From such veterans as Connie Willis and Ed Bryant to newcomers Molly Tanzer and Rob Ziegler to Carrie Vaughn and Warren Hammond, the focus ofWestword
's current cover story, Colorado's science-fiction/fantasy writers are as wide-ranging as the genres themselves. The books that this state's authors have produced over the decades encompass hard SF -- that is, spaceships, aliens and technology -- as well as Gothic fantasy, and terrifying speculations about the future alongside inventive visions of the here and now. Like all good science fiction and fantasy, though, these ten essential books by Colorado SF/F authors use big ideas to capture and examine what it means to be human -- and, in some cases, non-human.
1. Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (2009) Nervy, poignant and politically aware, Paolo Bacigalupi's debut novel -- about a climate-change-ravaged future ruled by biotechnology in which calories are currency -- won many major science-fiction awards, including the Hugo and the Nebula.
2. Edward Bryant, Cinnabar (1976) Ed Bryant's classic Cinnabar is a collection of short stories, but the legendary Colorado author links them together: They all take place in Cinnabar, a mythic city on a desolate planet where science fiction and fantasy overlap.
3. Jesse Bullington, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart (2009) The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart may be a historical novel set in medieval Europe, but eerie magic abounds -- except that supernatural vibe is yanked wildly off center by the book's ribald, tragicomic, grave-robbing siblings.
4. Warren Hammond, Tides of Maritinia (2014) While Hammond's KOP trilogy is stunning, Tides of Maritinia departs from his noir beat to present a world covered in water and held down by an advanced empire called the Sire -- that is, until an assassin's moral doubts threaten the status quo.
5. Stephen Graham Jones, After the People Lights Have Gone Off (2014) Stephen Jones is known primarily for writing horror, but the prolific University of Colorado at Boulder professor writes in all subgenres of dark, speculative fiction -- and his full range is powerfully captured in After the People Lights Have Gone Off, his latest short-story collection. Keep reading for five more of the essential science-fiction/fantasy books by Colorado authors. 6. Molly Tanzer, A Pretty Mouth (2012) A Pretty Mouth, like Bryant's Cinnabar, is a collection of linked short stories, only Tanzer's sumptuous fantasy revolves around the Calipash family, a clan of ancient and mysterious lineage, not to mention horrific secrets.
7. James Van Pelt, Summer of the Apocalypse (2006) Set in Colorado, Summer of the Apocalypse is the Nebula-nominated James Van Pelt's meditation on youth, aging and family ties, played out against the backdrop of a decimated, pandemic-ravaged civilization.
8. Carrie Vaughn, Discord's Apple (2010) Carrie Vaughn is best known for her Kitty Norville series, but her standalone Discord's Apple is a gem that shouldn't be overlooked; in this novel set in Colorado, she wonderfully melds near-future dystopia and ancient mythology.
9. Connie Willis, Blackout/All Clear (2010) No science-fiction author has won more major awards in the field than Connie Willis. Her tandem-novel masterpiece Blackout/All Clear imagines a time-travel expedition back to World War II-era London that, naturally, goes wrong.
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10. Rob Ziegler, Seed (2012) Like his friend and neighbor Bacigalupi, Rob Ziegler writes about genetic engineering and food supplies in his debut novel Seed, an alarming yet beautifully rendered story about a dystopian future where the city of Denver is unrecognizable, to put it mildly.