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[Bookshelf] Jeff Carlson’s FROZEN SKY

I’ve had this on my list to blog about for a while…and now that I’m jumping back onto the intarwebs post-Sandycane, the subjectmatter seems even more fitting.

I’ve known Jeff Carlson since he won the Writers of the Future Award in 2007 for his novella “The Frozen Sky.” I am not–nor have I ever been–a Writers of the Future Award winner, but in 2007 I was in the unique position to be a stowaway in LA during the WotF workshop. I short, I had a really terrible time. I tell everyone that Jeff was a knight who saved a damsel in distress because from the minute he showed up, he was. Plain and simple.

Since then, I’ve watched Jeff from my Ivory Tower, pleased as punch at the success of his sci-fi PLAGUE trilogy. (I’ve also enjoyed many an insane video of Jeff’s extreme ski stunts.) I am also singularly happy that he has expanded The Frozen Sky into a novel (available in both paperback and e-book form).

A little bit about The Frozen Sky:

BENEATH THE ICE
Something is alive inside Jupiter’s ice moon Europa. Robot probes find an ancient tunnel beneath the surface, its walls carved with strange hieroglyphics. Led by elite engineer Alexis Vonderach, a team of scientists descends into the dark… where they confront a savage race older than mankind…

“I’m hooked.” —Larry Niven
“A first-rate adventure.” —Allen Steele

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Jeff recently did a really great guest post on SF Signal about The Frozen Sky, and why he chose to buck the traditional publishing route for this book — click here to check it out.

Click here to purchase The Frozen Sky from Amazon using the special Princess Alethea Affiliate Link.

Congrats, Sir Jeff! This princess is honored to have you in her retinue.

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MoA&A Interview #13: Jeff Carlson

Hello, everyone! Welcome to July, and the Month of Artist and Author Interviews here on the website!

Today’s interview features SF writer, Bionic Man, and Knight in Shining Armor Jeff Carlson. Once upon a time he saved a scared princess who found herself in a strange place and surrounded by cultists…and for that rescue, she will be forever grateful.

Jeff just got a snazzy new upgraded website–be sure to click on over and see what’s new! Or check out the Kindle version of his short story collection Long Eyes, released in November of last year.

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Author or Artist?
I am the author formerly known as Jeffrey.

Who are your professional role models?
The goofy part is I barely read for pleasure anymore, which is crime. I’m missing a lot of good stuff. Worse, I got into this crazy business because I grew up as a serious bookworm. I wanted to play, too. Now between my family and my own writing, research, editing, etc., I’m lucky if I get through a book or two in a month.

In one sense, I’m totally out of touch with the field — and yet I’m more intimately involved than I imagined possible when I was kid. I know writers and editors all over the world. Some of them correspond with me regularly, some irregularly. Others I see at conventions or library gigs, where we trade handshakes or hugs or beers. Good stuff.

Books I’ve enjoyed lately include titles by Scott Sigler, Jack McDevitt, and Robert Crais.

What’s your favorite writing weather?
A cool rainy day with the scent of dark, dark coffee.

Hit PLAY for us on your iPod. What’s the first song that comes up?
The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” or the extended medley from the B side of “Abbey Road.” You can’t beat those guitar licks… or their defiant, brooding exuberance… although I’ve also got a thing for the subtle and complex melodies of Jethro Tull, especially from their early mid-career albums like “Passion Play” and “Heavy Horses.”

If you could win any award, which would it be?
The Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Would you rather have magical powers or a spaceship?
Spaceship. With laser cannons.

What was your favorite book as a child?
Ooh, tough question. Do I get to include books I read as an early teen? If so, “The Stand” by Stephen King. If not, I read voraciously and liked almost everything from intricate character studies like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden” and good ol’ apocalyptic action-adventure like John Christopher’s “White Mountains” trilogy. Favorites like those I read at least five times each.

What thing do you wish you could go back in time and tell your 10-year-old self?
“Keep working hard. Good things take time. Also, you can’t imagine how fantastic it is to be grown up and have kids of your own. But you will.”
That oughta boggle his mind. I mean my mind. Somebody’s mind.

What’s your favorite fairy tale?
Now you’re asking foolish questions! “Enchanted” by Lee Kontis, of course.
I’m also a huge fan of the original, very grim Brothers Grimm renditions of tales like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Cinderella.” Freaky, gory stuff, man.

What are you most proud of?
Our children. Trite but true.

The Colin Harvey Memorial Question: Name 3 things on your List of Things to Do Before You Die.
#1 Helicopter ski at Whistler for ten days in a blizzard.
#2 Kayak down the Grand Canyon for two weeks again. (First time was mind-croggling.)
#3 Make out with Jessica Alba.
#4 Wait, is my wife going to read this? I mean visit Germany again on a second honeymoon! Aha ha ha.

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Jeff Carlson was born on the day of the first manned moon landing and narrowly escaped being named Apollo, Armstrong, or Rocket. His father worked for NASA-Ames at the time, and his granddad on his mother’s side was a science fiction fan whose library included autographed copies of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

Both men were strong, early influences—and in the high tech 21st Century, it’s easy to stand with one foot in reality and the other in sci-fi. Jeff’s writing alternates between mainstream and genre fiction.

Jeff is the international bestselling author of the Plague Year trilogy, hailed by New York Times blockbuster James Rollins as “Harrowing, heartfelt, and rock-hard realistic. Not to be missed.” He is currently at work on a new stand-alone thriller. Other stories and nonfiction articles have appeared in leading venues such as Boys’ Life, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and the Fast Forward 2 anthology.

To date, his writing has sold in fourteen languages. Jeff’s novels have been translated into Spanish, German, Romanian, Russian and Czech. His short fiction has also appeared in most of those languages as well as Dutch, Esperanto, Estonian, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese.

Jeff lives with his wife and sons in California.

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Genre Chick Interview: Jeff Carlson

If you like to sleep at night, stay away from this book!  Jeff Carlson’s pulse-pounding debut novel, Plague Year, has turned the world of science-fiction thrillers completely upside down. The undaunted and unafraid Genre Chick Alethea Kontis dons her hazmat gear and gets extreme with the Bionic Man.

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Alethea KontisPlague Year has one of the most terrifying and original high concepts I’ve ever come across. What is wrong with your brain that you could even think up something like this?

Jeff Carlson:  The setting was easy: that the only safe places on Earth are above 10,000 feet because of a nanotech plague. I literally built this story from the top down. I’m a life-long backpacker and snow skier, and as a writer, I’m always on the hunt for cool ideas. My brother and I had just had one of those incomparable powder days among the cliffs and trees of our local resort. It was time to leave because we both needed to be at work the next morning, and I thought, “What if we couldn’t go home?”  We’d been snowed in before, but I began to think, “What if we could never go home again?”

AK: And yet you seem so optimistic…

JC: It’s funny. I’m a very upbeat guy, but now that the book is out, I do get strange looks from people who are wondering if they ever really knew me–or from strangers who assume I’d just as soon kill ’em and eat ’em.

AK: Did you freak yourself out while writing this book?

JC: Plague Year is extremely tense. There wasn’t any other way to write it. If you change the world so that no warm-blooded life can survive below 10,000 feet, things get ugly in a hurry. To start with, the biosphere goes out of whack. The insects take over. Imagine an ant swarm as big as a city block!

More important to the story, though, human beings are among the smartest, toughest creatures on the planet. In a crisis, some people will fail. But there are always others who rise to the occasion. Any occasion. To me, that’s fascinating.

AK:  Your heroes, the survivors, are all strong and intelligent characters, but they’re also deeply flawed.  What was it like living with these people as you worked on the novel?

JC:  It was great fun! I was safe in my house with plenty to eat, electricity, a hot shower and a car, my laptop, you name it.

I’m always a reader first. Writing is an extension of that. I wanted to see what happened, and with Plague Year, I was able to use all three classic elements of story: man against nature, man against man, and man against himself. The environment is lethal. The people are murderers. And everyone has to find a way to live with what they’ve done to stay alive.

AK:  Do you work in a nanotech lab? What was your background for the science involved in Plague Year?

JC:  The nanotech in the book is 100% real. There’s a lot of eye-popping material being published in the field right now, and I also attended talks on the subject and then mercilessly hounded the speakers afterward.  Thank God for e-mail.

We’re still a few breakthroughs short of building a prototype like the one that gets loose in Plague Year, but here’s the thing: there are also hundreds of private labs around the world that aren’t publishing their work. Some are military. Others are quietly developing medical technologies like the one in the book, and nobody really knows how far they’ve advanced.

Plague Year could happen tomorrow. That’s the freaky part.

AK:  You were recently a winner in the prestigious Writers of the Future short story contest, and you’re also collaborating with New York Times bestseller David Brin on a new adventure series. And you’re writing a sequel to Plague Year that will be published next summer. Are you about to burst into fire?

JC:   Probably! The amount of stuff I’ve learned in the past year is enough to explode anyone’s brain.  I’m only held together with Band-Aids, caffeine, and jalapeño bagels at this point.

First of all, I could not more strongly endorse the WOTF contest to any aspiring writer. They pay great, you’re published in a sharp-looking anthology with phenomenal distribution, and, most important, they fly you in for eight days of hardcore writing workshops. It’s like being strapped down for a thousand injections of writing basics, tips, secrets, and opportunities.

David has also been a mentor. It’s awe-inspiring to be working with someone whose books warped my mind as a kid, and I’m soaking up as much technique as I can handle. Our new series, Colony High, is a great big classic adventure in the vein of Heinlein’s Tunnel In The Sky, and I for one couldn’t be happier with the project.

As for my sequel War Day, it ratchets up the all-or-nothing stakes from Plague Year to an even wilder ride.  I like to think these novels have it all. There are insect swarms, mad scientists, commandos in hazmat suits, large-scale invasions for safe ground, lost cities, lies and betrayals, and new surprises.

AK:  Word is you’ve got some fun stuff on your Web site?

JC:  Readers can find a free excerpt of Plague Year and one of my favorite short stories on my Web site, along with upcoming tour dates and a lot of other goodies like a science-fiction trivia contest. Top prizes include the chance to name a character after yourself or a friend either in War Day or in Colony High. See you there!

AK:  I usually end with asking who’s your favorite superhero, but… is it true you have a titanium skeleton like Wolverine?

JC:   Who have you been talking to? Yes. You’ve learned the truth! But now Defense Intelligence is going to cart you away to a nice, quiet cell.

No, seriously. After a couple surgeries, my right leg is still reinforced with a 14″ rod, a 4″ plate, and a large handful of assorted screws. I got a little too excited after two days of fresh snow and forgot that I was skiing, not paragliding. There’s actually a great photo from the day before on my Web site if anyone’s curious. Big air, baby.

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