Author Spotlight, Fiction, Humor, Reviews, Sci-Fi

Space Throne: Review and Interview With Author Brian Corley

Space Throne by Brian Corley

Parr never meant for any of this to happen. All he wanted to do was pilot the Aurora around the galaxy and avoid his royal duties for a while.

Now, in the wake of his parents’ mysterious demise, it’s time to un-fake his death and take up the mantle meant for him since birth.

Unfortunately, it won’t be easy.

A pirate king and the galaxy’s most dangerous bounty hunter stand between him and the gates of his home, Bilena Epso Ach.

Parr will need the help of two unlikely friends. Manc Yelray, a wise-cracking old pirate with money on his mind and an appetite for strange similies. And Ren, a smooth-talking outlander with a plan, and a shadowy secret of her own.

But do they have what it takes? And what will they eat along the way? Because there’s only one rule in space: never eat the hot snack.

ANYTHING but the hot snack. 

Let me start by saying it’s been a LONG time since I read five of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels (I’m unclear if there are more than five. I read the big compendium version), but from the very beginning, Space Throne gave me strong Douglas Adams vibes. And I do mean from the very beginning – I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this book from Brian. Which I loved and never quit loving. Now, there’s a book in the world I had a hand in shaping!

Lest you think my review is extremely biased (I mean, I’m sure it’s at least a little biased) let’s start with what Space Throne isn’t. It’s not a serious book. It’s not a sweeping treatise on the human condition (though it does succeed mightily in comically skewering some facets of our existence). It’s not a true space opera (though I might call it a comedic space opera).

Instead, Space Throne is a fun romp through a galaxy far, far away. It’s a breezy weekend read to distract you from the general madness of 2020 and the bat-shit crazy madness of the weeks leading up to the 2020 election. Ever wish you could escape to someplace where COVID-19 doesn’t exist, the news headlines don’t resemble a screwball comedy, and the good guys still mostly triumph over evil? (I refuse to comment if that last bit is a spoiler or not.) Here’s your ticket. Space Throne just released into the world today! If you like accessible world-building, colorful characters, wacky hijinks, jokes on jokes on jokes, and a plot you WON’T see coming a mile away, give Space Throne a try.

To celebrate Space Throne’s release day, I have Brian back to do another interview for the book. Some of you longtime readers might remember when I interviewed Brian after his first book, Ghost Bully, came out. I lured him back by promising not to ask (all) the same questions.

Shannon Fox (SF): What inspired you to write Space Throne?

Brian Corley (BC): One of my earliest memories is watching Star Wars at a drive-in theater outside of Dallas, TX. I was two years old and just the right age to grow up with the original trilogy.

(I also remember being extremely jealous of the kids beside us that had a pallet set up on the roof of their van with blankets and pillows … that sure was a next-level 70s family)

My earliest foray into storytelling were scenes staged with the old Kenner Star Wars action figures, so it was really a no-brainer for me to have a go at my own little Sci-Fi adventure.

SF: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

BC: A desire to write glowing reviews everywhere they can and purchase other books by me.

Kidding.

(kind of)

I want people to have a good time with it. I meant it to be a breezy read with a nuanced message if you want to look for it.

SF: How was writing this book different than writing Ghost Bully?

BC: Both had kind of a false start. I wrote the first couple chapters of Ghost Bully then set them aside for a year or two, but once I picked it back up, it came together all at once. With Space Throne, I got about 30,000 words into it before setting it aside for a while. Once I picked it back up, I finished it at a more methodical pace.

Of course, the most significant difference was workshopping Space Throne with my writer’s group. Shout out to Tornado House.

SF: What was the hardest part of the book to write? The easiest?

BC: Once I figured out everyone’s voice, it was pretty easy. Manc started with a voice like the tordaver, but I switched it up about halfway through (that was a tough re-write).

SF: Who is your favorite character in Space Throne?

BC: Manc Yelray. Not even close.

I’m not sure if it’s because Parr, Ren, and our antagonists did most of the heavy lifting to drive the plot, but Manc’s parts were super-easy to write. I mostly wrote him with the characteristics of Peter Ustinov in Blackbeard’s ghost, but with a deep, gravelly voice somewhere between Vin Diesel and Hagrid.

Although, someone in our writing group said that she thought of him as more of a Jason Mamoa type, and I couldn’t help but work that in on subsequent passes.

SF: If you, like Parr, found yourself living in self-exile in the Sixteen, how would you survive?

BC: I think these COVID times, or whatever we’ll end up calling them, give me a great sense of what I’d do. Work a set amount of time each day, exercise for a little bit, then consume as much media as possible via Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and Prime before falling asleep.

I think I have a leg up on Parr since I can garden and go outside without a breathing apparatus*.

*Except for last month when we couldn’t go outside because of the air quality in Portland.

SF: What has it been like finding your style as a cross-genre humor writer? Any tips for anyone who wants to get into writing humor? Or make their work more humorous?

BC: I guess like the Talking Heads sang, “Same as it ever was.”

I’m not really trying, it’s just the way I tell stories right now. What’s cool about indie publishing is that if my style changes, I can just write those books too.

I guess I’d say, don’t force anything. That doesn’t mean don’t try, you have to try. Just keep working on the spot where you want a joke or comedy until you’re happy with it. You won’t always nail it on the first go.

Listen to people you trust—if no one thinks it’s funny, don’t be afraid to either hone or cut it.

SF: When I last talked to you, it was shortly after Ghost Bully came out. What have you learned about indie publishing since then?

BC: Oh man, I want to say “so much,” but it doesn’t feel like it.

Indie publishing is kind of this mercurial troll market. Just when you think you know where things are or where they’re going—poof, they’re gone.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned since the launch of Ghost Bully is the power of AMS ads. Amazon has something like 70% of the book-buying market place, so their ads are targeted at just the right people.

Newsletter promos help too, but I usually save those for special occasions like Kindle Countdown deals.

Was that too inside baseball?

SF: What’s next for Parr, Ren, and Manc?

BC: Two more books, hopefully. We’ll see how Space Throne does.

(Two more books for two of the three of them, maybe)

SF: And what’s next for Brian Corley, the man behind the curtain? 

BC: Me? Who knows. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to stop thinking I have any idea of what’s coming next.

Writing-wise, I’m working on a contemporary fantasy set in and around my new hometown of Portland, OR. I already have a book with ghosts, one in space, so now I need some weird, trippy elves in my life.

It should be out next year.

Hopefully, I’ll be on Book Two of the Space Throne trilogy shortly after. Come visit me over at www.brian-corley.com and read Chapter 1 of Space Throne for free!

(Thanks for having me, Shannon!)

How to Win a Free Signed Copy of Space Throne

Thank you to Brian for agreeing to give you a chance to win a signed copy of his newest release! All you have to do is leave a comment below with the name of your favorite sci-fi adventure (book, movies, or tv) to enter. For extra chances to win, hop over to my Facebook and Instagram.

Dystopian, Fiction, Sci-Fi

Series Spotlight: Xenogenesis

Xenogenesis Series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Image) by Octavia E. Butler

CONTAINS SPOILERS

(From Lilith’s Brood, which contains all three novels)

Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story…

I took a class on sci-fi literature last fall and we read Adulthood Rites. I always meant to go back and read the other two stories in the collection, which I finally did this holiday.

Each of the stories are interesting and complex in themselves. But what is even more remarkable is how the three stories TOGETHER add up to something much bigger.

To put it simply: Humans destroy the Earth in a war. An alien race, the Oankali saves some of the humans. Their price for saving them is a “trade”. The Oankali survive by merging genetically with new species, always seeking to improve and perfect. The traditional Oankali family structure consists of a male, female, and an ooloi (a gender-neutral being). Oankali are not capable of reproducing except through the aid on an ooloi. The new family structure includes the same three Oankali, plus a male and female human.

This series is many things. It is the story of the human survivor, Lilith Iyapo, and her journey in this strange, new world. It is the story of the Oankali, in a microcosm. It is the story of a species, of us all. When read together the three books essentially represent birth, growth, and adulthood. At the beginning of the series there are no human-Oankali children. By the end of the series, not only are there human-Oankali children, but the “construct” ooloi have essentially ended the feud between the two races: the Oankali and the humans who fear their own destruction through racial dilution.

The series is very complex and worth dissecting in its entirety, if you can manage it. There are so many endless questions, so many conflicts, that it seems impossible to truly grasp the extent of the series. I have never read anything by Butler before, but she is truly a master.

Fiction, Reviews, Sci-Fi

Endymion

Endymion by Dan Simmons

(Endymion is the third book in a series by Dan Simmons)

It is 274 years after the Fall and the universe is in chaos. Raul Endymion, one time shepherd and convicted murderer, is chosen as a pawn in a cosmic game whose outcome will determine the fate of humanity. Selected as a bodyguard to the next messiah, Endymion will cross time, space, and the very fabric of reality as her protector, lover, and finally disciple. At the same time, the enigmatic Shrike – part monster, part killing machine, part avenging angel – has also followed the girl into the 32nd century. Yet it is Endymion who has been chosen to rescue Aenea, against all odds. How will her message change the universe – if she is willing to speak it…and if humankind is prepared to hear it?

While I still find Hyperion to be outstanding and the best novel in the series, I equally liked The Fall of Hyperion and Endymion.

One of the really awesome things that Endymion does is basically takes the reader on a modified tour of the worlds that made up the WorldWeb. In the first two books, we get glimpses of planets like Hyperion, God’s Grove, Maui Covenant, Barnard’s World, Old Earth, Lusus, Tau Ceti Center, and Renaissance Vector. Endymion takes us further. World-building is absolutely one of Dan Simmons’s strengths. And if he really puts that card down hard. And I loved it. I loved that he chose to go further with the WorldWeb, taking us to visit planets 274 years after the fall.

I find that all of Simmons novels don’t really grip you until 30-50 pages in. Endymion was no different. But once I was hooked, I was hooked.

I can’t say too much about the novel since it’s the third in the series, but one of the things it does is give us a new perspective on the Shrike phenomenon. For once, we see the monster as something that is, in fact, vulnerable and can be harmed, if not beaten. After the build-up of the terror of the creature for the past two books, it was interesting to see it in a new light. I can’t say if I liked it or not, though that probably has to do with my hatred of its challenger. What, you disliked something more than the Shrike? Unfortunately, yes. Simmons came up with yet another “monster”.