- - March 6th, 2014
Ryan, the star of Ken MacLeod’s latest SF thriller, DESCENT, had a childhood encounter with an unidentified flying object in the hills above his home town. He’s done his research – he knows of all the hoaxes, justifications and explanations for UFO sightings, but can’t even begin to explain what happened to him. And in a future Scotland where nothing seems secret, where everything is recorded on CCTV or reported online, why can he find no evidence that the UFO ever existed?
DESCENT (UK|ANZ) is a science fiction story for the 21st Century – a story of what happens when conspiracy theorists take on Big Brother. To celebrate its release today, here’s our rundown of some of the weirdest reported alien encounters…
Aliens aren’t just little green men – sometimes they look like ABBA.
‘Space Brothers’, ‘Nordic aliens’ or even ‘Pleiadians’ are the blond, beautiful human-looking aliens who many UFO believers have reported communicating with since the 1950s.
The first person to report contact with this type of alien was George Adamski, who reported seeing UFOs twice with friends before deciding on the third time that the craft must be looking for him! Separating from his friends, he saw the craft land and a blond man emerge, who claimed to be an alien named Orthon, who warned Adamski of the dangers of nuclear war and took him on a trip around the Solar System. That wasn’t the end of it, either – in the sixties Adamski claimed to have attended an interplanetary conference on the planet Saturn.
Once upon a time people would tell stories about how they were kidnapped by fair, beautiful elves in the woods – now it’s beautiful aliens. Why the obsession with blondes, though? It’s all a bit disturbing. (Some theorists have claimed ‘Orthon’ was a lost Nazi soldier testing a new aircraft.)
And sometimes aliens just look like Yoda.
The Hopkinsville goblins were the creatures reportedly seen by two families in Christian County, Kentucky, in 1955. They had pointed ears, silver skin and were small – around three feet tall – with long, clawed arms and small, stumpy legs.
After seeing flickering lights in the sky, and hearing strange noises outside their farmhouse, the Sutton family went outside to investigate. There they saw one of the creatures and shot at it, to no effect, retreating inside the house when another appeared.
Rather than sharing a message of peace and love like ‘Orthon’, these creatures just seemed to want to have fun. Although they did not harm anyone, they ‘terrorised’ the family by jumping at windows, scaring the children, leaping on the roof and generally making a nuisance of themselves – sounds like revenge for the shooting incident, to us!
The police were called, and although they did not see the creatures, the sighting is unusual both for the number of people involved, and the fact that the family did not seek publicity – moving away from the area when UFO seekers became too much to handle.
Betty and Barney Hill Abduction
The first widely publicised alien abduction claim was reported by Betty and Barney Hill of Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1961. The couple said they were driving home when a strange glowing object in the sky began to follow their car, eventually forcing them to a stop. Barney got out of the car with his pistol for a closer look, but ran back to the car shouting “They’re going to capture us!”
At this point the couple said they experienced a time distortion, finding that hours had passed, and they and their car had travelled 35 miles south but had no recollection of the stretch of road, nor where the craft had gone. They reported the craft to the United Air Force the next day, and saw a hypnotist to deal with the strange dreams and anxiety the sighting had caused.
This famous sighting – which now seems to have set the pattern for alien abduction stories – was not widely publicised until a journalist for the BOSTON TRAVELLER got hold of their hypnosis tapes in 1965. The details found under hypnosis fascinated the public, such as Betty and Barney’s recollections of the aliens (small, grey men with large eyes), the medical examinations the aliens gave them, and the ‘star map’ shown to Betty.
Interestingly for the believers of this story, Betty’s star map – showing an unknown constellation, was mapped to known space using information published in a 1969 GLIESE STAR CATALOGUE – information Betty could not have known in 1961.
The Flatwoods Monster
The Flatwoods monster has to be one of the weirdest looking aliens we’ve ever heard of! It’s also the only one who wears a skirt . . .
Described as at least three metres tall and human-shaped, this alien has a glowing red face, a cowled head with bulging, saucer-like eyes and a green body, with a green pleated skirt. Some of the witnesses say it had no arms, while others described short, skinny arms ending in long, clawed fingers. (We’d have just said ‘T-Rex arms’.)
This alien was reportedly spotted in Broxton County, West Virginia, in 1952. Boys playing in the area spotted a glowing craft crash land in the forest. Seven people set out into the woods to find it, including the boy’s mother and a National Guardsman. Coming upon the creature in a clearing where its glowing craft lay stranded, the group say they ran away when it darted towards them, eyes glowing.
No wonder they say they ran away – this artist’s rendition of the creature is pretty creepy! Sheriffs who investigated the scene the next morning could find no craft and no creature, but did report a burnt, metallic small pervading the area.
O’Hare International Airport UFO sighting
We’re counting this one as a ‘weird’ UFO sighting not just because great floating objects in the sky are pretty weird, but because of how recent it is and how many seem to take it seriously.
On November 7th 2006, at 16:15 the federal authorities at Chicago O’Hare International Airport received a report that twelve airport employees were witnessing a metallic, saucer shaped craft hovering over Gate C-17. After two minutes it flew swiftly into the clouds, leaving a hole in the cloud layer.
Both United Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) denied that they had any knowledge of the UFO, but when the CHICAGO TRIBUNE filed a Freedom of Information request, it showed that United Airlines had called the FAA about the UFO. The FAA stated that they would not be investigating the UFO claim, but UFO believers point out that this goes against their policy regarding possible international security breaches at United States airports, especially ones seen by so many witnesses.
There is reportedly so much left to uncover about this sighting that GHOSTBUSTERS actor Dan Aykroyd is investigating it for an upcoming documentary!
In the interview section at the back of FORTUNE’S PAWN, I explained that the reason I originally decided to write the Paradox books was because I wanted to read an action packed SF romance and couldn’t find one, so I created my own. This is a true story, but it’s also true that my sudden reading urge wasn’t the only reason I decided to write about a female soldier turned mercenary who fights aliens, has a romantic subplot, and gets herself involved in a conspiracy that might doom all sentient life in the galaxy. You see, before all that, before Paradox and the xith’cal, even before Devi sauntered into my brain and informed me that I was writing her novel right that minute, I was already on the hunt for somewhere to put the Lady Grey.
I’ve been in love with powered armor since I watched my first mecha anime as a pre-teen renting anime tapes from Blockbuster in the dark days of the mid-90s. The idea of wrapping a person with all our fragile, soft flesh and emotional instability inside a machine that granted super human powers, but only under limits and often at huge costs, was like catnip for my young story-obsessed brain. I actually liked the price even better than the power it bought. Power alone is boring. It’s what power does to people—why they want it, how it changes them, and what they’re willing to do to keep it—that’s where the novel is.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a well told superhero story, you already know that the most compelling part of a any hero is their humanity. We don’t love Batman because of his toys, we love him for what he does with them, and why. We are, in short, far more interested in the man than the bat. Similarly, superheroes who have no weaknesses are boring. Even Superman, the most wish-fulfillment of all wish-fulfillment characters, needed kryptonite to be compelling in the long term.
Powered armor takes this idea a step further. Devi’s suit gives her what are essentially superpowers. She’s super fast, super tough, and super strong. She has eyes in the back of her head, the ability to look up almost any information with a thought, and a literal photographic memory. But none of this power is really hers. She’s just the driver, the breakable, fragile human at the heart of everything, and the knowledge that her power can be damaged, taken away, or even simply run out of energy, is what makes her plights that much more interesting and tense.
Powered armor certainly wasn’t the only way I could have done this. There are a million ways in Science Fiction to make someone super powered. I could have given Devi implants, or made her a genetically modified super soldier. But all of these things would have been hers, and I didn’t want that. I wanted Devi’s powers to be something she something she had to pay for and could only use at great personal risk, because the person who has the guts to willingly put their neck on the line for the power to achieve their goals is also the person who can function without it. Take Superman’s powers away and he becomes a whiny embarrassment sulking in his Fortress of Solitude. Take Batman’s money and gadgets away and he’s still freaking Batman.
This vulnerability is why I think powered armor is such a staple in our collective imagination. It’s the ultimate unstable power—a supreme weapon that’s stealable, breakable, hackable, and only ever one technological glitch away from being a metal mausoleum—and the character who chooses to use it even in the face of all those flaws is practically guaranteed to be the sort of hardcore badass you want to read about. I put Devi in the Lady Gray precisely because I wanted her to be the sort of heroine who, when I blasted her suit full of holes, would use the sharp edges to go for her enemy’s throat. The Lady Gray made Devi every bit as much as she made the Lady Gray, and I wouldn’t want either of them any other way.
Rachel Bach is the author of Paradox, a three part, heavy ordinance blast of Science Fiction that starts with FORTUNE’S PAWN (US | UK | AUS) and continues with HONOUR’S KNIGHT (US | UK | AUS), out now! Want to find out more about the Paradox series? Read the interview, which appeared in the back of FORTUNE’S PAWN.
- - January 31st, 2014
We’ve had some magnificent new praise Kim Stanley Robinson and his novel SHAMAN (US | UK | AUS). Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder had this to say:
“KSR has turned his formidable knowledge and imagination from outer space and future science onto the deep human past. He unfolds the rich and complex lives of our upper Paleolithic forebears: a lad with no family, called Loon, makes it from boyhood to a role in his small society as a Shaman, under the difficult, nutty, mentorship of an elder named Thorn. His trials, hungers, dangers, and skills remind us that our minds and tools are sophisticated and very ancient. A moment struck by watching the great beauty of a wild horse, a vision of two young women braiding each others’ hair by a stream, put us all in the same place. Wild food, vast landscapes, insight, logic, handiness, lovely and sometimes difficult sex, and talks by the fire – all under the sky – or on a long long walk – make up a world we are still in. I don’t think anyone but Kim Stanley Robinson could have brought this off.”
World-renowned artist Marina Abramović said simply that it was the “best book of the year.”
And finally the New Yorker added that “Robinson is one of our best, bravest, most moral, and most hopeful storytellers.”
You can read the full admiring piece on the author and his work here or read a sample from the novel.
If you look at the early reviews of my new novel, FORTUNE’S PAWN (out now, by the way! [US | UK | AUS]), you’ll find one word repeated over and over again: fun. This word also appeared in reviews of my fantasy series, THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS (written as Rachel Aaron [US | UK | ANZ]), so much so that I was actually joking to my husband that I should call myself “Rachel Aaron, the fun author!”
And you know, I’m okay with that.
Fun is a seriously underrated novel component. There are plenty of serious books that make you cry or think in a different way or show you something beautiful and deep. I strive for all that in my works as well, but never at the cost of a good time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a cathartic cry as much as the next person, but the books I come back to over and over again are the ones that left me smiling and exhilarated and hungry to read more.
Too often, we say “escapist reading” like it’s something lesser. Like we should be ashamed that we’re enjoying something just because it’s fun. I think that’s absurd. It’s like saying ice cream is lesser because all it does is taste delicious. We need delicious, because life is hard. Bad things happen even to the luckiest of us, and the world can too often be a stressful, dark, unfriendly, unkind place. A good, fun book is like an escape hatch from all that grim reality. It’s a safe space where we can run away and have a good, dramatic, thrilling time, and sometimes, when you really need to a respite, that can feel like a miracle.
Hearing someone had a blast reading my books is the greatest complement I can receive as a writer. I’m proud to be a trusted provider of quality life escape hatches. And while I can’t guarantee my story will change your world forever, I can promise that it’ll be one hell of a ride. So come have fun in my imagination. Let me entertain you. At the very least, you’ll never be bored.
FORTUNE’S PAWN is available now! Check out the first chapter here, and get ready for even more fun this Thursday. Rachel Bach will be joining authors Daniel Abraham (1/2 of the James S. A. Corey writing duo) and Ann Leckie tomorrow for an evening of science fiction, technology, and space opera. RSVP to the Google event today.
- - October 31st, 2013
LONDON CAN DRAIN THE LIFE OUT OF YOU . . .
Bob Howard is an intelligence agent working his way through the ranks of the top secret government agency known as ‘the Laundry’. When occult powers threaten the realm, they’ll be there to clean up the mess – and deal with the witnesses.
There’s one kind of threat that the Laundry has never come across in its many decades, and that’s vampires. Mention them to a seasoned agent and you’ll be laughed out of the room.
But when a small team of investment bankers at one of Canary Wharf’s most distinguished financial institutions discovers an arcane algorithm that leaves them fearing daylight and craving O positive, someone doesn’t want the Laundry to know. And Bob gets caught right in the middle.
The newest Laundry Files novel, and a jumping-on point for readers new to the series, THE RHESUS CHART will be released in hardback and digital July 2014. Cover design by Crush Creative.
Don’t forget you can now buy all four of the previous Laundry Files novels in these gorgeous paperback editions.
I decided pretty early on, when I first was playing with the elements of what would become the universe of ANCILLARY JUSTICE (US | UK | AUS), that the Radchaai wouldn’t care much about gender, and wouldn’t mark people’s gender in their speech. Not because I wanted the Radch to be any kind of prejudice-free utopia–far from it.* But because I (somewhat naively) thought it would be interesting.
It actually took me a while to realize what a can of worms I was opening. To some extent, I’m still realizing it. But at first, I was faced with a purely mechanical problem–how to portray a society that just didn’t care about gender, while I myself was using a language that required me to specify gender at every turn. It’s pretty much built into English to specify a person’s gender, even when it’s is totally irrelevant to the topic at hand, and it’s difficult–not impossible, mind you, but difficult–to talk for very long about a person without mentioning their gender. **
At first I tried just asserting that Radchaai didn’t care about gender, and then using gendered pronouns throughout. I was unsatisfied with this. (And unsatisfied with those first couple of novels, which are in a drawer hidden from view until further notice. Only a few people have seen them.) I became more unsatisfied with it the longer I considered it, in fact. In the end I decided to pick one pronoun (at least for the sections where, presumably, my narrator is speaking Radchaai) and stick with it in all cases.
Often people assume (wrongly) that “they” as a singular pronoun isn’t “proper” English. It is in fact entirely grammatical and available to use. It’s most often used to refer to a nebulous “someone” whose ambiguous existence makes gender difficult to guess, but there are an increasing number of recent examples of singular they used in cases where gender is known and/or not a simple matter of either/or.*** I could have used it for Ancillary Justice, but it didn’t feel right. I’m not a hundred percent sure why.
I could have chosen any one of the ungendered pronouns that have been proposed over the years. This also would have been entirely workable. And inclusive–though we’re used to thinking of gender as an obvious either/or, male/female, really things aren’t always that clearcut. On the minus side, using any of those pronouns would have made getting into the story difficult for readers unfamiliar with them, at least at first. This is not a reason to never use those pronouns, of course, but I admit it was a consideration for me here.
I could have gone with the old standby, “the masculine embraces the feminine,” and just called everyone “he.” This is, in fact, the choice made by Ursula K LeGuin when she wrote The Left Hand of Darkness (Which is awesome, and if you haven’t read it, it is my considered opinion that you should.) Years later, she expressed some dissatisfaction with having made that choice. It made the Gethenians seem to be all male, which they were not, and failed to convey their non-binary nature. Read the rest of this entry »
- - September 11th, 2013
The time is almost upon us.
The film version of ENDER’S GAME – one of the most popular and critically acclaimed science fiction novels ever written – will be out in the UK on 25th October .
To celebrate, we’re very pleased to present the final cover for our Orbit film tie-in edition – available from 3rd October.
Starring Harrison Ford as Colonel Hyrum Graff, Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham and Asa Butterfield as the child prodigy Ender himself, we have very high hopes for this movie. The trailer looks spectacular – check out the latest extended version if you haven’t seen it yet.
You can also keep up to date with news on the film on the Ender’s Game Facebook page.
And if you haven’t read the worldwide bestselling, award-winning book behind this film yet, read a free extract to find out what you’re missing.