SFF Genre Preview | Top Titles Forecast for Early 2023

In the coming season, folklore, fairy tales, and ancient stories become new fantastic tales, while others speculate about the near and far future of life on Earth and beyond.

For genres beloved for the ways they predict the future, explore speculative worlds, and reflect the present, the forthcoming season of science fiction and fantasy is notably shadowed by the ways in which the world has shifted in the last year. Paper shortages, delivery delays, pandemic persistence, plus the state of the union—and the world—all have an impact on what authors and readers are thinking about and what they may want to escape. Examining forthcoming titles and hyperleaping through publisher takes on the season, LJ has found that last year’s swell of works by marginalized voices continues into 2023 and that some previously trending topics have come back into fashion, including dragons, vampires, and AI. Readers can also look forward to genre-bending titles, unexpected retellings, and explorations of the galaxy. Added to these listings are publisher and editor commentary that help highlight the next several months of reading. A downloadable list of all titles mentioned can be found here.

Connections Bridging Boundaries

Michael Homler, senior editor at St. Martin’s Press, notes “There’s a willingness and a desire to publish a lot of genre-bending fiction.” While the concept of genre-blending—books that primarily sit in one but have definite influences of another—is nothing new, there has definitely been an increase in romantic arcs nestled tightly into science fiction and fantasy titles over the last year. Exploring interpersonal relationships within science fiction is becoming more common, something that Tachyon publicist Kasey Lansdale muses could be “possibly the Bridgerton effect.” Upcoming fantasy with romance elements can be seen in Paige Crutcher’s The Lost Witch (St. Martin’s Griffin), featuring witch and healer Brigid, who wakes up 100 years in the future in 2022 and has to work with mysterious, handsome, and powerful Luc to find answers, while in Wings Once Cursed & Bound (Sourcebooks Casablanca) by Piper Drake, a glorious bird princess must join forces with a bounty hunter to break a curse in the “Mythwoven” series launch that combines magic and Thai mythology.

Hannah Whitten follows up her delightful and dark “Wilderwood” duology with a young woman with illicit powers who must navigate the opulence and treachery of the court that holds her in the beginning of “The Nightshade Crown” series, The Foxglove King (Orbit). YA author Claire Legrand’s adult debut, A Crown of Ivy and Glass, arrives from Sourcebooks Casablanca. This trilogy’s first novel pairs a young, titled socialite with a young man determined to bring his family honor back, but family pasts and present-day attacks could derail their quests and their love. There’s also a sexy science fiction romance, Queen of Dust (Carina), from H.E. Dare, about a woman who returns to her decimated home planet, where she finds unexpected temptation in an enemy soldier now serving as her bodyguard.

Tachyon editor Jaymee Goh highlights another example from Mia Tsai: “Bitter Medicine is our March debut, an Asian American contemporary fantasy romance, inspired by xianxia, about a Chinese immortal and French half-fae, who have very separate problems converging into each other’s.” Goh adds that the protagonists are “falling in love in a way that’s slant from these shared-not-shared problems, because there’s an intimacy in being ordinary with each other when surrounded by very extraordinary problems.”

Families, Born and Found

Sometimes relationships are not about romance—they may be about the families, by birth and by choice, that allow readers to connect not only to the characters, but to the environment and world the author has built.

TJ Klune is a master at building emotional relationships within his fantasy worlds, and In the Lives of Puppets (Tor) centers a family of androids, robots, and humans. Senior Editor Ali Fisher says it’s “set deep in the woods and deep in the future. It’s an extraordinary journey of a family assembled from spare parts (and yes, most of them are robots). TJ was inspired by Pinocchio, and the adventure reads like Swiss Family Robinson meets WALL-E, told with TJ’s signature heart and charm.”

In the historical fantasy The Magician’s Daughter (Redhook) by H.G. Parry, Biddy goes on a quest to save her found family and magic in an alternate 1912 London full of heartbreak and wonder.

Other familial themes arise in A Brief History of Living Forever by Jaroslav Kalfar (Little, Brown), in which a daughter risks her career and life in post-apocalyptic Florida to save her birth mother from imminent death. While in the ruined nuclear winterland of the Himalayas, a young Tibetan sherpa searches for his missing father and a way to save their doomed future in Karma of the Sun (CamCat) by Brandon Ying Kit Boey. The Sword-Dancer Tiger must bring his family together to protect them from his past in Sword-Bearer (DAW), Jennifer Roberson’s eighth “Tiger & Del” title.

Sequels and Send-offs

Sequels that readers have been clamoring for include the continued saga of conscripted fighter Touraine and royal Luca in The Faithless (Orbit) by C.L. Clark. Princess Sun must face off against the Phene Empire and secret alliances and prove her right to the Chaonia throne in Kate Elliott’s Furious Heaven (Tor). St. Martin’s brings the highly anticipated sequel to Edward Ashton’s Mickey7: Antimatter Blues, which places Mickey Barnes back in the middle of the military and the creepers. Leigh Bardugo returns to the magical, dark academia story of Ninth House, in the follow-up Hell Bent (Flatiron). A prequel stand-alone to Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon’s A Day of Fallen Night (Bloomsbury) will highlight three women who face events that change their world forever.

Other follow-ups include The Cage of Dark Hours (Tor) by Marina Lostetter, which follows Krona and her Regulators trying to take on the elite; James Rollins with The Cradle of Ice (Tor) as the group formed in The Starless Crown now must part and figure out their next steps; Assassin of Reality from Marina and Sergey Dyachenko (Harper Voyager) follows Sasha’s new journey as part of the Great Speech; and the Forever Sea is still at risk from those on the surface world in The Endless Song (DAW) by Joshua Phillip Johnson.

Some series are finding strong life with multiple books, jumping time lines, and protagonists who continue building the worlds that readers have come to enjoy. Seanan McGuire offers a new “Wayward Children” novella. Lost in the Moment and Found (Tor.com) tells Antsy’s story of the Shop, where the doors hold their own secrets. The beginning of a new trilogy, Dead Country (Tor.com) by Max Gladstone will begin the wrap-up of his acclaimed Craft Sequence books. About Time (Headline) is Jodi Taylor’s fourth book for her time-traveling police squad, the members of which are facing some hard times after a small mission brings huge problems. From Baen, Simon R. Green extends his urban fantasy series around supernatural detectives Ishmael Jones and Penny Belcourt in Haunted by the Past. Anne Bishop’s beloved “Black Jewels” series continues from Ace as three young women must navigate their entanglements with the SaDiablo family and Witch in The Queen’s Price.

Series (almost) always end, and readers must prepare themselves for the epic conclusions. In December, The Ivory Tomb (Orbit) from Melissa Caruso brings Warden Ryx to her final attempts to stop the demons that are ravaging her home—even though both she and her grandmother are part of that group. Emperor Lin Sukai must find a way to defeat the Shardless Few, the Alanga, and survive her treasonous governors in Andrea Stewart’s The Bone Shard War (Orbit). The time-traveling Kibsu are left with one, Aster, who is caught between the Trackers and the U.S. government, but they all may have more to lose in Sylvain Neuvel’s For the First Time, Again (Tor.com). Other series-ending books include Conquer the Kingdom (Harper Voyager) by Jennifer Estep, with Gemma Ripley trying to save her family, her people, and her new love from the looming threats in the finale of the “Gargoyle Queen” trilogy. N.E. Davenport’s The Blood Gift (Harper Voyager) concludes with Ikenna trying to save her friends and foes. The Black Feather Three may face their final quest with a famous pirate, who is also Wydrin’s mother in The Silver Tide (Headline) from Jen Williams.

New Series and Stand-alones

Favorite authors bringing new series and stand-alones forward include Shannon Chakraborty with The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi (Harper Voyager) in which a pirate queen strikes out at one last chance for glory, and Megan E. O’Keefe writes about a woman who plans to bring down a family power but is now stuck with the family heir on a dead planet in The Blighted Stars (Orbit). Cory Doctorow’s new release, Red Team Blues (Tor), has a forensic accountant holding lots of secrets, revealed on his most dangerous job yet, while Murderbot author Martha Wells returns to fantasy with the epic, stand-alone title Witch King (Tor.com).

#BookTok

Science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts should be on the lookout for new series like TikTok sensation A.K. Mulford’s “The Five Crowns of Okrith.” The first two books, The High Mountain Court and The Witches’ Blade, will be published by Harper Voyager. David Pomerico, editorial director at Harper Voyager, notes the growing influence of TikTok: “Between younger readers discovering older titles, [and] indie authors finding an audience that traditional publishers are trying to tap into, there is a lot of fantasy being discussed in easily digestible segments that have been driving readership.” Angry Robot’s Managing Editor Gemma Creffield agrees, “TikTok authors continue to grow.”

Melissa Blair, also popular on BookTok (the book community on TikTok), is back with the sequel to A Broken Blade, A Shadow Crown (Union Square), which finds the king’s trusted spy and assassin Keera plotting against him with the help of a prince and a brooding fae.

Tales Past and Future

Folklore and fairy tales continue to be hot topics within science fiction and fantasy. Martin Cahill, marketing and publicity manager of Erewhon Books, notes, “Readers seek familiarity, prompting a resurgence in new spins on old tales.” Ancient stories and familiar characters become inspiration for some of these books, and readers will find fairy tales and history retold with lush prose and even more speculative details.

From Kelly Barnhill is a twisted tale of a young teen dealing with her mother’s obsession with the six-foot crane she brought home in The Crane Husband (Tor.com). Bluebeard inspires the genderbent, gothic adult debut by Roshani Chokshi, The Last Tale of the Flower Bride (Morrow). Even the ever-present Beauty and the Beast finds new life, inspired by the true story of Spaniard Pedro Gonsalvus and told from the perspective of his wife, Catherine, in Molly Greeley’s Marvelous (Morrow). Jane Yolen’s The Scarlet Circus (Tachyon) highlights stories inspired by Shakespeare, King Arthur, Alice in Wonderland, and others.

Laura Shepperson creates a feminist retake on the story of Phaedra from Alcove Press, while Antigone is placed on a post-apocalyptic Earth and faces off against her tyrant uncle in Veronica Roth’s Arch-Conspirator (Tor).

By Tooth and Claw and Wing

Supernatural beings are less prevalent this season, but those who enjoy fae, vampires, and other creatures will find some titles featuring these otherworldly characters. Vampires take center stage in Mike Chen’s upcoming ode to punk rock in Vampire Weekend (Mira). Nicole Arend shows an elite vampire academy in the Swiss Alps with VAMPS: Fresh Blood (Atria), and Jay Kristoff begins a battle between the vampires and the last surviving member of a saintly order in Empire of the Vampire (St. Martin’s Griffin).

Dragons continue to be a focal point in fantasy. In 1842 New England, a young Indigenous woman must prove her worth as a dragon’s caretaker and as a person in an Anglish dragon school in Moniquill Blackgoose’s To Shape a Dragon’s Breath (Del Rey). Sometimes the dragons are the enemy, as in The Keeper’s Six (Tor.com) by Kate Elliott, in which a spell-slinging mother must venture to the Beyond between worlds to save her son from a dragon lord. Dragons are not the only flying beasts readers will see in the skies, as Fonda Lee returns with Untethered Sky (Tor.com). Ester takes on a partnership with a roc, a giant bird of prey, to find vengeance against the manticores that destroyed her family.

Middle grade author Heather Fawcett explores a scholar’s dedication to discover the most elusive of the fair folk, while revealing the secret of her intriguing academic rival, in Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries (Del Rey). Rowenna Miller offers readers The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill (Redhook), where those who truly believe in the gifts of the fae might find that the payment is not worth the price.

Artificial Intelligence

Authors continue to grapple with the implications of artificial intelligence. In Stina Leicht’s Loki’s Ring (Gallery: Saga Press), retrieval ship captain Gita Chithra must face contagion and being trapped in an alien-made system, all while trying to save the AI she raised as her daughter. J.S. Dewes’s Rubicon (Tor) features a resurrected sergeant pulled into a war against intelligent machines.

Annalee Newitz regales readers with a novel about terraforming by corporations, conscripted genetic clones, and questioning who gets to be a person in The Terraformers (Tor). Cyborg cows and sentient trains, gender and identity, and the intersection of folklore and foundational tales just begin to scratch the surface of this multigenerational story. Al Hess also explores gender and identity in World Running Down (Angry Robot), as a salvager wrestling with body dysphoria in the future wastelands of Utah accepts a job that will pay for citizenship, allowing for free gender confirmation surgery. The work becomes complicated when it turns out the haul is comprised of self-aware androids.

The Final Frontier

Science fiction continues to highlight some near-future premonitions of cataclysms, moving humanity off Earth and to other planets, and finding new ways to connect with technology and other life in the universe.

In Hybrid Heart (Neon Hemlock) by Iori Kusano, Rei is a pop idol in near-future Japan trying to push past middling success despite competition from Vocaloid-style digital singers.

Ada Hoffmann returns to the planet Jai with The Infinite (Angry Robot), and Yasira Shien realizes that maybe the only way to save her home is with her death. With crewmates stranded on an asteroid and rising tensions back on Earth, some astropreneurs must build some space equipment that could both save their friends and end the world’s climate crisis in Critical Mass (Dutton) by Daniel Suarez.

Grace Curtis’s Frontier (Solaris) follows the Stranger across the desolate Western-inspired wasteland of Earth as she attempts to find the rest of her missing crew and her lover. Old lovers reunite for Malka Older’s The Mimicking of Known Successes (Tor.com) as they investigate a missing person on a Jupiter space colony.

Other science fiction that reaches far beyond what exists now is Jack McDevitt’s Village in the Sky (Gallery: Saga Press) with space archaeologist Alex Benedict and his crew looking for an alien community that disappeared. Amira Valdez is on the run, pregnant with her own clone in The Transcendent (Flame Tree) from Nadia Afifi. Tlotlo Tsamaase’s Womb City (Erewhon) reveals the dark side of a reproductive technology when a woman must flee with her unborn child from a ghost and corporate secrets.

Lee Mandelo’s Feed Them Silence (Tor.com) looks at a scientist’s journey into communicating with wolves and the damage that it is causing her body, her marriage, and the wolves she wants to protect. In The Thick and the Lean (Gallery: Saga Press) from Chana Porter, a mysterious cookbook gives suppressed women the chance to create their own lives.

Debuts Break Reading Droughts

Finding new authors in a well-loved genre is every reader’s hope. The next months will bring some exciting debuts from first-time authors.

Angry Robot is excited to publish Denise Crittendon’s fiction debut, Where It Rains in Color. Crittendon submitted her novel through Angry Robot’s Black Voices Matter open submission in 2020, and it will be published just prior to her 70th birthday. Crittendon has been an editor for NAACP’s magazine and an advocate for teens. Her novel is an Afro-futuristic story inspired by her time in Zimbabwe. Saharan Africa inspires the setting for Moses Ose Utomi’s novella The Lies of the Ajungo (Tor.com), where a young boy’s quest to get water for his city and save his mother begins “The Endless Desert” series. The pursuit of women’s rights and modern Egyptian history are combined with elemental magic and the threat of war in The Daughters of Izdihar (Harper Voyager) by Hadeer Elsbai.

A future where either one’s mind or body—but not both—is strong is the center of Burrowed (Angry Robot) from Mary Baader Kaley. While one young woman could break the genetic codes that will repair future generations, those that can actually reproduce are dying, and the two groups are on the verge of war, making the chance of humanity’s survival slim.

What if survival was not a choice? Flatiron continues to grow its speculative publications with The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland, in which a woman must deal with the implications of being immortal, and how the past can still come up no matter how long one exists.

Final Thoughts

Questioning the future through space exploration, genetics, and technology, authors continue to pen fascinating new stories in the upcoming season. At the same time, feelings of gentle hope, connection, and even romance bring a softness to hard science fiction and epic fantasy worlds.


Kristi Chadwick is LJ’s Science Fiction and Fantasy co-columnist. She is a Consultant with the Massachusetts Library System, providing advisory and continuing education services for over 1,500 libraries in the Commonwealth. She is also adjunct faculty with the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons University, teaching Collections Development and Management. 

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