Guest Post by FOOLS RUSH IN Author Donna S. Frelick

[Please enjoy this guest post by Donna S. Frelick, author of the Interstellar Rescue series!]

I’m proud to say the heroine of the latest installment of my Interstellar Rescue series stands out from the crowd in a lot of ways. Not least is that Rayna Carver, the kick-ass undercover Rescue agent of Fools Rush In, is a woman of color in a science fiction galaxy of mostly white, mostly male lead characters.

Not that she’s the only one, of course. A host of SFR writers have struggled in recent years to live up to the ideal Gene Roddenberry sketched out only roughly in STAR TREK days of yore. In fact, our little subgenre (and YA writers) have probably done better than many in this regard. Check out this Goodreads list to get an idea.

But an article published in SF Signal last year by author Anthony Vicino about the difficulty of persuading old-school SF publishers to put people of color on the cover demonstrates clearly that we still have a long way to go.

Rayna is my own contribution to diversity in SFR. She was first introduced to readers as “Dozen,” the Rescue “conductor” who helped Asia escape the mines of Gallodon IV in Unchained Memory. (She appears in Trouble in Mind, also.) She was one of those characters that literally leapt off the page as I was writing, so full of life and energy my job was just to describe what I saw in my head and write down whatever she said. She was that real.

trouble-in-mindNote that I didn’t set out to deliberately add “color” to my story by including a woman of African-American descent. Rayna just came into my head that way, like many other characters in my books are “born” half-alien or with an Earth Asian background or a same-sex orientation. Diversity in my books is organic, part of the fabric of my characters’ lives and the universe they live in. Just like the world we ourselves live in, if we only allow ourselves to see it.

The best writers are keen observers of the world around them. Just because we write about worlds that don’t exist (yet) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use that observational power to inform our future worldbuilding. Any observer of Earth in 2016 cannot fail to notice that people of color, particularly Asians, vastly outnumber Caucasians. How could they not be well represented in any future worlds we create?

The problem is too many writers of the “dominant” culture in literature (that is white, and usually male) tend to go suddenly color-blind when looking at the world around them. They see only members of their own dominant culture, that is, only people who look like themselves. So we end up with too many starships captained by white guys and full of white, male crew members.

The first step, then, is to take the blinders off before we start writing. But there is a far subtler trap waiting for the unwary Caucasian author in creating diverse characters, especially in stories set in the future. How does a character’s racial and cultural background inform the way the character talks, acts and appears on the page? And how much of that (largely Earth-bound) background would still be relevant in the alternate SFR universe we’ve created?

Rayna grew up not on Earth, but in Terrene, a melting-pot colony of rescued slaves (of all races and from different planets), alien traders, Rescue fighters and petty criminals. Her parents were African-American, abducted as teenagers from outside Chicago and kept as slaves by the alien Grays before their extraction by the Interstellar Council for Abolition and Rescue. But they retained so little of what they knew of home through the Grays’ mindwipe procedure that it was impossible for them to be returned to Earth. How much of their African-American culture would they have been able to pass on to Rayna?

And yet she shares significant aspects of her personality with her parents—her stubborn will to survive, her resistance to the mindwipe, her endurance, her courage. Should we attribute these positive traits to her ancestral heritage, to the way her parents raised her, or just to the way she is?

As the writer who created the mindwipe and Rayna’s backstory, I think Rayna’s speech and mannerisms would hold only a faint echo of urban Chicago and African-American culture. She is something altogether new and different, born of a different set of circumstances.

It’s a tough challenge for a writer to avoid stereotyping and still give a character like Rayna free rein to express her unique personality. But, then, experimenting with spicy mustard on rye is a lot more fun than sticking with mayo and white bread. I hope I got the recipe just right.

The very tasty Fools Rush In launches Tuesday, October 18 on Amazon.

Blurb for Fools Rush In

She thought she had the toughest job in Rescue—until the day she had to convert a pirate into a hero.

Interstellar Rescue “conductor” Rayna Carver is deep undercover on a slave ship bound for an isolated region of space when the ship is attacked by pirates. Her liberator is Captain Sam Murphy, a man known in the spacer bars to love only profit, adventure and women.

But Murphy hates a few things, too, chief among them slavers. Will it be enough to gain his help for Rayna’s mission—ferreting out two spies bent on sabotaging an arms factory to turn the tide in an alien civil war?

About the author

donnafrelick_picA number of years ago, as an aspiring science fiction writer, I took a workshop from noted SF writer Ann C. Crispin. She took one look at my SF short story and said, “You have a talent for writing romance.”

“Romance” in those days meant “historical”  or maybe “contemporary”. There was no “paranormal” and certainly no “science fiction” romance. So I wasn’t sure how to take that comment. Then I realized that much of the kind of science fiction I loved was full of romantic elements–Classic STAR TREK, X-FILES, AVATAR, even many New Age SF authors like Ursula K. Leguin, Zenna Henderson and Theodore Sturgeon.Thankfully, the world has turned, these and other wonderful pioneers have laid the groundwork  and now I can finally take Ann’s advice and follow my true calling.

Along the way to my science fiction suspense career I’ve been married to a wonderful guy since just out of college, been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, raised a family (two girls, two grandkids), tried organic farming, worked as a freelance journalist and editor, been a community activist, earned black belts in two different styles of martial arts and written four STAR TREK fanfic novels (and a number of short stories) for “underground” publication. (Ask me sometime about STAR TREK cons!)

In 2012, my first two SFR novels finaled in the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest. Shortly thereafter, I found a literary home with the fabulous Michelle Johnson, founder of Inklings Literary Agency and INK’d Press. Unchained Memorywas released in February, 2015 from INK’d Press. Trouble in Mind will follow in February, 2016.

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA, the Golden Network (of past and current Golden Heart finalists) and the Firebirds (2012 Golden Heart finalists).

I live on 44 beautiful mountain acres in Marshall, NC, with my husband and two talkative cats.

Follow Donna S. Frelick on Twitter: @DonnaSFrelick

Sci-Fi Romance Link Roundup

Check out author Donna S. Frelick’s FOOLS RUSH IN cover reveal!

Author Veronica Scott rounds up the New Releases in SciFi And Fantasy Romance for August 10.

Josh Trujillo’s LOVE MACHINES comic looks highly intriguing. Mayhaps the stories offer HEAs? After I have a chance to check it out, I’ll report back. If you can’t wait that long, the series is available at ComiXology!

Meet Some Adorable Authors’ Pets, a post in the spirit of the forthcoming October 2016 release of PETS IN SPACE, a sci-fi romance anthology (more news coming soon, so stay tuned!).

Mills & Boon’s Escape Sci-Fi Romance – a handy reference page for a few sci-fi romances by Australian authors.

Coming soon from Red Sage Publishing: THE INVENTOR’S WIFE, the third installment in my Clockpunk Trilogy! Here’s the blurb for this erotic sci-fi romance:

Elena Harrington’s widowed father rules her life with an iron fist. Even worse, he intends to force her into a loveless marriage in order to expand his business empire. An innocent bird trapped in a gilded cage, she can do naught but daydream about an adventurous life forever out of reach.

Elena resigns herself to a doomed existence until the day she meets her father’s dashing new employee. Daniel Miller is a brilliant inventor who crafts extraordinary devices. His astonishing machines fill her with delight. What else might this mysterious inventor have in store?

Determined to find out, Elena begins visiting Daniel’s workshop in secret. One hot, sultry night, he awakens her passion with all manner of sensual clockwork devices. Elena is certain she’s discovered her soul mate. Then an unexpected danger threatens to derail not only their burgeoning romance, but also their very lives.

THE INVENTOR’S WIFE can stand alone, but if you’d like to start from the beginning, the trilogy begins with The Watchmaker’s Lady and continues in The Blacksmith’s Lover.

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Hey, authors! Got a sci-fi romance release coming out in July, August, and/or September? Let me know via Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly so we can spotlight it in the Releases feature in issue #12! Submission information here.

