From the President

SFRA Review, vol. 51, no. 2

From the SFRA Executive Committee

From the President

Gerry Canavan
Michigan State University

With the May 1 deadline for SFRA21 proposals in the rear view, the next step is putting together the schedule. With more than the usual number of participants across multiple timezones, this is more of a challenge than usual—but we’re hoping to have this information to you very quickly! In the meantime, please pay attention to your email and to the website for information on conference registration, access, and other logistics; if you have any questions that aren’t addressed there, please direct them to me at or to the organizer, Graham Murphy, at

We are all very excited about the conference, even as we are filled with nervous energy around the experimental format! We hope the ten-minute “mini-paper” roundtable format we’ve selected will be a success and ask that everyone please try their best to stick within these guidelines as they prepare their papers; I know the temptation to take just an extra couple of minutes will be strong, but we really want to leave as much time for questions and conversation as possible. If you find you have more to say, please take advantage of the opportunity to precirculate your paper. This system worked very well at ICFA and I think it will work well at SFRA too.

After the conference we will be turning our attention to the exec elections; we will be electing a new vice president and new treasurer this fall. If you think you might be willing to serve, please email me for more information! We will also be seeking out new members for the various award committees; if you think you might be willing to serve the organization in this capacity, please contact me as well.

In the meantime, everyone stay well, and power through the end of term as best you can! It’s been a year.

Chinese Science Fiction in the Global Context

SFRA Review, vol. 51, no. 2

Symposium: Chinese SF and the World

Chinese Science Fiction in the Global Context

Yan Wu, Jianbin Yao and Jinyi Chu

According to the 2020 China Science Fiction Industry Report, the gross annual output value of China’s science fiction industry in 2019 was 45.635 billion yuan. This cultural industry consists of hardcopy books, film and TV series, video games, and peripheral products. Since 2016, the Chinese Association for Science and Technology (CAST) has begun organizing the annual conventions. The Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, Li Yuanchao, participated in the first convention. He called himself a science fiction fanatic. His brief appearance brought lots of media attention to the cultural industry of Chinese science fiction.

Chinese science fiction has been developing exponentially since the completion of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem in 2010. In 2015, Liu Cixin won the Hugo Award for best full-length novel at the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention. Now Chinese science fiction is being translated into Arabic, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and many languages all over the world. Since then, more Chinese writers have become globally renowned, including: Han Song, Wang Jinkang, Chen Qiufan, Hao Jingfang, and Xia Jia, among many others.

The international fame of Chinese science fiction has also created a new wave of the fascination with global science fiction in China. The names of H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Strugatsky brothers have never been obscure to Chinese readers. Now their splendid works continue to receive significant attention in the 21st century, far beyond their birthplace. 

It is timely and necessary to reflect on how science fiction connects the world. The goal of this special issue is to investigate the latest developments of this two-way reception of science fiction and to reflect on relevant methodological issues. The contributors of this special issue ask: can we study science fiction as world literature? Can science fiction teach us, human beings, how to better interact with the environment? Thanks to all contributors and editors who made this timely special issue possible!

From the Vice President

SFRA Review, vol. 51, no. 2

From the SFRA Executive Committee

From the Vice President

Sonja Fritzsche
Michigan State University

The draft program for the annual conference SFRA 21 will be coming soon; its title “The Future of/as Inequality.” The conference host Graham Murphy at Seneca College in Toronto, Canada has been working hard on organizing the virtual conference and is looking forward to greeting you from Friday, June 18 to Monday, June 21, 2021. Keynotes speakers include Madeline Ashby (author of Company Town, How to Future: Leading and Sensemaking in an Age of Hyperchange, and the Machine Dynasty series), Dr. Joy Sanchez-Taylor (Diverse Futures: Science Fiction and Authors of Color), and Dr. Lars Schmeink (Biopunk Dystopias: Genetic Engineering, Society and Science Fiction; The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture, Cyberpunk and Visual Culture). Special guest Aisha Matthews (The MOSF Journal of Science Fiction and Director of Literary Programming for the Museum of Science Fiction’s annual Escape Velocity Conference) will speak as well. The virtual conference is expanding opportunities to present more globally and SFRA is no exception! We missed you last year, so we are looking forward to great conversations as we catch up on the most recent debates in science fiction studies. Don’t forget to renew your membership. Conference registration is open now and a low virtual rate!

Look soon too for more information on SFRA 2022, which will be hosted by Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay at the University of Oslo, and also for the location of SFRA 2023. Consider attending the business meeting at the conference to find out ways you can get more involved in the organization or e-mail me if you have questions or an interest for the future. Make sure to check the SFRA Facebook and Twitter pages and the website for recent cfps, events, and other announcements of interest to those who do research on science fiction. If you have a call or an event that you would like to circulate, please send me an e-mail or feel free to post it yourself. If you are looking for a resource, consider contacting the relevant SFRA Country Representative for help.

SFRA Country Report: India

SFRA Review, vol. 51, no. 2


SFRA Country Report: India

Vishnu Prasad Thandassery Radhakrishnan

This is my first contribution to the SFRA Review in any format and I am deeply humbled and honored to write the country report for India. The report features an Introduction to the Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies (IASFS) and our activities including the organization of an International online conference in 2020 and proposed activities for 2021, followed by an overview of the Indian SF films and literature released in 2020 and 2021 until now.

IASFS is a non-profit association established on 2nd January 1998. The association’s headquarters is in Bangalore, Karnataka State. This is the only registered association in India which promotes the research in science fiction and fantasy. The association promotes research in the field of Science Fiction, organizes conferences and conducts SF short story writing workshops for Indian citizens of all ages and levels of education. IASFS has organized 14 National and 5 International Science Fiction conferences at different locations in India. The Association has collaborated with many Colleges, Universities, Local Bodies and Institutions in organizing conferences. Hence, it was able to bring together hundreds of academicians, scholars, students, scientists, writers, publishers, critics, movie makers, journalists, fans, industrialists, technologists, farmers and readers.  So far the Annual Conferences of IASFS were held at Chennai, Coimbatore, Gandhigram, Gudiattam and Vellore in Tamil Nadu, Bangalore, Yelahatti and Mysore in Karnataka, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Aurangabad and Pune in Maharashtra, Pondicherry, and Ernakulum in Kerala, my home state. Each conference had plenary sessions and story reading sessions by respective authors in addition to the paper presentations. IASFS had also arranged a SF Story Writing Workshop conducted by Eric Miller and story reading sessions by respective SF writers. The association was also able to organize a video conference with Professor James E Gunn, Director of the Center for Science Fiction Studies at Kansas University.

Dr. Srinarahari is the Secretary-General of IASFS and he plans and distributes all the duties and activities of the association including memberships, roles of members in association and conference related activities. I am a life member of the association since 2019. The 19th Annual or the 5th International Science Fiction virtual Conference of the association was held in collaboration with Bangalore University, from December 7 to 10 in 2020. This conference was entitled “All Roads to Science Fiction”. A unique feature of the conference was that all the 52 departments of the Bangalore University, SF fans, media and the general public had converged at “ISFC 2020”. Themes of the conference varied from myths to advanced technology and to the life in other worlds. The conference was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Karnataka State, and the Deputy Chief Minister, the Minister for Higher Education, the Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, the Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University, and the Physics Nobel Laureate of 2019 Professor Didier Patrick Queloz had made their esteemed presence. Some of the highlights of this conference include plenary sessions from SF experts and scholars from different countries, paper presentations, special lectures, interviews, panel discussions, and the narration of SF stories. Guest Speakers of the conference included science fiction writers from Czech Republic, Julie Novakova and Lucie Lukacovicova. The conference also hosted guest speakers from different disciplines including Neural Engineer Dr. John RoLacco from Singapore, NASA scientist Ravikumar Kopparapu, and Dr. Ashish Mahabal, Astronomer and Data Scientist from Caltech.

The Association publishes a quarterly magazine entitled Indian Journal of Science Fiction Studies. It comprises of papers and stories presented in the previous conferences, review of books, and an interaction by the readers. As part of the conference, we had also prepared a collection of all the abstracts received for the conference and it was released as an E-book after the conference. Selected papers from the conference will be published in a peer reviewed journal maybe later this year. IASFS proposes to hold Regional, National and an International Conferences during 2021-22. This year’s National Conference may be held at Shridi in Maharashtra.

