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Ohioana reception this Sunday at Cincinnati Public Library

Heads-up for folks in the Cincinnati area: This Sunday, April 6 from 1:30 to 4:00 PM, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will be hosting the annual Ohioana Library Association reception for local authors, including me. The program will include a panel discussion (which I don’t think I’ll be on) and individual recognition of the featured authors, and will be followed by a book fair where attendees can meet the various authors and buy autographed books. This is the second year of the book fair portion, and last year I didn’t sell any books, perhaps because I neglected to let anyone know in advance that the event was happening (blush). So this time I’m giving some advance notice. I’ll have a few copies of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel on sale, and I’m also thinking of bringing some copies of ROTF: A Choice of Futures and some of Only Superhuman.

Tower of Babel cover  Choice of Futures cover  Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett

And of course there will be plenty of other Ohio Valley authors with books of their own to sell and discuss. So if you’re in the area this Sunday, drop by the Main Library at 800 Vine Street in downtown Cincinnati. Although be aware that, while downtown parking is free on Sunday, there’s reportedly a lot of construction in the area so it may be hard to find. This page has directions and parking info.

He’s got a TV in every room…

Well, not anymore. For many years, I’ve had a small TV in my bedroom, equipped with an antenna (no cable hookup) and attached to a VCR. But a few years ago, the broadcast stations switched to digital and I didn’t bother to buy a converter; I figured I’d just keep the TV around if I wanted to watch a tape before going to sleep or something. But I hardly ever did that (I prefer to read before bed), and the VCR doesn’t work well anymore — the playback head seems dirty or corroded and I have nothing to clean it with. So the whole thing was basically taking up space. But I’m a pack rat by nature, loath to get rid of things in my possession and preferring to keep them around “just in case.” So I just left the TV and VCR where they were, atop my dresser.

Yesterday morning, though, the thought finally overcame my mental inertia: Why do I even keep them plugged in if I don’t use them? I don’t even bother to set the VCR clock, since there’s a clock radio right next to it. Having them plugged in may have only used up a trickle of power, but it added up over time. So I figured I might as well unplug them until or unless I had reason to use them. So once I’d done that yesterday morning, it only took until afternoon for me to take the next step: If they’re unplugged now and just taking up space, why not just put them in the closet and clear up some much-needed surface area in my bedroom? So I did that, and I moved a crate which I use as a bookshelf into the vacant space, which cleared up some room to rig a couple of makeshift bookshelves where the crate had been (one out of a cardboard box with its flaps duct-taped back, one out of a plastic drawer I recovered and cleaned from someone’s curbside trash, which is almost exactly the same size as the box), and that let me ease the overcrowding on the bookshelves for my general SF/fantasy/other paperbacks.

But that got me looking at the other bookshelves I have on top of the general-SF bookcase, the shelves where I keep my non-Star Trek tie-in books, mostly a whole bunch of Target Doctor Who novelizations from way back. (I used to have a comprehensive collection, though eventually I got rid of many of them, keeping only the novelizations of stories I liked and all the missing stories. But it’s still a pretty sizeable collection.) The main case I use there is one of a pair of cardboard bookcases, printed with a wood grain pattern, that I realize I’ve had for over 30 years. Each of the cases has three shelves, the top two of which are just tall enough to hold paperbacks and the third of which is just tall enough for standard hardcovers or trade paperbacks. The problem, though, is that I mostly just have standard paperbacks in the bottom shelf, and an extra row of paperbacks on top of the case adding weight, so one of the sides of the case is buckling at the bottom and the structural stability of the unit is compromised.

So clearly I need a new bookcase to put there, but my search online has been unproductive. Bookcases are expensive, more than I’m comfortable spending right now. And I can’t find anything like those cardboard bookcases. I found one site that seemed too good to be true, offering a 3-foot by 3-foot oak bookcase for under 15 bucks when it was normally sold for over 200 bucks — but then I found out that the catch is that the shipping cost is nearly 150 bucks. So much for that idea.

Maybe the problem is that people don’t read as much anymore. Perhaps I should be looking into DVD shelving instead, since DVD cases are a little taller than paperbacks.

Anyway, I’m just glad I’ve finally made at least a small start at rearranging my bedroom. I get tired of living in the same unchanging environment after a while, and I’ve been in this apartment over 10 years now. Sometimes I look sideways into my bedroom mirror to see the reflection of the room, and I always think “Wow, that room looks so much nicer than mine.” Because it’s different. When I was younger, I’d periodically find ways to rearrange my existing furniture and bring some novelty to the space I inhabited. Unfortunately, the layout of my apartment and the configuration of my furniture leaves me very few options for rearranging things. Even making a small change is rewarding. I just hope I can solve the bookcase problem before I have a collapse.

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Asking a favor of my readers

January 19, 2014 2 comments

I’ve noticed that Only Superhuman has very few reviews posted on its pages at Amazon (11 as of this writing) and Barnes & Noble (7 as of this writing). I’ve gotten a fair amount of feedback for the book in various places, so I know people are reading it and talking about it, but surprisingly little of it is showing up on those two pages. Yet I gather that the reviews on those sites help generate attention for a book, at least among their customers. So I wonder if I could ask folks who’ve read the novel to post reviews on either or both of those pages. It doesn’t matter whether you bought the book there; this is about increasing attention and discussion. And of course I’m not just soliciting positive reviews. Please be honest, but make your thoughts heard. And feel free to use the like/share buttons on those pages too. And if you’ve listened to the audiobook versions of Only Superhuman or Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, feel free to post reviews on their GraphicAudio pages.

Only Superhuman MMPB coverIf nothing else, getting more reviews might produce a more statistically useful sample size. As it stands, OS is averaging 2.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon and 4.5 out of 5 on B&N, so clearly the samples are too small to give representative results. Of course, what I’m asking for isn’t going to produce statistically unbiased results either, but it couldn’t hurt.

Feel free to do the same for any of my other novels as well, of course, although my Star Trek novels generally get more reaction already, and my Marvel novels are out of print. Only Superhuman is the one that I think could benefit the most. Plus it would just be nice to get more feedback from my readers.

My (tentative) New York Comic-Con schedule

September 25, 2013 1 comment

Well, it’s been a bit of a mess trying to make arrangements for New York Comic-Con, since apparently they didn’t have enough tickets or something. They actually sold out of professional passes prematurely, before I could get one, so I had to buy regular tickets, and all they had left were Thursday and Friday tickets. So I’ll only be in attendance at NYCC on those two days — well, assuming my tickets ever arrive. The paperwork said they’d begin mailing them in mid-September, but I haven’t gotten mine yet. But there’s still two weeks to go, so I’m hopeful.

Anyway, I have two signings tentatively scheduled, both on Friday, October 11.

11 AM, Booth 838: GraphicAudio hosts a combined signing for the Only Superhuman audiobook, which will be on sale at the booth, and the mass-market paperback. which will be a free giveaway. There might be copies of the Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder audiobook on hand too, though I’m not sure.

Only Superhuman MMPB cover      Only Superhuman audiobook      Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder audiobook

4 PM, Booth 1828: Simon & Schuster’s booth hosts a Star Trek signing, which was hoped to be a group signing but so far is just me. I assume I’ll be signing copies of Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures.

Choice of Futures cover

There won’t be any scheduled event for me at the Tor booth (2223), which is why I’ll be doubling up on the MMPB and audiobook at the GraphicAudio event (and I’m very grateful to the GA folks for accommodating me). But I’ll surely be hanging around the Tor booth for a fair amount of time on Thursday and Friday, and there will be signed copies of Only Superhuman there as giveaways. No doubt I’ll drop by the S&S and GA booths on Thursday as well. Ticket gods willing, that is.

If there are any changes to the schedule, I will of course announce them promptly.

ONLY SUPERHUMAN paperbacks are here!

Look what just got delivered to my door:

Only Superhuman MMPBs

It looks good. I’m a bit surprised that the spine is still green, since I’ve gotten used to the brown background of the front cover.

The books officially go on sale tomorrow (8/27), so there may be some on bookstore shelves even now.

And now that I have my copies of the MMPB, I’ll be able to double-check the page numbering and go live with my expanded annotations, which will encompass the hardcover, paperback, and audiobook editions of OS. There are a few minor textual adjustments, meaning that the paperback is now slightly more final and authoritative than the hardcover (although we’re talking, like, three single-word factual errors corrected, a missing number in the appendix restored, and a couple of typos fixed).

Here are some ordering links:

Macmillan

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

And here’s the link for the audiobook:

GraphicAudio

I do hope the book performs well in MMPB. I always felt it was more a paperback sort of tale anyway.

Empire Online feature on STAR TREK novel series

Empire Magazine‘s site has posted a feature on Pocket’s Star Trek novel line, focusing mainly on the series that expand the universe beyond the aired shows:

http://www.empireonline.com/features/star-trek-expanded-universe

This includes some series that I’ve been a part of; Department of Temporal Investigations gets a whole page, and their “if you read only one” recommendation for Titan is my Over a Torrent Sea. Plus there’s an oblique reference to The Buried Age on their page for The Lost Era, though they don’t mention it by name. I do wish they’d spelled my last name correctly, but otherwise I appreciate the attention, both on my behalf and that of my colleagues.

ONLY SUPERHUMAN paperback cover revealed!

I was checking my sales rank for Only Superhuman on the online bookstore sites just now, and I noticed they’ve now got the cover image for this September’s mass-market paperback edition of the novel. Here it is:

Only Superhuman MMPB cover

Note that they’ve rotated the artwork 90 degrees clockwise from how it appears on the hardcover. One thing I noticed about the cover art from the start is that it works pretty well in either orientation, so it’s kinda nice that it’s being used both ways. I also quite like the italicized and color-graded version of the title text. Oh, and I like it that my name is printed bigger. ;)

In other news, the audiobook edition of OS has intermittently been making it onto Amazon’s top 100 sellers list for SF and Fantasy books on CD. It hasn’t been staying there consistently, and I don’t think it’s made it above #50 yet, but it’s nice to see.

RISE OF THE FEDERATION also available for pre-order

January 29, 2013 1 comment

While I’m at it, I’ve found that there are pre-order links available for Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures as well. Here ya go:

Pre-order from Barnes & Noble
Pre-order from Amazon

Still no cover art available, though. I don’t know when to expect that or what it might look like. Currently I’ve got the copyedits in hand, and those are due back on Friday. I’m also told that the manuscript has been officially approved by CBS, so I should be getting the remainder of my advance shortly!

I’ve also just turned in the outline for my next Trek novel, which I can’t talk about yet. I’ve got until the end of July to write it, so once I’m done with the copyedits on ACOF, I’m planning to shift focus for the next month or two and work on some original short fiction.

ONLY SUPERHUMAN paperback and audiobook available for pre-order!

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. BennettWell, this comes sooner than I expected — I happened to notice the other day that some of the major book-buying sites online are already offering pre-order links for the mass-market paperback edition of Only Superhuman, which according to them is due to be released on August 27, just about seven months from now. (Give or take, of course, since there’s no fixed release date for most books, just whenever the stores get them on the shelves.) The listed retail price for the MMPB is $7.99, pretty much standard for the format — in other words, the same amount that my Star Trek novels sell for. So fans of my Trek work who’ve found the hardcover of Only Superhuman too pricey, yet prefer to have a physical book rather than buying the $11.99 eBook edition, can now order your copies at last, though you’ll have to wait a few more months to read it.

And Amazon has a preorder link for the audiobook adaptation from GraphicAudio as well, which is due out in February (though I’m not sure when in February) and is apparently 7 hours long and will retail for $19.99 on CD. Here are the links:

Only Superhuman MMPB — Barnes & Noble

Only Superhuman MMPB — Amazon

Only Superhuman audiobook — GraphicAudio

Only Superhuman audiobook — Amazon

 

I’m signing at Joseph-Beth in Cincinnati on January 15!

It’s been announced by Macmillan that I’ll be appearing at the Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati to do a reading from Only Superhuman along with signing that and, presumably, whatever other books of mine they have around. It’s scheduled for Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 7 PM, and the address is 2692 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45208.

This isn’t actually up on the J-B site yet, though, so it’s possible the specifics aren’t entirely firmed up yet. If any of this information turns out to need correction, I’ll be sure to post it as soon as I can.

ONLY SUPERHUMAN interview and giveaway on The Qwillery!

I’ve been interviewed by the book blog The Qwillery about Only Superhuman. Here’s the link:

http://qwillery.blogspot.com/2012/11/interview-with-chrisopher-l-bennett.html

There’s also a giveaway of a copy of the novel, which you can enter simply by commenting on the interview post. Details at the link.

Having a pretty good day

October 29, 2012 3 comments

I just got back from running some errands, starting with depositing the advance check I just received for my current Star Trek novel — which I’m still not cleared to reveal any specifics about, as far as I know. It’s the second book advance I’ve gotten in as many weeks, which is a nice state of affairs.

After that, I went to the local Joseph-Beth Booksellers store so I could see my book on the shelf:

Looking good!

The spine really stands out on the shelf!

And hey, I’m almost right next to a book by my NYCC co-panelist Amber Benson!

I also introduced myself to a store manager there and tried to get a sense of how the book was doing, but that was inconclusive. They had 10 copies in stock at that store, which I’m hoping is a good sign, since at Books by the Banks (which Joseph-Beth supplied the books for), there were dozens of copies on hand. But it’s hard to be sure.

On the way out of my parking space at Joseph-Beth, my car was almost bumped into by a minivan with a Romney-Ryan bumper sticker, because its driver wasn’t paying attention. Which seems very fitting to me.

Anyway, after that came the roughest part of my trip, which was trying to take my nonfunctioning vacuum cleaner in to the local warranty service center. I wasn’t sure whether the vacuum had broken or both batteries had simultaneously died, so I hoped to get some help figuring that out and maybe getting replacement batteries if that was the issue, as well as getting the old ones recycled. But first off, I found it hard to find a parking place near the store, and had to do some extra driving and turning around and stuff to find a place I could legally park, which was a bit of a walk from the store. Then the store clerk told me he basically couldn’t do anything for me where that particular model was concerned except sell me a new one, which was only about 10 bucks more than a replacement battery would’ve cost anyway, so he said. (I checked online, and if you take tax and shipping into account, I’d say he was just about right.) My floor wasn’t getting any cleaner, so I gave in and bought the new one (which, to my disappointment, came with only one battery instead of the two my previous one came with, so I hope there’s still some life left in the old batteries after all). I’m upset that I wasn’t able to recycle the old vacuum, but at least I have some spare pieces in case I need them.

So that wasn’t too satisfying, but at least I have a functional vacuum again (hopefully). And on the way home, I noticed I was approaching a Big Boy restaurant. I’d just been thinking, not long ago, that it had been too long since I’d been to Big Boy and had one of their Buddie Boy ham sandwiches, which I quite liked. So I went in and did that, and it was very good, as were the baked apples I had on the side. Plus I saw they were advertising their pumpkin pie, and I remembered that they had a wonderful pumpkin pie, so I had a piece of that for dessert, and it was wonderful. So that was a lovely bit of serendipity and I feel very satisfied now — though it didn’t help with my efforts to lose some weight and get back into shape.

UPDATE: I just tried the new vacuum’s battery in the old vacuum, and it worked. So I only needed a new battery after all, not a new vacuum. I wonder if it’s worth it to return the vacuum and just order a replacement battery. Or maybe it’s a good idea to keep the new vacuum on hand just in case the old one does break down.

Back from Books by the Banks

Today was the Books by the Banks festival for authors from the Cincinnati region, and I spent six hours at the convention center downtown hawking my wares. In addition to a big pile of Only Superhuman, the bookstore providing merchandise for the event also had a bunch of copies of Forgotten History, a small supply of Watching the Clock, three copies of the Mere Anarchy trade paperback, and one lonely copy of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder — which wasn’t lonely for long, since it was the first book I sold. By the end of the event, I’d sold out of Mere Anarchy as well and was down to one WtC, and I’d moved seven copies of OS and at least a few of FH. Plus a few people who didn’t buy OS then and there nonetheless indicated they intended to buy it online or as an e-book. All in all, while I could’ve wished for better, it was a pretty decent performance considering that this was a general book festival, not specifically SF-oriented. I seem to recall that at my first BbtB, where they only had Titan: Over a Torrent Sea for sale, I didn’t sell that many copies. So I’m satisfied with how this event turned out. Plus I made a couple of new contacts and set things in motion for a book signing event that will hopefully materialize fairly soon.

Today’s the day! ONLY SUPERHUMAN is on sale!

It’s October 16, 2012, and that means Only Superhuman is now officially on sale! The major online bookseller sites all list it as “In Stock,” and the e-book editions are now available for download! I’ve updated my website’s ordering links from “preorder” to “buy.” But just for the heck of it, here are the main ones again:

Buy from Macmillan

Buy from Barnes & Noble

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Books-A-Million

 

In other news, I’ve been interviewed about Only Superhuman by the website My Bookish Ways.

It’s here!!

October 8, 2012 1 comment

Look what the UPS guy brought to my door today:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only Superhuman final

It’s finally here! It’s been 24 years and 2 months to the day since I first came up with the character of Emerald Blair (I remember the date since it was 8/8/88), nine and a half years since I first outlined Only Superhuman, and now it’s a finished hardcover novel I can hold in my hands. My journey is finally finished.

Although I’m hoping it’s just the beginning of a new journey. Which depends on all you guys buying enough copies that I get to do sequels.

ONLY SUPERHUMAN: It’s a book — well, it’s an ARC!

Behold:

 

Only Superhuman advance reading copy

The folks at Tor sent over some uncorrected advance reading copies of Only Superhuman.  These are paperback printings of the second-pass galleys (so despite the “uncorrected,” they incorporate all the edits I asked for, except for a few bits in the appendix which should be fixed in the final book), intended for sending out to reviewers and such for advance publicity.  I gather they’re mainly for sending to book reviewers in magazines that have a publishing lead time of several months, so that they can get reviews published in a timely fashion.

Aside from being in paperback (and having a cropped version of the cover painting, presumably because the hardback cover is a bit larger), it’s apparently representative of the look and feel of the finished product.  So it’s pretty cool to get to hold it in my hands and page through it.  It’s the next best thing to getting the actual book come October.

I put a copy on my science fiction bookshelf, as I’ve been waiting to do for a very long time.  It’s sitting between Timescape by Gregory Benford and The Stars, My Destination by Alfred Bester.  A pretty cool place to be.

It’s actually a thinner book than I expected, though that could be due to the paper stock or something.  And I guess it’s not that long a book; the final draft came out to around 115,000 words, and of course a hardcover or trade paperback can fit more words per page.  And no doubt the hardcover’s, uh, hard cover will add more thickness.

One book leaves, another arrives…

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. BennettIt’s been a full day for me.  First, I finished proofreading the first-pass galleys for Only Superhuman (i.e. the pages that show what the final text will look like including formatting) and mailed them back to Tor.  I caught a number of typos that I’m amazed I never noticed in all the dozens of prior times I’ve been through this manuscript, like “to use use” or “that was in itself was the result” or my personal favorite, “Sarkar crossed your arms.”  That’s right, she reached out of the book and crossed the reader’s arms.  (In my defense, that was right after a sentence ending with a very emphatic “you,” so I guess there was some pronominal inertia there.)

I also just got my complimentary copies of Star Trek DTI: Forgotten History from Simon & Schuster!  Yup, the book is in my hands now, and it should be on bookstore shelves within the next few weeks.  It’s not as hefty a tome as its predecessor Watching the Clock, but they make a nice pair.

I also just got some reading materials as research for a possible new project, so I’ve got past, present, and future projects (or present, near-future, and more distant future in publication terms) all converging on the same day.  It’s all a bit overwhelming.

Especially since I also had to deal with getting my car towed.  I discovered yesterday afternoon that it wouldn’t start, and had no electrical power whatsoever.  A couple of kind people helped me try to jumpstart it, with no luck.  It was a bit late in the day, and I didn’t urgently need it then, and I still had a lot of proofreading to do, so I put it aside until this morning.  So I had to call the insurance company to find out how to deal with the situation (turns out they’ll reimburse me for the tow), then call the tow truck guy, then walk three blocks to the ATM and three blocks back so I could pay him in cash.  Then when he arrived it took me a few minutes reading the manual to discover how to get the car into neutral with no power so it could be moved into a position where the tow truck could get to it.  (Yes, I actually read the manual.)  Then I had to walk a mile home from the garage, and wait for them to call while I finished up the galleys.

So anyway, while I was composing the first draft of this post around 4 PM, I realized the narrative had no resolution, so I decided to call the garage and find out how the car was doing (yes, I am a writer, why do you ask?).  Turns out they were just about done with it, and it was a bad battery, which means the warranty applied and I saved some money.  So I have a new battery now, and since the car was in the shop anyway, I asked them to replace the windshield wipers too, since the ones I had were lousy and didn’t do much good.  And as it happened, it was raining lightly when I picked the car up, so I got to try them out right away, and they’re nice and quiet and work better than the old ones.

Plus, as it happens, the garage is directly across the street from the post office, so I got to mail back the galley pages and pick up my car on the same trip — and right after that I drove to the grocery store and did the shopping I was going to do yesterday.  Which is nice, because if I was going to walk a mile for the second time today (plus 3/5 of a mile to the ATM and back), it’s good that I was able to get multiple things accomplished.  (Hopefully including getting in slightly better physical shape so that walking that distance will be easier in the future.)

So now I’m very tired and kind of sore, and that’s even after a long, hot soak in the tub.  But I accomplished a lot today, and that’s a good feeling.

ONLY SUPERHUMAN now available for pre-order!

Looks like Only Superhuman is starting to show up online.  A book database called Risingshadow.net has posted the cover blurb for the novel (though it may be tweaked a bit before publication):

 In the future, genetically engineered superhumans, inspired by classic Earth comic book heroes, fight to keep the peace in the wild and wooly space habitats of the Asteroid Belt

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett2107 AD: A generation ago, Earth and the cislunar colonies banned genetic and cybernetic modifications. But out in the Asteroid Belt, anything goes. Dozens of flourishing space habitats are spawning exotic new societies and strange new varieties of humans. It’s a volatile situation that threatens the peace and stability of the entire solar system.

Emerald Blair is a Troubleshooter. Inspired by the classic superhero comics of the twentieth century, she’s joined with other mods to try to police the unruly Asteroid Belt. But her loyalties are tested when she finds herself torn between rival factions of superhumans with very different agendas. Emerald wants to put her special abilities to good use, but what do you do when you can’t tell the heroes from the villains?

Only Superhuman is a rollicking hard-sf adventure set in a complex and fascinating future.

And we’re starting to see some pre-order links showing up too!

Pre-order Only Superhuman at Barnes & Noble

Pre-order Only Superhuman at Amazon.com

The Risingshadow site has a page of multiple ordering sites for the novel, most of which don’t have the book yet, but if you’re interested in alternatives to the big vendors, you might want to bookmark that page.

Both the big vendors have the book at a considerable discount, currently marked down to $14.50 from the list price of $24.99, but don’t worry — my royalties are based on the list price, so I still earn the same amount even when you pay less (as long as you buy it new rather than used).

So far only the hardcover edition is available for pre-order, but I’m told there will be an e-book version released the same day as the hardcover.

Good book: FOOL’S WAR by Sarah Zettel

I just finished a novel I picked up at the used-book store recently, Fool’s War by Sarah Zettel.  This 1997 novel was my first exposure to Zettel’s writing; I bought it because the premise sounded interesting and because I’m interested in reading more SF/space opera from female authors.  And it turned out to be a solid, engaging hard-SF novel whose approach and values were similar to my own in some ways.

Fool’s War is set in a starfaring human civilization over 500 years in the future.  There’s FTL travel and communication, called “fast-time” and never really explained, but otherwise the treatment of physics and engineering in spaceships and space habitats is very realistic (for instance, there’s no artificial gravity).  There are no aliens, but there are artificial intelligences which occasionally become fully sentient, their birth pangs wreaking havoc in the highly computerized, networked human civilization of the novel.  The interstellar community is held together, not by a government, but by the banking network that manages all transactions.  (However, this is not a work of libertarian SF, refreshingly enough; one of the main characters comes from a libertarian sort of society and scathingly indicts the brutal anarchy he grew up in.)  And to a large extent, the peace is kept by the Fools’ Guild.  These are Fools in the Shakespearean sense (there are numerous references to the Bard herein, with a lot of the action taking place among the Shakespearean-named moons of Uranus), professional jesters who serve as social release valves and easers of tensions.  The story focuses on the packet ship Pasadena, whose crewmembers come from a variety of different cultures with sharply conflicting values.  The co-owner and engineer of the ship, Katmer Al Shei, is a devout, veiled Turkish Muslim woman in a future where anti-Muslim bigotry has become far worse than it is even today (startling that this was written before 9/11/01).  The pilot is a Freer, a member of a habitat-dwelling society that reveres sentient AIs, believing they have captured and effectively reincarnated the souls of dead humans.  Whereas the communications officer (a position cleverly labelled the “Houston”) is a survivor of a disaster wrought when his colony’s AI became sentient, and is fanatically, paranoiacally anti-AI.  And the ship’s co-owner, who timeshares it with Al Shei on alternating missions, may have left some dangerous contraband onboard.  So tensions are high in this enclosed environment, and ship’s Fool Evelyn Dobbs has her work cut out for her, using comedy and wit to entertain and calm the crew so the ship can run smoothly.  It’s a charming notion, and Dobbs’s presence makes the book quite entertaining — at least in the first half, before things end up becoming deeply serious and increasingly dark.

