October Science Fiction And Fantasy Overview

This month, science fiction and fantasy readers can expect releases from fan favorite authors, as well as some new faces and top rated reads. Today we're playing tour guide and pointing out some October hot spots of the genre. First up, we feature a fresh story from a bestselling author that continues his highly praised trilogy. Next, we spotlight a fantasy tale that will leave you swooning. After that, we turn our focus to a brand new sci fi adventure with a kick-butt heroine. And finally, we hear from a debut author about how he made the move from academia to writing genre fiction.


The long-awaited second installment in Justin Cronin’s Passage trilogy finally hits shelves this month! The Twelve follows the author’s 2010 release The Passage, in which a deadly vampire virus is released and the military attempts to harness the virus to create superhuman soldiers. The “soldiers” — which attack by sucking the blood of humans — are a military experiment gone wrong, and the power to stop them lies in one young orphan girl named Amy. The Twelve contains two parallel stories set in the present and the future. In the present day setting, three humans fight to get by in a world plagued with disease. 100 years into the future, Am and other humans fight side-by-side against a more evolved form of the infected vampire-like creatures in order to prevent the fall of humankind. RT reviewer Debbie Haupt gave this book a Top Pick!, saying “[Cronin] paints the scenes of his towering good vs. evil tale with a masterful, haunting narrative that will leave his fans breathless, fearful and hopeful.” With two fantastic books in the series, we can’t wait to find out what Cronin has in store for book three! 


This month readers are treated to a delightful historical tale blended with fantasy. Tina Connolly’s Ironskin follows Jane, a survivor of the Great War between human and fey and a victim of the fey curse. An iron mask covers her face, keeping the dangerous fey magic inside her contained. When Jane gets a job as the nanny of a young girl also plagued with fey magic, she begins to fall for the girl’s widower father — until she learns the secret truth behind the art he creates. We were fascinated by this story’s premise, and decided to ask the author where she got inspiration for such a tale:

Ironskin grew out of a novella, which grew out of an anthology call for "gothic fantasy romances" and a single image: a girl walking into a sculptor's studio at midnight. The moonlight picks out a new sculpture on the heavy workbench. The girl steps closer, until she can see that it is a finished clay mask. It is her own face—but beautiful. Slowly she puts the mask on. . . .

As I wrote the novella, I learned that this girl was a governess for this artist. But what sort of man would make a mask like this? And what would she think of him for doing it? Beauty is a powerful lure—but of course, all things have a price. And then, of course, I wanted to find out exactly how far my governess would go for what she wants. . .and why she's that desperate to begin with.

The world grew past the confines of a novella, and as it stretched into a novel it gained threads of Jane Eyre, of another world a bit like our post-WW1 era. It gave me room to explore the lure of beauty, and power, and how they fit in when you fall in love with someone you shouldn't—someone you're not even sure it's safe to know. . . .

- Tina Connolly


If you’re looking for a fast-paced space military adventure featuring one tough heroine, look no further than The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. The Gzilit civilization will soon end and instead of disappearing into history, they will be elevated onto another plane of existence. They should be celebrating, but when Gzilit’s Regimental High Command is wiped out, Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont is the only survivor. And she’s the prime suspect. Wanted dead, Vyr must uncover what really happened to the High Command, which means consulting the civilization’s oldest member: a 9,000-year-old man who might be able to explain how the Gzilit’s history holds the secret behind their society’s existence and impending demise. RT reviewer Donna M. Carter boasts that Bank’s tale is “Richly complex and nuanced” and “filled with engaging, well-developed characters.” This sounds like a story sure to please any hard sci fi fans looking to get immersed in a complex new world.



Meet Steve Bein, a debut author who kicks off his new series this month with Daughter of the Sword, which takes the best elements of historical fantasy and police procedural to tell the story of a young Tokyo cop fighting to learn the magical truth behind a trio of ancient swords. But Bein isn’t just an author, he’s a professor who teaches classes on philosophy and Asian history. We wanted to learn more about how this academic made the jump to published author and how he manages both teaching and writing professionally:

I didn’t really transition from writing academic work into writing fiction. It was the other way around. I’ve been writing stories for about as long as I’ve been able to write, so from that perspective I’ve just barely started writing the scholarly stuff.

I’ve always been afraid that employers might think my fiction writing gets in the way of my academic writing, but that’s all backwards too. My CV makes no mention of my fiction credits, but these days when you go for a job interview, your interviewers have almost certainly Googled you, so they always know I’m writing stories too. I always worry that they’ll think the fiction interferes with the research, but in fact it’s a booster, not a distraction.

I’m a strong believer in a daily writing budget, and when I was writing my dissertation, the rule was 500 words a day of philosophy and 1,000 words a day of fiction—in that order, no exceptions. There were days when reaching my 500 was a bear, but never a day when I couldn’t hit my 1,000. The fiction writing is the carrot (and if you wanted to complete the metaphor, I suppose the stick would have to be your dissertation committee breathing down your neck).

I finished my dissertation and a 135,000-word epic fantasy that year. It’s not the only carrot-and-stick system, I guess. It could have been 500 words of dissertation rewarded by an ice cream cone, but a few months of that would leave you out of shape and awfully sick of ice cream.

- Steve Bein

Want more genre coverage? Head over to our Science Fiction & Fantasy Page for genre news all month long.