What's Your Favorite Sci Fi Trope? Tell us and win!

When I first wrote Across the Universe, I think I was a little surprised that I'd actually written a, you know, sci fi. I didn't like my husband's SF novels--they were hard SF, full of technical details. It just never occurred to me that there was so much more to sci fi than space engines--despite the fact that much of my favorite works were sci fi.

TIME TRAVEL
This is one of my favorite tropes--the classic time travel tale. I think I first fell in love with the twisty tale 12 Monkeys and then again with Doctor Who, but time travel itself is just fascinating. What would you do--go into the future, or correct the past? The only thing sure to happen in a time travel tale is that whatever you do, the outcome won't be what you're expecting. Even with the power of time, there's no guarantee you'll solve anything...

 EXPLORATION
This is one of the key tropes of almost any sci fi novel, but certainly some sci fi tales are centered on this concept--most notably Star Trek, boldy going where no many has gone before. I think the reason I love these exploration tales is that, no matter what the explorers discover, it always teaches something about ourselves. The best sci fi, in fact, isn't so much about the strange, but about the discovery of self. In examining the possibilities of the wide universe, we discover who we actually are on a much more personal level.

THE UNEXPECTED
Whether it's aliens or just a surprise twist on our own lives, no one covers this trope as well as The Twilight Zone. In science fiction, anything can happen. The major premise of the genre hinges on this concept. Exposing the surprise, unexpected twists reminds us that no matter how certain we are of the world, we can never be too certain. The best episodes of The Twilight Zone show how what we take for granted--everyday life, people we can trust--is never something to expect to last.

SPACE OPERA
As opposed to hard SF, space opera often doesn't define every aspect of the world (or the schematics of the space engine), focusing instead on the characters and their struggles. A great space opera is both incredibly vast and incredibly narrow. It shows the vastness of the world, giving us access to new planets and spaceships, new cultures and aliens (even Jar-Jar Binks). At the same time, the space opera tends to be very close-up on a handful of characters, the ones whose story is being featured. Star Wars is about far more than Luke and Han and Leia and Vader, but at the end of the day, the story exists within them, and arguably could be told in another way, as long as the characters remain the same. On the flip side, hard SF titles are inextricably tied to their SF world, to the point where the world--and specifically the science of the world--becomes another character of the story.

THE UNIVERSE IS VAST AND CONTAINS EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE

We are not alone! There are aliens and worlds beyond what we could ever imagine. A planet made of chocolate? Possible! A fish that lives in your ear and translate words for you (except Belgium, because, ugh, vulgar)? Done and done! The universe contains anything you could ever possibly conceive of--and even more than that. It literally contains everything, including the meaning to life, the universe, and everything. Some stories revel in the vast possibilities (perhaps none moreso than Douglas Adams), while some warn us that included in "everything" are some very, very, very bad things we don't want to mess with (*cough*ALIENS AND PREDATORS*cough*). Either way, the point is that beyond the black of space is an infinite world of possibilities, just waiting to be discovered...or to thrust themselves upon us and invade Earth...

THE UNIVERSE IS VAST AND CONTAINS NOTHING BUT DARK, DARK EMPTINESS

On the flip side, we have the stories where we are alone. Firefly is a great example of that--although there are other planets (almost all of them terraformed), there's very little in the way of aliens--no sentient creatures, for sure. And when the characters look out into the stars, they see "the black"--the utter aloneness of being human. After all, Arthur C. Clarke put it best when he said, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

TECHNOLOGY
Ahhhhh, I love tech. I don't understand it, but I totally welcome my new and upcoming robot overlords. Technology is often the magic of sci fi. Whether it shows a world that went too far (such as Minority Report) or a world enhanced and made better by tech (omg, please give me a teleporter NOW), it's fascinating to see what sci fi writers develop, technologically. Some books from the past have a delightful mix of old and new--in Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, the character have access to time travel machines...but not to cell phones. It's sort of hilarious to see them running to payphones when their time machines muck up. But it's fascinating, too, to see what technology people predict will change, what will stay the same, and what is so new and mind-blowing that even the best minds thinking of the future couldn't predict.

As you can see, there's a lot to love in sci fi--so if you haven't checked it out yet, make sure you do! And if you've stuck with one trope, try out a new one--if not in a novel, perhaps in a short story. On Tuesday, January 13, I'll be releasing a collection of sci fi short stories that cover a ton of different tropes. There's time travel and teleporters, unexpected twists and unexplored tech. Each story is unique and separate from the others, and the only thing that ties them all together is that they take place in the future. The Future Collection is my first short story collection, and features three never-before-seen short stories!

And you can enter to win a copy here--as well as a signed copy of my latest book, The Body Electric, and an Across the Universe brand water bottle.


You can enter below!

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Have A Sci-Fi Christmas With The League Giveaway!

Christmas... sometimes it's hard to remember to be happy about it when we're worried about covering all the shopping, making food (and trying not to overeat), wrapping gifts, and doing all the things you're supposed to do, while not necessarily doing things you want to do.

So screw that - let's read.

What's in the magnificent giveaway from the League?

This stuff:

SKYLARK by Meagan Spooner
THESE BROKEN STARS by Meagan Spooner & Amie Kaufman
NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis
IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by Mindy McGinnis
CONTROL by Lydia Kang
STARTERS by Lissa Price
ENDERS by Lissa Price
LANDRY PARK by Bethany Hagen
POSSESSION by Elana Johnson
SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman
FORBIDDEN FLATS by Peggy Eddleman
DEFECTOR by Susanne Winnacker
BETWEEN THE SHADOW & THE SOUL by Susanne Winnacker
THE MEMORY OF AFTER by Lenore Applehans
CHASING BEFORE by Lenore Applehans
THE SILENCE OF SIX by E.C. Myers
THE BODY ELECTRIC by Beth Revis

That's 17 books just for you (or maybe to plug a Christmas gift hole that you forgot). So think of yourself (or belatedly of someone else) and enter to win in the Rafflecopter below!

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Amy K. Nichols Visits the League


I'm happy to introduce Amy K. Nichols with her debut, the YA --NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE, publishing Dec 9! - Lissa

Hello, My Name is Amy and I’m a Science Fiction Author

I’m a science fiction author.

How in the world did this happen?!

When I think back to the younger version of me, the one who was a mediocre science student at best, it kind of boggles my mind that I’ve ended up where I have.

The last science class I remember enjoying was seventh grade. My teacher was a really cool hippie-lady. She taught us the dangers of smoking (yuck), we dissected frogs (cool), and she told us how hot dogs were made (I haven’t eaten one since).

Something happened after seventh grade, though. While I always found dissection fascinating, overall I lost my interest in science. I think somewhere along the way I learned (or decided) that I wasn’t good at it. There may have also been a tinge of “science isn’t a girl thing” in there as well. I don’t know if all that originated from me or my teachers, but there was a disconnect between me and the science I was learning.

What I never lost, though, was my love of science fiction.

Growing up, my brother and I spent Saturday mornings watching Science Fiction Theater, The World Beyond, and the best science fiction B movies ever made. Zanti. Them. Godzilla vs. Mothra. I swear I’ve seen every Twilight Zone episode made. My favorite, though, was The Time Machine. That movie rocked my world. My ten year old brain gobbled it all up and began spinning daydreamed stories of my own.

It wasn’t only movies and television shows, though. I loved science fiction books, too. I grew up a voracious reader (still am, actually). Time travel stories, or anything involving portals to other worlds were my favorite.

Despite this, when I set out to write and publish, I never imagined my first book—or really any of my books—would be science fiction. That genre felt out of my league. Reserved for authors who majored in chemistry or scored high on the “thinking” category of the Myers Briggs Test. (For the record, I was an English major, and my Myers Briggs T score is super low.)

When I decided to pursue writing, though, I wrote the stories that came to me. All them had an element of odd. Ghost stories. Creepy stories. Monsters. Supernatural beings. And then, there was this story that showed up one day. A story about a boy who woke up in a classroom and didn’t know where he was or how he got there. He recognized the girl next to him, though. Recognized her from his world.

I kept writing that story, following it to its conclusion, and before long I’d written my first science fiction novel.

After a few years of revisions, I signed with an agent, and that agent sold the novel to Katherine Harrison at Knopf.

Early on Katherine and I agreed that we wanted the science in NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE to be solid. We didn’t want readers to easily dismiss it. We wanted it to hold up under scrutiny. This was a pretty tall order for someone like me, someone so mediocre at science.

Or was it?

Around 2007 I started hearing about this ginormous apparatus deep beneath the Swiss Alps that would answer all the questions of the universe…or create a black hole and swallow up the earth. Black hole? That certainly caught my attention. I started reading up on black holes, time travel, multiverses. I watched shows on the Discovery Channel, and clips on YouTube trying to wrap my brain around quantum physics and string theory. I developed a love for science again. All of that fascinating information sank into my subconscious, just waiting for a spark. Waiting for NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE. Then, boom. My imagination went into overdrive, igniting like it’s own kind of particle collider.

When I set out to research how a boy could possibly jump between parallel universes, that seemingly daunting task turned out to be a lot of fun. Work, sure. It required hours of reading books and scientific articles, looking for just the right theory to fit my story. But like a puzzle, all of the pieces came together to form a bridge from real-life science to the science in my fiction.

I can’t go into a lot of detail about what that science is, or how it works, without giving away major spoilers about the book. But I can share with you what reviewers have said about it. School Library Journal said, “Nichols adeptly simplifies the complex concepts of string theory and parallel universes without condescending to readers.” VOYA said “in particular, science buffs will enjoy the speculative theories put forward.”

I’m a science fiction writer. This mediocre science student turned science enthusiast. And I couldn’t be happier.

Bio:
Amy K. Nichols lives on the edge of the Phoenix desert with her husband and children. In the evenings, she enjoys sitting outside, counting bats and naming stars. Sometimes she names the bats. NOW THAT YOU’RE HERE is her first novel. Visit her online at amyknichols.com.




Almost Here: NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE



In a parallel universe, the classic bad boy falls for the class science geek.
 
One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body--his own, but different. Somehow, he's crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee--a girl who'd rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom--may be his only hope of getting home.
 
Eevee tells herself she's only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there's something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.



I consider myself something of a connoisseur of stories about parallel universes. I’ve been a fan of multiple worlds since the Spock-with-a-beard episode of the original Star Trek, and I never tire of seeing the idea explored in television, films, and of course books. It seems like the last decade has enjoyed a kind of alternate-universe Renaissance; the idea of visiting other universes has gone from a niche concept like the old show Sliders in the 1990s to a mainstream popular culture phenomenon. That’s good news for aficionados like me who can’t get enough of these tales, but the flip side is that we’ve kind of seen everything by now. Or have we?

One of the joys of multiverse stories is that there are as many variations on the topic as there are (potentially) other worlds out there. The key to making these stories unique, entertaining, and moving is to focus on the characters who live them — and that’s where Amy K. Nichols’ debut YA novel, Now That You’re Here, shines. Main characters Eevee Solomon and Danny Ogden (who alternate chapters throughout the book), and a host of secondary characters including Eevee’s best friend Warren, are believable, sympathetic, and engaging. You need a compelling cast to ground a book like this in reality — take your pick of which — and whisk the reader along through the inevitable exposition. One of the trickiest parts of any book dealing with theoretical quantum physics is conveying it to readers, and Nichols manages that delicate balance well.

Rather than dwelling on the complex science that might make multiple worlds — and travel between them — possible, Nichols emphasizes the complexity of people: What makes us who we are, and the relationships that bind us together. What’s most important is how Danny’s jump from his universe to Eevee’s affects them both. Their stories intersect and parallel each other in surprising, fascinating ways; Danny loses his universe, a dystopian surveillance state, and in turn shakes up Eevee’s world, allowing her to realize just how controlled her own life has been. This book also celebrates geeks and how intelligence, curiosity, and compassion can empower teens to accomplish profound things — all with a bit of wit, humor, and romance.

