Category Archives: Vectors

Vectors: Paternal Figures

With the American celebration of Father’s Day a few days away, we look to the paternal figures of genre fiction and media.

David Walton
calibans-warIt’s hard to think of a favorite paternal figure in science fiction (my genre of choice) because there are so few of them. Few main characters are parents, and most of their parents are out of the picture. One exception that comes to mind is Praxidike Meng from James S. A. Corey’s Caliban’s War. Prax is a botanist whose 4-year-old daughter has a disorder requiring her to have regular medicine to stay alive. When she’s kidnapped, her father is desperate. He’s a socially-awkward scientist; this is no Liam Neeson shooting everyone in France to bring his daughter home alive. He has no experience chasing down kidnappers. Even so, he’s single-minded in his determination to see her rescued and goes way out of his comfort zone to make it happen, going up against an alien protomolecule and some of the most powerful and evil people in the solar system. This is a man whose character is basically defined by his devotion as a father.

Beth Cato
OwenLarsThe first answer that came to mind was a bad example of fatherhood: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Then I got to thinking. Who is the genuine father figure in the original Star Wars movies? Owen Lars.

Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru raised Luke. They loved him. They provided a nurturing, though strict, environment for an ignorant young Jedi. Uncle Owen was gruff and very much a stereotype of a farmer (albeit of moisture) and his time on screen was all too brief, but his impact was enormous. Luke turned out the way he did because of Owen and Beru. The more I think on it, the more it bothers me that I never realized it before… and that I haven’t seen any other commentary on the subject, either.

Thanks for saving the galaxy with your love, Uncle Owen!

M.K. Hutchins
ChoiWonChoi Won from The Fugitive of Joseon immediately jumped to mind. He’s a royal physician who has no interest in politics, and so pretends to be incompetent. He keeps his post because it might give him access to the books and knowledge he needs to cure Rang, his chronically ill daughter.

When he’s wrongly accused of murder, he ends up fleeing the police while trying to keep little Rang alive — and find the real culprit to clear his name. There’s oodles of action and political intrigue here, but the heart and soul of this show is the unfailing love this father has for his daughter and his quest to save her. It rocked.

Steve Bein
stickI really struggled with this question!

The first answer to spring to mind was Gandalf, but he’s more curmudgeonly uncle than father. My next answer was the gestalt of Thufir Hawat, Duncan Idaho, and Gurney Halleck, who are collectively a better father figure for me than Duke Atreides as I read Dune. But I think it’s probably cheating to pick three guys, and in any case these guys are more sensei than father.

So then my brain goes to Graff from Ender’s Game, who is a delinquent, negligent, standoffish father, but ultimately a successful one inasmuch as he turns his most gifted child into a relentless killing machine. At this point maybe you’re thinking these choices say something about my own childhood. Maybe you’re right. I’m not a psychologist.

But you know what? I think my final answer is Stick, from Frank Miller’s Daredevil comics. Scott Glenn and the screenwriters for the Netflix series did a great job with the most recent incarnation of the character. He’s a Nietzschean father, caring but without any sympathy, protective without ever nurturing. The world is horrible, he knows it, and he forges his “son” into a living weapon because that’s the only way to survive.

Apparently “father” means “sensei” to me, at least in the domain of sci-fi and fantasy. Like I said, I don’t know what that means about me. It’s probably best that I don’t have kids.

death250J. Kathleen Cheney
Nicholas Valiarde doesn’t start out as a father. In his first appearance in The Death of the Necromancer (by Martha Wells), he’s a single man in his prime, a master of crime bent on saving the parts of the world that he thinks are worthwhile. He’s not a nice man, but a very interesting one.

But in the Fall of Ile-Rien Trilogy, we get to see him as our heroine’s father. He’s not the cuddly sort of father most people want. He’s still not a nice man. He’s charismatic and ruthless and will do whatever is needed to see his daughter safe…without ever taking away her agency. He might question her judgment, but he doesn’t interfere. I can’t say more than that without giving away too much, but I adored him in the trilogy, and someday want to read more of what he did after the war. (I know, I can’t have everything!)

Michael R. Underwood
Joe_WestMy favorite father figure in SF/F television right now is Joe West from CW’s The Flash. Specifically, Joe West is an incredibly compassionate, wise, and supportive father figure/surrogate dad to the hero. Joe helps Barry have confidence in himself, supports his heroic actions both in his police capacity and as a mentor/father figure, and puts Barry back on course when he’s straying from the path of heroism that Barry sought out for himself.

Joe is human, and fallible (very fallible in one way which blows up toward the end of Season 1), but consistently supportive of his children, especially as a surrogate father to Barry, helping raise a scared and bereaved boy into the man who would become The Flash.

Vectors: Beach Reads

Summer’s coming, and we’re talking about favorite beach reads! Some Novelocity members take that more literally than others…

Fonda.Lee.02Guest: Fonda Lee
For me, a good “beach read” book is one that packs a lot of entertainment into a tight package. No way I’m lugging a 900-page epic fantasy on vacation, and we all know e-readers don’t mix well with sand and water. What I want is a brisk, witty, page-turner that goes straight for the action and intrigue and doesn’t let up. Most of all, I want it to be really damn fun.

9780425272480_Night-OwlsNight Owls by Lauren M. Roy and its sequel, Grave Matters, fit the bill in all ways. This new urban fantasy series stars a cast of quirky and sympathetic characters, a nocturnal (by owner’s necessity) bookshop, vampire politics, a rare magic book, and delightfully creepy monsters called Jackals. Roy gleefully mixes familiar supernatural elements into her own unique and addicting stew, one that’s well worth enjoying alongside your pina colada this summer.

GraveMattersFonda Lee is the author of Zeroboxer, a high-action young adult science fiction novel about a young man battling to make it to the top in the world of zero gravity prizefighting amid brewing interplanetary conflict between Earth and Mars. Fonda is a recovering corporate strategist, an avid martial artist, a fan of smart action movies, and an Eggs Benedict enthusiast living in Portland, Oregon. You can find Fonda at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.


 

Steve Bein
DuneI have to go with Dune, right? The beach is all about sun and sand, and Frank Herbert knows his sun and sand.

Dune has everything you want in a beach novel. It’s a classic, so people who see you reading it will be impressed by your literary tastes (and also by how fetching you look in your swimsuit, I’m sure). It’s a bestseller, which means it’s in every used book store, which means you don’t have to get upset if it gets all sandy or saltwatery. If you’ve never read it before, it’ll keep you hooked. (Wait. You haven’t read it before? What’s wrong with you? Get cracking.) If you have read it before, you can enjoy the prose while still keeping an eye out for whatever mischief your kids or your dogs are causing on the beach.

Dune is particularly worth re-reading on the beach, because Frank Herbert really did know his sand. It was while researching the sand dunes of Oregon that he cooked up the idea for the planet Arrakis, and that comes through in every desert scene. Go to the beach, read that book, watch what the wind does to the sand, and tell me that guy didn’t know his sand.


 

Fran Wilde
Augggghhhh beat me to it!!

::shakes fist::


 

Beth Cato
Superheroes AnonymousA beach read, to me, is a fluffy, fast read (i.e. one that doesn’t involve spice flowing. Typically). I recently read Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne, and it epitomized a beach read. It’s an adventure romp is a world plagued by superheroes and supervillains, and poor Gail becomes known as Hostage Girl. Her super power seems to be that she’s always caught in the middle of these conflicts… until she actually ends up with super powers. It’s pure fun, a send-up on the genre, and the romantic element is the light kind that makes you smile as you read. My one caveat is that there’s a cruel cliffhanger ending, but hey, the next book, Supervillains Anonymous, is out at the end of June. It will soon be easy to read them back-to-back.


 

M.K. Hutchins
flotsamI don’t think I’ve ever talked up a picture book, but Flotsam by David Wiesner makes me feel like I’m at the beach, regardless of how far away the ocean is. There’s no text to this book, but there is a magical camera that washes ashore, full of pictures of other beaches and magical underwater places. It’s the kind of thing I could leisurely stare at for a long time. Apparently other people feel similarly because it has that shiny Caldecott Medal on it.


 

 

Fran Wilde
LongitudeSince Steve took my top choice…

I’m going to go with two non-fiction books. They’re not fluffy, but the beach is not just sun and (ahem) sand. It’s also great for stars and planet watching. And for imagining long voyages at sea. so I’ll recommend Dava Sobel’s The Planets (Penguin Books, 2006) for its exploration of the solar system, and our relationship to the planets; and Longitude (Walker, 1995 & 2007) for its tale of genius, invention, the age of exploration, nautical lore, and challenges, and the fact that you can put it on your e-reader and not have to carry it in your beach bag (it’s big. It’s worth it.).


 

 

Tina Connolly
Ooh, since Megan started the picture book trend –

BeachDayI recently ordered a copy of “Beach Day” by Karen Roosa, illustrated by Maggie Smith (no, not *that* Maggie Smith.) I first checked this book out when my now 4yo was a toddler and fell in love with it. The text in the book is perfectly nice, sensory images of the beach “waves roar/ rush and soar/ rolling, crashing/ to the shore”, but my favorite thing about the book is the way the illustrations create a whole story that’s not in the text, about a family’s day at the beach.

Now, I’m sure the creators of the book worked on the overall book together, and I’m absolutely not criticizing the text here, just really *loving* the way the illustrations tell a whole story that you could enjoy even if there was no text. (Which is of course what you want for pre-readers!) Honestly, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in visual storytelling…especially if you have a little one to read to!

You can clearly track the various activities of the family as they all enjoy their day at the beach, making new friends, etc. Even the dog makes a friend — and, poignantly, has to leave the other dog behind at the end of the day.

I’m looking forward to reading this one over and over with toddler #2 now!

Vectors: History in Need of Writing

Today we confront the subject: Is there a time period you would love to write about, but haven’t? Why?

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney

I’d love to write a novel set in 1933 in Saratoga Springs that would be a sort of sequel to the “Tales from Hawk’s Folly Farm” series of novellas that I did. But those are set in 1905-1909, which is a totally different world than 1933. Fortunately for me, we’re planning on returning to Saratoga Springs this fall (for World Fantasy Con) and I’ve added a day to our stay there specifically so I can visit the public library and start some serious research.

 


 

PakalImage1M.K. Hutchins

My mind pretty much imploded when I realized that Queen Seondeok of Silla and K’inich Jaanab’ Pakal of Palenque were alive at the same time. There’s still a desperate part of my heart that wants to write a story where these two magically get to meet, but I’m terrified of actually trying it.

I’m not sure I could do it without sounding like a fangirl. These are two of my favorite historical figures, period. Both acceded to the throne during turbulent times. They not only overcame vast difficulties and held their nations together, they improved their countries and left amazing legacies behind.

SeondeokI’m also worried about the research. I’d want it to be perfect, especially since I’m dealing with real people I admire. But eventually, I’d have to make up some day-to-day details. At least for the Maya portion of the research, I have access to most everything in English and can read the glyphs myself. I’d only be making up what archaeology and history couldn’t provide.

But most English-language texts tend to focus on Korea from the Korean War to the present. Sadly, most of what I know about Queen Seondeok comes from Wikipedia and articles about the historicity of The Great Queen Seondeok, a really excellent k-drama that got me interested in Queen Seondeok in the first place. Maybe when my small children are older and I have more time to study Korean, I can try to tackle this. Or maybe I can make a friend with an expert in Korean history and we can co-author it. For now, it’s just a daydream.


 

stephanie feldmanGuest: Stephanie Feldman
I’ve got two American eras on my mind: the 1950s and the 1990s, especially their countercultures. (I mean, the 1960s counterculture is too obvious, right? And has been done to death.)

For the 50s, I’m less interested in Kerouac and friends (that phase in my life is over, and I’m not looking back), and more interested in McCarthyism and the black list. Political alliances were drawn with cartoonishly hard lines, something that I think resonates with our politics today. And I would love to explore relationships and ethical decisions under that kind of pressure.
angeloflosses
In the 90s, punk and hip hop went mainstream with responses to the 80s’s decadence, and the limits and failures of the 60s’ revolutions, but were quickly commercialized and co-opted. It was a cynical time, but also innocent: Communism fell, the U.S. economy was ascendant. There was ethnic cleansing in Europe and Africa, but no Global War on Terror.

Or maybe it’s that the 90s were my formative years. This is when I was first learning how to be a writer, and how to critically think about music and film and books, so it feels natural to come back to this time in my work.

Bio: Stephanie Feldman is a graduate of Barnard College. Her first novel, The Angel of Losses, is winner of the Crawford Fantasy Award, a nominee for the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and one of The Washington Post’s Top Five SFF Books of 2014. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family.

 


 

Beth Cato
Mussel Slough markerI’m a California girl, born and raised, and I feel an intimate connection to the state, especially the San Joaquin Valley. There’s very little speculative fiction set there. I’ve been fortunate to sell a few stories based around the Mussel Slough Tragedy in 1880, which took place miles away from where I grew up. I would love to explore the region’s past century in more detail. So many migrants have sought refuge there, from the Armenians fleeing genocide, to the Portuguese who settled many farms and dairies, to the Japanese who cultivated orchards around Armona and lost so much during World War II internment. Where are their stories? I can look more into my own past, too. I had a great-grandfather work in the oil fields of Coalinga during the 1920s boom–surely there’s material there to build on.

Finding historical sources is a problem. I have a number of books on the region and they often cite materials that are rare, out of print, and not scanned online. My hometown of Hanford has several archives to tap, but often when I am home for a visit, it’s around holidays when places like the Carnegie Museum are closed. Slowly but surely, I am gathering more info, though. Last Thanksgiving I was able to visit the Taoist Temple Museum in China Alley. I bought a fantastic book and took pictures of their exhibits. This is information I can use for my new novel series and, I hope, more stories.


 

Julie-McGalliardGuest: Julie McGalliard
My first thought was of you, Victorian England. My earliest favorite book was one of yours: Alice in Wonderland, with those amazing engraved illustrations by John Tenniel. There was always something about you that appealed to me. You were the opposite of everything I knew as a child in the sun-blasted Southern California of the 1970s. You were ghost stories and rainy days, fountain pens and loose-leaf tea. You were elaborate buildings, elaborate outfits, elaborate manners. You were creepy black and white photographs of faked ectoplasm. You were dense rooms full of treasures and mysteries stolen from all over the world.

You were gorgeous, but you were also troubling. You soared in a glittering airship of wealth, but its engine was grinding poverty and a filth of disease and pollution. You commanded a glorious empire, crushing many lives and cultures under the heel of your delicate lace-up ankle boots. The Egyptian artifacts in your British Museum are a testament to their culture, as beautiful and rich and strangely morbid as your own. But they are also evidence of your many thoughtless robberies.

entrance to Highgate Cemetery

Entrance to Highgate Cemetery; image by Julie McGalliard

Yet, I have never written fiction about you. I have never set anything in the world of Dracula; The Turn of the Screw; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Sherlock Holmes; Jack the Ripper; Ada Lovelace; J.M.W. Turner; the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I have never used your enticingly named “underground” as a backdrop. So far, I have let the steampunk locomotive chug right past me.

Now I wonder why that is. We seem like such a natural fit. Do I know you too well? Am I too intimidated by the writers who go before me? Do I feel like there’s nothing more to say about you? Do I feel like you belong to others more than to me? Are you too big? Am I afraid of getting you wrong? Or, am I afraid that if I were to write about you, I would lapse into cliches?

At this point, there’s only one way to answer my questions: write about you, and see what happens.

Spitalfields, Jack the Ripper's old haunts; image by Julie McGalliard

Spitalfields, Jack the Ripper’s old haunts; image by Julie McGalliard

Bio: Julie McGalliard is a writer and occasional cartoonist.

Her first novel, Waking Up Naked in Strange Places, was released in 2015. Her short stories have appeared in the magazine Talebones and in the anthologies Witches, Stitches & Bitches: A Three Little Words Anthology (Volume 1) and Space Grunts: Full-Throttle Space Tales #3.

She lives in Seattle with her husband Paul, a fellow lover of books and New Orleans.

At her day job she is a web developer for Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute. She is not, technically speaking, a scientist. But she is a scientist enabler.​

 

Steve Bein
Daughter of the SwordI haven’t yet written about the Meiji Era (1868-1912), but it’s been on my mind for a long time.

It’s an amazing period in Japanese history. In 1868, Japan is still a feudal society. Samurai walk the streets wearing their trademark twin swords and topknots. The Tokugawa shoguns have ruled for 265 years, and for all of that time the emperor has been little more than a supremely comfortable hostage. (“Figurehead” is too august a term to describe him; his function is closer to that of a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.) But despite their pride in their martial prowess, the shoguns and the samurai learn that militarily they’re no match for the West. With a handful of ships, Commodore Perry holds the entire country at gunpoint.

By 1912 the emperor reigns again and the whole samurai caste is made illegal. Railroads and telegraph wires criss-cross the country, the economy is fully industrialized, and — impossibly, unthinkably, stupefyingly — tiny little Japan has defeated huge, hulking Russia in war. No Asian country had ever defeated a Western power in the modern era. In effect, Japan transformed itself from a feudal backwater to a major world power in less than fifty years. It’s a hell of an achievement.

The famed Inazuma swords of my Fated Blades books were all active during the Meiji Era. One of these days I’ll have to figure out what they were up to.


 

Lawrence M. Schoen
Gilgamesh in the LouvreI’m currently working on a new novel about cities, and part of the impetus for this was Uruk, arguably among the first cities the world ever had. We’re talking six thousand years ago. There is something critical about the formation of cities (at least, I think so, and it’s a major plot point in the new book). Urbanization typically corresponds to all sorts of development — social, technological, political — for people. It gives you bronze tools and medicine and astronomy. It marks the shift from subsistence agriculture to surplus and population expansion and trade. Human beings had been crawling around the globe for a long time, but about six thousand years ago with the creation of the first cities, we took a major detour from the status quo. And we’ve never looked back.

So, while I’m as fond of reading fantasies set in Europe as anyone (and indeed, the new book does involve a major city from what is basically 5th century Italy), I want to go back further and play with civilization, back to the cradle of humanity in those wondrous river-valleys.

“Why Uruk?” you ask? Well, for one thing, somewhere between 2800 and 2500 BC they had this king named Gilgamesh. I assume you’ve heard of him, as well as his best buddy Enkidu, and their adventures defeating giant monsters like Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. After Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh travels to the land of the dead, seeking the secret of immortality. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest, surviving story on our planet. What better time and place for a writer to focus his attention and desire?


 

Vectors: Child-like Protagonists

Our topic for this week: “Who’s your favorite child or child-like protagonist?”

marshall ryan marsecaGuest: Marshall Ryan Maresca
I’m going to have to lean into “child-like” to answer this, as my favorite isn’t a child. He’s a rabbit.

watership downWatership Down is probably my favorite book of all time. I’ve worn the cover off of two different copies due to my multiple re-reads. The story is both simple and epic: a small group of heroes flees their community to avoid its destruction, forms a new community, and then fights to protect it. The fact that they’re rabbits is incidental, but it’s a superb work of fantasy filled with deep and colorful worldbuilding, despite all taking place within a few square miles in southern England. The heroes are all richly drawn, from the wise leader Hazel, to the brave warrior Bigwig, clever Blackberry, charming Dandelion, and many more.

Including Fiver, who is the heart of the story.

Fiver— officially named Hrair-roo, “Little Thousand”– was the runt of his litter. So while he’s the same age as Hazel— which is still young for a rabbit, as they are both a year old at the start of the book— his size means he is treated like a child. The book makes it very clear that size is power in the rabbit society. The biggest and strongest are brought into the Owsla, the rabbit police, and the strongest of all of them becomes the Chief Rabbit.

But what Fiver lacks in size, he makes up in vision. He sees the destruction of the warren coming, but the Chief Rabbit ignores him, thinking Fiver just a child seeking attention. But the strength of his words and conviction are enough to convince Hazel and others that the threat is real, and they all run away together entirely on his belief. When they find a potential home with strange rabbits, it’s Fiver who sees that something is wrong with the place. The rest are ready to settle in, but he discovers the truth: that this warren is filled with snares, which the others never talk about. When Bigwig is caught in a snare, it’s Fiver who is able to rescue him by being small enough to bite through the peg.

THE-THORN-OF-DENTONHILL-coverFiver shows his warren that there is more to being strong than pure size. This is put to the test when the warren is sieged by General Woundwort and the cruel rabbits from Efrafa. Isolated from the rest of his friends, Fiver is confronted by Efrafan soldiers. He fights back with chilling prophecies that unnerve the Efrafans, breaking their spirit more than any victory of combat would have.

While Hazel is the true protagonist of the story, Fiver is the source of his wisdom and vision. His humanity— err… rabbitity?— is what shines through the whole book.

Bio: Marshall Ryan Maresca is a fantasy and science-fiction writer, author of The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages, both to be released by DAW Books in 2015. His website is www.mrmaresca.com.

IDD coverSteve Bein
I think I’ll go with Jane, the changeling protagonist of Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Daughter.

We meet her when she’s young, a slave in the foundries of a dragonworks. By book’s end she’s a young woman — or rather, a young sorceress, world-wise and puissant. Except maybe none of that is real, and maybe some good psychotropic meds can make all the magic go away. Either way, she’s fascinating.

I like her best as a child, perhaps because that’s when she’s at her most vulnerable. She’s clever but she’s forced into a position of weakness, which makes her enormously sympathetic. It’s also during her childhood (i.e. the early chapters) that she makes her most badass move. I won’t give away spoilers, but suffice it to say that the fight card says Little Kid vs. Iron Dragon yet somehow it’s pretty close to a fair fight.

Chronicles 2 cover by Larry ElmoreBeth Cato
Tasslehoff Burrfoot. I was obsessed with the Dragonlance series through my teen years, and Tas was one of my favorite characters. He’s a kender, one of a unique race on Krynn that remains child-like even as an adult. They are whimsical and imaginative and compulsive thieves, but don’t call them “thief” to their faces. I figure some readers would be really annoyed by Tas’s antics–he sure annoys the other characters–but I thought he added levity to some plot lines that were otherwise extremely dark. In particular, Tas has strong bonds with Flint the dwarf and a wonderful, absent-minded old wizard named Fizban.

wee free menI just realized it’s been almost 20 years since I read and obsessed over those books and I just recounted all that without doing a single search to jog my memory. That says a lot about the impression these characters left on me! (And why I won’t re-read the books now, as I’ve been told they do not hold up well.)

Fran Wilde
Tiffany Aching, from Terry Pratchet’s Wee Free Men and Hat Full of Sky.

See also the Nac Mac Feegles therein. Crivens!

I liked the thoughtfulness with which Tiffany approached the world. There was sadness too, and a lot of hope. Even when she was tying her little brother to the riverside as monster bait. Much hope.

witch weekTina Connolly
I read so much Middle Grade and YA that I’m having a hard time remembering child protagonists from adult books. But a couple of my crossover favorites are Menolly from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong series, and Aerin from Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown. Both of those heroines were Mary Sues to me in the very best sense – by which I mean the young me adored them and wanted to be them as they rose to greatness.

I also want to mention Nan from Diana Wynne Jones’ Witch Week. Everyone at her cliquey school dismisses her as dumpy and weird. She’s also grumpy and stubborn and she saves the day. I love her.

wrinkle in timeJ. Kathleen Cheney
Charles Wallace Murray, in A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle.

Although I related far more to his older sister Meg when it came to my appearance, in schooling matters, I often felt like Charles Wallace Murray. He’s smart, ahead of other students his age, and a bit snotty about it. Well, a lot snotty about it. And while I’d like to think I was never like that, I strongly suspect I was pretty smart mouthed from time to time.

But we get to see Charles Wallace grow up. He has snarky moments, gets sucked into a vast world-controlling consciousness because he thinks he’s smarter than It, and has to be saved by his sister’s love. He’s cynical, and hard to like sometimes. But by the time he’s fifteen, we get to see a far more compassionate Charles Wallace as he tries to untangle a time-travel mistake in the third book to avert a nuclear disaster.

I liked watching him grow up.

Tex Thompson
Child-characters are tough to do well, at least in the younger set. They always seem to be demon-haunted murderers, creepy-sinister AI holograms, or unbearable smartasses.

mattieI tell you what, though: for my money, it doesn’t get better than True Grit‘s Mattie Ross. She’s a 14-year-old girl with no ambition for greatness – but when a hired man kills her father and lights off for Indian territory, Mattie is the only one willing to hitch up her britches and go after him. All she has is her father’s rusty old pistol and a perfect willingness to threaten legal action, but that’s enough to get her a horse, a manhunt, and a washed-up drunk of a marshal named Rooster Cogburn to help her see it through.

And I think what I love most about her, besides her titular grit, is that she is both a child and an adult. She’s fierce, eloquent, and sharp as razor-wire – but she also names her new horse according to an old nursery rhyme, and cries for it when it’s whipped, and for herself, when she’s turned over a ranger’s knee for a humiliating spanking. Mattie lives in a hard world that hasn’t left much of her innocence intact, but she’s not just a tough woman in the making – she’s also an exceptional girl in the present, and one of my favorite heroines.

Vectors: Our April News

Conventions season nears and new releases abound. Our members discuss their forthcoming appearances and releases!

medicine for the deadTex Thompson
Well, sports-fans, it’s that time again: it’s book-launch thirty, and the big hand’s on me!

This month, I’m celebrating the release of the second book in my epic fantasy Western series, the delectably-titled Medicine for the Dead. (Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked.)

This second book is more of a journey/quest fantasy than the first, which meant that I got to expand the world and treat the characters to a road trip from hell. In that respect, Medicine for the Dead is basically Lord of the Rings, if Frodo and Sam were Native Americans, and the One Ring was a corpse getting riper by the day, and the quest involved getting said corpse through Mordor and home for burial without getting killed by demons, drought, or a vicious case of magical dysentery. And if that’s not a recipe for a good time…!

Anyway, I’m also looking forward to some road-tripping of my own this spring: I’ll be jetting off to EasterCon in London at the beginning of April, followed by Comicpalooza and ApolloCon in Houston, BayCon in San Jose, SoonerCon in Oklahoma City, and CONvergence in Minneapolis. If you’re in the neighborhood, look me up and we’ll hang out!

Michael R. Underwood
Upcoming conventions:

  • BaltiCon (May 22-25th) Baltimore, MD
  • BEA/BookCon (May 27th-31st) New York, NY
  • CONvergence (July 2-5th) Bloomington, MN

 

Tina Connolly
My next book, Seriously Wicked, is coming out May 5th from Tor Teen, and I have a bunch of events coming up to go with it!

Launch Party! Seriously Wicked signing at Powell’s Cedar Hills.(Cupcakes!)
Beaverton, Oregon, May 5, 7pm

Seriously Wicked by Tina ConnollySeriously Wicked signing at Mysterious Galaxy as part of their big birthday bash. (There will be cake!)
San Diego, California, May 9, 1pm

How Not to Write a Novel, a workshop with Jennifer Brozek, Cat Rambo, and Raven Oak at the Redmond Library.
Redmond, Washington, May 16, 12:30-3:30

Seriously Wicked signing at Seattle Mystery Bookshop
Seattle, Washington, May 23, 12:00

Talking about Seriously Wicked at the Stayton Library
Stayton, Oregon, June 4th, 7pm

Campbell Conference (probably)
Lawrence, Kansas, June 12-14

Later in the year, I plan to be at WorldCon and World Fantasy as well. Looking forward to all of these…

 


 

shoresofspainJ. Kathleen Cheney
My next book, The Shores of Spain will come out July 7 in Trade paperback, and the Mass Market paperback of The Seat of Magic will release the same day!

And I will be at the following occasions this summer:

  • RT (Romantic TImes) Convention, May 12-17, DFW
  • SoonerCon, June 26-28, Oklahoma City (panelist)
  • ArmadilloCon, July 24-26, Austin (panelist)

 

 

Daughter of the SwordSteve Bein
Will attend:
C2E2 (Chicago, April 24-26)
Comicpalooza (Houston, May 22-25)

 


 

M.K. Hutchins
I had a great time at LTUE this February, and I’m looking forward to two more conferences this year:

Worldcon (Spokane, August 19-23)
Salt Lake Comic Con (Salt Lake City, Sept 24-26)

 


 

Beth Cato

Deepest PoisonFirst of all, my Clockwork Dagger short story ‘The Deepest Poison” is out on April 29th! It can be preordered everywhere now.

My sequel novel, The Clockwork Crown, is out on June 9th.

There are a number of signings and events in the works!

– May 27th 7pm at Poisoned Pen’s SciFi Extravaganza in Scottsdale, AZ (note location may change).

– May 29th through 31st at Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, AZ.

– August 19th through 23rd at WorldCon/Sasquan in Spokane, WA.


 

Elisha_Magus(1)E.C. Ambrose

April 22, launch of “The Grail Maiden” a Dark Apostle tie-in novella, featuring characters you thought you knew, with a history you never dreamed of.

July 7, Launch of book 3 in The Dark Apostle series, Elisha Rex

July 9-12, Readercon convention in Burlington, MA

August 19-23 Sasquan, World Science Fiction Convention, Spokane, WA


 

Barsk by Lawrence M. SchoenLawrence M. Schoen
I have the pleasure of being one of the GOHs at RavenCon, April 24th thru 26th.

I may be day-tripping down to Balticon on Saturday, May 23rd.

I will be signing complimentary ARCs of my forthcoming novel, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard at the Tor Books booth during BEA, May 27th thru 29th, and BookCon, May 30th and 31st. Actual times and days are still up in the air.

June 4th thru 7th, you can find me at the 50th Nebula Awards Conference. In particular, I’ll be participating in the Receptions on Thursday and Friday evenings, the Mass Autographing also on Friday afternoon, and the Awards Banquet on Saturday.

Late July, specifically the 22nd thru the 26th, will have me in Chicago, IL for the twenty-second annual conference of the Klingon Language Institute, or as the Klingons refer to it, qep’a’ cha’maH cha’DIch.

I have a nephew getting married in southern California on August 8th, and I plan on being there. I wouldn’t mind if you all dropped in, but I can’t say that the parents of the bride and groom will be as pleased.

And I’ll round out my summer travels at the 73rd annual Worldcon, Sasquan, taking place in Spokane, WA from August 19th thru 23rd.

Vectors: Anticipated New Releases

In a semi-regular feature, the members of Novelocity talk about new-or-soon-to-be-released novels that the world needs to know about.

Michael R. Underwood
PersonaPersona by Genevieve Valentine

Coming March 10th from Saga Press

I had the pleasure of repping Mechanique in the field when it was released, helping connect the book with indie booksellers across the Midwest. Then I started reading Genevieve’s hilarious and insightful articles on pop culture, from TV/film to fashion.

So when I read the description of Persona, it went on my TBR list instantly. By all indications, it’s basically all of Genevieve’s wit and snark for mass media culture wrapped around the backbone of a thriller plot.

SOLD.

LazarusLazarus Vol. 3: Conclave by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Owen Freeman

Coming March 18th, 2015 from Image Comics

I’ve been a fan of Greg Rucka for years, from his Wonder Woman work to his co-authoring of Gotham Central with Ed Bubaker, but his current Image series Lazarus is my new favorite. Set in a future where ultra-rich corporate heads are royalty in a new Feudal era, with wholly-owned serfs as their support staff and company town work force. And the rest of humanity is labeled Waste, sharecroppers at best, discarded human detritus at worst. Lazarus is one of my favorite modern dystopian narratives, with a one-two punch of action and sociological speculation.

AlexGuest post: Alex Shvartsman

1) The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Release date: April 7

Ken Liu is unquestionably one of the best speculative short story writers today, and his upcoming first novel is every bit as good as his short stories.

A secondary world fantasy in the style Liu refers to as “silkpunk,” this book (a first in a trilogy, but it reads fine as a standalone) is what you might get if you mashed together the Game of Thrones, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy, so my anticipation is mostly for the opportunity to share this book is with other readers and chat about it with my friends in greater detail.

2) Sense8 TV Series (Netflix)
Release date: June 5

An original TV series written by J. Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) and directed by the Wachowski siblings (of The Matrix)? I don’t even care what it’s about: sign me up!

Okay, I care a little bit, and the premise seems very interesting. It’s about eight very different people from around the world, who are total strangers to each other, suddenly becoming linked to each other, both mentally and emotionally. There hasn’t been all that much info out there about the series, but everything I read makes me very curious and I will definitely be watching.

===
Alex Shvartsman is a writer, translator and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. Over 70 of his short stories have appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and many other magazines and anthologies. He won the 2014 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction. He is the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series of humorous SF/F. His collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories released in February 2015. His website is www.alexshvartsman.com, and
the Kickstarter for the UFO 4 anthology is here.

M.K. Hutchins
Ink and AshesApparently shiny covers and the word “ashes” is a good way to get me excited about reading. But — wow — shiny covers.

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani is about a teenager who finds out that her dead father used to be a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, just as his past his catching up with her.

Ember in AshesAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is an epic fantasy about an undercover slave working for rebel Scholars (rebel Scholars!) in exchange for their help in stopping her brother’s execution.

Both of these are debut novels. I’m excited to try out two new authors. I have high hopes I’m going to find some new favorites in these.

Seveneves

Steve Bein
#1 on the list for me: Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. A close runner-up is Dan Simmons’s The Fifth Heart. Both of these guys fall into the category of I Don’t Care What You Write Next, I’m Just Gonna Buy It.
Fifth Heart

Beth Cato
Michael J. Martinez has this amazing series that started with The Daedalus Incident. The books combine space-faring alchemy-powered British frigates and a science-fiction based human future with exploration on Mars and beyond. The two timelines converge in amazing ways. Well, the third book in the trilogy is out in May. My fangirl love for the first two books resulted in me getting to blurb The Venusian Gambit. Seriously, if you love science fiction and historical fiction, this has it all. Go forth and get the trilogy!

Signal to NoiseAnother new release I really enjoyed was Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It reminded me of a cross between Charles de Lint’s Newford and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Moreno-Garcia evokes magical realism via music in late 1980s Mexico City and balances that with the repercussions as seen in 2009. It’s one of those books that can be marketed as YA but there’s a somber depth to it that you understand a lot more as you get older.

Tina Connolly
xwakingup-ARC-coverOh, there’s always so many books I’m looking forward to. I’m sneakily stretching my top two picks to three because there are three April debuts that I’m particularly excited to see released:

Zeroboxer-final-coverWaking Up Naked in Strange Places by Julie McGalliard. I blurbed this one for Julie as “Seamlessly blends Cajun werewolves, religious cults, and Seattle prep schools in a fresh and compelling take on the werewolf mythos. I couldn’t put it down.” Which is totally true.

Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee, whom I recently met here in Portland. Those of you looking for space opera-y YA books, this story of Martian colonists and the new sport of weightless “zeroboxing” sounds like a fun and actiony ride.
YearoftheCow
The Year of the Cow by Jared Stone. Jared is always insightful and funny, and this book follows his adventures as he buys one entire grass-fed cow from a local rancher, and begins to cook his way through it. Recommended for anyone interested in good books about slow food.

Ken Liu
I’m really looking forward to Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The Internet has brought back and even expanded public shaming as a form of punishment, and Ronson has spent three years studying the phenomenon to tell very human stories about the people involved in these acts of public shaming. It’s being released at the end of March.SoYouveBeenPubliclyShamed

Fran Wilde
I’m looking forward to so many books in the next couple of months. But most of all, I’m looking forward to Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook. With over 150 recipes by authors including William Gibson, Gail Carriger, Connie Willis, Yoon Ha Lee and John Scalzi, the cookbook is amazing. The recipes range from delicious to hilarious to impossible (elf bbq, anyone?).

Most importantly, once it’s out, I can have my life back.

Vectors: More Mythology

Our topic for today: “What is a mythology or specific mythological creature you want to see used more in genre fiction?”

Grace_of_Kings_cover_blogKen Liu
I think of mythology in the broadest sense, as a collection of founding narratives for a culture, the stories the people tell themselves to explain their customs, outlook, history, relationship to nature and other peoples.

Much of fantasy literature seems to explore old myths in depth, with heroes warring to be king, slaying monsters on the path to achieve the return to a golden, noble age. But I’d love to see the American myth — a chiaroscuro of shining beacons and dark original sin, of men and women forging a nation that is exceptional, new, at once a city upon the hill and multiple strivings falling short of the ideal — explored more in fantasy literature, with all the triumphs and challenges that attend a pantheon of democratic ideals and a bestiary of the worst parts of our selfish natures.

Clockwork CrownBeth Cato
I love fairy tales and mythology. All of it. Back when I was in my teens, my hometown library cleared out a lot of its 1920s Andrew Lang Fairy books and N.C. Wyeth-illustrated classics. I grabbed them all, and read well beyond that. Therefore, I thought I had a pretty good background in mythology as I started to write. I know my selkies, and Coyote, and my Baba Yaga in her chicken-footed house.

Then I started to read more Chinese mythology for research.

See, I approached it with arrogant ignorance. I thought, hey, I’m pretty familiar with Japanese mythology and there are a lot of parallels. It turned out that Chinese mythology is more vast and complex than I had ever guessed, and unlike many other world cultures, it’s not integrated at all into western pop culture. I’m doing my best to educate myself, but it’s an ongoing effort. A very fun effort, I might add.

Cat RamboGuest: Cat Rambo
What creature would I like to see used more in genre? Centaurs.

Why? Because some of my favorite fantasy (and one sf) books feature centaurs. Thomas Burnett Swann, who wrote slim little books about mythological creatures that I love, frequently used centaurs, although I don’t know that I always like his bawdier-leaning versions. But John Varley’s Titan trilogy features amazing centaurs, whose names are kinds of music, and who wear body paint, the brighter the better, and braid their manes with trinkets and gew-gaws.Beast of Tabat

There’s something about centaurs. Maybe it’s the sheer improbability of them (I mean, come on, horse body and human torso just would not work in so many ways). Remember the moment in one of the Narnia books where Reepicheep (I believe) is explaining to someone how much a centaur is required to eat, just to stay alive.

But I think it’s more than that. Human and horse together touches on that love of horses that so many teenagers go through. A horse is freedom, and speed, and nature, and more than that, there’s the relationship so many young adult books depend on, between human and horse, the fodder of all the Black Stallion Novels and My Friend Flicka and Misty of Chincoteague, and all the rest.

I used centaurs in a recent fantasy story, “Hoofsore and Weary,” which appeared in Shattered Shields, edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and which features a troupe of female centaur soldiers caught behind enemy lines. In doing so, I realized I was heading back to the same world where I’d written about another centaur, Fino, in a story that appeared in Realms of Fantasy, “Narrative of a Beast’s Life.” That piece in turn ties into the novel I have coming out next month, Beasts of Tabat. Maybe I’m trying to compensate for the lack of centaurs in genre literature all on my own.

Bio: Cat Rambo is the author of Beasts of Tabat. Her website is KittyWumpus.net.

Steve Bein
I think we could use more flying eight-legged horses.daulairegreek

When I was a kid, I’d check out the same two books from the library over and over again: D’Aulaires’ Greek Mythology and Norse Mythology. One of the images that always stayed with me was Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horsey.

I don’t know what evolutionary advantage there is in a horse having eight legs. I don’t know how eight legs plus zero wings equals flight. Not that myths are subject to scientific or mathematical laws; hey have their own internal logic. But even by that standard, Sleipnir is a horse of a different color.

Most of mythology is symbol, but Sleipnir doesn’t seem to symbolize anything–unlike, say, thedaulairenorse sun-horses that pull Helios’s chariot, or even Odin’s own pet ravens. Sleipnir’s primary function, it seems to me, is just to make Odin more of a badass.

So, in the name of badassery everywhere, I say we need more eight-legged horses in fiction.

WaywardVol1-585x900-webMichael R. Underwood
I double majored in East Asian Studies and Creative Mythology as an undergrad, which helped me strengthen my already-strong interest in world mythology and folklore. Unsurprisingly, when you leave Western Europe, folklore in other parts of the world was just as cool, just as rich, and on top of that, each culture’s folklore said just as much about its progenitors as Western European Folklore does, so studying that folklore gives you a different angle on understanding those cultures.

Of particular interest to me were the interwoven folkloric traditions in East Asia, and especially Japan. The Kitsune, Kappa, Tengu, Oni, Bakemono, Kami, and more, their ties to specific places, their manifestations in various dramatic forms such as Kabuki, Bunraku, and more. One current strong example of the use of Japanese folkloric creatures is the comic series Wayward, by Jim Zub, Steve Cummings, and Jim Rausch.

Elisha BarberE.C. Ambrose
I am a Northwest Coast native mythology enthusiast, and I’d love to see some of those characters engaged in new ways. Sedna entered the national consciousness with the naming of that planetoid a few years ago, and Raven pops up frequently, but how about the Dzonawkwa, a child-stealing wild woman?

But what I’d really like to see is a new approach to the folklore that is used. I feel like many authors who are looking to fairytales are not only focused on the familiar Western European stories, but even more closely on the widely recognized, iconic Disney approaches and themes. Even in Grimms (which seems to have been done to death) there are some bizarre and interesting stories Disney wouldn’t touch (like the one about the girl whose talking horse gets its head lopped off–but don’t worry, the mentorship goes on).

When I’m reading folklore, I am often looking less to the specific structure or creature at hand, and more to what the story can tell me about the society that tells it, so when a Korean tale speaks of a wife whose “heart was as fine as brocade” I’m contrasting that with the American idea of someone having “a heart of gold.” That speaks to the values of the society in some interesting ways. So even if you’re not employing a specific fairytale concept, reading these stories can be a great way to think more deeply about the worlds that we build.

SummeroftheMariposasM.K. Hutchins
Shoot. I just want everything. I keep hoping that the writer and artist for The Fox Sister will be able to continue her webcomic. I burned through the entire archive in a day, not realizing it was on hiatus and I should have rationed myself.

I’m waiting for the sequel to The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed and the next book in The Chronicles of Sword and Sand by Howard Andrew Jones. I periodically check Goodreads to see if Yangsze Choo has a new novel out, because The Ghost Bride was amazing. Holes by Louis Sachar felt like a brand-new fairy-tall-tale-myth, and I loved that, too. Guadalupe Garcia McCall mashed up the story of the Odyssey and a number of figures from Mexican folklore when she wrote The Summer of the Mariposas, which was also fantastic. Chupacabras!

Modern-day retellings, secondary-world fantasy retellings, mash-ups, brand-new legends and things that feel like a retelling of something that should have been in Arabian Nights and wasn’t — yes, please, I’ll take them all. And somewhere in there, it’s always fascinating and fun to go back and read the originals.

Paul BunyanGuest: Mark Finn
This question is a double-edged sword, because it speaks to my personal bias about mythology: I think we tend to use, or over-use, certain myths and monsters, not because they are close to us, but rather because they are familiar and comforting. I mean, how many of us are actually Greek? And yet, I’ve got Greek and Roman gods all over the place in my novels and stories. In a Jungian, collective consciousness kind of way, that’s all well and good. But I’m half Czech on my mother’s side and I’ve never written a story invoking any of those traditions.

I think I’d like to see a more nuanced approach to using myths and legends in fiction. For example, how many of us Americans have ever looked at our country’s cultural heritage? I’m speaking of the tall tale figures like Bigfoot Wallace and Paul Bunyan, but Native American heritage is just as fascinating to me and a lot closer to home. We should be able to speak to it with some authority, and if not, then why not? The gods and goddesses of old are simply one big metaphor anyway, so I see no problem with being a little more egalitarian in our choices.

BIO: Mark Finn is an author, actor, essayist, and playwright. He is recognized as an authority on the Texas author Robert E. Howard and has written extensively on that subject. His biography, Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, was nominated for a World Fantasy award in 2007 and is now available in an updated and expanded second edition. When he is not kvetching on the Internet, he writes comics and fiction, dabbles in magic, and produces and performs community theater. He lives in North Texas with his long-suffering wife, too many books, and an affable pit bull named Sonya.

Vectors: Our Favorite Robots

This week we confront a fun scifi trope and ask, “”What/who is your favorite robot/android in scifi?”

Tex Thompson
One of the things I like best about robots and AI is that these days, there’s one for every purpose: they can be fussy, benevolent, heroic, homicidal, or just sit in a darkened movie theater and thelmathrow wisecracks at the screen. 2014 was an especially great year, as we got not only the huggable Baymax, but also Interstellar‘s scene-stealing TARS, who is fantastic for all sorts of reasons.

Still, my softest of spots is for Thelma, from a 90’s Nickelodeon show called Space Cases. (Think Voyager, with an alien ship and a crew full of teenagers – including the future Kaylee Frye.) She was the android they found on the ship, whose memory chip was damaged when one of the kids stepped on it- and as a result, she was ‘not quite right’. It was a useful plot contrivance, for sure: she could give the crew some useful information, but not enough to completely solve the given problem or ruin the mystery of the ship’s origins. More than that, though, Anik Matern played her as this peppy, pleasant, “cheerfully broken” soul – a little bit Amelia Bedelia, a little bit Harley Quinn – whose penchant for misunderstandings and well-meaning failures didn’t prevent her from being an important, valued member of the crew. Flawed, lovable, non-sexualized women are a perennial favorite of mine (and still far too thin on the ground) – so while Thelma was technically artificial, she was also incredibly real.

Guest: Aaron Rosenberg
My favorite android in SF? That’s actually a pretty easy one. He’s melodramatic, angsty, whiny, and terribly British—and it’s not C3-PO! It’s Marvin the Paranoid Android, from Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Part of that is because I imprinted young—I was in junior high when a friend introduced me to Marvin via the 1981 BBC TV series, and then immediately loaned me the books so I could read it in more detail. But Marvin’s also just a fun character. Too often androids are made out to be “better than human,” basically perfect in every way—at least until they malfunction and try killing everyone. Marvin wasn’t better. He also wasn’t perfect—he was obviously, outrageously flawed. But that only made him more believable as a character, and more sympathetic. Of course Hitchhiker’s is comedy, so things are played up for laughs, but the idea that flawed characters are both more realistic and more interesting than “perfect” ones has been and continues to be true today.

A close second for me, by the way, is Marvin’s spiritual successor, Kryten from the Red Dwarf series. I guess I just really like funny, snarky androids with oddly shaped heads.

Bio: Aaron Rosenberg is the author of the bestselling SF comedy series The Adventures of DuckBob Spinowitz (No Small Bills, Too Small for Tall, and Three Small Coinkydinks), which does not include a single android but does feature a man with the head of a duck. Aaron also writes the Dread Remora space-opera series and, with David Niall Wilson, the O.C.L.T. occult thriller series. He has written for Star Trek, StarCraft, WarCraft, Warhammer, Eureka, and other franchises, and also writes children’s books, educational books, and roleplaying games. Aaron is a founding member of Crazy 8 Press, and lives in New York with his family. You can find him online, on Facebook, and on Twitter as @gryphonrose.

Steve Bein
R2 makes my compooter workTough choice! The first to leap to mind are R2D2 and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

True story: so I just typed that sentence, then looked away from the monitor deep in thought, and lo and behold, I saw the R2D2 USB hub sitting right here on my desk. I guess that means R2 wins.

Marvin is hilarious, but R2 is practical. He helps me get along with all the electronics in my office — no mean feat, as I am the very opposite of a computer geek. (Another true story: I’m writing this on a computer I purchased in 2004.) In truth, I can’t even remember why I need a USB hub in the first place. I bought it because my partner of 18 years, who is also my tech support, told me I needed one.

So now R2 is the reason I can print stuff. (Among other things, I’m sure.) May the Force be with him.

M.K. Hutchins
DataTNGI grew up watching Star Trek:TNG. Reading this question, I can think of little else but Data dealing poker, Data with his cat, or Data singing about searching for lifeforms. Data is really at the heart of TNG, in my opinion. He embodies the question of what it means to be human. I think the writers and the actor did a marvelous job of making him relatable and sympathetic while also making him different from his warm-blooded companions.

Beth Cato

gonkThere are so many great droids. I love Data and R2-D2 and so many others, but I have to call out one that doesn’t get enough love these days: Gonk.

Gonk, you say? What is Gonk? Let me tell you of our power droid savior.

Gonks first made an appearance on the sandcrawler in Star Wars Episode IV. They look like big rectangular trash cans that say “gonk” as they walk around. They have cameos throughout the movies and lots of related media. “Gonk” was a fan name that became official in the 1990s, with toys and such now bearing the name.

I first discovered Gonk in the wee days of home internet, thereabouts of 1995. I prowled around on various Star Wars boards and became aware of the Cult of Gonk, which believed the droid was almost like a god-like figure within Star Wars. I was amused and delighted, as was my brother.

So there you go. Now you know about Gonk. Rectangular trashcans will never be the same to you again.

Guest: A. Lee Martinez
robotMy favorite robot in sci fi would probably be The Robot from that classic TV show Lost in Space. Yes, the show is goofy, cheap, full of contrived plots and broad characterizations. Why the Robinsons didn’t just eject Dr. Smith into the cold void of space is a mystery, but that’s a topic for another day.

I love The Robot (as he was always called) because he actually had a surprisingly subtle character arc. This was because The Robot became a surprise favorite of the audience. Like Stephen Urkel, but without the creepy stalker vibe that we didn’t seem to notice back then. Initially, a villain in the service of Dr. Smith, The Robot eventually became a loyal friend to the Robinson family. He became smarter, more sarcastic, and surprisingly sly. All while waving his arms around wildly and using that same monotone voice.

He’s not just my favorite Robot in sci fi. He’s one of my favorite characters of all time, and I make no apology for that. The Robot is awesome, and I wouldn’t mind being marooned in the depths of a pitiless universe if I could have him by my side. Heck, I’d even tolerate Dr. Smith for a while. At least until that unfortunate “airlock accident” came along.

Bio: A. Lee Martinez is the author of books such as The Automatic Detective and Emperor Mollusk vs. The Sinister Brain. His website is aleemartinez.com.

Fran Wilde
1. Boomer.
2. The Iron Giant.
3. Wall-e.
4. Mars rovers. They’re not fictional, but we dreamed them before we made them real.

Lawrence M. Schoen
As I’ve probably mentioned before, I have a hard time picking favorites. In this instance I have to give you two, one from my childhood, and one that appeals more to my adult sensibility.

In 1964, I was five years old, and along with Speed Racer, the big animated import from Japan was Gigantor. Here was this huge and powerful robot whose every action was dictated by a 12-year old boy using a remote controller, fighting to make the world a better place.

And let’s not forget the theme song:

Gigantor the space aged robot,
He’s at your command.
Gigantor the space aged robot,
His power is in your hand.

Bigger than big, taller than tall,
Quicker than quick, stronger than strong.
Ready to fight for right, against wrong!

klaatu-300x225The semantic possibilities raised by those lyrics alone were probably enough to set my literal-minded younger self on fire!

But for a more adult choice, I have to go with Gort, the robotic companion of Klaatu in the 1951 film classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

I like the irony of a robot protector who, on the one hand is there as part of a mission of peace, but who is empowered and ready to reduce our planet “to a burned out cinder” (and it would have too, if not for the actions of an Earth woman uttering those three little words Klaatu barada nikto.

Yeah, they just don’t build ’em like Gort any more.

Vectors: Favorite romances

Valentine’s Day is this weekend. With romance on our minds, we confront the question, What’s your favorite romantic couple in genre fiction/comics/movies?

Steve Bein
I’m not a big romance guy, so I guess if I were really going to get into a love story, it would have to be a wanna-be samurai super-mutant’s love story.  That, or a love story set on the coolest spaceship ever, or else the story of a very unsexy human getting it on with a very sexy alien who happens to have a giant beetle for a head.

han leia babySo that said, I think I’ll answer for all three categories.

In movies, Han and Leia.  That one’s easy.  (And props to Kidt82 for this awesome old-timey photo of Han, Leia, and one seriously ugly baby.)
logankillsmariko
In comics, it’s got to be Logan and Mariko.  (I like that one so well that I named the protagonist of my trilogy after Logan’s Mariko.)  I love the way these two are drawn together yet constantly pushed apart.  I don’t know what it says about me that I like that, but if it had been up to me to write the expanded universe Star Wars stuff, Han and Leia would never have gotten together either.  Despite his best efforts, Han would remain Solo, and Leia definitely wouldn’t settle down to raise kids.  She’s an ass-kicker; I’d have her running around the galaxy kicking ass.

lin khepriIn genre fiction, I’m going to go with a really weird choice: Lin the khepri and Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin from PERDIDO STREET STATION.  I’ve written about their amazing relationship in more detail elsewhere, so here I’ll just give you a brief sketch.  Isaac is an Edison-like genius with a blimp-like physique. Lin looks like a very sexy naked human woman, except her skin is bright red and she has a giant beetle for a head.  Not a beetle’s head; a beetle for a head, like with legs and everything.

Again, I don’t know what it says about me that these are the love stories I like.  There’s something inherently interesting about people who seem like they shouldn’t be together, and who have to overcome a lot just to stay together.  But that describes Romeo and Juliet just as well as Isaac and Lin, and no one needs to invent words like headbody and headlegs.  So yeah, I guess you could say it’s a good thing that Hallmark never hired me to write Valentine’s Day cards.

E.C. Ambrose
LordoftheRingsI’m going to say Aragorn and Eowyn, from the Lord of the Rings, which later evolves into Eowyn and Faramir. She is a lady of courage and strength, clearly worthy of a king, but the king’s heart is already claimed by another. I really enjoyed the delicate way that Tolkien establishes both relationships, and I think that we can all relate to having fallen for someone who’s just not available.

It is both her courage and her grief that sends Eowyn onto the battlefield, where she proves herself as heroic as any man, and nearly dies in the act. When she wakes in the Houses of Healing, she is recovering not only from her injuries, but also from her broken heart–and finds Faramir there beside her, on a similar journey.

And yes, I had that passage read at my wedding. Didn’t you?

M.K. Hutchins
Luthien and Beren, from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. The story itself is epic enough — Beren sets out on a quest to win Luthien’s hand, gets captured by Sauron, and then Luthien rescues him. Together they face Melkor (Sauron’s boss). Beren dies completing the quest and Luthien dies of grief soon thereafter. Then she convinces the gatekeeper of death to restore herself and Beren to life (she’s amazing like that).Tolkien's_grave

But I love this story because of its history. The character of Luthien was inspired by Edith, Tolkien’s wife:”She was (and knew she was) my Luthien.” When I read this story, I don’t just imagine lofty elves and mighty men. I see a lifetime of love, from two orphaned teenagers taking bike rides together to an old couple, hand-in-hand. Beren was a mortal man, and the immortal, eternally graceful Luthien loved him, saved him, and chose to stay with him.

J. Kathleen Cheney
GoblinMoonSeramarias Vorder and Lord Francis Skelbrooke

This duo appears in two books by one of my favorite writers of fantasy, Teresa Edgerton. The two books in which they appear, Goblin Moon and The Gnome’s Engine, came out in the early 90s. Although the author is in the process of reissuing them as ebooks, only the first is available, under the title Mask and Dagger 1: Goblin Moon.

The setting on this is similar to the Georgian Era, although with magic, and our heroine, Sera, is certain that she’s making all the right decisions in her life. Enter Francis Skelbrook, the mysterious gentleman who seems intent on undermining her. Through the books we’re left to wonder whether Francis is, as one reviewer aptly put it, “either a very bad good man, or a very good bad man.” Sera gets a reasonable grasp on that question throughout the process of the two books, wrapping up in an ending that I just found….well, perfect.

This is one of the rare series that I want to have on my kindle, specifically so that if I’m standing in line or taveling on a plane I can whip out a device and dive into that story. It will always be one of my favorite Fantasy romances, and I cannot praise it enough…especially for those fans of Heyer out there!

Beth Cato
UrbanShamanI’ve given this question a lot of thought but I keep coming back to two couples. Within fiction, I adore Joanne and Morrison in C.E. Murphy’s Walker Papers series. I’m pretty picky about the romances I like–especially within the romance genre–because I can’t stand alpha males. Jo and Morrison’s chemistry is there from the start, but Morrison is police chief over Jo. There are clear lines of propriety; Morrison is just plain a good, chivalrous guy. Their banter feels real, and the chemistry grows book by book. Jo copes with all kinds of supernatural mayhem as her role as shaman forces her straight-laced boss to become a believer, too.

Within movies? Han and Leia. It’s great because there is so much said in so little. It tickles me to see that there’s a whole line of merchandise that says “I love you” “I know” at places like Think Geek.

Fran Wilde
1.
2. Nahadoth and Yeine
3. Hermoine and whoever she darn well pleases.
4.
5. Molly Millions and Johnny Mnemonic, from the story in Gibson’s Burning Chrome, not the movie.
6. Agrees with Steve on Perdido St. Station.

Vectors: Our Favorite Parts of the Writing Process

This week we answer the question: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Disciple of the Wind by Steve BeinSteve Bein
Hm. I think I have to say the writing itself.

I have to start with “hm” because so much of the creative process is frustrating and painful. I am reminded of the guy who bangs his head on the wall for an hour because it feels so good when he stops.

The hardest part for me is figuring out what it is I’m going to write about. I’m a plotter, not a pantser, and I’m a philosopher, not a writer by training. I start with the ideas I want to play with, but ideas don’t have any characters, worlds, or plot devices built into them. They’re naked. It takes a long time for me to figure out how to transmute the ideas into stories—months, usually, and sometimes years.

So that’s the head banging part. At the end I’ve run a bunch of pens dry and I’ve got a stack of quasi-legible, largely disorganized notebooks. I also have a cast of characters, and most important of all, I have a detailed outline.

Then it’s off to the races. Once I can see where I need to go, the writing itself is a lot of fun. I love it when characters surprise me. I often indulge them, and let them take me far off the path, sometimes into much more interesting scenes than I’d planned for in the outline. I’ll take writing over watching TV any day, and I think what I get out of writing is about the same as what people get out of playing video games. I’d do it every day if I could.

Seriously Wicked by Tina ConnollyTina Connolly
My most favorite thing is revision. This includes work done on the 1st draft (About 75% of the time, I am very fond of the part where you stop and muddle out more plot, and refine what you’ve got, and revise the world) as well as all subsequent drafts. I love editing on a line by line level (it takes me forever to send an email somedays) and I love looking at the big picture and tweaking things to make it fall into place.

I loathe putting down words for the first time. I’m a somewhat slow first drafter, and I sit and think about all the worldbuilding things while I’m putting down a single sentence. I know, I know, there’s plenty of good advice about how not to do this, but while writing the first draft there’s so much I don’t know yet, that I often have to start by just putting some words down and seeing what they look like.

It turns out that, probably because I love working with half-formed stuff, that I’m actually quite fond of plotting out sequels. If I’ve already got a world and characters and a general idea of the sort of stories that I tell in that world…it is SUPER FUN to arrange them in new configurations. I could do that all day. But unfortunately, there still comes a time when you have to put down the actual words to make them into a first draft…

Grace_of_Kings_cover_blogKen Liu
My favorite part of the process is the first major revision pass, the pass that I call “going from draft -1 to draft 0.” This is a time when the story still feels new and fresh in my head, and when the possibility of actually making something as good as the vision in my head seems achievable. Nothing is settled: entire new subplots can be added in, I’m still learning new things about my characters, and I’m not in love with any of the words I’ve written so anything is negotiable.

There are things I like about stages of the process both before and after this one, but if I had to pick, I would pick this stage, the stage of magic.

Clockwork DaggerBeth Cato
I hate rough drafts. Yes, I’m allowed to say that as a writer. I’m very OCD (not bandying-about the term–an actual diagnosis) and rough drafts spur my anxiety, big time. I have a strong sense of “there’s something wrong wrong WRONG I must fix it but I need to finish the draft first MUST FIX.” People have wondered how I write rough drafts so quickly, like when I did The Clockwork Crown‘s 83,000-word first draft in 31 days. That was an anxiety-driven race. My husband says I become a different person when I work like that. I’ll let you insert the adjectives on what kind of person.

Once I start to revise, I feel better. I’m actively plugging the holes. I get worried again when it comes time for critique feedback because I know there are still problems I can’t see, and I really admire and respect my first readers, and I hate to look stupid. Once I delve into their advice (and this often involves working up the nerve for a few days) I enter my favorite stage: when things are almost there. The story is structurally sound, the characters are fleshing out, and it reads like a story should. The broken thing is fixed and shiny.

Elisha_Magus(1)E.C. Ambrose
I am stunned and amazed to see how many people actually *like* the revision phase. Ugh! But maybe someday we should do some collaborative novels and pair up those of us who are drafters, with those who are revisers and see how we do!

For me, it’s the first draft. Taking the ideas and characters I’ve been creating and spinning their yarn onto the page. This is when I really get to know them, making discoveries, having adventures, obsessing about what will happen next, and thinking up terrible things to do to them. It’s brilliant fun, and totally absorbing.

To me, this has always been the heart of writing–creating the story from beginning to end. Not the idea, or even the outline, which is merely the logical extension of the idea, but when that idea becomes substance, becomes a thing that readers can experience, with all the sensory detail and emotional investment I imagine when I’m in the dreamtime.

Fran WildeFran Wilde
Well, I *used* to love revision, but now that I’m neck-deep in a revision, I love first drafts and **finishing**. I’m the queen of grass-is-always-greener writing.

For real, my favorite part of the writing process is when everything goes ‘CLICK’: that moment when I’ve been wrestling with a concept, a voice, or a scene and suddenly everything shifts — I realize this character wants to do A, not B; this scene needs to go this way, not that. Then I look at my work and realize the story’s known what I was supposed to do all along, and was just waiting for me to get it. The click can hit at any point during the process and is glee-making. That’s my favorite part.

Drift by M.K. HutchinsM.K. Hutchins
I love worldbuilding — the research, the jotting down of cool ideas, tossing two ideas together, brainstorming out the ramifications of technology or magic or setting. Super-fun.

And I’m also one who loves revisions. After a first draft, I have a much better idea of what I want to do. Then I can finally cut and sculpt to tell the story I know I want to tell. First drafts can be painful, because I’m still figuring out the story.

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen
I’ve just finished responding to the copyedits of my next novel, and that may be biasing my answer, but I have to say it was at one and the same time a terrifying and giddy experience.

The terrifying part (at least for me) stems from the uncertainty when first looking at page after page of notes and comments and corrections. Is the copyeditor going to find huge, gaping holes, or embarrassing bits of grammatical flaws, or perhaps just not get the point of the book or the voice and style.

The giddying part though (again, at least for me) is seeing how someone new responds to the book, and realizing how the copyedits actually improve the reading experience and make me look damn clever!