Friday, April 20, 2018

EIGHTY YEARS OF THE MAN OF STEEL


Happy birthday, Superman! It may be a little early, but what the heck. At 80 years old, you deserve the cake and balloons, you big hunk of red and blue! 

Hard to believe it, but DC Comics just released Action Comics #1000 this week, 80 years after the Man of Steel debuted in June, 1938. And, as James Whitbrook notes in his post on 109.com, the writers/artists used the occasion to give Supe’s well-known origin story a few new twists.

You know the tale (and if you don’t, where have you been hiding?): the infant Kal-El is placed aboard an Earth-bound spaceship by his parents to save him from the destruction of his birth planet of Krypton. The spaceship crashes in a cornfield in Kansas, where it is found by Ma and Pa Kent, who raise the Baby Kryptonian as their own darling Clark, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, outrace a speeding bullet, yada, yada.

Up to now, the various depictions of the destruction of Krypton have all pretty much blamed natural causes (geological instability/solar expansion), war, overweening scientific arrogance or some such. But the new prequel TV show Krypton, set in Kal-El’s grandfather’s time, offers another explanation for Krypton’s destruction. A villain familiar to Superman fans—Brainiac—turns up in a much more menacing form here, threatening to swallow the planet whole. The hero of the show, Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe)—Supe’s young grandfather—must find a way to stop the creature (while fending off a barrage of lesser threats).

The show allows Superman fans like me a chance to explore the planet and culture of Krypton in a way we’ve never been able to before. We meet the scientific caste, which at one time included the El family (and will again) and the military caste, which includes the Zod family, villains of the future. We even get an eyeful of the original Fortress of Solitude. And we’re introduced to DC Comics’ time-traveling Adam Strange, who comes to warn Seg of what he must do to protect the future.


By contrast, the comic writers and artists in charge of Action’s Man of Steel have chosen to take the destruction of Krypton in another direction, Their approach gives them leeway to follow dramatic pathways in Supe’s present here on Earth—not a bad thing, really. I won’t spoil it for you in case you want to run out to your nearest comic book store and see for yourself. But Whitbrook is not so constrained in his post, if you just can’t wait to find out.
In the meantime, lift a glass for the original superhero today and Look! Up in the Sky! It’s Superman!

Cheers, Donna

Information for today’s post taken from “Action Comics #1000 Honors 80 Years of Superman with Another Wrinkle in His Origin Story,” by James Whitbrook, io9.com, April 18, 2018. https://io9.gizmodo.com/action-comics-1000-honors-80-years-of-superman-with-an-1825366834
 
 



Monday, April 16, 2018

Revisiting an Old Battle: Keep Your R out of my SF

The other day I was perusing old posts for some specific info when I stumbled on the blog below from nearly five years ago. I read it, sat back, and thought. "Whoa! I'd forgotten about that heated old SFR vs SF battle."

For the sake of nostalgia (and because I'm plain flat broke on blog ideas this week) I decided to repost this oldie. I still think it makes some valid points on the old SF vs. SFR debate -- and, in retrospect how books written by women are sometimes (often) discounted and scorned as substandard by certain individuals. Sort of a watered-down literary world version of the #metoo movement, isn't it? But I have to add the caveat that it's not just woman writing SFR, especially in more recent years.

Here's the old commentary:

Other than a few comments and one short blog, I've remained pretty quiet on this topic. That's not because it doesn't pain and irritate and sometimes outrage me--believe me, it does. It's just that I'm okay with letting people express opinions that are completely other-side-of-the-universe different from my own.

Freedom of speech is one of the rights we've always (maybe until recent years) prided ourselves on having in this country. When I was young, we were taught to respect, and even consider [gasp!] opinions expressed by others that didn't fit our personal outlook. There was a time when the general feeling was "everyone is entitled to their opinion" though these days that seems to have morphed into "everyone is entitled to my opinion."

This "Keep your Romance out of my Sci-Fi!" group seems to be a banner-waving minority who'd like to champion that school of thought. But, IMHO, some may be simply using the topic to enhance their stats.

Case in point:

There's a difference between freedom to express your opinion and intentionally inciting a reaction. This is why I am choosing to talk about one specific "opinion piece" without including a link. I'd like to state my own opinion of the motivation behind it without feeding that particular fire.

This past week we were treated to yet another strongly worded argument on keeping Romance out of Sci-Fi, and an equally strong push back, which was immediately labeled as being an attack on an author who has a right to express his opinion. (In other words, he has a right to express his opinion, but no one has a right to pin his hide to the wall in an articulate rebuttal.)

In my mind, this wasn't an opinion piece, this was a very sad attempt to stir the pot and feed off the controversy for the sake of hit count. The article was meant to incite, not promote discussion, which became painfully clear by the closing words and the subsequent threats to "turn off the comments." And this is why I don't feel this post was really about stating and defending his opinion at all, it was simply a blatant form of manipulation.

I'm going to avoid direct quotes from the author unless necessary, but let me paraphrase some of the statements made in the article:
  • Some authors who started off writing "true" Science Fiction soon outed themselves by including Romance and that made it unworthy of being called Science Fiction.
  • "Not true" Science Fiction contains elements that only women find interesting, like "military dress, palace intrigue, gossiping, and whispering in the corridors." [A debunking of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold].
  • "Not true" Science Fiction novels that includes Romance lack necessary tension. [A discrediting of the Sharon Lee/Stephen Miller Liaden Universe series.]
  • Steampunk is declared a Fantasy sub-genre, because the author has no interest in reading about "zombies, fancy dress balls, smooching warriors, or star-lit dinners..." 

The author closes by claiming he has now, "of course," offended everyone by stating his opinion. Which, judging from his provoking conclusion, was the whole point. Let's stir the pot by insulting some of the most beloved Science Fiction [with Romance] series because they contain elements that don't fit his personal narrow-minded definition of the genre. After all, everyone is entitled to HIS opinion--especially when making such bald, condescending statements will up the site's traffic count and generate a deluge of public backlash. Woohoo! Let's poke the tiger!

So let's look at Science Fiction and Romance debate in a different way--beyond stat-grabbing, beyond personal likes or dislikes, and beyond a futile attempt to defend the "purity" of one small segment of a genre that is fading from the reading public's interest.

Here's my view (like it or not, it's your choice):

>  Science Fiction and Romance are soul mates.

>  Science Fiction is about exploration and discovery. So is Romance.

>  Science Fiction is about looking at situations in new ways and adapting to changing times. So is Romance.

>  Science Fiction is about being inventive, spontaneous and pushing the envelope. So is Romance.

>  Science Fiction is about being forward-thinking and embracing the possibilities. So is Romance.

>  Romance not only belongs in Science Fiction, it shares the same DNA.

So if you think exploring the future, other dimensions or emerging technology isn't tied to romance, you're entitled to think that, I suppose. But there's a growing reading public who vigorously disagrees. And ultimately it's the readers--not the authors, bloggers, reviewers or publishing houses--who will decide what is and isn't Science Fiction.

I rest my case. Please feel free to make yours.

~~ * ~~
 
 
Huh. We lived -- and are still living -- in interesting times. I don't know that SFR has garnered any more respect some five years later, but it seems the efforts to stifle the genre have at least cooled somewhat in more recent years.  
 
Have a great week.
 
 
 
 
 


Friday, April 13, 2018

NOT FADE AWAY: A FEW TOUGH CHARACTERS


The construction of a series is always a complicated task, involving a growing ensemble cast and a multitude of bit players. My SFR Interstellar Rescue series has certainly been no exception, the world I’m building becoming more detailed as I go along. I’m discovering, too, that some of my newer cast members need more than a little bit of “wrangling.”

My latest novel, Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Book 4 (on pre-order now on Amazon), stars some familiar characters from my previous books in addition to my new romantic couple, Rescue agent Rafe Gordon and home care nurse Charlie McIntyre. That was difficult enough to pull off. But a few unique secondary characters in this book took special handling to get just right on the page.

Happy, the therapy dog. I introduced Happy in a previous blog post here on Spacefreighters. He was a lot of fun to write, but he was a character in his own right, too, with his own consistent personality and behavior based on his breed and background. I wanted to make sure Happy acted like a real dog, not a Hollywood idea of a dog. I asked my friend Beki Weight, who has years of dog training and fostering experience, to read my manuscript. Her input was invaluable in molding Happy into a believable character.

Del Gordon, father of the hero. The premise of Not Fade Away is that Rescue agent Rafe Gordon must bring his father, legendary alien fighter Del, now suffering from dementia, to Earth to hide him from alien assassins. Depicting Del in a respectful, yet realistic, way was not easy. 

I was acutely aware every minute I spent with Del that many of my readers deal with this challenge every day in real life, caring for mothers and fathers, husbands and wives with the heartbreak of Alzheimers, of other forms of dementia, or of traumatic brain injury. To get it right, I did as much research as I could on the specific form of dementia that affects Del (Lewy Body—characterized especially by hallucinations, which figure in the story), and I drew on my years of experience teaching chi gung to dementia patients and assisted-living residents.


BiN, a sentient computer. At least for Happy or the elderly Del I only had to worry about characterization from the outside. That is, I didn’t attempt to write from either the dog’s POV or the elderly Del’s. (There is extensive flashback material from Del’s younger perspective, though, from a time when his mind was intact.) 

Building a POV for the character of BiN, the sentient computer, was necessary, since no one else knows what BiN knows of the story. The creature/machine doesn’t become sentient all at once. Like a child, it develops a sense of itself gradually as it accumulates information. And as it accumulates even more information and becomes more curious, it acquires a sense of ethics and morality, a development that was never contemplated or expected by its creators. That’s a major twist in the plot, so must come from BiN’s POV. I had to make it believable, which I just have to hope it is. Not being a programmer, I faked it pretty hard, but real programming language would probably have sent every other reader to sleep within seconds!

The good thing about writing challenges is that they make for an exciting reading experience in the end. Pre-order your copy of Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4 today so you’ll be ready to experience it June 12!

Earth shielded his secrets--
Until her love unlocked his heart.

Rescue agent Rafe Gordon is human, though Earth has never been his home. But when his legendary father Del becomes the target of alien assassins, Rafe must hide the dementia-debilitated hero in the small mountain town where the old man was born—Masey, North Carolina, USA, Earth.

Home care nurse Charlie McIntyre and her therapy dog, Happy, have never had such challenging clients before. Del’s otherworldly “episodes” are not explained by his diagnosis, making Charlie question everything about her mysterious charge and his dangerously attractive son. Rafe has the answers she needs, but Charlie will have to break through his wall of secrets to get them.

As the heat rises between Charlie and Rafe, the deadly alien hunters circle closer. The light they seek to extinguish flickers in the gloom of Del’s fading mind—the memory of a planet-killer that threatens to enslave the galaxy.

Available for pre-order now on Amazon.

Cheers, Donna


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Rescuing Romila is published #newrelease #sfrb

I've floated my latest SFR on the Web Sea! By now you all know everything there is to know about the book, but here's the blurb and buy links - and a wonderful review.

It obviously ticked a few boxes with someone.

The Misfits are off on another planet-hopping adventure.

When Jirra and Toreni rescue Romila from a raid on her antiques business the Misfits start off on a mission to uncover a drug-smuggling operation. A new, very potent drug is on the market, hidden in statues of ice warriors carved on a remote world.

But all’s not well within the team. Toreni and Chet have fallen out, Toreni has received an offer that might be too good to refuse, and Jirra has doubts about her future.  When the drug-smuggling operation morphs into something even more dangerous, the Misfits must resolve their differences. If they don’t act together, and quickly, many lives will be at risk. Including their own.

Action and adventure, with a little bit of romance.

Buy the book at  iBooks Amazon Kobo  B&N

Here's the Amazon review:

From the imagination of a writer with a firm grasp on world-building - both social and cultural - comes another gripping tale of intrigue where the stakes are high and the outcomes less than certain. Filled with high action and a dollop of romance, the Morgan's Misfits crew - coming off a successful mission in Kuralon Rescue - now find themselves at odds when personalities and individual goals clash. The story's narrative detail walks that fine line between techie overkill and cultural authenticity with aplomb, each description adding to the story and fleshing it out into a believable whole.
With engaging characters who must balance individual needs with the necessity of working as a unit to achieve their mission goals and enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat, Rescuing Romila is a most worthy addition to the Morgan Selwood canon.
Add a cameo by the hottest admiral in the fleet, Ashkar Ravindra, and you have the perfect formula for a gripping adventure. This is space opera at its finest.


Thank you, reader. 

I don't arrange reviews, or ask for them, except maybe a paragraph at the end of a book. I didn't even do that, this time. But reviews do matter, so if you've read a book you enjoyed, do the author a favour and write a review. It doesn't have to be as complicated as the one up there. Something like, "I really enjoyed the story" is just fine. 

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.