Category Archives: Alien and human bonding

Streaming Science Fiction

More than Books: Streaming Science Fiction 

This week I want to explore alternative forms of science fiction… namely streaming stories.

Being the hip (cough) person that I am, I have been watching several Netflix series and a few regular TV offerings. You may be watching others that readers would like to know about.

Currently, The Expanse by  James S. A. Corey has my attention. I have read most of the books in the series with Persepolis on my current reading list. What I like about the television series is the special effects and realistic dramatization of the ships in space.

What I don’t like is the selection of actors picked to play the main characters. I’ve had to revise my image of what I thought they looked like and how they would act. Also, those who have not read the book may find the sequence of events confusing.

Still, it is a triumph of production and worth viewing. Tonight: series three, episode ten on the Scifi channel.  Catch up or watch along with me.

https://www.Youtube.com/watch?v=ydKmedH336Q

My favorite in this list is Travelers. Season three has been renewed, thank goodness, but the time and date are yet to be announced. Angst not, for you can catch up on Netflix with season one and two. 

Already up to date? Then, as my mother used to say, “Patience is a virtue.” One, however, that is elusive in my personality structure. So, grit teeth, etc.

Travelers is a time-travel story about a group of people from the far future where the Earth is dying. They download their personalities into 21st century bodies just as a selected person is dying. Once here, they hope to save their future by changing specific events. A mysterious entity communicates from the future and guides them.

The glitch in the operation is the people they are downloaded into, which makes for an interesting story. One is an aged wise man who finds himself downloaded into a teenager’s body. At first, the youth and vitality of his new physical body thrills him, but then he has to deal with overbearing parents who lecture him, high school friends who bully others and make poor choices, and a society that restricts his actions at every turn and views him as a young kid.

Another download is a brilliant scientist /mathematician who is put into an addict’s body. While his mind functions brilliantly, his addiction betrays him at every turn.

Still another is a strong rebel freedom fighter whose lover is downloaded into a married man’s body that works in the group. She finds herself in a black girl’s body with a new baby and has to deal with an abusive husband who is also a cop and a strange face on someone who used to be her lover.

There are others equally interesting people in this small selected group. The best part of the series is the struggle that future enlightened people have to go through as they adjust to difficult bodies and situations they know they will never escape.

https://www.Youtube.com/watch?v=99LZwZmSoNo&t=19s

Currently, I’m watching Sense8, also on Netflix. This series concerns eight individuals, called a cluster, from all parts of the world that can sense each other and actually step in to one another’s body to help them out of situations or just experience certain events together. Of course, there is the scientist who is trying to round them up to perform horrible experiments on them or kill them outright.

One of the scientist is able to invade one of the individuals from the cluster and learn information that could help him find them. So they have to practice deception to evade capture. The cluster is composed of a young handsome cop, a white female tech geek, a Korean girl framed for her father’s murder and in prison, a beautiful blonde from New Zealand, a German thug, an African bus driver, a girl from India forced to marry a man whose father is rich, and a famous gay Brazilian actor.

In some episodes, the action is intense while in a few the main characters celebrate love and life. Be aware of adult content both in violence and sex.

https://Youtube.com/watch?v=E9c_KSZ6zMk

Lost in Space was a surprise… A pleasant surprise. This series is better than the original TV show with updated special effects that put a fresh believable polish on a well known story. The plot itself is more cohesive and well done. Dr. Smith is turned into a scary, evil woman while the robot also is updated to be more menacing. The mother would make any feminist proud, and the main character, Will, is adorable. His two sisters also have stand out personalities and come through when the going gets tough.

https://www.Youtube.com/watch?v=fzmM0AB60QQ

These are a few recommendations that you might like. Do you have any others?

Science fiction had gone streaming, and there are some really good series to check out. What’s out there that you like?

 

ps. Copy the link and paste into browser for great video trailers. This tech idiot couldn’t get it to play directly on this website like I did on a previous blog.

And for a smile today:

 

 

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading List for 2018

Happy 2018 to everyone. Yes, it’s hard to believe we have a new year starting again, and although there was plenty of tumult around me, this past year was a good one.

I’m currently working on the third book in my Terran Trilogy called The Weight of Gravity. This trilogy is part of the overall Alysian Universe series, but from a completely different prospective. It makes the tenth book I’ve written, along with other shorter works in anthologies. Kristine Rusch talks about author burnout, and I’m battling a bit of it myself. Maybe the new year will energize me.

When I set out to pick ten books for the upcoming year for my blogs, I noticed that my kindle library was bursting with books gathered from various ad sites that I promised myself I would get around to reading. So, that’s where I will draw from for some of my selections. I’m worried that ebooks are getting cheaper and cheaper, many are offered for free, and personal libraries are filling up so buyers don’t need to purchase quite as much to satisfy their reading needs. A lot are free. As a reader, I like it when I don’t have to spend tons of money on books, but as an author, I wonder where the trend is going, and will I be able to keep up my income? Are we reading more or spending less? Or both? Or does it even out?

This year, I had my highest month ever, and lowest, in royalty income. Several authors mentioned a similar situation of lower royalties, blaming it on the distraction of the election and following political commotion. Since my lowest month was January, I’m buying into the theory. Luckily, the summer months brought a welcome increase in sales with August my best month ever. A number of authors have commented on this seasonality of book buying, and I’m thinking to research this further in another blog.

In my December blog, I always select five books to add to my reading list for the year. This time, I wanted to consider a mix of stories with time travel and space opera foremost but also include a bit of fantasy. I wanted to suggest both traditional and self-published novels. Last year, I discovered a few new authors who wrote in a series, and I decided I should continue their works. Along that line, the Expanse Series is coming back to television, so I picked the newest release, Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey. I’ve read the earlier novels and blogged on several of them, so check it out if you want to know more. If you haven’t read the books, the television version can be confusing, but I love the special effects, even though I disagree with the choice of actors who play the characters.

The second book on my to-read list for 2018 is Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards. Yes, I know that I selected this last year and don’t know why I didn’t read it. I loved the first book, Dome City Blues and this will bring in an urban cyberpunk genre that will be a fun contrast to my other choices.

My next choice is Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. This fantasy just appeared to be a fun book to read. Any book that starts out saying, “Sneaking out of the palace may not have been one of Aniri’s best ideas” has me hooked. As third daughter, Aniri is under no pressure to marry and hopes to wed her fencing instructor lover. Then, she gets a marriage proposal from a barbarian prince in the north who has his own secrets and… Not science fiction, but it sounded too good to pass up.

Time travel is a favorite of mine, so when I saw Crossing in Time advertised, I stuck that in my kindle library. The blurb asked, “If someone took everything you live for, how far would you go to get it back?” Turns out, the main character would go far into the past to change events in order to get back a loved one, and that idea intrigued me.

Finally for now, the fifth selection comes from a popular author that I never got around to reading until a year or two ago. Andre Norton has become a favorite of mine, and I have been eyeing her Time Traders sitting in my kindle library. Time to read it.

There you have my first five. In January, I’ll add five more. As you know, other books may be selected as I see fit. Sometimes, publishing schedules change, or other ideas take precedent, so this is not cast in stone, but only serves as a guide. I offer suggestions and comments for books I think readers will like, but I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t take review requests any more. However, I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for years and love to share this passion with fellow enthusiasts.

This time around, I noticed that a deciding factor was the blurb. Cover and blurb are so important in a reader’s selection process. So, authors, put extra effort into those two elements to help sell your stories.

Here they are to start:

Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
Angel City Blues by Jeff Edwards
Crossing in Time by D. L. Horton
Time Traders by Andre Norton
Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

Also, for the new year, I would like to recommend you check out Kristine Rusch’s blog on the state of publishing. Not only does she live in Oregon like I do, but she is in the traditional publishing arena along with being a strong advocate of self publishing, having self-published many books herself. She has written several series in several genres under various pen names and is thoughtful and knowledgeable about the total spectrum of publishing, both Indie and traditional.

Here’s the link:
http://kriswrites.com/2017/12/27/business-musings-the-year-in-review-overview/

With 2017 ending, and 2018 about to begin, I wish a bright future for everyone… and happy reading.

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Science Fiction: On the Edge

I live in Oregon and the whole region around me is a-twitter about the coming total eclipse. I live an hour away from the coast area that lies in its path. However, my husband is not a fan of big crowds, so I expected we would view what we could from home. Then a week ago, he ups and says, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. We have to go see it.”

A million people converging on the area, and he plans to drive somewhere to view it somehow. Details were sketchy.

Heaven help me… And it did.

I was moaning about this turn off events while bringing in the garbage cans, when my neighbor (doing the same) offered an invitation to join her and her husband at their place in Pacific City. We can leave a day or two early and hopefully miss some of the traffic. They are fun to be with, and what at first sounded like a disaster, is turning into whaeclipset could be a very memorable weekend.

It is exciting to be in a place where such a unique astronomical event occurs.

Something to tell my grandchildren about. If that ever happens. Something to mutter in my old age, “I remember when…”

***

This week I finished Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper. It was nominated for the Campbell Award. I must mention that it is tied to previous books The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep. I was unaware of this until I encountered a rant by a reviewer on Goodreads. Frankly, it didn’t disrupt the story for me at all. In my own series, several of the books are separated by spans of time and are also stand alone stories about future generations of the originals.

What makes this book worth reading is its approach on the issue of transhumanism. Each chapter is titled with a character’s name and represents his or her viewpoint. (three main characters)

Charlie stands for the environmentalist. He is a ranger on a planet called Lym that at one time had been mined and polluted. Under the rangers’ care, the wildlife and environment are being restored. The wildlife, however, can be very dangerous and the planet represents raw nature.

Nona comes from the Diamond Deep, an immense space station out in the depths of space. Her mother is dying, her father dead. Both were too late to receive the cocktail of life, now given to their daughter. Upon her father’s deathbed, she promises him to see a sky and watch a sunset. As her mother is dying, she reminds Nona of this promise and asks her to talk to a powerful relative, Saryana. Reluctantly, Nona does and learns that she owns her own spaceship and an inheritance. She’s rich. Saryana directs her to Lym and hires Charlie to be a tour guide for the young woman so she can experience what a planet feels and looks like.

Charlie expects her to be a spoiled rich spacer, but of course, I smiled as I watched a bit of impossible romance bloom between them.

Nona’s best friend is Chrystal who lives in the High Sweet Home, an outer ring space station. She lives with three others: two men, Yi and Jason, and her friend Katherine. They are scientists living in a commune and breeding genetically modified stock.

Outside beyond the dark are the banished cyborg and artificial intelligent robots that call themselves the Next. Far more intelligent than humans, and physically able to modify themselves, they do not need to eat, sleep or breathe. They are powerful beings who want to return and claim portions of planets, such as Lym, for the metal resources there. They capture the High Sweet Home and take Chrystal and her group, destroy their human bodies, and download them into robot bodies that resemble their original form to use as liaisons with the humans.

Chrystal’s chapters are chilling. They are first person narratives where the reader experiences the emotions of a human mind forced into a powerful mechanical body against her will. Not all survive the transformation, and in fact, Katherine doesn’t make it.

The Next make the three, Crystal, Yi and Jason their ambassadors and lure Nona out to the Diamond Deep to save her friend. Charlie is persuaded to go as Lym’s ambassador. Since he’s never been off planet, adjusting to space is a challenge for him.

Brenda Cooper neatly presents all sides of the artificial intelligence debate. Charlie is the human who wants to keep his planet pristine and natural. Nona is the child of ship and station who only knows life in space. Chrystal experiences the vicious prejudices of the terrified humans who call her a thing and refuse her humanity. Even her own mother repudiates her. And Jhailing is the robot who teaches Chystal to survive her difficult transformation. She learns to speak to the other robots using a kind of mental telepathy. No longer does she need to eat, sleep, or breathe. Her powerful body can pick up a human and kill him with a throw. As many humans who are repulsed by the robots, an equal amount are intrigued with the thought of becoming a robot in order to gain immortality, great intelligence, and the strength of such a form.

The reader gets a glimpse of the frightening things that the shadowy, more advanced robots can do, including shape shifting and duplication and wonder at their true purpose in returning. The humans are given a choice of Uphold, Allow or Help as the council votes on their human response to the approaching fleet of Next.

The Spear of Light continues the story. Also, Cooper just released in June, The Wilders.

***

 Monday the world will go dark in the middle of the day. A reminder of the frailty of the human species in a powerful universe.

But it will only be for two minutes, and the sun will return.

President Trump will tweet something, and somewhere a terrorist or protester will commit a violent act, and we’ll return to the insanity of our vulnerable world.

With only science fiction to warn us that we should behave better or face the consequences.

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Science Fiction NEW RELEASE

One of the most exciting days in an author’s life is the launch of a new book. Finally putting a book out into the universe carries the weight of hours of plotting, planning, writing, editing and packaging… plus lots more.

Somewhat Alien is now available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook. It is the second book in the Terran Trilogy Series. Because readers like to start with the first book in a series, I’m offering A World Too Far free Tuesday through Friday (7/25-7/29) And to sweeten the pot, the second book, Somewhat Alien will be reduced to $.99 for three days.

I won’t do this often, but this week is special for the debut of my latest series.

What’s the series about, you ask?

The first book is a science fiction starship adventure.

Starship Captain, Elise Fujeint, is yanked our of cryo to take control of a ship ready to mutiny. For hundreds of years the fleet of sixty Earth ships have headed towards a planet that over time had become an uninhabitable radioactive wasteland.

Now the fleet’s in chaos. Forty out of the sixty ships jump with Elise, only to find themselves lost in an uncharted sector of the Milky Way Galaxy. Challenges spring up both inside the ship and outside in space as the beleaguered ships, running low on resources, try to find a world where they can make a home.

Somewhat Alien carries on the adventure through Elise’s clone as she struggles with human-like aliens who view the fleet’s arrival on their planet as an unwanted invasion. The are consigned to a space station by the natives out of fear of contamination. Politics and diplomacy are the tools to win the day if only Elise could ignore her feelings for a powerful Alysian leader. This one has a bit of romance sprinkled in.

Diana

I’m doing a guest blog for fantasy writer D. Wallace Peach who has a few extraordinary series under her own belt that you should check out. You can find Diana’s blog at https://mythsofthemirror.com. And follow up on her other informative, fantastical, and hilarious writings.

Recently one of my blogs talked about trends found in a survey by Written Word. This week another ad site, the powerhouse Bookbub, gives seven tips on international trends. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2u1v7S2

A short summary:

1. While 76% of Bookbub’s worldwide readers are woman, the UK has the largest amount of male readers. (29% versus 24%) Science fiction tends to male readers, so this is a target market for me.

2. Different regions have different reading preferences. Australians like science fiction and fantasy. For me, that’s important, and my experience confirms this as Australia is my second strongest region for sales, followed by the UK as third. Of course, the US outsells both of them by a wide margin.

3. Readers outside the US are more likely to be retired.

4. Of Bookbub’s subscriber base, 73% don’t have children at home. (That’s how they are able to read)

5. UK subscribers read close to a book per day. (37%) while only about 26% of the worldwide subscribers read that much. Lots of books out there, but lots of readers reading lots of books, too.

6. Readers outside the US are more likely to pay full price for a book. (6% more likely) So that’s a consideration when you price both paperback and eBook. You might go higher.

7. Readers like both ebooks and paperback. 82% outside the US read ebooks while one-third of them frequently read both ebook and paperback. (I know I do) Here, you want to offer both an ebook and a paperback of your work to cover all bases.

Marketing implications? Since I’m under Amazon’s distribution, I can reach readers worldwide. Knowing the differences among the regions helps shape my marketing approach.

Now for balloons and champagne to celebrate.

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Science Fiction Awards List

The nominations for the 2017 Hugo are in, but to refresh your memory here are the winners for 2016: https://www.theverge.com/2016/8/20/12551696/2016-hugo-awards-

Of the four mentioned here, I blogged on Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, read an intro of Seveneves by Neil Gammon (thanks to Amazon which offers free introductions) and liked what I read but haven’t bought the book yet, and have been an enthusiastic reader, and blogger of, Jim Butcher’s other two series: Codex Alera and The Dresden Files. Makes me feel that I’m picking books to talk about that other people like too.

Also out are the Locus Awards.
http://www.locusmag.com/News/2017/06/do-not-touch-2017-locus-awards-winners/

On the Locus list, this year in blogs, I talked about Visitor by C.J. Cherryh, Babylon’s Ashes by John. S. A. Corey, Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders. I tried to read Take Back the Sky by Greg Bear but for some reason abandoned it.

Now we have Hugo nominations for 2017:

http://www.tor.com/2017/04/04/2017-hugo-award-finalists-announced/

In this list is All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders, The Obelisk Gate revisiting J.K. Jeminsin, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, who also did A Long Way to an Angry Planet that I commented on in a recent blog.

And Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer.

I don’t know where to begin with this one.

My usual policy is not to discuss a book that I don’t like. I acknowledge that each reader brings their own experience and taste to a story and being in my Powell’s Book Group (25 plus members) has made it abundantly clear, everyone’s taste is different. So what I don’t like, others may love.

But as an author and writer, Ada Palmer has had me ranting for days. (My poor husband) She breaks all the conventions of what I’m told is good writing and then makes the Hugo nominations list! Thanks TOR.

Right off the bat, her first sentence warns the reader that the narrator is unreliable. So throughout the entire book, you’re wondering if what you’re being told is true or not. A lot is left out.

Constantly, in the book she talks directly to the reader as if they are sitting in a chair across from her. In her far future world, an attempt to level the playing field of gender results in people not using a definitive pronoun. So in describing a person, it can be a they one moment, then a he or a she, the next. Gets confusing, but it worked for Anne Leckie, also a Hugo winner and nominees, so maybe Ada liked the idea.

In addition, one person often has several names depending on who is in the room talking to them. And there are a lot of characters to keep track of throughout the book. The names are crazy, taken from the 18th century. For example, the narrators name is Mycroft Canner, an homage to Sherlock Holme’s brother.

In fact, the whole book is packed with inferences involving the 18th century, and unless you are a history major of that era, you spend more time researching Palmers’ allusions to the time period than you spend paying attention to the plot.

What plot?

Also, she didn’t hear about the “show, don’t tell” rule and expounds in detail on several historic names, places and events.

Point of view jumps around incessantly and some major characters don’t even talk in English. When they speak Latin, Palmer puts the translation in parenthesis after each sentence. Fonts are constantly changing. There’s sprinklings of French, Spanish and Japanese in the dialog.

In due time, the reader (hopefully) realizes that Mycroft is a criminal (she alludes to his servicer’s uniform) and is sentenced to pay for his crime in service to those families he harmed. But the mystery is that he /she /they is constantly being relied on by the powerful leaders of this world to supply sensitive information or used for top secret activities. He is on familiar terms with every powerful leader throughout the world. Mycroft is more than a common criminal who has performed unspeakable crimes, but as a reader, I wasn’t sure what his connection was to the others, and why they were so nonchalant at having him constantly nearby. I’d hoped to learn by the end of the book.

And that is my main complaint. While Mycroft harbors a boy who can touch toys and make them come alive, (rather cool) the commotion in the story is caused by a list of ten names that is stolen from Mycroft bash (commune/house). For some reason, undisclosed to me, this list is controversial. It’s rather a list of the top ten most important people in the world, according to a journalist who puts out the list once a year. Then you find out there is more than one list floating around.

Have I confused you enough? Not even close. The politics (a blend of distant future and 18th century) and network of intertwining relationships is mind boggling. I read this to the end to see if I could make sense of anything… guess what?

Nope.

It’s a Hugo nomination and I’m ranting and raving all over my house about it… Could you tell? At least as one member in our group commented, “It’s different from any other science fiction novel.” And there she was right.

One last announcement while we are talking about new books out. I’m waiting on my proof for Somewhat Alien and within a week or two should be launching the book. Here is the cover:

It’s an exciting story that takes place on a space station. No Latin or French involved. (Tant pis)

 

Stay tuned.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Hugo Nominations, Hugo winners, Locus Award Winners, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Uncategorized

A Strategy to Sell Books

 

 

 

 

Why do readers buy certain books? As I get ready to launch my second book in the Terran Trilogy, I’ve become even more interested in this question. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is doing a series of blogs on branding. She talks about how important it is for authors to develop a brand. By developing a clear brand, the reader knows what to expect, and more than likely if they like the first book they read, they’ll come back for more. That’s why writing a series is important.

In her recent blog, she says:

I envisioned this particular blog series after I read Targoz’s Strategic Marketing’s Reading Pulse Survey (courtesy of Randy Ellison). Targoz surveyed over almost 3,000 people—readers and non-readers alike—about their reading and book buying habits. (Most studies target readers or heavy readers only). A lot of the information in the survey confirmed what I already assumed, but I hadn’t seen any statistics that backed up my assumptions.

The survey also found some data that was just the same as every survey of book buyers: The number one reason people buy a book is because the book was written by one of their favorite authors. When book buyers purchase a book, 60% of those buyers do so because the book was written by “a favorite author or an author [they] had read before.”

And I agree with these findings.

Reading my blog, it’s obvious I often select books that way. In fact this week, my book suggestion is by Sharon Shinn whose books I have reviewed before. I selected it as one of the ten to read this year because I know and like Shinn’s writings. The Unquiet Land is only the most recent in her Elemental series. Check my previous blogs for comments on earlier books in the series.

Another factor in the decision to buy a particular book is subject matter. Rusch touches on this in her blog also. No matter how many people like Stephen King, I won’t read him. He writes horror, and I don’t read horror. I like to sleep at night. But fantasy and science fiction are my go-to reads.

I write science fiction, but it’s character driven. Romance readers may also enjoy the stories because human nature being what it is, is often the same on Earth as it is on Alysia. So, there is a bit of crossover. And always romance somewhere.

Rusch also touches on balancing newness and familiarity in an author’s writing. That’s why I decided to start a new series from a different viewpoint, but have it take place in the familiar Alysian Universe. Readers know they will be getting science fiction, maybe with some time travel and genetics, but the viewpoints will be coming from a different angle. Something fresh.

And Rusch’s final point in her current blog is to write the best damn book you can.

Well, duh!

I want brand loyalty. I want readers to return and read my other books because they enjoyed the last one they read. Free and discounted can only go so far. However, that exposes readers to my writing, so hopefully they’ll come back for others.

Therefore, coming soon is Somewhat Alien.

A Quick Summary: The Terrans finally leave space and their ships for life on an alien space station as they prepare for planetfall. Conflict erupts when a group of Alysians don’t want them on their world and do everything they can to disrupt the landing. But Commander Elise Fujeint has an inside track to a powerful Alysian whose name is Richard Steele. And, just maybe, he will help get her people a home.

Stay tuned. Not long now. I’m waiting on one last Beta reader to respond, and then I’ll be launching.

As I mention earlier, this week I’m suggesting The Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn.

Leah Frothen returns home and is immediately called in by spymaster, Darien Serlast. Leah is ready to give up spying and get to better know the daughter she left behind five years ago. But Darien dangles a most promising assignment: open a shop that she can run and he will support. Just report on foreign visitor’s conversations and suspect activities. She is looking for work, so this is an irresistible offer, and soon Leah becomes involved in espionage when visiting dignitaries come to town and visit her shop.

I liked the plot, although this one in the series didn’t have the intensity of some of the others. I find the concept of certain individuals tied to elements of the Earth, and able to control them, intriguing. Shinn has developed quite a complex system within her world. Also she introduces the Karkans who believe they can balance any horrific act with an act of equal benevolence. This creates a compelling series of events. And food for thought.

As I discussed in the beginning, Shinn has set up a brand for her books through this and her other series. I picked this book back in January to review solely because I had read and liked Shinn’s previous books and wanted to read more in her fantasy series.

Write the best book you can, make it part of a series, and establish a clear brand for your books.

Check.

Now let’s see what happens.

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Various Forms of Aliens in Science Fiction

Anyone reading science fiction has most likely bumped into a few alien characters. Now, aliens are tricky to write about. If their form and thought processes are too alien, the readers won’t connect with them. Also, trying to figure out how an alien would look and think is difficult if you’re working from a human brain.

And that’s my assumption for most authors.

I finished reading A Long Way To a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This is truly old-fashioned science fiction at its best. The Wayfarer is a patched- up space ship that has seen better days. The captain is offered a lucrative contact to tunnel a wormhole to a far off planet. Human Rosemary Harper is running from her past, and this opportunity to explore the galaxy with beings that know nothing of her family is just what she is looking for.

While Captain Ashby is human, the rest of the crew is an assortment of delightful aliens, along with a sentient computer, named Lovey, that runs the ship. A surprise clone is also thrown in for good measure. You get a delightful dollop of diverse aliens.

However, the trick Ms.Chambers uses to make the aliens connect to the reader is to co-opt familiar animal forms and behaviors found on Earth.

Sissix is their exotic reptilian pilot, complete with lizard tail, who gets traumatized when she starts shedding her skin. Kizzy is the brilliant ADD engineer with feathers, beak, and nesting instinct–definitely of the avian line. Jenks is her dwarfish assistant, born premature, who is in love with the ever-present Lovey. He is saving up his money to buy a body for the AI so he can download her to physical form.

Dr. Chef is a tall affable cook /doctor in the crew who has a multitude of hands/feet and reminds me of Alice in Wonderland’s talking caterpillar. His favorite dish is Rock Bugs, a supposed delicacy. The navigator is a Sianat pair conjoined due to a virus and able to visualize multidimensional space. They have short blue fur, large eyes, long fingers, and other quirks. There are more in the crew, but the connection to the aliens comes from various species of creatures familiar here on Earth that are presented as sentient.

An alien species that sits at a middle ground between human form and strange is C.J. Cherryh’s atevi found in her Foreigner series. The atevi race has the basic human form (a head, two eyes, mouth, arms, legs, etc.) but are ebony colored and eight feet or more tall. They have familiar behaviors of family, politics, emotions, but also cultural differences that contrast with their human residents.

The atevi are seen through the human eyes of Bren Cameron who becomes the designated paidhi to the tevi, which is a form of ambassador. The series embeds Bren into the atevi culture as he climbs the political ladder serving Tabini-ajii, the current ruler, and his heir, Cajeiri. Bren’s ability as go-between takes him up the social ladder until farther into the series, he becomes an atevi lord with his own estate and guild. (entourage of bodyguards and attendants)

The atevi are alien enough, but very relatable to the reader. Then, in Visitor, book seventeen of the series, (see my recent blog on it), Cherryh’s introduces an even more alien species in the form of the Kyo. Bren, Cajeiri and Ilisidi, Cajeiri’s dowager grandmother, meet the Kyo at the orbiting space station Alpha to form a treaty, hoping to keep relations friendly. These aliens have a harder form factor and show emotion through thumps and noises, but are technologically far advanced over both atevi and human. Thus, they form a threat. Bren uses all his skills as a diplomat to try to make friends with a species that is far different from human. The major content of this book is to show how difficult it would be to communicate with a completely alien species.

The most recently published novel in the series, Convergence, sends Bren to Mospheira, the human settlement on the atevi world to deliver the Kyo treaty. The clever trick that Cherry accomplishes is to have so immersed the reader in the atevi world over the last seventeen books, that when Bren confronts the humans, they feel like the aliens.

This most recent book in the series doesn’t have the heart pounding tension of the previous one, but is a pleasant read, nonetheless, even if the humans come off as arrogant jerks.

In my latest book Somewhat Alien, coming out in June, I bring the alien even closer to human. The invaders are from Earth, and the native species they interact with share their DNA. However, looks can be deceiving. Just like cultures here on Earth can sharply differ in dress, religion, and mindset, so too, the Alysians and Terrans differ in unknown ways. Two diverse cultures coming into contact to share a planet create conflict. And even when the alien is only somewhat alien, there’s bound to be misunderstandings.

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Saving the best for last, I wanted to offer a link to an easy to read visual presentation of genre books sold through Amazon. These charts offer an intriguing glimpse at how various publishers are represented in Amazon’s Top 100 bestseller lists and asks the question: Is Amazon influencing the best sellers list?

An interesting peek at what genre sells best where.

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/visualizing-amazon-best-sellers/

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