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

We asked this week’s panelists about series fiction in genre.

Q: Everywhere you go in genre, series seem to predominate over single novels. How do you read a series differently as compared to singletons? Have you ever given up on a series, or returned to one after a long absence?

Here’s what they said…

Sally Qwill Janin
Sally ‘Qwill’ Janin is the founder and EIC of The Qwillery, a speculative fiction blog. She is a recovering attorney having practiced IP and telecommunications law for too long. She’s been reading genre fiction since her older brother hooked her on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and H.P. Lovecraft when she was a pre-teen.

Ah series. As you point out, they are everywhere in genre. I do read the first book of a series differently than I read a standalone novel. I certainly have different expectations. For a standalone, the story must resolve major (and most minor) plot points and come to a satisfying conclusion. When I read the first novel of series, I don’t usually expect more than some minor issues to be resolved, maybe an occasional major issue. I expect the main characters (at least for that part of the series) to be introduced. I also expect all sorts of threads will be left dangling to spur me on to continue reading the series. I don’t even mind cliffhangers. I also expect world building and events that will move the series along. I even read Paranormal Romance series differently than other series in that there should be an HEA (Happily Ever After) or HEA for now along with world building. However, if the story is not interesting and I don’t care about the characters in a series, why should I continue to invest time into what may ultimately be horribly disappointing?
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 “‘Are you my friend?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she said truthfully, ‘whether or not you’re a puppet.” – Berun and Churls, No Return, p. 259.

I’ve been reading a lot the past few months but not writing about it,  so this week I thought that I would look at a book that is due more attention.  There’s been a lot of discussion about negative reviews and author/reviewer interactions lately, and I thought the best way to respond to this was to actually talk about fantastic literature rather than the discourse around it.
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SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Zachary Jernigan

Zachary Jernigan is so frightening to look at he borrowed a baby for his author photos just to sell more books. He is the author of what may well be one of the last books from Night Shade, the fantasy novel No Return. He credits his success to resemblance to Telly Savalas and Mr. Clean and his fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Crossed Genres, and MBraneSF. A quarter-Hungarian from Northern Arizona, his enjoys punk and post-punk music, cooking and eating unhealthy foods and arguing on the internet. He can be found online at ZacharyJernigan.com, on Twitter as @JerniganZachary and on Facebook.


SFFWRTCHT: First things first, where’d your interest in SFF come from?

Zachary Jernigan: Well, it came from having a hole in my life where religion was, I think. No, I’m not joking.
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BOOK REVIEW: No Return by Zachary Jernigan

REVIEW SUMMARY: Vivid, varied, and violent. At once beautiful and terrible to behold.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:  On the planet of Jeroun god exists, and he is far from benevolent. Adrash looks down upon the world, prepared to unleash final annihilation. Men in suits of black and white do battle in his name, some wish to submit to him and others wish to defy him. Vedas, a Blacksuit of the Thirteenth Order embarks on a journey to a great fighting tournament that may well decide the fate of Jeroun.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Stunning imagery, absorbing setting, diverse cultures, intriguing characters, cool ideas.
CONS: Not enough exploration of some of the settings and ideas. Climax was a little weak.
BOTTOM LINE: Ambitious, impressive, and bold. This is not your run of the mill fantasy.

No Return is an excellent start to the new reading year. This is the sort of novel that stands in the shadow of two super genres, for it is neither science fiction nor fantasy. It is instead a beautiful twining of both. It is epic in the in the more traditional sense of the word, though not a narrative poem. No Return features heroic deeds, strange cultures, dark violence, and consequences. It has the trappings on a new age legend, set on an extraordinary world.

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MIND MELD: Food in Science Fiction versus Fantasy

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

This week we asked about Food and Drink in SF.

Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why?
This is what they had to say…
Laura Anne Gilman
Author and Freelance Editor Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus novels, the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy, as well as the story collection Dragon Virus. She also has written the mystery Collared under the pen name L.A. Kornetsky.

This will, I will admit, be a purely foodie view: I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating, I enjoy reading about cooking and eating. And for a long time, it seemed as though we foodies were, if not the minority in genre, then certainly underserved.

There were the banquets in fantasy, of course, and the trail rations, and sometimes even a discussion of where the food came from, but – like bathroom breaks and sleeping – it often seemed tossed into the pile of “boring, don’t write about it.”

And science fiction? Mainly, science fiction mentioned food in context of technology: food-pills, space-age packets, vat-grown meat, etcetera. I suspect that many writers of the time had been heavily influenced by the early space program, and extrapolated their SF on the actual science. Surely, science fiction was saying, we had more important things to do than cook – or eat!

Even when they were dealing with an important, food-related issue (overcrowding, famine, etc), MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM made it a (very serious) punchline. So did “To Serve Man.” But scenes of characters preparing their food, or even enjoying it, were notably, if not entirely, absent.

(even CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY made the “too busy to eat” point with the 3-course-meal-gum…)
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Zachary Jernigan’s debut novel, No Return, comes out on the 5th of March, 2013, from Night Shade Books. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Crossed Genres, and Escape Pod, among others. Nick Sharps got the opportunity to sit down and talk to him, while enjoying a nice cold beer. The following interview is an in depth discussion of No Return, religion, sexual deviancy, world building, sociology, He-Man, female protagonists, future novels, and ice cream.


Nick Sharps: Sell me No Return in as few words as possible.

Zachary Jernigan: Do you like men made of metal? Or fighters in skintight suits? Or alchemical astronauts? A lot of sex scenes? Buy my book.

Oh, and violence. There’s a lot of violence.

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MIND MELD: How SFF Influences Your Life

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

Books have been one of the greatest influences on my life. I say this not to downplay the lessons and values taught to be my family and friends, but instead to emphasize the importance of reading in my formative years. A lot of what I believe and how I act is driven by the characters I have encountered and the fictional worlds I have explored. Frequently I remind myself that “Fear is the mind-killer,” a message picked up from Frank Herbert’s Dune years ago – a lesson that has carried me through hard times. There are many more personal examples I could state but I’d rather hear from some of the very writers that inspire me.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How has SFF influenced your life? Does it make you a better person? What lessons from SFF do you carry with you?

Here’s what they said…

Tobias Buckell
Tobias S. Buckell was born in the Caribbean and lived on a yacht until he moved to the US. He writes science fiction. His latest novel, Arctic Rising, is out from Tor Books. He lives online at www.TobiasBuckell.com.

The greatest impact it had on me was instilling in me a love of science, questing for information, and a deep love of creative and wild imagination. My life-long walk on the path toward passing those gifts on to others now means I make a living continuing to live all that. So I would say it had quite an impact on my life.

As to if it makes me a better person, I would have no idea. I would hope that my family loved and learned from me whether or not I had SF in my life. In fact, I find a sort of cultish devotion to any mantras learned from just SF to be problematic. I flinch from ideological insistence, and just because I adored a book at an impressionable age… well, I’d hate for that define the rest of my life as a thinking creature.

The lessons involve various snippets of things I’ve picked up over a lifetime that I’ve found useful. I’d hate to highlight a particular phrase out of the stew that makes me a human, as I’ve always loved Bruce Lee’s admonition to “Take what is useful, leave what is not, add something uniquely your own.” I didn’t learn that in SF, but it’s how I’ve approached all text.

But I can’t be the only SF fan who has found himself repeating the Bene Gesserit litany against fear after smacking his hand with a hammer… right?

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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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Cover Art & Synopsis: “No Return” by Zachary Jernigan

Zachary Jernigan has posted the preliminary cover art of his upcoming novel No Return, being published by Night Shade Books.
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Dear SF Signal Readers,

Hi! My name’s Zack Jernigan. I conducted this roundtable interview over the last year. Just so you know, I wrote a long, painfully self-conscious introduction about my upbringing as a white, heterosexual male born into a middle-middle-class family and how that contributed to my desire to start a discussion on the subject of Writing About Race in Sff Literature, but I scrapped it. When you’ve received such amazing responses from your interviewees, it’s best to get to them with the minimum of words.

So: Suffice it to say, this is an important topic for discussion. I hope that you enjoy reading part 2, below (Part 1 is here), and that you’ll feel free to comment. I also encourage you to visit the authors’ websites and buy their amazing work.

And enjoy!


Writing About Race in Science Fiction and Fantasy

A Roundtable Interview with David Anthony Durham, Aliette de Bodard, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Ken Liu
(Continued from Part 1)

Q: There is a greater deal of “non-western” science fiction and fantasy being published-successfully-right now. As a result, a sense of excitement about reading and writing works that celebrate a wider range of skin tones and cultural influences appears to permeate the current discourse. Do you think we’re seeing a permanent shift in the sff literary culture, or do you think the possibility exists for it to once again restrict itself to certain perspectives?
David Anthony Durham

Permanent shift. In some ways it feels like a rapid shift, but there’s no going back. A few years ago, when I first began going to cons, there were a handful of writers of color that been around for a while-Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, and a few others. It was a short list, and it didn’t take long to rattle through it.
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Dear SF Signal Readers,

Hi! My name’s Zack Jernigan. I conducted this roundtable interview over the last year. Just so you know, I wrote a long, painfully self-conscious introduction about my upbringing as a white, heterosexual male born into a middle-middle-class family and how that contributed to my desire to start a discussion on the subject of Writing About Race in Sff Literature, but I scrapped it. When you’ve received such amazing responses from your interviewees, it’s best to get to them with the minimum of words.

So: Suffice it to say, this is an important topic for discussion. I hope that you enjoy reading this first part, that you’ll return for the second, and that you’ll feel free to comment. I also encourage you to visit the authors’ websites and buy their amazing work.

And enjoy!


Writing About Race in Science Fiction and Fantasy

A Roundtable Interview with David Anthony Durham, Aliette de Bodard, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Ken Liu

Q: Is there an advantage to approaching the subject of race in science fiction and fantasy literature, as opposed to approaching the subject in mimetic (“mainstream” or “mundane”) fiction?
David Anthony Durham

I hope so.

Personal point of reference on a limitation of mimetic fiction… My first two novels were mainstream works about African-American history. Readers that picked up those books did so because they wanted to read about race and slavery. They went in knowing the material would be difficult, and most of them probably believed that ruminating about our racial history is relevant for modern day. That’s great, but it means a limited readership. What about reaching more folks-including folks that don’t think they’d be interested in reading about race?
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