In episode 208 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester welcomes two of our newest Irregulars, Sarah Chorn and Ria Bridges, along with a couple of long-term Irregulars, Larry Ketchersid and Lisa Paitz Spindler to discuss three books we want to read before the end of the year.
Malinda Lo‘s first novel, Ash, a retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the Lambda Literary Award. Her second novel, Huntress, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her young adult science fiction duology, beginning with Adaptation, will be published in September 2012. Visit her website at www.malindalo.com.
SF Signal had the opportunity to chat with Malinda about her new novel, Adaptation, and is proud to bring that interview to you today.
CHARLES TAN: Hi Malinda, thanks for agreeing to do the interview. Let’s talk about your latest novel, Adaptation. What made you decide to write a science fiction thriller?
MALINDA LO: The idea came to me in a dream! Seriously. I had a dream in which I was in an airport while birds started falling dead from the sky. When I woke up I wrote it down immediately in my writing journal, because I thought that it would make an awesome beginning for a book.
I’ve always had very vivid dreams, some of them totally crazy, but this is the only one that has ever inspired me to write a novel. I had a really strong gut feeling about it, and I’ve come to respect my gut when it comes to writing. I try to do what it tells me.
In episode 154 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester gathers a group of SFSignal folks to discuss: History That Never Happened, Our Favorite Alternate History Stories.
Alternate histories play a big part in SF&F – what are some of your favorites?
Why? What made them stand out to you?
REVIEW SUMMARY: Ambitious and often clever, Rian Johnson’s first foray into science fiction never quite pieces its philosophical content together with its thriller elements.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Time travel hitman Joe begins to have doubts about his chosen vocation when his next target is…himself.
PROS: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, as Joe and his older counterpoint, respectively; notable supporting cast, especially Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano; good blend of science fiction and noir in a well-rendered future; effective set pieces and intriguing use of time travel tropes.
CONS: Second act slows to a crawl to introduce philosophical elements that do not mesh well with its suspense narrative; important story details revealed late, giving the story uneven structure; unconvincing makeup to make Gordon-Levitt look like Willis; Emily Blunt’s bland Sara.
In the future, time travel exists but has been outlawed, so of course only outlaws have time travel. The Rainmaker, a mob boss headquartered in Shanghai who, based what audiences see of the year 2072, studied the methods of Pol Pot as well as Al Capone, sends those he wants taken care of thirty years into the past—the past being 2044—and into the sights of the loopers, hit men contracted specifically to eliminate said undesirables. (Though one wonders why the Rainmaker, who appears to wield enormous influence in this future overrun by gangs, would go to the trouble of using time travel to rid the world of his enemies, rather than simply eighty-sixing them in his own time period without consequence. Perhaps with absolute power comes absolute deniability.) The loopers obey only a few rules: when you’ve killed your mark and discover bars of gold on his body (based on the loopers’ Kansas City headquarters in 2044, women need not apply), it means your loop has been closed—you are, in essence, responsible for your own execution—and your contract is terminated. (Loopers never see the faces of those they kill because their targets wear hoods.) Another, and perhaps even more important condition, is that the looper must not let the target escape.
In episode 144 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester sits down to chat with Jeremy Robinson, author of the SciFi Thriller SecondWorld.
About Jeremy Robinson:
Jeremy Robinson is now the author of numerous novels (nearly twenty) including the highly praised SECONDWORLD, as well as PULSE, INSTINCT, and THRESHOLD the first three books in his exciting Jack Sigler series, which is also the focus of and expanding series of co-authored novellas deemed the Chesspocalypse. Robinson also known as the #1 Amazon.com horror writer, Jeremy Bishop, author of THE SENTINEL and the controversial novel, TORMENT. His novels have been translated into ten languages. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and three children..
The old adage for writers seems to be write what you know. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that advice. It’s a good place to start but that’s exactly what it is. A start. When you move beyond what you know into what you want to know is when things get interesting. It’s not like anyone has ever fought a dragon before (unless you’re Sharon Stone’s ex-husband, and by fight, I mean get one-upped by a lizard) but that’s never stopped people from writing about it.
For me, what I’m familiar with is the way disease can erode a person’s life. My mother was diagnosed with progressive-relapsing Multiple Sclerosis before I was born and I’ve shared her with that disease for decades. Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with the way the central nervous system works (and doesn’t work) in the human body; the way science is still learning about the human brain’s reach and how easily it can be damaged.
Growing up, I devoured comic books, scifi/fantasy novels, TV shows, and movies. I got teased at school for not liking typical girly things but my way of coping with things I couldn’t control was to stubbornly stick with what I liked. I found escape from an invisible, encroaching enemy in other people’s stories, which kick-started my own desire to write.
We’ll be discussing contemporary hard sf and Caribbean speculative fiction over the course of our new, twice-monthly podcast. We spend most of this first episode discussing “Exhalation” and the collection Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang.
Other books we’ll be discussing in the future:
- My Bones and My Flute by Edgar Mittelholzer
- A selection of short stories by Greg Egan
- and The Rainmaker’s Mistake by Erna Broadber
- More titles to be announced when we’re sure we can actually lay our hands on them ourselves.
We look at these stories from our perspectives as readers, writers, critics, scientists, sociologists, women, etc.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Years after Earth is visited by an alien presence, individuals known as Stalkers move in and out of the Zones to illegally collect artifacts left behind. Red Schuhart is one of these Stalkers, and encounters many strange things over his years of collecting.
PROS: Fantastic and plausible conceptualization of the nature of alien contact, with vividly drawn characters.
CONS: Pacing wasn’t to my liking.
BOTTOM LINE: A brilliant, thought-provoking novel.
I’ll confess that I’d never heard of Roadside Picnic before it was re-released recently by the Chicago Review Press earlier this year. This new edition is the preferred text, following a dramatic history with Soviet censors when it was first published in the 1970s. This edition has a particularly good introduction by Ursula K. LeGuin. Continue reading
PROS: Imaginative post-Scarcity worldbuilding.
CONS: Weak and undeveloped characterization; Plotting and pacing issues.
VERDICT: A disappointing return to novels for the author.
The Sleeper Awakes is a common trope in science fiction. A form of one way time travel, it allows characters from or relatively close to our present to bear witness to futures they otherwise never could. Be it “The Marching Morons” by Cyril Kornbluth, or Buck Rogers, the man from the present travels into the future by means of something like cryogenic suspension, and there proves key to the success of that future time. As a bonus, the trope allows the reader to have a viewpoint character to identify with as he/she interacts with the future world.
I was extremely excited to read Roberson’s return to novels with Further: Beyond the Threshold, where the author has his own take on the genre.
Robert Jackson Bennett‘s 2010 debut Mr. Shivers won the Shirley Jackson award as well as the Sydney J. Bounds Newcomer Award. His second novel, The Company Man, is the winner of the Edgar Award and the recipient of a Special Citation of Excellence from the Philip K. Dick Award. His third novel, The Troupe, is available now. He lives in Austin with his wife and son. He can be found on Twitter at @robertjbennett.
Science fiction and fantasy is one of the hardest genres to write well in. Seriously.
You probably wouldn’t think it from reading what people write about the genre itself: according to some, our prose is stilted, our characters weak, our sequels interminable, and our plots flimsy. I disagree with a lot of these – like anything, anywhere, of any kind, this all depends on where you look – but none of these acknowledge the real pitfall inherent in any science fiction or fantasy novel: cool ideas.
01010100 01101000 01100101 01110011 01100101 00100000 01100010 01101111 01101111 01101011 01110011 ….what? You can’t read binary? Shame on you. Fine. Let’s start over.
Robots. How about ‘em? They provide an endless source of fascination for the human race–though mostly we wonder how soon until they wipe us out. Cheery, right? That little Roomba keeping your floors clean? Could tomorrow become sentient, get tired of sucking dust and spark the Terminator/Skynet apocalypse. Best to just take it out back with a shotgun and give it the Ol’ Yeller treatment before it’s too late.
Science fiction writers often envision worlds where robots abound, performing tasks anywhere from household chores to acting as personal assistants to spaceship piloting to detective work and beyond. Plus all the sex, violence, and mayhem that tends to go along with unruly bits of technology. The following three books put robots in the spotlight, where they can beep, sputter, spark, and overthrow humanity to your heart’s content.
SYNOPSIS: A teenaged girl in 1979 deals with her witch of a mother, faeries, a difficult boarding school life, and the joys of discovering science fiction and fantasy.
PROS: Very personal first person past tense epistolary narrative puts the reader in Mor’s mindset.
CONS: Readers not in the target age group will have difficulty engaging the book.
VERDICT: A milestone in Jo Walton’s oeuvre.
There are books that defy easy categorization and analysis. They are audacious, complex and stunning pieces. Trying to summarize such books for others is difficult. These books dazzle, and your words feel inadequate. That is the central problem in engaging with Among Others, the latest novel from Jo Walton.
In episode 113 of the SF Signal Podcast, Andrew Liptak takes the helm to chat with authors about military science fiction.
This week’s panel:
In episode 103 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester asks the SF Signal Irregulars to chime in with their Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies and TV Shows from 2011.
This week’s panel includes: