“You know, I love going to outer space,” says Kat as she steps out of our space shuttle.
I look over at her frowning. “For what?” The last time we were in space it ended with me crashing Veronica Rossi’s ship. Not my finest moment, I assure you.
“Is that a trick question?” asks Meg. She’s got this goofy grin on her face and I can tell she’ll behave just as a child would in a candy shop for most of this trip.
We’ve just landed on Mars to meet up with the awesome Phoebe North, author of Starglass and Starbreak, for an interview. She’s asked us to meet her here because she’s going to take us for a tour of the galaxy in her Spark V. I want to tell you that nothing could possibly go wrong on this trip, but, well, famous last words and all that shiz.
“I look so hot. You guys are so overdressed. What if we meet hot alien guys out here?,” asks Kat, giving her hair a good fluff. She’s dressed as Sailor Mars, red, patent leather heels and all, for obvious reasons: She’s Kat.
“What’s wrong with what we’re wearing?” I ask her. And here I thought dressing as a Sith Lord was very practical. Apparently, Meg had a similar idea too since she is a mix of Mass Effect and Samus rolled into one. She even has her ray gun. Badass warrior.
“Yeah, this isn’t a dystopian world where any day might be my last, causing me to settle down with the first guy I run across. I’m ready to go forth and kill things!” Meg says, taking aim and firing… at our ship.
“Meg, noooooo!” Kat and I scream. But it’s too late. The eagerness and excitement has taken over Meg.
When the dust settles, we’re silent except for Meg. “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!” Shockingly, nothing happens.
“I guess, they don’t have space coverage?” Meg muses out loud.
“This is why we can’t have nice things! How are we supposed to get home?” Kat asks.
Just then, a distant rumbling begins to break the quiet of space.
“It’s Phoebe!” I say.
The Spark V draws closer, its vivid, bright red color a stark contract against the black void. It hovers before us and I utter the famous words, “Beam us up, Phoebe!”
We materialize on board, thrilled to be off Mars and excited to get our journey underway. Phoebe greets us with the signature trekie greeting and we return the gesture. I knew we loved her for a reason. Dorks unite!
“Thanks for having us, Phoebe!” I say, gazing around the ship. It’s a mix of dim lights, soft carpet and rock music, softly playing in the background. In the front, I see the captain’s seat along with extras for guests or crew members.
“This is a nice ship you’ve got here,” says Meg, walking towards a seat behind the captain’s.
“Try not to blow this one up, Meg,” Kat says, following her.
Phoebe looks at me, questioningly with her already cocked eyebrow. “Meg accidentally on purpose blew our ship to smithereens,” I explain. Phoebe chuckles and turns to take her place at the wheel. I take a seat next to her in the co-pilot’s chair as she expertly steers the ship out of Mars’ orbit. It’s the perfect time for me to ask our first question.
“We know you’ve always been a huge Science Fiction fan. Was there anything in particular that helped grow your love for the genre?”
She smiles and says, “Sci-fi fans are great enablers. When I was about eleven, a cousin gave me a paper grocery bag full of thick mass market paperbacks. That’s how I discovered Anne McCaffrey–and I was hooked! I lost a glorious weekend to Dragonsdawn, then gobbled up the rest, did an AOL keyword search (I’m showing my age) and found Pern fandom. Around the same time, I started watching old Star Trek reruns on my little black and white TV in my room. They played late at night on Sundays and I was always supersleepy on Monday mornings, but it was so worth it.”
“Star Trek is always worth it. Resistance is futile,” says Kat sagely.
“So where are we headed to anyway?” Meg asks from behind me.
Phoebe points to the screen on the dashboard in front of me for the answer. Strangely, all it says is “TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE.” Then, Phoebe hits the hyperspace button.
“Errrr… on an adventure,” I say, my head slamming into my headrest at the sudden speed.
“Oh, awesome! I love adventure. I hope there’ll be snacks,” says Meg.
“So, Phoebe, I have a question,” she goes on. “Your publisher decided to go in a different direction for the paperback cover for Starglass and the hardcover for Starbreak. What do you like best about them?”
Phoebe glances back at Meg, which momentarily scares me since we are in hyperspace after all and someone’s gotta steer this ship. “I love the new covers! I’ll admit that I was a bit scared silly when I heard they were redesigning them, because I liked the original cover so much, but I actually find the new cover to be an upgrade.”
“Oh that’s awesome! I totally get why that might be nerve wrecking for authors, especially when they are attached to the first cover design. Did you have any involvement in the process?” Meg asks.
Phoebe nods. “I got to pick Terra this time around–she’s an amazing model named Ada Roth who looks JUST like my mental image of Terra. And I love how Simon and Schuster has continued to honor the sci-fi setting of Starglass. I’ve been very lucky in the cover department.”
We exit hyperspace with a force that suggests we’ll all be feeling it in the morning. Ahead is a green planet and our apparent destination.
“I’m amazed at all the research that you must have done for this series! There’s a lot of solid scientific explanations, especially with botany. Is that a subject that particularly interests you?” I ask.
Phoebe begins our departure and expertly presses button after button and turns nob after nob. “I really enjoy researching and learning about science, particularly biology!” She looks up from her work and says, “But I’ll admit that I’m not a scientist. I embarked on STARBREAK knowing that I wanted the native population to be one of psychic plant people, but making that sound plausible was fairly daunting. I got a big help on both books from a good friend, writer Kelly Lagor. She comes from a plant biology background and helped me figure out how a non-verbal plant communication system could plausibly work. Of course, it’s still not possible, but it’s a fun thought experiment, and my science is much better for knowing actual scientists.”
We begin our decent towards the strange planet and land without any issues. At least that’s one thing we didn’t have to worry about.
“Whew! That was some amazing flying Phoebe. Kickass!” Kat says. We all pile out of the ship to observe our surroundings. It’s like being in a tropical forest. So much green, plant life and… cupcakes?
“WHOA! Are these cupcakes?!” Meg asks happily, picking up several at once. Immediately, I smack them out of her hands.
“Seriously? Have you no home training? You can’t just eat this! It could be poisonous! You could die! When in doubt think about what Ryan would say,” I say with a disapproving frown.
“I was raised by wolves. This is how I roll. Plus, Phoebe thinks it’s cool,” Meg says.
I glance over to my right and she’s right. Both Phoebe and Kat are siting on the forest floor, devouring cupcakes. Phoebe manages to give me the thumbs up with her armful of decedent sweets, indicating that she’s been here before and that it’s completely safe.
“Back to kickass, Phoebe,” says Kat wiping frosting off mouth. “With so much of YA heavily focused on “kickass” heroines (read: physical fighters), did you specifically set out to defer from the usual mold? Or was Terra’s character more organic for you?”
“Kickass heroines are great, but I was always more of a Meg Murry than a Buffy Summers, personally. I don’t just mean in terms of physicality–there’s an expectation that kickass heroines be more emotionally reserved or perhaps snarky, that they’ve developed an outer shell of toughness. In some ways these female characters are expected to interface with the world in the same way that male heroes are. Feelings are bad. Hitting things, good.” she replies.
“Yup, that’s so true. Exhibit A, Meg,” I say, pointing to our gutsy coblogger who has now taken her ray gun out to shoot cupcakes drown from the tallest tree.
“I told you guys this thing would come in handy!” Meg yells.
Phoebe continues, “I knew I wanted Terra to become stronger over the course of the book, but I wanted to strip her bare emotionally and really let her grow into that strength. I think most teenagers–male and female–go through times when they feel really vulnerable and raw. Heroes who are uniformly kickass don’t always speak to people who aren’t. I know that’s how I felt. Terra is the hero for me at fourteen–the girl who hyperventilated when she had to speak in public, the girl who turned red as a beet if a boy ever spoke to her–and for kids like me. We get there, eventually. We become strong. But it takes us time and experience.”
“Terra sounds like the me I know and love right now,” Kat says.
“Same here. I’m an awkward duckling through and through,” I say.
Meg inhales more cupcakes.
“You made an interesting choice in Starglass to have babies conceived outside the womb. I really loved how it removed certain gender expectations from the story. Did you always plan for Starglass to stand out in this regard?” I ask while digging into a cupcake of my own.
“The unusual reproductive practices on the Asherah really came out of imagining the need for a workforce-oriented population and for general population controls in an enclosed environment. But it was interesting to imagine what a society would be like if the reproductive pressure wasn’t felt as acutely by women alone and instead was placed equally on boys and girls. Mind you, I don’t think such a society would be ideal–because not everyone wants to be a parent, and some individuals derive more fulfillment from parenting than others,” Phoebe says and stands. We follow suit.
“Take me to this magical place,” says Meg, finally joining us.
“Wow that sounds like my kind of society! MAKE IT SO,” Kat says.
“I know, right? Starglass ends with a pretty exciting ending. You both should definitely check it out,” I say. Phoebe beams at me.
We enter back into the Spark V, full from our cupcake feast. Phoebe’s offered us a ride home and we aren’t in a position to deny it. Plus, hanging with her has been great and we don’t mind basking in her awesome if only for a little while longer.
The engines roar and we’re off, the planet becoming a distant memory. The flight back to earth should be an easy one, but someone else seems to have other plans for us as the Spark V‘s radar shows that we have company. Phoebe jumps into her battleship mode and gives us each a station, hoping to ensure our safe journey back.
Meg is given the task to blast the alien pirates from the sky, something she does surprisingly well at. Her thirst for blood serves us well. “Yessss… Set phasers to kill,” she mutters.
Kat’s job is to maintain the ship’s shield. The minute that puppy goes down and it’s roasty, toasty bloggers for dinner. We can’t let that happen.
Phoebe instructs me to help her navigate through hyperspace and I’m a little nervous because I’m a
doctor blogger, not a pilot and I can’t really pilot my way out of a brown paper bag, let along a space ship running from aliens! But Phoebe gives my shoulder a gentle squeeze and her confidence in my non-exsistant ability is comforting.
Just before we hit hyperspace, a deafening boom rocks the ship.
“Shields just took a major hit! We’ve got to get out of here now!” Kat reports.
Meg is still plowing down aliens, but her efforts aren’t working. “KHAAANNNN!” she screams. “It’s no use. They just keep coming and coming. Geez, they were only cupcakes…”
Phoebe looks over at me and tells me to punch it. I struggle with the force behind the wheel, “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!” I yell just ask the ship reaches hyperspace.
The speed once again takes me off guard and my head is glued to the headrest. But the important fact is that we are alive.
An hour later we’ve left hyperspace and find ourselves in Earth’s atmosphere, readying for our landing. It’s been quite a ride and I’m sure Meg, Kat and I will never forget this adventure.
Moments later, we say our goodbyes to Phoebe. She’s just dropping us off because her adventure is not yet complete. Onward she goes.
“Thanks so much for the great questions!” she says, hugging us each in turn.
“No problem! Thanks for the awesome time!” I say.
“Yeah, and thanks for saving us back there from those stingy aliens. Live long and prosper,” Kat adds.
She gives us that famous Star Trek salute, starts walking back to her ship and right as she’s about to close the door, Meg calls out, “Oh! One last question, Phoebe. Can you give us any teasers for what we can expect from Starbreak?”
Phoebe turns around, grins at her and says, “SEXY PLANTS.” And she’s off.
We watch the Spark V disappear. Meg pulls three cupcakes from a secret compartment in her suit and says, “Well, that was fun. So… anyone hungry?”
And that was the day we learned that there actually is a such thing as too many cupcakes.
We want to give a huge thank you to Phoebe North for the interview & for taking us to Planet Cupcake.
Phoebe is graciously giving away signed hardcover copies of Starglass and Starbreak! I really enjoyed Starglass myself and am reading Starbreak now. I’d highly recommend it for fans of Beth Revis’ Across the Universe and “old school” Sci-Fi fans.
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