Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Catch A Rising Star: An Interview With Kristin Landon
Kristin Landon not only granted me an exclusive interview, but she’s also providing two copies of her entire trilogy for two lucky passengers!
Read on to find out more:
The Galaxy Express: Please describe the very first creative spark that birthed THE HIDDEN WORLDS.
Kristin Landon: THE HIDDEN WORLDS was only my second novel, so that creative spark was quite a few years ago! But I know it began with the image that opens Chapter 1: poor people on an isolated world, searching a cold, windy beach for proof of a terrible loss. And Linnea was always there. The story grew from her quest to save her family from disaster. Though I knew from the beginning that Iain was out there, and that he was a jump pilot, I didn’t realize at first how entangled their lives would become.
TGE: Was the decision to include a romance intentional from the beginning, or did it evolve as you wrote the saga?
KL: A developing relationship seems to be a necessary element of stories I want to tell. Not because I decide up front that there must be a relationship, and then figure out how to work it in, but because I see the yearning for connection and caring as part of the essence of being human. My characters often start out as disconnected loners, “fish out of water.” But in the course of the story they learn to trust, and eventually to love, another person. The relationship isn’t the main point of the story—because I write science fiction, other elements necessarily take center stage. But that progression in my major characters, from isolation to connection, is fascinating to me and gives me a lot to work with in the rest of the plot.
TGE: Silly question time! Your heroine’s name is Linnea Kiaho. Any relation to SFR author Linnea Sinclair?
KL: Believe it or not, the answer is no. I was surprised (as well as delighted) when Linnea Sinclair wrote a cover blurb for HIDDEN WORLDS; I didn’t know she’d been asked. And you’re not the first person who’s asked me about the coincidence! But in fact, I found Linnea’s name years ago: it’s a street near my home. I knew it was a somewhat unusual name and a pretty one, and that was what I wanted for my character.
TGE: If you could be a jump pilot, where would you go (can be a real or a fictional setting)?
KL: Oh, my goodness. There is so much I would like to see, so much to find out! I’d probably go out looking for nearby worlds that support life—even if it’s pretty much at the level of bacteria and algae, thrilling mainly to molecular biologists (and I do understand why; I'm married to one).
I’d also love to see the outer reaches of the solar system for myself. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the outer planets. I think if I’d ever had the chance (or the will) to apply to graduate school, I’d have wanted to study planetary science.
TGE: Do you have any advice for aspiring science fiction romance authors?
KL: Read a lot of books in the genre you want to write in—I think it helps if that genre is the one you naturally love best. Write, and keep writing. Ask people you trust, and who know what good writing is, for feedback on what you write—and listen to the feedback! A critique group that’s based on honest assessments and mutual trust, and whose members take a professional attitude, is a priceless asset—I honestly wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had that advantage. I’d still be “thinking about writing someday when I have time.”
Really, there are three elements that have to come together before a first novel can sell: you have to write a good book; you have to get it in front of the right person; and you have to be lucky enough that this happens at the right moment. And the only element you have any control over is the quality of your writing. That’s got to come first: learning the craft.
I also believe it’s important to infuse your stories with your own passions. What do you believe is important in life? What have you learned, and what must your characters learn? It’s not necessary to consciously lay it in—in fact, I think it’s better not to try—but if it’s in your mind, it will inform your writing and can give the story more depth.
Writing novels is difficult, and I still have plenty to learn. But learning is part of the fun!
TGE: What are some of the science fiction romance stories you’ve enjoyed in books and/or film & television?
KL: I don’t think I’d call the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold “science fiction romances,” because the science fiction adventure elements almost always outweigh the romance. But I read through them every few years with great pleasure, and I know they’ve influenced me. The first book, SHARDS OF HONOR, includes a deeply human and realistic romance between two wounded people, with sharp dialog and fascinating world-building—and the series only gets better from there.
I suspect that for Bujold the science fiction comes first, just as it does for me. I would love to be able to tell a story as compellingly as she does.
Some of my favorite SF television has had definite romantic-relationship elements—FARSCAPE and BABYLON 5 come to mind. But they tend to be “novelistic” series with long arcs, where the romantic resolution, if there ever is one, is several years in. That’s probably why the romantic elements in movies don’t usually have much impact for me: it all happens too fast!
TGE: Is there anything else you’d like to share about future projects or science fiction romance?
KL: At the moment I’m beginning work on an SF book on a grander scale than the HIDDEN WORLDS series. I like the thought of working on a larger canvas, with more characters, more cultures, more worlds—and with aliens as well as humans in the mix. It’s early in the process at this point, so I won’t say more than that. Except that, yes, there is a strong romantic element to the story!
Thanks for coming aboard to chat with us, Ms. Landon!
Now for the giveaway! To win a copy of this trilogy, leave a comment for this post and I’ll have my electronic randomizer pick two names from the proverbial hat (contest limited to U.S. residents). The deadline to enter is midnight on Friday, July 3, 2009.
Take a moment and imagine you're a jump pilot. Where would you go?
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Catch A Rising Star: Kristin Landon
Kristin Landon is the author of a science fiction trilogy that has a strong romantic subplot. Upon finishing the first book, THE HIDDEN WORLDS, I was struck by how prominent the romance turned out to be. It’s one driven by the external plot and yet it remains a driving force in the story.
There have been plenty of articles debating the issue of pessimism in science fiction, and yet here is a story wherein the theme of hope is quite prevalent despite the serious premise. The hope stems from not only the inner determination of the hero and heroine, but from the promise of what they can only accomplish together as a couple.
This trilogy will appeal to readers who are interested in following not only the saga, but also the ongoing development of the relationship. And I deliberately chose the word “relationship” over “romance” because in this case it’s not all flowers and chocolates and romps at the beach.
While all romances are about relationships, those born in dark, grim times and that realistically reflect those times have a distinctly different flavor. The hero and heroine aren’t as emotionally expressive or idealized as other characters you might encounter—but therein lay the appeal.
This trilogy has a lot more to offer as well. The science fictional framework is an example of singularity-based SF, with a little bit of space opera thrown in for good measure. If you enjoyed any of the Terminator movies/shows and/or THE MATRIX, I think you’ll enjoy Landon’s trilogy.
Here’s the author’s bio:
A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Kristin Landon has been reading science fiction since the age of seven, when she discovered H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds in the school library. Love of SF led to a love of science, and she earned a degree in chemistry and worked as a research lab technician for a number of years, before following her talent for writing and editing into a new career in technical publishing. In addition to her novel writing, she works as a freelance copyeditor of medical, scientific, and technical books.
Kristin lives in Oregon, with her husband and a constantly shifting population of teenage children and small pets.
Now for the books:
THE HIDDEN WORLDS
After the Earth was destroyed by ruthless machine intelligences, humanity was saved by a hereditary guild of jump pilots, who now control all travel and communication among the Hidden Worlds—and whose power nineteen-year-old Linnea may topple.
THE COLD MINDS
Renegade jump pilot Iain sen Paolo and Linnea Kiaho know that the Cold Minds—ruthless machine intelligences—have returned. And if they don't find allies to oppose the Cold Minds, humanity itself will become extinct.
THE DARK REACHES
After the Earth was destroyed by ruthless machine intelligences known as the Cold Minds, the remnants of the human race sought refuge among the Hidden Worlds. Now, renegade pilot Linnea Kiaho and her fellow pilot Iain sen Paolo embark on a dangerous journey to Earth's solar system, where humans may have survived. But what they find is a secret so powerful it may save the Hidden Worlds—or shatter them forever (Ace, July 2009).
Here are a few links related to the author and her work:
* Fantasy Debut presents An Interview With Kristin Landon! (This is where I first learned about the trilogy. Great stuff here including the story of Ms. Landon’s path to publication.)
* In an interesting article, Trashotron declares that “‘The Hidden Worlds’ is the first example of a Singularity-themed science fiction...romance.”
* SF Site review of THE COLD MINDS
If you can locate a copy, The Writer Magazine’s January 2009 issue has an interview with the author.
And from The Galaxy Express archives:
* Shining a Light on Dark Science Fiction Romance
* Science Fiction Romance Undercover
That’s not all, folks! Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Kristin Landon as well as a *two* big giveaways! Dare you miss it? I dare think not!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Kissing Cousins: Japanese SF & Science Fiction Romance
SFSignal’s recent Mind Meld featured the Guide to International SF/F (Part I). Aside from the fact that my head was exploding at the prospect of reading such a variety of international SF/F works, a few of the comments struck me in particular:
“Japanese SF is fresher and more enthusiastic than American SF. One of the great concerns of the US science fiction community is attracting new readers, and “new readers” almost always means young people. Most current SF readers started as kids, after all, but what is the new generation reading? (Manga, as it turns out!)... Manga (and Japanese SF) can be plenty serious. Even kids are concerned about issues and relationships” ( Nick Mamatas).
“Everybody knows how popular comics, video, RPG and mangas are among the young audience. Japanese SF is heavily influenced by anime and mangas. It is more “fun” to read, it is more optimistic and therefore more appealing to young people” (Sissy Pantellis).
This turned into a real “a-ha!” moment for me given my steady diet of Japanese anime from childhood. I didn’t think about the cultural differences between Japanese SF and American SF in quite that light before. It resonated deeply since much if not most of the anime I’ve watched from a young age incorporated a lot more optimism than the American SF novels I read.
"Huh," thought I. "This bears further investigation."
In Japanese SF anime and manga, romance frequently makes a presence in the form of a subplot or romantic elements. Historically and continuing on into the present, the artists behind these creations aren’t aversive to it, either. They celebrate romantic attachments. While STAR TREK and STAR WARS also involve optimistic elements, the romantic angle hasn’t been explored as deeply in these franchises the way it has in their Japanese counterparts.
So for there to be an actual genre (science fiction romance) that reflects a Japanese SF mentality is very exciting to me. No wonder I developed such an interest in American SF writers who included romantic elements/subplots in their stories—the blend had been reinforced early on by anime.
The optimism of Japanese SF also helps explain the popularity of manga among romance readers. To the above Mind Meld contributor's thought on “new readers,” I would naturally include romance readers in that pool. In addition to novels, perhaps publishers could consider SFR manga as a way of offering romance readers something fresh and exciting, yet familiar and optimistic at the same time.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
State of the Science Fiction and Romance Union 2009
Welcome, dear passengers, to the second annual State of the Science Fiction and Romance Union here at The Galaxy Express!
Last year, we delved into the history of science fiction romance courtesy of Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Next, we cast our brass telescope toward the future to speculate about what the coming year meant for the genre. Among last year’s predictions, a few bore out:
The market slowed, but far more than anticipated and not just for SFR. The economic upheaval resulted in significant publisher layoffs, agents submitted fewer projects overall, advances and print runs decreased, and imprints across all houses and genres dropped authors left and right into publishing purgatory.
Not every author who released an SFR stayed with the genre, and we learned of one whose current project has been rejected by publishers so far. Sobering news, indeed.
However, the list of aspiring authors working on SFR projects gradually increased, and I also heard about established authors either working on projects or expressing the intention (Kate Noble revealed in a review at The Book Smugglers that “…there are a couple stories in my head that are contemporary and sci-fi — maybe one day I’ll play around with them.”)
While no breakout SFR came from the digital sector, Linnea Sinclair’s HOPE’S FOLLY coulda been a contender among print offerings. Not only that, but buzz-wise, Catherine Asaro’s ALPHA barely made a ripple despite being another excellent example of the genre. Was the economic slump the sole reason behind these books falling under the radar?
Yet, as the saying goes, where one door closes, another opens.
This past year witnessed the news of several steampunk romance projects on the horizon, and Ace/Roc editor Anne Sowards—who works with authors Ann Aguirre and Kristin Landon—recently announced she was seeking submissions in this area.
Epublishing continues to grow, not only financially, but in terms of respectability, too.
While no ereader has moved into the coveted $99 realm—which would make it an impulse buy for most—compared to their previous costs, many of the devices have dropped significantly in price, sometimes by half their original MSRP. Lower manufacturing prices, combined with higher public awareness and acceptance, paves the way for an ample binary bookworm future.
Even mainstream print publishers have entered the ebook market and are experimenting with alternative business models regarding print books. Perhaps a digital revolution in publishing is closer than we think.
To show how pointless making predictions can be, two surprising and wonderful developments emerged as a result of this blog and its community: my LoveLetter column (*waves to Kris Alice Hohls*) as well as the opportunity to blog at Tor.com—for whom I do have more posts planned! Both venues have presented new, innovative ways to raise the visibility of science fiction romance.
Also, I just received the word: The October 2009 issue of RT Book Reviews will include a feature on “SCI-FI Romance!” (Thanks to Jody Wallace for passing on the information). Would this have happened a year or two ago? Unlikely. In a word, it takes a village. And leave it to reader-driven magazines like RT Book Reviews and LoveLetter to have their finger on the romance genre pulse!
Now, on to my predictions for the coming year:
* Steampunk is money, baby. I anticipate that more books will follow in the footsteps of Dru Pagliassotti’s CLOCKWORK HEART by combining richly textured worldbuilding with heartfelt romance. Steampunk will become the gateway for romance readers new to the science fiction romance universe.
* Science fiction romance will increasingly solidify its identity as a source of character-driven stories while retaining sophisticated yet accessible science fictional elements.
* At least one of the stories in Samhain Publishing’s Spring 2010 Space Opera Anthology will be by a current Skiffy Rommer. Additionally, the anthology will inspire more novella length, non-erotic SFR releases from epublishers.
* At least one epublished SFR/SF erotica author will break into mainstream print—if not with an SFR book release, then at the very least by signing with a big-shot agent.
* A German—or at least a European—publisher will acquire rights for a recently published science fiction romance novel.
That's my take. What are your predictions regarding science fiction romance for the coming year?
Writing Contest & Fireball XL5 Alerts
Here are a few tidbits to hold us over until tonight’s post:
Who wouldn’t want to achieve galactic fame and fortune? Thanks to Lisa Paitz Spindler, we have news of a recently announced science fiction publishing contest. Io9 has the details.
And to inspire your cosmos-spanning tale, take a gander at Dance Off With the Star Wars Stars 2008! This is sure to launch the bestselling careers of many a science fiction romance author (thanks to Linnea Sinclair for the link).
And finally, for those of you in the Britain, don’t forget to mark your calendars for a Very Special Event this weekend:
“To celebrate the definitive release of Gerry Anderson's Fireball XL5 on DVD, Network have arranged a special event on Saturday 27 June at the Odeon Covent Garden, London.
There will be a 35mm screening of 'The Day The Earth Froze', from a newly struck print from the original negative, in complete contrast the first ever public screening of the newly colorized and restored episode 'A Day In The Life Of A Space General' will follow in high definition. A 10 minute extract from the brand new documentary 'A Wonderland of Stardust' will conclude the screenings. To be followed by a Q&A with special guest Gerry Anderson moderated by Richard Hollis.
Tickets are £6.50, or as a special offer you can purchase your ticket and the limited edition packaging DVD box set of FIREBALL XL5 for a total of £40!
Box sets ordered this way will receive priority for signing by Mr Anderson on the day.
Tickets are now available to purchase - all purchases can be made through the Network website.
Standard ticket for £6.50 (click HERE to order)
Special “ticket and box set” combined deal for £40 (click HERE to order)
This FIREBALL XL5 limited edition packaging DVD box set is released nationwide on Monday 29 June. Retail price £59.99.”
I haz le Supermarionation, baby!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The Digital (Publishing) Divide
The main reaction I had to Pershing’s post—once I recovered from my initial shock—is that the issue isn’t just about Knight’s views or Pershing’s about digital publishing. It goes deeper. Assuming Pershing’s stance doesn’t simply mask an aversion to erotica/erotic romance that’s been displaced onto digital publishers, the issue points to how we conceptualize the very books we read.
To begin, what does the book package mean? It’s a marketing tool, primarily. It’s meant to manipulate consumers even though we are often complicit in this arrangement. Let me be the first to say that there are certainly some very fine examples of beautiful packaging. But it’s not essential the way imagery is essential to a painting.
A book is about ideas.
Compare this to how music has been packaged. First there were albums. Like books, albums depicted a wide variety of illustrations. One could also peruse liner notes and other tidbits. Technology went on a rampage, however, and albums were then downsized to compact discs. The surface area for the art shrank considerably, and we practically need magnifying glasses for the tiny print!
Now, we have MP3s. Those who still worship vinyl, or who are willing to pay extra for the CD packaging, continue to buy them. But increasingly, consumers demonstrate their demand for just the music and convenience of digital, minus all the whistles and bells of physical media.
In How the Lit Fic Crowd Can Make Digital Publishing Legitimate, Jane of Dear Author observed that “Hardcovers should not impart value of the content.”
I agree, and would add that ultimately, why can’t content be valued over aesthetics, or at the very least, enjoyed purely on its own? Covers are nice but they only enhance a book, not define it. When you listen to a song on an MP3 player, is it really imperative that you have the gatefold LP in front of you? After all, most players offer the cover, albeit digitally.
Additionally, I believe that content should be valued over mode of delivery. As Raelene Gorlinsky of Ellora’s Cave stated in the comments of Pershing’s post:
I have a challenge for RWA: Make “format” of a story irrelevant. A story is a story, whether on paper or an audio book or an ebook, or whatever technology comes along next.
As readers, I think it’s important to evaluate what a book package actually means, especially in light of digital publishing and the changes it promises. Up until recently, the only means of reading a book was in printed form, and this because we simply didn’t have the technology for any other medium. Before there were books, of course, there was oral storytelling. Printed books weren’t invalid just because the medium changed, and neither are ebooks.
Yes, pretty book packages make a neat addition to our collections, and I’m certainly no exception. But I question whether it’s necessary for every single book we read. Why not have a system where the fancy print cover is optional, a premium product, especially if it means more affordable books across the board? And I could certainly do without blatant marketing attempts. We’re supposed to want print books with flashy covers because marketing departments tell us this is so.
Readers don’t have to play that game. (Someday, perhaps publishers will get happy with flashy marketing gimmicks for ebooks—but we still have a choice in the matter.)
Yet for all of its wonders, digital publishing isn’t mainstream and won’t be until the majority of readers believe they will benefit. Pricing e-readers at an attractive, impulse-buy price (under $100), eliminating Digital Rights Management, and streamlining the downloading process are perhaps the three most important elements that will launch a true digital revolution in publishing.
