Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy birthday to GHOST PLANET (with giveaway of THE OPHELIA PROPHECY)

One year ago today, Tor released my debut novel, GHOST PLANET. I ate cupcakes, drank champagne, signed books while impaired, and wore a gigantic gold tutu.
See, I wasn't kidding.
What a year it's been! Some of the highlights include (as close as possible to chronological order):
  • GHOST PLANET's cover appeared in an RT Book Reviews list of cool covers for upcoming releases.
  • Authors Linnea Sinclair and Kat Richardson endorsed the book with glowing reviews. 
  • In my first ever printed review, Publishers Weekly called it: "an absorbing and exciting story full of science, sex, and intriguing plot twists."
  • RT Book Reviews gave it 4.5 stars and said "thoroughly impresses ... a pitch-perfect balance of a cohesive scientific vision with poignant, naked emotion."
  • Jack-O-Lantern approved
  • Co-bloggers Laurie and Donna joined me in Seattle for my first release party. (Too far for Pippa - a hop, skip, and a GIGANTIC jump.) 
  • The book was nominated for the 2013 RWA RITA Award for best first book, ON MY BIRTHDAY.
  • The book was named the main pick for April of the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout book club (created by actress/producer/writer Felicia Day) - also ON MY BIRTHDAY. 
  • Veronica Belmont (also of VF book club fame) named the book a suggested read for The Sword & Laser book club. 
  • The VF gals gave the book a super positive review on YouTube. I ate more cupcakes. 
  • The book was named one of the "best of 2012" by Regina Small, senior editor and reviews coordinator for RT
  • My agency sold audio rights to Audible.com (for GHOST PLANET as well as my other two upcoming titles). 
Wow, what a great run. And we're just getting started! An audio book to come, and I'm still waiting for that movie deal. ;) 

My second book from Tor (THE OPHELIA PROPHECY) is due out in less than six months, and I'm working on revisions for a third book (ECHO 8). (Have a brand-new project in the works as well - stay tuned for more on that.) 

OPHELIA is a post-apocalyptic biopunk romance about some sexy transgenics and an archivist with a dangerous secret. E8 is a near-future, multiverse romantic suspense that explores possible connections between quantum physics and psi (also a Bermuda Love Triangle between a parapsychologist, an FBI agent, and an energy vampire). 

Thanks for joining the party! We have a door prize: Leave a comment for a chance at winning a signed ARC of THE OPHELIA PROPHECY (official release: April 1), hot off the presses. SO hot the only person in possession of one at this point is Jessica Subject, who won it in my first giveaway. [Usual fine print on this one: US and Canada only, so as not to require me to apply for a loan to ship it. And DON'T FORGET to leave your email address in your comment if you want to be included.]

Good luck! 
Tor Books - April Fool's Day, 2014

For Aspiring Authors - My First Mistake


It's confession time. When I first finished my debut novel Keir, I didn't have a clue about publishing. No, really! I was totally and utterly clueless. Faced with either sticking my MS in a drawer or doing something with it, I decided to look into publication. I didn't know where to start, so I looked up things on the internet.
And one of the very first things I did, and soon realized was a mistake, was request a brochure from a publishing company interested in all types of fiction and non-fiction.

Y'see, I'd never heard of vanity press (sometimes calling themselves subsidy publishers, but generally making out they are some kind of legitimate publisher like the Big 5 - they aren't!). Luckily, I recognised my mistake on receiving the brochure and having done some more research. A writing site had guided me toward the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, the must-have guide for aspiring authors in the UK (I was going to say at this point - get it! But I've seen via Writer Beware that vanity presses like Author Solutions are now being allowed to promote in this once great institution, so I will no longer recommend it. A damn shame. Use Preds & Eds instead). Go to Writer Beware and check out agents and publishers on the Preditor and Editor website too. But now that company had my phone number, and for several months after they persisted in ringing and emailing me, pushing for me to contact and submit to them. Eventually they quit it, and I've steered well clear of any since, being somewhat the wiser.

So when I woke at an annoying 4.30am one Tuesday morning to find an email from another vanity press in my inbox, I was livid. These parasites had discovered I'd registered my latest novel at the Library of Congress, and 'offered' to publish it for me (apparently this is now a regular occurence if you register a manuscript - check out this Writer Beware post here - that's exactly what I got, and luckily I knew exactly what kind of company they were). The bloody nerve of it! The email also said at the bottom that I'd agreed to receive their emails. No I didn't! I'd never contacted them at all.

I know how vanity presses work, and I'd heard about this one. So I knew to steer well clear (although the MS in question is already published, so they're way too late). But the email reminded me of those days when I knew nothing. What if I'd got that kind of email then? Full of self doubt and ignorance, I'd have been flattered to be approached by what looked like a bona fide publisher. I might have responded. And if I might have done, so might others.

Be wary of things like this. I don't want to preach to aspiring authors, but I certainly don't want anyone's publishing dreams to become nightmares with predators like these on the prowl. If they have free access to resources like the copyright office, they can contact anyone. So when you get emails like this, be suspicious. I always say research is one of those essentials for authors, new or experienced. Check the company out. Ask around. If, for whatever insane reason you decide a vanity press is the way you want to go, be clear on what you're paying for and what you're liable for. Their aim is to make themselves money, not the author. They won't care if you go into debt rather than profit. If you complain your book isn't doing well, chances are you'll just be offered another overpriced package of more or alternative marketing. And seriously, you're better off finding those services elsewhere and self publishing your work. Find a good editor, get a decent book cover, and go indie. Don't use a vanity press. I can even recommend some way better resources for you to use if you want me to. Find and join writing groups. Try the Kindle Boards or CritiqueCircle.com, or look for indie publishing/book groups on Facebook. Don't believe the claims or testimonials on the publisher's page - I always, always go by personal recommendations by people I trust - friends, fellow authors and work collegues.

Things to watch out for -
1. Someone contacts you out of the blue, offering to make you a published author, even when you haven't looked into becoming published.
2. No example or given terms for the contract you'll be offered.
3. The mention of promotional or publishing packages that you'll be 'offered'.
4. No online store of their own.
5. They will publish ANYTHING. What, even without seeing your MS? Plus most small presses focus on a main genre, like specualtive fiction or romance and its sub-genres. The Big 5 generally have separate imprints that focus on specific genres, and these often work as separate divisions.

There are other things to look out for, but I strongly recommend you go to the Writer Beware website and read up. Be careful out there.


Pippa's Journal

I am close to strangling my muse. After completing my Halloween story, I started work on a winter solstice story (inspired by one of the pre-made covers created by the talented Gayle Ramage here), only to then be distracted by an undead/zombie story. This is once more taking me from my scifi homeland into new and somewhat scary territory. Of course, it won't be a horror story - I'm not into frightening or gory - but at the moment, straying into new genres like this is both exciting and terrifying for me. Despite its zombie theme, this will not be horror. Although how exactly I can market a non-horror zombie story is a conundrum...

Happenings

Military SF writers: Apex is accepting submissions through Nov 31 for new anthology War Stories http://t.co/vQ8BOJ491q #scifi #writers

Brigader Kimber An has started a new book review site...and science fiction romance is one of the topics! The site officially launches on the 1st November, but you can check out her wish list of books here.

This week a digital format of my YA scifi Gethyon and a $10 gift card are up for grabs at Long and Short Reviews here. The giveaway ends on Friday. From next Monday, it's anti-bullying month, and for the whole of November I will be donating all royalties from the sales of Gethyon to Childline, a UK charity that provides support to children being bullied and abused. Since my MC is bullied at the start of the book, it seemed fitting, especially since my eldest child went through two years of being bullied at school.

Ping Pong

Laurie, loved the post on command presence. There are people who can walk into a room and speak in a soft voice who command more and instant respect than someone who marches in and shouts. Maybe I should try cultivating that attitude with my little monsters. :D

Donna, I've never read Card, and in light of recent revelations, I'm not sure I want to, or to see the film. Which is sad, but sometimes I can't close out the personal aspects of an author from their work. Hubs is planning to take our eldest boy to see it, and that's fine because I believe in letting them make their own choices. Will be interesting to hear what they make of it, and if that will change my mind.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Characters With Command Presence

Years ago when I attended police academy, my instructors had a phrase for the quality that allows an officer to step up and take charge of a difficult situation--command presence. They encouraged their students to develop this trait in how they deal with the public, suspects and victims in the line of duty. 

More recently I've drawn on this training to incorporate these traits into characters. Write what you know, indeed. :)

Command presence can manifest as a personality trait in an MC, a secondary character, even a villain, in how their words, actions and attitudes are framed. It isn't haughtiness, superiority or conceit. It's more about how a character projects themselves and how it's perceived by others. 

A person who demonstrates command presence instills confidence and trust in their companions. They control the situation in the face of threat or disaster and in the presence of a threatening foe, or even a superior. He/she is looked to as the natural leader, the go-to person, or the one who calls the shots, even though they may not be the highest ranking person present.

Often, the sense of command presence is established by a calm and

unruffled tone that demonstrate "grace under fire." Occasionally it has to be backed up with a show of force, either physically or strategically. 

Command presence often involves "command voice," which is assuming a calm, confident tone that radiates authority in times of stress or jeopardy. 


Command presence doesn't mean a character is too perfect, only that they have the ability to emote leadership. But it's much like acting. No character can be on stage indefinitely. His/her vulnerabilities will (and should) eventually show. So command presence is akin to turning on a light when it's needed, and knowing how long it should shine to accomplish the goal...and when it needs to go dark.

I have a few 'go to' characters that I invoke when writing scenes where my hero or heroine must exhibit command presence. For males, two favorites are Captain Jean Luc Picard (Star Trek: TNG) or Captain Ramius (Hunt for Red October).
  


For females, I often draw on Ellen Ripley (Aliens) or Ana Lucia Cortez (LOST).



Here are a few examples of other well-known characters with command presence drawn from cinema and television. Each of these characters are perceived as leaders or authority figures, though each demonstrates these attributes in very different ways. 


+ Aragorn (LoTR)



+ George McClintock (McClintock)

+ Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly/Serenity)

+ Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry)

+ Lindsey Brigman (The Abyss)

+ Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Aliens)

+ The Fonz (Happy Days)

+ Sarah Connor (Terminator 2)

+ Jack Riley (Patriot Games)


+ Glinda (Wizard of Oz)



What other stand out characters can you think of who exhibit command presence? Leave a comment to tell us about some of your favorites from books, TV, movies...or life. If you're a writer or author, feel free to share a snippet from your work of a character exhibiting command presence.

Friday, October 25, 2013

GAME-CHANGING FICTION: ENDER WORTH A RE-READ



It has taken more than 25 years for film technology to catch up to Orson Scott Card’s original vision of the Battle Room. The brilliant three-dimensional scope of Card’s SF space training simulator, the kernel of the idea of the Nebula- and Hugo-winning Ender’s Game, will finally become visible on movie screens November 1, as the film based on the novel debuts at last.  Those of us who write even glancingly of battles in space should be taking notes.

Forget for a moment what you might think of the author himself.  Card has become mired in a self-made swamp of controversy over the past few years, thanks to his ultraconservative views on gay marriage and President Obama (among other things), and his strident expression of those views.  (Yes, people are entitled to their opinions, but they should hardly be surprised when the targets of their vitriol get offended.)  The controversy has even spilled over into this latest project, leading Ender’s Game studio Lionsgate to discreetly step back from the author (who is also a producer of the film) lest a threatened boycott by LGBT groups solidify.

So, okay, let me be clear.  I don’t agree with anything Orson Scott Card has said politically in years.  And yet he has written a most amazing book, an earth-shaking, ground-changing book.  I thought so in 1985 when I first read it.  I imagine I’ll think so when I re-read it this time. I’m setting out to do that because I think the book deserves a fresh look in light of the film.   And I’m recommending the book to my 12-year-old grandson, a boy with an old soul who is going through a rough time right now.

One thing the book did not have in 1985 was the author’s introduction, which was added in 1991.  Since my original copy of Ender’s Game has long since disappeared, I had to hie myself to the bookstore for another.  This is the updated version, published in 1991 (to take into account the fall of the USSR, etc.), with the intro. What a revelation.  I imagine if Card himself read it now, it might be a revelation even to him.

The idea of the Battle Room that is so central to Ender’s Game came to Card at the end of a logical thought progression that started with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, an SF classic which Asimov admitted owed much to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  Foundation was the young Card’s favorite SF series, and it set him thinking.  About how human nature worked in the past, and how that would translate into the future.  About whether humans could actually learn to be different, or were stuck in their age-old patterns no matter how advanced their technology was.

Card longed to write stories that made others think the way Asimov’s did, but despaired that he was not a scientist.  He loved history, particularly military history.  How could you use that [insert sneer here] liberal arts discipline to write the science fiction he also loved?

To make a long story much shorter, Card’s musings eventually brought him to the question of how the military leaders of the future would train their troops for combat in space.  It’s difficult enough to train for air combat, where enemies may come at you from all directions, but gravity and the drag of friction are still factors. What would it be like to fight a battle where those were not factors, but other principles of physics still applied—action/reaction, momentum, mass/energy conversion, etc.?  That’s when the idea of the Battle Room first popped into his head, almost fully formed.

But to Card’s everlasting credit—and this should have “Secret to Crossover Success” pasted all over it—he realized the idea that gave birth to his story would not be enough. From the introduction:
But, having thought of the Battle Room, I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to go about turning the idea into a story.  It occurred to me then for the first time that the idea of the story is nothing compared to the importance of knowing how to find a character and a story to tell around that idea.  Asimov, having had the idea of paralleling The Decline and Fall, still had no story; his genius—and the soul of the story—came when he personalized his history, making the psychohistorian Hari Seldon the god-figure, the planmaker, the apocalyptic prophet of the story.  I had no such character, and no idea of how to make one.

Years passed before Card found his hero in young Ender Wiggin, and a way to build the story around his wonderful SF idea.  He started with a novella, which won the Hugo in 1977, and expanded it to a full novel in 1985, which won both Nebula and Hugo prizes.

At another point in his introduction, Card says, “In science fiction . . . the whole point is that the ideas are fresh and startling and intriguing; you imitate the great ones, not by rewriting their stories, but by creating stories that are just as startling and new.”  Orson Scott Card certainly succeeded in that with Ender’s Game.

And isn’t that what we are trying to do with the entire subgenre of Science Fiction Romance?

Cheers, Donna

Discoveries

If you haven’t completed your tour of all the blogs participating in the “If You Like . . .” campaign to introduce new readers to SFR, then get on your spaceship and ride!  Find the list of bloggers making their recommendations for great reading material at The Galaxy Express post introducing the campaign.   And check out my own recommendations in last week’s post in case you missed it.

Just for good measure, if you liked Ender’s Game, then you’ll like a book I recommended last year, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  A game-playing genius teen saves the world (or at least, its soul) and wins the girl.  Much more lighthearted than Card’s classic, but the young heroes have much in common.




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pippa's Journal - 10/23/2013

Just over a week ago, I was struck by inspiration. For the past two years I've seen holidays come and go, without ever once being inspired to write something with a holiday theme, even when tempted by submission calls. The ideas just weren't there. And as a scifi author, somehow, I found it hard to visualize the holidays we celebrate now once we've moved out beyond our own system to new worlds. For example, the times for the solstices will change with the planet. Our calendars may have to change to fit with these new worlds. And when we've traveled to new continents, such as Europeans arriving in what is now the USA for example, a new holiday was born - Thanksgiving. Invasions have brought in new beliefs and new celebrations, or genocide has eradicated the previous ones. Will we give up our old traditions and holidays for new ones on new planets? Or will we already have left such things behind?

But after making a couple of notes on my smartphone about a book title, and a couple of vague ideas for a character, muse suddenly took off with an idea for a Halloween story. And it wasn't science fiction. Muse wanted to do a PARANORMAL story! *gasp* Now, look, I have nothing against paranormal. But it isn't something I've read a lot of, nor had I ever considered writing it. I know paranormal is very big still, and I don't want to look like I'm jumping on the bandwagon. I somehow doubt that one paranormal short is going to increase my fanbase any. But that was the way muse wanted to go, and I've learnt to let her have her way. Even though I still have two projects I set myself to finish this year.

In six days, I put out 11K words, and finished the story. Not only had I written a new-to-me genre, but I did it linearly from start to finish, with only the odd pause to research. I couldn't quite believe it. I'm not intending to try and put this out for THIS Halloween (I am not going to rush something for the sake of it even if it does mean sitting on this story for ONE WHOLE YEAR! *shudders*), but the whole thing was done in just six days. That's 1.833 words a day. At that rate, I could do NaNoWrimo. I could put out a novel a month. A longer length novel every two months. If only! Sadly it doesn't work like that (or at least not for me).

But the research was fun. After looking into what happens to bodies exposed to vacuum and theoretical anti-gravity systems, I was reading up on the history of Halloween and the different varieties of fairies and sprites. I still got to do a bit of science by looking up the composition of a human body and using my knowledge as an analytical chemist to work out what household chemicals could be used instead, converting chemistry to alchemy. That particular inspiration came from Sir Terry Pratchett in the Wintersmith, where the spirit of winter attempts to make itself into a human for love - 

Iron enough to make a nail,
Lime enough to paint a wall,
Water enough to drown a dog,
Sulphur enough to stop the fleas,
Potash enough to wash a shirt,
Gold enough to buy a bean,
Silver enough to coat a pin,
Lead enough to ballast a bird,
Phosphor enough to light the town,
Poison enough to kill a cow,
Strength enough to build a home,
Time enough to hold a child,
Love enough to break a heart. 

I wasn't able to find out if this was an older rhyme used in the book or an original piece by Pratchett - an interview with him suggested it was from somewhere else and he'd rewritten part of it, but I've found no other evidence. So, in terms of chemistry, these are the elements that make up a human body (this is a very basic list) - 
  
ElementPercent by Mass
Oxygen 65
Carbon 18
Hydrogen 10
Nitrogen 3
Calcium 1.5
Phosphorus 1.2
Potassium 0.2
Sulfur 0.2
Chlorine 0.2
Sodium 0.1
Magnesium 0.05
Iron, Cobalt, Copper, Zinc, Iodine <0.05 each
Selenium, Fluorine <0.01 each


For greater detail, there's a comprehensive break down on Wikipedia here.

The great thing is I can now spend the next year planning how and when I'm going to release it, what I'm going to put in the back of book info, and getting it edited without the pressure of time. Next Halloween, I will have my first holiday-themed story available, and I'm really excited! I'm keeping the title under wraps for now (shh!), but here's a rough graphic of the cover I'm working on. What do you think?



Action!

Having got the Halloween story out of my system, I'm working through the notes from my wonderful beta readers on Darkfall, in the hope of submitting this story before the end of November. I also have my unfinished sfr novella Revived on the list for completion by the end of 2013. This is connected to Terms & Conditions Apply, though it only briefly mentions one character from that story. I also received the first piece of artwork for Keir's Fall from my publisher, a tantalizing snippet of what's to come. I wish I could share but...nope. :P

Discoveries

Thanks to Cara Bristol, I discovered this really cool website that tells you how to kill people! Er, from a purely research point of view, of course. *cough* Medical Scene Writer.

Happenings

This week several Brigade members are taking part in an If You Like event captained by Heather Massey over at The Galaxy Express here, recommending SFR titles to tie in with some of the bigger name books, films and TV shows. There's a huge range of suggestions, and if you hop over to Heather's, you can check out the master list to all the blogs taking part. I've already added more books to my teetering TBR pile as a result. :P

With thanks to Kyndra Hatch, the SFR Brigade blog is showing a sudden burst of activity, with Meet the Author Mondays, guest posts on Tuesdays, and recommended reads on alternate Thursdays. There is also the weekly SFR Brigade Presents blogging ring running, with snippets posted by various members of the Brigade. If you're interested in taking part in an interview for Meet the Author, please download the interview document from here and email it to me.If you're interested in providing a guest post, there's a list of suggested topics posted in the files in the Facebook group, and please speak to Kyndra Hatch about dates. We're also interested in book recommendations from other Brigade members for SF & SFR titles, and books on science, writing craft and marketing.

I'm taking part in the TRS Spookapalooza here from the 25th-31st October, and there'll be lots of fun posts and giveaways! I'll be showcasing a cocktail that happens to share a name with my male MC from Keir. Make sure you stop by to find out what. Gethyon will be part of a giveaway, along with a $10 gift card at Long and Short Reviews from the 28th October here. As part of Anti-Bullying Month in November, I will be donating my royalties from Gethyon to Childline for that month, as my male MC is himself bullied at the start of the story.

Ping Pong

Laurie, thought-provoking post on why another galaxy - it certainly sparked a lot of responses.

Donna, loved how you set out your If You Like SFR-arian post.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Why Another Galaxy Far, Far Away?

I'm putting on my reader's cap today to open up a discussion topic. Okay, it's regarding a pet peeve of mine. And this pet peeve is so monumental to this reader that it's causing me to have issues with some SFR books that I'd otherwise rate very high.

Most of us agree that Science Fiction Romance should have at least a basis in science, with a liberal amount of imagination applied. I'm all for the imagination part, even when it gets a bit beyond liberal. But I have to confess, I have a major issue with "suspension of disbelief" when the story has a non-logical/seemingly impossible setting.

A story set in another galaxy is an instant turn-off for me.

Why?

My question is: Why there?

Does setting a SFR in another galaxy make it seem "more" Sci-Fi? Do you think the story feels more exotic? Does it make the technology and the setting somehow more futuristic? Do you just love that line from Star Wars about the story happening "in another galaxy far, far away?"

I so disagree with these lines of thought, so let me present my case.

Here are my biggest problems with suspension of disbelief involving stories set in other galaxies:

First of all, let's take a closer look at our very nearest spiral galaxy neighbor--Andromeda--currently hurtling toward our galaxy on a collision course. Andromeda and The Milky Way are coming together at some 300,000 miles per hour. Even at that speed, the collision won't take place for some 3.75 billion (with a "b") years--give or take. That's because Andromeda is so very far away--even as our closest spiral neighbor--it's still going to take eons to get here.

So when I read a story about a human colony/space station/exploration vessel set in Andromeda in, say 3700 AD, my questioning mind says: "Wait! How can this be?"

Andromeda is about 2.54 million light years away--that means traveling at the speed of light (which we're not even sure is possible) for 2,540,000 years--longer than the existence of our species if you believe in evolution. Even if we could travel 10 times the speed of light, it would take 254,000 years to arrive. At one hundred times the speed of light it would take 25,400 years to reach Andromeda. So you can see my problems with having a colony/space station/exploration ship in Andromeda in the next 3,000-5,000 years. Sorry, we wouldn't even make it anywhere near the outer edge of the Milky Way in that amount of time.

Let's put some perspective on our current state of space travel. Voyager 1 and 2 are traveling at about 17,000 miles per hour, and have been traveling outbound for some 38 years. Yet Voyager 1--the farthest manmade object from Earth--is only about 17 light HOURS (not light years) away from our planet, and finally entering the region of interstellar space between our home solar system and the very nearest star. To reach that nearest star traveling at its current speed would require about 19,400 years, and it would take 130,877,700 years to reach the edge of the Milky Way! Even if we could somehow boost the Voyagers to light speed, it would still take approximately 29,000 light years to reach the edge of our galaxy. And even reaching the edge of our own galaxy, we haven't even made a minor dent in spanning the 2.54 million light years to Andromeda.

So why set a story outside the Milky Way? Our own galaxy is incredibly, inconceivably vast. If you use Newton's version of Keplar's Third Law of Planetary Motion, there are an estimated 200 billion (with a "b") suns in the Milky Way Galaxy. Other estimates put the total closer to 400 billion stars. It's about 26,000 light years to the Galactic core and, as mentioned, another 29,000 light years to the edge of the galaxy. Some estimates say there could be billions (with a "b") of Earth-like planets in our own galaxy.

That's a whole lot of real estate for a story setting!

In fact, when we look up at all those myriad stars in the night sky, we're actually only seeing about 2,500 to 5,000 stars on a clear, moonless night. If you could see all the stars in both the southern and northern hemispheres, the max would be about 9,000-10,000. Binoculars might allow you to see up to 200,000 stars. A good telescope, maybe 15 million. That sounds like a lot, but it's only about .000075 of the lower estimate (200 billion) of stars in our own galaxy.

What we call "The Milky Way"--that great band of stars and gas stretched out across the heavens we can see on very dark nights is actually only a very small part of our galaxy--the Sagittarius Arm. There are four main arms called the Norma and Cygnus, Sagittarius, Scutum-Crux, and Perseus. Our sun is located on what's called the "Orion Spur" or the "Local Arm." The galactic disk itself is some 100,000 light years across. It's not even possible to see the center of the Milky Way because of all the gas and dust. So when we look at "the Milky Way" we're actually only seeing a tiny fraction of one arm--which is just a percentage of all that our galaxy encompasses.

In other words, the Milky Way is freakin' huge!

What's that, you say? You still want to set your story in another galaxy because...well, it just sounds cool.

Okay, really stretch my "suspension of disbelief" and say you've developed some sort of Galactic Skip Drive--which you at least touch on in your story--and that it lets your characters span these impossible distances to get to another galaxy in the next 3,000-5,000 years.

I'm still not convinced.

Let's put aside the basic questions of why they'd even want to go there when there's so much to see, explore, discover, puzzle over and colonize right here. There are even more potential problems...

We don't even know for sure if the astrophysical mechanics work the same way in other galaxies that they do as we understand them here in the Milky Way. Andromeda is roughly double the size of the Milky Way but has about the same mass. Why is that? Because we don't think it has as much dark matter. Dark matter affects our galactic dynamics in ways we don't even fully understand yet, much less have the ability understand the implications for Andromeda or any other galaxy. In spite of the lower mass and less dark matter, Andromeda is believed to have a higher stellar density. Andromeda also has black holes (35 identified so far) that cluster differently than black holes in the Milky Way.

Though galaxies may look somewhat alike, that doesn't mean they are alike or even have close to the same properties or mechanics. The differences could be as far apart as the atmospheres of Earth and Jupiter. Assuming Jupiter is a planet so it's similar enough to Earth that you can set a story about a colony there would be a huge mistake. (Okay, touche'. I made this mistake once--but it was 40 years ago and I've educated myself since then.)

So there's my argument for not setting a SFR in another galaxy.

Now, I'd love to hear from you. Do you have or have you read a SFR set in another galaxy? Why did you choose or enjoy that setting? Did the setting affect the dynamics of the story? How did your characters get there? And why did they go there?

Video of Milky Way-Andromeda collision simulation: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/seuforum/animations/animations/galaxycollision.mpg


Friday, October 18, 2013

THE GRADUAL SFR-ARIAN



A few years back a cookbook hit the scene with the hopeful title The Gradual Vegetarian.  Presumably aimed at the veggie-curious and those determined to drag reluctant spouses, friends and family members kicking and screaming away from their burgers and fries, the book began with the idea that if you could be persuaded to try something that tasted similar to a food you liked, you might eventually be tempted to venture a little further out of your comfort zone.  One day you might wake up to find you were actually fond of vegetables!

Those of us who love science fiction romance often find ourselves in the position of the lone vegetarian carting a green bean casserole to the family barbecue.  How do we make our romance-reading friends love it as much as we do? 

Starting Sunday, SFR-loving bloggers across the e-galaxy will be addressing this question with a series of blogs with the theme “If you like . . . you’ll love . . .”, comparing well-known SF or romance authors or books with lesser-known SFR authors and their titles. (Once the event gets underway, you’ll be able to find a master list of the participating blogs at Heather Massey’s The Galaxy Express.

I’m jumping the gun here at Spacefreighters Lounge with my “Gradual SFR-arian” approach to finding SFR you’ll love.  (It was either that or get left in the dust of all the other blogs going before me, Friday being at the end of the week!)  So here we go.

Sherrilyn Kenyon is one of the founding authors of the paranormal romance phenomenon, overcoming years of rejection to finally convince the Powers That Be in New York that vampires (and Greek gods and demons and so on) could make sexy heroes.  Her Dark Hunters PNR series is a huge bestseller with millions of fans.  If you’re one of them, you might already know that Kenyon began her career trying to sell SFR—only to fail dismally. 
Now, with all the weight of her millions behind her, Kenyon has returned to SFR with her League series, every major volume of which, starting with Born of Ice, has landed her on the bestseller list. The series shares her tortured alpha heroes and initially vulnerable, but finally gutsy heroines with her PNR stories.  And, of course, her style is the same across both series.  So it is a natural transition for Kenyon’s PNR fans to make the move to her SFR work.

If you enjoyed the League series, you’re ready for something in the same vein.  Tortured (literally) heroes, heroines with issues and space adventure?  Try Marcella Burnard’s Enemy Within.  Political intrigue, more space adventure and more alpha heroes than you can shake a phaser at—Susan Grant’s Tales of the Borderlands series. 
 
Suzanne Brockmann, popular for her kickass romantic suspense novels featuring U.S. Navy SEALS, surprised her long-time fans last year by publishing Born to Darkness, a science fiction suspense romance.  It combined the familiar elements of her SEALS and former SEALS series—alpha males, lots of action, hot sex and romantic tension, suspense—and put them in a dystopian, near-future setting.  Of course, it would be an easy jump for her fans to follow her to the new subgenre, and many did, putting Born to Darkness, the first of her Fighting Destiny series, on the bestseller list as always.
So, if you enjoyed Born to Darkness, what do you try while you wait for Suzanne to finish the next book in her series?  Well, Heather Massey wrote an entire article devoted to this subject a while back, which you can read here.  But just one calculation of many suggested if you’re looking for “near-future setting+combat scenes+Alpha hero+kick-butt heroine+hot sex=Nathalie Gray’s Agent Provocateur.”  And since I love me some Nathalie Gray, I’m fully on board with that recommendation.
Okay, so let’s play a little criss-cross.  If you love Gena Showalter and her Lords of the Underworld paranormal romance series, then you probably like Angela Knight and her Mageverse series.  Did you know both these PNR goddesses also wrote SFR?  So you’ll probably like Showalter’s Alien Huntress series, starting with Savor Me Slowly, and Knight’s Time Hunter series, Jane’s Warlord being the best known. 
Showalter is darker than Knight, though, and her SFR is much darker.  For an equivalent among lesser-knowns, try Kim Knox’s Synthetic Dreams.  Susan Grant’s early stuff (Your Planet or Mine? for example) is closer to the Time Hunter series.
Criss-cross can be played by historical romance fans, too, thanks to that marvelous sub-sub-genre, steampunk romance.  Say you’re a fan of historical/adventure romance writer Zoe Archer and her Blades of the Rose or Nemesis Unlimited series set in Victorian England (and her empire).  If so, you may want to try Archer’s excellent steampunk romances set in an alternate universe in the Ether Chronicles.  Still loving Archer?  Go all the way into space with her 8th Wing military space adventure series.
Too much too soon?  Okay, Meljean Brook, known for her Guardian series of demon-oriented PNR novels has written some fantastic steampunk romances, the Iron Seas series, beginning with The Iron Duke.  These, also, are set in an alternate universe, but the historical-romance elements of costume and place will appeal to any fan of more traditional tales of the ton. Just imagine Mr. Darcy has been forced to replace his sword arm with a biomechanical simulacrum.  Poignant, is it not?
See?  It is possible to dip a toe into the flowing stream of SFR and find, indeed, the water’s just fine.  In fact, if you’re not careful, you’re just liable to be swept away to a whole new world.
Check out the recommendations others have made as bloggers around the SFR galaxy address this question throughout the week of October 20-25.  For more information, visit The Galaxy Express.

Cheers, Donna

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.