The best sci-fi and fantasy books new for fall 2021

It’s been a tough summer. COVID hasn’t gone away, and it often feels like we’re stuck not only inside, but in the wrong timeline. With fall approaching, there’s a whole bunch of new books coming to stores, and it’s a good time to escape into the pages of a new world and a new adventure.

The next couple of months bring both to shelves: there’s the opportunity to jump into some familiar — but maybe not so familiar — worlds with some new Alien and Star Wars books, the rise and fall of empires with some new fantasy adventures, and some tales about the coming futures that might be in front of us before we know it.

Here are 16 new science-fiction and fantasy novels coming out this fall to add to your to-read list.


The Nature of Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien  book cover

Image: Mariner Books

The Nature of Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Carl F. Hostetter

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Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets: An Invaluable SF Resource

Dr. Robert Goddard at Clark University in 1924. Credit: NASA

Science fiction purports to be based on science. I hate to tell you this, but a lot of SF is as close to science and math as Taco Bell is to authentic Mexican cuisine.

I revelled and still revel in mass ratios and scale heights, albedos and exhaust velocities, evolutionary biology and world history. (I’m not the only one. Big wave to my homies out there.) So…as much as I love SF, I’m constantly running head-on into settings that could just not work the way the author imagines. My SOD (suspension of disbelief) is motoring along merrily and suddenly, bang! Dead in its tracks. Perhaps you can understand now why so many of my reviews grumble about worldbuilding.

Teen me had no net, no Wikipedia. It was dead-tree books or nothing. Teen me also had his father’s library card and

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Interview with adrienne maree brown on Grievers

The writer and social-justice facilitator adrienne maree brown thinks we can use organizing like time travel — as a way to transport ourselves into a more communal and sustainable future. Even when responding to the moment, her projects look forward: In 2019, motivated by the exhaustion many felt after Trump’s election, she released Pleasure Activism, an anthology of love letters from organizers about the meaning they find in their work. Last year, when fraught discussions of “cancel culture” permeated right- and left-wing circles alike, brown wrote We Will Not Cancel Us, a short book advocating for healthy and empathetic conflict. Now, as COVID-19 continues to put Black communities into unprecedented physical, emotional, and economic peril, brown releases her first long-form work of published fiction: Grievers, a novella about Black death during a pandemic.

She started writing the book in 2012. “I did not expect or predict this

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A Science Fiction And Fantasy Reader’s Guide : Life Kit : NPR

Photograph of a person reading a book in a dark room. The book is emitting light.
Photograph of a person reading a book in a dark room. The book is emitting light.

If reading fiction is an exercise in empathy, a way for you to see the world through someone else’s eyes, then reading science fiction and fantasy ups the ante. You still see through someone else’s eyes, but the world you’re seeing could be a distant planet, an alternate timeline, a land of magic and mystery, or maybe, our own familiar world, just … tweaked a bit. Also, that someone else might have four eyes, or eight, or none at all. I’m Glen Weldon, one of the hosts of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, and we’re teaming up with Life Kit for a beginner’s guide to science fiction and fantasy, so I’m joined by NPR Books editor Petra Mayer, who’s just a little bit of a sci-fi and fantasy fan.

People have a lot of preconceived ideas about sci-fi and fantasy — that it’s for nerds, that it’s just about spaceships

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