Sofia Samatar: Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar. She has written for the New Inquiry, Strange Horizons, and Tin House, among others. Her work has won several awards, including the Campbell, Crawford, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy awards. She teaches African literature, Arabic literature, and speculative fiction at James Madison University.
Praise for Tender "Most of the 20 sumptuous tales in Sofia Samatar's collection Tender take place on Earth - although not always the Earth we might recognize. Sprawling in subject from the supernatural power of names to the loneliness of a half-robot woman, Tender redefines the emotional power and literary heft that speculative fiction can convey. Where Samatar's acclaimed fantasy novels exist in a strange, dreamlike world, her short stories daringly explore the overlap of familiarity and otherness." -- NPR Best of 2017"When Tender was published last spring, I had been waiting for a short-story collection from Sofia Samatar for what felt like 10 million years. Samatar is a novelist, poet, scholar, and author of science fiction and fantasy stories, and this book combines previously published award-winning short fiction with two new pieces, a novella and a story, that give life to the breadth and width of her astonishing imagination."-- Carmen Maria Machado, The Week"This is a short story collection containing wonder after wonder, done with casual intensity. These are all sharp knives of stories, and it's definitely possible to think oneself unsliced until the blood starts to pour. I encountered Samatar's short work in 2012, probably, with her short 'Selkie Stories are for Losers, ' and was floored on sight. She's published two novels as well, but the short fiction is my first love. Unlike the rest of the authors on this list, I actually know Sofia, and I'm as moved by her in person as I am by her work. Her wide-ranging and deeply researched interests are fully showcased in her prose, which moves from nonfiction to speculative surrealism, from historical automatons to victims of warfare, all at the same time. There are witch stories, and ripped from the headline stories, stories about longing for other planets, stories about the human condition of pain. They cross all genre divides, and smash them. This collection was edited by Kelly Link, herself a lighthouse of mine, and her work has common ground with Samatar's, just as both of their work has common ground with everything else on this list. These are all authors whose works are sui generis, but who constitute a tribe of writer warriors as far as I'm concerned. Everyone here is an obliterator of tropes and received myth, a reviser of hierarchy, and a deeply skilled storyteller and maker of worlds. I can't even believe I get to live in a time in which writers like the ones on this list exist, let alone get to have their brains feed mine." -- Maria Dahvana Headley, Electric Lit"A wide-ranging collection by an author who is as at home in a contemporary satire as she is in a beautifully atmospheric fable. For readers who love seeing what a master can do with short fiction." -- Jenn Northington, Book Riot"Samatar is a master at not only weaving imaginative tales, but deftly layering them with emotional truths. While some stories are playful, many are sad, and others are disturbing. Many of the stories are suspenseful, not necessarily because of their structures, but from not quite knowing the emotional terrain they'll tackle. And yet it's easy to trust Samatar as she takes you into unfamiliar territory with prose that is skillful, controlled, and lovely." -- Rachel Leon, Chicago Review of Books"A relentless, challenging, and hypnotic collection, Sofia Samatar's Tender transports the reader to myriad worlds, periods of history, and monstrous futures yet to be born. It can be a difficult text, demanding a high level of engagement with multiple layers and themes. At the same time, its subtle yet wrenching emotions have a way of getting under your skin." -- Ilana Teitelbaum, Los Angeles Review of Books"Tender's longest story is also a science fiction tale set in the future -- and like 'The Red Thread, ' it toys with the ambiguity between dystopia and utopia. Told from the perspective of a child named Agar Black Hat, who lives in an extraterrestrial colony after cataclysmic climate change and a universal draft have forced a sect of religious pacifists from Earth, the story is a feast of ideas. It's reminiscent of vintage Ursula K. Le Guin in its combination of social science and hard sci-fi, even as it probes the nature of belonging and belief. The book's beating heart, though, is its title story. 'Tender' starts out with a clever play on words -- 'tender' is used as a noun, as in, one who tends -- and employs some tricky unreliable narration and splintered points-of-view. But Samatar's virtuoso flourishes of form serve a higher purpose: They couch a quietly devastating account of a woman who gave up her life as a career woman and mother to become a cyborg, one who, alone, tends to a radioactive waste facility which she may never leave. While Samatar slowly unspools her character's reasons for leaving her former life -- delivering a primer on the haunting philosophies and damaged psyches of the scientists who gave us nuclear power along the way -- 'Tender' redefines the emotional power and literary heft that speculative fiction can convey. As does Tender as a whole." -- Jason Heller, NPR"I was also impressed with both of the pieces original to this collection. . . . 'Fallow' is the second original piece, a novella, and is by far the longest in the collection. It's also the best novella I've read in quite some time. . . . a heady mix of science and grim hard-scrabble religious life in a dystopic and closeknit society. . . . I'd strongly recommend giving the literary, clever, and productive art that Samatar has collected here a read. It's as good as I'd hoped, and just as smart too." -- Brit Mandelo, tor.com"Tender: Stories includes two excellent new pieces together with 18 reprints, and one of them, "Fallow", is not only the longest story in the collection, but also her most complex and accomplished SF story to date. On the basis of her award-winning debut novel A Stranger in Olondria and its sequel The Winged Histories, Samatar's reputation has been mostly that of a fantasist, and her most famous story, ''Selkie Stories Are For Losers'' (the lead selection here) seemed to confirm that reputation - although once Samatar establishes the parameters of her fantastic worlds, she works out both her plot details and cultural observations with the discipline of a seasoned SF writer and the psychological insight of a poet." -- Gary K. Wolfe, Locus"These stories are windows into an impressively deep imagination guided by sensitivity, joyful intellect, and a graceful mastery of language." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"Sofia Samatar's stories are just so good. Surprising. Suspenseful at an emotional level -- I kept finding myself plummeted into an emotion face first, everything built up so steadily, with such subtle and meticulous storytelling. Samatar earns readers' trust and uses it to take us into unexpected territory, to make us see ourselves in our power, in our messiness. Tender is the right word, so many of these stories touched into the place of gasping, or tears. Each story had me like, "Oh this is my favorite, I must mention this one." But then I would read the next story which would be Another Whole Paradigm, similar only in that the writing was astonishing, each word so precise. This collection is an exquisite exploration of what otherness and belonging and place and language and love do to us all. It is visionary fiction. Please accept this as my enthusiastic recommendation to let this book have its way with you." -- adrienne maree brown, co-editor of Octavia's Brood"Equal parts brutal and beautiful, flinty, and acrobatic, Samatar's stories explore lesser known territories of the imagination. The results chime with all the strangeness of dream and the dark-hearted truth of fairytale. I loved it." -- Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls"If a library came alive, and spent ten thousand years walking up and down upon the earth, exploring and dreaming and falling in and out of love, it might write stories like these." -- Ben Loory, Tales of Flying and Falling"The first collection from one of fantasy's rising stars, showcasing her rich, lyrical language and intricate storytelling in 20 short works."-- Publishers Weekly