{Interview} Alanna Blackett on Unsecure Connection, Science Fiction and Sexytimes

Unsecure Connection by Alanna BlackettI first “met” Alanna Blackett a few years ago, when both of our favorite NBA teams, The Trail Blazers (me) and the Hornets (her) were looking to take names and kick butt. (Yeah… that didn’t really pan out, sadly.) Being that the internet sports world is dominated by a lot of male voices (though there are loads of female sports fans—don’t let anyone tell you any differently), we would regularly chat on Twitter about basketball.

Naturally, when I found out she was publishing a novella, Unsecure Connection, with Decadent, I bought it as soon as it was available. But it’s always a little stressful reading something written by someone you know—even if it’s just through the series of tubes that makes up the internet. This was amplified that I’m very science fiction-phobic, and Unseure Connection is science fiction. But I fretted needlessly—I quickly blew through the novella in an evening and loved the story of a pair of misfit hackers in a grim, gritty future version of New York City. The other thing that struck me is what a female-positive story Unsecure Connection is. Riley is tough and smart and crafty, and in surprising ways. It’s definitely a story I’d recommend for anyone looking for something different.

So, I thought I’d invite Alanna to chat with us about about her novella and books and reading in general. And sexytimes. Ahem.

{Pro Tip: Be sure to read all the way to the end of the interview.}

I’d love to hear a bit about Unsecure Connection, its plot, characters and gritty, creative setting in your own words.

It’s a cyberpunk romance novella featuring two hackers who are kind of stalking each other around Interspace, which is basically a virtual reality internet. When the story opens, Riley’s hacking into a database and she realizes someone’s tracking her. That person is CJ, who used to be a top-tier hacker until he got caught by the Evil Corporation. So now he’s being forced to work for them as a high tech bounty hunter, trying to catch his old friends and colleagues. Riley doesn’t really trust CJ (with good reason), but they have so much in common that she can’t help liking him. This all takes place in a future where New York City is controlled by corporations and has expanded to take over much of the lower half of New York state. I had fun writing it.

I have to confess, I didn’t know what cyberpunk was until I read your novella—and I bet I’m not alone. Can you explain a bit about this interesting sub-genre of science fiction?

The “cyber” means it’s science fiction revolving around computers or virtual reality, and the “punk” refers to the fact that there’s usually an element of social breakdown or counterculture. So for setting we are usually talking about futuristic dystopia. The tone is noir-ish, and the heroes are anti-heroes. There’s often some Japanese elements/setting as well. The most popular cyberpunk movie examples are Blade Runner and The Matrix. As far as where to start in books, William Gibson’s Neuromancer is really the big one that kicked off the sub-genre in the early 80s, and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash is another classic I like. My personal favorite cyberpunk books are Richard K. Morgan’s series starting with Altered Carbon, with the caveat that you have to like dark and gritty heroes. They take place in a future where (mostly wealthy) humans can switch out their bodies for new ones by having their consciousness transferred. So there are all these nuances and distinctions between body death and Real Death.

Unsecure Connection has a lot of the qualities that I enjoy about Urban Fantasy, in that it’s accessible and feels relevant to this world. As a science fiction neophyte, this was refreshing to me. Did you intend for UC to appeal to a broad audience?

I honestly didn’t. Science fiction romance is a niche sub-genre but it has a pretty good following. There are four or five e-publishers that do a lot of it. I originally wrote Unsecure Connection to submit to a cyberpunk romance anthology. Which is such a bizarrely specific sub-genre that I am just glad I found someone to publish it after it didn’t make the anthology. I did try to use tech terms similar to the ones that exist now (when I wasn’t just making stuff up). There’s not a whole lot of time for world-building at the novella length. You get a lot of mileage out of throwing out terms that sound familiar without explaining them in-depth. I borrowed from the world of video games and game modding, which are things I’m into.

I loved the setting of Tarrytown, which is such a believable and intriguing version of a future New York. Do you have any plans to revisit it? (Or CJ and Riley, for that matter?)

I don’t have any plans to revisit it at the moment, but I could see doing another novella in that cyberpunk world. That was the first time I wrote a novella, and I’ve written two more since. It’s a fun length, about 30,000 words. I’m no good at short stories because I like dialogue too much. Riley’s friend Ceres who designs and sells avatars is a character I’d be interested in writing more about.

Do you write the sort of books you like to read? What really excites you as a reader and a writer?

To the first question, yes! There are so few people writing the books I want to read. Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series is a great example—and probably a good gateway SF for people who like urban fantasy. It’s space opera with a first person female (sarcastic) voice. When I read the first book Grimspace I was like,

This is what I write! Where is more of this?!

 

I was all excited.

Unsecure Connection was the first straight-up romance story I’ve ever written (with the traditional alternating hero/heroine POVs). I usually write SF or SF hybrid stuff with romantic elements (I am a great fan of sexytimes in books).

I am a fan of character-based science fiction. A lot of times I’ll get frustrated with so-called “hard” SF because the author spends too much time on science info-dumps and the characters are boring cutouts. It’s a genre where the pulpy “trashy” stuff appeals to me more than the “serious” stuff anyway. I’m basically a person for whom nothing will ever measure up to my childhood of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. (I’ve actually got this idea for a female Indiana Jones in space, which I think would be epic and maybe I’ll get to soon.) But I don’t read as much SF as I’d like, because I read very few books that don’t have female protagonists. I actually don’t even read that many books by male writers these days. This is why even though I think I have more of an urban fantasy voice, I still write mostly SF. Because there have got to be other readers who feel the same way as me. I would also like to see YA expand further into SF (adventures in spaceships, as opposed to dystopia). I think that would help get more girls-in-space books.

I use the word “trashy” a lot, but I hope no one thinks I’m using it seriously. I so rarely read anything that wouldn’t be described as trashy these days. My favorite genres are historical romance/mystery, urban fantasy, fantasy, space opera, or any funky mashups of those. I haven’t read anything quote-unquote “literary” in 3-4 years. A lot of times “trashy” is just shorthand for “any pulp genre that women read.” A lot of male-written SF books from the 60s are straight-up gloriously trashy, but now they’re regarded as “classics of the genre”? Please.

So, I heard that someone described UC as “like The Matrix, but with more sex.” That’s, like, the best thing ever, right?

It was my first Goodreads review, and I was like, “Yessss.” Because really, that’s exactly what I was going for.

Thanks so much, Alanna! 

Learn more about Alanna on her website and also follow her on Twitter, where you’ll find out more about her writing, gaming, life in New Orleans and her cats. 

Unsecure Connection is available as an ebook only from Amazon, BNKobo and directly from the publisher, Decadent. You can add it on Goodreads right here. 


Giveaway! (Updated 7/11/2012 - Now Closed)

Since I know cyperpunk is a new genre for a lot of you, I thought I’d giveaway a copy of Alanna’s novella, Unsecure Connection. It is released in ebook form only, so you’ll need to have a way to read digitally if you win and you’ll need to have an account with Amazon, BN, All Romance or Kobo (those are the bookstores that make it easy to gift an ebook).

I’m able to give away a copy because of you awesome people who use our affiliate links (see the sidebar) when ordering books—thank you

Support Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

Buying via these links help support our hosting & podcast production costs.

    Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository   Visit Powells.com

{Review} Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

True Blood Snark-Cap - Episode 5.4: We'll Meet Again