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SciFi & Fantasy

Great epics, heroic sagas and visions of the future – lose yourself in the distant worlds of fantasy and science fiction.

Background

"We Read the Future" – revolutionary sci-fi project in Wetzlar, Germany

Science fiction can do so much more than impress, entertain, or stimulate discussion. In Wetzlar’s Phantastische Bibliothek (Fantastic Library), a scientific team draws intriguing ideas from sci-fi literature to help design the future.

 

Even Jules Verne further spun the technical ideas of his time in his science fiction novels. Inspired by the innovative potential of the genre, Thomas Le Blanc created the "Future Life" section of the library in 2004, which recently culminated in the project "Products and Production Processes of the Near Future", funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The method? Simply reading. In close cooperation with companies, his team combs through fictional novels for relevant topics such as artificial intelligence, smart cities, traffic routes of the future, or communication.

Project manager Klaudia Seibel is pleased with the productivity of the authors and their publishers. "In the past, we worked on many Fischer TOR titles, but at the moment Heyne is more on our list. Fascinating and frightening, for example, is John Marrs' “The Passengers”, in which eight passengers can no longer get out of their auto-piloted cars and are completely dependent on technology. This fits in wonderfully with current discussions and is also incredibly exciting to read."

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi The Passengers

John Marrs: The Passengers
Translated into German by Felix Mayer.
Heyne, 496 pages, 14.99 €

The team is particularly interested in novels that take place in a technically advanced fictional present, or in the very near future. They repeatedly raise the question of whether reality has long since caught up with fiction. A wonderful example of this is Marc-Uwe Kling’s satirical-futuristic novel “QualityLand”, which will be followed up in October with the much anticipated “QualityLand 2.0”. 

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Qualityland

Marc-Uwe Kling: QualityLand 2.0. Kikis Geheimnis
(English: QualityLand 2.0. Kiki’s Secret)
Ullstein, 432 pages, 19.00 €

Another treasure trove for their work, according to Klaudia Seibel, is Zoë Beck's “Paradise City”, which deals with fake news in a critical way, but in which pandemics and a health app also play a central role.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Paradise City

Zoë Beck: Paradise City
Suhrkamp, 280 pages, 16.00 €

Artificial intelligence is one of the top themes of the sci-fi project in Wetzlar. Marie Graßhoff's "Cyber Trips" particularly plays with our fears of machines becoming too intelligent.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Cyber Trips

Marie Graßhoff: Cyber Trips
Lübbe, 448 pages, 15.00 €

Everyone on the team is also eagerly awaiting the publication of Klaus N. Frick's short story collection "Wie künstlich ist Intelligenz?" (How Artificial is Intelligence?), which will be published at the end of September – the announcement sounds promising.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Wie künstlich ist Intelligenz

Andreas Eschbach, Judith Vogt, Stefan Lammers et al.: Wie künstlich ist Intelligenz?
(English: How Artificial is Intelligence?)
Science-fiction stories from tomorrow and the day after.
Ed. Klaus N. Frick, Plan 9 Verlag, 200 pages, 20.00 €
(publication date 25 Sept. 2020)

And youth literature also has a lot to offer. For example, R.T. Acron’s gripping and dystopian "Kronox" plays on our real fears of nanotechnology and unhindered manipulation of our bodies by an external power.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Kronox

R. T. Acron: Kronox – Vom Feind gesteuert
(English: Kronox – Controlled by the Enemy)
dtv, 256 pages, 14.95 €

To scientifically deal with the innovative ideas in sci-fi literature is more fascinating today than ever. The team working with Seibel and Le Blanc know this well. You can learn more about their work at phantastik.eu.

Text: Maren Bonacker

3 Reading tips

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Vortex

Powerful story, powerful heroine

Anne Benning: Vortex. Der Tag, an dem die Welt zerriss

Fischer KJB, 496 pages, 17.00 €

Anne Benning: Vortex. Der Tag, an dem die Welt zerriss

Fischer KJB, 496 pages, 17.00 €

Anne Benning surprised us in "Vortex. Der Tag, an dem die Welt zerriss“ (Vortex. The Day the World Tore Apart) – volume one of a trilogy, and a new interpretation of future fantasy. Somewhere between dystopia, fantasy and science fiction, young Elaine has to find her way in a world that has become alien to everyone, in which only our prejudices against all things foreign have remained.

On the surface, the main goal is Elaine's victory in the spectacular Vortex Race, along with a bit of romance. But digging deeper, this novel offers much more: thought-provoking social criticism and a maelstrom of new ideas with an incredibly strong heroine – amazing! Volume two "Vortex – Das Mädchen, das die Zeit durchbrach” (Vortex – The Girl Who Broke through Time) will be published in German on 23 September.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Das Lied des Wolfes

Return of the "Raven’s Shadow" hero

Anthony Ryan: Das Lied des Wolfes
(English: The Wolf’s Call)
Translated into German by Sara Riffel.
Klett-Cotta, 557 pages, 25.00 €

Anthony Ryan: Das Lied des Wolfes
(English: The Wolf’s Call)
Translated into German by Sara Riffel.
Klett-Cotta, 557 pages, 25.00 €

Fans of this epic fantasy series are eagerly awaiting Anthony Ryan's new novel. With "The Wolf’s Call", the bestselling author is starting a new cycle that follows on from the successful "Raven’s Shadow" series. After all the evil he has had to face and fight, Vaelin al Sorna wants nothing more than peace and quiet. Just when he finally seems to have achieved that harmony in the Nordlands, he learns about the fate of the woman he once loved – and who now needs his heroism more than ever. Opulent fantasy that stands out from the crowd thanks to the author's narrative power – incredible!

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Ein Junge, sein Hund und das Ende der Welt

Best friends in hard times

C.A. Fletcher: Ein Junge, sein Hund und das Ende der Welt
(English: A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World)
Translated into German by Vanessa Lamatsch.
Penhaligon, 480 pages, 15.00 €

C.A. Fletcher: Ein Junge, sein Hund und das Ende der Welt
(English: A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World)
Translated into German by Vanessa Lamatsch.
Penhaligon, 480 pages, 15.00 €

In light of the pandemic, C.A. Fletcher's future scenario of an increasingly sparsely populated world fills readers with anxiety. With hardly any people left, friendships have become scarce. Griz is the young, first-person narrator, whose dog is his closest confidant. When the dog is stolen by a travelling salesman, the boy does everything to get him back. "A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World" is a great story that still moves our hearts long after it has been read.

Text: Maren Bonacker

Talk with: Johan Egerkrans

“For me, Norse mythology is something special”

Swedish author and illustrator Johan Egerkrans' books are the topic of much discussion. His sombre style of illustration between Jugendstil and fantasy comics brings Norse mythology back to life, fascinating young and older readers alike.

Johan Egerkrans

Johan, at what point did you realise that your life would involve books?

Johan Egerkrans: I grew up with comics and illustrated fantasy like Frazetta, Mike Mignola and Simon Bisley, and I always enjoyed drawing. Actually, I initially wanted to go more into roleplaying or comics and was incredibly fortunate to be able to land right there, albeit in a rather roundabout way. Later I worked more as a free-lancer and started illustrating children's books. That is until my publisher approached me one day and asked if would like to do something on Norse mythology. Which I certainly did! And that is how I became an author.

Johan Egerkrans: Nordische Götter

Johan Egerkrans: Nordische Götter
(English: Norse Gods)
Übersetzt von Maike Dörries. Woow Books, 160 pages, 24.00 €, ages 12 and up

Is there a mythological figure that you find particularly impressive?

As a kid I literally went through anything that had to do with mythology – Chinese, Nordic, Greek, Egyptian, whatever. As long as it was mythology! But for me, Nordic mythology has always been something uniquely special. And Loki, the son of the giant Farbauti and the goddess Laufey, is my absolute favourite – he shifts so wonderfully between the clever, devious and tragic, finally becoming the number-one bad guy. Wonderful!

Johan Egerkrans: Nordische Wesen

Johan Egerkrans: Nordische Wesen
(English: Vaesen)
Übersetzt von Maike Dörries. Woow Books, 128 pages, 24.00 €, ages 12 and up

How important is reading or being read to in your opinion?

Reading is a key survival skill! I started reading on my own at an early age; at five or six. By the time I was ten, I was at the age where I was simply devouring everything I could get my hands on. I would not be who I am today without Tove Jansson, Jules Verne, Asimov or Tolkien. We humans, in all that we achieve, are in the end only the proverbial dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants: Everything that has inspired me in my life so far has found its way into my works, but still, my images and stories are my own creations.

Interview: Maren Bonacker

Johan Egerkrans: Die Untoten

Johan Egerkrans: Die Untoten
(English: The Undead)
Translated into German by Maike Dörries. Woow Books, 128 pages, 24.00 €, ages 12 and up

Focus on: Fantastic gods

Simply divine!

Gods as fantastic superheroes are nothing new to the fantasy genre – yet recent times have seen a great revival of antique mythology in the form of romantasy or fantastic adventure novels. But instead of Greek and Roman gods, they often focus on celestial beings from other cultures.

Percy Jackson creator Rick Riordan remains true to the world of Greek mythology: In “The Tyrant's Tomb”, his Apollo returns to Olympus with the fourth volume of his series, and fans love the story for its perfect mix of excitement, adventure and humour.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Buchcover Apollo

Rick Riordan: Die Abenteuer des Apollo 4: Die Gruft des Tyrannen
Translated into German by Gabriele Haefs.
(English: The Trials of Apollo 4: The Tyrant's Tomb)
Carlsen, 480 pages, 19.99 €, ages 12 and above

Riordan himself has praised the first volume of the “Storm Runner” series from US Author J.C. Cervantes, in which the protagonist not only contends with the gods of the Mayans, but has to go face-to face with the God of Death in person. In addition, hero Zane is driven by the search for his father, who comes from this exotic world of gods. Avid readers quickly recognise that Cervantes is obviously a big fan of Rick Riordan...action and excitement and the fascinating mythology of the Maya make it hard for young people to put down this gripping novel while eagerly waiting the sequels.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Buchcover Sturmläufer

J.C. Cervantes: Zane gegen die Götter. Band 1: Sturmläufer
Translated into German by Katharina Orgass.
(English: The Storm Runner Series, Volume 1)
Ravensburger, 512 pages, 16.99 €, ages 12 and above

Even more exotic and colourful adventures are to be found in the world of Hindu mythology from Sayantani DasGupta: two volumes of  the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond” series,The Serpent's Secret” and the sequel “The Game of Stars” are already available in German, volume three of the cheekily fantastic demons & gods adventures is impatiently awaited by young fans.

 

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Das Spiel der Dämonenjäger

Sayantani DasGupta: Das Spiel der Dämonenjäger (Kiranmalas Abenteuer)
Translated into German by Gabriele Haefs.
(English: The Chaos Curse – Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond)
Carlsen, 336 pages, 15.00 €, ages 12 and above

Romantasy fans will find what they are looking for in P. J. Lehmann's novel “Return of the Gods – the Shadows of Death”. The sinister bounty hunter Halvar and the escaped, stubborn-minded Princess Iouna are two strong and multi-faceted characters who come up against each other and really set the pages on fire. Bound together by the gods, they (apparently) share a common destiny. Sensitive readers should keep a box of tissues at hand.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Wiederkehr der Götter

P.J. Lehmann: Wiederkehr der Götter – Der Schatten des Todes
(English: Return of the Gods – The Shadows of Death)
Piper, 566 pages, 23.00 €

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of this autumn's releases in the fantasy genre is “The Gilded Ones  – Deathless Book 1” (Loewe, 508 pages, 19.95 €) by Sierra Leone-born author Namina Forna. Her novel combines a stunningly realistic world in which women and young women are repressed in a fascinating new fantasy setting featuring West African elements. The heroine Deka stands out from the others not just for her gold-coloured blood but in her inability to die. Repeatedly murdered and reborn, she is finally trained to be a warrior to defend a government she does not believe in. A wonderfully written kick-off to an incomparable fantasy trilogy!

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Die Göttinnen von Otera

Namina Forna: Die Göttinnen von Otera – Golden wie Blut
Translated into German by Bea Reiter.
(English: The Gilded Ones – Deathless Book 1)
Loewe, 508 pages, 19.95 €, ages 14 and above

Text: Maren Bonacker

Book recommendation

A deadly power

We all wonder if there’s intelligent life somewhere out there in the universe. What if it were already among us? Anne Freytag pushes the envelope of the conceivable: Her novel “Aus schwarzem Wasser” (Out of Black Water) contains that scintillating extra that makes her political thriller so fantastic!

When Maja plunged into the River Spree along with her mother in her company car, she should have died. She was trapped under water too long. Nonetheless, she awakens later, injured and confused, but still clear-minded enough to look for answers. What was behind the supposed accident? What secret is the man who pulled them out of the water hiding? What are high-level politicians and members of a research institute trying to cover up? And what role does Maja play in all this?

Anne Freytag works seamlessly with various layers of time, uses flashbacks, and allows her readers to experience the events through various characters in completely different stages of their lives. This brings the shocking truth of the novel together piece by piece like a puzzle in a swirling maelstrom of hunger for power, thirst for knowledge, egoism, and recklessness. It all centres around Maja, the unknowing link between science and research on the one hand, and this newcomer and stranger on the other, which makes the novel so incredibly absorbing. As the title suggests, the unknown comes “out of black water”, but we continue to ask ourselves if this deadly force is really the only threat to our world, or if we ourselves are not the real threat.

Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 Themenwelten Fantasy & SciFi Aus schwarzem Wasser

Anne Freytag: Aus schwarzem Wasser (English: Out of Black Water)
dtv bold, 608 pages, 16.90 €

“Water generally carries a positive connotation in our world,” says Anne Freytag in an interview. “We are much more afraid of fire – but water should not be underestimated.” It is not just respect for water that inspired the author; it is the regard for other cultures, for life, for the world. “We could accomplish so much if we all just changed some small aspect of our behaviour”, believes Anne Freytag. Readers, who let this incredible book wash over them and leave them stunned, will face the question of whether they could have had a different influence on the course of the story with a bit more care and consideration. Madness!

Text: Maren Bonacker

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