Category Archives: artificial nature

2019 Hugo nominees, Nebula, and a Murderbot

Often awards are a way to curate outstanding books. In the science fiction and fantasy field that means the Hugo and the Nebula. Nominees for 2019 are now in for both, and may offer several interesting reads. (See below)

Still, I feel there’s a lot of politics involved, and I have said so before. However, it’s easy to stand on the sideline and make critiques while others work hard to improve the genre. Mary Robbinette Kowal is a lovely lady who used to live here in the Portland area, and I have met her several times at events. I want to note however, that she was past Secretary and then Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America who sponsor the Nebula Awards. This past January she ran for President and then withdrew her nomination. Similarly, past president John Scalzi has won a number of Hugo awards. Coincidence? I don’t know. I know he writes well and is prolific, and I like his series. I plan to read Mary’s recently nominated book, The Calculating Stars, because she is a local author and a charming person. I’ll let you know what I think.

The other books on the nominating list I plan to read are: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang and Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.

 

Here are the Nebula nominees for 2019:

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2019 Nebula Awards, including the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, and for the first time, the Nebula Award for Game Writing.

The winners will be announced at SFWA’s 54th annual Nebula Conference in Los Angeles, CA, which takes place from Thursday, May 16th through Sunday, May 19th at the Marriott Warner Center in Woodland Hills, CA.

The finalists are as follows:

Novel
The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK)
Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Witchmark, C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing)
Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)
Novella
Fire Ant, Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi)
The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean)
Alice Payne Arrives, Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
Artificial Condition, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
Novelette
The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, Tina Connolly (Tor.com 7/11/18)
“An Agent of Utopia”, Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
“The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births”, José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18)
“The Rule of Three”, Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18)
“Messenger”, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4)

Also in are the 2019 Hugo nominees.

The 2019 Hugo Awards will be handed out at this year’s WorldCon 77, which will be held in Dublin, Ireland, between August 15th and 19th. Here is a shortened list of nominees for this year’s awards.

BEST NOVEL

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

BEST NOVELLA
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

BEST NOVELETTE
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho, Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly, Tor.com
Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory, Tor.com
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, Tor.com
The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer, Uncanny Magazine
When We Were Starless by Simone Heller, Clarkesworld Magazine

BEST SHORT STORY
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker, Lightspeed Magazine
The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher, Uncanny Magazine
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark, Fireside Magazine
STET by Sarah Gailey, Fireside Magazine
The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander, Uncanny Magazine
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine

BEST SERIES
The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older
The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee
The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire
The Universe of Xuya by Aliette de Bodard
Wayfarers by Becky Chambers

BEST RELATED WORK
Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee
The Hobbit Duology (a documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan
An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards 1953-2000, by Jo Walton
The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 by Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, and John Picacio
Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon

There are numerous other categories with nominees that you can find on the website:
http://www.thehugoawards.org/

I have read and commented on other books by Becky Chambers, Naomi Novik, Mary Robinette Kowal, Martha Wells, Yoon Ha Lee, and Charles Stross in previous blogs. All have been nominated for other books in other years. It seems the same people get nominated repeatedly. Nonetheless, several authors have been nominated more than once for various books over the years in both the Hugo and Nebula. It seems a common practice.

***
With that settled, I’m currently working on marketing. I have a promo on Fussy Librarian April 25 for Caught in Time. The tricky part with promos is figuring out all the rules and logistics. Fussy expects at least ten reviews with a four star overall average. If it is in a series, they’ll only take the first book. But… They will take a new release if you can show ten reviews with four plus average rating on your other books. Fussy is also cheaper. Twenty-five dollars for science fiction and thirty-eight for romance. However, they recently updated their website and guess who got totally confused?

Yup. Me.
Somehow I found myself opening up yet another Facebook account. Yipes!

BUT … They had a good messaging system, and when I yelled for help, they responded promptly and took care of me, listing me as a romance for ten dollars more. Oh, well. They can reach 175,000 readers through their free newsletter, and they will advertise your novel on Facebook. Check the website for complete up-to-date details.

I’ll let you know the response I get and if it was worth it.

Free on May 9, 10 and 11th, I’m going back to favorite ad site, FreeBooksy for May 10. My last promo in March for Somewhat Alien gathered 1,898 downloads with a happy quantity of follow-on sales.

That’s what I want to see.

No specific amount of reviews are required, but the book has to be free. (FREEbooksy) That means setting up your free days through KDP if you are on that program, which I am. If you want to charge or have a specific genre like romance, there are other promos available. The price depends on the category of your book. Science fiction is $70.

I’ll promo Caught in Time because that evening will be my book club venue, and I want to offer several special deals to the group.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if I found any of this a worthwhile part of any book marketing plan.
***
For my book recommendation this time around, I’m going to mention Martha Wells’ Artificial Condition since it made both the Nebula and Hugo nomination list this year.

The books in her series are short, which puts them in the novella category. The cost for a 160 page hardcover is $17 and the Kindle version is $9.99. A lot of readers have protested the blatant attempt to squeeze as much money as possible out of the series by her publisher. It’s caused quite a kerfuffle.

I, however, made use of the public library and paid nothing, but was irritated at a publisher’s manipulation of readers to make as big a profit as possible.

I’m getting to be a cranky old woman … I know, I know.

However, I have read three of the Murderbot Series and enjoyed them all very much. (See previous blog comments)

Artificial intelligence passing as human is a current theme in science fiction. Martha Wells’ AI calls itself Murderbot due to a mining incident where a number of humans were massacred by AIs, and it was present.

Somehow, the narrating AI managed to disengage his controller and escape, avoiding the “reset” or wipe performed on the other robots by the company. Robots, like Murderbot, are designed for fighting and violence and frighten ordinary humans. They normally are kept under tight control, but our narrator runs for it, attempting to pass for human under a disguise of cloak and helmet.

Its memory is still hazy about the incident, so, it decides to return to find out what happened. Murderbot negotiates to hitch a ride with an artificial-intelligence operated Research Transport Vehicle named ART in return for downloaded media goodies. Their interactions form some of the more hilarious parts of the story, and make it a worthwhile read, even at an inflated price.

As the story goes, humans in the story do irrational things and cause Murderbot to wonder at their actions. However, as it absorbs the human soap operas and recorded movies, it acts more and more human until the reader is charmed and also wants to know the truth of what happened.

Unfortunately, that will take another book.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, artificial nature, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Hugo Nominations, Marketing and selling novels, Nebula nominations, Robots in science fiction, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

Sexuality and gender in Science Fiction

Recently, a TOR blog by Liz Burke posed an interesting discussion on: Where are the SFF stories about pregnancy and childbirth?

I’m not a feminist, but I believe in the humane treatment of all individuals. What I object to is others dictating who I should like or associate with based on their criteria. Let me make the friends I want regardless of race, color, or creed. Let my fellow humans make their own. Let us all treat each other with respect.

I was criticized at a conference by an editor who read only a small sample of my work. He indicated that my female characters were too compliant. I wanted to tell him that I felt that we were getting too many stories of ass-kicking females with bad attitudes, and great bodies. We need to think about what role models we put up for our children, females and males alike. As in real life, I have an enormous range of female characters from the kickass Commander Elise Fujeint to the compliant females of a Sunglast harem… and every flavor in between.

Sex is pervasive in science fiction, but actual childbirth and parenting, I’ll have to admit the content is sparse. Lois Bujold is most mentioned in Burke’s blog with her Vorksigan series that deals with Mile’s birth, the Betan replicators that replace pregnancy, and the parenting of Mile’s own children briefly glimpsed in Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance.

The recently late and deeply missed Ursula LeGuinn explored sexuality and gender bending with her Left Hand of Darkness and child rearing is addressed in The Dispossessed.

Also mentioned that deals with pregnancy and child rearing is Octavia Butlers Lilith’s Brood. There are others, but the list is short.

Can you think of any other science fiction that focuses on or even mentions pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting?

Why did this topic catch my attention? Two reasons made it immediate.

The first is that once my character of Elise got pregnant, I had to deal with the consequences of her pregnancy, namely Tempest, her daughter. As once Commander of the Fleet, she was made to come to terms with her new role of wife and mother. It’s tricky to write about children, and yet, they can’t be ignored. After all the exciting sex, there’s diapers and bottles in the aftermath. But it’s the children that keep the species going.

The second reason this topic struck me was that I had just finished Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel. In this story was a secondary character who was very pregnant. As captain of a generation space ship with many children on board, the pregnancy highlighted a cultural difference between the Earth military culture and the PSI. In addition, Captain Guanyin Shiang agrees to take her ship into a battle to help save a dubious ally. The main male character, captain of an Earth military ship, needs her help in saving a sister ship under attack but is very much flummoxed by her condition and the vulnerability of her children when he asks her ship to help him save the ship under attack. In the Earth’s military rank and file, pregnancy is a reason for a female to be discharged. Medical and physical protection against pregnancy is mandatory. In military science fiction, rarely are pregnancy, childbirth or child rearing a focus of the story.

So with all the commotion about #Metoo, the topic was current. Not only was I dealing with the issue of pregnancy and child rearing in my writing, but the book I had just read also highlighted this aspect of the female struggle.

Since this is a current social issue, we may see an influx of books in the science fiction field address this issue that had long since been a topic in general literature.

Now you know that my book for this blog is Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel. This is the second book in the series. I blogged not long ago that I liked her first book, The Cold Between and recommended it.

Due to events in the first book, engineer Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster are court-marshaled. But instead of a dishonorable discharge or prison, they are sent back out on the Galileo to patrol supposedly empty space in the Third Sector. Not soon after, they receive a distress call from the Exeter, a sister ship, claiming they are under attack by raiders there. A PSI generation ship in the area agrees to help, and the two drive off the attackers but leave ninety-seven dead.

Investigation into the attack points to sabotage and, indeed, both the Galileo and the PSI generation ship, Orunmila, experience sabotage attempts on their ships. Someone wants them dead.

The Raiders are tracked to an Earth colony that has been ravaged by an environment gone rogue. In an attempt to terraform the planet, the machines have destroyed the planet’s environment, and the colony is left to suffer. Cover up activities and mistakes reach high up into the military’s brass and involve a prior mission from Elena’s past.

I enjoyed this book because of the rich characters and emotional interplay. Along with a battle, politics and mystery, Bonesteel brings to life the struggles of military life in space.

It’s a quality military science fiction read I would recommend.

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Filed under Alien worlds, artificial nature, Discovering New Worlds, environmental issues in science fiction, military science fiction, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series

Ad Survey for Self Publishers

Happy Autumn!

As my blog readers know, I often talk about marketing. I do this not because I’m any marketing guru, but because I like to share information in the hopes it will help other authors out there. I occasionally use ad sites. When I don’t, sales slump, and when I do, sales do better…depending on the effectiveness of the site.

That’s why over the last two years, I have participated in Jason B. Ladd’s survey on results authors have found for various ad sites. Before I was buying blind on whether they were effective or not. Even though his samples are small, they do shed light on some of the sites and their effectiveness.

Of course, genre plays a role. Robin Reads appears to favor the romance writer whereas Book Barbarian is limited to science fiction and fantasy only. Bookbub is the clear winner for garnering most downloads and sales, but very expensive and practically impossible to get accepted unless you have a million five star reviews. Also, I notice lots of famous author’s backlists show up there, most likely supported by traditional publishers. Amy Tam has listed and Isaac Asimov, Gordon Dickson and others listed recently. I’m not in that league … yet.

So, Jason and helpers took all the results of ads sent in by self publishing authors and compiled the results to see if the promotions are worthwhile. He asked the question : Is spending money on ad sites worth it? Here’s a good look at how the ads broke down by genre and what you can expect to pay and what you can expect to receive in downloads and sales.

Here’s the link : http://www.jasonbladd.com/run-book-promotion-numbers-say-yes/

In addition, he has published a book on how to get reviews called Book Review Bonzai. I need reviews, but when I read the method, it looked like a lot of difficult work. It involves using software programs that scrapes the internet for reviewers, putting information on a spread sheet to keep track, and batch e-mailing them to ask for a review. It works, but sounded very time-consuming.

Besides, I’m a reviewer who likes to choose what I review rather than be hounded into writing one. Nonetheless, this may just be what you are searching for to pump up your reviews. Having a good number of reviews is important as often certain advertisers require a minimum number before accepting your novel. This could be the very tool you have been looking for to increase your reviews.

This week for my science fiction suggestion, I’m returning to a favorite author.

Catherine Asaro has just released the next in her Skolian Saga called The Bronze Skies. This is a stand alone in the story of Major Bhaajan who comes from the Under City of the City of Cries. She calls it book eight in the Skolian Empire series but it follows the more recent Undercity title published last year.

The story:

Born into the slums below the City of Cries on the planet Raylicon, the orphan Bhaajan broke free of her crushing poverty and joined the military. There she rose in rank to become a military officer with the Imperial Space Command. Now she is retired and offers her service as a private investigator. Undercity tells the story of her first investigation, which I reviewed last year.

The Bronze Skies continues her story, as she takes on solving an odd murder witnessed by the Ruby Pharoah.

The House of Majda rules the City of Cries and Cries rules the planet Raylicon. Three formidable sisters hold power in the house of Majda. The oldest, Vaj Majda, serves as the General in the Pharaoh’s Army which makes her joint Commander of the Imperial Space Command. The youngest, Colonel Lavinda Majda, is a high Commander in the military, and the third, Corejida Majda  runs the finances of the empire.

The Ruby Pharaoh, Dyhianna Selei (Skolia), is descended from the Ruby Empire, a far-flung civilization that at one time stretched across the stars. It collapsed, and now an elected Assembly rules. Dyhianna, as the Ruby Pharaoh, controls and monitors the interstellar meshes that tie humanity together. The meshes even extend into a different universe, Kyle space. You couldn’t visit the Kyle but you could transform your thoughts there if you were a trained operator with proper enhancements. This enables instant communication light years across interstellar civilization. The Ruby Pharaoh has to have a certain genetic lineage to give her this ability.

The murderer is Jagernaut Daltona Calaj who walks into the financial office at Selei City on the planet of Parthonia and shoots the aide Tavan Ganz. Jagernauts are thought to be unable to murder like that.

Major Bhaajan gets involved when the Ruby Pharoah claims to have witnessed the murder and suggests the AI node implanted in the jugernaut’s spine may have been corrupted. And now, the murderer, Calaj, is on Rayliccon and suspected of hiding out in the Under City—Bhaajan’s old stomping grounds where very few upper level humans can survive.

The Under City is a place of scavengers, of a hidden people who never see the sun and live a brutal existence. For ages, they have been ignored by the upper class citizens of Cries who live on the surface, and only recently recognized. Because she was born there and lived a brutal childhood there, Bhaajan knows the lingo, the culture, and the people. The crime boss of an illegal brothel and gambling house is her lover. So she is uniquely qualified to track down the illusive culprit who is said to be hiding there. Her search into the underground and where the trail leads makes the story more than a simple murder.

I found the story appealing on various levels. Bhaajan is an interesting character with conflicting emotions concerning her background and current status in a highly stratified society. This is an involved universe, so be prepared for clumps of background information to be dumped into the story to keep you up-to-date.

Bhaajan has an implanted, sentient AI that has formed a close bond and they have an ongoing conversation with each other, which I find delightful. Her body has been augmented, making her powerful physically. Her relationship with Jak, who grew up with her, is a sensual one and conflicted, although her one goal is to better the people of Undercity. This society is rich in culture and forms an intriguing storyline in and of itself.

But most interesting is the desert ruins outside of Cries, hinting of a long gone civilization and visitors from the stars that originally colonized the plant, and then mysteriously disappeared. Within these ruins, she discovers powerful AIs who are maintained by a mysterious cult of cloned telepaths…and one rogue AI that awakens from a crashed starship and is out to destroy all humans

At the center, is Dryhianna, whose mind grapples with the artificial intelligence within the mesh and Kyle space, and discovers this hidden and powerful AI that wants to wipe out all humans.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, artificial nature, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Clones, downloaded personalities, genetic manipulation, Implanting humans, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Nebula nominations, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Transhumanism

Counting Spaceship Colonists

IMG_9518Writing science fiction often takes you off into the weeds of future speculation. When I took on the Terran Series and started writing A World Too Far, I had to figure out how many people and ships would be traveling. I also had to state a reason for the mission.

I didn’t want the reason to be that the Earth was annihilated or destroyed. I hope that as time goes on we do things better and more efficiently. Stephen Hawking says that we need to expand out from Earth in order to survive long term. The “Not Everyone in the Same Basket” theory. I think we have enough people like Elon Musk that we don’t need a catastrophic event to push people out into space. So I made the reason for the expedition the fear that humans need to diversify to other planets in order to survive…and the plain old human drive of seeking adventure and new worlds.

Okay, how many then? Two names kept cropping up. One was John More who said 160 was enough. Local Portland University anthropologist Cameron Smith said 14,000 to 40,000.

space-station-485590_640

Wikipedia:

Estimates of the minimum reasonable population for a generation ship vary. Anthropologist John Moore has estimated that, even in the absence of cryonics or sperm banks, a population capacity of 160 people would allow normal family life (with the average
individual having ten potential marriage partners) throughout a 200-year space journey, with little loss of genetic diversity; social engineering can reduce this estimate to 80 people.[6] In 2013 anthropologist Cameron Smith reviewed existing literature and created a new computer model to estimate a minimum reasonable population in the tens of thousands. Smith’s numbers were much larger than previous estimates such as Moore’s, in part because Smith takes the risk of accidents and disease into consideration, and assumes at least one severe population catastrophe over the course of a 150-year journey.[7]

Cameron Smith in Acta Astronautica
April–May 2014, Vol.97:16–29, doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.12.013

Estimation of a genetically viable population for multigenerational interstellar voyaging: Review and data for project Hyperion

I find that previously proposed such populations, on the order of a few hundred individuals, are significantly too low to consider based on current understanding of vertebrate (including human) genetics and population dynamics. Population genetics theory, calculations and computer modeling determine that a properly screened and age- and sex-structured total founding population (Nc) of anywhere from roughly 14,000 to 44,000 people would be sufficient to survive such journeys in good health. A safe and well-considered Nc figure is 40,000, an Interstellar Migrant Population (IMP) composed of an Effective Population [Ne] of 23,400 reproductive males and females, the rest being pre- or post-reproductive individuals. This number would maintain good health over five generations despite (a) increased inbreeding resulting from a relatively small human population, (b) depressed genetic diversity due to the founder effect, (c) demographic change through time and (d) expectation of at least one severe population catastrophe over the 5-generation voyage.

That’s quite a range.
What to do?

I started with sixty ships with two hundred per ship that worked the ship and two hundred in cryo. But then as the ships approached the designated planet, a population campaign increased the live colonists to five hundred per ship, give or take. That put us in the range of thirty thousand along the lines of Cameron Smith’s estimate.

Besides, I liked Babylon Five, the TV series, and wanted several ships on the journey for diversity and interest.

When the target planet was found toxic, forty ships decided not to land and jumped away. Of course, problems started happening immediately and the population underwent a severe reduction.

I needed a more manageable number of characters. I was trying to read The Dark Between the Stars by Alan Dean Foster and too many main characters overwhelm a reader. I got overwhelmed and didn’t finish the book.

As ships sought ways to increase the population, space found ways to destroy ships.

Now as I’m writing the next stage that deals with survival on a space station and alien planet, numbers again play an important role. Only so many can fit on station, and those stranded on the orbiting ships create a nice tension to those on planet that don’t want a horde of aliens invading their home and try to keep them on the station or ships.

Readers often don’t realize how much science fiction authors need to balance science plausibility with attention-keeping fictional plots and often wander off into the weeds of research.

Or maybe they do. Maybe they require it.

fortunes-pawnThis week I read Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach as it is a Powell’s science fiction readers group selection. I really enjoyed it…so much so that I’m now reading the sequel Honor’s Knight.

It’s even better.

Devi Morris is a super gung-ho mercenary from the military planet Paradox where the king reigns supreme. The universe is full of inhabited planets and ships travel all over via jump technology.

However, there is an unknown dangerous threat lurking at the edges of the universe.

Devi’s favorite possessions are her battle armor, which she has named Lady Gray, and her weapons. (Also named). She polishes them and talks about them a lot. Being a merc, she has few friends. Being aggressive and battle smart… she has few friends.

In order to accelerate her career, she has taken a job in a beaten up trading ship called The Glorious Fool. The ship has a dangerous reputation but it’s rumored to be a fast track to the rank of Devastator, the name of the king ‘s elite guards, a rank Devi aspires to.honors-knight

On board, an interesting assortment of aliens form the crew. The navigator is a cranky aeon, a birdlike species; her doctor is from a race of crablike insects that are enemies of most humans, and the cook, Rupert, well, he’s incredibly handsome and nothing like he seems.

Nothing.

Actually, nothing is as it appears and soon Devi is wrapped up in secrets that are world heavens-queenshattering with the real possibility of not surviving her tour.

But she’s a stubborn, resourceful, and surprisingly capable mercenary who soon finds herself with a few deadly secrets of her own.

Fast page-turning action with a passionate love story makes this one of my favorites, and one I recommend.

Happy Halloween!pumpkin

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, artificial nature, Classic science fiction, genetic manipulation, modifying humans, Non fiction Science for science fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism

Science Fiction Thriller

IMG_0165

 

I was studying Data guy’s new report on author’s earnings to understand the influences on total book sales, both paperback and ebook.

http://authorearnings.com/report/october-2016/

The data suggests that ebook sales have declined recently. However, keep in mind that more and more Indie and self published authors are using ASIN numbers rather than the more reportable ISBN number.

Also, the report mentions the influences that heavyweight Bookbub has on sales. Traditional publishing houses are paying the large fee to drive up their ebook sales and squeezing out the smaller fry. While Bookbub protests that it is fair, it really isn’t. You need a lot of reviews to get accepted and the cost is high. It’s also a matter of the higher number of sales and reviews you get, the more likely you will get more in the future. As an independent publisher, I struggle to get reviews. Sales are good, but reviews are few.

Price as an issue is also discussed. The traditional and mid-sized houses are putting high price tags on ebooks and that drives down sales. Discounting paperbacks results in selling less ebooks and more paperbacks. The popularity of coloring books that are counted as paperbacks was also a factor in the paperback sales bump.

Version 2Also, I’m concerned about the increasing availability of free books. Bundling is also a new marketing ploy that enables a reader to get a number of books for a lowered price. However, as an author, when I offer my first in a series, I get a lot of follow-on sales, so offering one free is well worth it for me and part of my marketing strategy.

There is also mention of Amazon’s recent changing of algorithms. Scam artists have infiltrated Amazon to manipulate the page reads in the Kindle Unlimited program. A number of innocent authors have been hurt in the crossfire. Since Amazon doesn’t disclose how they count these pages, authors rely on Amazon numbers for how many pages are read…and these numbers have changed dramatically recently.

There’s a lot of data and graphs to look at and some interesting comments on the current state of the business. So, take a look and draw your own conclusions.

blended-humanThis week I’m talking about The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster. This is part of a completed Trilogy (The Tipping Point Trilogy)  that deals with extreme genetic manipulation of humans. I picked this because it is near future science fiction that is different than my usual fare. Also, the book is by a well known author that I haven’t discussed before.

Whisper is a thug who has chosen to alter his body to extreme thinness. His partner in crime is Jiminey Cricket who has long legs and can jump far. They attack a supposed tourist in an alley to harvest his hand to sell. Whisper is attracted to a hidden shimmering silver thread that he pockets. Not long after, shadowy figures start hunting them.

The book is a chase through strange environments and even stranger people. At first, the two run, thinking it is the hand that their pursuers want. Then, after they split up to throw off their trackers, Jiminey disappears. Whisper calls forth everything and everyone he knows to evade whoever is after him. And some of the characters are pretty strange…such as alligator man.body-inc

After he is shot with tracker bullets, Whisper ends up at Dr. Ingrid Seastrom’s clinic, desperate to get the bullets removed where he shows her the thread. He hopes her advanced equipment will reveal what he carries so he will know its worth. Unlike Whisper, Ingrid is an attractive Harvard educated natural. Investigating the thread leads to a startling discovery, and it appears to be connected to a quantum entangled nanoscale implant she took out of a young girl’s brain recently. The silver thread is a data storage device made from an impossible bit of material not from Earth. Her scientific curiosity wants to know more about the strange material, so together they form a partnership.

the-sum-of-her-partsBut their pursuers appear to have a lot of clout and skilled assassins to call upon in order to retrieve the stolen thread. The result is a wild chase through a disturbing world where what it means to be human is a very blurry line indeed.

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Filed under artificial nature, Cutting Edge Science ideas, gene modification, genetic manipulation, hard science, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, modifying humans, Near future science fiction, quantum entanglement, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, Transhumanism

Glad Tidings for Self Publishers

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I write about human clones, so I keep an eye out for news on cloning advancements. Here is a startling article I found on news.yahoo.com.

Boyalife in China is setting up an extensive animal cloning factory in partnership with Sooam from South Korea to be located in Tiajin, China where it will to clone cows, dogs, racehorses and other animals.

Okay…is this step one? How soon will human cloning follow, and what will be the guidelines? Scientist there have already indicated that they can clone humans but are holding back because of politics and public sentiment.clones

I just published on Amazon my eighth book, Time’s Equation in ebook and I’m waiting for the proof of the paperback. Now I’m staring marketing in the eye and can’t hide out with the excuse that I’m under a publishing deadline. Marketing my favorite exercise…not.bk8_cover_print

To inspire myself and confirm that I’m on the right path, I am reproducing (with additional comments) an article I saw on wiseinkblog.com.

Read and rejoice all indie authors.

Self-published books accounted for 31% of all e-book sales in the Kindle Store in 2014. Indie books account for 31% of e-books.

However,
40% of all e-book revenue is going to indie authors. In other words, indies are raking in more money, which means that their sales figures are higher than many of their traditional counterparts. Comment: We can receive 70% of retail revenues for eBooks over $2.99. And self publishers can set their price for both ebook and paperback, balancing marketability and margin profit.

Which brings us to …
Indie books represent 25% of books on Amazon’s e-book bestseller list. Readers aren’t nearly as prejudiced against indie books as they were even a few years ago, and their buying practices suggest it! Comment: Looks like self publishing is becoming more and more “acceptable.” Maybe the story is more important than who publishes it. Maybe Indie authors are being more careful about how it is written.

And in addition…
You can safely dismiss the 50 Shades effect. Only 1.2% of self-published books sales are for erotica titles, which proves that you can indie publish successfully without writing a sex book. Comment: Thank goodness as porn is not in my writing comfort zone.

But best yet…
In Smashwords’ 2014 survey, they found that pricing your e-book at $.99 won’t make you rich. In fact, $2.99-3.99 is the sweet spot for a bestseller, and earn more in sales than books priced higher. Comment: I read Mark Coker’s excellent article on self publishing and have priced all my eBooks at $3.99. However, I see a movement by traditional publishing to raise the bar, and in fact a large number of popular authors published traditionally are ebook pricing at $10 and up.

Think you can only release shorts and novellas on e-book? Think again. The bestselling books in e-book are usually over 100,000 words. Maybe because they’re easier to hold? Comment: I usually shoot for 100,000 words, although read my previous blog that discusses a trend towards shorter novels that get bundled later on.

And increasingly…
According to Bowker, 458,000 books were indie pubbed in 2013 in the US. That’s up 437% from 2008! The self-publishing ranks are growing, and with increasing number comes more exciting and innovative strategies to publish your perfect book. Comment: I own my own ISBN and list on Bowker.

Best news yet…
It’s a good time to be a woman. Indie bestsellers are twice as likely to be written by a woman than traditionally published bestsellers (67% versus 39%). Comment: Yeah! Since I am one, this was good to hear. Science fiction used to be male dominated, but new female authors are getting noticed.

(See me jumping up and down)

This week I’m reading two polar opposite books. Golden Son by Pierce Brown and Solar Express by L. E. Modesitte, Jr.

Golden SonGolden Son is part of a trilogy consisting of Red Rising, Golden Son and Morning Star.
A universe where color dictates the social hierarchy of humans. Darrow is a red, his father a low class miner under the thumb of the golds. After Darrow’s beloved wife is hanged by Golds, he vows vengeance and using high tech and body carvers is transformed into a gold where he hopes to infiltrate and destroy them from within. Then, he gets to know Golds from the inside; their conflicts, their deceptions and their humanity. Darrow becomes “Reaper” a feared battle warrior who kills thousands, but not without remorse or guilt as he tries to change a society spread out among worlds.Red Rising

While the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, I personally found the story a bit overly dramatic. Darrow is on a mission to disrupt a rigid and inequitable social structure and provides some exciting battle sequences, but the angst and internal drama was a bit much for me.

The constructed world, however, with Roman names and culture that contrasted with high tech weaponry and biology was very interesting.

Solar ExpressDue to the holidays, I have not completed Solar Express, but L. E. Modesitte is one of my favorite authors. So far, it is dry and a bit slow, but that is Modesitte at the beginning of many of his stories. The idea of discovering what at first appears to be a comet, but turns into an alien artifact that changes the sun, is fascinating. So I’m sticking with it for now. Stay tuned.

While husband and in-laws have recently chopped and brought home the living room tree (I’m in Oregon where there are tree farms ten minutes away from me), decorated the house, enjoyed a large Thanksgiving dinner with new relations (daughter’s newly engaged), published my eighth book, Time’s Equation, I haven’t finished reading Solar Express and will report on it next week.

As people immerse themselves in the holidays, reading may taper off, but hopefully buying picks up, although November was a good month for my sales. How about you?

After all, a good book makes an excellent gift at a good price for anyone to enjoy. And the sheer variety of great titles makes it easy to personalize for that special person.

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Ancillary Sword and Exciting Science Fiction News

Image 1At this very moment, Cosmic Entanglement is #1 in Amazon’s Kindle eBooks> science fiction & fantasy>science fiction> space opera and #2 Kindle eBooks>science fiction and fantasy> alien invasion.
I say “at this very moment” because these kinds of things tend to be fleeting.

But still gratifying for all the hard work involved.

My heartfelt thanks to enthusiastic science fiction fans that have read my books, and especially to those who have left great reviews. Such is the lifeblood of an author. bk8_cover_print

More exciting news is that the proof for Time’s Equation is on its way, which means by the end of November the latest book in the series will be published. Here’s a short summary:

“Tempest Steele vows not to fall  again for the charms of Kayse Telluria, but when a murder occurs, and he is a prime suspect, he  jumps through a time gate in an attempt to track down the culprits.

Not thinking of consequences, she follows him to find a disturbing future and creates even more problems. But a math equation may be the answer, if only they can solve it and set the future back on the right course.

It won’t be as easy as it sounds.”

With all this happening, I did manage to read Ancillary Sword this past week. I have decided that if I start a series, there’s no problem in reading books in the rest of the series. I wanted to read a popular science fiction novel. This got nominated for the Hugo for best novel in 2015.

2015 Hugo Awards

Presented at: Sasquan, Spokane, Washington, USA, August 22, 2015
Hosts: David Gerrold and Tananarive Due
Base design: Matthew Dockrey
Awards Administration: John Lorentz, Ruth Sachter, Linda Deneroff, Ron Oakes, Dave McCarty, and Glenn Glazer
Best Novel (5653 final ballots, 1827 nominating ballots, 587 entries, range 212-387)
The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books): winner
▪ The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
▪ No Award
▪ Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books)
▪ The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)

Ancillary SwordI really enjoyed it, but be aware that Ann Leckie uses the feminine pronoun in all cases and it can be annoying trying to decide whether the current “she” being discussed is feminine or masculine.

Having said that, it’s really cool that the viewpoint character named, Fleet Captain Breq Mianaai is a soldier who used to be a warship.

As the warship Justice of Toren, Breq controlled thousands of minds, but even though in one body now, she can access her crew while carrying on conversations on station and also monitoring events down planet. Even better, she carries on dialogue with her current ship Mercy of Kalr, and Athoek Station revealing that ship and station AIs have emotions…and strategies for getting what they want.

Anne Leckie plays with the idea of human emotion affecting machine intelligence and the relationships of humans with self-aware AIs.

Breq is sent by the multi-bodied emperor, currently at war with herself, to the only place she would agree to go and finds that Athoek Station and the adjoining planet are morally corrupt. Bodies from conquered races are being put in cryo chambers and sold into slavery for a profit, even though forbidden. Straightening the mess out impacts Athoek’s strongly ingrained culture and proves not to be easy.Ancillary Justice

The first in this series: Ancillary Justice was nominated for every major science fiction award in 2014 (won the Arthur Clarke, Nebula, British Science Fiction and was short listed for the Hugo)

See my 2014 blog for more details.

You might want to also enjoy Ancillary Sword, the follow up, and look for the next in the series.

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