DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Authors Sandra Stixrude and Angel Martinez


Nope. You’re wrong. We’re not introducing two authors, but one writing under two names in the genres of science fiction and paranormal. The difference is that Sandra Stixrude pens stories for all ages, which can be read by the entire family. Angel Martinez, well, let’s just say you might want to pull the blinds when you read one of her erotic tales. 

Sandra/Angel are a suitable pairing in an industry undergoing change. With the numbers of ‘authors’ multiplying daily thanks to the advent and ease of self-publishing, and sales sites not always clear in the type of books offered for sale, Sandra has created a clear separation between her personas so mainstream readers don’t accidentally pick up a story of interstellar pirates conquering the universe one bedroom at a time. 

The unbreakable link between the two names is a distinctive voice telling really good stories. And, when speaking of science fiction, I must add “carefully researched” stories. Sandra holds true to the traditions of science fiction adventure and refrains from slipping into fantasy versus science, all the while providing readers with crafted plots, memorable characters, and an enjoyable reading experience. 

Sandra created the “Anchorage” series – seven books that take place on one planet. The first,
“Marya,” is the story of a woman assigned to guard the realm’s heir apparent against a prophecy of assassination. Next came the two-part “Romenel,” a tale of a mercenary commander who has become the hunted. Penilas’s stories of a young man fighting for his liege and memory followed, with Emily’s life and adventures bringing the series to closure. These are skillfully crafted stories of adventure on worlds Sandra creates as if she was born and raised on them. 

Though Angel is marvelous at romantic science fiction, she also enjoys delving into the paranormal. Her latest release is “Semper Fae: Endangered Fae 3.” Zack thought being a Marine medic in a secret gov’t installation was odd, until he was assigned as the liaison to the fae. Angel’s novel “Gravitational Attraction” garnered praise from a wide variety of sources due to its explicit and (as much as science fiction can be) accurate portrayal of the events aboard a spaceship found adrift and the unfolding danger and suspense born of the experiments that occurred there. 

So, whatever your reading preference, Sandra and Angel have an out of the ordinary story waiting for you.

Q) You’re a married mother with cats, university educated, and love to travel. There is gender bias within the writing industry. Science fiction is held by some to be a “male” genre, regardless of the fact there are a number of bestselling female science fiction authors. So, why choose science fiction as the backdrop for adventure and romance? 

A) Because I’m a masochist. No, that’s not entirely true, though I have a stubborn streak and am liable to bang my head against walls harder if you say the words, “You can’t do that.” The truth is that I fell in love with science fiction quite young. Between the cheesy old Cold War era science fiction movies and serials on Saturday afternoon TV and a wonderful school librarian who recognized a kindred soul, I fell hard and fast. Andre Norton, who wrote science fiction for young people, was one of my early favorites, though I soon devoured Bradbury, Asimov and, yes, Keith Laumer.  

Imagine my astonished delight when I discovered that Andre Norton was Mary Norton. She wrote under a male pseudonym since her publisher convinced her she had to. SF written by a woman would never sell, they said. The fact was that she wrote amazing stories, though, and the gender revelation never affected how much her fans loved her. I loved her. She opened the universe for me. She drew me out of current reality into the possible, not what is but what could be.  

This is the very crux of science fiction, what pulls me to it, mouse to cheese. In SF we begin with what is known and extrapolate, take that leap of imagination out into what might be next, what could develop. It is something quintessentially human, this reaching beyond ourselves, and one can’t draw gender boundaries on being human. Yes, the old prejudices are still there. Brilliant minds like Ursula LeGuin and C. J. Cherryh are often accused of writing “soft” science fiction, science that doesn’t focus hard enough on physics and computer sciences. To limit the range of topics discussed, though, is dangerous, as if physics were a more “legitimate” science than biology or anthropology. 

Q) “Boots” was Angel’s divergence into erotic fairytales. Why the departure and is that genre something you would explore again? 

A) I’m not certain it was a divergence as much as a return. Yes, I love SF, but I’m something of an amateur folklorist in the depths of my dark little heart. The roots of people’s stories fascinate me—where they came from, how they evolved, and what clues they hold concerning culture and history. Fairytales are a large part of that cultural history, oral tradition tweaked and bent to the teller’s designs. We often forget that until the stories were collected in written form that myth and folklore were mutable, evolving things. It’s fascinating to find the variations from century to century, from country to country. Sleeping Beauty was originally not a story you’d want to read your grandchildren. The hero fights through the deadly thicket to the sleeping princess and rapes her while she’s sleeping. She doesn’t wake until she gives birth to his son some years later. Not exactly love’s first kiss, is it? 

This is all a rather long-winded way to say that folktales and myth are fertile fodder for any storyteller. I won’t lie and tell you it’s all intellectual. It’s incredibly fun to find new ways to tell a familiar story, to challenge yourself with what, at first glance, might seem unworkable. So the cat in Puss in Boots as a gay Kasha demon? Absolutely. 

I have dipped into the folkloric and mythical pot several more times (and most likely will again.) Wild Rose, Silent Snow is a retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red,” with two grown brothers rather than two little girls, and Vassily the Beautiful actually combines two of my passions as a reengineered fairytale (the Russian “Vasilisa the Beautiful”) worked into a Science Fiction setting. Angel’s next story, due out in May of this year, is a tale about Hades, Lord of the Underworld, trying to find a place for himself in the modern world. 

Q) You do substantial research for your science fiction. Even so, your stories can drift perilously
close to fantasy at times. How do you stay true to science fiction and avoid the brink? 

A) I am an old school firm believer that SF and Fantasy are two different streams that shouldn’t mix. While a subsistence culture may view advanced science as “magic,” the writer must be able, in his or her own mind, to separate the two. The human culture in “Marya,” too far removed from normal space shipping lanes and from its own history, has reverted to pre-steam feudalism. When Marya and her companions encounter holographic projections, electricity, remote control tech, and alien power sources, many of them perceive magic and monsters. Marya herself, though, has a quick, analytical mind, one better able to adapt to new ideas, so while she’s unable to explain all she sees to her own satisfaction, she soon discards magical explanations. 

Science requires an explanation, even if you don’t give the reader the spec sheet. In Fantasy, magic simply is. Oh, yes, there are systems of magic and ways in which humans can tap into magic and variations on how magic interacts with the world, but it’s still magic. Science requires ingenuity and the manipulation of the universe around us within the laws of physics and chemistry. Magic is the manipulation of the universe despite the laws of physics.  

I do write both and I enjoy them with equal gusto, but the research for my Science Fiction pieces is external while the “research” for Fantasy pieces, for the system and the world in which it works, is largely internal. 

Q) Which leads into this question: What do you see as the difference between science fiction and outer world fantasy?
 
Not a big fan of outer world fantasy. If you’re going to write fantasy, what possible need is there for extra-solar planets? Why not create an entirely new universe for your magical system if it can’t take place on Earth? 

But that’s not really an answer to the question. It boils down to this: if you introduce actual magic (not telepathy, not advanced nano-tech, not some form of telekinesis, but magic) into your story, it’s no longer science fiction. This defeats the purpose of science fiction, which takes what we know about the universe and extrapolates on that knowledge, finds some new, possible solution using the laws of known science and forms plausible hypothetical leaps from these laws. 

If you have a king who uses magic to rule or to have mind-blowing sex or eat his breakfast, don’t call it science fiction simply because it’s on a distant planet. It’s not. Especially if there’s no evidence that there’s any explanation behind the magic beyond specially gifted individuals getting to use it. This is Fantasy and nothing to be ashamed of, but please call it what it is. I think the “outer world” Fantasy confuses the issue simply because publishers want to call any story with space travel Science Fiction.  

Q) Any parting comments for fans and potential readers?

A) Don’t fear Science Fiction. It comes in as many flavors as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, with as much wild variety and as many rabid fanatics of one flavor as there are detractors of another. Good Science Fiction doesn’t set out to explain the workings of a starship. It shows you the starship whole and operating and then allows you to understand how the workings of this ship affect the humans taking passage. It doesn’t try to describe the universe; it tries to illuminate some slice of our place in it. At its best, SF is the most human of fiction genres and sometimes for the writer, the most intensely freeing.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

 

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