by Natasha Pulley
- It evokes madness
- women are more likely to go into labor
- women are more fertile
- werewolves come out, etc...
When it comes to writing science fiction, which is more important: the science or the fiction?
There’s often an uneasy relationship between sci/fi and science fact, and it can be a tricky asteroid field for the writer to navigate. Asteroid fields are a good example of this, actually: in books, films and games, spaceships are forever weaving through treacherous three-dimensional mazes of spinning rocks, typically to evade capture. Science, however, tells us that such fields are actually much more tenuous, with vast distances between each object. Zipping through a real asteroid field would be easy and probably quite dull, but where’s the fun in that? It’s much more exciting to have a ship dodging vast shards of deadly debris while the pursuing bad guys unleash beam-weapon death. Because, of course, one of the hunters will get it wrong and will crash into one of the asteroids. That’s just a law.
Science fiction, by its very nature, often simplifies and (over) dramatizes the physical reality of our universe. For many casual readers, this doesn’t matter a jot: what matters is the story. It isn’t a concern if the science is impossible, just as long as it’s consistent and used to convey an engrossing tale. So far as we know, it’s impossible for a ship to travel faster than the speed of light and remain intact, but limiting velocities to the light-barrier makes almost all of sci/fi unworkable. Does it matter? I’d say not: in science fiction, a sense of wonder and thrill is more important than being faithful to the truth (as we currently understand it).
At the same time, some writers put a lot of work into producing fiction that works firmly within the realms of scientific possibility. The genre has many devoted readers who have a very good understanding of real science, and who will very happily point out the flaws in a story if they’re there. I think that’s fair enough – if you know how astrophysics or biochemistry or computer science works, a story that breaks the rules of what’s possible is going to be annoying. Some writers work hard to produce books that an expert could happily read and enjoy, others aren’t so bothered. There’s surely room for both. Space, as Douglas Adams once pointed out, is big: “You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” There’s room enough for all possible futures.
And, of course, the whole point of science is that it knows it doesn’t know all the answers. Its whole point is to come up with better models of reality by finding the flaws in the current ones. One day, FTL travel might be possible, and there are plenty of examples of scientists being inspired by science fiction. A book like Physics of the Impossible by the physicist Michio Kaku describes in detail how many of the tropes common in sci/fi are or might be possible one day. There’s a familiar quote, versions of which are ascribed to people as diverse as the geneticist J. B. S. Haldane, the theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg and the sci/fi writer Arthur C. Clarke: the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. Whatever the source of the line (it’s probably Haldane), the point is that the little word “can” gives sci/fi writers enormous scope to try and do exactly that: imagine something new, intriguing, wonderful, perhaps impossible. Worth doing for its own sake, but also because today’s impossible has a habit of becoming tomorrow’s possible.
And actually, I think it’s wrong to emphasise the tension between science fiction and fact as I’ve done above. The discoveries thrown up by science are very often the starting point for story ideas. The two feed off each other, but they are symbionts rather than parasites. To pick a trivial example, while researching some background information for my own Triple Stars trilogy, I came across a description of a blue dwarf star – something I’d never heard of. Blue dwarf stars are theoretical objects, and it is not possible for one to currently exist given the age of our universe. Reading that, I immediately knew I wanted to have one in my books – because, how did it come to exist? How is it possible? Those questions became fundamental to my story. A scientific discussion of the physics of blue dwarfs is not going to be much fun for the sci/fi reader, but a space opera set in a galaxy where such things exist because they’ve been engineered – that is (hopefully) fun.
For me, the whole point of sci/fi is that it has the capacity to put the readers into situations that are not possible in any other literary form. The sense of wonder that imbues books like Larry Niven’s Ringworld or Philip José Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go or Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels is unique to the genre. To take another example: minds that are far beyond the limits of small biological entities such as ourselves – be it intelligent starships or planets – are wonderful to read about, to become for a time. That is, literally, mind-expanding. Fantasy can do something similar (in different ways), but only in sci/fi is it possible to see the real universe through such marvellous eyes.
Always assuming, of course, that the entities in question even have eyes…
Tainted Waters takes place in a world where witches, light elves, and dark elves are in perpetual conflict. A cold war between the group simmers and it won't take much to spark a hot war. Despite the inherent animosity, strange allegiances form between witches and elves. But can anyone really trust anyone else? Trusting your natural enemy for benefit and survival is the theme at the heart of Stanhope's novel.
A coven of witches and a clan of dark elves share a forest, both want access to its resources. Their forays into the woods bring them in deadly contact and conflict with one another. Alice--half light elf and half witch--is a new member of the coven. As many of the characters point out, Alice shouldn't exist. A union between a light elf and witch shouldn't happen, but she does exist and her mixed blood gives her unique abilities which makes her dangerous to everyone. Alice is young and still in training, hardly aware of her strengths.
Someone in the coven sends her to a cave to search for nettles. The cave is the home of the dark elves that share the forest. Alice is captured and questioned. She would have been killed straight away and cut up for her bloody bits but the dark elves are intrigued by her lineage. They also have a problem. They believe a witch has poisoned their water supply and the leader of the clan decides to use Alice to remove the hex. Alice realizes she was sent to the cave to die. Someone in her coven wants to be rid of her and maybe start a war. Alice decides to help the dark elves with their water. She doesn't have a lot of choices. Complications abound as Alice discovers her worst enemies might be her best friends.
If you enjoy stories about magic and twisted allegiances where it's not clear anyone can be trusted, you'll love Tainted Waters.
It's when Hades takes Persephone to the Underworld.
The days when the veil between realms is at its thinnest.
I've called Spinning Silver literary fantasy because it tries hard - possibly a little too hard - to be "literature" first and fantasy second. Although I knew it was a fantasy novel, I actually stopped to check after the first few chapters, because the book could have been a slice-of-life period drama set among the peasants and landowners of pre-revolution (I guess 19th century) Russia - although place names are all, so far as I could tell, invented. But, a magical fantasy novel it definitely is. It's also quite heavy on exposition and explanation at times, making it read more like a retold and dramatised folk tale - there are elements of Rumpelstiltskin and Baba Yaga in there - than a more traditional fantasy novel.
That all said, I enjoyed this book very much - it's intriguing and beautifully written, offering a very welcome change to the more standard tropes. The magical and fantastical elements are introduced gradually and gently: they creep up on you, just as they creep up on the characters in the book. Farmers and peasants struggle against poverty and hunger, but they're also battling more magical, elemental forces: faerie-like and demonic entities that intrude into the real world as folk-tale and rumour. The deep woods are to be avoided, because that's where the monsters and the malign beings dwell...
The story is told through the eyes of three women: Miryem, a moneylender, Wanda, a servant who becomes a friend, and Irina, the daughter of a nobleman. They're each well drawn, with their own distinctive voices and characters. All the characters are three-dimensional and believable. If there's a flaw in the book, it's that its conscious literariness makes the reader work to discover which character is speaking at any one time: the point-of-view switches a lot (which I personally enjoy), but doesn't give you any direct clue about who is speaking, meaning that you have to work it out from context, an effort that sometimes takes several paragraphs. Perhaps it's just me. This task become harder because a first-person narrator is used throughout, making it tricky to work out which I, "I" actually is quite a lot of the time. Instead of losing yourself in the beautifully-crafted prose, you're thinking, "Who is this again?" It could have been easily fixed: a few tweaks to the text, or just the name of the relevant character above each chapter or section, and the book would have flowed much more easily.
If you're looking for a completely escapist book in these troubled times - and who would blame you - this may not be the one to choose as the flight from our world is not total. Miryem encounters depressing anti-semitism during her experiences, and it's also very definitely possible to read the story as a parable of climate change.
But, overall, I loved it and it's highly recommended. The descriptions of snow and ice and cold are wonderfully done, and I really found myself identifying with and rooting for certain of the characters - including some who start off as "bad". That depth is surely the sign of a good book, and I'll certainly look out for more by the author.
Find more about the book at Goodreads.
It’s ironic that I’m tackling a shifter hero, after I steadfastly avoided reading Stephanie Mayer’s Twilight series (or watching the films), which fueled the newest mania for shifters (Though, let's face it, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were shifters). I thought Twilight was for teens and so I couldn’t quite square it with my reality, though I've realized, I was making assumptions. In fact, I have written about shifters… I’ve created water sprites, ghosts, witches and Dorianna, who forged a deal with the Prince of Darkness, and shifted into a beastly version of herself that became almost unrecognizable.
Another irony is that in the last year, I’ve pinned up lots of wolf, fox and coyote images on my bedroom wall. Why? I identify with their feral drive, their loyalty to family and love for their forest homes. Also, their sharp instincts. Here’s one of the images I love most. It’s a mama coyote and her pups (Photo credit: Jim Zuckerman for the Sierra Club).
In fact, in Alpha’s Revenge when Wayland returns solo to his native Canada to eke out his form of payback, he befriends and enlists a pack of scruffy, wily coyote shifters. I wrote those scenes before I took this card down from my wall and saw that these guys were not wolves but coyotes! Excellent coincidence.
Anyway, I’m reminded of Carl Gustav Jung’s writings on the Shadow Self:
"Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." It may be (in part) one's link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.”
This quote is good too…
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” … “In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” – Jung
Finally, here’s the cover of Alpha’s Revenge. It launches on September 3rd and I’m really enjoying writing it!
What do you think is essential in a (wolf) shifter character? What would you like to see in one that you don’t usually see? What’s your favorite shifter type?
Xavier will weigh all human life against Gwendolyn's ignorant happiness. The good news is that her choice can blow his away.
The Eyes in the Shadows, a religious sect, has been trying to free humans from the “prison” of life on Earth for millenniums. The Existence has always been able to thwart them… until now. They've discovered a way to end the world that no one will see coming.
Gwendolyn has her future all laid out. There is a plan. She knows what her parents want for her and how to get it. Then Xavier, a friend from a virtual game, makes her question everything. He's full of secrets, one being an understanding of her fear of the wind.
She tries to suppress her intense attraction to the mysterious and frustrating Xavier. She's engaged, after all, and the thoughts she's having aren't proper. Gwendolyn is swept into a whirlwind of secrets, danger, and a forbidden attraction. She'll drive across the country in her beat-up old car, not knowing if he is genuinely interested or just being polite. (He refuses to kiss her!) Gwendolyn's journey is full of self-doubt, sacrifice, and dark visions that invade her sleep. Will she uncover the truth about herself?
Christine's review: The Existence wants only to protect humanity, but with their numbers split, they do not have the power to stop those who wish them dead. Xavier has been searching for their missing member and his love, but when he finally finds Wend (short for Gwendolyn), she doesn't know who she truly is and is about to be married her a man she doesn't know. The two of them grow close online, and Wend tries to be happy with her life, to do right by her father, but her emotions are in turmoil. Will she find her true self before it's too late?
This is the first book in the NA fantasy series, Existence. It has a unique mythology about The Existence where the members are like superheros or demi-gods. Even those that serve them have the desire to protect and better humanity. I have never read something like this before and it truly fascinated me. I'd love to see more about The Existence and its history. The villains are despicable and only want to destroy the good guys to "free" humans from their Earthly prison. Yet most of this book is concentrated on Xavier and Wend and how they're struggling with their budding relationship. Wend especially has a lot of issues to deal with for she feels a duty to her family and her religion, which makes her very passive, and has no one to support her until Xavier comes along. The relationships of Xavier and the others in The Existence are powerful, and I loved seeing the interaction between them. I also loved the fact Xavier and Wend met in an online fantasy game.
Highly recommended to those who want something new and fresh in the genre.
I have caught up on all my shows that I’d DVR’d. And we’ve been searching for new series and shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, You Tube. Please comment below with some awesome suggestions!
Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows…especially the monsters.
It takes a monster to hunt one, and for Raine McCord, forged in the maelstrom of magic and science, she’s the one for the job. In a world where the supernatural live in a shadowy existence with the mundane, a series of disappearances and deaths threatens the secrecy of her kind and indicates someone knows the monsters are alive and kicking. Partnering up with the sexy and tantalizing Gavin Durand proves to be a challenge as dangerous as the prey she hunts.
When the trail points back to the foundation which warped Raine’s magic as a child, her torturous past raises its ugly head. Gavin and Raine sift through a maze of lies, murder and betrayal to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.
Buy Here: AMAZON
Cathrina's Review: I take pleasure in reading all genres, though, Urban Fantasy is high on my list of faves. And Ms. Jami Gray certainly writes a compelling fantasy.
It took a few pages to get acquainted with Raine McCord, a wraith with unique powers, and the Taliesin Security that she works for to delve deeply into this action packed novel. I was introduced to a plethora of creatures such as Vamps, Feys, Shape Shifters, Witches, Warlocks, and more that added spice to the tale. The Shadow's Edge is a mystery as Raine and the hot Gavin Durand are assigned to find who's killing person's connected to a biogenetic company. While at the same time Raine is struggling with her own personal demons that threaten to surface, taking over her body. And Raine is a lethal weapon, a woman who can definitely handle herself in deadly situations. The sexual tension between Raine and Gain is on the rise, and my only disappointment was wanting more. If you love Urban Fantasy the The Shadow's Edge is for you. Looking forward to her next book in The Kryn Kronicles, Shadow's Soul.
It turns out that in the 1850s, when my novel takes place, Philadelphia experienced an explosion of new medical “breakthroughs”, from the wacky to the notable. At the offbeat end, there were herbal remedies inspired by the German Pow Wow or Braucherei practitioner, a combination of ritual prayer, herbal applications and the chanting of charms to not only heal the patient, but protect the farmers’ cattle and sheep. On the remarkable side, were the “plastic operations” of Dr. Thomas Mütter, who pioneered plastic surgery at Jefferson Medical School, and who invented applications we use to this day, such as the Mütter flap. This uses a flap of living skin, still partially attached, to cover open, damaged areas until they can heal, at which point the connected flap is cut and stitched. Dr. Mütter, who appears in the book, was quite the flamboyant dresser, who liked to match his suit to the color of his carriage. To this day, the Mütter Museum is a go-to attraction for all sorts of medical oddities, including dozens of wax molds of eye diseases and ‘The Soap Lady’, a woman whose body was exhumed in Philadelphia in 1875. She is nicknamed this because a fatty substance called adipocere coats her remains.
I grew up in Philadelphia and thought I knew a lot about its history, but in the process of research for the novel, I learned many new, startling facts. I love writing historical fantasy for this very reason.
Before Eastern State Penitentiary was built with its single cells and solitary confinement, people of all ages, including children were thrown in one holding pen at another location. Thus, Eastern State revolutionized the system and was considered state of the art when it was built. It was equipped with skylights, central heating and some of the very first flush toilets, and inspired by the Quakers’ belief that solitary penitence could quell an inmate’s urge to commit crimes.
Yet it wasn’t long before people realized that “paying penitence” 24/7 alone in a cell did not cure people of criminal behavior. Rather, the isolation drove them stark raving mad. Charles Dickens, who visited the prison, wrote a scathing treatise, saying, “Solitary confinement is rigid, strict and hopeless… I believe its effects to be cruel and wrong.” Oddly enough, during that era the phrase What the Dickens was a euphemism for What the Devil! Go figure.
Even in this cultured, modern city of Brotherly Love, superstition and chaos were alive and well. According the an article on the Historical Society of Pennsylvania blog, a sensational case occurred in 1852, with newspaper headings entitled, "Superstition in Philadelphia," and "Witchcraft - Evidence of an Enlightened Age”.
"Mary Ann Clinton & Susan Spearing, residents of Southwark Ward, were formally charged at the 'Court of Quarter Sessions,' with "conspiring to cheat and defraud George F. Elliott, by means of fortune telling and conjuration," in order to extort money. The 'Commonwealth of Pennsylvania' alleged that the two women were giving Mrs. Elliott, "a bottle containing some portions of Mr. Elliott's clothing, and telling her that as the clothing decayed, so Mr. Elliott would moulder away, until he would finally die by virtue of the spell..."
It appeared that Mrs. Elliott suspected her husband was guilty of infidelity, a belief that "had so strong an effect upon her as to make her wish for his death." Thus, she had enlisted the services of Clinton & Spearing, who also encouraged the jealous wife, as an "ordeal of witchcraft," to "take her husband's clothes, tear them to pieces, fill the bottle with them, then boil the contents nine times, and this would give him such extreme pain as to cause his death."
Enter my heroine, Evalina, accused of witchcraft when her pet bird, flies down the throat of her violent boss and chokes him to death. Add to this mix, Dolly Rouge, her prison neighbor and ex-bawdy house madam, Lightning, a homeless urchin who knew Evalina’s brother and was jailed for stealing horses, and Birdy, a handsome, kind Irishman jailed for a tragic accident while blasting granite for the railroad who Evalina falls for. Oh, and add a handful of sinister doctors, and Evalina’s perilous plot to gain justice for her brother’s murder.
Research is the grounding for the fire that ignites the writer’s mind. And let us all remember that after the Black Plague came the Renaissance. May we have one for 2020.
To see the novel on all sites click here.
The world isn't how they left it. When the bunker airlocks release them after twenty years in hibernation, the survivors find a silent, barren world outside. But they are not alone. There is a presence here, alive in the dust—spirits of the earth, benevolent and malicious as they interact with the human remnant.
Milton is haunted by a violent past he's unable to escape, despite the superhuman speed the spirits give him.
Not interested in bearing the next generation, Daiyna is determined to destroy the flesh-eating mutants lurking in the dark, pierced by her night-vision.
Luther is a man of conviction who believes the Creator has offered humankind a second chance, yet he's uncertain they deserve it—and he's perplexed by the talons that flex out of his fingers.
Willard is a brilliant engineer-turned-soldier who refuses to leave his bunker, afraid of becoming infected and willing to destroy any obstacle in his way.
As their lives collide, the mysteries of this strange new world start unraveling, culminating in the ultimate life-or-death decision one survivor will make for them all.
This is the first book in a thrilling post-apocalyptic adventure series. It reminded me of the popular video game, Fallout, with survivors coming out of the safety of their vaults into a frightening world. After the Sky has much more twisted plot which wrapped me in it quick. We get to see the world through a handful of eyes, the points of view of different characters from various vaults. Each vault has its own specialty: engineers, scientists, breeders. Many people gain new paranormal abilities when they come to the surface. They venture out and meet one another along with other chilling surprises. Luther is the rock of the group and helps keeps hope alive. Daiyna is my favorite character. Strong and wise, and not letting the assignment of her vault determine her purpose. Milton is fascinating, and I never knew which way he'd go.
There's high tension and plenty of action along with a lot of depth in the plot. What exactly is going on in the world, and how to these spirits tie into everything? How can one person make all the difference? While fear, hate, and paranoia drive some characters, others still hold on to their faith and hope. An amazing read that has me eager for the next book.
Franny is always trying to find Indigo a man (because she knows men, which she doesn’t hesitate to remind Indigo of at every turn) before her shelf life is up. Indigo thinks Franny is an interfering old ghost. But make no mistake, these two are besties.
I do believe in spooks. I do believe in spooks. I do! I do! I do!
An exciting, adventurous read!
The main character, Tanith Aesir, is sent on a quest by the rulers of her world to find a stolen amulet that lends authenticity to the ruler who wears it. She rose up from the ranks of slave to being trained to serve the Council of Nine on Antaris.
Tanith is sent to Nashira where she becomes stranded when her ship crashes. Her origins, before being taken by the slavers, is on Nashira, and she forms a bond with a pack of wolves.
When the story open, she saves a man who was left for dead by her enemies. Turns out, he's a bounty hunter after the same amulet.
This adventure was part science fiction, part mystery, part mystical, part supernatural. It was an exciting mix with twists and turns and great characters I enjoyed spending time with.
Highly recommended. Available at Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
When is a frog not a frog?
When it's created from computer algorithms (AI) and evolved into a new life form. A living machine.
Scientists at the University of Vermont evolved frog stem cells. The tiny blobs made up of living tissue are neither robot nor animal. About the size of the head of a pin, they can be programmed to do different jobs, such as heal wounds faster and deliver medicines to specific places in the body.
There's no external control. The xenobots are more like windup toys. The bots are programmed to do a job and nothing else. The bots can work alone or in groups.
How fascinating is that? It's incredibly cool. Want to learn more about the xenobots? Here's a link to the article. XENOBOTS
This bit of science inspired some scenes in Endpoint, Backworlds Book 8. I hope to release it before the year ends
Here are some M. Pax specials to enjoy in the meantime:
Now in Kindle Unlimited!
I 'don't buy' a lot of books.
If I can get a fast-paced cozy I'll read it. Louisiana Longshot by self-publisher Jana DeLeon fits the bill perfectly. I came across it as a free-read (still free on Amazon), checked it out, then devoured it.
Fortune is a CIA operative that royally messes up and a price is put on her head by a middle eastern arms dealer. The CIA quickly becomes a former lifestyle. If you're looking for a hardcore thriller, this isn't it.
She ends up hiding out in a podunk town called Sinful, which operates on its own set of rules. She is supposed to be keeping her head down until it's safe to go back in the field. As with any mystery, she quickly stumbles over a bone in her own backyard and an investigation ensues (with the hunky sheriff being the potential love interest).
The CIA agent-in-hiding walks on the edge at keeping her head down though. As she picks her way through the ins and outs of small (small, small, small) town Louisiana, she becomes friends with a couple of older women. Although they are from different generations, they have something surprising in common.
All three have secrets. All three are bad-ass. Trouble and hilarity is around every corner when the three of them team up to solve the murder.
This is a 'southern cozy mystery', which is sort of a sub-sub-sub-genre of mysteries.
I give Louisiana Longshot a 5* rating.
It was a hell of a long shot....
CIA assassin Fortune Redding is about to undertake her most difficult mission ever—in Sinful, Louisiana. With a leak at the CIA and a price placed on her head by one of the world's largest arms dealers, Fortune has to go off-grid, but she never expected to be this far out of her element. Posing as a former beauty queen turned librarian in a small bayou town seems worse than death to Fortune, but she's determined to fly below the radar until her boss finds the leak and puts the arms dealer out of play. Unfortunately, she hasn't even unpacked a suitcase before her newly inherited dog digs up a human bone in her backyard.
Thrust into the middle of a bayou murder mystery, Fortune teams up with a couple of seemingly sweet old ladies whose looks completely belie their hold on the little town. To top things off, the handsome local deputy is asking her too many questions. If she's not careful, this investigation might blow her cover and get her killed. Armed with her considerable skills and a group of elderly ladies the locals dub The Geritol Mafia, Fortune has no choice but to solve the murder before it's too late.