When Liza asked me to write a guest blog, I admit I drew a bit of a blank. What element of my book Inherit the Stars could I discuss that I hadn’t already talked about on many other blogs?
Then it hit me.
There is one thing about the story I haven’t written about in much detail. That’s because it’s a bit shocking and has a certain amount of “ick factor” attached to it. Even though it’s pretty evident from page one what’s going on, I confess to doing a bit of tap-dancing around the issue.
Um, how does one go about bringing up this subject in a polite blog post? Well, just go for it!
Here’s the opening scene of Inherit the Stars.
“One chance. No mistakes.
Sair took a deep breath and peered out the open airlock of the merchant ship. This was it. Make a wrong move now and he’d end up as the main course at an Ithian feast. Heart pounding, he studied his escape route. No threat in sight; he had a clear path to the street outside the hangar. He gripped the edge of the hatch, palms slick, legs twitching.
No shouts of alarm spiked above the roar of the busy spaceport when he darted off the ship. Outside the hangar, he tried to disappear into the crowd on the bustling street. He sucked in his breath when a sharp-featured man in a dusty sun cloak strode straight for him.
Carduwan, not Ithian. Thank the Fire Lords. A neutral.
Sair caught the man’s arm. “Where am I?”
The Carduwan registered his size and build, his expression melting from annoyance to fear. “Eliptis hangtown.” He edged away. “Sir.”
The man’s eyes widened, and he croaked, “Dartis.”
Just my luck. A sandy, hell-baked ball where the Ithians ran as thick as rats in grain.
Sair tugged the terrified Carduwan closer, staring into the man’s sunshield. “Give me those.”
“Yours.” The man fumbled the dark frame off his beakish nose.
Sair grabbed the sunshield and slid it home, glad to hide his eyes.
Don’t thank him. You’re Rathskian.
He released the Carduwan and glanced back at the hang entry just as a chubby man shuffled onto the street. The pilot!
He froze, but the man never glanced his way. He didn’t seem to have a clue Sair had stowed away in his freight compartment to escape. So far, so good. At least he hadn’t been served up on a platter yet.”
There it is. Did you catch it? At least he hadn’t been served up on a platter yet. Yup, that’s it.
Here there be cannibals!
The villains in my novel eat people. They breed humans for food, and the hero is a very recent escapee from a pretty terrible fate. He was, quite literally, a stud. (Not really the way we usually think of a stud in a romance novel, is it?)
But, let’s back up a bit. Cannibals in SF/SFR is hardly anything new, right? Much of the Zombiesque-flavored variety involves cannibalism. Dystopia, colonial and survivalist SFR sometimes incorporates it. And Firefly had its famous Reavers. Breeding humans for food is also not uncommon in the genre. Rachel Bach’s Paradox series has the terrifying alien Xith’cal who breed and dine on human captives on their massive tribe ships. [Fortune’s Pawn on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15790894-fortune-s-pawn ]
What makes the cannibals in Inherit the Stars so chilling is that they aren’t mindless zombies, drug-frenzied maniacs or an alien species. The Ithians are a cultured society of humans who happen to have deep-rooted traditions of raising people like cattle for slaughter. It’s their way of life and an important part of their economy.
When I created the Ithian society, I wasn’t going for shock value. I wanted a future society that echoed the Roman Empire in its scope and influence. Rome was a great shining bastion of wealth and culture in its day, with citizens who were governed by a democratic senate and enjoyed the all finer things in life—poetry, literature, music, elegant clothing, fine wine, delicious food, philosophy, education. Yet for fun they attended bloody spectacles where humans and animals were slaughtered for entertainment.
Ithis is also a great superpower, and like Rome, it has a dark underbelly—one that doesn’t involve gladiators.
Joss Whedon once said, “Every story needs a monster.” The funny thing about monsters is they don’t see themselves as monsters. The Ithians don’t believe there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing. Because they’ve risen to become such an influential power, their traditions are impacting the entire known galaxy. In every other POV except their own, they are indeed monsters.
The cannibal factor presented a dilemma when writing the blurb for the novel. Should I mention the cannibalism or let the reader discover it within the context of the story? The blurb went through many incarnations—both with and without cannibals—but in the final version that element was dropped in favor of more important points in the hero’s and heroine’s journey.
To escape the merciless Ithian Alliance, Sair, a fugitive slave, makes a desperate deal with Drea Mennelsohn, captain of the prototype ship, Specter. But putting his life in the hands of a woman as mysterious as she is beguiling could turn out to be the biggest mistake of his life, especially when the price on his head begins to escalate.
Drea seems to want far more from the fugitive than just payment for his passage on her ship. Though neither can deny the sizzling chemistry and growing bond between them, Sair must soon make an agonizing decision that could result in the loss of the remarkable woman he has fallen in love with—and their chance to inherit the stars.
Although Ithian cannibalism is a looming shadow in the hero’s background, but ultimately Inherit the Stars is a tale of discovery, adventure, unlikely alliances and triumph over oppression.
Laurie A. Green is a three-time RWA® Golden Heart® finalist and science fiction romance enthusiast who founded the SFR Brigade community of writers, which now totals over 600 members.
Her extended family includes her husband, David, four dogs, three cats and several horses, all who reside on a ranch in beautiful New Mexico. When she’s not writing, networking, or searching out the perfect cup of Starbucks, she’s usually busy exercising her left brain as a military budget director.
You can find Laurie’s web site here: www.laurieagreen.com
Inherit the Stars was a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® finalist and is available on Amazon as a complete print or e-novel, or serialized in three parts if you prefer your digital reads on the shorter side.