In episode 238 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester, Jack Campbell, Karen Lord, Jay Posey, Kameron Hurley, Charles E. Gannon, and Jaym Gates, discuss Military Science Fiction.

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

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What are some of the most overdone tropes and stereotypes in SF/F? What are some of the most useful? What are some of the most damaging?

Here’s what they said…

Kameron Hurley
Kameron Hurley is an award-winning, Nebula nominated author. Her personal and professional exploits have taken her all around the world. Visit kameronhurley.com for details on upcoming projects, short fiction, and meditations on the writing life.

Tropes are a funny thing. To some extent, knowing and expecting what’s going to happen next in a story – anticipating a particular structure and story elements – is why we’re drawn to specific genres and sub-genres. Many romance readers are looking for boy meets girl, boy loses girl (or girl loses boy) but they happily (and sexily) get together at the end. Hard SF readers may be reading for a Big Idea and exploring how it changes our society, but be less interested in the characters moving that big idea around on the stage. Urban Fantasy readers may be looking for tough – but vulnerable! – heroines put into paranormal situations that may seem harrowing, but all work out at the end. And in Epic Fantasy, many still expect the White Hats (Stark white!) to Save the World.
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SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Kameron Hurley

Kameron Hurley is an award-winnng, Nebula-nominated writer who hacks out a living as marketing and advertising copywriter. She’s lived in Fairbanks, AK, Durban, South Africa, and Chicago, but grew up in Washington state. With degrees in history from the University of Alaska and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal she survives on Coke 0, Chipotle, low-carb cooking and lots of words. Her science fiction novels God’s War, Infidel and Rapture, a series, are out from Night Shade Books. Her short fiction has appeared in Year’s Best SF 12, Strange Horizons, Talebones, and on Escape Pod, amongst others. God’s War was nominated for a Nebula, made the Honor list for James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award and won the Kitschies Golden Tentacle. She can be found at her website and blog, on Twitter as @KameronHurley and on Facebook.


SFFWRTCHT: First things first, where’d your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from?

Kameron Hurley: My interest in science fiction came from being an imaginative kid, I guess. I spent too much time making up stories. Science fiction and fantasy was the best place to explore how things could be really different. It had the best sandbox of any genre I read. I could do whatever I wanted.

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MIND MELD: The Books We Didn’t Love

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This week we asked about books you don’t love.

What books do people expect you to love or read, but you don’t?  Why?

This is what they had to say…

Jamie Todd Rubin
Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer, blogger, and Evernote Ambassador for paperless living. His stories and articles have appeared in Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine, and 40K Books. Jamie lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land was not the first Heinlein book I read. I started with what is still, in my mind, one of his best, Double Star. Nor was Stranger the second Heinlein book I read. Or the third. Or the fourth.

Indeed, back in the days when my interests in science fiction were broadening and I would occasionally talk to people about them, Heinlein would inevitably come up. “You should read Stranger In A Strange Land.” I must have been told this a dozen times by a dozen different people. I even tried reading the book, but on two occasions, spaced years apart, I simply couldn’t get very far into it. I felt terribly guilty about this. Something must be wrong me. It seemed everyone who ever read a book had read and loved Stranger. But not me. I couldn’t even get through it.

It wasn’t Heinlein. Couldn’t be, right? I went on to read and enjoy Heinlein’s future history in The Past Through Tomorrow. I read and loved Podkayne of Mars. I read Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers and found those entertaining. (Although both movies were appallingly bad.) I adored Friday and The Door Into Summer.

It finally took jury duty for me to get through Stranger. In the fall of 2000, in a cavernous room within a Hollywood courthouse, I battled my way through Heinlein’s tour de force. And before my jury service was up, I’d managed to finally finish the book.

And hated it. Just plain didn’t like it. To this day, when asked if I’ve read Stranger, I reply with a world-weary, “Of course. I read it while suffering through jury duty in the fall of 2000.”

“And what did you think of it?”

And without skipping a beat, reply, “I couldn’t be picked for a jury soon enough. My how I suffered through that book!”

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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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To promote the November 6th release of Rapture, Kameron Hurley’s bone-shattering conclusion to the epic Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy, Night Shade Books is giving away the first two books in the series — God’s War and Infidel — for free!

Just send an email to Beldamegiveaway@nightshadebooks.com. Night Shade will respond with an email giving you the info you need to download the files for God’s War and Infidel. Both Epub and Mobi files are available.

BOOK REVIEW: Rapture by Kameron Hurley

REVIEW SUMMARY: Hurley finishes Nyx’s story, completing the story of the bloody former Bel Dame.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Years after attempting retirement, Nyx is coaxed back into one more job that will take her across Umayma and possibly keep her homeland intact.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: More inventive worldbuilding. Well realized character arcs. Good integration with previous novels.
CONS: A few dangling threads and elements not integrated well; ending may be polarizing for some.
BOTTOM LINE: A winning third “panel” to the Bel Dame Apocrypha.

In the Godfather III, Michael Corleone, attempting to go into a straight and crime free life, and failing, complains memorably: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”.

Nyxnissa so Dasheem, or just Nyx, can sympathize with Corleone’s sentiment. Years after peacefully disappearing (read: self-exile) to an obscure corner of the planet Umayma, Nyx is bribed, cajoled and outright blackmailed into serving as a bounty hunter once again. However, Nyx is unaware that some of her former colleagues and friends have problems of their own that dovetail with Nyx’s search and retrieval mission. And its a mission that could decide the fate of her homeland and allow for that rara avis, peace, to finally take flight.

But its just one more mission. What could go wrong? Plenty!

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MIND MELD: The Best Aliens in Science Fiction

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
This week, we sent our distinguished panlists this question:

Q: With the upcoming movie Prometheus, Aliens are on our minds here. What makes for a good depiction of aliens in Science Fiction? What are some examples of that in practice?

Here is how they responded…

Kameron Hurley
Kameron Hurley is the author of the award-winning novel GOD’S WAR and the sequel, INFIDEL. Her third book, RAPTURE is due out in November. Find out more at godswarbook.com

My preference for great aliens is for the really unknowable ones. I like the ones with totally crazy physiology and motives so alien that we find them utterly unknowable. Just giving a human some head ridges and having them practice a form of Buddhism with a funny name doesn’t do it for me. That’s not alien. It’s deeply human. With head ridges.

Right now, I’m partial to the aliens in Octavia’s Butler’s Adulthood Rights, which is part of her Xenogenesis series. The book is about these tentacled, telepathic aliens who reproduce by merging themselves with other species. There are four or five parents involved, and the way they interact with the world – touch it and taste it and understand it – is very different from our own. Writing from a purely alien POV is hard, and not a lot of writers can pull it off. But Butler brings us into the POV of one of the alien hybrids – a mix of human and alien genes – to help make the aliens more accessible. The merging of the two ways of seeing the world, and how that character negotiates these different impulses, go a long way toward helping us understand his “other” half.

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Don your Power Armour, folks! It’s time for another Book Cover Smackdown!

Here are the contenders…

Your Mission (should you choose to accept it): Tell us which cover you like best and why.

Books shown here:

NOTE: Bigger, better cover art images are available by clicking the images or title links.