Thursday, June 23, 2022

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for June 24, 2022



It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and the many other iterations of Star Trek, Ms. Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Wars in general, The Lazarus Project, The Time Traveler's Wife, RRR, The Black Phone, Halo, season 3 of For All Mankind, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Lightyear, Jurassic World: Dominion and Jurassic Park/World in general, Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe and much more.

Speculative fiction in general:

 
Film and TV: 
Comments on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and the many other iterations of Star Trek
 
Comments on Ms. Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general (spoilers): 
 
Comments on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Wars in general (spoilers): 
 
Comments on The Time Traveler's Wife:
Comments on Halo
 
Comments on Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
 
Comments on season 3 of For All Mankind
 
Comments on Jurassic World: Dominion and Jurassic Park in general: 
 
Comments on The Black Phone
 
Comments on Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe
 
Awards:
 
Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:
 
Classics reviews:
 
 
Con and event reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:
 
Trailers and videos:

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Interview with O.E. Tearmann, author of Deuces are Wild



Today it gives the Speculative Fiction Showcase great pleasure to interview O.E. Tearmann, whose novel Deuces are Wild has its debut on July 16 from Amphibian Press.

Deuces are Wild is the sixth book in your Aces High, Jokers Wild series. What can you tell us about the series?
It's 2155, and seven corporations call the shots on the land that was the United States of America. Democracy is dead. The Corporations run the City Grids for a profit and own their workers body and soul. And freedom? That’s just a word in the news vids.

But there are people fighting for a change. 

There’s a unit in the resistance, nicknamed the Wildcards. Officially Democratic State Force Base 1407, the Wildcards are fighters in the war to bring democracy back. They're everything the Corporations discard and despise: dreamers and fighters, punks and freaks and geeks who won't be told what to be or who to love. They've come up every walk of life to become the best unit the Democratic State Force has, and the family every one of them needs. And they are taking the Corps down, one day at a time.

Strap in for a series that's been called 'Firefly for the cyberpunk genre'. 

Hang on tight.

The series is set in this world, in the future. Is it a dystopian future? Could it be a real future for the USA?

This version of the USA is the version I’m afraid of: the one where the pettiness and polarization just keeps getting worse in Congress until the government shuts down for good. The one where a couple big corporations swoop in and tell their workers ‘hey, we’ll take care of you. Just sign these contracts’ and end up owning their workforce. The one where paternalistic social structures and permissive economic structures boil together in a toxic stew, and everyday people are kindling on the fire.

Who are the Wildcards and the Democratic State Force? What role do they play?
The Democratic State Force evolved out of the small section of the American Army that said ‘no, we swore an oath’ when the American government dissolved and the other 90% of the armed forces signed on with EagleCorp Security Services Inc. Their mission is to reinstate functioning democracy in the former United States, a mission they’ve been trying to fulfil for three generations. For the curious, their full organisational layout can be seen at https://www.oetearmann.com/force-organization, which I put out there to keep it clear in my own head.
Twenty-five years before Book 1, a young Commander named Paul Taylor was given clearance to found and run an experimental reconnaissance base along a set of principles designed to foster community, mental wellbeing, and close ties. The Force wanted to see if a base run this way would a) have higher innovation and success rates and b) fewer suicide, mental health, and disciplinary issues.
That base became Unit 1407, call handle: the Wildcards. And the experiment worked. The Wildcards play by their own rules, and they’re one of the most successful bases in the Force.

The series has been hailed as “Firefly for the Dystopian genre”. What does that mean to you?
For me, being told ‘your book is like Firefly’ means ‘your book shows a strong family without giving up on great action, and it’s tons of fun!’ For me, this accolade is an honor and also a very apt description. I'm writing a found family that has come together from all walks of life. All of them have their challenges. But when they stand together, they can give their demons a smirk and the finger. They work together with scrappy resolve, fighting for a world where they're seen as human beings and citizens rather than tools and consumers.

The protagonist in the first books, Aidan Headly, is a trans man. Tell us why it’s important for you to represent LGBTQIA characters throughout the story.

I don't know if it's important for me, so much as it is real for me to put LGBTQIA characters on the page. I'm reflecting the people I know in the stories I tell, and the kinds of communities I'm a part of: rag-tag communities of folks who've banded together to take care of each other and protect one another from the sharp edges of this world. I'm showcasing the strength that I see in my community: the strength of marginalized folks and minority folks. I do think it’s important for the readers to see these characters represented, though. I’ve been told by readers that it was really important for them to see people like them not just being accepted, but being the hero.


How important is a character-driven narrative to you, alongside the broader themes of community and action?
I’ve read both plot-driven works and character-driven narratives. Plot-driven stories are the audiobooks I put on in the background when I’m doing the dishes or the paperwork. I don’t have to really get emotionally involved in the situations. That makes for a pleasant whodunit, but it isn’t what I want to write. For me, the point of the story is the people in it. I write people going through difficult things, and I write a community. If the book isn’t about people going through tough things and showing us, the readers, how it’s done, then to me it’s nothing but background music.
Aside from the philosophy of the storytelling, I’m functionally just a person who likes to make friends with my characters before I write them. I usually draw a character before I write them regularly; it helps me solidify them in my mind. If you want a taste of this, check out the crew roster page at https://www.oetearmann.com/personnel-page

The Wildcards have banded together to oppose an oppressive regime. As the series progresses, to what extent do they and other characters develop into a found family?
As each character comes into their own, they make the unit that much more successful. As the unit gains more ground, they do that much more to help the overall cause: the return of democracy to America. And that, on the highest level, is the story I want to tell. But on a more intimate level, I’m telling a story of a family. One of the central themes in the Aces High, Jokers Wild series is family: a positive, healthy found family taking care of each other in spite of the darkness of the world. Our characters serve our readers by showcasing the radical acceptance and collaboration of many people across many genders, ethnicities, and personal histories. We show characters from privileged backgrounds using their advantages for good and acting in empathy, and we show characters from marginalized backgrounds being supported and starting to reach their fullest potential as they thrive. The Wildcards are a bunch of misfits, and as an author I wanted to show these kinds of people finding acceptance, community, and a home that welcomes them as who they are. Since much of the audience for my work is from various marginalized backgrounds, I see this as a way to support my readers; I’m reminding them that yes, they can find a place where they’ll belong and be supported. There is a tribe out there for them. I want them to know that.

Why is the idea of found family significant to you and how has it emerged to become a key theme in progressive SFF?
In terms of evolution, cooperation and community is basically what made us human. A human on their own is, basically, a pretty smart ape. But a bunch of humans working together? They’re a culture. They’re learning from the old, helping the sick and teaching the young. They’re giving their kids a head start and showing them the ropes. They’re thriving. And yet we Americans keep telling stories of lone heroes, maybe with a sidekick, or of one protagonist with a bunch of friends who serve as the unimportant supporting cast. Even our economic theories are based on Economic Man: perfectly rational, perfectly self-interested, perfectly alone. Why are we telling stories this way?

It’s definitely easier to tell a story if you have one character alone, I’ll say that. It’s easier to focus on a single character and disregard the patterns of community, kin, and climate they’re embedded in. But in the end, it doesn’t serve us. We don’t need more heroes. We need more communities working together, sorting out interpersonal problems, and showing us that healthy ways of living and working together are out there. We need more stories that show us the connections between people, and between the people in them and everything around them. Because this myth of the Lone Hero Ruggedly Struggling and the myth of Homo Economicus In The Free Market, where he acts in his own best interest? Those myths are killing us.

Under the pen name of O.E. Tearmann, I’m telling a new kind of story. We, as a society, desperately need that now. And I’ve found other authors doing the same: Kim Stanley Robinson and Susan Kaye Quinn, Riviera Sun and Starhawk, the genres of Solarpunk and Noblebright. I think this is the first step in a new storytelling trend: one that reminds us we’re not just individuals. We’re members of communities. This is a truth I’ve seen in my life, and I want to reflect it in writing. And so I write this found family full of people who get to participate in community life in ways they never could have imagined. Aidan, a trans man who grew up lonely and abused, has ended up uncle and co-parent to five youngsters growing up on the base he commands. His husband Kevin acts as the kids’ main teacher. Their engineer, Janice, teaches plant science and shop class by working with the kids on the base food garden and climate-maintenance equipment. When we work together, it’s not just one of us who does better. It’s all of us. 


To what extent has our dystopian present influenced your desire to write a different form of SF?

The series I write began as a project in 2016. The political changes of those days were—not to put too fine a point on it—appalling. Watching the norms and courtesies of our political system buckle one by one under the strain was miserable. I watched as the communities I’m part of—artists, writers, young folks living in the heart of Denver’s Downtown, and LGBT folx— went through a cycle of despair, anger and nihilism. And I didn’t know what to do. 

During this time, I saw a lot of hopeful people end up in despair and, in some cases, turn cynical. ‘Everything’s a mess and nothing can fix it’, is still a common refrain. I heard an awful lot of defeated ‘we’re screwed’ talk. It pissed me off to the point where I said, ‘fine, let’s start from ‘we’re screwed’. Let’s write something that starts at the nadir of what our society could become. And then let’s write our way out of the dark, to show people how it’s done.”

And so I started doing it. I wrote about the kind of America I’m afraid of. I put my characters in it. I took all those cyberpunk vibes I’d inherited as a kid born in the 80s, and I intentionally subverted them. My characters walk through neon-lit sensory overloads of streets that scream advertisements at passers by. Their community has meditation techniques used to keep your equilibrium. They live in a country owned by seven corporations. They fight to bring back democracy. Their society assigns every person a social credit score to rank what resources they’re allowed access to. My characters subvert that and give out food, medicine, and help for free. The general society treats all workers as disposable. My characters say that every person is important, and with a little help, every person can do great things. I show my characters handling events with mutual support, community cooperation, and resolve. I wrote this to show that it can be done. Right now, people need to see that. If they see it enough in fiction, they can believe it in life.

As the series progresses, what themes come to the fore? Has what you write changed in response to current events?
Well, I’ve definitely yelled ‘stop stealing the plots!’ at the news a few times. I wrote the first draft of this series all in one go between 2016 and 2018, and it is truly disturbing how many things I worked with as frightening scenarios have become real news stories between draft 1 and publication. My friends have started joking ‘you’re going to start writing happy stuff soon so it gets better, right?’
But I think these days have put a sharper edge on my writing: there’s a lot more focus on community action, solidarity, and systemic change. What started as a nebulous ‘what if  the people rise up to do something good?’ idea has solidified through my reading of works like Srdja Popovic’s Blueprint For Revolution, Jeremy Rifkin’s The Green New Deal, Boyd’s Beautiful Trouble, the works of Riviera Sun and the Ruckus Society. I’ve done a lot of reading on the height of unions in the 1920s, and what pushed them to stand up back then.
Let me be clear: when I say ‘revolution’, I don’t mean ‘violent uprising’. One of the most important books I’ve read is ‘Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict’ by Erica Chenoweth. I don’t mean blood on the pavement when I say revolution. I mean a concerted decision by the community that no, this isn’t how we want to live. And we’re going to change it.
That is the main theme and the arc of this series, really: from the intensely personal ‘I can change, I can help, I can do something good’ of Book 1, we move on to ‘we can change, we can do something great, when we stand together’ as the series progresses, and by the end the message of the series is ‘if we choose to stand together, all of us, as equals, there isn’t anything we can’t do.’

Why is the idea of hope important in a dystopian narrative?
As things have gotten darker in the  real world, I’ve written fiction faster. The people in these stories are  up against incredible odds: entrenched power and feral climate, cruel storms and bitter losses. But every day, they resolve to keep trying. And so can we. 

I set out to write hope in the face of difficult times, because this is what people need to know: even in the darkest of futures, we everyday people can still take care of each other, hang onto each other, and do something about the state of things. This is the story we need to tell today. It is the story that will get us through tomorrow.


How do you work on the different instalments in the series and to what extent can they be read as stand-alone novels?
            Books 1 and 2 can definitely be read on their own, and you could probably get away with reading 3 and 4 as stand-alones. But the point of the series is to form an arc, so I’d recommend reading them together.
            As for how I work on them, I’d say I’m more of a quilter than a writer sometimes: I look back through those first drafts, pick out pieces and say ‘yeah, this can fit, I need to stitch it in over here’. Over the course of about two months, I cobble together something that holds. I go over it and embellish it. Once I’m happy with it, I send it through a round of beta-reading, followed by a round of sensitivity reading. Finally, it goes through a few expert readers so that I never make a tech mistake that makes readers yell ‘that’s not how it works!’ After that, it’s off to the publisher.

What is the significance of the recurring theme of card games, chance and luck - or fate?

I can sum that up with a single phrase: ‘Fate deals the cards. But it’s up to us how we play the hand.’

Will there be another book in the series? How do you see it developing?

We’re currently cleaning up Book 7 in the series as Book 6 gets ready for publication. There will be 8 books in this series, showcasing the reclaiming of human dignity and human rights in America. Afterwards, there will be a YA series following the next generation growing up in a healing world.

What SFF writers do you enjoy and what would you recommend?

  • Kim Stanley Robinson

  • Catherynne Valente

  • Rem Wigmore

  • Becky Chambers

  • Susan Kaye Quinn

  • Emma Bull

  • C.B. Lewis

  • Aliette De Bodard

  • Michael G. Williams


Preorder Deuces are Wild



About O.E. Tearmann:




O.E. Tearmann (they/them) is the author of the Aces High, Jokers Wild series. Their books include strong themes of diversity and found family, providing a surprisingly hopeful take on a dystopian future. Bringing their own experiences as a marginalized author together with flawed but genuine characters, Tearmann’s work has been described as “Firefly for the dystopian genre.” Publisher’s Weekly called The Hands We’re Given  “a lovely paean to the healing power of respectful personal connections among comrades, friends, and lovers.”

Tearmann lives in Colorado with two cats, their partner, and the belief that individuals can make humanity better through small actions. They are a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, the Colorado Resistance Writers and the Queer Scifi group. In their spare time, they teach workshops about writing GLTBQ characters, speak and plant gardens to encourage sustainable agricultural practices, and play too many video games. Find out more about them at https://oetearmann.com


Follow O.E. Tearmann on social media: 


Facebook: @WildCards | Twitter: @ETearmann | Instagram: @O.E.Tearmann



Sunday, June 19, 2022

Simultaneous Times Podcast Episode 52, featuring "Emotion XXXX" by Ai Jiang and "Last Witness" by Ricardo Victoria

 

Episode 51 of the Simultaneous Times podcast is now available, featuring stories by Ai Jiang and Ricardo Victoria. Simultaneous Times is a science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books, a science fiction bookstore in Joshua Tree, California.
 
The stories featured in this episode are: 

Emotion: XXXX - by Ai Jiang - https://aijiangauthor.wordpress.com/ -
music by Phog Masheeen - https://phogmasheeen.com/ -
read by Jean-Paul Garnier  -

Last Witness - by Ricardo Victoria - https://ricardovictoriau.com/ -
music by Patrick Urn - https://morlox.bandcamp.com/ -
read by Jean-Paul Garnier -

theme music by Dain Luscombe
 
 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for June 17, 2022



It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and the many other iterations of Star Trek, Ms. Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Wars in general, Spiderhead, The Time Traveler's Wife, Lightyear, For All Mankind, Jurassic World: Dominion and Jurassic Park/World in general, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at forty and much more.

Speculative fiction in general:

 
Film and TV: 
Comments on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and the many other iterations of Star Trek
 
Comments on Ms. Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general (spoilers): 
 
Comments on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Wars in general: 
 
Comments on The Time Traveler's Wife:
 
Comments on Lightyear:
 
Comments on season 3 of For All Mankind
 
Comments on Jurassic World: Dominion and Jurassic Park in general: 
 
Comments on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at forty: 
 
Awards:
 
Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:
 
Classics reviews:
 
Con and event reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:
 
Trailers and videos: