“The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?”
Ursula K. LeGuin
“The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?”
Ursula K. LeGuin
The past is another country – and it doesn’t issue passports.
“I would go on writing even if I know I would not be published.”
—John Le Carré
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams
There’s going to be another anthology of science fiction romance with cute, helpful and/or valiant pets! The authors in Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 are S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and me.
When I write speculative fiction, I do a lot of world-building. I imagine a fictional world in sufficient detail and logically consistent enough to potentially exist—and sound plausible to knowledgeable readers. (I have to do the same thing with the contours of the human heart; our shared, different-but-alike internal landscapes must be recreated in a way that always rings true.)
When building worlds, for my jumping-off place I start with the world we all share: the beautiful blue oasis we sometimes call Earth, sometimes call Terra—and always call “home.”
The image below shows a part of the world familiar to transatlantic airline pilots. You can spot the lights of Goose Bay, where an airport large enough to land an airliner serves as a sort of emergency “what-if” option for flight planning.
In the lower right portion of the image you see the white ring that marks the perimeter of the Manicouagan Crater, a meteor crater fully 70 kilometers in diameter. In wintertime it’s covered with frozen water, making it so striking and so readily visible even from orbit.
And the aurora borealis crowns the Earth with fire.
Auroras figure into my Aeon’s Legacy series – in the novel Hurricane Moon, in which an aurora on the colony world Green is injected with the ashes of dead starfarers, adding colors to create a luminous memorial; and in Star Crossing, in which the auroras of Green are transformed into a generator for a radio message across the stars.
And a meteor crater in Canada figures significantly into my novelette “The Vigilant Ones.”
This photo, courtesy NASA, was taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station on February 3, 2012.
This excellent book adroitly weaves together the scientific understanding of tides, the role of tides in history and literature, and the author’s own encounters with tides. And Aldersey-Williams writes so well that his meticulous account of spending a solid day on bit of shoreline near his home in England, watching the tide go and come, is page-turningly interesting!
THE TIDE was published by Viking in 2016.
Among the interesting scientific angles is that Earth’s tides likely had much to do with the evolution of life on Earth, including stabilizing the tilt of the Earth’s axis, which limited evolved life’s exposure to climatic extremes. In looking for life on other worlds, we may need to focus on exoplanets with moons. This idea played into my science fiction novel Hurricane Moon, in which a star colonization mission seeks (and at first fails to find) a world with a large moon.
THE TIDE starts with an epigram that quoted John Steinbeck in The Log of the Sea of Cortez: “It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.”
I first encountered the concept of pets going into space in Andre Norton’s Solar Queen series, where the captain of the ship kept a very unpleasant blue, six-legged toad-parrot in a cage in his quarters and the Cargo Master had a tiger striped tom cat. Of course Ms. Norton also wrote many other science fiction stories where animals were featured, often as enhanced telepathic companions. Beast Master is one of the best. Catseye, which was actually the first Andre Norton book I ever read, has cats and other animals but they weren’t going into space – they were already on an alien planet. The crew of the Solar Queen, however, had their pets on board the ship.
Pair this with all the research I did into the sinking of the Titanic a few years ago, including the details of all the dogs on board (who sadly perished). I loosely based my novel Wreck of the Nebula Dream on the Titanic, but set in the far future on an interstellar liner.
So I was primed to write my own story with pets in space when Pauline Baird Jones and I first started discussing the possibility of putting together an anthology with this concept as the central theme. I’m a cat person, so of course Owen Embersson, the cargo master on my ship, has a cat named Moby, and I wanted to include an alien pet of unknown origin, so I took the ‘character ‘ of Midorri from my book Star Cruise: Outbreak and left her on the ship after the adventure in Outbreak concluded. Midorri is kind of a six legged, green puffball, equipped with a tail to rival a red tailed panda (my favorite Earthly animal after cats). And she purrs. Moby and Midorri pretty much have the run of the ship, which is useful to Owen as he attempts to watch over his stowaway and later to rescue her from the very bad guys.
I don’t think my cats Jake and Keanu would be all that effective in rescuing me and despite their efforts to brainwash me into feeding them more often, we have no telepathic link. I can’t imagine not having them to keep me company though, so it makes sense to me that when humanity moves out into the galaxy, we’ll take pets with us and find new pets to love as well.
Here’s a short excerpt from near the start of “Stowaway” as Owen Embersson knocks off work for the day:
Stepping onto the echoing deck, he called for Moby. She spent most of her evenings hunting vermin lurking among the monstrous crates and containers, but she usually passed the first part of the evening in his cabin, eating the incredibly expensive cat food he had the ship’s AI keep in stock. Not much else to spend his salary on. “Come on, cat, I want my dinner even if you don’t,” he said to the elegant vision in white fur who trotted from the murky recesses of the deck. How she stayed clean when she spent her days prowling the cargo deck, he’d never know.
Purring, she came to his steel-tipped work shoes but evaded his effort to pick her up, moving just out of range the way felines did, as if cats could teleport. Moby scampered toward the towering stacks of cargo then turned. Seeing he’d failed to chase her, she sat, tail twitching, head tilted, eyeing him.
“What‘s the matter with you? I’m not in the mood to throw cat toys and retrieve them right now.” Embersson headed toward the gravlift. Moby regarded the entire ship as her territory and could find his cabin for her dinner when she was hungry.
In the next minute, he nearly tripped as she rubbed his ankles, nipping at one in passing. Swearing, he caught himself with a hand to the bulkhead. “What in the seven hells is wrong with you tonight? Giving me a concussion won’t get you fed.”
Moby yowled at him and ran toward the stacked cargo again.
Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Three time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “City On the Edge of Forever.”
Visit Veronica’s Blog to learn more about her books and her USAT HEA column.
I adore dogs and cats, and I feature them in many of my books. Both rescue pets and show pets have brought joy to my life. So it was a thrill when Erin, one of my readers, wrote to tell me that she planned to name a newborn Collie puppy “Banzai” after the heroine in my action romance The Legend of Banzai Maguire. She loved the story, but more than that, there was something that really struck her about the book and the whole 2176 series.
It turns out Erin’s dad was a Marine Corps “Gunny” (the highest non-commissioned officer rank). She was always so proud of him and also her brother, who was a captain in the Air Force (like I was). Erin wanted to join the military herself, but life intervened. But the great thing about books as we all know is that they let you live vicariously through the characters. While reading the 2176 series, she was flying right along with Captain Bree “Banzai” Maguire in the cockpit of a fighter jet.
Back in 2007, Erin and her husband showed Vita, Banzai’s mother, at Westminster (think: the Olympics of dog shows in the USA). At the time, Erin’s favorite book was The Legend of Banzai
Maguire. She planned to breed Vita and told me that she hoped to have a good female in that litter to name after Banzai. Well, not only did Erin get a good puppy, she got a great one.
From the beginning Banzai was special. She started winning right away, like a great athlete who is undefeated. I always looked forward to the updates Erin emailed me. It was amazing that after only a couple of years Banzai was the #1 female Smooth Collie in the country, living up to the female hero after which she was named. “WHAT A THRILL ride she has been!” Erin says. And for me, too (!!!), as the author who penned the story that inspired Erin to name this incredible dog after a character in my book.
Erin says, “I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of her. There will NEVER be another like her.” No, there won’t be. BIS/BISS Gold Grand Champion Tir Na N’ Og The Legend Of Banzai Maguire, aka “Banzai” is one of a kind, just like her namesake, Bree “Banzai” Maguire.
Have any of you ever named pets after characters in books? I love the idea. Naming your pets is definitely an art. It has to be just the right one. Often it’s not easy. We named our two-year old Border Collie “Skye” only after trying out Harriet, Jamie, and Casey. We worried she thought her name was “No”. Skye was a very naughty puppy, haha. But that is another story for another time…
Here’s an excerpt (in the dog’s point of view!) of that naming process from Stray, when the hero, Lt. Lukas Frank, comes up with a great name:
“There’ll be no getting rid of him now, Sir. You’re gonna have to name him. How about Kabob? We can call him Bobby.”
“Kabob? What the f—?” The Tall One sounded unhappy.
He cowered all over again, tucking his tail.
“Because the Baréshtis like to eat street dogs—”
“That’ll be all, Staff Sergeant.” The Tall One turned back to study him. “A backfire sent you running—straight to me. I could call you Backfire…” Then he shook his head. “Nope. Doesn’t fit. It was more like a double bang. A bang, bang.” A hand ruffled his fur. “That’s it. Bang-Bang. A good name. Come on, boy. You’ve just been recruited to be an Interplanetary Marine. Bezos Station could use a few good dogs.” The Tall One hoisted Bang-Bang high off the ground into his arms. “But first, dinner and a bath. Definitely a bath.”
Thank you for having me on your blog! I always enjoy chatting about pets and books, so to be able to do both? A win/win.
Jumbo jet pilot Susan Grant is a NY Times bestselling and RITA Award-Winning author of science fiction, time travel, and paranormal romance featuring strong women and honorable men. Visit her Website to find out more about Susan and her books.
The world for my Pets in Space story took a turn after I began writing it, looping back around to one of my favorite and most beloved stories: Gracie’s Touch: Zion Warriors Book 1. This story actually begins five years before the Alluthan invasion. Gracie actually makes a cameo appearance in the story.
One of the things I love about the story is that life can be serendipitous. In this case, it is something that happens in the Zion world that causes the Alluthans to end up on Earth, starting a chain of events that will change Gracie’s life forever. Seeing Gracie again also showed more of her character and life before the invasion. I have plans for four prequel books in which we will see Gracie as she grows up.
The story is set between the alien star system where the Zion and many other species live and Earth. Matrix and K-Nine are from the Zion home world, although K-Nine’s DNA is a mixture between two different canine/wolf species. They are part of an elite military unit where the experimentation of cyborg technology is in its infancy. When a new, genetically engineered creature is developed and escapes, they are sent out after it. This starts a chain of events that will have widespread consequences.
The second thing I love about the story is the challenge of seeing the world from a different point in time. The story is set just as the Confederation is being formed. The Zion Warriors have always been a powerful species, but they are having to learn to get along with the other species. There will be a lot of growing pains that will both help and hold back the worlds set in this area before they can advance. We will also discover the origins of the Alluthans and what happens to them.
The third thing is creating a new series of incredible characters that make me hungry for more. I love it when I’m writing and see how the worlds tie together. I also enjoy seeing old characters in a different light. Each character – each series – holds a new, magical world that is just waiting to be explored. I’m really excited to have been given that opportunity in Pets in Space.
Excerpt from “A Mate for Matrix”
At the sound of nails on the tile, Jana frantically glanced over her shoulder. Her eyes widened when she saw that the massive dog was now standing just a foot from where she was lying. The wolf-dog watched her with intense, gray eyes filled with curiosity. Rolling over and sitting up, she scooped Butter into her arms and scooted back along the shiny floor. She stopped when she felt her back hit the door frame behind her. Her gaze remained focused on the unusual dark gray eyes of the dog.
“Good… Good boy,” Jana whispered. She’d leaned just far enough to the side to confirm the sex of the dog before straightening. “Please… Please don’t eat us.”
Jana jumped when the dog sneezed and shook his head. He glanced over his shoulder toward the cabinet. Her gaze followed his and she released a silent prayer for Honeybun and Biscuit to remain under it. That thought died when the dog – wolf – whatever it was, turned his attention back to her. Jana smothered a cry when he stepped closer and pressed his nose to her cheek.
“Please… Good boy,” she choked out in a trembling voice, her eyes closing as she turned her head away. “Don’t eat us. We would taste really, really bad.”
“Meow,” Butter agreed.
S.E. Smith is a New York Times, USA TODAY, International, and Award-Winning Bestselling author of science fiction, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary works for adults, young adults, and children. She enjoys writing a wide variety of genres that pull her readers into worlds that take them away.
Click here for your copy of Pets in Space!