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Catherine Asaro: Science fiction may be losing some of its potential audience because it doesn't connect on an emotional level with readers as well as some other genres. On the positive side, it has an immense amount of diversity, both with regard to the stories and the writing styles. And the media tie-in books sell like mad (though that can be a point of controversy within the genre). With all the mergers going on in publishing right now, and the advent of ebooks, it is hard to tell what is going to happen with the science fiction midlist.  

Book: Catherine Asaro, Veiled WebThe definition of the field is changing. Twenty years ago, The Veiled Web would have been science fiction, no question. Now, when people read a story about an AI awakening to his own sense of self, it almost sounds mainstream. I've always worked with computers and the nets since their inception, so it feels normal to me, too.  

Crescent Blues: I understand you teach (or did teach) ballet. Does your love and work in this art form have an influence on the fiction you write?  

Catherine Asaro: Ballet has shaped my whole life. I started when I was five, passed the five grades of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus, and then passed the first professional exam, which made me a student member of the RAD. In college I danced with the [University of California] Jazz Dancers. The best part was when we performed in Royce Hall for the Frank Sinatra Awards. At Harvard, I founded the Mainly Jazz Dancers and the Harvard University Ballet, and served as Artistic Director for both. I've danced in both ballet and jazz, and also done flamenco and musical comedy.  

Dance has given me so much. An artistic outlet. Physical health. Mental and physical discipline. The creative outlet means a great deal to me, on many levels. I don't know why I need to be creative, only that has to come out. Performing also gave me a physical outlet for creativity, a way to express emotions through movement. For some reason, I needed that in my youth.  

Being a dancer and a choreographer helped me develop spatial perception, which is invaluable to a scientist. Ballet has a strong mathematical component to it. I doubt it's coincidence that the percentage of ballet dancers who do well at math is larger than the percentage in the general population. For me, the creative spark of coming up with a new idea in math is very much like coming up with a new idea in ballet. I don't think the separation our culture puts between the "analytic" and "artistic" is real. Both are aspects of the unique human ability to be creative.  

Crescent Blues: As a writer of romantic science fiction you seem to have the perfect balance between the two genres. How do you achieve this effect?  

Catherine Asaro: I don't try, it just comes out. I never consciously thought of doing one or the other. I write what I like to read. The balance of science fiction, adventure, romance, and intrigue varies from book to book, so there is something for most tastes.  

Book: Catherine Asaro, The Radiant SeasMy first book, Primary Inversion, has been called Romeo and Juliet in outer space, but with a happy ending. When it came out, I was surprised that some science fiction reviewers felt it was set up for a sequel. To me, the story was complete. I had a book in mind for the sequel, but I considered the two novels as stand-alones. As I came to know the genres better, I realized that Primary Inversion completes the love story but not the science fiction story. It takes the two books together, Primary Inversion and its sequel The Radiant Seas to finish the epic told in that story arc.  

My books with the strongest romances are Catch the Lightning, The Quantum Rose, and The Veiled Web. Catch the Lightning is far future space adventure, The Quantum Rose has more of a fantasy feel (though it is still SF), and The Veiled Web is set in the near future, in Morocco. The first half of Quantum Rose was serialized in Analog magazine. My novella "Aurora in Four Voices" appeared in the December 1998 Analog and did well in both genres.  

Book: Catherine Asaro, Ascendant SunIt's pushing it to call Primary Inversion a romance, because the lovers are apart for a third of the book. Similarly, although my book The Last Hawk has been called romantic in science fiction circles, there are many reasons why it doesn't qualify in the genre sense. That is also true of The Radiant Seas and my latest book, Ascendant Sun.  

I've another novella appearing as the cover story for the July/August issue of Analog. It's called "A Roll of the Dice" and is set on the same world, Coba, where The Last Hawk takes place, about ten years after the end of The Last Hawk. Although it's romantic, I wouldn't really call this one a romance.  

Crescent Blues: From the perspective of a reviewer and scientist what sort of advice would you give to people who want to write in the romantic science fiction and SF field?  

Catherine Asaro: To write fiction that appeals to both types of readers, you have to respect both genres. Science fiction is a literature of ideas -- and how those ideas affect people (human or otherwise). The ideas can be about anything: new cultures, new science, art looked at in a new way, clever plays on linguistics, new forms of interpersonal relationships -- anything. But they must be crucial to the story, not just trappings. The ideas have to be dealt with in an intellectually satisfying manner.  

The Romance Writers of America describe a romance as "a love story that has an emotionally satisfying, optimistic ending." Romance consistently looks to the better side of human nature, how people find honor, healing, and redemption through coming to love another human being. The development of the emotional conflict and its solution must be crucial to the story, not just part of the trappings. The relationship has to be dealt with in an emotionally satisfying manner.  

Romance is also the only literary form I know of that, as a whole, treats the physical aspects of love with respect and joy, instead of relegating them to titillation or something ugly. It wouldn't make sense to focus on how a relationship affects people without acknowledging that physical intimacy has a profound effect on our lives. Because of that, the genre has taken a lot of grief. That is changing, though. Romance includes physical love as an integral part of quality fiction.  

One reason my books feel romantic to science fiction readers is because I deal with sexuality and how it affects the characters. I'm published by a science fiction house, so I have more freedom in how I deal with the themes, but my books share an underlying foundation with romance, the idea that sexual love is healthy in a relationship that respects the lovers and provides for their emotional needs. That doesn't mean every book with a romantic sensibility presents an unrealistic, fluffy bunny universe. Far from it. Romance often explores difficult issues of human sexuality with insight and social commentary.  

I would suggest anyone interested in writing crossover fiction read in both genres. The best way to find good books is to ask readers and writers savvy about both genres. Another tip: develop a thick skin. If you genuinely write books that appeal to both audiences (as opposed to a book that basically fits one genre and has the trappings of the other), you will cause controversy.  People on both sides of the fence will say "You can't do that!" You have to learn to let the comments roll off your back and believe in what you're writing.  

Crescent Blues: If you could have one of your novels serialized for television which one would you like it to be? Which actors would you like to cast in the major roles?  

Book: Catherine Asaro, Catch The LightningCatherine Asaro: The Veiled Web is probably best suited. Antonio Banderas as Rashid and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Lucia. Jennifer Lopez would also be good as Lucia. I think The Veiled Web would probably make a better feature film than TV movie. The first half of Catch the Lightning might make a good movie. It fits the structure of most scripts.  

Crescent Blues: Do you have any long-term plans for the Skolian empire? How about future plans for your own career as a writer?  

Catherine Asaro: I want to tell the whole saga. The arc includes not only the stories I'm telling now about the Ruby Dynasty, but another arc about the parents of these characters, and one about the grandparents. What I like about building this universe is that I have so many different worlds and space habitats to play with, and I get to design them all.  I'm one of those irksome types who works out in gory detail the properties of the planet, the sun, the solar system, and all that good stuff. I also love culture-building. It's fun.  

The individual books stand alone (for the most part; it always helps to have read the others), but altogether they tell what my publisher, Tor, calls the Saga of the Skolian Empire.  

Bantam publishes my near-future novels, with Anne Groell as editor.  Analog publishes my shorter fiction, edited by Stan Schmidt. Jim Minz and David Hartwell are my editors at Tor. David and Stan gave me my break in the business, David in novels and Stan in short fiction. I couldn't have asked for a better introduction. Jim gives excellent insights. Right now we're working on The Quantum Rose, which is my next book out in the Skolia Saga. Anne is also a superb editor. She writes these incredible letters, many pages, discussing the work with insightful detail.  

Crescent Blues: Would you like to share anything about current projects with our readers  

Catherine Asaro: I just finished The Phoenix Code for Bantam, a fast-moving science fiction adventure set twenty years in the future. It's about a scientist named Megan O'Flannery who heads a secret project to create an android. She's working with Raj, a top-notch (and handsome) expert in the field. As the android becomes self-aware, however, he decides that he doesn't want the life everyone has laid out for him. So he kidnaps Megan and Raj and takes off for Las Vegas.  

Crescent Blues: Is there anything you might like to tell readers not familiar with your work about The Radiant Seas and your other writings? 

Catherine Asaro: The Radiant Seas is the sequel to Primary Inversion. You don't have to read Primary Inversion first, but The Radiant Seas hangs together better if you do.  

The Veiled Web came out in December, and has no connection to the Skolia books. It's near-future science fiction romantic suspense novel (which may be the longest subgenre category description ever given!).  

About my novels or writing in general, I would say that I write, first and foremost, about people and their relationships. I tell stories about the rise and fall of civilizations by focusing on the characters, telling the bigger picture through the stories of the individual people involved. The books usually tell one character's story. The Radiant Seas is a multi-viewpoint, multi-plot epic, though, as will be some of the books. I vary the style a great deal from book to book.  

What is the Skolian Saga? Taken altogether, the books give the big story of how the Skolian, Trader, and Allied civilizations evolve over several centuries. But... I tell it all through the Ruby Dynasty. It is a big, multi-generational saga about that family. They participate in the rule of an empire, though, so it is also a saga about the empire.  

Crescent Blues: As our last question, Crescent Blues likes to offer itself as an open forum. Is there is anything you'd like to add (not necessarily related to writing), a particular soapbox topic or anything you'd like to say?  

Catherine Asaro: I hope that someday humans can achieve the crossroads I wrote about in The Veiled Web, that someday we will find a place where we can all meet in acceptance and tolerance regardless of differences in culture, way of life, religion, sex, or race. I'm idealistic, I know, but I do believe we can find that dream.  

Stephen Smith

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