Dear Readers:

We appreciate the fact the current political environment is highly charged, but we want to keep Spacefreighters Lounge a stress-free place for everyone to visit and exchange ideas about SFR.

Therefore, we ask that you please refrain from making political references that may antagonize those with differing viewpoints. Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, December 27, 2010

SFR Holiday Blitz Winner (and Others)!

The time has arrived to announce our winners.  Hats off and special thanks to Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express for organizing another wonderful event for the second year in a row!

SFR Holiday Blitz

We used Randomizer to select the 2010 SFR Holiday Blitz winner of the three SFR books: BLAZE OF GLORY ebook by Sheryl Nantus, GAMBIT ebook by Kim Knox, and the LOVE AND ROCKETS, print SFR anthology, signed by donating author Anita Ensal (a.k.a. Gini Koch).

And the winner is:  Anonymous (Liz Semkiu)

Congratulations, Liz! 

But wait, there's more! Spacefreighters Lounge announced a few other bonus prizes on the blog during the Blitz.

Bonus #1

We had two responders to our bonus prompt in the SFR Holiday Blitz comments: Any Firefly fans out there?

The winner of a Firefly Serenity t-shirt is AnnaM!


Bonus #2

We had five responders to the I'M THE BUCKETEER article with a chance to win the Defying Gravity TV series DVDs.

The winner of the DVD set is Elise!



Bonus #3

We had three comments on Donna S. Frelick's THE (WORST) AND BEST OF 2010. A commenter was selected for a free book, and will be offered a choice between Susan Grant's SUREBLOOD or Linnea Sinclair's REBELS AND LOVERS.

The winner is Bratty! 


Congratulations all, and thanks to everyone who commented and made the 2010 SFR Holiday Blitz another great success!

Happy Holidays and the best of New Years to everyone from Spacefreighters Lounge.

~*~

Friday, December 24, 2010

I'm the Bucketeer!

Have I mentioned what a huge fan of Defying Gravity I am?

If you've missed my frequent lamenting and bemoaning the demise of this great SFR TV series, lucky you (yes, I said SFR--it definitely had a compelling, if unusual, romance involved). Suffice it to say it was another network fumble of the first order (curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal, ABC!) much like another SF series that millions still mourn--Firefly.

But Defying Gravity still has a loyal and dedicated fan base who intermittently comb the internet for anything DG-related. Yup, I'm one of those. And no longer just a mere fan now, mind you. I'm the Bucketeer.

What the heck is a Bucketeer? Oh, I'm so glad you asked. :)

The main characters of this series are two astronauts--Zoe Barnes (Laura Harris) and Maddux Donner (Ron Livingston). They meet during training. He's already an astronaut, one of the survivors of an earlier mission to Mars who had to make a tragic decision to leave two comrades behind (of course, there's more to that story). And she's a geologist, a young hopeful among hundreds with her whole future riding on being one of those selected for the Antares expedition, "a grand tour of the solar system." There's instant attraction between them. And when Zoe vehemently, and a little too loudly, denies her attraction to Donner to a peer during the first day of training, she's selected to be the first "volunteer" on the centrifuge.

The result isn't pretty.

And Zoe's reward for her humiliating reaction to the headspinning, multiple G experience? A little bucket on a chain. Given to her by Donner. Who explains that it's a status symbol to be worn by the first lucky trainee to upchuck in the line of duty. But, alas, after all her training, Zoe doesn't make the cut for the mission.

Fast forward five years. The newly selected crew of the Antares--including Zoe, who was selected for the crew after all (more to that story, too)--are celebrating at their favorite watering hole in Houston, Major Tom's. Donner--who was not selected--comes to congratulate the crew. From across the room, Zoe waves and holds up the Bucket, which she still wears on the chain around her neck.

For Zoe, the Bucket has evolved into a symbol of overcoming improbable odds, facing personal demons and a talisman of the close friendship that formed between herself and Donner during training (yup, there's a WHOLE LOT more to that story).

Zoe is the Keeper of the Bucket.

Fast forward one year. The show has now been cancelled, the actors released, and the set dismantled. There will be no season two, no follow up movie, no continuing saga of this amazing series. *sob*

And the Bucket has now been passed on to a new keeper. Yours truly!

YES! I won the actual Bucket in a (frantic) auction on eBay in mid-November, after losing out on Zoe's flight suit, Donner's flight suit, and various props and set peices that I would have loved to have snagged for my personal collection.

But it's okay, because I am now the new Keeper of the Bucket and all that it stands for. I am the Bucketeer. And owning this little piece of SFR and television history has made me one very happy space cadet.

Laurie Green, Bucketeer. Has kind of a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Well, if you've read this far, I have a surprise for you. Enter a comment below and you'll be entered in a random drawing for a DVD set of the complete first (and only) season of Defying Gravity. Why? Well, because I'm looking to convert more lamentees to the Defying Gravity bandwag--er...booster rocket...and gifting this excellent series to interested parties is a great way to do that. But also because it's the holidays and this is a Spacefreighters Lounge thank you to our readers. (I'm sorry to say I can't ship internationally, but I will substitute a $20 Amazon gift certificate if the random winner lives overseas.)

Happy Holidays. And may the Bucket be with you!

~*~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

DOWN TO EARTH

In the midst of darkness there is light. Under the cold weight of sin, the warm promise of redemption. On the shore of despair, the rising tide of hope.

Long before a certain Nazarene prophet was born in a stable in Bethlehem, our ancestors watched the Northern hemisphere skies and waited in the depth of mid-winter for the passing of the longest night of the year. They marked the time of the winter solstice as a time of celebration, recognizing that though the long months of cold still lay ahead, the sun progressed steadily higher in the sky, bringing warmth and new life in the spring.

The story of the birth of Christ incorporates these ancient ideas of light from dark, renewal from death. And just as the early church appropriated the old pagan rituals around the winter solstice to bolster belief in its fledgling religion, science fiction writers have borrowed the greatest story ever told as the basis for their own views of the universe.

The idea of the alien-outsider-as-Christ is probably as old as science fiction as a genre, but if most SF readers were asked to name one novel with that theme, the first book to come to mind would be Robert Heinlein’s classic Stranger in a Strange Land. Written in 1961, the novel truly came into its own in the late 1960’s, when its ideas of freely shared sexual love, communal living and disregard for authority fit seamlessly with the counterculture of the time. (The women reading it had to look beyond its blatant and horribly outdated misogyny. It took Heinlein at least another ten years to grow out of his male superiority orientation, if he ever did.)

The true messages of the novel, however, can be found around its alien-as-Christ parallels. Its hero, Valentine Michael Smith, is the offspring of dead human colonists on Mars, raised by the very cerebral Martians. A second mission to Mars finds him and brings him home, where he is at first hidden away by the powers that be, then kidnapped by a sympathetic nurse. When Smith arrives at the home of eccentric Dr. Jubal Harshaw (a stand-in for Heinlein himself), he is little more than an innocent, capable of teleportation, telepathy and telekinesis, but unlearned in the ways of Man. Boy, does he learn fast! Soon he is “sharing water” and “growing closer” with all the females of the household and working his way through the encyclopedia just as methodically.

From the beginning, Smith brings with him a message of the immortality of the soul. On Mars, one chooses one’s time of dying, then sticks around to advise those who still retain a body. The “Old Ones” (those who are without bodies) are just as real and present as everyone else. It takes some time before Smith understands that on Earth, those who have “disincorporated” don’t hang around. Thus a belief in immortality is a matter of faith.

Once Smith has learned all he can in Harshaw’s liberal and protective household, he strikes out on his own (with Jill, the nurse who first rescued him) for a more thorough education in the wider world. He works for a while in a carnival, learning how to stroke the crowd. He meets the leader of the largest church in the world (and sends him on to Heaven). He gathers a core group of followers, inducting them in his own philosophy of sharing, loving one another, manipulating the economic system for the common good (the group needs money, after all), and the certainty of immortality.

Eventually, of course, he sees the necessity of forming a “church”, which he mostly uses to screen for candidates for his inner core group. The members of the core group must learn Martian and “share water” with all the other members. No one truly objects, though a few have initial doubts, Harshaw included. (He thinks he’s too old—vanity, vanity!)

Now we all know where this is leading. And sure enough, the church begins to attract attention. Rumors of obscene rituals. Where does all that money come from? And so on. Smith is arrested several times, but a man who can teleport is hard to hold. The massive, beautifully designed temple of the Church of All Worlds is burned to the ground, though no one is hurt. His core group is unworried, even as Harshaw tries to warn them.

Smith has a last talk with his mentor. He is concerned that people are not getting all of his message. Hidden within the apparent hedonism of his “religion” is a steel core of ultimate responsibility. If every sentient being is God (a key part of the philosophy), then there can be no passing the buck. Each person must take responsibility for their own actions, something few humans are prepared to do. How to demonstrate that point?

Harshaw answers, “If you’ve got the truth you can demonstrate it. Talking doesn’t prove it. Show people.”

And seals Smith’s fate. The “man from Mars” walks out to face an angry mob and is torn to pieces.

Harshaw, alone among all the members of Smith’s inner circle, is distraught, truly believing his friend and adopted son to be dead. Until Smith appears to him in “discorporate” form, triumphing over his grisly death at the hands of the fickle crowd.

Heinlein’s seminal novel is not the only example of the alien-as-Christ theme in SF. You don’t even have to read to find one. The 1951 SF film THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL presents some of the same ideas—the benevolent outsider bringing a message of peace, meeting a reaction of hostility and violence, the performance of miracles, his death and (apparent) resurrection. In the same vein, 1984’s STARMAN gives us the innocent alien who so respects life that he must resurrect a deer strapped to the hood of a hunter’s Jeep, an alien who humans later hound to his own death in the desert within sight of rescue.

The differences in these stories reflect not only the individual differences of writers and filmmakers, but the times in which they appeared. In 1951, a stern and authoritarian God still ruled, demanding retribution of a planet that dared to threaten the galaxy with violence. By 1984, the story was written on a very human scale, that of the starman himself and his human lover.

In 1961, the effect of ideas and actions in society was the focus, a POV that is certainly central to Stranger in a Strange Land. The last few pages of the novel make it clear that Harshaw and the others expect Smith’s martyrdom to have a deliberate effect on that society, the same effect Christ’s had 2000 years ago. Transformation.

Life from death. Light from dark. Hope from despair.

Happy Holidays,
Donna

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

THE (WORST) AND BEST OF 2010

Mother Nature didn’t make 2010 an easy year to love.

We started the year here on the East Coast buried under a couple of feet of snow, and we’re ending it in the deep freeze. In the intervening months, a devastating earthquake in Haiti, unprecedented floods in Nashville and torrential monsoons in Pakistan and Bangladesh took lives and wiped out livelihoods on an incomprehensible scale. There are few remaining skeptics at this year’s conference on global warming in Cancun (though agreement on what to do about it seems unlikelier than ever).

History may well record 2010 as the last year of the U.S. manned space program, as the shuttle program has ended and no new programs are in the works to put Americans in space. In my opinion there is no way to put a happy face on that bald fact.

Even Hollywood has offered science fiction romance fans precious little to cheer about in 2010, expecting us to be happy with the confusing INCEPTION, the disappointing HEREAFTER, the clichéd THE EVENT and the cancellation of CAPRICA. **sigh**

But all is not lost, SFR fans! For readers and writers of science fiction romance, 2010 was a stellar year, filled with exciting advances on a number of fronts. Not only were there more books published than ever in our little subgenre, but more readers and more ways to get our books to those readers.

The best trend of 2010 has been the growth of e-publishers and small presses friendly to SFR. Carina Press recently won the Science Fiction Romance Brigade member poll for most SFR-friendly e-publisher and has been actively seeking SF and SFR manuscripts of all types since it was established a little over a year ago.

But Carina is only the most visible among the new kids on the block that include Desert Breeze, Samhain, Liquid Silver and a host of others eagerly snapping up SFR stories for both digital and trade paperback distribution. Such publishers and editors like Carina’s Angela James are creating a new market for SFR beyond the traditional New York houses we’re all familiar with.

A big part of this new market is the interactive network that exists between readers and writers at all stages of their careers. The Science Fiction Romance Brigade, an organization and online community dedicated to advancing the interests of the subgenre, began 2010 as a gleam in the eye of founding member Laurie A. Green. Laurie, her unsuspecting co-bloggers, Sharon Lynn Fisher and myself, Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express, and authors DL Jackson, Arlene Webb and Barbara Elsborg formed a charter group for the new community and proudly launched the new SFR Brigade blog/website to coincide with the March, 2010, announcements of the Golden Heart nominees. Within weeks, the Brigade had nearly a hundred members. Membership stands at 140 members now, with a goal of 200 by the end of, ulp, next week!

Though the SFR Brigade has taken on a major life of its own—as it was intended to do—Laurie deserves HUGE kudos for this, one of the best highlights of 2010, for all of us who write and read SFR in any form.

Oh, yes, and did I mention something about the Golden Heart awards? Both the RITA’s and the Golden Hearts recognized SFR in 2010, with nominations in our subgenre. Two SFR Brigaders—Sharon Lynn Fisher and Kylie Griffin—were nominated for the Golden Heart. Kylie’s manuscript, Bloodborn: Book One in the Light Blade Series won the coveted award. Alexis Morgan’s SFR novel Darkness Unknown was a nominee for the RITA, although Kresley Cole walked away with the award for the latest in her demon-oriented series.

The best recovery of 2010 was the RWA conference itself, triumphing despite a last-minute scramble to re-organize at Disney World in Orlando after spring floods destroyed the original venue at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. The conference was impeccably organized, the workshops were helpful, the events were fun and those of us who were lucky enough to attend had a great time.

Last, but not least, it’s never a bad year when both Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant have great new novels out. If you haven’t read Linnea’s Rebels and Lovers or Susan’s Sureblood, you better make sure Santa has them on his list for you! Need more recommendations? Check out the SFR Brigade blog for the latest from our members. Santa could get really busy!

Merry Christmas and Happy 2011!
Donna

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Time for the SFR Holiday Blitz!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Welcome to the second annual SFR Holiday Blitz!

It's the season to celebrate, and we're hoping we brighten your holiday with three wonderul Science Fiction Romance novels that will be given away to one lucky winner.

The Blitz is better than ever for 2010!  This year 33 authors have teamed up with 15 bloggers offering chances to win over 50 science fiction romance books!

Entering is easy: Just leave a comment below. Then visit the other participating blogs for more chances to win.  All the participating sites are listed below for your convenience.

The deadline to enter is midnight at EST on Sunday, December 26.

Spacefreighters Lounge is very excited to offer these three outstanding SFR books!  Leave your comment below to be entered in the random drawing.  (IMPORTANT:  Be sure that either your user name is linked in a way we can contact you, or leave an email or site address where we can reach you.)

This giveaway is available to international participants! 


BLAZE OF GLORY by Sheryl Nantus (ebook)

Product description from Amazon:  "Jo Tanis is a superhero, fighting evil on the city streets, using her ability to feed off electromagnetic energy and fire off charges—and it’s all just a show. The Agency captures her and others like her when their powers begin to manifest, pitting them against each other in staged, gladiatorial fights. An explosive implant on the back of her neck assures she’ll keep right on smiling for the camera and beating up the bad guys. When Earth comes under attack, suddenly the show becomes deadly real. Unable to deal with a real alien, the “supers” are falling in droves. Millions of innocent civilians are going to die…unless Jo can cobble together a team from among the fake heroes and villains the Agency enslaved. Including Hunter, who not only promises to show her how to deactivate the implants, but seems to know more than he should about how the mysterious Agency operates." Click the title above for a link to  more information.

"...if you enjoy an exciting Mankind vs. Aliens action adventure with a budding romance and some quirky quasi-supers on the side you will love Blaze of Glory."  From Long and Short Reviews

GAMBIT by Kim Knox (ebook)
 
Product description from Amazon:  "Captain Chae Beyon is a hustler, a mercenary pilot, a wounded woman who prefers her men to be easily thrown aside. Daned Traern is a first-caste Ladaian bound by tradition and DNA to protect his race. He's willing to align himself with the hot space captain if she'll transport him home in time to ensure the right candidate is crowned—and thus prevent a bloody war.  Captain Chae Beyon is a hustler, a mercenary pilot, a wounded woman who prefers her men to be easily thrown aside. Daned Traern is a first-caste Ladaian bound by tradition and DNA to protect his race. He's willing to align himself with the hot space captain if she'll transport him home in time to ensure the right candidate is crowned—and thus prevent a bloody war. Disguised as Chae's sex toy, Daned is erotically bound to her through living gold, alien tech designed to increase pleasure. When he frees himself, their passion only increases...but succumbing to temptation will bind them together—permanently." Click the title above for a link to more information.

LOVE AND ROCKETS, SFR anthology, DAW Books, signed by donating author Anita Ensal (a.k.a. Gini Koch) Print, author will ship internationally.

