Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Leah Petersen: FIGHTING GRAVITY Blog Tour and Giveaway

Leah Petersen is here today as part of the blog tour for her new science fiction novel, Fighting Gravity. Leah is sharing her secrets on world building as well as an excerpt from her book. Enjoy!

And don't forget to leave a comment. Leah will be giving away a prize pack containing hand knit items: a hat, and a replica of the symbol of an important institution referenced in Fighting Gravity to TWO randomly drawn commenters during the tour.
Follow Leah's tour for more chances to win. Check here for her other stops: 
Creating New Worlds for Science Fiction Stories

One thing you hear sometimes from readers is “where do you come up with that stuff?” and “I could never think of things like that.” I’m sure every author gets it, fantasy and sci-fi writers maybe more than most. On the surface, it does seem like a tall order, creating a world from scratch.

Well, here’s the secret: It’s already there.

In every “new” world invented by a sci-fi or fantasy writer, there’s a world you know underneath it. Every writer has taken our world as it is now, or was once, and tweaked here, added there, subtracted this and voila! New world.

Don’t get me wrong, there are authors out there whose imaginations astound me. Brandon Sanderson, in particular, has this mind for detail that turns everything you know on its ear and makes it new and strange and wonderful. But at the base of it, the humans still walk and talk and breathe air and fall in love and have children.

So maybe they do it a little differently for some reason. Maybe it’s post-apocalypse and your people have to use oxygen tanks to breathe. Maybe humans have moved to a world where something in the air/soil/whatever makes women unable to carry babies to term and all children are gestated artificially.  Maybe the plants are as sentient and the humans don’t know it until the plants start to hunt them.

It’s just a matter of playing with details.

In FIGHTING GRAVITY, I took our world as it is today and fast-forwarded a few hundred years. That’s easy, in a way. You’ve got your world ready-built. There’s no need to figure out how things work, everyone already knows. It’s just a matter of taking things we do and have now and exaggerating some aspect or another. Make society’s greatest fears come true, or grant its greatest wishes. And then sit back and watch the consequences.

I played off of the current  international instability, specifically nationalism and religious intolerance, and imagined the “solution” a powerful group of people might enforce. Take that, its related propaganda, and mankind’s tendency to apathy and complacency, let it settle for several decades, and it’s a completely different world. Sorta.

That’s what I love about speculative fiction. You can make your world change to fit your story. Of course, once you get down to it, the world will shape your characters and plot as well, it goes both ways. And you can’t get lazy; you have to follow the rules of your new world just like we have to in ours.

You just get to make the rules.

What about you? If you could add anything to the world we live in now, what would it be?


When Jacob Dawes is Selected for the Imperial Intellectual Complex as a child, he’s catapulted from the poverty-stricken slums of his birth into a world where his status as an unclass is something no one can forget, or forgive. His growing scientific renown draws the attention of the emperor, a young man Jacob’s own age, and they find themselves drawn to each other in an unlikely, and ill-advised relationship. Jacob may have won the emperor’s heart, but it’s no protection when he’s accused of treason. And fighting his own execution would mean betraying the man he loves.


After dinner, a servant summoned me to the emperor. This was now twice in as many nights. Was it about something I’d said the night before? That stupid ring?
I was led to where the emperor was talking with the ship’s captain in one of the hallways.

“Good evening, Mr. Dawes. I see you survived the lift-off.” He walked as he spoke, gesturing for me to accompany him.

“It was an incredible experience, Excellence. This is a nice ship you have.”

“Thank you. It’s not a new ship, there was no time for that. But many things were upgraded, the engines included. They’re the best of the best, I’m told. I thought about you during the lift-off. I wondered what you’d make of it.”
“You did?” I asked, stunned.

“Is there something wrong with that?” he asked, his mouth twisted in what looked like amusement but was probably something more dangerous to me.

“No, sir. I guess not…”

“Does it bother you?” He seemed to be teasing me again.
“Some,” I answered.

He stopped. “Why?”

“Because I’m afraid of you.”

He laughed, and started down the hallway again. But after a sideways glance at my face, he quieted. “You really mean that?”
“Oh.” His answer was soft, subdued, even. I got the distinct impression that I’d hurt his feelings.

“You must get that all the time.”

“I do,” he answered, but didn’t look at me. I was more and more sure that I’d offended him somehow.
“So why should it matter, then, Excellence?”

He thought for a moment. “I don’t know. I should be used to it. Of course, no one ever comes out and says it in so many words. It’s a bit of a shock to hear it confirmed like that.”
He stopped again, facing me, a slight furrow between his eyes that I would have called uncertainty, even vulnerability, if I hadn’t known who he was. “Why are you afraid of me?”
“Who wouldn’t be afraid? You can do anything you want with my life and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.”
The furrow deepened and he waited, as if I hadn’t explained myself at all.
“You uprooted my life a couple of weeks ago, who knows what you might do tomorrow?”

“You mean, you didn’t want this assignment?” he asked.
Apparently I wasn’t frightened enough to keep my mouth shut. “I want to be here,” I pointed to the ship around us, “but I didn’t want to be reassigned, no.”
“Mr. Dawes...” He hesitated. “I had no idea. I’m sorry.”
I shrugged but didn’t look at him.

“Would you like to be assigned back to the IIC?”

“Yes, Excellence.”

“Then you will be.” He started walking again, gesturing to me to accompany him. My stomach was jittery. I couldn’t believe what I’d just said. But he wasn’t reacting like an angry sovereign. He was acting like just another guy whose feelings were hurt.
“I’m sorry if I offended you,” I tried.
He turned to me. “Actually, you have no idea how much I appreciate your honesty.”
There was no reason for me to believe he was lying or just being diplomatic—and I couldn’t imagine why he would try to spare my feelings—but that didn’t make me feel much better. I was still on edge, certain I’d said far too much.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina. She does the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing.
FIGHTING GRAVITY is her first novel.


Debby said...

World building must be fun and exciting. Thanks for the glimpse.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Leah today.

Leah Petersen said...

Thanks for having me today, Gale! And, Debby, yeah, I like it. ;)

JP said...

Gale thanks for inviting Leah in today. And congrads Leah on your first novel. The future gives us a clean sheet to write about, hopefully, a better world.

MomJane said...

I never thought of world building the way you do, but it makes excellent sense.

Leah Petersen said...

JP, thanks for the congrats!

MomJane, well it made sense to me, anyway. ;)