Episode 171: Samantha Mills – The Wings Upon Her Back

A chat with Locus, Sturgeon, and Nebula Award-winning author Samantha Mills about her debut novel, The Wings Upon Her Back.





Amazon Links for The Wings Upon Her Back

About the Book

In this gripping debut novel from acclaimed Nebula, Sturgeon, and Locus Award-winning author Samantha Mills, a disgraced soldier fights to make sense of her world and the gods who abandoned it.

The Wings Upon Her Back is an action-packed, devastating exploration of the brutal costs of zealous loyalty.

Zenya was a teenager when she ran away to join the mechanically-modified warrior sect. She was determined to earn mechanized wings and protect the people of Radezhda, the city she loved. Under the strict tutelage of a mercurial, charismatic leader, Vodaya, Zenya finally became Winged Zemolai.

But after twenty-six years of service, Zemolai is disillusioned with her role as an enforcer in an increasingly fascist state. After one tragic act of mercy, she is brutally cast out and loses everything she worked for. As Zemolai struggles for her life, she must question her sect, their leader, and even the gods themselves.

Praise for The Wings Upon Her Back

[STARRED REVIEW] “In the city-state of Radezha—a towering metropolis constructed vertically to reach the five slumbering gods in the heavens—discontent is stirring. Devoted to the mecha god, patron of the city’s warriors and keeper of the law, Zemolai has spent 26 years rising in the ranks of her sect until she receives the ultimate sign of devotion: mechanized wings attached to ports along her back. One fateful evening, returning home from a brutal, month-long mission patrolling Radezha’s borders, Winged Zemolai performs a single act of mercy that results in the destruction of everything she has ever known. Zemolai is shunned by her god, and the wings are ripped from her back, leaving her permanently disfigured. With no one to turn to but the rebels that she unknowingly saved, the Once-Winged Zemolai’s disillusionment continues to grow as her eyes are opened to the increasingly fascist state she has spent her life defending. The Wings upon Her Back is a triumphant debut novel. The complex narrative examines the intricacies of blind devotion, self-image, and the hidden motivations behind martial control. For fans of C. L. Clark’s The Unbroken looking for a timely perspective on the human cost of destructive nationalism.” —Booklist

[STARRED REVIEW] “Mills debuts with an intricate and intriguing science fantasy set in the divided city of Radezhda. Five sects each serve one of five gods who sleep behind portals floating high above the land. After a brutal civil war, the mecha sect, a group of human warriors with their nerves wired into mechanical wings that allow them to fly, reigns supreme, led by power-hungry Winged Vodaya. After Vodaya’s closest confidant, Winged Zemolai, returns home tired and aching from a month of border patrol, she makes what is perhaps the worst mistake of her life: letting a spy go free. Cast out of the sect and left to die on the streets of Radezhda, Zemolai is miraculously saved by another sect, forcing her to decide whether to beg Vodaya’s forgiveness or betray her people. Toggling between two timelines, Mills juxtaposes Zemolai’s adult regrets and childhood hopes to devastating effect. Much like the winged warriors it follows, the story begins on the ground and takes flight as the characters attempt higher stakes battles and plans, eventually achieving a complete aerial view of Zemolai’s life and the full history of Radezhda. This cathartic adventure will stay with readers long after the final page.” Publishers Weekly

[STARRED REVIEW] “Mills’s debut novel is complex and haunting, filled with beautiful prose and timely themes of political and religious upheaval and personal journeys.” — Library Journal

[STARRED REVIEW] “An absolute must-read—to paraphrase a line from the novel, fantasy fans will find themselves in literary heaven.”Kirkus

About Samantha Mills

Samantha Mills

Samantha Mills is a multiple award-winning author living in Southern California. She has published a dozen short stories, appearing in Uncanny Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Escape Pod and others. In addition to winning the Nebula, Locus, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial awards for her short story “Rabbit Test” in 2023, Sam has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, made the Locus Recommended Reading List and the BSFA long list multiple times, and was included in the best-of anthologies The New Voices of Science Fiction and The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2023.

She grew up in Southern California, where she still lives with her family and cats. She graduated from the University of Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Pre- and Early Modern Literature, and received a Master’s in Information and Library Science from San Jose State University. In the other half of her life, she is a trained archivist specializing in primary documents, with a particular focus on helping local historical societies and research libraries preserve and manage their collections.

When Sam isn’t working, writing, or taking care of children, she’s watching B-movies, binding books, and crocheting stuffed animals.

Episode 170: Thomas R. Weaver – Artificial Wisdom

A chat with successful startup and tech entrepreneur Thomas R. Weaver about his award-winning debut techno-thrillerl, Artificial Wisdom.







Amazon Links for Artificial Wisdom

About the Book

In 2050, the earth’s climate is out of control. A heatwave has killed millions across the Persian Gulf, including the wife of journalist Marcus Tully. But he has a lead like no other: the heatwave was unnaturally diverted from hitting the USA thanks to geo-engineering.

The president who gave the order is now running for an even greater office: dictator of the nation states, with a short-term mandate to make the hard decisions the nations can’t in order to prevent a climate apocalypse. His final opponent is the world’s first AI politician, Solomon, governor of New Carthage, a floating, domed city-state protecting the elite. Solomon’s creator may have the evidence Tully needs to make his case to the world, but in the middle of the most important election in history, someone will do anything to stop the truth from coming out.

Praise for Artificial Wisdom

Winner of the 2024 Independent Press Award, Best Techno-Thriller

“In this timely novel, Weaver seizes upon big-picture concerns of the real-world moment—including global warming, ethically bankrupt leadership, and the disintegration of trustworthy news sources—to create a vision of a future worth fearing. [Readers] inclined toward futuristic narratives about present-day issues will find this novel hard to put down.”   Kirkus Reviews

“A cracking read that’s full of twists, turns and thought-provoking ideas. It’s the best debut to cross my desk by a long way.” – Mark Leggatt, McIlvanney Prize-Longlisted Author of Penitent

Artificial Wisdom is a jaw-dropping debut that feels like a blaring wake-up call for the audience to appreciate the potential dire consequences of climate change and Artificial Intelligence. At first both subject matters seem to have their own gravitas but it’s the brilliance with which Thomas R. Weaver has connected the two trending topics to create a narrative that may seem to be some decades into the future but whose seeds are very well planted as you read this review.” – Best Thriller Books

“With a noir-ish style of writing – clipped, to the point, and immediately arresting — this takes a page-turning murder mystery into fresh territory, with a future-world fans of political sci-fi will be totally drawn into, and of-the-moment ethical issues everyone can relate to. Add to that a universal character journey of a man set on finding out why his wife died, and you have a sparky story that’ll satisfy a range of reading tastes.” – LoveReading

About Thomas R. Weaver

Thomas R. Weaver

Thomas R. Weaver writes stories about tomorrow to help make sense of today.

Aside from writing, Thomas is a UK-based tech entrepreneur. His last startup was acquired by Just Eat Takeaway; his new one is still in stealth but backed by a major Silicon Valley tech accelerator. 

After successfully launching a tech startup in the restaurant hospitality space which transformed payment and ordering experiences he realized he had no more excuses not to do what he always wanted to do: write fiction. Despite swearing to friends and family (none of whom apparently believed him) that he’d never run another startup again, he recently started another one focussed on bringing some of the ideas in Artificial Wisdom, his debut novel, to life, specifically around communicating in augmented reality. 

In Thomas’s spare time, he is an avid cook, and loves drawing, painting, and chess. He usually writes immediately after a workout and spa session down his local gym. Thomas collects more books than he has time to read, especially if they have beautiful covers, like Folio editions. He’s a sucker for great covers.

Episode 122: Brad R. Torgersen

An hour-plus chat with Brad R. Torgersen, Dragon Award-winnning (and Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell-nominated) science fiction and fantasy author.




Brad R. Torgersen’s Amazon Page

The Introduction

Brad R. Torgersen is a multi-award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer whose book A Star-Wheeled Sky won the 2019 Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel at the 33rd annual DragonCon fan convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

A prolific short fiction author, Torgersen has published stories in numerous anthologies and magazines, including several Best of Year editions. Brad is named in Analog magazine’s who’s who of top Analog authors, alongside venerable writers like Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Orson Scott Card, and Robert A. Heinlein.

Married for almost thirty years, Brad is also a United States Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer—with multiple deployments to his credit—and currently lives with his wife in the Mountain West.