I discovered Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series at age 14, in the wake of a middle school fixation with J.R.R. Tolkien. That year, I read and reread the novels Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire (1952), and Second Foundation (1953). Up until that point, I hadn’t thought of myself as a science fiction fan. But the epic scope of Asimov’s books—tracing the decline and fall of the Galactic Empire, as predicted by mathematician Hari Seldon through his (fictional) field of “psychohistory”—surely appealed to my love of ancient Roman history and desire to be immersed in a grand narrative.

The intersections of science and history inform much great science fiction, including the Southern Reach Trilogy written by Jeff VanderMeer, who appears on the cover of our new special issue dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. These modern classics of speculative fiction were published a decade ago, and this summer his publisher will release new editions with introductions by Karen Joy Fowler, N.K. Jemisin, and Helen Macdonald. Even more exciting for fans is the upcoming publication of Absolution (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oct. 22), an unexpected fourth volume in the series. To find out how he came to write it, check our our recent interview with the author.

For history buffs like myself, there’s a rich vein of historical fantasy that is more rooted in the world of the past—with some magical flourishes. The book in this genre that first entranced me was Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (2004), set in England during the Napoleonic Wars; the historical events and players are all there (Lords Wellington and Byron both have cameos), but running beneath them is a secret society that aims to preserve the practice of magic.

Three novels being published this year promise similar enchantments. Bestselling fantasy novelist Leigh Bardugo tries her hand at the genre with The Familiar (Flatiron Books, April 9), set in 16th-century Madrid, where a scullery maid conceals her Jewish heritage—and the magic spells she knows how to cast—as the Inquisition looms. Our starred review called it “a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.”

Lev Grossman, popular for his Magicians Trilogy, wades into classic territory with The Bright Sword: A Novel of King Arthur (Viking, July 16), in which a young man from the Scottish isles journeys to Camelot to join the knights of the Round Table—only to find that King Arthur has been killed in battle and the future of the kingdom is in jeopardy. There’s plenty of magic and myth in this book that our critic, in a starred review, calls, “astoundingly, a fresh take on an extremely well-trodden legend.”

Lighter on the fantasy elements—but not quite set in our world—is Nicked (Pantheon, July 23), the adult fiction debut of YA novelist M.T. Anderson. This is, at heart, a heist tale, as an 11th-century monk joins a relic hunter in a scheme to steal the bones of St. Nicholas and bring them to the Italian port city of Bari. This is a world of dog-headed men and saintly miracles: Call it fantasy if you will, but our starred review deems it an “unexpectedly poignant adventure as rare and gleaming as a reliquary.”

Tom Beer is the editor-in-chief.