Bookmail – April 27, 2023

Happy bookmail day! Here’s what came in recently.


Between Dystopias: The Road To Afropantheology by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki & Joshua Uchena Omenga — CAEZIK SF & Fantasy; October 24, 2023

The African cosmology recognises two spheres of existence–the physical and the spiritual, between which there is an inseparable link and constant interactions. Every sphere of existence is connected to the other: the living to the dead, the born to the unborn, humans to the deities. And because many African stories (and particularly many in this collection) are a fictional reflection of the realities of life in the African cosmology, it can be a mislabel to regard them as fantasy–especially if by fantasy we mean the genre of escapist literature in which readers must suspend their belief to enjoy.

The concept of fantasy (part of the broader category of speculative fiction) used to label imaginative fictions involving outlandish characters, magical elements, and often set in created worlds, can sometimes be ill-fitting when used for many literary works of similar rendering from the African continent. Thus, the scope of literary works contemplated under this project is not captured by any extant term in African or other literature.

In view of this lacuna, Afropantheology was conceived to capture the gamut of African works which, though having fantasy elements, are additionally imbued with the African spiritual realities. Afropantheology is a portmanteau of Afro and Pantheology. Pantheology is the study of gods, religions, and the bodies of knowledge associated with them. Derivatively, Afropantheology is the study of African (and African-descended) religions, gods, and the bodies of knowledge associated with them. It is a term to capture the essence of the stories in this project, and also solves the age-old problem of accurate and respectful labelling of stories based on African lore and religion. They are not mere fantasies, neither do such labels as “godpunk” serve entirely to clothe these works, as skins do bones, for these stories stretch beyond just showing the ‘gods.’

What may more correctly pass for the African literary equivalent to fantasy are the folklores, which are imaginative and didactic stories usually involving outlandish creatures and heroes, meant to entertain and sometimes instruct. And so, these stories are not folklores, but (fictional) renderings of the histories passed down from keepers of African culture and lores. It is necessary that the stories be recognised for what they represent.

The dystopic stories in this collection, like similar stories from the African continent, are realities, even if fictionalised realities. These stories should be properly identified for what they represent: the African dystopic reality.

This quest to correct the mislabelling would not be necessary but for the colonisation and the bastardisation of African spirito-cultural sphere. While the colonialists undermined African political establishments, the missionaries undermined African spiritual and cultural establishments. Both groups of invaders came with a similarly (misplaced) superiority mind-set which sought to impose their perceived higher political and religious doctrines on the natives. They worked to usher us into a culture of dystopias in which Africans were storyless, to rip from our hearts our songs, and to steal the joy from our dances, the tales from our tongues, and the fire from our eyes that looked to the future.

Cake Craft by Hannah-Freya Blake — Nyx Publishing; April 27, 2023

I used to know the Devil, only back then he was called Arthur, and he was a seventy-eight-year-old dairy farmer from Yorkshire.

Kat is haunted by memories of her past. Memories of her first job at a nursing home, where Arthur Shipton would raise hell in search of his flat cap. Of boyfriends who preferred prettier girls, and the cakes she ate to fill her hungry heart. Now thirty, no amount of comfort food can help her get over her divorce. But Stella-Arthur’s granddaughter-might.

Beautiful and mysterious, there’s something about Stella that inspires Kat to leave the safety of her couch. She can’t help but think Stella has something to do with Arthur’s recent death, but the closer she gets to Stella, the less it matters. With Stella’s magical pull, Kat feels an old hunger-one long since buried with the crumbs of cake-reawaken.

Cake Craft is a dark, bisexual novella set in the Gothic moors of Yorkshire with a pinch of the paranormal. It’s a story of trauma, desire, and hunger-and a whole lot of Grandma’s ginger sponge.

This edition also contains the following short stories by Hannah-Freya Blake: ‘Mother Magpie’, ‘House Proud’, and ‘Old Jack’.

The Engineer’s Apprentice by J.R. Martin (The Steam Engineer’s Saga #1) — Underdog Press; June 20, 2023

In 1860s Dallas, TX, Issa Obasi is a master engineer looking for an apprentice. No one wants to be apprenticed to a black engineer except Annie Sakdavong, a recent graduate who can’t find a teacher in the male-dominated steam engineering world.

​After Issa takes on Annie as his apprentice, their work is stolen. As they investigate the robbery, an unknown threat begins kidnapping and murdering to keep them in the dark. Issa and Annie must learn to accept their pasts to protect their future, and those they care for before Issa’s research is used to start a war in the west.

I Am AI by Ai Jiang — Shortwave Media; June 20, 2023

If you have the opportunity to give up humanity for efficiency, mechanical invincibility, and to surpass human limitations. . . would you?

Ai is a cyborg, under the guise of an AI writing program, who struggles to keep up with the never-blinking city of Emit as it threatens to leave all those like her behind.

Life Beyond Us: An Original Anthology of SF Stories and Science Essays edited by Julie Nováková, Lucas K. Law and Susan Forest — Laksa Media Groups Inc.; April 22, 2023

How would first contact–on earth, in space, on another planet–transform our understandings of technology, philosophy, and what it means to be human? What kind of cognitive dissonance would society experience, if we discovered a previously unrecognized sentience on Earth?

What would life be like if it originated in a frigid ocean beneath an impenetrable shell of ice? Or on a world whose haze obscures any view of the universe beyond? Or on an unfathomable scale in the depths of space? Or…

Life–beyond us.

Dive in as the European Astrobiology Institute presents fifty-four original SF Stories and Science Essays on life, from microbial to macro, from automatic to sagacious. Each speculative story is followed by a professional essay illuminating the scientific underpinnings of the story and providing a new window into the cutting-edge knowledge about exploration for life in the universe.

SF STORIES BY: Eugen Bacon, Gregory Benford, Renan Bernardo, Jana Bianchi, Tobias S. Buckell, Eric Choi, Julie E. Czerneda, Tessa Fisher, Simone Heller, Valentin D. Ivanov, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lisa Jenny Krieg (translated by Simone Heller), Geoffrey A. Landis, Rich Larson, Liu Yang (translated by Ladon Gao), Lucie Lukačovičová, Premee Mohamed, G. David Nordley, Malka Older, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Tomás Petrásek, Brian Rappatta, Arula Ratnakar, D.A. Xiaolin Spires, Bogi Takács, Peter Watts, and B. Zelkovich.

SCIENCE ESSAYS BY: Jacques Arnould, William Bains, José A. Caballero, Dimitra Demertzi, Martina Dimoska, Tessa Fisher, Dennis Höning, Valentin D. Ivanov, Fabian Klenner, Nina Kopacz, Geoffrey A. Landis, Natuschka Lee, Ania Losiak, Stephen Francis Mann, Connor Martini, Tony Milligan, Philippe Nauny, Julie Nováková, Erik Persson, Tomás Petrásek, Joanna Piotrowska, Giovanni Poggiali, Amedeo Romagnolo, Stefano Sandrelli, Floris van der Tak, Jan Toman, Sheri Wells-Jensen, and Raymond M. Wheeler.

The Underdogs Rise: Volume 1 edited by J.R. Martin — Underdog Press; April 25, 2023

Can you hear?

The stories are calling.

They’re going to be a blast.

Witches and genies howl in the darkness, surrounded by the flames. Can you handle the call?

This collection includes imaginative stories from a diverse group of authors. Inside you’ll find space operas, fantasies, and adventure. These up-and-coming authors are showing off their best work to capture your imagination and keep you guessing.

The Underdogs Rise brings together talent from across the country to excite you and keep you turning pages to the end. Sci-fi and fantasy allow the most creative stories to be told. The worlds a writer builds are like no other and can give you a glimpse into what was or could be.


The Dog Knight by Jeremy Whitley, Bre Indigo, & Melissa Capriglione — Feiwel & Friends; May 16, 2023

A nonbinary middle schooler saves a dog from bullies and is offered the chance to become the Dog Knight, protector of a magical pact between humans and dogs, in the first book of this humorous and heartwarming middle-grade graphic novel series from Jeremy Whitely, author of Princeless, and Bre Indigo, illustrator of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel.

Frankie knows who they are. They’re a drummer, they’re nonbinary, and they’re… the Dog Knight?

One day Frankie is a relatively normal middle schooler, with relatively normal challenges, like finding the perfect outfit to wear during their drum solo during the upcoming band concert. The next, they save a friendly golden retriever from bullies and suddenly find themselves in a giant magical doghouse, with a funny looking helmet, talking to a group of dog superheroes called the Pawtheon about a job offer.

If Frankie can prove that they possess the six dog virtues of loyalty, kindness, honesty, justice, stubbornness, and smell, they will be named the Dog Knight and be given the power to fight alongside the Pawtheon and save the world from the forces of chaos.

Maybe there is more to Frankie than they thought?

Just a Pinch of Magic by Alechia Dow — Feiwel & Friends; October 10, 2023

Alechia Dow’s middle-grade debut is as warm and sweet as a cinnamon bun, bursting with magic and sure to please the pickiest readers.

Wini’s family of enchanters runs a little bakery, but with the prices of magical ingredients skyrocketing, they’re going under. Desperate to save her family’s business, Wini takes a risk by casting a (sort of illegal) spell that would allow them to gather their own supply of their most needed magical ingredient: Love. But the spell doesn’t work. And Wini soon discovers that it didn’t just not work, it backfired. Badly. Now the whole town is in danger, and the Enchantment Agency is sniffing around for whoever cast the wayward spell.

It’s just been Kal and her dad for as long as she can remember. They’ve weathered everything together, including Kal’s mental health struggles. But just as they’re about to move to a new town for a fresh start, Kal’s grandfather–who mysteriously vanished years ago–has suddenly reentered their lives with a desire to make amends. He joins them in opening their bookstore in the new town, but Kal can’t help but wonder if he has anything to do with the whispers around her new home about wicked magic. And it’s not just the whispers of the magical books in their shop.

When Wini and Kal cross paths–both hoping for the chance to finally make a friend without worrying about their family histories following them–the girls bond over being fellow outcasts. Together they search for the solution to fixing the magic gone awry in their beloved town–and just maybe get their dads to go out on a date.

Includes five recipes!

(affiliate links)

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