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!

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.

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

Book Tag – Science Fiction Invaders

This book tag was penned by blogger K J Mulder of www.worldsinink.blogspot.com who is currently running a Science Fiction Invaders book challenge.

Q1 – Blast Off!

Which Book Got You Interested In Or Hooked on Science Fiction?

I was hooked into fantasy by some true classics like Earthsea, the Hobbit, etc.

Science fiction was different. I think the ur-book was Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which has a great sense of wonder and narrative drive, and before you read the series, note that this are massively dated with all the -isms and otherwise awful to my adult tastes. Burroughs also writes without the slightest interest in consistency, or sound worldbuilding. I tore through these. The children’s library had Heinlein and Norton ‘juveniles’ and Hugh Walters who is very obscure now, and some good anthologies and that was it.  On screen, Dr Who and Star Trek were pretty influential.  I liked that the Doctor didn’t always try to blow people up. A good memory of finding the entire collected short stories of H G Wells in the school library and lunchtime by lunchtime I read the lot in order.

Q2 – Engage Targeting Systems!

What type of science fiction that you enjoy the most? Any specific tropes or sub-genre that makes something a must read?

Strong characters and relationships, and something which is about people and their problems without being preachy. Ideas well used. Also, if it’s in the future or on another planet, it needs to use that. Stories which could be Berkshire, now, don’t impress.

Q3 – Prime Your Weapons Systems

What’s Your Favourite Science Fiction book series?

I guess Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish sequence, because I really rate some of the books and stories in it. I often find series weary as they go on. As a series Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun is incredibly strong and memorable, and imaginative, and cruel. I should finish the Binti series by Nnedi Okorafator and the Becky Chambers books.

Q4 – Disengage Safeties

What would you like to see more of in the genre?

Compassion, empathy, joy, humour. Daring to be hopeful.           

Q5 – Weapons Free

What is your favourite adaptation of a science fiction work?

I sneak in the film the Shape of Water (because it’s an adaption of The Creature from the Black Lagoon). Poetic, romantic, about love and loyalty and difference and outsiders finding a place. The grimness of prejudice, xenophobia, and war.  Set in the past but clearly not about the past. All of these ring real bells.

Q6 – Torpedoes Away

Share an unpopular opinion which other sci-fi fans might judge you for

I’m with Wells that imaginative stories don’t have to be (i) rigorous attempts to extrapolate the future or (ii) strictly bound by our current understanding of science. Stories which meet those stern laws aren’t morally better than those which don’t. Genre boundaries are inevitably fuzzy. Non-SF fans can write good books with science fiction ideas, although they can also write terrible books which they claim are wildly original and far too well written to be SF…

It would be great if there was a version of the Snap where certain film and TV franchises faded from front of mind for a while.

Judge away.

Q7 – Victory

What’s the one science fiction book you always recommend to someone? Why?

Both of mine. But that’s only to start a conversation about what they’ve read I might like.  Not because I am needy at all. And both the Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. And depending on their interests.

Names I might throw out Becky Chambers, Arkardy Martin, Aliette de Bodard, Iain Banks, Nnedi Okorafator, Zen Cho, Silvia Morena-Garcia… Each of them in their own way is showing a future very different from futures of the past.

Books, Girl with All the Gifts, Redshirts, and in non-fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale.

How long is long enough?

The Art of Mending with Gold

Above Pop, the burning bowl of the cloudless sky, in every direction parched earth and dusty trees, and rocks striped with colour long before there were men.  The old man looked at the empty road, from the empty diner, believing he was alone.

The Hidden Words is an arts project to show short pieces of writing at the Blue House Yard, Station Rd, Haringey.  The opening of my story “The Art of Mending with Gold” is one of the pieces chosen. It is one of my favourites – I love the short story form, which allows free reign on themes and ideas, and imposes its own specific disciplines.

How long should a story be? Specifically, what makes something a short story and what makes it a novel?

A good short story gets into the situation, does its work, and gets out again.  It has more in common with songs and poems (of typical length) than novels do.  And very long stories told in poetry have more in common with novels.  Some short stories work at 1000 words, and some at 5000.

“The Art of Mending with Gold” is 1700 words.  A stranger comes to an isolated diner in the US desert west, with extraordinary consequences. The story has a beginning, a development, an end. It has three characters, and the action is concluded in one day.

The first answer to how long is intuitive. If everything seems to work, why make it longer?

Pop and Fernanda, and the stranger, are real people, and one could write their lives up to the point of the story. But I feel we know enough about them to understand what happens that day and to care.

The story ends how it does because (in my view) we don’t need to see anything more to understand emotionally what has happened, and we have space to imagine the wonder of how things are now and how tey will be.  Any more explanation feels unnecessary, assuming it is even possible.

Of course, everyone’s reaction can be different.

My novel Our Child of the Stars started as a short story, which showed the family preparing for Halloween, and then their peace is disrupted.  The conclusion showed the dilemma of their life together.

The short answer as to why it became a novel was that so much remained to be told. I wanted to show the sadness in Molly and Gene’s marriage, how Cory came, and why they were so convinced that they had to keep him a secret.  The short story showed a crisis unresolved. Was that day or something else going to bring more danger?

Showing that meant starting earlier – either to when Cory came, or as I decided, even earlier to show both joy and disaster in their marriage. Then, after that Halloween, if more danger comes, how do they prepare, what do they do? Where does it end? A novel is an exercise in obsession, thinking beyond what you need to write, understanding your characters in depth.

Once I knew Cory could not fit into one novel, it was soon apparent that it needed to be two. The first one works as a single book but left big questions unanswered. Readers would tolerate one key question gets some answer by the end of the second book. That’s where Our Child of Two Worlds comes from.

Sometimes a story could be longer and you still don’t.  You may love a short story with novel potential, and choose not to grow it into a novel. I have an 11000 word story where someone discovers the truth about their horrible society.  The elite will clearly not give up power without a struggle and there would be love, honour, struggle, sacrifice and perhaps redemption. My protagonist would be a player within that struggle. No shortage of material.  Yet I had said what I wanted to say, what interested me was in the story already.

As ever comments below! Or drop me a line.

Our Child of Two Worlds Finished (creatively)

Our hero cheerily finishes a book – anxieties of the second book – September and new starts – a new work in progress***

So!  Yesterday I edited a sentence – not a great sentence of itself, a brisk conveyer of information. Not important like the first sentence or the last.  It was the last outstanding sentence to edit of Our Child of Two Worlds. The long awaited sequel to Our Child of the Stars and the conclusion of the duology.

We are now at the proof stage. There’s a lovely jolt coming soon – and I am looking forward to it – because when proofs come it is laid out as a book.

On current plans, publication is six months away.  I am proud and excited, and frustrated that it will be some months before you have a change to read it.  Of course, I’m a bit nervous too.  Any writer is nervous what the readers might think – but those who have read drafts seem suitably bewitched.

I know nothing I could write can interest you as much as a copy of the book to read!

I promised newsletter subscribers

-a free Cory short story which is the wonderful opening of the first draft of Our Child of Two Worlds.  It’s perfect but the book now starts in a different place

-a chance to talk about helping/being involved in the launch

-and the opening of the conversation about whether we should write about the pandemic. 

Publishing is generally dissuading writers unless they have front line experience.  The 1918 flu was as deadly as the war and was largely ignored by literature.  For me, I think all human life was there, but its not the idea most obsessing me at present.

*** The work in progress is Victorian and it is affecting me

Do subscribe to my newsletter, ask questions via the contact form, and if you want to help with the launch get in touch.

Update on the book…

I’ve just sent out an email newsletter with an update on the book progress, news about the launch date, and new short story set during the time of Our Child of the Stars but in the USSR.

This is the first of a number of short stories I’ll be sharing in the run up to the publication of Our Child of Two Worlds. You might like to subscribe, you can never guarantee seeing any post on social media! And I don’t write unless there is something new to say.

www.tinyletter.com/stephen_cox