Dear Readers:

We appreciate the fact the current political environment is highly charged, but we want to keep Spacefreighters Lounge a stress-free place for everyone to visit and exchange ideas about SFR.

Therefore, we ask that you please refrain from making political references that may antagonize those with differing viewpoints. Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, April 29, 2013

VFH Reviews Ghost Planet


Mark your calendars, sci-fi romance fans! Sharon Lynn Fisher’s GHOST PLANET (Tor) is the April 2013 selection for Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Hangout book club.

Actress-producer-writer Felicia Day is a true geek and a reader of science fiction romance. In addition to her many credits, she runs the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout, a lively, entertaining, and no-holds-barred online book club. Members include Veronica Belmont, Kiala Kazebee and Bonnie Burton. The VFH team is sassy, outspoken, and passionate about books.

The GHOST PLANET video discussion will go live on April 30 at 8 PM PST.

Watch the video and join other VFH viewers at the GHOST PLANET Goodreads discussion thread.

Want to know more? Visit the main Vaginal Fantasy Hangout Goodreads pageYou can access all of the Vaginal Fantasy videoshere, including ones featuring science fiction romances by authors Linnea Sinclair, Nalini Singh, J.D. Robb, and Meljean Brook.

We hope the VFH team enjoys GHOST PLANET and would appreciate any support you can offer via tweets, posts, and any other way you like to spread SFR news!

GHOST PLANET

A world in peril. A bond deeper than love.

Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world - a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she'd struggle with the requirement to shun these “ghosts.” She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet.

Reincarnated as a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy - creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone - oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love - Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence.

But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man she loves.


Visit Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Web site and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

**Permission to forward granted**

Friday, April 26, 2013

TOWN OF DEFIANCE WORTH A VISIT



You gotta love a science fiction show that opens with a man and his alien daughter roaming a devastated landscape singing along with Johnny Cash and June Carter to the tune of “Jackson”:


We got married in a fever
Hotter than a pepper’s sprout.
We been talking ‘’bout Jackson,
Ever since the fire went out . . .

Nolan and Irisa are scavengers, looking for anything of value among the wreckage of fallen alien spacecraft dotting the bleak terraformed hills of New Earth in the year 2046.  And whaddaya know?  They find something.  Something that can make them rich and end their vagabond days forever.

‘Course they don’t get to keep it.  That’s not how things go in post-apocalyptic worlds, and where would the fun be if they did?  In SyFy Channel’s new show DEFIANCE, what they find in the fallen Ark just leads them to the town of Defiance, built on the ruins of what was once St. Louis, and to a new, more settled life.

DEFIANCE is the creation of executive producer Rockne O’Bannon (creator of FARSCAPE), and writer-producers Kevin Murphy and Michael Taylor (BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA, CAPRICA, STAR TREK VOYAGER) in conjunction with game producer Trion.  Trion has created an extensive role-playing game for DEFIANCE for XBOX 360, PS3 and PC formats.

Perhaps because of the needs of the game, or maybe just because the writers were doing their world-building job, the backstory for DEFIANCE is extensive.  We actually pick up the story after all sorts of interesting things have happened—alien worlds have been destroyed; the refugees have come to Earth seeking asylum; things have gone from welcome to war between humans and aliens; the alien Arks have fallen out of orbit, letting loose their terraforming machines on the Earth; the war has been fought to a bloody standstill, destroying almost everything.

And in a brilliant display of the art of writing, we don’t hear all of this in long, droning narration voiceovers or useless dialogue.  In the pilot and second episode of the new series, we get hints of what has happened, but not the full story.  I had to go to the website to get the details.  (And since it’s all there for everyone to read, I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets.)

So the writers have created this intriguing world for their characters to play in, but the best part by far is that their characters are well worth watching.  Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), at 42, is older than your usual hero, old enough to have the weight of experience on him and to remember a time when Earth was “alone” in the universe.  He’s still strong enough to hold his own in a brutal underground fight against a “bioman” (essentially an android) and lusty enough to capture the interest both of the town madam and the town’s mayor, who just happen to be sisters.  (To be fair, only the madam acts on that interest.)

