Going back to childhood and the first days of school, fall is the season of potential. That’s the theme for this fall’s science fiction and fantasy list, which is chock-full of authors both new and familiar embarking on exciting ventures in every area of speculative fiction.

On the SF side, fans of Brenda Cooper will be thrilled to see her end a three-year publishing hiatus with The Creative Fire, set on a generation ship where a young low-caste woman is propelled into the midst of a revolution. David Drake and John Lambshead’s space opera Into the Hinterlands has similar themes; where Cooper based her heroine on Evita Perón, Drake and Lambshead based their hero on George Washington. On the fantasy side, Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory also explore history with Crown of Vengeance, though in this case it’s the long-forgotten history of the World of Obsidian, the setting for Lackey and Mallory’s two previous epic fantasy trilogies.

Comic fantasist Jim C. Hines, best known for turning goblins and fairy tale princesses into action heroes, jumps to hardcover with the slightly more serious Libriomancer, in which a vampire-battling librarian summons objects and entities from books into the real world. Jacqueline Carey, who took a break from epic fantasy to explore postapocalyptic SF, now turns to present-day fantasy with Dark Currents. The novel is set in a Midwestern resort town rather than the typical noir-influenced city streets of urban fantasy, and stars a half-human woman who serves as liaison between the human and supernatural communities.

The buzz among Hines and Carey’s fans is very positive; they’re willing to take chances too, and follow favorite authors down uncharted paths. Equally compelling is the idea of following a new author down familiar paths, which is what the late Robert Jordan’s fans will do when Brandon Sanderson completes Jordan’s bestselling epic series, the Wheel of Time, with A Memory of Light. The announced first printing is an astonishing one million hardcover copies, a fitting tribute to Sanderson’s talent and Jordan’s mass appeal.

Readers have also been clamoring for books that break away from American and European traditional fantasy styles. This fall they’ll have two intriguing Asian-influenced series kickoffs to look forward to. Kylie Chan’s Earth to Hell takes place several years after her Dark Heavens debut trilogy and sends series heroine Emma on a challenging new journey through the world of Chinese mythology. Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer is steampunk by way of feudal Japan, in which a young woman with unusual abilities befriends a thunder tiger in a polluted industrial wasteland. Strong heroines, detailed settings, and fascinating legends hit the sweet spot.

SF and fantasy often feel like all series, all the time, and some fans are getting tired of cliffhanger endings and unresolved questions. Fortunately for them, there are some interesting stand-alones coming out. The Secret Book of Sacred Things, Australian author Torsten Krol’s first novel in five years and his first venture into speculative fiction, looks ahead to an apocalypse caused by an enormous asteroid crashing into the moon, and subsequent drama in a convent of moon worshippers. Douglas Nicholas’s Something Red looks back to the 13th century and impoverished travelers trying to stay ahead of deadly snowstorms and vicious creatures. As the glorious adventures of fall come to a close and winter sets in, these eerie stories will keep readers shivering through the long nights.

PW’s Top 10: SF/Fantasy/Horror

The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper. Pyr, Nov.

Into the Hinterlands by David Drake and John Lambshead. Baen, Sept.

Crown of Vengeance by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. Tor, Nov.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. DAW, Aug.

Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey. Roc, Oct.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Tor, Jan.

Earth to Hell: Journey to Wudang, Book 1 by Kylie Chan. Harper Voyager, Sept.

Stormdancers by Jay Kristoff. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, Sept.

The Secret Book of Sacred Things by Torsten Krol. Atlantic, Oct.

Something Red by Douglas Nicholas. Atria, Sept.

Read and sort all our picks from this fall's upcoming SF/ Fantasy/ Horror titles in the spreadsheet below: