Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

Language Barriers in Speculative Fiction

Hey hey, so apparently I was going to write this post two years ago, got as far as “WOO” and never went back to it. Good job on focusing, me.

Language barriers are something common that you find in science fiction and fantasy stories. It makes sense, especially if you’ve got cultures that have never met before, and it can make for interesting conflict if characters can’t understand each other. Especially when dealing with alien races, you can even make up new ways of communication that may be impossible for other species to learn.

On the other hand, sometimes you need characters to be able to communicate, even if you’ve set things up so they shouldn’t be able to because of whatever reason.

Let’s go over some of the most common ways to get around language barriers. And feel free to let me know your favorite and least favorite examples of overcoming barriers and what worked (or didn’t) in the comments.

Common Language

The idea here is that there’s a common language that different species all learn so they can communicate with each other, even if they have their own language otherwise. This is your “Galactic Standard,” as it were. Of course, for this to work, your various species need to similar enough that it makes sense that they’d all be able to make the same linguistic sounds, etc.

One Person Understands

This is where you have a character that speaks its own language which is incomprehensible to the reader/viewer, but luckily there’s that one other character who knows that language and can translate or have one-sided conversations that essentially get the meaning across. Han Solo with Chewbacca, for example, or Rocket with Groot.

Universal Translator

These are magic devices that automatically translate any language it comes in contact with, as long as said language has been encountered before (to add some leeway for when you want a plot that hinges on miscommunication). A lot of the time, these can also pick up new languages after a few minutes of listening. A LOT of science fiction uses this idea, though you do occasionally come across the fantasy equivalent (such as a spell of understanding).

Telepathy

Maybe characters can’t understand each other, but hey, using telepathy can help even the most disparate of species communicate! (Assuming, of course, that their patterns of thought are at all similar.) This mode can often rely a lot on visuals and emotions rather than words.

Immersion/Building Understanding Over Time

For a more realistic approach, if your cultures aren’t meeting for the first time, you can assume they have had interactions for a while and might have started to pick up each other’s language. (Some people show this through some characters/species speaking with an odd grammar, though be aware this can get tedious to read.) Alternately, people can pick up languages through immersion, which is where you’re immersed in another language for a long period of time. This forces you to learn the language through everyday interactions, and also helps you learn how to convey ideas when you don’t have the vocabulary yet.

Of course, both of these methods require time, and if you need two characters to be able to interact to stop the universe from imploding in the next week, well.

Do you have a method I’ve left out, Squiders? Examples, good or bad? Thoughts on storytelling that relies on disparate characters being able to understand each other?

Captain Hawkins by H. Peter Alesso

Happy Friday, Squiders!

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce Captain Hawkins by H. Peter Alesso.

mediakit_bookcover_captainhawkins

Here’s the blurb:
Jamie Hawkins was living on an obscure planet in the twenty third-century when on one fateful night—his life changed forever. His heroic effort to save the lives of innocent women and children, caught in the cross-fire of war, placed him squarely in the crosshairs of avenging soldiers.

A former marine, Hawkins was stunned when his rescue effort was seen as treachery. Unfairly convicted of treason by a corrupt judge, he was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor on an infamous penal colony.

Once in prison, Hawkins was mistreated by a paranoid warden, but his courage and perseverance won him the admiration and trust of his fellow convicts. While he was plotting his escape, an enemy attacked the planet—giving this daring warrior his chance. Together with his fellow prisoners, he launched a bold assault and high-jacked an enemy warship.

From then on, the exploits of Captain Jamie Hawkins became legendary.

Excerpt:
The black of night had fallen, but Jamie Hawkins couldn’t sleep. Though the surgeons had patched up his many wounds, the remorseless pain persisted, even now, months after his medical discharge from the Marines.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

Despite his desire to ignore the unwelcomed thundering blows, he answered the door to his country home and found his neighbor, tall scrawny seventeen year old Joshua Morgan, gasping for breath.

“Captain Hawkins, come quick! Come quick, or they’ll all be killed!”

“Who? What are you talking about, Joshua?”

“I’ve just come from the city—it’s a war zone. People are dying,” Joshua’s voice broke. “The hospital is taking care of the wounded and sheltering women and children, but its force shield is buckling.” He finished in a breathless rush, “It’s only a matter of minutes before it fails.”

A troubled frown creased Hawkins’s face. Their mothers had been friends and he had known Joshua since he was born.

Has the boy been drawn into the turmoil? He wondered.

Hawkins had listened to the broadcasts throughout the day, absurd in every detail; demonstrators declared that they were only protesting injustice, while the government insisted the violence was a last resort against rebels.

Which is the greater lie?

Bio:

As a scientist and author specializing in technology innovation, H. Peter Alesso has over twenty years research experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). As Engineering Group Leader at LLNL he led a team of scientists and engineers in innovative applications across a wide range of supercomputers, workstations, and networks. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. and served in the U.S. Navy on nuclear submarines before completing an M.S. and an advanced Engineering Degree at M.I.T. He has published several software titles and numerous scientific journal and conference articles, and he is the author/co-author of ten books.

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Pick up the book here!

The author will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tie-in Fiction Friday: Star Trek #3 The Klingon Gambit

My mother recently moved out of my childhood home to move in with my grandmother, which means I had to go through the stuff I accumulated throughout the first portion of my life and then abandoned when I went out on my own after college.

There was a lot of it.

A good majority was Star Trek-related–action figures, ship models, tons of roleplaying stuff, and books. LOTS of books. Nonfiction books about how the series were made, nonfiction books like The Physics of Star Trek (and Biology, and Metaphysics…), and most of my collection of the fiction books. Most of mine are Original Series, which was always my favorite series to read from, with the odd one or two from Next Gen or DS9 or Voyager (I did have a lot of the New Frontier books, which is Next Gen era but on a different ship with different characters, though some of them had appeared one off on various episodes).

Actually, until I was an adult, I’d only ever seen one or two Original Series episodes. My appreciation for the series came from the movies and the books. And I did love those books.

But the Original Series books are a mixed bag. Not a lot of quality control. Some are amazing. Some are godawful. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

So this brings us to The Klingon Gambit, Star Trek #3, by Robert E. Vardeman, published in 1981. I admit I picked this one out because it was one of the thinnest of the bunch, but it turns out the font is really small and so it’s somewhat hard to read. I am unfamiliar with Vardeman’s other works (except I’ve probably read his other Star Trek novel) but he’s apparently written quite a few fantasy series (usually writing with other people) and was nominated for a Hugo for best fan writer. If his other stuff is worth reading, let me know–I’m not sure this particular novel was a good display of his potential storytelling.

(I tried to write a Star Trek novel once, when I was 16 or 17 or somewhere in there. Despite my great love of the series, I couldn’t seem to get anyone in character and gave up after the first chapter.)

The premise of this novel is that the Enterprise is sent to Alnath II to investigate the death of a shipful of Vulcans. All the Vulcans are dead in their beds, with no sign of any issues–there should be no reason for them to be dead, but they are. A Klingon dreadnought is in orbit, and the fear is that they’ve developed some new weapon. There is also an archoelogical team on Alnath II, investigating a large, complex pyramid that seems to be the only remains of what was once a technologically-advanced civilization.

This is not one of the better Original Series novels. Several characters feel out of character (there is a subplot where people are acting out of character, but this is apparent even when that subplot is not in effect), and I feel like perhaps the author was a little bit amused about Star Trek in general. I noted, for example, that every time someone uses the transporter, we had to focus on the fact that their atoms were scattered and then reformed back on the planet. In general, some of the terminology just feels slightly off.

Now, this is probably just from me looking back from the future. The Original Series is not the best on continuity, and it wasn’t until Next Gen and later that a lot of the worldbuilding for the universe was solidified. Next Gen didn’t start until 1987, so this significantly predates that. It was probably hard to figure out what exactly was going on back then.

I also found the plot pretty predictable, and also somewhat close to at least one, if not two, Original Series episodes (as a kid, having not seen those episodes, maybe I liked this plot better). Also Kirk seemed to not be suffering from one of the major plot issues despite the rest of the crew doing so, and if he had been, maybe the stakes would have been a little more interesting.

So, would I recommend this particular book? Not really. It’s not great in Star Trek terms, though it does at least use Star Trek plot elements, such as the Klingons and Andorians. It got better as it went on, but it still wasn’t strong in either plot or character. There’s definitely better books out there.

Read this particular Trek novel, Squiders? Thoughts?

Out Today: To Rule the Stars

Happy Tuesday, Squiders! It’s my pleasure today to announce the release of To Rule the Stars, an anthology of space princess stories.

To Rule the Stars cover

Who says fantasy should get all the princesses? Here’s the blurb:

Meet the princesses.

A trained diplomat, kidnapped by an alien race desperate for justice, and its dashing leader…

A political pawn, on her way to meet her betrothed, who stops in the asteroid belt to answer a call for help, and finds a princess both beautiful and brave…

A captive raised to believe that the greatest evil is magic, when it—and the handsome ship’s engineer who wields it—are the one thing that might save her…

Here are their stories.

I just got to say, I’m super pleased with my story in this one. (Mine’s the one with the trained diplomat up above.) AND we have it on special release price in ebook form for now, at $0.99, before it goes up to its normal price. There will also be a print version (which will be $7.99, I believe) but it hasn’t gone live yet.

For now, you can get it here: ( Amazon | Smashwords )

The Turtleduck Press page will get additional buy links as they go live.

So go check it out while it’s cheap! You get three awesome novelette/novella-sized stories for less than a dollar. Besides mine, which I am understandably biased about, I’m also super jazzed about Siri’s Ship of Thorns, which has a very cool tone to it that I won’t spoil for you. (You may remember Siri as my co-author for City of Hope and Ruin.) Erin’s story, which wraps up the collection, is also an interesting look at evaluating your beliefs and what’s acceptable (but don’t worry, it’s not preachy). You also get a preview for TDP’s next release, which is Erin’s Ever Touched, the third book in her science fantasy Fey Touched series.

So what are you waiting for?

Otherwise, I hope things are going relatively well for you, Squiders. Let me know if you’ve got anything awesome going in your corner!

Review of Alien Contact for Kid Sisters

Happy Wednesday, Squiders! Today we’ve got a review for Alien Contact for Kid Sisters, by Edward Hoornaert. The book is free while its review tour is on, so if this sounds interesting to you, check out the buy links below. It’s science fiction romance.

Alien Contact for Kid Sisters cover

Marianne Harmon is sick and tired of being just the kid sister of the famous queen of Kwadra Island. Although she daydreams about being a warrior, when rebels bomb the royal ball she’s shunted to one of the many tunnels that honeycomb Kwadra, where she awaits a captain of the valiant Royal Guardians.

Quinn Lebatarde, a scam artist fleeing the police, dons the uniform of a Royal Guardian killed by a tunnel collapse. When Marianne mistakes him for her bodyguard, Quinn can’t decide whether to save the feisty maiden, fall in love with her—or kidnap her. With bloodthirsty rebels pursuing them and a treasure map in his pocket, what will he choose?

Excerpt:

“Fifty, fifty-five, sixty,” the white-haired tourist said. “There you go, chief, paid in full.”

Chief? Quinn Lebatarde’s lips tightened at the insult, but almost immediately, he grinned. The tourist’s Rolex watch shouted money to burn, as did his expensive digital SLR camera. Quinn pocketed the money but held onto the cheap, plaster replica of an ancient Kwadran woodcarving the man and his wife were buying.

Time for some fun. Hordes of tourists crowded the streets, celebrating the birth of the heir to Kwadra’s throne. Business was great. Only three more ‘carvings,’ a mask, and some miniature totem poles remained on his rickety street-side table. And now the prospect of conning this man made Quinn’s day even brighter.

“All original,” he said in the thick accent and broken English dumb tourists expected. If you spoke too well, they didn’t believe you hailed from an alternate Earth. “Historic. Maybe I sell too cheap.”

Instead of giving them their mythological monster from Kwadra’s distant past, he clutched it to his chest. Not hard, though. The trashy fakes broke under the least pressure.

“Too cheap, ahha. Thirty dollah more.”

“We had a deal,” the tourist’s wife said.

With a loving fingertip, Quinn stroked the carving’s ugly, wide-open lips. “Fifty dollah more.”

“Now wait one minute,” said the man. “Isn’t this against the law or something?”

“You no on America now. Merkin law useless.” Merkin was Kwadrans’ slang nickname for Americans, with sexual connotations most of them didn’t know—despite English being their native language, not his. “Where you from you no know that?”

My Review:

I’d give this, oh, 3.5/5. I waffled a bit with this whole thing. I get review requests quite a bit, but this isn’t a review blog (aside from one here and there) and for some reason, whenever I do sign up for something with a deadline for the review something invariably shows up to make it difficult. I liked the excerpt but not the title, but I did eventually go for it (as you can see).

I received a copy for free (as can you through Nov 2) from GoddessFish Promotions. The waffling continued while I read the book. There are some aspects that are really cool. The setup of the “aliens,” who are from an alternate version of Earth, is distinctly different from most things I’ve read. The worldbuilding and culture is neat. The plot carries along at a good pace and has plenty of action to break everything up.

My biggest issues all stem from the characters, and I even feel a little waffle-y on this front. The characters are not flat or caricatures–they are well developed and have varying flaws and strengths–but they didn’t feel quite real to me. I mean, they did at points, but occasionally they would be…I’m not even sure. Too much to be real? Too intense? Not really sure how to describe it, but it would sometimes pull me out of the story. However, Elfy is my favorite character.

This is the second book in the series, and a third one is coming out soon. Like many romance series, each book revolves around a different couple. I’d recommend it if you like romance and are in for some cool worldbuilding.

Author Bio:

What kind of guy can write romance? A guy who married his high school sweetheart a week after graduation and is still living the HEA decades later. A guy who’s a certifiable Harlequin hero in his own right—he inspired Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Rita Award finalist Mr. Valentine, which is dedicated to him.

Ed started out writing contemporary romances for Silhouette Books, but these days he concentrates on science fiction and sf romance. In addition to novelist, he’s been a teacher, principal, technical writer, salesman, janitor, and symphonic oboist. He and wife Judi live in Tucson, Arizona. They have three sons, a daughter, a mutt, and the galaxy’s most adorable grandson. Visit him at http://eahoornaert.com.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1237266.Edward_Hoornaert

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Hoornaert/e/B001K8HWVQ/

Subscribe to Ed’s World (newsletter): http://eepurl.com/Psqmn

Pick up the book:

( Amazon  | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Smashwords | Kobo Books | Barnes and Noble | Apple itunes )

Edward Hoornaert will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter to win a $10 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy 50th, Star Trek! (and a tour update)

Yesterday was Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Squiders! I find the date easy to remember, not only because I’ve been a lifelong Trekkie, but also because September 8th also happens to be my wedding anniversary.

That was not on purpose.

You’d think I could get my act together to actually post on the anniversary, but hey! This way I stand out from the crowd! A rebel, that’s me. Totally. A rebel.

Anyway, Trek has been a major part of my life since it was little and has, in many ways, shaped me as an adult. Some of my earliest memories are watching original series reruns with my parents, and I went into engineering as a major in college in a large part because Geordi Laforge was my favorite character on Next Generation. I spent my teenaged years roleplaying Star Trek on AOL, testing out new characters and new situations, which I think helped my writing and creativity immensely (especially because I got my Mary Sue tendencies out there as opposed to the first novel I ever wrote).

My mother recently moved out of my childhood home, so I had to confront the many belongings I’d left behind, which, to no one’s surprise, included ~50 Star Trek books, probably as many action figures, a model of the original Enterprise, an Enterprise-D engineering playset, a tricorder, a phaser….

You get the idea.

I like science fiction but I adore Trek, and I think a lot of that is the generally optimistic mindset of the franchise. Even darker series like DS9 still hold the core belief that we are ultimately good and trying our best to do what’s right. (If you haven’t watched DS9, do.) I read a lot of original series books as a kid/teenager, and the strong friendship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy has always been very inspirational to me as well.

So here’s to 50 years, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the silly. Keep on boldly going.

(Also, I read this article on Upworthy and thought it was silly, so here you go.)

For those of you who are following Siri’s and my long tour for City of Hope and Ruin (we’re giving away away a $50 Amazon giftcard), here are the stops since the last time I posted about it. We have three more stops, on the 15th, 22nd, and 29th, and then freedom! We’ve been getting lots of good response on the tour, but it doesn’t seem to be directly contributing to sales.

Each tour stop has the blurb, one of a variety of excerpts, and giveaway info.

Anyway, I hope your September is off to a good start, Squiders. Do anything fun to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th? Thoughts on Trek in general?

Tie-in Fiction Friday: Only Human (Doctor Who)

Doing a little better than a year and a half between posts, eh?

For Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary back in 2013, they put out a collection of books, one for each Doctor, that were special 50th anniversary re-releases. It was all very shiny but expensive, so I decided I would buy one book, though at this point I don’t remember my selection criteria. Did I buy this one because it was the one for Nine, who was my favorite Doctor at the time? (I now am also fond of Twelve. And Two.) Did I like the plot write-up the best? I’m not sure.

Anyway, I ended up with Only Human, written by Gareth Roberts, and initially published in 2005. The shiny 2013 re-release cover looks like this, in case you’re interested:

Only Human Cover

The basic premise is that the Doctor and Co. (in this case, Rose and Captain Jack, ♥) pick up a time distortion and trace to a Neanderthal being about 28,000 years out of place (in this case, modern day England, 2005). The distortion is caused by a primitive and dangerous time machine called a rip engine, which makes it so people who use it can’t go back to their original time. So the Doctor and Rose bop back in time to see if they can’t find this rip engine back 28,000 years ago while Jack is left to teach the Neanderthal how to adapt to modern life (not like Jack is terribly familiar with 2005 either, great planning).

The story is mostly Rose and the Doctor doing their thing back in the day, interspersed with diary entries from Das (the Neanderthal) and Jack. Das’s entries are hilarious and easily one of my favorite parts. While I would not call this high writing in any form, the interactions between Das/modern life, Rose/past humans, etc., are all very well done and also funny. The characters are also mostly spot on though a little thin in places.

This was a quick, fun read–only 253 pages. It reads like a Nine-era episode and has about the same depth as one. If you are familiar with Doctor Who/the Ninth Doctor, I’d recommend it. I’m not actually sure that someone who wasn’t relatively familiar with the show would have any idea what was going on. But maybe I’m not giving people enough credit. Aside from the characters and the TARDIS, there’s not a lot of mythology included.

Read Only Human, Squiders? Read any other Doctor Who books that you really enjoyed?