Archive for ‘Science Fiction’

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.

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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+

November 24, 2013

Short Story Review: “Flash Bang Remember” by Tina Connolly and Caroline M Yoachim

Lightspeed Science Fiction and Fantasy, Issue 27, August 2012

Could you imagine having no memories of your own? I can’t but Girl 23 of “Flash Bang Remember” doesn’t have to imagine that is her destiny. Girl 23 is one of many young girls that grow up with the sole purpose of creating memories that will eventually be shared among the group of people who live on her spaceship. Unlike the other girls, Girl 23 doesn’t want to have her memories shared with the group instead she wants to keep them for herself. “Flash Bang Remember” doesn’t is an enjoyable science fiction story with romance, action, suspense, a strong female lead and likeable characters.

There is more to science than just the mechanics, there is the question of how will it affect humans and is it ethical. “Flash Bang Remember” asks the moral questions about cloning and memory transfer. Connolly and Yoachim don’t spend a lot of time talking about how to make a clone or even what the cloning room looks like, but they do spend a lot of time showing us how it affects our main character, Girl 23 and The Child. The most moving scene is at the end of the story when Girl 23 has to go back into the pod to have her memory rebooted. They don’t just say tell us it happens, they drag us through it every painful and terrifying step that Girl 23 feels. I appreciated that part the most because I don’t know if I couldn’t have imagined what they wrote.

Girl 23 is one of my favorite characters. It would have been very easy for her to become of my least favorite characters but instead she proves to be a cleaver, strong and determined young woman who is only searching for the same thing we all are – our identity. I think she is a role model for young women because she doesn’t seek out external acceptance and she is able to stay mentally strong and focused when others dismiss her. Also, her character doesn’t whine about her situation instead she sets out to do something about it even though she is aware of the Catch-22.

Overall, I highly recommend this story. Connolly and Yoachim propose an interesting question in this era of individualism glorification about what defines identity. Some say it is our memories that make us individual each person experiences things differently, but if we all have the same memory of how something feels and smells is there still individualism? The story also allows for the reader to pose other questions about how important is childhood, how much of actually doing something is important to learning and should those who seek to be different be made to be mold to the collective. Even though this is a short story there is a lot for the reader to consider.

October 3, 2013

Short Story Review: “First Contact with Gorgonids “ by Ursula K LeGuin

 

#HRLeGuin

 

Last month, I picked up a copy of “A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” by Ursula K LeGuin,  a collection of short stories that were published between 1990 and 1994 in various publications.  When it comes to conversations about amazing women who write Science Fiction, Ursula K LeGuin always comes up. I’ve never read anything of hers but I have appreciated her contribution to the genre and society.  “The First Contact with Gorgonids” was originally published in 1991 by Omni magazine.

 

“The First Contact with Gorgonids “ is a story about Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Debree who are on vacation in Australia when they mistakenly end up on the wrong road and face-to-face with the aliens Gorgonids.  This is a very enjoyable short story. It is part thriller and humor. Our heroine triumphs not from any difficult trials but from being smart where her husband is foolish and selfish.

 

The story uses cliché characters which lets the story begin quickly and easily.  The reader isn’t required to get to know these characters habits, back-story, or personalities instead LeGuin draws on social stereotypes to create the basis of the character. I liked this use of clichés. The true beauty of a story is how a character changes, if your short story is going to be tight you have to make the best of not only what you bring to the page but what the reader will bring.

 

LeGuin uses smart humor to define Mrs. Jerry Debree as a strong female lead that provides a different take on the cliched idea of what a woman is like in a verbally abusive relationship. Within the first three paragraphs LeGuin shows the reader to not under estimate our heroine. She is smart and clever, and able to manipulate her husband to get what she needs from him either emotionally or physically. The mocking tones of other characters, Mr. Debree actions and aside reflections of Mrs. Debree show Mr. Jerry Debree’s deficiencies and Mrs. Jerry Debree’s strengthens.

 

Overall, this is a great short story. It isn’t long and weighted down in ideas or metaphors. I love how LeGuin isn’t afraid to deal with social issues and have fun with them.  LeGuin developed a setting that was believable and easy to imagine. (Yes, I said believable even with the aliens.) The dialogue is easy to navigate and understand from a European background. I am eager to continue “A Fisherman of the Inland Sea.”

September 22, 2013

#BaltimoreComicCon2013

It’s been over two weeks since the Baltimore Comic Convention. I’ve been busy with getting new ideas ready for the blog and work. But I really wanted to share my experience for anyone who’s thought about going. The Baltimore ComicCon is the perfect place to go for your first convention because of the friendly and knowledgeable staff and attendees.

This year’s convention took place on Saturday, September 7th and Sunday, September 8th at the Baltimore Convention Center. The Baltimore ComicCon is a comic book oriented annual fan convention that started in 2000. On the ground floor comic book creators, publishers, charitable organizations and vendor booths filled tables and booths as far as the eye could see.  People milled about investigating merchandise for sale.  Others hunched over boxes of comics for sale. Some held strange positions while complete strangers took their pictures.

On the second floor panel discussions featured industry names such as Perez and CBLDF presenting information on current and upcoming industry events. Panels covered a range of topics relevant to the comic book community such as the history of banned comic books, particular comic book series, self-publishing, authors and characters. There were two series panels that covered the history of banned comics and what that has meant for the industry and how to use comic books in the classroom. Also, Jay and Silent Bob held a special presentation preview of their new movie “Bob’s Super Groovy” on Saturday.

I purchased several comics with the help of a patient boyfriend, friendly vendor staff, and a fellow attendee. I’m very eager to read and report on them.

  • Wonder Woman “Face-off at 30,000 Feet!,” Potter, Perez and Patterson,  March 1987, Issue 2
  • Miss Fury, Williams, Herbert and Nunes, Issues 1
  • Batgirl “In the Information Rage,” Horrocks, Leonardi and Delperdong, September 2004, Issue 54
  • Madame Xanadu, Wagner, Hadley and Friend, November 2008, Issue 4
  • Wonder Woman “Amazing” Attack! Tie-In,” Picoult, Dodson and Dodson, July 2007, Issue 9
  • Love and Capes “Do you want to know a secret?” Thomas F Zahler, Issue 1

As you can see there is a trend to what I picked. Love and Capes I picked up because it looked different. Zahler, the author, was there and pointed out a very funny section (spoiler) that cinched the purchase for me.

The only thing that I wasn’t happy about was the Doctor Who store. I was so looking forward to buying some Doctor Who gear.  I marked it on the map early in the day, so I wouldn’t forget or miss it. But that’s exactly what happened. It was just two tables put together and at first I didn’t even realize it was there.  Of course it was surrounded by a mass of people but still I was hoping for something more. I didn’t buy anything there really wasn’t anything that stuck out.

You can check out my photos on my twitter page.

Next year’s convention will be over three days Friday to Sunday, September 5 to 7.