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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Vampires - a Breed Apart

Toni LoTempio

So far I’ve written about Shapeshifters but my real love affair has been with vampires ever since I saw the original Dracula with Bela Lugosi when I was a kid.  There was just something about those ebony eyes, sparkling, commanding, as they peered over the rim of his black satin cape, that took my breath away. In my later years, I was introduced to the world of Stephen King through Salem's Lot, which still today remains my very favorite King book.  King took us through the world of vampires with eerie ease, and while the Rob Lowe telemovie was a bit truer to his tome.

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with a certain gothic soap opera. I've even gone to the conventions!  I was such a freak I even managed to wangle myself an invite down to the studio where I met my biggest star crush of all time - Jonathan Frid.  Big thrill for a then-15 year old!

When I world-build my paranormal novels, vampires (naturally) play a huge part. Vampires in paranormal romance today are steamy and sexy, and there really are no hard and fast rules.  Like Angel, some can walk in daylight (just not direct sunlight) some prefer the nightlife, some are just damn bloodthirsty while others fight on the side of humanity.  In  Soapsuds, Sex and Silver Bullets (yet unpublished) Logan Slade is a detective.  In No Rest for the Wicca Cole St. John is a special forces agent for the Paranormal Forces Special Unit.  What do these two men have in common, besides hotness, you ask?

They're a breed of vamp known as Inheritor.

Now, I'd like to take credit for being totally original and making up this breed, but the truth of the matter is it’s the product of extensive research on the Internet. 
Inheritor vampires TYPE ONE: These vampires are much like the Genetic vampires, except they are born. Like Sanguinarians, the vampire trait will lay dormant inside them until around the age of 13 - 26. When they body reaches the late stages of puberty, it releases a chemical which awakens the vampire and begins many physical changes in the body. As a result of this, most Inheritors look around 19 - 20 years old their whole life. Most of the time the parents of the vampire will be human and vampire, or both vampires. There must be one vampire parent. Inheritor vampires live to around the age of 350-400 years old.

Inheritor vampire TYPE 2: Sanguinarians are the "mortal version" of the Inheritor vampires. They still require and crave blood, are sensitive to sunlight, and have many of the traits the Inheritor and Classical vampires have.  However, Sanguinarians do not live much longer then the average human being.

Of course, to make it my own, I've taken some liberties - my Inheritor vamps are more human than humans, and age to a VERY HOT mid-30's, but you get the idea.  There are more types of vampires out there than just the typical Dracula/Barnabas sleep in the coffin during the day rise at night to suck a maiden's blood type.  As a matter of fact, that type (referred to now as a "classical") is getting pretty passé.

After all, didn’t' Angel show us just how a vampire can survive among humans, and how hot one can be?

The mystique of "the bite" never changes. Considered the ultimate sexual experience, in old lore people thought after 3 bites the victim turned into a vampire.  Other mythology had the victim rising as a vamp after the vampire drained them of their blood.  Another way to "turn" someone was to bite them, then have them drink their blood.

In summation, there are no hard and fast rules concerning vamps anymore - or any other type of creature for that matter!  Isn't that great for us writers!  We can create whole new worlds of vampiric hotness for you, the reader! (And for us, too!)

Raven's Quest
A Raven Grace Novella 


Shapeshifter Raven Grace and her psychic lover, Finn McPhee, are back, traveling to parallel time in search of a demonic killer.

Author Toni LoTempio
In addition to being a vampire addict, Toni is also a freelance writer and the author of several paranormal romances, the latest of which, RAVEN’S QUEST, RAVEN’S KISS AND NO REST FOR THE WICCA, can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.com.  She lives with her muses, ROCCO, MAXX, LJ and TRIXIE in New Jersey where she is at work on two more projects.  Sometimes ROCCO will let her on his blog, www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com and assist him in the charity work he does as the official spokescat for KIDS NEED TO READ, a charity co-founded by Nathan Fillion of CASTLE fame.

Monday, 29 October 2012

World building and titles?

M.L. Chesley

Coming Soon!
What is it with book titles?

Well, in my book, Adversarius, the title is Latin for Adversary. Veritas is Truth and Bellum is War. I chose these names specifically. I wanted one word titles for my books and each title represents what is written within. Book one defines the adversary my characters face. Book two reveals some hidden truths and book three is the war that ends an ages old war.

It took me about ten years to build my world of Eir du'Brusai. (Pronunciation Alert!: 'air do brew sigh') I had lots of help. As a matter of fact, there is a list on my blog under the Special Thanks page. I began with a small town called Moordigan, which grew into the kingdom of Haldera and expanded (exploded, really) from there. At first, my map contained one large continent with several kingdoms, surrounded by a few smaller continents/kingdoms. After much debate, I split the major continent down the middle, removed a couple of kingdoms that were on the main continent and added continents.

So you can see why it took so long to build just that aspect of the world. Next came the decision: Typical creatures of fantasy or my own? Well, I'm a huge Sword and Sorcery kind of gal. While I love Elves, Dwarves and the like, I didn't want to limit myself to that. So I expanded on those typical races/creatures and also came up with some of my own. I have Kefferlings, which are half Elf, half cat. They have Elven features, walk on two legs (most of the time) but have fur covering their body and of course, they have tails. Dargorians are my humanoid dragons. They stand about nine feet tall, have scales, tails and wings like dragons with dragon-like features. They stand on two legs and most can speak.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Wanted: Guest Bloggers for November!

I had a blast with the October topic. It proved one thing to me - that science fiction isn't dead! I thought I'd be deluged with fantasy, but no, sci-fi writers teleported from all sides to write about their genre. And I bought some cracking new titles for my Kindle so a double whammy!

But November is going to be brilliant, too, and I can tell you, the month it isn't only going to be sparkling with fireworks and bonfires because we have some awesome topics!

I have TWO themes and the choice is up to you. The first is KDP SELECT and INDIE AUTHORS. When Amazon's KDP Select scheme launched, it opened doors for independently published authors that had been otherwise closed, so if you're an indie writer, how have you found the process? Maybe, you think the doorway has been opened too wide for bad indie writers? Could you be a traditionally published author who believe indies are ruining the reputation of eBooks?

The other theme is the ROMANCE/CONTEMPORARY genre. If you are a writer of romance can you discuss your genre? How do you research the affairs of the heart? Is it all from personal experience? And what about the ‘sex scenes’? How do you make those scenes romantic? Is it easier for women to write this genre because they can delve into deeper 'emotions'? Or are men better because they are more adventurous?

These topics are proving popular so sign up now to grab a slot!

Contact WWBB via the contact button top, left of the screen.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Researching the Impossible


Cerece Rennie Murphy 

To me, the best science fiction is always grounded in what we know or what we think we know.  The closer the science fiction world resembles the world outside my door, the bigger the trip my imagination goes on because it challenges me to see all the things I experience and take for granted everyday a little differently.   

In my daily life, I don’t look for Yoda though he literally was my first love, but now that I’ve seen Looper, I’m on alert with every weird-looking kid I see.  That’s the beauty of contemporary science fiction.

For the Order of the Seers trilogy, I tried to create that same sense of “Wait...am I seeing what I think I’m seeing or is it somehow different now.”  The series rests on a fairly basic premise – there are a group of people who can see the future and they are enslaved for that ability.  The challenge for me in developing this story was to give a credible answer to the question of how and why.  This is where my research on genetics and paranormal behaviour kicked in, helping to give me some “real world” anchors on which to build the overall mission, purpose and dilemma of the story. 

I also wanted to have a somewhat realistic limit to their powers for two reasons.  First, I wanted readers to put themselves in the position of the Seers and for that I needed to use more familiar abilities.  For example, humans do not have the physical prerequisites for unassisted flight, but we have all experienced some level of precognition (déjà vu, dreams that come true, etc).  Second, the fact that Seers are fully human is critical to the story line and my ultimate goal/mission which was to inspire each reader to question the limits of his or her own potential. 

So what are the takeaways from this post for research and science fiction? Well, a lot depends on the needs and goals of the story you are telling, but here are some questions/principles that I have found helpful in guiding me to write the best science fiction thriller that I can.

1)     What is your goal with the setting?  Are you trying to “WOW” readers with a newly imagined world or make them suspicious of the everyday?  If it is the former, I would recommend not limiting yourself by any research at first.  Let your imagination run away with you for awhile.  Outline the sci-fi premises and then identify what anchors you might need to help your reader understand the world you are creating.  James Cameron never really explained how the floating mountains of Pandora work, but we did understand that bones reinforced with carbon fiber made the Na’Vi hard to kill. If your goal is the latter, then I think you start out by identifying the concepts/conventional wisdom or paradigms you which to challenge.  Make sure you spell them out, so that you know exactly where you need to fill in the logic between what is known and what you are proposing.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What makes a good sci-fi novel?

Rocky Leonard

Please don’t ask me to name my “favorite” science fiction writer. From Isaac Asimov to Rogers Zelazny, I could probably name a favorite work by each—maybe, if you put a gun to my head.

Also, please don’t demand that I choose between the authors of I, Robot and The Nine Princes of Amber, because I can’t. They are only the first two legends of science fiction that popped into my head as I tried to alphabetize a list of my sci-fi heroes. I didn’t even take the time to compare and consider the works of Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton, Phillip K. Dick, Larry Niven, or Jerry Pournelle, to name a few giants of the genre.

Modern cinema translates science fiction novels from print to film better than just about any other literary work. Even a well written short story by Phillip K. Dick can inspire a terrific feature-length movie like The Adjustment Bureau. And comic book characters such as the Hulk and Iron Man have become compelling, believable characters in a live action science fiction adventure films which rely heavily on computerized graphics to create somewhat realistic imagery for the big screen.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Science fiction and Fantasy are separate genres, dammit!

This month is all about sci-fi and fantasy books. But, have you ever wondered why those two genres get thrown together? They are a totally different genres, aren't they?

Yes and no.

Fantasy is just that - fantasy. With made-up worlds, creatures and all things mystical, magic and spiritual. Science fiction is expanding on what we already know. But it is still fiction, therefore made up. 

Sci-fi deals with things that could happen in the future or alternative history (what could have happened, say, if Hitler won WW2). With fantasy, it needn't be explained. Magic can just be. Mythical animals can just be (although I wish someone would dream up something different to vampires or werewolves!), because fantasy doesn't need to be explained. We know it isn't real, yeah, science fiction isn't necessarily real anyway, but it's supposed to be.

With science fiction, there is no magic and so it HAS to work. Gravity, atmosphere and nebulae (posh word for cloud) need to be just right or else your characters on your planet won't look like Brad Pitt (or Angelina Jolie or whoever/whatever floats your boat  - or spaceship!). It can't be glossed over, and it has to make sense.

Of course, you can make things up but it has to seem possible. Want your ship to go faster than the speed of light? Completely impossible, so someone 'invented' the wormhole (yes, I'm sceptical about them). So invent it and make it possible. It's no good to say 'it went faster than the speed of light'. How? Why?

For argument's sake, I'll say science fiction and fantasy can blur into the other as many books labelled 'science fiction' are really just sci-fi/fantasy. I think, and this in only my personal opinion, it's because technical advances have disproved some of the things we thought would be possible one day i.e. time travel. It isn't and will never be possible, so therefore some books have become fantasy. Of course, you’ll always get the real hard core, planetary, time bending stories that are science fiction through and through.

So, in short, science fiction deals with things that could happen (or could have happened) and fantasy deals with things that never, in a zillion years, ever happen.

Of course, you guys may have your own thoughts and I'd love to hear them.


Beauty and the Beast for grown ups - a fairytale that's never out-grown

Imagine being stranded.
No way of getting home. 

No telephone, no computer, no shelter. 

No food. 

Now imagine the place you're stranded is another planet. 
Then you realise you're not alone after all...

My best selling sci-fi romance, Eden, was a stand-alone novel, but due to the many lovely email requests I've had asking for a follow up, I began writing the sequel this summer. Eden the End will be out early next year. 

To find out more click!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Get your world in order and the reader will Believe – The Truth Is Out There!

Science fiction – getting your world in order
John Hudspith

How often do you put a book down simply because the writer has failed to coerce you into suspending belief and accepting his alternate reality?

Creating a sci-fi world, be it a full blown otherworld with all the bells and whistles, designed to suspend reader in a depth of all-encompassing fiction, or a mild shot of dystopia delivered with minimalist subtleness intent on merely supporting the story, or somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, one thing is certain: there are a few key ingredients to use when cooking your creation. Okay, thinking about it, there’s more than a few - choices are infinite. Cooking up real deal fictional physics intent on creating a believable world boils down to three main ingredients.

Passion + Belief + Integrity
Take one hefty dose of Passion, mix with very Strong Belief, add unbridled integrity, and stir until the cows come home.

If writing flying cars into your world, then you will do a better job if you’re keen on cars. If your passion is driving, pimping your ride, then the fictional flying cars you create will no doubt be something special.

If your dystopia has elements of warfare, and it just so happens that you are gun nut, or a marine/policeman/soldier then the soldiers/policemen/weapons you create will surely be something special.

That old writers’ adage: `write what you know` is an adage for a reason.

I’d like to add another: `write what is you`
In my case, for the creation of Kimi’s Secret it was: Aliens, ghosts and magic.

These are the things that tortured my youth with bafflement, worked their way into my bones and have held me ever since.

Spielberg wowed me with Close Encounters of the Third Kind around the same time as my mother had us spellbound with tales of spirit forms, and around the same time the news was buzzing with young girls being flung around by poltergeists, Uri Geller bending spoons, and thousands of people throwing themselves into frenzies at PK (psychokinetic) parties.

Never a believer, always the sceptic, hoping to witness the evidence that would prove little grey men were real, that ghosts were indeed some manifestation of human energy, and that we humans could really defy the laws of physics and move objects just by thinking about it.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

World Building and Rule Breaking: Why Other Worlds are Created


A. K. Taylor

For this article I would like to discuss why we fantasy and sci-fi authors build worlds opposed to how. Several of my friends and I have agreed on this in some form or another on blog, Facebook posts, and tweets. It is a lot of laughs, but in all seriousness, it points to the underlying roots of why fantasy and as sci-fi exists and why we enjoy creating and consuming it.

In a nutshell these are the reasons:

  1. The real/natural world is boring.
  2. Reality stinks. 
  3. The real world has so many limitations for the extraordinary, so then it becomes ordinary 
  4. Rules- the real world is so full of them. Everybody hates rules (especially the can’t-dos), and they are made to be broken.

The things of everyday life become mundane, so why do we want to read or write about it? 

Escaping the ordinary world and going to a new and extraordinary world on a glorious adventure is a breath of fresh air. We do this as authors, and we surly hope that readers will do the same when they pick up our books. We come home from an ordinary day and become the extraordinary when we sit at the computer. We leave being a lab technician at the “door” and transform into being a chosen warrior on a quest to save the world. We leave the real world behind for hours at a time. Time seems to stop. We hate to leave the computer or book to “come back” to the ordinary world--even if it is for dinner. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Are you asking yourself the right questions when you write sci-fi?

The October Question
Peter Salisbury

I have been interested in science and science fiction for as long as I can remember. The whys and hows of the world around me have always been of great fascination. From the age of twelve, I have read science fiction novels, short stories and 'real science' journals. My favourite author is probably Larry Niven, especially his Ringworld books, and his Gil Hamilton SF detective stories. A book I admire and have re-read many times is 'Slaves of the Klau' by Jack Vance. If you want to look further afield another author I would recommend is Stanislav Lem, who wrote the novel 'Solaris' which has twice been made into a movie.

When I write my own science fiction, I ask myself several questions:

  1. How will humans behave in a thousand years?
A study of the way humans lived two thousand years ago shows us that they had remarkably similar needs, fears, frailties and preoccupations. We also like to think of ourselves as no less courageous, compassionate or loving than they were. The simple mention of biting into a pungent citrus fruit, like a lemon, or the taste of roasted meat, or of food cooked in spices, must have the same effect on us as it did thousands of years in the past. So, when I write about the future, I assume that those human characteristics will still be present a thousand years and more from now.

  1. What technology will be available in the future?
Readers with science backgrounds and those with 'humanities' backgrounds have commented on how realistic they find my stories set in a future where space travel, cloning and being able to transfer consciousness from one body to another are simply what people do.

If something doesn't seem logical or plausible to me, then it won't to anyone else. I have 'invented' a number of futuristic pieces of equipment, several processes and methods of travel. For me, they have to be able to function the same way as they would today. People in the future will need to use equipment in a way which is a natural and effective extension of their everyday existence.

  1. What will aliens think of us?
In science fiction meeting aliens is easily possible. It may never happen in reality, or it might happen next week. To speculate about what aliens may be like and how they may behave are questions which interest most of us, I believe.

It is possible there are aliens whose only thought is conquest, their murderous nature making them thirsty for the blood of humans. This isn't a surprising thought, nor is it one which requires a great leap of the imagination; we only have to look at our human past for examples of such behaviour.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

World building or...

And on the Eighth Day >insert deity< made >insert race/planet<
PR Pope

Part of the fun of writing stories in the Science Fiction genre is the opportunity to play at being a god (of course, many of the comments I’ll make here are applicable to other genres, especially other types of Speculative Fiction such as fantasy; but I’ll be concentrating on what I know best).

My current project is a trilogy set, mostly, on a planet called Antares, far away across our galaxy (far far away but not long ago!)  It is, of course, imaginary – that is, although the planet may actually be there orbiting a star that we call Antares, nobody knows what that planet is like or if it is home to any form of life (and at this point I must admit that, although my online biography suggests otherwise, I do not actually come from Antares!).

There is a debate raging among science fiction authors, albeit sotto voce [Ed: - how can it be raging and sotto voce at the same time?], between what you might call the ‘risk-taking’ and the ‘cautious’ camps.  The risk-takers launch into their story and play it by ear, visiting a planet here, passing a star system there, meeting interesting alien races, getting their hero(ine) into a situation where they need some exotic technology to extricate themselves.  Along the way they will introduce some suitable back-stories where necessary.  The emphasis is on the fiction, the science is merely a useful tool at times.  By contrast, the cautious authors – or perhaps more accurately, ‘organised’ – ensure they have planned consistent worlds, races, technology etc.  I am in this camp (you’d already guessed, hadn’t you?).  Some might be considered to take this to extremes (okay, I’m holding up my hand to this too).  I want to be sure that I know the geography, history, flora, fauna, technology, culture and religions of my invented worlds.  Much of this needs to be established long before the story itself is written, although inevitably it will get expanded and refined as the actual story-telling gets underway.  Hence, as the story unfolds – usually in unexpected directions once the characters take over and begin to assert themselves – throw-away references can be included without fear of earlier or subsequent contradiction.  Minor incidents from one storyline can become crucial events in another – difficult to manage if you haven’t laid down a consistent background in the first place.

Is it really that important, you might be asking yourself.  Isn’t this guy just being a bit obsessive-compulsive, or anally-retentive?  Perhaps he’s just trying to pander to the popular image of extreme nerds/geeks – portrayed in exquisitely caricatured detail by Jim Parsons as Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory?  Why does he keep putting words in my mouth, and making me ask questions?

There are two pertinent responses to those questions.  The first, of course, is to ask why you’re questioning a blog that’s already been written – it’s not interactive, you know [Ed: - Uum, it IS actually, there may be comments and you’re expected to reply].  The second is to point you at a couple of landmark works of speculative fiction and suggest you consider how significant consistent world-building was to their impact: Tolkein’s Middle Earth had much background material that was never intended to be published, but which ensured that the stories were internally consistent (even to the extent of inventing languages and alphabets); while one of the great pleasures of reading Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books is that minor characters in one book can be the main characters in another (and vice versa), with distant events from one story being related by a harper as part of the atmosphere of another entirely separate story, all adding to the sense of a real environment with concurrent events coloured by diverse viewpoints and perceptions.

