Sunday, April 02, 2023

Five top SFF books about radical community

Phoebe Wagner is an author, editor, and academic writing at the intersection of speculative fiction and climate change. Their debut novel is A Shot of Gin (2023), and their new novella is When We Hold Each Other Up (2023). She is the editor of three solarpunk anthologies, including Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation. They blog about speculative literature at the Hugo-winning Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together. Wagner holds a PhD in literature, and she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania.

At they tagged five favorite SFF books about radical community, including:
Babel by R. F. Kuang

Like many examples from the dark academia genre, Babel by R. F. Kuang has a large cohort of characters to make this alternate Oxford come alive. Where Kuang’s novel fulfills the genre is her depiction of academia’s foundation of white supremacy and colonization—and the radical resistance groups that form against it.

Stolen from his home in Canton, Robin feels alienated and isolated until he meets his cohort at the prestigious Royal Institute of Translation. Together, Robin, Ramy, Letty, and Victoire study how translating words between languages creates magic that can be engraved on silver bars. In order to always make new magical pairings, more languages must be acquired and studied from different parts of the world.

As Robin and his cohort have experienced, language and translation has been a favorite tool of the British Empire. Robin is tapped by the underground Hermes Society to help disrupt and resist the Empire’s colonization. Now, not only does Robin feel seen, but he also has the chance to do the translation work he’s been trained for to resist rather than support. While his cohort at the institute have become his family, the Hermes Society encourages him to think beyond Oxford. With their friendship, he realizes the global impact of not just the translation work, but also of resistance. This small group has aided communities in other places in the mission to slow or push back the British Empire, and now Robin has that opportunity, too.

With this larger circle of friends and support, Robin realizes his story is bigger than just passing his next exam but could slow colonization. From cozy tea shops to heated conversations in pubs, Kuang demonstrates how friends become family become rebels.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue