As 2023 comes to a close, I’d like to celebrate some of the exciting writers who made their debuts this year. The fiction year started off strong with The New Life by Tom Crewe (Scribner, Jan. 3), a novel set in Victorian England about two men who collaborate on a report about the lives of gay men at a time when homosexuality was illegal—Oscar Wilde’s trial and imprisonment are incorporated into the plot. Our starred review calls it “a smart, sensual debut.”

Egyptian comics artist Deena Mohamed’s Shubeik Lubeik (Pantheon, Jan. 10) is an entrancing graphic novel that imagines a world where wishes can come true—but they’re subject to strict rules and regulations enforced by a sprawling bureaucracy. “The book is exceptionally imaginative while also being wonderfully grounded in touching human relationships, existential quandaries, and familiar geopolitical and socio-economic dynamics,” according to our starred review.

In Lucky Red (Dial Press, Jun. 20), Claudia Cravens shakes up the traditional Western by putting a 16-year-old girl in the driver’s seat of a wagon headed to Dodge City. Bridget soon begins a career as a sex worker—a “sporting woman”—and, along the way, discovers that what she really wants is another woman. Our starred review says, “Cravens shakes the dust off tired tropes and delivers a shining example of what an old-fashioned page-turner can accomplish.”

Set in 1950s Maine, Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ Promise (Random House, Jul. 11) examines the Jim Crow era in the North. The narrator is 13-year-old Cinthy Kindred, who, along with her older sister, Ezra, grows increasingly aware “of the ways in which their lives will differ from those of their white schoolmates,” according to our starred review. “A stunning and evocative portrait of love, pride, and survival.”

The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei (Flatiron, Jul. 18) features an Earth not unlike our own, riven by climate disasters, and a spaceship that left the planet 10 years ago, carrying 80 women with the mission of starting over someplace else. (They’re each expected to be inseminated and reproduce.) After a decade in stasis, the crew has awakened, and someone tries to sabotage the mission. But who, and why? This is “cerebral SF, tackling both humanitywide problems and the smaller but ever present conflicts closer to home,” according to our starred review.

Rebekah Bergman’s The Museum of Human History (Tin House, Aug. 1) imagines a treatment that can pause aging and numb pain. Is it connected to the red algae bloom that biotech researcher Naomi Wilhem was investigating when she drowned years ago? And why isn’t Naomi’s daughter, Maeve, who’s been asleep for 25 years after she, too, almost drowned, not getting visibly older? “With melancholy imagination, Bergman elegantly tackles nothing less than the entire arc of human history,” according to our starred review.

In Justin C. Key’s short story collection The World Wasn’t Ready for You (Harper, Sept. 19), the author uses “the tropes of horror and science fiction with intelligence, compassion, and wry abandon to analyze and analogize racial misunderstanding,” as noted in our starred review. One man is released from prison after his body is transformed into a breeding ground for spiders, while another finds his AI doppelgänger going too far.

Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.