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The Hottest eBook Deals of August 2023

Looking for some hot ebook deals to coast you through the rest of the summer? We’ve got you covered! Check them out here.


The Calculating Starsthe calculating stars by mary robinette kowal by Mary Robinette Kowal — $3.99

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too. Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

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Soldier of the Mistsoldier of the mist by gene wolfe by Gene Wolfe — $3.99

The first volume of Gene Wolfe’s powerful story of Latro, a Roman mercenary who received a head injury that deprived him of his short-term memory. In return it gave him the ability to converse with supernatural creatures, gods and goddesses who invisibly inhabit the ancient landscape.

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Daughter of the Forestdaughter of the forest by juliet marillier by Juliet Marillier — $3.99

Lord Colum of Sevenwaters is blessed with six sons: Liam, a natural leader; Diarmid, with his passion for adventure; twins Cormack and Conor, each with a different calling; rebellious Finbar, grown old before his time by his gift of the Sight; and the young, compassionate Padriac. But it is Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter, who alone is destined to defend her family and protect her land from the Britons and the clan known as Northwoods. For her father has been bewitched, and her brothers bound by a spell that only Sorcha can lift.

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A Shadow in Summera summer in shadow by daniel abraham by Daniel Abraham — $3.99

The powerful city-state of Saraykeht is a bastion of peace and culture, a major center of commerce and trade. Its economy depends on the power of the captive spirit, Seedless, an andat bound to the poet-sorcerer Heshai for life. Enter the Galts, a juggernaut of an empire committed to laying waste to all lands with their ferocious army. Saraykeht, though, has always been too strong for the Galts to attack, but now they see an opportunity. If they can dispose of Heshai, Seedless’s bonded poet-sorcerer, Seedless will perish and the entire city will fall. With secret forces inside the city, the Galts prepare to enact their terrible plan. In the middle is Otah, a simple laborer with a complex past. Recruited to act as a bodyguard for his girlfriend’s boss at a secret meeting, he inadvertently learns of the Galtish plot. Otah finds himself as the sole hope of Saraykeht, either he stops the Galts, or the whole city and everyone in it perishes forever.

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The Wayfarer Redemptionthe wayfarer redemption by sara douglass by Sara Douglass — $3.99

A millennia-old prophecy was given when the Forbidden Ones were driven from Achar. And now, the Acharites witness its manifestation: Achar is under attack by an evil lord from the North, Gorgreal–his ice demons strike from the sky and kill hundreds of brave warriors in the blink of an eye. One young woman, Faraday, betrothed of Duke Borneheld, learns that all she has been told about her people’s history is untrue. While fleeing to safety from the dangerous land, Faraday, rides with Axis, legendary leader of the Axe-Wielders–and hated half-brother of Borneheld–and a man Faraday secretly loves although it would be death to admit it. She embarks on a journey, which will change her life forever, in search of the true nature of her people.

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Death’s Mistress: Sister of Darknessdeath's mistress by terry goodkind by Terry Goodkind — $3.99

One-time lieutenant of the evil Emperor Jagang, known as “Death’s Mistress” and the “Slave Queen”, the deadly Nicci captured Richard Rahl in order to convince him that the Imperial Order stood for the greater good. But it was Richard who converted Nicci instead, and for years thereafter she served Richard and Kahlan as one of their closest friends—and one of their most lethal defenders. Now, with the reign of Richard and Kahlan finally stabilized, Nicci has set out on her own for new adventures. One of her jobs will be to keep her travelling companion, the unworldly prophet Nathan, out of trouble. But her real task will be to scout the far reaches of Richard Rahl’s realm. This will take her and Nathan to visit the mysterious witch-woman Red, to tangle with the street life of the port city of Tanimura, to fight lethal battles on the high seas, and ultimately to a vast magical confrontation far from home…with the future of life itself, in the Old World and the New, at stake.

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The Waking Enginethe waking engine by david edison by David Edison — $2.99

Contrary to popular wisdom, death is not the end, nor is it a passage to some transcendent afterlife. Those who die merely awake as themselves on one of a million worlds, where they are fated to live until they die again, and wake up somewhere new. All are born only once, but die many times . . . until they come at last to the City Unspoken, where the gateway to True Death can be found. Wayfarers and pilgrims are drawn to the City, which is home to murderous aristocrats, disguised gods and goddesses, a sadistic faerie princess, immortal prostitutes and queens, a captive angel, gangs of feral Death Boys and Charnel Girls . . . and one very confused New Yorker. Late of Manhattan, Cooper finds himself in a City that is not what it once was. The gateway to True Death is failing, so that the City is becoming overrun by the Dying, who clot its byzantine streets and alleys . . . and a spreading madness threatens to engulf the entire metaverse.

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Our Favorite Historical SFF Retellings

History is written by the victors; or in this case, re-written to explore what could have been. From a young assassin who uses knives to instil fear in her targets, to a young woman who steals her older brother’s destiny of greatness, travel to a reimagined history with these fantastical stories.


Image Placeholder of - 33She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

In this reimagining tale about the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, the second daughter of a family of starving peasants is told her fate will amount to nothingness, while her older brother, Zhu Chongba, will achieve greatness. However, when their father is killed, and Zhu dies from despair, the daughter decides to take on her brother’s identity to steal his fate.

Image Place holder  of - 79Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

When a young woman from Harlem is hired as an assassin, she uses knives to scare the most dangerous of citizens. Ten years later, and at the beginning of World War II, the assassin, Phyllis LeBlanc, has given up on her past – including the man she loved, Dev. But her past hasn’t given up on her, and soon Phyllis has to make a choice – but is there ever enough blood in the world to wash clean generations of injustice?

Placeholder of  -46The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

In the glittering 1920s of this reinvented tale from The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker is Asian, queer, and a magician. Jordan has grown up in the most elite circles of society – she has money, education, and invites to all the hottest parties. But as a Vietnamese adoptee, she is also treated as exotic by those around her, and the most important doors remain closed to her. But the world of lost ghosts, elemental mysteries, dazzling illusions, and infernal pacts is calling to her.

Poster Placeholder of - 11The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

A huge meteorite crashed to earth in 1952 and took out most of the East Coast. Soon a looming climate crisis that could make the earth inhospitable for humans forces humanity to expedite their efforts to colonize space. As a WASP pilot and mathematician, Elma York is given a chance to live on the moon. But Elma’s drive to be an astronaut is so strong that not even the International Aerospace Coalition can keep her from exploring space.

Place holder  of - 72Lent by Jo Walton

In fifteenth century Florence, young Girolamo can see demons and cast them out on his own will. And not only that, but Girolamo seems to have the charisma and charm to make friends out of noblemen, convince Charles VIII of France to not invade Florence and instead protect, and to make any crowd he preaches to swoon. Soon, people begin to feel threatened by his power, such as the Pope who is bent on preventing him from controlling Florence. But Girolamo is just getting started.

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$2.99 ebook Sale: June 22-28

$2.99 ebook Sale: June 22-28

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We have a VERY exciting ebook sale this week for some of our bestselling titles—are you ready? Check out what books you can snag for only $2.99 below:


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The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

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Placeholder of  -31Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Deadmen Walking is the first historical fantasy title in New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Deadman’s Cross series. It is a tale of passion and loss, emotions that wound and heal…and ultimate redemption

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Image Placeholder of - 58The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Tess and Beth’s lives intertwine as war breaks out across the timeline–a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leave only a small group of elites with the power to shape the past, present, and future. Against the vast and intricate forces of history and humanity, is it possible for a single person’s actions to echo throughout the timeline?

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Place holder  of - 42Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

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Image Place holder  of - 30Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place.

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The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

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Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin was not the only child in the Battle School; he was just the best of the best. In this new book, card tells the story of another of those precocious generals, the one they called Bean–the one who became Ender’s right hand, part of his team, in the final battle against the Buggers.

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The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin

When the inhabitants of a peaceful world are conquered by the bloodthirsty yumens, their existence is irrevocably altered. Forced into servitude, the Athsheans find themselves at the mercy of their brutal masters. Desperation causes the Athsheans, led by Selver, to retaliate against their captors, abandoning their strictures against violence. But in defending their lives, they have endangered the very foundations of their society.

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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

A war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

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The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

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The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too. Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological startup go to war in order to prevent the world from tearing itself apart. To further complicate things, each of the groups’ most promising followers (Patricia, a brilliant witch and Laurence, an engineering “wunderkind”) may just be in love with each other. Laurence and Patricia are forced to choose sides, but their choices will determine the fate of the planet and all mankind.

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$2.99 eBook Sale: April 27-May 3

$2.99 eBook Sale: April 27-May 3

Happy Tuesday, everyone! This week, we have a VERY special sale of some of our most popular Tor Book titles—who’s excited?! Check out what Tor eBooks you can grab for $2.99 this week only below:

The Way of KingsPlaceholder of  -97 by Brandon Sanderson

Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before Destination. And return to men the Shards they once bore. The Knights Radiant must stand again.

 

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The Three-Body ProblemImage Placeholder of - 94 by Cixin Liu

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

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The Eye of the WorldImage Place holder  of - 27 by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

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The Calculating Stars Poster Placeholder of - 43by Mary Robinette Kowal

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too. Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

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 Place holder  of - 86Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

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A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court. Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster than light travel is impossible—until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars. Riding The Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war—and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.

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Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister—without losing herself.

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The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

January is a dying planet—divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk. But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside. Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal. But fate has other plans—and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

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The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Kihrin grew up in the slums of Quur, a thief and a minstrel’s son raised on tales of long-lost princes and magnificent quests. When he is claimed against his will as the missing son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds himself at the mercy of his new family’s ruthless power plays and political ambitions. Practically a prisoner, Kihrin discovers that being a long-lost prince is nothing like what the storybooks promised. The storybooks have lied about a lot of other things, too: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, and how the hero always wins. Then again, maybe he isn’t the hero after all. For Kihrin is not destined to save the world. He’s destined to destroy it.

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$2.99 Ebook Deal: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Image Place holder  of - 90The ebook edition of The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal is on sale now for only $2.99! This offer will only last for a limited time, so order your copy today!

About The Calculating Stars:

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

Order Your Copy

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This sale ends September 1.

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New Releases: 7/3/18

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Bound for Gold by William Martin

Image Placeholder of - 52 Bound for Gold continues William Martin’s epic of American history with the adventures of Boston rare-book dealer Peter Fallon and his girlfriend, Evangeline Carrington. They are headed to California, where their search for a lost journal takes them into the history of Gold Rush. The journal follows young James Spencer, of the Sagamore Mining Company, on a spectacular journey from staid Boston, up the Sacramento River to the Mother Lode. During his search for a “lost river of gold,” Spencer confronts vengeance, greed, and racism in himself and others, and builds one of California’s first mercantile empires.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Image Place holder  of - 94 On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

Place holder  of - 86 Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry.

Max’s Story by W. Bruce Cameron

Poster Placeholder of - 99 Meet Max—a very special dog with a very important purpose.

As soon as he sets eyes on CJ, Max knows that she’s his girl and quickly figures out his purpose: to show her how to navigate the big city. Being a native New Yorker, Max knows how to take charge, even though he’s the smallest dog at the park. At the same time, with CJ’s help, Max learns that he doesn’t always have to be ferocious—sometimes, he can be “gentle Max” and make friends.

NEW IN MANGA

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest (Manga) Vol. 2 Story by Ryo Shirakome; Art by RoGa

Cutie Honey: The Classic Collection Story and art by Go Nagai

Go For It, Nakamura! Story and art by Syundei

Harukana Receive Vol. 1 Story and art by Nyoijizai

Mushroom Girls in Love Story and art by Kei Murayama

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5 Sci-Fi Novels for Fans of Hidden Figures

As SF/F nerds, we loved the math, science, diversity, and real-life space adventures in Hidden Figures. In fact, we were hungry for more. There are plenty of lists recommending more non-fiction titles similar to Margot Lee Shetterly’s masterpiece, but not many featuring fiction. So we rounded up 5 great science fiction novels sure to grab the imagination of everyone who loved the fiercely talented women of Hidden Figures.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Image Place holder  of - 99 Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series takes place in an alternate 1950s America, where the East Coast was devastated by a meteorite strike. The meteorite wiped out entire cities along the coast, killing millions and causing, possibly, a global warming event. As a result, America jump starts the space race, locked not into a competition with the Soviet Union, but an actual race for humanity’s survival among the stars. The Earth of Kowal’s series still has a lot of the hangups of our actual past (and present)—including, most prominently, the racism and sexism the women in Hidden Figures fought so hard against—and her diverse cast of women must fight to push their way into the front lines of science.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Place holder  of - 75 Much as the women in Hidden Figures had to deal with the very real legacy of racism in America, the characters in Nisi Shawl’s fictional Belgian Congo must deal with the legacy of colonialism in this alt history steampunk novel. The plot follows a diverse cast of characters in the titular Everfair, a colony created by well-meaning Westerners to create a safe haven for everyone, including escaped slaves. Of course, well-meaning doesn’t necessarily mean self-aware, and we see the Fabian Socialists from Great Britain struggling with their own unacknowledged racism, as they try to force Western values on the colonial inhabitants. Told from a multiplicity of voices—Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans—Shawl’s speculative novel is an examination of complex relationships in an often ignored period of history.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Poster Placeholder of - 62 If your favorite part of Hidden Figures was how it combined science, ambition, and the personal lives of its leading women, then definitely check out Radiance by Catherynne Valente. Set in an alternate history 1986 where humanity has spanned the solar system, yet talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family, Radiance follows Severin Unck as she creates her final film: a documentary investigation of the disappearance of a colony on Venus. Combining love, loss, family, quantum physics, and silent film, this pulpy space opera mystery does its best to unravel the scientific and human mysteries of a fantastical universe.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Image Placeholder of - 71 If you love reading about strong women who defy societal expectations because of their love of math and science, then the next book you should pick up is Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor. The titular Binti is a member of the Himba people, who never leave their homeworld. So when Binti denies her family and her people to attend the galaxy’s most prestigious university, Oomza Uni, she has to run away to get there. On the journey, her ship is attacked by Meduse, an alien race, and Binti must use all her resources—her intelligence, her mathematical and communication skills, and a piece of ancient Earth tech—to stay alive.

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

Placeholder of  -2 Hidden Figures is a story of women of color pushing boundaries to create a scientific future that they have a place in. While that fight is definitely not over, there are potential new conflicts on the horizon as well. Namely: if and when humanity actually creates artificial intelligence, how will we treat it? What will be the relationship between people and artificial entities? These are some of the questions at the core of Ted Chiang’s novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects. Chiang follows two people and the artificial intelligence they created as they deal with the upgrades and obsolescence that are inevitable for software. The question of nature versus nurture is about to take on a whole new meaning.

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The Responsibility of Narratives

Placeholder of  -28 By Mary Robinette Kowal

As mainstream culture becomes increasingly vocal about the politics of gender, it makes me aware of all of the damaging narrative that I’ve internalized and which has created internal biases in myself. Those show up in my fiction. So when I sit down to write, I now assume that I have a bias.

Why is this a problem?

Because we are made of narrative. As humans, we respond to narrative in ways that we don’t respond to facts. Cory Doctorow talks about storytelling as a survival trait, and suggests that being able to empathize with a character is a survival trait. It makes sense, because if you don’t have this trait and someone tells you, ‘I went over there on that cliff and the ground gave way and I almost died!’—if you don’t internalize that in some way, you’re going to go over to the cliff, step on the unstable ground…and DIE. Being able to internalize narrative is part of what makes us human and keeps us moving forward and growing.

But we can also internalize narrative that is damaging.

So one of the responsibilities I have is knowing that people are going to internalize what I write. I have a responsibility to be aware of and cautious about passing my own biases on. That’s something I thought about very consciously for the Lady Astronaut books.

This is an alt-history starting in 1952, in which an asteroid strikes Washington, DC. I wanted to highlight the women who worked in the early space program. Let me explain how deeply these biases are woven in from narrative and how narrative can counter them.

I wrote this before Hidden Figures came out. This is an important detail. In The Calculating Stars, I have a character Helen Liu, modeled on a real life woman working at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1940. My beta-readers had difficulty believing that a Chinese woman would be there. They had difficulty with the black women that I had working in the computer department, even though I was basing them on real women.

After Hidden Figures came out, that reaction went away. Nothing about my writing had changed, but the narrative that people had internalized had shifted.

I had internalized it as well, honestly, but because of the larger conversation, I knew that bias was there. I assumed that women were involved in the program and had been left out. My other assumption is that people of color had been involved in the space program and been erased from the narrative.

Because the thing about gender is that you can’t look at it without the intersection of race. And when you start realizing how thoroughly and heavily women were involved in the space program, and how active people of color were involved, and how they’re just…left out. Erased. My view of the space program was flat wrong because of the media I had consumed.

If I don’t examine and look for my biases, then I’m likely to compound the problem with the stories I tell. I’d rather not, thanks. I’d rather read and internalize stories that center the people who have so often been erased.

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Excerpt: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

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Image Place holder  of - 88 Welcome to #FearlessWomen! Today we’re featuring an excerpt from The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal’s alternate history of the space race.

On a cold spring night in 1952, a meteorite falls to earth and destroys much of the eastern seaboard of the United States, including Washington D.C. The Meteor, as it is popularly known, decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity.This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space, and allows a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

One of these new entrants in the space race is Elma York, whose experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too—aside from some pesky barriers like thousands of years of history and a host of expectations about the proper place of the fairer sex. And yet, Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions may not stand a chance against her.

The Calculating Stars will be available on July 3rd. Please enjoy this excerpt.

Chapter One

PRESIDENT DEWEY CONGRATULATES NACA ON SATELLITE LAUNCH

March 3, 1952—(AP)—The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics successfully put its third satellite into orbit, this one with the capability of sending radio signals down to Earth and taking measurements of the radiation in space. The president denies that the satellite has any military purpose and says that its mission is one of scientific exploration.

Do you remember where you were when the Meteor hit? I’ve never understood why people phrase it as a question, because of course you remember. I was in the mountains with Nathaniel. He had inherited this cabin from his father and we used to go up there for stargazing. By which I mean: sex. Oh, don’t pretend that you’re shocked. Nathaniel and I were a healthy young married couple, so most of the stars I saw were painted across the inside of my eyelids.

If I had known how long the stars were going to be hidden, I would have spent a lot more time outside with the telescope.

We were lying in the bed with the covers in a tangled mess around us. The morning light filtered through silver snowfall and did nothing to warm the room. We’d been awake for hours, but hadn’t gotten out of bed yet for obvious reasons. Nathaniel had his leg thrown over me and was snuggled up against my side, tracing a finger along my collarbone in time with the music on our little battery-powered transistor radio.

I stretched under his ministrations and patted his shoulder. “Well, well . . . my very own ‘Sixty Minute Man.’”

He snorted, his warm breath tickling my neck. “Does that mean I get another fifteen minutes of kissing?”

“If you start a fire.”

“I thought I already did.” But he rolled up onto his elbow and got out of bed.

We were taking a much needed break after a long push to prepare for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’s launch. If I hadn’t also been at NACA doing computations, I wouldn’t have seen Nathaniel awake anytime during the past two months.

I pulled the covers up over myself and turned on my side to watch him. He was lean, and only his time in the Army during World War II kept him from being scrawny. I loved watching the muscles play under his skin as he pulled wood off the pile under the big picture window. The snow framed him beautifully, its silver light just catching in the strands of his blond hair.

And then the world outside lit up.

If you were anywhere within five hundred miles of Washington, D.C., at 9:53 a.m. on March 3rd, 1952, and facing a window, then you remember that light. Briefly red, and then so violently white that it washed out even the shadows. Nathaniel straightened, the log still in his hands.

“Elma! Cover your eyes!”

I did. That light. It must be an A-bomb. The Russians had been none too happy with us since President Dewey took office. God. The blast center must have been D.C. How long until it hit us? We’d both been at Trinity for the atom bomb tests, but all of the numbers had run out of my head. D.C. was far enough away that the heat wouldn’t hit us, but it would kick off the war we had all been dreading.

As I sat there with my eyes squeezed shut, the light faded.

Nothing happened. The music on the radio continued to play. If the radio was playing, then there wasn’t an electromagnetic pulse. Hence, it hadn’t been an A-bomb. I opened my eyes. “Right.” I hooked a thumb at the radio. “Clearly not an A-bomb.”

Nathaniel had spun away to get clear of the window, but he was still holding the log. He turned the log over in his hands and glanced back at the window. “There hasn’t been any sound yet. How long has it been?”

The radio continued to play and it was still “Sixty Minute Man.” What had that light been? “I wasn’t counting. A little over a minute?” I shivered as I did the speed-of-sound calculations and the seconds ticked by. “Zero point two miles per second. So the center is at least twenty miles away?”

Nathaniel paused in the process of grabbing a sweater and the seconds continued to tick by. Thirty miles. Forty. Fifty. “That’s . . . that’s a big explosion to have been that bright.”

Taking a slow breath, I shook my head, more out of desire for it not to be true than out of conviction. “It wasn’t an A-bomb.”

“I’m open to other theories.” He hauled his sweater on, the wool turning his hair into a haystack of static.

The music changed to “Some Enchanted Evening.” I got out of bed and grabbed a bra and the trousers I’d taken off the day before. Outside, snow swirled past the window. “Well . . . they haven’t interrupted the broadcast, so it has to be something fairly benign, or at least localized. It could be one of the munitions plants.”

