Guest Post by Jeanette Grey on the Power of What If? + Giveaway

through the static by jeanette greyMy guest today is one of my favorite authors, which makes this a terrific day for me. And her latest book, and today’s review book, Through the Static, is also a terrific piece of science fiction romance, with just a slice of cyberpunk for spice. If you love SFR as much as I do, Jeanette is also the author of the excellent Unacceptable Risk (reviewed here). And if contemporary romance is more your thing, be sure to check out Jeanette’s contemporary romances, Take What You Want (reviewed here) and Get What You Need, which I need to get a review copy of pronto.


The Power of “What if?” according to Jeanette Grey

As the child of a couple of engineers, I was indoctrinated into the world of science fiction young. Star Trek reruns were on constant replay in my house growing up, and I insist to this day—though my parents deny it—that one of my first memories is of being carried into our garage, late at night, after watching Return of the Jedi. (I probably remember actually being carried home from the babysitter’s, where I stayed while my parents went to see Return of the Jedi, but that’s neither here nor there.)

And yet, when science fiction skeptics ask me how I can enjoy that stuff, I like to cite a different childhood favorite of mine as the embodiment of what I love about sci-fi.

220px-Its_A_Wonderful_Life_Movie_PosterNamely, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Bear with me if you will. There may not be any space ships or aliens in this holiday classic, but what aligns it with the larger genre that encompasses sci-fi, known as speculative fiction, is that it begins with a specific kind of premise. It asks, “What if?” What if George Bailey never lived? What would happen?

And in my mind, the most interesting science fiction asks “What if?” questions, too.

Look at The Hunger Games, where Suzanne Collins asks what would happen in a near-future world where people are separated by inequality and ruled by an iron-fisted government that uses fear and the lives of children to control its people.

Look at The Minority Report, which asks what would happen if police could see crimes before they happened, but without the context to be certain about the nature of those crimes. The Matrix, where technology got away from us and enslaved us. The Handmaid’s Tale, in which a crisis of scarcity and fertility leads to the rise of an extremist society that forces women into subservience.

And yes, Star Trek, where civilization has evolved to the point where all beings are seen as equal, and technology has allowed humanity to explore the stars, looking for new life and new civilizations.

All of these stories begin by asking “What if?” And then they create rich worlds in which to explore that question, populated by unique characters.

If you ask me, what’s not to like about that?

In my new book, Through The Static, I ask the question of what would happen if, in some not-so-distant future, we took the technology that is becoming so common in our lives in the form of cell phones and tablets and fitbits, and we integrated it right into our minds? What if we could connect and communicate by thinking?

The answer in the book, unfortunately, is that some people use that power to effectively enslave others. Our hero, Jinx, has had his memory erased and his thoughts tied to those of two other people, together with whom he makes up an elite mercenary unit. But beneath the controls placed on his very thoughts, pieces of his humanity and his former life slip through.

Those fragments of his stolen past are what lead researcher Aurelia to free him from his unit. In the process, though, to combat the damage done to his neural pathways over the years of his service, she has no choice but to link his mind to hers. The result is an intensely powerful mental, emotional and ultimately physical connection that brings them closer than either of them has ever been to another person before. One that leads to them falling not only into bed together, but in love.

Jeanette GreyAbout Jeanette Grey

Jeanette Grey started out with degrees in physics and painting, which she dutifully applied to stunted careers in teaching, technical support, and advertising. When none of that panned out, she started writing. In her spare time, Jeanette enjoys making pottery, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and her pet frog. She lives, loves, and writes in upstate New York.To learn more about Jeanette, visit her website and blog and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Jeanette’s giving away an ebook copy of Through the Static to one lucky winner (Very lucky, this book is a winner!).  To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Omenana: speculative fiction from Africa and the African diaspora

Guest post by Galen

I’m a fan of short stories, particularly fantasy, science fiction, and broadly, speculative fiction. Although many of the print science fiction and fantasy magazines have had struggles in recent years, there’s been an explosion of online publication featuring speculative short stories. Some of the usual suspects include, Clarksworld, and Strange Horizons, but for this post I’d like to feature a Nigerian online magazine I’ve run across via a post on Metafilter.

Omenana issue 1 coverIt’s called Omenana, and its first issue was published this month. From the that issue’s editorial:

Science fiction is still very new in Nigeria, but while we could barely find 10 people to contribute to the anthology in 2010, there are now hundreds of writers who will readily try their hand at the genre. Just as I did, more writers are recognising that we have a copious amount of material for speculative fiction here in Nigeria. That means we need platforms where these stories can be anchored. To help this along, Chinelo Onwualu and I present Omenana, a bimonthly speculative fiction e-publication.

And from Chinelo Onwualu’s essay in that issue, The Unbearable Solitude of Being an African Fan Girl:

Being an African fan girl is a strange, liminal thing. You’re never quite sure that you exist, you see. A part of you is rooted in your culture and its expectations for how a woman ought to behave – church, family, school – but another is flying off into the stars carrying a samurai sword and a machete. Not one thing or another, you’re both at the same time.

You know you are not alone. There are thousands of women just like you all over the continent. They have fought to forge their unique identities outside of the prescribed roles they were expected to fill. They have kept that childhood sense of wonder and aren’t ashamed to squeal like schoolgirls when they get excited. They run when they are in a hurry and they take the stairs two at a time. Like you, they are still curious and aren’t afraid to ask questions, but they scattered like magic beans across a vast farm. They are growing into their own twisted shapes and no one around them can understand why.

A standout story in the first issue is HostBods by Tendai Huchu. It is set in a time when mind transference technology is possible — and indeed so commonplace that it is possible to rent the use of another person’s body for a period of time. However, being a “HostBod” is a risky and usually short-lived career, and the people who do it tend to be treated as if they had all of the value of purely artificial robots — in other words, they’re disposable. Ordinarily, a HostBod isn’t supposed to be aware of what goes on when another person uses them, but for the protagonist… things are a little different.

Another story, Winter in Lagos by Saratu Abiola, takes a simple premise — Lagos experiencing its first snowfall — and uses it to turn a mirror onto contemporary issues in Nigeria.

Other features in the first issue are an interview with Ibrahim Ganiyu and art by Kelsey Arrington.

I look forward to Omenana’s next issue.

Guest Review: Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu Kabu by Nnedi OkoraforFormat read: paperback
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: speculative fiction
Length: 241 pages
Publisher: Prime Books
Date Released: September 29, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Kabu kabu—unregistered illegal Nigerian taxis—generally get you where you need to go. Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabu, however, takes the reader to exciting, fantastic, magical, occasionally dangerous, and always imaginative locations you didn’t know you needed. This debut short story collection by an award-winning author includes notable previously published material, a new novella co-written with New York Times-bestselling author Alan Dean Foster, six additional original stories, and a brief foreword by Whoopi Goldberg.

Review by Galen:

Picture a spider made of metal on an oil pipeline, standing attentively as it is serenaded by a woman. This is but one of the fantastical images that await the reader of Nnedi Okorafor’s short story collection Kabu Kabu.

One takes a taxi to get from one place to another, to make a transition of place. Kabu Kabu is full of transitions. The title story, written with Alan Dean Foster, tells the tale of a trip that a lawyer, Ngozi, takes from Chicago to a village in Nigeria to attend a family wedding. This would be an ordinary enough trip, save that Ngozi finds the one kabu kabu in Chicago and misses her flight, but ends up making a more fundamental trip through the byways of legends to her other home.

Some of the tales occupy the intersection of Nigeria, its colonizers, and those who are stripping it of oil. “The Magical Negro” is a little confection that turns the trope of that name on its head and answers the question of what would happen if a Magical Negro decides to stop putting up with being a secondary character in the tales of other, paler, folk. “Spider the Artist” is a science fiction tale that posits oil companies dealing with theft from the pipelines by installing killer, spider-like robots to patrol them. These monsters, created without regard for the people driven by desperation, make transitions of their own: becoming so smart that they take up agency on their own account (and declare war) — but also, at least in one case, becoming able to make connections with people through music. “The Popular Mechanic” explores another response to the pipelines snaking their way through the land, while “Moom!” takes a news account of a swordfish attacking a pipeline and… expands on it.

Several stories follow transitions of women from traditional roles to owners of their own tales. One set of stories (“How Inyang Got Her Wings”, “The Winds of Harmattan”, “Windseekers”, and “Biafra”) tell part of the tale of Arro-yo, a windseeker. “The Palm Tree Bandit” is an origin story for a super-heroine who defies norms by climbing palm trees… and then grows into a legend.

Other tales take incidents from the lives of the author, her sister, and her mother and recast them in a fantastic light. Once, Okorafor and her sister visited a house that had been built for their father… but whose contents had been stripped by relatives. They decided to nonetheless stay in the house for three days. “The Carpet” takes that incident and gives magical life to the noises in the night during their stay. “The Baboon War” takes her mother’s story of fighting of baboons on her way to school and adds a deeper layer: what if the baboons were protecting something along the path?

Escape Rating B+: This collection is a great introduction to Okorafor’s range as a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism. There is also a horror story (“On The Road”) that, while being really creepy, also portrays a woman’s transition from city cop to… someone new.

I recommend this collection to anybody who enjoys science fiction and fantasy, but who also is tired of some of the genres’ hoary tropes.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.