WorkInProgress: EVA

It’s a curious thing, but I’ve now had a couple people indicate to me that they’d be quite happy if I wrote faster. Some authors, famous for taking five-plus years per installment in their serial sagas, become annoyed when their fans try to rush them.

Not me. Ok, I’m hardly famous, and we aren’t talking about years here… and perhaps even saying fans would be a stretch… but when a couple readers tell me they’re impatient for the next scene in my serial novel, I find that highly encouraging! I’m not sure it gets me to write faster, but at least I know someone is waiting to read what I write, and that does indeed motivate me.

So, with that in mind, here it is! The next thousand words in the story of The Silence of Ancient Light. When last we left them, our heroes had managed to stabilize their crippled orbital shuttle against the surface of the alien space station, and they were mourning the death of Takashi, the engineer. The immediate danger is past, but they’re still in a bind, and they need to find a way to repair the damage to the shuttle. And to do that, someone is going to have to go back outside.

Extra-Vehicular Activity, or…


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The Sci-Fi Cliché

Does the tension in your novel come from (yet another) threat to blow up the world? If so, does the world actually end? Is it clear from Chapter 1 that the hero will save the day? Can we recognize your characters from the latest blockbusters and bestsellers? Yeah, maybe you should rethink that (unless you’re the author of that blockbuster/bestseller, of course), and Liv Archer explains why, in her usual engaging, ironic, and highly readable way.

(header image credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech)


With the advanced technology of today, there’s not much limitation on what we can put in movies. Unfortunately this means that everyone goes for the biggest possible special effect: exploding planet.

Every superhero out there is fighting the threat of the end of the world. Somehow the bad guy is gonna end all life on earth – and yeah, I guess that would be concerning – but am I the only one who gets bored when the bad guy starts talking about his weapon that has the ability to destroy a planet?

Yeah, it was devastating when Vulcan got swallowed by a black hole in 2009 but isn’t that the only planet that’s actually bitten the dust anyway?

The ‘human residence’ was almost incinerated in Doctor Who and the new Justice League was kind of apocalyptic.

Everywhere you turn, the whole world is being threatened and it’s ironically anticlimactic.


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WorkInProgress: Pressure

The 8th installment of my work-in-progress, The Silence of Ancient Light, is ready for your review!

Racing back to their starship with their wounded crewmate, the crew of Aniara find even more trouble when their orbital shuttle is hit and damaged by some sort of weapon. Of course, the alien space station they’ve been investigating has been dead for centuries, so who or what is firing at them remains a mystery. Unable to raise the starship on the radio, and losing engine thrust and cabin pressure, Anna and her crew are forced to take emergency measures. Can they repair the shuttle before their air runs out? Find out!

Read now: Pressure

header image credit: NASA


“So who are your influences?”

As writers, that’s something we’re supposed to be prepared to answer, right? Who do we compare ourselves with? We’re supposed to have a thirty-second elevator pitch of our novel along the lines of “It’s Arthur C Clarke meets George R R Martin, in space,” or “James S A Corey (both of them) and Joe Abercrombie meet for drinks with Olen Steinhauer and Andy Weir on the deck of the Millennium Falcon, and John Scalzi and Ann Leckie drop in unannounced, before they all head off to a party in honor of Iain M Banks, Ursula K LeGuin, and Philip K Dick, where they run into Hugh Howie and N K Jemisin overlooking scale models of Serenity, Nostromo, Discovery, and Just Read the Instructions, while Richard K Morgan plots how to blow the whole thing up.”

Hey, way to name drop, eh? But what if our work is nothing like any of that?

Well, realistically, it probably is something like some of that, because we all have influences, no matter how original we think we are or try to be. Most brilliant (or at least successful) ideas usually come about as the result of a mashup of two previously unrelated but independently brilliant ideas already out there. Or, so Hollywood would have us believe, but I suspect there’s a certain truth to it, else it wouldn’t be the meme that it is, right?

So who are your influences?

Well, I can rightly say that all the names I dropped above fit that category, as do quite a few others.

Wait, Olen Steinhauer? Doesn’t he write… well, contemporary espionage thrillers?

Why yes, yes he does. And very good ones, too. What’s your point?

And you mentioned several fantasy authors in there!

Yeah, so? My point is that I don’t limit myself to a single genre of reading, and neither should you. Also, within a given genre, like science fiction, I don’t limit myself to a single subgenre, either. I love a good cyberpunk noir thriller just as much as a sprawling far future space opera. I love ultra-realistic hard science fiction at least as much as no-holds-barred space fantasy (or science fantasy, or… future fantasy? Anything where little consideration to the laws of physics is given, how about that?). I love a good fantasy western (I’m looking at you, Red Country) just as much as a good science fiction western (Firefly). Or historical fantasy (Guy Gavriel Kay) as much as gritty grimdark fantasy (Abercrombie and Martin), or even the old-fashioned high fantasy (Tolkien). And yes, I’m aware I mixed my media a bit in there.

I grew up on the works of JRR Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, Stephen R Donaldson, Arthur C Clarke, Robert A Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K LeGuin, Roger Zelazny, and others. Then along came Len Deighton, Ken Follett, Robert Ludlum, Daniel Silva, Tom Clancy, and others of similar ilk.

Then one day I took a chance on an interesting looking book, something about seasons that can last for years, called A Game of Thrones. After that, I started devouring George R R Martin and his “gritty realism” version of fantasy. And on the science fiction side of things, I picked up a thick book about an interstellar civilization called Matter, and suddenly I was reading everything of Iain M Banks’ Culture series that I could get my hands on (though I recommend you start with Consider Phlebas).

Charles Stross rekindled my love of space-faring robots in his ode to Asimov and Heinlein, Saturn’s Children. Patrick Rothfuss reintroduced me to high fantasy and a more grown-up version of a school for wizards with The Name of the Wind. Olen Steinhauer made sure I didn’t forget about spies and intrigue with The Tourist. And Guy Gavriel Kay proved that history could be more fantastic than you ever would believe in The Last Light of the Sun.

Joe Abercrombie took “grimdark” fantasy to another notch — with a side of humor — in The Blade Itself, and James S A Corey brought spacefaring societies back down to a Solar System scale with a side of massive political intrigue in Leviathan Wakes. When I ran out of Culture novels to read (well, almost — I just picked up Inversions), I discovered Peter F Hamilton in The Reality Dysfunction, and then I took a chance on John Scalzi with The Collapsing Empire. I loved that one so much that I ran out and bought all the rest of his books immediately, and they are sitting there, right now, on my to-read table, waiting for me.

Andy Weir put the science back into space fiction with The Martian, and Hugh Howie added new twists to post-apocalyptic survival with Wool, and then again with Sand.

Richard K Morgan reintroduced the cyberpunk noir detective thriller, with shades of Bladerunner, in Altered Carbon, and once again, here was another author of whom I immediately read everything I could find.

Genevieve Cogman took me on a lighter-hearted — well, mostly lighter-hearted — journey across parallel worlds with The Invisible Library, which definitely seems to have some influence from Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber in it, but with an obvious love for books thrown in. There’s a name for this subgenre, books about books, but at the moment it’s escaping me. If you know it, put it in the comments!

But while on the subject of books about books, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Carlos Ruiz Zafron’s The Shadow of the Wind. Even in translation, this novel has some of the most beautiful language I’ve encountered.

Ok, I’ve rambled for nearly a thousand words and said nearly nothing. Let’s get down to brass tacks. What are my influences specifically for The Silence of Ancient Light?

What do you think? And, who are your influences?

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