November has now come to an end, and with that another Sci-Fi Month! 2016 was the fourth annual Sci-Fi Month, and just as much of a success. I have been so proud of everyone who has taken part in this event since I started it in 2013 – you’ve shown me that science fiction is not the niche genre I once thought it was. Whilst we don’t always see science fiction in the mainstream – have you ever seen a science fiction title in a supermarket bestselling book chart? – it is definitely popular. And maybe even all our hard work this month has converted some new sci-fi fans, or encouraged people to try out new sub-genres or mediums of science fiction that they wouldn’t have considered before.
I have to admit, and some of you might have noticed, that November was not my month. It started out so well – for the first 10 days or so I tweeted every single post on the day it was posted, was full of enthusiasm. After that, I started slacking, not touching things for a few days, then catching up, but not always commenting – and I definitely haven’t commented on every post like I’d hoped.
And, as I’ve been open about my depression on here before, I will be honest and say that that was the reason why. It came back with a bite in November. I am really struggling with not being where I want to be in life in terms of my career. I withdrew from a lot of things in my life, and basically just shut myself away in my room playing video games or reading. For that reason I’ll probably be rather inactive throughout December whilst I focus on job hunting, as it is going to definitely involve moving again. A massive thank you to everyone for continuing to post and celebrate science fiction whilst I disappeared into the background a bit.
And now for this year’s Sci-Fi Month stats:
These stats were accurate on 29th November, when this post was written.
We had a total of 71 participants (at least), which includes authors, publishers and bloggers. And that’s not including all those who read and commented, but didn’t post, so the actual number is a lot more!
315 posts were shared in November, especially for Sci-Fi Month.
Most of these were reviews, as with every year, but we also posted others. More specifically… (as of 29th November 2016)
31 intro and wrap up posts
12 guest posts/interviews
23 fun & games posts (quizzes etc)
42 misc posts (Waiting on Wednesday etc)
Authors reviewed included Wesley Chu, Nina Allan, Isaac Asimov, Emma Newman, Ann Leckie and so many more.
The book (or rather books) that seemed to appear the most throughout 2016 were Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.
Topics discussed ranged from Star Trek to Farscape, dystopia, the importance of science fiction, women in science fiction, starship crews, sci-fi fandoms, time travel, ‘unpopular’ sci-fi opinions, movies and TV shows, robots, aliens, the best reads for book groups, sci-fi tropes, art and music.
According to Twitter Analytics, during November the @SciFiMonth account gained 42 new followers, tweeted/retweeted 322 times, and was mentioned 280 times. I also sent out 114 tweets in October, advertising previous years posts in order to build up interest.
My own Twitter account gained 12 new followers, and tweeted/retweeted 141 times, the large majority of which were SFM related.
I tried out a few tools to track the #RRSciFiMonth hashtag, just to see how many times it had been used in November but couldn’t find one that showed the entire month. However, I did find something interesting via Keyhole. #RRSciFiMonth had a reach of 216,984 in just 10 days, which means that many individual people saw the hashtag! That’s pretty amazing. The image below shows data for the hashtag between 18-28 November 2016:
Like previous years, I spent hours re-tweeting, tweeting, commenting, maintaining the schedule and making sure things were up to date, as well as just generally spreading the word about the event. So think of all the time we must have collectively contributed towards putting Sci-Fi Month together!
Please let me know if you’d like to see anything changed/improved/added for next year, or you have any ideas or suggestions for 2017! 🙂
Thank you so much to everyone who took part this year – without you it would not have been possible!
I have two giveaways to say thank you, one is international and the other is UK only so please make sure you enter the correct one! The UK based giveaway is provided by Titan Books, and is for The Race by Nina Allan. The international giveaway is open to all countries that the Book Depository ships to for free, and is for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
Today I’m offering the chance for three of my readers (UK only, sorry!) to win a brand new shiny copy of Aliens by Jim Al-Khalili, kindly provided by Profile Books.
Here’s a description of the book from the Profile Books website:
It’s the biggest question we’ve ever faced, one that has fascinated generations of humans: do aliens exist? If they did, what would they look like? How would they think? And what would it mean for us if we found them?
Here, Professor Jim Al-Khalili blasts off in search of answers. Featuring twenty pieces by top scientists and experts in the field including Martin Rees, Ian Stewart and Adam Rutherford, Aliens covers every aspect of the subject, from alien consciousness to the neuroscience behind alien abductions. And along the way he’ll cover science fiction, the probability of us finding extra-terrestrial life, and whether recently-discovered exoplanets might support life.
Engaging, authoritative and filled with scientific insights fresh from the far edges of the galaxy, Aliens is the perfect book for anyone who has ever looked up into the starry sky and wondered: are we alone?
Or why not hear more from the man himself?
If you’d like to enter the giveaway, just use the Rafflecopter below! This giveaway will remain open until 12th December 2016, and don’t forget you can share the tweet via the Rafflecopter every day for an extra entry!
At the beginning of 2015, you may have seen me obsessing over a book called New Pompeii, by Daniel Godfrey, which sounded like a Jurassic Park-inspired novel focused around Pompeii – basically my dream novel. With career ambitions focused around archaeology, I cannot get enough of anything set around the ancient world – especially if there’s a clever sci-fi spin to it.
Cut to one year later, and New Pompeii turned up on my doorstep, thanks to the excellent Titan Books. And then when I announced that Sci-Fi Month was returning for 2016, I soon noticed that a certain Daniel Godfrey had signed up for the event. It must be fate, right? Daniel was kind enough to let me interview him, so without further ado…
What gave you the inspiration for New Pompeii?
Daniel:New Pompeii came out of basically trying to do too many things at once: I was playing around with a few short stories that I’d written some years before – all relating to paradox and multiple timelines – whilst at the same time reading about ancient Rome. I’ve always been interested in Rome – it crops up in a lot of science fiction – and the two things came together because…
Why did you choose Pompeii in particular to bring through time?
Daniel: … of an interesting anomaly. One of the most deeply unsettling things about Pompeii are the plaster casts of its victims. In the best (or worst!) of these, you can see the expression of terror on the person’s face at the moment of their death. And yet there aren’t many of these casts: most of the remains simply haven’t been found – even though we know there were few, if any, survivors. Of course, they could have run but we know a lot of Pompeii was still very much active right up to the point of its destruction. Commercial ovens were found full of baking bread, for example. Painters and decorators were also out fixing things. So it just sort of worked: the plaster casts, the volcano, the missing people…
If you had the chance to visit any place in history, where would you go and why?
Daniel: I’d have loved to have witnessed some of the space race in the 1960s. For all the excitement of the last couple of years in terms of visiting Pluto and Rosetta/Philae, I don’t think it comes close to the competition between the USSR and USA which culminated in Apollo.
Do you see any similarities between yourself and any of your characters?
Daniel: A-ha! No, bu I’ve heard a few writers at conventions say every character harbours a part of them. And when I had lunch with my editor in the summer, I made a comment which she said sounded just like [CHARACTER]. But I’m not going to say who!
What are your top science fiction novels and films?
Daniel: I’m a child of the 1980s, so in terms of films it would be The Empire Strikes Back, and Back to the Future. A lot of people say that Luke staring at the twin suns of Tatooine is the key shot of Star Wars – for me though it’s the arrival in the carbon freezing chamber aboard Cloud City: Vader already waiting and silhouetted in orange light. “You are not a Jedi yet…”
More recently, I’ve enjoyed things like Minority Report and Edge of Tomorrow. In terms of novels, I really like Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. Now completely superseded by the prequels and Episode VII of course, but still a lot of fun, and I think it’s interesting Disney are bringing Thrawn back to the TV shows but in a different era. Whether he’ll work in another context…? I hope so!
Who would be your dream dinner party guests, dead, alive or fictional (!), related to science fiction?
Daniel: Given what I’ve just put above… can I have Grand Admiral Thrawn?
If so, then the party would be Thrawn, Dana Sculley, Captain Picard, The Doctor and Amy Pond, and Ellen Ripley!
Thank you so much to Daniel for letting me interview him! He has also kindly provided a signed copy of New Pompeii for one lucky reader.
Please note that this giveaway is limited to the UK only. Apologies to my readers outside the UK!
Daniel Godfrey is the author of New Pompeii, which was published by Titan Books in June 2016. He is also currently working on a sequel to New Pompeii. Daniel can be reached through the following links:
The excellent SFF publisher, Titan Books has provided some amazing prizes for this year’s Sci-Fi Month! There are two sets of prizes to be won. Unfortunately, these are limited to UK only – however I will be having an international giveaway at the end of the month, so please keep an eye out for that if you’re based outside of the UK!
I’ve never done a post like this for Sci-Fi Month before, and I’m so excited to share it! You may have seen those quizzes on websites like Buzzfeed, where you have to guess film or book titles based on emojis. I thought I’d create one for Sci-Fi Month, all based around science fiction novels.
I’d also like to give a prize to the person with the highest score, although unfortunately this will have to be limited to UK only. However, if you’d like to take part just to see if you can get it all right, then you are more than welcome! To enter, please send your answers to rinnreads[at]gmail[dot]com, with the subject ‘SF Emoji Quiz’, and make it clear if you are definitely entering the giveaway.
The person with the highest score at the end of the month will win these two books provided by Angry Robot:
Please don’t give away answers in the comments, but email me if you’d like to guess or enter the competition!
It is the end of November, and with that sadly comes the end of Sci-Fi Month! It’s been a fantastic month of posts, and today I want to chat about what’s gone on throughout the event. I’ve also got a giveaway at the end for all bloggers (and authors, if they wish!) who took part in the month. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
I thought I’d share some statistics about the event. There has been a total of 300 posts as of 3.30pm GMT today – amazing – and there are still a few more to come! We’ve had discussions, reviews, author interviews, guest posts, giveaways, top tens and lists and more. If you want to view the past month’s posts by type, you can do so here.
Author interviews: 12
Guest posts: 7
Doctor Who related: 42
Fun and games: 4
Introduction posts: 43
Top tens/lists: 33
TV & film: 21
Wrap-up posts: 4
How AMAZING is this?! This was how I described the event when I was planning it:
A whole month dedicated to science fiction, which I believe to be one of the less covered genres in the book blogging community. I want to bring fans of sci-fi together to celebrate it by posting about the things they love, as well as get some people interested in the genre.
And I believe that, with the help of all the wonderful participants and readers, we succeeded! For example, Jorie found a love for Doctor Who:
Ara put together a list of science fiction books she’d like to read next year, inspired by the event.
Andrea has a brilliant list of ‘gateway’ science fiction books for new fans.
Paola, whose co-blogger Alix took part in Sci-Fi Month, found herself watching Doctor Who thanks to Charlene!
Sana was also persuaded to watch the show because of Sci-Fi Month!
Leanne came up with not one, but two new regular feature ideas because of the event – and I can’t wait to see them continue well after November.
We also had some fun and games!Kelley shared several awesome puzzles and a quiz, and Leanne made a Sci-Fi Bingo Challenge which many bloggers have joined in with. KJ posted a great game, where the reader guesses the book title by a few keywords – it’s pretty challenging!
There are so many other things I wanted to talk about and point out but this post would pretty much go on forever otherwise, so I’ll leave it at that.
I’m just so, so overwhelmed and happy with the responses to the event. So many bloggers, authors and publishers taking part, plus all the readers who read and commented on our posts, tweeted about the goings-on – thank you to EVERYONE who took part in the event in some way, whether you blogged, tweeted, commented on a post – however you did it, THANK YOU! This month has been a great success and I would happily repeat it again next year if others are willing to join in – but I will most likely be needing co-hosts, as I’ll probably be off back at university by that point, and won’t have the time I have now.
I updated the schedule every day, normally several times a day, checked out the blogs with scheduled posts, then tweeted about each one, commented on almost every post (I’m sorry if I missed any of your posts!), then went through all the blogs on the participant list to see if there were any extra posts. I also made sure to check the schedule posts for the previous day that hadn’t been up when I checked before, because of timezones and perhaps some posts being delayed. It was hard work, but totally worth it, and I’m so proud of what we’ve all accomplished!
And now, thanks to Sci-Fi Month, I have even more books to read and TV shows to watch! It will never end! Not that I really mind…
And finally, I want to extend a big thank you to the bloggers who took part in the event. If you posted as part of Sci-Fi Month, then I have a little giveaway for you. Just use the Rafflecopter below to register, and the prize will be a book of your choice from my favourite sci-fi books, and will be shipped from The Book Depository. Please bear in mind that this giveaway is ONLY open to the people on this list, as without the wonderful bloggers, authors and publishers I wouldn’t have gotten very far!
Today I want to discuss a science fiction and fantasy publisher, who have also been kind enough to send some goodies for Sci-Fi Month: Hodderscape. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
Hodderscape is the science fiction, fantasy and horror imprint of the well-known publishing house, Hodder & Stoughton. They publish a wide range of authors, including Stephen King, Laini Taylor, Frank Herbert, Benjamin Percy and Jasper Fforde. You can view a full list of their authors here.
They have published books that range from Frank Herbert’s Dune, the science fiction classic, to Susan Ee’s Angelfall, an originally self-published sensation.
Here is a selection of Hodderscape’s book covers:
What’s so great about Hodderscape?
The number one thing to me is that they interact with their readers. The team has a big online presence and makes great use of social media to stay in touch with book lovers, answer any questions and offer up some great giveaways and competitions. They also have a blog where they feature weekly articles by author Adam Baker, Friday Favourites, Wednesday Wonders and Classic Covers, amongst other things. They’re more than happy to indulge in discussion with fellow fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror.
If you’d like to keep up to date with Hodderscape, you can visit their website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.
Thanks to the lovely people at Hodderscape, I have some books to give away. The winner can choose between a signed copy of Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, or an ARC of She Who Waits by Daniel Polansky, and I’ll throw in some of the bookmarks that Hodderscape sent me along with the books. The giveaway is UK only, because of postage costs, but I’ll add another small international giveaway for some of the bookmarks in case anyone is interested.
Today, as part of Sci-Fi Month, I’d like to share a guest post, written by author Nick Cole. Nick’s most recent work, The Wasteland Saga, a collection of his three novels, has been published by HarperCollins. Thank you also to HarperCollins for contacting Nick on my behalf. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
Conan in the Post Apocalypse
Guest post by Nick Cole
A few years back I wrote a novel called The Old Man and the Wasteland. I had some good success with the initial Indie Explosion and was asked by HarperVoyager to produce a sequel. I agreed.
The Old Man and the Wasteland is the story of a salvager surviving in the Post American Apocalyptic Southwest. He’s only had one book to read for the last forty years and that book is Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It’s adventurous and meditative. It’s close to Jack London and it falls in style somewhere between Cormac McCarthy and Ernest Hemingway. Or at least that was my intention. A lot of people liked it. So, for the second book I wanted to give people a bigger taste of the New American Dark Ages as set forth in the first book. I wanted to show its savagery and civilizations. I wanted to show what mankind does to itself after forty years of lawlessness and survival by any means. To do that, I needed another character besides the Old Man, the hero of the first book. I needed someone who was half savage, half civilized. Someone who was introspective and possessed a greater perspective than just the regional, local politics of some outpost survivor. And because the New American Dark Ages are especially violent, I needed a warrior.
I’ll stop there.
Here’s how I wrote the first book. In a nutshell, I’m a big fan of the Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I was playing a Post-Apocalyptic video game called Fallout 3. One day I thought, “Hey! Wouldn’t it be neat if Santiago’s story (yes, that is Hemingway’s fisherman’s name) was set after a nuclear war?” That was the jumping off point for my book. Instead of it being Santiago, it became an Old Man whose favorite book is the one Santiago is the hero of: The Old Man and the Sea. In fact my Old Man liked Santiago so much, he’d become such a real friend to my Old Man, that he’d begun to talk to Santiago as if he were real.
How did I become such a big fan of The Old Man and the Sea? Well, I fell off a building. Yes, I fell off a building and broke my arm one summer and I had to spend the rest of the summer sitting by the pool and reading since I couldn’t go in the water. I can read a lot, about a book or two a day. So of course I began to frequent a used book store because of the expensive nature of my addiction, and that is where, one hot afternoon when the old book smell seemed like a sweet blanket in the back of the store, I discovered The Old Man and the Sea.
It resonated within me. I was down and out. I’d gotten out of the Army and I was floundering. People were giving up on me. I had given up on me. Exactly like Santiago in Hemingway’s book felt on the morning he began to row out farther into the gulf than he’d ever gone before. He would either catch the big fish or never come back. So, it was a very inspirational story to me. It’s a good book. You should read it. It’s very short.
I was also reading a lot of other books that summer. Among which, I discovered the works of R.E. Howard, a little known West Texas pulp writer who no one ever heard of while he was alive. He wrote prodigiously and died tragically young. If you’ve heard of Conan the Barbarian, he’s the guy who developed the character. Conan was a long process for him. If you read some of his earlier works you begin to see other characters that are early models of the black-haired, blue-eyed Cimmerian, Conan. Most people have an idea of Conan in their heads and it’s probably a poor idea due to the movies that have been made and the actors who have portrayed him. So, to set the record straight, Conan is, yes, a barbarian. In modern terms, he comes from a group of survivalist/preppers that have decided the ways of civilization don’t work for them and they choose to live high in the mountains, out of the reach of gentrified society. They eschew wealth and the finer things in favor of strength, competence and self-reliance.
Now, Hollywood has a tendency to see the word “Barbarian” and immediately cast a stereotype. “Dumb, stupid, hulking, muscle-bound, savage, prone to reasonless rage,” might read the casting call breakdown. Conan, this is not.
In the Hyperborean world, the world Howard set Conan in, Conan is often a fish out of water. Citified ways and customs seem alien and stupid to him. Lies, deceptions, and connivery lack the importance of integrity, one’s word, and the contests of skill and strength he prefers to measure himself and others by.
And here’s the really amazing thing about Conan: Howard wrote him as having a high IQ. No formal learning, no education, but a vast intelligence. Which is a stunningly brilliant character choice. The execution comes off almost flawlessly because Conan can never realize he is actually smarter than everyone else. His actions must prove it, which fit nicely with his outmoded, at least in Hyperborea, moral code. Thus Conan has an affinity for languages and tactics and reason. His mind is unclouded by the petty politics and social mores of a dozen competing world views that we find in the Hyperborean world. Everyone perceives Conan as a savage because of his dress, his lack of connections, his outlander appearance, his brute exterior. They perceive him thus and they immediately assign him a small role in their worldview, which is their first big mistake.
Everyone underestimates Conan because of his appearance.
Here’s a typical Conan Novel scenario: Conan wanders into a town. Conan drinks a lot, eats a lot, and meets a pretty and shamelessly immoral woman. Conan then needs money because what the drink and the food haven’t seen to, the pretty immoral woman has made off with. Conan’s massive intelligence often fails its saving throw when a comely wench enters the story.
Now, within the novel there’s probably some kind of power struggle going on in the town, region, or kingdom. Plans laid are coming to fruition. Both sides perceive Conan to be little more than a pawn in their evil schemes to attain power. Both sides try to at once enlist and/or destroy Conan. By the end of the novel, Conan has most likely:
a.) slain a lot of people b.) turned the tables on both sides and ended up making off with all their money and prizes which were the focus of each faction’s efforts
c.) He’s met an even prettier, not so immoral girl.
Did I mention a lot of people get killed very violently?
So, I had my character archetype for the next novel in The Wasteland Saga. I called him the Boy. He’s disabled. One side of him is super strong, but the other side is withered because of all the nuclear background radiation. He’s got an affinity for the savage pidgin-speak of the mass of tribes that have formed in lieu of civilization. The Possum Hunters. The Psychos. The DeathKnights… etc. And he’s really good with weapons and tactics. His mentor is the last surviving U.S. Soldier. Staff Sergeant Lyman Julius Presley. Together they’ve journeyed across the entire United States to arrive in the overgrown ruins of Washington D.C. to see if the government has survived the nuclear annihilation of the entire planet.
There’s some Conan in the Boy. He’s a peerless warrior. He’s often underestimated because of his disability. He’s been raised by the last living voice of an America that disappeared in a blinding flash. He’s a fish out of water in all of these bang and rattle salvage outposts. He has no tribe, no people, and no language that isn’t someone else’s. And yet he must live. He must live one more day, each day, relying only on his wits and strength to survive in a world gone into savage darkness. But there are other aspects to the Boy. There’s Shakespeare’s Romeo. Because what young man doesn’t fall in love at least once and sometimes forever? And then there’s a little of “us” in the Boy. Because like us, the Boy is trying to find out who he is. Just like we are, every day, in every thing we do.
We’re trying to answer the question of who we are.
The Savage Boy is the story of a young man trying to answer that question in a world no one today would recognize. There are hints and rumors and shadows of what once was, among the fallen skyscrapers and crumbling roads of the New American Dark Ages. And like us, like Howard’s Conan, we must fight to survive one more day, every day, and maybe we will find the answer to all our questions. Maybe we will find out who we are.
Years after a nuclear holocaust, a sense of normalcy has settled over the post-apocalyptic wasteland that was once Yuma, Arizona, and the survivors don’t need to fight for life quite so hard. But one Old Man has nothing but his survivor’s instincts. Nothing but those, his bad luck, and a battered, read and re-read copy of The Old Man and the Sea. A cross between Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, The Old Man and the Wasteland takes readers on an odyssey into the dark heart of the Post-Apocalyptic American southwest in an incredible tale of survival and endurance. One man must survive the desert wilderness and mankind gone savage to discover the truth of Hemingway’s classic tale of man versus nature.
Armageddon has long since happened; a thermonuclear apocalypse has ravaged the landscape of America and turned it into a wilderness straight out of the Dark Ages of man. Barbaric tribes run rampant and dole out chaos and terror with no regard for the morals, safety, or sanity of others. In the midst of the hellish Wasteland, a young soldier boy is tasked with a final mission from his dying commanding officer: go to California and join up with members of a fractured army. With nothing but his horse and lessons from a dying man, The Savage Boy undertakes an epic journey across the Wasteland—from which he may never emerge.
The Old Man returns… only to set out on his most dangerous journey yet. With his granddaughter in tow, he sets out across a post-apocalyptic wasteland to free a group of survivors trapped beneath a mountain in the underground bunker at NORAD. They trek across the desert, riddled with the terrors of insane vagrants, infected with radiation poisoning, and head into the dangerous tribal territory of the Apaches, rescuing a mysterious Boy in the desert along the way. This is King Lear as viewed through a gritty, post-apocalyptic lens, and the madness becomes tangible as our heroes confront the infamous and unsettling King Charlie—a maniacal fool bent on the nonsense of utopia.
Published in one volume as The Wasteland Saga, you can find out how to purchase the book here.
About the Author
Nick Cole is a working actor living in Southern California. When he is not auditioning for commercials, going out for sitcoms or being shot, kicked, stabbed or beaten by the students of various film schools for their projects, he can often be found as a guard for King Phillip the Second of Spain in the Opera Don Carlo at Los Angeles Opera or some similar role. Nick Cole has been writing for most of his life and acting in Hollywood after serving in the U.S. Army.
Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing the prize, which is one copy of The Wasteland Saga. The giveaway is US only I’m afraid, sorry to my readers from elsewhere! (giveaway removed after migration to WordPress)
For today’s Sci-Fi Month post, I have a giveaway of one of the Doctor Who New Series Adventures books – The Night of the Humans by David Llewellyn. Along with this book, I’m going to give away a few of my mini Weeping Angels figures and two Radio Times‘ Doctor Who themed postcards. The copy is my own, but it is in very good condition.
This giveaway is open internationally. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
Giveaway widget removed after migration to WordPress.
For today’s Sci-Fi Month post, I have an interview with the very talented science fiction author, Jaine Fenn! I first came across her work when I won a copy of her short story collection, Downside Girls, through LibraryThing. I really enjoyed the stories as an introduction to her Hidden Empire series, and she was one of the first authors I thought to contact when I came up with the idea for Sci-Fi Month. At the end of the post, there is also a giveaway for a copy of Downside Girls, open internationally.
Rinn: I first encountered your work when I read your short story collection, Downside Girls. Do you plan on writing any more short story collections?
Jaine: I love short stories, and have written plenty of them. I like the idea of themed collections, and at some point I’ll gather up all my alternate history and fortean stories – although they aren’t SF as such – and then, as with Downside Girls, add a new story or two to complete the set.
Rinn: Did you have any particular inspiration for the Angels and the Sidhe (from Jaine’s Hidden Empire series)?
Jaine: The Angels – female flying assassins with implanted blades – come in part from two books I read at an impressionable age: William Gibson’s Neuromancer and the Miller/Sienkeiwicz graphic novel Elektra: Assassin. The concept was too cool not to use, though I added the bit about flying.
The Sidhe are more complex because the ‘real’ Sidhe are the Celtic fey folk, treacherous, otherworldly and rarely seen. The Sidhe in my stories are aliens who gave themselves this name when they encountered humanity. They did this with knowing irony. There’s a lot more to be said about that, but it’s a story for a later date.
Rinn: Which of the Hidden Empire books did you most enjoy writing?
Jaine: Now there’s a tricky question. I’ll always love Principles of Angels, because it was not just the first in the series, it was the first novel I wrote. And rewrote, over a number of years. The easiest book to write was Guardians of Paradise, partly because it brought together the stories started in Principles of Angels and Consorts of Heaven, and partly because it is a (sort of) romance, and I find romance easier to write than straight SF. In some ways Queen of Nowhere was great fun once I’d got into the main character’s head. But each book brought moments of elation and surprise, and I enjoyed them all, in different ways.
Rinn: The most recent Hidden Empire novel, Queen of Nowhere, was published this year. Do you plan to write more in this series?
Jaine: Oh yes. I’ve got plans for four more books, one of which I’ve started. Having said that, I’m not sure when they’ll see print. Queen of Nowhere ended one plot thread – or rather, changed the game – and I wanted to take a break from the series after it. As it turns out I’ve got caught up in a number of other projects, including a return to short-story writing. Watch this space, as they say. Well, watch www.jainefenn.com.
Rinn: Your series does not necessarily need to be read in order, and the books work as standalones. Which character did you most enjoy writing, and were there any you wanted to bring in the story purely because you enjoyed writing them?
Jaine: Another tricky but interesting question. As with novels, the characters you’ve spent the longest with will be the most special to you, so I like writing Taro (irritating to everyone else though he can be); Nual’s more challenging, and because of her unique worldview I’m sparing in writing from her viewpoint, but then she hasn’t reached her full potential yet. As every writer knows, characters tend to take on a life of their own: Bez, who played a relatively minor role in Guardians of Paradise, ended up getting her own book!
Rinn: Who or what are your influences as a writer?
Jaine: So many… Here’s a few: Manga, Iain M Banks, Ursula Le Guin, cyberpunk, Larry Niven, C.J. Cherryh, Philip K. Dick and Mary Gentle.
Rinn: What five science fiction novels would you recommend to my readers?
Rinn: What do you like to spend your time doing, when you’re not writing?
Jaine: Reading, though my ‘to read’ pile only ever gets bigger, not smaller. I also enjoy walking in the countryside near my home in Hampshire, a hobby that fits in well with being a writer, as I use my walks to consider plot points or get to know my characters. I play the odd role-playing game, and in the summer I take part in historical re-enactment events. Like a lot of writers, I also have a part-time day-job; in my case I run a small charity.
Rinn: Do you get involved in the science fiction community online very much?
Jaine: Not as much as I’d like to, due to lack of time. I have a Facebook presence and I’m sporadically on Twitter as @JaineFenn, but there are loads of great blogs I’d like to check out.
Rinn: Where/when will your next appearances be – I know you appear at quite a few cons – like BristolCon this past October.
Jaine: I’ll be at Novacon, which will be the last of a number of cons in a very busy autumn. I’ll probably go to Picocon, a small one-day convention in London, and I’m still trying to work out whether I can get to Eastercon, as the logistics are a bit complicated for me this year. And then of course there’s the British Worldcon, LonCon, which I’m really looking forward to.
Thank you to Jaine for letting me interview her!
Jaine Fenn is a science fiction writer, hailing from the United Kingdom. She has written several short stories, and the Hidden Empire series of books, which can either be read as standalones or in order. A sci-fi fan since she was a young girl, she discovered the world of fiction through Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and began writing at a young age. She now also runs her own charity.