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There were so many wonderful debut authors in 2013, so I asked a few of them this:

Q: What was the most fun/unusual/interesting/etc thing you’ve learned since becoming a published author?

Here’s what they had to say…

April Genevieve Tucholke
April Genevieve Tucholke is a full-time writer who digs classic movies, redheaded villains, big kitchens, and discussing murder at the dinner table. She and her husband—a librarian, former rare-book dealer, and journalist—live in Oregon. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is her first novel.

Some interesting/unusual things I’ve learned as a 2013 debut:

  1. Use discretion when telling people you’re a writer. There is a 95 percent chance you will end up in a Fifty Shades of Grey conversation.
  2. Being an author means people will assume you’re rich and that you drink all the time. No matter what. They just will.
  3. “April Genevieve Tucholke” is far, far too long a name. It’s cocky, almost arrogant. What was I thinking?
  4. People will try to sell you their ideas for your next book. Try not to kill them.
  5. People will ask you how your sales are, and you will be too stunned every damn time to think of a good comeback.*
  6. If you leave your book lying around your parents will read it when they stay for the holidays. And you will regret those steamy scenes.
  7. Getting to meet (and occasionally hang out) with other authors never gets old.
  8. Readers rule.

* Such as: “I don’t know. How’s your salary?” or “Here’s my bank info. Why don’t you log on and check things out for
yourself?”

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There’s always been one question I’ve asked in my author interviews that gives some of the most interesting and enlightening answers, so this week’s MInd Meld question is:

Q: What book, or books, would you love to read and experience again for the first time, and why?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Philippa Ballantine
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.

I wish I could read again for the first time, Wild Seed by Octavia Butler.

It was a story that was so full of the beauty of the other, and spread over such a huge expanse of time and the globe itself. It opened my eyes to so many things, and it struck me very deeply. I was able to think beyond my little space as a teenager in New Zealand, and experience something much, much wider. I would love to feel that wonder again.

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About Jason: Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession. He started writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels. The book released on July 30th in the US and reached the New York Times Bestseller list the following week.

The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, will be released in the summer of 2013.
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An Interview with Jason M. Hough, Author of THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE

Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal FatigueAliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others).  Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession.  He started writing The Darwin Elevator in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels.  The trilogy, collectively called the The Dire Earth Cycle, will be released in the summer of 2013. He lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two young sons.


Nick Sharps: Sell me the Dire Earth Cycle in as few words as possible.

Jason Hough: I’m terrible at the elevator pitch for The Darwin Elevator (oh, the irony!), so I’ll tell you how my agent pitched it to publishers: “It’s like if Scalzi wrote Firefly.”
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A thrilling and distinctive sci-fi adventure.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: All that remains of humanity is concentrated in the city of Darwin, home to the space elevator. The elevator, a mysterious gift from the alien Builders, emits an aura that protects against a virus that turns victims into subhuman monsters. But the elevator is starting to malfunction and it is up to Skyler Luiken, the immune scavenger captain, to restore order before it is too late.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Plenty of action, politicking, and discovery; mostly solid characters and a unique setting.
CONS: A few characters could have used more depth.
BOTTOM LINE: Debut author Jason M. Hough has created a fantastic future that is fully fit to expand into a full blown franchise.

No one knows why the Builders sent the space elevator to Earth. All they know is that it has an aura that protects against a horrible disease that kills 90% of humans and turns the other 10% into mindless savages. And so the remnants of humanity cluster around the elevator in the slum city of Darwin, Australia. Earth’s brightest live on the elevator, sending down food in exchange for water and oxygen. There is a power struggle between the dictator that defends the elevator from the dregs of Darwin and the Orbital Council that live high above. Darwin is overpopulated, teeming with unskilled workers and rife with crime. Scavenger crews strike out into The Clear beyond the aura, braving the dangerous subhumans in order to make a living by providing much needed supplies. Bullets are a reliable form of currency and gardens are a sign of wealth and affluence. This is the future of The Darwin Elevator.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

The first author I ever talked to was John Scalzi. I emailed him after reading The Ghost Brigades to tell him how much I loved the series and hoped to one day see it adapted as a video game. I may never get to play as a green-skinned Colonial Defense Forces soldier, wielding the versatile MP-35 and fighting a variety of aliens – but Scalzi is developing a First Person Shooter called Morning Star, with Industrial Toys (a studio formed by Alex Seropian of Bungie fame). As an avid reader and gamer there are plenty of books I’d love to see transformed into games – a real time strategy game based off of John Ringo’s Legacy of Aldenata series, Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim as an action-adventure hack n’ slash title à la Devil May Cry, or a crazy colorful role playing game set in the world of James Maxey’s Greatshadow. But enough about the books I want to see transformed into video games, let’s ask some professionals for their opinions!

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What books do you think would make awesome games? What game mechanics might they feature?

Here’s what they said…

Scott Lynch
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1978, Scott Lynch is the author of the Gentleman Bastard sequence of fantasy crime novels, which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora and continues with Red Seas Under Red Skies and the forthcoming The Republic of Thieves. His work has been published in more than fifteen languages and twenty countries, and he was a World Fantasy Award finalist in the Best Novel category in 2007. Scott currently lives in Wisconsin and has been a volunteer firefighter since 2005.

This is possibly the nerdiest question I’ve been asked in a while, and I’ll do my best to avoid restraint in my answers.
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Jason M. Hough (pronounced ‘Huff’) is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal Fatigue, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession. He started writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels. The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, will be released in the summer of 2013.

Don’t Hate, Elevate! Space Elevators in Science Fiction

By Jason M. Hough

Arthur C. Clarke’s brilliant novel The Fountains of Paradise introduced me to the concept of a space elevator way back when I was in high school. The possibility of such a device captivated me just as it has many others in both the science and literary communities. Such a structure has been referenced in numerous science fiction novels, movies, and television shows since. A noteworthy example is Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, where a space elevator on Mars is severed at the anchor point in space. The result is one of the most memorable scenes I’ve read in the genre (and I won’t spoil it here – Go! Read!).

To my surprise the theoretical technology grew into something of a pariah, though. The butt of jokes, especially when reported on in the mainstream media. Indeed Clarke himself acknowledged this, making a now-famous quip at a conference in the early 90′s:

Conference attendee: “When will the Space Elevator become a reality?”

Arthur C. Clarke: “Probably about 50 years after everybody quits laughing.”

So why, then, did I choose to make one the central set piece in my novel The Darwin Elevator?
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If ever I saw a “buzz book” on the horizon, it has to be Jason M. Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, which I have to admit looks pretty darn cool. The idea of this being a book with a lot of buzz surrounding it is mostly because I have seen a review of the book we have in the pipeline, patently waiting for publication day. But it’s also because Hough’s trilogy (the Dire Earth Cycle) has two different publishers set to independently publish the trilogy: Del Rey in the U.S and Titan Books in the U.K. The series thus serves as a perfect opportunity to compare how two publishers are handling the publication.
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MIND MELD: The Future of Humans and AI

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Recently, a group of futurists predicted that artificial intelligence is a deadlier threat to humanity than any sort of natural disaster, nuclear war, or large objects falling from the sky. In an article by Ross Anderson at AeonMagazine.com, David Dewey, a research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute says, concerning the human brain and probability “If you had a machine that was designed specifically to make inferences about the world, instead of a machine like the human brain, you could make discoveries like that much faster.” He stated that “An AI might want to do certain things with matter in order to achieve a goal, things like building giant computers, or other large-scale engineering projects. Those things might involve intermediary steps, like tearing apart the Earth to make huge solar panels.” He also talked about how programming an AI with empathy wouldn’t be easy, that the steps it might take to “maximize human happiness”, for example, are not things that we might consider acceptable, but to an AI would seem exceedingly efficient.

Of course, this leads into much more complex discussion, and the possibilities with AI are vast and varied.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What is your take on the future of humans and AI? Is it positive, negative, both?

Here’s what they said…

Larry Niven
Until Larry Niven is the author of Ringworld, the co-author of The Mote in God’s Eye and Lucifer’s Hammer, the editor of the Man-Kzin War series, and has written or co-authored over 50 books. He is a five-time winner of the Hugo Award, along with a Nebula and numerous others.

  • If you make an intelligent being, you must give it civil rights.
  • On the other hand, you cannot give the vote to a computer program. “One man, one vote” — and how many copies of the program would you need to win an election? Programs can merge or can generate subprograms.
  • Machines can certainly become a part of a human. Our future may see a merging of humans and machines.
  • Or all of the above. Keep reading science fiction. We always get there first.

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MIND MELD: Storytelling in Video Games

Video games are an evolution of the human tradition of storytelling. It began as tales told around a fire, progressed into images painted on walls, developed into text printed on paper, and advanced to moving pictures accompanied by sound. Video games take story telling a step farther. The audience is no longer a passive spectator, but is instead an active participant in the story being told. Often authors are tapped to write tie-in fiction for popular video game franchises, and sometimes they are even hired on to help craft compelling stories for the games themselves.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How do you feel about the state of storytelling in video games? What do developers do right? What could they be doing better? What games do you think tell excellent stories?

Here’s what they said…

William C. Dietz
New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than forty novels some of which have been translated into German, French, Russian, Korean and Japanese.

If it was easy to write good games everyone would do it.

There was a time when killing aliens, monsters, and bad guys was enough. But not anymore. Now gamers want good writing too!

Yeah, yeah, I know. There are lots of games that don’t involve shooting things. And that’s good. But since I don’t play those games my expertise (such as it is) relates to shooting aliens, monsters and bad guys. And I believe good writing and good game play can coexist.

But before I get into that I should divulge that my perspective has been shaped by writing tie-in novels for franchises like Star Wars, Halo, Starcraft, Hitman, Resistance, and Mass Effect.

I’ve written games too, including Sony’s RESISTANCE: Burning Skies with Mike Bates, and the LEGION OF THE DAMNED® ios game with Conlan Rios. But I have never been a full-time employee of a gaming studio–so my knowledge is limited to what I have seen from the outside looking in.
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