Tag Archives: survival

Survival in science fiction

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This has been one of the snowiest winters I’ve ever experienced in the northwest
Which means I can stay in and read or write.

Yeah

The writing has slowed down as I’m trying to figure out how to get the the next series of events down on the page in an interesting fashion. Debates rage in writing circles on whether to be a pantser (writing by the seat your pants) or an outliner. For me, I do a broad outline and then charge ahead, putting myself in the head of my characters. Often they present surprising twists and turns in the action. I’m involved in one now and scrambling to see how my main characterIMG_0174 is going to get out of the pickle he’s got himself into.

It all makes writing fun.

I’ve been reading too. I usually put together a list of ten books to read throughout the new year, but this time I’m having difficulty coming up with an exciting list. I keep going back to authors that I have enjoyed in the past. I made a conscious effort to try new self published works last year and kept getting disappointed. Giving reviews became frustrating, particularly since I was not getting reviews myself.

I’m wondering what’s happening to book marketing. If you’re not tied to a large publisher with a big fan base, then book signings are not worth the time, expense or effort. I found add sites very effective for a while. Lately, not so much. As a reader, I’m not seeing exciting offerings and as an author, there are some I have used several times and my return on investment isn’t as rich as it used to be. It feels as if ebooks are becoming more and more devalued.

We probably brought it on ourselves with all the giveaways and promotions. But, hey, you have to get out there and offer something worthwhile to pique a reader’s interest. If you don’t put your name out, no one will know about you. I really feel these are great stories that readers will enjoy if they got to know about them.

As for other books… I still feel it is important to suggest good science fiction and, occasionally, fantasy. I want to keep a dialog going.

castaway-odysseyThis week, I read a book that caught my eye when I was library browsing. Publishers price new books expensively and often make them only available in hardcover for the first year. But, of course, those books are often found in the library for free. I picked a new book co-authored by Ryk Spoor and Eric Flint. Both are well known midlist science fiction authors. Their most recent book, Castaway Odyssey appears to be a later book in the Boundary Series, but I had no trouble with reading it first.

The story goes: Sergeant Samuel Morgan Campbell finds himself in a desperate situation when their starship the Outward Initiative shatters and disappears, leaving him and four boys on board a lifeboat during a practice drill. Outside on the hull, inspecting their actions for the drill, Ltd. Pearce Halley sustains life-threatening radiation exposure. Unexpectedly, the Sargeant and his untrained crew find themselves stranded in the depth of space, light years from any known colony, and with all electronics dead on the cramped lifeboat.

Boys ranging from Xander, recently graduated at the academy, to Francisco, who is an emotional nine years old, Sergeant Campbell has to calm and manage the occupants in this life-threatening situation.threshold

For fans of McGyver, this book is packed with interesting science written in an easy to understand manner as the novice crew has to repurpose equipment and find a way to survive far from any help. The second half of the story continues the survival theme once they discover and land on an unknown planet. Here, the reader gets a taste of the Swiss Family Robinson story as the crew now battles a dangerous alien planet that throws several lethal surprises at them.

I enjoyed the book as a light read with a YA flavor. It is always interesting to see what an author considers important in a survival situation in space. It does not have the detail and intensity of The Martian, but may appeal to that audience, nonetheless.

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Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Best selling author, Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook marketing, first contact, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction science, science fiction series, space travel, YA science ficiton

Hungry for More: The Hunger Games

Soooo..Now I understand what the excitement is all about. I must admit that when I heard the premise for Hunger Games, my thought was, “It’s been done already.” But not recently…and not in a genre that would capture the attention of the young teenage/adult set. Men hunting men ( a famous science fiction short story)…yes.  A whole nation divided into interesting regions watching twelve to eighteen year old kids kill each other off until only one is left alive…not until now.

Hence the appeal to the demographics of the movie going set. We maturer folks eat dinner, and then put up tired feet to watch t.v. or relax at home. We may read a book or three. Young singles out dating and hanging with friends frequent the movies, and this story is perfect for them. Word of mouth and the “buzz” of the movie has drawn out all ages to see what the excitement is about. Our 300 seated movie auditorium was packed when I went. Anyway, I was looking for a good excuse to get out and do something fun with my  young adult daughter. This filled the bill.

