too little. A war commences between the women warriors of the YPJ and the woman president of Turkey, a powerful and conflicted woman who controls the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates. At stake is the health of planet, the lives of thousands of “water refugees,” and the fate of patriarchal values that have ruled our planet for millennia.

Be on the lookout for women warriors in your life: the office manager who commands and organizes with brilliant authority, the mom on the playground who starts up a creative activity that inspires all the children, the basketball player who raises money for Ukraine. Explore how observing Amazons in life and art can bring you closer to the soul-making archetype deep within, an adventure into wholeness that can bring substantial rewards.

 Elizabeth's debut novel, The Language of Water, will be released on May 1 from Aqueduct Press.



Sunday, April 16, 2023

Numinous Stones by Holly Lyn Walrath


 I'm pleased to announce the release of Numinous Stones, a collection of poetry by Elgin-award winning author, Holly Lyn Walrath. Although it has been previously been published in an Italian edition, this is the first English-language edition, which Aqueduct is publishing in both print and e-book editions. It's available now from Aqueduct Press at

 This haunting collection of poetry about grief and the sacred digs deep beyond a fairy-tale world into the grave. Told in the circular pantoum form, Numinous Stones is a poetic graveyard littered with horror—from sentient scarecrows to silent skeletons to scorched sacred spaces. As each line repeats, new meaning gleams like bones unearthed in a shattered realm of monsters, dark forests, and dusty ghosts.

“Walrath poetically constructs tombstones (what is poetry if not construction?) imbued with a sacred, powerful, and majestic presence that both attracts and terrifies. They are sacred tombstones that serve the poet, and we will see this in the reading of her texts to celebrate, mourn, cry out, and, finally, accept her father’s death…. The collected poems constitute a journey, a slow path that we could also define as a slow coming to consciousness. A becoming aware of a pain to be understood and experienced to be, finally, accepted.”
 —From the original Introduction by Alex Tonelli in Numinose Lapidi

"Numinous Stones is a collection of speculative pantoums, a form derived from the Malay verse pantun berkait, which is a form of interwoven verses of alternating lines. This is a difficult form to accomplish, as the repeated lines need to seem fresh each time the reader encounters them, but also echo back to the previous stanza. The tightly entwined stanzas, when executed well, create a rhythmic and incantatory experience for the audience, hypnotizing them in a sonic spell. 

Readers, if you read Numinous Stones, be prepared to be hypnotized. 

Holly Lyn Walrath has tapped into some dark subjects in these poems, and views them through a distinctly speculative lens....Overall, this is a striking collection of poetry. It’s a rich and layered collection that taps into mythic, albeit nightmarish, images, twisting and weaving them into dense, multi-layered gems."--Joshua Cage, Cemetery Dance  (read the whole review at

Read a sample from the book here:

Sunday, April 2, 2023

From Voyages Unreturning by Deborah L. Davitt



 I'm pleased to announce the release of From Voyages Unreturning, a collection of poetry by Deborah L. Davitt, in both print and e-book editions. From Voyages Unreturning is Volume 88 in our Conversation Pieces Series. You can purchase the book

From Voyages Unreturning tells the tale of a woman who sought escape from her own life. Skimming through time and space at light-speed, she comes to realize that she’s left everything that she loved behind. She forges a bond with a living ship, and together, they dare to dream that life can be more than perpetual loss.…

Read a sample from the book at

 You can purchase the book at

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

To the Woman in the Pink Hat by LaToya Jordan


 I'm pleased to announce the release of To the Woman in the Pink Hat, a novella by LaToya Jordan, as the eighty-seventh volume in the Conversation Pieces series, in both print and e-book editions. You can purchase it now at

Jada Morris was the fierce and resilient leader of a social movement against the theft of young women’s uteruses before she committed a violent crime. Now, in 2040, the 24-year-old is serving time at The Center for Future Leaders, an alternative to prison for young leaders who committed crimes as a response to gender-based violence. The Center supposedly provides training, education, therapy, and reduced sentences to the convicted in order to return them to their communities as leaders. But as Jada begins her therapy, she realizes all is not as it seems, and memory is thorny at best. Can she trust her android therapist and the terrifying path down which she’s taking her? And what will she find at the other end?

Jordan’s novella is a gripping and terrifying look at our reproductive future that sends shudders through our reproductive present. 

You can read a sample of the book here:

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2022, pt. 34: Cynthia Ward


2022 in Review: Reality is Not Governed by the Believability Constraints of Fiction
by Cynthia Ward


Neither my partner nor I have ever had a year like this. Financial disaster, vicious cancer, different vicious cancer, etc. And there were so many musical losses: country legend Loretta Lynn; Dead Kennedys drummer Daron Peligro; Specials lead singer Terry Hall; Fleetwood Mac singer/songwriter/musician Christine McVie; Seekers lead singer Judith Durham; Canadian folk legend Ian Tyson; fave singer of my teen years Olivia Newton-John….

 But it was good to get diagnosed with autism (so much is explained), and the year ended on a high note, with teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg hoisting an alleged-human-trafficking, kickboxing misogynist by his own...petard (if you missed it, Rebecca Solnit has an interesting report in the Guardian).

 Here are some other good things from my voyage through 2022.


 * * *


Thunder in Our Hearts (Music)

 "Close to You" by Rumer - My particular vocal catnip is a certain sort of melancholy tinge, and no one ever turned my head like Karen Carpenter and Sandy Denny, until Rumer.

 "Eres Tú" by Mocedades - I had wondered if any Eurovision songs besides ABBA's "Waterloo" had become an international smash; Spain's entry for the 1973 contest answers my question (and this lovely song was only the runner-up!).

 "Good as Hell" by Lizzo - A great song and video, and my gateway drug to this wonderful performer.

"Journey to the End" by Windir - You need some Norwegian black metal right about now.

The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever - These videos of flash mobs celebrating the iconoclastic entertainer Kate Bush's birthday by performing her famous song have proven a source of joy in a year in which it's been scarce—my favorite may be found here.

"Something" by Girl's Day x Boy's Day - The reputation of K-Pop boy bands for androgyny is not lost on K-Pop boy bands, which makes for some delightful videos, and my favorite is this one; it takes about a minute and a half for the androgyny to represent, but the wait will well repay your patience; plus, the song and performances are great (and you can find more of NU'EST's amazing Ren in this commercial for a Chinese mall).

 "Waterloo" by ABBA - Since I've mentioned it, here's the nascent ABBA's winning performance at the 1974 Eurovision contest, with their signature over-the-top costumes already in place (tangentially, England's finalist that year was Olivia Newton-John, who performed a much weaker song called "Long Live Love," not particularly an international smash despite ONJ also recording a German version. But ultimately all is forgiven).

 The Whole Story by Kate Bush - An excellent collection, but the lone disc of this best-of CD hardly offers the whole story at this point in Kate Bush's decades-long career—she has not been well served by record labels, at least in the U.S. (nor always well served by herself, as the re-recorded vocals here for "Wuthering Heights" demonstrate).


 * * *


Humans and Other Animals (Books)


The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek - Authoritative, useful, and utterly fascinating; I'm hoping there will be an updated edition, because it's almost a decade old now, and the science is fast-changing (the book mentions vaccines as a possible cause of autism, a hypothesis now thoroughly debunked and dangerously widespread).

 A History of the Bible: The Book and Its Faiths by John Barton - A title of pure truth in advertising; a wide-ranging and erudite book from a respected guide; an even-handed, informative, and riveting (if sometimes repetitious) account.

 Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William J. Mann - Generally, I have zero interest in celebrities beyond their performances, but Mann's massive, exhaustively researched, and authoritative biography is a complex, fascinating book about a complex, fascinating, and not particularly straightforward woman...and a book which left me wondering if 20th Century America's most beloved actress would identify as straight and/or as a woman in the modern era.

 Seven Types of Atheism by John Gray - Gray is a lucid, blunt, and sometimes funny writer and thinker, and if you suppose he might favor atheists over believers, or vice-versa, you will swiftly be disabused of that notion; highly recommended (but brace for discomfort, possibly in abundance, whatever your flavor of skepticism, faith, or politics).

 An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong - This beautifully written nonfiction book on nonhuman sensoria unintentionally exposes how rarely science fiction presents truly-alien aliens, and will undoubtedly become an important influence on many SF writers; I hope it will also do much to improve the treatment of animals.


 * * *


 Amor Actually: A Holiday Romance Anthology by Zoey Castile, Alexis Daria, Adriana Herrera, Diana Muñoz Stewart, Priscilla Oliveras, Sabrina Sol, and Mia Sosa - In this sometimes-queer, oft-steamy assemblage of linked Nochebuena novellas by best-selling Latina authors, Christmas Eve changes many lives and hearts.

 And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed - This Nebula Award-winning dark far-future novella of crime and punishment and sex work reminds me very favorably of the late, legendary Tanith Lee's weird fiction, while entirely retaining its own voice and viewpoint; how often can you say that?

 Astreiant/Points series by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett - If there were any justice, this terrific, queernormative police-procedural series—set in an alternate world of two suns, where astrology and alchemy are working sciences, men are the disenfranchised sex, and magic facilitates crime—would be one of the most popular and influential fantasy series of all time.

 Bodyguard by Dassy Bernhard - A young man with mysterious powers and an even more mysterious background foils the kidnapping of a K-Pop group, thereby landing neck-deep in corporate intrigue and MM desire; the romantic element is a bit underdeveloped, but this is a fun, genre-blending page-turner.

 A Caribbean Heiress in Paris: A Historical Romance (Las Leonas Book 1) by Adriana Herrera - Sparks of many sorts are struck when an Afro-Latina rum heiress with everything on the line travels to the 1899 World's Fair, only to clash with a whisky-distilling Scottish earl.

Counterfeit by Kirsten Chen - A pair of Stanford University products profitably deploy Asian designer fakes as good as the originals, in a literary novel in which other things, too, may not be as they seem; this book is the real deal—why is it not festooned with mystery/suspense awards?

A Counterfeit Suitor by Darcie Wilde (who also writes as Sarah Zettel) - The 2021 installment of the Regency mystery series (which owes more to Jane Austen than Georgette Heyer) moves its slow-burn MF romance onto more solid ground as amateur sleuth Rosalind Thorne, a "useful woman" in a tenuous social position, finds herself collaborating with the enemy who seeks to banish her from genteel society.

 Delilah Green Doesn't Care by Ashley Herring Blake - In this perceptive nominee for Goodreads Best Romance of 2022, the titular New York photographer does care about her art, but she's not a fan of either long-term relationships or the Northwestern step-family with whom she was stranded in childhood by her father's death; then one of her stepsister's friends, a struggling, plus-size single mother in a complicated co-parenting situation, proves unexpectedly compelling.

 D'Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins - A particularly romantic romance novel, centered on a Black/Hispanic lesbian couple matched on a fake-engagement reality-TV show—a brilliant concept for making the reader (or at least this reader) extremely tense and involved.

 Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard - An interesting but choppy Vietnamese-influenced fantasy novella of colonial threat and sapphic longing, which would have benefitted from novel length.

 Garnet Run series by Roan Parrish - Parrish writes smart, deeply empathic, typically queer romances which typically center on the sort of individuals called "weird" by schoolyard bullies and "quirky" by reviewers; this MM series is a good place to start with the author (and it also includes a publishing milestone: the first-ever gay Harlequin category romance).

Hen Fever: A Sapphic Victorian Romance by Olivia Waite - I usually cannot engage with Christmas romances, but I greatly enjoyed this charming, secular historical novella of competitive chicken-showing which centers on a lesbian romance of unseasonal heat.

 High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson - In this sly novella, the survival-minded fairy folk have taken charge of human government (and perhaps also eliminated men), but when a novel human approach to genocide rouses the fae, humanity's only hope may rest on a ne'er-do-well young scribe more interested in a hot politician than in politics.

 The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish - In this fun geographic spin on the "trading places" trope, a Maine island-born lesbian and a New Orleans-based gay man swap housing to escape desperate situations, only to find romance; the NOLA section is reasonable as far as this tourist can tell, but…if writing about Maine as an outsider, please get in touch.

 In the Event of Love by Courtney Kae - In this light contemporary holiday FF romance, an event planner's drunken dance with a client's famous fiancé goes disastrously viral, and her retreat crashes her literally into her ex's business, with heated results.

 The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang - A contemporary interracial MF romance that's quite good in some ways and pretty problematic in others; one strength is that there's solid enough autistic representation for the author to discover she was autistic and the reader to hear certain bells ringing. Very loudly. Loudly enough to find out.

 A Lady for the Duke by Alexis Hall - I enjoyed this ground-breaking trans/cis MF Regency Romance, though it was rather a choppy read for my tastes; I could never get comfortable with the mix of fairy-tale and gritty elements.

 The Language of Roses by Heather Rose Jones - Taking a break from her Alpennia series of feminist Ruritanian fantasies, Jones reimagines Beauty and the Beast in an ambitious, deeply insightful, diversely queer, literary fantasy novella.

 Lavender House by Lev A.C. Rosen - It's an intriguing premise for a novel (hardboiled murder mystery set in a mid-20th-Century safe space for queer found family), but in execution, it's rather bland and sometimes anachronistic, with a solution I didn't find very surprising; of course, your mileage may vary (content note for suicidal ideation and a brutal queer-bashing).

 Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki - This diverse, gender-savvy, genre-blending novel is lovely and gentle and tough and (in so many ways) lyrical, and provides some original twists on the deal with the devil trope; at press time, I've learned it's the deserving co-recipient of the 2021 Otherwise Award.

 The Love Study and The Hate Project (Love Study Books 1-2) by Kris Ripper - Sensitive and smart, queer and genderqueer, these contemporary romance novels offer sharp portrayals of vividly-voiced protagonists with mental health issues which are significant, yet never trivialized, swept under the rug, an impediment to reader enjoyment, or magically cured by love; that's rare and impressive, and I'm eager to read the third book, The Life Revamp.

 Lupin Leaps In: A Breaking Cat News Adventure by Georgia Dunn - After the comic strip began irregularly crossing my internet path, I read one of the collections, and found a lot more depth than I expected, given the light, funny, cuddly surface; and I mourned, soon after, when the real-life Lupin (inspiration for not only the deaf lead anchor cat of BCN, but the series itself) passed away.

 Masters in This Hall by KJ Charles - And so we come to another Victorian secular holiday romance I enjoyed; it probably didn't hurt that this novella leans into the crime/caper/murder mystery genre, or that it's from the amazing KJ Charles.

 The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler - In a queer near-future novella focused on the sort of older characters rarely centered in speculative fiction, an aging diplomat may find a way to counter ever-worsening climate devastation...or she may be suffering from hallucinations and memory loss.

 New Edge Sword & Sorcery Magazine Issue #0 - New Edge refers to S&S with modern sensibilities and diverse awareness; the inaugural issue of this new magazine has fine fiction and nonfiction, and the eBook edition is available free at this link, while the hardcover and paperback editions are available at cost from various bookstores, physical and virtual.

 New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl - Few anthologies have such consistent excellence of contents, so it's a pleasure to see the project and its stories and editor lauded and awarded as they deserve; I eagerly await New Suns 2.

 Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro - A globe-spanning Victorian spin on the school-of-mutants subgenre, this intense and deeply atmospheric fantasy novel might have been still stronger had it been published as a trilogy (as an aside, this work is unusual for recent speculative fiction [in my experience] in having no romantic content and minimal overt identification of sexual orientation).


 The Perks of Loving a Wallflower: The Wild Wynchesters Book 2 by Erica Ridley - The motley Wynchester family functions more than a little like a superhero group, performing daring deeds to right wrongs; in this volume, a young bluestocking lady with an overbearing mother and a fraud or two to foil finds herself relying on the Wynchesters, and especially on their master of disguise, who sometimes goes by Thomas and sometimes by Thomasina (this has been described as F/F romance, but F/NB seems a more accurate description).

 The Plains of Shadow (Kurval Book 1) by Richard Blakemore and Cora Buhlert - With a metafictional auctorial twist to this short pulp eBook, Hugo Award winner Cora Buhlert launches her imaginative sword and sorcery series about a wandering barbarian swordsman who is a tribute to the creations of Robert E. Howard yet very much his own man.

 A Psalm for the Wild-Built and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (Monk & Robot Books 1-2)

by Becky Chambers - When the peripatetic/therapeutic tea monk Sibling Dex encounters the robot Mosscap in a post-capitalist, post-technocratic world abandoned by robots, questions about human meaning gain a new urgency; Chambers has quietly become one of our most interesting writers of philosophically informed fiction, and one who is also, I think, operating from a thoughtful secular perspective, which tends to be demoted in reviews to "doesn't understand religion/faith," when what she's doing is taking a whole other ontological tack (one which delights and fascinates me as an areligious agnostic atheist reader, and leaves me kind of envious as a writer, but in a good way).

 The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian - A fine MM Regency romance with fencing and political radicalism; I'm looking forward to the MF sequel, The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes.

 "Radcliffe Hall" by Miyuki Jane Pinckard - A literary gothic/ghost/murder mystery set largely in the titular residence hall of a WASPy turn-of-the-previous-century women's college in New England, this ambitious and involving novella will appeal to pretty much anyone who enjoys dark historical fantasies like Jordan L. Hawk's Widdershins series or KJ Charles's Charm of Magpies series (despite the title, the novella has no particular tie that I could discern to the ground-breaking British lesbian author Radcliffe Hall).

 The Red Man and Others by Remco van Straten and Angeline B. Adams - These gritty, graceful stories of a short swordswoman, a disabled scholar, a youthful con artist, the titular soldier, and other rarely-seen characters perceptively reimagines sword and sorcery through outsider, working-class perspectives, an approach which also puts this collection in the nearly-forgotten low fantasy subgenre.


 Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell by Taj McCoy - In this enjoyable if uneven novel of self-actualization, L.A. style (marketed rather misleadingly as a romance), the eponymous Savvy, a Black/Vietnamese-American woman of size, moves beyond life as an insurance claims adjuster married to her job, with the help of her supportive and insightful gal-pals and a sensitive and sexy home-remodeling contractor.

 Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult - My introduction to the English language's second-bestselling female author is a romantic, literary, melodrama-edged page-turner about legal inequities and a later-in-life lesbian relationship; it left me eager never to have a star turn in a courtroom, and also left me trying to parse the difference between the portrayals of queer characters by queer writers and those by straight writers (I think it's "isolated and crushed in oppressive society vs. supported in healthy and happy community"; but my cishet judgement is suspect at best).

 Siren Queen by Nghi Vo - In a subgenre (fiction about film) in which an original twist is a rare sight, Vo's alternate-historical novel of a queer Asian-American actress negotiating a literally magical and genuinely dangerous Hollywood never fails to surprise; this is one of the most impressive fantasy novels I've ever read, or most impressive fictions generally.

 Spear by Nicola Griffith - This women-centered literary fantasy novella of post-Roman Britain beautifully reimagines Arthurian legend with feminist acuity, overt queerness, and a rare and much-appreciated depth of research.

 Spirits Abroad (expanded 2021 edition) by Zen Cho - Nineteen unpredictable, gorgeous stories of ghosts and monsters, families and lovers, East and West, death and life, past and present and future, from the brilliant and essential author.

 "sturm und drang" by spit_kitten - This original (non-fanfiction) MM Regency romance at the famous fanfic platform AO3, a shorter novella, is better than most romances I've read at any length.

 To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers - When technological breakthroughs permit a small exploratory crew to reach the stars, extrasolar planets may prove more than the human body and mind can handle; the ending opens outward, which works for me, but won't for everyone.

 Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison - The title implies a holiday tie-in, but this contemporary mystery novel (first in a series) is set in a warmer season, and the Christmas in question is widowed Church of England vicar Tom Christmas, whose new life is upended when he discovers a pair of bodies in bizarre locations.

 When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill - In this thoughtful, emotionally intense, romantic, feminist literary fantasy novel, a mysterious mass event in an alternate 1950s America turns thousands of women into, well, you know.

 Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell - This gender-savvy SF novel dances at the far-future edge of diverse space opera as a pair of men forced to marry for political reasons contend with imperial treachery and their own cross-threaded romantic attractions.


 Cynthia Ward has published stories in Analog, Asimov's, Nightmare, Startling Stories, Weird Tales, and other magazines and anthologies. For WolfSinger Publications, she edited the diversity-themed anthologies Lost Trails: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West Volumes 1-2. With fellow Aqueductista Nisi Shawl, Cynthia coauthored the Locus Award winning fiction-writing guide, Writing the Other: A Practical Approach. In Autumn 2021, Aqueduct Press released the concluding novella in her Bloody-Thirsty Agent series, The Adventure of the Golden Woman.