Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Martian Dreams by JC Hay


by JC Hay

All the excitement lately has been about those seven planets discovered in TRAPPIST-1, but thirty-nine light years is a long way to travel, and if we want to spread beyond our fragile blue-green rock, we’re going to need to look a lot closer to home. That means Mars.

I consider myself an optimist where Mars is concerned. Despite humanity’s mostly bad track record sending stuff to our nearest neighbor – we’re currently only at a 44% success rate overall – I think that the time is going to come when we establish a long-term base of operations on the Red Planet. Maybe not in my lifetime, but before the century is out.

That doesn’t mean I think it’s going to be easy – every element of Mars seems to be designed to inhibit human habitation. From the reduced sunlight (leading to a sense of perpetual exhaustion, at least for the first generation of colonists), to the superfine dust that clogs even the tightest seals, to the broader dangers of windstorms and radiation, Mars is not rolling out a welcome mat for us.

The moon wasn’t in a hurry to welcome us either, but we managed to make that trip repeatedly (not without risks, or deaths, but we did it). Mars will be the same way. In my Corporate Services books, the colony on Mars is in its infancy. Though we haven’t seen it in the books (yet), I’ve got a clear picture of how it looks – domes of 3-d printed concrete, covered with two-three feet of soil to protect the inhabitants from radiation and micro-meteors. Those, in turn, connect together to form larger structures like workshops and gardens, running of a combination of wind and reduced solar. It’s not a utopia, but it’s enough of a break from the corporate wars that high-tech thief Elise wants to head there as soon as her next job is done.

Too bad fate has other plans.

Dubai Double-Cross

From the underworld of corporate infighting…

Heavily modified and highly skilled, “acquisitions expert” Elise Briggs worked behind the scenes of the corporate world’s espionage wars. Or she had, until her most recent target turns up murdered and she’s forced to go on the run with the only person who can exonerate her, the victim’s lover and personal assistant.

…To the city’s glittering towers…

Plucked off the street to be the plaything of one of the richest women in the world, Na’im thought his life was finally complete; his obedience and the suite of cybernetic modifications he carried were a small price to pay for life at the top of society. Until his boss is murdered and his only ally is the professional thief hired to rob them.

…They can’t run from what’s inside

On the run and running short on allies, Elise and Na’im are about to discover that the murderer is closer than either of them suspect. If they plan to survive on the futuristic streets of Dubai, they need to learn how to trust each other, because when everything can be upgraded and emotions can be programmed, sometimes all that can keep you human is your heart.

Dubai Double-Cross is available now from:

Author Bio

JC Hay writes romantic science fiction and space opera, because the coolest gadgets in the world are useless without someone to share them.

In addition to Romance Writers of America, he is also a proud member of the SFR Brigade (for Science Fiction Romance), the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance chapter, and a member of RWA’s PAN (the published authors network).

His Corporate Services series, a set of connected cyberpunk romances, are set eighty years in our future where the limits of humanity are being stretched and tested, and our hearts are the hardest thing to keep pure.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

SFRB Recommends 70: The Champion of Barésh by Susan Grant

Jemm Aves toils for a mining company by day, but at night she is a successful bajha player, disguised as a male to compete in the violent underworld of the colony’s fight clubs. Every win puts her one small step closer to her goal: saving enough to escape Barésh with her family. When a royal recruits her to be a star player for his team, her ruse proves to be her most perilous game yet when it puts both their lives—and her heart—at risk.

Prince Klark is eager to reverse his reputation as the black sheep of the Vedla clan. If his bajha team can win the galactic title it would go a long way toward restoring the family honor that his misdeeds tarnished. On Barésh, he tracks down an amateur who has risen to the top of the seedy world of street bajha, offering the commoner a chance of a lifetime: a way off that reeking space rock for good. But his new player comes with a scandalous secret that turns his plans and his beliefs upside down. He sets out to win a very different prize—his champion’s reluctant heart.

The world of Barésh is convincing and vivid. The bahja (which I can best describe as sensory-deprivation fencing) matches are even more intense, whether in a bar, or a training exercise, or an emotional duel. I do wish we got to experience a few more in the professional arena.

Jemm is a treat. She's driven, kind, and not cowed by Klark. Her family relationships also feel authentic, and I love her interactions with her difficult brother.

Author site: Susan Grant

This recommendation by Lee Koven.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Perseverance and A Wrinkle In Time by Libby Doyle

They told Madeleine L’Engle her book was too strange. Nevertheless, she persisted.

In the summer of my thirteenth year, my family moved to the country, away from the small town where I’d lived my whole life. Away from my little friends. Our small town was urban, right outside of Philadelphia. Our new place was in the country. Sure, it smelled wonderful, like pine trees. Sure, wild strawberries grew in the fields, but there weren’t any kids in sight. I wanted to go back to my little town, where playmates were always right outside the front door.

My mother could see I needed company. Her solution was inspired. She handed me a book, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I was already an avid reader, but I had never encountered anything so absorbing, the beginning of my obsession with science fiction and science fiction fantasy. My imagination was on fire. My mind was racing. The heroine was a 13-year-old girl just like me! I read it once, then immediately twice. This book taught me about heroism, about love. I wanted to meet the happy, gentle centaurs that populated one of the book’s fantastic planets.

Recently, I gave my step-granddaughter a copy of A Wrinkle in Time. My granddaughter is a cool kid. Climbs to the tops of mountains. Excellent at mathematics. What better book for her than the story of Meg, a brave girl close to her age, also great at math? Meg rescued her father from a planet enslaved by an evil disembodied brain with powerful telepathic abilities. The brain, known as IT, exerted hypnotic control over the inhabitants’ minds.

Meg had the help of her classmate Calvin, her brother Charles and her friendly neighbors Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, who were actually alien centaurs disguised as humans. This crew used the “tesseract,” (sound familiar?) to bend the space-time continuum and slip through a wrinkle in time to search for Meg’s long-lost father. Through all their dangerous adventures, Meg comes into her own. When Charles is in danger, Meg steps up to show how strong she’s become.

I hope my granddaughter loves this book as much as I do. I hope it helps her develop a life-long love of reading. And if she tells me she likes it, I’ll tell her the challenge faced by Madeleine L’Engle to get it published. She was rejected by 26 houses. According to a well-sourced Wikipedia article, publishers thought the book was too unusual, with too much science. They thought its stark presentation of evil was too dark for young adult fiction. In fact, several paragraphs comparing the enforced conformity of the evil brain’s planet to totalitarian regimes were cut from the final draft.

L’Engle has also explained that female protagonists were rare in science fiction at the time, making it a hard sell.

Lucky for the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, those days are over! And thank the writing gods that Madeleine L’Engle persisted. Her book went on to win the Newbery Medal and, according to Wikipedia, has been in continuous print since it was published. The book even got a shout out at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, when Chelsea Clinton mentioned it as a book that influenced her as a child. From one generation to the next. I should tell my granddaughter about Chelsea, too. 

The views expressed in this post are those of the author, Libby Doyle, and don't necessarily reflect those of the SFR Brigade.

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