Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Sci-Fi LGBT+ Novels that don’t Suck

It’s a sad thing to admit but there is a distinct lack of well-written sci-fi books featuring LGBT protagonists.  They do exist, but they seem too often lost in a sea of romance books masquerading as sci-fi.  If you are looking for romance, well then that’s all well and good, but if you really just want a true sci-fi book with all the techno-jargon, space travel, dystopian futures, and a diverse cast but without the constant angst and love scenes, you might have a difficult time finding one you like.  Worse yet, you may find yourself in the midst of the swamp of clichés, the graveyard of throw-away characters, or the pit of faux diversity.  Hopefully, we can alleviate some of that pain by slogging through the mediocre to bring you some true science fiction gems.

Warchild Series by Karin Lowachee

Superbly written sci-fi with a wide cast of characters, this space opera is well worth the read.  Lowachee is able to craft characters you care about in a world that feels deeply developed while still remaining character-focused.  The three current books delve into multiple issues, some quite dark, each from a different character’s perspective.  For the most part, they are light on the romance as well, although Cagebird brings it front and center.  The fourth book, The Warboy, is currently awaiting a release date.  

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin 

LeftHandofDarknessLeGuin.jpg

This classic was published in 1969 as part of the Hainish Cycle. However, each book can be read as a standalone.  It focuses on a human emissary to the alien planet of Winter, where the local alien species can shift their gender.  For its time, it was groundbreaking.  The romance is still downplayed, left to subtext for the most part but the characters are interesting, well-developed, and don’t stoop to clichés.  The world building, too, is what you would expect from LeGuin.  It has a wealth of details and depth, all presented from both an outsider’s point of view and from the perspective of an insider.  Despite its age, we highly recommend this book.

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

SantaOliviaCarey.jpg

The synopsis of this book can seem a little misleading, making it seem like another played-out werewolf fic.  It is not, though, and more than worth a read.  It’s set in a not so distant future in which the US and Mexico are in an ongoing war, resulting in a DMZ along the border of Texas and Mexico.  The story takes place in the town of Santa Olivia within this demilitarized zone.  The setting is a gritty, realistic dystopia, but not so much one of overt malice and oppression but rather more like neglect.  The characters are all very well developed.  No one feels like a two-dimensional caricature, resulting in antagonists who are sympathetic and good guys with flaws. The lesbian romance is more central in this, but very well-written with a fully developed arc complete with both emotion and action.  If you like a bit of superhero flavor with your dystopian sci-fi, this is the one for you!

These are just a few we think break the mold and stand out as well-written and developed, with LGBT protagonists who are not simply clichés, throw-away, or there to fill a quota.  If you know of more LGBT Sci-Fi books, we’d love to hear about them! Post your favorite in the comments and

Post your favorite in the comments and Happy Pride Month!

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: J.R. Gershen-Siegel

Diannika Alyse Star: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us for Science Fiction month!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book Untrustworthy

JR Gershen-Siegel: Untrustworthy is an LGBT dystopian science fiction novel. It explores what happens when an oppressive society more or less eats itself.

Star: That sounds very interesting. What inspired you to write about that?

Gershen-Siegel: It was kind of an odd story. I had had some of the more science fiction elements just sort of come to me, but the idea of essentially an alien Kristallnacht came to me and it would not let go until it was written.

Star: That sounds rather intense. Do your story ideas usually come to you that way?

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: JR Gershen-Siegel

 

Diannika Alyse Star: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us for Science Fiction month!

To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book “Untrustworthy”
JR Gershen-Siegel: Untrustworthy is an LGBT dystopian science fiction novel. It explores what happens when an oppressive society more or less eats itself.

Star: That sounds very interesting. What inspired you to write about that?
Gershen-Siegel: It was kind of an odd story. I had had some of the more science fiction elements just sort of come to me, but the idea of essentially an alien Kristallnacht came to me and it would not let go until it was written.

Star: That sounds rather intense. Do your story ideas usually come to you that way?

Gershen-Siegel: This one came deceptively easily. It spoiled me! Now the ideas are different, but the process is similar. I get some sort of nagging concept and then want to expand on it because it becomes all-consuming. For last year’s NaNo, I wanted to comment on primitive societies and evolution. Year before, I wanted to comment on aliens and immigration. This year, the commentary will be on class and teamwork, most likely.

Star: Very cool! At least you’ll never be left wondering what to write!

(For readers who may be unaware, NaNo is short for NaNoWrMo, a writing event in November)

I know you have written for a few anthologies. Were those pieces Science Fiction as well?

Gershen-Siegel: One is sort of roundabout. It looks like science fiction (it was for The Longest Night Watch, which is a charity anthology benefiting Alzheimer’s research), but the reader begins to realize it’s just the ravings of a woman being affected by her illness. Hence she mentions aliens and space ships but it’s just the trappings of her nursing home (sorry, spoiler alert!).

This year, we are publishing a second Longest Night Watch Anthology, and for that one, the story is told from a dog’s point of view. Which I suppose is sort of science fiction, sort of not.

Star: Was Science Fiction a genre you planned to write in, or did it just kind of happen?

Gershen-Siegel: I love science fiction and I do try to write in it. Short stories can be in other genres (I have a few in the works which definitely are not), but sci-fi is, to me, the perfect genre because you can fit nearly anything into it.

Star: Very true, I think that’s one of the reasons it is such a prolific genre. Anything can happen!

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Gershen-Siegel: I wrote when I was a kid but I didn’t really see it as a viable thing to do (and for actual, you know, money) until a lot later. But I was a five year old child drawing and writing little captions so I suppose I started off as a graphic novelist.

Star: Awww, that’s cute. 🙂

Who would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Gershen-Siegel: Ray Bradbury. I love how short stories work so well. I also admire his work ethic tremendously. He wrote a book on writing and it makes a lot of sense, that you keep a jar of ideas on your desk. And I do! Even if I rarely open that jar, it helps a lot to know there is stuff in there.

Star: That definitely seems like it would be useful.

I know you entered a contest, and it led to you being published. Would you care to tell us a bit about that?

Gershen-Siegel: Sure thing.

I had casually mentioned to my mother back in 2013 that I had written a book in a month and she was intrigued and thought it was kind of amusing. So I got the dreaded question: are you going to try to get it published? I suppose I was in a mood to try, so I figured, why not?

I did some creative Googling and also checked Twitter and again this is such serendipity, but I stumbled across a contest being run by Riverdale Avenue Books. They wanted to publish a NaNoWriMo novel! The prize was a one-time publishing contract with them to get right of first refusal on my next work. I did some digging into them and discovered they were very LGBT-friendly, plus they were looking to expand their HSF imprint, which is horror, science fiction, and fantasy.
This helped tremendously as I fit the bill in terms of having a NaNo novel but also fit their mission and happened to fit well into the niche they wanted to promote. Timing helps a lot with these things. I have a friend who is a professional editor for textbooks, but she doesn’t normally handle novels. I gave her mine (e. g. I contracted with her to edit the piece) and she did so, and told me she thought I was going to win.

And here we are.

Star: Wow. Definitely a bit of good luck in that timing!

I know I’ve taken quite a bit of your time. One more question to wrap things up.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Gershen-Siegel: A few things. 1) Don’t stop. Even if you think what you’re writing is dumb. Just write. 2) Don’t delete wholesale and don’t throw things away. Save them, move them, repurpose them. Ideas are the ultimate recyclable goods. 3) Get an idea you can’t use immediately? Write it down, park it, and move on. You’ll want that bank of ideas when you’re stumped. You’d be surprised on how those ideas morph and work for you. And 4) Take risks! Step outside yourself and do something new. I never thought I would write LGBT and I really didn’t think I would be published.
You can do this. Yes, you.

Star: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Gershen-Siegel: Thank you. I greatly appreciate your interest and support. May we all be creative!

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: After Sanity: Corporate Aspirations by Wes Kirk

Diannika Alyse Star: So, to start with, could you tell us a little about your book After Sanity: Corporate Aspirations?

Wes Kirk: That’s probably a bigger question than typical, believe it or not. It’s got quite a history behind it. But the actual story, takes place in an alternate timeline and after that timeline’s World War 3. Society is still trying to recover, and government is extinct. The rule of ‘law’ only extends as far as far as people who have the gumption to do something about it. On a high level, I’d say it’s a cross between Fallout 3 (the game) and The Punisher. Minus all of the advanced tech from the Fallout universe.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Review: City at World’s End by Edmond Hamilton

 

This is an old sci-fi story from 1951 written by Edmond Hamilton. It’s about a city that is taken from Earth in order to preserve the human race. The aliens had been watching Earth for a long time and knew that humans main goal was to keep and preserve life. So they took what they thought was the best city off that. The people try to explain that their city was the center point and could only maintain itself with outside resources.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Dune Arakis Spice Coffee

Abruptly Leto saw a young woman sitting outside a crude hut in dawnlight. She sat right there in front of him roasting coffee beans to a rose brown, adding cardamom and melange.

Children of Dune

This is a simple recipe to add a little more Spice to your life. It probably won’t give you powers or visions, but it sure does make your coffee taste great! (Books & Quills is not responsible for any visions or powers you do get from consuming this recipe). Grab your copy of Dune, your coffee pot, and these ingredients.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Review: Chocky by John Wyndham

One thing I love about John Wyndham’s writing is that he takes our normal everyday world and changes one thing and shows us how simple our lives could be changed forever. Most known for his book Day of the Triffids, he has written many more equally good and haunting tales. One of those being Chocky written in 1963. It’s about a boy named Matthew who is 12 and is just your regular kid.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Interview: Shiv Ramdas

Diannika Alyse Star: To start us off, could you tell us a little about your book Domechild?

Shiv Ramdas: Well, Domechild is basically an attempt- or the beginning of an attempt to explore a whole bunch of questions that had been troubling me for a while. The ethics of AI, machine rights, freedom, information addiction, hypercapitalism vs organised anarchy. Lots of questions. 🙂 Without giving away too much of the plot, it’s basically the story of what happens to an average nobody living in a world where physical addiction to information is a massive issue, and how the simplest of things- a wrong turn- changes his life, in ways he could never have imagined. And in the process, he learns a bit more about his world than he’d perhaps have liked to.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Recipe: Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster

“Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol’ Janx Spirit. Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V. Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost). Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it. Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qalactin Hypermint extract. Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Sprinkle Zamphuor. Add an olive. Drink . . . but . . . very carefully.”

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

It is, of course, difficult to reproduce this drink here on Earth, and many other recipes are more than a little hard to drink. This recipe attempts to make a consumable drink you can make here on Earth! Grab your towel, your favorite glass, and these ingredients.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Sci-Fi Prompts

Here are some sci-fi flavored prompts for short stories, poems, or even novels! These are not contest prompts, but if you use them, feel free to share! We’ll feature as many pieces as we can throughout the month of June!


10,000 people were chosen to start the new colony on a distant planet and were frozen in stasis pods on a generational ship, sent out on a five hundred year journey. Groups were chosen to awaken in shifts to maintain the ship and its passengers, but when my shift came up everything was wrong. The ship was dead in space, all pods empty, and I was the only one left.

Walking home from the book store, a strange man I’ve never seen before ran into me and shoved an object in my hands. He told me to hold onto it for him as he continued running down the street. Then there was a screeching sound and a bright flash and he was gone. The object was made of a material I had never seen before and covered in glowing glyphs of a language I didn’t know. And it was beeping.

Since the polar ice caps have started melting, all manner of strange things have been found thawing in the ice. My team of experts were called in to take a look at the newest anomaly. They said it was some sort of metal structure, but when we got there it was far more than any of us could have imagined.

NASA’s new probe has been conducting observations within the asteroid belt for several years now. Nothing of note had been found until yesterday, when it discovered something shiny and clearly “man-made” protruding from one of the asteroids.

We finally saved up enough money to buy a new steam-cart and, wouldn’t you know, it breaks down on the way home. As we tried to get it started there was a great, thundering sound in the skies. What flew overhead, I have no notion of what it was or where it came from, but I know I will never forget the monstrous form of steam and gears or what it did next.

So many people were terrified that life-like, intelligent robots would be the end of humanity. No one thought they would be the only thing standing between us and extinction.

Virtual reality worlds have become more familiar to us than our own world, and people spend as much time as possible leveling and questing in various holo-scenarios. So many of us wished we could just blend into the game and never leave. That is until the game started leaking into reality.

The last vestiges of humanity live in small primitive tribes and clans scattered through the wilds of Earth. No one remembers what came before, but we know there were mighty civilizations. The bones of their megalithic structures still harbor mysteries, strange creatures, and ancient technology we no longer understand.

First contact is something scientists and Sci Fi enthusiasts have been looking forward to for a long time. What new technologies and wisdom could a spacefaring alien race offer humanity? Turns out, space travel is easy, and we’re the most advanced, most terrifying race in the galaxy.