Lastly, a heads up: my next Coffee Time Romance steampunk romance column will appear on August 15. I started a story with interesting promise and will share the highlights with you!

Guest Post: Who’s Afraid of the Little Gray Alien? by Donna S. Frelick

Please welcome TROUBLE IN MIND author Donna S. Frelick! Her latest Interstellar Rescue sci-fi romance releases this month and she’s here with an insightful essay about the alien abduction trope and its connection with society and pop culture over the years.

Who’s Afraid of the Little Gray Alien?

by Donna S. Frelick

Not so long ago the fear of “alien abduction” was a real and visceral thing in human consciousness. We had eyewitness accounts of our fellow humans being “beamed aboard” alien spaceships, of “experimentation,” of repeated abductions for nefarious purposes. Even now, an estimated one-third of Americans believes UFOs are real and a much higher percentage believes intelligent life exists somewhere else in our galaxy. One of our most prominent scientists, Dr. Stephen Hawking, believes we better hope there’s no one else out there, because we’d be at their mercy.

It’s no surprise, then, that alien abduction and its companion, interstellar slavery, are common tropes in science fiction and SFR. Granted, not a few of the titles which claim those tags tend to use the abduction as prelude to a sexual encounter (or twelve). But we can put those in a separate category for purposes of this discussion—“Sexual Fantasy”, certainly, “The Upside of Abduction,” maybe.

I’m here to talk about the dark side of alien abduction for the purposes of slave labor and the nightmarish fear we humans may have of it. The first sign of this fear came just after the Second World War, with the first flush of UFO sightings, the Roswell crash and its aftermath, and the B-movie sci-fi craze of the Fifties. This coincided with the final years of the Golden Age of science fiction (Thirties to Fifties), which was dominated by stories of evil aliens on Earth and spaceships to distant planets.

Our real sources of angst, of course, were not to be found in the skies, unless you count the time we spent looking up for those missiles from the USSR that would be carrying the A-bombs to wipe us out. Then there were the Commies who were supposedly infiltrating everything. Those real fears were reflected not in the cheesy MARS NEEDS WOMEN, but in the truly scary THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951-based on a short story by John Campbell), the creepy INVASION OF THE BODY-SNATCHERS (1956) and the stellar THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951).

By the time the Seventies rolled around, however, no one believed in the Commie under the bed and we’d stopped digging fallout shelters. Our thoughts about aliens had fallen into two camps: those who believed their coming would bring a wonderful new day to this tired old Earth, and those who thought they knew better. Even those who supposedly had had “interaction” with the little Gray aliens in their UFOs were split on the matter. Some said they’d had a great time on the ships; some relived their experiences in horror.

Stephen Spielberg captured this push-pull perfectly with CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977). Most of the movie was enough to give anyone nightmares: a little boy is pulled out of his screaming mother’s arms into a blinding light, a man goes more than a little crazy trying to re-create a compelling vision in a plate of mashed potatoes. But in the end, the boy is returned unharmed and the man happily volunteers to venture off into the galaxy with his new-found alien friends. Let’s just hope there’s not a labor camp waiting for him at the end of his journey.

Spielberg’s optimistic vision reflected a relatively optimistic period. America had not yet seen its embassy staff taken hostage in Iran, interest rates hit 12 percent with almost ten percent unemployment in the early Eighties (how quickly we forget), or either Iraq war. Oh, and the Russians were mired in Afghanistan in those days.

With the Nineties and early 2000s our fears had begun to return. Chris Carter’s THE X-FILES was a perfect example, with FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder trying desperately to find the truth behind the abduction of his young sister. He wants to believe aliens took her and seeks proof. His partner, skeptic Dana Scully, wouldn’t believe if a little Gray alien hit her over the head.

The cynicism of its audience was well reflected in the dark conspiracies of THE X-FILES. Mulder and Scully could trust no one but each other as they navigated their world of skulking monsters and government smoke and mirrors. The new X-FILES show, which debuted January 25 on Fox Television, brings these conspiracies even more to the fore. Now it’s not the aliens that are the real enemy; it’s our own government.

Unchained MemoryThis idea of a world hidden beneath the world we’re familiar with is a core element of my Interstellar Rescue series, too. In my first book, Unchained Memory, my heroine, Asia Burdette, only learns of her abduction by aliens and internment in an alien labor camp as she is on the run from government black ops kidnappers who want access to what she knows. In the second book, Trouble in Mind, launching February 16, that black ops group succeeds in kidnapping Asia and her son Jack, who is the key to an interstellar power play. Lana Matheson, an FBI agent every bit as skeptical as Scully, must join forces with a half-alien tracker, Gabriel Cruz, to find the boy and his mother.

The action in Trouble in Mind revolves around the question of how far those in power will go to protect their secrets and/or the foundations of their system. We know, of course, that this black ops group will do almost anything to get at the knowledge of other worlds that Asia has. What would they do with the psi talent that Jack has? The alien government minister who is also searching for Jack wants to use him in a bold move to take over the Minertsan Consortium—and ensure the continuance of slave labor as the basis of the empire’s economy. What will he do to get at Jack?

In this day of media manipulation, general cynicism, economic uncertainty, partisan politics and distrust of government, our science fiction view of aliens as threat has morphed from UFOs taking us as individuals to aliens invading us en masse. Either those aliens want to destroy us outright (PACIFIC RIM, the upcoming INDEPENDENCE DAY II) or they want to colonize us, forcing us to resist or collaborate (FALLING SKIES, COLONY). Again, it’s no surprise that our screens and SF/SFR stories are filled with Mulder’s paranoia writ large—post-Apocalyptic tales, dystopias, unseen aliens with human collaborators (one of my favorite themes).

It’s becoming clear we no longer fear merely being Taken and enslaved. We fear being conquered and enslaved. And that speaks volumes about what we really fear.

About the author

donna_photoA number of years ago, as an aspiring science fiction writer, I took a workshop from noted SF writer Ann C. Crispin. She took one look at my SF short story and said, “You have a talent for writing romance.”

“Romance” in those days meant “historical”  or maybe “contemporary”. There was no “paranormal” and certainly no “science fiction” romance. So I wasn’t sure how to take that comment. Then I realized that much of the kind of science fiction I loved was full of romantic elements–Classic STAR TREK, X-FILES, AVATAR, even many New Age SF authors like Ursula K. Leguin, Zenna Henderson and Theodore Sturgeon.Thankfully, the world has turned, these and other wonderful pioneers have laid the groundwork  and now I can finally take Ann’s advice and follow my true calling.

Along the way to my science fiction suspense career I’ve been married to a wonderful guy since just out of college, been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, raised a family (two girls, two grandkids), tried organic farming, worked as a freelance journalist and editor, been a community activist, earned black belts in two different styles of martial arts and written four STAR TREK fanfic novels (and a number of short stories) for “underground” publication. (Ask me sometime about STAR TREK cons!)

In 2012, my first two SFR novels finaled in the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest. Shortly thereafter, I found a literary home with the fabulous Michelle Johnson, founder of Inklings Literary Agency and INK’d Press. Unchained Memorywas released in February, 2015 from INK’d Press. Trouble in Mind will follow in February, 2016.

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA, the Golden Network (of past and current Golden Heart finalists) and the Firebirds (2012 Golden Heart finalists).

I live on 44 beautiful mountain acres in Marshall, NC, with my husband and two talkative cats.

Follow Donna S. Frelick on Twitter: @DonnaSFrelick

Trouble in MindShe couldn’t get him out of her mind—and that’s when the trouble started.

FBI Special Agent Alana Matheson is good at her job, despite a past that would make even a seasoned agent cringe. She has no time for the outside help the victim’s family has brought in on a kidnapping case, no matter how good-looking he is.

But galactic tracker Gabriel Cruz is no ordinary private investigator, and the skills he brings to the job will save both their lives.Because Lana and Gabriel are not the only ones seeking an unusual little boy and his mother.Their rivals in the chase are not of this world, and only an alliance built on the bonds of love can ensure that Lana and Gabriel beat the alien hunters to their prey.