Nolan, it turns out, was also one of the Defiant Few, a soldier in a key battle of the Pale Wars between the humans and the aliens, in which fighters on both sides threw down their arms, refused to engage each other and instead began rescuing civilians from the destruction.  We talked in a recent blog about the qualities of a hero, and Nolan has my favorites in spades—courage, leadership, resourcefulness and, above all, compassion.  It’s no surprise that by the end of the pilot episode he’s asked to stay on in Defiance as its Lawkeeper, or sheriff.

Nolan rescued his “daughter”, the Irathient Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), at a young age, and has kept him with her through many hardships over the years.  We still don’t know the full story of her rescue.  She has told one person that he saved her by killing her parents.  It’s clear that the girl doesn’t share his soft heart for the people of the town they’ve stumbled into.  She’d rather be back on the road.  But she trusts him, so she stays.

Nolan and Irisa share a father/daughter moment.
The writers could have made this “companion” less of a daughter and more of a possible love interest, despite the difference in ages.  That would have been a more typical approach.  I am so glad they didn’t.  This protective relationship, which allows for love of a different kind, and allows both characters to move in different directions to find other relationships, makes so much more sense.  We so seldom get to explore filial relationships like this, with Hollywood constantly pushing love interests between older men and younger women, that it’s a breath of fresh air. 

Every good story has to have good villains and DEFIANCE has its share.  You have the obvious choice, Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), a Castithan with a grip on the criminal element of Defiance; his scheming wife, Stahma (Jaime Murray); and the hot-headed, prejudiced owner of the mines that run beneath Defiance, Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene), all of whom are constantly at each other’s throats.  But they may all be outdone by the sweet-faced former mayor Nicky (Fionnula Flanagan), who apparently has a diabolical plot to destroy the town!

If we can avoid too many episodes that cater to the gamers’ desire to hunt and kill mass quantities of bulked-up aliens (which we had in an “epic battle” in the pilot), DEFIANCE has great promise as science fiction on the order of its producers’ predecessors—FARSCAPE, BATTLESTAR GALLATICA and CAPRICA.  All of those terrific shows had a large element of romance, too.  I can’t wait to see what develops in the town of Defiance.

Cheers, Donna



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pippa's Journal - 4/24/13


A huge thank you to everyone who stopped by and commented on my Write from the Heart post last week - I was amazed by the amount of response. It made me feel a little less insane about my own thoughts on the subject. :)

 But within a few hours of my post going live, I saw tweets from a literary agent that really caught my eye. They said - "Writers, I'm going to be bluntly honest. If you write paranormal fiction, it's time to work on something else until PNR fatigue has passed. I still get queries all the time for paranormal romances. The chances of getting a book deal for PNR at an established pub is almost nil."

Really? Has the publishing world had its glut of PNR? Bearing in mind, this is only ONE literary agent that I've seen tweet this, but is it a sign that publishers and agents are finding PNR has passed its peak? Have sales stalled or dropped? And if that's the case, is it a potential opening for SFR? Or will we be overrun by another genre? Two tweets out of the thousands, maybe millions, on Twitter each day is no evidence. And I have no ill will toward PNR writers and readers. But I can't help but feel a tiny sliver of hope that maybe SFR might get its chance in the limelight. We can only wait...

 Mission Success

Last Friday I received the edits for my sfr short story Imprint, and on Saturday the final line-up for the SFR Brigade's first science fiction romance anthology was announced! I'm so excited to be a part of this project, and to be in such fine company on the author list. Here it is!

Announcing:
Tales from the SFR Brigade (Volume I)
Nine great science fiction romance stories by nine fabulous authors.
(Alphabetical by story title)
“Allure” by Amy Laurens
“Envy’s Revenge” by Berinn Rae
“Imprint” by Pippa Jay
“MISSION: Nam Selan” by Linnea Sinclair
“Nobody’s Present” by Marcella Burnard
“Sensations” by Liana Brooks
“The Stranger” by Kyndra Hatch
“Thief’s Ransom” by Jaleta Clegg
“Whisky and Starshine” by Erica Hayes
 
The expected release date is currently midsummer.

In the meantime, my sfr novella Tethered is still out on submission, as is my scifi short Flaming Angel. My cyberpunk short for another antho call is with a crit partner, and my dieselpunk superhero romance is with a beta reader.

Discoveries

If punk is your thing - steam, diesel, mitten, nano, cyber etc - then the Pen Punks are currently compiling a list of punk publishers, editors and agents - check them out here!

Events

Breathless Press are having a critique session this weekend. The first five pages get feedback and maybe a contract. Check them out here.

Next Monday there'll be an exciting announcement regarding Sharon Lynn Fisher's Ghost Planet, both here and on my blog (I won't be posting myself at SFL next week). Stay tuned!

Next month I'll be celebrating Keir's first book birthday - I've been published a whole year! To celebrate, there'll be a virtual party held across several blogs with food on a blue theme, a Goodreads giveaway of a print copy of Keir, and a beautiful blue crystal star pendant. My fellow party hosts are Misa Buckley, Jessica E Subject, Chantal Halpin, Liana Brooks and Karen Y Bynum. Want to know more? Stop by my blog here on the 1st May.

And in June, my YA scifi Gethyon releases! Yay! It's all go for me for the next couple of months. 

The sign up for the SFR Brigade's 2nd Midsummer Blog Hop is now open! Last year we only ran the event over one day - this time we're going for longer. Guidelines on what you'll need for your post are listed here and the sign up is open here. I've even set up an email just for the hop - sfrbrigadebloghop at gmail dot com. You can direct any questions or issues there. I will be asking for a small donation to a grand prize - last year we were able to give away a Kindle as first prize and a digital book bundle for 2nd. I'd love to be able to do that again this year. However, no one will be excluded for not donating, and for those not yet published, or Brigade members who prefer to read rather than write - you can still take part too! People reported a good hit rate over the event.

A Plea for Help

I'm still looking for guests to take part in the Cover Love slots, especially for May. It's soooo easy, and it's free promo for YOU. All I need is your five favourite covers, a line or two about why they caught your eye, your bio, your own latest cover and links to your media site. C'mon, you can't say no?! Can you? O.o

Ping Pong 

Laurie, I'd already half intended to see Oblivion, but your post convinced me even more that this is one I should try and catch at the cinema.

Donna, yes, even though it sounds like the same stereotypical heroines in the background and the hero does all the exciting stuff. :( Loved the post on the prologue - I've not written one to any of my stories since I was a teen, and the industry preference for not having one has added to my tendency not to prologue. But I think they can be made to work - like anything in writing, if you have the skill, you can do it.

Sharon, great to see you back! I'd never heard of the term Mary Sue before, so at least I have some idea now.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Who the heck is Mary Sue?


Okay first off, in case you don’t know me, I’m Sharon. I blog here. Just not very often. Mostly I lurk and sometimes comment. By way of excuse I have a young child and a recent book release and just in general find it hard to get posts written on any kind of regular schedule.

On top of that, early this year a comet rocketed into my atmosphere: breast cancer. WHAM. 

A very rare form (adenoid cystic carcinoma), and very treatable. But regardless, it rocked my world. Have you seen the movie SLIDING DOORS? You could actually almost classify it as SFR, with the parallel timeline plot. Anyhow, at one point in the film -- I believe it’s shortly after the heroine gets fired, goes home early, and catches her boyfriend cheating on her -- this conversation happens:

HERO: You know what the Monty Python Boys say.
HEROINE: “Always look on the bright side of life”?
HERO: “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

Nope. They don’t. And I didn’t. And for several months, going to doctors and undergoing painful and stress-inducing tests and procedures -- and just trying to get my brain around all the information and the hard decisions I had to make -- was like a second job.

I’ve been pretty open about it from the beginning, posting about the diagnosis and the events that followed on my personal Facebook page. But this is the first time I’ve discussed it publicly. I don’t think we’re meant to go into a cave at times like these. We need each other. I feel like every good wish or positive vibration sent to me during that time helped me. I am eternally grateful for all the amazing love and support, from dearest friends and relatives to writing colleagues I may have only met once, or never.

So thank you friends, and thank you universe, for adding your strength to mine and carrying me through one of the more trying periods of my life.

And now you may ask . . . What does Mary Sue have to do with all this? Nothing, probably. Or everything, possibly.
 
My debut novel GHOST PLANET is April's main pick for the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout book club, created by actor/producer Felicia Day. (We’ll post more about the upcoming review this weekend.) Since this was announced, the reviews are POURING in. I have to thank Felicia for that, as well as for her hilarious series THE GUILD, which kept me laughing instead of freaking out the night before my surgery.

Anyway, one thing I have seen pop up a couple times in the book club’s Goodreads discussion thread, as well as a recent, wonderful 5-star review by Vaginal Fantasy reviewer and The Sword & Laser book club co-host Veronica Belmont – is the term “Mary Sue.” My understanding of the meaning of this term is when an author writes herself into a main character in an idealized way. (See Wikepedia.) Although it also seems often to be used in reference to a character who seems too perfect. Too . . . too.

George Eliot
My first awareness of this concept (though not by the name "Mary Sue") came when reading the introduction to one of my favorite novels, MIDDLEMARCH, by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans). The person who wrote the intro referred to the story's beautiful, intelligent heroine, and suggested the character was a stand-in for Evans herself, who was intelligent but apparently not considered physically beautiful.

The term Mary Sue has a negative connotation in most cases. In the aforementioned case I felt the intro writer was implying Evans should have been above such a thing. But I can’t help wondering – why so? For me -- and I would wager for a lot of writers -- development of authorly aspirations began with daydreaming, and with fantasies that prominently featured (drumroll) ME.

I know when I was writing GHOST PLANET, the first time I’d (1) attempted first-person point of view and (2) completed a full-length work, I found it much easier to get in Elizabeth’s head when the outside of that head resembled my own. There are resemblances between the insides of our heads as well.

Yours Truly
Would I like to be as young and pretty as Elizabeth? You bet. As bright and determined? Heck yeah! To have a brilliant, blue-eyed Irish psychologist for a boyfriend? Are you seriously asking me that?

Does that make my heroine a “Mary Sue”? Well, yes. Probably so. Am I bothered by that? No. Not even a little.

I would venture to guess that most authors’ debuts have someone very like themselves (but better!) somewhere in the story. And thank goodness for that! The first piece of advice you get as a writer is “write what you know.” And as for idealizing that person … last time I checked we were writing romance. We WANT to read about beautiful heroines, whether that beauty be outward, like Dorothea, or only inward, like little Jane Eyre.

Personally, I think readers can handle a Mary Sue. (Case in point: Veronica’s review uses the term and still gives GHOST PLANET the top rating.) What they absolutely can’t stomach is a passive heroine, or one without faults. (And that's a whole other blog post.) I think in some cases when readers use the term Mary Sue, this is really what they mean.

Okay, your turn! What does Mary Sue mean to you? Do you think it’s a bad thing?
  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Does Oblivion Show SFR is Anything But?


Over the weekend, I had a real treat in viewing the new Tom Cruise SF flick, Oblivion. Despite opening to lukewarm reviews, the movie became an instant blockbuster on its premier weekend as this article highlights: Tom Cruise's 'Oblivion' Obliterates Competition with $38 Million Box Office. (Film clip included.)

I always love it when a SF is successful, but I was totally floored that the conclusion to Oblivion was not what I expected. It looked as if this story would end as so many SF seem to--with doomy, gloomy disaster. I was delightfully surprised at the twist that ascended from, well...oblivion. This high budget, well advertised flick is, indeed, a Science Fiction Romance of epic scale. And with only the kind of mind-bending finale that a SFR can deliver.

But that's not all the film has to offer.

The world building is spectacular. Taking place 60 years after "the end of the world" in 2017, when Earth was attacked by Scavs, the aliens who shattered Earth's Moon to trigger environmental disaster, upheaval, and nuclear conflict, thus ending civilization on their victim planet. Earth is a barren, cratered ruin under a broken moon, with the remnants of structures erupting from layers of ash and rock. Some of these visuals were a bit  reminiscent of Planet of the Apes.

Spacestation Tet (for Tetrahedron) offers shelter to the surviving population of Earth who have not already fled to Titan, the distant Saturn moon proclaimed as the most Earth-like body in our solar system even with it's deep cold and frozen methane lakes. The technology in Oblivion is convincing enough that suspension of disbelief is easy. I totally buy that the technology in this era could enable humans to survive on Titan. (Ah, but this is SF/R. This is what everyone is supposed to believe.)


The premise is sound and the tech is "gotta get me one of these" cool. A handful of male/female tech teams have been left behind on Earth with a mission. They live in lofty towers thousands of feet above the scorched Earth, equipped with mega-cool flattop Op Centers and amazing Bubble Ships that blend the capabilities of our beloved Firefly, Serenity, and Avatar AT-99 Scorpions, but add some really slick upgrades.