As for the recent developments in Science Fiction novels, films, and TV shows from India, there is very little to mention from the year 2020 till now. One SF novel worth noting is Samit Basu’s Chosen Spirits. This is a dystopia set in a near Indian future and has all the elements of a traditional dystopia like surveillance, an exploitative government, and the manipulation of technology. It was featured in the short list of the JCB Prize for Literature in 2020. Other honorable mentions include The Wall by Gautam Bhatia, Analog/Virtual: And Other Simulations of Your Future by Lavanya Lakshminarayan, Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar, and Hunted by the Sky written by Tanaz Bhathena. S.B. Divya, who is known for her SF short stories, published her first SF novel Machinehood in March 2021.When it comes to SF films and TV shows, the trend is no different in the number of production. Only two SF films were released in theatres after the pandemic. It is to be noted that both of these are Telugu-language films. Disco Raja directed by Vi Anand was released on 24th January 2020 before the lockdown phases started in India. Zombie Reddy directed by Prasanth Varma was released on 5th February 2021 when the theatres partially reopened amidst the pandemic. This film is considered as the first zombie film in Telugu language and it is also based on the COVID-19 pandemic. Two Hindi language SF web series were released in 2020, Betaal and JL50. Betaal is a zombie horror series directed by Patrick Graham and it was released on Netflix. Even though it received mixed to negative reviews, it is still India’s first zombie web series. JL50 is directed by Shailender Vyas and it is available on the streaming platform Sony Liv. OK Computer is the only Indian SF series released in 2021 till now. This SF comedy drama series is directed by Pooja Shetty and Neil Pagedar and it was released on Disney+ Hotstar.

I feel that this is the ideal time for me to write a country report for India. Because India is going through the worst second wave of COVID pandemic and people are dying from the lack of oxygen supply in hospitals all over the country. It feels like we are living in a dystopia on the verge of apocalypse which also reflects our common interest in this venture, Science Fiction.   Let us hope that the pandemic will be over very soon so that we can survive this trial and get back to our normal lives.  

Vishnu Prasad Thandassery Radhakrishnan is a Ph.D. Student in the English department of St. Thomas’ College (affiliated to the University of Calicut) in Thrissur, Kerala, India. His MA dissertation was on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In his Ph.D. thesis, he is working on Young Adult Dystopian literature which tries to look into the genre’s impact on popular culture, film adaptations, and social media discussions all over the world. Vishnu is a lifetime member of the Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies (IASFS) which promotes science fiction research both in English and India’s regional languages and organizes an International Science Fiction Conference every year. He is also the current country representative of India for the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA). Vishnu is also a member of the YA Studies Association and his research interests include Science Fiction and Fantasy, Utopias and Dystopias, Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Media, Gothic Studies and Popular Culture Studies.

Call for Applications: Associate Editor

Call for Applications: Associate Editor

The Editorial Collective

We will greatly miss our longtime Associate Editor, Amandine Faucheux, who says that “It was my privilege and my honor to work with my talented colleagues and brilliant authors over the years, and I cannot wait to continue following the Review and the field as a reader.”

The SFRA Review would like to invite applicants for the position. To submit an application, please email Ian Campbell at and briefly outline qualifications and interest.

In collaboration with the Editor and Associate Editor(s), the Associate Editor is generally responsible for special issues and symposiums. However, duties and responsibilities are generally negotiated with the rest of the editorial team as befits the Associate Editor’s interests, skills, and experience.

Overview of Responsibilities:

  • Participate in regular meetings with the Editor and other Associate Editors
  • Propose, organize, and/or take charge of special issues and symposiums
  • Be the point of contact with authors, conference/panel organizers
  • Edit and copyedit essays (about 20-30 per quarter)
  • Occasional other responsibilities

From the Editor

Spring 2021

Ian Campbell
Editor, SFRA Review

During the last few weeks, I’ve experienced William Gibson’s unevenly-distributed future. My wife was in a motorcycle accident last month, and as of a few days ago now has a knee supplemented with metal and polymer parts and ligaments from a cadaver. My father, who at 93 was still running on a treadmill up until quite recently, experienced tremendous pain from sciatica and is now re-learning how to walk: the surgery that inserted artificial spacers between his lumbar vertebrae and metal rods to hold them together has temporarily confused his spinal cord. My daughter and I are now the only family members who aren’t cyborgs, though both of us wonder how long that will last.

