Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday Teaser - Spaceships! #YA #scifi

The summer holidays are almost over, and so are my teasers! For the last I'm sharing one that features my favourite part of science fiction - spaceships! Do you have a favourite? I always wanted an X-Wing, but just lately I'm in love with the Milano from Guardians of the Galaxy. It's the bird like thing that gets me. ^-^

Anyway, this excerpt is from my YA scifi adventure Gethyon - a SFR Galaxy Award winner and EPIC finalist in the SF category. Here my young hero has not only fallen foul of the local authorities while trying to leave, but there's a bounty hunter on his tail as well...





The warden drew a blaster from the holster at its hip and started to move toward Gethyon. I just can’t get on the good side of these guys, Gethyon though ruefully, before reaching for the controls and spinning the Drifter toward the hangar exit.
“Shut down your damn drive and surrender!” the hysterical hangar crew yelled at him. Ha, not likely! Gethyon gestured a nonchalant salute at the hangar tech who leapt up and down, waving his arms in negation, and to the warden aiming at his ship, before gunning his craft out of the hangar.
The flash of sunlight from the sea burned across his sight, and he threw up an arm to shield his eyes before reaching for a control that would cut the glare. A dark tint bled across the shattered canopy. The damage limited his external vision so he called up the holographic guidance system which drew the landscape outside over the interior of his ship in lines of green, white and red. Clear of the hangar, he tugged the safety harness around himself, and his ship juddered and rocked under a sudden assault. An alarm shrieked at him as he clasped his hands to the controls. What the Hades did I hit?
The ship shuddered again in answer and jolted out of the sky into a dive toward the sea. With his stomach doing somersaults, Gethyon wrestled to pull her back up, and a shadow shot past the edge of his vision. The Spirit Drifter turned her nose back up and another tremor shook her. Cold drenched through him as another craft zipped overhead. Jinx.
He summoned up the shields and yanked his ship back toward the tower. A touch of fingers swapped the schematic of his surroundings to one that showed his craft as a silver arrow with one in yellow pursuing. Damn!
More shots hit his ship and shook it like a storm-tossed leaf. A symphony of red warning and system failure indicators blazed with increasing brilliance across his console and the intensity of the alarms blossomed into skull-splitting vehemence.
“Siren off!” With it silenced, Gethyon tried to focus on an escape. Jinx’s ship was faster and armed. His shields were already at half-power. If he didn’t shake her off soon, he’d be grounded… or worse.
Two gigantic Seagrafter rigs crawled into the basin barely a few meters apart. Gethyon swung his craft to the right of them and followed a sharp arc in behind them, Jinx close on his tail. The sudden glimmer of an idea filled his mind. He shot out straight toward the side of the basin, even though it cost his craft two more shots to the rear and left his shields perilously weak. As he neared the constructions, he flipped his craft over and flew directly at Jinx who veered aside. In the few moments he knew he had before she corrected for her drastic evasion, he directed the Drifter toward the two Seagrafters and edged the ship lower. The shield touched the surface of the sea, and it spumed water upward. The resulting friction vaporized the water, adding steam to the fountain of liquid that veiled Gethyon’s craft and provided a measure of protection.
The schematics glaring across his canopy showed Jinx’s craft back in pursuit, but no shots followed as she left a greater distance between them. Gethyon allowed himself a grin and aimed his craft at the gap between the Seagrafters. There was barely a hand’s width to spare either side of his curved wings as he flitted between them, and he held his breath. Then he yanked back hard on the controls and forced the Drifter heavenward. He switched his rear vision to real-time, saw Jinx’s craft scrape the side of one Seagrafter and rebound into the other before plunging into the water.
The bounty hunter was down. Somehow, though, he doubted that would be the last he would see of her.
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Almost Back (I Survived Another August)

I apologize for being so quiet (and missing my blog dates) for the last month. But I have an alibi.

It's August--or as it is better known to my cronies, "HELL MONTH."

Every year for the last 20 years, August has been my nemesis when it comes to blogging or just about anything to do with anything online. I'm beset by a day job monster project with a deadline that's chiseled in stone. Well, not really, but it is literally written into law.

From the outside looking in, it may seem like I get sucked into a black hole, but the real scenario is something more like this...


August has always meant I miss a lot of good stuff, like various SF/R events and cons, local summer fests and enjoying traditional summertime activities like barbecues and, well...weekends. Above my desk at work are a long row of very fat binders that represent each budget I've completed trailing back into antiquity.

I looked up at that orderly row of fat soldiers the other day and thought to myself, "Every one of those suckers represents a summer I gave up."

So it was kind of an odd feeling this weekend when I closed the cover on another budget and thought to myself. "Well, that's it." This was my final budget. My very last. My Grand Finale. There shall be no more. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

I'll be leaving my job as a budget director in February with a "Goodbye, Farewell...and Amen." No more lost Augusts, and hopefully no more annual disappearing acts. Which will leave me a lot more time to write and blog going forward. And that makes me smile.

Hasta la vista and have a great week.


Friday, August 28, 2015

ON THE ROAD AGAIN . . .

Once again I'm dashing off these few lines just before I pack up my trusty computer and head for the hills. This time that phrase is meant literally. Sunday I'll be putting Blanca, the Queen of the Universe, and Shadow, AKA Chat Dieu, the Sidekick, in the back of my car and making the seven-hour drive to the little mountain town of Marshall, North Carolina, just north of Asheville. Hubby will be following with the rest of our worldly goods in a rental truck.

Yep, it's time for the Big Move! So no time for my usual long-winded post. Gotta pack up the kitchen!  

My reports for the foreseeable future will come from Marshall!

Cheers, Donna





 

Star Trek: Renegades - listen to what the fans are saying

Deposit Photos image 26492123 (c)
There I was, minding my own business, scrolling idly through the Facebook feed - and I come across an article from Space.com (no less) - about a crowd funded Star Trek spin-off! Here it is. The film itself is on Youtube, and you can watch for free. If you're really keen, there's a Star Trek Renegades web site.

I find this development fascinating. To me, it says two things:
  • Trek fans are hankering after some of the development that's happening in the Star Wars universe. Even the name resonates. Star Wars has Rebels,  Star Trek has Renegades.
  • Trekkies aren't getting what they want from the big studios, so they put their hands in their pockets and funded the thing themselves.

I think it's a fantastic development. It's got *spaceships* after all.

Another reason why I think it's fantastic is because I don't want to know about dystopian plots. For me the real world is full of misery and to spare. It's the first thing I thought of when I read a write up in "The Weekend Australian"for two new hard SF titles - Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. Both titles will please lovers of hard SF. Not a warp drive or hyper drive in sight.  

Seveneves is set at a time when the moon (ours, that one up in our night sky) is destroyed. The pieces will come down in due course, and the world will have to start again. Meanwhile, a space station is to be set up to rescue the species. They've got two years.


Aurora is about a generation ship on its way to the stars. The story is set 500 years in the future and focuses on the problems faced by generations of people who have never known any life outside a spaceship.

There's nothing particularly original about either concept, but that's not the point. I'm sure, in the hands of these skilled writers, the stories will be well told. But (sorry) I'd rather have Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars: Rebels - and yes, Star Trek: Renegades. I'd rather be up there whipping through the light years in my souped-up freighter than thinking about the doomed billions who won't be getting up to that spacestation.

When you think about it, this is sort of the film version of fan fiction, and self publishing. If Big Business doesn't give you what you want - do it yourself. Cheers!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Teaser - Booby Trapped Pants? #scifi #romance

The summer holidays are drawing to a close, and I'll soon be back to my normal blogging schedule. In the meantime, here's another snippet to entertain you. Taken from my short story Imprint in Tales from the SFR Brigade - a free scifi romance anthology - I'm also giving you a special treat. I won a cover in a contest and decided to have it made up for Imprint, on the off chance that I may one day release the story on its on. Enjoy!