“Maybe a meteor.”

“Ah!” That idea had some merit and would explain why the broadcast hadn’t been interrupted. It was a localized thing. I let out a breath in relief. “And we could have been directly under the flight path. That would explain why there hasn’t been an explosion, if what we were seeing was just it burning up. All light and fury, signifying nothing.”

Nathaniel’s fingers brushed mine and he took the ends of the bra out of my hand. He hooked the strap and then he ran his hands up my shoulder blades to rest on my upper arms. His hands were hot against my skin. I leaned back into his touch, but I couldn’t quite stop thinking about that light. It had been so bright. He squeezed me a little, before releasing me. “Yes.”

“Yes, it was a meteor?”

“Yes, we should go back.”

I wanted to believe that it was just a fluke, but I had been able to see the light through my closed eyes. While we got dressed, the radio kept playing one cheerful tune after another. Maybe that was why I pulled on my hiking boots instead of loafers, because some part of my brain kept waiting for things to get worse. Neither of us commented on it, but every time a song ended, I looked at the radio, certain that this time someone would tell us what had happened.

The floor of the cabin shuddered.

At first I thought a heavy truck was rolling past, but we were in the middle of nowhere. The porcelain robin that sat on the bedside table danced along its surface and fell. You would think that, as a physicist, I would recognize an earthquake faster. But we were in the Poconos, which was geologically stable.

Nathaniel didn’t worry about that as much and grabbed my hand, pulling me into the doorway. The floor bucked and rolled under us. We clung to each other like in some sort of drunken foxtrot. The walls twisted and then . . . then the whole place came down. I’m pretty sure that I yelled.

When the earth stopped moving, the radio was still playing.

It buzzed as if a speaker were damaged, but somehow the battery kept it going. Nathaniel and I were lying, pressed together, in the remnants of the doorframe. Cold air swirled around us. I brushed the dust from his face.

My hands were shaking. “Okay?”

“Terrified.” His blue eyes were wide, but both pupils were the same size, so . . . that was good. “You?”

I paused before answering with the social “fine,” took a breath, and did an inventory of my body. I was filled with adrenaline, but I hadn’t wet myself. Wanted to, though. “I’ll be sore tomorrow, but I don’t think there’s any damage. To me, I mean.”

He nodded and craned his neck around, looking at the little cavity we were buried inside. Sunlight was visible through a gap where one of the plywood ceiling panels had fallen against the remnants of the doorframe. It took some doing, but we were able to push and pry the wreckage to crawl out of that space and clamber across the remains of the cabin.

If I had been alone . . . Well, if I had been alone, I wouldn’t have gotten into the doorway in time. I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered despite my sweater.

Nathaniel saw me shiver and squinted at the wreckage. “Might be able to get a blanket out.”

“Let’s just go to the car.” I turned, praying that nothing had fallen on it. Partly because it was the only way to the airfield where our plane was, but also because the car was borrowed. Thank heavens, it was sitting undamaged in the small parking area. “There’s no way we’ll find my purse in that mess. I can hot-wire it.”

“Four minutes?” He stumbled in the snow. “Between the flash and the quake.”

“Something like that.” I was running numbers and distances in my head, and I’m certain he was, too. My pulse was beating against all of my joints and I grabbed for the smooth certainty of mathematics. “So the explosion center is still in the three-hundred-mile range.”

“The airblast will be what . . . half an hour later? Give or take.” For all the calm in his words, Nathaniel’s hands shook as he opened the passenger door for me. “Which means we have another . . . fifteen minutes before it hits?”

The air burned cold in my lungs. Fifteen minutes. All of those years doing computations for rocket tests came into terrifying clarity. I could calculate the blast radius of a V2 or the potential of rocket propellant. But this . . . this was not numbers on a page. And I didn’t have enough information to make a solid calculation. All I knew for certain was that, as long as the radio was playing, it wasn’t an A-bomb. But whatever had exploded was huge.

“Let’s try to get as far down the mountain as we can before the airblast hits.” The light had come from the southeast. Thank God, we were on the western side of the mountain, but southeast of us was D.C. and Philly and Baltimore and hundreds of thousands of people.

Including my family.

I slid onto the cold vinyl seat and leaned across it to pull out wires from under the steering column. It was easier to focus on something concrete like hot-wiring a car than on whatever was happening.

Outside the car, the air hissed and crackled. Nathaniel leaned out the window. “Shit.”

“What?” I pulled my head out from under the dashboard and looked up, through the window, past the trees and the snow, and into the sky. Flame and smoke left contrails in the air. A meteor would have done some damage, exploding over the Earth’s surface. A meteorite, though? It had actually hit the Earth and ejected material through the hole it had torn in the atmosphere. Ejecta. We were seeing pieces of the planet raining back down on us as fire. My voice quavered, but I tried for a jaunty tone anyway. “Well . . . at least you were wrong about it being a meteor.”

I got the car running, and Nathaniel pulled out and headed down the mountain. There was no way we would make it to our plane before the airblast hit, but I had to hope that it would be protected enough in the barn. As for us . . . the more of the mountain we had between us and the airblast, the better. An explosion that bright, from three hundred miles away . . . the blast was not going to be gentle when it hit.

I turned on the radio, half-expecting it to be nothing but silence, but music came on immediately. I scrolled through the dial looking for something, anything that would tell us what was happening. There was just relentless music. As we drove, the car warmed up, but I couldn’t stop shaking.

Sliding across the seat, I snuggled up against Nathaniel. “I think I’m in shock.”

“Will you be able to fly?”

“Depends on how much ejecta there is when we get to the airfield.” I had flown under fairly strenuous conditions during the war, even though, officially, I had never flown combat. But that was only a technical specification to make the American public feel more secure about women in the military. Still, if I thought of ejecta as anti-aircraft fire, I at least had a frame of reference for what lay ahead of us. “I just need to keep my body temperature from dropping any more.”

He wrapped one arm around me, pulled the car over to the wrong side of the road, and tucked it into the lee of a craggy overhang. Between it and the mountain, we’d be shielded from the worst of the airblast. “This is probably the best shelter we can hope for until the blast hits.”

“Good thinking.” It was hard not to tense, waiting for the airblast. I rested my head against the scratchy wool of Nathaniel’s jacket. Panicking would do neither of us any good, and we might well be wrong about what was happening.

A song cut off abruptly. I don’t remember what it was; I just remember the sudden silence and then, finally, the announcer. Why had it taken them nearly half an hour to report on what was happening?

I had never heard Edward R. Murrow sound so shaken. “Ladies and gentlemen . . . Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt this program to bring you some grave news. Shortly before ten this morning, what appears to have been a meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The meteor has struck the ocean just off the coast of Maryland, causing a massive ball of fire, earthquakes, and other devastation. Coastal residents along the entire Eastern Seaboard are advised to evacuate inland because additional tidal waves are expected. All other citizens are asked to remain inside, to allow emergency responders to work without interruption.” He paused, and the static hiss of the radio seemed to reflect the collective nation holding our breath. “We go now to our correspondent Phillip Williams from our affiliate WCBO of Philadelphia, who is at the scene.”

Why would they have gone to a Philadelphia affiliate, instead of someone at the scene in D.C.? Or Baltimore?

At first, I thought the static had gotten worse, and then I realized that it was the sound of a massive fire. It took me a moment longer to understand. It had taken them this long to find a reporter who was still alive, and the closest one had been in Philadelphia.

“I am standing on the US-1, some seventy miles north of where the meteor struck. This is as close as we were able to get, even by plane, due to the tremendous heat. What lay under me as we flew was a scene of tremendous devastation. It is as if a hand had scooped away the capital and taken with it all of the men and women who resided there. As of yet, the condition of the president is unknown, but—” My heart clenched when his voice broke. I had listened to Williams report the Second World War without breaking stride. Later, when I saw where he had been standing, I was amazed that he was able to speak at all. “But of Washington itself, nothing remains.”

 

Copyright © 2018 by Mary Robinette Kowal

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Download the #FearlessWomen Summer Sampler today!

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#FearlessWomen Summer Sampler Meet this summer’s #FearlessWomen! These are the authors who are shaping new blockbuster worlds—and re-shaping our own. Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V. E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, we think you’ll love the stories these #FearlessWomen have to tell.

This free #FearlessWomen Sampler features the first 20 to 30 pages from each of the following titles:

  • The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
  • Death Doesn’t Bargain by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis
  • Vicious by V. E. Schwab
  • Starless by Jacqueline Carey
  • City of Lies by Sam Hawke
  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Plus, keep an eye out on the #FearlessWomen hashtag on Twitter, because we’ll be putting together a sampler of the Fall #FearlessWomen soon! Featuring excerpts from the following titles:

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