Brenda Cooper is the Chief Information Officer of Kirkland, WA by day and a Science Fiction writer by night. Her stories appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld and anthologies including Fast Forward and Footprints. She’s also headlining my forthcoming space opera anthology Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age, due out in November 2013. Her novels include Building Harlequin’s Moon with Larry Niven, The Silver Ship and The Sea and two sequels. Her last appearance was to discuss Mayan December. Her debut at Pyr Books is The Creative Fire, first in a new duology, Ruby’s Song. She can be found on twitter as @BrendaCooper, on Facebook and via her website at brenda-cooper.com.
SFFWRTCHT: We talked about this before but briefly, where’d your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from?
Brenda Cooper: I’ve always read SF and F. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love, Herbert’s Dune, Madeline L’Engle, Arthur C. Clarke, Nancy Kress, L. Frank Baum’s original Oz. I’m also interested in science and the future. I think those matter.
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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.
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.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Ruby Martin, bot technician trainee on a class-riven generation starship, struggles for freedom and the rights of her underclass peers.
PROS: Captivating main character; strong character-focused story with strong themes; stunning cover art.
CONS: A couple of Ruby’s relationships feel a bit false.
BOTTOM LINE: The Creative Fire is a powerful opening half to a planned diptych of novels.
Ruby Martin lives on The Creative Fire, a generation starship, making its way between the stars. As one of the underclass, called ‘greys’ by the classes above her, she feels she is destined to live out her life as a robot technician quietly toiling away, unappreciated and unnoticed, in the bowels of the ship. An accident exposes Ruby to the world above. At the same time, the shakeup caused by the accident provides Ruby with the opportunity to try and reach that greater world. Little does Ruby realize that her gifts are stronger than she suspects, and her charisma, voice, thirst for knowledge, and potential leadership skills are perhaps more powerful than any weapon on board the ship, if she is only allowed the chance to use them.
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
You hear new stories every day: humans are ruining the planet. If we don’t do something now, we’ll certainly destroy the world for our children. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction is wildly popular, and for good reason! These scenarios, while bleak, are also exciting and offer the opportunities for lots of what-ifs. However, in the spirit of optimism, I wanted to explore some future scenarios that offer hope and a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
We asked this week’s panelists…
Here’s what they said…
I have always been an optimist. It IS a little tough to pull that off right now, but there is still reason for hope. I know that climate change is a common topic, and you’ll get more than this post on it. But I do think we can get better at taking care of our world than we are now. The just-past election is one example. President Barak Obama mentioned climate change in his acceptance speech (after it had been off the radar all election). Here in Washington State, we just elected a rabidly pro-environment Governor, Jay Inslee. In fast, the US elected five people who are expected to drive change in this area. In addition to Jay, there are two new senators and two new congressional representatives who get it. Our city just passed a levy that funds, among other things, a program called Green Kirkland that is about support for our beautiful local environment. Katrina was a knock on the door. Sandy was a louder wake-up call.
The trick is that we are past the first tipping point – the climate is going to keep on warming even if we shut off all of the carbon spigots tomorrow. Success now looks like slowing and eventually stopping or even (maybe!) reversing the trends that are putting us in mortal danger right now. We caused a lot of this problem, and as ill-equipped as we are, we will have to help mitigate it. In addition to gaining at least some of the policymakers that we need, there is significant progress being made on important fronts: Electric cars, higher emission standards, more efficient buildings, green energy, better batteries. We are also gaining deeper understanding the world through big data modeling. We have the Internet. We have increasingly specific and high quality mapping and sensor nets. We can intervene on some levels, and we’re going to have to.
We have the communication tools to support what we’re going to need to do. If we could turn these tools to unseat bad governments all over the world last spring, and to occupy our own ill-behaved banking system, we can use the power of the Internet to spread ideas and action on climate. All we need is focus. Hurricane Sandy was a focus point. The heat waves were focusers. There will be more on the way. It will take some pain, some death, and a lot of action, but we can transform our relationship with the planet. That may leave us as the tenders of the garden in more ways than we want, but it is a path to success.
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.
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.
John Picacio and Brenda Cooper have revealed John’s close-to-final cover art for Brenda’s upcoming novel The Creative Fire, the first book in a new series. [7/20 UPDATE: updated with final cover image ] Brenda has also shared the synopsis as well:
Ruby Martin expects to spend her days repairing robots while avoiding the dangerous peacekeeping forces that roam the corridors of the generation ship The Creative Fire. The social structure of the ship is rigidly divided, with Ruby and her friends on the bottom. Then a ship-wide accident gives Ruby a chance to fight for the freedom she craves. Her enemies are numerous, well armed, and knowledgeable. Her weapons are a fabulous voice, a quick mind, and a deep stubbornness. Complicating it all-an unreliable AI and an enigmatic man she met-and kissed — exactly once — who may hold the key to her success. If Ruby can’t transform from a rebellious teen to the leader of a revolution, she and all her friends will lose all say in their future.
Like the historical Evita Peron, Ruby rises from the dregs of society to hold incredible popularity and power. Her story is about love and lust and need and a thirst for knowledge and influence so deep that it burns.
Book info as per Amazon US:
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Pyr (November 6, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616146842
- ISBN-13: 978-1616146849
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
We asked this week’s panelists…
Here’s what they said…
When I think of a great novel about a revolution I think immediately of Harry Harrison’s To the Stars trilogy, which I first read in an SF Book Club omnibus decades ago and which I’ve unhesitatingly recommended over the years to authors who want to write great action SF. Revolutions are a serious business, and they often don’t turn out as planned. We can see that today in looking at what’s happened in Egypt over the past year, as one example where the initial joy and excitement of overthrow gives way to the counterrevolution and the difficulties of switching from a revolutionary mindset to one where compromise might need to be made in taking actual power in society. But there is that joy. There are the people who have to plot a revolution and stay one step ahead of the established tyranny. There are the people who have to be the foot soldiers, perhaps risking all including their lives to fight for what they believe in. That’s what a certain kind of fiction is about, people striving against impossible odds to do what everyone says could never be done. And yes, when you do it, there is a moment of real joy and real elation and real happiness, however short that moment may be. Harrison’s To The Stars trilogy may be heavy on the romance of it all, it is a quick action sf read, but should we object in our fiction to getting to experience the romance of it all without having to worry about the reality, for a few passing hours at least?
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Where and how people (fans, reviewers and authors alike) were first introduced to genre often gives insight into how they think and write about genre. With that in mind, we asked this week’s panelists…
Here’s what they said…
My dad introduced me to genre. He’d been what I guess you’d call a fan since the 1920s. The specific incident I recall was when he took me to the White Plains (New York) Public Library, back when I was in first or second grade, and we checked out Have Space Suit Will Travel and Sea Siege.
Science fiction fans love new gadgets. The most recently hyped gadget is the Apple iPad. Sure, it’s sexy, but like any gadget, it has its pros and cons.
We asked this week’s panelists:
Here’s what they said.
Full disclosure: my brother works on the iPad. Which doesn’t give me any special insights or advantages — I spent a year and a half not knowing what his job was, just that he’d been moved to a new team at Apple, before they announced the thing publicly — but if you want to read bias into this, go ahead.
I don’t own an iPad, and am not likely to buy one any time soon, for a variety of reasons: cost paired with lack of immediate pressing need, caution regarding the first generation of *anything*, etc. Having said that, when I saw the specs of the iPad, I admit it looked attractive, for two reasons.
Weight/size and battery life…
Aliens are a classic trope dating back to the earliest days of science fiction, so we asked this year’s panelists this question:
Here’s what they said…
I always thought the alien in The Thing was great, because at its heart, it deviated from the ‘actors with bumps on their forehead’ sort of approach you get in movies so much. A parasite, with some intelligence (it builds that spaceship out of spare parts), it really is quite a fun stretch that you don’t see too much of. It never communicates (language is already such a gulf between us, let alone something truly alien). You get a strong sense out of that movie that you’ve encountered something truly alien.
The big news last week was the Amazon/Macmillan eBook Disagreement, so we asked this week’s panelists:
Here’s what they said…
Same as it ever was. Amazon did this before, delisting various Print on Demand titles in an attempt to get those authors to sign up for its internal POD service. We also saw something similar with Apple, when music labels tried to pressure that company to do price maintenance. The “big issue” has less to do with ebooks or readers than with the simple fact that e-commerce allows for instant manipulations of pretend inventory. Ultimately, Amazon will start selling Macmillan books again. They’re not Dumpstering the books already in their warehouses, they’re just refusing to fill orders and will probably only do it for a few days. Amazon pays taxes on its real inventory even if pretends on its site that no such inventory exists.
Kindle and other dedicated readers are ultimately not going to take off for the simple reason that there aren’t enough people who read books voraciously enough to support a market for readers-they represent a $200 surcharge one must pay to be allowed to read. Publishing makes most of its money on the one or two books a year that people who only buy one or two books a year buy. Those people will skip the next Twilight or Atkins-style instant diet book or other phenomenon if it requires a special machine to read. Amazon’s attempt to save Kindle in the face of smartphones and tablets that do all sorts of things as well as allowing for reading will ultimately work about as well as its attempts to sell short fiction and articles for 49 cents (Amazon Shorts, failed), its attempt to corner the POD services market (not working), its attempt to get everyone to buy Segways (when was the last time you saw one under the feet of a civilian?) etc. Amazon is a company that spent years selling “Zen gardens” via mail order-these gardens were fish tanks full of rocks. It took the firm quite a while to figure out why they had to keep shipping and reshipping these things to customers, who’d end up with a box of shattered glass and just order a free replacement. Amazon STILL sells sledgehammers and ships them for free. Macmillan shouldn’t be overly worried and really neither should anyone else. This is slow news day stuff.
There’s an overwhelming selection of appealing titles to choose from when it comes to reading science fiction, fantasy and horror books. Yet some titles float to the top of the pile, making them more immediate candidates for the next books you’ll read.
Read on to see the tasty selections of this week’s panelists…
Art the top of my stack is Islington Crocodiles, the highly praised short fiction collection by the UK’s Paul Meloy. Intro by is by Graham Joyce. Really looking forward to that.
Next up: Strange Forces – The Stories of Leopoldo Lugones, a collection of fantastical stories from an Argentine writer released in 1906. Lugones is very well known in Latin America, almost unheard of here. He’s supposed to have been an eccentric a la Lovecraft and killed himself over a woman 30 years his junior by drinking a mixture of whiskey and cyanide.
Horacio Quiroga is a classic Latin American writer of extremely dark stories, some of which are included in The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories. A disciple of Poe, he lived a tormented life that included the suicide of one wife and desertion by his wife and child while enduring his final illness. Many of his stories are set in the jungle where much of his life was spent. Sounds like my kind of guy.
Lucy Snyder’s Spellbent — I’m not sure what this one is, a YA I guess, but it sounds like a blast. About hell coming to Ohio. Having played in a lot of Ohio’s armpit bars, I can relate.
“Best of the Year” lists start appearing as early as November, so we are perhaps a little late in asking folks around the community:
[Also added was this note: They don't have to have been released in 2009. Feel free to choose any combination of genres (science fiction/fantasy/horror) and media (books/movies/shows) you wish to include.]
I was totally blown away by Robert Charles Wilson’s book Julian Comstock, which is about a post-peak-oil future in which Canada and the USA are ruled by a totalitarian family of religious fanatics, and the black sheep scion of a discredited branch of the family wants to–
Well, make movies, actually.
Other than that, my genre reading has been kind of sparse this year. I very much enjoyed Nisi Shawl’s Filter House and Christopher Barzak’s The Love We Share Without Knowing. I also like Margaret Ronald’s Spiral Hunt, which is light but satisfying
- Interviews and Profiles:
- Award-winning sf writer and teacher Nalo Hopkinson is offering $2,000 intensive, one-on-one mentorships to budding writers, via email. [via Boing Boing]
- Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Freelancer’s Survival Guide: When To Return To Your Day Job.
- Robert Charles Wilson reviews Margaret Atwood’s A Dystopia Sketched in Crayon.
- AT B&N, Paul Goat Allen reviews Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl.
- Biology in Science Fiction examines James P. Hogan’s Inherit the Stars.
- It’s Steampunk Month on Tor.com! To wit: Lou Anders reviews George Man’s awesome book The Affinity Bridge.
- Brenda Cooper talks about 2 Very Cool Futurist Events.
- @AMC: Mary Robinette Kowal’s Guide to the Real Classics of Fantasy.
- David Langford has posted Ansible #267 for October 2009.
- John Anealio has posted a Sci-Fi Song podcast.
- I, for one, would like to welcome our tiny, remote-controlled insect Overlords… [Thanks, Ray!]
- Daily Galaxy asks: Space Colonization: Future or Fantasy?
- HBO’s fantasy Game of Thrones urgently needs male horseriders! [via Slice of SciFi]
- This NY TImes profile of FlashForward drops some hints about the show’s direction and the network’s commitment. For example, despite the foreshadowed April 2010 date, “…a few of the clues will not pan out for several seasons…” [via Gary Farber]
- Philippine SF Fan Charles Tan talks about the recent flooding there and lists some ways you can help.
- Interviews & Profiles:
- Dark Scribe Magazine interviews Ellen Datlow, editor of Lovecraft Unbound.
- @Innsmouth Free Press: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (Burning Shadows).
- The Chronicles of the Necromancer author Gail Z. Martin talks with author A.J. Hartley about publishing, creating believable historical thrillers and his newest novels, Act of Will and What Time Devours. (Also of interest: Gail’s reports from Dragon*Con,Parts one, two, and three.
- BookBanter podcast-interviews Mike Carey (Dead Men’s Boots).
- Sci-Fi Talk podcast-interviews Leonard Nimoy.
- At Suite101: In one of his last interviews prior to his death in 2003, hard science-fiction pioneer Hal Clement discusses his final book, Noise, and his approach to world building.
- In the newly-compiled list of 101 Fantasy Books, Tolkien comes in at #12 with The Fellowship of the Ring. The top 11 positions are held by J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer. No, really!
- Brenda Cooper liked Anathem…eventually.
- In case you were wondering, Jeff VanderMeer WILL read your f***ing script.
- Richard Matheson’s Somewhere in Time coming to Broadway, the way he intended it, I’m sure.
- The Mid-September 2009 issue of the SF Site is now online.
- VIZ Media announces the release of Zoo and Usurper of the Sun, the latest two books to be published by its Haikasoru imprint, the first U.S. based imprint dedicated to translating Japanese science fiction and fantasy.
- Forbidden Planet is hosting the UK Launch of Angry Robot Books on Saturday 10th October at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JR. Featured guests include Dan Abnett (Triumff), Andy Remic (Kell’s Legend), and Colin Harvey (Winter Song).
- Eoin Coifer, author of And Another Thing…, the sixth book in the Hitchhikers’ trilogy, will be attending Hitchcon ’09 at the Southbanke Centre in the UK on October 11th. The event will include a live, radio-style stage play with Simon Jones and Mark Wing-Davey of the original radio cast
- Chris Roberson asks: What if Raiders of the Lost Ark had been a 50s film serial? What, no Broadway play version? Get to work, Internets!
- Matthew Sanborn Smith has posted episode 5 of his podcast Beware the Hairy Mango.
- The Wertzone takes a look at the new Douglas Adams and Kim Stanley Robinson book covers, for the Hitchhikers and Mars books, respectively. (Though, irrespectively, it makes me wonder what if their serie were written by the other writer…)
- Speaking of Kim Stanley Robinson, the new fan site KimStanleyRobinson.info is live.
- Gary Farber notes that NetFlix lists the 2007 documentary The Polymath: The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman. Cool! And Bummer! The availability is currently listed as “unknown”. “No Delany for you!”
- In honor of Halloween, Super Punch announces the Horror of Star Wars art contest! Love the vampire Leia, though not as much as a metal bikini vampire Leia, if you know what I mean. (As if there was any ambiguity.)
- I’m so psyched for the new season of Fringe that even this Season 2 photo shoot video feels linkable.
- @ Cracked: 6 Star Wars Characters Too Retarded for Film.
- Also @Cracked: 5 Popular Zombie Survival Tactics (That Will Get You Killed).
- The 20 Weirdest Zombie Movies Ever Made. [via Look At This...]
- 18 Rare And Unseen Star Wars Shots. [also via Look At This...]
- David Goyer tells you Everything you need to know about FlashForward.
We always remember our first. (Yes, I’m talking about reading!) We asked this week’s panelists:
Check below to see their responses. And tell us what book got you started!
Back when I was 9 or 10 years old, I was reading one of the EC horror comics, and my mother chanced to look over my shoulder, and it must have been a typically gruesome EC panel that she saw, because she ripped it out of my hands and took it away from me.
I argued that this was censorship, which she had always told me she was against, and she, dancing on the head of a pin, explained that it wasn’t censorship because the pictures would give me nightmares, and that she would never think of censoring my reading, just my looking (which, she pointed out, Hollywood’s code did all the time and no adults objected, or at least not any she knew of), and I could buy any horror book I wanted, just no more horror comics.
I went right out to the bookstore with a quarter clutched in my outraged little hand. I’m sure she thought I’d pick up something like Frankenstein, which is all but unreadable to the average ten-year- old…but instead I bought the first “horror” title I came across, which was the Groff Conklin anthology, Science Fiction Terror Tales. I still remember the first three stories: Ray Bradbury’s “Punishment Without Crime”; Fred Brown’s “Arena”; and Bob Sheckley’s “The Leech”. By the time I had read them, I was hooked on science fiction — and I remain hooked to this very day.
So I am now 58 novels, 14 collections, 236 stories, 2 screenplays, 1 comic book, 163 articles and essays, and 47 edited anthologies into my science fiction career, all thanks an unread horror comic and a read-again-and-again-and-again science fiction anthology.
Author Brenda Cooper has launched a new website themed to her Five Worlds books series, which is (so far) comprised of the books The Silver Ship and the Sea, Reading the Wind, and Wings of Creation.
Some of the website’s highlights include:
Much of the general populace believes that SciFi films are nothing more than dumb fun, but genre fans know better. Science fiction offers filmmakers a unique opportunity to be thought-provoking and meaningful, or at least something more cerebral than, say, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
We asked this week’s panelists the following:
Read on to see the responses…
Some fairly obvious choices come to mind – 2001, Blade Runner, Contact, Gattaca, Children of Men – and while I wholeheartedly agree that they should make the list, I’d like to offer up five not so obvious candidates: