Category Archives: award winning scifi

A Strategy to Sell Books

 

 

 

 

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

In her recent blog, she says:

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

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

And I agree with these findings.

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

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

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

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

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

Well, duh!

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

Therefore, coming soon is Somewhat Alien.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check.

Now let’s see what happens.

2 Comments

Filed under Alien and human bonding, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling author, fantasy series, first contact, genetic manipulation, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Space opera, Transhumanism

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.

***

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/

2 Comments

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

Changes in Publishing

photo-on-2011-02-04-at-15-44-2

Publishing is changing, but you knew that. The problem becomes how is it changing right now, and what headlines are we to believe about recent trends. December and January are great months to evaluate the past year and forecast upcoming developments.

Unfortunately, several publishing headlines proclaimed facts that don’t present the true picture. Politics isn’t the only purview of misleading or fake news.

Thank goodness for Hugh Howey and Data Guy.

Articles claimed that ebooks were decreasing and paperbacks were on the rise. Turns out that the rise of paperbacks sales came from several sources. 1: adult coloring books in 2015-16 became wildly popular. 2: Traditional publishers winning against Amazon (remember the big battle for agency pricing?) hiked prices for popular ebooks to sometimes the cost of a paperback. Readers chose the paperbacks when Amazon discounted them almost to parity with the ebook. 3: Finally, the data for these articles came from Bolkers who issues ISBNs. ISBNS are used by traditional publishers to track books. One book could have three or four different ISBNS depending on its format. An overwhelming amount of Indie publishers don’t use ISBNS due to their high cost here in the United States. They are not required by Amazon to publish ebooks. Amazon provides for free their own ASIN to tag ebooks. Indie authors often sell the large majority of their work as ebooks on Amazon and use Amazon’s ASIN. I use both.

Thankfully, Data Guy has a software program that scrapes data from Amazon, and other distributors (Kobo, Nook, etc.) to provide a more accurate picture of what might be happening.

Jane Friedman writes a blog with some interesting comments on the state of publishing.
https://janefriedman.com/9-statistics-writers-know-amazon/.   Check her out.

I believe that politics has impacted sales for January and February by distracting readers from books. My sales have dropped off, and I blame lack of marketing and political distraction, but this is merely my assumption. What about you?

Surprising changes in publishing are Amazon’s foray into brick and mortar to sell books and their new traditional publishing style imprints that are popping up.

I live five minutes away from the mall that houses Amazon’s new brick and mortar store. It’s fresh and new and highly curated. All covers face out and most are selected from Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It’s clever because a reader is presented with books that are proven already successful in the marketplace. No prices are put on the books since Prime members pay less and prices may vary. Will this new Amazon strategy pay off?

As a friend of mine often says, “We’ll see.”

all-the-birds-in-the-skyThis week I read Charlie Jane Anders’ “All the Birds in the Sky.” The timing couldn’t be better as it has just received a 2016 Nebula Award nomination.

The story starts off with Patricia Delfine’s tortured years at Canterbury Academy. All the angst of junior high school are magnified. Cliques of girls harass her and call her a witch. True, she talks to birds and a rather important tree, but only in the woods where no one can hear her. Nature is sacred to her and often she tries to escape the cruelty of her life by going into the forest behind her house.

Not only is school traumatic, but when she gets blamed for mean girl tricks, the school calls her parents and they lock her in her room for days, only letting her out to attend school. Her younger sister brings her meals, but not before she has poured hot sauce and chili pepper all over it.

Sibling love at its finest.

One day, Patrica literally runs into Lawrence Armstead who also gets pushed around and ridiculed at the same school. He, however, is a computer genius, and through a schematic on the Internet builds a time machine in a wristwatch that can jump him ahead two seconds. It’s not much, but it helps when spit balls come his way. Eventually, he builds a robot from parts and hides it in his closet. Unfortunately, his parents don’t value his geeky genius and sign him up for the Great Outdoor Nature Adventure to get him away from his computer and experiments so he can be more like “normal” boys. He hates it.

Patricia and Lawrence become awkward friends. Patricia is talked into lying about his attendance at nature class in exchange for twenty dollars. Lawrence also provides her with a module so she can talk to his robot and “socialize” it. The AI, in turn, gives out good advice on coping.

The book skips forward to San Francisco and young adults Patricia and Lawrence. Both have survived their childhood…barely. Patricia actually saves Lawrence’s life and, after a traumatic event, Patricia is found by a magician and runs away from her family to magic school.

The second half of the book follows the reunion of the two where they both struggle with lovers, their jobs, current co-workers, and a growing threat to the world. It becomes apparent that Patrica represents magic and nature while Lawrence symbolizes science. Together the two, with their talents, might save the world from a looming doomsday threat.

This is a strange book for science fiction. The early lives of the two main characters makes for agonizing reading and points out the failure of society both in education and child raising. I find the Nebula has often nominated and awarded unusual books that dance between fantasy and science fiction. This is one of those books.

Although the ending rather disappointed, I still recommend reading the book for its vivid characterizations and emotional events. It has a bit of the flavor of the Magicians in it. The trials these two have to overcome endears them and is worth the read.

And while reading this book, if you’re an adult, you’ll be glad you are. If you’re a teenager, you’ll be grateful that your life is better than their early life was… I hope.

3 Comments

Filed under Amazon publishing, artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, Hugh Howey, Indie Publishing, Nebula nominations, Robots in science fiction, Wizards and magic, young adult science fiction

Twelve Authors to Binge on in Science Fiction and Fantasy

img_1018Santa will soon be sliding into town and my rushing around to get ready is taking time from writing and reading. But in attempt to get you ready for the holiday doldrums, I’ve come up with twelve binge reading ideas.

Because once the hooha dies down, there may come days in a row where you are tired of parties and company and would like to do a little binge reading.

I’ve picked out twelve authors randomly (for the twelve days of Christmas) who offer a good binge-reading experience.

1. Frank Herbert’s Dune Series. Dune is a classic with incredible world building and intriguing characters. After Frank Hebert’s death, his son, Brian Herbert and fellow writer, Kevin Anderson, added a number of readable prequels and additions to the storyline. Just out in September 2016 is Navigators of Dune that tells about the strange ship navigators that can fold space.

Fool's Quest2. Robin Hobbs and all her Realm of the Elderling books are good. Start with the Assassin’s Apprentice and read on up to her current Fool’s Assassin.

3. William Gibson’s Sprawl Series. William Gibson is the father of Cyberpunk. Neuromancer is his Hugo winning start, but the rest in the series : Mona Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero Interrupt, Zero History etc. are interesting, particularly if you look at the dates when they were written and current technology and events.

4. Lois Bujold’s Vorsigan Series. Read how the irrepressible Miles Vorsigan deals with life. I even enjoyed the more recent Captain Vortapil’s Alliance and Miles wasn’t the main character. Bujold has won numerous awards for this series and others in the fantasy realm.Barrayar

Visitor

5. C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner Series. Start at the beginning, but her latest, Visitor is seventh in the series and an amazing study on how to handle first contact with an alien race. Also, Cherryh has an Alliance-Union Series of merchant ships caught in the politics of war among planets. My all-time favorites of Heavy Time and Hellburner are in this series. Rimrunner, Merchants Luck, and the Hugo award winning Down Below Station are stand alone stories that also take place in the Alliance-Union Universe. I also want to mention a good fantasy series of hers called the Fortress Series

Expanse Collection6. James Corey’s The Expanse Series. Recently this exciting series hit television with some interesting visual effects. In January, the second season is due to fire up and continue the storyline. Start with Leviathan Wakes and read up to the new Babylon ‘s Ashes just published December 6. Space Opera at its best.

7. Joe Abercrombie ‘s First Law Trilogy. A fantasy trilogy that you won’t be able to put down. It starts with The Blade Itself, Before They were Hanged and ends with Last Argument of Kings. If you’re a delicate reader, this one gets gritty… Fair warning.First Law Trilogy

8. Brandon Sanderson has several series. His Mistborn Series breaks into two trilogies. The most recent just out is Bands of Mourning. (See my blog on it) Also his The Stormlight Archive with Way of Kings and Words of Radiance is quite good. Doorstoppers, both of them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora9. Scott Lynch and his Gentlemen Bastards series has also been a favorite of mine. The first is The Lies of Locke Lamora, then Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves. Soon to come out is The Thorn of Emberlaine. Great adventure in the life of Renaissance swindlers.

10.  L. E. Modesitte has written sixty books! His Saga of the Recluse Series is very popular and his Imager Series just had its seventh book released today called Treachery’s Tools. He has several other series that are more hard science and futuristic. One of my favorites is Gravity Dreams and the Octagonal Raven. Lots to binge on with this author.   Imager

Ender's Game

11. Orson Scott Card. Can’t forget his Ender’s Game, one of the most popular science fiction books of all time. (made into a movie) Spin offs from this series are still popping up, so start now and be on the look out.

12. And last but not Least…Sheron Mccartha’s The Alysian Universe series. Now you knew I would have to mention it. For all the books in this series look right and see my listing.

These are just a few series or large books to binge on over the holidays when you want to escape the madness of the holiday or the frenetic relatives. There are more equally as good I haven’t yet mentioned (and might). Do you have any favorites? Let us know.

Until then,

May the Christmas Spirit be with you.

2014-12-18-13-25-35-1

6 Comments

Filed under Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, fantasy series, first contact, Hugo winners, Mistborn series, science fiction series, science fiction space opera

E-Book Marketing

Image 1The holiday season is barreling down on us, and if you plan any book marketing, you might need to get it in place soon. Selecting how to market is like running through an obstacle course. Each site has different requirements. Most want at least five reviews, which sounds easy except for the new Amazon rules, and if the book is a new release, you may have very few. However, several sites will take a new release if you have other books with fifty strong reviews from Amazon.

Just when I found a book I would consider offering that meet all the criteria, I realized it had no more free KDP select days. I get better results offering one free, and then readers buy the others. Back to the drawing board.

Finally, I got it all in place. I have offered Someone’s Clone free on Cyber Monday November 28 through Booksends, but it will also be free through KDP from November 25 to 29 since I estimate a lot of people will be online looking for deals… And viola, there I’ll be.

Free, free, free.

At least that’s the rationale.

I have something set up for December after Christmas when the commotion has died down and new Kindle and tablets are wanting to be filled. Caught in Time will be free December 26, mainly because Fussy Librarian was filled the other days I wanted.

I’ll let you know how each one performed.

Kathryn Rush did an interesting blog with numbers and math that indicated retail sales across the board were down in October due to folks concentrating on the election. I know mine were. I wondered why. I thought it was because I didn’t do a promotion or much advertising because I was so busy launching A World Too Far.

She said relax. Low sales were not any authors’ fault. Data going back several other election years showed the same trend for October and November.

I feel better.

crosstalkThis week I’m mentioning Crosstalk by Connie Willis. Connie has won numerous Hugo Awards and Nebulas making her a top science fiction author and a favorite of mine. If you ever thought it would be a good idea to be able to read minds, this will change your opinion. If, like me, you feel you are being overtaken by technology, especially the new Alexa, Google, and other devices that are intruding into our homes, in addition to the ever present smart phone, iPad, etc., this will confirm that feeling.

Briddy Flanigan is a young thirtieth professional woman who works at a cell phone and communications company competing with Apple. She is constantly on her phone checking and getting texts, emails, and calls from everyone who knows her business before she even does. Trent, the hot VP at the company, and her obsessively career-minded boyfriend, has convinced her to get an EED. This is an implant that allows a couple to be aware of each other’s emotions and often gotten prior to marriage to bring two people closer together.

So, now everyone in the company is a buzz, thinking there’s an engagement coming… And Briddy is already overwhelmed by communication in her life that includes her intrusive family of a paranoid mother, a younger precocious sister, and a single desperate older sister who constantly falls for the wrong guys and runs to Briddy for consolation.crosstalk-paperback

The high profile doctor who will perform the implant assures her that nothing can go wrong. But this is a story by Connie Willis, so, of course, chaos breaks out.

The book is a biting social satire on what happens when there is too much human communication. Events spin out of control for our heroine, resulting in hilarious situations that proceed at a breathtaking speed. Bundled in all this shenanigans is a touching love story.

It’s a fast-paced, near future read, written with a light heart that asks some deep questions, and one you don’t want to start too late at night.

Also by Connie: Hugo award winner To Say Nothing of the Dog.dog

1 Comment

Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling author, ebook marketing, Hugo winners, Implanting humans, Medical science fiction, modifying humans, science fiction romance

More than Science Fiction Novels

Image 1

Science fiction is not always about books. I was watching Orphan Black, wondering what I would talk about in my next blog and suddenly realized that I was looking at it. While I’m finding it hard to dig out good hard science fiction or space opera novels, there appears to be a blossoming of science fiction on TV and in movies.

20160721_153915I recently attended David Levine’s signing at Powell’s in Beaverton where he read from, and sang about, his debut book Arabella of Mars. Arabella of MarsQuite the entertainer. David is a long time friend from when I used to be in a Portland Author’s lunch group with him. He said that he had a hard science fiction book about Mars that he was shopping around and the traditional publishers didn’t accept it, telling him that science fiction didn’t sell well.

What!

Definitely this was before the best seller The Martian...and, by the way, a well done mMartianovie with a powerhouse actor. (I did a blog on the book)
No wonder it’s hard to find science fiction out there. The gatekeepers have slammed closed the gate. So to keep a writing career, David offered a fun Steampunk novel, and got accepted. Now, however, I fear the Steampunk fad is fading. Still, I recommend Arabella as a fun read…but even David admits the science became fantasy when he had billowing sailing ships plowing the space lanes.

Meanwhile, TV and movies are flourishing. I want to just mention a few you may or may not know about and, in this day and age, with streaming video, you may still be able to access some earlier seasons if you have missed them.

Currently, I am following Kill Joys on the Syfy channel. This is space opera. Think Firefly. They are kickass mercenaries with attitude and shadowy world corporate figure after them. They are hired on for jobs that occasionally are not what they first seem to be. A tough bunch that gets it done across the universe.

Orphan BlackAnother series is Orphan Black on BBC. Clones, clones, and more clones all done by one amazing actress. They are being hunted and have a dreaded disease for which they are desperately trying to find a cure. One line is female, and there is an alternative line of males. A unique series.

The Expanse will be starting season II soon. This is a well done series based on James Corey’s (Abramson and Franck) novels in the Expanse Series. (See several previous blogs on the books) I recommend you read the books first or the TV series can be confusing. Still lots of interesting sets of space stations and star ships.Expanse Collection

Dark Matter is another TV series I’m enjoying. This has a collection of humans on the run from shadowy corporate bad guys. One is a cyborg with mysterious powers, the other an angry mercenary, a young girl with mysterious background, a downloaded holographic with personality…you get the idea. The mystery is who is after them and why.

Let’s not forget the fairly recent movies of Independence Day 2, Enders Game, Hunger Games series, X-men: Civil War, and other super hero movies that are currently very popular.

Okay, I know you have more you want to mention, but that’s a taste.
I want to save room here in order to mention two very important blogs that I’ve recently read.
The first continues  Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog on publisher contracts and what to watch out for. Critical information for any author, Indie or traditionally published, and especially, if you are submitting to publishers big or small.

http://kriswrites.com/2016/07/20/business-musings-other-evil-clauses-contractsdealbreakers/

The other is a blog by my friend Mary Rosenblum who works with self-published authors to help them launch and sell their books. It’s a scary account of how one of her clients got wrapped up in the Amazon effort to clean up reviews. In their enthusiasm to get reviews, authors need to be very careful of new rules and oversights by Amazon or they might find themselves out in the cold. Being booted out by Amazon can be a career killer.

http://www.newwritersinterface.com/amazon-bites-author

20160721_154243_resized

On a more upbeat note, I’m now going to pop off to the local Ponzi vineyard for some wine sipping and a plate of cheese and crackers on the deck. My newlywed daughter will provide charming company and insights into Pokemon.

Pokemon2                          Oregon summers are a delight.                  pokemon

Leave a comment

Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Amazon publishing, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Clones, downloaded personalities, fantasy, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hunger Games, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, Mars, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

Alien First Contact Best Seller: Visitor

photoDo as we say, not as they do. “We” are the midlist authors or ex-agents who set themselves up as writing experts, and “they” are the multi-Hugo and Nebula award winning authors.

I was told not to use too much internal dialog in my writing. Show, don’t tell…and action, action, action. Read all the blogs, you’ll see.

Well, I just finished multi Hugo award winner C.J. Cherryh’s latest book, Visitor from her Foreigner Series, and there’s lots of internal dialog.

I also recently reviewed Lois Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and guess what?  Yup, it contains a lot of internal dialog, too. My two favorite science fiction authors with their newest books out and both contain a lot of internal dialog. Go figure.Visitor

Visitor picks up from the previous book in the series with factions of humans and atevi on the atevi’s planet in conflict with each other. Also, human factions on Alpha Space Station are upset with rescued humans from an attacked Reunion Station from another system who are now crowding their station that orbits the atevi world.

Got that? There’s more.

A signal comes in from an incoming kyo ship that announces it is on its way to Alpha Space station. This is worrisome because the kyo are the aliens that soared into the Reunion System and melted a section of Reunion ‘s space station, leaving humans for dead. The nearby human ship, Phoenix, fled rather than fought them. Then the kyo sat nearby and waited, watching for four years. They sent a shuttle to Reunion Station that was captured, and they continued to sit close by for an additional six more years, just observing, while Reunion tried to rebuild. So, the Reunion Station humans, now living on Alpha Station, panic when hearing of the kyo approach. To prevent Alpha Station from being tore apart from riots born of fear, the human station master locks down the Reunion section and refuses to turn over station control to atevi when time for the handoff arrives.

TrackerBren Cameron, human emissary for the atevi leader of the planet below, and human appointee by the president of the human contingent on the island of Mospheira, is the obvious choice to interface with the incoming aliens and also handle station problems. Earlier, he, the young atevi heir, and the matriarch flew on the ship that rescued the Reunion stationers and brought them to Alpha Station to live. In addition, they released a kyo, named Prakuyo, that had been held prisoner on the station for over six years and returned him to his people.

Now the kyo have discovered Alpha Station and the atevi world by following the ship’s trail. The name Prakuyo is transmitted with the words “we come.” So, the alien they rescued is on the incoming ship. Whether he wants revenge for his six years of incarceration or friendship in gratitude for his life being saved, Bren does not know. He does know that the kyo have been involved in an extended war with unknown aliens and carry heavy firepower while Alpha Station and the atevi world below are unarmed and vulnerable.

Bren’s responsibility is to learn the language of the incoming kyo and talk to them so as to avoid a war neither human nor atevi can win. But atevi and humans are just learning to get along and barely speak each other’s language. Also, humans have their own problems and are split among planet, station, and ship captains. Each with their own agenda and ideas of what to do.

Cherryh is a master at immersing the reader into Bren’s psyche as he mentally reviews all the terrifying scenarios, both on station and among the three alien races. There are a bewildering array of conflicting elements. A station master who refuses to give up power on the station complicates Bren’s job. Panicked stationers traumatized by the kyo ‘s previous attack create chaos and distraction. Ship captains, protective of the nearby human ship, try to insert their own authority, and the young atevi heir’s new human friends are threatened with kidnapping to provide leverage to a human contingent that has its own ideas on what should be done. Bren has to solve all these problems and sort everything out quickly before the kyo arrive.

Because time is running out.

The kyo are on their way…and heavily armed.

Cherryh provides a comprehensive first contact problem as Bren tries to figure out how to communicate with an alien species he knows little about. Then, he has to teach both atevi and human how to communicate with the kyo as the kyo have demanded the heir and matriarch to attend a meeting. One wrong gesture or one mispronounced word could set off violence, resulting in damage or destruction. The stakes are high.

And with this situation of complex moving parts, Cherryh adds an ending with a surprising twist. Bren Cameron will be called upon to use all that he has learned as paidhi-aiji to the atevi and communicator for alien species.

Cherryh uses words and language to express the mindset of the atevi-influenced Bren, who now has lived years among them. Because of the way she arranges and uses words, the reader is drawn into the atevi way of thinking. Now, she adds a new alien species and a different way of looking at the world. Communication is much more than words, it involves a whole culture.

As I am working on a first contact event in my current novel, Worlds Too Far, I have to express admiration for Cherryh’s fine job of writing. Her book goes into a more detailed exploration of how to communicate with an alien species than I do. In her book, I often felt the frustration and overwhelming fatigue that Bren feels as he races the clock to handle difficult personalities and solve disturbing actions on station, all the while worrying about what needs to be done to keep the peace when meeting the kyo.

How should we communicate with aliens if the situation ever arises? How can we know if the right approach is to assume they will be friendly or that they will be violent? And then how do we communicate with a species that may think totally different than we do? What might we use to bridge the gap of culture and language to arrive at understanding? How far might we go to protect our own species.

Read and find out.

1 Comment

Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, first contact, Hugo Nominations, Hugo winners, Lois McMasters Bujold, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera