Rumors emerge that Catherine Shahrazad, possibly the oldest person in
the galaxy, has returned from the fringes and has been seen in
Federation space. Wherever she goes, her name and her history cause
civil unrest, riots and worse. The Federation Board doesn’t want her
there. Neither do the leaders of Cadfael College, the educators and
moralists of the galaxy. No one pays any attention to the reticent
navigator called Bedivere X, who pilots her ship better than she does. The truth about Bedivere threatens the entire Federation. His feelings for Cat might just save everyone.
"Je pense, donc je suis." -René Descartes
One of my favorite aspects of science fiction is the questions it makes us ask about ourselves and society. Faring Soul intertwines questions with the romance. What does it mean to love another, and what does that do for our identities? Is love what makes families, societies, religions? I enjoy when a book makes me think about these possibilities and how their underlying principles may apply to us today.
Cooper-Posey explores love and consciousness (not to mention aging, parenting, and bigotry) with enigmatic and interesting characters: they are questing for answers as much as I am. Their questions are different because they have been shaped by societies very different from my own. Catherine's mission during the story may seem like a small favor against a big backdrop, but its repercussions will send ripples through states, churches, and corporations across the universe.
Catherine and Bedivere get a Happy For Now, as Faring Soul is first in a series called Interspace Origins. Their story will be continued in Varkan's Rise and Cat and Company.
When I was still teaching world history, each semester I
required my students to conduct original research on a topic of their choice
for a short paper. For most of my students, this was the first time they had to
locate a primary source or track down a reliable secondary source by a professional
in an academic field related to their thesis topic (e.g., historian,
Each semester, students asked me how they were supposed to get started on their research. In an age
where college students have grown up accessing information and misinformation
from the Internet, my forbidding them from using websites for their secondary
source proved particularly challenging for them.
As a result, I developed a fairly easy way for my students
to begin their journeys as amateur historians. Given that science-fiction and
fantasy writers often use history and mythology to build their fictional
worlds, this introduction to conducting historical research may be beneficial
to my fellow authors as well.
In order to illustrate how we will conduct our
beginner’s-guide-to-historical-research, I’ll use an example from the Classical
world. Greek history and mythology holds a particular appeal to writers of all
genres, so we’ll build our fictional world around the culture of the Spartans.
As an initial caveat, all of this advice supposes that your
subject matter is at least somewhat
well-known and established as a matter of historical interest.
1.Love it or hate it, Amazon offers the widest
selection of online books I’ve found, so using their search engine will return numerous
sources that we can begin to plow through.
I entered “Spartan culture” as my
search term, which produced 375 titles in books. The top two choices are The Spartans: The World of the
Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece by Paul Cartledge and Spartans: a New History by Nigel M. Kennell.
First: check the publication date.
Books published over twenty years ago may be outdated as newer research can and
often does change the way historians think and write about a particular
subject. Both of our books are recent.
Second: click on the author’s name.
Paul Cartledge’s author page tells me he is a professor of Greek culture at
Cambridge. That’s a good sign. Let’s Google him.
a.Why? Because having a PhD and working at a
university – even a distinguished one – doesn’t make a particular person or
book a reputable authority nor does it make their research and book a reliable
source of information. Example: Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners earned him widespread criticism from
the historical community, yet it became a New
York Times bestseller. Unfortunately, people outside of the profession had
no way of knowing the numerous problems associated with Goldhagen’s thesis and
b.A Google search of Paul Cartledge doesn’t reveal
any notable criticisms.
c.Using your public library’s database (in the
U.S.), you can now access numerous scholarly (peer reviewed) articles. Search
for the particular book and author and see how the historical community
received this work. My search yielded peer reviews that are favorable, and
highlight a particular issue with primary sources we’ll address below.
2.We now have a good secondary source that we can
begin reading to understand the world of the Spartans. It’s a good idea to
repeat the above process to find several secondary sources, and always resist the temptation to use a
website for your information (there are exceptions – particularly in the case
of accessing primary sources).
3.Primary sources are those sources that offer us
firsthand accounts of a particular event or otherwise provide contemporary
information from the time period. Examples are journal entries, court records,
wills and other legal documents, plays and poems, etc.
How necessary is it for a
science-fiction author to access and interpret primary sources? In my opinion,
not very. In fact, it may do more harm than good. In our example, the Spartans
have very few primary sources written from their
perspective: much of what we know about them comes from the Athenians, and historians
have to be careful when interpreting those sources as there is an obvious bias
(the Spartans and Athenians were constant rivals).
If you would like to read some
primary sources from your chosen culture, check the bibliography of the
secondary sources you’ve selected. Historians will list the primary sources
they’ve used in their own research and this is the easiest way to find sources
for your own subject. Older writings that are not copyrighted are frequently
available on university websites. In the case of the Spartans, we can find
Herodotus’s and Plutarch’s accounts of the Battle of Thermopylae from numerous
universities. Since the translation of primary sources is an important factor
in their reliability, it’s a good idea to stick to university or library
Why is it so important to research the influence of our
fictional worlds before using it in our novels?
Because there are plenty of readers who will notice the similarities,
and if they notice the source of the influence, they will most likely know
whether or not we portrayed our fictional world in a way that is based on
actual history or popular misconceptions about that history. Using
history and mythology can be interesting ways for the science-fiction writer to
offer social commentary or just draw parallels from an imaginary world to our
own. And now that you have a basic guide to getting started on historical
research for the science-fiction writer, I hope that you’ll be inspired to draw
on our past experiences and beliefs for your next novel.
S.M. Schmitz has an M.A. in modern European history and is a
retired world history instructor. Her novels are infused with the same humorous
sarcasm that she employed frequently in the classroom. As a native of
Louisiana, she sets many of her scenes here, and like Dietrich in her Resurrected trilogy, she is also
convinced Louisiana has been cursed with mosquitoes much like Biblical Egypt
with its locusts.
Her prior novels include the Resurrectedtrilogy, which are science-fiction romances, The Immortals series, which are
heavily influenced by Middle Eastern mythology and world history, The Golden Eagle, a dystopian
romantic suspense, and Dreamwalkers, a paranormal psychological suspense.
When a mysterious spaceship appears above Cambria, Zoe
remains skeptical that it’s anything but an elaborate hoax. By the time the
first spaceship is joined by two others, Zoe reluctantly admits that Earth has
been invaded, even though it’s a pretty lame invasion: the aliens look
remarkably human and keep to themselves. From what humans are able to learn
about them, they seem incredibly arrogant and boring anyway.
After meeting Peyton, one of Earth’s newest residents, Zoe
feels an immediate attraction to him although she is reluctant to become
involved with someone who isn’t even human. But she soon discovers that these
aliens are far more dangerous than they’ve led everyone to believe, and the
secrets they are hiding may signal the destruction of her entire planet.
A century after a
devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon
its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. Fishermen tell
tales of giant trolls guarding the land and of seductive witches who
steal men’s hearts. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not
magic—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a
community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.
years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister
Källa took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on the airship Phatéon,
flying from port to port in search of her sister and longing to return
home...but that home is threatened when expedition leader David
Kentewess comes aboard.
Determined to solve the mystery
of his own origin, David will stop at nothing to expose Annika’s
secrets. But when disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on
a glacier and pursued by a madman, their very survival depends on
keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam...
The world of the Iron Seas is original and fully realized. David and Annika are, as well: she's a woman of color from Iceland (yes, there's a reason) with great mechanical acumen, and he's a cyborg (due to an accident) who chases volcanoes. Their missions collide aboard an airship, and they find they have an intense chemistry and friendship that develops organically. Although Annika may want to help David for personal reasons, she cannot endanger her people further.
Riveted is a finely crafted story with tight plotting, convincing action, and memorable characters that made its way onto my keeper shelf years ago. It touches my heart every time I reread it.