Review: Queen of None by Natania Barron

In which a publisher sends an advance review copy of Chapel Hill author Natania Barron’s forthcoming novel to me, but my wife claims it as her own:

Queen of None by Natania Barron (Vernacular Books, December 2020)

When Anna Pendragon was born, Merlin prophesied: “Through all the ages, and in the hearts of men, you will be forgotten.”

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Newsletter 2020.1: Voices Rising, Kwame Mbalia, Scott Reintgen, Kim Stanley Robinson, Madeline Miller, and more

Vol 10 No 1. Friday, January 10, 2020: Well. It’s been a while, eh? It’s a good thing absolutely nothing happened since May of last year, or else this newsletter would get quite unwieldy! Seriously though, there will needs be omissions from the second half of last year to get this out sometime this (new) decade, but what a year we had and are going to have, with books, readings, conventions, awards, and more.

First, if it feels like we should have been meeting up in person this past weekend, but somehow weren’t, that’s because illogiCon took a year off to reorganize and secure a new hotel for 2021.

Second, do see the last section of the newsletter for the complete upcoming events listing, but before the end of January we’ll see the multi-author “Voices Rising” reading at Flyleaf, Kwame Mbalia at the Chapel Hill Library, a Jeremy Whitley comics workshop at Quail Ridge Books, and the launch party for Scott Reintgen’s newest book, Ashlords. And! Some highlights of the further-ahead events include Kim Stanley Robinson’s February appearances at the NC Book Festival, the Flyleaf Books reading with Dept. Of Speculation author Jenny Offill for Weather, and (again at Flyleaf) Madeline Miller visits for the paperback release of Circe.


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May Newsletter: Zeno Alexander, Valerie Nieman, Lewis Shiner, Free Comic Book Day, Star Wars Day, and more

Vol 9 No 2. Saturday, May 4, 2019: May the 4th be with you. (And also with you.) It’s Star Wars day, it’s Free Comic Book Day, it’s book release party day for “secretive” Durham author Zeno Alexander’s The Library of Ever at The Regulator Bookshop, and there’s plenty more as the summer event calendar really begins to get started. Readings from Valerie Nieman (To The Bones) and Lewis Shiner (Outside the Gates of Eden) being the highlights as we head into the convention season. As always see the full events calendar, with everything from more readings to a meeting of the Tolkienist Society. But before that… some awards news!


  • Mur Lafferty’s adaptation of Solo: A Star Wars Story has earned her first Scribe Award nomination, presented by The International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.
  • Dale Bailey’s novel In the Night Wood has been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award for “exceptional work in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and dark fantasy.”


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January Newsletter: Robin Kirk, Holly Black, illogiCon with Annalee Newitz, and more

Vol 9 No 1. Sunday, January 6, 2019: Happy New Year and welcome to 2019! From upcoming events both this month and next, new local and regional conventions, some long-omitted news, and even a few new books, here’s what’s happening as far as I know:


Obviously I’m omitting dozens and dozens of things since last February, from piles of new books to additional awards news and so very, very many story publications. But to get a new newsletter out for the first time in so long, some short cuts were taken; my apologies for that.


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February Newsletter: Colson Whitehead, John Darnielle, John Kessel, the Playthrough Gaming Convention, and more

Vol 8 No 1. Tuesday, February 6, 2018: It really has taken this long to emerge from my illogiCon-induced contemplations. So many news books and authors that I had to retroactively add back in to The year in NC science fiction and fantasy, part 2 of 3: The Rest of What’s Best from the Triangle and The year in NC science fiction and fantasy, part 3 of 3: Beyond the Triangle, starting a proper 2018 events calendar, and! getting this year’s Manly Wade Wellman Award prospective eligibility list out. Let’s dive in, starting as usual with the most imminently upcoming events, shall we?


On Wednesday February 7 at 6 pm, Duke University hosts The Underground Railroad author Colson Whitehead for the Weaver Memorial Lecture. “Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Underground Railroad” (an Oprah’s Book Club selection and winner of the 2016 National Book Award and 2017 Pulitzer Prize). His other books include “The Noble Hustle,” “Zone One,” “Sag Harbor,” and “The Intuitionist,” among others. Whitehead is the 2017 Weaver Memorial Lecturer, a series hosted every other year by the Duke University Libraries in memory of William B. Weaver, a 1972 Duke graduate and former member of the Library Advisory Board. Copies of his books will be available for sale at the event. Tickets for the event, which is free and open to the public, are available through the Duke University Box Office.”

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The year in NC science fiction and fantasy, part 3 of 3: Beyond the Triangle

Picking up as promised from part 2, which was a deeper dive covering new books from the greater Raleigh-Durham area, let’s take a look at the incredible variety (and volume!) of speculative fiction published last year from across North Carolina, organized into five geographic areas: Charlotte (and surrounds), The Triad (Greensboro and surrounds), The Mountains (Asheville and Boone and so on), The Coast (Wilmington and New Bern and so on), and, of course, “Other.” Enjoy!


The domain of Gail Z. Martin, A. J. Hartley, Renee Ahdieh, John Hartness, Darin Kennedy, and more, Charlotte’s speculative fiction scene continues to flourish.

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1) Cathedrals Of Glass A Planet Of Blood And Ice Firebrand (Alternative Detective, #2)

On the heels of her immensely successful The Wrath and the Dawn series, Ahdieh this year launched a new series with Flame in the Mist. Billed as Mulan meets 47 Ronin, the book follows the daughter of a prominent samurai as she infiltrates the group of assassins who waylaid her on her way to an arranged marriage. Continue reading

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The year in NC science fiction and fantasy, part 2 of 3: The Rest of What’s Best from the Triangle

Wait, what’s this? New non-newsletter content at! Yes, indeed! But, you say, part 2? Where’s part 1? I’m glad you asked!

I was very pleased indeed that Indy Week editor Brian Howe invited me to contribute another “local books in review” column this year, as he also so graciously did in 2015 and 2016. Entitled “Though the Triangle Produces All Kinds of Books, Its Genre Writers Make the Most Noise. Here Are Some of Our Favorites of 2017.“, this year’s edition covers my “top 10” of local science fiction and fantasy (and a couple more genres, just in case), including science fiction by Durham author Mur Lafferty, Cary author Gray Rinehart, Raleigh author John Kessel, Durham author Michele Berger, and Pittsboro author David Drake, fantasy from Chapel Hill author Natania Barron, Lewis Shiner’s collection Heroes and Villains, John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester, and Eryk Pruitt’s “Southern-fried Fargo noir” What We Reckon, as well as Lafferty’s fantastic writing-workshop-in-a-book I Should Be Writing: A Writer’s Workshop.

Heroes and Villains by [Shiner, Lewis] 

I’m not going to repeat what I wrote for Indy Week, so visit them online or (until the current issue disappears on Tuesday) pick up a copy somewhere out and about in the Triangle area. (Or, you know, subscribe to Indy Week, ok? Ok.)

Still, as an article intended for print, there were limits: word count, column inches, photo sizes, etc. Here online, I can go on and on — and you know I will — about everything else book-shaped in terms of science fiction and fantasy from the Triangle this year.

I’m going to start with the year in YOUNG ADULT speculative fiction, because I just couldn’t figure out a way to fit it into my Indy article, and these books really, really should be considered right up there with the best of the year in local books:

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November newsletter: NC Comicon Bull City, Leigh Statham, Michele Tracy Berger and Nicole Givens Kurtz, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower: The Opera, and more

Vol 7 No 7. Friday, November 10, 2017: Well, this one’s coming a bit later in the month than I’d like, but what else is new, eh? Hopefully not too many of you missed the Zine Machine Printed Matter Festival or the Fall Steampunk Picnic last weekend?

Anyway, last month seemed to really fly by, and there was a fantastic event towards the end of the month as Arcana Durham hosted Books & Brews with a big roster of Falstaff Books authors (John Hartness, Misty Massey, Natania Barron, Michael Williams, on and on!). Books were bought, cocktails were imbibed, stories were read, conversations had. (And apparently after I left, pub style Indian food was consumed?) All in all a lovely time. And to completely put a “bow” on October, HonorCon returned to the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown.


And now, November! And it’s packed with events, from the book launch for Leigh Statham’s Daughter4254 tonight at Flyleaf Books, to NC Comicon Bull City (already underway!), to Michele Tracy Berger and Nicole Givens Kurtz both reading at Ngozi in Durham tomorrow, and plenty more including! the world premiere of Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower: The Opera at UNC’s Memorial Hall, readings from Scott Reintgen and Marissa Meyer, and even a science fiction card game launch (Pulsar Event at Atomic Empire, Saturday at 7 pm).


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September newsletter: Scott Reintgen, Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Mur Lafferty, James Maxey, Natania Barron, Annalee Newitz, and more

Vol 7 No 6. Tuesday, September 12, 2017:

Fall is nearly here, and it’s bringing an absolute flurry of readings, from Scott Reintgen’s book launch events for Nyxia this week through Marissa Meyer’s return to the Triangle in November, there are more book events in as short a time as I can remember having on the calendar in a few years!

Let’s start with some of those readings coming up over the next couple of weeks:

  I Should Be Writing: A Writer's Workshop

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July Newsletter: Jay Posey, ConGregate/DeepSouthCon and SuperCon, Scott Reintgen, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, and more

Vol 7 No 5. Saturday, July 8, 2017: There are some fantastic new events this month — starting this afternoon! — and two big centerpiece conventions to preview, as well as run down some of the new books from North Carolina authors this summer and spill the beans about a new writer’s group and a new horror book club. Let’s get to those new events first:


July 8 (Saturday) 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm — The Streets at Southpoint Barnes & Noble hosts Jay Posey for a signing of Sungrazer, the second book in his science fiction thriller series Outriders. “In a new Cold War between Earth and the colonies on Mars, when devastating weapons go missing, there’s only one team you can call — the Outriders. A crack force of highly specialized super-soldiers, their clone bodies are near-immortal.”

July 15 (Saturday) 6:30 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Southern YA authors fantasy panel hosted by Scott Reintgen. “Fantasy is alive and well in the South.  We host a panel of regional fantasy authors, writing for children and YA audiences.  Join us on Saturday, July 15, at 6:30 pm for a look at their recent or upcoming releases. Aspiring writers, we bet there’ll be a bit of shop talk and advice! Among the busy panelists: Amanda McCrina, Shaila Patel, Beth Bowland, Chris Ledbetter, Leigh Statham, Brynn Chapman, E.M. Fitch, and Julie Reece.”

July 22 (Saturday) 5 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Jeff VanderMeer for a conversation with Ann VanderMeer, about Jeff’s new science fiction novel Borne. “In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech. One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.” [Facebook Event]

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