From its literally explosive start, Now That You’re Here hooks the reader and pulls them into Eevee’s world right along with Danny. The mystery of how Danny exchanged places with his other self is explained (mostly) in a satisfying, and to me entirely fresh way, and the sensible and clever steps Eevee, Danny, and Warren take to unravel it and devise a solution to send him home is thrilling. But it’s the personal questions they ask of themselves and each other, and the answers they find together, that provides the real substance of the novel.

If you’re new to books about parallel universes, Now That You’re Here is the perfect place to launch your adventure across multiple worlds. And if you think you’ve seen it all, you’re wrong; though this book necessarily treads on some familiar ground, you haven’t met anyone like Eevee and Danny — or their other selves — yet. Fans of books like Parallel by Lauren Miller, Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, and Planesrunner by Ian McDonald shouldn’t miss this exciting take on the multiverse. I’m already looking forward to While You Were Gone, the second book in the Duplexity duology, in which we see what the alternate Eevee and Danny are up to in Danny’s parallel world. Brilliant, right?




Now That You're Here by Amy K. Nichols will be published on December 9, 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. While You Were Gone (Duplexity #2) will follow in 2015.

E-Shorts: Why Read and Write Them?

Last month, my co-author Meagan Spooner and I released a free short story set in the same world as our Starbound trilogy. Titled This Night So Dark, it's designed to be read before or after These Broken Stars.

We had heaps of fun writing and releasing it, and the response from fans has been amazing! We've been asked lots of questions about it, so today I'm going to talk about the best reasons to release a free story like this, and why we did it.



It's a chance to give something back to the fans.

This is, above anything else, the best reason to write and release a story for free. We've been bowled over by the response to These Broken Stars -- from the emails to the letters, the awesome fan art (hoooow do you guys do that stuff?) to the recipes! Quite simply, we wanted to thank our readers for being amazing, and a free story felt like the best way to do it.

You can tell a story that doesn't fit into the big picture.


At the start of These Broken Stars, you learn two things about Tarver very quickly. First, he's considered a 'war hero'. Second, he doesn't want to talk about how he earned those medals. Meg and I always knew the story behind his fame, but there wasn't any place in the novel to tell it. It would have been a distraction from the main storyline. Releasing it as a short story gave us the chance to share it in a different forum, so those who have been wondering (and judging by the emails, you guys really wanted to know!) can find out the truth about Tarver.

It's a chance to meet new readers.

Picking up a whole novel is an investment in terms of time and money -- a short story is a way for an author and reader to get to know each other with less commitment. Think of it as catching up for a coffee, instead of launching into a dinner-and-a-movie date straight away. Short stories and novellas are a great way to check out the writing and world of a new author, to see if you want to jump into the series. We hope This Night So Dark will be a chance for new readers to check out the series, and perhaps join in the fun.

It helps with the wait!

Authors are readers too, and we hate waiting for the next book in our favourite series as much as you guys do! We can't waaaait to share This Shattered World with you all, next month. In the meantime, short stories are a great way to bridge the gap, help with the agony of waiting for the next instalment, and they're also a great way to ease you back into a world before you pick up the next book.

What about you guys? Do you read e-shorts and e-novellas? I'd love to hear your favourites!


Interview with E.C. Myers on The Silence of Six

What is it like working on a work-for-hire novel? Find out in my interview with Leaguer E.C. Myers - Lissa Price.


E.C., What should we know about your newest book?

The Silence of Six is a contemporary YA thriller about a group of teenage hackers who combine their skills to answer an intriguing question: “What is the silence of six?” As they investigate, they dig deep into a high level conspiracy that not only endangers the privacy of individuals, but their lives. And they have to work quickly because they’re being pursued by shady operatives online and in the real world, and the truth could affect the outcome of the presidential election just a few weeks away.


You’re one of two books published by a new publisher – Adaptive Studios. Tell us how they came to find you and why you went with them instead of one of the known publishers.

Adaptive Studios is a newish company that adapts orphaned works (such as an unproduced screenplay, in the case of The Silence of Six) into other properties, like television shows, novels, and picture books. I was introduced to them by fellow YA author Tiffany Schmidt, and on the strength of my first novel, Fair Coin, they offered me the opportunity to audition for the project. They liked what I came up with, so we worked together on developing an outline for the book; other than the title, the book bears little resemblance to the source material, which I haven’t even seen! This was my first work-for-hire novel, and I took it on because I loved the premise and thought I could write something really fun and interesting about hacking, conspiracies, and social media. I also liked the idea of having a new book out this year, particularly one so different from my usual work. My first two books were both published in 2012, and though I have some other manuscripts in the works, nothing else is scheduled for publication. Adaptive has a really fresh take on publishing, and it was great to participate in the collaborative process of writing and marketing the book.

The cover is especially haunting. Did you have any say in the design process?

Adaptive and their cover designer had several strong, compelling ideas for the cover, any of which could have worked well. I was surprised and pleased that they took my opinions into consideration throughout the process, as well as feedback from my literary agency, which has experience in designing and marketing their clients’ books. I thought it was important not to show a face (particularly following on Fair Coin and Quantum Coin), and I didn’t want to see a character of a specific gender. What we ended up with was one of the earliest concepts and I kept coming back to it because it was so mysterious and chilling — to me, it represented anonymity, and the hood added a Grim Reaper-esque element that seemed thematically appropriate. I especially love the title treatment.

How has winning the Andre Norton Award changed your career?

Not as much as you might think! I am incredibly honored to have the award, and it may get me a little more attention from editors and booksellers and librarians, but the Norton isn’t largely recognized outside of the speculative fiction field. I’m also usually the last person to mention that I won it, which I suppose makes me a poor self-marketer. When people do know about the Norton, they are often impressed, which makes me feel great. I think most of all it helps me with those moments when impostor syndrome hits — it gives me some reassurance that I’m not terrible at this writing thing.

Whose career would you most like to have?

That’s a dangerous road to go down. Of course it might be nice to be a rock star with multiple book deals, movie options, and all that jazz, but the only career I can have is my own. Money and fame are measures of success, but the only appeal there is that they usually signal a wide readership — which would be great because most of all I just want people to read my books! (I would also love to keep publishing them, which requires some level of financial success.) That said, if I ended up writing a few books that people love, I’ll be happy. One of my favorite authors, William Sleator, wrote a lot of terrific books that people still remember, although he didn’t seem to garner a lot of attention or riches. Robert C. O’Brien only wrote three books (one of those posthumously completed by his family), but they are amazing books. I want my books to outlast me and affect young readers the way books affected me.

What has been the biggest surprise for you in your publishing journey?

Boy, this is a lot of work, isn’t it? I was most surprised by how much of writing involves doing things that isn’t writing: marketing, signings, events, etc. I’m also constantly surprised at just how random and impersonal it all is; editors leave publishers, books get cancelled, contracts fall through. Make no mistake: Publishing is a business, and it’s hard to separate that from the “purity” of writing as art — something we’re driven to do because we have to tell stories. Talent is just part of the equation; you have to be in the right place at the right time with the right book. The only thing we can control is the quality of our writing, and we have to try not to worry about the rest.

If you could be something else other than a book author, what would you be?

I’ve tried a bunch of other jobs, and this is the best one so far! But all other things being equal, I would love to develop video games.

Anything else you’d like the League readers to know?

One of the best parts of being an author is getting to interact with readers and other writers, so I love participating in blogs like this one. Thank you for your support! And thanks for the terrific interview, Lissa.

Thank you, Eugene. Have questions? Ask Eugene in the comments below.

Twitter: @ecmyers