My Favorite Bit: Gideon Marcus Talks about Hyvilma

Gideon Marcus is joining us today to talk about his novel, Hyvilma. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Under attack! The flight back to Hyvilma should have been the easy part for the crew of the Majera–until a deadly ambush by pirates sends them reeling through hyperspace. Now getting to the planet in time is the only way Captain Kitra Yilmaz can save her dying friend.

But landing at Hyvilma may be impossible: war has broken out on the Frontier.

What’s Gideon’s favorite bit?

Gideon Marcus


(I guess you can say that in Brady Bunch voice: Marta, Marta, Marta!)

When I wrote the first draft of Kitra, it was a novella…in third person. Originally, when the Majera took off by itself into Jump, stranding Kitra and her four friends in hyperspace, they didn’t actually go anywhere. And at the end of it, Peter and Marta took their leave. The subsequent stories were just going to be about Kitra, Fareedh, and Pinky.

That novella was awful.

Part of why Kitra grew to be a novel is that the characters demanded more screen time. I know fictional  characters aren’t supposed to have lives of their own, that they ultimately are controlled by their author, but mine don’t behave. Fareedh was always supposed to be Kitra’s love interest (though Kitra’s bisexuality was an established fact from the beginning; she and Marta were a couple in high school). But then I made the mistake of putting Kitra and Marta in a room alone together in Chapter 6. The tension from that became a minor plot point throughout Kitra and it had ripple effects in Sirena (Book #2). By Hyvilma, there was no getting around it–there was going to have to be some kind of culmination, one way or another.

Beyond that, Marta kept developing as a person. All of the Majera crew do, of course, but Marta maybe has shined the most. It helps that, at her core, she is a set of traits that are often depicted as contradictory. She’s a biologist, but she’s also a technician/programmer. She’s beautiful. She’s also freckled and plus-sized. She’s the nurturing one, but she’s also the badass.

That last aspect got set up in Sirena, but it’s central to Hyvilma, which is the closest the Kitra Saga will come to space opera. There’s an insurrection, a battle on the decks of a s[ace cruiser, and a significant degree of pew-pew. One of my favorite scenes:

Marta took her sayar, called up several displays, and flung them across the hall in front of the lip Peter was hiding behind–doing on purpose what I had done before on accident. Almost immediately, shots tore through the displays, sending sparks flying. Peter backed against his wall, eyes wide. Then Marta grabbed the floating bed, stood it on end, and charged through the open blast door using the sled like a Roman shield.

Of course, the situation is complicated. Are the rebels the bad guys? Is the Empire blameless? And how does Marta, who comes from a group marginalized during the Empire’s period of expansion, decide which side to take? That’s also one of my favorite bits:

Something touched my hand, and I jerked back, as if shocked. Marta looked down at me, surprise and worry touching her green eyes.

“Kitra, I said, ‘Are you alright?’“

I was anything but alright. I opened my mouth to speak, but my throat was a desert.

Her hand gripped mine, her eyes softening. “I know. But we’ll make it. We have to.” She looked behind me, and I followed her gaze. To Pinky, now a legless hemisphere, just his “head” poking out of his suit. I licked my lips, staring at my oldest friend, and felt the fear retreat, just a little bit, pushed aside by the need to get him help.

I looked back at Marta, who gave me a little nod. I took a bracing breath, then cocked my head. Something had occurred to me. “Are you okay?” I asked.

She blinked. “I…sure. What do you mean?” she whispered back.

“You’re so va-t’en guerre, so pumped up.” I looked at the deck. “I know how you feel about the Empire. These people we’re going to face, they’re fighting the Empire.”

Marta’s expression went pensive. “It’s something I’m trying not to think too hard about. Right now, we hardly know anything about what’s going on. One recorded message isn’t enough to go on.”

She smiled softly and tilted up my chin with the fingers of her free hand. “Anyway, right now politics can hang. Nothing matters more than family.” The pressure on my hand became a hard squeeze, and Marta’s eyes were shining. Mine stung too, I realized.

(There are a lot of elements in the series that might look like clichés–from space princesses to aristocratic Empires. Rest assured, like Marta, the true picture is far more complicated. Indeed, I introduce a lot of these overdone themes to subvert them.)

As for my favorite bit, it may well be the cover. Every cover in the series (10 books planned and plotted) will feature one or more characters. Hyvilma was Marta’s turn. We’re very lucky to have Sabrina Watts as our cover designer. Not only did she put together a dynamite picture that complements the other books in the series, but she found the perfect model for Marta, right off the bat. It’s uncanny.

I think the cover not only reflects what readers will find in the book, but I’m hoping its star will also be a refreshing change from the norm. Marta is not some Whedonesque ballet dancer with a sword. Marta’s not a cigar-chomping space marine. She’s just Marta, a big woman with a bigger heart…and a willingness to risk everything to help her friends.


Hyvilma book link


Galactic Journey:

Journey Press:


Serling-winning and five time Hugo Finalist science fiction author, Gideon has just finished Hyvilma, third book in the Kitra Saga, a YA space adventure series featuring themes of isolation, teamwork, and hope, and starring a queer protagonist of color.

His short fiction can be found in Dark Matter, Utopia, Simultaneous Times, and elsewhere. He is also the editor of the Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women anthology series, featuring some of the best works of science fiction’s Silver Age.

He is the founder of Journey Press, an independent publisher focused on unusual and diverse speculative fiction, and he also runs the award-winning time machine project, Galactic Journey. He is a professional space historian, member of the American Astronautical Society’s history committee, college professor, and frequent public speaker.

Gideon lives in San Diego County with his writer/editor wife and their Hugo-nominated artist daughter…along with a cat, a snake, and an immense library.

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