Excerpt for Sci-Fi Women Interviews: The 2017 Collection by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Sci-Fi Women Interviews

The 2017 Collection

(Smashwords Edition)

Natacha Guyot


Text Copyright ©2018 Natacha Guyot.

All Rights Reserved.

Cover Design by Jennifer A. Miller.

Table of Contents



Sci-Fi Women Still Matter

Christin Gattuso

Lisa M. Collins

Becca Benjamin

Dr. Janina Scarlet

Alexandra Moody

Emma Swinehart

Bethany Blanton

Sarah Hashmi

Zen DiPietro

Sandra Choute

Megan Zomboracz Cullinan

About the Author

To Rose, thank you for all the years of creative partnership and nerdy badassery.

Let’s rock the year of the #Lion!


As always, I would like to express my gratitude to two people who make my writing projects possible: my editor Jaime Krause and my cover designer Jennifer A. Miller. You two have provided outstanding support and helped me become a better writer over the years!

This compilation of interviews wouldn’t have been possible without all my outstanding guests: Christin Gattuso, Lisa M. Collins, Becca Benjamin, Dr. Janina Scarlet, Alexandra Moody, Emma Swinehart, Bethany Blanton, Sarah Hashmi, Zen DiPietro, Sandra Choute, and Megan Zomboracz Cullinan. Thank you for your interest in being part of this project and for takin the time to answer my questions.

Of course, I cannot forget everyone else who has supported this project since it started as a monthly blog feature in March 2015. Without you, I would not have been able to keep this project going. I am grateful to see this series running strong after more than three years and see more women accept my invitation to participate. Thank you!

Sci-Fi Women Still Matter (Take Two)

When I started Sci-Fi Women Interviews as a monthly feature on my blog in March 2015, I was hoping to see the series flourish as a platform for women involved in Science Fiction, whether authors, bloggers, cosplayers, graphic artists, scholars, or fangirls. If I was able to run this series for a year, that would be great. Here we are in 2018, on the fourth year of the series. It is heart-warming and a special accomplishment to me that it has grown so much. I am grateful to the amazing nerdy women I have met and to everyone who has supported them.

While my nexus has fallen to the way side due to my doctoral studies, Sci-Fi Women Interviews remains the one project I keep nurturing. Science Fiction is a significant part of the woman I am, including with my academic endeavors. Celebrating fellow nerdy women is dear to my heart and this practice shall continue and expand even more, not only within my personal life but to influence society and culture.

Christin Gattuso

Christin currently lives in Alabama, and works as a textiles mechanic. She fixes giant weaving looms, and loves to carry her tools around all day. In her free time, she draws, writes, works on her car, and busies herself with other DIY projects. Even though her degree is in computer animation, she feels that her best art is done when she does it as a hobby. It’s a way for her to unwind and not be under pressure with rigorous deadlines. She also enjoys cosplay, and she has a 1920’s upright grand piano in her garage that she is restoring. She is married to “a pretty nifty guy`” who is as much into writing and Sci-Fi as she is, and they have three cats that are spoiled rotten. You can find more about her art on Facebook.


NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

GATTUSO: Honestly? I don’t really remember the exact introduction I had to Sci-Fi. The best I can offer are some of my fondest memories in Jacksonville, Florida, and my family taking dinner in the living room one night a week to watch the latest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was probably about 10 or so, and hadn’t quite found my niche. Looking back, I suppose my introduction to Sci-Fi can be attributed to those nights. I had the spot on the sofa closest to the TV, with my sister sitting on the floor at the coffee table and my parents on the opposite sofa. We spent 50 minutes eating our dinner and watching Captain Picard and his crew overcomes the villain of the week. The memories of those evenings I cherish and hold so very dear.

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life?

GATTUSO: Sci-Fi holds captive an incredibly large chunk of my awareness, and is a huge part of my life. The sheer limitless possibilities it offers fires my imagination every day, and I draw a lot of inspiration from it. Being a woman in a largely male-dominated field, I find myself at odds with many social norms, but I feel better able to rise above because of Sci-Fi and the women in that genre. From Uhura to Leia, I push myself to perfection because of them and their iron wills to succeed. In many ways it’s still a boys’ club in this present world, but I’m determined to cast that off because of the inclusive nature of Sci-Fi. It makes me want to be a better human, and a better woman.

NG: What are your three favorite Science Fiction books, games and movies?

GATTUSO: My favorite book, I’d have to say, is actually a collection of stories; Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction: Intergalactic Empires. In particular, the short story called Diabologic by Eric Frank Russell. It deals with first contact with aliens, and the protocols that men and women follow during those times. The logic problems are – I suppose – silly by today’s standards, but they’re still interesting and rather fascinating in their own way.

My favorite Sci-Fi game? Goodness, heh, I’m not exactly sure. I think Alien: Isolation would have to be it. That game just draws you in and creates such an atmosphere of suspense that you feel like you’re actually in the game, trying to stay one step ahead of the alien.

As for my favorite Sci-Fi movie, I’m really torn. I think I’d have to say Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. I like how it feels like a submarine movie, and makes space seem as though its’ closing in, much like deep water. The level of dogged determination and obsession for revenge that Ricardo Montalban exudes makes Khan a terrifying individual. The complete self-sacrifice by Spock, followed by the utter heartbroken eulogy given by Kirk are insanely poignant, in my opinion. There’s a line spoken by Kirk’s son, about how Jim hasn’t ever experienced what it’s like to lose, and the way that William Shatner showed a man truly losing for the first time is so powerful that you can feel his loss with him, and it just caves in your chest.

NG: How did you start roleplaying?

