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Every so often, a post comes up about how this or that character is a ‘Mary Sue’. I’m sure Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens was one of these unfortunate female characters, who certain viewers regard as being too good at things to be believed.

Allow me a moment of rocking in my chair on the porch. I was around when the term Mary Sue was localized to fandom, and in fandom – I think – it had a useful purpose. You see, the thing about fan fiction is that people read it hoping for more of the characters they loved from [whatever the canon is.] If they’re Aragorn fans, they want to see more fic about Aragorn, in which they can revel in how cool he is, feel sorrow for his sorrow and happiness for his joy, etc.

lord-rings-aragorn-desktop-background

In a situation like that, I think it’s perfectly valid to resent the introduction of a female character who wasn’t even in the canon stories, who inserts herself into the universe and immediately becomes the focus of the story. Especially when she outshines Aragorn by being better than him at everything, by advising him against the bad choices he makes, being wiser than him about his moments of self doubt, more beloved than him by the good guys and more hated than him by the bad. That wasn’t what you were looking for when you went looking for Aragorn fan fic. It claimed to be Aragorn fanfic, but it was actually Legolas’s-Sister-the-real-heir-of-Lorien fanfic.

As the story misguided you as to who it was actually about, you had every reason to resent it.

However, when you take the female character who is good at everything – who outshines all the other characters, has a cool name and a destiny, who is chosen and favoured and successful – out of fanfic, I think she ceases to be a Mary Sue.

Mary Sue doesn’t just mean ‘a female character who is implausibly good at things.’ Because you know who else can be defined as ‘a character who is implausibly good at things’? The hero. That’s who. The hero, by definition, tends to be that character who always comes through in the end, and often does it by being better than everyone else.

Outside of fanfiction, there are plenty of male characters who are handsome and devastatingly sexy and dangerous and destined for greatness. Or if they’re not destined, they fight their way to greatness anyway.

It’s a classic superhero trope isn’t it? Young man finds himself in some hidden valley/ancient temple/bat-cave and is taught to be a superhero by a secret society who only exist to give him the tools to be great. Then he goes off and fights crime and dazzles high society with his wealth and debonair attitude, while carrying the fate of the world on his shoulders.

No one seems to call James Bond a Mary Sue. We’re just happy to go along with him for a wild ride of a power fantasy in which we vicariously enjoy being awesome.

So, outside fan fiction, I don’t see why you can’t also have a female hero who exists entirely to be badass and better than anyone else. A female character who gets openly admired for that.

In fact, I thought that sounded rather fun. And so Aurora Campos from the Cygnus Five series was born. I wanted her to be the kind of unstoppable force of nature that Hornblower or Jack Aubrey are, but in space. I wanted her to be the kind of person who, when she’s abandoned on a hostile world by her venal bosses, who hope she’ll be murdered and thus be no more embarrassment to them, would go “No. I’m Aurora Campos. You should be afraid of me.” And then take over that world and make it happen.

I suspect she’s a direct descendent of Susan Ivanova from Babylon Five, who initiates a war from the bridge of her battlecruiser with a speech that still makes me want to punch the air. I get to the end of this speech and I have chills even now, so very many years since I saw this first.

“I am Death Incarnate. I am the last living thing you will ever see. God sent me.”

How often do we get to see this? When do we ever get to see women have this kind of crowning moment of awesome? It’s so rare.

And that’s how Aurora came to be. I wanted her to be the kind of character who could pull off a speech like this, because she has the force of will, intelligence and strength to follow through on it.

She’s still not a Mary Sue, for the reasons I’ve given above. She’s a hero. And writing her was such a blast. Such a relief. I hope if you read her, she’ll come as a vicariously enjoyable power fantasy for you too, and that you too will find that something of a breaking of mental chains.

LionessFinalLarge

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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In a move that seems to go against any kind of good economic sense, I’ve made Lioness of Cygnus Five free from today to the 5th of September. I’m only allowed to do this for five days under KDP’s policies, so grab a copy now if you would like one.

If you had time to spare, an honest review would be very appreciated. (It doesn’t have to be a good review. I’d just like to know what you thought.) And if you liked it, and you’d like to tell other people about it, that would be awesome!

LionessFinal133x200

Aurora Campos’s days of heroism are behind her. Deemed a shameful failure, she now captains Froward, a prison transport filled with criminals sent out to colonise new worlds for the Kingdom.

Bryant Jones, technocrat and falsely accused ‘murderer’, is not going to let his future be taken away by this low-tech luddite of a woman and her backward society. He’s staging a break out from Aurora’s brig when the Froward is shot down around them.

Cygnus Five is a failing colony. Starving convicts have taken over and found themselves a spaceship wrecker among the ruins of an abandoned alien city. The only way off-world is the Governor’s launch, sealed in its silo beneath the convicts’ headquarters. But as they team up to capture it, Aurora and Bryant discover love, institutional betrayal and the lurking remnants of a self-destructive alien civilization. Soon they have bigger problems on their hands than their own survival.

When they arrived, Aurora thought she had only her crew to rescue. As it turns out, she has to save the whole world.

Get it here for free!

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

Well, I said I would release it in August, and I have just scraped in.

Bar a bit of formatting and making sure the links worked, it was ready last week, but I had forgotten that I was going on my summer holidays, and I didn’t want to release it while I was away in case something went wrong which I needed to fix. So, here I am back, the links are all tested. Amazon reports zero spelling mistakes, and I think we’re as ready to go as we ever will be.

LionessFinalLarge

You can buy it here

via an extremely cool link that takes you to whatever is the correct Amazon for your country 🙂

Blurb

Aurora Campos’s days of heroism are behind her. Deemed a shameful failure, she now captains Froward, a prison transport filled with criminals sent out to colonise new worlds for the Kingdom.

Bryant Jones, technocrat and falsely accused ‘murderer’, is not going to let his future be taken away by this low-tech luddite of a woman and her backward society. He’s staging a break out from Aurora’s brig when the Froward is shot down around them.

Cygnus Five is a failing colony. Starving convicts have taken over and found themselves a spaceship wrecker among the ruins of an abandoned alien city. The only way off-world is the Governor’s launch, sealed in its silo beneath the convicts’ headquarters. But as they team up to capture it, Aurora and Bryant discover love, institutional betrayal and the lurking remnants of a self-destructive alien civilization. Soon they have bigger problems on their hands than their own survival.

When they arrived, Aurora thought she had only her crew to rescue. As it turns out, she has to save the whole world.

Lioness of Cygnus Five – an excerpt

I’ve made this book a Kindle exclusive, so I can run a giveaway for its launch. If you get it any time during the period 1st-5th of September, it will be free. So if you’re curious about trying my SF/Space Opera, but you’re not sure if you’ll like it, you’ll be able to get it in that period, risk and expense free.

(I’ll remind you again on the 1st when the giveaway actually starts.)

Please, if you do try it and enjoy it, consider leaving me a review on Amazon. I don’t have the backing of a publisher for this one, so I need help getting the word out there about it. Thank you!

Get it here!


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)
EcrivainAuxChats

By Morburre – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

This is probably oversharing or something, but what do people think of this as a blurb?

~

Busted to command of prison ship Froward, taking criminals out to colonise new worlds for the Kingdom of Peace, Aurora Campos’s days of heroism are behind her. No more conquering the fleets of the Source Worlds’ soul-less technocrats. She’s a fallen woman, a failure.

Bryant Jones, technocrat and ‘murderer’, is not going to let his future be taken away by some dark ages Neanderthal. He’s staging a break out from Aurora’s brig when the Froward is shot down around them.

The convicts have taken over the penal planet. Shipwrecked on a hostile world, where the only escape route is a single spaceship buried in a guarded silo beneath the convicts’ main building, Aurora and Bryant must work together to survive.

Aurora wants the ship so she can rescue her crew. Bryant just wants off world as soon as possible. Neither of them are expecting the aliens.

~

Interesting? Cliche? Would you want to read it? What would you do differently?


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

I’ve mentioned the Cygnus Five series before, haven’t I? It’s more of a Cygnus Five trilogy at the moment, and comes to a satisfying close at the end of the third book. But there’s lots of room for expansion later on if people like these three books.

LionessFinalLarge

I’m in the final stages of polishing up Lioness of Cygnus Five at the moment. I’m writing a blurb/cover copy, doing one more proof-reading sweep, and – as you can see – creating the high-res cover, rather than the mock-up I showed you earlier.

This series is a massive experiment and learning experience for me. I’ve used self-publishing in a casual way before, as a way of testing the waters with things that I’d already written/published before, but I’ve never committed the time and energy to write three books specifically with an intent to Indie publish them.

Hanging around the internet over the last few years, I’ve heard more than one person wishing for queer books that were not, first and foremost, romances. “Why can’t we just be heroes? Why can’t our sexuality just be one aspect of who we are, not the focus of the book?”

That jived with me, because if you’ve known me since my early fandom days you’ll know that I was always primarily a gen writer. I like the fighting, blowing things up, saving the world and philosophizing on the nature of good and evil better than I like the romance. This is a problem for a romance writer.

So, I thought “I have no idea who would publish a space opera with a variety of queer leads, where the queerness wasn’t really the point, but wasn’t invisible either. Particularly when the first book revolves around a m/f relationship.” (Hero is bi, straight heroine spends some time body swapped to male-appearing and learns something about dysphoria in the process.) Later books continue the m/f relationship but also follow a f/f pairing and an ace m/m pair as they liberate prisoners and act as ambassadors for the human race to an alien AI.

Basically, I don’t think a mainstream publisher would know what to do with it, but it’s very much the sort of thing I wanted to write, and it’s the sort of thing I’ve heard people asking for, around the MOGAI and fandom sections of the internet.

I don’t have a game plan going in. I probably should. But if I waited for one, I would probably never do this. If there are any wise, established Indie Publishers out there who could give me hints as to how to do this, I would be very grateful. Equally, if any of my writing friends would like to host me on a blog tour for this, I would also be very grateful. (My blog is always open to you in return!)

I will be blogging about how it goes and what I’m up to, on a fairly regular basis. (That’s my aim, subject to depression and spoons.) So if you’re interested in a case study for how someone starts off in self publishing with a book, high hopes and zero knowledge, check back when you can. I’ll try to remember to tag all relevant posts Cygnus 5 books.

Now to write a blurb!

 


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

It’s time to talk about Space Opera. It’s a good time to talk about Space Opera, in fact, given that Star Wars roared back to life this year with The Force Awakens. While I did enjoy TFA, I also felt it was a bit of a re-tread of the Original Trilogy. I appreciated that our heroes were now a woman and a black man, and I found both characters endearing, but I didn’t feel there was much that was new in the storytelling. Maybe I should wait and see what the next film does with this underwhelming start before I carp, though. Maybe they’re deliberately setting up parallels so they can surprise us by how differently they develop them in the next one.

I wasn’t this critical about the first Star Wars. And when I say ‘the first Star Wars’ I mean Star Wars: A New Hope, which I went to see when it was first released. I put in my dues as a SW fan! I queued round the block in the rain to see ANH, and it was worth it. I still remember that shot of the Star Destroyer passing overhead – and passing – and passing – and passing – as one of the greatest moments of cinematic awe of my life. It was a moment that redefined the size of science fiction films. They’d been intimate and thoughtful before then. Now they were huge and fun and maybe not terribly scientific any more, but who cared because they still had aliens and spaceships, right?

Heh. I don’t want to get into the argument about whether space opera can be called science fiction or not, because (a) that’s a sidetrack to what I’m supposed to be talking about here, and (b) it isn’t. It’s a genre of its own, and it’s probably all the better for it.

But my massive digression up there is intended to establish that I’ve been a space opera fan for a very long time. I’ve also (I’ve only just realized) always been a complete sucker for scenes of beautiful ships being slowly revealed in all their glory. Three of my favourite franchises ever open with a ‘look at this beautiful ship’ scene – the Dauntless in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Star Destroyer in Star Wars, and Destiny in Stargate Universe. That’s probably all you’ve got to do to ensnare me, then – a glamourous shot of a big war machine, and I’m in.

Putting the second diversion aside, I’ll get to the point of this post, which is that I’ve been very silent recently. Partly due to my dad’s final illness, of course, but partly because I’ve been writing a space opera trilogy. It looks like I’m on course to finish the third book by the end of August, after which I will self publish them. It’s a bit of an experiment. The books are plain old fashioned adventure with alien cities and sentient planets and religious versus secular societies and extreme body modification and intergalactic threats to the future of the human race. There’s a bit of romance, but they aren’t Romances, if you know what I mean.

The main reason I’m not trying to get them published with mainstream publishers is that the heroes are queer – an asexual homoromantic couple, a lesbian couple and a bisexual man/butch straight woman who spends half the first book sex-changed and learns quite a lot about herself and her beliefs in the process.

While the queer romance community is doing great things providing queer romances, I’ve been hearing that people sometimes wanted books where queer people got to save the world. So that’s what these are.

Sadly self publishing means I’m left to my own devices when it comes to titles and cover art. Currently I’m thinking of them as the Lioness Series, comprising of Lioness of Cygnus Five, Heart of Cygnus Five and Pride of Cygnus Five. Final cover art not made yet, but this is a sneak peek at what I think they might look like if the photos I want are still available when I finally go to buy them:

Lioness Heartmockup Pridemockup

You have no idea how hard it is to find pictures of battle-hardened space-navy Latinas in their forties. Aurora is therefore way too young. But I’ve got to make do with what I can get!

 


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

Yesterday my new morris side, Sutton Masque – a mixed Border Morris side – welcomed in the official start of summer on the 1st of June by dancing outside a couple of pubs in Ely. It was freezing, rainy and grey. A hardy Greek family sat outside The Cutter, under the porch heaters and watched us dance by the river. I hope we were a properly bizarre glimpse into the literal local colour for their holiday. We certainly appreciated having them as an audience because none of the natives had dared venture out.

Later we went down to The Fountain and danced there for another hour, still in the drizzle, with the light failing around us. Here our only audience was an Australian couple in fantastic Aran beanies (I covet a beanie like theirs.) They took our picture and told me they liked my face. I take that to mean that they liked my face paint. This made me very glad, because my attempt to look like a Wood Wose takes me a good half hour of preparation before I even make it out of the door. The dark green of the background colour doesn’t half stain your flannels when you wash it off!

This is my face:

AlexinMorrisKitsm

taken after we’d given up on dancing and gone inside to play music and eat birthday cake. (Happy birthday Neil!)

I’m very proud of our new kit, which is dark green and gold, with a wild-man-of-the-woods, Jack-in-the-Green feel to it, and I am even beginning to get used to dancing in a top hat. You can see the full outfit here if you like, because the above is the indoors look without the tattered jacket.

In more relevant writing news, I’ve been spending my time finishing the first Porthkennack book for Riptide Press. Currently called Foxglove Copse, this is a contemporary m/m romance set in a fictional Cornish town with a slightly gothic twist. I’ve also done the first content edit pass for my huge long queer historical fantasy The Glass Floor, which should be coming out next year, and found a new home for Labyrinth, which had been contracted to Samhain Publishing but for which I got my rights back recently.

Right now, I’m working on the third book in my queer space opera trilogy Lioness of Cygnus 5. Have I told you about this? I don’t think I’ve told you about this. But it probably justifies its own post, so I’ll do that next time.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

Yes! So, my father is in hospital awaiting a heart operation and I’m rushing up there every day to try to help him to understand what’s going on (he has dementia and doesn’t remember these things – which makes being in hospital a terrifying experience). Despite this, I have just finished Heart of Cygnus 5. Yes! 102,080 words of space-opera-y goodness in which the entire galaxy is about to find out that it was a bad idea to try to keep my middle-aged female space captain down.

Is she a late-blooming Mary Sue? Quite possibly. Do I care? I do not. It’s taken me this long to realize that I have a feminine side at all (because it’s a feminine side that wants to PUNCH DRAGONS.) And there are not that many of those kinds of female characters around, so why not?

Basically: Yes! I have finished a book! Now I can start planning the Minoan m/m thing I’ve got to do by March. I’m looking forward to that :) Huzzah!


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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