Today I hand over the reins to SF and fantasy author Patty Jansen, who is a member of SFWA and winner of the second quarter of the Writers of the Future contest. As well as in volume 27 of the contest, she has published fiction in various magazines such as Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Aurealis, Redstone SF and the Universe Annex of the Grantville Gazette. She has also 'indie' published a number of longer works. Patty lives in Sydney, Australia.
Patty has a PhD in science, and before becoming a writer, Patty worked in agricultural research.
I like my fiction gritty. Whether I write fantasy or science fiction, I like to imagine the smells and sounds and little details that make fiction real. If you're writing about space travel, any fiction that does not cover the visceral reality of living in close quarters with others will be too vanilla and glossed-over. Those details create a sense of authenticity.
When I was little, we once witnessed an accident where a number of trucks crashed into the back of one another at a traffic light. The accident wasn't particularly serious nor was there much to see, but to this day, I remember the screams of pain from one of the drivers. That is the sort of detail I go for: in every situation, but particularly horrid ones, grab one detail and fixate the characters on it as something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Because that is what we do in reality: remember details of smell, of colour, of something unusual or chilling.
Primitive fantasy-style life isn't pretty. People get sick young in life and if they get better, carry the scars. Teeth fall out. Health problems which we consider fixable continue to fester and become visible even in young people. If you root around, you get pregnant. If you have a child, things can get messy.
Some people say "I don't want to read about that stuff". They want no one to get pregnant, no one to die in childbirth, no one to get rickets and have ugly crooked legs for the rest of his life.
That's fine, but romanticised fiction is not for me. I love Joe Abercrombie and with his type of fiction in mind, I wrote the Icefire Trilogy. The concept behind it is fantastical and absurd. Not everything is meant to pass a laws-of-physics inspection. Think The Ten Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin.
In a post-apocalyptic world, the major construction that remains from an ancient civilisation is a machine that people call the Heart which gives off a radiation, called icefire, that has had a profound effect on creatures around it. Knights ride on eagles big enough to carry the weight of a grown man, and people and animals can live without their hearts, as servitors.
People have learned to use to power. All people who live in the southern land are immune to the radiation, others can wield it like magic, but people who are not local die from its effects. A sorcerer with dubious motives revives the Heart from the slumber state in which it has lain for fifty years. He only needs an army of heart-less servitors to control the power.
Of course, all sorts of things go wrong, and the power spreads outward, to countries across the border whose population has steam technology, but cannot withstand icefire.
Gritty scenes, there are plenty, although not that much violence happens "live".
But there is one scene that still gives me nightmares. I call it "the train". I have no idea how my mind came up with that twisted piece of fiction.
Book 1 of the trilogy is currently free on major ebook retailers.
Links: Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, B&N, and Apple.
About Patty Jansen:
Patty Jansen lives in Sydney, Australia, where she spends most of her time writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has sold fiction to genre magazines such as Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Redstone SF and Aurealis. Her novels (available at ebook venues) include Shifting Reality (hard SF), The Far Horizon (middle grade SF), Charlotte’s Army (militarFire & Ice, Dust & Rain and Blood & Tears (Icefire Trilogy) (dark fantasy).
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Patty is on Twitter (@pattyjansen), Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, google+ and blogs at http://pattyjansen.com/