Tag Archives: sci-fi

You Can Ride My Rocket…(Wink Wink)

There are some people who cringe at the idea of combining science fiction and romance. I suspect that these same people also don’t like Firefly so their opinions don’t really matter anyway. Personally I like a spoonful of romance in my steaming cup of science.

Science fiction is a genre that romance plays well with. Okay, I’ll be honest. If romance was a person they would be a double-jointed omnisexual gymnast. Romance can be easily adapted to satisfy everyone’s needs and plays well with every genre. But when it’s combined with science fiction it gives the story a lot of *ahem* unexplored territory in which to boldly go where Kirk has gone before.

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 (Bondage night with Lady Gaga?)

At its heart, science fiction is about exploring new possibilities. Sometimes it’s a new scientific theory, sometimes it’s a new planet, and sometimes you’re running from Shai-Hulud. Regardless of the territory it’s still all about exploration and all of the joy, fear, trepidation, and danger that goes with it. If you boil romance down to its very essence it’s about the same thing. Seriously. What’s more exciting and terrifying than exploring a space cave and nearly getting mauled by a Gorn? What can be more explosive than the Tothian minefield? Relationships!

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(I’m pretty sure the odds of not starting an argument when you suggest that your partner stop and ask for directions is 3,720:1)

Yes, there are a lot of novels where the romance is merely a time slot on the holodeck or a green skinned Mary Sue. But it isn’t limited to that. In fact, it can be a lot more.

When done well, romance can compound a story’s major conflict (cue Ted and Robin salute). In Babylon 5 the romance between Capt. Sheridan and Ambassador Delenn made it a lot harder for them to take necessary risks during the Shadow war. It also made things very awkward when (Spoiler alert) it turned out that Sheridan’s wife wasn’t dead. On the other side of the spectrum, Marcus’ final sacrifice wouldn’t have brought a tear to many viewers eyes, including mine, if his love for Ivanova wasn’t unrequited. The fact that they hadn’t so much as kissed turned what would have been just a noble act into the most romantically tragic moment in the entire show.

Let’s not forget that The Empire Strikes Back wouldn’t be the same without Han and Leia’s love spat or heartbreaking farewell. (Odd that both were in very cold climates.) But that’s enough examples from TV and movies. Let’s turn to books!

Linnea Sinclair writes some of the best sci-fi romances I’ve read. In fact, her novel, Shades of Dark made me cry. Some of hers are exactly what you would expect a sci-fi romance to be. However, in Shades of Dark the protagonist couple’s relationship become strained to the point of breaking when one of them starts learning how to use their latent alien abilities. They realize, almost too late, that their ignorance and folly not only hurt their relationship but put their partner in very real danger. It’s this last twist that for me makes this romantic conflict real. I mean we probably all know someone or were with someone who became so obsessed with something that it almost destroyed, or did destroy, a happy relationship.

In The Postman by David Brin the protagonist falls in love with an idea more than an actual person. When he stumbles upon a quiet, and safe community the idea of staying and building a life there rather than taking on the mantle of responsibility of being a postman is incredibly appealing. In some ways it’s strange to think of an idea as being romantic. Think if it this way: when you’ve been up late working on a manuscript and have to get ready for work at the crack of dawn, the idea of calling in sick has a lot of appeal. This is the same thing except their desire for comfort and ease is so idealized that it takes on a romantic quality.

Dara Joy is an amazing romance writer whose stories sometimes has a sci-fi twist. She has a duology, High Energy and High Intensity, that’s set in the real world but uses science in an… interesting way. The main character’s love interest is a sexy physicist who decides to teach them the basics of physics through sex. I know. It sounds super cheesy but take my word for it. It’s hot! Besides, who wouldn’t want to go to that physics class?

Okay. I’ll admit that last one was a traditional romance. While it doesn’t use romantic elements in a creative was she does get bonus points for including science in a creative way. This partnership does work both ways after all.

Whether you use a little or a lot, use more romance or use more science, or use a romanticized idea is up to you. It’s also by no means a requirement that there be romance in every science-fiction story. Rather, it’s another tool that can perform more than one task. It’s entirely up to you whether or not to use it, as well as how you want to use it.

MileHiCon: A Denver Gem

A Guest Post by Kevin Ikenberry

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After I seriously took up writing, the very first con I attended was MileHiCon in 2012. I’d moved to Colorado a couple of years before and while I’d attended the local Pikes Peak Writers Conference, my first foray into science fiction fandom couldn’t have been more wonderful. Billed as “the largest science fiction and fantasy literary convention in Colorado,” MileHiCon did not disappoint. My memories of that first con are great. I found the panels I crutched in and out of inspiring and the people pleasant and approachable. (Yes, I was on crutches, and no it was not fun!) I knew from the first day that I wanted to be involved in any way that I could. At MileHiCon, I knew I’d found a home.

A year later, I had an invitation to be a program participant. Unfortunately, a second foot surgery put me on my rear end that weekend, so I had to delay my MileHiCon debut until 2014. As it turns out, MileHiCon was my very first convention as a program participant. Can you say nervous? Well, that nervousness did not last long. Many of the friends I’ve made in the Denver area were there as well as a ton of new friends. From the moment I walked into the lobby and ran into my good friend Patrick Hester (SFSignal / Functional Nerds), I felt even more at home than I did the first year.

Now that I’ve been to WorldCon and several other local/regional cons, I can honestly say that MileHiCon is in my top three cons, maybe even top two. Over the past few years, the con has increased in membership and offerings to include costuming, gaming, art, and media tracks. What makes this con special are the people. Last year, a group of us aptly named “The Handsome Authors Society” sponsored a networking event. There were more than a hundred folks who dropped by and had a drink with other authors and editors. Making new friends has never been easier.

The MileHiCon committee are a group of wonderful and hardworking volunteers who have always made me feel like I was part of the family. And from my very first panel, the audiences were fun and engaging. Mentioning my first novel sale, that had happened less than a week before the 2014 con, earned very nice rounds of applause and several “Good luck!” or “Let us know when it’s released!” calls that left me beaming.

(NOTE: Sleeper Protocol is slated for release by Red Adept Publishing in winter 2015-16)

What’s more? Last year, I took my wife to MileHiCon, her very first con experience. We decided that MileHiCon was a perfect con to bring our kids to. There were a lot of young fans and cosplayers in the crowd last year, and a great time was had by all. For our young superheroes-to-be, it will be a perfect place to start. I can’t wait to share MileHiCon with them.

MileHiCon 47 takes place October 23-25, 2015 at the Denver Tech Center Hyatt. For more information on the convention, please check out www.milehicon.org. This year’s Guests of Honor include authors Kevin Hearne and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, artist Ursula Vernon, and toastmaster James Van Pelt. The list of confirmed participants is fantastic with over ninety confirmed authors.

In short, MileHiCon is a wonderful convention put on by amazing folks. It’s growing every year and is family friendly. Most importantly, it’s a great chance for fans to get to know their favorite authors and meet emerging authors, too. There is something for everyone at MileHiCon. Hope to see you there.

Guest Bio

Kevin Ikenberry is a Colorado based science fiction and horror author. His debut novel, Sleeper Protocol, will be released from Red Adept Publishing tentatively in January 2016. A lifelong space fanatic, Kevin continues to work with space every day. He can be found online at www.kevinikenberry.com and on Twitter (at)TheWriter Ike.

DragonCon – A Mardis Gras for Geeks

Guest Post by Wayland Smith

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DragonCon was roughly a week ago, and I’m still elatedly exhausted. It is a truly amazing experience on many levels. DragonCon offers a lot of unique opportunities for writers, from the obvious to ones you need to work at a little. While it has a reputation as “Mardi Gras for geeks,” there’s so much going on there that’s really a matter of what you make of it.

There is a Writer’s Track at DragonCon. This means that there are panels about writing from 10 AM to 11:30 PM from Friday through Sunday, and a few more panels on Monday until about 2. That, in and of itself, is enough to make it worth-while for writers to come in my opinion. But there’s a lot more.

Jody Lynn Nye runs a two day intensive writer’s workshop. There’s an extra fee for it, but you get a lot of attention from someone who is a best-selling writer and very good at what she does. Michael Stackpoole runs a series of hour-long seminars. The topics are listed, and you can go to and pay for the ones of interest.

There’s an entirely separate track for Urban Fantasy. These panels let you hear about different aspects of various writers’ processes, and there’s almost always a chance to ask them questions at the end of the presentations. It’s a great way to potentially meet fellow writers and make contacts.

But it’s not just writers that speak at the panels. There are presentations that include agents, editors, and publishers. This year, an anthology called “Legends of the Dragon” debuted at the Con. I had a story in it, and I got that chance because of a panel I went to two years ago on the Writers’ Track.

The next DragonCon is September 2-5, 2016. It’s in Atlanta, Georgia, spread out over five different host hotels. For more information on the Con itself, check it out at www.dragoncon.org . The site has a lot of information about how to get memberships for next year, and the application process if you want to try to go as a guest. Another option is applying with the individual track directors to speak on the various panels. And, if you want to try going as a vendor, there are applications for that, too.

DragonCon is the high point of my year. In addition to a lot of fun, it’s a unique chance to learn from many different writers and get to speak with them. Among the many writers I’ve spoken with or gone to listen to are Kevin J Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Laurell K Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon, Sherilyn Kenyon, Jody Lynn Nye, Michael Stackpoole, Timothy Zahn,, Myke Cole, Faith Hunter, Gail Martin, and Jean Marie Ward, the late Aaron Allston as well as so many others.

Guest Bio

Wayland Smith is the pen name for a native Texan who has lived in Massachusetts, New York, Washington DC, and presently makes his home in Virginia. His rather unlikely list of jobs includes private investigator, comic book shop owner, ring crew for a circus (then he ran away from the circus and joined home), deputy sheriff, writer, and freelance stagehand. Wayland has one novel out so far, In My Brother’s Name, about a terrorist attack on Washington DC, and appears in various anthologies including HeroNet Files Book 1, SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror, and Legends of the Dragon, as well as several others. A black belt in shao lin kung fu, he is also a fan of comic books, reading, writing, and various computer games (“I’ll shut Civ down in more turn. Really!”)

Self-consistency and Maintaining the Fourth Wall

When many, if not most, readers enter a fictional world, they want to stay there until they’re ready to leave. For us writers, that means having to avoid doing anything that pulls the reader out of our world. Failing in this task may make it difficult for a given reader to buy into our creation. They may set it down and move onto something else. If this happens, we’ve lost them.

Any aspect of storytelling is vulnerable to this. Someone breaking out of character, the introduction of a deus ex machina, and even poor handling of point-of-view are all good ways of infuriating readers, and rightly so: they are violations of an unspoken trust with our readers that the stories we are telling them are self-consistent.

Setting is an aspect of storytelling which is particularly vulnerable to this kind of violation, especially in genres where setting is important, such as in fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction (by setting, I mean all things related to world-building, such as culture, dress, geography, the laws of physics or magic, etc.). Read enough reviews in any of those genres and you will see that one of the widest criticisms is that the author described some event that could not or would not have happened in that context, and thus the reader was pulled out of the story. There’s a good reason for why this can be such a problem for a writer: setting, by its very nature, consists of a vast number of interrelated concretes. Consider the difference between a character arc and a city, full of people, buildings, roads, belief systems, cultures, and so on, and you should see what I mean. It’s very possible (and necessary) to track the shape of a particular character’s arc, but far more complicated to track the goings-on of every person and thing in a city. There are many ways we can forget a detail that affects the story later on, and thus cause one of those reader-losing violations.

Of course, simply not knowing how an aspect of your world works can also do this. Many of our readers are smart enough to know that you can’t ride a horse at a gallop while swinging a fifty-pound sword for five hours straight. As most writers should by now know, doing some research solves most of these problems.

But there’s another related issue that can be a little subtler, and it relates purely to a world’s self-consistency. Unless you’re writing an alternate history or time travel yarn, your Imperial Roman soldier isn’t going to call his wife on his cell phone, since cell phones didn’t exist back then. An obvious example, but things get a little trickier when you’re writing in a purely secondary (or, purely imagined) world.

I once wrote an epic fantasy story in which one of my characters was exhausted, and was described as feeling as if he had just run a marathon. While it seemed pretty innocuous to me at the time, someone in my writing group couldn’t buy into it, because the word “marathon” is named for the run of Greek soldier Pheidippides during the Battle of Marathon. And since such an event never occurred in my world, he argued, how would the concept of a marathon in the normal sense even arise?

Hearing his criticism was a bit of a wake-up call for me, and now I sometimes find myself watching out for the same thing with books that I read (as much as I’d rather just sit back and enjoy them). Of course, in my hierarchy of priorities, I’m going to put a satisfying plot over catching myself using the word “marathon,” but I still keep an eye out for something like that slipping in. Whether or not you’re that meticulous about your world’s etymology, rest assured that some of your readers will be.

* For another interesting post on the topic of word choice, check out the earlier post by Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. Grammar Girl, if you haven’t already.