9781473227965.jpgThis week, with Jonathan hard at work compiling his year’s best anthology, we revisit one of the oldest questions about science fiction—namely, what is it and how do you decide what to include or exclude from an anthology clearly labelled as science fiction?

Rather than trying to offer our own definitions, we discuss the problem of definition in general. Gary argues that the many definitions of SF could be classed as the functional (or purely practical, like Damon Knight’s famous “what I point to”), the rhetorical (definitions designed to promote the importance of the genre), and the theoretical (lit-crit stuff). We agreed that such definitions tend to change over time.

That leads us into a discussion of the current state of space opera, and the question of whether the space setting is a defining feature, even when, as with Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective, the plot is borrowed from mysteries.  

Finally, we talk about some of our current reading. Gary mentions Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, which he sees as representing a fascinating collaboration between music and fiction since the central idea began with the techno-electronic duo Drexciya, became a Hugo-nominated rap by Clipping and is now Solomon’s novel.  Jonathan mentioned Leah Bardugo's bestselling new fantasy, Ninth House, which is out now and which he recommends.

As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast. We'll be back soon!

americansf.jpgAs we approach the October Country, Jonathan and Gary start this week’s podcast discussing Gary’s new two-volume set from the Library of America, American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s (which you can order right now) and end with discussing the challenges of editing Jonathan’s new best science fiction of the year anthology series from Saga Press.

It’s not all shameless self-promotion, though, since in between we talk about how SF changed from the 1950s to the 1960s, whether there is more high-quality SF published now than ever before, and how new writers face different challenges from those of earlier generations in establishing a career and a distinctive profile in today’s complicated markets.

All in all, a pretty full hour. As always, we hope you enjoy the episode and we'll back soon (next week!) with another episode!

Welcome to the first episode of the second season of The Coode Street Roundtable, a monthly podcast from Coode Street Productions where panellists James Bradley, Ian Mond, Gary K. Wolfe, and Jonathan Strahan, joined by occasional special guests, discuss a new or recently released science fiction or fantasy novel.

Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline


This month James, Ian, Gary and Jonathan discuss the latest book from Annalee Newitz. It’s described by publisher Tor Books as follows:

1992: After a confrontation at a riot grrl concert, seventeen-year-old Beth finds herself in a car with her friend’s abusive boyfriend dead in the backseat, agreeing to help her friends hide the body. This murder sets Beth and her friends on a path of escalating violence and vengeance as they realize many other young women in the world need protecting too.

2022: Determined to use time travel to create a safer future, Tess has dedicated her life to visiting key moments in history and fighting for change. But rewriting the timeline isn’t as simple as editing one person or event. And just when Tess believes she’s found a way to make an edit that actually sticks, she encounters a group of dangerous travelers bent on stopping her at any cost.

Tess and Beth’s lives intertwine as war breaks out across the timeline—a war that threatens to destroy time travel and leave only a small group of elites with the power to shape the past, present, and future. Against the vast and intricate forces of history and humanity, is it possible for a single person’s actions to echo throughout the timeline?

If you’re keen to avoid spoilers, we recommend reading the book before listening to the episode (serious spoilers start around the ten-minute mark).

If you don’t already have a copy, The Future of Another Timeline can be ordered from:

North American booksellers
UK booksellers

We encourage all of our listeners to leave comments here and we will do our best to respond as soon as possible.

Books mentioned this episode

James mentioned:

  • Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker
  • Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake
  • Alastair Reynolds, Permafrost
  • Michelle Tea, Black Wave
  • Connie Willis, Doomsday Book

Gary mentioned:

  • Elizabeth Hand, Curious Toys

Ian mentioned:

  • Claire North, The Pursuit of William Abbey
  • Meghan Elison, The Road to Nowhere Trilogy

Jonathan mentioned:

Kelly Robson, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach


Next month

The Coode Street Roundtable will return at the end of October with a discussion of Alix E. Harrow's The Ten Thousand Doors of January.


empress.jpgAfter acknowledging that we failed to record a single podcast during the Dublin Worldcon, Jonathan and Gary compare notes about the con and the general wonderfulness of being in Ireland, than discussed perhaps the most debated bit of news emerging from Dublin: the renaming of the John W. Campbell award following the passionate acceptance speech by Jeanette Ng. This raised the issue of whether it’s a good idea to name an award in honour of any past figure in the field, given the shifting historical and literary influences of modern writers, and the problems that might arise concerning such figures.

Then we spent a bit of time talking about a new kind of "new space opera” such as Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever, and how space opera, like time travel, seems to survive and get reinvented in each new generation of writers.

Finally, we recommend a couple of forthcoming books we’ve both been reading, Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Dominic Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s anthology The Mythic Dream.

Just before Gary K Wolfe and I went to Dublin for the WorldCon we recorded a short episode. We've been too busy to publish until now. And we do have new plans for new episodes. We will be back!!!

Mission CriticalThis week marks the publication of Jonathan’s new hard-SF anthology Mission Criticalthe title of which reminded Gary of the first SF serial he read, Hal Clement’s Close to Critical. This lead, by our usual process of carefully structured random free association, to a discussion of Clement as an example of an author whose fiction is not widely read anymore, but whose influence nevertheless shows up even in writers who may not have read him. In Clement’s case, it was carefully extrapolated SF environments and creatures, but Jack Vance and Clifford Simak are also mentioned as writers whose influence has long outlived their popularity.

This somehow led to a discussion of SF’s oldest saw, the sense of wonder, how it can be achieved by current writers, and whether the SFnal sense of wonder can really be achieved in fantasy or horror. After rambling through a few other topics, including our favourite dragons, we mentioned a few new and upcoming books we're looking forward to (see the links below).  And then we noted that this week represents the 10th anniversary of the death of our old friend, Charles N. Brown, who in many ways was the inspiration for this podcast.

Links for the episode

9781598535013.jpgThis week Jonathan and Gary are back, fitting another episode in between travel, work, and family commitments. Gary opens up with a thoroughly reasonable discussion about writers from the 1990s and 2000s who may have published major works but have fallen from sight in recent years, while Jonathan attempts to get Gary interested in a new segment. Along the way there's discussion of the history of anthologies and whether genre fiction is more likely to be the home of theme anthologies, a new Gwyneth Jones book on the work of Joanna Russ, the state of various Library of America projects, and more.

All in all, a typical ramble. In coming weeks Gary will be in Seattle for the 2019 Locus Awards weekend, Jonathan will be in Seattle for Clarion West, and both of them will be in Dublin for WorldCon 2019. Hopefully more podcast episodes will be recorded before then.


With the Nebula Award winners about to be announced, we took a look this week at the question of whether science fiction has demonstrated much continuity of theme and style since the 1969 Nebulas, or whether the field has essentially reinvented itself in the last few decades.

But before we even get around to that, we note the death of bestselling author Herman Wouk, whose only science fiction work was the relatively undistinguished The "Lomokome” Papers, which raised the issue of mainstream writers who attempted SF with limited success vs. those who approached the material with respect.

Then we spent some time talking about the different generations of science fiction writers, the role of nostalgia in science fiction, the value of differing perspectives even on familiar themes, and somehow touched upon the New Wave somewhere in there as well.

As usual, we started with interesting ideas and ended up with a farrago.  

This year has been something of a whirlwind. When we published Episode 350 we did so without managing to upload the full recording. Apparently, 10 minutes or so were missing. A new file has now been uploaded for your listening pleasure which you can listen to or download from here:


Our apologies and we hope you enjoy the extra tidbit.

After a much longer than expected hiatus, we're back (sort of)! Gary's been working and travelling and Jonathan's been working and planning to travel and it's made it very difficult to squeeze recording time in.  Or even to plan recording time.

Still, for a moment, early on Mother's Day in Australia and late in the evening in Chicago, Gary and Jonathan stop to discuss the books they've been reading, the movies they've been watching, the stuff they've been working on, awards and ballots, and  Joanna Russ. There are mentions of fiction in translation, Chen Qiufan's Waste Tide (and Liz Bourke's Tor.com review of it), Avenger's Endgame, and much more.

I don't think either of our hosts is sure the conversation is coherent or intelligible but here it is, along with a promise to try to do better in the coming months.

For our 350th(!) episode, Jonathan and Gary basically just ramble on. We begin with the question of how long to stick with a novel which seems to be going off the rails, and comment a bit on what different kinds of readers expect from long novels.

Later we move on to questions about anthologies, and what to expect from recent anthologies of Chinese, Korean, South Asian, and Israeli science fiction: should they try to represent an entire national tradition, or simply focus on excellent stories? And can readers not from those cultures ever fully appreciate the full nuances of such fiction?

That, in turn, leads us to discuss anthologies that have been historically important, although not always widely recognized, such as Vonda McIntyre and Susan Anderson’s Aurora: Beyond Equality from 1976, and anthologies widely celebrated, like Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions.  On a personal note, anthologies that shaped our own reading included (for Gary) Judith Merril’s horribly titled England Swings SF and (for Jonathan) Michael Bishop’s Light Years and Dark. And we end briefly discussing an issue, raised by Fonda Lee, about writers gaining shelf space in bookstores amid all the perennial classics and bestsellers.

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker A Song for a New Day by  Sarah Pinsker

This week, we are joined by Nebula Award-winning Sarah Pinsker, whose first story collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea has just been published, and whose first novel, A Song for a New Day, will appear from Berkley Books in September.

We talk about the challenges of a dual career as writer and songwriter/performer—and the differences in audience interactions between the two—as well as her early reading and writing in the field, her creative writing classes in college and later attendance at the Sycamore Hill workshops, and the varied relationships between SF, fantasy, dystopia, the classic road novel, and mainstream “literary fiction.” 

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea is available from Small Beer Press and her novel is available for preorder.

As usual at this time of year, Jonathan and Gary sit down to discuss the beginning of the awards season, and in particular the recently announced Nebula finalists and the fact that the Hugo nominations remain open for another couple of weeks.

Needless to say, this leads off in various directions about whether there is really more first-rate short fiction these days, or merely a broader range of venues, a more diverse pool of editors, or perhaps even more specialized readerships. We also touch upon the comparative virtues and disadvantages of text files vs PDFs vs Kindle, and the sometimes challenging logistics of convention attendance. We also strongly urge everyone to seek out not only online venues, but print magazines before finalizing their Hugo votes.



Charlie Jane Anders joins Jonathan and Gary to discuss her second novel, The City in the Middle of the Night, which will be in shops during the coming week. Her powerful and engaging new novel follows her award-winning debut, All the Birds in the Sky, and we chat about following that novel, her hopes for the new book, and much more.

As always, our thanks to Charlie Jane for taking the time to talk to us. We hope you enjoy the episode and the shorter format.  We'll have a new episode out soon.

Coode Street for February 3rd


This week, as part of Coode Street's experimental trio of shorter episodes, Clarkesworld publisher Neil Clarke joins Jonathan and Gary to discuss the state of short fiction in 2018. How is the field doing artistically? How is to doing in publishing terms? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? We take half an hour to talk about all this, trends in the field and more.  The fourth volume of Neil's The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of Year will be out in July.

As always, our thanks to Neil for taking the time to talk to us. We hope you enjoy the episode and the shorter format.

Coode Street for February 3rd


locus2018.jpgThis episode is our more-or-less annual discussion with Locus magazine’s editor-in-chief Liza Groen Trombi, with whom we chat about the Recommended Reading List which appears each February in the magazine’s Year In Review issue.  How is the list compiled, who contributes to it, and perhaps most important of all, what’s it for?  How does it differ from other "best of the year" lists? What does it tell us about the current state of the field, and where it’s going? We touch upon not only the major novels in SFF, but also about first novels, YA, collections, nonfiction, and the various categories of short fiction.  Plus, we corner Liza to talk a bit about her own favourites from the year.

You can buy a copy of the February issue of Locus, check out the Recommended Reading List, and vote in the Locus Awards.  Our thanks to Liza for making time to talk to us. As always we hope you enjoy the episode.

Coode Street for February 3rd

And we're back with our 344th episode, which one of us incorrectly thought was our 343rd because we counted 342 twice. Ugh. Apologies for the confusion! This week:

The rise and rise of the time travel story

Dr Who has been telling time travel stories for fifty years. Robert A. Heinlein made his name with a time travel story. Kids grow up watching Back to the Future. Time travel is a well-established theme and story device, and it seems to be enjoying prominence at the moment. Kelly Robson used it in Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach. Ian McDonald used it in Time Was. What makes time travel an attractive idea? Have we changed how we're treating it as a trope in fiction?  

How urbanisation is impacting how we’re looking at the city in SF

7.5 billion people live on Earth, up from 1.5 billion in 1900. Likely to increase to 10 billion by 2050. Levels of urbanisation - people living in cities - are increasing, especially in Africa, China, and India. The largest cities in the world are in those places. How does this growing urbanisation appear in SFF? Has our vision of cities in SF changed from James Blish and Isaac Asimov when you now look at Paolo Bacigalupi and Sam Miller?

Why are looking to move to the Arctic?

Antarctica, Black Fish City, Austral, The Yiddish Policeman's Union. Climate change is heating up the world and we're heading to the poles.  Read Charlie Jane talking about climate change

Epilogue: You don't need to read . . . The Drowned World, J G Ballard

Readers don’t need to read Ballard's novel if you think it ’s an early climate change warning novel, because it isn’t. If you want to understand Ballard’s ideas about “inner space” or psychic spaces, it’s a pioneering work, but it’s in no way a serious precursor of "cli-fi."

Every episode starts with a blank slate, even when perhaps it should not. This week we start with the recent announcement that William Gibson has been named as this year’s Damon Knight Grand Master by SFWA, which is well-deserved. Gibson's most famous novel, Neuromancer, won the Philip K. Dick Award back in 1985 (along with a slew of other awards). 

This, in turn, takes us to the just-announced nominees for the 2019 Philip K. Dick Award:

  • Time Was, Ian McDonald (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Body Library, Jeff Noon (Angry Robot)
  • 84K, Claire North (Orbit)
  • Alien Virus Love Disaster: Stories, Abbey Mei Otis (Small Beer Press)
  • Theory of Bastards, Audrey Schulman (Europa Editions)
  • Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, Vandana Singh (Small Beer Press)

and this leads into a discussion of the history of the award and of the evolving role of original paperbacks in science fiction. We then venture on to the hoary old question of whether our field has too many awards, and what actually constitutes progress or excellence in a field with so many familiar themes and ideas.  

We’re not sure where we ended up but did manage to mention some exciting books that we’re reading right now.

At the beginning of the new year, Jonathan and Gary compare lists of books they’re looking forward to in the new year, beginning with some novels appearing within the next few weeks (Charlie Jane Anders’s The City in the Middle of the Night, Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Alastair Reynolds’s Shadow Captain), and venturing further into the year with debut novels, sophomore novels sequels, fantasy, SF, collections, anthologies, and whatever else comes to mind, including some of our own forthcoming efforts.  

We cover a lot of titles, but no doubt missed some and probably gave too little attention to others.  We’d be glad to hear about what we might have missed.

black.jpeg    exhal.jpeg   bidking.jpg   36510722.jpg

Here's a partial list of some of the books mentioned during the episode:

ALASTAIR REYNOLDS • Shadow Captain • Orion/Gollancz, Jan 2019 (eb, hc)
ALIETTE DE BODARD • The House of Sundering Flames • Orion/Gollancz, Jul 2019 (eb, tp)
ALIX E. HARROW • The Ten Thousand Doors of January •
AMAL EL-MOHTAR & MAX GLADSTONE • This Is How You Lose the Time War • Simon & Schuster/Saga Press, Jul 2019 (hc, eb)
ANN LECKIE • The Raven Tower • Orbit US, Feb 2019 (hc, eb)
ANNALEE NEWITZ • The Future of Another Timeline • Tor, Sep 2019 (hc, eb)
ARKADY MARTINE • A Memory Called Empire • Tor, Mar 2019 (hc, eb)
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS • The City in the Middle of the Night • Titan, Feb 2019 (tp)
CHEN QUIFAN • Waste Tide • Tor, Apr 2019 (hc, eb)
DAVE HUTCHINSON • Return of the Exploding Man • Rebellion/Solaris US, Sep 2019 (tp, eb)
ELIZABETH BEAR • Ancestral Night • Orion/Gollancz, Mar 2019 (tp)
FONDA LEE • Jade War • Orbit US, Jul 2019 (hc, eb)
G. WILLOW WILSON • The Bird King • Grove Atlantic/Grove, Mar 2019 (hc, eb)
GUY GAVRIEL KAY • A Brightness Long Ago • Penguin Random House/Berkley, May 2019 (hc, eb)
JO WALTON • Lent • Tor, May 2019 (f, hc, eb)
KAMERON HURLEY • Meet Me in the Future • Tachyon Publications, Jul 2019 (c, tp, eb)
KAREN LORD • Unravelling • DAW, Jun 2019 (hc, eb)
MAHVESH MURAD, ED. • The Outcast Hours (with Jared Shurin) • Rebellion/Solaris, Feb 2019 (tp)
MARLON JAMES • Black Leopard, Red Wolf • Penguin Random House/Riverhead, Feb 2019 (hc, eb)
N.K. JEMISIN • The City We Became • Little, Brown UK/Orbit, Sep 2019 (hc)
NEAL STEPHENSON • Fall, Or Dodge in Hell • HarperCollins/Morrow, Jun 2019 (hc, eb)
NINA ALLAN • The Silver Wind • Titan US, Sep 2019 (tp)
RIVERS SOLOMON • The Deep • Simon & Schuster/Saga Press, Jun 2019 (hc, eb)
SAM J. MILLER • Destroy All Monsters
SARAH GAILEY • Magic for Liars • Tor, Jun 2019 (hc, eb)
SARAH PINSKER • A Song for a New Day • Ace, Sep 2019 (tp, eb)
SARAH PINSKER • Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea • Small Beer Press, Mar 2019 (c, tp, eb)
SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA • Gods of Jade and Shadow • Del Rey, Aug 2019 (hc, eb)
T. KINGFISHER • The Twisted Ones • Simon & Schuster/Saga Press, Sep 2019 (h, tp, hc, eb)
TADE THOMPSON • The Rosewater Insurrection • Orbit US, Mar 2019 (tp, eb)
TAMSYN MUIR • GIDEON THE NINTH • Tor, Oct 2019 (hc, eb)
THEODORA GOSS • The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl • Simon & Schuster/Saga Press, Sep 2019 (hc, eb)
VICTOR LAVALLE & JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, EDS. • A People’s Future of the United States • Penguin Random House/One World, Feb 2019 (oa, tp, eb)
WILLIAM GIBSON • Agency • Penguin Random House/Berkley, Apr 2019 (hc, eb)
YOON HA LEE • Dragon Pearl • Disney/Hyperion, Jan 2019 (ya, hc, eb)
YOON HA LEE • Hexarchate Stories • Rebellion/Solaris, Jun 2019 (c, tp)
ZEN CHO • The True Queen • Ace, Mar 2019 (tp, eb)


Picture of books

As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast and that you consider pre-ordering any of the books listed above, or any that you're looking forward to.

The Coode Street Book of the Year

After another long hiatus, Jonathan and Gary return with a ramble saying farewell to 2018 (actually recorded when it was still 2018 in Chicago and already 2019 in Perth).

This time we look back on some of our favourite novels, novellas, collections, anthologies, and nonfiction from the past year, agreeing enthusiastically about Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City, Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Gardner Dozois’s The Book of Magic, Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (diverting into a side discussion of whether “golden ages” actually mean anything), and several other books and stories which one or both of us liked. We also name Blackfish City as our official Coode Street Book of Year!

Did we draw any insightful conclusions about the overall health of the field last year, or what the field seems to be becoming? Of course not, but we have our opinions, and we had some fun. And who knows? We should be back sooner than you'd think.

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