Tag Archives: #SciFi Women Interviews

#SciFi Women Interview: Sally Ember, Ed.D.

This month, I am honored to welcome Sally Ember, Ed.D. as the guest of #SciFi Women Interview feature. Sally Ember reached out to me via email after one of my blog posts and I was delighted to make her acquaintance and hear her interest in being interviewed as a #SciFi Woman!

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Sally Ember, ED. D.

Sally Ember, Ed.D., has been passionate about writing since she was nine years old. She’s won prizes for her poetry, stories, songs and plays. She began meditation in her teens. Now, Sally delights fans of paranormal and romance by blurring the lines between fact and fiction in a multiverse of multiple timelines, often including exciting elements of utopian science-fiction and Buddhism. Born Jewish on the cusp of Leo and Virgo, Sally’s life has been infused with change.

In her “other” professional life, Sally has worked as an educator and upper-level, nonprofit manager in colleges, universities and private nonprofits in many parts of the USA before returning to live in St. Louis, MO, in August, 2014. Sally has a BA in Elementary Education, a Master’s (M.Ed.) and a doctorate in education (Ed.D.).

Her sci-fi /romance/ speculative fiction/ paranormal/ multiverse/ utopian books for New Adult/adult/YA audiences, “The Spanners Series,” are getting great reviews.

Sally blogs regularly on wide-ranging topics and includes reviews, interviews, guest blog posts, and excerpts from her books. She also meditates, writes, swims, reads and hosts her LIVE video talk show, *CHANGES*, conversations between authors, from St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

You can find more about her at the following links: WordPress Blog and main Website, Tumblr, Twitter, Patreon Crowdfunding Campaign, Pinterest, Youtube Channel, Goodreads and LinkedIn.

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NG: How were you first introduced to Science-Fiction?

EMBER: My Pinterest has a Board, “Writers I Love,” that displays the writers who influenced me and whom I admire. From there, my earliest favorites: I have to credit “Mrs. Pickerell Goes to Mars” with some of my plot ideas for “This Changes Everything.” Read it when I was 8. Thanks, Ellen McGregor! Would never have known I loved sci fi or writing if not for Madeline L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” Read it when I was 9, then I wrote my first story, “Princess Why,” published in the Central School newspaper. Still have that. Have to thank Betty MacDonald for the “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle” fantasy series. Read my first ones of hers when I was 7. Loved every one! I must have read every story in and every “color” of Andrew Lang’s “Fairy” anthologies. Truly entertaining for a elementary girl. Kate Wilhelm’s “The Downstairs Room” stories still inspire me,and she introduced me to many other great spec fi and sci fi authors. I also love her mysteries.

NG: What are your top 3 favorites for Science-Fiction books, TV shows and movies?

EMBER: Also from this Board and another, you can find my later faves and influences, with movies and TV shows, “TV Shows and Movies I Actually Like” and from recurring blog posts in which I review current and recurring TV shows, I discuss most of them. I have mostly been disappointed with recent new shows, however. What can compare to the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Time Machine films or The Invaders and Star Trek (original and TNG) TV shows from the 1960s and /70s?

I wouldn’t want to have a world without Joss Whedon in it. Thanks for Buffy, Firefly, The Dollhouse, the Marvel shows and so many more! Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” informed me that I am bisexual while I was still in high school. Heinlein’s work inspires me to this day as a novel of great vision and writing. Joanna Russ inspires me with Utopian rather than dystopian sci fi.

I especially admire “The Female Man.” Sherri Tepper is a marvelous, inspiring, unique-vision writer. “The Gate to Women’s Country” stands alone of its kind. First feminist utopian sci fi I ever read: “Herland,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Inspiration to this day. Marge Piercy’s books and poetry first showed me the intersections of politics, personal and fictional worlds and changed my perspective forever. Thanks! “A Door into Ocean” is a another feminist science fiction novel I am inspired and thrilled by. Thanks, Joan Slonczewski! The stories from Zenna Henderson’s “The People” series still influence and resonate with me, over 50 years after reading them! Extremely powerful and first influence from an amazing author, Ursula K. Le Guin. Still writing, in her 80s.

NG: What place does Science-Fiction have in your writing?

EMBER: It is my main and only fiction genre at this time. Science-fiction/romance/utopian. I have entire blog posts about why I write sci-fi utopian fiction: go read some!

NG: Can you tell us a bit more about your writing projects?

EMBER: I was awakened one night by hearing a voice (my own) narrating Clara’s first encounter with the alien holograms. I got up to write it all down and also the outline of the entire first book and the synopsis for each of the subsequent nine volumes for the series that same night. It took about two hours!

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NG: What brought you to write a multiverse in The Spanner Series?

EMBER: I prefer to write from multiple points of view so I have many narrators and types of chapters in each volumes of The Spanner Series, probably because I see things in multiple ways and I get bored easily. “The Spanners” are the generations of people (and animals) whose ages make them the Earth inhabitants who are alive through both the turn of the 21st century AND the public announcement of the Many Worlds Collective’s existence, previous visits, and intentions to help Earth survive, thus bridging, or “spanning” both ways of living/thinking/being.

They are the “before” and “after” characters who narrate my stories, attempting to understand and live with the knowledge that all time is simultaneous (timultaneity, in my books), which we are all beginning to grasp ourselves in actual reality. Some people can view or know things (timult) about more than one timeline, alternate presents, pasts and futures, such as my main characters and those who get trained in the Excellent Skills Program (ESP) training and some are “natural” timulters, as Clara and many in her bio family are.

Necessarily, I can’t present infinite numbers of alternate versions of each scene, so I choose some to present multiply whose variations have immediate meaning for the characters. I know this can be confusing and reading books written all in the present tense is unusual (and awkward for English and other languages to manage), but I hope the challenges and intrigue make the difficulties worthwhile for readers.

NG: How do you enjoy mixing several genres in your books, like romance and Science-Fiction?

EMBER: I write, tone-wise, humorously serious or seriously humorous with a lot of science and spirituality, romance and family relationships included because LIFE. Compassion, caring, empathy, acceptance, inclusiveness, and more cooperation with less selfishness/greed and eliminating violence are the ONLY routes to Earth’s survival. Also, WE ARE NOT ALONE in the multiverse.

NG: Do you think that Science-Fiction can influence writers outside of the genre?

EMBER: I and many other authors certainly hope so, since we invite readers to reconsider and enlarge their points of view for many immediate and imminent social, political, interpersonal, interspecies and environmental issues regularly. Speculative fiction is famous for making us revisit our lives and choices from the micro to the macro levels. (and, hopefully, do better…)

Regarding science, there are websites devoted wholly or in part to delineating the inventions and discoveries which were first mentioned or “invented” in sci-fi books, movies, and TV shows before showing up IRL. Many scientists and inventors have mentioned being inspired by having learned about these potentials in sci-fi first!

NG: Do you believe Science-Fiction is a genre open to all types of age ranges?

EMBER: I write for adults, New and Young Adults together because that is the way I read sci-fi growing up (there were no YA or NA sections). I do not believe in the age-segregation that publishers and libraries have created in recent decades and I know many adults read YA and many teens read “adult” fiction. Age categories are mostly a convention for shelving and marketing that have little or nothing to do with what actual readers want to and do read.

NG: Do you believe that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to complex female characters?

EMBER: When the authors are feminists, yes. When not, no. Graphic novels and “comics” are infamous for creating 2-D female characters scantily dressed and horribly depicted, but not all are like that. Certainly many genres in fiction are just as guilty of underestimating and denigrating female characters.

Joss Whedon is famous for replying, when asked why he creates such strong female characters, that he won’t have to do that when people stop asking him that, or words to that effect.

NG: What is Science-Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?

EMBER: As a life-long feminist, activist and social justice advocate who understands and lives better having learned about intersectionality (the impact of the overlapping oppression of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and others), I hope my writing reflects my insights and shows my utopian views of how life can be better when we all understand and reject such oppression, singly or in combinations. I do believe more “majority” authors should be more aware of creating characters that do not all look like and live the ways we do, but since I based my main characters on myself and my family, I am just as guilty as many of starting there.

However, I deliberate created a Latina main character, included many younger characters, made sure the main and other characters are not assumed to be hetero or cis-gender (Clara is bi, others are gay and lesbian, and some are undetermined regarding gender,) and I up-ended some age, class, religion and other foundations for biases in my stories’ plots and premises. So, I try and I hope others do, too.

NG: Thank you very much for your answers, Sally! I am sure my readers will be happy to connect with you.

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Background by Rose B. Fischer.

Sci-Fi Women Interviews: The 2015 Collection Has a Goodreads Page

Thank you so much to everyone who made Sci-Fi Women Interviews: The 2015 Collection possible and who shared the link to the eBook! I am blown away by the outstanding support this title already got!

It was accepted as part of Smashwords Premium catalog (thank God for formatting guides!)

I also set up its Goodreads page and I hope that everyone who got their copy is enjoying the read!

Sci-Fi Women 2015 - Detail

#SciFi Women Interview: Jennifer A. Miller

I am happy to have longtime friend Jennifer A. Miller as February 2016’s guest for this monthly feature. I met this creative and kind lady on the Star Wars roleplaying board I joined back in 2008. You would also be familiar with her name as she designed most of my book covers!

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Jennifer A. Miller

Jennifer A. Miller is a graphic designer by trade and writer by calling. Her design experience is based in advertising, identity and print design, with novice and expanding capabilities in web development and photography. You can find more about her work on her website.

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NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

MILLER: I grew up in a Western watching family. My mother liked science fiction and fantasy, but I never remember her introducing me to it (she might say otherwise…I have a terrible memory). I have a collection of defining moments when I was a kid, but they’re kind of jumbled and I don’t remember what came first. I was living in Oregon, so this would have been younger than eight. I remember going through the satellite channels and finding the tail end of a movie that just captivated me. I don’t think I knew how to see what the movie was called at that time because I remember agonizing over figuring it out so that I could rent it. Trying to describe it to my parents was frustrating (for all involved). Turns out it was Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. It also turns out it was part of a trilogy. Fast forward a couple years when we were in Wyoming I remember going to Albertson’s as a family on our usual Wednesday run when they had 99 cent rentals and trying desperately to find them all. They never seemed to have all of them at once, so it took a couple rentals, but I was completely hooked.

NG: What are your top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?

I only get 3?! These aren’t in any particular order, just the ones that first come to mind.

Books

  • I, Jedi – Michael A. Stackpole
  • The Starlight Crystal – Christopher Pike (it took me forever to find the name of this…I’ve been searching for years!)
  • Shapechangers – Jennifer Roberson (this is technically Fantasy and I love the whole series)

TV Shows

  • Firefly
  • Stargate SG-1
  • Battlestar Galactica

Movies

  • Return of the Jedi (because it was my first)
  • Back to the Future
  • Fifth Element

NG: Which Science Fiction characters have had the greatest influence on you?

  • Samantha Carter (Stargate SG-1)
  • Leloo Dallas (Fifth Element)
  • Princess Leia (Star Wars)

NG: How has your roleplaying experience affected your creative endeavors?

MILLER: When I am actively roleplaying (and reading), my wordsmithing/sentence creativity is the first thing affected, although I tend not to notice until I’m absent awhile and read what I’ve written in the past. I’m always pleasantly shocked at how good I was compared to the current. Funny how you lose skill when habits aren’t exercised regularly.

I am a print graphic designer and I will be the first to say that my creativity has been completely lacking the past several years. I’ve also just fallen out of love with the profession. When I look back at projects and times in my life that I felt my most creative, they were times that I was constantly writing/roleplaying and surrounding myself with people that had similar passion. My brain was always thinking about characters and scenes and influenced by literally everything in my physical environment. I lived in movies trailers for my characters. It definitely makes me think about carving time out to do it again. Perhaps I’d get my actual writing projects more than partially finished!

NG: Can you tell us a bit more about your writing projects?

MILLER: I have quite a few that I’ve started… I tend to get really hyped about them around NaNoWriMo season, but sadly none have developed much further than that month.

I have a trilogy that I started in middle and high school based off a dream I had. It involved all of my favorite people (and crushes). I loosely based the characters off of them. I finished the first and most of the second. Unfortunately the documents were saved on some floppy disk (this dates me…) that was corrupt. I don’t mind TOO much because I still have most of it printed out and honestly it needs to be rewritten. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to do that. It originally started as a group of kids having a sleep over and getting sucked into a fantasy/sci-fi world in which the lead character actually hailed. The first book was a big long adventure figuring out her past and getting introduced to the villains. The next two involved defeating the villains with the help of her best friends and then figuring out her future (whether she’d stay there or on Earth). It was fun to write as a kid, but a little hokey for my tastes now.

I started a series a couple years ago that involves a lonely kid that lives in a not too distant future where natural disasters are happening on an epic level all over the globe. He soon discovers that there are invisible fissures/rifts in his town and he might be the only one that can see them. After testing what happens to a baseball when thrown through one, he adventures through and gets sucked into another plane of existence… There’s much more to it, but I don’t want to give anything away! I realize that most first novels tend to be horrible, but I’m hoping it turns out decent because I really love the concept, story, and characters I’ve developed!

NG: What is your favorite type of character to write in a Science Fiction setting?

MILLER: The accidental hero. And this goes for all genres, really. I just love characters that aren’t setting out to be a hero, lead ordinary lives, and somehow get pulled into a situation that tests their mental strength and moral compass. I love the complicated types, the lessons they learn, and the inevitable roller coaster ride of their journey.

NG: Do you believe that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to complex female characters?

MILLER: Definitely! My favorite movies, shows, and books are great examples of such complex female characters. I think anyone would be hard pressed to find Sci-Fi media that doesn’t have at least one.

NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?

MILLER: I think it’s every genres responsibility to be diverse. Our world is not just one type of person or another—whether a certain skin color, culture, or gender—at its core, it’s a collection of human beings all trying to live. We’ve been experiencing gender division and overall bigotry for centuries, which is why I love that most Sci-Fi is futuristic and depicts the human race having accepted all skin colors and genders as equal (usually). I can’t wait to see that in real time!

NG: Do you think that Fangirls are an expression of Feminism?

MILLER: I rewrote this answer twice. I’m not big on putting labels on people. The terms fangirl and feminism get such a bad rap because the definitions mean something different to everyone. Fangirl makes me think of a teenager obsessing over a pop idol. I would probably only use fangirl and fanboy in that reference. But that doesn’t mean I’m not considered a fangirl by someone else for loving Star Wars and Firefly. I use the term fan because dividing it out into gender does just that; divides.

That said, I think fans (girls or boys) are an expression of self (at least that’s the idea…).

As for Feminism, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t share the same passion for women’s equality. I am most certainly an advocate.

So, I guess my answer is not really. You can certainly be both, but I don’t think one is necessarily an expression of the other. I think it’s an expression of yourself, your individuality, and your passions.

NG: How do you think fangirls can change media industries?

MILLER: Yes! Anyone can! As long as they have passion for what they love and do, they can most definitely impact the media industries. If you take a closer look at the people behind books, television shows, and movies, you’ll find both men and women that have positively influenced the media because of their passion for it. Passion is the basis behind any fan and with it we can create incredible things that shape and influence all sorts of industries and like minds.

NG: Thank you so much for accepting to be part of this interview series! I am certain my readers will enjoy reading your answers.

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Background by Rose B. Fischer.

#SciFi Women Interview: Robin Rivera and Heather Jackson

To start 2016, I am very happy to bring a twist to this monthly feature, with not only one but two guests this month! I am delighted that Robin Rivera and Heather Jackson accepted to do a joint interview. I met them via the great blog Write On Sisters (which I highly recommend if you aren’t familiar with it).

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Heather Jackson

Heather Jackson

Heather escaped her small town for the big city of Toronto where she attended Ryerson University’s Radio & Television Arts program and the Canadian Film Centre’s Prime Time Television Writing program, which led to a career penning cartoons and tween dramas that are broadcast all over the world. But recently she transferred her screenwriting skills to a new medium: video games. She wrote an episode of Bloom Digital’s dating adventure game LONGSTORY, and is currently writing a super cool educational game for a top-secret client.

Heather is also working on two YA novels: PSYCHO SMART and DEMONS DON’T DO LOVE. Neither is autobiographical. Mostly.

RobinHeadshot

Robin Rivera

Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian on the West Coast. Her studies led her to working as a museum curator, an educator, a shipwreck hunter, a curriculum developer and media consultant. After a lifetime of writing nonfiction, Robin loves the freedom of writing fiction. However, old habits die hard so she always grounds her young adult fiction in solid historical research. Her finished projects include: a novel set in an alternative vision of mid-Victorian Egypt, and a heist novel set in Italy. She is currently working on a YA Gothic retelling of the 14th century novel, The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio.

You can find Heather and Robin at their blog WriteOnSisters.com.

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NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

RIVERA and JACKSON: Both Heather and I were late arrivals to the genre. I’m a huge Sci-Fi TV addict, but both of us didn’t read these books as kids. I was a pretty hard core mystery reader in my youth, and we both favored the classics. For me the big turning point was meeting my husband; he is a huge Sci-Fi reader. I remember he would rave about books I had never heard, the Ring World series, Dune, the Stainless Steel Rat or Starship Troopers and he would want me to read these books too. He gave me my first copies of many of the big authors. He still reads more Sci-Fi than I do, and he sure trained our kids from an early age. When a new book comes into the house, there can be some massive debates over who gets to read it first. At one point last year three of us were all reading the same book (Feed by M.T. Anderson) at the same time. It was crazy! We had a list of page numbers written down because we kept losing each other’s bookmarks. Now both Heather and I read a ton of young adult Sci-Fi and we often have long discussions over books we like. Or we don’t like. Our taste is somewhat different. Heather likes her books much edgier than I do.

NG: What are your top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?

RIVERA and JACKSON: Only three? That is cruel and unusual punishment! We’ll go with just the top picks for each so we don’t crowd the whole page.

My book pick is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Perhaps that is an unorthodox pick, but it’s one of my favorite books of all time. It’s funny and fresh, I just love it! There are others, I’m a River World fan and I can’t pass up on anything in the steampunk genre. Heather is a dystopian fan, so The Hunger Games gets her vote. It’s pretty darn high on my list too. Also the Lunar Chronicles gets a nod from both of us.

TV shows is much harder. As I said before, I’m a huge TV fan, I live for the Sci-Fi channel. Firefly, Warehouse 13, Eureka, X-Files, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Red Dwarf, Stargate… Brain implodes into mushy glop from overload. Okay, nope, can’t pick. I have been known to binge watch all of these shows and about two dozen others, over and over again. For Heather it’s Firefly. Lets face it, it’s a great show on every level and one any writer can learn a lot by watching. Oh, and Orphan Black! Heather is an emphatic member of the clone club.

Movie pick for both of us is Blade Runner! Honestly, there is no contest, that movie just has it all. We both loved the fact that it stands alone! Sometimes sequels just end up messing things up. Blade Runner stays pristine in a bubble, at least for now. Yes, we’re glaring at you Scott and Ford. Don’t mess with our perfect Deckard!

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your writing?

RIVERA and JACKSON: I think I’m more influenced by my background in history than I am by Science Fiction. However, Sci- Fi taught both of us a lot about writing outside the box. The way we combine facts with fiction trying to make the impossible seem plausible, is taken right from Sci-Fi style writing craft. All the best Sci-Fi makes you think events could happen the way the authors describes it. Also Sci-Fi weaves social commentary and current societal concerns into other worlds and times, and we both love to weave deeper context into our writing. We both know as writers we are products of our own experiences, what we care about on a deeply personal level is what we make our characters care about, regardless of their race, age, or imaginary environments.

NG: Can you tell us a bit more about your writing projects?

RIVERA and JACKSON: Heather and I always have several projects going at once, all it various stages. In my case I have two sci-fi projects currently in the works, a serial that’s sort of Area 51 inspired, but it’s still in first draft mode. I also have a space opera that’s still in the plotting stage. However, I did write an 80,000 word steampunk novel. That project is packed with all sort of futuristic gadgets. Plus, it has Victorian social, gender, capitalist and colonial commentary of every sort. I really channeled my inner Jules Verne on that project. Heather is currently working on two young adult novels, one horror and one paranormal. She also has several media projects in the works, including a video game and a new TV script.

NG: Which Science Fiction characters have had the greatest influence on you?

RIVERA and JACKSON: This question is so hard, Heather is bowing out! But for me growing up I think I was bit like Spock. I wanted the world to be a logical place, I just didn’t understand so many things others took for granted. At a very young age I started calling out adults for acting illogically, like punishing the whole classroom when one kid made a mistake. It took me a long time to let go of that inner lens that made me see everything as black and white. I still have a strong need for personal order. Now that I’m a mom, I can relate a lot to Beverly Crusher of Star Trek: Next Generation. I’m raising my own sons, two Ensign Crushers in training, smart, driven, independent boys. I know they need me to be a strong female role model and they also need me to be someone who drops everything at a moment’s notice to make them cookies for the school bake sale. It’s a challenge being a mom, even on a good day. I’d like to think in my next phase of life I’ll be a bit like Doctor Who. Taking on new challenges, having adventures, and being willing to risk everything to stand up for what’s right. But I’m not there yet. Maybe someday.

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction can influence writers outside of the genre?

RIVERA and JACKSON: We both know it does. It’s ingrained in our imaginations and into popular culture. People who would never consider themselves Sci-Fi fans make Dark Side jokes. We even talk about light speed travel, suspended animation, and death rays as if we have personal knowledge of these things. That’s the power of the genre.

NG: Do you believe that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to complex female characters?

RIVERA and JACKSON: We would both like to think it’s getting better, but it’s still a mess! Look at how many films, TV shows and books don’t pass the Bechdel test, and it’s hardly a challenging standard:

The movie, show, book has to have at least two women in it,

The women talk to each other,

And those women must talk about something besides a man.

Also we both feel there is a tendency to over-sexualize all female characters, and they are too often relegated to the sidekick, love interest, or other secondary story roles. There is also an unfortunate age issue we still need to address. People want young, good-looking female Sci-Fi characters; the masses welcome a Zoe from Firefly, or a Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy, someone who stops traffic with how beautiful she is while she kicks ass. But don’t let those female characters get over forty, or put on any weight and develop some wrinkles. I think the blowback over Carrie Fisher reprising her role as Leia has shown us all how far we still need to go. It’s not a comforting thought! We all get older, yet we live in a world where 40, 50 and 60 year-old male characters are expected to hook up with a person in their late teens or early twenties. Men dating women younger than their own biological children has become Hollywood’s standard relationship. But if a 50-year-old woman does the same thing, she is perceived as emotionally damaged and the relationship is ridiculed. We both feel like the one place making some fantastic headway is in young adult fiction. The characters are still young, and often pretty, but at least they are usually the stars of their own stories. And they are sometimes mentored, parented or partnered with some fabulously strong, smart, practical female characters. We think Hunger Games is a great example of this. It gives us a lot of hope to see teen Sci-Fi stepping it up and bringing us some complicated and memorable female characters.

NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?

RIVERA and JACKSON: We both agree the main responsibility of a writer is first and foremost to write great stories with great characters. The problem is too many writers seem to think what makes a great story is the life experiences of a pretty limited group of people. We are both tired of writers who take the easy route and just stick in a secondary character pulled from the same old (often negative) stereotypes. That’s not helpful to anyone. We want to see all writers step up their game and write better diversity, diversity that bridges gaps and creates unforgettable characters.

NG: Do you think that Fangirls are an expression of Feminism?

RIVERA and JACKSON: Neither one of us is a huge Fangirl, but I’m a bit more of one than Heather is, however we both identify as feminists. Short answer: we think it can be. There is a sense of solidarity when any group of women share a common interest, but we don’t think the two are necessarily related. We know some fandoms are more welcoming to feminist members than others, but if a Fangirl truly loves something, we hope she sticks with it regardless of the haters. Fangirls getting involved with any community can help pave the way for less enthusiastic women to also take part. Plus, if enough Fangirls decide to boycott or support a cause they can create a powerful voice. Giving women a voice that must be recognized is potentially beneficial to all women.

NG: Do you think Science Fiction is a genre that speaks as much to children audience as adult ones?

RIVERA and JACKSON: Heather is not a mom, so she is leaving this one to me. I have no concerns for movies and TV, but as a mom I do wonder about books. So many of my son’s friends have no interest in reading and if they do read it is for an assignment and not for pleasure. Sci-Fi has a reputation for being less approachable for fledgling readers. The books are longer and the words are harder. It’s a more challenging read, and kids have so many other activities that give them more immediate gratification than reading. If the decline in reading skills continue much longer, the next generation might have very little interest in reading Sci-Fi. Or any books.

NG: Thank you so much for being part of this project, ladies! I am sure my readers will be glad to connect with both of you.

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Background by Rose B. Fischer.

#SciFi Women Interview: Laura M. Crawford

December 2015’s #Scifi Women Interviews guest is Laura M. Crawford. It has been a wonderful inaugural year for this feature that will return in 2016. I am very happy to close it with Laura, whom I had met in 2012 at an academic conference about video games.

Laura M Crawford

Laura M. Crawford is a lecturer, consultant and PhD candidate in the area of attraction to screen violence. She speaks frequently at conferences nationally and internationally on this topic. She is heavily involved in Australia’s games community, speaking at and facilitating events and discussions pertaining to violence in games, psychology of design, independent game design and social issues within the industry. She teaches psychology of game design and game theory at Swinburne University of technology. She is Vice President of the Digital Games Research Association (Australian Chapter).

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NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

CRAWFORD: When I was three, I heard Starman by David Bowie and it had a profound effect on me even then. In my first year of high school I read On the Beach by Neville Shute, as many a young impressionable mind did then, and fell instantly in love with the genre. It wasn’t until I discovered Phillip K Dick and Star Trek the Next Generation in my twenties that I really took it seriously. These amazing encounters then led me to a whole new world of more obscure fictions.

NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?

CRAWFORD: All fiction has a responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation. Science Fiction does have the advantage of representing fantastical realism and a future utopia so therefore should be progressive, yes. Unless it’s utterly dystopian and of course there is value in that too.

NG: Do you think Science Fiction is a fitting genre for societal commentary?

CRAWFORD: Absolutely. For the reasons listed above.

NG: Do you see Science Fiction as a welcoming genre for women (characters and creators)?

CRAWFORD: It can absolutely be both. I had naively thought diversity was a generational thing when first delving into sci fi. Then encountered 60s novels in which the lead characters were unquestioningly brave women and the early 2000s series Farscape which had some phenomenally well-adjusted and brave diverse characters, then recent offerings in which minorities are objectified and vilified. So short answer, it can be but is not all the time.

NG: What are you top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows, movies and video games?

CRAWFORD: Now Wait For Last Year – Phillip K Dick

Dead Space (and all space survival horror)

Star Trek Voyager. No, Enterprise. No, Voyager. Both. Also Farscape.

NG: Are there any particular topics or concerns associated with Science Fiction in Video Game Studies?

CRAWFORD: All the things usually associated with videogames and various tropes – gender representation, diversity in relationships, super fictionalized representations of various characters. Then there are a bunch of games that do it right such as Mass Effect 3, Gone Home, and Final Fantasy XIV.

NG: What do you think of the relationship between Science Fiction and violence?

CRAWFORD: This is a huge question. Attraction to fantastical violence is my primary area of research and our relationship with it is very complex. I will say that sometimes fantastical violence is necessary as a narrative vehicle, at other times just because we enjoy it. When specifically looking at Sci-Fi it depends on what an individual’s version of the future is – will we live some utopian existence in which there are enough resources for all or will be left with not enough, desperate for survival? The third scenario of course being both – we have loads of resources and fight a lot just because we’re power hungry a-holes.

NG: Why do you think Science Fiction is such a compelling genre?

CRAWFORD: The endless possibilities, escape, and hope for a new future.

NG: What developments would you like to see in Science Fiction?

CRAWFORD: I’d like to see it become an even more popular genre than it already is. We can engender so much understanding via these stories.

NG: If you could write any Science Fiction story, what would it be about?

CRAWFORD: Changing the world through Science Fiction. 🙂

SciFiWomen Interviews 2

Background by Rose B. Fischer.

#SciFi Women Interview: Patty Hammond

November #SciFi Women Interviews’s guest is Patty Hammond. I had the pleasure of meeting her thanks to the Star Wars community on WordPress and Twitter. I am glad that she accepted my invitation to participate to this series.

Patty Hammond

Patty Hammond

Patty Hammond, @PattyBones on Twitter, is the Everyday Fangirl from Michigan who has a disguise as a mild mannered data analyst for an advertising firm. She is the creator and administrator for The Adventures of The Everyday Fangirl blog, everydayfangirl.com, and monthly contributor to The Cantina Cast blog, theCantinaCast.net.

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NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

HAMMOND: I was introduced to Science Fiction through my Dad, who loved watching Star Trek and Lost in Space and sharing these with me as I was growing up.

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life?

HAMMOND: It is one of the ways I escape from reality. It is also one of the best ways I connect with my friends and family, especially my husband, who is a big Science Fiction fanboy.

NG: What are your top three favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?

HAMMOND: My top three favorites are The Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, Robotech and of course Star Wars. I would also include Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Doctor Who as runner-ups.

NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?

HAMMOND: Science Fiction needs to include everyone because the future is not built by just one type, but by all types of people, or aliens, or creatures. I believe that including everyone will make a better story and help readers and viewers think about topics in a whole different way.

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction has an educational value?

HAMMOND: Yes! We need to teach all kinds of Science Fiction in our schools from short stories to novels, from classics like the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov to modern works like the Vorkosigan series. These stories all have literary forms and ideas that can be dissected, discussed and debated at a various stages of educational life and beyond.

NG: How did you get the idea to create Everyday Fangirl?

HAMMOND: Many years ago one of my author friends, Cathie Linz, encouraged me to start writing about what I was passionate about. I was not too sure about writing a novel or short story.  However, I was passionate about my love of various fandoms and my support of those writers and creators who work with various fandoms and genres. As time went on, this grew into what is now The Adventures of The Everyday Fangirl Blog. This gives me a forum to not only perfect my writing skills, but to share my passion of the many different fandoms and genres that I love as well.

NG: Do you think that fangirls are an expression of feminism?

HAMMOND: Fangirls are an expression of fandom just with a female twist and not necessarily an expression just of feminism. To me, being a fangirl is just an expression of my love of being a fan, as a female. However, depending on how this is looked at, from a certain point of view, I can see where some may believe that being a fangirl is nothing more than being a feminist.

NG: How do you think fangirls can change media industries?

HAMMOND: Fangirls can make great changes to the media industries with their wallets.  Just look at what fandom was like before female specific science fiction clothing was a thing.  Many fangirls, like myself, were only able to find fan related clothing in boy’s or men’s styles. Thanks to those of us that used our wallets to show that female specific style fandom clothing and accessories would sell, we are starting to see this become more mainstream.

NG: Do you have other current or future Science Fiction related projects?

HAMMOND: I am a monthly contributor to TheCantinaCast.net blog and bring a fangirl perspective and passion for Star Wars and in turn Science Fiction to this audience.

NG: What are you most looking forward to in the future of the Star Wars franchise?

HAMMOND: I am really looking forward to all the new content that Disney is bringing to us fans, especially the recently released novels, like Lost Stars, the upcoming movies, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, more episodes of my new favorites television series, Star Wars Rebels and of course Star Wars Land at the Disney Parks!

SciFiWomen Interviews 2

Background by Rose B. Fischer.

#SciFi Women Interview: Jo Robinson

October’s guest for #Scifi Women Interviews is author Jo Robinson. I met her thanks to the WordPress writing and blogging community and was deligthed when she accepted to participate to this series.

Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and now lives in a sleepy little town nestled at the foot of the Soutpansburg mountain range, having finally come home again after eighteen years in Zimbabwe. She is owned by a feathered horde who accompany her on her tale-telling way, inspire her, and keep her neck warm in winter. She keeps the cashew industry afloat with her out of control nut habit, which is fuelled by her aversion to leaving her keyboard. As well as science-fiction/fantasy, she writes of human frailty and the overcoming life’s challenges. You can find more about her and her books on her blog, Goodreads and Amazon.

NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

Jo: Television was only introduced in South Africa in 1976. Before that we used to listen to the radio or go see movies. When I was little, the local movie theatre used to air special series and films for children once a week on Saturday mornings, and one of these was an ancient animated series of Flash Gordon. That hooked me early.   I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t reading a book. My mother never controlled what I read, or when I read it, so from a very early age I used to buy piles of second-hand books at the flea-markets she was fond of going to, as well as spending a lot of time in the library and second-hand book shops. Ursula le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke were all part of my huge reading collection, probably before they should have been. In my teens I found and fell in love with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern, and also read pretty much everything by Piers Anthony.

NG: How did you start writing Science Fiction?

Jo: Science Fiction and Fantasy have always been my favourite reads and movies, but I didn’t think that I could actually write them. I was editing one of my books, which was literary fiction, and a little heavy too, when I saw the hype for the NaNoWriMo event a couple of years ago. The temptation to have a month free of editing what had been quite a taxing story to write had me trying to justify spending a whole month writing something which could turn out to be absolute garbage, and mean thirty totally wasted days. I decided to write something that I had no intention of publishing, and that I’d just have fun trying my hand at writing Science Fiction. I had no outline or clue as to what I was going to write when I sat down on the first day of the challenge other than the story would begin in a mysterious cave on Earth. From the first line, that story seemed to flow into my head and out of my fingers as if it was a live streaming from wherever it was really taking place. That became the first book in my Shadow People series. You should never believe that doing any particular thing is not for you until you try. Science Fiction is the ultimate of almost anything goes, and the most fun to write.

NG: Which Science Fiction authors have been most inspiring to you?

Jo: I would say that Anne McCaffrey, Ursula le Guin, and Isaac Asimov have been most inspiring, and probably influential on the way I write Science Fiction. Pern has dragons, I have Voxavi, who are pretty much dragons. Anne has The Ship Who Sang, and I have the Vimana – sentient spacecraft able to pop in and out of many dimensions. Ursula le Guin shows you that absolutely nothing and no one kind of being is beyond the realm of possibility in Science Fiction, and Asimov’s books show the way to getting the way-out to be not only believable, but fabulously enjoyable.

NG: Is Science Fiction a popular genre in South Africa?

Jo: I think so, especially the movies and the shows. Lauren Beukes (The Shining Girls author) is South African, and raised in Johannesburg, just as I was. District 9 is also a South African Science Fiction movie, so yes, I believe that it’s gaining in popularity here. Science Fiction TV series have always been hugely popular, and so have all the movies, including those mentioned below. We have pay satellite television here with channels full of fairly current USA and UK programmes and movies, so while not everyone has access to these, those who do get to keep up with what’s new in the world of Science Fiction as well as all the rest.

NG: What are your top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?

Jo: It’s really hard to choose only three! McCaffrey’s Pern series without a doubt, Asimov’s Foundation series, and the Rama series by Arthur C Clarke for the books. My favourite TV series would be Dr Who, Star Trek, and Third Rock from the Sun. Funny Science Fiction is a fabulous art form. The Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien series are my top movies. Some of the newer movies have been great too. I loved Avatar and Pacific Rim. So many good ones.

NG: What are some recurring themes and patterns in your Science Fiction stories?

Jo: Now that I think about that, it’s always about the balance of good and evil in my stories. That probably is the basis for most Science Fiction, so not unique to me. Since the first book in my series was published I’ve written a good few books worth of yet to be published words moving along with it, and while the times, universes, and people change, the underlying theme seems to remain the same.

NG: Does Science Fiction have a general influence on your writing, beyond what you write in this genre?

Jo: I don’t think that it influences all of what I write, but definitely quite a lot of it. I have two novels out that are totally focused on “real life” and not remotely Science Fiction related, although having said that, I do believe that Science Fiction has a general influence on the way I think. So much Science Fiction has become actual fact, and continues to do so all the time. I truly believe that anything is possible. We’ve made so many discoveries that have trashed previously supposedly written in stone facts. Who is to say if all of these stories that appear in our minds aren’t simply us psychically picking up on real things going on out there somewhere out there in the multiverse? How about a collective universal unconscious? Collective universal memory? Maybe it’s all true after all. There’s certainly enough space out there for it to be so.

NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?

Jo: Even though a woman wrote (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) what was the first recognised major work of Science Fiction, and while both male and female authors are now recognised as the giants of the genre, there still seems to be an undercurrent of belief that women are incapable of writing “real” Science Fiction. There are most definitely readers out there who won’t even bother trying to read Science Fiction that they know has been written by a woman. Many female Science Fiction authors try very hard to conceal their gender. This is a great pity, because authors like Le Guin and McCaffrey can write quite a large section of the boys right under the table. Just recently I discovered something called Afro Sci-Fi. Just the fact that something like this genre had to be created is a little sad. Just like any other fiction, Science Fiction should be written and read to include all. Girl, boy, androgynous, gay, black, white, pink, blue, reptilian, and amorphous pulsating triple-gendered Atraxlian blob should all be good. I haven’t actively tried to sell my first in the series science fiction book, and I won’t be trying until the next two books are published in a couple of months, but it has had a couple of sales anyway. One early reviewer was not impressed that the lead character, who kicks some demonic type backside, is a woman, and the two male characters with her seemed to him to have not important enough roles. Actually, one of the male characters is black, but not a single one of these things occurred to me while I was writing the book, and I wouldn’t say that their roles were too much less than hers. Either way, it shouldn’t matter what your characters are, but what they do and how well they do it. I don’t think that writers should purposely include main characters who are not perfect, straight, white, or male – that could end up as a stilted story, but I definitely believe that they are somewhat left out. People mostly don’t read a book and get appalled if a character is transgender or of a race other than they are, and those who do probably haven’t read much “real” Science Fiction. I certainly wouldn’t want them reading mine. People are people, and all deserve just as much space in this genre regardless of their incorrectly perceived differences.

NG: What advice would you have for an aspiring Science Fiction writer?

Jo: Right from the first page of your first Science Fiction book, write everything down. By this I mean have a separate notebook where as a scene happens, you jot down important information. Obviously you should do this with every book you write, but with Science Fiction it’s trebly important, and for a series it’s vital. Timelines, warp drives, dimension hops, species of alien and their attributes, names or other important information. Flora and fauna on various planets. Write it all down, because if you rely on memory you’re going to get something horribly wrong further down the line. Guaranteed. Do your research meticulously. I’m not saying that you need to include line drawings of your warp drive – unless you particularly want to that is. If you’re writing about an underwater world, you would research how underwater breathing takes place for instance. Seeing underwater. Underwater travel. There are so many strange things and knowledge of things right here on Earth, that you can always find something real or theorised to make your plots believable. Reading up on the latest news in the world of theoretical physics is my happy place.

NG: Do you have future Science Fiction projects?

Jo: Right now I’m rewriting my Shadow People books as a series of trilogies, rather than one open-ended series. Two of the books that I was going to publish earlier will now only be published either in December this year or early in January 2016. The entire series spans hundreds of thousands of years, so while the main characters of the first three books are part of each coming trilogy, either in large or small roles, main characters will change for each set. This is why the big rewrite is happening, and why I’m really thankful for my copious notes. I’m also planning a few short stories on worlds or in dimensions within my series multiverse, but totally unrelated to the main series itself and characters. I also write mainstream stories though, so they tend to take turns.

NG: Thank you very much for being with us today, Jo! I am certain my readers will enjoy learning more about your work.

Background by Rose B. Fischer.

Background by Rose B. Fischer.