Category Archives: alien life forms

Seven Concepts for Writing Aliens in Science Fiction

 

A quick reminder that the Perseid Meteroid Showers are raining down on us. This year should be more impressive due to a diminished moon. But if you’re in a smoky environment because of fires, or the night is cloudy, then visibility could be poor. Check your weather.

Best of luck in viewing an amazing event from Earth.

                                      Aliens in science fiction  

The best place to find extreme characters or divergent world views is in science fiction because when writing, or reading best selling science fiction, usually there are aliens. As a writer, this can get tricky. For if your aliens are really different, i.e. alien, then most likely, your readers won’t understand or relate to them. This does not usually make for a good story. Your readers need to get engaged and identify with the characters in your book.

That is the reason I went with the Earth colony idea and threw in variances caused by a different environment. I wanted to write about characters that my readers could relate to.

Most of my characters are humanoid because it’s hard to love a slime worm or rancid igrot. Still in Past the Event Horizon just as they rediscover the alien signal, the crew on The Seeker discuss what might be out there in space, and what the aliens sending the signal might look like:

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Idly Joel said, “What do you think they look like?”

Everyone paused.

“Surely someone has a bet?” commented Braden.

“I’ve got money on blobs that float,” answered Glaze. “They live in the ether and inhale methane.”

“Blobs?” Icabar snorted. “That’s ridiculous. You need dexterous digits to build a stargate.” He grinned and flexed his hand. “I’ll take your bet, and I’ll take your money.”

“It’s not a big bet.” Glaze shrugged.

“My money’s on a hive mind and insect-like creatures.” Icabar looked up. “The leader has a big brain and lots of worker bees.”

Solanje shook her head. “Insects stay small on Alysia because they can’t support a heavy exoskeleton under our gravity. No, I think maybe something with tentacles and eyes that shoot out on stalks. Something tall and skinny that survives in a light gravity.”

Glaze twirled around. “Tessa thinks they’re living plants with wavy fronds that walk on stalk legs.”

“Geesh, she would think something like that,” commented Icabar. “Just like a botanist.”

“Maybe they’re all hairy with ugly sharp teeth and red eyes,” offered Bashar.

“Putting money on that?” Icabar gave a grin.

Bashar smirked and shook his head.

“What about ghosts?” Joel blurted out. “Ghosts that glow in the dark.”

“I think bird creatures with wings,” Solanje chime in, flapping her arms.

“Yes, wings,” mumbled Joel.

Braden pursed his lips and thought. “They need digit-like hands so they can manipulate materials and build stuff. The need eyes to see and sensory equipment…feet and legs to walk with.”

The crew realized that they were parameters and rules that would dictate what an alien might look like, or how it might act.

Over the ages, science fiction stories have depicted many kinds of aliens.

Here are seven concepts to think about when writing aliens and my comments:

1. Aliens should be alien. This sounds pretty straight forward, but be careful with it. The problem is that it’s like trying to visualize the fifth dimension. One dimension…easy, two dimensions…easy, three dimensions– also easy. I live with them every day. The fourth dimension, dealing with time, I kinda get, but go past that and my mind starts to turn to jelly, trying to understand what other dimensions might look like. Same with an alien. If it’s truly alien, then how can I understand it or even try to write about it? Would my readers even care whether it lives or dies if they can’t understand it or empathize with it. So, maybe, somewhat alien? (Great title for a book… oh, one of mine.)

2. Aliens have their own history and story. What fun to construct a culture and history for an alien race. Going wild here.

3. Aliens that are naturally telepathic won’t grasp the concept of language. I have a few telepaths in my stories. In my most recent book, The Weight of Gravity, (coming out in September 2018) I have a very fun chapter where two characters can read minds at an Alysian Ball. What humans think to themselves in a crowd of others makes for hilarious writing. I have a language for the nontelepaths in the society because if your characters are all telepaths and don’t need language, then how on God’s green Earth are you going to write a book? Ummmm. No words.

4. Aliens that can’t hold a tool, won’t invent space ships. Love this one. So if your alien is a blob, or chittering insect, better have flexible mandibles if they are going to go far…like outer space.

5. If aliens have a different body chemistry (and alien means that they do) then they aren’t going to eat human food. And a corollary to that is that humans won’t be able to eat the alien food. Makes sense, but I bent the rules a little here. So if you have your characters land on an alien planet, they’d better be well supplied or they could starve. Still, playing around with humans reacting to alien food can be a lot of fun in a story.

6. If they don’t look human, then they most likely have a different definition of beauty. Silky filaments probably turn on the Jovian worm lord, but for you, me, and our reader…ugh. Maybe the males on Cassiopeia don’t appreciate the fine curves of Marilyn Monroe. Heh! Finally. I don’t mind competing with the three-eyed felix from Raegon … unless the judge is the three-eyed male felix.

7. Aliens should conform to their world’s environment. A tall skinny plant form would not grow successfully on a heavy gravity planet. Thus, if your alien is aquatic, his world would be dominated by water, or if his world is dry, his culture and physical form would reflect that. Remember Dune, and how that environment affected the natives there? How the spice affected them?

So here are seven concepts to consider when inventing aliens and an alien world. Maybe aliens aren’t visiting us because their worlds are too different, and our environment would kill them. Think of War of the Worlds. A very clever book.

So, writing about aliens provides rich fodder for your science fiction story as long as you keep a few concepts in mind.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, science fiction

Current Female Authors in Science Fiction

Women. Hooray!
Mumble, grumble… “There they go again.”

Okay guys, what would you do without us? Life would be really boring. So, as promised, I’m giving you five current female science fiction/ fantasy authors who I  think should be mentioned. Yes, yes, there are oodles more, but here’s my five. Deal with it. Feel free to add your own in the comment section.

 

First, Anne Leckie.

Ann Leckie won a Hugo in 2014 with her debut book Ancillary Justice. Her novels are interesting because the narrator’s point of view comes from an A-I who once ran the computers on a large military ship. Unfortunately, it confuses the reader by its utter disregard for gender, and you’re not sure if the human it is speaking about is male or female. That certainly pointed out to me what a gendered society we live in. There was also some confusion with clones in Ancillary Mercy as the leaders of several worlds are clones who are at war with one another, so, of course things get confusing.
Now Anne’s back with another Hugo nomination from that series with Provenance. It’s on my TBR list.

Next, Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey has a fantasy series, Kushiel’s Legacy that I read and enjoyed. The main character was a spy working undercover in a house of pleasure. So fair warning that some of the scenes are a bit pornographic. Okay, really pornographic. Her new series that starts with the Starless Sky, so far is not, but I’m still in the early stages of the story, and really enjoying it.

It balances on the edge of science fiction with an overhead sky devoid of stars and hints of ancient ones who walked their world. The story follows Kai, destined from birth to protect the princess Zariya. Childhood training on how to kill and employ stealth takes place in the deep desert as Kai prepares to face a startling destiny. True to form, Carey portrays a rich world with interesting characters and non stop action.

Thirdly, N.K. Jeminsin.

I could hardly overlook Jeminsin who won the Hugo in 2016 for her novel The Fifth Season, the 2017 Hugo for The Obelisk Gate, and now she’s nominated for the 2018 Hugo with The Stone Sky. All are in her Broken Earth Series. I started her first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and couldn’t finish it. Gods come to Earth to wrangle with humans wasn’t my cup of tea. But with so much acclaim, I’m going to have to try again with her new series. I would be interested to hear any opinions from readers who have already read it.

How about Becky Chambers?

A strong science fiction novel, Chambers charms with her series, starting with a A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. This is a light-hearted adventure of a human female, Rosemary Harper, who, in running away from a mysterious past, joins the crew of the patched-up ship the Wayfarer. On board is a zany crew who adopts the distant young woman and makes her part of their family. From Sissex, the reptilian pilot, to the chatty duo of Lizzy and Jenks, engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble Captain, Ashby, Rosemary finds love and adventure. Her next in the series, A Closed and Common Orbit is on my list to read this year.

And last, but not least, is Mur Lafferty with her exciting novel Six Wakes. This is a debut novel already nominated for the 2018 Hugo and was also nominated for the Nebula. I was ready for a strong science fiction adventure and Lafferty delivered.

Six humans crew a ship of selected Earth citizens, now in cryo, who expect to settle a new world and start over. The six awake from their replicator chamber to be confronted with a bloody massacre of their previous clones. Billed as a fresh start, no one’s past is recorded, but this time even personal memories of events and personalities are erased. The clones try to unravel the mystery of the murders to discover who among them is guilty … and why he or she is attempting to hunt and kill the crew. In the process, they uncover shocking information about who they are and what they have done.

Be prepared for twists and turns, flashbacks that offer clues, and a satisfying story of what makes for human behavior and personality.

In summary:

Jacqueline Carey. Starless
Anne Leckie. Provenance
N.K. Jeminsin. The Stone Sky
Mur Lafferty. Six Wakes
Becky Chambers A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

p.s.  I’ll be offering my first book in the Terran Trilogy, A World Too Far this Friday July 13 (12 a.m. PDT), July 14 to Sunday, July 15 (11:59 PDT) for free, free, free on Amazon or through Book Barbarian. This is a nail-biting journey of forty ships, lost in the Galaxy, trying to find a planet to call home. Space is dangerous, but humans can also be deadly if driven too far.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Clones, Discovering New Worlds, downloaded personalities, fantasy series, genetic manipulation, Hugo winners, Nebula nominations, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, Women in Science Fiction

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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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Discovering New Worlds, downloaded personalities, first contact, gene modification, Hard science fiction, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, science fiction series, space travel, Streaming Science Fiction, time travel, Transhumanism

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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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, Cyberpunk, ebook science fiction, fantasy series, Future of Publishing, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, Publishing Trends, science fiction romance, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space travel, The future of publishing, time travel

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

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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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, first contact, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, space ship, space travel