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Firestarter lit a fuse for Our Child of the Stars

A new Firestarter movie is the third screen adapation of Stephen King’s novel. I’m going to see it, because I have a weird affection for the book, and it was a curious influence on Our Child of the Stars.

I found out yesterday that SF critic Brian Aldiss agreed with me that Firestarter was a better book than Carrie, which is some support.

Some influences are chosen – for example I knew the arrival of the Meteor would resonate with Smallville, the Superman origin story yet of my creation. There’s also some unconscious Firestarter influence in that both it and my work use the ‘sweet child, terrible power’ trope and both have a family with a special child fleeing unaccountable government forces across the north-eastern US. The clever ending of King’s novel was also an influence on how my first book resolves.

Zack Efron will play Charlie’s Dad, Andy in the new film and if he wants to play Gene in the film of Our Child of the Stars, our people should talk.

I wrote about some of this on Medium.

Zac Efron as Andy protects Charlie in a scene from the new movie

SPOILERS ALLOWED Zoom discussion

I am running a Zoom Meeting on Tuesday 3rd May, 730-9pm BST. This is for people who have read both books or who don’t mind if the brilliant ending is spoiled (!? if such people exist.) All welcome for a civilised chat about the books and allied topics.

There will be other opportunities to talk.

I need your email to send you the Zoom links. Best is to subscribe to my newsletter whose subscribers knew about this weeks ago.

Sweet children with terrifying powers

I have a section on the cool new book website www.shepherd.com. It allows authors to share their books and promote them with five books by other people on a relevant theme. There are various other developing features – check it out. I feature Our Child of the Stars because if you like the first, you will buy the second, right?

My Five Books is “Sweet children with terrifying powers”.

Writers must be careful handing out great power, as it can wreck the sense of peril. In Our Child of the Stars, Cory is innocent, enormously kind, engaging, and lovable. He brings his new family into many dangers. One power is first used to save his parents, not understanding the terrible harm it will do. His empathy makes it horrific to use and he is frightened of it.  It becomes an absolute last resort.

The list has five strong candidates, and one at least was a direct inspiration for my books.  I think there are several newer books from more diverse backgrounds, and I am building a broader list.  TV and film have some classics – Eleven in Stranger Things for example. I welcome examples that are

(i) SWEET

(ii) CHILDREN or naïve childlike teens

With

(iii) TERRIFYING

Powers. 

I have had so many suggestions where (i) BAD (ii) TEENAGERS with (iii) WELL KNOWN AND WIDELY AVAILABLE powers are suggested.

Launch day News and Reviews

Pieces by me about the book(s)

Honest Uplift – SFBook

A case for hope without being soppy. I invent the term gloomerati for those who claim all good literature must be hopeless.  I hope it is clear I have no quarrel with writers whose books are deeply gloomy or the readers who enjoy them.

https://sfbook.com/honest-uplift-a-guest-post-by-author-stephen-cox.htm

Trip Adviser

New England and New York – how I wrote an America of the mind and how much I leaned on actual experiences

A Letter to Past Me-Scifi bulletin

I write to 2018 Me about the tricky issue of sequels – particularly close sequels which is asking “what happened bext”

Five American Works that influenced the two books – SCiFiNow

Reviews

SFBook

Cox has a wonderful way of painting a complex family that feels genuine… This is a a book about hope, a hope that things can get better, that we can work it out, but to get to that point Cox puts the reader through a lot of anguish.

https://sfbook.com/our-child-of-two-worlds.htm

Annarella – Scrapping and Playing blog

“Riveting, compelling, and emotionally charged: a page turner I loved”

Read her review here

Robin, GeekDads and GeekMoms

a wonderful conclusion to a very special duology of novels. If ever there was a book written with GeekParents in mind, it’s Our Child of the Stars [and hence, Our Child of Two Worlds]

Kate, Wet dark and Wild

A wonderful sequel to Our Child of the Stars, featuring one of my favourite characters – the strange, kind, alien child Cory, who knows danger is coming.

https://t.co/oYCSlpXAwk

David, Blue Book Balloon

https://bluebookballoon.blogspot.com/2022/04/review-our-child-of-two-worlds-by.html

Like the best SF, Our Child of Two Worlds is about us, at our best and worst, and how we respond to the best and the worst in others. Cory’s people are from a very different, almost Utopian seeming culture and – as in one of Swift’s novels – we’re judged by that comparison, Cory himself noting it even as his love for his adopted parents and his friends burns bright. Are we worth saving, if we seem willing to destroy ourselves anyway?

A fiercely intelligent, engaged and often angry novel, Our Child of Two Worlds is moving, exciting and deeply readable.

For winternights

Stephen Cox writes beautifully and fills his characters with warmth and self-questioning. I love the incidental characters who debate whether Cory is a hoax. There’s the drama surrounding Molly’s family. There are tensions that play out on an intimate scale against the massive context of aliens, space travel, the potential end of the world. It works brilliantly.

… considerable excitement and tension as the realisation grows that the world truly is in danger. It’s a fantastic story, told so well. Do read Our Child of the Stars first. You need to do that and then Our Child of Two Worlds will be irresistible reading. How I adore Cory, the boy who loved by two worlds!

Early praise for Our Child of Two Worlds

Beautiful and tender. I really love the characters… there is so much empathy and warmth and humanity. …the same esteemed league as Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series… (Patricia Rodriguez, Actor, reader for the two audiobooks.)

A cross between ET and Independence Day… [Cox] ramps up readers’ emotions in this heart-warming and thought-provoking story. A world on the brink of destruction and the one small alien boy who is determined to save it. It’s very tense and I wasn’t crying – honest!  (Sue Tingey, author)

The writing is as wonderful as always, concerned with the small, telling details that show the wider picture so effectively. It’s evocative and beautiful and works to make you care even more deeply about both the characters and the earth that’s so under threat… This book has the same emotional heart and heft of the first one, but on a much larger (as in galaxies larger) stage, a tricky balancing act pulled off with aplomb. (Sophie, Goodreads)

It may be shelved under Sci-Fi but for me, Our Child of Two Worlds is a stirring novel about family and home. Rich with humanity, it explores our species’ tendency to damage ourselves, our relationships and Planet Earth. And at its core, it gives us Cory, the young, vulnerable ‘purple’ with tentacles who powered the original novel by making us love him. A powerful, sad but satisfying sequel.” (Sue Hampton, author, peace and climate activist)

I couldn’t put this book down … well written with an interesting and well written storyline and well-developed characters that I enjoyed (Goodreads)

Cox has done a superb job of building on all the strengths of the first book while taking the story in new and interesting directions. (Juliet McKenna, author)

The thing I liked most about Our Child of the Stars was the characters, they felt nuanced and real and even characters who only appear briefly are believable people who could be the main character of their own story. The same holds true for Our Child of Two Worlds, which takes the much loved characters of the first book and alongside brilliant newly introduced ones, thrusts them into new scenarios, some anxiety-inducing, some heart-warming, some both. The new characters fit into the story so well that if you reread, as I have, you can’t wait for them to turn up again to experience the exciting dynamics they bring.  (Lucy, Goodreads)

Our Child Of Two Worlds is modern, emotionally sophisticated science fiction. Stephen Cox’s tale of the charming but lost alien child Cory shows us that humanity, for all its flaws, is worth saving, and that the power of the human heart stretches from this world to the next ― DAN JONES, author of Man O’War and host of Chronscast.

Love and Joy and Hope

I have been writing novels seriously for ten years and working on Cory and his family for eight.

My warm thanks to all those who supported and challenged and questioned and fed back on my journey. The tale is stronger for your help.

Our Child of the Stars was only half the story I wanted to tell. Our Child of Two Worlds concludes my original idea for his story.  This forms a good time to reflect on love and joy and hope.

The books are a love letter to stories I have enjoyed – all sorts of books but specifically science fiction and other speculative works.  They show the joy of reading – how a book can take you to another world and make you care for people who don’t exist. 

They draw on film as well as books. They cry out to be a film or a TV series.

The books are about the joys of life and relationships.

The books are a love letter to people close to me – my parents, my children, and my partner.  Love is not blind to people’s faults – love is at its greatest when you know the faults and find a way through that.  It is also a love letter to that other great relationship, friendship. One critic found that the Greeks had eight different types of love, and the books talk about all eight of them.

When Pandora unleashed all the ills of the world – how men want to make women responsible for everything bad – the one thing left was Hope. 

The books say that life and love are precious. We live on an extraordinary world and yet it is under threat – from us. science fiction writers spin dreams of what is possible. Yet simply moving into space is centuries off being a relevant solution.   Whether aliens exist or not, it will be down to us to save ourselves.  If we have hope, that urgent change is possible. 

Things can show truth without being true. Fairy-tales are not there to tell us that dragons exist.  Fairy-tales are there to tell us that dragons can be beaten.

Events Updated 28 March

Thursday 31 March -SIGNING, Haringey

All Good Bookshop, Turnpike Lane

SIGNING 5-6pm

Just turn up

Saturday 2nd April – SIGNING, Enfield

Enfield Waterstones, Church St (Palace Gardens)

SIGNING 12-2pm

Just turn up

12th April – Super Relaxed Fantasy Club

This is a long established and friendly genre pub meeting – all welcome

Reading and Q+A from two authors. Other still TBC. Bookstall and signing

7pm onwards

(Possible fee on door)

Star of Kings Pub, York Way.  (North of Kings Cross Station)

Cymera 3-4-5 June, Edinburgh.  Some events online

Scottish Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror convention

https://www.cymerafestival.co.uk/

I’m currently on one panel, Sunday afternoon. I’ll be around all weekend.

Planets are common. Is life?

Now 5000 exoplanets around other stars have been found, what does that tell us about the probability of life?

Our Child of the Stars assumes that another intelligent, social, technological species lives close enough that they can reach us with their faster than light drive. This is a common assumption in science fiction (which doesn’t mean the people who write it all think it could be true.)

Once we know two intelligent species exist, quite close together as galactic distance goes, the odds rise that there are plenty of others.  That raises Fermi’s famous paradox – if life is common, and technological civilisations arise, and the universe is very old, where are the older species of aliens?  Shouldn’t they already be here?  

In essence there are probably six questions

  1. Does life arise anywhere the conditions are right?
  2. How common are those right conditions and how long do they last?
  3. How often does complex life arise where the conditions remain right long enough?
  4. Will complexity given time always bring intelligent, social creatures?
  5. How often do intelligent, social creatures develop a technological civilisation?
  6. Do technological civilisations last long enough to spread between the stars – and do they want to?

Where are we on the hunt for alien life?

We have noticed no alien transmissions, but we have not searched enough of the sky, on enough frequencies, for long enough, to give up yet. Some things we need to know, we are still largely in the dark. A few we have learned a lot in the last few decades.

Thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope and some other searches, we can now be very confident the galaxy is packed with planets, and many will be in the right temperature zone, and in the right spread of sizes.

Life evolved only a few hundred million years after the Earth got cool enough to allow it. But unless a planet is within a stable range of temperatures, over a very long time, favourable conditions will end. It takes many millions of years to get from say bacteria to me.

That means, a stable orbit, and a stable star to orbit, is crucial for temperatures to remain in the right ballpark for long enough.

Astronomer Professor David Kipping says our solar system is unusual. To start with only a tenth of stars are like the sun – relatively stable output for a long time. Then, our system is tidy – one sun, and all the planets are in almost circular orbits.

Systems with multiple suns – the majority – usually won’t have planets in stable orbits. The twin suns of Tattoine? Probably not.

Jupiter’s role

Kipping argues massive planets like Jupiter are key. Current theories see Jupiter’s gravity playing a key role in developing the solar system.  Big Jupiter-like planets are common and easy to detect by radio astronomy. However, most Jupiters seem to have an eccentric orbit, swinging closer to and further away from the star.  Over time an eccentric Jupiter would pull other planets in all sorts of ways – a complex and changing set of orbits for smaller planets, including the possibility of being kicked out of the system altogether. In these solar systems, life might evolve but get shut down when its orbit changes, becoming too hot or cold.  Systems with a Jupiter close to the star tend not to have other planets near the star. Systems without any Jupiter at all could be unstable without a big gravity shepherd.

Kipping proposes we treat ‘having a Jupiter in a fairly circular orbit’ as a good way of picking solar systems that might be ‘like ours’. He thinks only one in a hundred suns like ours could have a stable earth and many of these there might be no big enough planet in the temperate zone.

There are many things which could prevent suitable planets remaining suitable. There are disasters affecting many systems at once (supernova/gamma bursts/wandering stars busting open the system, etc). A planet needs to be big enough to hold onto its atmosphere.

Nevertheless a small fraction of an enormous number is still a very big number.

A planet might have abundant life, even be intelligent, and never go spacefaring. For example, inhabitants of a world entirely covered in ocean would struggle to develop chemistry or use metals.

Life could easily be so rare, we might be alone in the Galaxy. But there is still a lot we don’t know and may not know until we run into another habitable planet.

If faster than light travel is impossible, spreading from star to star will take a lot of effort. Many cultures might not want to do so or need to. (But can we assume no culture would try?)

The real takeout is that the Earth, which we seem hell bent on destroying as a habitat, is probably rare.  Nowhere in the solar system is as favourable for us as say, the coast of Antarctica, or the Sahara desert. We need to treat our biosphere as if it is the only one we have, and possibly, the only one we will touch for a thousand years, or a million.  If Earth was hit by an asteroid, it would still be a better place to live than anywhere else we know.

In 12,000 years since we developed settled farming, we’ve got to a point of self-destruction.  There may be a simple and nasty explanation for the radio silence.  Maybe developing a technical civilisation is toxic.

Our Child of Two Worlds talks about that too.

(You may say what about life that is a wildly different chemistry and lives in the corona of stars or orbitting black holes. We don’t know how that would work or if we would recognise it if we found it.)

US Canada and worldwide availability of my novels

Our Child of Two Worlds is published in the UK (etc) in eBook, Audio and hardback 31 March 2022.

US and Canada confirmed eBook also out 31 March and hardback 14 June.

Our Child of the Stars and Our Child of Two Worlds are currently only available in English -the latter out 31 March 2022. (Translation rights enquiries welcome.)

‘Available in the UK’ also means both will be available in English in other countries worldwide. Ir was certainly on sale in Australia and New Zealand and popped up in Europe and Africa too.

Film rights also available and enquiries welcome

Chat about Cory March 1st 730pm GMT

Topic: Our Child of Two Worlds Discussion+Publicity

Tuesday 1st March 7.30pm for an hour (or we can run over those who want)
Have a friendly talk about the book, hear me read, Q+A about books writing publishing, and a chat about 3 or 4 simple, painless, and largely free ways to help me get the book out there.

You may not know what is helpful, and indeed, things people do that don’t help.

It’s things like buy the book (the **only** idea that costs anything!) and tell your friends you liked it.

Nice if you can, fine if you cannot. Come anyway, no pressure.

Message me for Zoom link and password.