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Friday, April 6, 2018

This Can't Be Science Fiction!

I'll never forget this comment made by one of the members of my writing group ( the only one I ever belonged to! ) After reading the first page or two of the rough draft of the second novel in my Tartarus Trilogy, True Son of Tartarus, he complained loudly that there were too many homey details for my work to actually be science fiction.

To say the least, I was flabbergasted. It was obvious to me that this guy hadn't read much science fiction and clearly didn't understand it.  Probably all he knew of science fiction was through TV shows, movies, and comics. I restrained myself from going for his jugular and summoned enough patience to calmly address his concerns.

I explained that science fiction, though it deals with fictional, futuristic people and events, has to be believable. The author wants his/her readers to be able to relate to and identify with the characters, and to envision each scene, no matter how improbable the situation.

Therefore, in the opening chapter of True Son, a recently married couple wakes up and proceeds with their daily activities, such as dressing, doing their hair, eating breakfast, etc.: ordinary activities that we can all relate to. Nothing bizarre.

But this particular couple is unique; theirs is a mixed-marriage: she's Terran and he's Tartarian ( the True Son of the title.) The planet they live on is not present-day Earth, but a strange new world with vastly different customs and different beliefs.

In order to make these characters believable and familiar--comfortable for my readers--I had to include some homey details about their lives. Once able to relate to this couple, my readers would be more than willing to go along with them on the strange, out-of-the-ordinary adventures which the couple will face in the remaining chapters.

I do not know if the guy I referred to in the beginning ever really "got it", but I hope this helps you to understand not only my writing, but the work of many other writers of science fiction.

Please keep reading, my friends, and never stop writing, whatever your genre may be!

Monday, January 22, 2018

So What Qualifies You To Write Science Fiction?

At one of my book signings, a gentleman boldly challenged my credentials in those exact words. Although this was a first for me, I was fully prepared to answer the question.

I took a deep breath and calmly explained that I had been reading science fiction since I was old enough to read. Even then I was a voracious reader: I devoured everything put before me--including the dictionary and the encyclopedia!

But for as long as I can remember, I've been entranced by scifi in all media: television, movies, books, comic books, artwork. When my family got our first TV set, I began watching reruns of old Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials. I loved movies such as Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still. I was glued to Rocky Jones: Space Ranger, Tom Corbett: Space Cadet, Captain Midnight, Commando Cody, Superman, etc. As I got older I became an avid fan of The Twilight Zone, Science Fiction Theater, and One Step Beyond.

Inevitably, I became one of Star Trek's original fans; I was hooked even before the first episode aired! To this day I'm proud to be a Trekker/Trekkie ( whatever you like!) But I'm also a huge fan of Babylon 5, Farscape, Star Wars, Alien Nation, Batman, Spiderman, etc.

Please don't assume that all I've ever done is watch TV. I also read all the science fiction books and stories I could get my hands on, from Isaac Asimov to Zenna Henderson. Back in the 60s and 70s, I was privileged to meet and learn from such scifi greats as Asimov, Hal Clement ( Harry Stubbs ), Ben Bova, Larry Niven, and Anne McCaffrey.

In fact, after meeting many famous authors and discovering that they were real people, I got up enough courage to start writing my own science fiction. I'd been writing other types of stories since the age of eleven. All my life I'd been anticipating our expansion into outer space, exploring the solar system, and colonizing Mars, and I really enjoyed fantasizing about what those experiences would be like.

So, eventually, I produced a rough draft of my novel Judgment on Tartarus, which I would continue to work on for many years until it became my first published novel. That soon led to two more books which completed the Tartarus Trilogy, then on to the space opera Galaxy Rand.

Apparently, my answers satisfied the gentleman who had challenged my qualifications to write scifi.
They also encouraged me to pursue publication of my fifth science fiction novel: a sequel to my Tartarus Trilogy. So don't be afraid to challenge yourself, and don't let others discourage your pursuits.

Keep on reading and for heaven's sake don't quit writing!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Westercon Memories

I attended my first Westercon in the early 70s. I flew for the first time, from Boston to Santa Barbara, California along with a group of friends who were all scifi fans. The con was held at a college dormitory very near the coast. For another first, I got to see and wade in the Pacific Ocean.

I distinctly remember the great food. The college cafeteria was fantastic. I had the best coffee there that I've ever had in my life. There was also a good restaurant that was the scene of my fondest memory.

I was eating roast chicken for dinner and had removed the crispy skin to eat last since it's my favorite part. The famous writer Isaac Asimov came by and snatched the chicken skin from my plate. He downed it, smacked his lips, and said, "That's my favorite part!"

With a sorrowful sniff, I replied, "Mine too!"

Now lest you think that Isaac was being totally rude to a complete stranger, let me explain; he and I were both members of NESFA ( the New England Science Fiction Association. ) Thus we were acquainted, and he had attended several meetings which were held in my apartment. Isaac was a complicated and unique individual as well as a world-famous author.

There were many other memorable moments at that Westercon. For the first and only time, I was brave enough to wear a costume to a scifi convention, even though I didn't compete in the contest. Nowadays, it's called cosplay.

I also remember briefly meeting Ray Bradbury in an elevator--another extremely famous scifi author! He was dressed in an immaculate white suit he referred to as his "Ice Cream Suit!" That was also the con where I met such Star Trek notables as David Gerrold, Greg Jein, and Bjo Trimble.

One evening as fans were gathered outdoors to talk and relax, a bagpiper in full Scottish regalia serenaded us. It was both moving and memorable.

The Society for Creative Anachronism ( SCA ) set up tents behind the dorm and held a Medieval tournament complete with swordplay. I later became a member of the SCA.

Another top memory was a panel chaired by the above mentioned Bjo Trimble, a famous Star Trek fan. During the panel, she asked all the females who had joined fandom because of ST to stand up. My friends and I, along with many others, stood up to applause. Until that point, fandom had been largely male-dominated since its inception.

That Westercon was an unforgettable experience and had a great deal of influence on my life. I was hooked on fandom and attended as many cons on both coasts as I could. If you've never attended a scifi convention or comic con, give one a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed, and you'll make some wonderful memories.

Keep reading and keep on writing,

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Batman Versus Pussy Willow

     While I was attending the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston--more years ago than I care to remember!--my Theatre Arts class was required to produce a skit and record it on audio tape. As the writer in my group, naturally I was assigned the task of writing the skit. Following my own nerdy tastes, I decided to spoof Adam West's extremely popular Batman TV show.

The professor, Mr. Floyd Covert, was skeptical; he told me such a thing couldn't be done: "You can't spoof a spoof!" But I was determined to give it a try.

Producing that skit was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my college career. Several of my classmates got to play the parts of Batman, Robin, Alfred, etc. Strangely enough, Mr. Covert agreed to play the part of Commissioner Gordon. I was stuck playing Bruce Wayne's ditsy Aunt Harriet--a minor part, thank goodness, as I was extremely shy.

Another female classmate got to play the enviable role of the evil villainess Pussy Willow ( a character I invented. ) She had the most evil cackle imaginable; it was right up there with the late June Foray's!

To this day I remember some of my lines: "Flapped? Flounder? In Gotham Lake? Really, Bruce!"

We all had a great time and a load of laughs rehearsing and recording our opus.  It amounted to maybe twenty minutes of air time, but when we played the final tape for our professor and classmates, they found it hilarious. We actually were funny!

As a result, our entire crew earned As! Mr. Covert even asked me to autograph his copy of our script and apologized for thinking I couldn't pull off a spoof of a spoof.

In the end, I have to thank the late Adam West, Burt Ward, and the entire cast and crew of TV's Batman. They gave me great material to work with. So R.I.P., Batman--and thanks again for the A in Theatre Arts.

Keep reading and keep writing, folks,


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Granite State Comic Con 2017

Every once in a while we decide to try doing something new and different. Sometimes we're happy with the results and sometimes not. We recently attended our first Granite State Comicon as vendors, and, boy, are we glad we did!

I'm the author of several scifi/space-adventure books, so I sell and sign my books, while my hubby is an avid collector of comics, DVDs, scifi toys, and other collectibles. This comic con turned out to be one of the best events we've ever attended. It was fun and exciting, as well as being financially successful.

The beautiful venue was the Radisson Hotel and Expo Center in downtown Manchester, NH--a great place to hold a con. Fans came in droves, many in costume. The con staff was friendly and helpful, especially the volunteers ( who were designated "Red Shirts!" ) Not a dud in the bunch!

Besides selling our stuff, we enjoyed meeting and chatting with other fans and taking pictures of some of the most outstanding costumes. Notable among them were an incredible Beauty and the Beast, an in-character Harley Quinn ( who was a hoot! ), a giant robot, and a very realistic Storm Trooper.

One cosplay group even enacted King Arthur's "gallop" from Monty Python's Holy Grail. They were hilarious! This con was very kid-friendly; many little ones came in costume, and several activities were geared especially for kids. We were really glad to see generations of new fans coming up.

All in all, we had a wonderful time; this was one of the best-attended and best-run events we've gone to in quite some time. We can't thank the con committee and staff for doing such a great job. And we can't wait for Granite State Comicon 2018, Sept. 14 & 15!

Keep writing and keep reading,


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Don't Judge A Book By Its Genre

I just can't help shuddering whenever someone tells me, "I don't read science fiction!" I'm sorely tempted to respond, "So what type of science fiction have you tried?"

I realize that all brands of SF are not everyone's cup of tea. I've read widely and have my own likes and dislikes; however, I have come to know that all novels in the genre are not alike. ( I'm not talking here about other media, such as TV, movies, comic books, etc. ) You can't judge all SF novels by the one or two you may've already read.

For instance, if you're a fan of fantasy, you might enjoy reading Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books. When I read the first book, Dragonflight, I assumed it was fantasy--after all, dragons! McCaffrey later confirmed that the series was SF as her people originally came from another world where there were no dragons.

A lot of SF is "hard" science fiction; in other words, it's based on hardware and scientific principles and theories, real or imagined. In that category are many books by Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven's Ringworld, and Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity.

To tell you the truth, I prefer what's known as "soft" SF: novels which concentrate more on character development and relationships rather than hardware. I'm particularly fond of Zenna Henderson's People books, which are about a race of human-like characters who come to Earth as survivors of a world that's been destroyed. These books are emotional, spiritual, and often heart-wrenching. I love them!

"Space opera" is another related genre, among others. Unlike SF, it tends to be action-oriented with little to no character development. (Think shoot-'em-up in space! ) My novel Galaxy Rand is unabashed space opera.

The brand of science fiction that I usually write ( such as my Tartarus Trilogy ) definitely falls into the category of soft SF, although I try hard to keep my tech and space-facts as accurate as possible. If you've read any of it, you know I concentrate on the plot, as well as on character development and emotions. I do toss in some action/adventure, a bit of romance ( not X-rated! ), an epic love story, mystery, and political intrigue.

So if you are one of those who has always thought science fiction isn't for you, you might think again. I'm sure there are books out there you'd not only enjoy, but come to love. Take my advice: don't judge a book solely by its genre. Read widely and don't be a book-snob!

Whatever you do, keep reading and keep on writing,

Monday, June 26, 2017

Some Tips for Indie Authors

As an independent author, I'm well aware of how difficult it is to sell and promote your books. Here are a few of the ideas I've come across or utilized during the past six plus years:

1.   Get some business cards; make sure they look attractive and professional. Offer one to everyone you meet.

2.   Visit libraries and book stores; tuck one of your business cards into books with genres similar to yours. ( ie: Romance, Sci-fi, etc. )

3.   Donate copies of your books to local libraries, and volunteer to speak about your book and your writing.

4.   Keep an eye out for author events such as book signings, panels, speaking engagements, etc. and sign up.

5.   Donate books to charity events such as raffles and auctions.

6.    Attend events related to your genre, including conventions, conferences, writing groups, comic cons, etc. Be prepared to do readings, be on panels, or to speak about your books.

7.   Investigate the possibility of speaking at book clubs, local colleges and schools.

8.   Post flyers about any events that you are going to attend or hold. Post online as well.

9.   When someone asks you what you do, be prepared to give a concise explanation of your work. Hint: Do not be long-winded--that's the kiss of death!

10.  Trade books with other authors, preferably of similar genres, with the promise to review each others work. Caution: many people will renege on their promise!

11.  Do not be tempted to buy reviews! Readers can spot a phony miles away. It makes you look bad!

Of course, not all of your efforts will succeed, but these tips are well worth a try. See what works for you. Keep trying; keep thinking; most of all, keep writing!