A Triple New Release and Some Thoughts on Cozy Space Opera

Now that the excitement caused by the triple whammy of Easter, Passover and the announcement of the 2018 Hugo Finalists has died down somewhat, I have an announcement of my own to make. And it’s a big announcement, because I have not one but three new In Love and War stories to announce, two short stories and one short novel.

The first of the two short stories isn’t quite that new, because it has been available as part of the anthology The Guardian for a while now. However, if you want a standalone edition, here is your chance.

Like Dreaming of the Stars and Graveyard Shift, Baptism of Fire is a prequel to the In Love and War series proper, though it is listed as Part 2 at most vendors, because they don’t support prequels very well.

With Baptism of Fire, there now are three prequel stories to the In Love and War series, because I like showing who Anjali and Mikhail were before they became the people they are today. In Dreaming of the Stars, we meet them both as teenagers and learn what drove them both to join their respective militaries. The next two stories focus on their respective military careers. We’ve already briefly seen Mikhail as an operative of the Republican Special Commando Forces in Graveyard Shift, though he’s only a supporting character in that story. In Baptism of Fire, we now see Anjali as a young cadet with the Shakyri Corps.

If you’ve read some or all of the In Love and War stories, you know that it isn’t exactly a conventional space opera series, let alone conventional military SF. In Love and War is basically the story of two people who decide to run away from the typical space opera/military SF plot, in this case an endless intergalactic intergalactic war. Only that the plot keeps coming after them, trying to drag them back. In fact, as mentioned here, the In Love and War series was born out of frustration, because after the third or fourth time of running into a science fiction plot featuring a couple that couldn’t be together because of reasons, I got very sick of the whole thing and wished they’d just run away together to become space pirates or intergalactic outlaws or open a restaurant on a far away planet or something. However, space opera and military SF characters don’t normally run away from the plot, no matter how logical that would be, so I had to write that story myself.

However, while the In Love and War series isn’t conventional space opera or military SF, Baptism of Fire is as close as it probably comes to that. After all, the story was deliberately written to attract new readers to the In Love and War series, many of whom may well prefer a more traditional adventure in space. And so the story follows Anjali as a seventeen-year-old cadet on her very first mission with the Shakyri Corps, where things go of course disastrously wrong. We also meet Anjali’s commanding officer Captain Vikram as well as fellow recruit and later Anjali’s good friend (and he’s really just that, no matter how much Mikhail might suspect otherwise), Anil Golkhari. Both characters will probably appear again in future In Love and War stories.

Baptism of Fire
Baptism of Fire by Cora BuhlertCadet Anjali Patel had hoped for something more exciting than guard duty for her first mission with the legendary Shakyri Expeditionary Corps, the best fighters in the Empire of Worlds.

However, this boring job quickly turns hot, when an enemy convoy comes up the mountain pass Anjali is supposed to guard.

This is a prequel story of 4500 words or approx. 18 print pages to the “In Love and War” series, but may be read as a standalone.

 

More information.
Length: 4500 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

While Dreaming of the Stars, Baptism of Fire and Graveyard Shift are all prequels of sorts, Freedom’s Horizon is (to date) the first book proper in the In Love and War series. Coincidentally, it’s also the longest at 55000 words, which makes it a novel, albeit a short one, by SFWA standards.

Though Freedom’s Horizon is the true beginning of the In Love and War series in more ways than one, because it was – at least in part – the first In Love and War story I ever wrote. For approximately two years ago, a scene popped into my head: Two intergalactic mercenaries, a man and a woman were bantering while walking through a grimy spaceport. I knew at once that they were a couple and that they came from very different backgrounds which they had left behind to be together. They worked as mercenaries now, not because they wanted to, but because it was the only option left open to them. They were also on the run and about to apply for a security position aboard a freighter, because the ground had gotten too hot for them. This early scene became, in slightly altered form, the second chapter of Freedom’s Horizon.

I was intrigued by the bantering couple, so I started writing. As I followed them through the spaceport, I learned a lot more about them: Their names, that they had both been elite soldiers on opposite sides of an endless intergalactic war, that they had fallen in love and run away together. I also got, in bits and pieces, the story of how they’d met and fallen in love and what had prompted them to leave behind everything they’d ever known and run away together. Eventually, I went first back in time to the story of how they met and fell in love against all odds (which will eventually be published, though it is emotionally draining to write) – and then forward to other adventures set when Anjali and Mikhail were already an established couple. Because by Freedom’s Horizon, they haven’t been together long and are still trying to figure out how they feel about each other. That is, Anjali is trying to figure out how she feels about Mikhail and their relationship and the loss of her old life. Because Mikhail already knows very well how he feels about her.

After I’d published several stories of varying lengths in the In Love and War series, I went back to take another look at that very first story I wrote that I’d never finished and noticed that I had a solid story there that was approximately two thirds finished, even though it wasn’t the story I’d initially thought I was telling. Because originally, I had intended for the story that eventually became Freedom’s Horizon to be a kind of Firefly-esque space opera, chronicling the adventures of the crew of the Freedom’s Horizon, including new recruits Anjali and Mikhail, during their voyage through pirate-infested space. However, as I wrote the story, trouble found Anjali, Mikhail and the Freedom’s Horizon before they could even leave the orbit of Metra Litko. And the trouble that found them was a lot more exciting than any altercation with space pirates could ever be. I also realised that Anjali and Mikhail were the true focus of the story, while the crew of the Freedom’s Horizon, though interesting people, were secondary characters. Coincidentally, Elijah Tyrone, Captain of the Freedom’s Horizon, also appears in Graveyard Shift, where you learn more about his family and his background.

So is Freedom’s Horizon a typical space opera? Well, it has spaceships, shoot-outs, fight scenes, chase scenes, desperate last stands, a seedy spaceport bar named The Scuttling Cockroach, a big space battle and a dramatic stand-off in orbit – in short, lots of the good stuff. However, it also has romance, friendship, emotions, people talking about their feelings, characters bonding over vid dramas and food – in short, lots of the mushy stuff. It even includes a recipe, because there is so much talk about food, I thought that some readers might like to know how to make one of the dishes. And yes, I know that recipes in the backs of novels are a thing in the cozy mystery genre and occasionally pop up in romance as well, but they aren’t very common in science fiction, though Joyce Chng includes recipes in some of her novels.

Coincidentally, I also added a new author’s note to Graveyard Shift, where I talk a bit about the pastries that the members of the military tribunal eat, while plotting cover-ups and handing out death sentences. No recipes this time, because these aren’t my pastries, but those of one of my favourite bakeries. And yes, I tuckerized the bakery.

When I was getting Freedom’s Horizon ready for publication and writing a different In Love and War story, where food also plays a big role, at the same time, I thought, “Other writers put recipes into their cozy mysteries, but I put them into my space opera. I guess I’m writing cozy space opera here.”

And then I thought, “Actually, cozy space opera sounds pretty cool.”

Of course, I didn’t invent that term. A bit of googling revealed that the newly Hugo-nominated podcast Sword and Laser referred to Becky Chambers’ debut The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet as cozy space opera, which it absolutely is. Ditto for A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers’ second novel.

Also of interest in this context is Liz Bourke’s Tor.com article on domestic space opera from last year, in which she names Becky Chambers’ books as well as C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series and Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya Universe stories as examples.

Liz Bourke defines domestic space opera as follows:

Yet the operatic element—the intensity of emotion and of significance—still comes to the fore in all of these stories, for all the ways in which they take place in intimate settings and concern, often, small acts. It is this reaching for the high pitch of intensity, albeit in small and sometimes domestic contexts (and whether always successful or not), that makes them space opera, I think.

There is enough emotional scope within one single person’s life and relationships to cover any artist’s canvas in furious colour. And there’s something faintly radical about treating an individual in quieter settings as just as worthy and interesting a subject as the clash of empires…

Shaun Duke responds to Liz Bourke’s post with his own reflections on domestic space opera and points out that the personal is political, in space opera as in life. He also adds parts of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy and her novel Provenance and the works of Joyce Chng as examples of domestic space opera.

Let’s have a quote from Shaun as well:

I’d like to add one thing more: the personal is fundamentally representative of the political, and the use of domestic spaces can reveal the influences of the political sphere on everyday life. How people live, what they do in their homes or among friends or family, etc. are all fed by the larger political systems in play, such that the traditional space opera tensions are echoed in the tensions within the domestic. Indeed, you might say that much of space opera — and its fans — has focused on the macro level, looking at the tensions produced by big sweeping motions of the writer’s brush; domesticity, however, focuses on the micro level, giving us a glimpse into how those much larger tensions actually impact individual relationships and behavior at home.

These definitions definitely fit the In Love and War series, where the eighty-eight year war between two galatic powers is reflected in the relationship between two people, who manage to fall in love with each other, even though their respective nations are at war and have been for longer than either of them have been alive. We also see the endless war and its consequences reflected in other characters such as Elijah Tyrone, Captain of the Freedom’s Horizon, and Colonel Brian Mayhew, Mikhail’s former mentor/surrogate father turned antagonist, who is probably the character who surprised me most, considering that I originally intended him to be just a simple villain.

The In Love and War series has quite a bit of action – after all, Mikhail and Anjali are elite soldiers turned mercenaries, and fighting is what they do. However, there are also plenty of quieter moments, plus love, friendship, family, characters bonding and of course, food.

But this is still a new release announcement, not a rumination about cozy space opera, so why don’t you give Freedom’s Horizon a try, cause it really has all of the good stuff – seedy spaceport bars, chases, shoot-outs, space battles, emotions, feelings, love, friendship, family – all that and recipes, too.

Freedom’s Horizon
Freedom's Horizon by Cora BuhlertOnce, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

After a run-in with a Republican spy on the rim world of Metra Litko, Anjali and Mikhail need to get off planet fast. So they sign on as security aboard the freighter Freedom’s Horizon, which is supposed to transport a valuable cargo through pirate infested space.

But they have far bigger problems than pirates, for the Republic of United Planets sends no less than three battlecruisers after them, commanded by none other than Colonel Brian Mayhew, Mikhail’s former superior and now their most determined pursuer.

The chase culminates in a stand-off in orbit around Metra Litko, where Anjali and Mikhail have to make a fatal choice. Fight and endanger the innocent crew of the Freedom’s Horizon or surrender and face death and worse at the hands of the Republic.

More information.
Length: 55000 words
List price: 3.99 USD, EUR or 2.99 GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

The final new release for today is another In Love and War short story. I should maybe say something about the reading order for the In Love and War series now. In principle, all In Love and War stories can be read as standalones in any order, because they’re all self-contained. However, if you want an official reading order, start with Dreaming of the Stars (which is also the quiestest story of the series), then Baptism of Fire and Graveyard Shift, then Freedom’s Horizon, followed by Courting Trouble. Then Bullet Holes, Dead World and finally, the last new story for today, Double-Cross. This is also as good a moment as any to point you to the special In Love and War series bundle, where you can get all of the stories in the series to date at a drastically reduced price. Only at DriveThruFiction.

Double-Cross is another story to come out of the 2017 July short story challenge, where the goal was to write a story per day in July 2017. Baptism of Fire was another July short story challenge story, by the way.

Like many of the July short story challenge stories, Double-Cross was inspired by a piece of science fiction concept art, namely this lovely piece of Cyberpunk art. The image intrigued me, so I sent Anjali and Mikhail into that rain and neon-drenched environment on a retrieval mission. They successfully completed their mission and retrieved the McGuffin and I was stuck regarding what should happen next. So I looked through my folder of inspirational images again and came across this piece of Cyberpunky concept art, which sort of matched the first image. And suddenly I knew what would happen next.

While we’re on the topic of art, I’d also like to add a shout-out to the wonderful artist Tithi Luadthong a.k.a. Grandfailure, whose striking artwork graces all of the In Love and War covers so far.

Like all of the In Love and War stories, Double-Cross has plenty of banter between Anjali and Mikhail. It also has nanotech, noodles, space ninjas and a double-crossing client.

So go and check out…

Double-Cross
Double-Cross by Cora BuhlertOnce, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

When they are hired to retrieve a shipment of bootleg medical nanobots, it seems like a routine job at first. But it quickly turns out that they are not the only ones who are after the nanobots. And their client has an agenda of her own.

More information.
Length: 5100 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Inktera, Playster, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, e-Sentral, 24symbols and XinXii.

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3 Responses to A Triple New Release and Some Thoughts on Cozy Space Opera

  1. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 4/3/18 You Got The Jong Number For That Pixel Scroll | File 770

  2. Pingback: New Release No. 2: Anjali and Mikhail become “Hunter and Hunted” in a new “In Love and War” Novella | Pegasus Pulp

  3. Pingback: New Release No. 2: Anjali and Mikhail become “Hunter and Hunted” in a new “In Love and War” Novella | Cora Buhlert

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