Welcome to Queen’s Book Asylum’s tour stop for T. S. Beier‘s Escaping First Contact. Albeit we are late with our post, the Asylum had the pleasure of chatting about this exciting, modern twist on classic sci-fi.
We chat about how the story explores xenophobia, alien cultures, and (weird) sexual encounters.
Read to find more and don’t forget to check out the other great reviewers that joined this tour organized by Erik at Breakeven Books.
T.S. (Tina) Beier is a science fiction aficionado. Her first published novel, What Branches Grow, is her love letter to the post-apocalyptic genre and was the focus of her Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing. It was a top 5 Category Finalist in the 2020 Kindle Book Awards and a current semi-finalist in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition.
The Burnt Ship trilogy is another love letter, this time to classic sci-fi, but with a modern twist.
On top of her grad certificate, Tina has a B.A. in English, a Certificate in Publishing, and a Certificate in Interior Decorating. She is a book reviewer, an entrepreneur, and a writer at PostApocalypticMedia.com.
Tina lives in Ontario, Canada, with her partner, two feral daughters, and two dogs. She loves Fallout, coffee, and the ruins of industry.
Connect with T. S. Beier
At the far edge of cultivated space, a derelict ship rests. Ten times larger than the biggest Terran dreadnaught, the ship is not recognized by any of the five species tenuously coexisting in the galaxy.
Small crews are sent to investigate. What they find is a trap.
Once in the metal labyrinth’s clutches, it is clear the unlikely allies will not escape unless they can work together as a team. Unfortunately, trust and cooperation are entirely out of the question.
An immersive tale of escape and comradery, Escaping First Contact brings together an unforgettable cast of characters, richly detailed alien cultures, deft humour, and explosive action.
Welcome to the Asylum Tina! We’re very excited to have you here, as are our restless tenants. To start things off, can you introduce yourself in your main characters’ voices?
There are eight main characters, so I’ve elected the character Stares:
“Tina needs to chill out. How she has time to write novels while running her own business, parenting two kids under five, and having other hobbies like home renovations, playing sports, reviewing other people’s books, and building stupidly gigantic libraries in Minecraft is beyond me. Tina also thinks she’s quite funny, and sometimes she can be, but her real strength (and weakness) is how her mentality is basically the dog in the burning kitchen meme.”
Care to bullet-pitch us Escaping First Contact?
– 🚀 Derelict spaceship!
– 👽 Five unique alien species (that actually feel alien)
– 🏳️🌈 Normalized queer rep
– ❤️ Enemies to lovers forbidden romance subplot
– 😜 Zany humour involving banter, insults, and absurd comments
– 🪖🧟Space marines vs. zombie creatures
– 🍆🌿💫 Sex, drugs, and barrel rolls!
Escaping First Contact is the first in a trilogy. How does it set the stage for subsequent books and, without giving too much away, what can readers expect from its sequels?
While the full story requires all three books, Escaping First Contact doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger (as that is a pet peeve of mine).
A Threat Revealed and Dead in the Water serve to broaden the story of EFC in terms of scope but also carry forth the same zany humour, follow the same characters (while introducing a couple of new ones), and further develop growing (and disintegrating) relationships.
The second two books also dig way deeper into two of the alien cultures (the Strenoi and Rips). There are also more ship battles, more (weird?) sexual encounters (but nothing graphic), a few on the ground battle scenes, and the crew visit several planets – so lots of fun stuff!
What themes did you set out to explore with this story and how did you go about exploring them?
Overcoming xenophobia is at the forefront. I wanted to show that even though these people come from different species (as well as different cultures within said species), they can learn not only to work together, but to accept one another’s differences and become a team. I suppose it’s a way to show how our planet today is full of useless fighting and bigotry, and while we won’t always get along, there’s no reason we need to hate anyone simply for their culture, race, sexuality, or background.
Another aspect, which is less of a theme than a goal, was to make it feel like a classic sci-fi. Not so much the 30s-50s sci-fi, but the 60-80s stuff. I wanted to do so but make it modern, in that I wanted the main characters to be those you rarely see in that genre: women, LGBTQ+, and people of colour. I love classic sci-fi, but it has a real diversity problem. I also wanted to present a normalized queer future, where no one gives a sh*t if you’re gay.
What’s the craziest comp you can think of for the trilogy?
I’m not sure about crazy, as the book is pretty crazy on its own, but I’d say comps are easily Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth books, Tanya Huff’s Confederation military sci-fis, and a bit of Red vs Blue (the machinima series). Maybe a touch of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers too. And Mass Effect!
Tell us about a piece of worldbuilding in Escaping First Contact you’re most proud of creating.
The Rip culture. I tried hard to make them very different but still relatable. There are some cultural aspects about the Rips in book three that I’m most proud of, because they explain a lot about the physical evolution of the aliens but also their cultural traits.
The Pir-An tendrils was also something I’m pretty proud of, because keeping their waving or twirling or snapping gestures consistent was a bit of a trial!
Diving into the really important questions, are Denny and Ruger good writing buddies?
Since publishing the third book, Denny the pug has passed (he was 12 and very sick – I haven’t brought myself to take his photo down from my website yet), but he was an excellent writing buddy. Before arthritis hit him pretty hard, he used to sit on my lap as I wrote, but for this trilogy he spent most of the time on his pillow by my desk. Ruger … he just sleeps on his bed too, but if I switch to writing on my chromebook instead of my PC, he’s always up for squeezing up beside me. I added a pic of my cat Miss, too, for the cat people out there.
Your post-apocalyptic sci-fi, What Branches Grow, made it to the semifinals of SPSFC, delighting judges with its positivity. Why did you decide to enter the competition and what have you taken from it so far?
I decided to enter because I thought it stood a good chance of at least getting past the slush pile (and it sounded like a fun competition)! It was the focus of my grad certificate in creative writing (where it was basically put through a rigorous dev edit by my mentor in the program, Canadian author Karen Connelly), so I know it has a solid structure.
In truth, post-apocalyptic is a pretty niche genre, in that I find readers either really enjoy it or they find it too tropey, so the fact that it got to the semi’s I’m pretty happy about. The competition is interesting because the competitors have “met,” in that a lot of us are on a Discord server and we follow one another on Twitter or Instagram. I don’t consider other writers my competition though, as reading is so subjective, but it’s been neat to see the different types of books they put forth. And I’ve read a couple of them so far too!
You mention on your website that fanfic helped you break ground as a writer and advise other writers on its reliability as a starting point. How did writing fanfic help you in your writing journey?
I think fanfic is a great way to learn how to write! I started writing when I was 11 or so – I read a fantasy novel and hated the ending, so I wrote a new one for it. Because the world and characters are already created, fanfic gives writers a blueprint for a story. Rather than having to think up a world and people within it, they can start with those aspects already set up – like using a default character design in a video game – and get on with the story part. I think it’s a great way to practice character development and plot, as well as just a way to make writing (which sometimes can feel like a labour of love) fun and creative. It can build confidence too.
Before we let you go, where can readers find you online and do you have any future projects you’d like to share?
You can find me on all the socials (except Tiktok) – I post book-related stuff on Instagram three times a week (plus other stuff here and there, like my dog and cat, sometimes baking or paddleboarding), I use Facebook mainly to post the articles I write for PostApocalypticMedia.com and occasional book stuff, I have a book review channel on Youtube called Sound & Fury Book Reviews, and I lurk on Twitter.
For future projects, I have two living in my head at the moment: a ghost story based on something absolutely creepy my kid said (it’ll have scary moments but focused more on the mystery behind the ghost), and A Tale of Two Cities adaptation for the modern age. Not sure if the latter will come to fruition or not. I also have my “back catalogue” of novels that are either finished but need heavy edits or are almost finished but lack an ending. I have a science fiction literary fiction, a cyberpunk action set in the same world as What Branches Grow, and my 690,000-word fantasy novel that I would totally consider publishing if I wanted to drop thousands of bucks on an editor! (I do not, at least at the moment!)
I also am working on a short story set two years after the Burnt Ship trilogy (kind of like an extended epilogue featuring two of the characters), that’ll be put on my website and go out in my very very infrequent newsletter.
Grab a copy of Escaping First Contact by T. S. Beier