Category Archives: Alternate Universes

Steampunk: Yes and No.

IMG_9518One of the more popular genres, particularly here in the Northwest is Steampunk. This is a growing sub genre of science fiction that is getting a lot of attention. What actually is it? That’s subject for hot debate.

See this link for an idea:

One of our own Northwestern writers is Mary Robinette Kowal whose series Shades of Milk and Honey, Glamour in Glass and now her new novel, Without a Summer are considered in the Steampunk genre because of its Victorian flavor and scifi story.

Glamour in Glass

One of the main criteria for Steampunk is the Retro or Neo Victorian period of the novel. Usually there are factors of steam, (hence steam punk) or gears and levers in the technology. Many times dirigibles are used as travel and rebellion (hence punk) or a “grand adventure” is the plot.

The heroine or hero often is portrayed with leather helmet and round metallic glasses. Alternate history or time travel is used to arrive at the Victorian styled culture.

But what criteria makes a Steampunk novel is still being hotly debated.

AngelmakerEnter the novel Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway that I put on my list of to reads. An awesome cover with an intriguing title and the possibility of Steampunk drew me in. The writing started out rich and delicious. Joe Spork is a clockmaker in a Victorian styled world. He is happy fixing clocks in his lab tucked away in the city.

His father, Mathew Spork or “Tommy Gun,” now dead, was a notorious gangster and bits and pieces of the gang still linger about. One involves him in delivering an odd book that turns out to be a part of a doomsday device.

Also in the story is a retired international spy agent and spinster, Edie Banister.

The entire story is told in the third person present, which makes it sound like a manuscript for a screen play, i.e. “Joe Spork walks into the room and gazes about…”

Wore me out.

The initial dive into the novel was exhilarating, a quarter of a way through, I was  exhausted and put it down. The rich descriptions bogged down and the action struggled along. It had a cloud of Victorian haze over the story and I wasn’t sure what was going on…neither was Joe Spork.

If you are a Steampunk enthusiast, you may fair better. I was disappointed.

shipbreakerShip Breaker by Hugo and Nebula award winner Paolo Bacigalupi also skirts the boundaries of Steampunk. Often in Steampunk you find orphaned children and rebellion against the establishment. However, like his other novel, The Windup Girl, Bacigalupi also makes a strong comment on the environment. In this future, the seas have risen and drowned the coastal cities. Climate change has spawned “city killer” hurricanes.

The protagonist is Nailer, a teenage boy, who scavenges for copper amid the hulks of beached oil tankers. He struggles to meet his gang’s quota so that he can survive one more day. Off in the distance, he watches the clipper ships that use large high atmosphere balloons to pull them along at incredible speeds, and wishes that he could sail on them rather than scrounge in tight oily corridors of dead tankers.

One day he is reaching for a line of copper and falls into an oil pool and almost drowns. A teammate sees him, but abandons him, hoping to gather his “Lucky strike” for herself. This sets up the theme of loyalty in the face of adversity versus everyone for himself, let everyone else fall.

After a “killer hurricane” rips through the area, Nailer and his friend Pima comes across one of the beautiful clipper ships wrecked on coral from the storm. Excited at the rich find, Nailer also discovers a beautiful young daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate who is running from her father’s enemies and is badly hurt and trapped in the sailing ship. Nailer has to decide whether to let the daughter die and strip the ship of its luxuries, or save the “swank” girl and give up the claim to her as the rightful owner.

And even if he does that, he has to figure out how to keep it a secret from his drug addicted and brutal father who is definitely out for everything and anything he can get for himself.

Unbeknownst to him, there’s also an internal struggle within the powerful shipping company, and an assassin is out to kill or capture the young girl to protect other interests in the company.

ShipBreaker is a page turner and has several serious themes running through it.

Where it falls short is under the Young Adult category, so that while it has some violent action and important comments to make, you come away with the strong YA flavor to the novel.

Still, I couldn’t put it down.


Filed under Alternate Universe Stories, Alternate Universes, artificial nature, Best selling science fiction, environmental issues in science fiction, science fiction, Steampunk, YA science ficiton

Past the Apocalypse

IMG_0165We made it! The world didn’t blow up. But in case you were eagerly awaiting the event, I thought to list a few science fiction novels that deal with the apocalypse.

That way if you’re disappointed, you can experience it and realize how lucky we are that it didn’t happen.

Whew! (wiping sweat from brow)

Next month, our science fiction readers group will be discussing The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. I reviewed this post apocalyptic story back awhile and recommended it. You have to stick with it a bit at the beginning, but the final story will make you pause and think about what we are doing in the genetic world.51-7OEkk9nL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

And how dangerous fooling with mother nature can be if we’re not careful.

Another recent post apocalypse story is the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. This best selling science fiction trilogy takes place after worldwide disaster and deals with the lengths politicians will go to gain power and control. I have found that young women in their twenties to thirties are particularly avid about the story.  The twelve political districts are required each year to have a lottery to select two candidates (a boy and a girl) to enter the “games.” These candidates are pitted against each other and the survivor becomes a hero for the year. Makes for an interesting book on how twenty four people kill each other off.

On the BeachOn the Beach by Nevil Shute is a famous apocalyptic story that was made into a movie.

Here are few other well known disaster style novels that I have read and were recommended on several science fiction reading lists

Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell

A Canticle for Leibowitz by George R. Stewart

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt

I am Legend by Dean Koontz (also made into a movie)Lucifer's Hammer

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The Last Light by Alex Scarrow

The Postman by David Brin (also a movie)The Postman

Happy Holidays to everyone. (today’s my birthday, so I’m going to run)

I’ll see you next week with a beginning list of science fiction books I plan to read for the New Year and an analysis of those I read this past year.

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Filed under Alternate Universe Stories, Alternate Universes, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, Disaster Fiction, Dystopia Earth, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hugo winners, Hunger Games, modifying humans, Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction book review

Crowdsourcing and Portal Fiction

IMG_0165Escaping into another dimension either through a looking glass, a wardrobe or a stargate is one way some authors present a unique world.

John Bunnel mentioned casually at our last science fiction book club a subgenre that I had never heard of:

Portal Fiction.

Immediately classic stories such as: Through the Looking Glass, Alice in Wonderland, The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe, and the Magician (which we were reading) sprung to mind.Alice in WonderlandThrough the Looking Glass

Then, I realized the stargate that is in Past the Event Horizon is a portal of sorts leading to an undiscovered world.

What else?

Stephen Donaldson in his The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever employs the portal fiction device using a white gold ring that takes a dying leper into a fantasy world where he becomes a powerful magician. The series became immensely popular back in the day, particularly the first three books. Check them out if you like big fantasy ala Lord of the Rings style.

Mirror of her DreamsHowever, it was his series, Mordant’s Need, with the first book being A Mirror of her Dreams and the final book, A Man Rides Through, that is the undiscovered surprise.A Man Rides Through

A mirror provides the portal for a young modern Manhattan girl to fall into a an exciting Medieval world where she pairs up with a faulty imager to try to defeat the evil wizard. Once again, the characters have issues, and once again, it’s hard to put the book down.

Against All Things EndingHis Into the Gap Series is also worth trying. The “last” in the Chronicle Series, was published fairly recently, called Against All Thing Ending. A warning that the reviews are mixed. I liked the first books best. But FYI.

Another tidbit that attracted my attention this past week is the startling different problem solving technique showcased on a recent Nova show of which I am fast becoming a fan. David Pogue is the narrator/guinea pig.

He recently talked about an addictive game called Foldit that was based on folding proteins. Hundred of thousands of individuals played the game and twittered each other through their computers to come up with some break through science in fighting disease through new protein configurations.crowds-1


The method is called crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is a phenomenon that is getting some buzz and may provide a cure for Aids through game playing. Maybe. Possibly other diseases. Some are hopeful. See the above link for many other ways crowd sourcing is being used to: write a book, determine what music we hear, kickstart a project, map the cosmos, collect tips and advice and solve difficult science problems. Interesting…very interesting what they might use it for next.

Any ideas?

Maybe viral a blog?

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Filed under Alternate Universe Stories, Alternate Universes, Crowdsourcing, fantasy, Portal fiction

On science fiction book clubs

Sometimes I just have to get out and mingle with those who like the things I do.

Scary thought, I know.

Here I’m talking about book clubs…science fiction book clubs.

I found a congenial group at the famous Powell’s bookstore at Cedar Crossing outside of Portland, Oregon. Powells is very innovative and therefore appears to be thriving in this age of online book retailing, although they were selling books online even before Amazon was.

Immediately after Orycon, they set up a long table of local science fiction and fantasy authors who personally signed their books for any avid reader.

I was one.

It was a great event. The place was a buzz. Actually, it was mobbed.

Real life Star Wars characters showed up. Special deals were offered. A party atmosphere prevailed. Kids ran freely about laughing.

Now the thing about book clubs is that you have to read what the group picks. In the case of my mystery group, they picked Pashazade by Jon Grimwood and I discovered a great new author that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. It was science fiction, too.


Sometimes the choice is a book that you have already read. Last month we read Ready, Player One by Ernest Kline. (See my January blog) Luckily, I only had to skim over it and refresh my memory in order to add to the discussion.

This month the choice was The Magician by Lev Grossman. I saw the sequel, The Magician King, on Locus Online’s list of top fantasy books of 2011, so I was looking forward to reading the first in the series.

The story is about Quentin Coldwater, a brilliant but unhappy teenager. He is an odd duck with just a few friends. He becomes fascinated with a children’s fantasy series about a magical land called Fillory that makes his real life seem dull.

The first words in the book are, “Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.” In the beginning, Quentin is preparing for his college interview, but when he goes for the interview he unexpectedly ends up stumbling through unfamiliar woods onto the grounds of an elite secret college of magic. Rather like Harry Potter walking through the train station’s wall into another world and arriving at Hogwarts. After a rigorous testing and interview process among many other hopefuls, he does a magic trick that everyone does notice and he is one of very few admitted.

He feels that his dream has come true and Brakebill is where he was always meant to be. Quentin’s life at Brakebill College has a taste of Harry Potter and a touch of Narnia with a large dose of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. As Quentin learns all sorts of magic, he meets new friends and develops a romance with a talented young magician and student named Alice. (Yes, really) Eventually, he gets grouped with five other final grade student magicians called “the Physicals” because the do physical magic. Stuff happens.

After graduation, Quentin and Alice move in together and party dissolutely with the others Physicals back in “the real world” until one of Brakebill’s students, an on and off again friend of Quentin’s named Penny, burst in on them to announce that Fillory really does exists… in an alternate universe or on other plane of existence, and he has gone there. He wants to show them the way. The group from Brakebill decide to go, and after a few incidents, Quentin gets them to take off and plunge through the waters of the fountain to eagerly explore this exciting and wonderful land of his childhood fantasy stories.

But Fillory is no fairy world and is a  darker more dangerous place in real life than it was in the children’s fantasy books. The group meets several intriguing talking animal characters, giving the novel a touch of Narnia. They discover themselves in the middle of an ongoing war. The action amps up with a deadly showdown with evil inhabitants and Quentin almost dies. He searches out the Questing Beast at the end, with his final wish being to let him go home. And yet…being a financial adviser with shiny shoes looking out a high rise window isn’t what he wants either. So…

I leave you to find out what he chooses to do…for the sequel.

I enjoyed the story, but I expected more. So much more could have been done with the magic and Quentin seems to always be drifting through life, searching for something interesting to do.  While the writing had flashes of brilliance, I had to make myself read it to finish, rather than have the story sweep me along.

Still, sometimes you have to try something different and reach out to a new experience in order to live a richer life. Maybe that was what Quentin had in mind for himself in the end.


Filed under Alternate Universe Stories, Alternate Universes, Best selling science fiction, fantasy, magic, science fiction series

Science Fiction Time Travel

Because I’m writing Science fiction, I’m always on the lookout for cutting edge technology or new, interesting science discoveries.IMG_0174

Right now, I’m working on a space travel adventure, Past the Event Horizon, and am keenly aware of all the difficulties traveling in space entails. It’s dangerous out there in the void.

So when I ran across an intriguing article entitled, “Using the Quantum Vacuum as a Propellant” in the Spacetimes magazine…

I went Wahoo!”  It’s the Internet, so of course, it’s all true.

But just think if we could do that…

The article begins: “Imagine if it were possible to utilize the very vacuum of space as a source of propellant. If a spacecraft needed only to provide power, and not carry propellant, what would be the possibilities? A spacecraft equipped with such a propulsion system would have a Specific Impulse (ISP) that is many orders of magnitude higher than current propulsion technology. The limiting design parameter would then be the power density of the local power source. Mission planners could design reference missions to include multiple orbits and inclinations – the latter typically requiring the higher delta-v. A mission could incorporate multiple destinations. Perhaps most importantly for space exploration, transit times could be drastically reduced.”

It states that scaling to power levels specific to human flight will enable one year transit time to Jupiter.

That’s quite a time saver.

Okay, I don’t pretend to understand the math or the science that follows in the article, but what a neat idea for using in a starship story. Not only are transit times impossible in space, the nearest gas station is a bit far if you run out of fuel. What if you could use the vacuum of space to keep you going. Or say, dark matter? Hmmm.

Just a thought.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I wanted to also highlight some self-publishing authors, in addition to the well known ones that always appear on the lists publishers make. I got a lot of authors who touted their own book and wanted a mention.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had to do the same, but I’m looking for an e-book that you as a reader have read and think it should be mentioned because it is just that good. Authors tend to have a bias about their own work. I certainly do. Ask me, they’re great!

The big traditional publishing houses have well worn tracks of marketing and long established connections in the industry, but the new Indie author is totally confused about how to get his book noticed.

I know because I’m one.

So here’s an Indie review for a book you might just like.

The Kronos Interference by Edward Miller and J.B. Manas

Time travel has always intrigued me. It’s what I write about. It asks: What if you could go back in time? What would you do?

That is one of the questions Jacob Newman faces when he is called in on a top secret mission to an alien ship deep in the ocean and he discovers a globe that allows him to time travel.

Jacob is a high level scientist who comes with a difficult past. When he suspects the alien globe will take him back in time, he knows what he wants to do. He wants to save millions from dying…by killing Hitler…

Oh no, another holocaust story, and haven’t we had enough of those?

But wait, let me read a little further because the writing is good. No grammar, spelling or awkward phrases to throw me out of the story. The sentences flow and disappear into a developing plot.

And the main character feels real. He leaves his wife dying with cancer to answer the call of a national emergency, but not without angst. “Be back soon, honey. Got to change the world.”

He carries a picture of his beautiful grandmother, Anna, who died at Dacha. He wants her tortured life to be different. Did I mention that he was Jewish? Well, yes.

So I’ll read on a little more because the plot is now getting complicated and compelling. Mystery is piling upon mystery as Jacob travels to 1944 and World War II to kill Hitler, and I’m worried for him.

At my house, dinner needs to be served, laundry needs to be done, but I’ll just finish one more chapter…maybe two. Oh dear, there’s an interesting twist to the story. Aliens in time? The action is getting more exciting amidst some serious questions concerning humanity’s morality.

What? Pizza delivered an hour ago and when did it go dark outside? Laundry can be done tomorrow because right now I need to figure out what’s going on in this story, and I might as well finish this chapter, or maybe the next.

Starting with an attractive cover, professional formatting and compelling writing, I found that I couldn’t put this time travel mystery/thriller down. The story has a good balance between thrilling action and interesting character development, while posing very real philosophical questions on the advisability of tweaking time for whatever reason.

The ending draws out a bit, but then there are quite a number of ends to tie up in a delightfully complicated plot involving time travel, aliens, murder and, oh yes, Hitler, who makes a cameo appearance.

If you like time travel, I recommend this one. You won’t be able to put it down.

What’s your favorite science fiction novel? Leave a comment or e-mail me.


Filed under alien life forms, Alternate Universe Stories, Alternate Universes, Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook science fiction, first contact, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, Science Fiction Mystery, time travel, WWII

Science Fiction Discoveries: Unknown and Known

A new science fiction author and story is like unwrapping a Christmas present…you never know what you’ll find.

A gold bracelet or a pair of socks.

I must admit that when I saw the wrapping of Craig Gehring’s book, “The Nirvana Effect” I was excited.

The cover is beautiful. I flipped through the pages and it looked like the man knew how to format. I settled in for an exciting read.

My expectation had been for a far future novel populated by a world of extraordinary minds…I leapt to that conclusion because of the cover image. For me, the cover was eye candy and I was salivating.

Unfortunately, I found myself in the deep jungle, a Jesuit missionary, who discovers by spying on a native ceremony, a drug that unlocks the power of the human mind. A tribal youth discover this drug and uses it to bring about a prophecy and set  himself up as a god. The Jesuit priest takes the drug and ponders the morality of bringing the drug to the wider world. The two fight back and forth for power in order to follow the path they desire.

While there are exciting car chases, a rekindled romance, a rescue for the abducted heroine, and some philosophizing on the morality of who should have super powers, there isn’t a lot of science in this science fiction. It’s a story that has been done before. The super medicine out of the jungle that will change the world…and who should have control over it. And the ending doesn’t really end. A lot is still unresolved and you expect another book (or books) is in the wings to finalize everything.

Still… There is a lot of action and a bit of romance. The writing is good and reads well. It might be just what you want for a summer beach read.

So I ran to a known writer to a novella that won the Hugo in 2010…and was about Time Travel.

How could I go wrong?

Charles Stross has come on the science fiction scene over that last ten or so years to great acclaim. He has been nominated for six Hugos and won two. Palimpsest was a 2010 novella winner.

Now I knew Charles Stross. His Merchant Princes Series is one of my favorites. I highly recommend it, even though it is rarely mentioned and you  hear more about his other books. There are several books in the series starting with The Family Trade, The Hidden Family, Clan Corporate, The Merchant War, The Revolution Business and the last I read, The Trade of Queens. The story involves a family that carries a special gene that enables them to look at a certain pattern and walk from one dimension of history to another.

The story starts in 21st century America, but the heroine discovers her murdered mother’s necklace and while staring at it, is catapulted into a Medieval dimension. Cool. There she discovers her”family” she didn’t know about who has gathered power by walking dimensions bringing back drugs or medicine. The ability is carefully guarded within the “family.” The series goes on, and she discovers still another dimension of 18th century America, while trying to escape assassination by family members. So you have Steampunk, Medieval, and modern all at once and soon they are at war with each other because of…yes, getting control and having power.

So I was excited to try Palimpsest.


In this story, the Stasis has mastered the time gate and steered mankind away from the brink of extinction innumerable  amount of times. Against the background of the sweep of existence lined out like a powerpoint display, weaves the small thread of Agent Pierce’s life. Pierce is a newly recruited member of the Stasis. To be accepted into the Stasis, one first has to kill his  grandfather. Then twenty years of training ensue. As an agent for the Stasis, Pierce struggles to find his way through the maze of history (and uhistory) as unknowns attempt to assassinate him. The agents of the Stasis can go back in history and rewrite. (that’s what a palimpsest is: a piece of paper that has been written on and then erased and rewritten over)

As his existence expands and replicates over these vast stretches of time, he discovers alternate timeline and other selves that embroil him in a battle with the Stasis and the unresolved fate of humanity itself.

While the concept appeals to me, the several lectures on the history of the solar system, set up in powerpoint style, only serve to bog down the reader with its immense sweeps of history. Think Sagan’s billions and billions, and then add a bunch of trillions. The few strands of Pierce’s life are interesting, but he is a confused entity and therefore the reader is confused as to what is actually happening.

At least at the end, we get it and at least here, there is an ending of sorts.

I wondered if it was just me. Then I read a few Amazon reviews and it wasn’t. The novella has won the Hugo, but it isn’t a knock your socks off story…nor a gold bracelet.


Filed under Alternate Universe Stories, Alternate Universes, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Hugo winners, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, modifying humans, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, time travel

Bending Genre

It used to be that if you wanted to be accepted by big house publishers, you had to fit into a certain genre category: Mystery, science fiction, romance, main stream. If not, you were rejected. Book stores wanted to know where to put the book on their shelves.

With the advent of ebooks and self publishing, this is no longer the case and while cross-genre books have existed for ages, now cross genre books no longer have to fit onto a specific shelf. I predict an upsurge in cross genre novels.

So, I went to Powell’s Bookstore thinking that I was going to see Richard Morgan of Altered Carbon fame, and instead, stumbled into a mystery group that was reading speculative mysteries. Morgan was just mentioned on the calendar because he was their author that month.

Serendipity. And I went with it.

Ever since reading the Celestine Prophecy, I have become more open to the unexpected happening. There’s a novel with no particular genre, that was originally rejected, but became popular through self-publishing until it was bought by a traditional publisher.

They handed me a Jon Courtney Grimwood novel called Pashazade and I gave it the old squint. However, last week I was having trouble finding something that looked interesting, so I read it.

Wha la! I liked it.

It was a genre bender in that the protagonist, sometimes called ZeeZee and sometimes known as Ashraf al Mansur, is accused of the brutal murder of his aunt. However, events take place in an alternative universe where the Ottoman Empire never collapsed and the United States brokered a deal that ended World War I. The setting is essentially Alexandria, Egypt, which is called El Iskandryia and forms an exotic Mid-Eastern backdrop to the novel.

ZeeZee, as an American street tough, working for a Chinese mafia out of Seattle, is sent to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Or doesn’t think he committed because he isn’t quite sure. He isn’t quite sure of anything about himself as we learn that he may not be who he thinks he is. He is sprung from prison by unknowns, given an unlimited credit card and new, or possibly old identity, by his supposed aunt stating that he is the son of the Emir of Tunis and arrives in El Iskandryia at her home just in time for her murder. Naturally he is suspect number one by lead detective and fun character Felix Abrinsky.

ZeeZee, now Raf, has to do some fast dancing.

However, Raf is more than he seems, if he is what he seems at all, and he has augmentations that kick in to save his life when things get dangerous, never mind the fox he keeps hallucinating about that gives advice. Unfortunately, the high tech corporation that imbedded these goodies into his head is out of business, and things are deteriorating. The warranty is up. Reality is becoming confused.

So, to avoid prison in El Isk, and uncover his true identity, Raf has to solve the murder of his aunt, and a few others that crop up along the way. Also involved, is the young half sister who the aunt kept in her compound and who has never left the premises, and the young girl of a wealthy industrialist who he wants Raf to marry in order to acquire some social  prestige along with his fortune. Raf, his supposed half-sister, and the renegade daughter Zara  bond together to solve the mystery, with occasional shouting matches and hand waving.

You can see the confusion. The reading group did, and there were complaints.

I loved the tangle and the mystery. If you like Kristine Katherine Rusch’s speculative mysteries in her “Retrieval Artist’ series, then this might be a surprising, unexpected find for you to read.

If you want ends all tied neatly up, maybe not.

I’m intrigued enough to read the next in the series called, Effendi. The third in this trilogy is Falaheen .   I am tasked to read it and report back, hopefully with some answers to dangling threads of the story.

Genre bending is also occurring in speculative romance style novels. The series that comes to mind there is the Liadon Universe series that I have already mention several times. The Hunger Games is a bit of science fiction combined with romance also. It doesn’t fit into a well defined category.

Someone made the statement that science fiction is about things and romance and mystery novels are about people. Sure, we like the interesting technology. How does the ship go? What does the A1 do? How can you live on an alien world? Science fiction has always appealed to the science minded reader. But I don’t think you can have a good novel that doesn’t have character development and interaction with other characters, even if they are alien. As one editor said to me, “You need a person in a place with a problem–one the reader can understand.” If your alien is too alien, then the reader can’t relate.

Now, the paranormal, supernatural has been wildly popular over the last few years. Urban fantasy al la Jim Butcher. The detective who is a supernatural crime fighter. Very popular and his series is fun to read. Fantasy mystery.

I think more and more we are going to see the mixing of genres that will create a richer reader experience and open up new exciting areas of reading. The book no longer has to sit on a specific shelf and the traditional publisher is no longer traditional.

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Filed under Alternate Universes, artificial intelligence, artificial nature, Best selling science fiction, downloaded personalities, ebook science fiction, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hunger Games, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, modifying humans, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, supernatural, the fae

A Science Fiction Master: Inside stories

Lea Day was a long time close friend of Anne McCaffrey’s. I e-mailed her and asked if she had a few stories that might be fun to relate about this Grand Dame of Science fiction. Here’s what she wrote:

“She loved going to conventions, and she had friends everywhere that she looked forward to seeing in person.  When I was PA for her, I made sure that she had a full table of folks at lunch and dinner to talk to and catch up on.  It was like Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner all rolled up together.  What got me is that some of the highly professional folks could be a fan girl or a fan boy.  It was great.  It didn’t matter who they were in life, but if they were interesting and could carry on a conversation, they were there.”

Sounds like Anne was a very social person and this comes out in the wonderful human interaction in her stories. She also had a sense of humor as Lea relates in this next episode:

“One of my favorite incidents was when we were in the Dublin Airport, and Anne was being pushed in a wheelchair to the airplane by an attendant (she really couldn’t walk that far then without getting exhausted) and the man says “so, you are Anne McCaffrey?” and Anne replied “Yes I am”, and then he asks “but are you THE Anne McCaffrey?, the one that writes books?”   We just cracked up over that.  From then on out, I would use it as her title. THE Anne McCaffrey. (And when we got back to DragonHold, Anne sent the attendant signed copies of a couple of her books)”

Not only a sense of humor, but a thoughtful person also. A lot of times authors and writers are voracious readers.

I am one.

I started writing because I loved the stories. Looks like Anne was a big, big reader also, as this incident relates:

“She had a great appreciation of life, and did a lot of things with enthusiasm.  She loved to read, and if we went into a bookstore, she didn’t buy one book, but swept through the shelves buying her favorite authors and anything that looked interesting.  Fiction, nonfiction, new authors, old favorites… whatever caught her eye.  One time she bought out every copy they had of Elizabeth Moons’ “Speed of Dark”, because when she recommended a book, she would back it up with a copy of it.  Shopping with her anywhere was a marathon event; we would need our own Sherpas.”

Helping each other is one of the traits that I have found among authors, whether beginning or otherwise. There is a group that has started a website to help and advance the Indie author. Here’s a link to a sneak peek of “Cosmic Entanglement”, one of mine.   They have contests, interviews. sneak peeks and likefests.

Check it out if you are an author on the web.

Sometimes it’s as if these worlds dwell in our head and we are only the conduit to another universe. This was very much the case for Anne. As Lea explains:

“Pern was fully formed in her head, how it worked and the people in it. She was just the storyteller.  When Todd started to write in Pern, they would sit together for hours talking about the people, the places and the dragons as if they were in the next county over.  Todd grew up with Pern experiencing it as an everyday place.”

Now Anne wasn’t a saint or perfect person. Like the rest of us, she had a few flaws. As Lea recounts:

“She had a rep for being a bad driver… and in Ireland that’s saying a lot.  The “back up until the car stops, then go forward” type of parking lot escapades. Then there was the time she stole her own car … (after she wasn’t allowed to renew her drivers license).. and of course, rear ended a truck…”

Oh my. Giggle.

I finished the newest novel, Dragon’s Time, in the Pern Universe this week. Her son Todd has taken over the series, having lived all his life in Pern, and hopefully will be putting out more books.

I enjoyed revisiting the Pern Universe of dragons and thread.

It was like meeting old friends again.

The writing is easy to read and the characters feel real with their emotions and struggles. My main criticism was that there were so many of them with such odd names. Every dragon rider, once he impresses, puts an apostrophe and shortens his name. So even familiar characters have a name change that you have to get used to all over again. I often got lost as to who was who. And the living arrangements were for the open-minded. Fiona, weyrwoman, had both a lover Kindan and a leader T’man that enjoyed her bed. For me, that was rather sweet, but some might object.

Then, as much as I like time travel, it became confusing. Part of the reason was that much had to be kept secret from the past so as not to create an anomaly in the future. Time was bent and cheated, but not broken–as they kept saying. For me, it was hard to keep up with what time frame they were in.

Still, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to any long time fan who has read the other books and knows the essential story.

Here are some other books from the Universe I recommend. Looking at the books, I discovered a new one just out June, 2012. So here’s the latest…hot off the press.


Filed under alien life forms, Alternate Universes, Anne McCaffrey, Best selling science fiction, Classic science fiction, ebook science fiction, fantasy, Hugo winners, Indie authors, Indie Science Fiction Authors, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Space opera, time travel, Uncategorized

String Theory Influences Science Fiction

String Theory is an attempt to unite the General Theory of Relativity with Quantum Mechanics to form an overarching theory that explains “everything.” To unite the big of the universe with the small of particle theory. (see link for further explanation)

To do this, String Theory math requires at least ten other dimensions exist. String Theory was proposed in the nineties and is still being hotly debated as to its validity. Yet, the idea of other dimensions is showing up in science fiction novels and shows. It’s a fairly new direction and an intriguing one. The popular T.V. series “Fringe” deals with the concept of parallel universes.

My recent read of China Meiville’s The City and the City addresses the idea of overlapping dimensions. Think of The City and the City as a bit of Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984 all mixed together.

It concerns two contemporary cities somewhere at the edge of Europe that dimensionally overlap each other. A woman is murdered in the decaying and impoverished city of Beszal and Inspector Tyador Berlu gets the case. While inhabitants of both cities can see each other, they are taught from birth not to look directly at anything, or anyone from the other city, or they will be charged with an act of “Breach” and be whisked away, never to be seen again. This makes for a strange set of behaviors. People are constantly trying to avoid running into what they are forbidden to look at. Certain styles of dress and definitive movements provide clues as to which city an inhabitant is from. Still, the pressure of not looking at, or touching the hazy image that is often right in front of you, permeates the story.

Clues from the murder case impel Inspector Tyador Berlu into a strange border crossing from the city of Beszal into the overlapping dimension of the rich and thriving city of Ul Quoma where he joins up with his Ul Quoma counterpart, Inspector Quissim Dhatt. Of course the two men can’t stand each other, but they must work together in order to solve the case. So a bit of tension there.

The murdered girl is discovered to be an archeology student involved in a dig in Ul Quoma that is looking for artifacts from the Precursor Age. (before the dimensional split) Soon radical unificationalists, a rich foreign tycoon, local politicians, a controversial author, a young female sidekick, shadowy Breach enforcers and hysterical parents become involved.

Things get very confusing. A controversial author makes a case for a third shadowy city containing powerful beings and then loudly refutes his work. The murdered girl’s best friend disappears because she is terrified that her life is in danger. From whom exactly, is not made clear.

While the book contains the intriguing idea of multi dimensions wrapped in the structure of a murder mystery, I found the whole thing rather confusing. A lot of things kept being hinted at while not actually being said. People would look at things and then have to “unsee” them. I wasn’t sure whether there ever were aliens involved. The whole idea of the inhabitants of two cities having to step around and not look at each other or risk being taken away to Breach, is hard to believe. Everyone is terrified of “Breach” and yet throughout the book incidents of breach happen without punishment. The reader feels like he is being distracted from one red herring to another. And indeed he is.

It’s an odd book…and for that reason, interesting

If you like hard-boiled mystery novels with a science fiction slant, then this one’s worth trying.

L.E. Modesitt also has several novels with a similar flavor in his Octagonal Raven, FlashArchform Beauty and others. Check those out too.


FREE! FREE! FREE! For a limited time only May 13, 14, 15. A Mother’s Day Special. I am offering free through the Kindle Select Program my latest book “Cosmic Entanglement.”

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Filed under Alternate Universes, science fiction, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series