The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, a puppeteer and recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (now the Astounding Award), is the 1st novel in the Lady Astronaut series of alternate history science fiction, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Macmillan’s Tor Books.
This is their featured free eBook of the Month Club offer for June, won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Sidewise Awards, and is being offered free to help promote the upcoming 3rd novel, The Relentless Moon, due in July.
The series takes place in an alternate 1950s where a global disaster prompts international efforts to accelerate and expand space exploration with the aim of colonizing the Moon and beyond to preserve humanity, and provides the prequel backstory to the Hugo Award for Best Novelette winning short “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” (readable free online at the Tor.com website).
This installment sets up the realization of the long-term effects of the initial meteorite strike and the ensuing efforts of talented women to take an equal role in the future as astronauts themselves, as seen from the viewpoint of a US mathematician and former pilot turned “calculator” for the new space program as she struggles against public and professional prejudices as well as her own disabling personal anxieties.
Offered through Friday, June 26th until just before midnight Eastern Time, available DRM-free to Canada & US only directly from the publisher.
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All Systems Red by Martha Wells is the 1st novella in the The Murderbot Diaries series of science fiction robot adventures, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Tor Books.
This is their featured free eBook of the Month Club offer for a 24-hour period from April 20th-21st (again, having previously been offered in 2018) won the Alex Award and has also won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for various parts of the series, and is being offered alongside its 3 sequel novellas over the course of the week at 1 per day for 24 hours each, to help promote the upcoming 1st full-length novel, Network Effect, which will be published in May.
The series is set in a spacefaring future where planetary exploration missions must be accompanied by security androids supplied by the Company, and stars one beginning to develop its own self-awareness as it hacks the modules which control its behaviour, unknown to and scornful of the humans around it.
This story has investigative mystery elements as one of the exploring groups on a distant planet suddenly loses contact with the other missions, leaving the scientists and the secretly self-named “Murderbot” to figure out what’s going on.
Offered through for a 24-hour period from April 20th to 21st until just before midnight Eastern Time, available DRM-free to Canada & the US only directly from the publisher.
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In Our Own Worlds: Four Tor.com Novellas by Margaret Killjoy, Ellen Klages, Kai Ashante Wilson, & J. Y. Yang is an omnibus edition of selected science fiction & fantasy tales, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Macmillan’s Tor Books’ Tor.com Publishing imprint.
This is apparently a special bonus selection to supplement their featured free eBook of the Month Club offer (usually a single novel or novella appearing mid-month) for June. The mostly award-nominated stories in this collection contain elements exploring various aspects of LGBTQ+ experience, from historical closeting and underground subculture, to bisexual relationships, to gender fluidity and more, and have a brief new introduction by Tor.com editor Carl Engle-Laird.
This omnibus edition contains the following four novellas:
- The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy, 1st in the Danielle Cain series of horror-flavoured dark urban fantasy adventures starring a group of traveling anarchists up against various hostile entities including demons and law enforcement officials, this installment set in Iowa and pitting them against rogue protective deer spirits turned deadly
- Passing Strange by Ellen Klages, a standalone f/f historical magical realist urban fantasy tale set in 1940s amidst the lesbian underground of San Francisco; winner of the 2018 Nebula and British Fantasy Awards (I liked this one for the interesting portrayal of how LGBT people were able to express themselves, or not, during a difficult time period)
- A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson, the self-contained 2nd novella in the Sorcerer of the Wildeeps setting of epic sword & sorcery fantasy in a world where the gods roam the earth, this story an alternate history tale with m/m and m/f romantic elements exploring the various life paths the son of a prominent family could have taken starting from a turning point in his youth; a finalist for the 2017 Hugo Awards (I read this back then and really enjoyed it)
- The Black Tides of Heaven by Singaporean author J. Y. Yang, 1st novella in the Asian history-inspired Tensorate science fantasy series mixing budding technology with psionic powers in a world where children grow up genderless until choosing upon adulthood, this installment starring the twin children of the ruthless ruler of the dominant empire as they grow up and take or rebel against their roles in the troubled regime; a finalist for the 2018 Hugo Awards
Offered through June 7th at just before midnight Eastern Time, available DRM-free to Canada & US only directly from the publisher.
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Autonomous by Annalee Newitz, a journalist and founder of the popular io9 science & science fiction blog, is a standalone science fiction novel with LGBT romantic and identity elements, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Macmillan’s Tor Books.
This is their featured free eBook of the Month Club offer for May is being made free to help promote the author’s upcoming new release The Future of Another Timeline, a time travel adventure thriller due in September. The novel won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category, and was also a finalist for the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Awards, and placed 2nd in the annual Locus Award lists.
The story is a somewhat satirical work exploring notions of servitude and autonomy in a culture where everything and everyone is considered a marketable product, taking place in a near-future mid-21st century Earth recovering from assorted disasters and dominated by corporations who control humans through drugs, centred around a anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate to help the poor with cheap generics who discovers a dangerous new medication which turns people into careless near-robotic workaholics, even as she is being hunted down for her activities by a military agent with an increasingly liberated robot partner exploring its self-expression.
Offered through May 17th at 11:59 PM Eastern Time, available DRM-free to Canada & US only directly from the publisher.
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The Black Tides of Heaven by Singaporean author JY Yang is the 1st novella in the Tensorate series of hybrid science fiction/fantasy exploring social and revolutionary issues, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Macmillan’s Tor Books.
This is their featured free eBook of the Month Club offer for November and was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. The series takes place in an East Asian-inspired hybrid science fantasy setting, where a ruthless Protector uses magic to maintain her dominance in a society where children grow up genderless until making their choice at adulthood, and suppressed Machinists turn to technology in the hopes of undermining the regime.
The story stars the twin children of the Protector, traded as infants to a monastery for political gain, one of whom begins displaying a gift for prophetic visions, which causes a deepening rift between the growing twins as they experience divided loyalties upon realizing the truth of their mother’s rule and make different choices at adulthood, leading one towards the rebels’ path as their sibling bond becomes increasingly strained.
Offered through November 16th until midnight Easter Time, available DRM-free to Canada & US only directly from the publisher.
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New Under the Sun by Nancy Kress, the recipient of multiple Nebula Awards, & Therese Pieczynski, is the 5th mini-collection in the Stellar Guild multi-author series of science fiction & fantasy, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Phoenix Pick Press.
The series, styled after the old Ace Books “Ace Doubles” flip books, pairs a newer author writing a story based on an established author’s work.
This volume contains Kress’ novella Annabel Lee (which ended up being a 2014 Nebula Award nominee), set in a near future dominated by religious extremism which uses science to enforce its social agenda via genetic engineering, starring a person infected by an alien parasite which may be the key to the world’s freedom, a prequel companion novelette by Pieczynski, and introductory essays by Kress and series editor Mike Resnick.
Offered DRM-free worldwide through October, available directly from the publisher.
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The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle is a standalone historical horror remix novella, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Macmillan’s Tor Books imprint.
This is their featured free eBook of the Month Club offer for October and won the 2016 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novella, and was also a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards, and is apparently in development for an AMC television series. I read it for Hugo Voting last year, and rather liked it; enough so that I bought some of the author’s unrelated sfnal novels when they went on sale.
The story is a subversive riff on H. P. Lovecraft’s 1927 tale The Horror at Red Hook about the dark occult underbelly of a Brooklyn neighbourhood, retelling its events from the perspective of a young black street musician from Harlem who becomes involved with the plans of an eccentric white millionaire seeking to raise the Great Old Ones.
Offered through October 12th at 11:59 PM Eastern Time, available DRM-free to Canada & US only directly from the publisher.
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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders is a standalone contemporary science fiction/urban fantasy hybrid novel, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Macmillan’s Tor Books.
This is their featured free eBook of the Month Club offer for September and won the 2017 Nebula, Locus, and William L. Crawford Fantasy Award, as well as being a Hugo finalist. It’s being made free to help promote Anders’ upcoming standalone science fiction novel, The City in the Middle of the Night, due early next year. I read this for Hugo voting last year and it’s a charming, quirky light humorous tale.
The story takes place in a near future with both advanced technology and magic in it, featuring the conflict between a secret society of witches and an ambitious think tank of genius inventors, which is played out via the changing friendship between two young students who eventually join the different factions as they grow up, and the world begins to experience the Unraveling which threatens to destroy it.
Offered through 11:59 Eastern Time on September 21st in Canada & the US only, available DRM-free to 21st directly from the publisher.
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