Gideon Marcus is joining us today to talk about his novel, Sirena. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Young captain-for-hire Kitra Yilmaz has gotten her first contract: escort the mysterious Princess of Atlántida beyond the Frontier and find her a new world. It’s a risky job, fraught with the threat of pirates, dangerous squatters, and rising romantic tensions.
Still, Kitra and her crew are up for anything — until they find a lush world, perfect for settlement…with an enormous ghost ship already in orbit.
What secret does the crippled vessel hide? And is Kitra ready to take responsibility for its precious cargo?
What’s Gideon’s favorite bit?
There’s a scene in my new book, Sirena, that makes me cry. Every time.
Sirena is the direct sequel to Kitra, starring a young woman who stakes her inheritance to buy a starship and explore the universe. Kitra and her friends end up in way over their heads, but with persistence, brains, and teamwork, they manage to get home from their first wild trek. Technically a YA, Kitra has appealed to all ages, evoking the 20th century “juveniles” but updated for the 21st century.
Probably the most popular character in Kitra has been Pinky, Kitra’s oldest and best friend. He’s the only alien in the story, a member of the very small handful of extraterrestrial races thus discovered. You could superficially describe him as “a cute blob who likes to make dad jokes and fart noises.” But a number of readers caught my clues that there is more to Pinky than his cheerful exterior, and many hoped that I’d write more about him: about his history, his biology, his relationship with Kitra.
Sirena includes a flashback to Kitra’s childhood, right after her mother’s death. Kitra’s withdrawn into herself, deep in depression after losing her sole remaining parent. It’s especially hard because of her age — old enough to have formed a deep bond, too young to have any of the skills to cope with the loss. So the weeks go by, sullenly, quietly. No friends, no loving family. Just Kitra in her room, staring out at her garden. Numb.
A shape appears, some amorphous thing. It creeps slowly in a circle around the house. Kitra is too withdrawn to be scared; for the first time in a while, she feels a glimmer of curiosity. It dawns on her that this strange creature must be Pinky, an alien acquaintance from school. He approaches, extending a pseudopod in greeting:
“Hi, Kitra,” he said. The pitch and tone were that of a child, and he was only half grown, perhaps a foot shorter than I was at the time.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
He made a show of stretching his head half a meter to look down at his feet. “Standing.”
I waited. His head shrunk back to normal proportions and he walked right up to the window. He could step over the frame and come in if he wanted.
“You didn’t come back to school,” he said.
He looked at me for a long time without saying anything, no expression on his face. He reached forward and touched my hand.
“Your… mother and father,” he said haltingly, as if struggling with the words. “They aren’t here anymore?”
I could feel the numbness becoming stronger, a deliberate shield sliding up over my feelings. I shook my head.
Pinky seemed to consider this another long moment. Then he stretched out his arms. I looked at him blankly.
“We are very different,” he said, “but I think we both do this.” His limbs hooked at new elbows, making an open ring. “If you come inside the circle, we can both be sad together.”
Damn if it doesn’t make me cry even now.
There are a lot of characters in Sirena, including the newcomer title character. They’re all interesting and likeable. They all get their moments to shine. But aside from Kitra, I think we get the most new insight on Pinky. We see him truly shaken, actually scared for the first time in Sirena, and I think it will clutch your heart as much as it does mine.
It makes me wonder if Pinky is going to end up the Mr. Spock of the Kitra saga, the side character who dwarfs the lead. Probably not. What makes Pinky so poignant is his relationship with Kitra and the rest of the crew. Indeed, relationships comprise the soul of these books. Readers comment again and again how much they like the found family aspect, the occasionally rocky but ultimately loving camaraderie Kitra and her crew share.
People wouldn’t be so invested if they didn’t care, if I didn’t care. And being able to invest readers in these characters I’ve created is probably my favorite bit. 🙂
Website (purchase options for the book here)
Three time Hugo Finalist Gideon Marcus is the founder of Journey Press, an independent publisher focused on unusual and diverse speculative fiction. He also runs the time machine project, Galactic Journey. A professional space historian, he is a member of the American Astronautical Society’s history committee.
In 2019, he edited Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) a seminal anthology of some of the best works of science fiction’s Silver Age. His most recent works, Kitra and Sirena, comprise books one and two of a YA space adventure saga featuring themes of isolation, teamwork, and hope, and starring a queer protagonist of color.Gideon lives in San Diego County with his writer/editor wife, Janice, and their polymath artist daughter, Lorelei…along with a cat, a snake, and an immense library. He is currently hard at work on Hyvilma, third book in the Kitra saga.