Thursday, July 31, 2008

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Friday On My Mind

Robert Heinlein’s 1982 novel, “FRIDAY,” is a big, fat mess. A meandering plot, stuffed with (sometimes very amusing) political diatribes and polyamorous sexual fantasies, it nevertheless fascinates. The world-building is interesting for what he imagines (an elevator to space, called The Beanstalk), for what he gets right (accurate forecast of the role and importance of the Internet), as well as for what he gets horribly wrong (they’re still using cassette tapes!)

But despite its many problems I LOVE this book. Why? Her name is Friday Jones.


FRIDAY FRIDAY


She is, of course, the main character. But she’s not human. She is an “AP” – an artificial person. She was genetically engineered, using genetic material from a variety of people. She was raised and trained in a corporate laboratory. As she describes it: “My mother was a test tube; my father was a knife.”

With her superior speed, reflexes, strength and intelligence, Friday works as a courier for an elite organization, and answers to the mysterious individual she only knows as “Boss.” It’s a dangerous job in a very dangerous world. Friday can kill quickly and efficiently whenever she needs to, and it takes all her enhanced skills to survive her job. So far she sounds like a typical kick-butt heroine, doesn’t she?

Ah, but not quite. In typical Heinlein fashion, Friday is really a lover not a fighter. In her search for love, acceptance and the family she never had, she falls oh so easily into bed with just about every half-way pleasant character in the book (and not some so pleasant characters, too).

Every time someone is kind to her she reacts like a puppy being petted. And it takes just the slightest bit of kindness to get her tail wagging. She is a free woman from an enslaved population (the artificial people). And for much of the book, she doesn’t believe she deserves what the humans take for granted—love.

Friday is such a lovely complicated amalgam of characteristics. Her impressive skills, her self-deprecating humor, her sheer neediness, her generous sexuality and her dogged loyalty to those she loves adds up to a fictional character that jumps off the page and straight into the readers heart, where she resides contentedly, happy to be loved at last. She makes me want to write fan fiction. (And boy, oh boy, I’d give this gal the happiest ever after in the annals of the glorious HEA.)

FRIDAY FRIDAY


What do you think of the covers? Like ‘em? Hate ‘em? I have a major gripe with the publishers of them. You see, Heinlein’s FRIDAY is, among other, things, an allegory on racism. At one point he specifically details her genetic racial ancestry; Friday looks and self-identifies as Amerindian. Do any of the ladies on the covers look Native American to you? It’s particularly annoying to me, because Heinlein, unusual for his time, went out of his way to include a multi-ethnic cast of characters in his writing. The book is twenty-six years old. You’d think that at least one of the publishers would have actually read the book by now. (OK. Rant over. Thanks for listening!)

We all have fictional characters that reside in out hearts, don’t we? Who are yours?

(Warning: If anyone is tempted to pick up and read FRIDAY, please be aware that the more tender-hearted might be traumatized by the early scenes, in which Friday is captured, beaten, gang-raped and brutally tortured. Some Amazon reviewers were equally horrified that Friday later enters into a relationship with one of her rapists. Hey—I said she was complicated!)

Be seeing you!
Agent Z.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

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Extreme Makeover: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS

Color me gobsmacked when I came across a post at Geeks of Doom titled “10 Ways To Make A Kick Ass Version of Space: 1999.”

"Well cool," went my thought. I adore SPACE: 1999 and the team there did a fabulous job with a super idea. Later, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, like a shameless number crunching Hollywood executive, I had to rush out and greenlight my own copycat production.




Therefore, I proudly present BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980) for an Extreme Makeover! This slice of cinematic swiss cheese has a fundamentally strong story, but the thrift store production values makes it overdue for a transformation. I have a love affair with BBTS dating back to high school. I was too young to score a ticket when it premiered in the theatre, but the film gained my undying devotion during many a subsequent television broadcast.

The premise is terrific: BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS is about the pacifist citizens of planet Akir who hire a band of ragtag mercenaries to protect them from an evil warlord bent on world domination. However, there’s a reason the premise not only rocks, but also sounds suspiciously familiar: BBTS is basically a remake of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, which itself is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI.

It was also written with aplomb by John Sayles, who has brought us sagacious, “important” films like RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN, EIGHT MEN OUT, LONE STAR, and more.

Just check out the tagline:

Rebels. Outlaws. Mercenaries. Seven magnificent warriors join to fight the... Battle Beyond The Stars.

If all that seems too fantastic to believe, just watch the trailer:



With a 2 million dollar budget, it was exploitation king Roger Corman’s most expensive undertaking. Does the luxurious financing show in the production values? Heck, no. I did mention this was a Roger Corman gig, right? Much of that money went above-the-line to the high priced stars (at the time), George Peppard and Robert Vaughn. (And Roger Corman was notorious for re-using model shots in other films. For example, set your Netflix phasers to SPACE RAIDERS.)

Corman had vision and an unerring sense when it came to picking talent, giving everyone from James Cameron to Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Nicolson a shot early in their careers. But, visionary though he was, the man was always severely hampered by his insistence on "safe," shoestring budgets.

This means BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS fans had to suspend their disbelief like nobody’s business despite a story whose essence is truly timeless. Since Hollywood is currently on a remake rampage, the time seems advantageous to bring this classic science fiction B movie back to the big screen.

Herewith, my notes for the latest incarnation:

1) Fire Roger Corman

I adore the man's chutzpah and admire his career and appreciate his taste in films. After all, would we have experienced the spectacular spectacle X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES if not for him? (And don’t, as I initially made the mistake of doing, knock the soundtrack to that film, composed by Les Baxter. That cat wrought the hippest jungle jazz ever.)

But sorry, Roger. I can’t let you get your paws on my project. Instead, I’m going to hire Hollywood’s new wunderkind director Zack Snyder of 300 and WATCHMEN fame to helm my 100 million dollar version. We’ve seen what Zack can do with sexy Spartans, superheroes, & CGI—now it’s time for him to tackle a science fiction romance extravaganza. (Sure his agent will ask for an insane fee, but let Mr. Snyder add a zombie or two. He'll be happy.)

2) Take the John-Boy out of Shad

Richard Thomas, bless his heart, brought a mix of earnestness and innocence to the role of Shad, the hero who embarks on the quest for the mercenaries that will defend his beloved planet Akir. But the role, as both written and played, is too vanilla and saccharine for today’s audiences. Such a key part demands scrubbing off any lingering scent of THE WALTONS.

Therefore I just requested that the casting director shortlist actor James McAvoy for the role. As the faun Mr. Tumnus in 2005’s THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, he showed he can deliver earnestness minus any cloying sweetness. But it’s his compelling, darker role in ATONEMENT that will give Shad edge and bring depth to the hero’s character arc.

(And it doesn't hurt that he’s real purty to look at, too!)



(Oops! That would be the Wrong Picture.)




3) Raise the romance stakes

Nanelia, played by Darlanne Fluegel, is the daughter of robotics expert Dr. Hephaestus, an old ally of Akir. When Shad looks the good doctor up, Hephaestus traps him for the nefarious purpose of breeding with his daughter. It’s love at first sight for Nanelia, however, and she frees Shad in order to join him on the quest.

Neither Shad nor Nanelia play too hard to get. I propose changing that. A script tweak could introduce some darker plot twists: What if Nanelia kills her father (to unfold onscreen) while escaping? As violence is against Shad’s nature, he’d have a world of processing to do—not to mention what he’d have to explain to his mother—in order to justify a relationship with her.

Having grown up in an inbred society of androids, it’d make for a more satisfying relationship dynamic to show what Nanelia has to learn about true love. The bottom line is that anything increasing the sexual tension between this pair will make for a more enriching romance. [Edited to add: Copious amounts of PG-13 sex couldn’t hurt, either.]

4) Give Nestor a Borg makeover

Mercenary Nestor is a group of clones who share the same consciousness. Nestor is polite and white, brave and boring. Let’s make this new version sizzle with a dark, messy, complex organism bordering on the phantasmagorical. In other words, lots of ropey, gooey tentacles and stuff.

5) Cut the lizard loose

According to IMDB, “Screenwriter John Sayles had originally envisioned the [mercenary] character of Cayman as a brooding dark humanoid....” While I’m not opposed to including characters of exotic alien races, I don’t think prosthetics technology has quite yet reached the point of rendering such a character very believably. That definitely wasn’t the case around 1979, when the film would most likely have been in production.

In this new version, he will be a she—a sexy female space pirate with a lithe body and clingy black shipsuit hugging all of her curves in just the right places. Since this is a space opera, she’ll sport a black eye-patch and leather gunbelt with a sleek vintage pistol.

That’ll deliver a new level of shivers to the scene where she kidnaps Nanelia, heh heh!

6) In: Urban Cowboys. Out: Rustic Cowboys


While George Peppard’s cigar-smoking, whiskey-swilling Cowboy character radiated retro cool (and must have been a nod to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), the new version of BBTS has to accomplish more than just shock and dazzle the senses—it has to attract that crucial 18-24 male demographic.

Therefore, I suggest a retrofit of the character, although I’m torn between two ideas. The first would entail altering the character’s backstory. This mercenary would still be a gun-runner, but one who stole expensive artillery from the Malmori, his former employer and enemy of Akir. He’d have a conscionable reason, of course. Having used the goods to trick out his freighter a la Pimp My Ride, he’s now on the run. This element gives him more motivation than Peppard’s Cowboy had to join Shad’s army.

For the actor, I’m thinking Ice Cube, using his character Craig Jones from the movie FRIDAY as inspiration.



That’s one idea. The other would be to make the character a duo. Keep the same backstory, but use actors Harold Lee and Kumar Patel of HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITECASTLE fame. Either way, something will be smoked. Hilarity ensues.



7) No boobs is good news



Nell. Oh heavens, where do I start? Nell is an old-fangled spaceship bequeathed to Shad by his mentor Zed. She’s as much a character as anyone else in the film and guides Shad through some pretty rough battles. I’m all for keeping the name and her salty yet maternal personality, but those obnoxious boobs have got to go. I mean come on, a starship with rootin’ tootin’ mammaries? I’m banishing them to the Phantom Zone.

Instead, I recommend redesigning her with an ugly caterpillar hull. As the story progresses, she can undergo a mysterious transformation and evolve into a beautiful butterfly starship by story’s end. Every time part of the ship alters, it will raise the stakes because Nell won’t be able to function properly during battle or escape scenes.

Now because this is a copycat production, I’m stopping here. As soon as my assistant delivers my steaming double soy latte I’ll ring Peter Jackson to inform him of his new producing job.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. No need to change the title. It’s catchy, epic, and as romantic as a candlelit dinner.

I am, however, instating a new tagline:

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS: More Battles! More Beyonder!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, July 27, 2008

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Myriad Miscellaneous Musings & Minutiae

Since I had to dock the Galaxy Express at Icarus Base for some minor repairs, I told Chef we’d need a yummy spread so we could also catch up on SFR events around the Milky Way. I see a few large bowls of mixed green salad with walnuts, cranberries, and goat cheese as well as chunks of fresh baked yeast rolls. Help yourself, and let’s see what’s unfolding, shall we?

First off, congratulations, Ameliar! You’ve won an ARC of Rowena Cherry’s KNIGHT’S FORK.

And another hearty hurrah for Tam—you’ve won a copy of Ms. Cherry’s INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL!

Winners, please email your addresses to sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com.

Thanks so much for all the fab comments last week, and I just can’t thank Rowena Cherry enough for her generosity and participation. Onward and upward...!




I started “The Official Science Fiction Romance Thread” at Tor.com last week. I’m meeting a host of groovy SFR fans, some of whom have hopped aboard The Galaxy Express.

Welcome all to the LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY SKIFFY ROMMERS! (Ah, I slayeth myself at times.)

Please join me there (registration is required to participate) and dig into some hearty discussions. Now, in addition to Shelfari, we have another peachy outpost in which we can share the SFR love.

In book release news, Kimber An of Enduring Romance is hosting a Cyber-Launch Book Party for Linnea Sinclair’s SHADES OF DARK. Mark your calendars for Thursday, August 7.



Additionally, in August I’ll be featuring Ms. Sinclair and her work *and* giving away a copy of SHADES OF DARK. Date to be announced.

As you may no doubt have already heard, the romance community is gearing up for the Romance Writer’s of America annual conference. You can read up-to-date reports via the thread at Dear Author or blognationals.com. Our own Lisa Paitz Spindler is kickin’ it out west in sunny San Francisco, so we hope you have fun, Lisa! (Keep in mind we’re eagerly waiting to hear about any SFR publishing news, natch!)

The ladies at Smart Bitches demonstrated just how hip & smart they are with a link to a slideshow lecture by Robert J. Sawyer. He discusses the origins & social relevance of science fiction. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Over at Adventures in SciFic Publishing, you can listen to an interview with Lois McMaster Bujold. At one point, she discusses the challenges of blending SF and Romance. (Thanks to mftz of Flying Whale Productions for the link.)

In the latest post at Redlines and Deadlines, Publisher Raelene Gorlinsky of Ellora’s Cave asks, “Do E-Authors Make Money?" She discusses e-author profits (or the lack thereof, as the case may be). Read it to see what she says about science fiction e-books in particular. Could SFR be just around the corner? (Thanks to Laurie at The Toasted Scimitar for the link.)

And finally, check out this fun post at Cinemaroll (thanks to SFSignal for the link). It will help get you in the mood for my next post.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, July 24, 2008

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Author Supernova: Rowena Cherry, Part III


Congratulations, Dawn! You've just won an autographed copy of INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL! Please email me your name and address to sfrgalaxyNOSPAM@gmail.com (and don’t forget to remove der “no spam”).

Now let’s proceed to other delicious delicacies. I had the pleasure of interviewing Rowena Cherry recently. I picked her brain about her work and the genre of science fiction romance. Read on to discover what canderus, Bear Grylls, and The Turk have in common:

The Galaxy Express: Discuss boundaries in genre fiction like science fiction romance, and why they should be nudged, pushed, or smashed to bits (take your pick).

Rowena Cherry: Discuss? Wow! You start deep, Heather.

“If you would converse with me, you must first define your terms.” I believe the author was Voltaire, but I’ve seen a variant attributed to John Locke.

Anyway, if you exclude from consideration misquotes from rock songs (such as “I’m Gemini and I don’t know which one I like the most” or “Oh, God, I could do better than that!”, Voltaire’s was my favorite quote when I was at University (Cambridge).
The word-geek pedant in me wants to define the premise, before I discuss it. For a start is science fiction romance a genre? It should be! But is it?

As I see it, the biggest boundary is that SFR is a sub-genre. We come under the umbrella of Paranormal. I like to think of Paranormal as either a great big hairy werewolf, sitting on my SFR head…. not on my face!... or as a mother hen with assorted, mismatched chicks under her wings.

Contest categories could be seen as a micro-example of the problem. If the class isn’t for all “FFandP” (or Fantasy, Futuristic, Time Travel and Paranormal) with no mention at all of SFR or RSF, then it’s Futuristic, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi Romance.
The PEARL Awards are pretty much the gold standard, I would say.

Other contests probably should not be pitting sweet, winged faeries, or Middle-Earthian warriors, or Arthurian druids against high tech gods from outer space, aliens or space-faring Terrans, or modern day descendants of classical gods.
For contest and award purposes, the boundaries should be redrawn. There aren’t enough awards and prizes to go around.

As for shelving issues in bookstores, the business isn’t exactly booming, so I can understand why there’s Science Fiction, and there’s Romance, and it is up to the movers and the shakers in the bookselling world to decide (often based on cover art and cover blurb) what is what.

Online… well, if SFR authors were to organize, and tag, and list, and help each other, I’m sure online stores and book networking sites could break out every subgenre by content, but I’m an eclectic reader. In fact, I find it rather unhelpful that some authors use different pen names if they write in different genres. But that is completely OT.




TGE: You're a consummate researcher, so much so that George Orwell would be proud. What's the most gag-inducing, gross out fact you ever uncovered in the name of science fiction romance?

RC: Thank you for the well-researched compliment. If it’s truly gag-inducingly gross, it probably wasn’t uncovered by me. One or two of Bear Grylls’s survival exploits come to mind…Are you sure you want to know? Wringing out an elephant’s dung for an emergency drink would be one. Drinking the liquor from one of a dead camel’s stomachs to quench ones thirst would be another. And, spending a cold desert night inside a dead camel’s abdominal cavity (very much like what Han Solo did on the ice planet) would surely qualify.

I don’t think I’d exactly gag at the thought of chiggers in the absorbent moss that I’d need for my sanitary protection if I were stranded on a tropical island for months on end, but that’s pretty gross. “Survivorman” Les Stroud told me that my marooned alien hero could use rabbit entrails for a condom. My inner heroine thanks you for that, Les!

If one had a proper condom, it would be too valuable as a container to store water in to be used for its advertised purpose. Yes...there you go. I do think I might gag if I had to drink from a condom.

Which reminds me of felching, which is the most gross, accidental discovery I made while researching something completely different on a FaceBook discussion board. (I think I wanted one of my violent friends to tell me what it feels like to break someone else’s nose.)

TGE: If a canderu fought a piranha, which predator would win?

RC: The piranha, if they fought. A canderu is a stealth predator. It is attracted by the delicious scent of urea, usually in the gills of its normal prey, and it wriggles in and attaches itself using spines that don’t retract once deployed. On rare occasions it has been attracted to the flow from an unwary human relieving himself in the river, and has swum upstream, you might say. Hence the canderu’s other name, “willy fish”.

TGE: You stated in a past interview that "For me all plot begins with the hero." Ever think you might challenge your conventions and do the opposite—start one with a heroine? Why or why not?

RC: Not as long as I’m writing Romance. I don’t write about the heroine I want to be. I write about the larger than life, fantasy male that I’d like to imagine falling in love with me. If my hero doesn’t grab me, and hold my attention, I doubt that my reader will want to take him to bed with her.

If I were writing something else, I might.

TGE: What was your inspiration for launching the Alien Romances blog?

RC: Blogging was the latest wave when I started the “Alien Romances” craft blog. Not everyone was doing it, at the time, and individual blogs were still seen as time-consuming and too much of a distraction.

My inspiration was partly out of a desire to promote the SFR genre, partly “Pay it forward” thinking, and partly sheer competitiveness. I knew that if I didn’t do it, and grab the “alien romances” title (and the pick of the best SFR authors of our time), Deidre Knight—or someone as savvy as she is—would do so.

Science Fiction Romance wasn’t as “big” as it is now, and some of the authors I initially invited weren’t available.

Members of the blog are Susan Kearney, Linnea Sinclair, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Colby Hodge, Margaret L Carter, Susan Sizemore, myself. We also have hosted Susan Grant, Barbara Karmazin, and Stacey Klemstein.

TGE: Please share a little known fact about your creative process.

If there are any little known facts about my creative process, they probably don’t redound to my credit. I’ve compared writing one of my books to doing one of those fiendish 1,000 piece jigsaws where several pieces are all black and almost exactly the same shape on at least two sides.

TGE: This has nothing to do with SFR (on the surface, at least), but isn't The Turk, like, the coolest automaton ever?

RC: Very cool, not least because it was such a successful hoax. Thank you for sharing.



Thanks, Rowena for your generous time and being so game!

Now it’s time for the third giveaway! Winner #1 will receive an ARC of KNIGHT’S FORK, which means you get to read it about two months in advance of the release date. (Rowena, if you’re around, we’d love to hear more about the book, the cover, or anything else you’d like to tell us about it! And thanks for your generosity).



The Queen Consort of the Volnoth needs a sperm donor, and only one green-eyed god has the right stuff. Little does she know she has pinned all her hopes on the crown jewels of the fabled Royal Saurian Djinn. Not only is he the son of her greatest enemy, but he has taken a vow of chastity.

The Saurian Knight is caught between a problem father who has all the moral integrity of a Mafia Don, and a married Princess who would stop at nothing to have his seed in her belly. No matter which way he turns, he’s “forked.”

Taking the wrong lover...in the wrong place, at the wrong time...is dangerous. And when the High and Mighty Intervene, it can be fatal. Can true love and a pure White Knight’s virtue triumph, when society loves a right royal scandal?


Winner #2 will receive a copy of INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL!



In order to get your name in the hat for a random drawing (contest limited to U.S. residents), please leave a comment for this post. Perhaps you’d like to share your own survival exploits! The deadline is Sunday, July 27, 2008, at 9 p.m. EST.

But wait! There’s more! The Raven is also hosting a contest for KNIGHT’S FORK. (Now how much would you pay? ;)

And before I sign off, I wanted to mention that The Romance Studio is asking “Which author has what it takes to be the first TRS Studio Diva?” The esteemed Ms. Cherry is on the list, and the link takes you right to the voting page (hint, hint).

Thank you, Rowena Cherry, for allowing us a glimpse into your amazing world.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

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Author Supernova: Rowena Cherry, Part II

Congratulations, Discriminating Fangirl! You won an autographed copy of FORCED MATE! Please email your name and address to sfrgalaxyNOSPAM@gmail.com. Thanks to everyone who entered, and stay tuned because another giveaway is just a nanosecond away.

Now, back to our featured author:

With Rowena Cherry, it’s all about the moves. Et pourquoi? Because she likes chess! (Le har har.) Visit her Web site for lots of great information—geared toward both readers and writers. You’ll even encounter a few randy puzzles to boot.

So that you can glean more about her background and career, I’ve assembled a list of interviews. In my next post, I’ll be unveiling a new interview with Rowena Cherry that builds on them—so if you want to be in the know (and who doesn't?) read away at the following:

Mystique Books
I Need My “Space” (courtesy of Paranormal Romance)
Road To Romance
Roundtable Reviews
A Conversation with Rowena Cherry
Romance at Heart Magazine
Coffee Time Romance (this one focuses particularly on her path to publication)

In addition, here are a few of Rowena Cherry’s posts from Alien Romances (and I am so not doing the woman justice—this is just the tip of the iceberg):

Why I Write...Alien Romance
E=mc2 – God Clapped
Sexism And The English Language
Where the UFO’s Are

Ms. Cherry also presents a heady number of links and lists of resources for research, ranging from author articles, books, and (heads up, aspiring authors!), bunches of free promo tips. Go forth and indulge in the The Research Secrets Workshop. Get happy there, but don’t forget to return when we lift off for our next embarkation!

Now, my fine passengers, is your chance to win an autographed copy of INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL!




Stalemate!

The love of her life is dead,
so she has been told...
Two could stare.
From where she was lying, Martia-Djulia had a very good view of his long, hard, muscled legs. Indeed, he was in very much better shape than her first impression had been of him, fully clothed, two cycles ago.She, on the other hand, had let herself go a little in the past two cycles. Where, after all, was the point in looking her best for her beloved Commander Jason, if Jason was never coming back? It would be foolish to make herself look as attractive as possible when she did not want the Mate who was sniffing around her.

Sentenced to a fate worse than death,
Djetthro-Jason can never tell her the truth.
Even if he knew what the truth was.


Mystery, intrigue, and romance, oh my! In order to get your name in the hat for a random drawing (contest limited to U.S. residents), please leave a comment for this post. Spark a discussion about something you read on Rowena Cherry’s Web site or in her Alien Romances posts. Or, you can always chime in about chess. "Shall...we...play...a...game?"

If you haven't won yet, keep trying. The deadline for the drawing is Thursday, July 24, 2008, at 9 p.m., EST.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, July 20, 2008

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Author Supernova: Rowena Cherry

We’ve all had this moment: Sitting before our television, not in the mood for any one show in particular, and channel surfing with a vengeance worthy of Genghis Khan. A million cable channels and still nothing to watch.

Suddenly, your eye catches a highly intriguing image, maybe an ancient ruin or an exotic ocean denizen. You continue to watch, mesmerized. The remote, now clutched in a warm palm, slowly descends back to the armrest.

Identification titles flash upon the screen. You’ve stumbled upon The Discovery Channel. Program after program unfolds, from Hubble’s Greatest Hits to Krakatoa: Volcano of Destruction. Now you’re hooked, caught in a web of immersing documentaries and enough brain candy to sate you for weeks.

If any one author rivals such a mother lode of esoteric lore, it’s Rowena Cherry. Her willingness to uncover the most far-flung facts in the name of science fiction romance is a hallmark of her prose. There’s a layer to her work that goes beyond transcends the characters and story. Every book is a tour guide to the fun and fantastic.

Rowena Cherry is the author of books such as FORCED MATE, INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL, and the upcoming KNIGHT’S FORK. Notice the theme? Unabashedly irreverent, she gives new meaning to the phrase “word play.” Like that classic game of strategy, what’s it called...oh yeah, chess!

Ms. Cherry has stated that “The central premise of my alien Djinn is that the legendary beings we call jinn, djinn or genie were aliens, and they acted like original wolves.” What a jazzy premise! On her Web site, she features a handy Djinn family tree.

In a word, fun!

Not only is she an exuberant author, she also operates a number of blogs, the foremost among them being Alien Romances. There’s lots in her universe to explore, and we’ll dig into more of it later.

Speaking of exploring, it’s time for a free book! Ms. Cherry has kindly sent me a wonderful package of goodies in addition to my own prize so there will be giveaways all week!

The winner of today’s giveaway will receive an autographed copy of FORCED MATE. Here’s a tidbit about the story:




As the next god-Emperor of Tigron, Prince Tarrant-Arragon is renowned for his sexual prowess and has his choice of lovely young women ... whether he wants them or not. But the Earthling mate of his dreams is not only a feminist and the secret daughter of his greatest enemy, but she has sworn to thwart Tarrant-Arragon or die in the attempt. He knows that when she finds out whose bed she’s in, she’ll either castrate him or kill him.

Sounds like a winning combination to me! The deadline for the drawing is Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 9 p.m., EST. In order to get your name in the proverbial hat for a random drawing (contest limited to U.S. residents), please leave a comment for this post. Share an intriguing fact you recently discovered, and welcome Rowena Cherry to The Galaxy Express!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, July 17, 2008

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Writers of the Science Fiction Romance Future

Welcome to The Galaxy Express Writer’s Retreat! The perfect weekend getaway, I must say (and I’m sure many more will follow). Let’s talk shop.

Despite the myriad renowned qualities of science fiction romance, it’s a niche market, which makes the publishing goal that much more of a hurdle. Not only that, but publishers are still determining how to market the genre, while booksellers struggle with appropriate shelf placement.




That’s why it’s crucial to make that manuscript snap, crackle, and pop. Not only are you competing against an agent’s or editor’s subjective taste, you’re competing against published authors for limited slots. Your story had better be the best thing since the Mars Rover, or better yet, double fudge mocha chocolate ice cream with caramel swirls and toffee chunks.

Speaking of, Chef has set up a buffet table with lots of yummy hors d’oeuvres, sparkling Italian sodas, coffee, tea, and a sampling of his famous deserts. Fill up your plates, find a table, and replenish your font of creativity with these not-to-be-missed SFR resources:

Thanks to Lisa Paitz Spindler, Shelfari Science Fiction Romance Group joins the ranks of the SFR community. As a totally happening pad, it’s a super place to dish about your favorite SFR books or discover new reads.

Out Of This World”—a Sci-Fi/Futuristic Workshop at Romance Divas. This shindig was thrown by a number of renowned SFR authors. Dated from October 12-14, 2007, the thread is long over, but still free!

For inspiration or research needs, check out Futurismic: Near Future Science Fiction and Fact Since 2001 (and I just might bump into you there!)

SFSignal & io9 keeps you abreast of all the swinging events in the SF universe.

Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (and agents such as Colleen Lindsay evaluate participation in these workshops seriously).

Check out Alien Romance for a post on writing a gripping opening line, among other goodies.

Here are some great tools for Building Your Own World

Plot, Character, Or Something Else? offers thought provoking questions to spike your creative juices.

From SFWA comes a list of Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C. Wrede.

Here are a few of Linnea’s Writing Tips

Laurie at Spacefreighter’s Lounge has lots of SFR specific posts geared toward writers/research.

For online communities, you can’t beat Absolute Write. But if cozier digs are more your style, head on over to The Quill & Parchments Writers Pub.



Always do your own research, but the following agents are a few that might be open to SFR submissions. These are suggestions, not endorsements, so query at your own risk:

Colleen Lindsay, FinePrint Literary Management
Rachel Downes, Caren Johnson Literary Agency
Lucienne Diver, The Knight Agency
Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary Agency
Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Jenny Rappaport, L. Perkins Agency
Jennifer Schober, Spencerhill Associates
Holly Root, Waxman Literary Agency
Ethan Ellenberg, Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency

There’s a lot more out there, so query widely! Agent Query is a great resource.

Now for the fun part—it’s time to network! Below are names and links to writers who love SFR so much they spin tales about it. I wanted to formally introduce everyone to um, everyone else. These are names to watch:

Ella Drake

Natalie Hatch

Kimber An

The gang at Take It To The Stars

Lisa Paitz Spindler

Frances Drake

If you’re an aspiring SFR author, come aboard and mingle. Tell us about yourself, and share writing, craft, or query war stories. For those of you with a blog or Web site, feel free to post a link in the comments (and apologies in advance if I overlooked anyone).

Let’s do this again sometime, and thanks for your art!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Written on

Super Vixens!


"Live fast, fight well and have a beautiful ending."
—Saint-Exmin

Truer words were never spoken. Dangerous men are great and all, but there are times when the only characters that will satisfy are brainy, savvy, butt kicking anti-heroines! There is nothing sexier than a woman who can face down a spacecraft with a single gun, hijack a starship, pilot an XYZ-you name it fighter, or take on a whole space armada with nothing but ingenuity for a shield.

All of these women have one distinctive quality in common: Power. Whether it’s manifested in combat, vengeance, technology, or love, they ain’t afraid to flaunt it. With exciting and complex characters like these, I often wonder why bland, vanilla, and TSTL heroines abound—at least in the romance genre.

Why, as Sherry Thomas pointed out, don’t authors take more risks and compose tales with bold heroines that pull as many if not more strings than the hero? Heroines that wield immense wealth, power, and control, whatever form that takes.

Aren’t they romantic enough? Does the idea of anti-heroines really threaten that many romance readers, or is this more an issue of publishers (consciously or unconsciously) suppressing certain archetypes for purely monetary reasons? Recent discussions at Romancing The Blog and Dear Author approach this issue from another angle, namely self-insertion vs. identification.

Twp possible explanations for the underwhelming number of anti-heroines in the romance genre are cognitive biases and gender stereotyping. If a female character displays ruthlessness, for example, a reader might fail to take into account that the quality exists independent of gender, and this bias negatively colors the perception of the female character. Perhaps anti-heroines break an unspoken rule about gender expectations, resulting in cognitive dissonance when a reader can’t shake his/her preconceptions. Hence, fewer of these characters survive the publishing grind and make it to bookstores.

For whatever reason, I’d wager that anti-heroines teeter on being the norm for science fiction romance stories, at least the current batch. Heck, it would be thrilling if they were the norm. That’s what I call cutting edge—and oh so apropos that a trend like this could explode from a genre that explores love & romance in the future.

So why do we love to read about these anti-heroines or watch their adventures on film/television? Well, they’re cool. Empowering. Unabashedly independent. They’re slinky sexy in an electrifying-the-air kind of way. These spitfires make gunslinging eminently fashionable. Let’s not forget how devious they are—and deadly. Trust me, you don’t want to land in the cross hairs of one of these legendary ladies.

Or maybe you do.

And whether it’s shown or not, you know they’re sassy and uninhibited in bed. No one drips sex appeal and slays her opponents with equal aplomb like the brassy Valkyrie Saint-Exmin from the film BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS:




Other righteous examples of these anti-heroines can be found here, here, here, and here. There’s also the endlessly fascinating characters Starbuck and Caprica Six from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.



And from anime, may I present the legendary Queen Emeraldas:



Yup. I’m a total wannabe.

So many great anti-heroines, so little time. (Why aren’t you reading a book about one right now?!) Better yet, hop on a shuttle and zoom over to Lisa Paitz-Spindler’s site where she presents these kool kitties on her Danger Gal Friday feature. I’ll keep the lights on for you.

It’s time for more deliciously foxy anti-heroines. You tell me: who are the Super Vixens of speculative romance that women want to be and men want to be with?

Joyfully yours,

(fanning herself) Heather

Sunday, July 13, 2008

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In Praise of Dangerous Men

I was recently reading a post by Rowena Cherry over at Alien Romance (Omnipotence, 5/25/08) in which she stated: “Personally, I like my heroes to be slightly morally questionable.” I had to agree with her most heartily, but later I got to wondering. Who was my first “morally questionable hero?” What was it about him that so captured my attention?

Fellow passengers, allow me to introduce (or maybe re-introduce) Kerr Avon of BLAKE’S 7.




For those of you unfamiliar with the show, BLAKE’S 7 was a British Sci-Fi television series. Created by Terry Nation (of Dalek fame), it aired on the BBC from 1978 to 1981. The plot of the four-season show revolved around the adventures of several penal colony escapees as they fought the evil Terran Federation.

Avon was not the leader of the band of outlaws. He was not even particularly leadership material. He was too selfish, too self-absorbed, too interested in wealth and his own survival. He was sarcastic, rude and arrogant. He had a clipped and cutting voice that dripped with scorn most of the time. He wasn’t even particularly handsome. He had goofy hair, a big nose and very British teeth.

So why does Avon still live on in my memory? Well, first of all BLAKE’S 7 was a great show—dark, cynical and complex. It had the gutsiest ending of any series I’ve ever seen. Check out the opening credits:



As you can see, this was not your grandmother’s BBC. The other characters were interesting, but none were as intriguing as Avon. He was, in Rowena Cherry’s words, more than slightly “morally questionable.”

Haunted by a tragic back story (betrayed to the Federation by the only woman he ever loved, whom he eventually killed), he was utterly ruthless (a thief, a murderer and an embezzler) and he sneered. A lot. But he was also brilliant (computer expert), brave (was always saving somebody’s life – well, when he wasn’t killing somebody), and had a penchant for dressing in studded leather outfits (gulp!). When he deigned to flash a smile—always a rarity—it was boyish and completely charming.

Avon also had a great sense of humor. Consummately sarcastic, his deadpan insults were one of the best parts of the show. And he was so very manipulative and utterly unsentimental. He could (and did) kiss a woman in one episode, only to shoot her in the next. He was an equal opportunity anti-hero.

If you’d like to take a glimpse at the career of Kerr Avon, take a look at this:



A tribute...to a total bastard. After that, feel free to have a giggle at the production values. They only spent fifty pounds an episode on the special effects. Hard to imagine a time when the FX were considered such a low priority on the totem pole, isn’t it?

So what do you think, fellow passengers? Do you like your heroes heroic or morally questionable? Squeaky clean or on the darker side of dangerous? Who is your favorite Sci-Fi Hero?

But I’m afraid you’ll have to stay away from Avon. He’s mine! You can bet I hope to bump into him as I travel throughout our galaxy. [Spoiler Alert]
Rumor has it that he didn’t die in the final scene of the final episode along with everyone else; incidentally, after killing the only friend he ever had. And if he’s still out there—I want him!

Be seeing you!

Agent Z

Thursday, July 10, 2008

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Heat Level Is Haute!

Known throughout the solar system as the #1 Cheerleader of science fiction romance, Kimber An runs Enduring Romance, a book showcase & review site. What’s distinct about her site is the Heat Level feature, a guide to the extent of sexual tension and sex in the books she and her colleagues review.




As an experienced(!) romance reader, I asked her to comment on the topic of Heat Level in science fiction romance books because she’s had her ear to the wormholes longer than anyone can remember. It’ll be a satisfying conclusion to the exciting discussions we’ve been having this past week.

The Galaxy Express: First of all, Kimber An, thanks for taking the time to participate.

Kimber An: Thank you for inviting me, Heather! You’re a sweetheart and I’m not worthy!

TGE: First question—What inspired you to include Heat Level (HL) as a factor in your reviews?

KA: I started doing book reviews soon after I launched the original Star Captains’ Daughter blog. As always, I reviewed a variety of books; not just Romance. I was stunned when authors started checking out my blog and commenting. I mean, sheesh, I was just a puny little newbie blogger. What’d I know? Who’d care what I had to say?

I also started interacting with readers more and more and every day. The one complaint I heard the most was about graphic sex scenes in Romance novels. Since the boom of Erotica, the Romance genre has gotten more and more graphic with sex scenes. It’s gotten to a point where a reader cannot find a Romance novel without graphic sex in the New Releases, unless it is Inspirational (religious) or Young Adult (for teens.)

So, what’s a reader to do if she wants to read a Romance novel, but she’s over thirty and not a Christian? She’s expected to skip those scenes. Some readers do that. However, many have abandoned the New Releases altogether and now only read from the library or the used bookstore. The publishing industry, meanwhile, seems to think these readers no longer exist. They base what they put out next on what is selling new right now. Since there is nothing for these readers in New, there are no sales figures reflecting their opinion. Their voice goes unheard.

My book reviewing was getting rather out of hand, taking over my personal playground blog. I decided to start a new blog just for reviewing books and to rate the Heat Level for those readers who did not want to be shocked by graphic sex scenes. I named the blog, Enduring Romance because I believe in Happily Ever After in Real Life, and it’s grown so much I recruited fellow bloggers, Lady Bronco, Kimber Chin, Robyn at [Picnic At] Stonehenge, Mystery Robin, and, pitch-hitter, Sara J. to help out. We now have a Gore-O-Meter to rate violence too. That was Robin’s suggestion, I think.

TGE: As a reader, what are your general impressions about sex/sexual tension in SFR books?

KA: My favorite authors, Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant, both do an excellent job with that. The tension always mounts and the lovemaking is always well-supported by the story and character development. To tell you the truth, I haven’t read much of any New Releases from new-to-me SFR authors. I don’t like to read anything hotter than Sensual and most SFR is Highly Sensual or Erotic. I rate Susan’s as Highly Sensual, but I know I can count on her to support that with original storytelling and multi-dimensional characters.

Like a lot of readers who’ve been disenchanted, I’m hesitant to try new SFR authors. Hot Nookie in Outer Space is not enough. I was impressed enough with GRIMSPACE and NETHERWOOD to request ARCs for the blog, but didn’t have time to review them personally. Sara J, my pitch-hitter, kindly volunteered. She does the Science Fiction and Fantasy I want reviewed but I can’t get to at Enduring Romance.

TGE: How do you think these elements impact a science fiction story in particular?

KA: Naturally, I think my favorite authors do an excellent job building tension and balancing the lovemaking with the plot and all that. Linnea is especially good at telling an excellent Science Fiction story without losing it to Standard Issue Sex Scenes. To use a Real Life metaphor, to me SFR without the Intimate Adventure is like sex without foreplay—boring. Read the Jacqueline Lichtenberg interview on this blog from June 23, 2008, for the definition of ‘Intimate Adventure.’

TGE: You’ve read & reviewed many, many books. Have you noticed any HL trends in SFR stories since you first began Enduring Romance? If so, what are your thoughts about them?

KA: I haven’t seen any new trends, just more of the same growing. Heat Levels in New Release Science Fiction Romance are Highly Sensual or Erotic with a handful of Sensual novels in there. While that may capitalize on the genre-wide rush for Erotica dollars, it alienates a significant number of potential readers at the same time. Reader preferences are as varied as they are. Not everyone is the same or likes the same thing. Science Fiction Romance readers may be busy and tired, but they are smart. Really smart. Authors and their associates who doubt that do so to their own peril.

TGE: Any other comments about HL and SFR?

KA: In my opinion Science Fiction Romance needs to become more inclusive, or maybe I should say it should *return* to being more inclusive. Remember Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura kissing? If I were to judge SFR readership based upon the SFR New Releases I know of, all SFR readers are white, only like white guys, are between the ages of 25 and 35, only read Highly Sensual or Erotic novels, and hate babies.



Consider that nearly all SFR readers are women and most of them are mothers. Many are over 35 and, yes, they had wild crushes on Han Solo. But, they also thought Mr. Sulu and Will Smith were hot too. One of the reasons put forth to explain the decline of Science Fiction is that we’re already in the future. We have iPods and cell phones and a probe on Mars. I think it’s because Science Fiction has fallen behind the Real Here and Now.

For example, Mommies command corporations in Real Life, but not starships in Science Fiction. It used to be that women yearned to fall in love, marry, and live happily ever after. The cultural expectation was that she became non-sexual once the first sperm hit the first egg. Meanwhile, it was acceptable for men to keep mistresses for sex instead. It’s called the Madonna/Whore Complex.

Nowadays, however, we know that women can enjoy sex throughout babymaking and motherhood, past Menopause, and all the way into their sixties and beyond. Did you know that Oxytocin, a hormone involved in great sex, is double-dosed to pregnant and lactating women? Think of all those new mommies who could have been having multiples (talking O here, not twin babies) if they only had the support they needed during that time of their lives!

A woman can fall in love at any age and stage of life. The readers have learned there is so much more to Womanhood than our culture previously thought, but Science Fiction and Romance (to a lesser degree) have not kept up. I believe Science Fiction Romance is the ideal vehicle to forge this new path, but Susan Grant is the only author I know of who can and does carry it off. And no wonder—she’s a Mommy and an airline pilot, as well as a novelist.

My point is there could be a LOT more SFR readers than there are right now. Did you know most girls have their love of science peer pressured out of them by Junior High? This means future SFR readers have little to build their interest on and most will be turned off to SFR by the time they’re old enough to read it. Now, if there happened to be Science Fiction Romance novels in the New Releases which were also Sweet or Mildly Sensual, I could recommend them to teens and there would be that many more readers for the rest of SFR in five years’ time.

I don’t make these observations to be snarky and criticize Science Fiction Romance. Far from it. I want SFR to grow because I love it. I also realize my observations don’t always match up with what the publishing industry believes about readers and I’m nobody to them. I doubt SFR will change much in the coming years, but I do hope it grows anyway.

There is greater variety of SFR when a reader includes eBooks and Small Press, but a reader who wants to avoid Highly Sensual or Erotica ought to go searching through the greats like Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley and any of the authors before the 1990’s, I’d guess, which Heather has posted to the left. Most of these will be bought at used bookstores or borrowed from the library, which means no New sales for SFR. Hopefully, it will at least grow the interest in SFR as a whole.

Once I’m through my current stack of ARCs, I plan on focusing on the authors who paved the way. Also, there is a lot of Science Fiction with strong romantic plots and many don’t go over a Mildly Sensual Heat Level. The following link might be helpful: www.romanticsf.com.

I think it would be helpful to create and post Booklists, recommending SFR-type novels which include stories outside the popular-though-narrow demographic I described. If you know of any SFR with a Sweet Heat Level for example, recommend it to the list! Know of a novel with a gorgeous black man as the Hero? Let us know! Help your fellow SFR readers find the books they will love.

Thanks for inviting me, Heather. You’re a sweetie.
;)

TGE: Kimber An, the pleasure is all mine!

Now, I open the floor to you, my progressive passengers. Chat up a solar storm with your thoughts, and don’t forget to stop by Enduring Romance or Star Captain’s Daughter to give Kimber An a big wet one from me say hello!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Written on

Sex in the Interstellar City

Congratulations, Kimber An! Your number just came up and thou hast won a copy of CODE 46! Please email your name and address to sfrgalaxyNOSPAM@gmail.com. Now on with the show....

Since we’ve explored what sex and romance can do for SF, there’s the issue of how much sex and how often. Lovemaking scenes can do loads for a story in terms of characterization and tension building, but is there such a phenomenon in SFR as too much sex?

Where there’s romance, there’s sex. Heroes and heroines get laid. A lot. Frequently on the page, sometimes off. Just look at paranormal romances—you’d be hard pressed to find one without at least one sex scene.

Depending on how you define a book that contains SF and romance elements, there are those with lots of sex, those with none, and others in between.

Variety is good. But can too many sex scenes spoil the speculative soup?

Author vision and going where the story takes her is one thing. But what about when marketing enters the picture? Regarding SFR on the heels of the paranormal romance boom—in which the frequency and graphic nature of sex scenes played a significant role—how will that impact the amount of sex scenes in future SFR stories?

I’ve been wondering if the high sex quotient will carry over to SFR books, unintentionally or not. Over at my inaugural Romancing The Blog post “Love and the Final Frontier” I stated:

“...I personally would like to see a strong continuation of SFR books that have the “less is more” mentality regarding sex scenes (not necessarily less sexual tension, tho’). SFR’s concentration on (external) plot, speculative elements, politics, and world building is what will sell these books.

In other words, I hope publishers don’t fall into the mentality that lots of graphic sex is what will help sell SFR books.

I mean, sure, have a few with some wild & frequent sex, but balance it with straight up SF type stories. Or even if an SFR plot is more focused on the romance, I don’t think there’s a need to infuse it with tons of sex scenes.

As a reader coming from the SF side, I don’t expect it nor do I miss it if the consummation happens behind closed doors, or even after the story ends. If it’s there, terrific, but I hope that it’s there because it fits the story, not because there was pressure to include it.”

(Hey, can you blame me for reprinting it here? After all, I already did the work! :)

I also wonder if this issue will impact books published only under the romance umbrella, or whether it will influence SF stories with romantic subplots released from traditional SF imprints.

Stay tuned for more on this topic when I present a scintillating interview with tonight's winner, Kimber An of Enduring Romance—she’s offered up some very thought-provoking ideas and I can’t wait to share them with you!

But first tell me what you think.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, July 6, 2008

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5 Ways Sex & Romance Will Save Science Fiction

Is Science Fiction in trouble? It depends.

If we’re talking film and television, no. There are some pretty darn successful projects that have reached astronomical levels of public awareness and cultural longevity. Eight out of ten films topping the all-time worldwide box office are SF/fantasy related.

But if we’re talking SF books, short stories, and magazines...well, things could be considerably better. And that’s what we all want.

My discourse today is inspired by Lyda Morehouse’s piece at this SFSignal post and also the unfortunate fact that SF inhabits a small percentage of the book market, one hovering around 7%. It’s a respectable percentage, but why not command more?

Obviously, SF will never comprise 100% of the market (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Yet it has the potential to gain even more popularity. The question is this: How can SF grow and thrive to the level of an “it” genre (Clara Bow approved)?




Why, with sex and romance, of course! Not all books, mind you, because that would get boring very quickly. But publishers certainly could endorse/support/commission a greater number of stories that feature a romance, with or without the sex. A modified (read=flexibility about what that entails) Happily Ever After might also be in order. Like, include an HEA, but don’t expect a white picket fence in, say, a mining colony in an asteroid belt.

So if more SF books feature a romantic subplot and if publishers release more SFR books, here are some unscientific but very satisfying results we can expect:

1. Authors & publishers will sell more books

Sex sells. It might be a cliché, but it’s a cliché that works. This will be especially true if the story contains a compelling romance and the word “romance” is somewhere on the cover. Also, slap some man titty on there, too (oh, I kid).

Relationship subplots with not just thinking but also feeling heroes and heroines is not only good story making, it’s also a sound marketing strategy. These elements are not necessarily mutually exclusive (and who knows that better than the Romance community?).

2. A little creative literary engineering will go a long way

Since more books will have greater crossover appeal, SF will gain increased visibility via the blogosphere. Authors/publishers can promote more frequently in both of the online conglomerates that are SF and Romance. Sowing the seeds of love, as it were. Hooray for cross-pollination! Yeah, baby!

3. Hollywood will option more projects

Yes, there are film adaptations of literary SF, and more power to them. But how many can the average movie-goer recollect off the top of his/her head? How many made over 300 million, or even 100 million in domestic gross?

Now compare that number to STAR WARS.

The addition of a romance lends itself to a high concept pitch. Tinseltown loves high concept, especially if the movie has the potential to star Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, or some other opener with an equally high Q rating.

And then there’s the lucrative merchandise rights: Action figures! Lunchboxes! Underoos! Seriously, the promotional opportunities will increase, with authors scoring greater exposure by doing interviews for the DVD extras.

As it turns out, Hollywood isn’t the only one hip to the glories of SFR—even Bollywood is getting in on the action! (Thanks to Laurie at Spacefreighter’s Lounge for the link).

4. More readers will get off on it—intellectually and emotionally

There are plenty of SF stories that satisfy on an emotional level. So why not highlight tales with romance already present more aggressively through promotional efforts? SF stories that feature characters in love stand a greater chance at demonstrating how accessible the SF genre is and can be.

5. A gender-bender increase in the market share

There are already a million women who love SF. But there are a gazillion more who love romance, and who are willing to try new stories, worlds, and authors. Give it to them!

SF publishers would benefit from using promotional dollars to catch the attention of romance readers. This is along the lines of what Ms. Morehouse stated, as I interpreted her comments. She said:

The SF/F publishing industry has started to reach out to romance readers, which I think it[sic] a step in the right direction to bring female readers into the mix. I think once it can be established—a la the "surprise" summer hit "Sex in the City"— that women readers represent a dollar sign, it will be easier for women of more "mainstream" science fiction to find a publisher willing to take the risk on them.

Many SF books would appeal to romance readers as is. So there’s also an argument for if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Perhaps a more apt bromide would be this: Use it or lose it!

I’m sure you’re all fit to burst with ideas and opinions, but first I’m announcing a giveaway!

So check this out: A few days ago, I was doing some research for the blog when I came across a film called CODE 46. I hadn’t heard of it, but the premise seemed intriguing. Further research revealed that this award-winning near-future love story, starring Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton, is a cross between LOST IN TRANSLATION and NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. I filed the information away and went to bed.



The next day, while I was out running errands, I stopped to investigate a large display of DVDs. Scanning the titles, my eyes lit upon none other than CODE 46!

I know. Spooky.

Of course, I snatched it right up for you, faithful reader. You know the drill: One lucky passenger will win a copy of this (contest limited to U.S. residents). Comment away and Sir Randomizer will have at them. You have until 9 p.m. est on Tuesday, July 8, 2008.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Written on

Free Science Fiction Romance Stories!

Ah, summer.

There’s nothing like a festive day at the beach sunbathing, swimming, or stretching your muscles with an invigorating game of volleyball. Better yet, a picnic in the park to celebrate the holidays. Veggie burgers and pasta salad and ice cream, oh my!

Then come the sultry summer evenings with an icy cocktail in one hand and a sexy partner in the other. The best entertainment portion of the night is when the two of you slip into the shadows so you can...well, forget all of that! I have something much more spectacular, namely, free stories to enrich your time this holiday weekend.

To wit:

* S. L. Viehl’s RULE NUMBER ONE

* Ann Aguirre’s STILL WE LIVE

* Isabo Kelly’s LAST CALL ON ELDORA STATION

* Linnea Sinclair’s GAMBIT

And, though not necessarily SFR, there’s loads of good SF shorts from Strange Horizons (this link takes you to 135 of them).

If you still can’t get enough, go forth and inhale Elaine Corvidae’s novel, EXILE’S BURN. After all, who knows fun better than SFR wordsmiths?

Before I sign off, here’s a little eye candy for the journey.




Happy reading, and have a safe & happy Independence Day for those of you beaming in from the US!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Postus Scriptus: SFSignal and SciFiChick.com are both gateways to giveaways this week, namely X-FILES: REVELATIONS. Hie thee hither!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Written on

Catch A Rising Star: Pauline Baird Jones

Sometimes, the bright spot of your day arrives unexpectedly.

When I first heard about author Pauline Baird Jones while tossing back a Midori Sour over at the Intergalactic Bar & Grille, I wanted to know more.

Ms. Jones wrote THE KEY, an epic science fiction romance with a strong heroine, sexy hero, AND an intergalactic Happily Ever After!


Here’s the description from Pauline’s Web site:

"When Sara Donovan joins Project Enterprise she finds out that what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger....

An Air Force pilot—the best of the best to be assigned to this mission—Sara isn’t afraid to travel far beyond the Milky Way on an assignment that takes her into a galaxy torn apart by a long and bitter warfare between the Dusan and the Gadi.

After she’s shot down and manages to land safely on an inhospitable planet, Sara encounters Kiernan Fyn—a seriously hot alien with a few secrets of his own—he’s a member of a resistance group called the Ojemba, lead by the mysterious and ruthless Kalian. Together they must avoid capture, but can they avoid their growing attraction to each other?

A mysterious, hidden city on the planet brings Sara closer to the answers she seeks—about her baffling abilities and her mother’s past. She has no idea she’s being pulled into the same danger her mother fled—the key to a secret left behind by a lost civilization, the Garradians.

The Dusan and the Gadi want the key. So do the Ojemba. They think Sara has it. They are willing to do anything to get it.

Sara will have to do anything to stop them...."

Ms. Jones agreed to answer some questions I had about her work, and of course I’m going to share them with all of you (and to heighten the fun, Chef is passing out Midori Sours as we speak!):

The Galaxy Express: SFR is a steady market, but still a niche one. Despite that challenge, something must have inspired you to write THE KEY. Please tell us about that.

I commit random acts of writing, going where the muse--and not the market--takes me. It's a tough road, but then this is a tough business. I have to enjoy the writing, or I'd have no reason to write. I didn't set out to write a science fiction book. I wrote this character that needed a lot of maneuvering room, who liked to fly, and seemed particularly suited to space travel. Sara also had some special abilities and no one to explain to her just how that happened. Thankfully she also had a sense of humor, since we had to spend some intense one-on-one time figuring out her story and how to tell it.

That said, Sara started as a piece of fan fiction that I was just trying to get out of my head, before starting a new book. I'd been watching a lot of Stargate Atlantis and got this really good idea (I still think it would rock as an episode or two) that wouldn't go away. I decided to write it down and then move on. Well, 100 pages later, I realized I had a really great character who needed her own story (and one that I could legally write). It took some false starts before I realized what she'd been trying to tell me all along. She was the only thing I got out of my 100 pages of fan fiction, so maybe some day I'll get to write that episode...)

Sara is an Air Force pilot, involved in a secret project to explore other galaxies—and on the journey she finds out about herself and a past lost to her when her parents died.

It was so dang fun to write this book. I loved the freedom that science fiction gave me to move and try and experiment and just play. I read a lot of genres, so science fiction wasn't unknown to me, I just hadn't tried writing it for myself. I thought I needed to be a scientist, or at least have gotten better grades in science. I found out I just needed to follow my muse, my character, and my imagination.

TGE: What were the highs and lows of becoming a published author?

Oh wow. The lows are the obvious ones: rejections, bad reviews, trying to find ways to let readers know I exist while still managing to write more books, people who ask you when you're going to write a "real" book....

But the highs are what keep me going. The first publication, the first fan letter, the first great review and then all the ones that come after, the occasional award... .

I love spending time with these characters that come to me from who knows where and then I love sharing them with readers.

I've always loved reading, so it was natural to start writing my own. I'm not wild about the business of writing, but I love being a writer.

I love being a small/indie press author because I can write romantic suspense/comedy, then veer into an action/adventure/time travel set in WWII and I can zoom into space and no one tells me, you can't do that. You can't write that. (Not even when the book ran over 140,000 wds. My editor just dubbed it the BAB—big ass book—and helped me make it work. You have to love that!)

TGE: In addition to THE KEY, you've authored seven fiction books, two non-fiction, and contributed to four anthologies. Any advice for aspiring writers, especially those interested in SFR?

Learn the business. Learn the craft of writing, but also learn how it all works, learn how to manage a small business and promote yourself. Learn how to be your own advocate...and don't forget to have fun or it won't be worth it.

TGE: Can you give us a peek at your next SFR tale? Even just a little one? Pretty please?

It's embarrassing, because my next book doesn't even have a name yet! I started it last summer then real life came and slammed my family upside the head, so I'm just getting back into it. It is set in the same universe as The Key, but will be a stand alone story with some new characters (and some from The Key). Since it's not yet ready for public viewing, how about I share an excerpt from my short story, Men in Jeans, which has a guest appearance by Kiernan Fyn, from The Key:

"When Richard Daniels started working at Area 51, he figured he’d see some weird stuff, but he never thought he’d get sent out on a gig with ET as his side kick. They were Area 51’s version of Men in Black, though they were dressed in tee shirts and jeans. Blended in better.

Well, Rick blended in better. He flicked a glance at Kiernan Fyn, his extra terrestrial companion. He looked more biker than space guy. According to the guys who’d know, Fyn could kick ass in at least two galaxies. Maybe that’s why no one had made him trim his dread locks to conform to military regs.

“Quiet,” Fyn said, staring at the house.

He should know. Rick shut off the engine, adding to the silence in the clearing. When he’d picked Fyn up, his wife said he was excited to get out of Area 51. He didn’t look excited then. Didn’t look it now. If his expression had changed in the last twenty-four hours, Rick had missed it.

“Yeah.” To fill the silence he added, “Maybe she’s not home.”

No way to tell with the garage door closed. Place looked and felt isolated, though technically it wasn’t. There were houses all around, but the lots were large, some close to half an acre. And the freeway was about five hundred yards through the trees. Not to mention freaking huge Houston, Texas in every direction. According to one of the local guys, the neighbors were “Texas close.” Guess that meant they were in the same time zone.

“Maybe.”

That doubled Fyn’s output from yesterday. Rick almost made a joke about him talking too much, but yesterday’s joke hadn’t gone well. No one could say Rick didn’t learn from his mistakes.

If they’d been tracking terrorists, Fyn was the guy Rick would most want at his back. He was like seven feet tall, all of it solid muscle. A bit of overkill as back up for a visit to a writer, though.

Unless she was ET, too.

Or a traitor.

Or both.

Ric contemplated Fyn. No, even if she was all those things and more, he was still overkill."

The anthology DEATH IN TEXAS, where one can find MEN IN JEANS, will be released in October, 2008.



TGE: Publishing-wise, where do you see yourself in five years?

I'd like to write and publish books that I loved writing, loved sharing. Will I be famous? I'd love to be, because it would mean more readers were reading my books, but I have no clue. I do know that, as along as I'm not dead, I'll be writing. :-)

******

Pauline, I really appreciate the opportunity to interview you!

Now for some perilously good links:

Here are reviews of THE KEY here, here, and here.

THE KEY is an award-winning book, having scored the Independent Book Bronze Medal (IPPY) for 2008. Learn more about it at Pauline’s Web site, and then visit her blog to say hello!

When you’re done, you can order THE KEY for your reading pleasure (so you can tell Pauline you knew her "way back when").

Joyfully yours,

Heather