Wednesday, 19 June 2019

June's Interview - J. C. Steel

Interview with J. C. Steel

Q. You’ve just released book 4 in your Cortii series. For those of us who don’t know, who are the Cortii?

The Cortii are a mercenary organisation of genetically-engineered humanoids. They aren’t the only mercenary units for hire in human-governed space, but much to the annoyance of the governments and the other mercenary units, the Cortii are both the most expensive and the most effective. They work from space-capable Bases situated across humanoid space. These Bases, also much to the annoyance of various governments, are hard targets to the point where no Base has been successfully attacked in recorded history.

Q. So for a bit more information, I’m interested in what they look like. Also, if they are based on any similar types from human history.

Historically, Cortiians were fully human – more of a militant cult than anything else, pre-spaceflight. They colonised the galaxy along with the initial human colonisation waves, but, like a lot of spacers, found that a little genetic modification made life in space a whole lot easier. However, unlike most humans, the Cortii didn’t stop at being able to tolerate a lower-oxygen atmosphere and other minor tweaks: Cortiian scientists went on experimenting to improve bone and muscle density, range of telepathy and empathy, eyesight, hearing... Which was fortunate for the Cortii, since about the time the majority humanoid government of the time declared them outlaw, they passed all the markers to become their own subspecies, with their own citizenship.

If you met a Cortiian on the high street, you wouldn’t notice them; they specialise in undercover work, and can alter their appearances very effectively. Undisguised, they’re on the tall end of average, about six feet; skin colour varies, but has a coppery tone in most cases that adapts easily to high-UV environments; you’d notice higher than average cheekbones, which support larger sinuses. They’re mostly lean rather than bulky, and if startled (good luck taking a Cortiian by surprise), you might see them move quite a lot faster than average.

Q. There’s a lot of action and adventure in these books. How do you decide on the balance between making the prose exciting and punchy while also taking time to fully describe the world you have created?

Confession: I’m an inveterate pantser, so the plot to background balance is less conscious decision on my part than it is reading through at the editing stage and tweaking anything that makes me wince. While I do have formal editing training and experience (lucky me, it saves me a mint), it’s been more focussed on copy and proof than developmental. If something sounds clunky when I re-read, or if it doesn’t provably move the plot along or add anything else vital to the book, I alter it or axe it.

Q. Do you base your characters on real people? On yourself? Characters from other stories? Stereotypes?

Quite honestly, I think that every writer bases characters to some extent on personas they’ve met or read about; I read once that all the faces you see in dreams are faces you’ve seen, sometime in your life, even though you don’t actively remember them, and I strongly suspect that outside influences in my characters do occur, and to much the same extent.

Q. Out of the four Cortii novels, I’m interested if you have a particular favourite action sequence or scene?

We’d be here a while. Getting to sit on the shoulder of a career mercenary is one of the main perks of writing, for me. Some of the space chases come to mind – there’s one in particular, in the draft of book 7, that gave me happy spasms of glee writing it. Some of the dialogue, as well, if I’m being honest, is a lot of fun to write. Cortiians aren’t particularly nice people, and they’re quite happy to stab opponents in the back, literally or metaphorically.

Q. When writing a series such as this, do you have to re-read your novels before starting on the next one?

Yes and no. I’m lucky, I’ve been telling myself stories in the Cortiian universe since I was about five, so most of the world is internalised to the point where I don’t have to spend time agonising about culture and history and writing myself post-it notes. I find the start of a new book is the tricky bit, at least in my head, and that’s when I tend to find myself re-reading previous books to reassure myself that character A hasn’t completely shifted between books. So far, it’s been paranoia.

On the other hand, I do also re-read my books for fun, immodest as that sounds – there are times when only my own writing tells quite the story I’m in the mood to read.

Q. Have you ever been tempted to go back and change something in a previous novel?

I’ve been known on occasion to go back and cut a section in a published book. Through the Hostage is the principal culprit for this: it was the first book I published, and I made the classic newbie mistake of leaving stuff in because I liked it. A couple of years and three books later, I went back with a machete and took out some of the unnecessary bits. Other than that, I’m currently working on a box set of the first four books plus Unaltered, and I’m updating the formatting for consistency across the whole series. I hope that’s going to be the last time, because formatting seems to require a lot of beer.

Q. Okay, a bit more about you. I see from your blog that you’ve moved around a lot, living in England, Canada, travelling around southern Europe and the Caribbean as a kid. Did this open your eyes to the world? A good experience?

I love seeing new places. I can’t afford to do it as much as I’d like, but one of the gifts from my nomadic childhood is adaptability to new places and ways of living, and seeing how other people live fascinates me. And then those experiences probably get fed into my books in some form or other. The downside was going into a UK boarding school in my teens after years on a yacht in the Caribbean and elsewhere and having basically nothing in common with my year-mates. That left me with an inbuilt wariness meeting new people, especially around the ‘so where do you come from?’ questions.

Q. You once tried to join the navy. How far did you get? Did this experience influence the military aspect of your writing?

I took my Boards for officer training, but was in the majority that fail the first time through. The Captain in charge of my Boards was nothing but supportive to my trying again after university, even to personally writing to me to encourage me to do so, but in university I met my partner, and it didn’t seem fair to start a career where I’d be gone nine months in twelve, so I withdrew my application. I wouldn’t say I ever got far enough with the Navy for it to influence my writing. I do still regret my decision to pull out of that opportunity, although it was for what seemed like good reasons at the time.

Q. Do you think you will always exclusively be a sci-fi writer or do you have your mind on other genres for future projects?

I brought out an urban fantasy novel partly based on my time in the Caribbean at the end of 2018 (Death is for the Living), and I’ve got another couple of urban fantasy ideas in various stages of draft, but honestly sci-fi is probably always going to be my preferred genre. There’s just something about travel to strange new worlds and figuring out that universe that makes me happy.

Q. And how about the Cortii? Is this the last we’ve heard from them?

Oh, definitely not. I’ve got everything up to part of book 8 in drafts, and frankly even that one doesn’t feel like a series wrap, so I suspect there’s going to be more. Lots more. Plus, one of my secondary characters from Fighting Shadows just demanded a novella of his own, Unaltered, so there’s a strong possibility if he gets pushy enough that there’ll be a novel on his storyline as well at some point.

So definitely not then! Thanks for the interview, J. C.

You can check out more interviews with authors on J C’s own blog here. You can find his amazon page here and connect with him on goodreads here.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

June's Art by Sylvain Sarrailh

June's Art by Sylvain Sarrailh

Mars Pop Downtown

Giant hydroponic on Jupiter


Hotel Lagrange

Mars Pop Concept Art

 Military Militants - Endless Space 2

Saturday, 8 June 2019

June's Book - Japanese Robots Love to Dance by Margret A. Treiber

This perfect idea for a story fully delivers in all areas. A humorous and very sassy book that's hard to put down.

It's tough being a robot - unrealistic expectations from humans, long hours, lack of social interaction. And what do you do when unscrupulous owners break the law? Humans have attorneys and so should you. Sometimes you just need a good lawyer to do what a robot can't. I am that lawyer. Gary Legal, attorney at law.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

June's Story - The Eyes Have It by Philip K. Dick

The Eyes Have It

by Philip K. Dick

It was quite by accident I discovered this incredible invasion of Earth by lifeforms from another planet. As yet, I haven’t done anything about it; I can’t think of anything to do. I wrote to the Government, and they sent back a pamphlet on the repair and maintenance of frame houses. Anyhow, the whole thing is known; I’m not the first to discover it. Maybe it’s even under control.

I was sitting in my easy-chair, idly turning the pages of a paperbacked book someone had left on the bus, when I came across the reference that first put me on the trail. For a moment I didn’t respond. It took some time for the full import to sink in. After I’d comprehended, it seemed odd I hadn’t noticed it right away.

The reference was clearly to a nonhuman species of incredible properties, not indigenous to Earth. A species, I hasten to point out, customarily masquerading as ordinary human beings. Their disguise, however, became transparent in the face of the following observations by the author. It was at once obvious the author knew everything. Knew everything – and was taking it in his stride. The line (and I tremble remembering it even now) read:

his eyes slowly roved about the room.

Vague chills assailed me. I tried to picture the eyes. Did they roll like dimes? The passage indicated not; they seemed to move through the air, not over the surface. Rather rapidly, apparently. No one in the story was surprised. That’s what tipped me off. No sign of amazement at such an outrageous thing. Later the matter was amplified.

his eyes moved from person to person.

There it was in a nutshell. The eyes had clearly come apart from the rest of him and were on their own. My heart pounded and my breath choked in my windpipe. I had stumbled on an accidental mention of a totally unfamiliar race. Obviously non-Terrestrial. Yet, to the characters in the book, it was perfectly natural – which suggested they belonged to the same species.

And the author? A slow suspicion burned in my mind. The author was taking it rather – too easily – in his stride. Evidently, he felt this was quite a usual thing. He made absolutely no attempt to conceal this knowledge. The story continued:

presently his eyes fastened on Julia.

Julia, being a lady, had at least the breeding to feel indignant. She is described as blushing and knitting her brows angrily. At this, I sighed with relief. They weren’t – all – non-Terrestrials. The narrative continues:

slowly, calmly, his eyes examined every inch of her.

Great Scott! But here the girl turned and stomped off and the matter ended. I lay back in my chair gasping with horror. My wife and family regarded me in wonder.

What’s wrong, dear?” my wife asked.

I couldn’t tell her. Knowledge like this was too much for the ordinary run-of-the-mill person. I had to keep it to myself. “Nothing,” I gasped. I leaped up, snatched the book, and hurried out of the room.

* * * * *

In the garage, I continued reading. There was more. Trembling, I read the next revealing passage:

he put his arm around Julia. Presently she asked him if he would remove his arm. He immediately did so, with a smile.

It’s not said what was done with the arm after the fellow had removed it. Maybe it was left standing upright in the corner. Maybe it was thrown away. I don’t care. In any case, the full meaning was there, staring me right in the face.

Here was a race of creatures capable of removing portions of their anatomy at will. Eyes, arms – and maybe more. Without batting an eyelash. My knowledge of biology came in handy, at this point. Obviously they were simple beings, uni-cellular, some sort of primitive single-celled things. Beings no more developed than starfish. Starfish can do the same thing, you know.

I read on. And came to this incredible revelation, tossed off coolly by the author without the faintest tremor:

outside the movie theater we split up. Part of us went inside, part over to the cafe for dinner.

Binary fission, obviously. Splitting in half and forming two entities. Probably each lower half went to the cafe, it being farther, and the upper halves to the movies. I read on, hands shaking. I had really stumbled onto something here. My mind reeled as I made out this passage:

I’m afraid there’s no doubt about it. Poor Bibney has lost his head again.

Which was followed by:

and Bob says he has utterly no guts.

Yet Bibney got around as well as the next person. The next person, however, was just as strange. He was soon described as:

totally lacking in brains.

* * * * *

There was no doubt of the thing in the next passage. Julia, whom I had thought to be the one normal person, reveals herself as also being an alien life form, similar to the rest:

quite deliberately, Julia had given her heart to the young man.

It didn’t relate what the final disposition of the organ was, but I didn’t really care. It was evident Julia had gone right on living in her usual manner, like all the others in the book. Without heart, arms, eyes, brains, viscera, dividing up in two when the occasion demanded. Without a qualm.

thereupon she gave him her hand.

I sickened. The rascal now had her hand, as well as her heart. I shudder to think what he’s done with them, by this time.

he took her arm.

Not content to wait, he had to start dismantling her on his own. Flushing crimson, I slammed the book shut and leaped to my feet. But not in time to escape one last reference to those carefree bits of anatomy whose travels had originally thrown me on the track:

her eyes followed him all the way down the road and across the meadow.

I rushed from the garage and back inside the warm house, as if the accursed things were following me. My wife and children were playing Monopoly in the kitchen. I joined them and played with frantic fervor, brow feverish, teeth chattering.

I had had enough of the thing. I want to hear no more about it. Let them come on. Let them invade Earth. I don’t want to get mixed up in it.

I have absolutely no stomach for it.

Philip K. Dick should need no introduction. If you are unfamiliar with his work, check out the amazon page here and his Wikipedia page here. This story is taken from Project Gutenberg. For legal reasons the following statement must be included: (This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at