I enjoyed the movie. Four star. Best thing about the movie is that it stayed true to the book. Also a four star. And the book had nonstop, well-paced action with interesting twists and turns. The story also has compelling characters, clearly delineated. Lucky for our protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, her killing ground is the forest where she is comfortable and competent. Coming from the poorest district and as the main support for her family, she has had to hunt for food most of her young life, both plant and animal and is handy with a bow and arrow. Also she gets points for being a brave and smart gal. She doesn’t shrink from doing what is needed. So, when it comes time for “The Game” she has an advantage. Even so, those from the top districts have been training all their lives for the Game and present formidable opposition for her. However, neither book nor movie keeps us on the edge of our seat over this. We know she is going to survive, and the killing isn’t gruesome or bloody.

In the book, Suzanne Collins uses the first person narrative. This point of view enables us to get into the main character’s head. Her distrust of Peeta Mellark’s (her love interest) intentions contrast interestingly with his actions. Early on, at the cost of a whipping, Peeta burns some bread at his family’s bakery so that he could discard it to a starving, desperate Katniss. He basically saves her life. The action is one of kindness and love, but inside her head, Katniss refuses to acknowledge that he cares that much. This sets up an interesting dynamic as the reader sees that he does care for her, and yet, she refuses to believe it. Then, as a ploy to get the affections of the district’s audience, and their gifts to help her survive, she acts like she loves him. And he thinks she does for a while, but we are not so sure. This complex interaction makes all interesting.

Another interesting dynamic is the juxtaposition of cunning versus brute force for survival. Among the twenty-four tributes at the start, it becomes readily apparent that cleverness is just as important as being a strong and capable fighter. Collins does this by giving each contender distinctly different abilities. Some are small and weak, but clever, while others are strong capable fighters, but not so smart. Each has a special talent. Katniss shoots the bow and arrow. Thresh wields a scythe and other use knives, swords or explosives.

What abilities are necessary for survival? In the Game, knowing the territory and how to use it to advantage enabled Katniss to survive. When treed by a group of tributes out for her blood, she cuts down and drops on their heads a hive of dangerous wasps, killing several and driving off the rest. Being able to forage successfully and find water also keeps her alive. Partnering with the clever, younger girl, Rue, aides her. She saves Peeta’s life and shows that alliances are important.

So what abilities are necessary for survival? In the Game, cunning and knowing your territory and how to use it to advantage, enabled Katniss to survive. Also, knowing what her strengths were and using those were key. So, today in our current environment, how does a young person survive? I think this underlying question of survival is one of the strong attractions of both the book and the movie. Make no mistake that a lot of young adults are trying to learn how to survive in our current world. It’s a frightening time of life when you don’t know what you should do, who you are going to do it with and what kind of life you are going to carve out for yourself. It’s survival and often it feels like life and death.

It makes a compelling and relevant story.

Two more to go in the Hunger Games series. I hope that they also stay interesting and relevant.

If you have a series such as the Hunger Games, a good marketing ploy is to tout the next books in that series. After reading The Hunger Games, I am more inclined to check out Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

Along that line, consider this a HEADS UP for books coming out in the near future for some of my all time favorite series. The first is in the Liadan Series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. The book Dragon Ship continues the story of Theo Waitley. (Fledgling, Mouse and Dragon, Saltation, Ghost Ship) I just finished Ghost Ship that introduces an  artificially intelligent ship. Theo gets the captain’s key and the ship haunts her, thinking that she is its captain. Lots more to the story, but an interesting slant to independent artificial intelligence. The next in the series, Dragon Ship continues this unusual relationship as Theo takes on a courier’s job and encounters love and adventure along the way. It comes out in September, but Amazon is encouraging pre-ordering. Clever marketing.

The second book is Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois Bujold from the Barayer Series. This story follows Mile’s charming cousin, Ivan, who finds trouble and possibly romance in an action packed adventure. Comes out in November.

The third is Past the Event Horizon. This story follows the now Captain Braden Steele through a dangerous star gate as he and his crew search for the makers of the alien  device that crash landed on Alysia. Did you guess this one was mine? Clever you. I’m scheduled to publish in June, so stay tuned for a rollicking space adventure and interesting aliens to show up.

p.s. I look forward to your comments.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, award winning scifi, Hunger Games, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, Space opera, space ship, space travel, YA science ficiton