Digital publishing is a business model as valid as any other. Given the challenges of mainstream print publishing, the possibility exists that in the future, there will be more of a pyramid hierarchy in publishing wherein print books are premium products at the peak and digital offerings become the new paperbacks. The base would comprise self-published works. In other words, publishers may release books in digital form first. Not only that, but such a change may usher in an age of zero advances and higher royalties.
At the point when readers buy dedicated devices in droves (as the recent case with the Barnes and Noble ereader illustrated) because the price is right, why wouldn’t publishers chase after the money and save a lot of overhead?
At this Dear Author’s post, which was in response to Pershing’s message, BevBB sums up the point nicely:
We ebook romance readers have probably helped “grow” many of the authors who’ve moved into the print market, doing the scouting for the genre that the industry can’t or won’t do and then to have the writer’s organization say that the most stable companies we buy those books from on a regular basis don’t meet their “standards” and “practices”–
Why do they think I’m spending my money with those e-companies and buying considerably less mass market off the shelf? I really don’t believe it’s only the epublishers that need to change their practices.
So, yeah, I think it does tick me off as a reader. But then as a reader all I can do is speak with my pocketbook anyway.
Science fiction romance is poised to be one of the genres that readers can nurture to popularity based on the “scouting” they do among small presses/epublishers. However, it takes two to tango—readers to read the stories regardless of packaging (when financially & technologically it makes sense to do so) and authors to be informed consumers about publishers whether digital or print.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Free Reads: The A.R. Yngve Edition
How. Cool. Is. This?
Swedish science fiction author A.R. Yngve (pronounced “Ing-VE”) contacted me earlier this week to let me know:
a) He existed and
b) He has two SF novels with romantic elements that can be read for FREE on his Web site.
ALIEN BEACH - in which a male alien and a human female scientist fall in love;
THE ARGUS PROJECT - in which two cyborg lovers are separated by human forces, and fight their way across half the Solar System to be reunited.
I haven’t read his books, but I can tell you at least that his bio is a must read (scroll down past the bibliography). He counts Alan Moore, Frederik Pohl, and SPACE: 1999 as significant influences in his writing. What can I say? The man’s got taste!
Check out his MySpace page too, especially the picture of the author and his dog. Gotta love that! He also has a blog.
And his tagline just oozes confidence:
“My goal is to become one of the most influential writers of the 21st century - or the next one. (I’m not kidding.)”
You go, Mr. Yngve!!
I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but the fact that he's Swedish translates to an instant coolness factor for me. Also, I am so humbled to discover the amazing people that follow this blog, and thrilled beyond measure when discoveries like this are sent my way.
May your future discoveries be just as exciting.
* “Thanks!” in Swedish
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Got Steampunk? Call for Submissions by Anne Sowards of Ace/Roc
This just in: Senior Editor Anne Sowards of Ace/Roc announced the following via Twitter about twenty minutes ago:
"ATTN AUTHORS & AGENTS: am officially looking for steampunk..."
Yep, you read that right. Steampunk!
However, don't put all your eggs in one basked because Executive Editor Angela James of Samhain Publishing is also looking for steampunk (with romantic elements).
Go forth and multiply, steampunk!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Deidre Knight Strikes Back: RWA & Digital Publishing
Many people, including me, have noted the irony of the RWA president, Diana Pershing, implying in the June RWR missive that RWA knows better when it comes to digital publishing than an experienced, successful literary agent such as Deidre Knight—who is also an epublished author.
I’m sorry…what? Like Ms. Knight didn’t know what she was getting into when she submitted her book BUTTERFLY TATTOO to Samhain Publishing?
Well, Deidre Knight clearly understands the power of The Force, for she hath spoken!
At the Electronic and Small Press Authors’ Network (ESPAN), Deidre Knight shared her observations about the current #rwafail in The Digital Age and RWA: A Call for Change. (Settle back with a big mug of coffee or tea, because the comment section is chock full of authors, readers, and editors speaking out.)
There are many informative comments, but I’m quoting a few I thought were of interest to my passengers:
Lynn Lorenz notes
Then I opened my RWR and read the presidents column and had to wonder what was up with this organization. Division/elitism is being encouraged by the board, and from what I can see it centers around the “erotic” and “alternative” genres.
Angela Knight, who kick-started her career in epublishing, commented thusly:
I truly believe that RWA’s distaste for e-publishing has more to do with the type of content than the advances. If these e-books were regencies or sweet romance instead of erotic romance, I strongly suspect we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. The faction that opposes e-book authors most strongly seem to be the same people who have a distaste for the sexual content more than anything else.
I know epublished authors can and do make money epublishing. The Board is calling for “hard numbers” too back the claims. If anyone is willing to turn in their numbers (as in income for 2008 as claimed on taxes), that would help. If you wish to turn them in to me privately, email to me at marilacroix @ yahoo.com (no spaces). I will keep your identity confidential.
Jeanie Ruesch sounds a call to arms:
It [RWA] may not be worth it to some– but before you drop out, I ask you to consider what your goal is. To have RWA recognize epubs and small presses in a more current way?
Then the best way to have that happen is to stay involved. Join ESPAN… as the ranks of this chapter rises, as the number of people in RWA start demanding change, start talking about it — it will be harder to ignore. More difficult to say that leaving epubs and small presses OUT of the equation is best for “the membership at large.”
Start emailing RWA and asking for what we want. When conference rolls around, and the lack of digital publishing workshops is recognized, we should be writing them. Emailing them. Posting about it. Talking about it.
As readers, we all benefit from having as many choices as possible regardless of whether we act on those choices. It saddens me to think we’re missing out on great science fiction romances and other stories because stances such as RWA’s discourages writers from taking advantage of perfectly legitimate opportunities.
So far this year, I had the pleasure of reading Karin Shah’s STARJACKED, Ann Somerville’s INTERSTITIAL, and Nathalie Gray’s MECHANICAL ROSE, among others. And I just ordered two more. I’m on a ball and I’d sure like to see it keep rolling.
RWA’s dismissive attitude toward digital publishing makes me wonder: Do the powers that be think they know better about what readers want than the readers themselves?
What’s your take?
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The Cherryh On My Cake
I picked up a book with an interesting cover from my local library: RIMRUNNERS by CJ Cherryh. I’m a sucker for a good action cover and this one is a beauty. It did not disappoint. The book was read and returned within twenty four hours.
While I was at the library dropping off the other one, I had to pick up another: TRIPOINT.
Little did I know that I had just entered the CJ Cherryh vortex.
Next up was FOREIGNER. (I must, at this point, deliver a word of thanks to Linnea Sinclair. I asked her to recommend a Cherryh book or two – she recommended, like, fourteen of them. Thanks, Linnea!)
FOREIGNER was the first in a series of nine, with another trilogy planned. I read all nine back-to-back and am now impatiently waiting the tenth. The librarians were wonderful, as the various parts of the series were scattered across different libraries in the system. They tracked them all down for me and ordered them. While waiting for the much anticipated # 10, I threw myself into The Faded Sun Trilogy. Awesome!
I needed more! Much more!
Thankfully, Ms. Cherryh is prolific and I was not reduced to squeeing “write faster, puhleeeeez” on the poor woman’s website. Next up was DOWNBELOW STATION. I thought I would die of happiness it was so damn good. Then I followed it up with HAMMERFALL.
And then it got even better with CYTEEN. Oh happy day! And I wasn’t even close to finishing all her books.
I currently have four more stand alone novels and a trilogy on my bookshelf – a Christmas present to myself. I’m spacing them out, trying not to be greedy, trying to make the pleasure last.
But is it Science Fiction Romance, you ask? Well, there is some romance, but her books are all-encompassing – revenge, politics, love, death, cruelty, adventure: pretty much you name it. She writes absolutely fascinating female characters – none of them could be described as your typical heroine, but even the most evil of them have at least one redeeming quality.
Her world-building is immaculate. Her aliens are truly alien – there is never any mistaking them for humans in dress-up. Her ships are palpable machines – they need a crew to keep them going, they break down and malfunction. Children are born and grow up on them. There is as much going on below decks as there is up on the bridge. Her space stations are cramped, claustrophobic and populated with friends, refugees, lovers, aliens, families and implacable enemies. Habitable planets are rare and much sought after and fought over.
It’s been a long time since I hunted and devoured an author’s backlist the way I am doing now. What can I say? My name is Agent Z., I’m a CJ Cherryh addict and I don’t want any twelve step program getting between me and my Cherryh.
Felicitations to the fellow Cherryh geeks. Here are a few yummy links:
Her Web site
Her Wikipedia entry
And here, here, here, here, here, here, and here are a series of posts by Jo Walton over at Tor.com. They’re wonderful reading in and of themselves, as she gets into some fascinating critical analysis of Cherryh’s books.
A question: when was the last time an author so completely captured you? Who was it?
Be seeing you!
Friday, June 12, 2009
New Digital Publisher: Quartet Press
Exciting discovery ahead: There’s a new digital publisher in town, and it goes by the name of Quartet Press.
This publisher will focus on romance and all its subgenres as well as erotic romances. Check out the Submission Guidelines for more information.
Recently, author Ciar Cullen interviewed Kassia Krozser, one of the founding partners. (Danke to Kris Alice Hohls for the link.)
In the interview, Ms. Krozser has this to say about the packaging of ebooks:
“Already, there is so much we can do to extend story beyond the story, and it’s just going to get better (though, caution!, just because you can add lots of bells and whistles, they need to make sense in the context of the book). One of the things I’m most excited about is talking with authors about their ideas (in fact, rather than an art fact sheet, I think I’m creating a “let’s think beyond the book” fact sheet).”
Hmmm…doesn’t that sound kind of familiar?
Ms. Krozser goes on to state:
“Side note: as a regular attendee of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (geek fest!), I’ve attended a lot of gaming panels, discovering how critical story is to good games [emphasis mine]. It was an eye-opener for me as I’d never really put those pieces together. Smart, creative authors really have an advantage here.”
Hmmm…doesn’t that sound like we’ve heard about these ideas previously?
And I found this section to be particularly of interest:
“Ciar: What’s your personal favorite genre? Do you think certain genre distinctions (urban fantasy, fantasy romance, erotic romance, whatever…) are getting blurry? Want to put a dollar on the next hot thing? Do you see a future for scifi romance?” [emphasis mine]
Hmmm…doesn’t that—what, me spoil the surprise? ;)
Thanks, Ms. Cullen, for asking such terrific, relevant, and timely questions (what, me biased?!).
Thursday, June 11, 2009
A Surprise Ally: Could Videogames Offer SFR Widespread Appeal?
Movies, doncha know, have extremely high budgets. The higher they go, the more studio executives bite their nails. This cycle drives the demand for safer, proven formulas. Ditto with television shows, which is why we’re treated to endless incarnations of Octuplet Nation or Polka With The P-List Stars.
Videogames offer something different. In a recent post, I blogged about the possibility of videogames—which offer the ultimate interactive experience—increasing the allure of science fiction romance. Could games, instead of movies or television, provide the SFR media breakout for which we’ve been searching?
Sometimes, to really strike paydirt, you need to expand your excavation plans and dig outside of your own backyard.
E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, recently concluded its annual late-spring flourish of what we’ll see in the world of videogames over the course of the coming year. Steven Spielberg was there, and James Cameron showed up and spoke in length about AVATAR, his forthcoming (and hitherto super-secret) science fiction opus.
“Très intéressant,” you think. But what does this have to do with SFR? Why I’m so glad you asked!
Nowadays, writers are seeing their words published in ways Gutenberg could never have imagined—and I’m not just thinking about Mr. Kindle here. As videogame graphics grow more realistic with their real-time specular lighting and GPU-crunching tessalation, so does the demand for better stories and dialogue. The days of grabbing whoever happened to be walking by to write lines like, “Ha ha—now I will defeat you!!” (or my personal favorite) are long gone. Now equipped with decent budgets, videogame companies hire real writers and expect real stories.
A lot has changed since the days of the Atari 2600. According to this ESA 2008 industry report (NB: opens to a PDF), the average game player is 35 with women representing 33% of the overall pie (flying right in the face of the typical mainstream media belief that all gamers are basically nerdy 12-year-old boys). Adults demand more stimulating adult themes (and I’m not talking about MORTAL KOMBAT mature here), but games that evoke real emotion.
