Tag Archives: Sheron McCartha

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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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Aliens in Science Fiction, science fiction

Current Female Authors in Science Fiction

Women. Hooray!
Mumble, grumble… “There they go again.”

Okay guys, what would you do without us? Life would be really boring. So, as promised, I’m giving you five current female science fiction/ fantasy authors who I  think should be mentioned. Yes, yes, there are oodles more, but here’s my five. Deal with it. Feel free to add your own in the comment section.

 

First, Anne Leckie.

Ann Leckie won a Hugo in 2014 with her debut book Ancillary Justice. Her novels are interesting because the narrator’s point of view comes from an A-I who once ran the computers on a large military ship. Unfortunately, it confuses the reader by its utter disregard for gender, and you’re not sure if the human it is speaking about is male or female. That certainly pointed out to me what a gendered society we live in. There was also some confusion with clones in Ancillary Mercy as the leaders of several worlds are clones who are at war with one another, so, of course things get confusing.
Now Anne’s back with another Hugo nomination from that series with Provenance. It’s on my TBR list.

Next, Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey has a fantasy series, Kushiel’s Legacy that I read and enjoyed. The main character was a spy working undercover in a house of pleasure. So fair warning that some of the scenes are a bit pornographic. Okay, really pornographic. Her new series that starts with the Starless Sky, so far is not, but I’m still in the early stages of the story, and really enjoying it.

It balances on the edge of science fiction with an overhead sky devoid of stars and hints of ancient ones who walked their world. The story follows Kai, destined from birth to protect the princess Zariya. Childhood training on how to kill and employ stealth takes place in the deep desert as Kai prepares to face a startling destiny. True to form, Carey portrays a rich world with interesting characters and non stop action.

Thirdly, N.K. Jeminsin.

I could hardly overlook Jeminsin who won the Hugo in 2016 for her novel The Fifth Season, the 2017 Hugo for The Obelisk Gate, and now she’s nominated for the 2018 Hugo with The Stone Sky. All are in her Broken Earth Series. I started her first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and couldn’t finish it. Gods come to Earth to wrangle with humans wasn’t my cup of tea. But with so much acclaim, I’m going to have to try again with her new series. I would be interested to hear any opinions from readers who have already read it.

How about Becky Chambers?

A strong science fiction novel, Chambers charms with her series, starting with a A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. This is a light-hearted adventure of a human female, Rosemary Harper, who, in running away from a mysterious past, joins the crew of the patched-up ship the Wayfarer. On board is a zany crew who adopts the distant young woman and makes her part of their family. From Sissex, the reptilian pilot, to the chatty duo of Lizzy and Jenks, engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble Captain, Ashby, Rosemary finds love and adventure. Her next in the series, A Closed and Common Orbit is on my list to read this year.

And last, but not least, is Mur Lafferty with her exciting novel Six Wakes. This is a debut novel already nominated for the 2018 Hugo and was also nominated for the Nebula. I was ready for a strong science fiction adventure and Lafferty delivered.

Six humans crew a ship of selected Earth citizens, now in cryo, who expect to settle a new world and start over. The six awake from their replicator chamber to be confronted with a bloody massacre of their previous clones. Billed as a fresh start, no one’s past is recorded, but this time even personal memories of events and personalities are erased. The clones try to unravel the mystery of the murders to discover who among them is guilty … and why he or she is attempting to hunt and kill the crew. In the process, they uncover shocking information about who they are and what they have done.

Be prepared for twists and turns, flashbacks that offer clues, and a satisfying story of what makes for human behavior and personality.

In summary:

Jacqueline Carey. Starless
Anne Leckie. Provenance
N.K. Jeminsin. The Stone Sky
Mur Lafferty. Six Wakes
Becky Chambers A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

p.s.  I’ll be offering my first book in the Terran Trilogy, A World Too Far this Friday July 13 (12 a.m. PDT), July 14 to Sunday, July 15 (11:59 PDT) for free, free, free on Amazon or through Book Barbarian. This is a nail-biting journey of forty ships, lost in the Galaxy, trying to find a planet to call home. Space is dangerous, but humans can also be deadly if driven too far.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Clones, Discovering New Worlds, downloaded personalities, fantasy series, genetic manipulation, Hugo winners, Nebula nominations, Science Fiction Mystery, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, Women in Science Fiction

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

Streaming Science Fiction

More than Books: Streaming Science Fiction 

This week I want to explore alternative forms of science fiction… namely streaming stories.

Being the hip (cough) person that I am, I have been watching several Netflix series and a few regular TV offerings. You may be watching others that readers would like to know about.

Currently, The Expanse by  James S. A. Corey has my attention. I have read most of the books in the series with Persepolis on my current reading list. What I like about the television series is the special effects and realistic dramatization of the ships in space.

What I don’t like is the selection of actors picked to play the main characters. I’ve had to revise my image of what I thought they looked like and how they would act. Also, those who have not read the book may find the sequence of events confusing.

Still, it is a triumph of production and worth viewing. Tonight: series three, episode ten on the Scifi channel.  Catch up or watch along with me.

https://www.Youtube.com/watch?v=ydKmedH336Q

My favorite in this list is Travelers. Season three has been renewed, thank goodness, but the time and date are yet to be announced. Angst not, for you can catch up on Netflix with season one and two. 

Already up to date? Then, as my mother used to say, “Patience is a virtue.” One, however, that is elusive in my personality structure. So, grit teeth, etc.

Travelers is a time-travel story about a group of people from the far future where the Earth is dying. They download their personalities into 21st century bodies just as a selected person is dying. Once here, they hope to save their future by changing specific events. A mysterious entity communicates from the future and guides them.

The glitch in the operation is the people they are downloaded into, which makes for an interesting story. One is an aged wise man who finds himself downloaded into a teenager’s body. At first, the youth and vitality of his new physical body thrills him, but then he has to deal with overbearing parents who lecture him, high school friends who bully others and make poor choices, and a society that restricts his actions at every turn and views him as a young kid.

Another download is a brilliant scientist /mathematician who is put into an addict’s body. While his mind functions brilliantly, his addiction betrays him at every turn.

Still another is a strong rebel freedom fighter whose lover is downloaded into a married man’s body that works in the group. She finds herself in a black girl’s body with a new baby and has to deal with an abusive husband who is also a cop and a strange face on someone who used to be her lover.

There are others equally interesting people in this small selected group. The best part of the series is the struggle that future enlightened people have to go through as they adjust to difficult bodies and situations they know they will never escape.

https://www.Youtube.com/watch?v=99LZwZmSoNo&t=19s

Currently, I’m watching Sense8, also on Netflix. This series concerns eight individuals, called a cluster, from all parts of the world that can sense each other and actually step in to one another’s body to help them out of situations or just experience certain events together. Of course, there is the scientist who is trying to round them up to perform horrible experiments on them or kill them outright.

One of the scientist is able to invade one of the individuals from the cluster and learn information that could help him find them. So they have to practice deception to evade capture. The cluster is composed of a young handsome cop, a white female tech geek, a Korean girl framed for her father’s murder and in prison, a beautiful blonde from New Zealand, a German thug, an African bus driver, a girl from India forced to marry a man whose father is rich, and a famous gay Brazilian actor.

In some episodes, the action is intense while in a few the main characters celebrate love and life. Be aware of adult content both in violence and sex.

https://Youtube.com/watch?v=E9c_KSZ6zMk

Lost in Space was a surprise… A pleasant surprise. This series is better than the original TV show with updated special effects that put a fresh believable polish on a well known story. The plot itself is more cohesive and well done. Dr. Smith is turned into a scary, evil woman while the robot also is updated to be more menacing. The mother would make any feminist proud, and the main character, Will, is adorable. His two sisters also have stand out personalities and come through when the going gets tough.

https://www.Youtube.com/watch?v=fzmM0AB60QQ

These are a few recommendations that you might like. Do you have any others?

Science fiction had gone streaming, and there are some really good series to check out. What’s out there that you like?

 

ps. Copy the link and paste into browser for great video trailers. This tech idiot couldn’t get it to play directly on this website like I did on a previous blog.

And for a smile today:

 

 

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Discovering New Worlds, downloaded personalities, first contact, gene modification, Hard science fiction, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, science fiction series, space travel, Streaming Science Fiction, time travel, Transhumanism

A Few Different Thoughts on Writing

Writing and editing use two different areas of the brain. When I’m writing, I need a quiet environment and total concentration. I fall into the story, entering another dimension where sometimes I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I don’t want to be distracted and pulled out of the world I’m in.

Conversely, I’ve edited several stories on the couch watching television. Usually, it’s a golf match or financial show (I’m an ex -stock broker) where I can split my attention. Editing means hunting for misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, badly used grammar…things like that. I can do that in bits, whereas in writing I need to keep a train of thought going.

I like to edit; it’s like cleaning a room. You can see the improvement, and you feel as if you have accomplished something. However, our English language is complex, and the grammar rules don’t always make sense. Comas are my downfall. I probably have a better grasp of the rules than most, (Master degree in English) but it still poses a never ending battle that I’m not winning. That’s why Nicolas Rossis’ blog on My 4 Golden Rule of Writing was refreshing and worth reading.

https://nicholasrossis.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/my-golden-rules-of-writing/

1. Don’t let your writing get in the way of your story.
2. Grammar’s aim is to make the written word as clear as possible.
3. Creativity trumps conformity.
4. As long as it has a beginning, a middle and an end, it is a story.

Nicholas blasts some of the conventional wisdom found in rule books to put forth common sense thoughts on how to write. He even brings in Shakespeare and word creation. I’ve followed his blog for awhile now. Besides, he’s Greek, and my daughter just returned from a lovely vacation there. Check it out.

I’m back to limited marketing at the moment. I ran a promotion for A World Too Far on Freebooksy recently and, heads up, I’m running a 99 cent promotion starting June 6 for Caught in Time on Fussy Librarian and extending it out a couple of days. If you haven’t had a chance to get a deal on this starter to the Alysian series, now’s the time.

Meanwhile, I’m working on an innovative marketing platform that I’ll let everyone know about as soon as it goes active. It could be the next revolution in publishing.

This week I floundered around on my selection for my blog readers. I had elected Neil Gaimon’s Neverwhere.

Halfway through, I thought, Neverwhere… Nevermind.

However, there were a good number of readers in my Powell’s book club that liked it. So, you may too. I just didn’t like wandering around in the sewers of London meeting weird characters. After awhile, I felt I needed a shower.

Then I tried an Indie story that is getting a lot of buzz on Amazon called Crossing in Time. Both were on my to-read list that I make at the start of each year. This one I read halfway into the story until the main characters end up together in a different time dimension… which is kinda cool. When the female character goes back in time to the other dimension, she reverses aging, so she is also a teenager. There she meets the earlier young love she missed out on and is determined they should not separate in that timeline like they did in her original timeline. From there on, it became a juvenile romance novel. I did finish it, but may not be moving on to the next. So, fair warning.

Don’t get me wrong, I like romance in my science fiction, but for some reason, this lost the science fiction elements that I’d been enjoying in the first half of the book and became something else. However, I did finish it.

Now, I’m reading A Thousand Faces: A Shape-Shifter Thriller by Janci Patterson.
Free on Amazon.

So far, so good. The price is right.

I want to leave you with a smile on your face. My daughter is fostering kittens and I just couldn’t pass up showing you one of them. The ears jump up and down as he drinks. Quite the show.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, Indie authors, Marketing and selling novels, Post Apocalyptic, science fiction romance, Science fiction thriller, time travel, Writing Tips and Lectures

Authors Using Technology: Blessing or Bane?

Technology : Blessing or basin of authors.

There! Right there. I typed bane not basin. My computer decided I meant something else.

I love the ease of Swype where I can glide my fingers effortlessly across the keyboard, but it comes at a price. I often face a battle over how to spell words and even what words I’m writing. I can’t fathom where my computer finds these words. Sometimes, I try to write a very simple word several times, and computer boy wants something else. Yelling and shouting at the keyboard does no good. It’s deaf.

Many times, I have threatened to leave the program. But like a bad boy you can’t give up, the program reactivates, and I come slinking back just for the feel of the glide on my fingers and the ease of typing. And like a bad boy, I have to keep an eye out and constantly check up on what the program is saying for fear of some outrageous word cropping up… Like basin for bane, and then name, and then… until I’m pounding the keyboard in frustration.

Does technology do that to you? Do you bless and curse it all in the same breath? What technology do you use as an author that helps you?

As my writing circle shrinks, I’ve been exploring editing programs. I’m now familiar with Grammarly, Ginger, and Prowritingaid. Autocrit, Hemingway, Slickwriter, and Scrivener are a few others.

Of the three I use, the most value from the program for me comes from Prowritingaid. For forty dollars a year, I bought the premium version. It’s fairly easy to use, but can be overwhelming. It offers a critique summary which tells you your reading level, grammar mistakes, word repetitions, spelling, sentence lengths, punctuation and much more. I feel there is too much, but then I pick and choose what I want to change, and my writing is better for it.

Next I like Ginger. This editing program has a free version that is quite adequate. You import your section, and it tells you grammar errors, punctuation problems and offers a fix. The free version has limited word count of five hundred words at a time, but you can do it  piecemeal. If you have the patience, what Ginger has that the others don’t, is a program that goes sentence by sentence and offers several alternative words and sentence structures. Often, they will suggest a word that makes the meaning sharper. Instead of she walks, they’ll offer she ambles or struts. Sometimes, like my Swype program, they’ll offer a total off-the-wall suggestion. One of the choices might say: The queen rained. You just blink your eyes and move on.

Grammarly is also good and very popular. There, too, you can get a free version. Just be aware that you must put up with the constant sales pitch, and slyly, they won’t tell you all the errors, saying you must upgrade to their thirty dollars a month version to get a full critique. I don’t feel the upgrade is worth it.

Still, the free version does an adequate job, even though it harps on my use of articles for various nouns, or rather my lack of them, and my negligence in adding commas between compound sentences while completely ignoring the lack of punctuation at the end of a sentence.

I never liked Hemingway’s compact and sparse prose. I’m more of a Faulkner writer with his long involved sentences and intricate descriptions. Juicy. So, I didn’t explore the Hemingway editing program.

If you use an editing program or a writing program, which one is it, and what do you like about it? What is your opinion–technology: blessing or bane?

This week I want to suggest reading two of my favorite books : Heavy Time and Hellburner by C. J. Cherryh.

I’m now having fun writing the third novel in my Terran Trilogy called The Weight of Gravity. Previously, I’d become stuck in the middle of the story as often happens to writers. I knew I wanted to write about the conflict between Alysians and Terrans as the Terrans try to settle on Alysia. I wanted to add urgency to the story with the threat of an attack, and that’s when I remembered reading Hellburner.

But I had to start with Heavy Time because Hellburner was hard to find, and also because Hellburner happens earlier and continues the story with the same characters. Rimrunner also takes place in the same universe.

Heavy Time has strong political overtones and tells about the struggles the small independent spaceship miners have against the big company asteroid mining conglomerates. Pilot Paul Dekker is discovered drifting in a tumbling mining spaceship and half dead without memory of what happened. His crew appears to have been murdered, and he is the number one suspect. Paul is half out of his mind and keeps calling out for his lover and crewmate, Cory. With great reluctance, Ben Pollard answers his distress call and brings him in, complaining about the cost and inconvenience. Paul ‘s constant frantic rantings after his missing girlfriend annoys Ben, and he abuses Paul in order to stop it.. Once on station, Paul’s former fellow crewmate, Bird, takes pity on him and is the only person who tries to clear his name, but it doesn’t prove easy.

Hellburner continues Paul’s story.

After testing Paul to see what skills he might have, the military discovers through an incident that he has extraordinary piloting skills. A powerful executive in the Mars Company, Cory’s mother, is out to crucify Paul as she believes he is responsible for her daughter’s death. She tries to bring him off station to Earth to try him for murder.

But the military has a secret warship in development and needs Paul’s skills to pilot their prototype. They offer him refuge from prosecution if he will pilot the ship. However, within the various divisions of the military, conflict develops as to who will control the program, and Paul ends up right in the middle of the fight with several murder attempts aimed at him. Against his will, Ben is pulled in to bring a drugged Paul back to sanity where he uncovers a secret plot within the military.

Fast-paced, the story is typical Cherryh. Told in various first-person viewpoints, it’s solid science fiction with a lot of emotional heat. She keeps you guessing as what is really going on until the very end.

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Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, C. J. Cherryh, Classic science fiction, military science fiction, Science fiction thriller, Technology Authors can Use, Writing Critique groups, Writing Tips and Lectures

Time Travel Review

Spring arrived in Oregon and the tulips were blooming. Perfect weather dawned on Sunday with the Tulip Festival in full swing. A spontaneous decision…we should go. What could go wrong? Fresh air, beautiful flowers, and wine all sounded lovely.

Unfortunately, half of Oregon came to the same conclusion.

Rolling along at the breakneck speed of three mph behind a congo line of cars, we enjoyed the passing country scenery–for hours.

Lots of colorful tulips covered the fields as far as the eye could see, and the swarming mass of humanity reminded me of the huge reader potential out there. I just had to figure out a way to tap into it.

Maybe offer a tulip if they purchase a book? Nah… Tulips are tender.

Nevertheless, there was a party atmosphere, and we had a fun time.

Authors face life circumstances such as this that unexpectedly interrupt their writing schedule. After all, they have family and a life outside of writing, but it means they have to be aware of such events when they set their schedule and build in flex.

Another situation taking time away from writing was the book I chose for this week. Neal Stephenson ‘s D.O.D.O. jumped off the library shelf into my hands, causing me to stagger backward. Eight hundred and fifty some pages is a doorstopper of a novel, and a novel that may stop a lot of readers from picking it up .

It brought up the topic in our writing group : Just how long should a novel be?

The expected answer is : As long as it takes to finish the story.

However, Nathan Bransford, who writes a popular blog, lined out suggested lengths.

Chapter Books (i.e. pre-Middle Grade) – 5,000 – 20,000
Fantasy – 80,000 – 120,000
General Fiction – 75,000 – 100,000
Historical Fiction – 80,000 – 120,000
Literary Fiction – 40,000 – 120,000
Middle Grade – 30,000 – 60,000
Mystery – 75,000 – 90,000
Novella – 20,000 – 40,000
Romance – 50,000 – 90,000
Science Fiction– 90,000 – 120,000
Thriller – 80,000 – 100,000
Young Adult – 60,000 – 80,000

I felt the length of D.O.D.O to be too long and it really didn’t end satisfactorily. The story is about how a collection of individuals work on a top secret program that uses time travel to try to bring magic back into the world. Set in the near future, they go back in history to collect witches that they use to send and bring back selected people who fiddle with history.

Different chapters use letters, memos, transcripts, and various forms of communications to reveal the different viewpoints in the story. There is hilarity in the differing perceptions.

You have your bright, intelligent main character who is a linguist and your handsome military undercover male. They form a romantic interest. The arrogant professor wanting control and the headstrong witch who doesn’t put up with anyone ‘s nonsense provide humor. Trying to keep everything under control and under wraps is the strong military brass. Of course when you start messing with time, trouble happens…and then compounds.

How Stephenson handles time travel is also interesting. He has many dimensions side by side that vary slightly. As the one traveling changes circumstances, they create other different time dimensions.

I enjoyed it because I like books on time travel, but toward the end, I felt the story dragged.

There will obviously be a sequel as nothing was really resolved. I’m not sure I’m ready to put in the time.

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