Sci-fi isn’t just about aliens and robots. The genre – also frequently called “speculative fiction” to encompass the fantasy elements it is more commonly paired with – can maybe best be described as answering the question: “What if the world/a person, but ________?” This blank can be filled with things like “aliens,” or “robots,” or “zombies,” but can also spin out in much more imaginative directions. This ties it into Latinx literary traditions – magical realism might be described as “What if the world, but just a little magical?” – and allows writers to engage with contemporary social and environmental issues on a stage a little broader and wilder than our everyday planet. It also allows them to imagine solutions and utopias that are still just a hair beyond our reach.
Below, check out a list of five sci-fi and speculative titles and the new worlds they inhabit.
Malka Older's The Centenal Cycle
Malka Older is not only a fantastic writer, but an honest-to-god disaster response scientist. Her writing, which also deals with the complexities of global politics, has secured some of sci-fi’s top prizes. She has been named a finalist for the Campbell Prize, given by Sci-Fi writers to the community’s most promising new writers. Her trilogy of political thrillers – Infomocracy, Null States, and State Tectonics (which is out in September) – hinges on an extremely powerful search engine that has revolutionized politics into a series of peaceful micro-democracies, and the powers aiming to topple the system. Fast-paced, thrilling and brainy, this trilogy is sure to get you hooked.
William Alexander's Ambassador & Nomad
If you’re looking for a book that you can share with your primitos and that you can enjoy as well, give William Alexander’s Ambassador series a try. Alexander, who is Cuban-American, writes Latinx identity – and issues – into space (something not even Star Trek has been able to do!). Gabe Fuentes, a regular teen, finds himself not only as an ambassador for planet Earth, but having to deal with a whole different kind of diplomacy as he realizes that his undocumented parents are under threat of deportation. A cracking adventure that balances both the fantastic and the all-too-real.
Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties
Even though Carmen Maria Machado’s short stories slip and slide between elements, the tang of the science-fiction shines through in this collection. From the strange body-doubles for Law and Order SVU’s Benson and Stabler in “Especially Heinous” to the story of an epidemic told through a tender, quiet list of sexual partners in “Inventory,” Machado uses many of the elements of science-fiction to tell unsettling, yet familiar, tales.
[email protected] Rising (edited by Matthew David Goodwin)
A lot of the coolest stuff in science-fiction right now is happening not only in published books and novels, but in short stories published online and in anthologies like this one. [email protected] Rising’s introduction and curation focuses on the past of [email protected] in sci-fi and speculative fiction, and then zooms ahead to encompass some of the biggest voices in Latinx lit, with short stories by old favorites and new voices. Use the collection as a springboard to explore new voices, and take your reading in new directions.
Adam Silvera's More Happy Than Not
Adam Silvera’s widely praised debut book, More Happy Than Not, uses a sci-fi element – a groundbreaking memory alteration procedure – to ground a novel about love, coming out, memory, and heartbreak. While this is not your usual action-adventure-paced idea of speculative fiction, it, along with some of the other books on the list, show the depth and broadness of the speculative genre, and Latinxs writing within it.