Gliese 581g is its official designation. But “Goldilocks” would be a better name for the planet that co-discoverers R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Steven Vogt of the University of Santa Cruz have found a mere 120 trillion miles from here. (Or as Vogt puts it, “like right in our face, right next door to us.”)
Goldi is the kind of planet that we have defined as “just right” for life—not too hot, not too cold, not too big or too small. Like Earth, the planet is just near enough to its star to allow for the proper elements to combine—sufficient gravity, retained atmosphere, and most importantly, liquid water. And because wherever we have found water on our own planet we have found life in some form, Vogt believes “that chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.”
Not that the scientists have proved it—yet. No one has been to Gliese 581g, or sent a probe to circle its sun or beamed a message in Goldi’s direction, though it might not be a bad idea to turn a big radio telescope to that sector of space for a while. But it’s worth noting—again—that only a few years ago most of the scientific establishment believed that the circumstances leading to the creation of life on Earth were so unusual as to be considered unique in the galaxy. To find another “ideal” location for life so close to us blows that theory all to hell. Maybe possible Earth-like planets aren’t a dime a dozen, but they aren’t rare either. So if you ask me, the chances are pretty good we aren’t alone here on Sol III. (I prefer that to Sol d, which seems too, well, judgmental, somehow.) (Quotes from an article by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer)
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Over on THE GALAXY EXPRESS Heather Massey and her readers were wondering recently if some unwritten rule forbade romance heroines from killing the villains that wronged them. The lively discussion (which you can catch by clicking here: “Are Romance Heroines Forbidden to Kill the Villain?”) came to no particular conclusion, except that we all heartily approve of heroines who refuse to wait around for the hero to save them. In general, too, commenters agreed that romance and SFR heroines have come a long way in recent years, progressing from merely spunky to unapologeticly kick-ass.
The heroines of most paranormal and science fiction romances and romantic suspense novels have very little trouble defending themselves, even to the extreme of killing the bad guy/ghoul/cyborg if necessary. Modern readers of all ages expect a woman to be able to take care of herself. Paranormal fans expect her to bear a talent of some sort. SFR fans expect her to wield a laser pistol and/or to have had military or specialized training of some description. Romantic suspense fans expect her to handle a gun or know martial arts or something. Victims or clinging vines just aren’t attractive. Even in historical novels, where the heroine’s role is restricted by the time in which she lived, a wimpy heroine is not appreciated. Many’s the time a hatpin was used to dispatch the nasty cad in the Gothic novels of yore.
That said, there has to be some use for the hero besides for a hatrack (or for amusement in the bedroom). If the heroine doesn’t need him at all, he’s a throwaway as a character. And if she’s tougher than he is, the reader is going to wonder why she chose him, unless the book in question is erotica and she’s a dominatrix. The best romances require the h/h to form a partnership of equals with regard to most things, including their relationship to the villain. Some books have two villains in order to do this (a variant of Throw Momma from the Train); some books construct individual (mutually beneficial) reasons for the heroine and the hero to each want to do in the same villain. In the end, it hardly matters who kills the beast.
The best resolution to this problem may have been Susan Grant’s in her most recent SFR novel Sureblood. SPOILER ALERT!! Her pirate lovers fire their weapons simultaneously to end the life of their nemesis, who shall remain nameless here. (Hey, I’m not that much of a spoiler!) The bad guy gets it in the chest and the head! Now Susan’s hero and heroine had what I call an equal partnership!
(BTW, that scene was only one of many, many reasons I loved Sureblood, a novel I consider to be Susan’s best work to date. She jumped into the space pirate culture with both boots in this one and got it as right as the sudden, disorienting loss of AG in the dark. Her pirates are constantly scurrying for the scraps off the tables of those with a legitimate toehold in the galactic economy. They’re desperate and they only dimly realize it. Susan captures that very well. Most authors don’t bother to make the point.)
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One of the many pleasures of the RWA National Conference is the amazing pile of books people insist on giving you for absolutely NOTHING!! Of course, there’s a method to this madness. They know we’re weak, unable to resist anything placed in our hands that consists of words written on paper—menus, matchbooks, cereal boxes, bookmarks, pamphlets, or, well, yes, books!
So, a lot of books will be read that might have gone unread at the bookstore or Walmart, and, who knows, a star might be born. Or at least a writer might gain a new fan or two, an author might catch the interest of a bookseller or an editor or a book might snag the eye of an influential reviewer or blogger. It could happen, right?
I use the freebies to check out subgenres that I don’t usually go for or famous authors that I haven’t caught up to yet. Last year I became enamored of both Eloisa James and her historical romances as a result of her speech at RWA and her free books. This year I tried out a contemporary cowboy romance (don’t think I’ll be running out to buy more of those) and agreed I could see how Nora Roberts gained her huge following (though her stuff is not exactly my cup of tea).
So far the winner from my box of freebies has been a paranormal romantic suspense novel, Eternal Hunter, by Cynthia Eden. Shapeshifters in Baton Rouge are a long way from spaceships in Beta Origae, I know, but the way Cynthia constructs a story is stellar. Her suspense is classic in structure, the dialogue and characters could have been lifted from any Southern-style police thriller (that’s a good thing here) and the paranormal angle only adds to the chill. Like any good paranormal, the romance is hot. So I’m enjoying this one.
But perhaps the best acquisition from RWA wasn’t a freebie at all, but a purchase at the Literacy Signing event. For those of you who have never been to this all-star charity extravaganza, try to imagine a room the size of a football field (or the shuttle deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise, if you prefer), filled with row after row of tables at which are seated, cheek by jowl, all your favorite romance writers. Some are proudly signing their first books, some are sturdy mid-listers, signing for the fifth or tenth time. Some are names everyone knows—Linda Howard, Angela Knight, J. R. Ward. Some, like at this year’s event, are superstars like Nora Roberts and Sherrilyn Kenyon.All these authors are there to meet and greet their fans, sign their books and sell them for charities dedicated to literacy.
I picked up several books by favorite authors and chatted with a few others. (Another hint: volunteer to work this event. You get in ahead of time and can get a few precious minutes of fangirl time with your idols.) One of the books I bought was Starjacked, by fellow SFR Brigader Karin Shah. Published as a trade paperback by Samhain Publishing, Karin’s novel represents one of the new avenues for SFR opening up with smaller houses, digital publishers and digital-to-print houses, many of whom are actively acquiring science fiction, fantasy and SFR.
Karin’s was a great story, a rousing, romantic space pirate tale with just the right balance of all the elements in place. I won’ t spoil it by telling you if heroine Tia Sen kills her own villain or lets her hero do it for her, but I will tell you she was fully capable of doing it herself. As any space pirate worth her dutanium--and the love of her hero--would be.