AND OTHER FANTASTIC BOOKS I’VE EDITED.
Except for Immortal and Immortal II, all cover art and design was done by Quinton Veal.
Good evening everyone! Tonight I continue my series “Fantastic Books…” with a spotlight on (drum roll) my own eight SF/fantasy books which I’ve written and edited. So without further adieu I present me! 🙂
Colony: Ascension: An Erotic Space Opera (excerpt)
She awoke with an impending sense of wrongness. The astronaut reached for her view-screen, intending to alert Leonardo. His voice, any human voice, would comfort her, soothe her panic. Her view-screen was gone.
Everything was gone, her food, valise, helmet, suit. . . She wasn’t in her tent anymore. With a strangled cry she sprang to her feet, her heart pounding against her rib cage. Allandra saw that her new room was without windows. Just four walls, and a door without a knob. Behind her was the platform she’d just risen from, with translucent blankets.
The door slid opened and It stepped inside. It was tall, muscular and had two eyes, hands, arms, legs and feet. And there all of the similarity between It and a human being ended. Its head was triangular. Its eyes were bulging and perfectly round with black pupils. And Its nose was a small slit above a puckered mouth that resembled that of a fish.
The skin above Its tan form-fitting suit, and that of Its hands, was black with orange and brown stripes and had a silky almost wet appearance. Each of one of Its twelve fingers had a suction cup at its tip.
It pressed a metal button on its breast and a bass, undeniably male timbre, floated toward her: “Hello, Lieutenant Allandra.”
That’s not his voice. He’s using a translator.
“I am Chotz. You are on Planet Tyria,” the being said quietly. “I’m sorry if we’ve caused you any distress. I know you have questions. You may ask them now, if you like.”
Allandra hadn’t expected this. She’d expected meetings between equals. Shaking hands.
Pleasantries between two species. Not being kidnapped and confined in a. . . Cell. “Where’s Leonardo?” Her voice came out in a squeak.
Chotz’s puckered lips turned up in a fey smile. “He’s in a room much like yours, not far from here.”
Another cell. “Can I see him?”
“That’s not such a good idea right now. We need to get you settled in,” he replied smoothly.
“We scanned your planet before we landed,” she blurted. “We toured the surface. Why didn’t we see you?”
Sci-Fi Sunday: Interview with Voyage of Dreams Fantasy/Sci-Fi Writer Valjeanne Jeffers (This interview was originally published by Graveyard Shift Sisters)
When I asked Valjeanne Jeffers which of her books is the best introduction to her work, she didn’t hesitate before she replied, Voyage of Dreams.
And after reading it, I agree.
Voyage of Dreams is a collection of shorts from Jeffers longer works, intended as teaser for readers to have a taste of the genres the author writes in. There is horror, there is steampunk, there is erotica, there is sci-fi…
Now I must disclose that “Voyage of Dreams” does not have complete stories. Don’t pick it up unless you’re ready to understand that these are excerpts—written book trailers, if you will. They will lure you in and give you the need to know what happens next. You will come to hate the words, “To be Continued” (if you don’t already) and want to purchase the full-length novels. If you prefer to have an entire story right up front, I suggest reading the excerpts from her work on her Amazon author page and choosing a tale.
Jeffers has an enviable way with creating multi-cultural characters that leap beyond stereotypes. Her descriptions and imagery wrap you into the storylines. For writers, we are always searching for the “hook” that snags the reader quickly and Jeffers has figured that out.
She also creates strong female characters and I can never have enough of those. In Awakening, she sets her sights on freeing Nandi, an young African girl from the societal and family pressures of playing the part of princess. Nandi finds her way to becoming the warrior she craves to be, but not without significant bloodshed.
My other favorites?
Colony: Ascension – Reads like sci-fi horrorotica. A young female astronaut desperate to find life outside of Earth finds answers as she wakes up a captive of an alien race.
Mona Livelong: ParanormalDetective – Bizarre murders, a serial killer that is able to continue his work after death, and a female detective from the country who is the city cops’ last resort to stopping a plot that may affect all of North America.
First off, thank you for this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing style.
I’m a mother, grandmother, artist, poet and (sometimes) a teacher. And I love speculative fiction. I love reading it and writing it. My style of writing has been described by Charles Saunders, my mentor and a writer I greatly admire, as a world in which “science and sorcery co-exist.” Another favorite author and good friend, Derrick Ferguson, has described it as “imaginatively experimental.”
Both Charles and Derrick have described my style to a tee. When I write, I draw from horror, fantasy, science fiction, and erotica. I have a mixed-media, or I guess you could say mixed-genre style of writing. So depending upon which one of my novels a reader picks up he or she might come away describing me as horror writer, steamfunk writer etc. Some of my books can be very frightening ―I’ve even scared myself a time or two. Which, I think, is pretty cool.
When did you start writing and what drew you specifically to horror?
I started writing as a young girl; although I took a long hiatus from writing fiction and didn’t return to it until I was in my forties. I’ve always been fascinated by horror stories and shows. I grew up watching Dark Shadows, The Twilight Zone, Dracula etc. And I was always particularly fascinated by the shape shifters―vampires, werewolves and such. I was never afraid of them, instead I was sympathetic. Here were otherworldly creatures who had their weirdness thrust upon them by a bite or a scratch. My sympathy was always tinged with something else: admiration. Shape shifters, from my viewpoint, had wonderful powers!
Years later, their supernatural proclivities were gifts to me as a writer. And I began to imagine what if…? What if immortal creatures with preternatural speed and strength could change at will and use their abilities to fight for their planet? To defend the world against corporate and demonic corruption? This is how my Immortal series was born.
What inspired you to write Voyage of Dreams? What is special about this collection of short stories and how does your heritage influence your storytelling?
Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of combining excerpts from my novels and short stories into a book for sometime now. I just recently finished writing my two newest novels, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera, so I had an excuse to take the plunge and do it. Excerpts from five of my novels: Mona Livelong, Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera (these two newest novels will be out sometime in July, 2014) Immortal, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and The Switch II: Clockwork are included. I also included four short stories: “Outcasts”, “Awakening”, “Mocha Faeryland”, “Grandmere’s Secret”. I really loved bringing my stories and excerpts together― and each one is so different.
For example, Immortal is an introduction to the first novel of my Immortal series. In Chapter I, “Specter”, the reader meets Karla and is instantly submersed in her world: An alternate universe in which horror and science fiction meet, with a little erotica thrown in for good measure. As I’ve said before I don’t shy away from sexuality. I don’t emphasize it either. It’s just a natural part of my storytelling, like it’s a natural part of life.
I also included an excerpt from Immortal III: Stealer of Souls as Stealer of Souls. In this excerpt, the reader is introduced to Annabelle, a seductive and dangerous vampire. But she isn’t like any of the vampires from the old lore and films. This is a radically different type of shape shifter―with heavy emphasis on the radical. In writing Immortal III, I really got in touch with my southern roots. Annabelle is a southern belle, and she is how I’ve always pictured the southern seductress: Black, beautiful, and deadly―especially to a man. But every character should have layers to their personality, so Annabelle is not one-dimensional. None of my characters are.
In Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective, a steamfunk, horror novel (excerpt), readers are introduced to Mona Livelong, the newest character in my newest series. Mona is kind of a city-country-city character. She is gifted with preternatural powers, and she lives in a small southern town right up the road from a big city. I really went out of my way to scare readers. I had a ball doing it too!
In speaking of my heritage, I’m a southern Black woman: card carrying and proud of it. I’m also a child of the 1960s, one of most moving and turbulent eras this country has ever seen. All of this informs my writing. Although a southerner, I’ve lived all over America and met people from all walks of life. So, I’m writing out of the Black experience, but I also identify with other races. My readers will find folks of all colors within the pages of my stories. Oppression, and fighting against it, is something common to all of us. Love, joy, hate, desire, suffering―these too, are commonalities we all share and that finds its way into my writing as well.
For you, what makes a great horror tale? What do you like to read?
There is so much about life that is terrifying―more terrifying than anything an author can write. For me, since I’m an eternal optimist, I like to read books that take horrific circumstances and transform them into something characters can triumph over; books with really terrifying circumstances and victorious characters; books that show the human spirit as indomitable. “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten,” (Neil Gaiman). I think this is very applicable to horror fiction as well. We all know that the monster in our closet is often real. What we need to know is that we can take him down.
What scares you?
I especially, like Black authors, like Tananarive Due and Nalo Hopkinson, that take something familiar and transform it into something lethal. The Good House by Tananarive Due is the scariest book I’ve read to date. But I’m also a diehard Stephen King fan. I dig Dean Kootz too.
How can African American artists (actors, writers, filmmakers) succeed in horror and dark fantasy fiction circles? How can women? Do you feel your work has been received differently as a Black female author?
As African American artists, our job is to create the best product we can―be it books, film, or art, and then get it out there to our fans and readers. What I’m trying to say is we shouldn’t just write books (for example) we should write the best books we can―pour ourselves and our energy into them. Give the readers all you got and leave them wanting more. And then we have to market our products. As artists, we can’t wait for someone to do it for us. You have to build your own fan base. The job of female artists is no different from that of a man’s. No one is going to open any doors for us. We have to do it ourselves.
As a Black woman, I don’t think my work has been received much differently. But, I think sometimes guys―although not those in my inner circle, of course―may think that just because I’m a woman, I can’t deliver the hard-hitting battle and gory horror scenes that a man can. I actually had a male reader tell me as much at a conference. Nothing could be further from the truth. My male and female characters can swing a sword, take off a head, and mouth an incantation with the best of them. Author Charles Saunders (in his review of Immortal and Immortal II: “Immortality”) said that I can “snap a plot twist on par with the best of the thriller writers.” Author Milton Davis, has said (in his review of Immortal) that my “fight scenes are exciting and tense.” Recommendations don’t get any better than this!
What’s your next project?
As I mentioned above, I’m releasing two new novels in July 2014; Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective and Colony: Ascension, An Erotic Space Opera. Mona Livelong is a steamfunk horror novel set in 1970. However, Mona Livelong also takes place in “North America,” an alternate historical period in which steampunk/steamfunk reins supreme, this means muskets, gas lights and steam-powered cars, to name a few. Steamfunk is one of my favorite genres. And lots and lots of sorcery. There is actually a whole cast of characters that make their debut in Mona Livelong. I hope my readers will come to love them, as they’ve come to love the characters of my Immortal series.
With Colony: Ascension, I went way outside my comfort zone and tried something totally different. Colony: Ascension is hard science fiction, a space opera―and an erotic space opera at that. But, as with my other series, I created communities of characters that are dependent upon one another for their survival. Readers can preview the first chapters of Colony on Amazon and Smashwords.
How can regional and cultural horror become more mainstream and recognizable to the wider horror fan base?
Authors have to market their books. They have to find ways of getting them into libraries. (I’ve donated books to libraries in different cities.) They have to attend conferences and they have to use social networking. These methods are already working. Many indie authors in my circle, Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade for example, are achieving national recognition. I recently attended the Octavia Butler Arts and Activism conference at Spelman College (in Atlanta, Georgia, which as organized by author Tananarive Due). More recently my name was mentioned, along with two very well known writers and Janelle Monáe, no less, as one of the artists influencedby Octavia Butler. I was heavily influenced by Octavia and consider her to be one of my literary mentors, although I never got a chance to meet her.
What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
I never have any problems coming up with ideas. But I can be a perfectionist. What this means for me is that I have to constantly remind myself that the first draft is the first draft. It’s not going to be perfect the first time I write it. A first draft is edited and re-edited until the final product is ready. This is a battle I seem to fight with every new novel.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read and edit other writers’ novels. I’m actually co-owner of Q & V Affordable Editing, a small company I started with my fabulous cover artist, Quinton Veal. I have to give a shout-out to Quinton, he’s done the artwork for all of my novels and short stories (except for Immortal I and II). He’s also very talented writer in his own right, and the author of four books.
Thank you for this interview, Valjeanne. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I’d like to thank Eden Royce, horror writer extraordinaire, for interviewing me! I had a blast!
Preveiw or purchase books by Valjeanne Jeffers and Quinton Veal at www.vjeffersandqveal.com
Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month everyone! On this glorious Monday, I continue my blog series with one of my favorite “hard science fiction” gems: Warriors of The Four Worlds by Ronald T. Jones. What can I say about Warriors of the Four Worlds? I love this book–absolutely love it. Warriors… has action and futuristic weaponry galore, with nail-biting suspense and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. To top it off, the novel is funny too–a must (in my humble opinion) for any five star yarn. So, without further adieu I bring you Ronald T, Jones, author of Warriors of the Four Worlds.
Contact Ronald at Amazon
(This interview was first published by Malcolm “Rage” Petteway,Rage Books Publishing LLC ).
Can you tell us something about your book?
Warriors of the Four Worlds is an action-adventure tale set in a far off future in a distant part of the universe. Humans are struggling for survival in the face of certain extinction at the hands of a brutally aggressive species. Warriors is narrated from the perspective of a hardened military veteran, Lev Gorlin, who is forced to take up arms once again to confront a new threat. Lev’s methods in defense of humanity are as merciless and aggressive as the enemy he battles.
How did you come up with the idea?
Honestly, I don’t remember. I do know that I approached this story as I’ve approached previous and subsequent stories. I wanted to present the best action and adventure that I could muster. I wanted twists and turns and peril aplenty in my story. I wanted to convey noble and perhaps not so noble heroics and the most dastardly, despicable villainy. Basically, I wanted to write a story that I would enjoy reading.
When did you start writing and what inspired you to write?
After gorging on a steady diet of Star Wars, Star Trek and all of the TV, film and literary science fiction that I could consume, an idea took form in my head and began flittering around inside my skull like a crazed moth attracted to light. It occurred to me that I don’t just have to watch this stuff, I can write it as well. So one day, back in the late 80s, I grabbed a pen, some paper and started writing.
Why did you pick science fiction?
It never occurred to me to write in any other genre. Science fiction was, is and will always be my passion. This isn’t to say that I’ve only read and written science fiction. But as far as fiction is concerned, science fiction has given me the greatest latitude to expand my imagination, to truly envision wondrous, strange and fantastic things.
What do you want readers to come away with after reading your book?
I want readers to come away with that pleasant endorphin-generated feeling you get after enjoying a wonderful movie, or a fine piece of chocolate or a great workout. I want my readers to feel good!
Who is your intended audience?
Science fiction fans, people who enjoy rip roaring action and adventure in any genre, anyone enamored of compelling story telling. Hopefully my work will attract any and all of the above.
What writers influenced you the most?
I’ve enjoyed the works of David Weber. His space operas are very engaging and his world building is truly epic. The same is true of fantasy writer, Imaro-creator, and godfather of Sword and Soul, Charles Saunders. There’s Steven Barnes and a host of other authors whose works I’ve enjoyed over the years.
What are your favorite aspects of writing?
I love creating characters and settings and situations. I love taking the raw material of my imagination and refining it into gripping prose.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write, write, write. Constantly hone your craft. Write regularly, even if you’re not writing something related to your latest novel or short story. If you’re jotting down a to-do list, you’re writing. The more you write the better you get. Read regularly. Reading proficiency is connected to competent writing. And read aplenty in the genre you’re writing in. You’ll pick up a variety of styles from a variety of authors and eventually your individual style will emerge. Lastly, enjoy yourself. The moment writing becomes a chore instead of something you love so much you’d do it for free (which many aspiring writers are doing anyway) then it’s time to reevaluate your craft.
Review by Rage Books
Powerful, intense and unpredictable
Lev Gorlin is a highly decorated military soldier. He is a superb strategist and a war hero in a galaxy where Humans and Zirans protect the genetically docile Vingin through a tripartite alliance. . After a twenty year war with the Tacherins the humans begin a military drawdown, dismantling their lethal weapons that won the war. But in the eye of a promised peace, discord in the alliance breeds treacherous intentions. Lev Gorlin is pulled out of military retirement to lead the human resistance in face of a more aggressive and violent enemy.
Ronald T. Jones delivers a knockout punch with this exciting tale of military might versus strategic cunning. Warriors of the Four Worlds reads like a Tom Clancy novel. Ronald has embodied the action, intrigue and excitement of Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and masterfully wrapped it in a believable science fiction setting. The combat scenes and the military tactics he describes are told like a combat veteran relaying a personal war story. The feelings are raw and the action is fast.
I highly recommend putting this on your “next book to read” list. Definitely five star material here.
This is available for Kindle, which is great, because you will definitely want to take this book with you and steal time to read it at every opportunity until you are done. Then you will want more.
Contact Valjeanne Jeffers for editing: email@example.com
Valjeanne Jeffers is the author of eight science fiction/fantasy novels, and she has been published in numerous anthologies. Purchase her novels at http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com and Amazon
She is co-owner of http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com with poet and artist Quinton Veal. Contact Valjeanne for editing, and Quinton Veal for cover art at: firstname.lastname@example.org Their reasonable prices will shock and amaze you 🙂
FROM THE TRAVELING ROUND TABLE OF FANTASY BLOGGERS
I have often contemplated the nature of evil. What is it that drives men and women to commit evil deeds? I have concluded that evil folks are made, not born. And there are many reasons that evil doers continue on their path. The quest for power. Selfishness. An abiding hatred of everyone― including themselves.
Thus, as a writer, I have found that villains with myriad layers are more interesting, realistic and more fun than one dimensional evil doers—the villain tormented by love or guilt over his own deeds. The man or woman obsessed with material gain or power. This is the stuff of which great villains are made; such as the antagonists of my Immortal series, “Tehotep” and “Z100,” the villainess of The Switch II: Clockwork. Art, after all, should imitate life.
Then too, some evil acts may be committed by folks who are not necessarily evil but who have simply made the wrong choices (whatever their motivation). I recently had an inner dialogue about one of my newest characters. I concluded that the character was not evil. But she does make choices that result in mayhem. Who among us has not made bad decisions? And in my Immortal saga and The Switch II: Clockwork (which includes books I and II), I explore these questions through my characters—none of whom are perfect—and plots.
Yet what would a science/fantasy novel be without the fantastical?
Fantastic is described as wondrous and wild; to quote a few definitions. These are perfect metaphors for a SF/fantasy villain: an evil doer with preternatural powers and with dark foreboding or evil intentions. A villain can, and should, wreck havoc with the lives of one’s heroines and heroes.
In my novels my evil doers are imbued with fantastic powers―supernatural or man-made. Of course, I’ve given fantastical gifts to my heroines and heroes, too. Thank goodness for this! For how could they complete their life-changing quests without them? How could the plot twists and turns take place? How could the glorious battles I envisioned, happen? The fantastic too, is a perfect metaphor for speculative fiction. For as writers we don᾿t want the ordinary. We don᾿t want the humdrum.
We want the fantastik. This is stuff of which SF/fantasy worlds are made.
In my newest novels, which I’ll release later this year, Mona Livelong: Paranormal and Colony: Ascension, I’ve used both the evil and the fantastic to build my worlds. Take a gander below at the excerpt from Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective.
Sally looked closer, stretching his mouth further open with a gloved hand. She reached inside. “It looks like a key. . .How did I miss this?” Probing with her fingertips, she pulled the metal from where it was sticking just under his tongue. All at once, she jerked spasmodically.
“Yes. . . I. . .” The laboratory waved before her eyes. . .
Light from a single, gas streetlamp pooled upon the empty street. Footfalls echoed behind her, unhurried, yet unrelenting in their step.
She whirled around His big, tattooed body blocked the dim light.
He was a swarthy man, with dimpled cheeks and full lips, handsome, except for his glistening gray eyes; and his smile. . . a terrible cold grin, the grimace of a killer: a sadist. . .
I hope I’ve done justice to my characters. I hope my readers will be pleased.
Valjeanne is the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the steampunk novelsImmortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books I and II).
She is a graduate of Spelman College, NCCU and a member of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. She has been published under both Valjeanne Jeffers and Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson. Her writing has appeared in: The Obamas: Portrait of America’s New First Family, from the Editors of Essence, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Pembroke Magazine, Revelry, Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary, and Liberated Muse: How I Freed My Soul Vol. I. She was also semi-finalist for the 2007 Rita Dove Poetry Award.
Valjeanne’s fiction has appeared in Steamfunk! Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Possibilities, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear (in press). She works as an editor for Mocha Memoirs Press and is also co-owner of Q& V Affordable editing. Preview or purchase her novels at: http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com
Live reading of Immortal: Chapter 1: Specter. Conclusion
And Chapter 2: Deseo
Visit us at our site:
Pick up books by Valjeanne Jeffers and Quinton Veal at:
Eljay’s Used Books Pittsburgh PA
The Wild Fig Lexington KY
And Nubian Bookstore Morrow GA
From the Great Traveling Round Table of Fantasy Bloggers
The Difference Between SF and Fantasy by Carole McDonnell
Science Fiction generally falls into two categories: hard or soft. Depending on the reader’s belief in his scientific aptitude or love of hardware technologies, the SF reader can explore technological, biological, physiological sciences that are emerging, yet to come, probably possible and hypothethical.
The Fantasy writer and reader roam larger territories. Sometimes those territories are far afield from modern known science, sometimes they are mental realms, sometimes spiritual arenas, sometimes past historical and cultural lands.
The science fiction reader joins the SF writer in seeing how far the mind of man can go, often learning about and wading deep into some emerging science the author or the reader share. And often the sf reader will have the sf novel in one hand, a scientific tome in the other, and be sitting in front of the computer: facts are checkable.
The fantasy reader may read her fantasy book alongside another book — if that other book deals with some lore of some lost culture. But the fantasy reader is just as happy to venture into the unknown world of the author’s mind. All the reader asks, however, is that the novelist be true to the world he or she has created.
Whether the fantasy novel deals with European vampires, Native America shapeshifters, East Indian demi-gods, European elves, alternate realities, far off planets, Earth analogues, living, dead, non-living, eternal, godly, helpless, miniscule, mammalian, oceanic, elemental, speaking, non-speaking, beings within this galaxy, across galaxies, planetary, geophysical, or plainly and simply human, the fantasy world the author creates must be held up to the collective scrutiny of its readers.
Fantasy is game-playing of a higher order of imagination than Science fiction because the SF author is bound by and exploring the ramification of rules he has found. But the fantasy author is examining larger premise of creativity. This is not to say that science fiction is not creative but while Science fiction aims to discover and seek out rules and aspects of life that is already there, the fantasy writer aims to create whole new worlds or culture, emotion, and spirit.
No wonder, then, that fantasy comes in so many forms with so many varieties. Fantasy is extreme.
Carole McDonnell holds a BA degree in Literature from SUNY Purchase and has spent most of her years surrounded by things literary. Her writings appear in various anthologies including “So Long Been Dreaming: Post-colonialism in science fiction,” edited by Nalo Hopkinson and published by Arsenal Pulp Press; Fantastic Visions III” anthology published by Fantasist Enterprises; “Jigsaw Nation” published by Spyre publications, “Griots: A Sword and Soul anthology,” edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders, “Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: writings by mature women of color,” “Fantastic Stories of the Imagination” edited by Warren Lapine and published by Wilder Publications.
Her novel, Wind Follower was published by Wildside Books. Her other works include My Life as an Onion, Seeds of Bible Study: How NOT to Study the Bible. Her collection of short stories, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction, is available on kindle and also at Lulu.com Her second novel, The Constant Tower, will be published in 2013
SciFi Versus Fantasy? by Theresa Crater
I teach a class in writing speculative fiction and often use Orson Scott Card’s book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. In it he classifies Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series as science fiction rather than fantasy. Why? Because they take place on other planets. I say hooey.
Why? Because they have all the earmarks of fantasy. Early fantasy reinvented the medieval, mostly European. It brings Celtic, Norse and Germanic mythology to life. Now writers are expanding culturally, which is all to the good, but many fantasies still take place in a predominantly agricultural world whose cities have castles, farmer’s markets and guilds of artisans. Then there are the aristocrats and rulers along with their soldiers or knights. People move about on horseback for the most part. Or sail on ships. Fantasy is pre-industrial revolution.
Many say science fiction began with Frankenstein, although it’s still got a lot of hidden alchemy and magic in it. But the text argues between the old mistaken alchemy and the new correct chemistry. Much of the science in that text looks like dark fantasy to us now, but that was the science of the day. Science fiction is the conscience of science. It looks over the shoulders of men in their laboratories and asks, “What will happen if?” What will be the moral, social and personal price humanity pays for your discovery? It’s the same question Mary Shelley asked.
Urban fantasy has complicated the picture, but the reason it’s fantasy is that it convinces us that the possibilities science tells us are not real are real after all. Faeries exist. Vampires haunt the night. But if you add aliens, then I’ll have to say we’re back to science fiction.
Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her paranormal mysteries. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill.
Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” in Tales in Firelight and Shadow and “White Moon” in Ride the Moon. Writing as Louise Ryder, she publishes women’s fiction. God in a Box returns us to the 1970s world of feminism and Eastern philosophy. Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Visit her at http://theresacrater.com.
Science Fiction and Fantasy: We All Know the Difference, Right? by Warren Rochelle
One of the first questions I ask my students in both my fantasy and science fiction lit classes is just what is the difference between these two closely related genres. After all, as Ursula Le Guin says, “Fantasy is the ancient kingdom of which science fiction is but a modern province.”
Close relations indeed, one the descendant of the other, or rather one evolving from the other, the metaphors and tropes of fantasy of sword, sorcery, the Hero and the Quest, magic, fairy kingdoms, monsters, and the rest, giving way to the metaphors and tropes of technology and the machine, of science, and other worlds and aliens.
The simplest distinction is, of course, magic and science, the impossible and the possible. Or, to cite a definition that appeared on the listserv of the SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association, whose purview is SF and fantasy), “if the story has dragons in it, it’s fantasy, but if the dragons are given an evolutionary history, it’s science fiction.” I would modify that slightly: if the story has dragons in it as one of the native fauna, it’s fantasy, but never mind that.
So, Elves, fairies, witches, wizards, magic—the impossible, fantasy. Spaceships, lasers, warp drive, aliens and mutants—the possible, science fiction.
All right. But just the other day, my individual study student this semester, Evan, turned in a blog post on Dune. First, Evan’s individual study is the writing of a science fiction novel, along with some readings and journals. I suggested Dune. After all, it is one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written. Everybody knows that, right?
Evan begged to differ: “One important thing to note about Dune is that it’s not really a science-fiction story. It’s a fantasy. It’s about a chosen prince having his kingdom stolen, then mastering the magical arts and fighting, as well as befriending the natives of his land and the super-powerful creatures that inhabit it, all to overthrow the evil emperor and reclaim his rightful place. The whole story reeks of fantasy. They have swordfights for one thing.”
Wait a minute. Many of Paul’s abilities as Kwisatz Haderach come from his genetics—he is the product of a ninety-generation breeding program, a long-awaited messiah. His prescience gets “turned on” when he takes the Water of Life, a natural by-product of the life cycle of the giant sandworm. His enhanced mental abilities are, in part, attributed to his training as a mentat, a human computer. Doesn’t that make the novel science fiction?
Not according to Evan. He argues that the novel doesn’t need to be science fiction: “The emperor’s ships could be boats on an ocean just as easily as spaceships … The sandworms are basically dragons or wyverns and Paul’s [Kwisatz Haderach] status is basically that of a wizard or a magical hero. He’s not a sci-fi hero. He doesn’t make machines, tinker, or have any real connection to technology . . .
While the story does contain loose sci-fi elements, aside from a singular instance of a small drone being used and the fact that their economy relies on large spaceships, the story is simply not sci-fi. It is science-fiction flavored fantasy.”
All right. Evan does have a point and I wasn’t able to shake his conviction—not yet anyway. If we were to have this discussion again, here is what I use to counter his argument. I would point out that Paul has and does use atomic weaponry and the spice, another sandworm by-product, is harvested by machines. A force field surrounds the family castle.
I would ask if the SF hero has to make machines or be connected to technology? Not those with psychic powers, which Paul has. But, more importantly, a primary basis of the novel, its controlling metaphor, is ecology, or interconnected biological systems—here, an entire planet. The Fremen, thanks to Liet-Kynes, and his father, are superb field ecologists, and have given over their entire culture to the mission of bringing water to their desert world.
It is here, I think, that Evan’s argument that the novel is fantasy doesn’t quite work. Yes, the relationship between the two genres is clearly discernible in his analysis of Dune, particularly in how science fiction evolved from fantasy through a reimagining of familiar metaphors and symbols and devices. Science fiction is, in many ways, the modern response to the questions and themes of fantasy.
I am not suggesting that ecology can’t be a theme in fantasy; it often is, including the idea that magic itself must be saved, conserved, and renewed, if necessary. But the world-view of Dune, ultimately, is rooted in science, the possible, not the magical, the unseen, the impossible but still the imagined,
And that, I think, might be the difference between science fiction and fantasy.
Warren Rochelle has taught English at the University of Mary Washington since 2000. His short story, “The Golden Boy” (published in The Silver Gryphon) was a Finalist for the 2004 Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Story and his novels include The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010.
He also published a critical work on Le Guin and has academic articles in various journals and essay collections. His short story, “The Boy on McGee Street,” was recently published in Queer Fish 2 (Pink Narcissus Press, 2012). Contact him at: http://warrenrochelle.com
The Difference Between Fantasy and SF is Horses by Andrea Hosth
If your characters get about on horses, you are writing fantasy. If they travel using something mechanised, then you are writing SF. Your SF can have wizards, and spaceships which fly through hand-waving. Your story can lack any form of magic whatsoever, but if the tech level has not advanced beyond the equivalent of a horse-drawn cart, it’s still fantasy.
This is almost not an exaggeration. Reader expectation is a force which can easily overcome author intention. What you write may be fantasy, science fiction or some combination of both, but your setting is what determines whether or not a story is science fiction.
Still, if I am to take a serious stab at the question, I’ll start by considering the definition that “science fiction is what could be, while fantasy is what never could be”. Of course, this is a definition which works best if you take a strict “hard science fiction” approach to SF, since a very large portion of science fiction involves magic-equivalent hand-waving science.
There are many definitions for fantasy, mostly revolving around some variation of “has magic”, but that is a definition which quickly falls down. I prefer to regard fantasy as “any story where the setting/worldbuilding is intended to be different to an accurate depiction of our own world”. Thus a historical novel (intended to be accurate) is not fantasy, but alternate history is fantasy, books with working magic are fantasy, stories set in the future are fantasy (because there is no possible way for them to be truly accurate). Hard or soft, sword and sorcery, magic realism – the crux of the fantasy genre is that something exists in the story which demonstrably cannot be located and pointed out as having existed in (the current agreed understanding of) our world.
Science fiction is thus a subset of fantasy, and the question becomes how it separates itself off from the broader genre. A quick perusal of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness shows that even the completely soft end of science fiction can still be regarded as “unambiguously science fiction” – though in this case it appears that science fiction can be science fiction purely in terms of setting, which brings us back to the horses. The TV Tropes site goes on to base science fiction firmly in the realm of a ‘what if’ story, and makes the crux of the story a ‘technological difference’.
So, science fiction is a story where there is an intentional difference to our world where the crux of the tale depends on a difference in technology/science. Even if the science is not rigorous, and cannot by any means be considered hard science fiction, it is still science fiction if the core of the story is “what if this this technology…”.
Stories which have a scientific setting, but which are not interested in that setting – where the technology is of no import to the tale but is merely a fancy dress which could be exchanged for other fantastic clothing – could perhaps be termed science fantasy. And the flip side – stories with horses and magic where the crux of the story is a technological question?
I recently discussed the question of science fiction vs fantasy in my own novels, pointing out that the magic-rich Champion of the Rose has at its core a technological question – it’s a “genetic manipulation gone wrong” story in a fantasy setting. I suppose this may be termed “fantastic science”, since it’s using a magical means to attain a scientific action.
But, on the whole, my definition is my definition. Like so many other genre questions, it becomes an “I know if when I read it” answer, with every individual’s answer having some slight variance, and most readers interested in specific sub-genres rather than the whole breadth and depth of fantasy or science fiction.
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here writing about a mechanical horse.
Vampires or Space Helmets…Fantasy or Science Fiction? by Valjeanne Jeffers
Technology and fantasy: put them together and you have a delicious synergy that’s not quite SF, not quite fantasy. Some of my favorite authors have skirted the divider between fantasy and science fiction. Octavia Butler, for example, while she is almost always described as a science fiction author blended the two quite brilliantly in books like Wild Seed
and Clay’s Ark. Nalo Hopkinson also combined them with sheer genius in her novels Brown Girl in The Ring
and Midnight Robber.
The existence of technology in fantasy often results in the co-existence of “science and sorcery,” as Charles Saunders (creator of Sword and Soul) has described my Immortal series. In my novels you have werewolves and vampires—totally in control of their preternatural abilities and using said abilities to protect their universe; but still such characters are most often found in fantasy or horror genres. Yet the Immortal series also has time travel, aliens… and technology to support its futuristic setting. Such as in the excerpt from Immortal book 1:
Karla walked across the wooden floor of her living area into a kitchenette. A press of her fingers on the first sphere of a triangular pod started coffee brewing.
She filled a cup with chicory, walked back into the living area and pushed the second button on her remote, activating a blue panel beside the window. Jazz music filled the apartment. Like her bedroom console the unit kept time, transmitted holographic images and played tapes. Using the third button, she opened the curtains.
Thus, the Immortal novels have been described as both fantasy and science fiction novels. Use a little science and one still can be considered a Fantasy writer. Use a bit more and you’ve inched into the science fiction genre. An excerpt from Colony: A Space Opera (my novel in progress) illustrates this point:
She was born 20 years after Planet Earth’s decline. The same year IST began building the probes: lightweight spacecrafts that humans could live in for years, if need be, and that moved fast enough to break the sound barrier—traveling millions of miles within weeks.
In 2065, global warning had accelerated. The final stage in Earth’s destruction had begun. Temperatures of 150 degrees scorched the planet. Tidal waves, monsoons and cyclones tore it apart. Those who could afford it moved underground. Food became the world’s most valued resource. The rest were herded under the domes.
Scientists scurried to genetically reproduce fruits and vegetables—with horrible side effects. Money still ruled the world. But money was gradually becoming worthless. That’s when the government saw the writing on the wall and created IST and the probes: spacecrafts designed for one purpose, to seek out planets capable of sustaining human life.
When a writer uses technology in fantasy, the lines between the genres are even more gloriously buried. What may be described as science fiction by one reader/writer can just as easily be characterized as fantasy by the next. The only real rule here is to make one’s technology believable; credible; plausible. Although it doesn’t yet exist—in a kind kind of literary sleight of hand.
Pulling this off, just gives me one more reason to absolutely love speculative fiction…even if no will ever be able to figure out whether I’m a science fiction or fantasy writer. I think I prefer it that way.
Valjeanne is the author of the Immortal series, The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books I and II) and several short works of fiction.
Her fiction has appeared in Steamfunk!, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Possibilties, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear (in press). She works as an editor for Mocha Memoirs Press and is also co-owner of Q and V Affordable editing.
Preview or purchase her novels at: http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com