Sofia Samatar  - published April 2019

trade cloth · 288 pages · $24 · 9781618731265 | ebook · 9781618731272
April 2019: trade paper ·$17 ·  9781618731654
Desk / Exam copies

World Fantasy Award finalist
British Fantasy Award finalist
Locus Award finalist
“Fallow” shortlisted for the Nommo Award

NPR Best of 2017
“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.”

Divided into “Tender Bodies” and “Tender Landscapes,” these twenty stories travel from the commonplace to the edges of reality.

The first collection of short fiction from a rising star whose stories have been anthologized many times including in the first two volumes of the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series and nominated for many awards. Some of Samatar’s weird and compassionate fabulations spring from her life and literary studies; some spring from the world, some from the void. Tender explores the fragility of bodies, emotions, and landscapes, in settings that range from medieval Egypt to colonial Kenya to the stars, and the voices of those who question: children, students, servants, researchers, writers.

Tender includes two new stories, “An Account of the Land of Witches” and an expansive novella, “Fallow.”


Interview and Podcast: Sofia Samatar’s Arabian Fantasies Get Dosed in Reality

Sofia Samatar, Five Elegant and Moody Fantasies

An excerpt from Fallow introduced by Chris Abani.

Just up on Lithub, a phenomenal heartbreaking story from Sofia Samatar, Meet Me in Iram — first published as a chapbook by Guillotine and selected for Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Read a new story from Tender on The Offing: An Account of the Land of Witches


Carmen Maria Machado, The Week: “6 Favorite Story Collections”
“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.”

Maria Dahvana Headley, Electric Lit
“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.”

Jenn Northington, Bookriot
“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.”

Rachel León, Chicago Review of Books
“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.”

Pain Is the Heaviest Thing: The Many Meanings of Tender by Sofia Samatar Reviewed by Sara Rauch
“On top of all that Tender has going for it, the poetry of Samatar’s language fairly sings off the page. Tender begs to be read out loud . . . ”

Ilana Teitelbaum, Los Angeles 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.”

Jason Heller, NPR:
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.”

Brit Mandelo, Tor.com:
“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.”

Gary K. Wolfe, Locus:
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.”

7 Standout SFF Short Story Collections to Start Your Summer
“Sofia Samatar has made a name for herself as a fabulist with two critically acclaimed novels and numerous short works. Tender collects many of her shorter endeavors, from a field guide to ogres in Africa, to a story of young women experiencing an unusual event at summer camp, to one of a sapient brass automata’s father-daughter relationship with her creator. While, like all good fabulists, Samatar’s lyricism and atmosphere are pitch perfect, it is her unique grasp of character voices that puts Tender in the top tier.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review):
“These stories are windows into an impressively deep imagination guided by sensitivity, joyful intellect, and a graceful mastery of language.”

adrienne maree brown, co-editor of Octavia’s Brood:
“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.”

Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls:
“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.”

Ben Loory, Tales of Flying and Falling
“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.”

David Connerley Nahm author of Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky:
The stories in Sofia Samatar’s Tender are perfect and profound works of art written with the impossible ease of someone who has unlimited access to the secret knowledge of the exact right order in which words are supposed to go. The stories ring in sympathy with the reader like the favorite stories of childhood or youth or old age: Familiar and strange in the same proportion. These stories give you several new lives to live and with each reading–because you will read all of them several times–you discover new tales and new possibilities hidden within and you are filled endlessly with the pure pleasure of great literature.”

Publishers Weekly:
“The first collection from one of fantasy’s rising stars, showcasing her rich, lyrical language and intricate storytelling in 20 short works.”

Table of Contents

Tender Bodies
Selkie Stories Are for Losers
Ogres of East Africa
The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle
Olimpia’s Ghost
Honey Bear
How I Met the Ghoul
A Girl Who Comes Out of a Chamber at Regular Intervals
How to Get Back to the Forest

Tender Landscapes
A Brief History of Nonduality Studies
Dawn and the Maiden
Cities of Emerald, Deserts of Gold
An Account of the Land of Witches
Request for an Extension on the Clarity
Meet Me in Iram
The Closest Thing to Animals
Fallow [excerpt]
The Red Thread

Praise for Sofia Samatar’s Books

“The excerpt from Sofia Samatar’s compelling novel A Stranger in Olondria should be enough to make you run out and buy the book. Just don’t overlook her short “Selkie Stories Are for Losers,” the best story about loss and love and selkies I’ve read in years.” —K. Tempest Bradford, NPR

“An imaginative, poetic, and dark meditation on how history gets made.” —Hello Beautiful

“Pleasantly startling and unexpected. Her prose is by turns sharp and sumptuous, and always perfectly controlled. . . . There are strains here too of Jane Austen and something wilder.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Samatar’s use of poetic yet unpretentious language makes her one of the best writers of today.” —Romantic Times Book Reviews (4.5/5 stars, Top Pick)

“If you love stories but distrust them, if you love language and can also see how it is used as a tool or a weapon in the maintenance of status quo, then read The Winged Histories.
— Marion Deeds, Fantasy Literature

“Like an alchemist, Sofia Samatar spins golden landscapes and dazzling sentences.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Beauty, wonder, and a soaring paean to the power of story.”—Jason Heller, NPR

“Highly recommended.” —N. K. Jemisin, New York Times Book Review


February 8 – 11, AWP Conference, Washington, DC
February 9, 10:30 a.m., Book signing, Small Beer Press table, Bookfair
February 11, 4:30 – 5:45 p.m., Panel: “The Short Story as Laboratory,” Marquis Salon 9 & 10, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two
March 24, 6:00 — 7:30 p.m., Virginia Festival of the Book, Panel: “Building (and Breaking) Worlds in Contemporary Science Fiction & Fantasy,” Central JMRL Library, Charlottesville, VA
May 18 – 21, Festival les Imaginales, Épinal, France

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 is the recipient of the William L. Crawford Award, the Astounding Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. She teaches Arabic literature, African literature, and speculative fiction at James Madison University.