You might not have considered how much assumed or implied background there is to any story.  When your characters have a shared culture with your readers, then words, concepts, places, pets and even brands all contribute to the reader’s experience (and hopefully understanding and enjoyment) of the story.

Jack and Jill / went up the hill / to fetch a pail of water. / Jack fell down / and broke his crown / and Jill came tumbling after.” 

In most of the English-speaking world, readers know (or think they do) that Jack is a boy and Jill is a girl.  They have a mental image, probably, of a hill as distinct, say, from a mountain or a tumulus.  They know what a pail is (although they might normally call it a bucket).  Of course, they may wonder why the young (?) couple/siblings are going up a hill looking for water rather than down to a river in the valley – perhaps there’s a spring on the hillside?  Everyone can empathise with Jack when he falls and injures himself (younger readers, though, may wonder why he’s wearing a crown – is he a prince?).

One of my friends is an archaeologist who comes from Libya.  After meals when people are sitting around telling stories, he often regales everyone with traditional stories from his childhood.  A different culture, yet many of the themes are, of course, universal, although names and other details may be unfamiliar. 

Nawaf and Nawel / went to the tell, / to fill their girba / with maya / ...” 

Okay, so I cheated slightly there, by not translating maya into water, just transliterating it.  But without the proximity to the Jack and Jill version a few lines earlier you may not have understood what was happening.
Now suppose you have a story set on an imaginary world.  There can be no shared culture with your readers, everything they know about your world will come from you.  What’s more (as every writer knows) you have to show, not tell.  So your readers are experiencing an unfamiliar world through your characters.  You may ask, how is that different from a story set in an exotic location?  (There you go with the questions again...) [Ed: Stop it!]  On the face of it, it’s much the same.  Except that some of the things we can take for granted anywhere on Earth might not be true on our planet: gravity may be much reduced, with all sorts of resulting anatomical effects, not to mention walking gait; daylight might be a very different mix of wavelengths, resulting in colour perception being altered or even non-existent or other senses being far more acute; the atmosphere might be thinner, or composed of different gases, with radical effects on the likely flora and fauna; and so on...  Then there’s the culture – just because Western Europe was shaped by wars, conquest and powerful religions, that doesn’t mean that your planet followed the same path.  The order in which certain key technologies are developed can be crucial to the overall shape of the economy, industry and society in general.  Steampunk is a genre predicated on the radical alterations in society and history because of a slight variation in the development of technology.  Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is the iconic world where technologies develop in different ways – in his case with hilarious results – as well as being another perfect example, like Pern, of a world where events in different books overlap in a way that adds depth and realism.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

How to build your Sci-Fi world

World-Building: Visualizing the Future


Eva Caye

When writing science fiction, what does it take to ‘build’ a new world for your novel? Research, research, research! Although science fiction appears to be top-heavy with spaceships and space battles, to be among the stars means there are other planets to consider, which will be my focus for this article. Otherwise, I find it effective to use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a guideline, to make sure I cover all the bases.

First, start with the physical world. If humans are already on your ‘new world’, they will have brought human developments with them. Even if you envision pod houses floating about with anti-gravity and geopositional guidance systems, you should know, and occasionally address, building considerations that your reader would otherwise question. For example, how is waste recycled in your traveling pod-home? Where and how do you renew your water supply? Even if you only provide half a line as a description, “… he moved it to the flash-bin,” or “… as he hovered six meters above the lake to up-vac another thousand liters…” your reader will understand you took the time to build your world thoroughly. 

If your planet has life-forms, look at the life-forms on Earth. We have creatures that fly, swim, crawl, jump, run, slither, and glide. We have plants that grow out of the ground, fungi that grow under the ground, aerial plants in trees. We have microbes that range from beneficial yeasts to Ebola. Take some time to consider evolution and look for little details that may escape notice. For example, you may have your aliens use cilia to communicate in addition to sensing their environment!

There are an estimated 8.7 million species on Earth. Just look at this excerpt taken from

Number of Species Identified on Earth

Vertebrate Animals
Total Vertebrates62,305
Invertebrate Animals
Spiders and scorpions102,248
Total Invertebrates1,305,250
Flowering plants (angiosperms)281,821
Conifers (gymnosperms)1,021
Ferns and horsetails12,000
Red and green algae10,134
Total Plants321,212
Brown algae3,067
Total Others51,563

The species totals do not include domestic animals such as sheep, goats and camels. Nor do they include single-celled organisms such as bacteria.  The original data can be found at: http://bit.ly/UMehiN

If Earth is this complex, what about other biospheres?  A little research on your part will go a long way!

Second on Maslow’s hierarchy is safety.  How do your pod-homes keep from running into each other?  What kinds of unique employment are available to your characters due to the physical aspects you design for your world?  How do your spaceships know where, when, and how to achieve parking orbits?  When you latch onto an idea, make certain you follow through with your reasoning, whether you explain your reasoning right away or not.  In my To Be Sinclair series, there are regular EM transmitters for most purposes, but for travel between the stars I needed a mode of instant communication.  As a result, in book one, DIGNITY, I mention ‘quantum transmitters’:

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Language of Science Fiction

Anne E. Johnson

Like any skill worth mastering, the writing of science fiction surely takes a lifetime to master. That’s assuming you’re one of the few who masters it at all. Realizing that, I knew I would face countless challenges as I penned my first novel-length science fiction work, Green Light Delivery. Because of all the sci-fi I’ve read, I should have been able to predict many of these challenges. Still, it turned out to be a very different view from the active side of the creative process.

One of the most interesting issues that faces a sci-fi author is that of language. The issue presents itself as a complex web of decisions for the writer, based on her intended audience, the type of sci-fi she’s writing, and her own background and level of obsession.

There will be serious decisions to make about language, unless you write contemporary or near-future sci-fi. This issue can manifest itself in a number of ways, depending on the specifics of your story. Here are a few you should expect to mull over:

1. If the story takes place on Earth, but in the distant future, (a) will everyone still speak our current languages, whether it makes sense or not (Planet of the Apes), or (b) will you go through the massive effort of showing linguistic developments (A Clockwork Orange; and be aware that Anthony Burgess was a trained linguist).

2.  If the story takes place off Earth, but involves humans, how will the humans communicate with the other species? (a) Will the aliens have pain-stakingly learned English? (b) Will the human stumble by in the alien language?

The choice of (a) and (b) leads to another level of decision:
(i) You could craft an actual alien language. (Please refer to caveat above, regarding linguistic skills. If you are an author who struggles to comprehend its versus it’s, or if you struggled in Spanish 101, then inventing a grammatically consistent, credible language is not the right choice for you. Almost nobody can do this well.)

(ii) Or perhaps you’ll simply make up a small vocabulary or list of common phrases you can use to imply the alien tongue, and then switch to English. That can be a useful way to imply a language, and remind a reader that characters aren’t speaking English.

And then there’s the option for those who don’t want to deal with the different languages at all. (c) Offer some sort of universal translation device (This is hardest to pull off, unless you’re doing Douglas Adams-style broad comedy or writing for Doctor Who.)

3. If, as is true for my novel Green Light Delivery, your story takes place in an alternative universe where there never has been such a thing as English, you face different problems. You want your reader to assume that English is standing in for the actual language of the planet/solar system. But what can you do to show that this isn’t really English? I decided to invent proper names (both of characters and places) and common nouns that didn’t sound like English, and therefore reminded readers the they weren’t in Kansas anymore.

So, the following sentence, although largely newly-coined words, can make sense:
Webrid is a Yeril with a bnarli in his forehead.

If you haven’t read the book, you can still guess that Webrid is the name of a male character, Yeril is some sort of category (tribe? region? species? school affiliation?) and bnarli is a thing that fits in his head somehow. Keeping the word “forehead” is important in this example. It gives the reader a familiar point of reference.

Invented words, introduced one at a time and used consistently, are easy to slide into the reader’s vocabulary, just as in any other genre a reader can be expected to learn and remember the names of new characters.