Tag Archives: alien lifeforms

A Second Chance for a Hugo Winner

Hey there:

Sometimes you have to give someone a second chance.

In this case, I tried to read N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and not only was I confused, but bored. Gods meddling with humans is not my thing.

So, I shunned her novels for years until the acclaim became so great I felt I should try again.

After all, winning the Hugo three years in a row is quite a feat. Lois McMasters Bujold, my favorite author, has won four times and only Asimov, Willis, and Vinge have won three times, and not sequentially. All other authors have won two or less… or not at all.

So I started with The Fifth Season.

Right off the bat, I want to say that I did enjoy the whole series. But first, I had to get over being angry. At the very beginning, Jemisin writes as if the reader is sitting next to her in an easy chair and Jemisin is telling her a story … that flips back and forth through time.

Her first sentence : “Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

Start at the end? Talk straight to the reader?

What she moves on to is a detailed description of the land using an incredible amount of telling in third person ubiquitous. She also describes two people, one a man who raises his arms and creates a gigantic earthquake and breaks the land. You have no idea who he is or why he does what he is doing. Even, how he can do it. His description isn’t woven in the story as so many experts tell an author to do, but told… Telling not showing.

We have an award winning author writing from a point of view that many so-called word police say you shouldn’t. Keep your author’s comments and voice out of the story, they say. Also, “show, don’t tell.”

She didn’t. Lots of description.
Voice intrudes throughout the series.

“Don’t jump back and forth in time, you’ll only confused the reader.”

She does.

Then after long descriptions of the land, a city, and a strange metamorphosis of rock to a human shape, in the next chapter, she switches to the second person to tell the story of Essun who discovers her son dead in her home.

Second person narrative. Tricky at best.

With little background at this point, the reader has no idea what is happening until Nemisin hones the story down to Essun, a middle-aged, impoverished woman who walks into her home to find her son murdered by her husband, his father.

So, now the reader is interested. Why?

We find out Essun is an orogene, which means she has the ability to move the earth and control certain elements of the ground … and other scary stuff.

Her kind is hated and feared, and she has to hide what she is. Her children are to be eliminated to protect humanity. So, her son is murdered by his father when he realizes what his son is. For some reason he doesn’t kill the daughter, but runs away with her with plans to kill her.

But how did Essun come to this state?

Next chapter, we skip back to her childhood where as a young child she is sold by her mother to frightening warrior called “a Guardian.” He takes her to the Fulcrum, a place where orogenes like her are controlled and trained. The first thing the guardian does, once he finds her hiding in the barn under the straw, is place a tracker inside the back of her head. He smiles and says nice words, but doesn’t mean any of it.

So, the story takes off. You become used to being addressed directly at various points in the story and the changes in viewpoints, and the jumps through time. The land becomes almost another character as it affects the lives of the beings on the planet, not all of them human.

By the end of the first book, when I realized the planet was unstable due to a missing moon, I was ready to read the second in the series, The Obelisk Gate. This follows Essun as she searches for her daughter to try and save her. Only her daughter is growing more and more powerful, and can do a few things of her own.

I was interested in following more of the life of Essun, first known as Damaya, and also other names. Keep track.

The second book jumps back and forth between her and her daughter’s experiences. Yes, a bit confusing, but I wanted to know how they were going to save the planet from the many episodes of upheavals called “the Stillnesses.” These are dramatic upheavals of the dangerous planet that create devastating events such as plagues, floods, etc. and can happen at any time and last ages, or not.

Would the moon ever return? And if it did, would ancient technology left by a previous race, enable them to capture it and stabilize the planet?

So, I read The Obelisk Gate and then The Stone Sky.

I was hooked.

I realized an original and interesting story often trumps certain rules of writing.

 

BUT…

Often the guidelines are there to strengthen your writing. Yesterday, I read Diana Wallace’s blog and finally understood “filter” words and how they weaken your writing.

Read her blog for more details at:

http://www.mythsofthemirror.com.

In commerce, the middle man is being taken out of the transaction. Amazon goes directly to the buyer, eliminating the publishing house or consumer. In the same way, words such as heard, felt, thought are filters that diminish the reader’s experience. Here is an example taken from Diana’s blog that will explain.

Ex:
Greta stood on her front porch. She felt the long-awaited spring call her with a rustling of leaves and patter of hummingbird wings. A smile brightened her face as she watched them battle around the feeder that she’d remembered to fill yesterday.  She supposed she wasn’t the only one enjoying the languid morning. On the porch rail, she saw her lazy tabby stretch and heard his rumbling purr as she rubbed his ears. She knew he liked the sunshine; she imagined he always had.

Correction without filter words:
Greta stood on her front porch. The long-awaited spring called her with a rustling of leaves and patter of hummingbird wings. A smile brightened her face as they battled around the feeder that she’d filled yesterday.  She wasn’t the only one enjoying the languid morning. On the porch rail, her lazy tabby stretched, and he rumbled a purr as she rubbed his ears. He liked the sunshine; he always had.

See the difference?

For more explanations and other great insights, check out her blog.

Yes, yes, I know that I just ranted and raved about a triple Hugo winner breaking all the rules, and then I turn around and give you a rule.

Who said writing was easy?

Not me.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Hugo winners, Science Fiction book review, science fiction series, Writing Tips and Lectures

Where are the Aliens?

Happy soon-to-be Fourth of July.

A few announcements first :

I was listed in the top fifty science fiction blogs (#29 to be exact) So that’s nice.
https://blog.feedspot.com/science_fiction_blogs/

Also, I wanted to mention my author’s website https:/sheronwoodmccartha.com. It goes into more detail about my life and books. Check it out.

I encountered an article on the Live Science website that offered nine more reasons (in addition to Fermi’s from my previous June blog) on why were haven’t found aliens. So, I thought I’d share.

1. Aliens are all under the ice where we can’t see them. We know several moons where ice covers the planet, but water exists under it. If in our solar system, then possibly it’s a prevalent condition throughout other parts of the Milky Way.

2. Aliens are trapped on super planets. Super planets have ten times the mass of Earth along with 2.5 times the escape velocity. Aliens may just be stuck on their own world without the technology to reach their escape velocity just yet.

3. We’re looking in the wrong places because the aliens are robots. We ‘re looking for analogues of ourself, but maybe the aliens have evolved to intelligent machines and live in places inhospitable to humans.

4. We’ve already found aliens but we’re to distracted to realize it. Maybe we have let our preconceived notions of aliens prevent us from recognizing them.

5. Humans will kill life or already have. The thinking here is that humans bulldoze their way through the galaxy, not noticing smaller in-the-way organisms… Much like a construction worker bulldozing through ants.

6. The aliens triggered climate change and died. So, maybe we should take care.

7. The aliens couldn’t evolve fast enough to survive planetary change and died.

8. Dark energy is creating increasing distances between us and none of us has the technology to span the widening gulf.

9. We are the aliens. This is a popular theme for science fiction. I used it. Earth is a seeded colony from meteors carrying bacteria from other worlds. Scientist call this the Panspermia theory. I went with Alysia being an earlier and forgotten Earth colony.

You got a theory? Just let me know. It’s all good fodder for science fiction stories.

For the complete article, go to:
https://www.livescience.com/63208-alien-life-excuses.html

For this blog I’m discussing Sideris Gate: Paradisi Exodus: book 1 by Cheri Lasota.

This is one of the books in the Paradisi collection where various authors are writing books within the same universe. I previously read Faces of Janus and The Janus Challenge by Andy McKell. Andy presents a different viewpoint on the escape from Earth for the last ship, the SS Challenge.

Between Mountain and Sea by Louisa Loci was also an enjoyable story that I reviewed earlier. That adventure takes place on the colony planet and describes the founding families that arrived there first, and the conflicts they encountered.

Paradisi Exodus describes the frantic escape from an Earth on the verge of nuclear winter. The SS Challenge is the last ship out of eleven and contains the families and friends of the builders and scientists who constructed and developed the fleet. They had a contract that if they would build the ships, their families would earn a place on the last ship out. Days before lift off, one of the leaders, Solomon Reach, of the group called Reachers, discovers a plan to replace them with some remaining founding families and associates who didn’t qualify (illness or age) for the previous ten ships.

Thousands of founding families’ associates still remaining behind are smuggled onto the space station into the Serica section with a plan to evacuate the Reachers and replace them. But Solomon Reach gets word of the betrayal and gathers a small band to prevent the takeover. Violence erupts in the corridors, Reach is tortured in order to discover his sabotage plans, while nuclear weapons are let loose down below on Earth. In the midst of all the commotion is a romance between Reach and the daughter of a founding member who wants his people off the ship.

I feel Lasota leans a bit heavily on emotional elements of the story. Everyone has a back story of lost lovers, sisters, family ties and left behind wives. The angst gets to be a bit much as each one feels they should have a place on board. Lasota explores this ethical question of who has a right to decide which person stays behind to face sure death, and who gets a place on the ship for a possible new life.

There are many more offerings by authors in this exciting and interesting collection. Reading the same event or visiting the same location and experiencing it through different authors brings new levels of understanding to the total story.

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Filed under Alien worlds, aliens, Discovering New Worlds, Dystopia Earth, space ship, space travel

Where are the Aliens?

Where are they?
You know… The aliens.
It boggles the mind how big our universe is and how many stars with planets are out there.
… And yet, crickets.
Groups of humans are searching for any signs of life.
Like SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which has been around for a long time and has found nothing so far.

 

And yet, do we know what we should do if we find anything? Is there any plan in place for dealing with aliens?

Do we really want to find them? You know, considering how very co-operative we are with our own species. Would finding other intelligent species work out all that well?

Here’s a recent Hubble picture of star Monocerotis V838. Might alien life be there?

There is a series of explanations that you may be familiar with called the Fermi Paradox due to the famous Italian Enrico Fermi.

He gives several reasons why we haven’t found aliens so far.
I wanted to share these thoughts with you.

Image result for fermi paradox

Do you have any other suggestions as to why we appear to be alone out here?

I picked The Fold by Peter Clines this time around because his story has man’s first encounter with aliens in it, and it raises the question: Do we really want to find them?

Secret experiments, supposedly involving teleportation, are being conducted out in the desert of California somewhere, but Reggie Magnus, the Department of Defense official in charge of overseeing the project, feels that something is off. He has already authorized hundreds of millions of dollars, but the group of scientists on the project are still dragging their feet on releasing any significant details of their work. The funding committee wants more information, and the scientists will not disclose their process.
Reggie goes to his long time friend who currently teaches high school English and is brilliant. (Why, naturally!)

Leland (Mike) Erickson has eidetic memory and an off-the-chart IQ. He hides out teaching high school English in order to live a normal life. However, when his old friend, Reggie, high up in government comes calling, the idea of teleportation intrigues him. He agrees to observe and report on a top secret project called the Albuquerque Door.

And indeed, during an experiment, he watches one of the scientists walk through the gate, disappear, and arrive at an installation several miles away. All seems as advertised until Mike begins to notice discrepancies in behavior and gaps in explanations. Something is amiss.

He begins to suspect The Albuquerque Door is not as advertised. The scientists are too focused on fame and fortune that will soon come their way if only they can iron out a few disturbing kinks. They feel Mike is trying to stop their precious project and distrust him. Mike believes they are hiding things. And they are. Then, events begin to spiral out of control, leaving Mike as the only one who understands what is happening. But it may be too late.

This book asks the questions: What responsibilities do scientists have for their discoveries? If we can do a thing, should we? Who decides what science can or cannot do? Should or should not do?

It also presents the question of aliens, and what would we do if they were really dangerous?

Questions we should be thinking about before it’s too late.

To continue in this universe, you can also read 14 by Peter Clines.

And here are kittens… because they’re fun, even if this pair sometimes acts like wild aliens..

 

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universes, Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, Discovering New Worlds, first contact, Multiple dimensions in science fiction, Portal fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story

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

A Way to Expand Your Readers

Sometimes a light bulb goes off in a person’s head, and he or she suddenly understands something they had not been aware of before.

Such was the case with me this morning.

I’ve been writing about Earth humans landing on an alien world where the indigenous species is similar to them, but different enough to cause conflict. So, when I saw the blurb on Lisa Locke’s novel, Between Mountain and Sea: Paradisi Chronicles, free on Freebooksy recently, I went to snatch it up. Turns out, I had already downloaded it. It tells the story of a migration from Earth to an alien planet where the natives are very human in appearance.

That sounded similar to my Terran Trilogy, so I wanted to see how another author handled that theme. I started reading from my Kindle library. The story is very readable, although I figured out the big secret a quarter of the way through.

Mei Lin is a young Chinese girl who is descended from the powerful Yu family that now dominates the Earth colony of New Eden. Due to Earth’s climate change, cyber wars, nuclear proliferation, ten people called the Founders, come together to create the Paradisi Project which has the objective to find a habitable planet and build a fleet to escape Earth for a better place to live.

Many years later, the project succeeds in discovering such a world in the Andromeda Galaxy and sends ten ships with 10,000 people each, mainly from the Yu family, their staff, and loyal supporters. One ship, the S.S.Challenger is left behind as a prototype for more ships to follow.

Mei Lin is a descendent from these originals and was born on New Eden where men dominate the family. She is the only girl of six brothers and, after a botched eye surgery, is sent to recuperate at their estate, Mrnyddamore. The estate is far out in the country close to villages of the planet’s original inhabitants. She forms a bond to these simple people who have hidden psychic abilities.

So the story has a similar flavor to my Terran Trilogy. And… the name Paradisi Project was tickling my memory. Still authors occasionally use the same title as other authors. Since I’ve published my first book, Caught in Time, three other authors have come out with the same title, which doesn’t make me happy. Anyway…

I kept reading.

Mei Lin finds a hidden diary written by a long ago descendant who was one of the First Founders and who built Mynyddamore, the estate where she is recuperating. She writes about her life to a young boy who was supposed to come on the S.S.Challenger and join the colony later, but she hears nothing about the ship. From there on out, the book jumps back and forth between the story of Mabel, her great, great, great grandmother and Mei Lin’s current life.

Of course, there is tension between the indigenous people and the growing colony, along with Mei Lin and her own family. As Mei Lin learns more about the early colony and herself, she is drawn into events and soon becomes embroiled in its conflict.

I liked the story and was intrigued by the author’s telling of a similar theme as mine. Then, I came to the back matter in the book.

That’s when the light bulb went on.

The Paradiso Project is an open source world where authors are invited to write their own stories within that world. Sixteen authors are listed along with their books. I recognized two of them immediately.

I had read Andy McKell’s novel, Faces of Janus and have its sequel, Janus Challenge,  in my library, ready to read. Also, in my library, is Cheri Lasota’s Sideris Gate.

Andy is a frequent commentator on my blog and has several more novels out in the Paradisi Universe. As does Cheri and other authors.

Cheri Lasota is another northwest author who I met personally at a book talk a few years back. When I saw her book in an ad site, I tucked it into my library. Now I plan to be even more diligent in reading these two authors to see how they interpret this universe.

In an explanation about the project, Lisa Locke says that the inspiration for the collaboration came from world renown author Hugh Howey. He opened up his own world of Wool to other authors who have written their stories in that universe and encouraged her to do the same.

If you are writing space opera or building a world, inviting other authors to write in your world may be one way to expand your reader base. Bundling several of these stories into an anthology may be another step to increase awareness of your work and build sales. Fans from one author may be lured over to another author’s work.

Of course, you may want to have some control over the stories and agreement with the other authors so that they are well-written and reflect favorable on your world. But a collaboration could be fun and profitable for all concerned.

As the Indie wave of writers increases, clever authors are looking for new ways to be discovered in order to expand their readers and their sales.

This idea may be a way for you to do just that.

*Hello from Oregon*

enjoy the rain

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien pets in science fiction, Alien worlds, Hugh Howey, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction series

Seven Concepts for Writing Aliens in Science Fiction

 

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

Best of luck in viewing an amazing event from Earth.

                                      Aliens in science fiction  

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

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

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

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

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

Everyone paused.

“Surely someone has a bet?” commented Braden.

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

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

“It’s not a big bet.” Glaze shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bashar smirked and shook his head.

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

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

“Yes, wings,” mumbled Joel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Favorite Women in Science Fiction

Outstanding Women in Science Fiction

Science fiction is often thought of as a male genre with its space battles, male warriors, and gruesome aliens.

But not so fast. There are a number of good female authors who have made their mark in the genre.

In the spirit of the new feminism, and a different kind of #metoo, I thought I’d mention my  favorite female authors.

Even the guys will like these compelling writers.

In no particular order of preference, I’ll start with Connie Willis. Although, Connie isn’t as prolific as some of the others, when she writes, she often wins awards… Usually of the Hugo variety. Ten Hugos (includes short stories and novelettes )and nine Nebulas make her worth mentioning.
Hugo award winner To Say Nothing of the Dog is a rollicking trip through time, searching for a seminal event that has affected the future. Hold onto your hat as this one is fast and funny and explores Victorian England.

In contrast, Willis’ Hugo winning novel, The Doomsday Book is grim. Accidentally transported back in time to the plague in Europe, the main character struggles to survive. A double novel Blackout and All Clear portrays several characters trapped in time during the raid on London in World War II who also try to figure their way out to safety. Be prepared for wild action and constantly missed connections. The last Willis I read, and reviewed, was Crosstalk. This near future story takes smart phones and our interconnected internet crosstalkonto a whole new level. Again, Willis’ character becomes frenetic when an experimental phone connects so fast it’s like mental telepathy. Imagine if you could read other people’s minds. The experience becomes disorienting to say the least.

 

Only two authors have won as many as four Hugos for best novel, and one is a female.

Yes. Think about that.

The next with three for best novel is Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, and Vernon Vinge.
But my favorite author, Lois McMaster Bujold, has won four.

Unlike Willis’ stand alone novels, Bujold is known for her Vorkosigan Saga that follows her main character, Miles Vorkosigan through many escapades in his life. But like Willis, she displays a sharp humor when writing about human behavior. Start with her first book, Shards of Honor and nibbled (or gulp) your way through the series. She has added a few Barrayarother novels such as Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance where the main character is not Miles but his swinging bachelor cousin who gets caught up in…well, I’ll let you find out what. She has packaged several of the books in omnibus style, so heads up there. In addition to her science fiction, she is prolific in several fantasy series. Enjoy those too.

 

Another female author who is prolific in both science fiction and fantasy is C.J. Cherryh. Her Down Below Station was a Hugo winner that fits into her Alliance-Union Universe series. A prolific writer like Bujold, Cherryh has so far written over eighty books, which also includes several fantasy series. Her most current science fiction saga is her Heavy TimeForeigner series. While her Alliance-Union novels can be read in any order, her Foreigner Series follows a timeline. Bren Cameron is an ambassador for the humans having landed on an alien planet and gives insight into a human struggling to understand an alien culture. Cherryh immerses her character so deeply into the culture, and because she tells tells of his experiences through the first person, the readers almost begins to think like the atevi. Bren’s life is fraught with danger in a culture that had fourteen words for betrayal and not a single one for love.

Another Hugo winner is Catherine Asaro. Her series on the Skolian Empire/Ruby Dynasty pit two star flung dynasties against each other. The Skolian Dynasty is known for their jaggarnauts with faster than light capability and the Kyle Web, while their enemy, the Eubians, thrive on slavery and cruelty. Not to be outdone, her novel The Compass Rose also won a Hugo. Recently, she has started a new offshoot of this so far fourteen book series called the Major Baahjan Series. A few characters from her first series make appearances, but the series deals mainly with a new female character who becomes a detective on an alien planet. Lots of mystery and action with an underground culture.

 

While I have picked ten authors, I’m going to end this blog with my fifth pick and finish the rest in the next blog with a full review on my most recent favorite female author.

Hastur LordBut in the mix of prolific female writers, I had to include Marion Zimmer Bradley. Her Darkover series has elements of fantasy, but takes place on an alien planet and also deals with humans from Earth trying to colonize a planet they consider alien. The natives are humans from a long ago landing who have interbred with a native alien species that carried strange powers, but are almost now extinct. The more elite of the human natives carry psychic powers received from this interbreeding. At one point, the current Terrans leave, but politics and conflict continue among the natives. This series is extensive and has invited other authors such as Mercedes Lackey and Deborah J. Ross to co-write several of the novels. There are also collection of short stories dealing with the Darkover story in an anthology series, and also an Omnibus series. There is a timeline of events, but each novel stands on its own and is complete. So, don’t be afraid to pick what looks interesting.

Next time, I’ll talk about five more outstanding female science fiction authors who are my favorites. Tell me who is your favorite female science fiction author.

All great summer reading.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Discovering New Worlds, Hugo winners, Lois McMasters Bujold, Political science fictionLois McMasters Bujold, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Women in Science Fiction