In this issue of the SFRA Review, we present to you at least three distinctly different versions of that future. First, we have a new Fiction section, inaugurated by the Chinese writer Tang Fei: we will be henceforth accepting fiction submissions, as delimited by the call for submissions at the beginning of the new section. We also have two symposia addressing the future. The first, Sinofuturisms, gives perspectives on the past, present and future of the rapidly-growing discourse around Chinese SF. Our other symposium consists of selected papers from the “Living in the End Times” conference, which detail a rich variety of takes on the slow-motion apocalypse many of us have found ourselves in: SF enables us to examine and critique the causes of and responses to the changes presented to us by the Anthropocene. We also have, in addition to the usual panoply of reviews, a call for papers relating to Indigenous SF, which will be one of the primary subjects of our November 2021 issue.

Finally, we bid farewell to one of our Associate Editors, Amandine Faucheux, whose competence and collegiality will be greatly missed. Please pass to your friends and colleagues our call for a new Associate Editor.

Call for Submissions: Fiction

Call for Submissions: Fiction

The Editorial Collective

The SFRA Review welcomes well-written and carefully-edited pieces of short fiction that conform to the following guidelines:

  • Stories (or poetry, drama, etc.) should be no more than 4000 words
  • Submissions must be original work that has not been previously published; if, for example, it has been previously posted on a blog or similar medium, please include a note explaining when and where.
  • Submissions should be clearly recognizable as SFF
  • Submissions should not be thinly-disguised social or political rants
  • Submissions should be clearly germane to the issue’s topic
  • Microsoft World .docx files only. If you are unable to access Word, please use
  • Google Docs.
  • All files must include a brief (<100 word) bio of the author and proper
  • contact information
  • All stories must be sent as attachments to with the subject “Fiction Submission: Summer 2021”.

Stories will be read and edited by at least two members of the collective. We will be much more likely to reject submissions out of hand than to request revisions, though we may do the latter.

The Summer issue’s symposium is on Mormonism and SFF, so for the Summer issue we are requesting submissions that are related to one of the following:

  • religion
  • pilgrimage/migration
  • societies/states that are theocratic or otherwise dominated by religion
  • conquest/erasure of Indigenous populations by settler colonialism

Subsequent issues will have different topics: each of these will be revealed in the immediately previous issue.

The SF in Translation Universe #11

SFRA Review, vol. 51, no. 2

Features / SFT Universe

The SF in Translation Universe #11

Rachel Cordasco

Welcome back to the SF in Translation Universe! It’s supposedly Spring here in Madison, Wisconsin, but it actually snowed for about five minutes this afternoon, so I don’t know anything anymore.

Wait, I do know one thing, and that’s the fact that 2021 is giving us a lot of fantastic SFT. So much, in fact, that since I wrote the previous installment of this column, I’ve discovered even more novels and collections that came out between January and March. Thus in a first for this column, I’ll include a paragraph about SFT that came out in the first three months of this year, and then I’ll jump into what this installment is supposed to be about, which is SFT coming out between April and June.

Somehow The Lunar Trilogy—a famous series of science fiction novels by Polish author Jerzy Zulawski—slipped under my radar at the time of my last writing, though it is now not just on my radar but also my website. Written between 1901 and 1911, and published in English in January of this year, these books tell the story of Earth astronauts who get stranded on the Moon and establish a colony, one that goes on to develop in many ways like the civilization they left behind. February brought us Rabbit Island, a collection of magical realist stories from Spain, and In the Company of Men (Côte d’Ivoire), which explores the Ebola outbreak through a fabulist lens. In March, we were treated to German SFT from Julia von Lucadou—The High-Rise Diver, a story about the cost of ubiquitous surveillance—and Markus Heitz (of the Dwarves and Alfar fantasy series), who is out with the Doors trilogy, an alternate-history thriller about a mysterious cave system to another timeline. March also brought us Zabor, or The Psalms (about writing as a way to achieve immortality), the fourth installment in Jin Yong’s wuxia series Legends of the Condor Heroes, plus Italian SF author and editor Francesco Verso’s collection Futurespotting and the ecologically-focused (and quite excellent) anthology Elemental:Earth Stories.

Which brings us to April, May, and June, when flowers should be blooming and snow should not be falling…but I digress. Korean SFT continues to roll in—which makes me very happy—this time in the form of a collection of interconnected stories by Kim Bo-young (I’m Waiting For You) and a novel by Choi Jin-young (To the Warm Horizon), about a group of people trying to move forward literally and metaphorically across an apocalyptic wasteland. From Japan, we’re getting Izumi Suzuki’s first stories translated into English—Terminal Boredom—a collectiondescribed as “at turns nonchalantly hip and charmingly deranged.” Sign me up.

Staying in Asia, we have a Chinese novel and anthology to look forward to in June. Chi Ta-wei’s The Membranes is a near-future tale about humanity living in undersea domes after climate devastation. Sinopticon, edited by Xueting Christine Ni, offers readers thirteen newly-translated stories from some of China’s most engaging science fiction authors.

French post-exotic author Antoine Volodine shows up in May with Solo Viola, where a viola player might just save his compatriots from the suffering they’re experiencing at the hands of an authoritarian leader. From Mohamed Kheir comes a magical story about Egypt’s hidden, magical spaces and life after the Arab Spring. And surely most of you reading this column know about Lavie Tidhar’s latest anthology of world speculative fiction—The Best of World SF—with stories about time travel, aliens, and everything in between. With authors like Taiyo Fujii, Cristina Jurado, Francesco Verso, and Nir Yaniv, you know this’ll be good.

“But what about short fiction?” I hear you asking. So far in April, we’ve gotten two excellent stories available for free online: “The Final Test” (Future Science Fiction Digest), translated from the Chinese, about a machine that must prove its worth by facing a virtual reality human in a test of wills; and the disturbing Icelandic story “The Sea Gives Us Children” (Words Without Borders) about a community without adults living on an island, where the sea periodically deposits babies for the children to care for.

Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear what you’re reading now and what you’re looking forward to:

Until next time in the SFT Universe!

Call for Papers: Trans-Indigenous Science Fictions

SFRA Review, vol. 51, no. 2

Trans-Indigenous Science Fictions

image by insspirito

Trans-Indigenous Science Fictions: Imagining Beyond Settler Colonialism

The Editorial Collective

Indigenous peoples, and indigeneity in general, have always been central to sf. As scholar John Rieder has argued, a colonial ideology and colonial history are endemic to sf, shaping the genre since its inception. Indeed, the history of exploration and settlement seem central to common notions of the genre, especially in Western texts. Yet it is precisely this way of considering the relationship between indigeneity and sf—a Euro-American approach—that continually relegates Indigenous peoples to the “primitive.” According to Grace Dillon (Anishinaabe), “Indigenous sf is not so new,” and the relationship between indigeneity and science fiction is one where material effects are felt in both directions. She writes, “Writers of Indigenous futurisms sometimes intentionally experiment with, sometimes intentionally dislodge, sometimes merely accompany, but invariably change the parameters of sf” whether in the ruined return of boarding school ideologies in Cherie Dimaline’s (Métis) The Marrow Thieves to the metaphorical, interspecies re-telling of colonization in Claire G. Coleman’s (Noongar) Terra Nullius. A futuristic outlook is embedded within Indigenous decolonial thinking, which encourages seeing past the confines of settler colonial ideologies. Scholarship in the past twenty years has taken up exploring the way Indigenous sf “changes the parameters of sf.” It is this conversation this special section for an issue of the SFRA Review looks to continue and expand upon.

