Category: Articles

Ten Things I’ve Learned Since Having a Book Published by Madeline Dyer

Posted June 3, 2016

 

So, a few days ago I celebrated the one year anniversary for the publication of my debut novel, UNTAMED (Prizm Books, May 2015). During that year, I’ve learned a whole bunch of things and thought I’d share ten of them here with you.

 

1: Not everyone realises having a book published is a big deal. 

You feel great about your book being published, but some of the people you excitedly tell just don’t ‘get’ it. You see their faces fall and realise that when you told them you had ‘big news’, they were expecting something much bigger. And it’s hard not to let that upset you.

But writing a book—and getting it published—is a huge achievement. And we know just how many months (and even years) of hard work, sweat, and tears have gone into this… but not everyone gets this.  To some, writing a book is nothing, and publishing it is just a shrug-your-shoulders kind of moment. But you shouldn’t let the reactions of non-knowers (as I affectionately call them) get you down.

Just because someone doesn’t understand that you’ve poured your soul into this book and spent months and months labouring away over it, it doesn’t mean that your achievement is any less validated.

You still rock—you wrote a book! And don’t worry, there’ll be other people who do understand why this is a shout-from-the-rooftops moment.

 

2: A lot of the non-writers who you tell about your novel will suddenly confess their dream to you—that they, too, wish to write a book.

Often this statement is followed by some sort of justifier, that they will write their book ‘when they have time’. And time seems to be the only thing a lot of non-writers think is necessary to have when writing a book…

At first, I was surprised by how many people seemed to think I had managed to write my book because I apparently ‘had the time’ to do so. In their eyes, skill and motivation didn’t really feature that highly. And didn’t they realise that I was busy with other stuff too?

I mean, I wrote the first draft of UNTAMED when I was 18—whilst I was at school and studying for A-levels. And then I worked on in-house edits with one of my publisher’s editors alongside doing my degree. It was tough to fit it all in.

But part of being a writer is having the determination to write, and the determination to find time to write. That fifteen-minute break? Well, I can write a couple of hundred words then. That bus journey? Yes, I can get some outlining done.

Writers don’t magically have more hours in the day than everyone else in the world. We have the same amount of time. But we just have to find the time to write, and we organise ourselves in such a way that we do have time—even if it means less sleep, or not going out to see that film.

I’m a firm believer that if someone’s a writer, they have to write as much as possibly they can. Writers don’t have any choice, and they can’t put off their writing dreams for a more suitable time—say, in ten years. There’ll never be a more suitable time, and writers write whenever they possibly can.

 

3: You also won’t feel like a proper writer.

Even now, after signing a second book deal with my publisher, I still feel like I’m not the real thing. From talking to other writers, it seems the aptly named Imposter Syndrome is common among us all. We all feel like we’re not good enough, and that soon someone is going to realise it—but, according to some, that’s a sign of a proper writer. It’s when you’re certain that your writing is spectacular and that you’re the next J.K. Rowling that you might need to worry…

So, I guess the thing that I’ve learned here is that it’s okay to feel like this. It’s normal. And other famous writers feel like this too.

 

4: But once you’ve got one book published, writing your next can be harder.

I’ve certainly found this to be true for me. Having already had one book published, I feel there’s a great amount of pressure on me to write one that readers love just as much—if not more.

And these expectations we think people have makes writing a follow-up book an incredibly daunting task all of a sudden. And all your doubts about your writing ability come flooding back. After all, what if that first book was a fluke? What if you can’t produce the stunning sequel that you know readers are waiting for?

Well, don’t worry. That’s my answer, and that’s what I’ve been telling myself every time I start fretting. I think the main problem for me is that I’m now comparing my patchy first draft of book two to the final version of book one. And of course, the writing’s not going to be great in a first draft. And there will be holes in the plot, and characters who aren’t that well formed.

But I know I can fix all this. I have to tackle it one step at a time, just as I did when I was rewriting and editing Untamed. And I have to believe in myself. If I wrote one book that readers loved, then I know, deep down, that I can write another, even if my first thought is that I can’t. I’m still the same writer. And it’s all about self-belief and not becoming intimidated by what you achieved before.

So, just write. And get your first draft done. That, for me, is still the hardest bit, and becoming a published writer hasn’t made it any easier.

 

5: Now onto reviews: don’t read them!

Okay, I’m not very good with this one. I know I shouldn’t read the reviews that my book garners, but I just can’t help it. There’s something exciting about realising you have a new review on Goodreads, or Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. And you just find yourself clicking through to read it, whilst anxiously wondering whether the person loved or hated your book.

And there will be some negative reviews. Whether a book is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is, after all, subjective. And you won’t be able to please everyone.

But as soon as you come across a negative review, you suddenly feel as if this review speaks the Ultimate Truth. All the good things you’ve previously read about your book are washed away, and all you can focus on now is the less-than-favourable thing that someone has said. And this really fuels that feeling that you’re not good enough, that you’re not a proper writer… that you’re an imposter.

And it can hamper your creativity.

That’s why I know that no author should read their reviews—and NEVER respond to any. Seriously, don’t.

But, if you must read those reviews then definitely do the next thing on my list.

 

6: Save your good reviews.

Print out a hard copy of your favourite reviews and stick them in a scrapbook. Then, whenever you come across a negative review and end up feeling like you’re the worst writer ever, read through your book of positive reviews. I promise they’ll make you feel much better, and you won’t (hopefully) spend days crying.

But, at the same time, don’t fall back into the trap of reading your best reviews and thinking, ‘but what if I can’t write a sequel that readers love as much as my first?’

So, yes, even your good reviews can be a double-edged sword. They certainly make me feel better and motivate me to write, but at the same time, I worry about disappointing my fans with my next manuscript. Ah, it gets so complicated…

 

7: Finding readers can be hard.

Even when your book is traditionally published, finding readers can be tricky. There are so many books out there competing for readers’ attention that many unfortunately do get lost.

But this is where promotion and marketing come in—trust me, marketing your book is important. And marketing it correctly is even more important.

You need to know your audience, and you need to engage with them. You also need to seem like a real person, so talk about your everyday life and share funny anecdotes. And always engage with your readers as an equal—never talk down to them.

But you also need to make sure that readers can find information about you quickly. A website is a must—and if you can host it on your own domain, even better. You’ll seem more professional that way. And make sure that you have clear links on your website to where readers can buy your book—don’t make it hard for them to find this information.

 

8: The number of reviews you have is important.

Once you reach certain numbers of reviews for a single work, many retailers include your book in different lists—and even on newsletters. So, the number of reviews you have is important. And the more reviews you have, the easier it is to sell your book.

But getting genuine reviews can be difficult, especially when you need unbiased reviews from people who you don’t know. Amazon removes the reviews from reviewers they think know the author, believing these to biased and untrustworthy.

And finding readers who will review your book can be difficult enough in itself. Especially when only around 1 in 100 will write a quick review of your book off their own back.

But book bloggers are great. And there are thousands of professional reviewers and bloggers out there who will write an honest review of your book in exchange for a free copy of your book—and include that disclaimer in their review. Plus, many of these reviews can also be used as editorial reviews, and often you can use snippets from these reviews in your marketing.

And also; NEVER buy reviews. I mean it. NEVER do it. When I hear that others are considering it, I cringe so much. Buying reviews can destroy everything—and cause retailers to block all your reviews (even any genuine ones). Never do it. Your reviews need to be genuine and unbiased, from actual readers who have actually read your book.

 

9: Nothing sells your last book like your next.

This is actually something I’ve read a few times now, in many different places. But it seems to be true. And it makes sense: the more books you have out, the more people will see your name, and the more readers will look for your other works having read one.

So perhaps the best marketing you can do for book one is to produce book two.

It seems so simple, and it emphasises an important part of being a writer—you know, the writing part.  Just because you’ve got one book out, doesn’t mean you need to stop writing. Quite the opposite, actually!

(And again, don’t let you success with one book intimidate you and make you feel under pressure with your second—I’m definitely struggling with this, now that we’re less than months away from the release of my second book… but what if readers really don’t like the direction I’m taking the Untamed Series in?)

 

10: And the final thing to mention here is that reading (and relaxing) is still important.

All writers, whether they publish or not, need to read widely. Don’t stop reading—and having fun—just because you’ve had a book published. Sure, it can be harder to find the time, now that your days (and nights) are filled up with marketing, promotion, answering interviews, writing, editing, researching, and booking events—plus other life commitments!

But you still need to read.

So please, don’t stop. Make sure you have time.

For me, reading is also a way of relaxing. And it is so important. Don’t overwork yourself—you still need some time off. And you still need to do what you love.


Madeline Dyer lives in the southwest of England, and has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal. She can frequently be found exploring wild places, and at least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes. Her debut novel, UNTAMED (Prizm Books, May 2015), examines a world in which anyone who has negative emotions is hunted down, and a culture where addiction is encouraged. FRAGMENTED (Prizm Books, Sept. 2016) is her second novel.


A-Z Blogging challenge: U is for… Utopia

Posted December 7, 2015

MetropolisUtopian Society

A Utopia is a perfect, idealistic society, the opposition to a dystopian environment. A world where ‘inhabitants exist under seemingly perfect conditions […] utopian and utopianism are words used to denote visionary reform that tends to be impossibly idealistic’ (britannica).

More’s Utopia (1516)

The termed was first penned by Sir Thomas Moore in Utopia, which tells the tale of More, an ambassador for King Henry VIII, Giles, his friend, and  Raphael Hythloday, a philosopher and world traveler. A conversation strikes up between the three men and  Hythloday describes a society ‘based on rational thought, with communal property, great productivity, no rapacious love of gold, no real class distinctions, no poverty, little crime or immoral behavior, religious tolerance, and little inclination to war. It is a society that Hythloday believes is superior to any in Europe’ (Sparknotes) and constrasts greatly with the the brutality of life in sixteenth century England.

Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis is an early example of how a future Utopian society was envisioned (and is a film I studied during one of my English Literature degree moduels).It incoroporates both a utopian and dsytopian society. Utopia is, of course, reserved for the wealthy, who enjoy a life of leisure and luxury in magnificiant complexes above the ground, ‘while a lower class of underground-dwelling workers toil constantly to operate the machines that provide its power’ (wikipedia).

 

Utopian resources

While browsing the web (as you do) to research this topic, I found a few websites of interest and so I’m going to list them here as a handy reference (for both myself, and perhaps you, the reader of this post):
The Society for Utopian Studies (which has a great resource section)

The Amana Colonies (utopian experiments in the early United States)

10 Failed Utopian Cities That Influenced the Future

 


A-Z Blogging Challenge: T is for… Time travel

Posted November 6, 2015

I am a massive – massive – fan of time travel. Forwards or backwards, it matters not. I love the whole concept of time travel, whether this is achieved through self-hypnosis, a machine, an object, a portal, an accident or a slip through time itself is irrelevant.  Time travel and it’s various devices and consequences is a common theme, with each author having their own vision.

An Introduction to Time Travel

I think the Doctor (Who) describes Time travel best. In Blink, he finds himself in the position whereby he and his assistant have been transported back in time without the Tardis. At a pivotal moment in this episode he explains how ‘People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.’

Time travel devices

Self-hypnosis

Somewhere in timeIs it possible to use your mind to return to a point in the past? In Somewhere in Time (1980), ‘A Chicago playwright uses self-hypnosis to find the actress whose vintage portrait hangs in a grand hotel.’

I remember watching this years ago (it’s a great little film if you like some time travel romance).


An Accident

Still on the subject of films, one of my absolute favourites in theMV5BMTQ2MzM0NzE4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODIyNDcxMQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_ time travel genre is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949):

A bump on the head sends Hank Martin, 1912 mechanic, to Arthurian Britain, 528 A.D., where he is befriended by Sir Sagramore le Desirous and gains power by judicious use of technology. He and Alisande, the King’s niece, fall in love at first sight, which draws unwelcome attention from her fiancée Sir Lancelot; but worse trouble befalls when Hank meddles in the kingdom’s politics.

It’s a memorable film, using modern day science to confront old English beliefs, and includes the severely catchy song, ‘Busy doing nothing.’


Time travel machines

Back to the future In Back to the FutureMarty Mcfly travels back into the past in a car – a Delorean to be precise – where he bumps into his parents, disturbing the flow of the past and threatening his very existence.

Other machines

Machines are quite common in Time Travel fiction. H.G.Wells novel The Time Machine introduced time travel through mechanical means, Doctor Who, of course, has his Tardis, and in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a phone box was used.

In the Philadelphia Experiment, an entire battleship travelled back in time while participating in an invisibility experiment, while in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home the Enterprise travelled back through time when it became apparent Earth’s continued existence was threatened.


Time travel objects

Objects are another common means of engaging in Time Travel, be it a Vortex Manipulator like Captain Jack Harkness’ (Torchwood/Doctor Who), a medallion as in J.W.Penn’s Emperors of Time or Travel Glasses as in Chess Desalls book of the same name.

emperorsoftimeTravel-Glasses-Cover-681x1024-319x480-174x280Insight Kindling - Ebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever the ‘object,’ the purpose remains the same – to propel the user of the object from one point in time to another.

Time travel portals

Another means of travelling through time is the ‘portal’ – which in my mind conjures up images similar to that in Stargate (1994), where one can enter a structured portal in one time and arrive through its twin in another.

Timeslip

Out of all the methods of travelling through time, Timeslips fascinate me. There are a lot of stories on the internet of people accidentally ‘walking’ into the past, albeit for short periods. One particularly well known account is that of Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain who became lost on holiday in France while searching for a chateau. They came across some people dressed in 1789 attire and saw buildings that hadn’t existed for many years. I don’t know how true this is, but the concept really does fascinate me. You can read more about it here: the Versailles Time slip.

 

Time Travel themed books on Indiescififantasy:

[show-reviews-in tax=”genre” name=”time travel”]


A-Z Blogging challenge: S is for… Spaceships

Posted November 5, 2015

Spaceships

With all the discussion on this blog about asteroids, space and futurology, I thought it might be wise to take a look at how we’re going to travel to all these wonderful places within the universe – be it through choice or necessity The wonderful thing about science fiction is that we can envision whatever style of spaceship we deem fit for purpose, although there may technical restrictions if writing in the genre of hard science fiction, where the practicalities of present day engineering is crucial.

Follow Indie Scifi fantasy’s board Spaceships – Inspirations on Pinterest.Spaceships may come in all shapes and guises, some of which I have tried to capture in the board above. For interiors, you can check out this board: Follow Indie Scifi fantasy’s board Spaceships – Interior design and ideas on Pinterest. 


Spaceship specifications and capabilities

Spaceship specifications and capabilities depend on the author’s imagination and on the technology available, and also on the level of science being incorporated into the story i.e hard science fiction versus fantastical science fiction, but I have listed below some of the most important elements when considering space travel:

Crew

Food

Leisure

Radioactive protection

Spacesuits

Speed

Suspended sleep system

Water

Weaponry

I shall add to this list as I read / think of things, but in the meantime, here are a few books featuring space craft of various designs:

AL Clark

spacetug-copenhagen

Roque Hunter

Blood-in-the-Fire-ver2-683x1024

 

 

 

 

 

 


A-Z Blogging challenge: R is for… Robotics

Posted August 5, 2015

Robotics

Advancement in science and technology in our present day lives makes robotics within science fiction all the more real – whether it’s a child toy, an android or an evil legion of robots taking over the planet (think Terminator).

For this blog post I shall concentrate on robots in the ‘human’ form.


RUR

On  25th January 1921, Karel Capek’s presented R.U.R (Rosumovi Univerzální Roboti). A play featuring cyborg (biological) like robots, who at first seem content to work for humans, but a revolt begins and their rebellion seeks to end humankind.

Sound familiar?

It should, robot forms advancing their intelligence, becoming discontent and destroying the Earth/Mankind seems to be quite a popular plot within science fiction:

Do androids dream of electric sleep by Philip K.Dick (Blade Runner inspiration)

The Humanoids by Jack Williamson

I, Robot by Issac Asimov

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson


Our imagination with regards to these complex A Soul's Worthrobotic automatons doesn’t stop there though. In T.S.Barnett’s A Soul’s WorthWarren makes life like automatons within a Victorian London setting and sells them for an ever increasing price. While his ethics slide, his secret lover, Ben, is a ‘moral compass.’ The problem being that his creations aren’t automatons at all but ‘Golems given life by witchcraft – and each one costs a human soul.


Android Hunters

In Jonathan Bergeron’s Android Hunters, a hard science fiction / space opera, the ‘take over and destruction’ of man has already happened, resulting in elite four person teams known as Android Intelligence and Removal Specialists (AIRS) from hunting them down in a world of ‘androids, android hunters, a crime syndicate, an alien cybernetic virus, and an android who doesn’t know what she is…’


 

 

 

 


A-Z Blogging Challenge: Q is for… Quasars

Posted July 13, 2015

Quasars

Quasars are defined as ‘an astronomical entity that emits incredibly high levels of electromagnetic radiation (including light). The amount of energy emitted by a quasar dwarfs even the brightest stars,’ (About.com)

Believed to have formed when matter drawn into a super-sized blackhole is thrown back out creating superextreme beams of energy. Quasars have a short lifespan. According to About there are approximately 60,000 known quasars and if it points to Earth, it is known as a Blazar.

quasar

It’s certainly an amazing sight, with the closest one being a mere 780 million light-years away.

Quasars in science fiction

I’m not sure there are any (although I am sure there must be, but I couldn’t find any to talk about). Oridinary, average, run-of-the-mill blackholes are quite common though, but it would be cheating to discuss them when the focus of this blog is quasars.

(Another post I need to revisit when I’ve done a little more research into it)


A-Z Blogging Challenge: P is for… Planets.

Posted July 2, 2015

Planets

I’ve written a blog post on Asteroids, and briefly touched on Jupiter,  so  now it’s time to stretch a little further afield and talk about the multitude of planets existing within and beyond our solar syste

PlanetsPlanets, both real and imagined, are of huge thematic importance in science fiction. Mankind’s exploration of space, whether physical or through the lens of a telescope, has provided an amazing – albeit limited – view of the universe. Although, according to scienceblogs there are ‘at least 200 billion galaxies out there (and possibly even more), we’re very likely talking about a Universe filled with around 1024 planets, or, for those of you who like it written out, around 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets in our observable Universe.

As a child, Star Wars and the original series of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek opened my eyes to the possibility of life on other planets  – Dan Dare too. It’s no wonder I’ve grown up believing there is life out there ‘somewhere.’ 


Planets in Science Fiction

Planets within science fiction feature in numerous guises. Roque HunterKevis Hendrickson’s Roque Hunter series involves Zyra Zanr – the Galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter – travelling the Draeda glaxy with ‘an arsenal of high-tech weapons and her trusty spaceship, the Helship-II.’ Two powerful governments are embroiled in a bitter struggle for power, and Zyra needs to keep her wits about her to stay one step ahead.


A space story

The theme of planets from another perspective can be found in ‘A Space Story – The Journey of a bald little alien named Dean Kilmer.’ Instead of the exploration heading outbound, Dean is searching for Earth, with a view to persuading a human to return ‘home’ with him. ‘Dean’s’ fast-paced storytelling describing his misadventures will appeal to its intended young adult audience. 


 

 

 

 


A to Z Blogging: O is for… Online Worlds

Posted June 17, 2015

Online Worlds

O was a tricky letter to find a theme for and I swear I’m not cheating. ‘Online Worlds’ is a theme in its own right according to the Encyclopedia of Science fiction, not only that, but I’ve had the pleasure of reading a couple of books using this very theme.


So what are Online Worlds?

Without stating the obvious, they’re worlds that exist online, quite often involving role-play with other users and are never ending as far as I can tell.

I grew up on ‘Make your own adventure’ books, closely followed by Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy books. You’d create your character,Fighting Fantasy select your inventory, gather your experience points and make your way through the book, choosing between turning to page 54 or 112. One would lead to salvation (possibly), the other to certain death. Come to think of it, I never did find a safe passage through the world presented to me, there was a monster lurking at every corner, itching for a fight (with the use of dice, a little turn taking and some honesty).

Incidently, I picked one of these books up at a boot sale recently and tried to engage with my gaming-mad eleven and twelve-year-old.

Ha! No chance!


Minecraft, Roblox, Blockland, not to mention online multiplayer console games, EA’s Sims franchise, city building… all of these allow users to engage in creating and living in an online world. Obviously there will be other examples, but these are the ones I know of personally and I’m sure you don’t want this post turning into an epic saga on the subject.

Online world fiction for young readers

MinecraftStone Marshall has written a series of books based on the extremely popular Minecraft game. My children, along with most (if not all) of their school friends are crazy about this game. The online world is a landscape of blocks, and as far as I can gather, you design, create and demolish bricks to create your own.

Book one of Flynn’s Log: Rescue Island is highly accurate in describing the loading of an actual game – waking in a strange world with the sun getting ready to dip beyond the horizon, and as I’m sure Flynn will discover, Minecraft at night can be a dangerous place to be – especially if you’re on your own.

The recommended age group for this series of books is 8 to 18, and there are four in the series:

Rescue Island (Book #1)

Thorn’s Lair (Book #2)

The Ultimate form of life (Book #3)

Offline (Book #4)

 

For older readers (Young adult +)

I came across a series called ‘The Game is life’ a couple The Gameof years ago. The first one is still free (which is how I came across it), but I went on to purchase and read all the corresponding books in the series, I just couldn’t get enough of this peculiar world.

  • “What if life as we know it was just a game?
  • What if, instead of traditional schools, children learned by participating in a virtual reality simulation, one that allowed them to experience “life” from birth to death — multiple times?
  • What if one player, on his final play, could change the world forever…?”

The book can be complex at times, and there are moments where you have to stop and think ‘where’ you are, but overall I found this (and the sequels) a highly engaging read. It did have some editing issues when I first read it, but the author has apparently resolved them since then (not checked that yet, but I will do as I fancy another read).

The online world in this book is virtual, and I can’t really say much more than that without giving the book away, but if it’s your ‘cup of tea,’ I would highly recommend grabbing a free copy of The Game.


A to Z Blogging challenge: N is for… Nuclear War

Posted June 15, 2015

Nuclear War (and the ensuing ‘winter’)

Protect and Survive Nuclear War

I was watching a program a while back about adverts that used to appear on our television screens during the nineteen-seventies. One advert was produced by the UK government and carried the slogan ‘Protect and Survive.’ I had absolutely no recollection of this, but my mum informed me that it was a very real threat back then, (and maybe it still is, although I’m under the impression that none of the countries with Nuclear weapons dare fire them, lest it blows our planet to smithereens.

It should come as no surprise then, that Nuclear weapons, wars, fallouts and winters should play an important role within science fiction, be it the post-apocalyptic setting the few survivors live in, the cause of a zombie manifestation, or the sole reason for abandoning our planet.

(And I will add some more to this as I come across books depicting these themes)

 


Blogging A-Z: M is for… Military Scifi

Posted June 14, 2015

Military Sci-Fi

Unisol_132 As far as I can gather (as this is one of my least favourite sub-genres of science-fiction) Military Sci-Fi uses futuristic technology and weapons, often to negotiate fights with alien civilisations, or conduct battles in space, although I’ve read many a book where the military is used in a present day setting, usually with a near apocalyptic scenario.

Books in this genre appear to have main characters who are, in fact, military personnel, which means that I’ve been writing a novel in a genre I claim not to be keen on (my novel draft has military personnel and most of the story take place on military premises – who knew?)


Space Opera

Space opera is a subgenre of Science Fiction (and a form of Military Sci-fi) involving romance, melodrama and is set mostly in outer space according to the Wikipedia page on the subject. Clearly I’ve not understood this genre at all (until now), as a lot of television shows I enjoyed as a child, and which instilled me with a life-long interest in science fiction, appear to fall under this category: Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and Blake’s Seven to name but a few.

So, all that talk about this genre being my least favourite means I’ve been clearly misinformed at some point in my life. It’s a genre I read a lot of, and a genre I have chosen to write in, a genre I love in fact…

 

 

 

 


Blogging A-Z: L is for… Life

Posted April 17, 2015

Life

Or more specifically, Life on other planets.

I do not, for one moment, believe we are ‘alone’ in this universe. Life came into being on our own planet, albeit with a specific set of criteria, but just because we haven’t found proof of other lifeforms, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist… somewhere.
Iconographer1

Alien Life Forms

Science fiction is rich with other life forms, and a quick search through Google images reveals just how wide and vast our imagination is when considering other forms of life – little green and grey men with small bodies and elongated or over-sized heads, human shaped aliens, insects, robots, a jelly-like blob… As with the other elements of science fiction I have so far discussed through this challenge, our vision of what constitutes an alien has changed as our own science and knowledge develops.

 Books on Indiescififantasy featuring alien life forms:

 [show-reviews-in tax=”genre” name=”aliens”]


Blogging A-Z: K is for… Keep

Posted April 15, 2015

Keep

And yes, this really is the best I can do for K. I’ve spent ages trying to come up with a theme, and besides talking about Klingons or Kyptonite, I didn’t see what else I could talk about.

So, a keep, according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is the scifi equivalent of a fantasy novel’s ediface (although I often see the term ‘keep’ used in fantasy) and is a ‘walled, gated or segregated community(source), a little like a compound I suppose.

compound

This image is of a science fiction themed compound/keep designed by Cull_the_Cool for one of the Sims game (I’m not sure which one, but it gives you the general idea).

Keeps’ can be made of whichever material is available, they may contain a small society of survivors wishing to live in peace, a heavily fortified military unit, or perhaps a mix of the two, with military personnel protecting vulnerable citizens.

Quite often keeps will be found in remote locations, and will often involve a life and death journey to reach them.

Keeps’ are popular in science fiction, but I’m clearly not as well read on science fiction as I thought I was, because I can only think of one independent book featuring a keep and that appears to have been withdrawn from sale.

I shall return to this post at a later date with some book recommendations. If you know of any that you believe would complement this post, please do let me know. This is definitely the most challenging letter of the alphabet yet for science fiction themes.

 


Blogging A-Z: J is for… Jupiter

Posted April 13, 2015

Jupiter

Which is another non-theme, but trying to find a theme for J proved quite impossible (though the odds are I’ll think of something after hitting the publish button…

jupiterAnyhow… Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system with a mass two and half times that of all the other planets combined (according to Space Facts). Its primary makeup is gas, and it is therefore known as a Gas giant.  Thanks to a visit to an observatory with the children the other week, I got to see Jupiter and four of its moons through one of their telescopes.

It has a total of 63 moons, but the main ones are: Europa, Lo, Ganymede and Callisto


Some fiction exists with Jupiter as a backdrop, although earlier works, such as Micromégas (1752) by Voltaire and A Journey in Other Worlds (1894) by John Jacob Astor IV take place on Jupiter itself, something discoveries since then have discounted as impossible, due to its having no solid surface on which to land, high radiation and high gravity.

A search of Amazon shows there are quite a few independently published science fiction books with Jupiter as a setting/backdrop, with titles such as The Jupiter Paradox, Jupiter Rising and The Lost Jupiter.


Jupiter_and_the_Galilean_Satellites

Jupiter’s Moons

In contrast to this, three of the four moons mentioned appear to be a far more likely place for mankind to reach out to (in science fiction at least).

A search on Amazon of independent books featuring Europa, Ganymede and Callisto turns up a search result in the thousands, mostly relating to a colonisation environment (well on the first page anyway), with Europa being the most popular destination. 


 


Blogging A-Z: I is for… Invasion

Posted April 13, 2015

Invasion

An invasion of our home planet is another regular theme in science fiction – Independence day, War of the Worlds and the Day the Earth still to name but a few. As with the other themes mentioned through the A-Z blogging challenge, different writers have different ideas of what an invasion might entail, although it usually involves an alien species. We might be sport – hunted down and killed, an inconvenience standing in the way of the natural resources, or a species to be rounded up and enslaved. Whatever the reason, you can guarantee mankind will fight for its survival.


war of the worlds

War of the Worlds

Based on a novel by H.G.Wells, the recent 2005 film brought the War of the Worlds to the big screen – Hollywood style. In this version, the aliens invading our world buried tripod styled machines deep beneath the surface of our world long before man even existed.

They have returned to claim the planet for their own, at first killing everyone in sight, they go on to capture the pitiful humans panicking beneath their feet…


Independence Dayindependence day

In Independence Day, alien spaceships appear over the most populated cities. It takes a while for the powers to be to work out that their arrival is not a friendly one, by which time they manage to lose the majority of their fighter planes, although they never really had much of a chance against a forcefield protected spaceship anyway.

A mentally implanted image from an alien informs them that the invasion is indeed hostile…


day the earth stood still

The day the Earth stood still

The alien in this film takes on the human form and claims his intention to save the Earth, although the alien’s definition of save and ours, are two entirely different things. The treatment he receives after being captured and interrogated does not convince the alien that mankind should be allowed to continue in existence.

As a swarm of insect-like nanites sweep across Earth, a mother and child must convince him that mankind is worth saving…


I’ve chosen to mention three older films so not to give spoilers away about new films (and assume most people will have seen these ones anyway). Alien invasions are very popular in science fiction, for an in-depth list  of movies, you can check out IMDb’s Apocalyptic and Alien Invasions listing, for books, check out the alien invasion listings on Amazon.

 


Blogging A-Z: H is for… Hyperspace

Posted April 11, 2015

Hyperspace

Hyperspace-SWPuzzleWhile this isn’t theoretically a theme, it does play an important role in some science fiction books, especially those with established planets, colonies, and spaceships. Characters need a way to get from planet A to planet B and transverse thousands, if not millions of miles, quickly. Hyperspace is the process whereby a ship takes a short cut from one point in space to another; faster than the speed of light, the journey makes the use of another dimension of space, or a parallel universe, (according to Wookieepedia).

Travelling through Hyperspace results in no apparent effects to those inside the ship, but the stars outside streak into a blur, indicating the passage of their travel, but it is not without problems.

Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova, and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?Han Solo, to Luke Skywalker (Star Wars IV)

 

Faster than Light travel 

raptor

While the Corellian smuggler is able to plot co-ordinates directly to his chosen destination, other characters aren’t so fortunate. In the recent series of Battlestar Galactica, Faster than Light (FLT) jumps are made from system to system as they disappear from one point in space and simultaneously appear in another. In one episode, Solo’s warning becomes a reality when one of their Raptor ship jumps into a solid structure, despite their obvious precision with plotting a safe course ahead.


Further Information

There is a whole Wikipedia on the subject of Hyperspace/FLT within science fiction, such is it’s popularity. It has a history dating as far back as 1634, when Johannes Kepler, a German astronomist tells a story of a journey to the moon with the aid of demons – years before science fiction was even a genre.


Blogging A-Z: G is for… Global Warming

Posted April 10, 2015

Global warming

Another popular theme in science fiction. I have read numerous books and watched countless films with Global Warming at the fore, be it snow, rain, ice, wind, tornados, tsunamis, or an all out end of the world as we know it… they all arise from this theme. I’ve learned about the effect of collapsing ice shelves (The day after Tomorrow), the devastating effects of solar flares (2012) as well as ‘witnessing’ a variety of environmental experiments via the films on the Syfy channel, (the acting is bad, the scripts are awful, but some of the concepts are quite good).

Global_Temperature_Anomaly.svgSo… Global warming is the ‘century-scale rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system and its related effects’(Wikipedia)

Extreme Weather

Extreme weather conditions are often cited as a direct result of Global Warming, whether we have the hottest January on record or an increase in Hurricanes.

In Science Fiction, extreme weather is frequently the cause of Earth’s impending demise, with characters racing to counter the unprecedented extremes, or succumb to them.

In most of the films I’ve watched with extreme weather scenarios, the scientists are very fortunate in that they have sophisticated equipment to warn them about the incoming storm/hurricane/flood/volcanic eruption etc etc, but refuse to believe the given results – even though the equipment is doing what it was designed to do. There is of course that one character who isn’t fooled, who tries to convince the majority, but by the time they start listening to him/her, it’s usually too late.

The Barren Earth

In my mind, a future with continued Global Warning is that of a barren, drought-ridden expanse of land where little grows, livestock dies and water – or what is left of it – becomes our most valuable resource. An article on CS Globe discusses a controversial scientist’s claim that Earth could be heading towards something he refers to as Venus syndrome, ‘where global warming becomes so bad Earth can no longer sustain human life.’ (source), although his vision is the opposite of mine (rising sea levels).

greenhouse-effect-500x295The truth is, we are abusing the planet we rely on to support life. We’ve become a busy little place over the last one hundred years or so, chopping down trees, dipping into natural resources such as oil and gas, pumping chemicals into the sky… and if the Greenhouse effect is to be believed, it’s going to get hotter.

I did watch a program about this a few years back, and I can’t remember all the details, but I’m pretty sure the scientists were arguing that Earth went through a natural cycle of warm and cold spells – implying that what we’re being told isn’t all doom and gloom, but I suppose time will tell who is right and who isn’t.

Dead Earth

Another possible scenario for us (and this one is very futuristic), is that the Earth did indeed achieve the status of ‘Venus syndrome,’ is totally beyond the ability to support life, and those of us who could afford it (or were just plain lucky), have moved on to new pastures. Our technology has usually advanced to the point where we’ve created ships that are capable of travelling great distances, and usually with faster than the speed of light travel, or with the ability to jump from one point in space to another. We’ve discovered new life-supporting planets and have taken what remains of humanity aboard these great ships, although in some science fiction, the journey has already been taken and life couldn’t be better…

 


Blogging A-Z: F is for… Futurology

Posted April 7, 2015

Futurology

Now this is a very popular theme in science fiction. We all have our own perception of how the future might look, whether it’s ten years, fifty, a hundred or a millennium: Flying cars, elite cities, devastated cities, super-advanced technology, back to a stone age lifestyle… the details regarding what our future might look like are left to the discretion of the author. Some are fantastical, with mankind whizzing around the universe in faster than light spaceships, some are based on known technology we have at the present time, some assume we’ve all but destroyed ourselves, and others are expecting an outright alien invasion (to name but a few).

I’d like to think we could progress without blowing ourselves to smithereens, that we could develop  technology that will one day see us colonising other planets (preferably without destroying or abusing its natural resources) and discovering and reaching out to other civilisations, because I really do not believe we are have the sole existence. Our home is a wee speck of dust in a colossal universe, as this rather brilliant video shows (you need to click through to see it, the link goes to a public Facebook video and will show you just how miniscule planet Earth is):

How small is planet earth !If there is no aliens in that huge thing…

Posted by Renaud Margry on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

 

And I’m going to leave this post here as I’ve a wad of editing to be getting on with now I’ve finished playing catch up with the A to Z blogging challenge.


Blogging A-Z: E is for… End of Time

Posted April 7, 2015

End of Time

through-the-wormhole-does-time-existI was watching one of Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole episodes the other day, and the subject of the documentary was time, or to be more specific, if ‘time’ existed. It discussed a series of concepts, including the theory of relativity, an experiment which manipulated light, slowing it down by a nano-second as it passed through a machine as well as discussing how the concept of ‘time’ was discovered.

It was all rather technical (for me), but very interesting, and it got me thinking about the end of time.

We measure our days (and nights) by the rise of the sun, by the turn of light and darkness. At some point in history, the twenty-four hour day was decided upon, and that is what we live our lives by, along with the concept of weeks, months, and what constitutes a year. These measurements have come about from the study of the sunrise, the stars in our skies and the change in our seasons.

Time is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present and future regarded as a whole‘ (Oxford Dictionary).

So what happens when ‘time’ grinds to a halt?

As with other themes, I always find it interesting to hear different authors perspectives and found a few books I thought worthy of  mention, although I’ve not personally read any of these:

Stolen time:

Thief of Time (Discworld) by Terry Pratchett

Splintering Time:

Time Quake (for ages 10-14 ) by Linda Buckly-Archer

Ecological Damage:

Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter

Fifth element

City at the end of time by Greg Bear


**Actually, I struggled to find independently published books tackling this theme. There were a lot of books in the Kindle store, but when reading synopsis’ the focus seemed to on religion, while I was looking for books fictionalising the science of the end of time.**

 

 


Blogging A-Z: D is for… Dystopia

Posted April 4, 2015

Dystopia

Dystopia is yet another theme of science fiction that intrigues me (and if you’ve been following along with the posts so far, you may have guessed – and quite rightly guessed – that there aren’t many themes I don’t like).

According to the Oxford dictionary, a dystopia is ‘An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one. The opposite of utopia’  (Oxford Dictionary – online)

In terms of science fiction, a dystopia has got to be the ‘perfect’ society for characters to rebel against. The Hunger Games and Divergent are two of the most recent books to use this theme, but in literature, it goes much further back;

1984

1984

Published by George Orwell in 1959, this novel paints a grim presentation of 1984. An atomic war has  resulted in the world being divided into three states: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia.

Winston Smith is a bureaucrat, living in London (Oceania). He works for the Ministry of Truth and is responsible for rewriting history, as and when the ruling party require it.

As the novel opens, Winston feels frustrated by the oppression and rigid control of the Party, which prohibits free thought, sex, and any expression of individuality. Winston dislikes the party and has illegally purchased a diary in which to write his criminal thoughts. He has also become fixated on a powerful Party member named O’Brien, whom Winston believes is a secret member of the Brotherhood—the mysterious, legendary group that works to overthrow the Party‘ (Sparknotes)

bbIt introduces the theme of ‘Big Brother,’ the faceless leader of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes there are posters announcing that ‘Big Brother is watching you.’ While the citizens have been told he is their leader, Winston isn’t sure if he is a real person or just the face of the totalitarian party. Some find his face a comfort, as no matter where they are, he is watching, but to some – such as Winston – he is a threat.

As if that isn’t enough to contend with, Winston makes the mistake of falling in love. Public displays of affection (and free will) are not permitted. He and Julie live in fear of being caught and punished by the Big Brother…


My thoughts on Dystopia

Control seems to be the key to having a dystopian environment – whether through fear, medication or psychology. By keeping low ranking individuals where the leaders want them, by weeding out anyone who might be deemed as troublesome, or incompatible with their chosen method of control, the members at the top of the food chain should be able to enjoy a worry-free life.

Except… an inciting incident is nearly always enough to get a downtrodden character to open their eyes. To move beyond accepting their position in life and see the world for what it is. Discovery of the truth can fuel a character with passion, with the desire to live, as opposed to merely surviving, and they will fight for that freedom.

Sometimes these lowly characters can make it – avenues of escape materialise through a series of discoveries and they exit the book victorious. Other times they do not. The dystopian environment is all there is, but by the time they’ve realised that it’s too late to go back to how things were…


Blogging A-Z: C is for…Colonisation

Posted April 3, 2015

Colonisation

There’s something about colonisation that fascinates me. I’m not sure what is exactly, but I just cannot get enough of it. I love seeing different writers perspective on what it means to survive within the confines of a colony, and I’m not all that fussed about the location either, be it underground, on land or in space.

Underground

colonyimage

colonyunderThese images are courtesy of a real estate article on Doomsday bunkers. According to the article, which was posted in April 2012, four of these apartments had been sold, allowing the purchasers to flee to a safe haven if a catastrophic event were to occur. It certainly looks appealing from where I’m sitting, but I can’t help but wonder what the ‘reality’ would be like after a few years – or decades – of being cooped up in such a confined space.

 

 


Space

asteroid belt

Dark-Colony-Cover1-253x380-174x280

The series I am currently reading is about as far away from Forge’s colony as I can get.  It’s in space, or to be more precise, the Terpsichore asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Richard Penn’s Asteroid Police combines adventure and mystery with hard (factual) science fiction. In the first book in this series – The Dark Colony – we are introduced to Lisa, a young policewoman charged with the role of ensuring order is maintained, and it is, until she has the misfortune to make a rather unpleasant discovery.

As yet I am only part way through reading this book, but I’m finding the science in this book quite fascinating. Penn has clearly researched his subject matter well, and there is a good balance between story telling and factual information.

spacetug-copenhagenAnother book of interest from Penn is Spacetug Copenhagen, book one of the Steps to Space series.  I don’t know about anyone else, but as a child, I always imagined we would be living on other planets by now (I have an overactive imagination).

This book uses present day engineering and science to show just how close we are to that vision. It’s set just fifteen years in the future, has a luxurious hotel in orbit, and judging by the series title, will feature the birth of a space colony.

As with The Dark Colony, it’s a fascinating (and addictive) read, especially when the source of inspiration is cited as an amateur space program.

The Copenhagen Suborbitals are a non-profit, amateur based space endeavor, funded entirely by private sponsors and donors. They build suborbital space vehicles – designed to pave the way for manned space flight on a micro size spacecraft, and on a micro size budget (Copenhagen Suborbitals)


My thoughts on colonisation

Despite the distance, and very different placement of the two forms of colony, there are several elements common in both books:-

Limited Resources (and the need to use what is available)

Regulations and order

Restricted living conditions

Penn and Forge have colonies that have been established over a period of time, and both have a futuristic placement, although the Asteroid Police series is closer to our present timeline then Toys and Soldiers.

If you are interesting in reading these books, please click on the images and you will be taken directly to Amazon. I, in the meantime, shall continue to search through the masses of self-published books for a land based and underwater colony environment (please feel free to comment if you know of any).

Sources:

Ashlyn Forge: http:ashlynforge.com

Richard Penn: http://lockhand.org/

Copenhagen Suborbitals: http://copenhagensuborbitals.com/

 

Books featuring a colony:
[show-reviews-in tax=”genre” name=”colony”]


Blogging A-Z: B is for… Biometrics

Posted April 2, 2015

Biometrics

Biometrics combines technology with human features, such as fingerprints, DNA and eye retinas, as a means of developing secure systems for authentication purposes, while also having the potential to track and monitor individuals. Much of what was once deemed science fiction has become a reality, but as our understanding of science and technology increases, so too does the imagination of the writer, and biometrics still plays a key role in science fiction films and books.scully

Tracking

In the X-Files, a series featuring two FBI agents investigating unexplained events, Dana Scully is abducted by ‘aliens’ and a chip inserted into the base of her spine. According to this X-files.Wika article, ‘branched DNA was added to Scully’s blood during her abduction. This highly sophisticated form of DNA had the possible applications of being a tracking system, the developmental stages of a biological marker or part of an effort to graft a human to something inhuman’

Total RecallIn the 2012 film Total Recall, Douglas Quaid awakes from a dream with the belief that his life is in danger. He goes on to discover a communication device (phone) embedded in the palm of his hand, and as we all know, phone’s can be used to trace the user’s location, leaving him with no choice but to cut it out of his palm.

Authorisation / Identification

demolitionman

I can think of a couple of films where access to a secure area is granted through the use of biometrics. In Demolition man the use of the eye retina is two-fold: It firstly allows a prison warden to pass through the security barriers within the prison complex, and secondly, it allows a criminal to escape – but not before he physically relieves the warden of his eyes.

The removal of body parts is only one means of deceiving what should be the perfect security system. Copying fingerprints and recording the spoken voice are far less traumatic, while in Gattaca, the main character seeks to deceive a system that classifies individuals with the use of DNA.

gattacaIt divides society into two classes – the genetically elite, and the inferior. Vincent Freeman is assigned to the latter group, but has always dreamed of going into space. Unfortunately for him, this is a role reserved for the elite. To achieve his dream, he attempts to fool the system with the use of somebody else’s DNA – if only it were that simple.

In Vincent’s case, there’s much more to his gamble then merely fooling the system, there are physical behaviours to take into consideration, and they aren’t as easy to manipulate.



Final thoughts…

I’m not sure how common place biometrics are in the real world, but from a creative writing point of view, there is so much you can do with this, whether from an identification or tracking perspective. Both present day and futuristic settings can take advantage of biometrics – no point in making life too easy for our characters now, is there?


Blogging A-Z: A is for… Asteroids

Posted April 1, 2015

Asteroids.

I have quite a fascination for them actually. Not the type travelling harmlessly around the asteroid belt though, oh no, I like the concept of one hurtling towards Earth and threatening to wipe us all out, and more importantly, what we would – and could – do about it.

We’re making advances in space travel, sending probes and what not further out, preparing to send people to live on Mars, identifying planets that could quite possibly sustain life… but what are our chances of stopping (or diverting) a killer asteroid?

I’ve watched films with this concept – Armageddon, Deep Impact, and several b-grade movies on the sci-fi channel whose film names escape me, possibly because they were beyond awful.

[spoiler] In Armageddon, a drilling crew lands on the approaching asteroid, somehow managing to drill through titanium plate and blow the rock to smithereens.

The crew of Deep Impact aren’t as lucky as Team Armageddon. They only manage to blow the asteroid into two pieces, and while the larger part cruises off into deep space, the smaller part enters Earth’s atmosphere with some amazing special effects, and with a lesser destructive force then the whole.[/spoiler]

 

Near Earth Objects

knownasteroidsNasa’s Near Earth Object Program was established in 1998 with a view to identifying near-earth asteroids larger than one kilometer. The chart on the left shows the total number of near-earth objects in relation to those over one kilometer.

The chart below lists recent close approaches. closeapproaches

 

While the chart seems to show quite a few close approaches, the asteroids that get a mention in the media are usually the ones that come closer than the norm, such as asteroid 2012 XE54 in December 2012 – a mere 143,000 miles away.

The tracking carried out by the Near Earth Object Program appears to be a preventive measure, as NASA ‘works with partners in the U.S. and around the world to detect, track and characterize NEOs, especially those that might pose a threat to human populations’ (source)

Physical protection from asteroids

There is a Wikipedia discussing methods of Asteroid impact avoidance, such as nuclear devices and deflection, but as I am unsure how much is fact, and how much is speculation, I’m going to pass on mentioning them for now.

Science/Fiction Blogs participating in the A-Z challenge:

Jeno Marz

paleopix.com

n1Science

 

 

 


Blogging from A-Z Challenge (April 2015)

Posted March 27, 2015

APRIL-CALENDAR [2015] (1)Against my better judgement I have decided to have a go at the Blogging A-Z (April, 2015) challenge, not that I needed much encouragement – a simple ‘Michelle, are you doing this?’ from a writing acquaintance was enough to send me flying across to the website to check it out (and sign up).

As I’m in the process of trying to get this website up and running, I thought I would focus on themes within the Science Fiction genre (and shall do the same with fantasy at the next one).

The ‘rules’ are pictured on the image above. You blog a letter a day – except Sundays.

The challenge itself looks very popular, and at the time of writing 1,365 bloggers have signed up. If you’re interested in joining in, you can find the details here: Blogging A-Z (April, 2015). Signups close on 2nd April, 11.59pm Eastern Standard Time.