Fans of the science-fiction and fantasy genres take great pride in the detail with which they label stories. It's not sufficient to just apply labels that say "science fiction" and "fantasy"; sub-categorizations within science fiction and fantasy are desired as well. Proper labeling requires labels like "cyberpunk" and "military sci-fi." Does that seem a bit obsessive? Perhaps...but the tags we put on science fiction are useful in that they ultimately help readers find the exact book they are looking for.

To that end, I present a merry-go-round of new and recent science-fiction and fantasy releases! Want to read something interesting? Just pick a topic and take a spin....


WHAT IT IS: Cyberpunk stories typically feature the integration of humans and technology and radical social change.

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RECENT EXAMPLE: Squid's Grief by DK Mok takes place in the seething metropolis of Baltus City where a girl named Squid makes a living hacking cars for a crime syndicate. But Squid wants a normal life and resolves to quit the syndicate after one last heist. The only problem: Squid rescues an amnesiac from the trunk of a stolen car and her decision to help her lands her in trouble with warring criminal factions.

Dark Fantasy

WHAT IT IS: A subgenre of fantasy (and sometimes horror) that incorporates darker and frightening themes of fantasy.

RECENT EXAMPLE: Blood in Her Veins by Faith Hunterficklemermaid is a collection of 19 stories from the world of the author's popular Jane Yellowrock series. Jane is a shapeshifting skinwalker who fights all manner of supernatural creatures.


WHAT IT IS: A dystopia is a society whose conditions have become unfavorable.

RECENT EXAMPLE: Peter Liney's In Constant Fear is about a ragged band of survivors who have escaped the clutches of an evil corporation because they were branded as "lower class" citizens and marked for extermination. But their assumed safety away from the City is short-lived when a new power rises up to challenge them.

Fairy Tales

WHAT IT IS: Fairy tales are stories that feature characters from folklore.

RECENT EXAMPLE: Remember the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel?" In The Case of the Fickle Mermaid by P. J. Brackston, Gretel is all grown up and working as a private investigator in 18th-century Bavaria. Her latest case—with Hans working as bodyguard—involves the disappearance of sailors and the mermaids and sea creatures who are rumored to be responsible.

Genetic Engineering

WHAT IT IS: The science of directly manipulating an organism's genome using advanced DNA technology, essentially changing the biological characteristics of that organismcustodianmarvel.

RECENT EXAMPLE: Jessica Chiarella's debut novel And Again features four people who are granted a chance to continue living their lives in genetically perfect versions of their former bodies. Each person was a terminally ill patient who is cured by the procedure. In the process, all of their imperfections are erased: skin blemishes disappear, wrinkles are gone and eyesight becomes 20/20. But what happens to the person whose physical identity has been changed?

Space Opera

WHAT IT IS: A space opera is a science-fiction story where the major emphasis is on melodramatic adventure. It usually takes place in outer space and on a very large-scale canvas.

RECENT EXAMPLE: Alliance by S. K. Dunstall features linesman Ean Lambert, who can "read" the souls (called "lines") of ships, even alien ones. Ean teams up with a newly assigned captain of an alien ship to investigate some world-changing secrets, but there are those who would oppose them at every turn.


WHAT IT IS: Steampunk stories are set in a (usually Victorian) world where the predominant technology is steam power.

RECENT EXAMPLE: The Custodian of Marvels: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire by Rod Duncan, in which Elizabeth Barnabus attempts a heist to steal a valuable, life-changing artifact from the hidden vaults in the Patent Court in London.


WHAT IT IS: Stories involving characters capable of superhuman abilities.

RECENT EXAMPLE: Ex-Istakedsle by Peter Clines, where a community called the Mount has become the last known outpost of safety, sanity, and freedom left to humanity thanks to its superhuman residents. That is, until a sinister mirror-image in the form of a man-made island appears in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.


WHAT IT IS: Vampires are supernatural creatures that feed off the blood of humans and (usually) can shape-shift into bats.

RECENT EXAMPLE: In Staked by Kevin Hearne, a 2,000-year-old Iron Druid named Atticus O’Sullivan travels the globe to fight vampires. But his latest quest to kill the bloodsuckers may cost the life of his friend.


WHAT IT IS: Stories about people who exercise magical abilities through witchcraft.

RECENT EXAMPLE: The titular character in Craig Schaefer's Harmony Black is not only an FBI agent, she's a practicing witch who helps fight against supernatural threats with an off-the-books program called Vigilant Lock. Their latest target: The Bogeyman, a vicious creature tied to Harmony’s childhood.

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, the Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal