Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Who Put the Space Opera In My Peanut Butter?

July 21, 2014

I like a good Space Opera as much as the next reader. But when is a story a space op and when is it SF?


The term “space opera” first appeared in the late 40’s, early 50’s to refer to radio and movie short serials set in futuristic venues. The term, of course, referred to a soap opera in space, though the space opera was heavy on adventure and light on the romance. Think Flash Gordon and the original Buck Rogers serials. Later on, the term was applied to literature as well, to any adventure novel set in a space faring culture, light reading meant to excite and entertain.


SF, science fiction, has always been held up as the older, more serious sibling to space op. All of us who read SF know the clichés about it needing to answer a “what if” question. Not all SF is so simple, of course, but truly to be called SF, there should be an exploration of something slightly deeper than who gets to sleep with whom in the end or which military faction wins. Those of us who cut our teeth on Douglas Adams and Keith Laumer know that the “serious” part can be left by the wayside and still be SF, but the necessary core remains, either with the story exploring some aspect of human interaction with the universe or with each other.


So…Arthur C. Clarke? Isaac Asimov? Ursula Leguin? SF, hands down. Elizabeth Moon? Some of C. J. Cherryh? Space Opera, no doubts, no mystery. Not everyone fits into such nice boxes, of course. Lois McMaster Bujold, for example, writes stories that appear to be space opera, until you scratch the surface and see the cultural entanglements and the consequences of tech built into many of the plotlines. Relationships become as important as tech, the journey to self-awareness as vital as world building.


This, I believe, is where SFR comes in. As Science Fiction writers, we are free to explore the universe, our culture, and our own selves, without the constraints of a normal novel. We can reach beyond the constraints of traditional romance, unfettered by rules and convention. As Romance writers, we bring SF to a human scale, whether it is serious stuff with a purpose (I hear Carl Sagan saying ‘star stuff’ – I still miss him) or the adventure-laden fare of the space opera. The universe is limitless, both the external and the internal.


As you’ve probably realized, I enjoy both ends of the spectrum – but which do you prefer? SF or Space Opera? Or do you devour both with equal zeal?

For all my Science Fiction offerings – come on over to my SF page:

Angel Martinez – Science Fiction

Grav. Attraction Launch Party – A Rose Is A Rose?

July 21, 2014

Romeo opines (while pining and whining) that names shouldn’t matter. Changing the name of a rose, he insists in far more poetic language than we’ll use here, will not change the properties of the rose.


Fair enough. So why do we take such great and often agonized pains over picking names in fiction?


Someone asked recently how I choose names of characters and planets for Science Fiction pieces. The how is certainly important, but I think it’s backed by a why. Names in fiction, especially genre fiction like SF and Fantasy, give the readers immediate clues regarding the nature and origin of things. Often, this is done in a purposeful, even tongue in cheek way—exaggeration so no one could possibly mistake the sort of thing involved. Who could ever mistake the name Malificent for someone benign? Who could believe that the planet Pandora, even before we reached it, was a safe place for humans?


Most language cues in SF are slightly more subtle. Lois Bujold named her all-male planet Athos after the mountain and peninsula in Greece (somewhat isolated, independent, and home to an ancient monastery.) Immediately, the cultural cues are there, whether we consciously recognize them or not. Orson Card nicknamed his hero Ender to create a pun on the phrase “endgame.” (While the name means “one in a million” in Turkish, Card didn’t know that at the time.) Ender, the name, also gives the reader feelings of foreboding as we anticipate endings before we’ve even begun.


My naming decisions are often an odd recipe of the personal, the cultural clue, and the type indicator. Isaac Ozawa, from Gravitational Attraction, sprung from the Eurasian heritage of the Altairian Empire, has a name that immediately gives the present-day reader ancestral clues. He’s also named in honor of my son, Ian, who really likes the name Isaac and has, on more than one occasion, dubbed it “the world’s coolest name.”


The names in Vassily the Beautiful follow the cultural heritage of the original Russian fairytale, Vassilisa the Beautiful, on which the story is based. The horrid, amoral stepfather has the name Boris, since that still has echoes in the American mind of not-so-ethical characters. Baba Yaga’s sons have as names the Russian words for the times of day they represent in the original tale: Rassvet for dawn, Poldien for noon, and Sumerki for evening.


For Sub Zero, I wanted to delve into a language and people who understand cold, so I turned to Tibetan and a single Hindu place name. Dras, the town in Kargil, is one of the coldest inhabited places on Earth, hence Drass became the name for my ice planet. The Tibetan language provided the perfect sound and feel for dangpo names and words. A language full of soft consonants, the words feel right for a people unfamiliar with the concept of war.


Names may not change the substance of the thing, but they can certainly change the perception, and in fiction, perception is sometimes all we have.

(From the scene where Turk first speaks to Isaac)

“You have a name?” The voice rivaled the face in beauty, soft and warm, caressing his exhausted mind. “All right, we’ll start with mine. I’m Isaac Ozawa. And I guess I could just call you the Marduk Rescuee or maybe Ishmael—”

“Ishmael?” The word caught in his dry throat, barely a rasp.

“Yeah, you know, the sole survivor? And I alone survived to tell the tale? Oh, never mind. But it would be nicer to have a name.”

He swallowed against the rawness, trying for more of a voice. “Turk.”

“That’s your name? Turk?”

He nodded and watched in fascination as Isaac shook his head, dark hair fanning his cheeks.

“Of course it is. No soft sibilants or lingual sounds for you. Oh no. Nothing but hard, strong sounds. You probably have a last name that would hurt to say.”

Gravitational Attraction


Grav. Attraction Launch Party – A Bit About the GEM Drive

July 21, 2014

The GEM drive (gravito-electromagnetic drive) was, as I’ve said, a joint project. While I realize it’s not feasible using current electromagnetic theory, the assumption we started with was that science does not stand still:

In the year 2072,after five-years of seclusion and mathematical research, Dr. Umberto Mondal publishes his theory of gravito-electromagnetic unification. This theory shows that these three fundamental forces are all directly connected, analogous, and interdependent. A tech revolution swiftly follows over the next hundred years.

The monstrous forces involved did not become useful for interstellar travel until the discovery of lumanium, of course, a radical isotope of lead, devoid of any neutrons, and therefore, under Mondal’s theorems, incapable of transferring gravitational forces.

There were a lot of stops and starts along the way, along with the destruction of Earth’s Moon (oops) but eventually, GEM drives became the norm for space travel.

And now – so that you may all fall out of your chairs laughing (please do not take a sip of coffee before viewing the photo) – my exceptionally poorly drawn rendition of the Hermes preparing for GEM drive flight.

Please keep in mind that this was my quick and dirty sketch when Ian and I were discussing drive and shield placement. But, yes, I really am that terrible an artist, thank you.

Gav. Attraction Launch Party – How about the SF and Fantasy Readers?

July 21, 2014


There are a lot of stereotypes in regard to fantasy vs SF readers, e.g. most SF readers are young, geeky males under 25 who spend most of their time gaming. And discussing gaming. And arguing about gaming. While Fantasy readers are supposed to be more female slanted and all do cosplay and larping and sit around discussing if it was appropriate to expand Arwen’s role in the LotR movies.

I suppose if you go to conventions, you’ll see some truth to this. But I do find, in general, a large percentage of fantasy fans enjoy SF as well and vice versa. Sure, there are some fantasy folks who like their stories fluffier, who don’t want to deal with tech or feel intimidated by the laws of physics and so on. Sure, there are SF fans who turn their noses up at fantasy as the less intellectual cousin of SF.

Most readers of genre fiction, though, are more broad minded than the stereotypes give credit. Most avid readers will devour a wide range of menu options. Yes, I do recall being the only girl at most D&D games (as well as the only person on any sort of athletic team, lol) That’s a long time ago, though. The genres have grown and so has the readership.

Did peeps follow me over to the dark side? Sure. :) I’ve even had several who said “gosh, I don’t usually read SF, but I liked this.”

Sort of in the “try it, you’ll like it” category. It’s my brilliant master plan to make SF readers out of them all (insert evil laugh) and to lure the SF readers over to play with magic.

Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Writing SF and Fantasy – is it different?

July 21, 2014


I do write both SF and Fantasy – and sometimes I’m asked whether there’s a big difference in my SF and Fantasy fans.

It is a different process and probably the biggest reason why my SF and Fantasy novels have a very different “feel” to them. While some of both have been serious, darker pieces (see No Enemy But Time on the Fantasy side and Prisoner 374215 on the SF side, both free reads, if you’re curious) and some of both have been comedic pieces (see Hearts and Flowers for Fantasy and the Brimstone series for SF) they still feel as if they’re tapping into different bits of brain matter.
In fantasy, one begins with the premise of “I would like the world to work in this way.” The premise can be quite simple (certain humans have powers others don’t) or it can be as complex as the author desires, incorporating parallel worlds, magical laws of force and reaction, hierarchies of magic and so on. In fantasy, one begins with a blank, rough block of marble and chips away until the world is built.

Science fiction must, or should, begin with the known laws of the universe and the current state of the world as its premise. The science fiction writer must presume, of course, that science does not stand still and it’s the author’s job to extrapolate on existing knowledge, attempting to predict future discoveries built upon the old or to anticipate the next step in current events and processes.

Whereas Fantasy is the blank slate, Science Fiction is the existing sculpture garden. You add to and rearrange the garden to achieve your vision.

Harder? Perhaps in some ways. Mostly different. Both rely on a strict attention to detail and the laws set forth in the work. The cardinal rule of Fantasy is that you may NOT break your own rules. (OK – I see it happen all the time, but the reader feels cheated and WILL call you on it. Deus ex machina does not a good ending make.)

The hardest part in SF, for many folks (though it is one of my greatest joys) is the research. If you’re delving into unfamiliar territory, best get your facts straight before you start extrapolation. Factual research is a must – but it’s equally important to understand the genre. What’s been done before? What things will you evoke in hard-core readers? Are you going for Deja Thoris or Pyanfar Chanur in your strong women? Are your first contacts Star Trek-esque or Ender’s Game?

In a way, I think Fantasy and SF exercise different halves of the brain- while the analytical and the creative are engaged in the process with both, there’s a definite leaning toward one or the other for me depending on genre.

Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Process, Outtakes and Typos

July 21, 2014


I’m sort of a hybrid writer. You’ll hear writers on occasion talk about whether they’re “plotters” or “pantsers”. I’m both. I’ll have the skeletal structure of a story in mind, but the details unfold as I go.

Before I go any farther, I have to give credit to my son (my one and only who is now 23 – no, no, I’m OK *reaches for tissues*) GA would never have even been a germ of a story without him. The GEM drive, much of it’s history and the theory behind it, were ideas he was toying with for a new RPG. In obsessing over the details of tech that relied on yet-undiscovered scientific theory, he came to me to bounce ideas, brainstorm and talk over the resolution of practical issues (like how a ship could travel through an ever-expanding gravity well without being crushed.)

During these odd, lively discussions, the seeds of a story took root. I asked, “Can I use the GEM drive?” He said (with a small sigh) “Is it a romance?” To which I replied stoutly, “It’s SF with a romance in it.” Permission given, off I raced.

Not everything was in place right from the start, often the case in my work. My notes include such things as “Corzin: Mercenary nomads.” Obviously I changed my mind on that.

They needed to be genetically unique (or why would the ESTO scientists experiment on him and not one of their own?) They needed to be culturally removed from Earth-based societies. They needed…an alien culture to have taken them in.

Oh, joy! Now we have an alien race to create! (My notes have Drak’tar with four feet and two arms originally, but I didn’t like the look when I sketched them out mentally, so that changed…) They were avian…no reptilian…no…Saurian. A matriarchal, matrilineal society where the premium is placed on intelligence rather than aggression.

And the Corzin…the Corzin…why would they agree to the life they lead? Why are they this way? Somewhere in chapter 2, I had to stop and scramble for backstory, create a planet, a history, a language, and a culture. Turk now had a father, brother, cousins…

In the end, what all this illustrates is that while I write in linear fashion – beginning to end, without writing scenes out of order – the thought processes and the actual creation are an odd stop and start jigsaw for me. I’m constantly plagued by “Wait! I have a better idea!”

(Incidentally, Nidar was originally Nadir, until two pages into his first scene, I recalled that this is an actual word and not one with great connotations. This is what happens when you start speaking alien languages in your head…)

Best typo of the story? (Since we’re talking about outtakes) “The Corzin dreadnoughts arrowed in a deadly phalanx toward the heart of the ESTO fleet, their trajectory on a direct line to intercept the monstrous fagship.” *face palm*

Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Contest Anyone?

July 21, 2014

Contest time!

Short and sweet – for your choice of any one of my backlist stories:

Some folks have said that Gravitational Attraction involves “fated mates” which is a mislabeling. More accurately, the romantic match has to do with two people recognizing how compatible they are, right down to the molecular level.

Tell me about a time you just clicked with someone and how you knew you were meant to be together (spouse, lover, friend – doesn’t have to be your forever mate.)

I’ll draw a random winner tomorrow and let you know – so please leave an email address to contact you!

Don’t know what to pick if you win – come nose around my website and see what appeals to you: Angel Martinez


Grav. Attraction Launch Party – Where’s Angel?

July 21, 2014

Well, most days, Angel’s puttering somewhere around her house. Maybe in her study with her books and her cats.


Maybe out in the garden:


If it’s not too hot and you stop by, she might even bake you something:


But mostly, you’ll find Angel on the web. There’s an actual website:

Angel Martinez

There’s a Facebook group:

Angel Martinez – SFF With Gay Heroes

There are other profiles all over the place, but start there. You’ll find the rest. ;)


Grav. Attraction Launch Party – How Much To Tell?

July 21, 2014


Exposition in Science Fiction. Yes, it’s an odd topic and it rhymes, but try not to get scared off yet. It’s one of the things that causes SF writers the most angst and anguish. SF, by definition, discusses things that could be, that might be, possibilities, and probabilities. Stuff that hasn’t happened yet or hasn’t been invented/discovered/fully theorized yet.


Master storytellers like Ray Bradbury were criticized for not enough exposition, not enough science, leaving too much unsaid and to the imagination (heaven forefend!) SF geeks like their science. Kinda follows, eh? But if you go to the other end of the spectrum, we have brilliant scientific minds like Arthur C. Clark. Astounding, prophetic thinker, someone who understood the universe better than perhaps the universe itself does. As a storyteller? Often dry as dust. The reader needed constant rehydration just to get through some of the chapters, long, never ending passages of nothing but exposition.


So we walk a fine line writing SF. Don’t think about the science enough, and you have fluff, worse than space opera. It becomes stripped and empty of everything that makes it SF and you might as well make it into a contemporary romance because the spaceships are just backdrop. Think about the science too much? Lose the average reader. Fast.


So when I wrote Gravitational Attraction, it was with mixed feelings that I cut out the detailed explanations of how the GEM (gravito-electromagnetic) interstellar drive worked, as well as bits about how lumanium was discovered and certain detailed aspects of life on T’tson. Important to me in understanding the created universe? Yes. Important to the story? *scuffs foot on the carpet* Probably not.


If you’re not a writer, creating universes in your head is often called schizophrenia. So long as you keep up the appearance that you know the inner universe is pretend, no one tries to have you committed. But, ye gods, the more you build, the more real it becomes. Brave new universe, that has such aliens in’t. Which, when you get down to it, is really the point of any fiction. If writers don’t believe, what charlatans we become trying to convince the reader they should.


Grav. Attraction Launch Party – The S in SFR

July 21, 2014

SFR (Science Fiction Romance) – Does the R really trump the SF?

There’s a growing trend out there among romance authors – everyone wants to jump on the Science Fiction Romance bandwagon, er, starship.

This should make me deliriously happy. It should. I’ve been a science fiction fan since I could read (this, my dears, is a long time) and have spent decades enduring the derisive and sometimes nasty comments from other readers and writers about geek fiction and “that kind” of fiction and so on.

So the rise in interest should make me dance with joy, right? In many way, yes, of course. It means more publishers are taking an interest, it means more people are reading SF. (Woohoo!)

However… (show of hands – who knew that was coming?)

I recently saw a review of an SFR that I won’t name in which the reviewer (also not named) said he/she liked how it was all about the characters and the science fiction didn’t intrude on the story.


Here’s the thing – in SF, the science is half the point. If you ignore it, push it to the side, have a romance where there is no science, where you just happened to stick in a couple spaceships and alien races, what’s the point? SF without science is just…F. It could take place anywhere. It could be fantasy or paranormal or regular contemp instead. Might as well have your setting down the street at Joe’s Diner instead of Alpha Centauri. Why bother?

You need the science. Doesn’t have to be physics. There are all sorts of possibilities. Biology, immunology, anthropology, xeno-studies, sociology, psychology – I’m not picky, but it’s not SF without some speculation regarding what could be.

There are tons of romance readers out there who would disagree with me, I know. *shrugs* I’m a geek and a bit odd, but I like running across innovation and thoughtful world building when I read. SF stories with romances in them, rather than the other way ’round. When writing SFR, I tried my level best not to throw the science out with the bathwater, so to speak. The reader will find new tech along with the romance, new worlds along with the sex. Promise.

Space Opera is fun. Don’t get me wrong. I like a good, rollicking SO from time to time, too. But don’t go halfway if you want to call it SF. Build, think, speculate, then write, don’t just hang a regular romance off the fins of a shiny starship.


Gravitational Attraction

“Get involved in this, in any way, it’s going to bite you so hard on the ass you’ll never be able to sit down again.”

Captain Drummond’s words of advice quickly become prophetic. One bitter, failed fighter pilot with a bad neuro-implant, one shattered, lost mercenary who’s not sure if he’s just caused a bloody catastrophe, one quirky, talented crew, one power-mad admiral, and a mysterious planet in the quarantined zone – all blenderized together for your reading pleasure.

Join Isaac, Turk and the intrepid crew of the Hermes on their first journey. You might be surprised at how far it will take you.