I present an excerpt taken from my short story Imprint, part of the Tales from the SFR Brigade - a free scifi romance anthology. Having been rescued from a rather nasty fate by Deluvian Marshall Tevik who'd been pursuing her, my thief Jiona has woken up in what might seem a compromising situation at first assessment...

“Care to explain why I’m half-naked in your bed?”
Tevik quirked an eyebrow and perched beside her on the edge of the mattress, still keeping out of reach. “My bed, because there was nowhere else to put you. And as for your clothing…” He had the grace to look sheepish. “Strip search. After that trick in the vaults with the knife…” With one hand he gestured to a long, dark bruise over his ribs that matched those on the opposite side from where she’d kicked him. She flinched. “I couldn’t be sure what else you might have tucked away.”
“Bet you enjoyed searching me.”
A faint blush colored his cheeks. “I did what I had to do, for my own safety as much as yours. I didn’t want any booby traps going off in your outfit. You are known for them.”
She smirked. “Thought I might have a weapon tucked away in my panties?”
His blush deepened. Her panties had been little more than a strand of lace. Less restrictive, but certainly no cover for a weapon. Not even a very small one.
“With you, anything is possible.”
Jiona laughed. “Ah, now there’s a reputation I can be proud of!”

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Friday, August 21, 2015

SCREEN ENVY: WHY CAN'T WE CAPTURE THAT SF MOVIE AUDIENCE?


The usual suspects dominated the screen this summer.

Another summer of screen blockbusters is nearly over and once again the multiplex has been dominated by comic book heroes, post-apocalyptic survivors and teen warriors of the future. Though romance has been generally lacking in these action-packed thrill rides, science fiction has certainly been featured, even in the speculative nature of disaster movies like SAN ANDREAS.

The small screen, too, is full of SF—from the SYFY Channel’s more traditional space opera KILLJOYS to ABC’s Earth-based THE WHISPERS. There’s even a soap opera about space (ABC’s THE ASTRONAUT’S WIVES CLUB, about the women behind the men of the Mercury space program).

Obviously Hollywood thinks SF sells. What’s so appealing about the genre for film and television?

--SF is visual. Spaceships! Monsters! Disasters! The end of the world! Superheroes and arch villains battling it out in the middle of cities, destroying everything! Cool tech and even cooler special effects and makeup. The guys (and, make no mistake, they are overwhelmingly male) on the technical side of filmmaking love this stuff and delight in one-upping each other. No other genre gives them the same opportunities.

--SF lends itself to simple plots. Good guys vs. bad guys. Monsters/aliens vs. humans. Superhero vs. super villain. Etc. The exceptions to this rule in the last few years can be numbered on maybe two hands—GRAVITY, INTERSTELLAR, HER, LUCY, a few others. They get lost in the avalanche of mindless fare at the multiplex and, with the exception of the first two titles, are seen by only a handful of dedicated SF film fans. Simple is best, especially on the big screen. More room for explosions. (Television fares better in this regard, since paying for big effects is a problem for TV networks. A show like DEFIANCE or PERSON OF INTEREST can focus on relationships and ideas and find a faithful audience on the small screen.)

--SF skews young. The majority of the movie-going audience today consists of teenagers and young adults. (People like me, who can remember when comic books were not an art form, but something you could buy for a dime at the corner drug store, tend to watch movies at home.) This audience is most likely to be drawn to stories and heroes taken from the media it is already familiar with—comics and graphic novels, television, retro movies, young adult science fiction bestsellers like The Hunger Games and its clones.

--SF skews male. Yes, I know, dear reader, many of you are female and love SF, too, but Hollywood doesn’t much care about that. The powers that be have convinced themselves that men drive the entertainment decisions—including what gets seen on date night and what is watched on TV or computer or tablet. Hollywood has decided (presumably by market research, but who knows?) that, with some exceptions,  “audiences” don’t want to see women in lead roles, they don’t want films by or about women, and they damn sure don’t want films in which women play the heroes. Science fiction, in which, traditionally, the men dominate, gives Hollywood what they think they want—and lots of it. The percentage of women starring in, directing, producing and writing movies and television has actually dropped since the 1990’s. We can only hope the success of films like MAD MAX:FURY ROAD (starring the mesmerizing Charlize Theron) will change some minds.

In the SFR community we have long hoped that the trending love for SF on the screen will open a door for us with both readers and the not-so-Invisible-Hand of the market. But that has not happened so far, and I fear it will never happen. The problem is that the science fiction we see onscreen--certainly the SF we see on the big screen, though to a lesser extent the SF we see on TV--has little similarity to the kind of SF we are writing. In general, our stories are much more diverse, female-centered, character-driven and complex than the majority of stories we see in the multiplex. Then, of course, there’s the romance, which is most often only hinted at in the theater.

We have assumed all along that the audience for SF on the screen is the same as the audience for SFR in readable form, or at least that there is a great deal of crossover. That’s based on the anecdotal evidence that lots of us like SF movies and read SFR, too. We need to determine whether the majority of the movie-going audience is really open to what we’re selling, and, if so, how do we reach that audience? If our basic assumption is not true about this film/SFR connection, then who are we really writing for? The answer has to be greater than “people like us,” lest we continue to sell books to only each other.
 
 I don’t have the answer to these questions. If I did, I’d be Number One on Amazon. But if any of you has some insight, I beg you to share.

Cheers, Donna




Thursday, August 20, 2015

What is it about Star Wars?

I really enjoyed Donna's post about the best and worst things about Star Trek. It got me thinking about that series, and also, of course, Star Wars. I'm not a Trekky. I fondly remember the first series, way back in the late 60's, but the increasingly silly plots starring Captain Kirk and the Roman goddesses etc put me off. I've seen a few of the movies, but never got sucked back into the TV series.

Star Wars was a whole nother proposition altogether. I thoroughly enjoyed Star Wars: A New Hope back in '77, fell in love with The Empire Strikes Back, and although Return of the Jedi didn't grab me to the same extent, I was sad when the series finished. Sad enough to embrace Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy when it appeared. I saw all three prequel movies several times. Because... well... it's Star Wars. (Yes, I know they were bad) And I'm hangin' out for episode VII.

So why Star Wars (SW) and not Star Trek (ST)?

There's no doubt Trek is science fiction. The science has always been better in ST than SW, and I am a hard SF fan. I will happily accept that SW is space opera and that it has more than a dollop of magic (the Force). Take it down to the bare roots and it's a classic fairytale, complete with black-clad villain, a beautiful princess, the wise old wizard, a world-weary paladin and a kid with a destiny.  Ho hum, seen it all before? Maybe. There were a few smart little variations, though. The Imperial soldiers wear white armour, the princess isn't exactly the shy, retiring type, and there are aliens - non-humanoid, interesting aliens. Then it turns out the REAL villain isn't the guy in the death mask, it's the puppeteer pulling the strings.

And special effects.

George Lucas spent a lot of money on special effects back in the days when it wasn't all done by a roomful of coke-fueled software engineers. I loved that stuff. I loved hearing about how they filmed the space battles, the attack on the Death Star, the crash on Dagobah: how they built the wonderful star destroyers. etc etc. I suppose I got my geek fix from the SFX details. The USS Enterprise was good, and it has evolved over the years. But for me, it will never compare with the mighty Imperial Star Destroyer. Visually, anyway. The very vulnerable bridge is an obvious design flaw.

I think that mix of science fiction and magic is why Star Wars has continued to suck in a younger audience. The bookshops and toy stores are full of Star Wars merchandise aimed at kids who are probably too young to even remember the prequel trilogy. Certainly Star Wars: Rebels is aimed at a new audience - even if us older types can still enjoy it. I think that's wonderful. If Star Wars can get kids reading, get them looking up at the stars and wondering, if it leads them to watch Cosmos, to ask questions about aliens - then Let the Force Be With Them.

*The picture is of a model I built of the snow speeder crashed on Hoth. Luke is climbing out as the ATAT advances. Yes, I'm a geek.