Thursday, July 28, 2011

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5 Ways Our Promised Sci-Fi Future Is Here Now

When writing SF/science fiction romance, it often pays to be up on current technology. This can help authors project more realistically into the future and provide more longevity to their work if "the future" turns out to be correct.

Examples of this would include Ford Prefect’s copy of THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, from the Douglas Adams book of the same name. Let’s see a show of hands of those who expected her iPad/Kindle/nook to light up with the large, friendly words “Don’t Panic” on its screen.

Not only was the man a clever author, but he was prescient too.

Given the fact that a group of Hong Kong scientists recently proved (their words) that time travel is impossible (so much for the premise of umpteen SF movies and novels), I thought it would be nice to round up a list of current technology that would have been straight out of science fiction 30 years ago, but is here right now.

Will any of these make recent SF works obsolete or empower them further?

1)   Frickin' Laser Beams on Battleships – According to this article on Gizmodo.com:


Boeing and BAE are building a weapon that combines a traditional M242 autocannon—which fires 175 rounds per minute with a range of 2.5 kilometers—with a high energy laser. They call it the Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System.”

"The laser will be able to target and destroy surface and air targets like small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy is excited about it because they can integrate it in current ships with little work.”
I think I've seen this somewhere before. Wait a minute...now I know!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

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Aliens Aren’t Sexy? Say It Isn’t So!

At Biology in Science Fiction, Peggy recently blogged about The Kirk Effect or why aliens won’t be sexy:

If we do find a planet with intelligent life, it is unlikely to be a humanoid or at all shaped like us. And we are unlikely to be able to easily find a way to communicate.

Yep. Can’t argue with that argument. Yet SF and sci-fi romance authors have ignored the truths of biological sciences in all sorts of ways, for decades, in order to deliver exotic aliens that are also relatable. As partners in this dance, readers have validated le sexy aliens (say, the kind with three boobs or extra large, enhanced penises) with their pocketbooks over and over and over.

Such aliens tend to be aesthetically pleasing more often than not. The ugly fuglies are frequently reserved for aliens out to conquer Earth or exterminate the human race. (That extreme pendulum swing is an interesting topic in and of itself.)

Neytiri - ©Twentieth Century Fox
The latest, most high-profile example of Beautiful Aliens is AVATAR’S Neytiri. I mean, that bosom! I’m sure James Cameron devoted years of research toward developing a sound biological basis for her firm, round breasts.

Yeah, right.

In SF, sexy aliens are often about delivering a fantasy aimed at heterosexual men. In SFR, heterosexual women are the ones most often benefiting from handsome humanoid alien males with sculpted bods. In many cases, the biological sciences are ignored to a ridiculous degree.

But how tragic is the above scenario, really? Are all of us readers and authors just a buncha idjits for perpetuating the myth of the sexy alien?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

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Blogging at the SFR Brigade

For my post tonight, I'm blogging at the SFR Brigade about Redefining The Brass Ring For Science Fiction Romance. It's an industry-style post, so if you're in the mood for something else, Charlie of Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi & Paranormal Romance has a fun post called Do pets have a place in sci-fi storytelling? There's an SFR slant to her piece as well.

Wherever you decide to go, thanks for visiting!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Saturday, July 23, 2011

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Guest Blogging About Steampunk at The Pen and Muse

I'm guest blogging at The Pen and Muse Book Reviews: In 10 Reasons You Should Drop Everything Right Now and Read Steampunk, I discuss...well, I think you have the idea!

While there, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of WHITECHAPEL GODS by S.M. Peters or THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brook. Winner's choice--see the post for details.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, July 21, 2011

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Science Fiction, Diversity, and the Golden Age of Ebooks

In Is a lack of realism good for science fiction?, Ian Sales wrote

I can understand the desire to exclude realism in some subgenres, I can even see how many readers would prefer non-realistic – escapist, immersive – stories. But I don’t think that’s the only way to do it, and I suspect it does little good to the genre’s reputation to produce only those.

The following day at the SFR Brigade, Marva Dasef had the following to say in SFR – Does it need the sex scenes?:

I'm only mentioning this to let you SFR writers know that there is a good market for SFR without explicit sex. I know. I know. Many readers want that in their books, but I don't think it hurts to consider those of us who get a bit red-faced when bodily parts are strewn across the pages as well as the people (and aliens).

So, I ask your opinion. If you've written no-sex SFR, how was it received by your readers? If you haven't, would you consider it to pick up a potential market?


Both of the above are valid questions and on the surface they seem totally unrelated. But after reading both posts, I was struck by what they have in common: Each one attempted to address elements that could impact the perception/marketability of SF & SFR books, respectively.

To my eye, both articles had a parallel theme of discovering the “sweet spot” that would draw potential readers as well as cast SF & SFR in the most positive—and profitable—light.

Upon further reflection, I had the following thought: In this golden age of ebooks, is it still an either/or question? When print books dominated the market, I could understand certain types of stories influencing a genre’s direction and reputation (e.g., literary SF being strongly associated with hard SF).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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Blogging at Tor.com About Sci-Fi Romance Anthologies

I'm blogging at Tor.com today about Sci-Fi Romance Anthologies: Free of the Ghetto At Last.  In addition to my overview on the subject, I included a roundup of the known science fiction romance anthologies. Here's to hoping that the list expands even more in the next few years!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Monday, July 18, 2011

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Ella Drake’s SFR Birthday Bash


Author Ella Drake (JAQ'S HARP) is hosting a bunch of giveaways to celebrate her birthday, and for an extra touch of excitement, the theme is science fiction romance!

Entering is simple and easy, so visit SFR Party at Ella’s! for more details.

Happy Birthday, Ella!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, July 17, 2011

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On Sex in Space: I'm Wearing Rose-Colored Glasses

Aeryn & John from FARSCAPE
In Sex in Space: Part One: How Do We Manage To Do It, author Deborah J. Ross blogged very intelligently about many of the obstacles regarding having sex in space. Here are a few:

Why is space a terrible place for sex? Sex desire is likely to be curbed by the physiological effects of space flight, such as space adaptation syndrome (onset within 2 hours, and persisting up to a week, experienced by 2/3 trained crew and 85% of those less well trained; includes headache, nasal congestion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting without warning); anxiety about the dangers of space, busy work schedule, lack of privacy. Male  rats experience a decrease in testosterone levels (to less than 20% normal) and this is likely true also for human; anemia, fluid loss, reduced autonomic nervous system function, especially sympathetic tone (needed for climax in both men and women); reduction bone and muscle mass; sex in space may require significantly more energy and higher risk of fractures.

Ack, what a downer!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

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In Which I Issue a Challenge to HUNTING KAT Author PJ Schnyder

[Note: This post contains very minor spoilers about one of the secondary characters in PJ Schnyder’s HUNTING KAT]

Normally, I’m of the opinion that secondary characters should remain that way—secondary. In other words, once they occupy a certain role in a story, the boundaries are set and I would prefer that they not be crossed. In that sense, I view the role of a secondary character to be quite sacrosanct.

No matter how much I think I want more of them in the original story or would like to see them headline in a spin-off story of their own, I realize that’s more about me and my subjective reaction than the organic needs of the story. In fact, I rather enjoy the tension that comes with discovering a great secondary character whose further development is essentially forbidden. When an author (or filmmaker) limits the exposure of such a character, he/she becomes all the more exciting for me.

I’m aware that many romance authors, and by extension many sci-fi romance ones, routinely spin-off secondary characters into the heroes and heroines of future books. When it comes to this practice, I can take it or leave it. If the series involves an external plot arc that is told across several books, it makes sense to bring a few secondary characters to the fore; but sometimes I still wish for an entirely new set of characters with each book.

Now, forget everything I just said.

While reading HUNTING KAT by PJ Schnyder, I developed a serious attachment to one of the secondary characters in this author’s space opera romance novella (click here for the story blurb). So serious, in fact, that my challenge to you, Ms. Schnyder, is this:

Make Boggle the hero of a future story in your Triton Experiment series.

