Thursday, September 12, 2019

Revisiting Vatta's War - and a nice new surprise


I've been re-reading SF books I've enjoyed in the past. It's a comfort zone thing. I know I'll enjoy the journey but it won't be quite the same and I also know I'll pick up things I never noticed before. It's like driving the same road through scenic country. You know where you're going but the time of year, the weather, and just time itself will change the subtleties of what you see.

I've always enjoyed Elizabeth Moon's science fiction. She includes detail which I'm sure some people find tiresome, but I like the sense of immersion in her worlds. And although there's no way you could classify her books as science fiction romance, romance is still an important component.

My latest re-read was her Vatta's War series. That link provides a summary of each of the books, in order. The five books start with a very young officer cadet, kicked out of the space force academy with only three months to go on her four-year course. Kylara Vatta is the daughter of a space-trading dynasty and her parents send her off as captain of an old freighter destined for scrap at a distant system. On Glennys Jones's last voyage Ky decides there's no need to scrap the ship. She should be able to find a cargo and turn a profit. But while she's doing that, the Vatta family is decimated, her father and her uncle who were the CFO and CEO of the company, and their families are killed in targeted attacks. What's more, somebody is attacking the ansible service which allows communication between planets in real-time. That technology is owned by the giant InterStellar Communications (ISC) company which controls its monopoly with ruthless efficiency.

Over the five books the odds escalate as Ky uses her military training and an innate strategic and tactical ability to build a force capable of fighting back against pirate forces intent on controlling the known galaxy. As part of that journey Ky meets Rafael Dunbarger, a conman and crook who she distrusts, but finds useful because of his knowledge of ISC technology. Turns out he's the ne'er do well son of the chairman of ISC. In the chaos created by the pirate raids on space stations and shipping, exacerbated by the destruction of the ansibles, Ky builds a fleet and defeats larger and larger enemies, becoming, by default, admiral.

I imagine I'm not the only one who found this a bit unlikely – but then again, Napoleon Bonaparte was a general at age twenty-four. During the French Revolution thousands of people died at the guillotine, many of them aristocrats who would have been the officers in the army and navy. Seeing the disarray, European armies lost no time in attacking France. When a young leader stood up and took charge, people were prepared to follow. And pretty soon, Napoleon had conquered most of Europe.

Centuries later, it's much the same for Ky Vatta. Except she doesn't crown herself emperor.

The Vatta series is a sprawling, complex story spanning star systems but it also encompasses a number of much more intimate stories, several springing from the Vatta trading empire. There's Toby, a teenage relative who was the sole survivor of a Vatta ship blown up at dock. There's Stella, Ky's beautiful cousin who was long scorned as 'that idiot Stella', and there's Osman, the black sheep Vatta who turned pirate. And there's Rafe, heir to a galactic monolith of a company, who has his own important arc. It might be valid to compare the storyline to War and Peace with technology.

From early in the story, Ky and Rafe's tentative relationship changes, never overt but always there, a complicating thread that's woven into the fabric of larger events. There's even a Happy Ever After. For those who like lots of sex in their reading, don't bother. It's one of those stories where any physical encounters are left to the reader's imagination.

Not only was the book a welcome reprise – I discovered that Moon wrote a sequel.

Vatta's Peace book one Cold Welcome and book two Into the Fire follow on from the end of the Vatta's War series. Admiral Kylara Vatta returns home to what should have been a hero's welcome – and finds herself thrust into the planetary politics that resulted in the attack on her family all those years ago. These two stories are different in that the events take place on Ky's home planet, Slotter Key, so it's a very different framework to the space battles of Vatta's War, but it's still meaty, convincing stuff. It was a very satisfying way to spend a couple of days immersed in Moon's words.

However. (There has to be one) The ebooks are not cheap. You could probably pick up the paperbacks for a lot less at a second-hand book store – or even from Amazon. Although I actually had the paperbacks, these days I find it much easier to read on a screen because I can adjust the size of the print, so I ponied up for a new set. I'm surprised (or maybe I'm not) at how much the big publishers can charge for an ebook. They're more expensive that the paperbacks. Here's the Amazon link. Makes US$4.99 for my longer books sound cheap. Oh well. That's big business I guess.

Attribution for the cover art:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trading_In_Danger_(front_cover).jpg


Monday, September 9, 2019

A 9/11 Remembrance


In two days, we mark a very somber anniversary for our country. On that day, eighteen years ago, we weathered the unprovoked attacks via hijacked passenger jets on September 11, 2001, flights that ended by slamming into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and the famous Hero Flight that ended in a field in Pennsylvania.

Thousands died that day. Many times that number had their lives forever affected either by the loss of loved ones, friends, or by being exposed to the toxins that were unleashed in the aftermath when they rallied to help.

For those of us who lived through it, it will always be one of those moments where we remember where we were, what we were doing, and how we were feeling in those unsettling, uncertain hours.

Wednesday marks 18 years since the tragedy. In that span of time, we've seen many changes. In the aftermath, patriotism in our nation rose to great heights and brought the people of our country together, helping us all to realize what a truly great nation this is and how privileged we are to live here. The destroyed structures have since been torn down or rebuilt, or new structures built on their foundations. Memorials have been raised to honor the dead.

But time has passed. A lot of time. An entire generation. Children who were born just after the tragedy will be graduating high school in the coming year. We'll soon turn the calendar on the second new decade in the aftermath of 9/11. 

May this be a time to reflect on how greatly this nation has been blessed and to offer prayers of hope for her future...

...and that government of the people, 
by the people, 
 for the people, 
shall not perish from the earth.

-Abraham Lincoln






Friday, September 6, 2019

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: PUZZLING BUT WORTH IT


I had a genuine fangirl squeee! moment at the end of the long weekend of the Shore Leave Science Fiction convention in Towson, Maryland this summer. It’s taken me a while to tell you about it, dear readers, because I’m not usually a squee-ing fangirl, but also because I needed to have a bit more context for what was mostly a personal experience at the time. We’ll get to the context in a minute.

You see, I got to meet both Anson Mount, the actor who plays Captain Christopher Pike, and Ethan Peck, who plays in Spock, in STAR TREK: DISCOVERY on CBS All Access. I actually had an extended discussion with Ethan about his grandfather, actor Gregory Peck, his family history and a variety of other topics over the course of about two hours. He was charming and approachable, and, I have to say, our talk was the best ending to a con weekend ever!
Ethan Peck as Spock
Up to the moment I met these two very lovely actors, I’d been equivocating about shelling out the money to add yet another streaming service to my monthly TV bill just to see the latest iteration of TREK. But, of course, once I’d met them, I had to see them in action, so I ponied up. (One word of caution if you’re thinking of doing the same thing: if you already have Amazon Prime Video, use that service to sign up for CBS All Access. The CBS streaming service is extremely wonky, where Prime Video is smooth and without kinks, even streaming the CBS content. Don’t ask me why this is so; I’m not an engineer.)

Now we get to the heart of this post. After streaming all the episodes of both seasons of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, I’m really not sure what to make of it. And, what’s more, I have no idea where they can go from here, here being the last episode, which [SPOILER ALERT] leaves the good ship Discovery 930 years in the future from its original stardate, which was decades before the Five-Year Mission of The Original Series. Oh, and through a wormhole into another, uh, dimension? Place? God knows.

As Jim Kirk was wont to say, time travel gives me a headache.

Before we get to the problems with the series, let me say that there is a lot to like about it. The lead characters are intriguing, particularly the heroine, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). (Yes, her name is Michael. Why? I don’t know.) There is an endearing/annoying intern-soon-to-be ensign, Sylvia Tilley (Mary Wiseman), who comes perilously close to embodying the dreaded Mary Sue of fan fic days. She grows on you, though.

I also love a villain-turned-heroine Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) from the Mirror Universe of TOS fame. Sarek and Amanda, Spock’s parents from TOS universe play prominent roles. And, once we get to the second season, Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and Spock (Ethan Peck) make their appearances.

There was a time in the TREK world when “pandering” to the fans was disdained. Brannon Braga, producer of STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION, in fact, bragged that he had never watched even one episode of TOS. Not so with Alex Kurtzman, Bryan Fuller, and Michelle Paradise (joining the showrunners this season), who make a conscious effort to harken back to the series’ origins. There are brilliant echoes of TOS episodes in ST:D’s second season, particularly surrounding the tragic and self-sacrificing Captain Pike. In Anson Mount’s hands, Pike becomes a fully-formed character, one that is only hinted at in TOS’s The Cage/The Menagerie.

Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike
You could even say some of this mining of the gold of TOS hints at *gasp* fan fiction! After all, that is what we fan fic writers used to do when we took a thread of an episode, pulled at it and used it to weave a whole new tale. But, guess what? Fans LOVE those new tapestries woven from the old threads. I’m glad someone finally figured that out.
 
You know what else fans love? Romance, that’s what! There’s plenty of that here, too, though the happy ever after part is still a bit beyond the ken of mostly male television writers. Keep working at it, fellas, you’ll get there.


Diversity is one thing ST:D has gotten right 100 per cent. With a woman of color in the lead, a gay couple with a prominent storyline and lots of aliens scattered on the bridge, the ship actually looks like the future, as it should.

Still, the plot lines leave something to be desired. That is the problem with a prequel set before the Five-Year Mission of TOS. U.S.S. Discovery has a new kind of jump drive that we’ve never seen before. (I won’t explain—you wouldn’t believe me anyway!) And cloaking technology, too. That violates several instances of “canon,” the set of guidelines derived from TOS and the original movies that creates the boundaries of the TREK universe. (For the uninitiated, Kirk’s Enterprise uses warp drive, and Kirk himself had to steal the cloaking tech from the Klingon’s in an episode of TOS.) And I won’t reveal the biggest WTF of all, to be found in the backstory of the series’ heroine Michael Burnham.

On Discovery, with Commander Michael Burnham, right
All these questions have to be resolved somehow for the series to be a proper prequel to TOS. I don’t fully buy the resolution we’re given in the final episode of Season Two. Then, too, we’re to believe Discovery is just out there somewhere doing its thing 930 years on in Season Three. Hmm. That may be a leap of faith much greater than any jump drive can take me. But for now I'm willing to go along for the ride.

OUT FOR A WEEK, THEN BACK FOR MORE TV REVIEWS

I'll be on vacation at the beach next week, provided Hurricane Dorian has left anything of one particular South Carolina beach for me to enjoy. Edisto Island was right in the hurricane's path, like a lot of the southeast coast, so we have to wait and see if we have a vacation spot to go to. In the meantime, I have a couple of recommendations to make for new SF and fantasy shows to watch from the safety of your own home. Watch for that in two weeks!
   
Cheers, Donna






Thursday, September 5, 2019

I might even get excited

Disney has finally released a full-on trailer for December's The Rise of Sywalker. You'll know I've become a Star Wars cycnic, clutching my beads and murmuring 'please don't suck' under my breath. Well, I've put my beads down.


There's a lot to like about this trailer. For a start it offers a visual summary of the first six movies before we get to the story itself. That was great, reliving a history spanning decades - for those old enough to have seen the original Star Wars in which Han shot first, right through to newly converted devotees who have only seen the digitally enhanced versions.

There's more than a hint that Palpatine will play some sort of role (after all, his image is on the poster). Also, in the earlier 'hey we're here' trailer we were given a glimpse of what seemed to be a crashed Death Star on a desert planet.

And there are many, many questions, like where did all those ships come from? On both sides. Last I looked, the Rebels were on the bones of their bums, escaping with a handful of ships. And the First Order had a pretty good fleet, but hardly the array of star destroyers lined up for what would have to be one epic battle.

I love Imperial star destroyers. They're my favourite ships ever, so that scene alone might even get me into gold class to watch on the big screen. And from here, the next big question will be, where to for Star Wars when the Skwalker era comes to a close?

Monday, September 2, 2019

A Virtual Tour of Hero Dogs...and My New Pup! #PetsInSpace

For this Labor Day weekend, I'm very excited to share the news that Pets in Space® 4 is off to a fantastic start!

The 2019 edition was announced as available for preorder on August 20th, and it immediately hit the Amazon Hot New Releases in Science Fiction Romance list and climbed as high as #2 in both the new releases and the anthology categories on Amazon.

Wow! Now that's a proper launch!

Pets in Space® 4 will release on October 8, 2019 so it's getting closer every day!

This week, I wanted to share a little more about the non-profit that Pets in Space® 4 (as well as all previous releases) is supporting. It's called Hero Dogs, and this wonderful organization raises, trains and provides service animals free of charge to our veterans and first-responders. Ten percent of all pre-orders and first month's profits of the sales of Pets in Space® 4 will go to support Hero Dogs!

I want to tell you more about this fantastic organization, so let me give you a virtual tour of the Hero-Dogs site before I fill you in on some fun news, so you can see the great work this organization is doing.

Here's a short video to fill you in on their outstanding work.



Now, let's go to the Hero Dogs site and start at one of my favorite spots....meet the puppiiiies!

Adorable, yes? You probably noticed most of the pups are Labrador Retrievers, with the occasional Golden Retriever, German Shepherd or other breed included in the mix.

What's involved in the Puppy Program to start the process of turning these youngsters into Hero-Dogs? Here's a brief but informative overview: Puppy Program

When I wrote for the first and second anthologies, I chose one particular pup to support individually-- and separately from the joint donation from the Pets in Space® anthologies.

That pup's name was Mitch. I chose him because that's the  name of my hero in upcoming novel, The Outer Planets. Over the course of that year-and-a-half in 2016 and 2017, I got to know Mitch by following his regular reports on the site and his progress updates. Not all candidate dogs succeed--it takes a very special animal to become a Hero Dogs service animal graduate.

I was so proud when Mitch did indeed successfully graduate the program and was paired with a Coast Guard veteran. I can't tell you what a special moment that was. I was even invited to the graduation ceremony by Hero Dogs, but wasn't able to make the trip to Maryland to be in attendance. I was there in spirit though.

Would you like to meet Mitch? Here's his Hero Dog Graduate page.

As I mentioned above, Hero Dogs provides service dogs free of charge to veterans and first responders, and it's an expensive undertaking to train a service dog.

In fact, it costs approximately $40,000 to raise, train, graduate and place a service dog!

That's why donations are so important to this organization. If you'd like to learn more about how you can help, read about scholarship and sponsorship programs here or simply press the "Click to Donate" button beneath the photo of any puppy or dog shown here to send a little something to Hero Dogs to help fund the training for these exceptional dogs.

Now, my announcement!

Beginning in 2019, I've picked a new puppy to support via separate donations. My pup this time is a female!  You can see the puppy I chose to support by clicking here.  

Yes, my puppy's name is Derby! (If you follow this blog or our Thoroughbred Facebook page, you probably know why that particular name jumped out at me.) Derby was born October 2, 2018 and she's a yellow Labrador Retriever, like Mitch, and also like our own ranch dog, Kiva.

Would you like to follow Derby on Instagram? You can do that. :)

Think you know someone who might want to look into applying with Hero Dogs to become a service dog recipient? They can look here for eligibility information and how to get started.

Here are Two Easy, Free Ways You Can Help Right Now!

If you'd like to help with my donations right now SIMPLY LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG and I'll donate something to Derby's training for every comment I receive on this post.

Or before you buy a book or any product on Amazon, go to Derby's page and click the Amazon.smile box on the right side, and add or change your charity to Hero Dogs, and Amazon will contribute for you!

Thanks for much for taking the time to learn more about Hero Dogs! Hope you enjoyed your tour.

Have a great week!




About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.