Guest Post: “Falling in Love with SF” by Christopher Hinz

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Christopher Hinz is the author of five science fiction books. Liege-Killer won the Compton Crook Award for best first novel and was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. He has written screenplays and a graphic novel, scripted comics for DC and Marvel, and has worked as a newspaper reporter and technical administrator of a small TV station.

You can find Christopher online at his website: christopherhinz.com.

 

BINARY STORM by Christopher Hinz will be published by Angry Robot Books in November. A streetwise computer wiz, his politically savvy girlfriend and a tormented supersoldier form an uneasy alliance to stop assassins existing simultaneously in two bodies from threatening the world with apocalypse. The standalone novel serves as a prequel to the more distant future of “Liege-Killer” and the Paratwa Saga.

 

FALLING IN LOVE WITH SF

Science fiction has been a big part of my life since childhood. I was captured early on by the magical gift of reading, but it wasn’t until somewhere around the age of eight or nine that, as a Christmas gift, I received Stand by for Mars. It was the first book in the “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” series of juveniles and it proved to be mind-expanding in the truest sense of the phrase.

Based on a primordial American television show that I was too young to have seen (it aired in the early 1950s), Tom Corbett and his faithful sidekicks, cadets Roger Manning and Astro, endured dangerous and thrilling adventures as they explored our solar system and nearby stars. For a youngster with a vivid imagination (and not yet cognizant of the disparaging notoriety that the term “space cadet” was achieving in some circles) the books hit home with synapse-bubbling intensity.

Somewhere in that time frame I also had a relatively short but intense fling with comic books, mainly of the superhero variety. I tended to gravitate to DC’s universe – Marvel was still in the early stages of its Stan Lee/Jack Kirby metamorphosis – and I found Superman, Green Lantern and The Flash very enjoyable. But it was really the team comics that took hold, in particular, Justice League of America and Fantastic Four (my sole Marvel fave). Like all too many fans, I had most of the first ten issues of both titles but through eventual disinterest, allowed my mom to throw them in the trash, possibly disposing of the cost of a contemporary college tuition or two.)

Of the many comics from that era, however, my #1 was a more obscure title: Challengers of the Unknown. That fearsome foursome – Prof, Ace, Red and Rocky – had no superpowers but cheated death on a regular basis by utilizing their interlocking skill sets to escape dire predicaments, thus saving the world from alien monsters, malignant humans and other dire threats.

But as pleasurable as those early comics were, it was really the Tom Corbett books that lit the fire and started a lifelong passion for the genre. Over the years, as my horizons expanded, I waded through rivers of science fiction novels, enjoying regular jaunts to the Northwest Library, a few blocks from our house in Reading, Pennsylvania, to borrow every SF title I could find.

My Uncle Eddie was a fan and lent me novels from his collection, most memorably, E.E. “Doc” Smith’s famed Lensmen series, originally published in the pulp magazines but later collected into a six-book set. The Lensmen was space opera at its grandest, with millions of alien races aligning with either the “good” Arisians – who developed the lens that gave its users great mental and telepathic abilities – or the power-hungry Eddorians. I’ve often wondered whether George Lucas read Smith’s books at a pivotal age; there seem to be more than few parallels with his Star Wars universe.

As my reading prowess grew throughout the teen years, I discovered many authors who I later realized constituted the field’s acknowledged masters. Clarke, Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov and others were rapidly consumed, as was an early favorite, the effervescently unhinged A. E. Van Vogt. (His “Voyage of the Space Beagle” is an early prototype not only for Star Trek but for the first Alien movie.)

And speaking of movies, my early absorption of written SF was paralleled by an equally potent attraction to genre cinema. The 1950s produced a surfeit of filmed SF, most of which I saw years later on TV. Although their quality tended to be rather low in terms of basic storytelling and special effects, the better ones remain impactful to this day, especially The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World and Forbidden Planet.

In the 1960s, SF was rather sparse until closer to the end of the decade when the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes appeared. And then, within a decade of those films came the supernova known as Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope), which had such a transformative impact on the film industry that it ensures cinematic SF’s popularity to this day.

Back in the realm of books, in the late sixties I discovered two of all my all-time favorites, Frank Herbert’s Dune and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  Although I’m still awaiting the perfect cinematic adaptation of the former book, Tolkien’s opus was well-served by Peter Jackson’s brilliant trilogy.

In the seventies I took a detour away from science fiction after discovering horror novels, mainly William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and the early books of Stephen King. But like being caught in the energy of an irresistible tractor beam, I was always pulled back to the home base, SF.

The earliest attempt to create my own stories occurred not long after reading that first Tom Corbett book, Stand by for Mars. Having also just seen an awesome little movie called King Kong late one afternoon at a friend’s house, I proceeded to craft a four-page epic about a journey to the red planet that ended with the capture of a giant monster. The monster was brought back to Earth and inevitably escaped, although even at that tender age I recognized the need for originality. None of this escaping to climb the tallest building in New York crap for me. No, I had my monster escape and climb the tallest building in Chicago, where he was subsequently dispatched with nuclear cannon fire. (It wasn’t until later that I realized that a radiation-spewing weapon was possibly not the best choice for use in a metropolitan area, particularly not one whose nickname is the Windy City.)

Other preadolescent and teen efforts at writing followed, but never with the necessary discipline to master the craft. Yet even in my early twenties, during that drift away from SF, my urge to create within the genre always hovered there in the distance, like that leftover radiation from the big bang, the cosmic microwave background.

It was Hollywood that reignited my interest, basically during that two-year span from Lucas’ Star Wars to Ridley Scott’s Alien. I decided it was time to put up or shut up when it came to making the old writing dream come true, and finally managed to get serious enough to compose my first real novel, Anachronisms. It was a flawed work and initially didn’t sell, but it taught me a lot about the art and craft of storytelling.

Subsequently, I returned to a novel I’d abandoned a few years earlier because it had seemed derivative and uninteresting. But tucked away within that aborted project’s many flawed chapters was a relatively minor story element about a murderous creature known as a para-twin, whose consciousness existed simultaneously in two distinct bodies. Para-twin was transmuted into Paratwa and “Liege-Killer” was born. It became my first published novel and gave birth to the universe of the binaries.

And now, decades later, comes Binary Storm, fourth book in the Paratwa Saga (although a prequel to the other three). Today, the very idea of science fiction – writing it, reading it, watching it, rapturing in it – has become an enduring part of my being, a psyche-transfiguring facehugger permanently attached.

Life would be unimaginable without it.

 

binary-storm

 

Near the end of the 21st century, Earth is in chaos from environmental devastation and a vicious undeclared war with the binaries, genetically engineered assassins. Composed of a single consciousness inhabiting two human bodies, binaries are ruled by an alpha breed, the Royal Caste.

Nick Smith, computer programmer and brilliant strategist, hooks up with Annabel Bakana, the savvy new director of E-Tech, an organization dedicated to limiting technological growth. Together both romantically and professionally, they secretly assemble a combat team to hunt and kill binaries.

But there’s a fly in the ointment: the mysterious team leader, Gillian. A tormented soul with an unseemly attraction to Annabel, his actions just might help the Royal Caste’s cause and draw the world closer to Armageddon.

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