How do you navigate the translations of alien language?

If you write sci-fi, then at some time or another, you’re sure to come across the issue of language. It’s a problem area for realists like myself- and a universal translator simply doesn’t cut it. I understand the notion of such a device in well established series (Star Trek, for example) where common races from the same region of space regularly communicate with one another. It’s not inconceivable to think that one day, a computer program will automatically translate the words from those around you into a language you can recognise. But what about when you come into contact with a brand new species?

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Voyager’s universal translator seemed rather handy, if unrealistic

I’ve recently been watching back-to-back ST: Voyager on SyFy (yes, I think Janeway rocks)! However, here they are, stranded in the Delta Quadrant and as soon as they come across another race never before seen by humandkind – wham, instant English translation. There’s not even a few hours or day delay whilst the software analyses the phonetics. There was one episode of ST:DS9 that highlighted the issue and I, for one, was glad to see a little realism. Meanwhile, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy used the ‘Babel fish'; a small organism that’s placed in the auditory canal, and whilst universal translation was largely used in Star Wars, I’m always glad to see some use of interpretors; with Jabba, for example.

But here we’re talking about film. What about books?

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had a fun idea; the Babel fish, which is inserted into the ear.

It’s not easy, but having an actor developing a few lines of gibberish for an alternate language on film is a lot easier than having pages of utter undecipherable words in a novel. And there’s the vision of it too; I mean, who wants to flip the page and work their way through entire paragraphs of nonsense? That would almost certainly see me giving up on the book entirely. Still, I’m not keen on automatic translation – especially if characters are a) dealing with a brand new alien race or b) nowhere near a spaceship or other technology that could be automatically translating. So, we back to translators.

For those who’ve read the CRYO series, you’ll know that when John first stumbles across Earth’s new residents, he cannot understand a word they say. Nor, apparently, do they have any idea to what these strange humans are talking about either. I managed to get by the lengthy language issues by having a small group of scientists and archaeologists having learned English to help them with their own research – having no idea that they’d actually encounter humans one day. There are a very few bio-translators that are programmed with set language skills, but these are rudimentary compared with the universal translators often seen. And, as the series progresses, I expect to continue the use of translators, not only for realism but also because it gives a sense of diversity. And, of course, it allows the odd alien word to be thrown in – useful when you need to use obscene language without being too obvious.

Thoughts? When you’re reading, do you care about the intricacies of language, or are you just happy everyone can understand one another? And, when writing, do you plump for a translation software, or have fun with some alien language?

A New CRYO Cover

CRYOI find the whole book marketing thing pretty hard. I’m creative when it comes to writing; not so much when it comes to trying to strategise advertising. I’ve never been one to toot my own horn. Time and time again, we hear there’s three magic ingredients to selling a book; Contents, Cover, Blurb. Well, there’s not a huge amount I can do about the CRYO contents because it’s written. And, from the feedback and reviews I’ve gathered, people like it. I’ve swapped the blurb around a few times, but I’m trying out a new cover, once again. I’ve had a few comments that the cover’s scary and implies horror. Also, that it’s too cartoony. I’ve looked down the current top lists for science fiction and dystopian and yes, there’s nothing like my cover out there. But perhaps this is where uniqueness is a flaw; perhaps I need to gel with the crowd more and give people something they’re used to.

With that in mind, I’ve created a new and VERY simple cover. Literally, it’s a slightly altered photostock image with clear text added utilising canva. It’s not yet appeared on Amazon, but if you use the ‘Look Inside‘ feature, you’ll see it’s now inside the book.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, if something isn’t working, change it. It can be hard to let go of covers, text etc you’ve worked hard on, but if it’s not actually bringing in sales, you just can’t hold on it. For now, this is a test run – I’ve only applied it to Amazon to see if it’ll have any effect. What do you think? More sci-fi than the previous cover? More eye-catching? Or, perhaps you don’t like it as much?

Inside Evil is now on GooglePlay

GooglePlay1Well, it’s taken me some time, but I’ve finally got the Inside Evil series on GooglePlay. One of the reasons many authors have stayed away is because Google automatically discounts books. So, if I upload The Tower of Souls for $2.99, then they slash it even further. Whilst this isn’t great for the platform itself, Amazon then price matches and there’s a whole circle of nightmare going on. BUT, fellow writer, T. K. Kenyon, found a way around this little issue!

Now, as if my books weren’t available on all manner of platforms already, you can now also grab them on GooglePlay. Just follow this link to see the series. Meanwhile, I’m ALMOST finished with finale. I want to get it right, hence why it’s taking a little longer than previously expected.

Inside Evil is going ON TOUR

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So, I’m working hard at the moment to complete the first draft of To Kill A Curse –  I know it’s late, but I’m getting there. In fact, I’m hoping to finish it THIS weekend. With the finale almost done, I’m starting to prepare for a few plugs here and there in the future. As a result, in September, Inside Evil and the rest of the series is going on tour! If you’d like to participate by posting on your blog or reviewing (yes, that’s right – there’s FREE books up for grabs) then please sign up using the form below. :)

Inside Evil Tour Sign-Up

If you’ve read the books already, then feel free to join. Alternatively, if you want to be involved but don’t have time to actually read the series, that’s no problem either – just opt out of reviewing.

Have a great weekend – I better get back to work!

Smashwords Summer Sale – Grab a Bargain Book

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It’s that time of year again; Smashwords Summer Sale. If you’re anything like me, you tend to read a bit more in the summer. I don’t know whether it’s the idea of sheltering from the sun under a tree or going on holiday that’s conducive to reading more, but I certainly grab a lot of fun reads at this time of year. Lucky for me – Smashwords are always around with some bargains.

If you’ve never used Smashwords before, it’s an ebook site where you can purchase a huge variety of file types. Buy a book and read the PDF on your desktop, enjoy the novel in your web browser or download the .mobi file and next time you connect your Kindle, just drop the files into the appropriate folder.

The sale started yesterday (July 1st) and I’ve reduced my entire catalogue, with 50% savings across the board. With Inside Evil free, that means you can grab the entire series so far (four books) for under a fiver. The CRYO books, and my zombie novella, Pacifier 6, are also discounted. Anyway, I won’t ramble on – I have the final Inside Evil book to write after all – so feel free to follow the link below and grab some bargains during July. If you’re looking for some more science fiction and fantasy reads, there’s a load of my author friends also with their books on sale. :)

Happy Reading

Grab one of my books on Smashwords with a 50% discount here.

Also find discounted books by these authors:

Kate AaronThe Lost Realm Trilogy (25% off)
Patty JansenEntire catalogue of Fantasy and Science Fiction (50% off)
Vincent TrigiliLost Tales of Power (Volumes 1-3) (75% off)
Chris ReherThe Catalyst (Targen Tales 2) (50% off) – The first book, Sky Hunter, is Free.
Deirdre GouldEntire catalogue of Dystopian (50% off)
Annie BellettEntire catalogue of Speculative Fiction (50% 0ff)

Hemlock Grove Season 2 Trailer

Okay, so a few weeks I ago I posted that the fantastic Netflix series, ‘Hemlock Grove’ was soon to make a return. Now, with only very little time until there’s a WHOLE SEASON to watch again (I LOVE how Netflix does that), I’ve just found this season 2 trailer. I’m thrilled to see that many of the cast are back – despite the ending of Season 1.  One of the reasons I like this season so much is because it’s just plain weird. These are fantasy creatures and characters we’ve seen so many times before but they’ve been given brand new life – an important step seeing that True Blood’s about to finish (though, judging on the opening episode for the last season, it’s about time for Sookie and those vamps to say goodbye – it was pretty poor). Watching these series really inspires me to write new and interesting takes on traditional themes – something I think is important for writers to do so we’re not rehashing the same thing repeatedly.

So, without further ado, here’s the new footage for Hemlock. You’ll see it’s pretty extreme and wacky – puuuurfect, in my opinion! Netflix really do seem to be breaking boundaries with their series investment, and with news they’re about to start developing films, I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Mass Effect 4 and World Building

If there’s one modern franchise I love, it’s Mass Effect. Several years ago, when only the first title was out, I was searching for something on a rainy day to amuse me. I needed an instant fix, something downloadable, and I hopped onto EA, did a search and found this title called Mass Effect. I hummed and hawed for quite some time about whether to spend £10 on it – yep, it was only a tenner. A few minutes later, it was downloaded and I was cast into a new world of raging wars, alien races, the threat of extinction and incredible characters, species and storylines. I’ve played all the trilogy constantly ever since, have several figurines (including a Shepherd signed by Mark Meer) and keep a watch out for the latest reports on upcoming titles.

Of course, as E3 opens, we now know that Mass Effect 4 is most definitely coming – albeit under that name or something a little less obvious. The trailer (if it can be called that; it’s more of a production piece) outlined some interesting concepts. Firstly, that the instalment is likely to have new characters and reveal parts of galaxy never seen in the original trilogy. It’s long been believed that Shepherd’s story has ended, and though there was no definite agreement, the video suggests that we’re moving onto fresher pastures in ME4. It was implied that world maps are likely to be far more extensive too, possibly something more akin to MMO territory rather than territories based around specific routes characters have to traverse. In addition, it seems weather, seasonal and time-of-day factors have been brought in too, so that as you play, the world around you changes.

One fact I especially liked was when Casey Hudson (executive producer) talking about world-building. It’s what us writers do to; develop a story and create a compelling world. Mostly, for me, it’s the character that comes to mind first. The world-building aspect comes later as my cast comes to life and starts needing a place to live. The Mass Effect crew seem to have stripped everything right back to the beginning, and as well as considering their characters, are thinking about how cities looks and how worlds appear. It’s a slightly different angle; develop an alien world and city, and THEN think about who’d live there.

Of course, my world for CRYO is pretty much created – it’s Earth after all, just slightly different. However, as John and the crew start to traverse the stars in a bid to find answers, particularly from other alien races which have had only a mere mention in the books, I might take a new approach. Create a world, create a city and then think about the complex characters who might be found within. This, of course, will be alongside scouring the Internet for every conceivable piece of info on Mass Effect 4! I better get writing because as soon as this new game hits, I’ll be disappearing into its incredible and involving universe.