S&L Podcast - #345 - Math as a Magic System w/ Mary Robinette Kowal

We chat with Mary Robinette Kowal, the author of this month’s pick, The Calculating Stars. From acknowledging and learning from your biases, to de-stigmatizing mental illness, to using math as a magic system, we had a lovely time and don’t care WHAT people would think.

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March Madness is upon us! Nominate books for the tournament next month in our Goodreads forum until 8 PM Eastern February 25.

Hugo-award winning author, Mary Robinette Kowal is a novelist and professional puppeteer.

Sword and Laser video episode

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Book Briefing

S&L Podcast - #344 - Steamy

So many news stories! We have to speed through them but there are some good picks from lots of award winners in there. Plus, the best pajamas ever and whether Calculating Stars is steamy!

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Tom: Armagnac

Veronica: Irish Bessie


Dara: Instructions on how to vote for the Hugos can be found here. Check your email for individual links for online nominating. Voting ends Friday 15 March, 2019, 11:59 PDT.

Dara: In order to drum up support for nominating the podcast for the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Fancast, I asked a few authors for an endorsement on Twitter*.

"You want me to support the Sword and Laser podcast for Best Fancast? You guys have read three of my books so I guess I have to." – John Scalzi

"Buy my book." – Sam Sykes

"Don’t buy his book, buy MY book." – Myke Cole

"You’ve read three Scalzi books but none of mine? No thanks." – Mary Robinette Kowal

"I get it, you loved Jade City. Please stop bothering me. I’m going to block you." – Fonda Lee

There ya have it, folks. Even authors love the podcast! Nominations are open! Go vote!

* Please note these are all 100% satire and made up for the lolz.

March Madness is upon us! Nominate books for the tournament next month in our Goodreads forum until 8 PM Eastern February 25

Dara: The Wheel of Time TV series will go into production in the fall of 2019. Tor has all of the details.

Seth: This year's American Library Association mid-winter conference just wrapped up, and in addition to their more famous awards for youth titles (like the Newbery and Caldecott), they also make adult picks in a number of genres. Their pick of 2018's crop of sci-fi is next month's S+L pick - “The Calculating Stars” by Mary Robinette Kowal. On the fantasy side they chose “Foundryside” by Robert Jackson Bennett.

Full list of picks across genres is here

Anne: Tor is now offering a newsletter with short fiction on a bimonthly basis which seems like a nice way to get SFF stories delivered straight to your inbox. More information is here.

Aaron: Clarkesworld Magazine is expanding into books with a new translation.A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight and Other Stories by Xia Jia

Mark: An excerpt of the deleted novella from the Wheel of Time, "A Fire Within the Ways" is on Tor's website now. This will be included in the Unfettered III collection out in March.

Joe: The Locus Recommended Reading List is has been published online (it will also be in the February issue of Locus Magazine.

I don’t think this is an original idea, but I’ve long considered the Locus Recommended list to be one of the best snapshots of what is going on in the genre in a given year. It’s certainly not exhaustive, and there’s always going to be favorites left off the list (Scalzi didn't make it for either of his books, the newest / final Sin du Jour novella from Matt Wallace didn't make it, only one of Mary Robinette Kowal's Lady Astronaut novels are on the list, etc), but from a high level - these are most of the important and noteworthy SFF books and stories from the previous year.

Aaron: There is a new J.R.R. Tolkien Biopic set to release May 10, 2019.

Mark: From Locus, the announcement for the Crawford Award. 2019 winner is The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

The Crawford Award is given to a fantasy author whose first fantasy book was published during the preceding 18 months. It's one of several awards presented by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, and is presented at the conference each March in Ft. Lauderdale.

Rob: The Expanse Season 3 goes worldwide on Amazon Prime February 8th!
Additionally Seasons 1 and 2 will now be on Prime everywhere (previously it was just North America).

Anne: There's an interesting article on WIRED about how women were actively written out of Sci-Fi history by omitting their contributions from anthologies. There's a podcast episode about it, too, though I haven't gotten around to listening to it yet.

Nokomis.FL - New Robert Heinlein novel to be published in November 2019 from a manuscript written in the early 1980s.

Moar Lists!!

From the House of Random Penguins

The Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time
The Best Fantasy Novels of All Time

Should I be suspicious that these lists are on a publisher website even though they are the best of All Time?

Lots of S+L picks. Maybe there is a future S+L pick too.

-- and as Shad notes, this does seem to be the best books of all time from Random House owned publishers


Feedback from the audienceWhile is raining like crazy outside, nothing like a good book and a fireplace - @yaniv05

Poetry Slam happening over in the Ninefox Gambit discussion - @markmtz

If you were a high school English teacher what would be the first book you would make your students read?