GATTUSO: A friend of mine mentioned it offhandedly if I recall correctly. My first foray into RP was actually not Sci-Fi, but rather Redwall (based on the novels by Brian Jacques). I still RP with a few of the people I wrote with on that old board.

NG: Did specific authors or characters inspire the creation of some of your roleplaying ones?

GATTUSO: There are little bits of all sorts of other characters in some of my own. But they are very small ticks, like a speech pattern or a behavioral inconsistency. I like bare notions that have the chance to open up different avenues. So, I may make a character that has some of the same strange habits of one fictional character, and a slight bit of a different habit from another, so that the two meld together to create something new. I really enjoy comedy, so a healthy amount of my many RP characters are inspired from goofy TV shows and movies. But, I’ve also got a soft spot for tragedy and stumbling blocks, so I’m always happily willing to attach unfortunate drawbacks to a character’s psyche; whether it is physical or emotional. It’s what gives them depth and the greatest potential for growth, I think.

NG: Do you have plans to write outside of roleplaying?

GATTUSO: I actually started writing with my own stories, starting when I was about 13 years old. It’s become a bit of a pipe dream at this point to actually finish my original ideas. I wrote so much back then and put in a massive amount of hours in world building for a Sci-Fi concept that I had and still somewhat fantasize about finishing. Sadly, due to failed backups, I’ve lost a good chunk of my old writing. But that’s okay. I have a decent amount still, from printed out lists and other printed information. I’m not entirely upset over how things have gone, to be honest. It’s kept me from becoming too stuck on one thing, and allowed me to really branch out and explore a bunch of other literary concepts.

I do have a project started with my husband, but the demands of my regular job leave me pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

NG: Can you tell us about your experience as an administrator for the

GATTUSO: It’s fun for the most part. I approach it with a very ‘member crowd-sourcing’ mentality, and do my best to make sure that everyone has a voice and feels heard. I handle a good chunk of things, from rolling out new style sets and graphics to actively promoting participation and interest with monthly writing challenges. It’s been a heck of a learning experience on the back end, though. It’s very satisfying for me, and I love making sure that people have as enjoyable of a writing experience as possible there.

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women?

GATTUSO: I think that it has become a way to showcase strong, capable women. I have a few old publications that really seem to highlight the fact that women are just as equal and strong as men, so I would venture to say that from its early years, Sci-Fi has been a haven for equality between men and women. There are of course some Sci-Fi ideas that paint women in a helpless light, but I don’t think that these days there is much interest in doing that anymore. There’s a lot more drive to show women as just as able to handle adversities as their male counterparts.

NG: What are your favorite female characters in Science Fiction?

GATTUSO: To be honest? I’m not entirely sure. I love Machiko Naguchi from the Aliens vs. Predator graphic novel, and how she was an iron-willed company woman who shifted into the role of a gritty survivor/guardian with hardly any trouble at all; as though it came naturally. I also adore Tank Girl. The pure irreverence and independence, not to mention the careless bravado that she exhibits is refreshing to me.

NG: What Science Fiction movies are you most looking forward to in 2017?

GATTUSO: I have no idea. I’m so woefully disconnected from the cinematic aspect of society. I mean, I’m very much aware of the Star Wars movies and a few other titles, but beyond that I have little advanced knowledge of what’s coming down the pipe for the next year. I don’t have cable or even basic channels at the house, so unless I find out about it from friends or random YouTube searches (good luck on that front, I mostly watch cat videos), I won’t be aware of it.

NG: Thank you for being with us today, Christin! I am glad that my readers get to learn more about you.

Lisa M. Collins

Lisa M. Collins wants to live in a galaxy where she can vacation on the moon or sip black chai tea while sightseeing on Saturn. Her writing appears across a range of print and digital media, and she was honored with a Sally A. Williams grant from the Arkansas Arts Council to pursue her craft. Her stories cover a wide range of genres from Pulp Noir to Science Fiction. When not writing, you can find Lisa preparing for her latest long-distance backpacking trip. You can connect with her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest (where she creates story boards for her novels).


NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

COLLINS: My Dad was a big influence in my love of Sci-Fi. The TV shows we watched together included The Jetsons, Star Trek (TV and Movies), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Battlestar Galactica. From a very young age I have been fascinated with space and traveling to new solar systems. My dad always said, “If all those stars were created just for you and me to count, then that is awful waste of space.”

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life?

COLLINS: Science Fiction plays a pivotal role in my everyday life. Most of the books I read, movies and television I watch, and even my dreams are centered around the concept of a human future not bound by the confines of Earth or even physics as we know it. My husband and I laugh that these days we look just like we belong on the Starship Enterprise (Star Trek) with our small tablets we read on and our Bluetooth communication devices. Every day Science Fiction of the last fifty years becomes science fact. In my Grandmother’s lifetime, the USA has gone from wagon-drawn transit to putting a man on the Moon and plan for manned travel to Mars. Science Fiction is life.

NG: What are your three favorite Science books and movies?

COLLINS: I have to add in Television. I don’t know what it is like outside of the USA, but TV is ingrained in our culture. The most iconic shows are those I mentioned above but, two shows that are influencing my current writing are Dark Matter (2015) and Firefly (2002). Both of these shows have tight-knit groups who have to overcome adversity to win over larger more powerful enemies.

Movies (series) would have to include every single Star Wars (1977) movie ever made. I love them all even the ones with Jar Jar Binks. I love all the Star Trek (1979) movies, even the crazy one where they have to talk to whales. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I love Ridley Scott and all of the Alien movies including the (sort of) prequel, Prometheus (2012).

My books are all over the road map. I love nearly every book I can get my hands on, but lately I’ve been blown away by The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle, The Martian by Andy Weir, and The Legacy Human (Singularity Series) by Susan Kaye Quinn.

NG: Which Science Fiction story has had the most influence on your writing?

COLLINS: Star Trek, hands down, is the number one influence on my writing and dreams. I honestly can’t remember life without Star Trek being available to watch every week, if not every day. The show taught me kids didn’t have to settle for following the societal rules, that even as young people we could make our mark on the world around us in profound and amazing ways. I knew I could do anything I set my mind to and I attribute a lot of that attitude not only to my parents not holding me back, but also to the open mindedness of Star Trek. I learned so much from the social commentary of the show and Star Trek seeps into my mind when write much like the air I breathe.

NG: Have your creative collaborations helped you grow as a writer?

COLLINS: I have written for several anthologies and found the short story writing fun as short forms stretch us as writers to embrace brevity. However, in times where I have had to share the same page with another, I have not enjoyed the experience. I think I’ll be very picky about shared world projects in the future. I’m not sure I really grew, but I know much more about myself and my tolerances through collaborative working.

NG: How can Science Fiction’s versatile and hybrid nature influence storytelling in other genres?

COLLINS: You can take any genre and the write into it Science Fictional elements. You love writing about Noir Detectives; fine, set the story on a space station at the edge of the known universe. Do you like stories about groups of children that go off to find their fortune or enter college? Or romance? Or how about military history? All of those can be adapted to have elements that land them on the Science Fiction shelf. An excellent example is the novel Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. It is a retelling of the US Civil War with steampunk andSci-Fi elements. The whole series is excellent. The adaptability of Science Fiction is unquenchable like a black hole. I dare you…think up any scenario and then make one of the characters an android or make the location on a space station…bam! You just made Science Fiction.

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women?

COLLINS: Yes. I would say this is more so in the last ten years. Although I have had a group of older (20 years my senior) men pretty much tell me to pack up my Barbies and go home. You can’t let people with outdated opinions influence what you say or do. If I listened to those old guys I would have never gotten published. They were wrong, and I’m seeing less and less of that kind of jocularity in Science Fiction groups online every day.

NG: Do you think Science Fiction helps in fostering discussions about women’s issues?

COLLINS: I think any genre can be used to bring light to the issues regarding women today, but I would say Science Fiction allows us the unique medium to explore women’s issues in fresh ways. I am working on a novel right now where the society I’ve created has a maternal hierarchy in the military. In many ways I’m able to use the experiences of modern-day women warriors to expound how a female-led military would function. Science Fiction gives me the freedom to try new things and see alternate realities.

NG: Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

COLLINS: The latest things on the horizon are the follow-up sequel to The Tree of Life. In this short story, Hiroto’s Legacy, we go back in time to the Ryukyuan clan exodus from Japan to the stars. Hiroto’s Legacy will be published this March.

As for longer works, I have a novel series I’ve been working on for some time, and finally this Spring I’ll be publishing the first book in the Chevron Station series.

In Chevron Station, Doctor of Psychology and matchmaker extraordinaire, Margaret Morris, leaves her stale academic career on the Moon and trades it for a posting on Earth’s only colony outside of the Sol system. As a professional in relational psychology, Maggie is hired by Western Federated Military to help colonize the planet Chevron and keep peace on the space station.

NG: What advice would you have for an aspiring writer?

COLLINS: It sounds trite to say never give up or just don’t stop writing. So I won’t. The fact is no writing journey will look like yours. Sure there are mountains of self-help resources online and in print on how this author or that writer became the success they are today, but I’ll be honest with you. Not one iota of that advice is going to get you through the tough times when you have given up, when you have quit writing, when you are doing everything in you power not to even look at your computer. The thing is you have to learn to see your process. Look at the times when writing was like breathing or relaxing in a hot bath. How were those times different than the valley where you haven’t written a word in months or years? When you find the sweet spot where you ride the tide of creativity hold on to those moments analyze them for clues on how to recreate those moments. And when you do you will have the thing that separates you from other writers seeking advice…you will have your answer.

NG: Thank you, Lisa! I am sure my readers will be happy to know more about you and check out your work!

Becca Benjamin

Becca Benjamin is Editor-in-Chief & Featured Blogger for, and Cohost at Tarkin’sTopShelf Podcast, and Blogger for You can follow her on Twitter at @urangelb.


NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

BENJAMIN: My parents. My Dad watched Star Trek a lot, but it never really clicked with me. It wasn’t until the summer of 1978 when the genre sucked me in. I was going on my fourth birthday when I first saw the original Star Wars and it was my first theater experience too. I’ve been hooked ever since. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life?

BENJAMIN: What place? Well, to be honest, all of it. It’s something I just do, it’s kind of … a verb. From blogging about it, to podcasting, and just being a normal fan of it.

NG: What are your three favorite Science books, movies, and TV shows?

BENJAMIN: That’s a hard one. Especially, since I mostly read Star Wars for review purposes, so that brand tends to take up most of my time and of course, my favorite slots.

Books: The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyers—yes, it is considered Science Fiction/Fantasy; Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray, and Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover (I tend to reference this one a lot).

Movies: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story holds the top spot right now, since it surpassed all my expectations tenfold; E.T. the extra-terrestrial; and Harry Potter: The Deathly Hollows (Parts 1 and 2).

TV shows: Stranger Things, and yes, I binged watched these in 24 hours. It’s that good! Salem on WGN; I’ve always had a thing for witches and this show is the remedy to my fixation. Unfortunately, I don’t have a 3rd Science Fiction TV show, but I do have an addiction to Vikings on the History Channel.

NG: What do you like most in the Star Wars universe?

BENJAMIN: That’s not an easy or a fair question! But, if I had to choose one thing, I’d say the “lore.” Right now, is a great time to be a Star Wars fan! Seriously, we are learning so much about the Force and its many different factions that exist throughout the galaxy.

NG: How did you start writing about Star Wars?

BENJAMIN: I started writing about Star Wars shortly after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith came out in theaters. I couldn’t get the relationship of Anakin and Padme out of my head, so I began to jot down my thoughts in a notebook. Not long after that, I subscribed to a blogroll on the official Star Wars site (back then anyone could blog on, so long as you had a paid subscription). Eventually my notes turned into fan-fiction and caught the attention of Lucasfilm artist, Steve Anderson and that’s how I began titling his LE Star Wars Celebration prints.

NG: Can you tell us about your experience with the Cantina Cast, Tarkin’s Top Shelf, and Coffee with Kenobi?

BENJAMIN: Well, that could be a blog all on its own. Okay then, I guess it’s best to start at the beginning, so I’ll begin with Coffee with Kenobi. As you know, Coffee with Kenobi is run by Dan Zehr and Cory Clubb, and their podcast launched alongside a literary companion, which is the website. That said, I met Dan Zehr years earlier on the official Star Wars site through the blogging circuit, and we had remained friends even after the blogs were shut down. So, when he approached me on contributing to his new endeavor it was an immediate “yes” from me. Shortly after that, I was approached by The Cantina Cast to guest on their show, and possibly help them launch a website that would act as a complimentary piece to their existing show. Long story short, I accepted and became their Editor-in-Chief for their web page. Of course, this gig eventually grew into something much more as I began to do more and more book reviews. The new canonical novels became a feeding frenzy to a lot of Star Wars fans and written book reviews weren’t cutting it. And that is how Tarkin’s Top Shelf came about. However, there was one hiccup: my fear of public speaking. Let’s just say, that’s all water under the bridge now and my little literary podcast has turned into something far greater than I thought possible. Mark Sutter, my cohost, and I are very proud of the show!

NG: In light of Carrie Fisher’s passing in December 2016, what influence did she have on you?

BENJAMIN: I’m still struggling with the reality of this and it hasn’t really gotten easier, can’t even begin to fathom what her family and friends are going through. Carrie was beyond special for so many, many reasons and as her brother Todd said, “Leia was just the vehicle,” Carrie was so much more … If you don’t mind, I’d like to attach the tribute I wrote in her honor that expresses and explains in length, my respects and regards for the late Carrie Fisher. (NG: I don’t mind at all, thank you so much for sharing it!)

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women?

BENJAMIN: I think it is more so now that it was a decade ago, and it’s continuously making strides to be more inclusive to all, not just women. Of course, it still has a long way to go.

NG: Do you think Science Fiction helps in fostering discussions discussion about women’s issues?

BENJAMIN: Well, as I said above, it’s making strides, but it still isn’t quite there. Not yet. But, Star Wars has stepped-up to the challenge with the newest films i.e. Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jyn, in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But, it’s not just the films; the new books, both YA and novelizations have been featuring equally strong female leads, and have also included a mother and daughter connection which is new to Star Wars (as seen in Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel).

NG: What are you mostly looking forward in the future of the Star Wars franchise?

BENJAMIN: Well, right now? I’m looking forward to The Last Jedi. But, in full scope, I’m excited to see where Kathleen Kennedy and co. is going to take us. I’d love to see exactly what connection or hold, the Force has on the Skywalker family, and what that means for the future of the galaxy at large. That said, I hope they continue with the diversity of casting going forward. It broadens the universe and it only adds to George’s ongoing theme of ambiguity. After all, that’s why this franchise is the way it is. It’s generational and it seems to never run out of questions. So, the more it expands, the more we can expound upon on it. And that is what makes it a phenomenal fandom.

NG: Thank you very much for accepting my invitation, Becca! I am sure my readers will be glad to check out your different projects!

Dr. Janina Scarlet

Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a scientist, and a full-time geek. A Ukrainian-born refugee, she survived Chernobyl’s radiation and persecution. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with her family and later, inspired by the X-Men, and developed Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Her book, Superhero Therapy released on December 1, 2016 in the U.K. and on August 1, 2017 in the U.S. If you would like to learn more about Superhero Therapy, contact Dr. Janina Scarlet on Twitter @shadowquill, Facebook, or her website.



NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

SCARLET: My first introduction to Science Fiction was through watching Star Wars in the late 1990s after my family and I immigrated to the United States.

NG: What do you think of the versatile nature of Science Fiction and its relations with other genres, such as Superheroes and Fantasy?

SCARLET: I think all are similar in that they might focus on a person or a group of people facing a series of obstacles in order to stand up for what is right. I think most stories, the best stories, show heroes who are struggling with both internal and external obstacles and are trying to make the world a better place.

NG: What led you to use characters from these genres in your work as a Clinical Psychologist?

SCARLET: I wanted to inspire hope and teach my patients resilience. I wanted to show my patients that just like the characters from these works of fiction, they too could find courage in the face of fear; they too could find meaning in the face of tragedy, and then make the world a better place.

NG: Can you tell us about Superhero Therapy?

SCARLET: Superhero Therapy refers to incorporating fictional characters into therapy to teach people to become their own versions of Superheroes, their best selves, even if they are struggling, even if they are afraid.

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women?

SCARLET: I think that it is, though I think we need better diversity representation across genres.

NG: Do you think Science Fiction, Superheroes, and Fantasy, help foster discussion about society issues?

SCARLET: Absolutely. They often demonstrate how prejudice, racism, and oppression can affect people, and how people can stand up to injustice.

NG: What are your three favorite Science Fiction books, movies and TV shows?

SCARLET: Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek.

NG: What are the characters most inspiring to you?

SCARLET: Storm from the X-Men, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, Princess Leia.

NG: Can you tell us about your upcoming self-help book?

SCARLET: My upcoming book, Superhero Therapy is part self-help book, part comic book about six fictional characters (superheroes, wizards, Time Travelers, etc.), all of whom struggle with some kind of a mental health disorder, such as PTSD, eating disorders, depression, panic disorder, and so on. The six of them attend a Superhero Training Academy where they learn how to better cope with their difficulties and how to be their best versions of a superhero.

NG: Have your collaborations with other professionals such as scholar Dr. Travis Langley, and illustrator Wellinton Alves, have influenced your work?

SCARLET: Absolutely they have!

NG: Thank you so much for being with us today. I look forward to reading your book!


Alexandra Moody

Alexandra Moody is an Australian author who writes young adult Science Fiction novels. She studied Law and Commerce in her hometown, Adelaide, before going on to spend several years living abroad in Canada and the UK. She is a serious dog-lover, double-black-diamond snowboarder, and has a love/hate relationship with the gym. She can often be found on Twitter and Facebook. You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.



NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

MOODY: I can’t recall the first instance I was introduced to the genre, but it was probably Jurassic Park. At least, that was the first Sci-Fi movie that had a lasting impression—those dinosaurs were terrifying as a kid!

My passion for the genre was truly established in my teens though. I was an avid reader when I was a teenager and loved getting lost in Science Fiction and Fantasy worlds. I can still remember the amazing feelings that reading these stories invoked, and it started my life-long love for Science Fiction books.

NG: What are your three favorite Science Fiction books, movies, and TV shows?

MOODY: I really struggle with picking favorites, but I was hooked with the recent TV series Westworld—season 2 feels forever away! One of my recent favorite books was The Martian by Andy Weir, and I also really enjoyed the movie adaption. Then for a current favorite movie I would have to say Guardians of the Galaxy. I love a good superhero movie and the soundtrack alone for this was amazing.

NG: What do you think of the versatile nature of Science Fiction and its relations with other genres?

MOODY: It really is incredibly versatile. It provides such a solid base from which you can interweave other genres. Even within my own work there are always elements of romance, mystery, or suspense. My current series, The Liftsal Guardians, is grounded in Science Fiction, but it also incorporates areas that are part Fantasy and adventure.

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women?

MOODY: Most definitely. Some of my favorite Science Fiction novels have been written by women, and you only need to look at the best sellers lists to see how well women are doing in the genre. Women are highly capable of creating amazing Science Fiction works, and I am frequently seeing women break out in the genre. My works are all targeted at young adults, and the young adult Science Fiction market seems especially popular for woman writers and also for featuring female protagonists.

NG: What are the Science Fiction female characters most inspiring to you?

MOODY: I find female characters who are strong and resilient to be the most inspiring. Ones that aren’t held back by any preconceived ideas of what is expected of them and who are willing to fight for their beliefs.

NG: How did you start writing Science Fiction?

MOODY: I think I was always going to write in this genre because it is what I read and loved. When I first started writing, I was reading a lot of post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels. I felt so inspired by what I was reading that it felt natural to start writing in the genre. I have always been interested in future technologies and imagining ‘what if’ scenarios, so writing in Science Fiction came easily.

NG: What authors have had the most significant impact on your storytelling?

MOODY: There are quite a few authors who have impacted my storytelling, but I believe the ones who have had the most impact are from what I read as a teenager. Those books were the ones that truly introduced me to the genre and fostered the love I have for it today. Some of those authors include Philip Pullman, Isobelle Carmody, and David Eddings. I will often pull their books from my bookcase and reread them when I need inspiring.

NG: Can you tell us about your books, the ARC series, and the Liftsal Guardians?

MOODY: The ARC series is a set of four young adult post-apocalyptic novels. It is the first series I ever wrote and is set in an underground fallout shelter where people mysteriously disappear. It centers on the female protagonist, Elle, and what happens when one of her closest friends is taken away.

The Liftsal Guardians series is set on another planet and is about a girl whose brother goes missing during their space mission. Sloane is feisty and strong willed, and will do anything to find him. But, in her search for him, she is kidnapped and taken through a rift to another world. The story follows her journey as she tries to escape from the man who holds her captive and find out what happened to her brother.

NG: What are your current writing projects?

MOODY: I am currently busy with books in The Liftsal Guardians series. Book two, The Brakys’ Lair, was released in April [2017] and I’m currently working on book three, which will be out in July this year.

NG: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

MOODY: The most important thing you can do is to make sure you believe in yourself and your work. Writing a novel isn’t easy and there are a lot of setbacks in this industry. You have to be truly passionate about what you are doing and know that you are capable of achieving your goals no matter what speed bumps you may encounter along the way.

NG: Thank you very much for being with us today, Alexandra! I am certain my readers will be glad to find more about your books.

Emma Swinehart

Emma Swinehart is a native Texan who recently graduated with a degree in Literary Studies from University of Texas at Dallas. Since then, she has finished working on her first YA Fantasy novel, and has her fingers crossed that she will be able to get it published soon. She is a Disney fanatic and has been to both Disney World and Disneyland countless times. When she is not writing, she is hanging out with her campus ministry friends and pretending she is still attending college. You can follow her on Twitter.


NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

SWINEHART: I feel as if Science Fiction is such a part of American culture that it’s difficult to say how I was introduced. It’s a bit like asking “When was the first time you saw Mickey Mouse?” If I had to say that moment I remember being hooked by Science Fiction, it would be watching Jurassic Park. I was five and loved dinosaurs. That’s the earliest I can remember anything remotely Science Fiction going on in my life and it was wonderful.

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life? 

SWINEHART: Considering I’m a writer and my favorite genres are Fantasy and Science Fiction, I’d say Science Fiction and I are pretty good friends. I can’t write without thinking of what my world is like, and what technology they have, and how the characters must act because they live in such a different culture. So I end up thinking about Science Fiction a lot. I love the philosophical questions it often brings up and the infinite possibilities, which is why Sci-Fi is so inspirational. There is not a book a person can just put down or take out of the DVD player without coming out with a new perspective on life – or at least that’s what I always hope will happen. I admire the genre.

NG: What are your favorite Science Fiction books and movies?

SWINEHART: Jurassic Park has to be on this list, of course. I was so excited when Jurassic World came out. Trained raptors, guys! Back to the Future is also a favorite. The two book series that really got me loving Sci-Fi are Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Maximum Ride by James Patterson (not that the last few books are any good).

NG: What do you think of the relationship between Science Fiction and Fantasy?

SWINEHART: The lines blend a lot with Science Fiction and Fantasy. I absolutely love Pokémon, and, despite there being time travel and futuristic technology at times, it’s still Fantasy, but with those occasional Sci-Fi elements. I think that the similarity between the two is that all bets are off the table—anything is possible in both genres as long as it’s realistic for that impossible world. Both genres require a suspension of disbelief and both give the reader or viewer a sense of escape. They work hand-in-hand, yet they are each still very different and unique. I don’t think they battle against each other at all. Both genres make a person think and feel and, if you ask me, that is what makes them both very important.

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women?

SWINEHART: I do! As a woman, I don’t feel as if I have any less right to be writing Science Fiction. My favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy book series is the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, a New York Times bestsellers. The four main characters are women. It’s written by a woman who did hundreds of hours of research on how her technology would work. I know there’s prejudice out there, but in the amazing new worlds created by Sci-Fi anything is possible and I see that as welcoming to anyone.

NG: What are your favorite female characters from Science Fiction and Fantasy?

SWINEHART: Hermione Granger, hands down. I love female characters who are perfectly fine with being themselves and don’t feel the need to live up to anyone’s absurd expectations, including society’s. Hermione always blows me away with her intelligence and compassion. 

I’ll mention the Lunar Chronicles again. I have two favorites from the series: Cinder for not being the stereotypical girl swooning over the prince and Winter (Snow White) because she has such a big heart. I could go on and on I’m sure, but those are my top three female characters right now.

NG: How did you start writing?

SWINEHART: Maximum Ride was actually the series that made me start writing. I didn’t want to wait for the sixth book to come out, so I wrote my own. After that, I started writing Pokémon fan fiction for fun, considering I had free time.

NG: What authors have inspired you the most?

SWINEHART: J.K. Rowling. I could study Harry Potter for weeks on end and still fangirl over how wonderfully written it is. In fact, there’s so much packed into her books that I learn more every time I dig into it. Every time I sit down to plan out things in my story, I turn to articles about how J.K. Rowling writes and am always inspired. And what I love most, besides the characters and how different they are, and the themes, is the depth of her world. She’s crafted a complete world. I want to do that in my writing. Marissa Meyer also inspires me considering she researches so much for a book and combines so many different plots together throughout her novels. I also have to include C.S. Lewis for being the first to gift me with the desire to visit new worlds and yearn for characters like Aslan to exist.

NG: How does your faith influence your storytelling?

SWINEHART: As a Christ follower, I want my stories to be full of love. That doesn’t mean everything is flowers and rainbows, or that my characters are perfect, or that Jesus is going to be the main character. But what I do aim for is a story that will build people up rather than tear them down. I would rather write a story about the difficulty of sacrifice and desire to grow than about another girl obsessing over her crush. I love romance stories, and I love Fantasy—but most love stories are fantasies nowadays. I’d like my characters to find out how to have healthy romantic relationships. I’d like a parent to be able to let their teen pick up my books and know it’s safe for them to read without some explicit scene popping up. And if people want to read the alternative, that’s perfectly fine. That’s their right to and there’s plenty of it out there. I’m also not trying to shove a Bible in someone’s face. What I aim for as a Christian is for readers to ask the tough questions because of my writing and, if the reader is Christian, to be encouraged.

NG: Can you tell us about your writing projects?

SWINEHART: I sure can! In the past few months I finished my first novel, which is not yet published. It’s a YA Fantasy called Drop of Sun. It’s meant to be the first in a trilogy. As I wait to hear back from agents, I’m working on the prequel. Here is a little summary:

Ava is expected to be the perfect princess—prudent, principled, and powerless. Her protective father, King Aerius, expects her to sit compliantly on the throne, suppressing her miraculous powers gifted to her by the Sun. But Ava believes that she is the girl foretold in the prophecy—the girl with golden wings whose powers were meant to be a light in the growing darkness.

When a Bareback, one of the Fallen’s descendants, interrupts Ava’s commemoration and announces that she is needed to save the kingdoms from dark forces, she must make a decision—to live restrained by her father’s corrosive rules or to accept the unsettling prophecy and trust the cryptic Gaige, one of the cursed.

NG: Thank you very much for being with us today, Emma! Best wishes to find an agent and get your book published!

Bethany Blanton

Musician, reader, podcaster, Air Force officer, student of all things, lover of oceans, and enthusiast of Tolkien, Star Wars, health, fitness, travel, and many other things, Bethany Blanton is the co-founder and Executive Editor of the Star Wars Report. Find her on Twitter @BethanyLBlanton. This interview represents only the opinions of Bethany Blanton and not of any other person or organization.


NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

BLANTON: I was first introduced to Science Fiction as a child by my father, who would tell me and my younger brother Science Fiction and Fantasy inspired stories. In large part due to my sister’s influence, as a child I grew up with knights and castles, dragons and fairies, and eventually that branched into Science Fiction too. King Arthur was one of my childhood heroes, and I read Howard Pyle’s books over and over again. My dad’s stories closely echoed those about a farm boy on far away planets, and a crownless ranger doing good deeds until taking back his thrown from the evil in the east. Eventually I read The Chronicles of Narnia, then The Hobbit, and then The Lord of the Rings. I watched Star Trek and Star Wars, and loved all things fantastic that sparked my imagination and the hero’s journey that inspired me.

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life?

BLANTON: Science Fiction and Fantasy are entertaining to be sure, but they are important in my life because they continue to inspire me. Putting on The Force Awakens or listening to an audiobook of The Fellowship of the Ring helps remind me of courage in the face of the dark side, hope when all appears lost, friendship when in the Shire or in Mordor. In short, the hero’s journey is inspiring, and when portrayed in a setting reminiscent of our lives, but fantastical in nature, can strike home sometimes more clearly than more “realistic” tales. Sci-Fi and Fantasy also play a community role in my life. I have so many good friends made through our mutual interest of the genre, and now those friendships have expanded beyond mutual interest. These are people who’ve been with me through times and bad, and helped support me in real life, and not just ‘online’.

NG: What are your three favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy books, TV shows, and movies?

BLANTON: Oh, this is always a tricky question, so I’ll cheat and give three of each. For Fantasy, hands down is The Lord of the Rings. I fell in love with Tolkien’s Middle-Earth a long time ago, and that love has never waned. TV show would probably be Legend of the Seeker, because most shows I think of are more Sci-Fi in nature and less Fantasy. My favorite Fantasy movie, surprise, surprise, is also The Lord of the Rings, specifically The Two Towers. For Science Fiction, my favorite book is Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein. I adored this book as a child. I’ll admit I haven’t read much other Science Fiction outside of Star Wars books though. My favorite Science Fiction TV show is the Battlestar Galactica remake, a very compelling show. And of course, the Star Wars films are my favorite Science Fiction movies, though I struggle to define which my favorite is.

NG: What are the Science Fiction female characters you have found most significant?

BLANTON: Princess Leia was a character I loved from when I first saw her. She is a classic example of a leader with realistic flaws, has a distinct personality, and showed me that there were movies in which the main female lead could be a sibling of one of the male leads, fall in love with the other male lead, and yet hold her own as a unique character with an interesting personality.

Eowyn has been one of my favorite female characters in Fantasy because despite her many fears, and a life that has in many ways beat her down, she still acts with extraordinary courage. Her fears are so well defined in both the books and movies that her courage stands as an example for those of us who weren’t born into a warrior/leader role, like many of the men around her. Yet she learns she can still love, still be vulnerable, at the same time.

Galadriel is like a female Yoda to me, and is one of the first female characters I encountered who was a leader more in the sense of wisdom and council, and her role as being somewhat equivalent to Gandalf was rare.

Ahsoka Tano was a later example of a female character in a “silly children’s cartoon” (that’s how I thought of The Clone Wars initially) who started out as a snippy, insubordinate child and matured into a true leader with a multidimensional personality. I’m so happy The Clone Wars didn’t stereotype her into a super powerful, pink, perfect-yet-prissy Jedi. Her last arc in The Clone Wars was a surprising but perfect character moment, and not at all cliché.

Rey is incredible. I loved having a Star Wars movie with a female lead, and especially one who was well done. Seeing The Force Awakens doing so well in the box office was also cool. I can’t wait to learn more about her in December.

NG: What do you think of the relationship between Science Fiction and Fantasy?

BLANTON: I’d thought of Sci-Fi as predominately involving advanced technology, often in or involving space travel, occurring in the future or a different realm. Fantasy I thought of as involving magic, unexplained by science, often involving magical creatures like unicorns, spells, quests, wizards, etc. But, especially more recently, both genres have been borrowing from each other. The Shannara Chronicles (both books and TV versions) take place far into the future after some sort of apocalypse, and involve a sort of post-technological world that has magic. I think what both genres share is a sense of mystery, imagination, and a pursuit of something greater, whether that be like Star Trek‘s theme to ‘boldly go where no one has gone’ or like The Lord of the Ring‘s ‘even the smallest person can change the course of the future’. This is why both genres resonate with me.

NG: Can you tell us about your experience with the Star Wars Report?

BLANTON: The Star Wars Report had its origins in The Bothan Report way back in 2010. Just prior to Star Wars Celebration V, my brother and I were planning on starting the podcast The Bothan Report with a friend of ours, Mark Hurliman. Celebration V was my first Celebration, and gave us a lot of the impetus to begin. A while later, we re-branded the podcast to The Star Wars Report which, amusingly enough, had been one of my suggestions for a name early on. I have loved being a part of Star Wars Report since the beginning, and since then we’ve grown into a network of podcasts and writers all passionate about sharing our love of Star Wars and supporting each other while doing so.

Over the years I’ve experienced good and bad in the fan community. Occasionally I’ve been the recipient of different types of negative behavior ranging from questioning of my ‘true’ fandom because of being a girl to being propositioned. Fortunately this isn’t typical of my experience in that positive interactions happen more frequently than negative, but I believe it could be helpful for people to know that this does happen to women online in every community, to varying degrees. Overall, my experience of being a part of the fan community is what keeps me coming back to Star Wars. Some of my best friends I’ve met online or at conventions through Star Wars, and I wouldn’t trade that.

NG: In light of Carrie Fisher’s passing in December 2016, what influence did she have on you?

BLANTON: Most of Carrie Fisher’s influence on me was through her character of Leia, as discussed above. But, Carrie herself was an amazing human, and her ability to be humorous and deeply genuine at the same time about serious issues such as mental health and drug abuse was an amazing example to anyone who knew her or followed her work. Being open about things you struggle with in whatever forum you’re comfortable with, either online or with your family/friends, is a strength, even when some people don’t react well, or are jerks.

NG: Do you think that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women?

BLANTON: I think the genre itself has become far friendlier to women, both in representation and in character roles and story-arcs, but there are areas of improvement to be made. The community has become friendlier over the years overall, but I’ve also found that un-friendlies, if I can make up a term, have become increasingly violent and vocal as well. Stalkers, threats, propositions, intimidation… I’ve seen a rise in these things either with myself or with others I know since becoming involved online. Perhaps it’s a reaction to women becoming more prevalent in Sci-Fi (both fictional characters and real women participating online), and/or perhaps those opposed to women becoming more prevalent may feel threatened by this, or the need to vocalize more insistently against it. But, in recent years it’s more common to be a ‘geek’, and less negatively stereotyped. Because of geekiness becoming mainstream, I think more people are involved in Sci-Fi communities, so it doesn’t seem as odd when a woman is on a podcast, or involves herself in the community some way, which is a good thing!

NG: Do you think Science Fiction helps in fostering discussions discussion about women’s issues?

BLANTON: I think it does. Sci-Fi and Fantasy often challenge many kinds of stereotypes (cultural, gender, technology, lifestyle, etc.), making it a perfect place to explore different visions of different worlds. Worlds where women are leaders and warriors, or technology is radically different, or people have a vastly different culture, or an odd environment, wear different clothes, travel different ways, or re-conceptualize work… all of these visions help people to consider what-ifs, and to challenge norms in culture. Challenging something is positive, because you can challenge something and find that, as far as you can tell after examining it, it seems like a positive thing with positive outcomes. Or, it could be a negative thing you’re glad you finally took the time to examine and think about. Recognizing problems and recognizing positive outcomes are necessary for improving our world and our lives so that action can be taken to change, or maintain/improve.

NG: What are you mostly looking forward in the future of the Star Wars franchise?

BLANTON: This is easy: more movies!!!

NG: Thank you very much for being with us today, Bethany! My readers will be happy to check out The Star Wars Report.

Sarah Hashmi

Sarah Hashmi is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a degree in literature and a certificate in Holocaust studies. She is an avid fan of anything fantastical, because reality is just too boring for her. She knows too much about made-up universes, and never grew out of playing make believe. She runs her own role-play forum with a group of dedicated writing friends, and has been avidly involved in fan forums for the past ten years. She loves all sorts of RPG games, be it computer based or table-top, and is the most dramatic game maker there ever was. Her dream is to become an eccentric professor and publish her own series of books someday.


NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?

HASHMI: My parents. My mother used to tell me (and still does) that she wanted to be a theoretical physicist. She wasn’t an academic person growing up, but was always gifted at intuitively connecting the dots and asking the “what if” questions. My father was always imaginative, and would go on for hours about possibilities of time travel and multiple dimensions. Neither of them believes in a finite world, but both are very rational and mathematic in their way of thinking.

I remember the Alien series, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park being a huge part of my childhood growing up. I stole my father’s copy of Stephen Hawking’s Universe when I was around nine because I wanted to understand how time worked and what black holes were. Like my parents, I liked the idea that there were questions that didn’t have proven answers yet. Some of my best childhood memories were my parents making up theories about the way the universe worked. In a way, that was a huge stepping stone for me into the genre.

NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life?

HASHMI: Sci-Fi reminds me that the universe is a complex reality with more questions than answers. Like my parents, the idea that the question of the universe has a simplistic answer (like 42) is too restrictive for my comfort. I write a lot within the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre, mostly for my own amusement, and I like to think of ways to frame current sociological issues in a Sci-Fi or Fantasy setting to communicate universal issues less directly.

NG: Does Science Fiction influence your research and/or writing?

HASHMI: Old philosophies in a Science Fiction setting create a new sociological framework, and allow me to re-examine the philosophies from alternative perspectives. It’s almost like cultivating a three-dimensional understanding of an idea. I have a hard time stopping at just theory, so I like to see theories applied in the fictional world, and Science Fiction is usually my go-to genre whether or not I realize it. I honestly don’t always have Science Fiction in mind when I set out to research something or apply a concept, but invariably I find my way inside the genre without meaning to; I end up dreaming up Sci-Fi worlds inspired by current world events, universal understandings, or philosophies and theories I come across while researching. Currently, I am working on an idea for a Sci-Fi novel, but the details are a secret!

NG: What are your top 3 Science Fiction movies, books, and TV shows?

HASHMI: Probably Blade Runner, Inception, and the first Jurassic Park film. I can’t really choose a favorite movie though; there are just too many. My all-time favorite Sci-Fi book is The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick. It’s a kid’s dystopian novel, but I picked it up when I was around ten or eleven, and it moved me so much that I still have my original copy even though it’s falling apart. It still makes me cry. It was my first concrete exposure to the Sci-Fi literary genre. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Farenheit 451 are two of my other favorites, though I really want to sneak Ender’s Game in there too. And the His Dark Materials series, which is just as much Sci-Fi as it is Fantasy. As for TV shows, The Twilight Zone, Black Mirror, and Stranger Things currently.

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