Evolving Into Something New: Science Fiction

Science fiction/fantasy is an interesting genre. Over the years, it has encompassed many kinds of stories, from magic and futuristic space battles. Star Wars to Star Trek are two famous screen sci-fi epics and authors like Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey offered print sagas of their own. When I was younger, science fiction/fantasy was a catch-all for any kind of fantastic storyline that wasn’t in the form of a reality based, traditional romance, mystery or real life drama. 

The genre has since matured into countless types of science fiction and fantasy categories (high fantasy, urban fantasy, hard science fiction, sci-fi romance, to name a few). Cross-genre stories have appeared, melding fantastic elements such as vampires and werewolves into mystery stories, or gritty detective crime solving. Spiritual elements introduced themselves, although the best science fiction has always had a layer of enduring spiritual truth to it, speaking of humanity’s struggles and fears about being alive. Many of the authors I read as a teenager: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Alan Dean Foster, Ursula K LeGuin, to name a few, wrote stories that were thinly veiled societal commentaries (and some of them not veiled at all), exploring real world problems in a fantastical way. Some writers were positive—humanity would prevail—and some were a bit less optimistic, but all of the best ones wrote stories that revealed our human condition in the midst of even these impossible stories. 

Hard core sci-fi, many stories written by bonafide scientists who could see what was coming, would provide warnings by weaving thrilling stories about what could be. Many of these have come true—try spending any time in the telecom industry and you’ll discover that artificial intelligence is not quite so fantastical as you might think, although as of now, we haven’t created a Terminator-esque SkyNet. Yet). Softer sci-fi explored culture clash between aliens and humans or alien races, de-emphasizing the technology aspect, but honing in on basic human experience nonetheless. 

Yet through all of this, the basic reality remains: the best stories explore our human experience, whether it be through technology or ordinary life with a science fiction twist. We might be writing about other cultures, but we are really writing about ourselves. We are writing about our hopes, fears, experiences, and the truths we are just now beginning to see and experience. It might have fantastic underpinnings, but the truth is, we are writing about ourselves. We are writing about something that we suspect, but don’t necessarily fully know yet. The best stories, the ones that resonate, are the ones with some germ of truth in them. And science fiction, like all of humanity, is evolving with us. We like to escape, but we want to hear truth. And to merge the two: truth cloaked in fun—well, what is better than that? 

The Next Steps

The Next Steps

It’s been a while since my last post—and I apologize to my readers.

Such is the life of an author—the muse can get derailed by all kinds of unexpecteds and apparently, the blog muse is very similar. In my case, however, the derailing was in the form of something quite exciting: I was quite focused on my launch of Book Two, Triangle: Book Two of The Azellian Affairs. I’m happy to say my book launch at Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado went beautifully—I was able to share my experiences on writing the story and the process of getting it launched with a fun group of people. I do so love to stand in front of people, answering their questions about being an author—and questions about my book and the backstory that underlies it. 

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Top Five Reasons I love the Karen Chance Cassie Palmer Series

Karen Chance just recently released her newest novel in the Cassie Palmer series: Reap the Wind. I read the book and found myself re-reading the entire series (again). That’s the way the best books go: you read them over and over and they splash their magic every time. Yummy!

  1. Intricate, interesting plot line that goes in totally unexpected directions. I certainly have my preferences for where the story will go…and so far, it hasn’t. Yet the way it turns out is always perfect and leaves me wanting more. 
  2. A time travel story that links back to itself. There have been scenes with a later Cassie that have happened in the story (but occurred in earlier books with an earlier Cassie, just from a different perspective). I always try to dig up the one scene I’m looking for to see how it went the first time and compare…ebooks are great for that, although most of mine are now littered with bookmarks where I’ve earmarked a scene to go back to.
  3. Madcap action. These books are quickly paced, and MOVE through their plot lines. Yet they’re not simple plots. Some of them are downright…Machiavellian in their complexity and twists (worthy of the vampire society she creates in them). But they are delightfully entertaining as they do it. I can read them over and over and find something new every time.
  4. Wonderful, robust mythology. My favorite books always have what I call a “mythology,” a backstory that is rich and varied and delivers all kinds of surprises and discoveries. The more internally coherent they are, the better I like it. It’s challenging to write out a coherent culture and history. I’ve done it myself and have lots of admiration for those who manage it. Karen Chance does it beautifully.
  5. Funny, engaging humor. The books have a dry, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes silly sense of humor. Yet for all that they explore some very dark subjects (some pretty intense stuff happens), they aren’t dark. I love the goofy and the sarcastic characters and the rich depth of them all....even the ones intended as comic relief, since they perfectly balance the violence of the fight scenes.
  6. Pritkin. I have my preferred character and my favorite “romantic” lead. As I mention in item 1), I have no idea WHERE she is taking this character or his story arc, but I wait in breathless anticipation to see where it goes. 

Yes, there are only five reasons in the title, and I’ve added a sixth, but like the war mage Pritkin says, do the unexpected. It keeps you unpredictable, just like the Cassie Palmer stories themselves. Well worth the read! Even after the 101st time I’ve read them….

Here is a link to her site and a list of her books. I'm always looking for a new read, so if you know of any other quality authors with fun characters and a great storyline, please comment below!

www.karenchance.com

The Cassie Palmer Series:

Touch the Dark

Claimed by Shadow

Embrace the Night

Curse the Dawn

Hunt the Moon

Tempt the Stars

Reap the Wind

Merging Sci-Fi and Romance

I just had my first experience with being on a radio show being interviewed by someone. I really loved the experience! The interviewer, Briar Lee Mitchell, was supportive and helped me bring up some really neat information I never put into words before: how do you merge the romance and sci-fi genres? The answer gave me a sneak peek into my own psyche, which I love. I read quite a bit of classic science fiction and fantasy. When I was in my teens and early 20’s, I also had time to read novels that required you to learn a huge amount about another world before you could even begin to enjoy the story. That ability ended for me in my mid 20’s, after I graduated from college and entered the working world. Work and family slowly ate at my free time, and I no longer had the energy after a long work day to focus on a complex book for hours on end.

But as I continued to read and write, my stories evolved and my tastes slowly shifted. Growing up between two cultures myself (French and English), I witnessed the confusion and heart break that can come from cultural assumptions, and perhaps not surprisingly, that theme crept into the stories I was writing. Yet it was very important to me to keep a story simple, easy to read and enjoyable. While I did at one point adore complex stories that built incredible worlds, my brain filled up with the complexities of life and I stopped wanting to read about the complexities of other worlds.

How to balance the two? Bringing to life a culture, yet keeping it simple, believable and interesting as I spun a story? Enter romance, which I also read quite a bit of during my formative years. I didn’t need a complex plot, as I already had a complex situation playing out in the conflict and character interactions. Most romance novels are pretty simple: man meets woman, they fall in love and after some problems which they invariably resolve, they end up living happily ever after. How did that impact my writing? Move the story to Earth, pair the aliens with human characters people could relate to…and voila, I had a story that bridged the two genres.

Do my characters end up living happily ever after? Spoilers are never fun: I can say, though, while I do enjoy HEA’s (happily ever afters) and usually end up there, who said a book needs to end on it EVERY time? I’m playing between genres, after all, and science fiction encourages lots of series. Romance encourages HEA’s….merge the two and you get six more books currently written and just waiting for publication. Stay tuned and we’ll all learn more together!