Jennifer Marie Brissett is a Jamaican-British American who came to the U.S. when she was four and grew up in Cambridge, MA. For three and a half years, she owned and operated the Brooklyn indie bookstore, Indigo Café & Books. She has a Masters’ from the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing and has published stories in The Future Fire, Morpheus Tales, Warrior Wisewoman 2, and Halfway Down the Stairs. Her work has been short-listed for the 2013 storySouth Million Writers Award. Elysium, her debut novel, will be published by Aqueduct Press in December 2014. She currently lives in NYC. Her website can be found at www.jennbrissett.com.

The Inspiration for the novel ELYSIUM

by Jennifer Marie Brissett

As I worked on the first few chapters of Elysium—not knowing exactly where I was going except that I had a seed idea of gender swapping—my grad school mentor suggested that I consider using a theme. I thought about that for a little bit and then it came to me, I mean the whole book came to me, not word for word or even chapter for chapter, but the story and even the structure of the book all flowed from the theme that appeared in my mind: the story of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous.
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MIND MELD: Which SF/F Series Are Too Good To End?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Recently I was talking to a friend who had just finished reading Patrick Lee’s Deep Sky. He commented that the series was so good, it was a shame it had to end. That’s an intriguing statement, which I totally stold and repackaged for this Mind Meld! Here’s what we asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Which SF&F books/series do you think are so good that it’s a shame they had to end?

Here’s what they said:

Jeremiah Tolbert
Jeremiah Tolbert is a writer and web designer living in Northern Colorado. His stories have appeared in magazines such as Interzone and Fantasy Magazine, and in anthologies such as Way of the Wizard and Seeds of Change. Zelazny’s stories have led to a life long fascination with the idea of multiverses. He’s thinking of naming his next computer “Ghostwheel.”


I’m most often happy to finish a series or book; there are so many wonderful authors I want to read, it’s a blessing that good books actually do end so I can move on to the next one. Thank you, great, established authors, for giving newer authors a chance to captivate an audience by not dragging your series out to thirty-plus titles.

That said, if perhaps some lucky soul, while digging through an old and mysterious steam trunk, found the manuscripts to six more Chronicles of Amber books by Roger Zelazny — well, no earthly force could stop me from acquiring them and devouring their contents. As it is, I battle constant temptation to reread the existing 10 books in the giant omnibus collection I picked up in college as a graduation present to myself.

(Heading into spoilers territory here!), I always felt like the second Amber series ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. As a young teen in the 90s reading the books for the first time, the biggest question remaining for me was, what lies on the other side of Corwin’s Pattern? As a writer, this series has influenced me more than anything else, at least in terms of what I want to accomplish. If I can have the effect on some 13 year old kid the way Zelazny did me, then I’ll consider my work a success.

As much as I wish Zelazny had written another sub-series of titles before his death, I have never been tempted to read the prequels. It’s clear from accounts by authors such as George R.R. Martin that Zelazny intended Amber to end with him. But, perhaps, in another Shadow…alas, I have not walked the Pattern, and the way is closed to me.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

As the calendar rolls over to the beginning of another year, it brings with it the promise of new things and new beginnings. With that in mind, we asked this week’s panelists this question:

Q: What are your favorite beginning scenes from SF/F?

Here’s what they said:

Allen Steele
Allen M. Steele is the author of eighteen novels and five collections of short fiction; his work has received numerous awards, including three Hugos. His most recent novel is Hex; a young-adult SF novel, Apollo’s Outcasts, will be published by Pyr later this year.

I’m sure that most of my favorite opening scenes are from the same classics that many readers would recognize — the gom jabbar test in Dune; Louis Wu’s globe-hopping birthday trip in Ringworld; the introduction of Valentine Michael Smith in Stranger in a Strange Land — so I won’t reiterate them. And while I have a number of favorite opening lines as well — a personal favorite is from Michael Swanwick’s Stations of the Tide: “The bureaucrat fell from the sky” — they’re not quite the same thing as a good first scene, which — if done right — will pull the reader into the book.

A perfect example of both is the beginning of The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon. Here’s the first paragraph:

They caught the kid doing something disgusting out under the bleachers at the high school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street. He was eight years old then. He’d been doing it for years.

Exactly what the kid — whose name is Horty — was doing is not immediately explained. If you’re like most readers, though, you’ve probably got a good idea … particularly when you’re told that his guardians (who are not his parents; they’re introduced later) were just as horrified as the school principal, the teachers, and the other kids. But it’s not until you’re a couple of pages into the book that you discover Horty was…

Eating ants.

So what did you think he was doing? And now that you’ve learned that it’s probably not what you were expecting, aren’t you interested in finding out why an eight-year-old boy was eating ants?

Sturgeon was a master storyteller, and he set up this scene beautifully. It is a textbook example of a perfect narrative hook.

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