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“I See Dead People”: Our 5 Favorite Ghost Talkers in SFF

While “I see dead people” might cause the average person to flee in terror, for the protagonists of these books, it’s just business as usual. From lesbian necromancers, to spirit mediums during World War I, to a ghostalker who carries messages to those left behind, here are five stories where characters don’t seem to mind talking with folks who should be dead and buried.

By Lizzy Hosty


The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

Cynical teen Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker, and business is booming. Listening to the never-ending parade of ghosts who ask her to take messages back to the ones they left behind, Ropa soon hears of someone on her patch who is bewitching children and leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. Calling on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

In this follow-up to The Goblin Emperor, which follows Thara Celehar, the Prelate of Ulis that found the truth for the half-goblin Maia and inadvertently ousted from his place as emperor. Now, Celehar lives among the commoners, which suits him just fine. Until his skills as a Witness for the Dead – which lets him speak to the recently dead, see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, and experience the last thing they felt – thrusts him deep into a treacherous plot.

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

During World War I, not even the phrase “dead men tell no tales” is true. Because as long as the recently deceased speak with a member of the Spirit Corps, the Allies can fight on. Ginger Stuyvesant is an American living in London during World War I, and she is such a member of the Spirit Corps. But when Ginger discovers a traitor amongst their ranks, and goes to report what she has found, no one believes her. Ginger realizes it’s all up to her to find out exactly how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them herself.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke

In England in the midst of the Napoleonic era, with wars being waged on land and sea, two very different magicians emerge to challenge the belief that magic is dead and gone. One of the magicians, the reclusive Mr. Norrel, reveals his powers and becomes a celebrity instantly. The other magician – a young and handsome Jonathan Strange – comes forth to become Mr. Norrel’s protege and to join the war against France. But Jonathan dares to practice the most dangerous forms of magic, which puts his relationship with Mr. Norrel – and everything he’s worked for – at risk.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon’s afterlife as a reanimated corpse involves a life of servitude that Gideon is ready to be done with. Packing up her sword, shoes, and her dirty magazines, Gideon prepares to run away – only to be stopped by her nemesis, Harrowhark Nonagesimus who demands a service. Harrow is the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and a bone witch extraordinaire and has been invited to a deadly trial of wits that, if she succeeds at, could make her an immortal servant of the Resurrection. Harrow needs Gideon to help her win, because to lose is to have the Ninth House die.