Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Weekly Book Spotlight - Here Be Monsters by Leenna Naidoo

Welcome to this week's book spotlight. Yeah, I know I am a couple of days late! But here goes.

Here Be Monsters

Leenna Naidoo

What’s in the juice?

First-time visitor to Mars, Angela Dornach, must solve this horrifying mystery. Angie's looking forward to spending quality time with her husband, Kieron, while accompanying him on one of his projects. Life on Mars might be more than she's bargained for, especially with rumours of ETs floating around, and the Mars residents behaving strangely.

Behind the Scenes
Yes, yes, I know the title is somewhat tired, but I did write it six years ago. In a notebook. In China, but not in my favourite KFC, like most of the other stories I wrote in Yulin. In fact, penning the first paragraphs of HBM is how I spent New Year’s Eve 2010. Don’t believe me? Here’s photographic proof! Besides, I think the title suits the story very well!

If you look real close at my photographic proof of the day I began writing this story, you’ll also notice that the beginning is way different. That beginning I actually published in the first edition of this story, but everyone felt it took too long to get to the good ‘monstery’ stuff. With a few cuts and some new added scenes, the story got much stronger without losing its charm or my original intentions. BTW, if you did buy the original version and are curious about this new edition, you can get a free copy of this new version with the much cooler cover. See my blogpost ( for more details.

The original version also had more mushy scenes between Angela and Kieron, but almost everyone said something to the effect of: ‘I like this about them, but hurry up already and get on with the story!’ But I couldn’t resist keeping just a marshmallow or two of true mushiness...

Here Be Monsters was my very first not-flash-fiction attempt at ‘real’ sci-fi. I intended it as an entry to the annual Baen Competition, but sadly, the story was too long. I cannot remember if I submitted it or not, but it doesn’t much matter any more. What does, is that I still love this story and that it’s finding new fans, like S.Shane Thomas (he gave it 5-stars despite its slow burn start!) and my beta-readers for the revision prep.

A lot of the technical stuff (and the aliens) are inspired by 50s-70s sci-fi by the likes of Robert Heinlein, Harry Harrison and short stories of that period. It always amazes me that we still haven’t put those ideas into use until recently. But it’s nice to see the world finally catching up with sci-fi.

The setting of a mining base is partially inspired by movies like Total Recall (the original, not that awful remake) and old TV series like Ark 2.
The people, though, were inspired by my own experiences in mining towns. While I’m not a geologist, a number of my family are, so I got to spend some holidays in some really small (and some not so small) mining towns. And yes, I just let my imagination run wild from then on!

I can’t remember the soundtrack to this story. I do know it definitely featured two songs from the early 80s, or was it late 70s: Clouds Across The Moon by The Ra Band, and Video Killed The Radio Star by Buggle. If I recall correctly, Lullabye by Deep Forest might have been on my tracklist as well. I don’t really know how it all made the story come to together, but it did!
See if you can spot which song set which scene’s mood. I’ll let you know if you’re wrong :-D






Excerpt :

I found the safety suits uncomfortable.

“Get used to it.” Kieron, a serious look on his face, was helping me suit up just past Immigrations. “You never go anywhere outside the staff quarters on this planet without one – and preferably a backup, just in case.”

It was like wearing an oversized down-suit with tubes running along in unexpected, uncomfortable places. I didn't mind the packs too much: one for air and the other a divided tank – a compartment for drinking water and another for recycling and producing oxygen. They fitted as a unit onto my back by straps – not too different from the pack I used at home.

My first view of Mars from the shuttle reminded me of flying over the Chinese desert at winter's dusk. Rugged sand structures in various tones of red and musk with delicate brushes of pink. It was prettier than expected under the harsh starlight. The Picasts didn't do it justice. There's yet a broadcast camera to be made that can beat the human retina for picking up subtle colour gradations.

“Last chance.” Kieron stood close to my ear as I stared at the sight through the view-deck while we waited for our transport to his new quarters. “The shuttle leaves in two hours and won't be back for a month more.”

“And you want me to find a new boyfriend on the way back home?”

He put his arm around my waist awkwardly. “Didn't know there was an old one!”

“That's 'cos I only see him sometimes. You see, he's hardly ever on Earth these days.”

“Then I guess you'd better stay here where I can keep an eye on you.”

“I guess I'd better.” I cupped his face and smiled, then frowned.

“What is it?” Kieron held onto to my hand as I withdrew it.

“It's funny that Tony's not come to welcome us.”

“Probably out in the field. You know how it is.”

I knew. Two weeks on, two weeks off. Three months annually on Earth or the Moon, if they so chose. It wasn't a life for the attached. I sighed, realising how lucky I was that Kieron was Project Manager and not a Geo. I got to see more of him than a Geo's family – and I didn't have to leave Earth. I wondered if Tony had found a partner yet, here on Mars.

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