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SFF Invades New York Times

portrait of N.K. Jemison

Anyone working in the Marketing Department of a Science Fiction or Fantasy Publisher will tell you how difficult it is to get one of the mainstream Newspapers or Magazines to review SFF titles.

Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction and Crime Fiction take up the prime real estate with regular appearances by the more popular or controversial Romance and Chick-Lit titles getting whatever’s left over. I guess it is/was presumed that Fantasy fans were too busy playing D&D or Video Games to read Newspapers and those who do read them wouldn’t be interested in the made-up nonsense, or something like that?

Regardless, it’s a rather exciting reflection on the times that one of the most circulated publications in the world, The New York Times, has decided to launch a Science Fiction & Fantasy review column called “Otherworldly”. Now, I can’t imagine many of my favourite authors – Peter Brett, Brent Weeks, Sebastien De Castell, Scott Lynch, etc – will be making an appearance anytime soon, for the selected titles (as we will see in a moment) do seem to lean closer to the ‘Literary’ and ‘Mainstream’ side of things, but it’s a pretty big step in the right direction and – in fairness – probably the right approach for that particular publication (based on their readership).

ColumnThe column will be produced by N.K. Jemisin every other month (the first was on December 28th 2015, meaning the next should be at the end of Feb) and it will cover Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult and Graphic Novels. If you missed that first edition of the column, you can find it here. The titles reviewed are by China Mieville, Emma Newman, Charlie Jane Anders, and Keith Lee Morris.

Not surprisingly, based on the authors chosen, the majority of novels are given the thumbs up by Nora, who does a great job promoting the genre. Her tone and style match the publication’s and she has chosen a diverse range of titles that her excellent narrative adds significant desirability for. Emma Newman’s Planetfall is praised for its exciting destination and rare protagonist. Charlie Jane Anders earns herself the title of ‘master absurdist’ for the Millennials with her highly anticipated All The Birds In The Sky (which we loved too). This Census-Taker by the hugely popular China Miéville is called frustrating, and a bit of a guessing game, but the perfect exercise for those looking for such a thing. And, finally, the only title not recommended, is the horror Travellers Rest by Keith Lee Morris. It’s called too familiar for its beautiful prosaic style to save.

We look forward to the next edition. Good work N.K. and good luck!

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar R.A. MacAvoy says:

    Overlord, you mention that you are a martial artist. I have spent most of my life in one or another of the martial arts, mostly the Asian variety. Mostly hand-to-hand. And in my novels, whenever I have had a scene of combat I have been certain that the fight is possible, that is would work, and when I could I had the fights staged by friends on the mat. But I have found that there seems to be no overlap between martial artists and people who read fantasy, so I’ve been disappointed in the response. Not in the response to my novels, just to the care in my fight scenes. I wonder if you have had a similar experience. I haven’t had anyone else to ask this in over 30 years! I hope you find the time to reply.

    Oh. I wasn’t talking about things like dragons fighting in the sky. Just humans against humans. But I guess you figured that out . . .

    • Avatar Overlord says:

      I know what you mean. When you take the time to research what would work and how something would realistically work and it isn’t respected or appreciate it is always going to hurt. I guess, the problem is twofold: a lot of people read fantasy to escape the real and are, therefore, forgiving of a fantastical or unrealistic approach to fantasy and there is also the fact that some people don’t know that it would take years to learn to throw a jumping spinning round kick and that in most cases it is impractical.

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