What I’ve Read and Loved and Written – 2021 edition (so far)

One of my favorite traditions is compiling a list what I’ve read and loved each year (*while still reading, so this list is going to grow!), in addition to what I’ve written.

A bit of reading and re-reading for this year!

It turns out, the only way I can do an eligibility or consideration post is to fill it with what I’ve read and loved by other people. And that turns out to be a pretty okay strategy — both by convincing myself that I can celebrate my own projects (because authors should celebrate every word wrung from this slog — I’m looking at you too — celebrate your work!) and by promoting the amazing work I’ve read in the field this year. By my lights, that’s part of the purpose of award season — to point out what people should read (more on that in a moment).

This list is by no means complete, and there are many places to find excellent lists to continue reading — go out and find them all, please! The field, and our future work, will be richer for it. (I’ll post links to some here as they appear. — most recently updated 11/29!) A.C. Wise’s What Have You Done, What Have You Loved list of eligibility posts | Cat Rambo’s Roundup post.

A time capsule note before I get rolling: I’ve been doing this since at least 2013 (I think earlier, but wordpress is hiding the posts). One of the embarrassing things about that is how clearly my discomfort carries over from year to year (I am practicng, but don’t seem to learn very well), but one of the good things is how rich the field is in reading across nearly a decade. I love to go back and look at stories again, from years past. You can do the same, and read them here if you like: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 part 1 & 2019 part 2 | 2020.

This year, for me, is a year I will always think of as being full of grace and gratitude as well as sorrow — both for the people we’ve met and those we’ve lost, the fiction I’ve read, and in the opportunities to write stories I am proud of. I saw Riverland come out in paperback in March, The Ship of Stolen Words* come out in hard cover in June. Several anthologies. A book of poetry – Clock Star Rose Spine (Lanternfish, August). Two novelettes, “Unseelie Brothers, Ltd.” (Uncanny) and “Mayor For Today,” (Asimov’s) and a short story, “Seed Star” (Asimov’s). One more story may be appearing soon, and as with all November and December posts, I will probably update this entry a lot with more things to read as I go.

[*Before I continue, one important note that I’m adding to the post at the last minute. Bear with me. I mentioned above that I feel that part of the function of awards is to brighten the opportunities for readers to find new work — both by familiar names and by those who are new to the field. That’s part of why I make these lists. It is also the reason why, several weeks ago, I wrote to the SFWA awards officer to ask that The Ship of Stolen Words be removed from the Norton list (as of today, it’s still listed, which is why I’m saying this here — I don’t envy the SFWA team their difficult and complex job, nor do I doubt they’ll take it down when they are able.) and you will not see it on the list below, although it’s a great book and I love it to bits and hope lots of people read it and like it. Here’s some of what I said:

The Norton Nebula is an incredible honor, and I’m grateful to have been recognized with it for Updraft and Riverland. I am — especially in a year where the pandemic has kept children’s book readers and authors from getting together to share their work — very interested in making room for the recognition of more middle grade and young adult authors in this category. With this in mind, and with gratitude to SFWA, I would like to remove myself from consideration for the Andre Norton Nebula Award for YA and Middle Grade Novel category this year.

I did this with trepidation, that people would think I don’t like awards (I do! They’re shiny!) or that I was being extra (I promise you I am not, but you’ll have to take my word for that). The point is simply this: awards bring attention to writers and work, and in a year when YA and Middle Grade is struggling to reach audiences, I want to share the space my book is currently occupying on the Norton Nebula recommended list to others.]

Ok, onwards.

I am in my third year teaching and directing the Genre Fiction MFA concentration at Western Colorado University, my fifth year teaching at Futurescapes, and I have the distinct honor of this year both completing my Visiting Writer tenure at Randolph College, and being Featured Speaker at Philcon (and trying to do a decent impression of Max Gladstone, also Featured Speaker, while I’m at it). The students and writers I’ve met in all of those places are doing amazing things, and I’m looking forward to reading their work in the future and shouting happily about it! As well, Elise Matthesen and I launched Fragments, a creativity deck, and I published three NPR reviews with the amazing guidance of Petra Mayer (I am utterly at a loss about her loss. I felt brightened every time I spoke with her. She made the celebration of genre fiction part of normal media. I can’t not miss her every time I think about books. Amal has said it much better than me).

Meantime, meantime. I kept trying to write new words — as so many of us have — in the great grind of this 36-month year of the pandemic. We write about how difficult it is to function at this time, but I want to also note that the moments I’ve spent talking about and working on fiction with so many colleagues this year have filled me with gratitude and more than ever I am so glad for each valuable second of that time. That’s what I meant, above.

I also tried to read. I feel like I read so much — keeping well ahead of my syllabus (and future syllabi) for teaching, beta-reading for colleagues, and reading for blurbs — but now when I come here to yell about how great it is, all of it has been sloshing around in my brain for so long, I’m doubtful I’ll get it all on the list on the first try. We’ll see how I do.

Here are so many things I’ve loved this year — IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER — (plus space for things I’ve not read yet (seriously!), or have forgotten to list but will add soon). Please take a minute and tell me what you’ve loved as well!

Machinehood, by SB Divya (Saga)
Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho (Ace)
Wendy, Darling, by A.C. Wise (Titan)
A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Tor)
Plague Birds, by Jason Sanford (Apex)
Son of the Storm, by Suyi Davies Okunbowa (Orbit)
No Gods, No Monsters, by Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone)
Bacchanal, by Veronica Henry (47 North)
Folklorn, Angela Mi Young Hur (Erewhon)
Questland, Carrie Vaughn (HMH)
Grave Reservations, Cherie Priest (Atria)
Red Widow, Alma Katsu
On Fragile Waves, E Lily Yu (Erewhon)
Velvet Was the Night, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)

Middle Grade and YA Novels
Amari and the Night Brothers, BB Alston (Balzer and Bray)
The Raven Heir, Stephanie Burgess (Bloomsbury)
Victories Greater than Death, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Teen)
Thornwood, Leah Cypess (Delacorte)
Weird Kid, Greg van Eckhout (Harper Collins)
Instructions for Dancing, Nicola Yoon (Delacorte)
Dust and Grim, Chuck Wendig (Little Brown)
The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book, Kate Milford (Clarion)

Graphic Novels –
The Magic Fish, Trung Le Nguyen (Random House)
– The Oracle Code, Marijke Niekamp (DC)
– Shadow Life, Hiromi Goto (First, Second)
– Snapdragon, Kat Leyh (First, Second)

Flowers for the Sea, Zin E. Rocklyn (Tor.com)
Fireheart Tiger, Aliette de Bodard (Tor.com)
Remote Control, Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
Sun Daughters, Sea Daughters, by Aimee Ogden (Tor.com)
The Necessity of Stars, E. Catherine Tobler (Neon Hemlock)

– “Uncanny Brothers, Ltd.“, Fran Wilde (Uncanny)
– “Just Enough Rain“, PH Lee (Giganotosaurus)
– “Colors of the Immortal Palette,” Caroline M. Yoachim (Uncanny)
– “The Music of the Siphrophenes”, CL Polk (F&SF)
– “Broad Water Dutty”, Nalo Hopkinson (F&SF)
– “Mulberry and Owl“, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny)
– “The Red Mother“, Elizabeth Bear (Tor.com)
– “The General’s Turn,” Premee Mohamed (The Deadlands)
– “The Story That Isn’t The Story,” John Wiswell (Uncanny)

Short Stories
– “Proof by Induction,” José Pablo Iriarte (Uncanny)
– “Thirteen of the Secrets in My Purse“, Rachel Swirsky (Uncanny)
– “Mr. Death,” Alix Harrow, (Apex)
– “Let All The Children Boogie,” Sam Miller (Tor.com)
– “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather,” Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny)
– “Laughter Among the Trees,” Suzan Palumbo (The Dark)
– “Leaving Room for the Moon,” PH Lee (Clarkesworld)
– “For Lack of a Bed,” John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots)
– “The Mathematics of Fairyland,” Phoebe Barton (Lightspeed)
– “A Guided Meditation for Pandemic Anxiety…” Effie Sieberg (DSF)
– “Sentient Being Blues,” Christopher Rose (Asimov’s)
– “So Your Grandmother is a Starship Now, A Quick Guide for the Bewildered,” Marissa Lingen (Nature)
– “The Badger’s Digestion...”, Malka Older (Constellatiòn)
– “The Stop After the Last Station,” A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny)
– “The Lachrymist” Kat Howard (Lightspeed)
– “For Want of Milk,” Grace Fong (Uncanny)
– Collection: Never Have I Ever, Isabel Yap (Small Beer)
– Collection: Six Dreams About the Train and Other Stories, Maria Haskins (Trepidatio)
– Collection: The Ghost Sequences, A.C. Wise (Undertow)

Poetry (*speculative/slipstream/crossover)
– “The Burning River,” Hal Y Zhang (Uncanny)
– “Map Making,” Kristian Macaron (Uncanny)
– “The Sea King’s Second Bride,” CSE Cooney (Mermaid’s Monthly)
– “Radioactivity,” Octavia Cade (Uncanny)
– “After the Tower Falls, Death Gives Advice,” Ali Trotta (Uncanny)
– “Space Needs Mers,” (Illustrated Sestina) Fran Wilde (Mermaid’s Monthly)
– “Hitobashira,” Betsy Aoki (Uncanny)
Can You Sign My Tentacle, Brandon O’Brien, (Interstellar Flight Press)
Clock Star Rose Spine, Fran Wilde, (Lanternfish Press)
The Smallest of Bones, Holly Lyn Walrath (Clash)

Being Seen, Elsa Sjunnesson (Tiller)
Four Lost Cities, Annalee Newitz (WW Norton)
— I’ve been loving the podcast Ologies too!

That’s the list so far (there will always be more up until Dec. 30) — as always YMMV — and I’d love to hear your thoughts too!


  1. I am horribly and hopelessly behind on reading things written in 2021, but a few standouts for me were A Desolation Called Peace, Karen Osborne’s Engines of Oblivion, and Becky Chambers’ The Galaxy and the Ground Within.

    We are sadly giving Philcon a pass this year. With limited options other than paying a nanny/sitter to watch our son while we go to a con, we figured we could fund Worldcon and one other con. OVFF beat out Philcon for the “other con”.

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