Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

Reading Star Wars novels has long been a guilty pleasure of mine; they are fun, and they feed the Geek. And Lost Stars was delicious!  Sure it’s marketed as a YA novel, but there is a lot of great Star Wars goodness throughout.

For fans that know Episodes 4, 5 and 6 well, you will enjoy the weaving this story does between established events in the movies. The characters are placed in pivotal roles on the Death Star, Hoth, and Darth Vader’s lead Star Destroyer, the Executor.

Two young folks, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, from an Outer Rim world meet Moff Tarkin when he visits their planet. Coming from different social classes, their friendship is frowned upon. As the years pass, their bond deepens and they develop a mutual love of flying. Knowing nothing but loyalty to the Empire they both strive to enter the Imperial Academy, and are accepted.

Over the years, Thane and Ciena realize the Empire had become twisted and corrupt. Where Thane expresses his willingness to leave the Empire, Ciena holds tightly to her oath.

“…this isn’t about whether we’ve kept faith with the Empire. It’s about whether the Empire has kept faith with us.” – Thane to Ciena

After witnessing the destruction of an entire planet from an open hanger bay on the Death Star, and the enslavement of entire species, Thane’s disillusionment with the Empire evolves into disdain. Some may call it the Force, others pure chance, but Thane and Captain Wedge Antilles cross paths. And just like that Thane finds himself flying for the Rebellion.

Even on opposing sides, Thane and Ciena can’t seem to sever their bond. What will happen when they find themselves in direct combat?

A great read for a Star Wars fan!

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The Megaladon, the prehistoric ancestor of today’s great white sharks, has been long considered extinct, until a group of marine scientists begin studying the depths of the Mariana Trench. For thousands of years these enormous creatures have been trapped 7 miles below the ocean surface in the warm depths of the trench – heated by geothermal ducts – unable to pass through the frigid temperatures above. Finally, because of a mistake by the oceanographers, the monster is released.

What’s better to read at the beach than a book about a 60-foot, giant shark? I sit hear listening to the sounds of children laughing and dogs barking, the rolling of the waves and the the calls of the seagulls and I have to wonder … what if?

I picked this book expecting a cheesy book version of shark movies produced by The Asylum – which I love. But it was actually an unexpectedly well written thriller. According to Wikipedia, Alten has been shopping the story around production studios. I would so watch this movie!

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Released in late April, Paul S Kemp’s Lords of the Sith is one of the newest installments in the Star Wars canon. Find it hard to keep track of what is now canon? I do too, but I have found this Star Wars wiki to be a great resource. This novel takes place about 5 years after Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side.

Emperor Palpatine, the secret Sith Lord, and his apprentice, Darth Vader, are heading to Ryloth, the Twi’lek homeworld, where a group of freedom fighters has become more than a pesky annoyance to the Empire. When Cham, the Twi’lek leader of the dissidents, learns of their imminent arrival, he formulates a plan that would cripple the oppressive Empire. Meanwhile, the emperor senses the impending confrontation as a disturbance in the Force and uses it to test his apprentice’s abilities, and his loyalties.

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A female Twi'lek

Kemp has truly captured the inner struggles that Darth Vader is going through; his memories of childhood and of Padmé trouble him. We are given our first look into the tension that grows between Master and Apprentice. And we see how truly terrifying and powerful these Sith Lords are to the galaxy. As readers, we have born witness to their strengths through the movies, but now we see how word will begin to spread of Darth Vader, and how far the Emperor will go to keep his power a secret.

Pain fed his hate, and hate fed his strength. Once, as a Jedi, he had meditated to find peace. Now he meditated to sharpen the edges of his anger.

Plus there’s lots of great Force fighting!

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I read Cassandra Duffy’s novel The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head back in 2013 and found it to be a refreshingly unique and fun science fiction story, with a great cast of characters. I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies like Mad Max, The Postman, and Waterworld. I find the genre fascinating and exciting; survival tactics, ingenuity, and determination. In these settings, there is no place for the weak or timid, but being strong doesn’t have to mean total domination; enter the “reluctant hero”.

In The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head, Cassandra Duffy has skillfully blended lizard aliens, wild-west gun fights, steam-punk blimps, cults, and lesbian romance drama into an exciting adventure using wit and well developed persons and places. Provided glimpses into their lives pre-invasion, the reader is able to connect with the characters as real people and become invested in their survival post-invasion.

Cassandra has a sarcastic sense of humor that translates well to her characters. “If I get lynched for being a scientist, Buddhist, lesbian, witch, don’t blame me.” Being able to successfully capture so many aspects of humanity is a rare talent, especially in the lesbian genre.

I asked Cassandra a few questions about her writing career.

RS: Your early work came out–on Amazon–in 2011, but you must have been writing before then. How did you first get into writing? Did your stories center around lesbian characters from the get-go?

CD: All through high school I wanted to be a game designer or do something in the video game industry. I loved games with strong plots like Knights of the Old Republic and thought it was a really cool medium for telling a story. In college it became clear I didn’t have the computer aptitude or attention span for the tech side of game design. I still wanted to tell stories, so I tried creative writing classes and it stuck. Starting out I still mostly wrote fan fiction about video games until several of my professors told me to knock it off and come up with something of my own.

My stories have always focused on lesbian characters. I’m a gold star lesbian so my knowledge of boy/girl romance and sex is entirely theoretical. I was so unsure of my skill, especially early on, that I had to stick to things I thought I knew or could at least learn quickly and that meant writing lesbians and in my very first book, the Gunfighter and the Gear-head, lesbians from California.

RS: I read…a lot. But I admittedly don’t read a lot of lesfic because the genre is so saturated with plotless smut. When I discovered your series “The Raven Ladies,” however, I couldn’t resist giving it a try. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a great story, with strong female characters. What would you say to other readers that tend to avoid lesfic?

CD: I’d say the landscape of fiction as a whole is changing, and lesfic is one of the primary genres benefiting from the changes. It used to be that any fiction for the LGBT community had to fit a very small, very narrow scope to remain profitable enough for large publishers to even consider. For lesfic, that meant smut that would also appeal to straight male readers, and mysteries, lots and lots of mysteries for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I like smut as much as the next girl, but I like smut for women by women, which is kinda rare. When the ereader market pretty much blew open the flood gates to allow a much wider range of options through to readers, a lot of really good fiction for traditionally under-served, under-represented groups hit the market. Before, you had to hope someone at Penguin or Harper thought it was a good idea to have a tiny run of books with a lesbian protagonist of color, and it was probably going to be a very safe offering. Now, if you want a lesbian protagonist, you can find them in almost any flavor you like doing things in stories that were formally deemed too risky for the big publishing houses to touch.

For readers, especially lesfic readers, this is a golden age of options that has never existed before. If you want lesbian pirates, knights, astronauts, cowgirls, space explorers, lawyers, doctors, artists, whatever, there is a book available somewhere. And, if you like some smut, but want it to be for lesbians by lesbians, there’s plenty of that now too.

RS: Most authors tend to stick to a certain sub-genre, typically what they themselves would want to read. But while your novels all contain lesbian themes, they vary greatly in genre: from wild west – steampunk – alien apocalypse,  to paranormal, to knights of old. When beginning a new story, do you already have a character fleshed out that determines the setting you place her in? Or does a setting develop first and the characters later?

CD: I was practically a kid in a candy store when I started getting my stories and books picked up. I felt the options in lesfic were so restricted and so narrow that I immediately wanted to expand the genre with every kind of book I enjoyed reading because I felt that a lot of people were like me–one genre might be a favorite, but it’s more fun to read all sorts of books. I kind of get narrowed down to steampunk, I think mostly because it’s popular now and there aren’t many authors in that genre yet, even fewer who are lesbians, but it’s just one of the many story types I enjoy writing. Aside from a few short stories, all my writing is character driven. Even if I start with a concept like I did with Divine Touched, I ultimately approach the story via the characters I want to tell the story through. Often the setting evolves to match what I want the character to be challenged by.

RS: When stepping into a new genre, the must be alot to understand before making a story work, like developing a sense of mechanics to speak intelligently about steampunk gadgets. What kind of research do you do before diving into a new story?

CD: I come from a scientifically minded family. My dad is an aerospace engineer and my sister is a chemist. For the most part, they tolerate a lot of my silly questions when I’m trying to get a better concept of what would and wouldn’t work for airships and fuels and what not. I’m pretty sure my dad has only a rudimentary concept of what I do for a living since it’s not a traditional job and it involves really strange research. My sister actually came up with the idea for the origin of Slark fuel for the Raven Ladies series, so she’s a far more willing participant in the process.

Aside from consulting with experts, inside and outside my family, I read up a lot on the areas I need to read up on and go out and try new things as needed. I’m not a huge fan of guns, but a lot of my characters are, so I’ve had to go to shooting ranges and gun stores and talk to military folks to make sure I was at least in the ballpark when it comes to weapons.

RS: Who are your favorite authors right now?

CD: I’m not sure if I can call Frank McCourt a favorite author right now, although that’s who I’m reading. I thought it was high time I read Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis even though bleak isn’t really my thing. Angela’s Ashes especially was a remarkable, powerful book that I felt I suffered through rather than enjoyed. It’s one of those books that I don’t think you’re supposed to enjoy it so much as you are supposed to be impacted by it. Impacted like a punch to the stomach in many instances. I love Frank McCourt’s writing but I’m pretty sure I won’t be re-reading either of his books.

To refresh and cleanse myself after the crushing emotional impact of McCourt’s autobiographies, I’ll be reading so many Batwoman comics this summer.

I had the great opportunity to interview a new self-published author Tony Nester the other day. By day he is a survival guide in Arizona, and has been for decades (before it was “cool”). Heas written several survival guide books; so, when he decided to publish his zombie apocalypse “First Wave” series he took the pen name of JT Sawyer.

You can read the interview here. He is a really neat guy, and I hope to be able to meet him some day.

Which do you prefer? A great blogger I admire asked question “Which do you prefer?” and I had to share it. I don’t know if she came up with this or if she found it somewhere but I think it sums up the two camps better than any lengthy paragraph I could ever come up with.

“Fans of science fiction (and dystopia) want to explore ways to change our existing world. Fans of fantasy want to explore ways to escape the limitations of this world.”

I can’t pick. Please don’t make me.

Women have made great strides over the decades; demonstrating physical strength and endurance as well as academic aptitude. We have earned the right to fight in combat situations, investigate homicides, and drive big-rigs.

It is empowering to watch fantasy and sci-fi genres embracing these advances. Take Jean Grey from X-Men as an example. A strong and intelligent character, second only to Professor-X himself; telepathy, telekinesis, and an eidetic memory?!? With this combination she is capable of nearly anything.

Let’s not forget the impact Xena Warrior Princess has had on the world. While a huge icon in the Lesbian community, Xena broke down many walls in the world of mythology. For centuries male gods and demi-gods dominated and victimized humans, until Xena exposed their fallibilities.

And then there is Daenerys Targaryen Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea. She is the epitome of strength; she gathers an army of loyal men not by blood and force but with truth and freedom.

As pivotal as each of these magnificent women have been, I feel there is one bad-ass chic that paved the way with blood, sweat and grease for all the others; Ellen Ripley. Without her, a LOT of bad stuff would have happened.

Who is on your list?

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