What’s got me all hot and bothered about Boggle? Well, dear passengers, I’ll tell you.



The Lone Gunmen


Boggle is a “Lone Gunmen” style computer whiz and a hacker by trade. His presence brings a wee bit o’ cyberpunk flair to the story. If that’s not hot enough for you, he’s an invaluable asset to the heroine, Kat Darah. His dialogue is sharp, funny, and endearing. Boggle also makes a mean cup of joe (that about clinched it for me).

There’s more to Boggle than meets the eye, and he sure is an eyeful. Here’s a snippet of the scene wherein Kat first makes his acquaintance:

A heavyset man rotated on a motorized chair to face her, pushing magnification goggles away from beady, close-set eyes. He blinked twice, leaning his not-so-impressive bulk forward to study her.

Kat—who has heightened senses because of her condition—assesses Boggle further:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

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SFR News & Links Extra


Jo of Mixed Book Bag posted an interview with Pauline Baird Jones (STEAMROLLED). The author shares about the research side of her writing:

Jo:  Where did you find all the steampunk terms you used in both stories?  Is there a steampunk dictionary or did you make them up?

Pauline:  There actually IS a steampunk dictionary, or should I say, there is an app for that. But I got most of my vintage language from researching the Victorian Era. I can state with some confidence that I did MORE research for that little novella than for any full length novel. I even bought Victorian paper dolls in my search for Olivia’s perfect outfit for her meeting with Carey. I was so amazed by what I needed to find out, that I posted the research books and links to the book page on my website. I also commissioned an artist to sketch my transmogrification machine. A graphic of the drawing is available on my website, but it also makes guest appearances in both books’ cover art.

Gini Koch (ALIEN IN THE FAMILY) will be attending Comic-Con this summer, and she blogged about where fans can find her:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

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Markets For Sci-Fi Romance Short Stories

While I was blogging about Science Fiction Romance and the Short Form Revival, the market for short romance fiction had already been expanding, and as I learned recently, it’s about to expand further. Naturally, we’re talking digital markets as opposed to print, but that’s an innovation thing. A new distribution system has arrived and readers are more willing to experiment with a variety of mediums and story lengths.

Except for anthologies, markets for romance short fiction has been scarce. These days, that’s changing. I wonder—will reader perception of such stories change as well? Will they become more in demand? Can increased availability alone prompt us to change our expectations about their value?

Regardless of the challenges, such expansion and innovation has potential for science fiction romance. New short story markets increase the chances of connecting readers with this subgenre. More than ever, aspiring authors have a chance to build credentials as well as a following, or simply find a home for their short stories if that is their preference.

It will be interesting to see what kind of tales emerge as authors explore the possibilities of SFR short stories. But given the challenge of successfully blending SF and romance even in novel-length books, what will it take to convince readers that short stories can deliver a satisfying entertainment experience?

Difficult to predict. However, the potential for success exists, so I'd like to share information about several markets that have come to my attention:

Monday, July 11, 2011

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What is Google +1?

Have you heard? Google has a new gig in town.

Here’s an extra post to help unravel and untangle and generally unconfusify the mysteries of what this new feature on this blog portends. Seeing as how it could help authors and bloggers alike, I figured it was worth a few minutes of electronic elucidation.

In short, Google recently launched their stab at social networking. Sure, Orkut (no, not that guy) has been around for a while, but it never caught on in the U.S. like it did overseas.

Google+ promises to be different.

Well, we’ll see. I doubt it will yield another great David Fincher-helmed feature, but the Googster does have some marketing might packed away in its Mountain View pockets and its all tied into an obscure Web site that you may have heard of.

While we wait for the general Google+ invites to propagate into the wilds, everyone can partake of the “Google +1” feature. This video succinctly explains what magic it holds:





As fans of science fiction romance, we’re looking beyond the horizon and to the future. As forward-thinking authors, we’re embracing the tools of the Internet and using them to reshape that future.

Here’s one.


Try using it and let me know what you think. All you have to do is click it.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Sunday, July 10, 2011

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4 Sci-Fi Romance Indie Ebook Titles

Since I learned about four indie titles fairly recently I decided to present them in a post. I haven’t read any of them and can’t vouch for their quality, but I still like catching a glimpse of what authors are releasing on an independent basis (or at least with the help of Amazon).

Depending on what I discover in the future, I might make this a periodic feature. Buyer be warned, though, since I probably won’t be reading any of the indie books any time soon—at least not until I whittle down my TBR pile of publisher-vetted books (the main exception is authors whose work I’ve read or am familiar with who decide to e-self-publish).

The first indie SFR title I read, LK Rigel’s SPACE JUNQUE, was decent enough that I’d be willing to try more at some future point. However, this is a frontier where outside of a personal recommendation an excerpt will really make a difference for me. That's because even authors of indie books have a choice to hire a freelance editor these days.

In fact, here’s a link to a good one—Theresa Stevens. Recently, she did an interview at Rachel Harris’s Ending Unplanned about “Editing For Self-Publishers.” Ms. Stevens also knows a thing or two about science fiction romance from her time at Red Sage Publishing). So writing-wise, the excerpt has to stand out in some way.

Here are the four indie SFR titles for your perusal, in alphabetical order by author:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

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Winner of PJ Schnyder's HUNTING KAT

Congratulations, AnnaM.--you won a copy of HUNTING KAT by PJ Schnyder!

I sent your email to the author.

Thanks again to everyone who entered.

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Thursday, July 7, 2011

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Defining A Successful Science Fiction Romance

In the comment section of my post Sci-Fi Romance Authors, Meet your New Readers, author Elizabeth Lang asked

For those SFRs that have been successful, are the majority drawn to it because of the romance elements or because SFRs tend to be character-driven?

I found her question to be a real mindbender. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how complicated the answer is. There are different definitions of success, and success means different things to different readers and authors. In fact, there are so many different kinds that it would be presumptuous of me to try and list them all. Instead, I’d like to touch upon a few for discussion.

One subtext I perceived in Ms. Lang’s question (and to qualify, she may or may not have intended it) was that in order for authors to achieve success (i.e., mainstream print distribution; lucrative advances and royalties; and popularity), the stories need to include particular elements that contribute to success as it would be generally defined.

The romance and character-driven elements are definitely key ingredients, but one can’t rule out factors such as timing, luck, technology, the existing book distribution system at any given time, an author’s marketing and promotional platform, and storytelling ability, among other things.

Like I said, complicated.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

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Guest Blogging At Literary Escapism and Book Den

As part of my outreach (!) for my erotic sci-fi romance ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE, I'm guest blogging at Literary Escapism on Finding Your Significant "Other" in Science Fiction Romance.

And at Book Den, I'm guest blogging about steampunk automatons in A Is For Automaton. Visit just for the post or you can also enter for a chance to win a copy of DREAMSPELL STEAMPUNK, Volume 1, which includes my short story "Steambot Rampage."

Thanks for your support!

Joyfully yours,

Heather

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

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SFR News & Links For July 2011

New releases

HUNTING KAT – PJ Schnyder

As a mercenary, Kat Darah doesn't have to pass for a normal human. On the edge of the solar system, she's just another biped. Most of the time.

Nearing the end of his military tour, Lt. Christopher Rygard debates the idea of hanging up his uniform for good. Looking for answers at the bottom of a glass of scotch, he meets Kat. One shared night of mutual desire seems harmless. But when their tryst is interrupted by attackers hunting Rygard, Kat must reveal her other form, the predator beneath the human façade.

Together they embark on a dangerous mission—a race against time to meet the enemy's demands, while trying to deny the passion between them. Rygard is faced with a terrible choice in the face of duty: Report the existence of a human turned shape-shifter. Or forget he ever met her.


At the end of his obligated commitment to the Space Service, Frey Berger decides to stay on Earth to further experience human emotions rather than return to Ginnun where his intended has already mated with another. Looking for real love and someone to accept him for what he is, Frey enlists in Madame Evangeline’s popular dating service. Although he does not understand the concept of a one-night stand, he hopes to find his perfect mate.

Carrie Cooper’s husband divorced her for someone who could provide him with children, leaving her with little self-confidence and no desire to let a man hurt her again. Her best friend convinces her to join a dating service, claiming Carrie needs to get laid, while not winding up with a broken heart since her date requires no commitment after the night is over.

Although several misunderstandings nearly derail them before the date has even begun, Carrie and Frey end up becoming closer than they ever believed possible. Still, Frey will need to convince Carrie that her perfect mate isn’t human at all, and that one night can lead to a forever love.

THE MASTER KEY (romantic SF) - T.K. Toppin

The second book in the trilogy, The Master Key spins a tale of mystery and intrigue as Josie’s life is now thrown back into her past.

All is not idyllic as Josie begins her new life in the future as wife to the world president, John Lancaster. A dangerous man from her past returns — Michael Ho — to wreck more havoc and destruction. With him, Ho brings a hostage, Margeaux, who turns out to be Josie's great-niece. He demands a trade off — a keycode for the life of her niece.

As revelations of Josie's past, three hundred years ago, begin to unfold, every question she has ever asked is answered. Together with John, and head of security, Simon, they head to the Scrap Yard, a cybernetics space station where they battle it out with Ho who is hell-bent on taking control of the world.

Can Josie save the life of her new-found niece? Will learning the truth of her past and family really be enough to put the ghosts to rest?


PLYMOUTH COLONY II – Sharolyn Wells  

Teris Keyes and her brother Eric are two of the few ‘lucky’ humans to escape the destruction of earth through the help of the Kelkani, who plan to use the humans to repopulate their dying empire. Stuck in an intern camp on an alien world, mourning the loss of all she once loved, Teris finds comfort in a romance with Camp Commander Kovar Not.

The Elite of Kelkan don’t want this human contagion in the Kelkani bloodline, however, and the emperor compromises by exiling all mixed couples to a remote subcontinent. But that’s not enough for the Elite—especially their leader, Raetin Dare, who vows to make an example of them all. He kidnaps Teris to make her a public example. Teris must not only survive until Kovar can rescue her, but she must protect their unborn child.


Forthcoming releases

Authors Anah Crow and Dianne Fox contracted with Carina Press for their sci-fi romance RUNAWAY STAR. The release is slated for January 2012. Here’s a description of the book from their announcement post at CONTACT – Infinite Futures:

Runaway Star is a space opera romance set in a far future in which humanity has colonized the moon and built several free-floating colonies at Earth’s LaGrange Points. It’s intended to be the first in our Pandora Project series, following a variety of scientists and soldiers through the process of discovering, locating, and exploring an alien ship they’ve named Pandora.

Here’s a quick blurb for Runaway Star:

Flying celebrities and politicians around in an old two-seat training Harpy is far from glamorous, but Sender is always happy to put in extra work, even if it makes his squad late for their weekend pass.
His new passenger is Elios Campbell, a linguist and the protégé of one of the Pandora Project’s founders. Elios is attractive and intelligent, but Sender is set to walk away, except his best friend can’t pass up a shot at a potential date—on his behalf. 

Each of them has reasons to avoid a relationship but they can’t stay away. Great chemistry becomes true love.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

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Interview With HUNTING KAT Author PJ Schnyder, Plus Giveaway

I'd like to extend a hearty congratulations to author PJ Schnyder, whose science fiction romance HUNTING KAT releases July 4, 2011 from Carina Press! Here's the blurb for this military SF romance novella involving shifters and a galactic-style hunt:

As a mercenary, Kat Darah doesn't have to pass for a normal human. On the edge of the solar system, she's just another biped. Most of the time.

Nearing the end of his military tour, Lt. Christopher Rygard debates the idea of hanging up his uniform for good. Looking for answers at the bottom of a glass of scotch, he meets Kat. One shared night of mutual desire seems harmless. But when their tryst is interrupted by attackers hunting Rygard, Kat must reveal her other form, the predator beneath the human façade.

Together they embark on a dangerous mission—a race against time to meet the enemy's demands, while trying to deny the passion between them. Rygard is faced with a terrible choice in the face of duty: Report the existence of a human turned shape-shifter. Or forget he ever met her.

Prior to HUNTING KAT, Decadent Publishing released EVIE'S GIFT by the author, a steampunk romance. Clearly, PJ Shnyder has a thing or two--or three--for science fiction romance in a variety of guises. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to learn more about her work. Details for the giveaway follow, so read on!

The Galaxy Express: When did you first become a fan of science fiction romance stories (books, films, anime, etc.)?

PJ Schnyder: I’ve been reading science fiction since elementary school. Anne McCaffery’s Pern and Brainship series were early favorites as well as the Queen’s Squadron by R.M. Meluch. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Glory Road by Robert Heinlein are books I read over and over again. A personal all-time favorite for the romantic element is the Ship Who Searched by Anne McCaffrey.

I’ve also been watching anime for a very long time. Star Blazers and the original airing of Robotech were favorites. Who could forget Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes? I also spent time watching Evangelion on VHS tapes. :P

TGE: What prompted you to become an author in the subgenre?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

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Parallel Universe: Love At The Speed Of Light by Lisa Paitz Spindler


Faster than light travel. Other dimensions. Aliens and cyborgs. Science Fiction can make your head spin with its high-minded concepts. Recently, though, character-driven stories have become popular without sacrificing all of those nifty scientific details. This quantum leap has opened the door to Science Fiction Romance and a whole new audience.

Some readers are intimidated by science fiction, including even those who regularly read forensic crime analysis or epic Medieval fantasy. These same readers are perfectly comfortable following the minutiae of bullet trajectories or learning U’namish, but are stumped that we can’t travel faster than the speed of light.

That’s where romance comes in. It’s not the nitty-gritty detail of science fiction that readers balk at, it’s an inability to relate to those details. Police procedurals revolve around the concept of justice and epic fantasy speaks to a need for escapism. Science fiction offers its own “sense of wonder,” but that zero-G feeling that so many SF fans love is the very thing that freaks out others. They need another way to relate to the story. For instance, new quantum physics theories claim there are ten dimensions in space-time. What could this mean for me, right now, in my living room on planet Earth?

Friday, July 1, 2011

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RWA News: Sharon Lynn Fisher & Laurie A. Green Head For The RITA/GH Award Ceremony

Here's a fresh pic from the RWA conference 2011 featuring Golden Heart finalists Sharon Lynn Fisher and Laurie A. Green as they make their way to the RITA/Golden Heart Award Ceremony:


Starting at 8 pm EST, you can follow news live from the ceremony courtesy of RWA's Twitter feed.

Fingers crossed for all of our SFR finalists!

Joyfully yours,

Heather
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Parallel Universe: Sci-fi Poetry – It’s All in the Translation by Lilly Cain


Writing series sci-fi romance is hard. The worlds you create have to flow from story to story and grow within the series, always giving the reader more. What better tool to use in world building within the sci-fi genre than to have an alien culture and a language for your aliens? That was my thought when I began to develop the language of the Inarrii – one of the races of the Confederation - for my series The Confederation Treaty with Carina Press.

I fully give credit for my inspiration of using this tool to Mark Okrand, the linguist who was brought in to develop the Klingon language for Star Trek. What he has built is far more evolved than the beginnings of my Inar language and culture, but it showed me how developed another world could be within our collective imagination. There are thousands of people out there who fluently speak a language created for a television show.

According to WikiHow, there is a process you could follow if you want to create a new language. Check it out here. It talks about new alphabets and grammar and sentence structure. You can try it if you like, and I know for a fact that Okrand used all of those important elements in a science that shows his efforts. I chose a different way to begin. For me the creation of a language has to be more about poetry, and meaning. The words that I developed first were the result of situations and emotions like fear ‘Tel sho ahoi’ - meaning SOS, or ship down.