These teams are in place to tend to certain assigned water processors and the guardian drones that protect them from the nasty Scavs, who are doing their worst to destroy the drones and trash the processors. The processors are paramount to provide water for the hydrogen fuel cells supporting the Titan colony. At times, the Tech's mission takes him to Earth's surface to repair the angry-looking drones that have crashed while evading or engaging the diabolical Scavs. There are off-limit areas surrounded by electronic "walls" that define their sectors of operation on the surface.

One of these team techs is our hero, Jack Harper/Tech 49 who is paired with his communications officer/lover, Victoria. Five years earlier they were required to undergo a security memory-wipe that prevents them from disclosing sensitive information to the Scavs should they be captured. But Jack is having baffling recurring dreams of a time--and a woman--that existed before the holocaust sixty years in the past.

The Jack/Victoria team is in their operating twilight. They need only survive for two more weeks, and then their reward is to depart to Spacestation Tet and on to the Titan colony to join the rest of humanity. But then Jack witnesses the crash of Odyssey--a spacecraft with a human crew--including the very woman from his dreams. When the drones arrive to annihilate the crew, Jack is only able to save the mystery woman from being fried by the relentless drones. This is the beginning of Jack's downfall. And his salvation.

The characters are compelling. Tom Cruise is charismatic and effective as Tech 49 and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) is efficient at her job and sympathetic in her emotional journey. I'm sure there will be some protests why it's the male partner who gets to do all the gritty, adrenalin-inducing 'fun stuff' while the female remains in her cool, squeaky-clean techy tower to act as communication center and liaison with mission command. But the story wouldn't work otherwise.

The conclusion is startling. I'll spare you the spoilers, but this tale has some wicked twists, surprising turns and aha! moments. Some critics have called it predictable. I don't share that view. I knew something was up and had my suspicions, but couldn't pull all the clues together until the very climax of the story. Even so, it left one big surprise for the ending.

The story allows the audience to connect the dots. One of the things I enjoyed about the film is that it provides just enough facts for the viewer to form their own opinions about the wrap-up. Not all plot threads are tied up and force fed to the viewer in a neat, tidy package. You have to think about the outcome and the events that led to what happened...and why.

Last, but certainly not least, Oblivion shows how a romantic human connection can still take center stage over flashy tech and futuristic twists. The romance made the story, and caused the audience to long for that legendary satisfying conclusion.

Which, thankfully, it delivered.

I hope that Oblivion makes up for the disappointment that Upside Down became on the cinematic SFR front. Whether Oblivion will continue to be a success in the weeks to come is still up for grabs, but it passes my acid test of success:

Was is worth the ticket price? Yes, definitely.

Would I watch it again? I plan to.

Will I buy the DVD? Absolutely.

Now it's your turn to chime in. Are you planning to see Oblivion? Are you excited to learn it's SFR? Have you seen it already? Did you enjoy it?


Friday, April 19, 2013

THE MUCH MALIGNED PROLOGUE

AAAGGHH!!! THE GREMLIN OF THE PROLOGUE!


 Ah, where to begin? 

Every writer has to answer this question when faced with the blinking cursor or the blank, white page. There are a thousand ways to answer it.  Most “experts” will give you some version of the moment-when-everything-changed response.  That is, start your story with the instant in time when things changed for your protagonist, when her life suddenly took a turn and she began her “heroine’s journey”.

But, stylistically, you should be free to put your hero or heroine on the road to their new lives any way you want, right?  

Well, yes, as long as you engage your readers and don’t confuse, frustrate, anger or bore them instead.  That’s why many books on writing advise against starting out with a dream sequence or a flashback, with a secondary character’s point of view or a long, descriptive passage in which the POV is not clear at all.  And, the danger of losing the reader is the primary reason many agents and editors hate, I repeat, HATE, the poor little misunderstood prologue.

Personally, I’m quite fond of prologues.  My own Golden Heart®-nominated SFR novel Unchained Memory includes one, and I’ve used them before in my TREK fan fiction.  But I know of several agents out there who state outright on their websites that they will reject any manuscript that contains one.  I’ve heard the same kind of sentiment expressed on editor panels at conferences.  I find that unfairly prejudicial, not to say heavy-handed.

But as a judge for my local RWA chapter (Virginia Romance Writers) in its annual Fool For Love writers’ contest, I’ve begun to see why some agents and editors might think no one should ever use a prologue again.  Beginning writers do tend to make some mistakes with this tool of the writer’s art, detracting from what might have been a decent manuscript.  It’s as if the writer built a nice little house, then put the front door in the wrong place.  If you can’t get inside, you’ll never know what the rest of the house was like.

Leigh Michaels, in her excellent book On Writing Romance, defines prologues this way:  

A prologue is a very short scene (one to two pages, in most cases) from a time before the present-day story begins.  A good prologue is limited to precisely what the readers need to know to draw them into the story.  Most often, it is a brief, intriguing glimpse of a mysterious aspect of the story of the main characters.  It can also be a snippet from a time long before the beginning of the story, if that event is extraordinarily important to understanding the later action.

A prologue can be longer (mine is), but it should be limited in focus to a specific event that has important consequences for the story.  It might be something that happens to the hero or heroine, but that something should have an ongoing impact on their character that has implications for the story—either in the romantic arc or the external (plot) arc. 

Where too many writers get in trouble with the prologue is in selecting an event from the hero or heroine’s past that is simply backstory.  Say, for example, that you are writing a contemporary romance and your heroine’s former husband died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.  That’s a dramatic moment you might be tempted to use in a prologue.  But if she’s gotten over her husband’s death and is ready to move on to a new relationship (mostly), you can better use the emotional impact of it in later flashbacks, memories, revelatory discussions with her new lover or whatever.  You don’t need a prologue to tell us about that “defining” event.

However, if you’re writing, say, a romantic suspense and it turns out her husband is not really dead, but was with a mistress on 9/11 and now is reappearing to pull a Rebecca on the heroine, then the event is crucial to the plot and could justify a prologue.

Michaels uses the example of hero Anthony Bridgerton in Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me.  In the prologue, the child Bridgerton sees his virile, young father die of a reaction to a bee sting.  He’s convinced he will die at a similarly young age and so refuses to allow himself to love anyone.  It’s crucial to his character and the romantic arc that we know this about him ahead of time, so the prologue is justified.

Prologues are by definition set apart from the main story by time, but you must take care to provide a strong bridge between the setting of the prologue and that of Chapter One to make it work.  It’s best if the POV character is the same, but if that is not possible, then at least the tone, style, setting or other characteristics of Chapter One should echo what the reader encountered in the Prologue.  You don’t want your readers to start out thinking they’re reading an historical romance because the prologue is set in Regency England, when the main story is set in modern-day New York and it’s actually a contemporary. (The same is true if you are attempting any form of genre “mashup”—whatever combination you’re going for in the main story should be apparent in some form in the prologue.)

Sometimes it’s good to let your readers in on a secret from the beginning, as Quinn does.  Many times it’s deadly, particularly if that secret is key to the suspense that keeps your readers turning pages.  Resist all temptation to give away that ultimate secret in a prologue!  If your story has an intriguing hook—a creature of your devising, a hidden planet, an alternate universe, a weapon of mass destruction, whatever—you may do no more than hint of its nature in a prologue. 

Think of a really good horror movie—do they show you the monster in the first five minutes?  No, they let the suspense build, with glimpses and feints and false alarms.  Sometimes you never get a good look—and that’s just as well.  Your imagination supplies much more than Hollywood’s makeup artists ever could.  A prologue that shows us the monster (or the happy ending, or the reason for anything) allows us to put the book down without even reading the rest of the story.

In my TREK novella The Mindsweeper (1993), the prologue gives us a glimpse of the “monster” that is central to the tale, but only enough to show the creature’s pain and confusion in its first, tragic encounter with humans.  We learn nothing of its origins or backstory.  The scene is brief and to the point, drawing us into the story, but not giving away the story.  That beginning had enough punch to sell the novella to the underground Orion Press and to hundreds of TREK fanzine readers.  It was the start of my fanfic career.

So prologues aren’t the gremlins they are made out to be.  But to keep them from ripping the wings off the airplane of your writing, you have to make certain they are well leashed.  Keep them in line and they can serve you well.

Cheers, Donna