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Side by Side: Space Travel

Side by Side

Side by Side: Space Travel

Have you ever thought about hopping in a spaceship and taking a trip around the universe? Maybe you’d like see the stars, have an epic adventure and fall in star-crossed love. The characters in LIFER by Beck Nicholas and THIS SHATTERED WORLD by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman get to do just that.

In LIFER, Asher is a slave, called a lifer, aboard the spaceship Pelican. She’s desperate to aid the brewing Lifer rebellion, but she could be in serious danger. On the other side of the universe, Blank wakes up without his memory and has to play for it in a black-market gaming warehouse. In THIS SHATTERED WORLD, Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac are caught between two sides in a senseless war over a terraformed planet.

We talked to Beck Nichols, Megan Spooner and Amie Kaufman about their inspiration, their sci-fi research, and what aliens would think about their high school days --- and their apparent mutual love for chocolate that grows on trees.. Read below for this month’s Side by Side.  What was the inspiration for this book?

Beck Nicholas:  Lifer is two stories in one and they each came about in different ways. Asher is a servant on a spaceship and her story was inspired by Australia’s convict past. I wondered how such a system might work to help create the people to do the crappy work on a generation ship. Thus Asher’s ancestors were born. I thought the period where landing and freedom loomed large in the minds of the servants would be full of tension and a fertile place to breed rebellion.

Blank’s inspiration is a little different in that he literally appeared in my mind, naked (*blushes*), walking through a specially preserved garden. I had to work out where he’d come from and why he was there. And so did he. His story grew from there.

Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman:  The first book in the Starbound trilogy, THESE BROKEN STARS, was born out of our mutual love of space and shipwrecks. As we worked on that book, we knew we wanted to explore more of this universe. Tarver and Lilac talked about planets still undergoing terraforming, about colonist rebellions and the soldiers sent to quell them. In THIS SHATTERED WORLD, we visit the planet Avon, where Flynn Cormac is a rebel and Jubilee Chase is the soldier sent to stop him. 

TRC:  What's the most interesting thing you learned when researching this book?

BN:  One of the things about writing science fiction is starting with a seed of science and then extending it using my imagination. I studied lasers at university and in my research I used them to excite single bonds within a molecule. I loved the idea of a weapon, tuned to a particular frequency to destroy something so particular. Thus came the Q which is so important to the story.

When researching the Upheaval, which devastated the world before the story begins, I was fascinated by the possibility of human-made earthquakes, both unintentionally and then extrapolating to whether it could be done deliberately.

MS and AK:  We had so much fun researching THIS SHATTERED WORLD! We talked to physicists and botanists, doctors, radio specialists and the Director of the Centre for Spoken Irish in Cork, Ireland (as you do). I mean, we got to learn to say “kiss my ass” in Irish. And this is what we do for a living!

TRC:  You have the opportunity to ride in a vessel and travel through space for a year. Will you do it? Why or why not?

BN:  I am so terrible at decisions I would probably um and ahh about it until the opportunity was lost and then I’d regret it for the rest of my life. My brain would be like "what an opportunity" and then it would counter "but what about everything you’d leave behind?" I’d like to think my desire to see the stars up close would win out but I can’t be sure the thought of my friends and family and all that could happen in a year wouldn’t win out.

MS and AK:  Absolutely! We’re both huge space geeks, so we’d jump on an opportunity like that in a heartbeat. We love road-tripping together --- our trip to the Grand Canyon will live in legend --- and this would be the ultimate road trip! Also, we really love astronaut ice cream.

TRC:  You've just discovered a couple new planets and one is amazing and one is awful. Describe them!

BN:  Amazing planet has lots of green rolling hills and probably some snow-capped peaks (we don’t get snow here). There is peace and freedom and plenty for all. There’s room for all my family and friends. It probably grows some spectacular no calorie chocolate on something (a bush would work better than a tree for access I think) and there are castles (don’t have them here either) without draughts and with wall to wall books to read.

Awful planet has a surface of acid which eats away at the vessel the moment we land. The air is unbreathable and the ground constantly shifts so there would be a chasm at my feet or a mountain rearing up any moment. The only life has teeth too big --- and a snarl to match  --- to let me investigate them closely, and I just hope I don’t have to stay too long.

MS and AK:  One is a Willy Wonka style cornucopia of delights, where chocolate grows on trees and everything is delicious. We wouldn’t last long (poor impulse control) but boy would we be happy.

The other planet…well, if you’ve read our first book, THESE BROKEN STARS, you’ve already seen it.

TRC:  You're trapped in a spacecraft for 24 hours with a character from your book. Who would you want it to be, and what would you talk about?

BN:  My first instinct says Davyd, because he is so bad and so hot and I’m sure I could bring out the gentle side in him that Asher glimpses occasionally. But I’m pretty sure Davyd doesn’t talk much with females and I’m happily married. So perhaps it would be Blank because he’s sweet and hot. But he’ll only want to quiz me about his identity. So it would have to be Asher. I think we’d talk about everything. Wow is she a girl who needs someone to talk to. I’d try to help her through her grief and I’d probably ask for some self-defense lessons because she’s way tougher than me.

MS and AK:  We’d pick our hero, Flynn. He’s of Irish descent, and has the charm you’d expect, plus the gift of the gab! He knows a heap of great stories, so he’d keep us entertained for 24 hours.

Unless the spacecraft has broken down. Has it broken down? In that case we’d pick our heroine, Jubilee. She’d totally MacGyver it with some duct tape and string and get us back on course!

TRC:  Imagine that aliens invaded your high school when you were student. What would they have thought was the weirdest part?

BN:  They may have struggled to narrow it down! I went to an all-girls school so that would probably have perplexed them from the start. Then we were forced to wear some delightful brown uniforms which were like sacks on even the prettiest girls at school. They might have wondered why we spent so much time melting chip packets over heaters to shrink them (I’m still not sure). But they would have felt at home in our school chapel. A beautiful building created in the 1970s which has reminded some sitting beneath its round spoked roof of the alien ship in Independence Day.

MS and AK:  Hmmm. Good question! It’s easy to imagine aliens wondering why we all got up and marched to a new location every time a bell rang. Is there a pattern to it? Is it a form of communication? What does it signify? Or maybe cafeteria food, actually. That’s pretty weird.