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But What if You Added a Dragon? How Jenn Lyons Would Improve 6 Books

13Jenn Lyons is the author of the epic A Chorus of Dragons series, and she’s also one of the foremost dragonic scholars of the contemporary age. Here we consult her comprehensive knowledge of dragon lore to understand what SFF titles would benefit from the inclusion of one (or more) dragon(s).

by Jenn Lyons

I have a confession to make: I’ve never written a novel that didn’t have a dragon in it. Now, as I’m known as an epic fantasy author whose first series literally has the word dragon in the title, this may not seem like much of a confession, but please I understand: I mean all the novels. The unpublished novels that no one has ever seen, sitting in a metaphorical drawer.

Yes, the sci-fi novels too.

Why not, after all? Dragons deserve some love in any genre fiction story, whether that’s something set in a slightly speculative version of our world today to stories of the far future set in space. Raymond Chandler used to say that anytime he was stuck in a story, he’d have someone walk into a room holding a gun. Me? I have a dragon crash the party.

Works every time.

Now obviously, there are a number of sci-fi books which already contain dragons. The Dragonriders of Pern books by Anne McCaffery, Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny, and Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee are just a few books where the setting is scifi but my favorite monster is still in the house.

With that said, here’s a few sci-fi books that I feel might have been made just that tiny bit better by the introduction of a dragon:

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John ScalziThe Kaiju Preservation Society

No, don’t be silly. This already has dragons in it. John Scalzi just calls them something else. Respect.



Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn MuirGideon the Ninth

It’s easy to look at Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir and accuse me of cheating by slipping a fantasy novel into the mix, but no, it turns that this story of necromancers, dead worlds, and the cost of resurrection is, in fact, sci-fi. That said, there’s enough magic flying around (or what looks like magic) to make the addition of a dragon not just thematically plausible, but easily justifiable. Who wouldn’t want to see a cadre of necromancers forced to deal with a dragon? (Probably a dead dragon. Yeah, let’s face it: this dragon’s absolutely dead. And angry about it.) Quite frankly, nobody in any Houses would’ve been surprised to find a dragon in the bowels of Canaan House. Maybe the only surprise was that there wasn’t one.

The Fifth Season by N. K. JemisinThe Fifth Season

N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy about a world regularly torn asunder by extinction level events (book one’s titular The Fifth Season) hardly needs a dragon. There’s more than enough fire from volcanoes and that one time someone opened a rift right across the entire continent, straight down into the world’s mantle. In fact, I suspect the biggest issue with a dragon in these books is the distinct possibility that no one would notice. Or if they did, would probably just give a resigned shrug as if to say “Sure, why not a dragon, too?”

All Systems Red by Martha WellsAll Systems Red

Given the nature of Martha Well’s stories about a very cranky SecUnit construct called Murderbot and its battles against far-future corporations (and its own feelings), I would absolutely want to see a dragon in one of these tales. A dragon that I suspect would immediately adopt Murderbot, because it too understands what it’s like to live in a universe where everyone assumes you’re only around to kill people and tear shit up.

I mean, yes, watching Murderbot fight a dragon would be awesome. More awesome? Watching Murderbot and a dragon fight something else.

Cibola Burn by James S. A. CoreyCibola Burn

I love the Expanse series, written by James S.A. Corey (the joint pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank). I’d love to say that I was into the books way before the TV show; that would be lying. I discovered the books because of the TV show, and immediately devoured everything that was out at the time (and continued to do so until the end of the series). Cibola Burn, the fourth book, takes places almost entirely on an alien world that humanity is attempting to colonize. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce a dragon, and I’ve got to be honest here: the authors completely missed their shot. Not a single dragon to be found anywhere. Not even a protomolecule entity shaped vaguely like a dragon. Disappointing.

And no, despite the name, Tiamat’s Wrath also has a depressing lack of actual dragons.

Dune by Frank HerbertDune

I know what you’re going to say here: Frank Herbert’s masterpiece doesn’t need dragons; it already has sandworms. But hear me out here. What if the Empire had tried to genetically engineer an alternative to sandworms? An alternative developed on another equally inhospitable planet more fully under the empire’s control, like say, Salusa Secundus? The experiment wouldn’t have worked, of course, but perhaps they ended up with something useful anyway, if only for having bad tempers and lots of sharp, pointy teeth.

All I’m saying is the Empire’s forces could’ve shown up on Arrakis with both Sardaukar troops AND dragons.

And those are just a few examples. Now I don’t expect authors to go rush out and write a bunch of sci-fi complete with dragons in it…

But why not?


Our Favorite Badass Female Scientists in SFF

Ready to celebrate some of our favorite, most BADASS women in the STEM field?! Check out our round-up of kick-ass female scientists in sci-fi here!

By Julia Bergen

When I was a little girl, books and movies were filled with the “lady scientist” trope. She never seemed to do much actual science but seemed more focused on supporting the male characters. Think Sigourney Weaver’s play on this character type in Galaxy Quest. Now that I’m raising a daughter of my own, I’m so excited that culture has moved away from this outdated idea of what women in STEM can be, and that she’ll have so many awesome scientists of all genders to read about and root for!

image-alt5Evelyn Caldwell from The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Evelyn Caldwell’s personal life might be messy (that’s one word for it when your husband cheats on you…with your clone…and gets her pregnant) but her career is truly aspirational. She’s an award-winning geneticist at the top of her game. Her husband works in the field as well, but it’s clear that she has never played second fiddle to him.

image-alt4Kira Navárez from To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Kira Navárez is a talented xenobiologist, who travels the stars conducting her research surveys. Basically, the dream job. Until she finds an artifact that pulls her into galactic war. But hey, science isn’t always easy. Kira’s curiosity pulls her into a grand adventure across the galaxy which might not be the most pleasant for her, but is fascinating to read about.

image-alt3Jack from The Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire

Both Jack and her more murderous twin Jill are such fascinating characters, the type that only Seanan McGuire can conjure. Growing up, Jack’s parents dress her in frilly dresses and never let her play sports or do anything traditionally masculine. They don’t even let anyone call her Jack, instead insisting she always be called Jacqueline. It isn’t until Jack and Jill venture into the magical world of the Moors that they’re able to become their full selves. For Jill, that means terrorizing villagers and hanging out with a vampire, but for Jack, she’s finally able to embrace her love of science, while studying under Dr. Bleak in his windmill laboratory.

image-alt-2Ye Wenjie from The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Liu’s entire trilogy is filled with incredible female scientists. I picked Ye Wenjie for this article not just because she’s a brilliant astrophysicist, but because she’s such a morally complex character. After seeing her father executed she decides Earth is beyond saving itself, and makes way for the alien Trisolarans to invade. She also kinda starts a cult. Yet through it all, the reader is always able to understand her motivations and see that her goal was always to help humanity. Women who are awesome at science and also deal with difficult ethical questions? Yes, please!

image-alt1The narrator from Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation actually contains not just one, but four badass women who are experts in their fields. The narrator is the biologist of the group tasked with mapping the mysterious “Area X,” a vast plot of land teaming with bizarre organisms. Every mission beforehand has ended…poorly, but that doesn’t stop these women from using their knowledge and expertise to explore the unknown and attempt to bring order to the chaos of “Area X.”

image-altNaomi Nagata, from The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey

Naomi Nagata, chief engineer of the Rocinante, is a genius when it comes to spaceships. Frequently the Rocinante and its crew would be killed in a variety of nasty ways if it wasn’t for her. She’s strong as hell, but Corey expertly avoids making her a Strong Female Character™ by giving her a depth and humanity that makes her such an amazing character.


The Most Interesting Humans Turned Weapons In SFF, According to Karen Osborne

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What is the best weapon you can have in a science fiction novel? Sometimes, the answer is ‘who’ and not ‘what.’ Karen Osborne, debut author of Architects of Memory and the newly released Engines of Oblivion, joined us to share her favorite humans turned weapons of science fictiondo you agree with her choices?

By Karen Osborne

Guns. Bombs. Bioweapons. Sometimes all of it is just not enough to get what you want. Whether you’re talking about reincarnated traitor generals or small children that know every magical spell ever written, a living, breathing human weapon is an absolute must for any decent aspiring space despot’s growing arsenal—because sometimes, you just need a weapon that can think on its own.

The recipe is simple: take one soldier with tactical talent, give them wildly destructive powers, remove the ability to make decisions for themselves, and stop treating them like a human being. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and they’ll stop thinking of themselves that way, too. They’ll pull their own pin and hug their own trigger.

Just be careful—sometimes your newly-forged weapons remember who they were before you came along…

Placeholder of  -88Essun and the Orogenes — The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

At the beginning of The Fifth Season, all Essun wants is to be left alone to raise her children, but that’s not going to happen, as her husband is about to find out they’re all orogenes.

To be an orogene is to have immense power: to command the energy of the earth, to cause earthquakes and volcanos, to channel water and even kill others. To manifest as an orogene is to be feared. You risk being killed or given to the Fulcrum, an organization that will train you to channel your abilities and use them in service of the society that hates you.

But you don’t get a say about that. You become a weapon in the Fulcrum’s hands, to be used as seen fit. And after being taken from your parents, dehumanized, mistreated and enslaved, how long until you pull your own trigger?

At the beginning of this book, everyone finds out. An orogene rips open the center of the world’s great supercontinent, causing the apocalyptic, climate-changing Fifth Season, and, as the Fulcrum discovers, even a human weapon cannot look away from the power of love.

Image Place holder  of - 29General Shuos Jedao — Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

What immortal dictator doesn’t want a tractable pocket tactician? The leaders of the spacebound hexarchate have one in the form of Shuos Jedao, one of the most gifted military minds of his generation. There’s just one problem: he’s insane.

During his life, Jedao never lost a battle—until he turned heretical traitor and burned an entire fleet under his command. Jedao’s disembodied mind was stored away until the hexarchate needed a win, then forced to win battles for the hexarchate as punishment.

In his revenant form, he isn’t allowed to sleep, nor does he have control of the body into which he’s installed. This time, that body belongs to Kel Cheris, a math genius and dedicated soldier skating on the edge of heresy herself. He’s nothing more than an intelligent weapon meant to help Cheris win the next big fight.

But there’s a problem with hosting a pocket tactician who’s smarter than you. If the hexarchate can’t see what that is, not even immortality will be able to help them.

Place holder  of - 76Caliban — Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

Any self-respecting space corporation out to create market-rattling bioweapons can be expected to dabble around with alien technology. Protogen is no exception, using forgotten street children from Ganymede as matrices for their walking bioweapon Hybrids.

At first, the program appears to succeed, with the supersoldiers able to move fast, survive in hard vacuum, and tear apart hull plating like tissue paper, and Protogen makes an army of Calibans. But whether it was the alien protomolecule or some last, aching humanity inside their monstrous blue carapaces, the Hybrids refuse to submit to anyone, even after the company installed bombs in their bodies as a control measure.

This isn’t the only time Protogen attempts to turn alien technology into corporate profit. On Eros, they infect enough people with the protomolecule that it makes an entire asteroid sentient. As the characters would eventually find out, big space rocks make pretty good weapons by themselves.

Image Placeholder of - 87The Archive — Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Even though the neutral Archive hasn’t yet been used as a weapon, she’s on this list because of how easily she could be—after all, in Harry Dresden’s world, knowledge is often power.

When we first meet the Archive, she doesn’t even have a name. The Archive is a child—and at the same time, a repository of all the human wisdom that has ever been written. Born to a mother that committed suicide rather than host the Archive, she’s been that way for as long as she can remember.

And that’s the problem. The Archive appears from book to book to mediate and fight for the side of good, but as a child, she doesn’t understand many of the things that she knows. She’s powerful, but she doesn’t understand just how powerful she could become. The sheer amount of power stuck in her changing teenage mind—well, anyone who spent three hours in a high school would understand why that might be concerning.

Luckily, the Archive is better off than some of our other walking weapons. She has Dresden’s assistance, as well as the help of her half-demon bodyguard, and she’s passed all the tests she’s been given. But who is to say that will always be the case?

image-37452Takeshi Kovacs and the Envoys — Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

In Morgan’s cyberpunk world, people are virtually immortal. Human minds are separated from bodies to be “re-sleeved” at will. Takeshi Kovacs was a criminal before he was a member of the United Nations Envoy Corps, a group of supersoldiers who aren’t trained as much as conditioned, able to achieve superhuman feats partially because their conditioning strips them of all inhibitions when it comes to violence. (There’s a reason Envoys are prohibited from holding public office.)

When Kovacs leaves the service, he becomes a criminal again, and his recidivism is understandable. It’s impossible for a post-conditioning Envoy to live a normal life. There’s no bumpy transition back to a civilian world because the changes to his mind make it impossible for him to become a civilian. Kovacs is arrested and imprisoned in digital storage for years before being resurrected to work hazardous private-eye gigs, because if there’s something a human weapon knows how to do, it’s dueling spy operatives, blowing out airships, and taking out mob bosses—while getting reincarnated to do it over and over again.

Kovacs, of course, finds his place in it. After all, he’s a weapon now.

Karen Osborne is the debut author of Architects of Memoryon sale from Tor Books now, and Engines of Oblivion, on sale 2/9/21.

Order Architects of Memory Here:

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Order Engines of Oblivion Here:

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