Author Interview — Patrice Fitzgerald (Dark Beyond The Stars)

Standard

Dark Beyond The Stars is a wonderful new science fiction short story anthology just released this week. I reviewed it early on and highly recommend the collection for space opera buffs. (Find my review here.)

I was curious about how the collection came about. I’m friends with Patrice Fitzgerald all the way back to our days writing WOOL fanfic and think she is a great person to know in the current day in indie publishing. As it turns out, Patrice took some of the lessons she learned seeing Samuel Peralta shape The Future Chronicles series and decided to play around as the curator and publisher of her own science fiction anthology. I think she’s done an amazing job, taking the things Future Chronicles does well, and adding in her own touches of flair.

Here are some words from Patrice on how the anthology came about and all the amazing talent that went into it:

darkWhat’s the story behind the anthology?

The truth is that this idea came from many of us knowing each other and having great enthusiasm for all the wonderful stories we were reading by our friends. The idea of a space opera collection was so wide open (literally!) that we decided to jump in and explore it. Kind of a “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” mentality. So we did.

And it’s fair to say that the results have been stunning. Fabulous stories, an incredible response from readers, and a bestseller right out of the gate. DARK BEYOND THE STARS jumped to #1 in SF Anthologies on the Amazon charts on launch day, and was also in the top spot in SF Time Travel. The same position showed up in the UK and Germany. Maybe other countries, too, but we were so busy collecting accolades we didn’t see all of them!

What inspiration did Samuel Peralta serve?

Sam Peralta organizes a dozen anthologies in the time it takes the rest of us humans to choose a title. He made it look easy. Turns out, there are lots of moving parts!

But after watching the Future Chronicles explode onto the science fiction radar screen, we knew it was doable. And it is truly an amazing time to be writing and publishing when you can come up with a concept, act on it, and have a finished product on sale within less than a year. Boggles the mind… and yet, here it is. A real book, and people are reading it in droves.

I don’t want to ignore that all the authors are women. Was that a conscious decision and why?

It wasn’t so much a decision as a group of friends saying we wanted to create an anthology together. And we did, while coincidentally remaining female.

We don’t mind at all that we look cool and radical in staking out our position that women can write science fiction. But that’s not news. From Mary Shelley of “Frankenstein” fame to Octavia Butler, P.D. James, Margaret Atwood, Ursula Leguin and beyond, women have been writing in this genre for a long time. It just happens that there is some conversation about this at the moment.

How important were the ancillary parts — David Gatewood, Julie Czerneda, the cover?

We love that cover!  Julie Dillon, who just received her second Hugo Award, had several pieces of original art available that were created in connection with a glorious book of illustrations she financed through Kickstarter. I found her art and the only challenge was deciding which piece to use of all her excellent work.  We may try to purchase another for the next book in the Beyond The Stars series, which will come out in November.

The text on the cover was done by the talented (and patient) Kendall Roderick.  She was recommended by several of our authors, and she did satisfying and professional work.  We will definitely go back to her.

Julie Czerneda was gracious enough to write us the Foreword that helped pull the entire collection together.  A wonderful author in her own right, she hopes to be able to contribute a story to one of our anthologies in the future.

And David Gatewood?  What can you say about David?  He’s the editor you want when you need to have every story shine.  He put a lot of his own heart and soul into this anthology.  And of course, he’s the only man we let into the clubhouse.  So you know he’s special.

In truth… we will have male writes in the next anthology, including Sam Peralta.  At least, he is welcome into the November anthology if he can find a moment in between spearheading new anthologies to write us a story!

What do you hope people get out of the collection?

I would love to think that they are surprised by some of the stories, and even disturbed by some. And certainly entertained.

The great gift of science fiction is to bring to life new worlds and new ways of contemplating the world we know. The great joy in writing it is to have a huge canvas on which to paint bold ideas.

Are you pleased with the response to the anthology?

The debut of DARK BEYOND THE STARS is beyond (I had to say it!) anything we could have dreamed of. We are humbled by the response from fans old and new, and encouraged by the reviews and the number of books sold.

Both of those realities make it easier to dig in and get ready to do it again for the November release. But the primary reason I’m going to publish another one is that it is great fun to get together with your friends and create. The fact that it gives joy to others is just a side benefit.

Thanks, Will, for having me!


Patrice Fitzgerald is the Series Editor for the Beyond The Stars anthologies as well as an author, publisher, attorney, and occasional opera diva. Her books include Karma of the Silo, a dystopian story based on Hugh Howey’s WOOL, Running, a political thriller about two women competing for the U.S. presidency, and a boatload of sci-fi shorts, including three included in the first several Future Chronicles.

You can find DARK BEYOND THE STARS in digital and print form at http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Beyond-Stars-Patrice-Fitzgerald-ebook/dp/B0147F216Y.

Advertisements

Immortal Ponderings

Standard

Lately, I’ve been thinking about eternity. In a mostly scientific sense at least…well, science fiction sense I suppose. The search for immortality and the quest for eternal life has been at the forefront of human existence for millenia. We want to live longer…we want to push the boundaries of life and death…we want to be a part of the universe for just a moment longer…

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nIn the past few days, I’ve been able to read through the next Future Chronicles anthology, entitled The Immortality Chronicles. Samuel Peralta, the braintrust behind the FC series, has already laid the foundations with Robots, Telepathy, Aliens, A.I., Dragons, Zombies, and Alternate History. I have the privilege of having a story in Immortality and after finishing reading the entire collection, it’s safe to say we’ve done it again with a fantastic group of stories.

As I read through the various stories, I found a few different themes kept popping up. Life. Death. Agony of existence and purity of the grave.

Ultimately though, a few of the stories kept coming back in some small way to one thing. And that one thing kept running through my head long after I put my Kindle down.

Memories.

We all have them. Whether it was the thoughts from this morning when you ate pancakes for breakfast, or the memories of climbing the oak tree in your backyard as an eight-year-old, memories are a constant in our lives. Some are welcome: the rich memories that flood my mind whenever I smell a fresh donut…the times I spent reading books on my bed as a teenager, dying to spend a split second in the worlds I jointly created with the author…the small moments I’ve spent with my wife from our first time holding hands to now.

Some memories are seemingly random. For example, whenever I iron clothes, my mind backtracks to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Its the one where Picard is basically a babysitter for some of the children on board the Enterprise when the power on the ship fails. He has to be their leader and their comfort, even singing with them in a powerless lift shaft. I have no idea why I think of that when I iron clothes, but that’s where my mind goes. Always. Every morning when I comb my hair, I think of a scene from the zombie movie Dawn of the Dead. The one from 2003 or 2004. I don’t even like the scene so much, but whenever I’m applying hair spray in the morning, my mind drifts back to that stupid movie. Memories are silly and capricious. At times they seem to control us more than we control them.

Some memories…maybe are more difficult: the pain and anguish we went through as we struggled to get our son home from Africa over the past few years…the torture of seeing siblings struggle with infertility and adoption setbacks of their own…rejections and losses throughout my life.

Ultimately though, a running theme that seemed to reverberate with me was memories. When a person ends up immortal (or close to it), we as the author tends to assume the human brain would run out of space to hold the memories. That there is a finite space for those and an infinite life is too much for that grey matter to hold on to. How do we solve that problem? Maybe the protagonist simply discards chosen memories here and there, perhaps the memory wipe is more…invasive. Perhaps the brain does its own purging and keeps the memories that it deems more important and relevant to life…

It’s really fascinating how the authors handle these situations. I don’t want to give anything away, but for some, the memory issue is a key factor in the plot of the story and yet in other stories, the memories are a side mention.

If I was facing eternal life, I would think that my memories would soon be my preferred currency. What is life if we cannot remember the times we surprised someone with a birthday party or a puppy, or even a nice pizza? What would be the purpose of elongated life if we couldn’t remember how we got there? If the lessons we learned in hundreds of years of life were suddenly stripped away and gone, I would mourn the loss of those memories. I’m not sure that eternal life is worth it if I can’t take a look back on where I came from along the way. It’s really hard to say what we would actually choose, however, when we’ve never had this option before.

There is so much more to The Immortality Chronicles from David Bruns’ courtroom drama, to Harlow Fallon’s deep space prison ship, and John Gregory Hancock’s cigar shop on an alien port. I loved reading all the stories and I think you will too. If you haven’t preordered The Immortality Chronicles yet, get on it. Just $2.99 during preorder and then it will go up to $5.99 after the launch, so you want to buy it now.

New Release – Contact Window

Image

CW vert

On Saturday night, I went to a friend’s house for a cookout during their town’s Summer festival. I had admittedly been in a small funk writing-wise and was forcing it a bit on a current work in progress. Something happened that night, and I’m not totally sure what, but it gave me the inspiration for this story. I started in on it Sunday afternoon and finished it yesterday night. I sent it off for edits and finished those up early afternoon today. And there you have…Contact Window.

This is my first story which features aliens, but it won’t be my last. In fact, I really began to fall in love with these characters–so much that I would say there is a good chance this story opens up new possibilities of stories for me. You’ll find strong influences by Stargate and Star Trek in here (in fact, one of my editors said she would love an encounter between my protagonist and Jean-Luc Picard!). It’s just a short story, but I really put a lot into it. It broke me out of a funk and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Just 99 cents on Amazon today!


By the way, don’t forget to comment to win on my 100th Blog Post! Here’s the link right here.

 

Book Review – Synchronic

Standard

SynchronicFinalCoverAs much as the title suggests its relationship to time, Synchronic also has a hint of something else. My mind wandered to chronic health conditions that persist over time, or perhaps even a hint at an addiction.

By the time I finished Synchronic, I had developed my own addiction: a persistent desire to read stories about time travel. One after another, the 13 writers involved in the anthology created new and interesting tales of time travel without repetition or fatigue.

I’ve read works by some of these authors already, but one of the great things about an anthology like this is finding new and different authors I hadn’t yet discovered. After reading some of the stories in Synchronic, I wish I could go back in time and discover these authors in their writing infancy – to read their early works as they were first getting published.

There is a certain appeal to time travel stories. What is it that draws the reader to them? I imagine the pull of regret has a lot to do with it. After I first got a DVR at home, I used it so much to skip commercials and to rewind live TV if I happened to miss something. Eventually I started having urges in real life to skip back or replay something. At first, it was just a few moments at a time, but when I realized major mistakes, oh how I wished I could go back and correct those blunders. To make my life better with just a simple revisit to the past.

Ultimately, that regret has a necessary place in our lives and helps us as we encounter new, but similar circumstances. That doesn’t lessen our desire to alter our past, though. I imagine if we were really able to go back, the tragedy of our actions would resonate throughout our lives. Most of the time travel stories I’ve read or seen on the big screen have that tragic element and over and over we see that in this collection as well.

There are so many great stories contained in Synchronic, but I want to highlight a few of my favorites – the stories that stuck with me long after I’d read them.

The Mirror by Irving Belateche

For me, the standout of this collection. I usually like my time travel to be science fiction-based, but wow, I’ll take it with a supernatural twist after reading The Mirror. Peter Cooper is a Manhattan antiques dealer who stumbles upon the titular object that reshapes his life, and has defined who he was before he even knew it. I really loved this story and made me think twice before looking in any antique mirrors.


The First Cut by Edward E. Robertson

When I first started reading Robertson’s contribution, I thought of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Timecop, but this story had a mind of its own, putting these time police officers on the case of time violators who go to alternate histories of Earth. Our protagonist, Blake Din, is at the bottom of his class from the Academy, but we find out that Blake thrives once the simulations end and the real life situations emerge, taking us on a who-dun-it set in a time like the mid-90’s (where the Internet is in its infancy and cell phones aren’t ubiquitous). Wonderful twist at the end pays off for the reader.


Reset by MeiLin Miranda

This story struck me kind of like a Groundhog Day-type of story, except that Catherine lives almost an entire life over and over. This not only reminded me of Groundhog Day, but also the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the Enterprise is stuck in a time loop and Data is the only one aware of the repetition. Again, both those two tales are just a day or a few days – Catherine’s story involves years. What would you do if you lived decades over and over again?


Reentry Window by Eric Tozzi

Tozzi wrote one of my favorite books of 2013 – The Scout, and his knowledge of NASA and the space program pays off fantastically here. With hints of Andy Weir’s The Martian, Tozzi gives us a “chicken or the egg” story set in outer space that leaves you thinking for a long time.


Rock or Shell by Ann Christy

What is the effect of time travel on the space-time continuum. If you’ve watched enough Star Trek, you’ve heard of the continuum and Christy gives us a look behind the curtain so-to-speak with Rock or Shell. When the world as we know it starts to collapse, what do we hold on to? What keeps us centered – keeps us grounded? There was a bit of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception here – you’ll know it when you read it – and Christy’s story pays it off wonderfully.

Like I said – all the stories are winners. It was tough for me to pick my top 5 and I’ll say that Susan Kaye Quinn’s Corrections was right there on the outside. Some other fantastic stories from Nick Cole (who also penned the amazing Foreward), Michael Bunker (what a twist!), Jason Gurley, Samuel Peralta, Jennifer Ellis, Christopher Nuttall, and Isaac Hooke round out the collection. I really could go on and on about this collection. And of course, I couldn’t forget to mention that editor extraordinare, David Gatewood, compiled this outstanding anthology, just a few months after publishing his last indie anthology, From The Indie Side.

This collection gets and deserves five stars and also deserves a paperback on your bookshelf. The short story is not dead and this collection proves it.

2013 in Movies — Top 20 List

Standard

The other day I did a “Best of” list for the books I’d read in 2013. That got me to thinking about the movies I watched in 2013. Since I didn’t write down what I watched, I had to find a release schedule for the past year and find the movies I saw. Turns out, I watched 16 movies in the theatre as well as four that were released in 2013 that I saw later on DVD or some premium channel. I will now rank these movies as to which I enjoyed the most to the least. My criteria for this follows this line of thought: Would I watch it again? If so, which would I watch first?

Another thing to remember as I begin. This is the year I told my daughter (she turned 9 in August) that I was not going to take her to “crappy” movies. Basically, if Daddy decided they looked stupid, we weren’t going. For the most part, that worked. There are a few regrettable choices, however.

Image1. PACIFIC RIM. Big, loud, and silly. Yes, yes, and yes. I loved it. It was the only movie on this list that I’ve seen twice and both times in the theatre. I’ve got a Pacific Rim movie poster hanging above my desk at school. I know it didn’t do well at the U.S. box office, but that means nothing to me. It was my favorite 2013 release, in spite of the lack of A-list stars.

2. FROZEN. I’m a sucker for Disney musicals. Frozen looked good before I went to the theatre a few weeks ago, but after seeing it, I knew it was GREAT. So great, I bought my daughter the soundtrack for her to play endlessly in her bedroom. Just like when I was young, I listened to the Lion King soundtrack over and over, she can now do the same to an equally good movie. Go see it if you haven’t already.

3. OBLIVION. Can you keep a secret? I’m a big Tom Cruise fan. Mission Impossible, Jerry McGuire, War of the Worlds. I love to see that man run. He is great at running. And yelling. And being near things when they blow up so he has to run and yell. You take that and put him into an ORIGINAL sci-fi movie, and you’ve got my second favorite movie of the year.

4. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. Alright. I know there are the haters. THE ORIGINAL TIMELINE! some will shout. I do love the original timeline stuff, but I gotta say, I loved J.J. Abrams’ second Star Trek movie as well. The lens flares do get a bit distracting and the whole “Khan” reveal got to be a bit tedious, but overall I thought it was a well done movie.

5. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE. Better than the first movie by far and I loved the first one quite a lot. It almost seems so ridiculous to have a sequel to movie where so many of the characters die and then they do it again! I thought it was really well done and am anxiously awaiting the Mockingjay movies (and yes, I liked Mockingjay and I know I’m in the minority).

Image6. CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2. Silly and not afraid to show it. The first one gets put on repeat by my daughter and this one will be a mainstay in the DVD player as well. All the food puns…she was quoting them before we even saw it and it was even better than I thought it would be. Would watch again in a heartbeat.

7. IRON MAN 3. This movie worked on many levels. The kid in the middle was fantastic and worked very well with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark when it could have fallen flat on its face. What really put this movie over so many others was the final action sequence. Wow.

8. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. My second animated movie on this list and ahead of a few others…one of which you might find a little shocking. I so-much loved Monsters, Inc. that perhaps my feelings towards that transferred to this movie, but as an adult, I loved the hints towards movies like Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and dozens of other “college” movies. I loved that they managed to get a prequel out of Sully and Mike and will definitely watch it again.

9. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. Peter Jackson should have stuck with the plan to make two movies. I could have understood that. But when my daughter turns to me halfway through this movie and says “This movie is long,” then I know it’s long and drawn-out. She doesn’t usually comment on movie lengths, but what saves this movie from being farther down the list is the barrel scene as the dwarves and Bilbo escaped the Mirkwood Elves. I am looking forward to the final Hobbit film, but there is a certain aspect of simply checking it off the list with these movies.

Image10. THOR: THE DARK WORLD. The second Marvel movie on this list and yet I will say it was a million times better than its predecessor. Thor is a tricky hero to capture on film because he is a “god,” but this movie was much better at making him relatable and showing his world as opposed to him as an outsider on Earth.

11. ENDER’S GAME. Finally. That was the reaction of so many after reading the book as adolescents and finally seeing the dream fulfilled this year of seeing Ender on screen. Asa Butterfield did as good as could be expected and I actually thought Harrison Ford did fine in his role. What I didn’t like was the lack of Peter and Valentine’s storyline on Earth as well as the Battle Room sequences sped up a little too much, but you’ve got to trim for a movie and that’s where they had to cut, I guess.

12. DESPICABLE ME 2. I know this will be a little unpopular, but I honestly enjoyed Cloudy 2 and Monsters U better than DM2. I thought the girls were a huge part of why the first part was so good and yet this one was all about those yellow minions. I think they are a little funny and cute, but not enough to base the whole movie and its marketing around. Just not as good as what it could have been.

13. MAN OF STEEL. This past summer, I probably would have put this higher on the list. I was so disappointed after the last Superman movie that this one had me feeling positive after leaving the theatre about the future of the franchise. I thought Supes did an outstanding job of destroying IHOP and other businesses in and around Smallville, but there were some serious flaws with the movie and I’m not so sure that adding Batman and Wonder Woman to the sequel is the way to go.

Image14. WARM BODIES. I didn’t see this in the theatre, but looking back I kind of wish I did. Great zombie movie with a twist. Not lighthearted like Zombieland, but a good turn on the genre anyway. If it is possible to have a zombie romance, Warm Bodies did it well.

15. THE CROODS. I waited to see this one for a while, but my daughter and I had some free time to kill one day and this was playing, so I caved. It wasn’t as bad as I feared. Nicolas Cage as the father certainly didn’t help in my opinion, but overall the movie was better than I expected from the previews.

16. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. Did this movie really come out this year? I saw it on DVD this summer — must’ve been a quick turn-around from theatrical to DVD release. I love Die Hard 1 and 2 (Yes, I know they are essentially the same movie) and the third is highly underrated. The 4th was okay, but this one was just disappointing. I love the John McCLane character, but I hated his son. A lot. The action was good, but I found myself checking my phone a lot, which was good that I was at home, instead of at the theatre.

17. PERCY JACKSON AND THE SEA OF MONSTERS. My daughter loves the Percy Jackson books, so I took her to see this. She liked it, but there were so many (I lost track how many) times during the movie that she leaned over and said, “that’s not what happens in the book.” I eventually had to remind her that sometimes the books are different than the movies even with the same name. For a movie directly named after a children’s book, they really did a poor job of trying to connect with the source material.

18. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. I also saw this on DVD, but I kind of wish I hadn’t. I just really didn’t get into it. I like the Wizard of Oz, but some of the things they did in this movie didn’t really work for me.

19. THE LAST STAND. It’s a fun and stupid movie. I saw this a few weeks ago on TV and Arnie is about the only thing that saved it for me.

20. FREE BIRDS. This is the worst movie I watched that was released in 2013. This means one thing. I didn’t see Disney’s Planes. Again, my mantra to my daughter of not seeing stupid movies worked for Planes and Turbo, but we had some Daddy-daughter time in November and no kid-friendly movies, save for Free Birds. I saw it and I can now say I’ve seen an animated movie about time-traveling turkeys. Oy.

 

So….what does that mean? It means I didn’t see some (what I’ve heard are) great movies like Gravity or some really dumb ones like After Earth. Summer is also prime movie viewing time as I’m not teaching then with winter coming in second with a few weeks off for Christmas. Because of this, some movies simply get missed simply because I couldn’t get to the theatre when they were out.

Overall, I liked a lot of what I saw this year and only regret a few of the movies I saw. Hopefully my discernment will lead me down wise paths in the future as well.