Today I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for This Gulf of Time and Stars by Julie Czerneda! This soon-to-be released (November 3!) science fiction novel is the first book in the Reunification trilogy, which follows events in the Trade Pact trilogy. Although it technically ties into a larger series, it can be read by itself—I haven’t read either that trilogy or the prequel trilogy, Stratification, and I enjoyed reading This Gulf of Time and Stars. It completely succeeded in making me quite interested in both finding out what happens next in the rest of the Reunification books and what happened before in the previous six books!
After finishing the book, I asked the author a few questions about aliens, and in addition to the interview below, I have a copy of the hardcover and the audiobook to give away courtesy of DAW Books and Audible, respectively! You can read an excerpt from This Gulf of Time and Stars on the publisher’s website (click the “Look Inside” link below the cover image) and listen to a sample from the upcoming audiobook.
If you want to learn more about This Gulf of Time and Stars and discover more opportunities to win a copy, check out the Facebook page for the blog tour—and if you have any questions of your own for Julie Czerneda, she will be doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) event at the Little Red Reviewer on Sunday, November 1!
Fantasy Cafe: I finished reading This Gulf of Time and Stars and now have a few questions for you. I enjoyed reading it and am SO curious about what happens next—I’m really looking forward to learning more about the Clan in the next book!
For this interview, I decided to focus on questions about aliens since they’re such a big part of This Gulf of Time and Stars.
You’ve discussed that the idea for the first book about the Clan, A Thousand Words for Stranger, began when you were studying minnows, but there are a variety of other aliens in this universe. What is your process for developing different aliens and how has your background in biology influenced the development of some of the other aliens in This Gulf of Time and Stars?
Julie Czerneda: Short answer? Function informs structure. It’s a theme throughout evolution. If flight matters, wings are your ticket, whether butterfly, bat, or bluebird. If swimming fast is an advantage, bodies become streamlined, such as sharks and orcas. So when I think of a new alien, intelligent or otherwise, I start with the function it will have in my story. Do I need an instant threat or an underappreciated janitor? Do I need a dash of whimsy, or something breath-taking?
Then the fun begins.
For example. For Thousand, I needed something dangerous for the lead pirate. I chose to go scaled for a couple of reasons. I happen to admire reptiles, but even I don’t consider a python cuddly. My other inspiration came from the Classic Star Trek episode “Arena,” where Kirk faces off with a reptilian Gorn. Loved the story and characters, but my biologist side did twitch. Reptiles might not move as often as we do, but deadly speed is definitely in their repertoire. As is spitting venom, long tongues, fangs, frilled head ornamentation and skin that pulses with colour, claws, an oft-carnivorous lifestyle…there you go. My pirate aliens, the Scat, came to life. Complete with a home planet they’d basically torn apart and a propensity to eat one another.
Real life is so wonderfully weird.
What else matters to me when I create aliens is to show a realistic diversity between individuals. I cheerfully introduced more Scat in the next books, different in age and sex, different in attitude and experience, but still true to their “nature.”
For Ties of Power I had a different function in mind. The Clan were raised from birth to be selfish individualists, with adult interactions dictated solely by personal Power. Altruism wasn’t a word they’d understand or value. If Sira was to grow in understanding—especially of Humans, but also of her own species’ potential–I needed a role model for her: a culture she’d have to learn without her Clan abilities. The eyeless Drapsk, with their olfaction-based communication and obligate tribes were perfect. Their antennae are based on those of moths and much of their behaviour is drawn from social insects, although I’ll admit their tendency to curl into balls (eopari) under stress is more hamster. Putting Sira among the Drapsk worked better than I could have hoped. Bonus? They were fun to write, if challenging. The number of times I caught myself using “see” or “eyed” or “looked?” in the first draft? One of those mistakes made it to print in the first edition paperback. If you have one, check out page 186, first paragraph, last sentence. It’s been deleted in subsequent printings, thank goodness! (Though if it’s snuck back into the ebook, I’m not sure I want to know.)
Arguably my most famous aliens in the Clan Chronicles—until Gulf—are the Carasians. I’ll be talking more about Huido in another guest blog, but I’d be remiss not to describe his origin. I needed a not-Human best friend for Morgan (who is Human). I wanted someone who’d say all the wrong things, for the right reasons. And, well, I was ever-so-slightly miffed by a biology TA who’d thought to use the old “SF is for those who think giant bugs are plausible” line on me. Carasian eyes, by the way, are not my invention. They belong to scallops.
In Gulf, readers will meet a species I introduced in Rift in the Sky, the Assemblers. Their function? Chaos. More on them in another post.
FC: Which of you aliens would you be least surprised to discover exist in our universe and why?
JC: When I create aliens, even the wildest ones, I make a sincere effort to ground them in reality as much as possible. For that reason, I’d not be surprised to find any of them traipsing around. After all, we are still discovering life on this planet we hadn’t thought could exist, let alone the oddities of the past. The semi-immortal beings of energy, mass, and memory that inhabit my Webshifter novels are arguably my least likely. After all, I have them grazing, so to speak, in vacuum. Imagine my delight as the more we learn about space, the less empty it actually is!
I am certain, whatever we discover, it will be as deliciously varied and weird as life here.
FC: What is the first science fiction book about aliens that made you want to read (or write!) more books about this subject? What was it about these aliens that made them compelling?
JC: Andre Norton’s Star Rangers, later reissued as The Last Planet. It was my first science fiction read and what a wonderful one. In it, I not only encountered alien worlds and those who travelled between them, but a society with multiple intelligences, whose differences arose from their biology and culture. It made such sense to me then, and now. I remain smitten with her Zacathans, those charming reptilian scholars, and my Trade Pact Tolians are a homage to her feathered Trystians.
Heinlein’s Star Beast is another I remember fondly, especially the part about who really is the pet. Perception is one of my favourite playgrounds. The world-supporting turtle of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is another love and I’ve a nod to the Great A’Tuin in a novel of mine. Authors can do that.
What these stories and others share is an awareness that we are living things, and living things do not exist in isolation. It is our interactions that make us whole, interesting, and wonderfully weird.
Did I mention this winter I’m hard at work on new aliens and worlds? I really do love my life.
About the Series:
The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future with interstellar travel where the Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #whoaretheclan.
About the Author:
Since 1997, Canadian author/editor Julie E. Czerneda has shared her love and curiosity about living things through her science fiction, writing about shapechanging semi-immortals, terraformed worlds, salmon researchers, and the perils of power. Her fourteenth novel from DAW Books was her debut fantasy, A Turn of Light, winner of the 2014 Aurora Award for Best English Novel, and now Book One of her Night`s Edge series. Her most recent publications: a special omnibus edition of her acclaimed near-future SF Species Imperative, as well as Book Two of Night`s Edge, A Play of Shadow, a finalist for this year’s Aurora.
Julie’s presently back in science fiction, writing the finale to her Clan Chronicles series. Book #1 of Reunification, This Gulf of Time and Stars, will be released by DAW November 2015. For more about her work, visit www.czerneda.com or visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.
Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Gulf Giveaway.” Please indicate whether you want to enter to win the hardcover, audiobook, or either format. One entry per household and two winners will be randomly selected. Individual entrants can only win one prize; one person cannot win both the hardcover and the audiobook. Those from the United States or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, November 7. Each winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).
Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winners. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.
Update: Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.