Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Mary Turzillo, Author of Mars Girls

Join me in welcoming Mary Turzillo to the blog! Apex Magazine has put together this lovely blog tour to celebrate Mary’s newest book, Mars Girls. Learn about science fiction poetry and Mary’s involvement in fencing! Make sure you check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post to see how to win an ebook copy of this science fiction novel.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

I’m going to be very unoriginal here. I wish Darth could change back into Anakin, through time travel, I suppose, to be reunited and reconciled with Padme, then rejoice in the birth of Luke and Leia. But the Star Wars universe so far has not included time-reversal, so I guess that’s out. Oh well.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold?

All the old pulps. All the Ace Doubles. Oh, wait! It ALREADY exists: The Judith Merril Collection, in Toronto! It’s a great institution, run by fabulous librarians. If you are ever in Toronto, don’t miss it. And there’s a great poutine restaurant nearby.

If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Oh, that’s an easy one. Star Wars. It was so fresh when it first came to the screen, so epic. And I’d like to see it without knowing what happened to all the actors later on, because some of that is so sad. I really felt there were more imaginative leaps in the first Star Wars movies than in any previous science fiction movie. The vehicles, the aliens, the bots — any single one of them you could find models for in previous movies, or at least some original thinking. But Star Wars just piled on the neat stuff, scene after scene. And the other thing was a beautiful, very young woman acting as a warrior and a hero. Then more of the same as the series developed.

I also would like to see Scanners and the original The Thing and maybe the original (?) Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A little dark, I know. I do love Donald Sutherland’s work.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I hated and loved teaching at Trumbull campus of Kent State. A few of my students were difficult; one class of nursing students tried unrelentingly to drive me from the classroom. They left a preserved pig’s ear on my lectern. They hazed the best student in the class. They shoved a cake in my face. I had a student who wrote themes that were thinly disguised death threats — meaning, my death.

But I was heavily involved with art and theatre students, and they were so inventive and so eager to learn and create, that I am still friends with many of them years later. Some of them have become published authors. Some are college profs, following in my footsteps. I created costumes for Shakespeare shows that they were in. I coached them on lines. I was even in shows with them, playing a witch in Macbeth and Richard III’s mother.

One of my favorite memories: In my office one afternoon, suddenly a human body with an elephant head appeared in the open door. It was one of my Shakespeare I students, just finished with his prosthetics project from his Theatrical makeup class. A few minutes later, the victim of a horrible accident appeared. Blood all over, broken nose, black eye, missing teeth. Another of my student’s prosthetic makeup projects. Later, a green alien, with huge bulging eyes and tentacles sprouting from his bald head. Same deal. A Cthulhu head. An ancient old lady. They each challenged me to identify them, and I could only match my students’ names to about half of them. That was before I had an iPhone, or I’d share pictures. If only!

Those were the kids I loved, the best students in the whole world. The best people.

I loved the non-theatre students, too. They were original, creative, full of spirit and hope. I still know many of them as friends.

You are stuck in space in dire straights. Which science fiction authors would you want with you?

My husband, Geoff Landis, for obvious reasons. But then I’d choose an additional crewmate with an engineering background, like Arlan Andrews, Vernor Vinge, or Arthur C. Clarke. Of Course I’d want a physician, and so I’d choose F. Paul Wilson and Janet Asimov, with Robin Cook for second and third opinions, in case I had a space-related injury. Octavia Butler, because she could think her way out of anything. I wish she was still with us! Joan Slonczewski in case we needed a little genetic engineering done.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in Science Fiction & Fantasy poetry, what works would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Wow, if only! It would need to contain be an enormous number of poems, so let me just sketch out my brainstorming for this fantasy course.

First Unit: Roots: I’d want poems from Shakespeare (selected passages from The Tempest) and maybe some passages from Dante and Milton, for perspective. Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, of course. A smattering of Poe. These would be early in the course, as teasers, because they would be beautiful and draw students in.

Second Unit: Theory: I’d direct students to follow sfpoetry.com. Essay readings would be assigned, particularly Suzette Haden Elgin’s The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook. I think there exists an essay called “Why Speculative Poetry Matters,” but I can’t find it right now.

Third Unit: An Explosion of New Masters Mid Twentieth Century: The next part of the course would be devoted to landmark spec poetry: I’d assign several anthologies, especially Edward Lucie-Smith’s Holding Your Eight Hands: an Anthology of Science Fiction Verse (1969) and Robert Frazier’s Burning with a Vision: Poetry of Science and the Fantastic (1984).

Fourth Unit: Twentieth Century Master: Contemporary Masters: Here I’d pile on Ray Bradbury’s When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, with special attention to “If We Had Only Taller Been.” Then there would be slim volumes by Roger Zelazny, parts of Creatures of Light and Darkness, plus To Spin is Miracle Cat and “When Pussywillows Last in the Catyard Bloomed.” Next, Ursula Le Guin, not sure which volume, maybe New and Selected Poems.

Fifth Unit: Masters of the Last Thirty Years: I’d create an anthology of all the Rhysling winners. This would be quite a task, because I’d a) have to locate the authors or their literary estates and b) wrangle permission to reprint. So I might just do a Samizdat printing, or have students read the poems from the SFPpoetry website. (I won a 2nd one time, but it’s not up there, because they started listing them after my winning.) I’d also include Bruce Boston’s retrospective, Dark Roads; at least one collection by Jane Yolen; David Kopaska-Merkel’s The Memory of Persistence, Geoff Landis’s Iron Angels, F.J. Bergmann’s Constellation of the Dragonfly, David Cowen’s The Madness of Empty Spaces, one of Mary Soon Lee’s extraordinary Crowned series, and Marge Simon’s Unearthly Delights.

Plus poems by Ann Schwader, Kendall Evans, Suzette Haden Elgin, Bryan Thao Worra, Mike Allen, Deborah P. Kolodji, Sandra Lindow, Gary William Crawford, Josh Gage, Mari Ness, Rachel Pollack, John Amen, Lucy Snyder, J.E. Stanley, G.O.Clark, Tim Esaias, Scott Green, Robert Borsky, Denise Dumars, Bryan D. Dietrich, Linda D. Addison, Sandra Kasturi, David Clink, Stephanie Wytovich, Herb Kauderer, and Alessandro Manzetti.

Out of pure egotism, I would offer free copies of my own books, Lovers & Killers (Dark Regions, 2012) and Your Cat & Other Space Aliens (Van Zeno, 2007) as prizes for the best essays about some other poet.

I’d have a few words about SciFaiku, plus poets outside the spec fic community who write speculative and may not even know it: Billy Collins, Lola Haskins.

I’d alas not be able to do much with non-English-speaking poets —

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I told Roger Zelazny I wanted to BE him. Roger was fundamentally very reserved, and just kind of froze in horror.

I also fed Algis Budrys an absolutely inedible meal at my house — burned to charcoal. And suggested he should watch his diet and stress level.

Another awkward moment was when I was at a Writer of the Future event and my boyfriend asked Larry Niven what he did for a living. This boyfriend soon became my ex-boyfriend. (Of course that was also because I took him to a Warren Zevon concert and he made fun of the drummer’s hairdo.)

Competitive fencing has been a part of your life. How did you get into it? How long have you been fencing?

I always wanted to fence. Swords, don’t all geeks love them? My departed son collected historical replica swords, so I feel a connection with him when I fence. My husband and I have been fencing for over five years and by pure luck I represented the US in Veteran’s (meaning over 40) Women’s Foil in Germany last year.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

The whole debate about “mainstream” (meaning literary realism) versus speculative fiction. I hope we’ve finally put that puppy in the grave.

Of course now the big debate is that some factions (white hetero males) think there’s too much emphasis on social justic themes in fiction by women and minorities. It makes my head ache.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Margaret Wise Brown’s The Golden Egg Book. The illustrations are so very Miyasaki-like, so pretty, in my memory. The second book I read was Clare Turlay Newberry’s April’s Kittens, a story about a girl who loves her cats, but has to choose between the mother cat and her kitten.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’ll be at Worldcon in Finland (if we ever make our plane rez). I’m trying to arrange some signings for Mars Girls. I’m in the process of arranging some bookstore signings. Check Facebook (I make all my posts public, so you don’t have to go through the whole “friend” chore.) and I have an Amazon Author Page.

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Book Blurb for Mars Girls:

Nanoannie is bored. She wants to go to clubs, wear the latest Earth fashions, and dance with nuke guys. But her life is not exciting. She lives on her family’s Pharm with her parents, little sister, and a holo-cat named Fuzzbutt. The closest she gets to clubs are on the Marsnet. And her parents are pressuring her to sign her contract over to Utopia Limited Corp before she’s even had a chance to live a litte. When Kapera—a friend from online school—shows up at her Pharm asking for help, Nanoannie is quick to jump in the roer and take off. Finally an adventure!

What Nanoannie and Kapera find at the Smythe’s Pharm is more than the girls bargained for. The hab has been trashed and there are dead bodies buried in the backyard! If that wasn’t bad enough, the girls crash the rover and Kapera gets kidnapped by Facers who claim her parents are murderers! Between Renegade Nuns, Facers, and corp geeks, Nanoannie and Kapera don’t know who to trust or where to go. Kapera only wants to find her parents so they can get to Earth Orbitals and she can be treated for her leukemia. Nanoannie wants to help her friend and experience a little bit of Mars before selling her contract to the first corp that offers to buy it.

Life isn’t easy when you’re just a couple of Mars Girls.

Author Bio

Mary Turzillo’s 1999 Nebula-winner,”Mars Is no Place for Children” and her Analog novel, AN OLD-FASHIONED MARTIAN GIRL, are read on the International Space Station. Her poetry collection, LOVERS & KILLERS, won the 2013 Elgin Award.  She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction Association, Pushcart, Stoker, Dwarf Stars and Rhysling ballots.   SWEET POISON, her Dark Renaissance collaboration with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award.   She’s working on a novel, A MARS CAT & HIS BOY, and another collaboration with Marge Simon, SATAN’S SWEETHEARTS. Her novel MARS GIRLS is forthcoming from Apex.   She lives in Ohio, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis, both of whom fence internationally.

Geoff and Mary ponder the question: what would it be like to fence in zero-G? and: What about if we were cats fencing in zero-G?

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Apex is giving away 1 ebook copy of Mars Girls, open world wide. Just do the Rafflecopter thing below. Ends June 17, 2017, midnight.

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Audiobook+ Giveaway & Interview: Terry Maggert, Author of Heartborn

MaggertHeartbornEveryone, please welcome Terry Maggert to the blog today. I really enjoyed his suspenseful YA angel novel, Heartborn. A big thank you to Jess at The Audio Book Worm for setting up this book tour. Swing by the tour page to catch more interview, reviews, giveaways, and guest posts. If your interested in the giveaway (and who wouldn’t be?), scroll to the very bottom to learn how to win an Amazon GC, an audiobook copy of Halfway Dead by Terry Maggert, or a bluetooth speaker. On to the interview!

*Author’s note: these are great questions, and it’s high time someone considered my feelings about draconic issues.

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon? 

Have, and my reasoning is purely selfish: I want to experience the majesty of having a dragon as a friend– think of the things it would lead to. Never search for a parking space. Avoid the DMV forever. No pesky TSA, or the need to check your broadsword before you board a cruise. Those are all things of the past. Additional fun: Think of the speaking engagements. “Terry and Banshee, thank you for being here. Could you tell us a little about your”—

“ROOOOAAAAARRRR.”

“Banshee would like me to tell you to never give up on your dreams. Did someone say there was an open bar?”

I’m don’t see a downside to this. Ever.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I could blather on about some obscure French film but that would just be posturing. In film, it has to be Star Wars because I was nine years old and it was the closest thing I’d ever seen to my dreams made real. I was a little boy when the Apollo missions went to the moon; I’d stand in our front yard (I’m from Florida) and watch those enormous rockets blaze upward and it was like I was onboard. If that doesn’t kindle your imagination, nothing will.

For books, it has to be The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. It is, and will always be my first printed love. I’ve bought, re-bought, and bought them again because I wear them out. Seriously.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

This is EASY. Magical quests are always filled with things that have tentacles and fangs and whatnot. So, as follows:

Larry Correia (GUNS!).

Jim Butcher (KNIVES!)

Ursula K. LeGuin (Diplomacy/Magic)

And, there’s an up-and-coming British writer named J.K. Rowling who, I’m told, might be able to contribute magic systems and *possibly* finance the whole mission, although we’ll have to see if her books become popular. I’m pulling for her.

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

As a writer and history prof, this question brings me great shame. Among the numerous classics I *should* have read by this stage in my life, I think the most important one is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. He was an emperor who found time to write. I should find time to read it, in between eating cookies and goofing off. Oh, and I need to re-read Frankenstein because my love for monsters has been like a fire in my imagination.

To sum up: Yes, I feel shame.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

This is one of the most hotly contested subjects I’ve ever discussed at author events; it’s much like arguing about the greatest baseball player or singer or whatnot.

*Author’s note: my choices are Ted Williams and Freddy Mercury, respectively.

But, on to the topic at hand:

For sci-fi, I say start deep in the past. Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs are an absolute must. They led to the explosion of what we call genre fiction, and thus, we have the golden era. I’d say, given twelve books in SFF?

  1. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne
  2. John Carter of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs (the origin of Star Wars!)
  3. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  4. The Passage, Justin Cronin
  5. Startide Rising, David Brin
  6. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  7. A Spell for Chameleon, Piers Anthony
  8. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
  9. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  10. Sunshine, Robin McKinley
  11. The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkein
  12. Dune, Frank Herbert

Of course, we will now let the arguments begin.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

This is actually one of my high points. I was signing at LibertyCon this summer, and paired with Todd McCaffrey for an autograph session. Some points to know:

He is the son of my favorite writer, Anne McCaffrey.

He now writes my favorite series.

I’ve carried a copy of Dragonsong with me for more than 35 years.

I brought my tattered old book with me (given to me by my buddy Tim when we were kids), and Todd didn’t just sign it (he’s an incredibly nice guy), but chatted with me about his mom and their books. Aside from my parents, the McCaffrey family is the longest relationship I’ve had in my life. Here is the evidence:

Terry Maggert's favorite book.
Terry Maggert’s favorite book.

Then, for my fanboy moment, he signed MY dragon book, Banshee, which is dedicated as follows: “To Tim, who gave me Anne, who gave me dragons.”

I was, and am, giddy.

Terry Maggery with Todd McCaffrey
Terry Maggery with Todd McCaffrey

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

Let’s consider this for a moment, based on something I say as a history professor. “The good old days weren’t very good.”

I love things like dentistry, clean water, and air conditioning. With that in mind, if I’m going to visit the past and have a return ticket, I say:

Stonehenge. I MUST know who built it, and why.

Machu Picchu during its peak. Can you imagine a city in the clouds?

Paris in the 1880s— Ain’t no party like a Parisian Belle Epoque Party cuz a Parisian Belle Epoque Party don’t stop. The art. The culture. The intrigue. The wanton alcoholism and nudity. It’s all there.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

We will run and drink mead, as the Gods intended. And by we, I mean, “Me, Leif Ericson of the Norsemen, and the Celtic warrior queen Boudicca, because I’m not just going to run that course, I’m going to WRECK it.”

AuthorTerryMaggertAbout Terry Maggert:

Born in 1968, I discovered fishing shortly after walking, a boon, considering I lived in South Florida. After a brief move to Kentucky, my family trekked back to the Sunshine State. I had the good fortune to attend high school in idyllic upstate New York, where I learned about a mythical substance known as “Seasons”. After two or three failed attempts at college, I bought a bar. That was fun because I love beer, but, then, I eventually met someone smarter than me (a common event), and, in this case, she married me and convinced me to go back to school–which I did, with enthusiasm. I earned a Master’s Degree in History and rediscovered my love for writing. My novels explore dark fantasy, immortality, and the nature of love as we know it. I live near Nashville, Tennessee, with the aforementioned wife, son, and herd, and, when I’m not writing, I teach history, grow wildly enthusiastic tomato plants, and restore my 1967 Mustang.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~Facebook ~ GoodReads

MaggertHeartbornSynopsis of Heartborn:

Her guardian angel was pushed.

Keiron was never meant to be anything other than a hero. Born high above in a place of war and deception, he is Heartborn, a being of purity and goodness in a place where violence and deceit are just around every corner.

His disappearance will spark a war he cannot see, for Keiron has pierced the light of days to save a girl he has never met, for reasons he cannot understand. Livvy Foster is seventeen, brave, and broken. With half a heart, she bears the scars of a lifetime of pain and little hope of survival.

Until Keiron arrives.

In the middle of a brewing war and Livvy’s failing heart, Keiron will risk everything for Livvy, because a Heartborn’s life can only end in one way: Sacrifice.

Fall with Livvy and Keiron as they seek the truth about her heart, and his power, and what it means to love someone who will give their very life to save you.

Audible        Amazon

JuliaWhelanNarratorAbout the Narrator Julia Whelan:

Julia Whelan has appeared in many films and television series, most notably ABC’s Once And Again. After receiving a degree in English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College and Oxford University, Julia began narrating audiobooks. She’s recorded hundreds of novels across all genres and has received multiple Earphones and Audie Awards. She is repeatedly named one of Audiofile Magazine’s Best Voices and was Audible’s Narrator of the Year.

IMDB ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads

GIVEWAYS!!!

There are 3 different giveaways for this tour. You can enter any of them or all of them. These giveaways are hosted by The Audiobookworm and the prizes provided by the author. Enjoy!

Giveaway 1: A $10 Amazon Gift Card

Heartborn Audiobook Blog Tour

Giveaway 2: A Digital Audiobook Copy of Halfway Dead by Terry Maggert
Halfway Dead Digital Audiobook

Giveaway 3: Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Mini Bluetooth Speaker

Interview: Gary & George of Unsung Stories

HockingDejaVuFolks, please welcome the brains behind Unsung Stories, an indie SFF publisher based in London, UK. Unsung Stories publishes intelligent genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative, steampunk, and importantly those works that blur the boundaries between these genres.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy/horror/scifi fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

So this turned out to be a vast question that we couldn’t really answer concisely at all. We’re both in agreement on the themes of the answer, as below, but given it’s a big question we figured it deserved a big answer.

George

Starting with an easy one I see! All narratives, contemporary SFFH, Homeric epics, Jane Austen and even The Daily Mail, are reflective of the society that created them and help shape history. So unicorns, dragons, the Cyclops, witches, changelings and more, have very specific functions beyond whether or not people believe they’re actually there. The same applies to Ebenezer Scrooge, Hamlet, Emma Woodhouse and Malcolm Tucker.

Demons and angels. Our aspirations and our fears. How we manifest these in art has changed, absolutely, but the reason why we do it remains as essential and indefinable as ever.

As to whether contemporary SFFH affects human cultures today? Of course! The how is more telling. One of the most pervasive SF narratives of recent times is Star Trek, which is at its core a utopia project. Sure, they’re knocking on the doors of the Heavens, and it’s about intrepid adventurers and individual acts of heroism, but the thesis is of humanity at its best. Reaching to the stars, embodying justice in a universally welcoming and productive society. Add a splash more hubris and tragedy and you’re getting back into the same territory as Homeric epics. Only this time Icarus has shields and inertial dampeners.

One idea I have is that we use different genres for different purposes. So science fiction is about exploring hypotheses for humanity. What our existence will mean when the fundamental state of humanity has changed. Gibson does this excellently, Haldeman’s The Forever War and countless others. It’s a sandbox for thought experiments, inherently philosophical at heart.

Fantasy has created vast explorations of history and the moralities of governance and action. We can transpose political realities into new environments and comment on and satirise them. There’s so much of humanity’s history to understand and fantasy lets us do that freely, calls on us to tackle political and sociological Gordian knots.

Finally horror might be the most introspective of the three. Sure, it’s about scaring people but it’s also based on what we are afraid of. It’s more than big rats, it’s the darkness and the void, our weaknesses and fears, our inability to protect what we love.

Obviously that’s three broad generalisations, and only offered as a springboard for thought. It’s a big question!

Gary

All of human history, all human life, is shaped by narrative; it’s how we fundamentally understand and process the complex, messy reality we find ourselves in.

I see that SFFH affects human culture today in some very profound ways. Speculative fiction as a whole has always been a wonderful way of exposing and exploring collective hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares.

Trends in science-fiction can accurately map entire cultures’ feelings towards the future – do we see utopia or dystopia ahead? Will technology set us free, or create new traps for us? Do we even believe in a future anymore? In turn, these narratives exploring these issues will inform how we think about ourselves and the way we live, and where we are going (or perhaps going wrong).

The horror genre is a place where our worst fears, anxieties and repulsions can be explored (and exploited). I think there are two camps of horror fiction, the cathartic ‘ghost train’ types of horror, where everything works out in the end, where the evil is defeated and mankind overcomes: fiction ultimately as a form of validation that the world is OK. 

Then there’s the other kind of horror, pioneered by Lovecraft and perfected by writers like Thomas Ligotti, where there is no victory, no catharsis, where the bad things win. This is my preferred model of horror fiction – not because I think life is hopeless or inherently ‘bad’, but because I think this kind of writing serves a useful function, to allow readers to face and explore difficult emotional topics.

We have a deep psychological need for monsters. Through storytelling we can turn an abstract fear into something physical that can be, at least potentially, defeated. Fear of the consumerist, mindless masses become zombies, aggressive male sexuality takes form in the werewolf, the ghost is a clear manifestation of past guilt/trauma, and so on.

With fantasy the enduring appeal of Tolkien and the LOTR films, the continued popularity of epic fantasy novels, the Game of Thrones phenomenon are all things that cannot be discounted. It would be nice if some mainstream fantasy was not based on the models established by Tolkien (Celtic/Saxon/Norse European myths, essentially). But there’s obviously some appeal to that kind of mythic setting that has a real appeal.

WhiteleyTheBeautyIt’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

The invite list first: Iain M. Banks, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett first of all because you need wise, nice and irreverent people to balance any debate. To stir the pot I’d add Hunter Thompson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Adam Roberts, Octavia Butler, John-Paul Satre and Charles Bukowski. That should provide enough knowledge, experience and strong-willed extroverts to ensure a healthy debate, right? Or at least an unforgettable evening. Actually, maybe add Imperator Furiosa as referee.

As for the books? I’d go with Ubik, The Trial and The Master and Margarita. Not because they are perfect bedfellows but the all fascinate and terrify me in equal measure. They all poke at the consensus of the ‘normal ‘state of affairs, be those philosophical, social or political. And they all leave you with very difficult questions.

Are strict guidelines for genres dead in today’s book market? Where does Unsung Stories fit in? 

Increasingly I’d say genre is being normalised, the distinctions eroded by audiences growing more sophisticated. We’re not the people who thought The War of the Worlds was real. Genre tropes are commonplace now and we are seeing an increasing number of crossover success stories both ways. Ishiguro is exploring genre in his work. Cloud Atlas was nominated for the Booker and the Clark and Nebula. Gaiman is an international sensation despite being massively Genre, even starting out in *gasp* comics. And of course SF and fantasy are all over TV and cinema. So it’s increasingly not about defining the lines between ideas, but the opportunities in how they interact.

Here at Unsung Stories, we love non-generic takes on genre. We want to give a home to writers who grab this opportunity with both hands. The people who don’t see rules or conventions, just the way their story is. Commissioning isn’t about if we can see a market, it’s about finding the stories we love, and know deserve to be published.

LangmeadDarkStarWhat now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Philip K. Dick, probably. He’s the man who posited a Matrix-like reality decades before even Gibson started at it. Aside from writing some of my favourite books his take on reality fascinates me as much as it seemed to trouble him. Especially because he didn’t seem to have that layer of detachment from the problem academics do. So I’d talk to him about what his philosophies of perception and what it is he thinks we’re not seeing.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

All of the bits that weren’t terrible, ideally. But if I had to pick one it would be The Sandman because it achieves so many different things. It’s a glorious collection of short stories, it’s a revelation for the potential of comics, it’s a vast indulgence of amazing ideas, it’s funny, it’s scary, it’s utterly heart-breaking in several places, and so much more.

In fact, if I could have just one page, I’d ask for Delirium and Death in the funeral procession from Worlds End. It might just be perfect.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

One thing I find fascinating is the development of monsters in horror. After the explosion in the 1960s monsters abound, starting with the classics like Dracula, Frankenstein’s creation and werewolves. Then aliens are introduced, incomprehensible powers given physical form. Soon we’re creating new demons for cinema like Freddy and Jason, where they can be defeated but only temporarily. The step after is the one that grabs me though, where they all suddenly become human. Us. No more immortals, no masked killers returning from the grave. Teenagers. Your neighbours. Your children…

With SFF we’re beyond grimdark and sci-fi horror now as well. Bank’s Culture is full of stories that blur the ideas of who is the hero. We love Game of Thrones and Abercrombie because it’s not so simple to say who the hero is. We’re interested in the grey areas more these days, probably because we understand them better than the extremes of heroism or villainy.

So yes, absolutely. And watching how this growing canon of influences develops is something I find incessantly fascinating.

The other thing is post-apocalyptic fiction is huge right now, which works on the base assumption that we somehow failed as a race. As a result of technological developments in the last 20 years we have burgeoning global identities, a greater awareness of what is happening across the world. Maybe we’re coming to realise it’s not about heroes and villains, but about our collective responsibilities as a species?

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take Unsung Stories into the multimedia realm?

I think it will continue to evolve as it already has been. Ebooks are commonplace now for instance, and apps and enriched variants are going the same way. A lot of the most interesting examples I’ve come across have been games – Device 6 or Dear Esther for example – but that doesn’t mean it will all be games. What I will say, is I suspect the great ideas will come from writers/indies who create something as a labour of love. People in the industry are readers, gamers, fans, just like everyone else. So they’ll be there with everyone else when good things happen.

Unsung don’t have plans right now, but if we see an idea we like enough we’ll go for it. There’s no reason for stories to be limited to books any more (however much we love them). The crucial thing is to ensure the story works for the format. So, for example, rather than shoehorning a popular book into a graphic novel I’d want to see something written with comic format in mind. It’s about best serving the stories, after all.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment where you were gushing over an author’s work?

I exist in a perpetual state of anxiety as a rule so that would mainly involve every conversation I’ve had with an author, ever. I’m also particularly bad at recognising people as we rule so my worst moments are the opposite kind where you talk to someone, usually spouting flawed opinions at great length, to then discover they’re Pat Cadigan, or someone like that. Things like that happen to me, so I operate the working assumption that my brain hates me.

That said, when I met Brian May I had a not-inconsiderable haircut myself and proceeded to compliment him on his hair. Not his music, charity work or career as an astrophysicist. His hair. I got the impression I wasn’t the first person to do that.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I’m not sure what it was called but there was something involving a mad professor taking a teenage boy to Jupiter where he had to play hockey with 20 metre tall bruisers. It’s the illustrations I remember more than anything. Something I remember the title of though, is either the Mary Plain books by Gwynedd Rae, or The Arabian Nights. That and poring over the Terran Trade Authority books in my primary school’s library.

Finally, what upcoming Unsung Stories events and works would you like to share with the readers?

We have our Unsung Live event scheduled for 20th October in Kings Cross, London. This is SFF storytelling, with readings from Simon Guerrier, Robert Sharp, Cassandra Khaw and David Hartley. We’re doing this because we couldn’t find any live-lit events for genre fiction and thought there should be at least one! Tickets are free, you just need to RSVP to secure a place at – www.meetup.com/unsung/events/224926265/. It was very popular last time so booking is advised!

We do have other things in the pipeline in terms of books, but nothing I can talk about yet. They’ll be good though, promise.

Places to Follow Unsung Stories

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Book Giveaway & Interview: Martin Berman-Gorvine, Author of Heroes of Earth

Berman-GorvineAuthorEveryone, please welcome Martin Berman-Gorvine. He’s here to entertain us with a chat on Gulliver’s Travels, Awesomecon 2015, geeky arguments, Martin’s upcoming works, and much more! Martin has also generously offered up a giveaway, open internationally, so don’t miss that at the bottom of this post.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm? 

It’s increasingly the case that books, movies, graphic novels, etc. are viewed as comprising a single profit-obsessed beast called “the entertainment industry.” The word industry for me conjures smoke-belching factories, and the convergence of every form of storytelling is regrettable in many ways because it erases healthy distinctions between different forms of high art and pop art—this at the same time that new, absurdly specific “genres” are constantly being invented out of whole cloth by crazed marketers (middle-grade paranormal suburban steampunk, anyone?)

But it would be hypocritical of me as a speculative fiction writer not to acknowledge that I benefit from not being shoved into the ghetto of low-brow, disreputable and dangerous art that science fiction resided in back in the 1950’s, along with comic books, or to pretend that I wouldn’t welcome a phone call from some sunglass-wearing, poolside-drinks-sipping Hollywood producer eager to put my eminently filmable fiction on the screen. It wouldn’t even cost that much thanks to digital graphics to depict the psychedelic biplanes zipping around a Quetzelcoatlus-descended dragon in my latest novel, Heroes of Earth.

Berman-GorvineHeroesOfEarthWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I was a lonely, picked-on, self-pitying nerd (a term that had no positive connotations when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s). When I was in eighth grade I wrote a satirical sociology of the junior high school I was attending, dividing my classmates into five castes: Averages, Toughs, Pseudo-Toughs, Brainy Averages, and Brainy Weirdos. The last of these groups was the one I saw myself belonging to: “These have even higher I.Q.s than Brainy Averages. They are usually wimps. They do not conform to any usual style of dress (unless they are Pseudo-Toughs) and are likely to become nuclear physicists, cellular biologists, or something like that. They are not usually dangerous except when you trip over them.” (See my blog athttp://martianperspective.blogspot.com/2013/03/guest-post-1980s-time-capsule.html for the whole thing). Arnold in Heroes of Earth is like that. There’s a lot of the young Martin in him, to be honest.

As you can probably guess, when I wrote about the “Brainy Weirdos” I already saw myself as a writer, and had done so for several years by that point, producing reams of poetry (especially haiku), short stories and essays. I was hooked on expressing myself that way from the moment in elementary school when I read aloud in class an Inspector Clouseau ripoff I had composed for an assignment and basked in the laughter of my classmates—and for once, they weren’t laughing at me.

Berman-GorvineSaveTheDragonsIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in science fiction literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

I’m a great believer in classics, and I would start with Gulliver’s Travels because for me the presentation of very different kinds of people and creatures, fantastical technologies such as the “project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers” at the grand academy of Lagado, and of course the underlying satire of human venality and violence are the very same things that draw so many of us to reading and writing science fiction. H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds established two of the major themes in science fiction and have never been exceeded in storytelling excitement. Alternate history classics such as Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee and Philip K. Dick’s flawed but brilliant The Man in the High Castle helped create an important subgenre and pave the way for Harry Turtledove’s novels and my own work, such as the British America in my novels Save the Dragons and Heroes of Earth. The works of the great women writers who overlapped with “Second Wave” feminism in the larger American culture, such as Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, and James Tiptree Jr.’s Houston, Houston, Do You Read? provided vital new perspectives. I would want to include the work of Robert Charles Wilson, who writes three-dimensional characters and ponders deep religious questions amid world-shaking events, notably in The Spin. Really I’d have a lot of trouble limiting the reading list, or fighting the temptation to assign my own work.

DanielsBraveNewGirlsCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Oh gosh. At Awesomecon 2015 I got the chance to meet Amber Benson, the actress, filmmaker and urban fantasy author. I wanted to give her a copy of my book Heroes of Earth that I had with me, but I worried that would make me seem like some kind of freakily obsessed fan, or maybe an author nobody wanted to read, especially because there were staff hovering around to prevent the truly obsessed from bothering the “celebrities.” So I settled for giving her a bookmark with my books listed on it. If by some bizarre chance she ends up reading this, I still have the book I meant to give her, autographed and everything!

What do you do when you are not writing?

Reading, mostly history or speculative fiction. Cleaning up excretia from our five cats and one dog. Disregarding Petula Clark’s advice and falling asleep on the subway. Working at my day job as a newsletter reporter and editor.

Berman-GorvineSevenAgainstMarsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

I have these every day with my sixteen-year-old son Daniel. He asks me what I would do if I could travel in time—“and you’re not allowed to kill Hitler, Dad.” “Kill Hitler,” I say. His follow-up question is, “What superpower would you have, if you could have any?” I haven’t figured out the answer to that one, so I shift us over to a little light ontological debate. Sometimes he offers me some useful advice for my next novel—for example, when I told him about the philosophical problem posed by the existence of parallel worlds in Larry Niven’s short story “All the Myriad Ways,” where the main character decides to kill himself because free will is meaningless in a multiverse where all possible decisions have been made somewhere, he suggested a counterargument that made it into Heroes of Earth. When we finish talking he’ll go back to playing Skyrim and I’ll go back to such fun pursuits as reading about the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

Berman-Gorvine36Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Side characters can assume outsize importance in the hands of a skilled author. For example, I recently finished reading Erica O’Rourke’s Dissonance, one of the most intriguing and complex approaches I’ve ever encountered on a parallel world theme. The main character, Delancey, is something of a standard-issue young adult heroine in being a rebel and a misfit, though she’s no less appealing for that. Her older sister Addison is her foil for much of the novel, a goody-two-shoes and seemingly an untroubled snitch who starts to develop unexpected depths and nuances toward the end of the novel. I’m looking forward to seeing both girls’ characters develop in the sequel.

In my own work, Jo Purnell, who first appeared as the annoying kid sister of one of the two teenage main characters in my 2013 novel Save the Dragons, returns in a more central role in Heroes of Earth, and I can feel she is definitely demanding her own novel. She’s going to get what she wants, too, because I’m a little intimidated by a girl who can telepathically talk to dragons, out-think Albert Einstein and Roger Penrose in mathematical physics, effortlessly picture higher dimensions in her mind, is musically talented, and outspoken and willing to fight for what she believes in. The challenges she faces will have to be considerable to be worthy of her. But she may live to regret getting what she wants, because I’ve recently signed a deal for a four-book horror novel series with Silver Leaf Books—the first one, All Souls Day, is due out in February 2016.

Places to find Martin Berman-Gorvine

Twitter: @MeshuggeWriter

Giveaway: open internationally!

One autographed copy of Heroes of Earth! Enter the Rafflecopter below or you can do the following in the comments below: 1) leave a way to contact you; and 2) answer this question: What is a recurring or memorable geeky debate you have taken part in?

Giveaway ends in 2 weeks, Midnight August 9th, 2015.

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Giveaway & Interview: Jennifer Anne Seidler, Author of Dry Land

SeidlerDryLandFolks, it is my pleasure to have Jennifer Anne Seidler on the blog today. I very much enjoyed her scifi romance, Dry Land, and it was a real treat to interview her. Today we chat about hard scifi, best & worst jobs, show chickens, scifi romance, and much more! If you’re interested in the audiobook giveaway, scroll to the bottom.

If you could be an extra on a SF series or movie,  what would it be?

I love this question! I would say I would love to be someone in a control room at a launch of some important mission, whether it be from Earth or as a controller guiding ships from some distant planet. I would suppose that if I were actually part of the mission, I wouldn’t be an extra. So, give me a uniform and a pair of headphones, a mic, and some sort of display to watch, and I’ll be happy. That, and I can use my Chuck Yeager voice, do the countdown, and say “roger that.”

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? How does this feed into your idea of hard science fiction?

I love Space Opera, but my preference is for hard sci fi. I prefer that in most of my reading, to be honest. I love created worlds but I really love it when a writer can take our world and make it fantastic. I read Michio Kaku’s books about science in the future and mankind in that future and it is amazing the potential this world has – both for the amazing and the frightening. I find it fascinating to explore that in books and in the things I write. There’s a rule that technology the way it’s going now renews itself, turns over every eighteen months. Part of me wonders if the fantastical future will happen during my lifetime. If not, I can die knowing I’ve at least dreamt and read a taste of it.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

I don’t think I’ve had a job that I can say is the “worst.” Perhaps it was one of my first jobs out of law school, when I was relegated to a desk, reviewing documents day in and day out. Important for the litigation, maybe, but boring as hell for me. I prefer to be “out there.” My favorite job was when I was deeply involved with the legal aspects of arson investigation – getting out in my grubby clothes and slogging around fire scenes, tagging behind some of the most brilliant minds in fire investigation. That was some amazing stuff. But, yes, it’s true that none of that compares to writing. Dry Land is my first touch into published fiction, but I do feel that I have to write every day. If I don’t write in some form or another I go a little stir. 🙂 Whether it is throwing down ideas for more Ted and Colby or hobby writing with some of my writing partners, writing gives me a sense of peace, accomplishment, and sanity.

Dogs, chickens, rabbits, & a hamster! Who gets fed first? Are any of them show animals, or purely for family enjoyment?

The dog gets fed first. 🙂 The chickens and rabbits, my husband takes care of. I do go out there and help him clean things up every few weeks (gross!) but the care and feeding is his bailiwick. We did show chickens for a few years. My oldest son, Ian, won junior showmanship a few years back at the Lodi Fair — something he was pretty proud of. My daughter tried her hand at showing rabbits, but it wasn’t her thing. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a moratorium on showing poultry at fairs this year because of that bird flu, but… maybe next year.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

A beer. Definitely a beer. I would invite: Eugene Wrayburn, Thursday Next, Lord John Grey, Hercule Poirot, and Captain Jack Harkness. How’s that for a crowd?

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in science fiction romance literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

OOH! I think I’d devote entire units to Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jasper Fforde, Rob Shearman, Ursula K. LeGuin, KM Herkes, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Jennifer Roberson; and then to the indies, of course, and there are so many of them that I love! I’ve probably forgotten some, therefore, I will leave room in the syllabus for my students to do independent studies on their favorite SFR authors.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Of course, to quote Weird Al, “Do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?” That and… which is better – Star Trek or Star Wars? And finally… why does everyone love Loki so much when he’s a psychotic mass murderer?

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I had this volume of poetry and fairy tales called “Young Years.” I remember my grandmother challenged me to read through it, and I did. And I loved it. I still have that book to this very day, although I have passed it on to my daughter. I still vividly remember the illustrations.

SeidlerDryLandDry Land Book Blurb:

When mankind toys with nature, nature fights back. Astronaut Ted “Shakespeare” Hardiston is setting off on the adventure of a lifetime — for the rest of his life. He reluctantly leaves behind his wife, an android/human hybrid, to command the first base on the surface of the moon. Ted and the crew of Space Shuttle Liberty complete their mission, gifting the Moon with gravity and an atmosphere. In doing so, they cause mass destruction on the Earth below. By Ted’s side during this ordeal is Codie-5, another hybrid and a genetic duplicate of Ted’s wife. Ted, Codie, and the crew must work fast and make sacrifices to save the world — and for Ted, to return to the love of his life.

Places to Find Jennifer Anne Seidler

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Giveaway!

The author is offering 1 Audible USA copy of her book, Dry Land! Hooray! To enter, answer the following question in the comments:

1) Do you have an Audible USA account?

2) If you could be an extra on a SF series or movie,  what would it be?

If you don’t sign into leave the comment with an active email address, then leave on in the comments. If you share the post, tell me in the comments and you get extra points. Contest ends Midnight, Saturday July 11th, 2015.

Interview: Erin Gitchell, Author of The Feast

GitchellTheFeastWelcome Erin Gitchell, author of The Feast. Today we chat about the company of Ents, Firefly, library work, coverart and more. Enjoy!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Book / Movie: Howl’s Moving Castle. I’d like to read the book before seeing the movie. I did it the other way around and have regretted it ever since. I wish I could go back in time and read the book for the first time without the movie characters in my head.

TV Series: Firefly. It was such a fun show! Perfect blend of humor, danger, spunk, chemistry, violence, and shiny lingo. The first time I saw it, I missed a few episodes here and there. I’ve watched it multiple times since, but I wish I could go back in time and watch it properly the first time around.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?

I think I’d enjoy traveling with an Ent for a while, and I’d REALLY enjoying talking to a dragon (but not the kind that would want to eat me). I would definitely avoid a dementor, since, being a muggle, I’d have no way to protect myself from them. And no, I’d never take a selfie with an Ent, dragon, or dementor. My daughter is the only beastie I’ll take pictures with (begrudgingly).

Who are your non-writer influences?

I work at a library and see a wide variety of people every day. Some just look so much like characters, it’s hard not to imagine them that way, inventing fantastical histories and personalities for them. The downside is when they do actually talk to me, I have to pretend like I didn’t give them a name and place in a story. I’m influenced by daily life, just little moments that trigger ideas, nothing grand or methodical. “There is learning in everything,” someone said in a book I read once, and it’s something I truly believe.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I’d be an inventor or explorer. I like to take things apart and try and fix them, too, which kind of goes along with inventing. Or an artist (but not the snooty kind). However, I am pretty happy being a librarian (except when grumpy patrons yell at me).

McKinleyTheDoorInTheHedgeIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Required Reading:

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings trilogy also encouraged)
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
1984 by George Orwell (if they somehow managed to make it this far in life without reading it)

Encouraged Reading:

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
Sabriel by Garth Nix
– Anything by Robin McKinley
– Anything by Robert Jordan (if they want to go down that road, more power to them!)

I guess the syllabus focuses on fantasy. Oh well.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

In truth, I haven’t had one yet, unless you count joining the Legolas Fan Club in junior high with the first LOTR film came out. It was a very awkward club. I usually just demonstrate my admiration for an author by re-reading the book(s) over and over.

MarillierWildwoodDancingCover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?

Some covers are so photoshopped these days, that’s all I see (the photoshopping)! It’s great authors have access to artists that can use that kind of software (whether they’re self-published or working with a publisher), but sometimes there are just too many layers. That being said, some of my favorite fantasy covers were created by Kinuko Y. Craft (she has done covers for Robin McKinley and Juliet Marillier, among others). They are EXTREMELY detailed, but in a way that’s not overwhelming…more like a, “The more you look, the more you see” kind of way. I’m intrigued when the cover tells a story, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be an illustration of a scene within the book.

Which mythical/fantastical race would you rather be?

I always choose mermaid (so long as I am speedy enough to avoid getting eaten) since there’s so much of the ocean that needs to be explored. However, not everyone can see the benefit of being a mermaid…

GitchellTheFeastGoodreads blurb about The Feast: Rebellion was sown…Revenge will be reaped…and The Feast for freedom awaits!

Delaterra, once a land of peace and prosperity, is tainted with suspicion and fear. The King’s Eyes and Ears, spies without conscience, hunt the Farmers, a group of Delaterran rebels who are dedicated to restoring Delaterra to her former glory. Yet there are whispers traveling fast on the wind, that the Farmers are not alone in their desire to rid the world of the Nameless One and the tyranny he sows. As The Feast draws near, a woman trapped in the body of a horse, an ex-knight, a seer, and an assassin must draw the factions together if they are to have any chance of success.

Places to Find Erin Gitchell

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