Author Archive

I’ve been watching authors use Kickstarter for about two years now. Perhaps the best hand I’ve seen at this game is Brad Beaulieu, who kickstarted both the third novel of a series, The Flames of Shaddam Koreh, and his collection, Lest our Passage be Forgotten.

I’ve invited Brad into this guest post to ask him a few questions…


BRENDA COOPER: Both of your Kickstarters funded easily, at well over the asking price. How did you decide what to ask for, and do you think starting low helped you succeed?
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I have had lovely covers. Prior to The Creative Fire, my best cover story was when publisher Sean Wallace told me he wanted to buy Mayan December by sending me the cover art (by Scott Grimando) and asking if I thought it would go with the book.  In every other case, I gave input about cover ideas on a basic form, but actually learned what the covers looked like by spotting them on Amazon. My experience with John Picacio’s stunning cover for The Creative Fire has been very different.  My belief is that the support we have each provided the other in talking about the book and the art benefited us both greatly.

I knew John, but not well. We had been introduced at conventions, had talked at parties, and would have recognized each other walking down the street, but we had never had a private conversation that lasted more than two minutes.  I admired his work.  I own his art book, Cover Story: The art of John Picacio. A signed print of his Asimov’s cover, Away from Here hangs on my office wall among other pieces of science fiction art.

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I’m glad to be back guest-posting at SF signal.  This time, I’m interviewing Ramez Naam about his new novel, Nexus, out from Angry Robot Books on December 18th.  Full disclosure: I’ve already read this book twice even though most of you haven’t been able to get it yet. I met Ramez at a Seattle-area gathering of futurists the day that Wings of Creation came out, so maybe it was destiny that we would both stay loosely connected in the fabulous Seattle ecosystem of authors, futurists, and many of us who are both.

So here is my conversation with Ramez:


BRENDA COOPER: I’m very pleased to see Nexus becoming a real book.  Ever since I read an early manuscript draft, I’ve been excited about the possibility that more people would be able to read this. So for starters, congratulations.

RAMEZ NAAM: Thank you!

BC: For any fans or followers of SF Signal, this really is a must-read book.  Most trans-humanist fiction is phenomenally interesting for techno geeks like me, but Nexus is a uniquely human and character driven thriller as well as a brilliant rendering of a believable future.  It should interest fans of Michael Crichton, Greg Bear, David Brin, or Charlie Stross alike.

I’d like to start with a question about the genesis of one of the main characters.  Kade is a near-perfect archetype of the starry-eyed and idealistic young men and women who work in tech and science.  What models did you use when you created him?

RN: *Laughs*  Well, I have to confess to one of the great sins of writing, in that there’s at least a little bit of me in Kade, or maybe me as I was when I was younger.  He’s a lot smarter than I am, but probably more naïve and more awkward.  But I really wanted to have a protagonist who, aside from being extremely bright, was really just an everyman.  He’s never been shot at before. He had a normal childhood.  He’s thrown into situations way beyond his depths, and he has to figure out both how to cope with the stress of people trying to kill him, and how to figure out what the morally right thing to do is when he’s caught between a rock and a hard place.

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So the last time I posted here (about science fiction books that are useful to read for futurist information), a commenter asked if I’d met Madeline Ashby. I had never heard of her, but since she writes science fiction and does futurist work, I decided I should do some research. I started out buying a copy of her debut novel vN. It’s a page turner that surprises and brings a fresh look to a classic SF topic. In fact I simply sat down and read it – I usually read multiple books at once and pick up / put down regularly, but Madeline got my attention and I just read right through beginning to end.

Not only did I get to hear her read (really well) and to chat with her over tea at the World Fantasy Convention, but I also sent her some interview questions. I liked her answers a lot, and I suspect you might, too:


BRENDA COOPER: Your novel does not bode particularly well for a human future. In real life, how likely do you think it is that humanity will have an excellent future? Regardless of how likely it is, what are a few of the things most important for us to accomplish as a species, perhaps to change?
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Brenda Cooper is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her next novel is The Creative Fire from Pyr Books, a story that explores revolution on a generation ship through the eyes of a young woman who helps bring her people to freedom through the power of her voice. Find out more about The Creative Fire and Brenda’s other works at www.Brenda-cooper.com.

Science Fiction and the Futurist

While science fiction is not always either an accurate predictor or creator of the future, some books lend themselves particularly well to exploration of possible futures.  As someone who is both a futurist and a science fiction writer, I often delight in the careful and well-researched futures that show up as setting and story in modern SF.  I’m going to explore three books that do this well.  One is freshly out from a major publisher, anther is a bit older, and a third is a self-published collection of stories that appeared in Analog.

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SFFWRTCHT: An Interview With Harry Turtledove

Born in Los Angeles, Harry Turtledove received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA in 1977. In 1979, Turtledove published his first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight, under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson. He continued to use the Iverson name until 1985 when he published his “Herbig-Haro” and “And So to Bed” stories under his real name. From 1986-1987, he served as the Treasurer for the Science Fiction Writers of America. Turtledove won the HOMer Award for Short Story in 1990 for “Designated Hitter”, John Esthen Cook Award for Southern Fiction in 1993 for Guns of the South, the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for “Down in the Bottomlands”. “Must and Shall” was nominated for the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, the 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and received an honorable mention for the 1995 Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The Two Georges also received an honorable mention for the 1995 Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The Worldwar series received a Sidewise Award for Alternate History Honorable Mention in 1996. On August 1, 1998, Turtledove was named honorary Kentucky Colonel while Guest of Honor at Rivercon XXIII in Louisville, KY.He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, mystery writer Laura Frankos. He can be found online at http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/turtledove.html.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt, the one behind Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat and twitter feed (@sffwrtcht), had the opportunity to interview Harry for SF Signal…


SFFWRTCHT: Let’s start with the basics: Where did your interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy come from?

Harry Turtledove: I found it through things like the Oz books, the Mushroom Planet stories, and the Miss Pickerel yarns (when you’re in the third grade, you don’t realize how bad they are). When I was 11 or 12, I found Norton and Heinlein, and that was it. I was hooked for life.

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Brenda Cooper is a technology professional, a science fiction and fantasy writer, and a futurist. Her recent books include the Endeavor award winning Silver Ship and The Sea and a sequel, Reading the Wind. See www.brenda-cooper.com for more info, and for periodic reading recommendations.

Science Fiction, Full of Warnings

I remember hearing Ursula LeGuin talk about science fiction as politically subversive. It was a short answer to a question posed at the end of a reading, and I can’t remember her exact words any more, but the heart of them was that science fiction is a wonderful medium for commentary about true and scary dangers. Science fiction can be a warning against the worst possible futures, a place to make our mistakes in our imaginations instead of with the real world.

We have our standby favorite examples of course. We’ve all read Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 and Brave New World. These days, Dune is looking prescient – no pun intended. Just replace “spice” with “oil” and consider the sandworms as window dressing and the Fremen as people living in the caves of Afghanistan. If anyone reading this hasn’t read these works I highly suggest a trip to the library or your favorite bookstore. They are all still in print for good reason. They spoke to us a society.

So who is warning us against what in science fiction today?

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