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Martha Wells is the author of the award-winning science fiction series “The Murderbot Diaries” and other books. (Photo credit Igor Kraguljac / Courtesy of Tordotcom)
Martha Wells is the author of the award-winning science fiction series “The Murderbot Diaries” and other books. (Photo credit Igor Kraguljac / Courtesy of Tordotcom)
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Martha Wells is the author of a number of science-fiction and fantasy novels and series, including the Murderbot Diaries, which began with “All Systems Red” and includes the recent “System Collapse.” She also has out later this month, “The Book of Ile-Rien: The Element of Fire & The Death of the Necromancer.” .“I was kind of at that point in my career where, you know, women writers my age were supposed to quietly fade away,” she said. “I could not sell another book.” She’s since sold lots of books – –and here in the Q&A she shares some she’s been reading recently.

Q. What are you reading now?

I recently finished reading Andrea Hairston’s new book, “The Archangels of Funk.” It’s a brilliant, fun, hopeful take on the slow apocalypse, with AI and magic and aliens and lovely engaging characters. Now I’m reading Sharon Shinn’s new novel, “Whispering Wood,” set in her Elemental Blessings series. She’s my favorite romantic fantasy writer and it’s so good to have a new book in this series.

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Q. How do you decide what to read next?

It’s pretty random, just whatever catches my attention. Sometimes I plan to read something, then get a new book and look at the first few pages, and end up reading that instead.

Q. Do you remember the first book that made an impact on you?

I don’t know if it’s the first book, but it’s one I read very early, really too early, and I still remember it vividly. It’s “Malevil” by Robert Merle. My parents had a lot of Reader’s Digest volumes of abridged and somewhat bowdlerized novels, and I read “Malevil” first in this abridged version and then got the real version from the library. I was probably in middle school, and it was very much a book intended for adults. It’s an SF story set in the ‘70s, of post-apocalyptic survival by a small group of people in a restored French castle. It’s in first person, but there’s a second narrator who makes later notes and additions, adding his version of the parts the first narrator left out. There was a lot of technique in it, like an unreliable-to-a-certain-extent narrator, that very much influenced me.

Q. Do you have any favorite book covers?

The cover for “A Wizard of Earthsea,” by Ursula Le Guin, the 1975 Bantam edition, the art by Pauline Ellison with the dragon winding through the island city. I found it in a bookstore in a mall and it completely captured my imagination. The Earthsea trilogy had a big influence on me, too.

Q. Do you have a favorite book or books?

I really love the . It’s a fantasy series set in modern-day London about wizards who deal with supernatural crime. It combines a lot of my favorite things, fantasy, mystery, an appreciation of the history of the place the characters occupy and how that history and past affects the present. Characters being smart, caring about each other, figuring out how their magic works using scientific methods, a vast and detailed world. The books really reward re-reading, too, with little details that become important later.

Q. Which books do you plan, or hope, to read next?

That’s a good question. Right now I’m trying to decide between S.L. Huang’s “The Water Outlaws,” Brent Lambert’s “A Necessary Chaos,” and . They’re all very different books and I’m looking forward to all of them and it’s tough deciding which one to start next. I’m also very much looking forward to whatever in her space opera trilogy. I loved the most recent one, “Furious Heaven.”

Q. What’s a memorable book experience–good or bad–you’re willing to share?

I read during the snow and ice storms that caused the massive failure of the Texas power grid in February of 2021. Our house at the time was built in 1967 and had very little insulation, so without heat, it was in the low 30s to high 20s inside. We were going for 12-hour stretches without power, and we were in danger of hypothermia. That book was a lifeline for me. It gave me time I could mentally step out of the situation I was in, which is the best thing a book can do for you. I also love her other work, particularly the “Akata Witch” books.


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