But the Fools have a deeper goal, a secret mission to keep the peace on a far more sweeping scale, and there are others with a conflicting agenda that may destroy that peace once and for all.  I don’t want to go into specifics, because it turns out that Dobbs has her own deep dark secret that is very deftly concealed.  I absolutely did not see it coming, even though I was given clues, things I was shown and allowed to interpret through my own preconceptions, leading me to the wrong conclusions.  It’s a deft bit of misdirection, befitting characters like Dobbs and her fellow Fools.

Perhaps reflecting its origins in the ’90s, there’s a lot of cyberpunkish stuff, characters diving around through cyberspace, and a lot of the descriptions of how that happens feel rather fanciful to me, though perhaps they’re just metaphors for otherwise incomprehensible processes and program interactions inside a computer network.  Still, this is the first SF work I’ve ever seen or read that actually offered a plausible justification for the premise of the mind “leaving” the body upon diving into cyberspace, and being potentially in danger of bodily death if something goes wrong.

So this is the kind of story I like, both to read and to write.  A hard-SF setting, richly textured worldbuilding,  a witty central character with depth, a celebration of multiculturalism, a message against intolerance, and — I felt — an ultimately positive, optimistic tone, even though some very dark and awful things happen (or have happened in the characters’ pasts).  It’s one of my most satisfying impulse buys in recent memory, and I’m definitely going to be checking out more of Zettel’s SF (though I see she also writes fantasy and paranormal romance — making it doubly cool that there’s so much hard science in her SF).

Behold the ONLY SUPERHUMAN cover!

January 18, 2012 8 comments

Here it is…

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect cover for this book.  It marvelously conveys the novel’s sense of high-flying action and adventure in a high-tech setting, and the flamboyance and power of its heroine, Emerald Blair (aka the Green Blaze).  It makes the novel look exciting and energetic, and that should help sell copies.  (This scene doesn’t appear in the book, but it’s kind of an amalgam of elements of the opening and climactic action sequences.)

And it’s a marvelous portrait of Emerald Blair.  First off, I’m stunned and honored by how closely artist Raymond Swanland followed my character design drawings.  Allowing for a bit of idealization, and my own limited ability to translate my visual ideas to paper, it’s as authentic a portrait of Emry as I could’ve hoped for.   More, it captures her personality and the life she leads very well.  She looks like she just hurled herself off the top of a skyscraper without giving any thought to what happens next.  She’s totally focused on fighting the bad guys and won’t let little things like plans or gravity distract her.  She’s in an incredibly precarious and dangerous situation and she looks completely at home there.  Yes, she is presented in a sexual, glamorous way too, but that’s in character for her, and it’s a very athletic, active, powerful kind of sexiness that (at least to my eye) complements the impression of strength and competence in this image rather than undermining it.

Here’s a look at the cover painting without the text:

Only Superhuman cover art by Raymond Swanland

Art by Raymond Swanland

The composition is fantastic.  The lines of the image converge on her face, drawing the viewer’s eye there, and there’s a powerful line of action running from her eyes along the arm to the sidearm, reinforced by the parallel line of her leg, and by all the shrapnel flying past.  That outthrust, perfectly straight arm just conveys so much power and skill and confidence, and I’ve never been happier with my decision to give her a sleeveless costume.  Even though she seems to be in retreat from something, her body language feels forward-thrusting and aggressive and fearless.  (Not to worry, though — that’s a stungun.)  Also, the background is muted, mostly in grays and browns, with the only bright colors being on Emry, so she really pops as the dominant part of the image.

Emerald Blair peers over my shoulder and has this to say:

“Vack, I look great.  I wish I could get my hair to look that good, especially in action.  Normally I just tie it back, or French-braid it if I have the time.  And I wish my outfit showed off my curves that well, though just as well it’s not quite so flimsy.  Cool Flash Gordony gun, though I’d stab myself in the side if I actually wore the thing.  Still, this is how I should look in action.

“But I’m glad he didn’t exaggerate my body.  Some things, honey, you just can’t improve on.”

So yeah, it’s a slightly idealized portrait of the Green Blaze, but it conveys her essence very well.  It could validly be a portrait someone painted of her in-universe.  In any case, it’s an ideal way to introduce Emerald Blair to the world, and I’m very happy with it.

EDIT: Since this post is getting a lot of new attention, here are some ordering links for the book:

Buy from Macmillan

Buy from Barnes & Noble

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Books-A-Million

 

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