Welcome to the July 14th stop on the blog tour for If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith with Goddess Fish Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, reviews, author guest posts & interviews, and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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Author Guest Post
Getting the Science Right in My Science-Fiction Novel
A funny thing happened on my way to writing my speculative novel, If Darkness Takes Us. I had a story in mind for a grandmother to be raising her grandkids in a post-apocalyptic situation, and I needed the right kind of disaster to set the stage.
Though I feel that nuclear plants and the nuclear fuel cycle are a huge risk to the planet and its creatures, I didn’t want my characters to die early or to be horribly sick from radiation. I wanted the story world to be tough but survivable. And, although I’m forever worried about these possibilities, I didn’t want the entire U.S. to be nothing but deserts, irradiated wastelands, and shoreland washing into the rising oceans. It wasn’t until I heard a discussion of the damage that could come from a solar electromagnetic pulse (EMP) on a radio podcast that I found the right disaster for my story.
I had written the first draft when I realized that I didn’t have the science right about the effects of a solar pulse. An EMP by itself is likely to affect only a small area, or in the case of a massive geomagnetic storm like the Carrington Event in 1859—the solar pulse that fried telegraph lines all over the country, back before electric lines—a solar storm like that might take down the grid, but, according to two scientists I interviewed, it still wouldn’t take down the cars. And it might take out cell towers, but it probably wouldn’t fry the phones themselves.
Because I was working from the dramatic end of things and, for the sake of the story, I needed the cars and phones to go down with the grid, I went in search of a way to get the science right and still have the cars and phones die. I read a lot about the electromagnetic spectrum—that, as I understand it, electricity, radio waves, solar pulses, microwaves, light, sound, heat, TV, wi-fi, and magnetism are all different wavelengths on that spectrum. I found some online speculation that our planet was overdue for a shift in the magnetic poles. And, although there seemed to be disagreement on the effects of such a polarity shift, some said that it could cause the magnetic shield that surrounds the Earth (and protects it from the sun and other space phenomena) to shrink down to 5% of normal, at least for a while.
So, I made the leap and had my characters speculate that a magnetic shift could have occurred at the same time as the solar pulse. I considered this leap as the “speculative” part of my speculative fiction, and I fully expected scientists to protest that my science was wrong. I had a ready answer for this:
“It’s science fiction. I have artistic license.”
Then, a few weeks after If Darkness Takes Us was published, I watched Episode 5, Season 2, of In Search Of, with Zachary Quinto. For those who don’t know, the show is a current-day version of the old show starring Leonard Nimoy. Zachary Quinto plays Mr. Spock in the newest Star Trek movies, and he carries an equivalent gravitas to Mr. Nimoy when explaining new scientific breakthroughs to us laypeople on In Search Of.
This particular episode was about the Bermuda Triangle, but during the last 12 minutes, Mr. Quinto talks about the now-established fact that the North Pole is moving—and not only that, the magnetic Bermuda Triangle may also be moving in the same direction. This magnetic movement could reduce earth’s protection from solar winds and solar pulses and could cause us to lose the grid, the satellites, the pipelines, and all the things that go with them (running water, gas for our cars, natural gas for cooking and heat, the ability to keep our nuclear plants from melting down, and so much more).
Pardon me if I’m misunderstanding, but doesn’t this prove that my pieced-together theory behind my story was actually right or darned close to it? It seems like a huge validation to me. It is also unbelievably scary.
Just so you don’t worry too much, there’s a chance we can protect ourselves if we marshal our resources to build a new, sun-hardened grid, better pipelines, etc. First, we have to convince the public and our politicians that such possibilities are real. We have our work cut out for us.
If a respectable scientist comes along to tell me that I am stupidly wrong about this, I can always go back to my science-fiction/artistic-license defense.
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog.
Explain the show
About the Book
If Darkness Takes Us
by Brenda Marie Smith
Published 15 October 2019
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction
Page Count: 382
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
In suburban Austin, Texas, Bea Crenshaw secretly prepares for apocalypse, but when a solar pulse destroys modern life, she’s left alone with four grandkids whose parents don’t return home. She must teach these kids to survive without power, cars, phones, running water, or doctors in a world fraught with increasing danger. And deciding whether or not to share food with her starving neighbors puts her morality to the test.
If Darkness Takes Us is realistic post-apocalyptic science-fiction that focuses on a family in peril, led by a no-nonsense grandmother who is at once funny, controlling, and heroic in her struggle to hold her family together with civility and heart.
The book is available now. It’s sequel, If the Light Escapes, is told in the voice of Bea’s eighteen-year-old grandson, Keno Simms, and will be released by SFK Press on August 24, 2021.
“Bea Crenshaw is one of the most unique characters in modern literature—a kick-ass Grandma who is at once tough and vulnerable, and well-prepared to shepherd her extended family through an EMP disaster, or so she thinks.”
—Laura Creedle, Award-winning Author of The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily
“There is real, identifiable humanity, subtle and sweet and sad, and events utterly shattering in their intensity.”
—Pinckney Benedict, Author of Dogs of God, Miracle Boy, and more
“Mazie, come with me downstairs where it’s safer.”
“I don’t like dark places,” she whined.
I had never yelled at my grandkids in their lives, but my patience was gone. Radioactive fallout could be here any minute.
“Mazie, quit arguing! Come with me now!”
She pinned me with a flash of anger in her eyes. “Where’s my doll?”
“We’ll get it later. Let’s go!”
She made me pick her up. Although she was a wisp, she was still too heavy for me, but I carried her anyway. Holding onto her little frame comforted me, and I needed to be level-headed and strong for these kids.
When we got to the top landing on the stairs, I had to put Mazie down to shut the cellar door. I held her hand, and we descended the stairs together.
As soon as we reached bottom, Milo asked, “Nana, when will Mom and Dad be home?”
Good Lord, I hadn’t even thought about how this nuke or EMP— whatever it was—might have affected the other adults in this family, who were hurtling toward Austin at seventy miles an hour on a jam-packed interstate highway. Did this “event” extend that far? For the love of Jesus!
I tried to hide my shaking hands as I said to Milo, “I’m not sure. It shouldn’t be too long.”
How long is too long, anyway?
About the Author
Brenda Marie Smith lived off the grid for many years in a farming collective where her sons were delivered by midwives. She’s been a community activist, managed student housing co-ops, produced concerts to raise money for causes, done massive quantities of bookkeeping, and raised a small herd of teenage boys.
Brenda is attracted to stories where everyday characters transcend their own limitations to find their inner heroism. She and her husband reside in a grid-connected, solar-powered home in South Austin, Texas. They have more grown kids and grandkids than they can count.
Her first novel, Something Radiates, is a paranormal romantic thriller; If Darkness Takes Us and its sequel, If the Light Escapes, are post-apocalyptic science fiction.
Brenda Marie Smithwill be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway
|June 28||Our Town Book Reviews|
|June 28||Rogue’s Angels|
|June 29||Literary Gold|
|June 30||Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews|
|July 1||Fabulous and Brunette|
|July 2||The Avid Reader|
|July 12||Becoming Extraordinary|
|July 13||Andi’s Book Reviews|
|July 14||Westveil Publishing|
|July 16||All the Ups and Downs|
|July 19||The Key Of Love|
|July 20||Linda Nightingale, Author|
|July 21||Novels Alive|
|July 22||Long and Short Reviews|
|July 23||Kit ‘N Kabookle|
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