Product description from Amazon:  "Space...the final frontier. Or is it? Many say there's no frontier more forbidding than a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. But what if one's a human, and the other's an alien? Here is an original collection of space opera stories where authors take love (unrequited or not), on a spaceship, space station, or planetary colony, and add enough drama, confusion and mayhem to ensure that the path to true love-or short-term infatuation-is seldom free of obstacles."  Click the title above for a link to more information.

That's our fantastic line-up of free books!  Comment now for your chance to win  them.

Be sure to visit all the SFR Holiday Blitz Participating Sites

The Galaxy Express

Spacefreighters Lounge  <<< You Are Here!  :)

SFR Brigade


GeekMom

Lisa Paitz Spindler

Alien Romances

Enduring Romance

Smart Girls Love Sci Fi & Paranormal Romance

SciFi Guy

Dirty Sexy Books

Love Romance Passion

Panic in the Lingerie!

Queen of the Frozen North

vvB32 Reads

Corrina Lawson

Flying Whale Productions

Thursday, December 9, 2010

LIFE UNLIMITED

Water on the moon. Bacteria that use arsenic instead of phosphorus as a building block in DNA. Billions and billions and, uh, billions more stars than we ever thought out there. And planets—dozens of them that we know about, meaning millions that must exist. Planets with atmosphere, with carbon, with the potential for liquid water, with the right size and gravity and distance from their suns.

The evidence is piling up in laboratories and observatories all over the world. We are not alone in this universe. Even if our neighbors are mere bacteria or slime molds that feed on methane, life of some kind must surely exist somewhere else in the galaxy. That life arose on this planet was not a fluke, an accident or a miracle. It was inevitable.

The space science establishment is gradually shifting under the weight of all the new evidence. Those who believe have now begun to vastly outnumber the few remaining skeptics. No one expects to encounter a fully formed civilization in a solar system 700 light years to the left of Andromeda. But an ice crystal bearing an amino acid on Io? Not the remote improbability it once was. The gang at SETI is no longer on the fringe of credibility, but at the center of it.

Which is not to say that the rest of the scientific world is willing to follow along without protest. The announcement that NASA scientists had discovered a bacteria in California’s Mono Lake that utilized arsenic in its DNA (prompting one online wag to comment, “It’s life, Jim. Just not as we know it.”) was met with open skepticism from non-NASA biologists. Many criticized NASA’s methods and the rush to a public proclamation of a “new form of life.” Maybe it was a case of seeing what they wanted to see. Or maybe it was a case of yet another lifeform adapting to environments that were once considered deadly—like the tubeworms around heat vents in the deep oceans, where the pressure and lack of light and oxygen simulate conditions on many “hostile” planets.

The American public is going about its business largely oblivious to the momentous changes in the way its scientists look at the universe. Aside from the occasional article or TV news item, stripped of any details and highlighted with only the most outrageous claims, the average citizen won’t have heard much about any of this and will have cared less. After all, there are the more immediate problems of surviving life here on Earth—job, health, family and all the rest.

A few people out there will look at these new developments and react with fear or at least apprehension. One commenter on the NASA website suggested the onslaught of news items supporting the idea of extraterrestrial life is part of a calculated plan, just a way of preparing us for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT of something the government already knows: aliens do exist and have been visiting us for some time. Sounds like the basis of a good plot to me (or did John Campbell already write that?).

Those of a conservative religious turn might have a few restless nights ahead rethinking humankind’s pre-eminence in God’s heavenly plan. Certainly the idea of Adam, Eve and creation in six actual days is out the window. I suspect, though, that believers who allow for an expanded view of God, for a truly infinite scope of power and grace and inclusion, will not be bothered.

Those of us who yearn to fly among the stars—at least by way of our characters and our plots—see any confirmation of our most closely held beliefs, no matter how small, as reason for celebration. For us, life throughout the universe, life in profusion and wonderful diversity, has always been a cornerstone in the foundation of our work. Without it, we’d have only technology, fascinating enough, but ultimately sterile in the absence of beings to manipulate and react to it.

As writers we have always believed that somewhere out there is a reality that matches our dreams. Now the evidence is beginning to support us. Not with flying saucers and little green men, perhaps. But young solar systems with exotic planets will do for now. We’ll supply the creatures that live there soon enough.

Cheers, Donna