This special section will examine the depths of not just Indigenous sf, but Trans-Indigenous sf. Trans-Indigenous scholarship, as introduced by literary scholar Chadwick Allen (Chickasaw), works to think across and juxtapose Indigenous texts. As Allen argues, “My goal in staging purposeful Indigenous juxtapositions is to develop a version of Indigenous literary studies that locates itself firmly in the specificity of the Indigenous local while remaining always cognizant of the complexity of the relevant Indigenous global.” Indigenous sf is rooted in particular places and particular communities that must be considered, even while we acknowledge the often inter-tribal, global, inter-planetary, or cosmic messages at the heart of these works. From foundational novels like Darkness in St. Louis Bearheart by Gerald Vizenor (Anishinaabe) to more contemporary works by Cherie Dimaline (Métis), Daniel H. Wilson (Cherokee), and Blake Hausman (Cherokee) and through video games, films, comics, and multimedia artworks by Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinabee/Métis), Cole Pauls (Southern Tutchone), and Skawennati (Mohawk) Indigenous sf is not only expanding into the future but drawing from communal and ancestral pasts. It is in the spirit of this long-running communal, global, and cosmic tradition that we are inviting abstracts relating, but certainly not limited, to the following areas and topics:

  • Activism
  • Art/art history
  • Comics/Graphic Novels
  • Decolonization
  • Gaming and/or digital narratives
  • Indigenous futurisms
  • Indigenous scientific knowledges
  • Indigenous slipstream (time travel and alternative futures/realities)
  • Landback (contemporary activist movement for reclamation)
  • Languages and revitalization
  • Media Culture
  • Posthumanism
  • Sf contact narratives, particularly from an Indigenous perspective
  • Specific Indigenous sf authors or texts
  • Teaching/Education
  • Two-Spirit/LGBTQ texts
  • Treaties
  • Water protection

This issue will also feature a special response essay by Grace Dillon (Anishinaabe), Professor of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University and editor of the collection Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction.

Please send your abstracts (250-300 words) describing your provisional 3000-4000-word essay accompanied by a brief bio (50-100 words) to by 20 June 2021. Authors will be notified within 2 weeks and first drafts of selected papers (prepared in MLA Style with a Works Cited in MLA 8th Edition) will be expected by 31 August. Essays will be published in a special section in the Autumn (November) 2021 issue of the Review.

If you have any questions regarding this project, please reach out to guest editor Jeremy M. Carnes at the email address above.

Review of Border Crosser by Tom Doyle

Review of Docile

Ed Carmien

Doyle, Tom. Border Crosser. Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press, 2020. Paperback, 383 pp. $15.99. ISBN 9781953034144.

Tom Doyle, fresh from his American Craftsmen trilogy (one part Clancy-esque Jack Ryan, one part Kurtz-ish Adept series, all parts wahoo) turns to space opera with his October, 2020 novel Border Crosser. The back cover tells us the novel features Eris, “a charismatic spy with a violent borderline personality and emotional amnesia,” a condition that allows her to bypass scanners meant to assess the intentions of galactic travelers.

            Border Crosser serves aptly as title and descriptor; Eris crosses many a border in her adventures, during which she unknowingly instigates galactic war and an investigation into her employers, with whom she communicates by chatty, light-hearted correspondence (no drudgery of espionage paperwork for her!), ultimately joining her “friends” and family in a frothy resolution of most of the major issues of the plot. She is transhuman, sexually omnivorous, emotionally fragmented yet true at her core, and carries out a character development arc of self-discovery and self-identity. Eris begins as the epitome of a Bond villain: charismatic, violent, cartoonish. In the end she…saves the galaxy? Gaining agency is her game: she retains the charisma, a violent nature, and a “painted in broad strokes” quality. Any galaxy saving serves her goal of self-determination.

            The cover copy fails to mention Eris’s most interesting attribute: a working and productive artist, she crafts her art from the bodily fluids and DNA of those she interacts with. Yes, quite often those bodily fluids. Facing torture at the hands of a minor enemy, she blithely suffers it all—until the villain begins to torch one of her works of art.

            If one refers to the excellent The Space Opera Renaissance, edited by Hartwell and Cramer (2006), it becomes apparent Doyle knows space opera, as the antecedents of Border Crosser appear everywhere one looks in the table of contents. The novel transgresses like Samuel R. Delany, plays on a big field like Robert Scheckley, Lois McMaster Bujuold, and Iain M. Banks, performs on the inner field like Catharine Asaro, and at least glances at the political as might Charles Stross. Any mangling of references remains my fault, as are any blatant omissions.

            This is not to say Border Crosser represents a derivative work. It expresses an original energy all its own. Where Banks’ Culture presents a wealth of opportunity for redefining the human, Eris’s madness expresses a transhuman relationship to technology that would find no place in Banks’ studied, clear, and essentially hopeful works. And where Larry Niven’s Known Space setting postulates a future Earth with cheap teleportation, Doyle offers us a more likely scenario, and merely as a sideshow to the main plot: an Earth with expensive teleportation, where the children of the very upper crust spend ordinary fortunes to leap “into low orbit and on to some antique space station refitted as a microgravity pleasure palace…” to “the bottom of the sea and into an open-water club designed like some silent film fantasy of Neptunian delights.” All of this operates in the service of the spy trope “do something interesting until the villain’s kids invite you to party.”

            Later Eris recreates herself in a (male—another purported border crossed!) genetically constructed body of a species exterminated by one of the junior villains of the piece while at the same time compelling one of a growing number of her “friends” to craft a doppelganger with a limited subset of her memories; this complicates a family reunion through questions of identity (border crossed!). The novel proceeds through the plot with increasing speed; the narrative structure is one that invites closure at several points but resists, instead spiraling out to the next, always wider environment: Eris moves from ship to planet to interplanetary system to ongoing interstellar war to final galactic showdown, and the pace increases to cover the ever-lengthier amount of spiral along the way. Contemplate the path a needle takes from the start of a vinyl record to the end.

            Practiced readers instinctively assess important narrative cues merely from holding a text—one can feel where one is as the pages turn. As I read this novel electronically due to the limitations of Covid-19 precautions, without that page “feel” the novel unspooled unsettlingly, a practice I recommend. At least one natural stopping point went by like a bypassed rest area on a freeway: looks like a good place to…nope, not stopping here! Reading a paper copy of the novel would not have disoriented one in the least—the fingers’ pinch of pages would reveal how much story there was to go. Where good old James Bond (as presented in his Daniel Craig persona) travels through several plots to arrive at his ultimate showdown between the powers controlling his life, Eris spirals up through such a sequence in an extended sprint, all one show, resolving a factional clash playing out around the galaxy while leaving plenty of sequel material to follow.

            Using this text in a college classroom requires fortitude: while the frequent sex is largely un-graphic, it is plentiful and nearly always violent. Eris, a “borderline personality” as the back cover text tells us, stops at murder when inconvenient and not part of her work or art. “Trigger warning?” anyone? The novel presents elements of the transhuman and includes characters who are examples of the posthuman. Gender issues abound, and many a scholar could sharpen their knives for a discourse on Tom Doyle, though I would recommend perception precede action, and caution in any event.

            Doyle includes thanks in an afterward to two different workshops: The Clarion Writer’s Workshop and the Writers Group from Hell. In addition, he thanks a number of editors and commenters who “helped me with this tale.” That the dynamism and hard corners of this novel weren’t rounded off by such group reviews is good. But that also means the author had access to plenty of feedback. It is not a self-indulgent work. It is not easy to keep a train on the tracks when it speeds so quickly along such a spiral. So: caution before judgement. Border Crosser embodies space opera wahoo. Readers of The Space Opera Renaissance might find it hard to place—a call back to the wide-open wahoo of E. E. “Doc” Smith? Yes. Delany-esque? Indeed. Bujold-y galactic spy wahoo? For sure. Banksian enabling tech wahoo? Yep! But by crossing all those borders, it is Doyle-ian. Doyle-esque? Question instead the need for such a categorization. In closing, I suggest letting wahoo be wahoo. Doyle-esque wahoo.

Ed Carmien teaches writing, science fiction, fantasy, and other literatures at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey. He is: a member of the SFWA, a member of the SFRA, section hiking the Appalachian Trail, of the belief C.J. Cherryh doesn’t get enough critical attention, and full of admiration for the current incarnation of the SFRA Review.