September 10, 2014

Battle For The Net

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

February 18, 2014

Until We Meet Again.

Visit the About Me page to learn more about important events happening on Hellar Reviews.

December 30, 2013

Dragonflight (Pern Series #1) by Anne McCaffery

Publisher: Ballantine PressDragonflight cover

Copyright: 1968

Pages: 309

Formats: e-format, paperback, hardcover

 

A couple of months ago I was doing some research into the first woman to win the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award when I came across the name Anne McCaffrey. Of course, this wasn’t the first time I came across the name but this time my interest was piqued to read a book written by her. I decided to go with Dragonflight because it is the first in a series and when possible I like to read the first book in a series.  I was able to download a copy from my local library and dived right in; and diving really is the best verb to use because once you get started it moves quickly from one big drama to the next. Dragonflight is a socially conscious adventure romance science fiction story.

 

Anne McCaffrey was an American-Irish author who lived from 1926 to 2011. She is best known for her Dragonrider series that takes place on Pern, a planet that is colonized by humans in the future. The original Dragonflight is the merging of two novellas “Dragonrider” and “Weyr Search.” Weyr Search” was originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine in October of 1967 and it won the Hugo Award in 1968. “Dragonrider” was published in December of 1967 in Analog Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine and won the Nebula Award in 1969. Dragonflight as we know it now was published in 1968 by Ballantine Press.

 

I’m a sucker for a heroine that is both smart and romantically handicapped and Lessa, the heroine of Dragonflight, is just that type of character. Lessa is a smart, bold, passionate woman with a warrior’s heart and mind and these characteristics stay with our heroine through the story and prove to be her biggest assets and weakness. Her warrior’s heart gives her the strength to forge a complicated plan of revenge against the evil lord Fax that took over her home by killing her parents while at the same time it makes it difficult for her to let down her guard and be with F’lor, the leader of the dragon riders. Over time with gentile care from F’Lor her character grows and is able to open up and form a bond with F’lor which allows them to defend the people of Pern against the threads and internal threats.

 

Dragonflight is science fiction not fantasy even though it has dragons.  When I started the story I thought it was a fantasy because it has dragons but it turns out that if a dragon is genetically altered it is considered science fiction. Dragons and their ability to connect with humans telepathically are essential to the plot. Also time travel is an important part of the plot because it provides the heroes with a way to save the day. Mccaffrey gives a very good explanation about how it happens and even plays with the idea of crossing time lines.  The story takes place on a distant planet called Pern far in the distant future when humans have been forced to vacate the earth. The language and culture are similar to that of Europe in the middle ages with feudal systems creating the template for the social structure.

 

Because this is two novellas put together the flow of the story is different but none the less thrilling. A novella by nature is a longer version of a short story but not as long as a novel, so the main action will come sooner.  By combing two novellas there are two main action sequences so there is two times the intensity. Two of my favorite scenes from the first part or “Weyr Search” are the fight scene between F’lor and Flax for its vivid language and the intense scene when Lessa connects with Ramoth for the first time.  In the second part or “Dragonrider” there are several important firsts such as Ramoth’s and Lessa’s first flight and the first fight against the threads.   Talk about action packed.

 

Unfortunately, I did not like the ending to the second part. I like clear endings. Yes, I like a cliff hanger to keep me coming back to the next book but I didn’t feel the story ended or at least I wasn’t expecting that ending. The current story between F’lor and Lessa comes to a conclusion and the problem of how the people will fight the threads is resolved, but the story ends as they go off to battle. I would have preferred an ending where they weren’t about to go off to battle.

 

Overall, I recommend this book. McCaffrey’s word choice creates vivid images of the people and places. The story moves along quickly so you don’t even notice the number of pages. The idea of being able to telepathically connect with and bond for life with a dragon is an interesting idea. And for those that aren’t sure how they feel about science fiction but enjoy fantasy, this is a good book for trying out science fiction and vice versa.

December 27, 2013

Meet Cerece Rennie Murphy author of Order of the Seers Series

Today I have the pleasure of introducing to you Cerece Rennie Murphy the author of the Order of the Seers Series. I had the pleasure to meet Ms. Murphy in October when I attended the Black Authors and Readers Rock Weekend presented by the Reading Divas in Bowie, Maryland. She was the only science fiction and fantasy writer present for the weekend, so you know I was excited to meet her. When she agreed to do an interview for my blog I was over the moon. So here it is my interview with Cerece Rennie Murphy.  Enjoy!

A.H. Tell me about yourself. Cerece Rennie Murphy

C.M. Ok. I am a city girl, born and raised in the beautiful city of Washington, DC.  My parents are West Indian, from Grenada and Trinidad and thankfully moved to DC in their late teens to go to Howard University.  I am so grateful to them for picking this city as my hometown.  I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t raised in DC.

In my former professional life, I did fundraising and program development for a number of community-based and international development organizations.  But these days, I am a part-time writer/business owner and full-time wife and mother to our two kids.

A.H. What author has influenced your current style of writing?

C.M. You know, I never know how to answer that question.  I don’t consciously try to write like anyone else.  But I can tell you the authors who leave me in awe and inspire me to dig deeper for the right word or to be unafraid of the emotion in a scene.  At the top of my list is Toni Morrison.  For me, her writing turns reading into an experience for all five senses.  Her stories aren’t linear, which I love.  They twist, turn and curl back on themselves.  You have to pay attention.  I love reading books like that.  Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed was the first book that ever blew my mind.  I read it over and over. It’s frightening and genuinely fantastic.  Other writers I love include everyone from Amy Tan to Lynn Emery to a fan fiction writer named YellowGlue.

A.H. Tell me about the Order of the Seers Trilogy.

C.M.  The Order of the Seers Trilogy is about a group of people who can see the future and are enslaved for that ability.  The first book in the trilogy, titled Order of the Seers, is about how the Seers escape the organization that seeks to exploit their gift, reclaim their power and start fighting back.  The second book in the trilogy, titled The Red Order, picks up right where the first book leaves off, but is quite a bit darker because you get to know your villains really well in the second book.  Having made some gains in the first book, the Seers are now faced with a larger mission and a deeper understanding of their gift and its potential.  I am working on the final book in the trilogy now.  I’d like to think that the first two books answer the question of who the Seers are and what they are capable of.  The final book answers the question of why the Seers have their gifts at this specific time.  I am really looking forward to sharing the final chapter in this story.

A.H. Where did you get this idea? Was there a person, event, place, or idea that inspired the idea?

C.M.  The idea for Order of the Seers came to me randomly as I was washing the dishes almost 4 years ago.  It was only later, after I read through the first complete draft that I realized how many of my own questions about human potential and the importance of spiritual connection permeated the book. That was not my intention starting out, but the books have been very cathartic for me in exploring those issues.

A.H. I know personally, that sometimes my original idea isn’t necessarily what the story turns out to be in the end. Did that happen for you with this book?

C.M.  Not yet.  I did a story outline pretty early on in the writing process, so I knew the story arc and how things would end from the beginning.  Then, before I wrote each book, I did a detailed chapter outline, which helped me figure out the goal, message and tension in each chapter before I started writing it.  For me, the adventure is always in how each chapter unfolds.  Even though I know what will happen, how it happens is almost always a surprise.  It’s so much fun!  Though I am following the same process with the 3rd book, I can already tell that this installment is going to keep me guessing in a whole new way.

A.H. Of all the characters in this book who is your favorite and why?

Order of the SeersC.M.  My favorite character in the book is Marcus Akida.  Marcus is who I want to be when I grow up.  Marcus is a man who has suffered unimaginable loss at the hands of the Guild.  In some ways, he’s suffered even more than other Seers because he was taken when he was older – he had a wife, a son and an entire life of his own that was taken away.  Despite this, he never loses sight of who he is and what is important to him and that inner strength is what makes him the most powerful Seer.  But even more important than his supernatural powers is Marcus’ ability to inspire the best in others.  Everyone around him tries harder and becomes better as a result of following his example.  I am so honored that he chose me to tell his story.

A.H. Let’s talk about creating worlds because as Science Fiction and Fantasy writer that can make or break a story.  What’s your process for creating worlds? Do you have a book where you write it down or on a poster board?

C.M.  I do a lot of outlining in notebooks. Order of the Seers is contemporary sci-fi, so instead of creating an entirely new world, I wanted to offer a new interpretation to some common assumptions in the “real” world.  I wanted the world of Order of the Seers to feel very familiar, so that when I started folding in the secrets and the lies, it feels like maybe you could be living in the world of Order of the Seers.

One of my next projects is a two-part space opera, so I am sure that will require even more outlining, but I like to work out the framework as much as possible before I get started.

A.H. What’s your take on being a woman in science fiction and fantasy? What challenges have you faced? And how did you deal with them?

C.M.  You know, I look at it like everything else – there is always going to be something in your way, whether it’s because you are black, you’re a woman or someone doesn’t get what you’re trying to do.  You just have to decide what you believe in and who you believe is truly in control of your destiny.  I have the luxury and ability to push forward because of all the doors that have been opened for me by my ancestors.  That is the legacy they have left for me.  I honestly believe there is nothing I can’t do if I am willing to work hard enough and smart enough for it.  With so many avenues opening up in the publishing industry, this is especially true. I am not someone who sees my gender or my race as a disadvantage.  I think, as an African-American woman, I’m used to a certain amount of struggle, which makes me more prepared to fight the battles I need to fight.  There are many things that people thought were impossible, right up until the moment when somebody did it.

I think one of the biggest challenges for African-American authors in any genre is overcoming the perception that stories written by African-American authors are only intended for an African-American audience.  There is a very pervasive belief within the industry that there is no point in marketing our stories to a wider audience because no one outside of our community will read them.

Fortunately, I am my own publisher, so I’m not subject to anyone’s limited interpretation of the market for my work.  I can place myself wherever I think I can find an audience and sell my books and that is a huge advantage.

A.H.  Tell me about being your own publisher.

C.M.  I started LionSky Publishing in 2012 to publish and promote my work.  The learning curve has been steep, but I enjoy the control I have to decide how and when my work is presented.

A.H. Where can people buy your book?

C.M.  The first 2 books in the Order of the Seers Trilogy are available in paperback on Amazon, BN.com, Books-a-Million and in your local bookstore. If they don’t have it on the shelves, they can always order it for you. Both books are also available in eBook format on Kindle and Nook.

A.H. What kinds of questions do you want people to consider when reading this book?

C.M.  I think mostly I would like people to question their own assumptions about who they are and what their potential really is.  I’d like to challenge them to look past the stories they have been told about themselves and redefine their own expectations.  The Seers spend a lot of time believing other people’s stories about who they are and what they are meant for.  It’s only after they escape the Guild and begin to answer those questions for themselves that their true power emerges.  I think that dynamic is true of all of us.   I’d also like people to reconsider occurrences that we regularly dismiss, like déjà vu and dreams that come true, and ask themselves if there is something more going on.  Finally, I’d LOVE it if people would reconsider their own understanding of their relationship with God (however they define it) and become really curious about what that relationship might look like if there was no separation between us and our creator.

A.H. If people wanted to meet you where will you be promoting your book? (Do you have a link to a book tour schedule or blog tour schedule?)

C.M.  In November I finished a book tour with Orangeberry Book Tours (http://www.orangeberrybooktours.com/2013/11/ob-phoenix-30-cerece-rennie-murphy/ ).  And this week I finished a book tour with Prism Book Tours (http://prismbooktours.blogspot.com/2013/10/new-ominous-tour-order-of-seers-by.html ).

A.H. Do you have any suggestions for those interested in writing science fiction and fantasy?

C.M.  My main suggestion would be to just GO FOR IT!  Don’t let your own self-doubt stop you from telling the story you have inside you.  Enjoy that process of bringing your unique vision to the world as much as you can.

A.H. Do you follow any bloggers on writing Science Fiction and Fantasy?

C.M.  Not really and I don’t know if that is necessarily a good thing.  I tend to live in a little bubble that let’s in very few outside resources.  I am easily overwhelmed, so most days, I only have time to figure out what I’m going to do.  I find reading advice on writing both helpful and intimidating.  I don’t want to start censoring myself based on someone else’s opinion of “how it’s done”. The upside of isolation is that I stay pretty self-directed.  The downside is I think I miss out on a lot of opportunities to feel connected and learn from the successes and mistakes of others. I did just recently start following the Black Girl Nerds blog, though and I absolutely love it.  It’s nice to know that I am not alone in my geekitude.  J

A.H. I’m a big fan of Black Girl Nerds too! So in true geekitude in a dystopian world what would you hoard?

C.M.  Food, and anything that could help me ensure the safety of my family.  The other thing I would hoard is music.  I can make up stories to tell my kids, but both my husband and I can’t sing worth a damn.

A.H. Thank you Cerece for your time. Connect with her at:

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Google+

December 18, 2013

Meet Shaila Kotadia

Shaila Kotadia courtsey of Shaila Kotadia

Shaila Kotadia courtsey of Shaila Kotadia

Today I’m excited to introduce Shaila Kotadia. This month I learned about science policy, which is a topic that I had never considered as a possible career or just how important it is to the progress of science. But that is the amazing thing about this section of my blog it is an opportunity to learn about all the various careers in STEM that don’t just involve working in a laboratory.

A.H.:  Why did you want to go into STEM?

S.K: In high school, I first learned about the mechanistic details of diseases. In particular, in my freshman biology course, we studied the details of HIV/AIDS. Immediately, I was intrigued by the course of action taken by the virus and the body’s response. From that point on, I decided I wanted to find a cure to that disease. Similarly, the next year in a chemistry course, I learned about cancer development and switched to wanting to find a cure for it. I admit I was a bit fickle at first about my favorite disease, but I ended up sticking with cancer-related research for my career as a bench scientist.

A.H.:  What do you work on and why is this important?

S.K.: I currently work in science policy. This is an important issue because the majority of science funding comes from federal agencies. Oftentimes, scientists do not advocate to the government why the funding is essential to continue to discover new treatments and cures for diseases. Therefore, it is necessary to have informed individuals advocate for science and educate government officials on the benefits of funding science.

A.H.:  How can people learn more about science policy?

S.K.: People can learn more about science policy through various science organizations. For example, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, where I work, has an advocacy website that has tools to help you advocate for science locally and contact information for our public affairs personnel, who can answer questions. Also, many scientists themselves participate in advocacy and can be very informative of the steps they took to be involved.

A.H.:  What motivates you?

S.K.: I am motivated by change. I want to make the world a better place to live in. Originally, I worked in scientific research hoping to advance discoveries that would ultimately lead to new cures for cancer. With policy, I hope to help scientists across the nation and the world to make groundbreaking discoveries with deserved support that will make grand changes.

A.H.: Do you have any words of advice for young women interested in pursuing STEM?

S.K.: If you are intrigued by a problem, then pursue it. As you move along your educational and career path, you will meet obstacles along the way and you have the choice on how to overcome them. Instead of holding yourself back in the face of opposition, face it head-on. This will take you in all different directions and may take time, but eventually you will find your fit, and that is when you will be happiest.

A.H.:  What type of obstacles have you faced and how?

S.K.: Most of the obstacles I have faced tend to be more internal. Within the research realm, I had a subconscious feeling of not being good enough to make it in academia despite my accomplishments. This feeling also extended during my job pursuits in administration and policy. Despite working hard, publishing, and creating programs, I always felt like I was missing some qualification. To face these obstacles, I spoke with others with this mindset to understand how they overcame it. I also interacted with individuals in higher, more established positions to have a better perspective of the most important factors to concentrate on. While there is always someone more qualified, I learned, and am still learning, that you have to be confident in your own abilities, even if they are limited. The external obstacles I faced tended to be a bias based on my personality. In those situations, I chose to continue to work hard and rely on help from others when necessary to move forward and prove that I was capable of being successful.

A.H.:   How do you share your love of science with others?

S.K.: I share my love of science through multiple avenues. During my research career, I started an outreach program with another postdocs. We organized scientists to visit K-12 classrooms to demonstrate that science is fun, that there is a diversity of scientists who approach real-world problems, and that anyone can be a scientist with hard work and determination. The scientists briefly explained their work and themselves, answered questions from the students, and conducted experiments that related to lab work conducted at the university. I also use dance to teach ongoing scientific research. I have used iterative choreography to teach high school students about my research. This finished piece was performed for the community. I also participated in helping to organize a Science Café, where scientists shared their research in lay terms for the general public. Finally, I try my best to talk about my work, both past and present, to individuals that show curiosity. I find that the most effective way to share my love of science is in a casual conversation.

A.H.: Do you have a favorite scientist?

S.K.: My favorite scientists are those who have taken the time to mentor me throughout my career. I have been quite lucky to have found several established professors who have given me sound advice and guidance and have helped me grow as a person and a scientist. In addition, their discoveries and creativity inspired me to be original and unique in my thought. An approachable, humble scientist will always be favorite.

A.H.:  What do you see as the biggest challenge to women in STEM? What can we as a person/society do?

S.K.: The biggest challenge to women in STEM is having the confidence to take that step to the next level. Women often desire to pursue STEM but express the inability to do so. I believe that, to overcome this barrier, women need to have positive role models who continued onto successful careers in which they are also happy. Women also need encouragement that they are capable and, while they may struggle at times and lose confidence, this is normal for everyone. Overall, there are many women who have a lot to offer in the STEM fields, but the perception of ourselves needs to reflect that, and we need to spread the same message to young girls.

A.H.: Who is your favorite Science Fiction or Fantasy writer?

S.K.: So I don’t really read science fiction or fantasy. I do love to read though. My favorite book is “The Winter of our Discontent” by Steinbeck. I love Steinbeck in general. “East of Eden” is amazing as well. I’ve read a variety of female authors but have not picked up on one in particular.

A.H.: I wish there was more time in the day, so I could….

S.K.: …travel all over the world (I guess this would require more days in the week or more weeks in the year!)

A.H.: If people wanted to learn more about you how could they reach you?

S.K.: I can be reached at @shpostrapheaila . I also have a YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUSwJEtg2iOHz6cVePjJ8qw I have only two videos on there but will soon add another. The videos are my venture into using dance to describe scientific processes. I hope to continue this outreach effort and have more videos posted in the future.

A.H.: Thank you,Shaila!

 

 

 

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