Space Smooches and Surreal Short Stories: June’s Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

Summer brings a bevy of exciting SFF debuts, from sapphic space opera romance to short fiction collections that will keep you up at night hoping you won’t wind up trapped in a contemporary fairy tale… unless, that is, it involves a flirtation with the Devil via short fiction. Despite the increasingly humid weather, there’s a delicious vein of horror running through this month’s SFF, featuring odes to everything from cult classic art-house films to the tradition of eating eyes for good luck. And through it all, reincarnation through civil war and television repeats—life cycles on and we retell ourselves familiar stories but always with a new twist.

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Constance Fay, Fiasco
(Bramble, June 4)

Romantasy is all over BookTok and bookshelves, but how about its SF equivalent… romantasci? (Let’s try to coin a new subgenre, why not.) Bramble has been bringing the smooches in space with Constance Fay’s standalone adventures in the Uncharted Hearts series: last year’s Calamity, and now this summer’s bounty-hunter-and-target romance. In addition to chasing down marks for money, aforementioned bounty hunter Cynbelline Khaw must also protect her myriad identities, which stretch across the galaxy in a complex web of anonymity.

When the dangerous Pierce family threatens to basically dox her and her estranged family, she has no choice but to deliver medic Micah Arora to them. Problem is, Cyn is also trying to track down a bounty that will bring closure to her family; dragging Micah along on her revenge plot means that invariably their attraction will spark into something that will make it that much harder to turn him in at the end of the voyage.

the stars too fondly

Emily Hamilton, The Stars Too Fondly
(Harper Voyager, June 11)

I love that I immediately get to follow that up with another space romance, this one a queer love story between human stowaway and a decades-old hologram. It starts when Cleo and her friends accidentally steal the abandoned Providence spaceship; curiosity about why its crew disappeared into another dimension at launch 20 years ago leads to the dark matter engines switching on, and suddenly they’re on an unintentional research—and maybe even rescue—mission. Complicating matters further is the ship’s hologram, which embodies snarky missing captain Billie… with whom Cleo can’t help but clash, and then be inexorably drawn to. But as the Providence descends into alternate dimensions, Cleo must confront not only her dreams about becoming an astronaut—and the inexplicable abilities she and her friends have suddenly developed—but what she thought love and family and happiness would look like for her.


Puloma Ghosh, Mouth: Stories
(Astra House, June 11)

That this debut short fiction collection is classified as part fairy tale on its publisher page speaks to Puloma Ghosh’s handle on the surreal while still inspiring familiar sensations of fables unfolded and lessons relearned. One especially buzzed-about story, “Desiccation” wraps an already complex premise (an Indian American girl falling for the only other Indian girl on her figure skating team) in a whole other layer, in which the object of her desire might be a vampire. Ex-lovers are literally and figuratively exhumed via autopsy and/or hauntings, in “Lemon Boy” and “Natalya.” And “Leaving Things” reinvigorates the “one gender disappears” scenario by having wolves devour a town full of women—but what happens when a survivor must foster a baby wolf? These stories are gory, but in a way that sounds much more satisfying than the bloodless alternative.

horror movie

Paul Tremblay, Horror Movie
(William Morrow, June 11)

If you stay up too late at night scrolling Reddit’s r/lastimages for urban legend on-set photos, then horror author Paul Tremblay’s latest will be right up your alley. Horror Movie is what it says on the tin, or rather the film canister: a cult classic movie, despite only three scenes having ever survived to the public eye. Thirty years later, Hollywood wants a reboot of the art-house flick that never quite was, but there’s only one surviving member of the cast left to tell them where things went wrong—and help figure out how to resurrect the guerilla filmmakers’ original vision. That is, if the man formerly known as “The Thin Kid” actually wants to revisit the past, or if he has unfinished business to address…

Craft comp final no quote

Ananda Lima, Craft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil
(Tor Books, June 18)

I’m a big fan of short story collections linked by a common thread, and how could you get more intriguing than one woman’s anthology of stories written for her ex-lover the Devil? We’re not talking a shitty ex, but Satan himself, and an attraction sparked from a Halloween costume party one-night-stand in 1999. As the unnamed Brazilian-American narrator encounters the Devil again and again in the intervening decades, she pens these tales as a way to recapture those moments, or to look ahead to the next. There’s a “Ghost Story” in which her mother encounters her daughter’s spirit, yet the latter is somehow older than her; and the cheekily-titled “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory,” which sees the narrator exploring (respectively) an all-inclusive resort, Penn Station, and Los Angeles like a modern Dante Alighieri.


Vajra Chandrasekera, Rakesfall
(Tordotcom Publishing, June 18)

Vajra Chandrasekera follows up The Saint of Bright Doors with a trippy epic about a reincarnated duo: best friends Annelid and Leveret, children running through the jungle on a TV program known only as the Show. Or are they ghosts watching the actors playing their younger selves, part of a cult fandom? Or do they meet during the Sri Lankan civil war? Yes. And once their parallel (or sometimes shared in a single body) reincarnations propel them beyond our contemporary age, things become even more surreal as Chandrasekera explores the different bodies, lives, and realities that the boy named for the hare and the girl named for the concept of “little rings” can inhabit.

the eyes are the best part

Monika Kim, The Eyes Are the Best Part
(Erewhon Books, June 25)

From the perfectly chilling title (not to mention that cover), Monika Kim establishes exactly what flavor of horror to expect from her debut: Ji-won’s Appa throws an emotional bomb into their family after cheating on her Umma, yet the current object of Ji-won’s anger and revulsion is George, her mother’s obnoxious new white boyfriend who can’t stop ogling every Asian waitress at their cringeworthy “family” lunches. Except for his eyes—they’re an icy blue that has Ji-won salivating, first in violent dreams but all too soon crossing over into real life. At first, Ji-won attempts to isolate her strange new urges to blue-eyed victims on her college campus, but if George butchers one more Korean word or tries to act like her and Ji-hyun’s new white stepdaddy… Ji-won may have only one option for satiating her hunger.

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