The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Book Briefing

TCS: Is it just me, or does this pick feel like Veronica is missing vaginal fantasy?


Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons. Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser

You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks

S&L Podcast - #343 - Math Is Hard

We’re very pleased that the Hugo Nominations are open and we’ll keep reminding you. Also we’re pleased to discuss pairing beer with novels and pleased to look over the new Philip K. Dick award nominees. We’re pleased to be reading Ninefox Gambit too, even if it makes our brain hurt.

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Tom: St. George's Terroir Gin

Q Spectacular Tonic

Veronica: Ballast Point Sculpin


Dara: SFWA Announces Newest Damon Knight Grand Master – William Gibson

Dara: Hugo nominations are now open

Dara: Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel writes about "Siamese twin" books on his blog, including one that opens 6 different ways. They're almost like the Frankenstein's monsters of books but serve a cool function.

"They are like Siamese twins in that they present two different entities joint at their backs: each part has one board for itself, while a third is shared between the two. Their contents show why this was done: you will often find two complementary devotional works in them, such as a prayerbook and a Psalter, or the Bible’s Old and New Testament. Reading the one text you can flip the 'book' to consult the other."

He also says, "In the 20th century this type of binding enjoyed a revival with the Double Ace books, which featured two short science fiction stories." The post has some pretty cool images of the books.

Conal: Dennis E. Taylor announces Bobiverse sequel to be duology -"this means that I’m now back to writing the next Bobiverse book(s), working title “The Search for Bender.” I say book(s) because it looks like it’s going to be a duology. And spoiler alert — the end of book one will be a cliff-hanger,"

Mark: We need more lists like this. Granted, it's a short list, but two of the five books are S+L picks, and there's beer!

Speculative Fiction on Tap: Winter Books, Winter Beer

Dara: The nominees for the Philip K. Dick award were announced. Via Tor, "The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States during the previous calendar year."

BARE YOUR SWORDDave Barrett: Review of Animal in Man by Joseph Asphhani

Help me find a Sci-fi slice-of-life story, please

Veronica has been reading comics! She has read Sage Vol. 1+2, Wicked + Devine Vol 1, reading Bitch Planet, and download Locke and Key and Shuri Vol 1


Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Book Briefing

NG: I have no concept of any of this

From the thread via David: Yoonh Ha Lee has aphantasia; he can't visualize things.

We're changing our tiers! If you're at a tier right now don't worry this doesn't affect you BUT for new people The entry level tier will be $2 now AND include the monthly book briefing. . That change will happen before the end of the month!


Our show is currently entirely funded by our patrons. Thank you to all the folks who back our show and if you would like to support the show that way head to patreon.com/swordandlaser

You can also support the show by buying books through our links! Find links to the books we talk about and some of our favorites at swordandlaser.com/picks

S&L Podcast - #342 - So, You're a Crow Nut?

We’re SO excited for books coming out this year, AND we award our favorite Sword and Laser reads for 2018! We finish with our final thoughts on Crows.

Download directly here!


Veronica: The Patsy: Coconut Rye Stout from Barley Forge Brewing Co.

Tom: Caffeine-free Coke Zero


Rob: Jim Butcher posted a free Dresden Files short story on his website. Until it crashed. Then he re-hosted it on Google Drive.

Pratik: The Verge has put together a handy list of anticipated science fiction and fantasy books to be released in 2019 written by some of our favorite authors. These include: Katherine Arden; S.A. Chakraborty; Charlie Jane Anders; edits and translations by Ken Liu; Ann Leckie; William Gibson; and many more. Checkout the article for the full list!

Julie: Fonda lee's Jade War, the sequel to the August pick, is out in July.

Trike: A whole bunch of classics entered the public domain on January 1st. P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha. Bristle, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, etc.


In the spirit of the Giving Season: Patreons of favorite authors?

Favourite Sword and Laser Book Pick 2018

Reading printed editions vs digital

Comic Book Recommendations:

Fredrik says: I'm reading Captain Marvel, and @Veronica should do too!

Tamahome says: The first three volumes of Saga comics (from Image) are perfect.

Linnea says: I think there are several series' from Image Comics that you might like, Veronica. Saga, Rat Queens, Wicked + Divine, Descender, Bitch Planet and Lazarus. Maybe even Monstress and Fatale, though they venture a bit into the horror genre (not very scary, just a fyi).

KBTibbs says: Some have recommended Saga and Bitch Planet and those are some great comics in collected editions. I also think Monstress (which did VERY well at the Eisners this year) has a potential. As does Wicked and Divine. Neil Gaiman's Sandman is an omnipresent recommendation for a reason.


Kick Off

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Book Briefing

Which Faction Are You?


Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley