Monthly Archives: February 2014

Vectors: What does your workspace look like?

This week, we asked folks what their writing workspace looks like. The responses are as varied as you might imagine. What does your workspace look like?

tina_connolly-300x450Tina Conolly: So I just this second turned in a book to my editor (Silverblind) and I always like to celebrate with a good house-cleaning. Which is a way of saying that, until that happens, my desk is unpardonably messy right now with things one is not supposed to put on the internet, like tax documents and bank statements and things. So here’s a picture from when we moved in almost two years ago.

The house is a fixer, a beautiful old 40’s house on a hill. Good bones. Very nearly one owner (long story.) Long ago they made an addition over the garage–a wood-panelled room with built-in bookcases. It was used as the conservatory–it had a piano and an organ in it when we toured the house. Now, of course, it’s a library–and one corner is my study.

2012-03-06-60-boxes-of-books

We worked on the house for three months before we moved in, just getting some basics out of the way. During that time we slowly packed up the old house and brought things over. Here’s 67 bankers’ boxes worth of books–stacked two deep on the top shelves, and three deep on the bottom ones. Now, of course, the 14 other bookcases have come over, so the books can be in single file.

My desk is opposite this, on a corner window high over the street. This is Portland, so my view is full of trees–our fig tree, for one, and tons of giant evergreens. I’ve had my desk as long as I can remember. It was my dad’s when he was little. For awhile desktop monitors were so huge, you know, that I had to use a different desk with a keyboard drawer. But now I’m back to this one, and the keyboard just sits on top. But the best feature as far as I’m concerned is that it has two boards that pull out to make more writing surface, one on each side. I suppose you’re supposed to use them for signing official documents. When I was little I closed them up and hid papers in there. Now I mostly use them for elbow rests and to-do lists. But I love them.



BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato: When I read this topic, my first thought was, “Oh no. Now I have to clean.” See, I’m in the middle of work on a new book. I’m doing basic clean-up stuff around the house, but my desk is a low priority right now. It tends to get really cluttered when I’m in a big project.

After a few days, I realized that the desk wasn’t going to get cleaned, so I may as well upload an honest, revealing picture of my desk. So here it is, complete with captions to explain some things.

Beth-desk-caption

I’m also including a picture of what I see if I turn around. My cat Porom has slept in this Amazon box to the point of its total structural failure. The print on the label has even worn off. Plus, books! Lots of books. I have four Billy bookcases from Ikea loaded with books and then my to-read shelf overflows into seven stacks on the floor. I  might have a book collecting compulsion. Beth-cat1-caption



Tex ThompsonTex Thompson: Well, my setup is primarily a product of my ongoing challenges with time and weight management.  I use a standing desk (Elfa shelving, what what!) with a piece of showerboard behind it as my calendar.  For me, the calendar is less about what I’m going to do than what I actually DID.  I color-code with dry-erase markers (green for day-job stuff, red for writing stuff, blue for responsible earth-human chore-y stuff, etc.) so I can see about where my time is going.  There’s another whiteboard in the kitchen where I keep my to-do list, so I stay accountable for the specifics.

Oh, and that’s Senior Secretary Peaches up in the crow’s nest there.  She sucks at dictation and filing, but makes a great sounding board during brainstorming time.  I guess she’s more of an “ideas” cat.
texdesk



Steve BeinSteve Bein: This is a faithful Lego representation of my desk, and also of my penchant for aloha shirts.  It doesn’t look much like my office — I would never paint my walls the color of Simpson skin — but that doesn’t matter, since I don’t always write in my office. The only important feature of my writing space is silence.

Nietzsche was dead right when he said, “Noise murders thought.”  When I have silence, nothing else about the physical space matters.  I can get so lost in the work that I forget to eat.

But introduce any human noise and I can hardly complete a sentence.  I’m envious of people who can sit in a coffee shop and get something done.  I’ve never been that guy.

Steve, when work is going well.

Steve, when work is going well.

Steve, when the writing is not going well.

Steve, when the writing is not going well.

 

 

 

 

 

 






J. Kathleen CheneyJ.Kathleen Cheney : I have a lovely office on the second floor of my house, but my dogs keep me running up and down the stairs, so for the last few years, I’ve worked most days at the island in my kitchen.  I have a bland view of the fridge and the stove which isn’t very inspiring.  I had hoped to find a shared workspace in my town, but haven’t turned one up.  And despite being willing to try the public library, I feel guilty working there.

So on certain days, I sneak off to my Office Away from Office, The Old School Bagel Cafe.  For the price of a bagel and a coffee, I can stay there as long as I want and work in relative quiet.  (I don’t actually have to purchase the bagel, but I usually do, and I always round up to 5 dollars for the tip.)

Old School Bagel Cafe

The Bagel Cafe gives me a place to work with unending coffee prepared by someone other than me.  My dogs can’t disturb me there, meaning I have unbroken work time.  And I can’t get distracted by all the housework that I know needs to be done like I do at home.  All for a measly 5 dollars a visit.  That’s less than I’d pay at a shared workspace, and is only charged on days that I go there.  So it’s definitely worth it.



Lawrence SchoenLawrence Schoen: I have a perfectly wonderful office in my house where I can work. It has a big glass L-shaped desk with lots of office supplies. There’s a wall of bookshelves behind me. There’s a chair opposite the desk where a visitor can sit and distract me. There’s a comfy sofa where I can take a nap or lay back with my laptop and work while reclining. The office has high-speed internet and a good printer and often as not my dog will come and sit on the floor alongside me while I work.

Alas, more often than not, I don’t write in my office.
Part of the reason is because I like the experience of leaving the house to write. That’s probably the truth, but it’s not the “explanation” that I normally give. Instead, I blame my wife’s dog, Sugar, a very sweet, long-haired chihuahua. In contrast, my dog is a mutt, and he’ll be turning five this summer. Sugar is very old, mostly deaf, has bladder issues, and apparently sees ghosts. The ghost thing is the best explanation I can come up with for why she will just stand there barking at nothing and no one. Gej (my dog, the good dog) just stares at her with the canine equivalent of WTF? And she keeps it up. Bark. Bark bark. Bark bark bark barkity bark bark bark. Bark. On and on without tiring, pausing for not reason only to start up again a few minutes later. Ghosts. So I toss the laptop into a bag and I head out for somewhere quieter to work.
Usually, that’s a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hey, don’t judge me.
KFC-Colonel
They know me there. They take care of me. They don’t blink when I refill my drink thirty times, or when after I eat my meal I sit at that same table for another three hours and write. Most of my forthcoming novel Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard was written in that KFC. And yes, they will get a mention in the acknowledgments. That might even be good for a free bucket of chicken.
Hmm… maybe Sugar is barking at the ghost of Colonel Sanders… That would explain everything!


Fran2014Fran Wilde: Part of my writing space, annotated. The rest is a couch-bed-coffeeshop quantum space, plus several walls filled with notecards.

myDesk14annotated

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MK Hutchins

M.K. Hutchins:

When I was fifteen or so, I asked my parents for a desk for Christmas. I wanted one with a built-in filing cabinet to store writing in. At the time, I was writing on my mom’s old electric typewriter from college, something I’d ransacked from a dusty storage box.

And that’s still the desk I have today. It’s in the main room of our apartment, along with two other computers, all wired together for family Minecraft parties. It’s not a particularly quiet place to work, but I’m oddly acclimatized to that. On the rare occasions I’m entirely alone, the silence makes it impossible to concentrate.HutchinsDesk

The monkey sitting on top of my Tolkien section? From 7th-grade home economics class. The bookcase? Yeah, we built that. I love it. And the flowers? Those are the remnants of all the flowers my husband’s ever gotten me. They’ve made it through more moves than I care to count.

It’s not particularly organized (this is the cleaned-up version), but I’m surrounded by books. That makes it a happy place.

Cover Reveal: DRIFT by M.K. Hutchins

Drift by M.K. Hutchins

M.K. Hutchins:
I love the font, the bubbles, the rich colors, the huge scale of the turtle. Making a cover is a process, one I happily got to be involved in. Over at the Lee & Low blog, my editor talks about the various concepts that came before the final cover. I’m excited to see the final book — the turtle/island wraps around to the back cover.

Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. His island, a massive Turtle, is slowed by the people living on its back. Only those poor enough to need children to support themselves in old age condescend to the shame of marriage. Tenjat is poor as poor gets, but he has a plan.

In the center of the island rises a giant Tree, where the Handlers—those who defend and rule the island—live. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. He couldn’t have picked a more dangerous time. The Turtle is nearing a coral reef where it desperately needs to feed, but the naga will swarm just before they reach it. Even novices like Tenjat are needed for the battle.

Can Tenjat discover his sister’s secrets in time? Will the possibility of love derail all his plans for a richer, marriage-free life? Long-held secrets will at last be revealed in this breathtaking debut from M. K. Hutchins.

Find it on Goodreads

Cover Reveal: Tina Connolly with SILVERBLIND

tina_connolly-300x450I’m so thrilled to show off the cover for the third Ironskin book! I
have loved all these covers and this one is no exception. I love how
fierce Dorie looks, and I love the colors that the artist, Larry
Rostant, used. It absolutely fits my conception of Dorie tromping
around in a forest, tangling with silvertail wyverns. Here’s the
synopsis for you, and the book comes out from Tor on Oct 7, 2014!

silverblind

18 years later . . .

Dorie Rochart has been hiding her fey side for a long time. Now,
finished with University, she plans to study magical creatures and
plants in the wild, bringing long-forgotten cures to those in need.
But when no one will hire a girl to fight basilisks, she releases her
shapechanging fey powers–to disguise herself as a boy.

While hunting for wyvern eggs, she saves a young scientist who’s about
to get steamed by a silvertail– and finds her childhood friend Tam
Grimsby, to whom she hasn’t spoken in seven years. Not since she
traded him to the fey. She can’t bear to tell him who she really is,
but every day grows harder as he comes to trust her.

The wyverns are being hunted to extinction for the powerful compounds
in their eggs. The fey are dying out as humans grow in power. Now Tam
and Dorie will have to decide which side they will fight for. And if
they end up on opposite sides, can their returning friendship survive?

Find it on Amazon.

More information on my website.

Cover Reveal: Steve Bein with DISCIPLE OF THE WIND

I must say I am thrilled with the cover for Disciple of the Wind, the third novel of the Fated Blades. This is the third kick-ass cover in a row from Christian McGrath. I could not be happier with it. I count myself extraordinarily lucky to have drawn Chris for my cover artist — not only because he’s great, but because he visits Japan on a regular basis. He gets the visual culture, which really shows through on these covers.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Vectors: Writing Time

This week we address one of those constant conundrums for writers. “How do you find time to write and keep up with all your other activities?”

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney

This is a thorny question. I’m both a very slow writer and not as good at time management as I should be.

I’m currently a homemaker with no social life. Despite that, I still struggle at times. While you might not think that being a homemaker is a real job, it is. And worse, if you set that job aside to write at home, the evidence of your choice is all around you all the time. Floors don’t get cleaned, dishes don’t get washed, dogs don’t get walked…and you can see that lack. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I’ll just take a few minutes off writing to vacuum the living room; it really needs to be done. I’ll just take a few minutes to clean out the fridge…paint the baseboards…trim the hedges…go buy some groceries.” It’s easy to lose all your writing time that way.

So that’s one of the things I’m working on this year. Trying to get my home demands under control and still set aside time to write. I’m also planning to stay off the internet more. (That’s one reason that I sometimes work at the bagel shop…no internet there, and no chores to be done.) I’m hoping that I’ll manage to write a bit more this year….or at least a bit more efficiently!

E.C. AmbroseE. C. Ambrose

Here’s the most valuable thing I know about time: nobody’s ever going to give you more of it. You don’t “make” time, you take it–from something else. Many writers take it from sleep, by getting up an hour earlier before the kids or the day job. It’s definitely a juggling act if you’ve got all that going on. So the question is, where will you be able to take the time you need? Best thing I ever did for my writing time was not getting cable installed. With a house in a tricky location for broadcast tv, I basically couldn’t watch television for years. Now, I don’t even miss it. But I know writers who are addicted to some show, or who think they’ll just sit and chill for a little while before they write, and don’t get up for three hours. . .

Take it from a hobby or another outside pursuit. Take it from your lunchbreak or downtime at work by bringing your file along (if you’re allowed to do this at work). Take it from your commute by riding the train and writing at the same time, or by listening to research material and relevant lectures as audiobooks. Take it from dinner preparation by ordering meals for delivery a couple of times a week, or delegating that task to other adults or responsible kids. Do a workout at home instead of driving to the gym, and use the extra minutes. Shave a few minutes off of various parts of your day and you can accumulate whole hours sometimes!

The bottom line is, take it whenever you bloody well can. If you can swipe fifteen minutes, write for fifteen minutes. Maybe you don’t get into the flow–but then again, maybe you retrain your recalcitrant imagination to flow when *you* say so. You only get 24 hours a day no matter what, and you don’t know how many days you’ll have. Some of those hours are claimed by other responsibilities, sure. But many of them are still up to you. Become aware when you are making a choice to do something when you could be using that time to write. You may not always choose to write–but you need to know that you *are* making a choice, and you could be making a different one.

//rant over//

Steve BeinSteve Bein

I’ll start by saying something that won’t make me popular with a lot of writers: it’s really not that hard to make room for writing.

I’ll defend that claim in more detail elsewhere, but the short of it is this: as extracurricular activities go, writing isn’t needy. It’s cheap. It’s low tech. You don’t need teammates or exotic equipment or rehearsal space. I find it much harder to carve out time for jiujitsu than writing.

One thing is certain: you’re not going to find time for writing. As E.C. Ambrose just pointed out, you’re not going to make time for it either. There is no time to be found or made anywhere. There are time thieves—hordes of them—but it turns out they never steal time from you. You hand it over.

Children are notoriously greedy time thieves, and the wise writer would do well to steer clear of them. Ditto for employers, friends, family, worldly possessions, and bodily needs. The ideal writing space is the noumenal realm of the disembodied mind.

Unfortunately, the commute to there is a motherfucker.

So barring out-of-body experiences, all you can do is avoid known time thief hideouts. In my own case, it really helps that I don’t like being advertised to. That made me divorce my television. All of a sudden I had loads of time.

It also helps to make to-do lists and stick to them. And to have a job that leaves you feeling energized instead of exhausted. And to dislike shopping. And to not care about the Olympics. And to be a lousy cook, so you only eat simple things, so you don’t waste time in the kitchen. And to be a Cubs fan, so you’re completely inured to disappointment, so you’ll never waste time moping when you collect your latest rejection letter.

See? Easy.

M.K. HutchinsMK Hutchins

Setting goals is huge for me. I’ve always responded well to these.

I have a standing goal of at least one new book a year, which I’ve kept for the past five years. This year I think I’ll hit two. Right now, my daily wordcount goal is only a hundred words a day. Even when I’m tired or exhausted or sick, a hundred words sounds so easy, of course I can do that!

And then I sit down and write every day. For me, I think those first few sentence on the blank page are often the hardest. I never end anywhere near a hundred words. Five hundred, a thousand, three thousand…

And if there’s a day where life stuff intervenes and I only write 100 words, that’s fine. The rest of my life is important, too. One hundred words isn’t a lot, but I consider practicing the fine art of just sitting down and writing to be invaluable. For me, practicing has made this easier, and I can often make the most of the sporadic bits of time I do have instead of wishing and waiting for the perfect, quiet afternoon.

Beth Cato

Beth CatoWriting is my day job. I’m not one of those people who can write in a place like Starbucks; the idea of writing while surrounded by people simply appalls me. Therefore, I need to write at home, even though there are abundant distractions there. The internet is evil–the little beeps of Twitter alerts (I really need to shut that sound off), new email notifications, the number alerts on Facebook, refreshing Codex forums… yeah. I’m distracted easily by the “OOH, SHINY” aspects of the internet. Don’t even get me started on that rabbit hole known as Pinterest.

It helps me a lot to have goals: monthly, weekly, daily. I write down what I do. I also try to establish the internet to be a little brain break for me if I reach a certain stage, like finishing a scene, a chapter, making a certain word count. On weekdays, my day is built around my son’s school schedule. I know I need to get as much done as possible before I fetch him, because after that the evening is a blur of supervising his homework, making supper, finding out how my husband’s day was, etc. The morning and early afternoon are my time.

It takes a lot of discipline, and some days are sure harder than others. If I don’t make my goals by evening, well, I have to hold myself accountable. My husband has season tickets for the Phoenix Coyotes. He loves for me to go along to games. There have been many days recently where I’ve had to tell him, “Sorry. I have things to do.” I’ve had to say no to other invitations, too. I try to schedule medical appointments and house maintenance for times when I don’t expect a terrible work load (not that it always works out as I plan, since HarperCollins operates on a whole different schedule). I love using my crock pot for meals because it saves a lot of time and creates many leftovers. I’ve been waking up before dawn so I can exercise and get an early start on the day.

Sometimes I feel guilty or selfish because of how much time I need at the computer. It’s a tough balance with the wife/mother/daughter/friend roles, but it must be done. Writers gotta write.

Vectors: Favorite Aliens

This week the novelociraptors go scifi and explore the question, “What is your favorite alien race?”

Beth Cato

I first saw this question and thought, “Hey, this is easy.” Then I realized. “Uh, no it’s not.” There are so many aliens out there to choose from, and the stand-outs for me are in movies more so than books. I was raised on Star Wars–the words “Da Wars” were literally the second and third words I spoke as a baby–and always loved Admiral Ackbar and the Hammerhead in the Cantina and the Jawas.

FlightoftheNavigatorBut to pick a favorite, I’m going to go with something somewhat more obscure. There’s this ’80s movie Flight of the Navigator. I won’t spoil the whole thing if you’ve never seen it, but it has time travel, family drama, and a sentient spaceship. The ship is very formal at first but in the course of the movie it becomes humanized by exposure to an Earth kid. They end up with this very endearing relationship that’s largely based on respect. It’s deep stuff. The movie has actually aged pretty well, too.

As far as aliens go, I could also be all nostalgic for The Last Starfighter, though that hasn’t aged well at all. But I still love it. “I’ve always wanted to fight a desperate battle against incredible odds…”

Fran Wilde

I’m inclined to think of Mrs Whatsit and her friends from A Wrinkle in TimeA_Fire_Upon_the_Deep.bookcover as aliens or angels or a bit of both sometimes. They are wonderful.

Most of my favorite aliens are found in Vernor Vinge’s worlds: the Tines, the Skoderiders, and the Spiders, from A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. I don’t want to spoil someone’s own first encounters, so I’m only going to speak in generalities. In part, what entrances me is that each group is so beautifully conveyed on the page. I’m caught up in their communities, their means of connection and their politics, which are so very different from ours. With that, each group’s methods of communicating with the humans who are aliens on their worlds is fascinating. I love that there are as many “good” and “evil” “aliens” in Vinge as there are “good” and “evil” “humans”.

Michael R. Underwood

Favorite alien race? Do I have to choose just one? How can I pick the trifurcated Minbari over the grandiose conniving Centauri? Do I pick the symbiotic oankali of Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood over the endlessly creepy Xenomorphs of the Alien franchise?

There’s an endless supply of answers, so I’m going to focus on a weird species from one of my favorite Science Fiction stories of the last decade: the Mass Effect Trilogy.

Mass Effect has plenty of interesting races. The Krogan are an interesting tragic twist on the uplifted race of warriors, providing both Urdnot Wrex and Grunt, some of the most memorable characters of the series. The Asari were at times a bit too male sexual fantasy-ish for my taste, though I liked the SFinal work the series did with them being mono-gendered and enthusiastically exogamous in their partnering.

But the race I really want to talk about, due to their delightful weirdness, is the Elcor. Slow, methodical, and mighty, the Elcor evolved on a high-gravity planet, and communicate largely through scent, microexpressions, and subvocalized infrasound. This means that when they started communicating with other races, races that lacked their physiology were left taking Elcor speech as entirely flat, without affect.

Elcor ImageIn response, all of the Elcor you meet throughout the series have adopted a speech pattern that I found very interesting as a player and as an SF fan. They preface every line of dialogue with an emotive statement to provide context, in lieu of tone.

Example:
When an obstinate human threatens an Elcor bouncer, the Elcor says “With barely constrained menace: Try it.”

The kind of rich worldbuilding and thoughtful design that lead to the Elcor’s speech patterns help make them one of my favorite races in SF.

Steve Bein

So many choices! And so many favorites over the years!

At age four I’d have said wookiees. Nothing could have made me happier than having Chewbacca over for dinner. (Come to think of it, that might still be true.)

At age eleven I’d have said the Decepticons. They deserved to win.

At age thirteen I’d have said the aliens from Aliens. But only for a year. The next summer I would change my mind to the predator from Predator. Today it’s hard to decide. They’re both totally badass.

At twenty I’d have said the Vorlons from Babylon 5. That show is tied with Firefly for Least Appreciated Really Awesome Show, and the Vorlons were at the heart of what made it cool. You almost never get to see them. You only see the encounter suits they contain themselves in, because if you were to look at them directly, you’d think you were beholding a god. Oh, and their spaceships aren’t even spaceships; they’re living creatures, symbiotes to the Vorlons themselves. Wicked cool.
Chewbacca: property of Twentieth Century Fox/Lucasfilm
And today? I look back at this list and I see all my favorites are from TV and cinema, not from books. That’s a little disappointing. Then I start thinking about my favorite sci-fi books and I realize there are hardly any aliens in them. There are alien minds—Wintermute in Neuromancer, the Guild Navigators in Dune—but not many real live according-to-Hoyle extraterrestrials.

Hm.

Honestly, I didn’t know that about myself before I sat down to write this. Now I wonder what to make of it. Maybe it’s the philosopher in me: I seem to be more interested in unfamiliar thinking than unfamiliar anatomy.

Maybe. I’d still invite Chewbacca over for dinner.

Tina Connolly

Image from AmazonI don’t have much to add, but I wanted to throw in a vote for the little guys on the Mushroom Planet. I loved those books! I should try reading them to my currently space-obsessed preschooler after we finish Dr. Dolittle in the Moon. See how they hold up. … OMG, I just opened the first page of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet and the hero is reading Dr. Dolittle in the Moon. Great minds think alike, I guess!

Tex Thompson

Well, I’m one of those who was raised on a steady diet of Star Trek. I loved it. I did time for it (if you count detention in the 4th grade for reading during class time as incarceration, I mean). And one of the things you could count on in any Trek iteration was that there would always be an alien or two on the crew. There’s Mr. Spock, and his Vulcan issues. There’s Mr. Worf, and his Klingon issues. How charming!

Then came Deep Space Nine, and it blew. my. mind. I LOVED the Ferengi – at first just for the sake of having actual humor to break up all the war-scarred grit and gravity. What funny, ugly, greedy little people they were!Ferengi: image property of Star Trek and Paramount

But looking back on it, DS9 did something really remarkable with the Ferengi. I can’t think of any other Trek race that began as comic relief (and earlier, clownish villains-of-the-week) and then developed into a fully-realized, three-dimensional culture. And I think a huge part of that was having not one token Ferengi, but a whole family of fully-realized, three-dimensional Ferengi characters, whose struggles are affected by but not limited to the expectations of their society. There’s Quark, trying to reconcile his conscience with his ledger. There’s Rom, striving to be a good single father and something more than a bar-flunky. There’s Nog, shocking his family and risking everything to join Starfleet, and Moogie, with her scandalous, horrific desire to wear clothing, and Zek, whose shrewd leadership is increasingly hampered by his own advancing age.

In short, there is a terrific example of how we can leave behind the “These are the _____ and they’re basically all _____” model for crafting alien cultures – and still hold on to a good sense of humor.

E.C. Ambrose

LostSteerswomanMine would have to be the radially symmetric 4-limbed creatures in Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman’s Road series. Yeah, I know, I’ve talked about these books before, but the aliens are definitely one reason to read. They play a huge role in my favorite book of the series so far, The Lost Steersman, in which our heroine follows a friend’s map to the end of the known world and interacts with these creatures that had been entering and terrorizing small villages.

She performs an intriguing dissection, then works on entering their society, finding out that they have three different modes of communication, all of them quite striking. Don’t want to spoil it (because I want lots more people to read them!!) I think the creatures are simply called “demons,” from the perspective of the humans. These aliens are *really* alien and fascinating.

M.K. Hutchins

Favorite stories with aliens include Ender’s Game, “Buy Jupiter” by Asimov, and, more recently, “Neighbors” by Rob Butler. But I love those for reasons other than the aliens in them.
DS(9 logo from Wikipedia
I grew up on Star Trek — literally, my earliest memory is Klingons swinging bat’leths at each other. And Klingons are awesome. But my favorite are those big-eared Ferengi. Star Trek first used them as a stereotyped shorthand for hypocrites, liars, and swindlers, but in DS9, they got to speak for themselves as protagonists and heroes.

And they made unique, fascinating heroes. Quark showed his dedication to business contracts by hiring someone to assassinate himself because he’d erroneously sold his own vacuum desiccated remains. Nog and his bartering skills navigated the Great Material Continuum to get the USS Defiant the graviton stabilizer it needed — while helping a bunch of other people get stuff they wanted in the process. Who else in Star Fleet thinks like that? And let’s not forget an all-Ferengi team facing down the militant Jem’Hadar. Yeah. That’s good stuff. Instead of a caricature of greed, DS9 gave us a bunch of individuals navigating their Ferengi culture in different ways. Sweet.

Maybe I also loved them because for the first time, Star Trek had children present whose relationships with each other mattered. Watching Jake and Nog grow up together, while I was growing up myself, was pretty cool.

J. Kathleen Cheney
Sime-Gen
I’ve had to give this quite a bit of thought. It seems to me that my favorite aliens are…humans. Well, at least sort of human.

I loved the Sime-Gen Universe created by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, where one subspecies of human was dependent on the other. While both sides of that coin are human, they’ve diverged along the path somewhere from the humanity we know. (The Sime have tentacles on their forearms to suck out the Gens’ life energy.) The Liaden Universe of Steve Miller and Sharon Lee is another of my favorites. The Liaden are another subspecies of human who had long ago left Earth (maybe) behind to settle a planet called Liad, and didn’t look back.

Serpent’s Reach is, without doubt, my favorite novel by C. J Cherryh, and in it, there are three tiers of ‘human’…the aristocratic Kontrin, the normal Betas, and the cloned Azi who are essentially slaves. Although technically the Azi are human, they are programmed to serve. And while the backbone of the story is a political hotbed, the most interesting part to me was watching one of the Azi break his conditioning and step out into the greater world, realizing as he did so that he’d cut himself off himself from everything he’d ever known. (And the majat? Gotta love giant ants.)

Initial Acceleration: Upcoming Books for February

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The Novelociraptors always keep an eye out for new publications, and here we offer a sampling of books launching this February.

Broken Homes: A Rivers of London Novel by Ben Aaronovich

The Unremembered Empire (The Horus Heresy) by Dan Abnett

Hammer of Angels: A Novel of Shadowstorm by GT Almasi

Circle of Death: A Damask Circle Book: 2 by Keri Arthur

Night’s Promise (Children of the Night) by Amanda Ashley

Honor’s Knight (Paradox) by Rachel Bach |

Burn (The Pure Trilogy) by Julianna Baggott

Rise of the Arcane Fire (The Secret Order) by Kristin Bailey

The Heartlight Saga by TA Barron (Feb. 6th)

White Space: Book One of The Dark Passages by Ilsa J. Bick

Halo: Silentium (The Forerunner Saga) by Greg Bear

Lych Way (The Undertaken Trilogy) by Ari Berk

Third Strike (The Slayer Chronicles) by Heather Brewer

Unforgotten (The Unremembered Trilogy) by Jessica Brody

Fates by Lanie Bross

The Hit by Melvin Burgess

The Reaver: The Sundering, Book 4 by Richard Lee Byers

Prince of Shadows: A Novel of Romeo and Juliet by Rachel Caine

Tremor (Pulse) by Patrick Carman

A Draw of Kings (The Staff and the Sword Book #3) by Patrick W. Carr

The Selection Stories: The Prince & The Guard (Selection – Trilogy) by Kiera Cass

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Scintillate (Entangled Teen) by Tracy Clark

Conquest: Book 1, The Chronicles of the Invaders by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

Tempered: Book Four of The St. Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper

The Worlds We Make (The Fallen World trilogy) by Megan Crewe

The Troop by Nick Cutter

Unconditional (Cascadia Wolves) by Lauren Dane

Fallout by James K. Decker

Banished (Blackheart Legacy 1) by Lis de Jager

Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale by Charles de Lint

The Book of the Crowman by Joseph D’Lacey

Scarlet Devices (Steam and Seduction) by Delphine Dryden

By Blood We Live by Glen Duncan

The Waking Engine by David Edison

Killer Frost (Mythos Academy) by Jennifer Estep

The Problem with Promises: A Mystwalker Novel by Leigh Evans

Pillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen

Seoul Survivors by Naomi Foyle

Hunter by Jacquelyn Frank

Burn Bright (Dark Star) by Bethany Frenette

Dreamwalker by CS Friedman

Metro 2034 by Dmitri Glukhovsky

All That Glows by Ryan Graudin

Only the Good Die Young: Jensen Murphy, Ghost For Hire by Chris Marie Green

Fools’ Gold (Order of Darkness) by Philippa Gregory

Lady Thief: A Scarlet Novel by AC Gaughen

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison

Falling Light (A Game of Shadows Novel) by Thea Harrison

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun

Reflected (Silver Series) by Rhiannon Held

The Ultimate Choice by Lisa C. Hinsley

A Burnable Book: A Novel by Bruce Holsinger

Dog-Gone by Elliott James

The Memory of Death: Death Works 4 by Trent Jamieson

Blades of the Old Empire: Book I of the Majat Code by Anna Kashina

Alienated by Melissa Landers

Carousel Sun (Carousel Tides Series) by Sharon Lee

Moth and Spark: A Novel by Anne Leonard

Labyrinth of Stars (A Hunter Kiss Novel) by Marjorie M. Liu

Ignite Me (Shatter Me) by Tahereh Mafi

Blood and Ashes: A Foreworld SideQuest by Scott James Magner

Cold Iron by DL McDermott

Empress of the Sun (Everness) by Ian McDonald

With Silent Screams (The Hellequin Chronicles, Book 3) by Steve McHugh

Stolen Crown: A Novel of Mithgar by Dennis L. McKiernan

Arcadia Falls by Kai Meyer

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell

Blood From a Silver Cross (Kat Redding) by ES Moore

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

Wild Things: A Chicagolands Vampire Novelhicagoland Vampires) by Chloe Neill

The Shadow Throne: Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielson

Fearless 3: Rebel; Heat; Blood by Francine Pascal

Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

The Dreams of a Dying God (The Godlanders War, Book One) by Aaron Pogue

The Wrath of a Shipless Pirate (The Godlanders War, Book Two) by Aaron Pogue

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

The Drowned Forest by Kristopher Reisz

Avenger’s Heat: A Moon Shifter Novel by Katie Reus

To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising) by John Ringo

Night Owls (A Night Owls Novel) by Lauren M. Roy

Angel Seduced: The Hidden Series: Book 3 by Jaime Rush

DemonWars: First Heroes: The Highwayman and The Ancient by RA Salvatore

The Swan Gondola: A Novel by Timothy Schaffert

The Seers by Julianna Scott

Tales From the Radiation Age by Jason Sheehan

To Do or Die (A Jump Universe Novel) by Mike Shepherd

Three (Article 5) by Kristen Simmons

Feral Curse by Cynthia Leitich Smith

V-S Day: A Novel of Alternate History by Allen Steel

The Collection: A Registry Novel by Shannon Stoker

Reaper’s Touch by Eleri Stone

The Book of Heaven: A Novel by Patricia Storace

Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

The Happier Dead by Ivo Stourton

Influx by Daniel Suarez

The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

Blood Kin by Steve Rasnic Tem

Strange Bodies: A Novel by Marcel Theroux

Red Delicious: A Siobhan Quinn Novel by Kathleen Tierney

The Tinker King by Tiffany Trent

Such Sweet Sorrow (Entangled Teen) by Jenny Trout

Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff Vandermeer

Insanity by Susan Vaught

The Clockwork Wolf (Disenchanted & Co.) by Lynn Viehl

Archetype by MD Waters

The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir

Split Second (Pivot Point) by Kasie West

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen) by Jeff Wheeler

Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler

The Judge of Ages (Count to a Trillion) by John C. Wright

*This is not, of course, a complete list. We simply can’t catch every launch!