Archive for August, 2011

Welcome to Science Fiction Thrillers

Posted on August 22, 2011 by Joanne Elder

This site is devoted to a subgenre of Science Fiction: Science Fiction Thrillers. For those of us who love this genre, it’s particularly frustrating picking through Sci-Fi reviews looking for a great read that also falls into the thriller genre. Over time, it is my intention to ease that frustration by providing reviews and book trailers dedicated to this great sub-genre of science fiction.

I recently came across a great blog post by Amy Rogers detailing the differences between Science Fiction Thrillers and Science Thrillers. She was kind enough to let me share this with you. Her website, is dedicated to book reviews of science and medical thrillers. If you are a fan of this genre, this site is definitely worth bookmarking.


What is a science thriller?

Posted on June 10, 2011 by Amy

In the past year I’ve posted over 50 reviews of books I deem to be “science thrillers.” I have declined to review some because I felt they were “science fiction.”

So what’s the difference?

To paraphrase a worn-out but still-apt quote from a Supreme Court Justice, the difference between science thrillers and science fiction/SF/SciFi is like pornography: hard to define, but (usually) I know it when I see it.

Here are my not-so-hard-and-fast rules describing the difference between a science thriller and a science fiction book.  Tell me if you agree or disagree by posting a comment!

Science thrillers:

  • Usually fiction (novels or short stories) but can also be nonfiction (e.g. The Hot Zone)
  • Are set in the real world (or something recognizably similar to it)
  • Plot occurs in the present, though historical fiction science thrillers do exist (e.g. Deadly).  Historical books are usually set in “the present,” just from the perspective of an earlier time, with no significant rewriting of history.
  • Science or medicine is important–nay, crucial–to the plot
  • Technology alone does not make a science thriller (e.g. military technothrillers such as Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October don’t qualify)
  • Story must be plot-driven, page-turning, with some (or a lot of) action
  • The science should be largely grounded in scientific reality. If a scientific plot element is technically impossible, it must be plausible to an average reader.

Science fiction:

  • Always fiction
  • May be set in any world, real or imagined, earth-bound or outer-space
  • Plot events may occur at any time (past, present, or future); the future and indeterminate times (“a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”) are popular in this genre.  History can be rewritten at will.
  • Science or technology may be important to the plot
  • May be plot-driven and action-packed, or can be quite literary
  • Scientific plot elements don’t have to be realistic. Time travel, warp speed, and mind-reading are all okay.

I think the final point of each list is the main distinction.  Any novel must be believable; readers will suspend their disbelief only so far before they close the book and put it down.  But what passes for “believable” depends on the reader’s expectation.  In SF stories, the author is allowed to create entire worlds from their imagination.  Those worlds have their own rules and the author is merely obliged to follow them, no matter how outrageous they are.  (Note that in SF the rules don’t have to be “realistic”, but they must be internally consistent.  If character X teleports out of a sticky situation in chapter 5, he shouldn’t be trapped by a similar sticky situation in chapter 7.)

Science thrillers, on the other hand, are constrained by reality.  The rules of the world in the story are generally the same as the rules in the real world.  Trouble is, reality is boring.  The challenge for the science thriller writer, then, is to tweak reality–make it exciting–without straining the credulity of the reader too far.

Because of this, I think writers with a strong technical background are uniquely qualified to write good science thrillers.  We know enough to lead the reader into scientific territory that is cutting-edge, but true.  The reader, ever suspicious, learns to accept our authority when we introduce him to some technical wonder he hasn’t heard of before.  Then, once we have earned his trust, we can start making things up.

In the best science thrillers, the parts that are made-up are discernible only to specialists in the field.  (Michael Crichton was a master at this; see my mythbusting posts.)  Everybody else buys it hook, line, and sinker.  When you’re reading a book for fun, that’s precisely what you want.  It’s a terrible feeling when some glaring absurdity or inconsistency in a story yanks you out of the pages and makes you realize it’s only a book after all.

What do you think?


Spectra book coverBy: Joanne Elder


Cutting Edge Science Fiction Thriller Combines Fast-paced Action with Thought Provoking Insight into the Possible Existence of the Human Soul

Do we have a soul? Throughout history, philosophers, spiritualists, and physicists have sought answers to this question. Independent of the belief in a god, the belief in the existence of a soul has given comfort to humans in their quest for eternal life…

Spectra, recently released in print and ebook by MuseItUp Publishing, delves into one of the most compelling and thought provoking questions humanity has to offer right in the preface of the novel. Set in the future, Spectra offers all the action and adventure of a first rate thriller together with a glimpse at the possible physical existence of the human soul, edging on controversial.

In the story a mining team encounters a species of intelligent life comprised of unknown energy. Those exposed to the entities experience a temporary increase in intelligence but at a terrible cost. As the story unfolds, it’s found that the entities are a form of living plasma with helixes of energy flowing into them resembling DNA. So what makes this compelling? Read on…

Actual research was consulted when writing Spectra. Recently, researchers in Russia demonstrated plasma (ionized gas composed of ions, free protons, and free electrons) could self-organize into a structure similar to a simple living cell with helical currents resembling DNA. Since plasma is the most common state of matter in the universe, it is conceivable for inorganic living plasma to be the most common form of life in the universe.

Exposure to the entities causes a temporary increase in intelligence. In the story this is attributed to the energy of the entities enhancing the energy field of those exposed. Recently at UCLA, improvements in the sensitivity of measuring devices have led to the confirmation of minute energy fields around the human body (the human energy field). These electrical impulses have a frequency significantly higher than brain waves and may correspond to the human aura. One day, these research results could be used as a diagnostic technique and possibly lead to medicinal energy healing techniques.


In Spectra it is theorized that if the soul exists beyond an idea, it has to exist as something in the physical makeup of the universe. It can’t be nothing. Nor can God be nothing. Is modeling the human energy field as living plasma that could exist on its own as a soul that farfetched? Is there a physical difference between good and evil? Perhaps living plasma existed on early Earth and formed a template for the development of biological life. According to Theosophy, a doctrine of philosophy and metaphysics dating back to the 1800’s, the soul can be reincarnated. Theosophists postulate that initially the soul existed as pure spirit without a body and then evolved into the modern human: spirit and body.


Over the centuries, many cultures have theorized about the existence of a soul. Ancient Indian spiritualists developed the concept of prana as the vital, life-sustaining force of living beings. This spurred the practice of Yoga, which focuses on the energy centers of the body referred to as Chakras to promote health and well-being. Interestingly, energy is thought to flow into Chakras following a helical path—is there a connection to DNA? The ancient Qigong masters in China identified Ch’i as the vital flow of energy sustaining all life. Scientists believe the flow of energy through the body follows specific pathways, a concept inherent in the practice of acupuncture in Chinese medicine.


Many scientists now support the possible existence of a human energy field beyond the physical realm. Continued research may one day answer the question: What is this energy and how does it interact with the human body? Once this question is answered, the true human potential may be embraced.


Spectra is available through all major retailers or through Visit for more information on Spectra and to view the book trailer. Buy page, blurb and excerpt at: