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Hugo Announcements and Richard Morgan’s Thin Air

The Hugos are in. Wahoo.

The Awards were presented last night, Sunday August 18th, 2019 at a ceremony at the 77th World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland, hosted by Afua Richardson and Michael Scott.

Winners for the 2019 Hugo Awards and the 1944 Retrospective Hugo Awards appear in bold.

Members of the convention cast a total of 3097 votes, all online except for eight paper ballots.
Congrats to the finalists and winners!

2019 HUGO AWARD FINALISTS

Best Novel

Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Novella

 

 

 

 

 

Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press / JABberwocky Literary Agency)

Best Novelette

“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com, 11 July 2018)
“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, 19 September 2018)
The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
“The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)
“When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)

Best Short Story

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)
“The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
“STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)
“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)

Best Series

A Closed and Common Orbit          A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)
Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)
The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)

*                                 *

For the complete list go to: http://www.thehugoawards.org/

Once again the women swept the awards, putting to rest the old belief that men dominate the science fiction genre. Still, as an author, I have to be aware that men read more science fiction than women. And as a female, I have to cheer the fact that we are doing so well in the genre. We don’t have to use initials before our last name to hide the fact as many female writers used to do.

I have mentioned that I have met and talked to Mary Robinette Kowal, and she is a delightful person who used to live in the Portland area. (Bit of name-dropping here)

Her Calculating Stars is on my 2019 reading list, and now I’m more than ever eager to read it. So stay tuned. I’ll let you know what I think. I have mentioned several of her other novels in earlier blogs.

Currently, I’m reading Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few and enjoying it a lot. I’ll discuss my reactions once I’m finished. I also have blogged about her other novels in the Wayfarer Series.

Thin Air

However, this blog needs to catch up, so I’m going to report on Thin Air by Richard Morgan. Richard Morgan is more a male’s read with lots of violent action and gritty dialog.

I just re-binged Altered Carbon, his more famous novel that was made into a series for Netflix. Watch it if you haven’t yet. Lots of clones, re-sleeving (putting a consciousness into a different body), violent fights, artificial computers who act like humans, and a twisty murder mystery.

Thin Air follows this trend with an ex-corporate enforcer who is stranded on Mars and just wants a ticket back home to Earth. Hakam Veil has all the equipment a military-grade body needs, along with plenty of attitude. When the Earth Oversite Corporation offers him a way home in exchange for finding a missing lottery winner, the gig sounds too easy and Hakan grabs the offer.

But, of course it isn’t.

As Hakan digs deeper into the disappearance, the once easy job gets more and more complicated … and dangerous.

I love the action, the high tech gizmos, and the future worldview. Just make sure you’re ready for what Morgan dishes up as he pulls no punches.

Here’s the trailer for Altered Carbon on Netflix:

 

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Filed under Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, downloaded personalities, genetic manipulation, Hugo winners, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series

Squishy Robots and Book Ad Promotions

Are we Indie writers shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak?

Today I’m running a promotion on Book Barbarian for Caught in Time. This is my first in series and I’m offering it free. Often the first of a series is the one that ad sites want. I did this to reach out to a pool of readers of science fiction who may be interested in my books. Discoverability is difficult for most Indie authors, and promotions are one easy way, but they cost. I chose Book Barbarian because it targets science fiction and fantasy and is at a reasonable cost. The top site is Bookbub where I recently ran into an article that was really a promotion piece, which raised some questions I wanted to ask.

Below is the last section from the piece I discovered on Flipboard that extols their site. Bookbub is considered the top ad site for books, difficult to qualify for, and very expensive. However, authors swear it’s effective. It’s the last sentence of the “article” that is causing me concern.

Book lovers are Obsessed with this Site. (Flipboard May 9)
By Bookbub.com

…”Book lovers have now become practically obsessed with this concept. In many cases, they’ve downloaded hundreds of books and saved hundreds of dollars using the service.

“I now have more books than I can read in a lifetime,” said Suzie Miller of Auburn, WA. She said she has downloaded more than 350 free ebooks using the service.”

As a reader, I use the service, and like Suzie Miller, (a real person?) I have downloaded more books than I will be able to read this year.

But is this a good thing for authors?

Your book gets downloaded, but may sit in a reader’s library for ages.
Or, maybe they read it and buy out the series.
I’ve had both things happen.
But I’m afraid authors are devaluing their hard work, and readers are not as eager to download the offerings as much as they used to, or buy books at retail. Why pay full price when you can get a similar book free or heavily discounted? Are we harming future revenue?

Am I right or wrong, or somewhere in between?

Do I, as an author, have a viable alternative?

No answer here. Just putting it out there.

NASA Develops Soft Robots for Future Space Missions

What do you think of when you hear the word robot?
Probably something made of metal with hard edges.

Maybe not. Often I throw in interesting science pieces and this article on building soft robots, with space in mind, caught my eye. I wanted to pass it along.

https://www.space.com/soft-robots-could-crawl-on-the-moon.html?utm_source=sdc-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190509-sdc

…”The advantage of a soft robot is that it’s flexible and, in some ways, better able to adapt to new environments. Soft robots move in ways similar to living organisms, which expands their range of motion, perhaps making it easier to squeeze into a tight spot, for example.”

Also, probably easier to transport when weight is so much a factor.

…”By design, the actuator has chambers, or air bladders, that expand and compress based on the amount of air in them,” NASA said in the statement. “Currently, these two interns are operating the design through a series of tubes in the air bladders, allowing them to control the movement of the robot. By adjusting the amount of air in the chamber of the soft robotic actuator, the robot can flex and relax, just like a human muscle.

In particular, the interns are investigating four key properties of the actuators — mobility, joining, leveling and shaping — and how to use them in space exploration. Mobility refers to how the soft robot moves in its environment, while joining concerns how robots can link together (for example, to make a large temporary shelter). Leveling refers to how actuators can create a surface, such as filling in space underneath a lunar habitat, while shaping examines ways of adding strength to materials like dust shields.”

Once you hear the idea, it makes so much sense. Of course, I’m wondering about the computer components and how they operate the robot and the toughness of a material that can stand up against a space environment.

But NASA is working on it. Thinking outside the hard metal box.

This week I’m talking about Sea of Rust by Robert Cargill. Mainly because I mentioned robots in the blog, and this story is all about robots.

The story begins thirty years after the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human at the hands of robots.

We’re extinct, and the world is dominated by an OWI or One World Intelligence that shares consciousness and is trying to upload all the remaining robots into its mainframe.

Enter Brittle, an independent robot trying to survive a wasteland that once was our Midwest. But its mind is deteriorating and body parts are losing function. The only way to replace them is by scavenging other parts from similar robots

So it’s a bit gruesome to start.

There are other solo machines wandering the wilderness, and they form a pack with Brittle, trying to escape assimilation.

If you can handle the grimness (think Madd Max), then the story is interesting from the robot’s point of view, and the interaction, almost human, of the robots that struggled to survive and evade assimilation makes for a worthwhile story.

And finally,

I want to give a shout out to Tabby’s fantastic book club. They were a warm and amazing bunch. I don’t think they expected someone who could talk as much as I did. Enthusiasm does that to me. So, thanks for your hospitality.

It was a fun way to meet new people… and show off my books.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Dystopia Earth, hard science, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Post Apocalyptic, Robots in science fiction, science news

Science Fiction Selections for 2019

Marketing your book—some people love to do it.

But no one I know.

As my blog readers know, I just published my third book in the Terran Trilogy, Weight of Gravity.
I tried to cover the obvious marketing essentials :

An exciting book cover. Check.
Editing as thorough as my writers’ group, several editors, Beta readers, and I could do. Check.
A compelling blurb. Check.
A cohesive story. Check.

Those items are under my control and are the first steps of marketing my book. Then, I need to get the word out. Here’s where I have difficulties. Unfortunately, I don’t have millions of Twitter readers or Facebook followers. After all the privacy revelations, I’m afraid to put anything on Facebook. I want the right sort of people to know me, not the chirping automated voice of Becky who says she’s been trying to call me to offer a free vacation, health monitor, heating system, computer diagnosis, or credit card rate. You can fill in the blank. You’ve probably heard from her already, or her sister, or her Indian cousin.

To get the word out to readers, I returned to my favorite ad site, Freebooksy, and offered the second in the Terran Trilogy series for free. I had already placed A World Too Far last year when it first came out and was happy with the downloads, but I needed reviews for Somewhat Alien (it’s feeling lonely) and wanted to see how a promotion would do with that book.

So, free on Amazon or through Freebooksy, the second in the Trilogy, Somewhat Alien, will be free, free, free March 5 through 7. And please… On bended knee… leave a review. Doesn’t have to be fancy, and hopefully, it will make me smile. Deep thanks.

Yey!

Then you might like to continue the story with my latest book, Weight of Gravity.

This book has an adventure in a Ching T’Karre harem with an attempted rescue of kidnapped Terran women, an involvement with an obstreperous lompir named Matilda (very camel like), an unexpected meeting of human-appearing robots, lots of secret clones milling about, and a wild space battle to name just a few of the things you might encounter.

Finally, I’ve been honored to be invited to talk to a Portland book club in April. This is the best part in a marketing program, and I look forward to meeting new friends.

Meanwhile, I’m pursuing other venues and will keep you informed to give you ideas for your own book marketing endeavors. Comment below on what has worked best for you in your marketing experiences. We’ll share.

Each year in January, I select ten books to read for the coming year.

Oops … you say it’s already heading into March? Where does the time go?

Well, I better get to it then. Here are the suggestions for books that you may find interesting in the science fiction or fantasy world that I have put on my to-be-read pile for 2019. I will add in others as they crop up.

1. Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. Well, robots are in fashion, thanks to Anne Leckie and Martha Wells. Like their stories, this is also told from the point of view of a robot but is rather a Mad Maxx meets Asimov’s I-robot. Should be interesting.

2. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence You may have read Mark Lawrence and his First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself...) or his Broken Empire Series (Prince of Thorns... ) or his Red Queen’s War Series (Prince of Fools…) I have mentioned several of them in my blogs. They are gritty and violent with main characters that you’re not sure you would want as friends … but, oh what reads they are. So, I put this on my list. Grey Sister, book two, is also out with Holy Sister arriving in April 2019.

3. Getting away from the developing red color theme above, I plan to read Stone Sky by Jemisin, the first in her Broken Earth series. (another broken theme) So much acclaim has been offered her for her writing in the last couple of years, (winning a Hugo for the last three years, and more). I need to see what she is all about, even though I normally don’t like apocalyptic fiction. I’m always hoping for a better future for my descendents.

4. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is next. This has been mentioned by several people, and I was given the sequel, Time’s Convert, at my Powell’s book club meeting, so, of course, I have to read the first one first.

5. And finally, The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. This was also given to me. Peter, the science fiction expert at Powell’s, saw that I had it under my arm and gave me an enigmatic grin. He said, “I would be interested in what you think about that one.” I’m not sure what he meant, and now, I’m worried. But, we’ll see.

So that’s the final selection for my 2019 list. I will add in books as I go along. I follow up with comments, opinions, and sage wisdom on the books I think are worth mentioning in an effort to bring what I consider interesting science fiction to you, my readers.

Ps: Don’t forget this Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, March 5-7 and download Somewhat Alien … and possibly check out the others too.

Then, enjoy.

Spring is coming and no snow this weekend!

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien pets in science fiction, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, Clones, fantasy series, first contact, Hugo winners, Marketing and selling novels, Post Apocalyptic, Robots in science fiction, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, Space opera, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism

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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Science Fiction: On the Edge

I live in Oregon and the whole region around me is a-twitter about the coming total eclipse. I live an hour away from the coast area that lies in its path. However, my husband is not a fan of big crowds, so I expected we would view what we could from home. Then a week ago, he ups and says, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. We have to go see it.”

A million people converging on the area, and he plans to drive somewhere to view it somehow. Details were sketchy.

Heaven help me… And it did.

I was moaning about this turn off events while bringing in the garbage cans, when my neighbor (doing the same) offered an invitation to join her and her husband at their place in Pacific City. We can leave a day or two early and hopefully miss some of the traffic. They are fun to be with, and what at first sounded like a disaster, is turning into whaeclipset could be a very memorable weekend.

It is exciting to be in a place where such a unique astronomical event occurs.

Something to tell my grandchildren about. If that ever happens. Something to mutter in my old age, “I remember when…”

***

This week I finished Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper. It was nominated for the Campbell Award. I must mention that it is tied to previous books The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep. I was unaware of this until I encountered a rant by a reviewer on Goodreads. Frankly, it didn’t disrupt the story for me at all. In my own series, several of the books are separated by spans of time and are also stand alone stories about future generations of the originals.

What makes this book worth reading is its approach on the issue of transhumanism. Each chapter is titled with a character’s name and represents his or her viewpoint. (three main characters)

Charlie stands for the environmentalist. He is a ranger on a planet called Lym that at one time had been mined and polluted. Under the rangers’ care, the wildlife and environment are being restored. The wildlife, however, can be very dangerous and the planet represents raw nature.

Nona comes from the Diamond Deep, an immense space station out in the depths of space. Her mother is dying, her father dead. Both were too late to receive the cocktail of life, now given to their daughter. Upon her father’s deathbed, she promises him to see a sky and watch a sunset. As her mother is dying, she reminds Nona of this promise and asks her to talk to a powerful relative, Saryana. Reluctantly, Nona does and learns that she owns her own spaceship and an inheritance. She’s rich. Saryana directs her to Lym and hires Charlie to be a tour guide for the young woman so she can experience what a planet feels and looks like.

Charlie expects her to be a spoiled rich spacer, but of course, I smiled as I watched a bit of impossible romance bloom between them.

Nona’s best friend is Chrystal who lives in the High Sweet Home, an outer ring space station. She lives with three others: two men, Yi and Jason, and her friend Katherine. They are scientists living in a commune and breeding genetically modified stock.

Outside beyond the dark are the banished cyborg and artificial intelligent robots that call themselves the Next. Far more intelligent than humans, and physically able to modify themselves, they do not need to eat, sleep or breathe. They are powerful beings who want to return and claim portions of planets, such as Lym, for the metal resources there. They capture the High Sweet Home and take Chrystal and her group, destroy their human bodies, and download them into robot bodies that resemble their original form to use as liaisons with the humans.

Chrystal’s chapters are chilling. They are first person narratives where the reader experiences the emotions of a human mind forced into a powerful mechanical body against her will. Not all survive the transformation, and in fact, Katherine doesn’t make it.

The Next make the three, Crystal, Yi and Jason their ambassadors and lure Nona out to the Diamond Deep to save her friend. Charlie is persuaded to go as Lym’s ambassador. Since he’s never been off planet, adjusting to space is a challenge for him.

Brenda Cooper neatly presents all sides of the artificial intelligence debate. Charlie is the human who wants to keep his planet pristine and natural. Nona is the child of ship and station who only knows life in space. Chrystal experiences the vicious prejudices of the terrified humans who call her a thing and refuse her humanity. Even her own mother repudiates her. And Jhailing is the robot who teaches Chystal to survive her difficult transformation. She learns to speak to the other robots using a kind of mental telepathy. No longer does she need to eat, sleep, or breathe. Her powerful body can pick up a human and kill him with a throw. As many humans who are repulsed by the robots, an equal amount are intrigued with the thought of becoming a robot in order to gain immortality, great intelligence, and the strength of such a form.

The reader gets a glimpse of the frightening things that the shadowy, more advanced robots can do, including shape shifting and duplication and wonder at their true purpose in returning. The humans are given a choice of Uphold, Allow or Help as the council votes on their human response to the approaching fleet of Next.

The Spear of Light continues the story. Also, Cooper just released in June, The Wilders.

***

 Monday the world will go dark in the middle of the day. A reminder of the frailty of the human species in a powerful universe.

But it will only be for two minutes, and the sun will return.

President Trump will tweet something, and somewhere a terrorist or protester will commit a violent act, and we’ll return to the insanity of our vulnerable world.

With only science fiction to warn us that we should behave better or face the consequences.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, environmental issues in science fiction, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hard science fiction, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, science fiction science, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

More than Science Fiction Novels

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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

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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

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Review of Dome City Blues: A science fiction murder mystery

Image 1How do you buy your books nowadays?

Do you saunter down to the local bookstore and browse the shelves, picking out twenty-five dollar hardback or fifteen dollar trade paperbacks?

Or do you open Amazon and check out the suggestions on the front page, then click on best seller and free lists by Indie publishers at $2.99 to $4.99 or free?

Or do you grab a cup of coffee and open your iPad email to see what books certain ad sites are offering for free or discounted ?

Or do you check out your books at the library?

I must admit that I do all the above. Lately, however, I have been picking up books off the ad sites more and more. Stashing books on my Kindle takes up little room, and they don’t degrade over time or have overdue fines.photo

I used to concentrate on the list from the Hugo and Nebula awards. I thought that a popular vote had to result in a good book. Often this was true. Now, I notice that the books presented mostly are from traditional houses with a strong marketing team…TOR, Orbit, etc. and seem to repeat certain authors.

Don’t get me started on how disappointed I have been lately with the Nebula offerings I have read.

Still, as you can tell from my blog, if I like a particular author, ( Bujold, Asaro, Lee and Miller, Lynch, Gibson etc.) I quickly pick up their next book in the series in any of the above ways.

Powell's booksAlso, word of mouth or blogs (similar to mine) still impact my choice. Powell’s has a dynamic science fiction and fantasy reading group, so I often ask fellow readers what they are reading and will buy several books after our lively meetings. Powell’s also offers special deals and pricing on various books, but are constricted by purchasing through the catalogue. (there are exceptions) I must admit, they support local authors and have a robust author signing schedule.

Jan’s bookstore also offers used books with good prices and partners with Kobe for ebooks. They are friendly and helpful, but I’m getting lazy and don’t often drive across town for a book as much as I used to.

A lot of fans attend conferences and conventions to discover or support authors. Portland has Orycon and the Willamette Writers Conference. I used to attend every year, but more as an author for the panels than as a place to suss out my next novel to read. Still, a lot of traditional authors sponsored by bigger publishers with a bigger budget than mine go that route with great success.

Studying how books are bought can help an author decide what marketing path works best for his or her situation. Putting a book in a bookstore hasn’t worked for me. Attending conferences can get expensive and exhausting. Orycon is getting insular with the same locals appearing on panels and no top selling names as in the past. There is a definite traditional publishing bias and a bit of snobbery against Indie publishing. So, I quit going. Things may have changed since I last went, but I’m skeptical.

Last time I went to Willamette Writers, there was little to no science fiction offered on the panels or by interviewing agents, and I paid over five hundred dollars to attend. (that didn’t include the dinner). Now, I’d rather spend that on a good cover and editing. What is working for me is publishing more books and ad sites. It’s a spiral both ways. The more books you sell, the more your name gets out, the more books you sell.

Of course, the critical factor is to write a really good book. It helps to have a good marketing team with a lot of money to splash around and get the word out at the launch. I don’t, so I have to build slowly. I doubled sales and income last year from the previous year, and am on track to double again. Right now, sales are great. But I need more reviews…especially if they’re good. (hint)

So remember, it’s a long game now, and persistence and patience often are a winning combination.

Dome City BluesLast week, I talked about the trend of blending genres. When the author no longer has to figure out what section of the bookstore to place his book, or abide by a publisher dictating genre rules, then he or she can write a story that mixes genres. Science fiction romance, science fiction murder mystery, etc.

So I took a sharp right turn from my usual fare and picked up a book from an ad site. The title Dome City Blues by Jeff Edwards caught my attention. The title says it all. Mike Hammer meets Blade Runner.

I was in the mood for it.

David Stalin is a retired detective and war veteran. He lives in a fun place controlled by an artificial intelligence (even gets his coffee) under a dome that is one of several that cover parts of Los Angeles. His world is badly polluted and humanity lives mostly in domed cities.

The story uses the gumshoe detective trope and decorates the action with futuristic trappings. A beautiful, distraught prostitute pleads for David to investigate her brother’s case and clear his name so she can receive compensation. It appears to be an open and shut murder with a video of him confessing to the crime of killing young girls and ripping out their hearts before he records himself blowing out his own brains.

At the moment, David is still grieving over his wife’s death where they were working a case together and she got killed, put on ice, and partially sold for parts. He has isolated himself from others, except for an old war buddy who was shot in the spine during a fight and David saved him by carrying him out. Now, this friend, John, can only walk encased in a robotic exoskeleton, but has an obsession to find a way to be whole again.Angel City Blues

David picks at the case and gets drawn in deeper. Hacking into police files uncovers a similar murder of a young girl and a public self-confession several years ago. David takes on the case, uncovering more dead young girls with missing hearts. Getting too close, he is drugged and set up to take the fall for the murder of his main suspect. With a prominent citizen dead and all evidence pointing at him, he becomes a man on the run from the police. A shadowy figure also puts out an underground contract on his head. So, all the punks and criminals are out to kill him and collect.

The case becomes more complex as an underground movement called, “the Convergence” becomes involved. They are fighting a war against the blending of man and machine. David connects with this underground resistance force that is trying to stop this next step in evolution.

While some reviewers criticized Edward’s technology, saying the convergence of man and machine will happen sooner than he predicts, I disagree. Technology is moving faster and faster, but only recently have we been able to get a robot to walk as well as a human. And many have been working a long time on the problem. We are complex creatures. Even though, we’ll have automated driving, it will also take awhile to get a complete infrastructure that supports hovercraft and self-driving cars. Considering this was written in 1992, I think Edwards did a good job of portraying a futuristic world.download (1)

Besides, not all famous authors accurately predict stuff. Right Bradbury? (Martian Chronicles) And how long has it been since we’ve had any manned flights? Forty, fifty years?

I just hope we aren’t as polluted fifty years from now as Edwards expects. Global warming aside, electric cars and environmental activism make me more optimistic than portrayed in the book.

There is a lot of dramatic action, especially toward the end, and a good dollop of emotion, both in the anger of a lost love and the terror of being hunted. Even though I got irritated at the constant smoking that the main character indulged in, I enjoyed the story.

If you like the Blade Runner style of writing, you might want to check this one out. I have no  affiliations with the author, but it is now available for $.99 and was a decent deal.

And if you like the science fiction murder mystery genre, check out my Someone’s Clone. It’s a bit of a genre blend also. (see at right). Murder, time travel and clones.

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