Don’t think that’s possible? Watch this:
It promises more than just the thrill of jumping over barrels, doesn't it?
This multibillion dollar industry needs to grow and feed the corporate sharks every year. To do this, more and more people need to join the fold—which demands branching out beyond another HALO and Mario clone. This need begets trying new genres and different approaches, some of which pay out huge dividends (look no further than a once low-budget, niche title named GUITAR HERO). So if we can’t have our big budget SFR movie right away, we can play it as a game.
In fact, that game—MASS EFFECT—has already been released with a sequel now on the way. Take a look (warning--there's violence o' plenty if you have little ones nearby):
So what would you want in your SFR videogame?
1) A sprawling space opera plot? Check. You got it.
2) A strong, appealing hero and heroine? Check. They’re here.
3) Stunning visuals? Check.
4) A great villain? Check.
5) Hawt lovin'? Well naturally, yes…and that’s here, too!
MASS EFFECT was a huge hit. Along with the sequel, it’s spawned a series of novels and has been optioned for a big budget film. OXM (OFFICIAL XBOX MAGAZINE) called it, “a great science-fiction novel in videogame form.” Also noting that it has: “[the] best story ever told in a videogame, period.” MASS EFFECT also won multiple awards, including THE NEW YORK TIMES’ “Game of the Year” crown.
A lotta people bought it. A lotta dollars were made. And yes, it is science fiction with a very strong thread of romance in it.
So if that’s the case, why aren’t we seeing more productions like this? We know the demand (largely untapped, mind you) is there.
Perhaps it's partly because the videogaming industry as a whole is still very young. It isn’t as set in its ways as the publishing or film worlds. People in the gaming industry are typically younger, too. Fresh faces typically bring fresh, open approaches. Plus, as stated earlier, the industry recognizes its need to expand and bring in more people.
So for all of you writers out there, keep in mind there are more outlets for your words than those printed on a page. And for the rest of us, the material is there. We just need to look. Whether you're looking for kick-butt heroines...
...or more of what we REALLY want to see, it's out there:
Forget Lucas, THIS is the STAR WARS movie I want! Despite “only” being a game trailer, this hot little number contains more excitement than the last three movies combined (Note: You really owe it to yourself to download it in high definition. You will NOT be disappointed!)
In conclusion, I realize that gamers and readers often dance to the beat of different drums. Yet sometimes they're one and the same. But even if an SFR videogame doesn't attract readers in droves, it has the potential to flood our pop-culture consciousness with characters, stories, and themes that we might want to read about in books, too.
At the very least, such an endeavor could help validate and define the worth of a very worthy genre.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I’m excited to announce that The Galaxy Express will be hosting a two week long online event in July 2009 to coincide with the Romance Writers of America 29th Annual National Conference (Washington, D.C.).
The event will be called “Parallel Universe.” (Thanks to Laurie Green of Spacefreighters’ Lounge for coming up with the name.) It will be the virtual SFR gathering for those unable to attend the conference.
Beginning July 5, The Galaxy Express will feature a series of daily guest posts from authors and Skiffy Rommers on a variety of science fiction romance related topics. I’ll also bring you news directly from the conference courtesy of my correspondents—SFR bloggers who will be smack dab in the thick of things. I’ll be posting conference links as they relate to SFR and there might be a few surprises here and there as well.
I’ll be posting updates on Twitter using the hashtag #rwasfr and it would be great if anyone else tweeting science fiction romance news from the conference could join in using that same one.
If you’re going to be at the conference, one potential hotspot for SFR fans is The Gathering, hosted by the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Chapter of RWA. The deadline to register for this event is July 10.
Until then, I’d like to offer up the comment section here for those who wish to announce that they are attending the conference in the hopes that SFR fans can connect with each other while there.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
My Romancing The Blog Guest Post : Risk or No Risk?
Saturday, June 6, 2009
FIREBALL XL5 Special Edition DVD Box Set Coming Soon!
Earlier this week, a representative from Network DVD contacted me with the news that they are releasing a special edition of FIREBALL XL5.
To that, I said, “Woot!”
Here’s the press release:
Network DVD is delighted to announce the release of one of Gerry Anderson’s most cherished fantasy series. FIREBALL XL5 SPECIAL EDITION (U) is available to buy on DVD on 29th June 2009, RRP £59.99. This 6–disc set includes all 39 episodes from the iconic series, complete and uncut plus exclusive extras including a 60-page book and new documentary.
The year is 2062 – 2063, the peace of the universe is maintained by World Space Patrol’s finest rocket ship, the eponymous Fireball XL5. The memorable crew comprises of the glamorous doctor Venus, middle-aged navigator and engineer Professor Matthew Matic and Zodiac’s co-pilot Robert the Robot, whose fantastic characteristic being that he is transparent, and bears the voice of creator Gerry Anderson himself. This brave, gallant crew is led by the heroic Colonel Steve Zodiac. They explore various exotic planets and other life forms and protect the innocent from sinister intergalactic villains such as Mr. and Mrs. Space Spy.
Since the programme’s very first transmission on October 28th 1962, young audiences – not to mention a good number of adults – all over the world were held enthralled by the adventures of Steve Zodiac and his crew. Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation marionettes were first introduced in Four Feather Falls (1960), and since then a wondrous tradition in entertainment was born. The marionettes were used again and again in immensely popular children’s shows such as Supercar, Thunderbirds. This release will appeal to all who are fans and is also set to convert a good number of new viewers, who have yet to experience its magic.
[“Mr. and Mrs. Space Spy”?! *Wiping away tears of joy* Oh my, it doesn’t get any better than that!]
• A Wonderland of Stardust: a brand new documentary about the making of Fireball XL5 featuring contributions from creators Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson, as well as numerous members of the crew including David Elliott, Alan Pattillo and Brian Johnson
• Drawn in Supermarionation: This new, exclusive documentary chronicles the comic strip adaptations of the early AP Films series and features contributions from director of merchandising Keith Shackleton and artists Bill Mevin, Mike Noble and Colin Page.
• A Day in the Life of a Space General: A brand new, colourised edition of Fireball XL5, taken from a new HD transfer of the original film elements
• Bill Mevin’s Supercar Home Movie: Previously unseen footage filmed by TV Comic artist Bill Mevin during production on Supercar
• Special limited edition packaging
• Zoom ice lolly commercials
• Image Galleries
• PDF Material
• 60-page book written by TV historian Andrew Pixley.
That’s about 975 minutes of pure Supermarionation viewing pleasure!
I had to know more, so I visited one of the company’s Web sites and discovered this about them:
“Whether it is World Cinema, a British movie classic, something shocking or good old-fashioned entertainment, the emphasis is always on quality and we aim to cater for a diverse yet distinctive movie palate which the studio system does not offer.”
Ooo…sounds like my kind of people!
Here’s a clip of FIREBALL XL5 in color:
According to the Network DVD “News” section, they’re also hosting a FIREBALL XL5 “Theatrical Screening” on June 27. There’ll be cool clips from the show and a Q&A with Gerry Anderson!
Who’s down for a trip with me to the ODEON Covent Garden in London?
Friday, June 5, 2009
Contests, A Free Read, And More Logo Action!
Red Sage Publishing is celebrating its 15th year anniversary this month! I invite you to read the latest newsletter, which includes “The Future In Romance," a spotlight on SFR penned by yours truly.
Red Sage is also offering lots of great deals as well as a chance to win books. Head on over to the publisher’s blog for details.
Congratulations to Linnea Sinclair, who is one of the “Lucky 13” authors included in this year’s Favorite Books by Favorite Authors poll at All About Romance.
Polls are open from now until June 14, 2009. And voting for your favorite books is easy: Just click here!
(Will it surprise anyone that HOPE’S FOLLY topped my list?!)
Courtesy of Spacefreighters’ Lounge:
Sharon Lynn Fisher (GHOST PLANET) recently unveiled a flashy new logo. A must-have accessory for Skiffy Rommers everywhere!
Dawn Jackson (“Why’d it Have to be Shorts?” from the MEN IN SHORTS anthology) is serializing her story CLONE, which combines elements of SF, romance, and tragedy. Here’s an interview with the author about it.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
8 Ways Science Fiction Romance Could Break Out
Previously, I blogged about the publishing challenges facing author Cindy Holby. I’ve been speculating about how readers might take risks on stories they might otherwise overlook.
Perhaps one idea lies in a concept known as “customized entertainment.” In Marketing Fiction in a Changing World, Jacqueline Lichtenberg observes that “The whole social networking phenomenon is an example of customized entertainment. And it’s being made into a mass market product. But the current business model can’t figure how to monetize it…”.
What does science fiction romance have to do with customized entertainment? And how can vendors deliver SFR effectively to more readers who will pay money for it?
In order for SFR to thrive—or even just survive—it behooves authors and readers to adapt to emerging technologies. If authors are going to gain recognition and sell books in a fiercely competitive market, it behooves them to embrace and master emerging technologies. SFR has more potential than any other romance genre to jack into digital media—after all, it deals with “What if?” and technologies all the time in the stories themselves.
Instead of throwing money at bookmarks, ads, expensive Web sites, and seeing what sticks (because in all honesty, most of it won't), I propose that authors create digital content that can be funneled through different types of media. Not all of this content should or will generate profit, but that’s part of the risk of selling art.
These days, authors aren’t just writers—they’re entrepreneurs.
The onus is not just on authors, either, since publishers, agents, and booksellers risk losing rather than gaining media-savvy readers if they fail to get involved in creating exciting digital products and interactive experiences. And why not prepare now for the avalanche of media-savvy youth who, in the not-so-distant-future, will conduct a large percentage of their social and consumer spending habits online?
Reinvent the book package
With a traditional print book, readers are purchasing a package involving a cover, blurb, title, and author name, among other things. But for a niche genre like SFR, more sales might be generated if we envisioned a product beyond the physical package. One way to increase the number of revenue streams for science fiction romance may lie in reinventing it as a multimedia experience.
Here Are a Few Ideas for Starters:
• Ebooks: While the technology to support them is still developing, manufacturers are falling over themselves trying to create the best ereader, whether it's expensive, cheap, or in color. Ebooks also allow for stories of varying length, which will help authors reach readers who want quickies to read on their iPhone during commute time, or for during those interminable waits in the doctor’s office.
Ebooks should be especially appealing to SFR authors since “…the romance genre has been a leader in the digital revolution.”
• Bundled Content with eBooks: In addition to the story, publishers could bundle various types of extras (e.g., links, exclusive invites to online author events, author interviews/articles). Similar to the extras featured on DVDs, additional digital content will increase the value of the ebook itself. Even if readers don’t read every single extra, they’ll enjoy having the option and will feel as though they are getting their money’s worth.
• Interactive Stories: In her post, Jacqueline Lichtenberg also wrote, “For a writer, that means standardize your plot structure then use your creative art to induce the reader to IMAGINE THEIR OWN STORY using your story as a springboard into their own story.
Your product is no longer your own story. In this changing world, your product is fuel for your readers’ imagination in ways it never could be before.”
For examples of current interactive stories, check out Ellie Marvel’s MEGAN’S CHOICE (Red Sage) and Jess Granger’s THE MANY ADVENTURES OF ETHEL THE SPACE PIRATE. Not every author should feel obligated to create one, but doing more of it will create variety for readers.
• Free Online Content: Offer readers something for free to sample the genre, and the experience should be exciting enough that they want to pay in order to read more.
• Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words: Are you tight with an experienced illustrator, or know one who needs exposure for his/her work (and therefore might work for free)? Create an online science fiction romance comic and feature it directly on your Web site. If you're represented by an agent, explore writing an SFR manga.
• Science Fiction Romance Videogames. If you’re an established author with an agent, why not pitch an SFR to a videogame company? Yes, games. They're more mature in complexity and emotion than ever. I have an entire post devoted especially to this coming next week.
• Utilize the Power of Social Media: The current economic struggles often make it seem as though we have no control over the publishing industry. Yet the Web is one way to level the playing field.
Twitter an SFR short story!
Okay, so perhaps that’s stretching things, but blogs, Twitter, and online communities offer many ways for authors and readers to interact. Readers especially can use social media to spread word-of-mouth about their favorite books.
• Innovation Is the Name of the Game: While perusing this article at SFSignal, I came across an intriguing comment: “I can go to Best Buy and purchase a preloaded gaming card. Why not do the same thing with an ebook?”
Obviously, authors have zero control over this type of marketing, but it might be one way to attract impulse buyers to the genre.
While the above list doesn’t represent all ideas or even the best ones, the bottom line is that SFR has an opportunity to become a customized entertainment package in many ways. I’m sure a lot of experimentation will be needed, but I hope authors and other industry folks are willing to explore choices beyond the traditional methods.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The Bane of Being Futuristically Challenged
Author Cindy Holby, who writes science fiction romance as Colby Hodge, revealed a recent career obstacle which she blogged about at Alien Romances:
“Since my publisher did not want to go with more Star books I wrote up a proposal on another series. A sci/fi heavy post apocolyptic [sic] world that would cover three books. It had mech heroes, paranormal heroines, and three different societies all struggling for control. I shopped it around to several different publishers and it got rejected at each one. There was no empathy for the characters. Quite a blow to me, who writes strong character driven stories.
“Also this market is just not strong enough at the moment. The fan base just is not there. The fans are hard core but the numbers don’t support it. While I love the genre, my sales in historicals are four times what I sell in sci-fi.”
In the post, Ms. Holby shared her proposal, presumably the same one she shopped to editors. The story elements look interesting and based on those, I’d sure read it. But apparently, I’m in the minority.
Hmmm. Although I suppose that depends on how one defines “minority.”
Angela James tweeted on 5/26/09 that the “Top sellers in erotica on Fictionwise seem to fall into 1 of 4 categories: m/m, paranormal, BDSM, futuristic” [emphasis mine]. Yes, there are distinct differences between futuristic erotica and SFR, but gee, it’s one of the top sellers?
I know. Comparing ebooks and erotica to traditional mainstream print publishing is like the proverbial apples and oranges. And it’s not going to help authors like Cindy Holby sell more books or proposals right now. But I wonder…are those consumers of SF erotica potential science fiction romance fans? Might we consider some kind of outreach to engage those readers in SFR?
This issue also reminds me of a certain trend in historical romances: that readers in general seem to prefer stories in certain settings and time periods (e.g., medieval England or 17th/18th century Scotland). We encounter a similar stumbling block with SFR, namely, that it is—or appears to be—too exotic for some readers.
But perhaps not for readers of erotica.
And surely there are romance readers who have never read SF or SFR, yet watched and enjoyed J.J. Abrams reboot of STAR TREK. Which meant that STAR TREK might be an example of a story that makes science fiction more alluring. If STAR TREK were re-imagined as a romance, would that draw new readers? Part of the challenge is finding the stories that open new doors at a time when readers are willing to step through them. In other words, for example, paranormal romances existed before the big boom, so did the stories change, or did readers?
Willingness to take a chance on something different is an issue. Are readers willing to adjust their expectations for subgenres like SFR, or for historical romances taking place in different settings? (According to agent Jessica Faust, one reason stories set in other countries don’t sell is that “Americans tend to stereotypically be a little internationally challenged.”) And even if readers are willing to change, will publishers answer the call?
Even if it’s a fact that readers are futuristically challenged, it doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t be given the choice to read an SFR. According to PW’s When Love Is Strange: Romance Continues its Affair with the Supernatural, St. Martin’s Press' Senior Editor Monique Patterson reminds us that “…everything is cyclical in terms of popularity. Eight or nine years ago, you couldn’t give away paranormal romance.”
Clearly, readers expand their horizons if given the chance.
Next time, I’ll explore what those chances might look like.
In the meantime, if you’re a fan of science fiction romance and want to see it continue, word-of-mouth and buying the books of your favorite authors—especially new—is important now more than ever.
Monday, June 1, 2009
SFR LinkFest for June, 2009
Kristin Landon concludes her intense science fiction romance trilogy that began with THE HIDDEN WORLDS and continued with THE COLD MINDS. The story culminates in her latest release, THE DARK REACHES (June 24, Ace).
If superhero characters finding lurrvv are up your alley, A.J. Menden offers you TEKGRRL (Dorchester).
“If you’re not afraid of the big bad wolf… you should be.” Post-apocalyptic thrills, chills, and romance await you as Gina Santiago and Morgan Hunter continue their adventures in Jordan Summers’ SCARLET (Tor).
Congratulations to Skiffy Rommer Ella Drake who has signed with Liquid Silver Publishing for an erotic SFR novella for their Hearts Afire Series.
From Karen Fox: “Author of Undercover and Relentless Lauren Dane’s INSATIABLE, a futuristic romance in which a soldier in the Federation's shadowy and ultra-secret Phantom Corps is sent on a mission into Imperial territory to smuggle out a woman who may hold the key to turning the rising tide and winning the war before it starts, to Leis Pederson at Berkley Heat, in a nice deal ($1 - $49,000), for publication in Summer 2010, by Laura Bradford at Bradford Literary Agency. - Publisher's Lunch 5/8/2009”
At Alien Romances, Jacqueline Lichtenberg presents an insightful reality check in Marketing Fiction in a Changing World. It’s long, but well worth reading, especially for authors struggling to compete in today’s unpredictable economy.
Robie Madison presents Angela James on Fantasy & Paranormal Genres. (Thanks to Ella Drake for the link.) This is particularly helpful if you’re wondering how to label your manuscript when querying. And lucky for us, Ms. James can’t seem to go a single interview without mentioning science fiction romance. ;-)
A C.J. Cherryh interview courtesy of SFSignal.
Ellen Joyce Armond interviewed author Charlotte Boyett Compo. While an older interview, lots of good info about epublishing and how to prepare for such a career from the author’s perspective.
Linnea Sinclair answers the question, “So what’s Dock Five really like?” The answer is not what you think.
In the Ghetto Groove
Bitches and Bosoms, Oh Boy! Diana Rowland interviews Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches at The Magic District. They discuss the ghettoization of romance—and SF sure can empathize with that, right?! (Thanks to Smart Bitches for the link).
Valerie Robertson asks, How Will We Swear in the Future?