Where Science Fiction and the Occult COLLIDE

A woman running from her magic.

A man who’s given up.

Mutant culture colonies.

A doomed ship.

Science Fiction in Antarctica

If there’s any place on planet Earth where they do research, it’s Antarctica. The only people who live there, either year round or seasonally, are scientists and their backup personnel. I was fortunate enough to visit two research bases while I was there and to meet a field researcher who was counting penguin nesting grounds.

Most fiction set in Antarctica is either a thriller (think James Rollins) or science fiction (think Kim Stanley Robinson).  Here’s part of the book description for his Antarctica:

 A stark and inhospitable place, its landscape poses a challenge to survival; yet its strange, silent beauty has long fascinated scientists and adventurers. Now Antarctica faces an uncertain future. The international treaty that protects the continent is about to dissolve, clearing the way for Antarctica's resources and eerie beauty to be plundered. As politicians and corporations move to determine its fate from half a world away, radical environmentalists carry out a covert campaign of sabotage to reclaim the land. The winner of this critical battle will determine the future for this last great wilderness....

Interestingly, while researching titles for Icy Passage, I came across one book with a gal in a bikini on the cover. That one made me laugh. No sun tops in Antarctica, not on either of my trips.

Mystery lends itself to storytelling, and Antarctica is one mysterious place. The single celled organisms, archaea, that play a starring role in Icy Passage, are real, as is everything I said about them in the book. One of the hallmarks of science fiction is the science parts have to be spot on. When I submitted the book to a well-known science fiction webzine for review, I held my breath because Icy Passage has paranormal elements in it too. The review turned out fine. More than fine, actually!

When some think about scifi, they conjure up images of spaceships and space stations รก la Star Trek and Star Wars. Of the two, at least Star Trek was scifi. Star Wars is actually a mixed genre with magic liberally laced into the plot lines.

 Icy Passage isn’t about space travel. It’s about single-celled organisms running amok. My hero is a microbiologist, and my heroine is a doctor, so there’s a lot of room for them to bat scientific theories back and forth, when they aren’t scrabbling to stay alive. There truly is a form of archaea that’s unique to the Polar Regions, and there’s also evidence they slow radioactive decay from the earth’s core.

Here’s a snippet from the book:

 …Kayna swallowed uncertainty, not sure what to say. “Your life sounds so barren.” A lot like mine, actually. “Are you married?”

“Why, Doctor.” He cocked his head to one side, but didn’t stop running his thumb along her jawline. “What a leading question.”

“Are you going to answer it?” Her throat was dry, and she’d never been more aware of a man’s presence. He was alive, electric. If she closed the few inches between their faces, she could taste his lips. He wouldn’t rebuff her. She sensed his interest, but the wife question was important. In her mind’s eye, her raven spread its wings, flew a few feet, and settled again. Approval gleamed from his eyes. Kayna did a double take. Her spirit guide had never showed his beak in all the years she was with Derek, but he was certainly front and center tonight.

It’s almost as if he’s giving Brynn his seal of approval…

Oh for the love of Pete. I’m extrapolating all over the fucking place.

Brynn’s voice took on a husky note. “I had a girlfriend, another M.D. We were together for years. She wanted more than I could give. Eventually, she left me.” He glanced down and Kayna sensed his internal conflict, raw and palpable, before he met her gaze again. “I don’t blame her. I wasn’t very…present.”

“Maybe, she’d still be open to—”

Brynn shook his head. “Too much bad water under the bridge. She told me not to find her after she left. I ignored that wish, exactly like I’d ignored most of her other ones.” A muscle twitched beneath one of his eyes, betraying tension. “The row we had once I tracked her down wasn’t pretty. Not too long after that, I landed a job with a British bioresearch firm and left for South Georgia Island.”

“We have at least a few things in common,” she murmured.

“Like what?” He inscribed small circles on her cheek before moving his hand down her neck.

“I had a boyfriend—another doc, like your partner—but he dumped me once I told him I was going to McMurdo for a year.”

Brynn looked at her, his eyes brimming with emotions he probably didn’t let out to play often. When he angled his head and closed his mouth over hers, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and drew him close. Hard planes of muscle met her fingertips, and she reveled in how good he felt. His crisp masculine scent, sandalwood and amber, eddied about her. When he ran his tongue along the seam in her lips, she opened her mouth and welcomed him. He tasted sweet like the scotch, and his lips became harder and more demanding as she let him explore her mouth.

Brynn threaded his arms around her and buried a hand in her hair, cradling the back of her head. Her breath quickened, and her nipples hardened where they pressed against his chest. It had been months since she’d had sex. Even before her blowup with Derek, he hadn’t touched her in a long time. Need licked at her, hot and urgent, in a rush of hormones all too aware her biological clock was running out of time. Encouragement glittered in the raven’s eyes, and she felt him urge her on.

It would be easy to stretch out on the cushions, slide her tights down, and draw Brynn into her. Too easy. Her body screamed for release, but common sense intruded and she pulled away, panting slightly. “You’re a very attractive man, but this isn’t a good idea.”

“Bad call,” her spirit guide spoke up.

Holy crap snackers! I’ve had too much to drink.

Kayna made a grab for rationality, but the raven stayed put, no longer talking, but with his avian attention glued to her.

“I’d try to argue,” Brynn said, his voice thick with need, “except I agree.” He kneaded the back of her neck. It felt heavenly and she leaned into his touch. “Not that I don’t want to make love with you,” his gaze, dark gold now, bored into her, “because I do. Very much. But I want to take this slow. Get to know you.”

His words made something warm and fluttery begin in her belly and spread outward. She untangled her arms from his body and got to her feet. “We’ll have time to figure this out.”

“Maybe,” he said carefully, and something in his voice—perhaps regret—snared her attention.

“Why maybe?”

“You’re staying at McMurdo. I plan to go home after a couple weeks there.”

With her body buzzing from his touch, and her spirit guide still making his presence—and opinion—known, she murmured, “One step at a time. We’ll see how things unfold.”

Brynn looked at her, his hazel gaze unreadable. “It’s been a long day. Both of us should try to get some sleep.”

She nodded and made her way out of the bar, lurching with the ship’s motion. Brynn had his secrets, like she had hers. She sensed his inner turmoil with her paranormal antennae. It was unlikely he could see into her with the same level of accuracy, but none of that mattered. Whether they’d even arrive at McMurdo remained to be seen.

Hell, he may not be able to live with my secrets even if we make McMurdo.

And I might not be able to stomach his.

Secrets aside, why did my raven show up?

Brynn would be a lot easier to accept if his cultures weren’t part of the deal. With that unsettling thought scattering her lust like ashes, Kayna plodded back to her surgery, let herself in, and made her way to her bed. The liquor she’d drunk made her head spin, and she hoped no one needed her before morning.

She’d just shut her eyes when the raven formed behind her closed lids. “What do you want?” she asked, but he didn’t answer. Instead, an image of the Kiao from her earlier trance state formed. As she stared at the mystical Chinese dragon, she recalled that her father had a tattoo just like it inked onto his upper arm.

Kayna flopped onto her stomach and supported her head with her hands, no longer sleepy. The same questions that had plagued her earlier came screaming back. Why would her father show up now? What did he have to do with McMurdo, the southern ocean, or Brynn’s accursed samples?…