The Ice Crypt audiobook is now available everywhere – narrated by me, the author! Get it on Audible
Reading fiction is one of the most important things you can do, and science can prove it. Here’s why a good fantasy or sci-fi has the power to make the world a better place.
I truly believe that the problems facing our world stem from a lack of compassion — prejudice, inequality, the treatment of animals and the environment, even nasty comments on social media. If everyone had more concern over others’ suffering, the world would be a better place.
Good news: science shows that reading books makes us more compassionate. Stories make us see the world through someone else’s eyes, to feel what they feel, to understand their dreams, fears, and struggles. Stories teach us empathy. Here’s some science:
- Fiction makes us more receptive to different thoughts and beliefs. A 2013 study showed that reading literary fiction (i.e. fiction that focuses on the character’s thoughts and feelings) made participants more likely to understand that someone else’s beliefs can be different from our own.
- Fiction makes us less prejudiced. A 2014 study showed that kids who read Harry Potter are more likely to recognize and reject prejudice in real life. It makes sense: look at the way Voldemort and his supporters consider pureblood wizards to be above others. Today, stories are shifting toward more diverse characters, which means we have the best opportunity ever to understand someone of a different age, race, gender, and body.
- Fiction makes us understand another person’s suffering. A 2011 study showed that people who read about an experience activate the same neurons as if they’re actually living it. It’s an enlightening experience to go on an epic adventure, even if it is inside your head. When we feel a character’s struggle in a story, it makes us more likely to be empathetic in real life.
- Fiction makes us better at social interactions. In 2018, psychologists analyzed a bunch of experiments on this topic and found that after reading just one story, people show better social cognition, i.e. the ability to understand and interact with people.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientific articles and studies to support the above points. I also think fiction makes us understand that change is inevitable and good, because in nearly all story arcs, the character undergoes a big change and comes out better for it. We learn a lot about others and ourselves by reading a story. There’s no arguing it: fiction makes us better people.
Can’t you also learn empathy from movies and TV?
Movies and TV don’t get into characters’ heads as much as books do. In a film, we’re watching someone—same as in real life. In a book, we get inside the characters’ heads, understanding their motivations, feelings, and secrets. Books empower us to experience the story rather than to simply watch it happen to someone else.
What about nonfiction?
Nonfiction is great for learning things and bettering yourself. I love a good biography or self-help book. But nonfiction is less effective at making people more compassionate, and the above studies provide evidence. Besides, good fiction has real themes. The story might involve fantasy elements, but it’s really about human struggles we can all relate to.
In defense of speculative fiction
A lot of people, including agents, publishers, and film/TV awards, shun fantasy/sci-fi in favor of realistic or literary stories. But how many people have been motivated to be a better person because of a superhero they identify with? How many people have been inspired to become scientists because of a sci-fi? What about the lessons we learn from a war between fantasy races? Fantasy and sci-fi are ideal for teaching empathy because the fictional setting means the reader won’t get defensive about whatever social issues are being addressed. The power of speculative fiction is real and should not be underestimated.
Your challenge: introduce someone to reading
Are there people in your life who don’t read fiction? See if you can get them to read your favorite book. Personally, I’ve found Harry Potter to be the best gateway. Lend them your copy, or better yet, get them the audiobook to listen to on their commute. You’ll help save the world, and plus, you get to watch them experience your favorite book for the first time – and seriously, there’s nothing better.
What do you think? Do you agree that reading fiction can make the world a better place?
Okay, people. ClexaCon. This convention is dedicated to the positive representation of LGBTQ+ women in film, TV, books, comics, and other forms of media. I just got back from ClexaCon 2019 in Las Vegas, and oh my.
If you’re curious about this event and wondering if you should go, the short answer is yes. Here’s a recap of what went down this weekend, and what you can expect at ClexaCon 2020 and onward.
Step 1: Fangirl over celebrities
Wayhaught Q&A panel, live podcast recordings, workshops hosted by Natasha Negovanlis and Elise Bauman… The schedule for this event is crazy cool.
At its heart is a series of panels, photo ops, signings, and many other opportunities to meet top female LGBTQ+ actors/characters from film and TV. ClexaCon 2019 guests included actresses from Wynonna Earp, Carmilla, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Runaways, Glee, One Day At A Time, and loads more. There was no shortage of opportunities to interact with them. I saw them wandering about (Dominique Provost-Chalkley legit strolled past me as I was getting coffee), and there were always several celebs at a time at the meet-and-greet tables.
Step 2: Discover books, comics, art, and more
I spent the weekend among the exhibitor booths with the other vendors, artists, and authors. It was incredible how many creators were there! As a fan, this is an amazing opportunity to meet your favorite creators of LGBTQ+ content and discover new ones.
Step 3: Make friends and network
It’s impossible not to make friends at this event. It happens while walking around, but they also facilitate it with events like Speed Friending. We’re a bunch of fans all here for the same reasons.
If you’re a creator, there are lots of opportunities to chat with other people in the business and exchange info. Reps from Tello Films were present and offered opportunities for pitching and asking questions. I was so excited to chat with other authors in my genre, and I finally got to meet fellow “warrior girl x mermaid” author Julia Ember in person.
Step 4: Party on, because it’s Vegas
Every night had an event going on, and whether you prefer partying or Netflixing, there was something for everyone.
For creators and consumers of stories about queer women, ClexaCon is an unparalleled opportunity
As a queer female author and webcomic creator, I was thrilled with the opportunities this convention offered. By getting a booth in the exhibitor hall, I was able to bring my books and the Ice Massacre webcomic to their intended audience. Definitely a win-win situation.
My favorite part by a landslide was getting to meet readers. It was also exciting to meet people who had heard of Ice Massacre and had been wanting to read it! Honestly, I was blown away to discover people had actually heard of me. This was such an exciting and rewarding experience.
Now that this event is sadly over, here are my other upcoming author events. Hope to see you at VanCAF!
Ice Massacre: The Graphic Novel launches today! Two ways to experience the comic:
- Read for free on icemassacre.com or on your favourite webcomic platform like Tapas (new page every Monday).
- Join our Patreon community to get bonus and behind-the-scenes content plus new pages at an accelerated rate of 2 pages per week (Tues/Thurs). This option is the most fun (yes, I am writing bonus scenes!) and our first wave of Patreon supporters will be entered into a raffle for free swag. We sincerely hope you choose this option, as this will provide the funding we need to keep creating the comic.
Head over to one of the links above to read the first 2 pages (first 4 pages on Patreon) and character bios.
Ice Massacre on Social Media
After we’ve posted all the pages that make up an issue, we’ll bundle them up into ebooks and physical copies (free/discounted to our Patreon community) and make those available online and at conventions.
Thank you for all of your support so far! We’re so excited to be embarking on this journey with you.
– Tiana Warner & April Pierce
Aries 181 launches in paperback and Kindle on March 26, 2019. Read on for a sneak peek of Chapter 1.
Chapter 1 – The Aries Research Lab
A dead engineer was an inconvenient way to start the week.
From the passenger’s seat of his Bentley, Tony used his phone to post a new job opening.
“Get her car out of the parking lot. Torch it so it looks like tragedy struck on her way in.”
“Yes, sir,” said Reah, weaving through traffic as she took him to the Aries office.
Accidents were uncommon in the research lab. The work involved too much time behind a computer for that. But when the occasional ‘whoops’ did happen, it was an annoyance. Covering them up was a pain. Finding a willing and qualified replacement was worse.
“Warehouse,” said Scott when Tony entered the lab to check the damage. “She was modifying the propellant.”
Tony stifled a curse. Of course it was the propellant—the substance too stubborn to realize its own potential.
He and Scott crossed the lab with its white lights reflecting off white tiles, white walls, white tables, and white lab coats. The five other engineers kept working, unease leaking from their pores like sweat. With only seven of Tony’s two hundred employees cleared for the lab, the hole left by their dead colleague was more of a chasm.
Tony was unruffled. Their non-disclosure agreements were thorough enough for a situation like this.
“What’s the damage?”
“She, uh—she was completely burnt, Doctor Ries.”
That much was obvious. Scott’s fluorescent-pale skin and lab coat were smudged, leaving a goggle-shaped clear spot around his eyes. Holes split the toes of his shoes, revealing socks with hamburgers printed on them.
“Was anything else destroyed?”
An empire of technology filled the warehouse. These were his top achievements, past and future. No accident, no matter how messy, could quash the pride he felt every time he entered it.
He flung open the double doors. The stench of burnt metal and hair tickled his gag reflex.
“Minor damage to the surrounding area,” said Scott, dabbing his sweaty brow with a singed sleeve. “No property was ruined.”
It took a moment to blink the warehouse into focus. Dim, cold, and vast, the place could have passed for a storage facility. Walkways snaked between mounds of technology.
An early prototype of the Aries satellites—what the world came to know as the Aries 180 fleet—stole Tony’s attention as he entered. The size of a bald eagle and mounted on a podium, it was the one now-useless technology he refused to incinerate. He caressed it as they passed.
Yet, despite all that filled the floor, the place was a cold vacuum, a void. Like the invisible substance called dark matter, every space in the warehouse represented an irksome gap in knowledge. Empty corners, walkways, every molecule of dead air held promise. As creator of the Aries universe, Tony intended to use any means necessary to fill those gaps.
Tony’s watch vibrated. He looked at it to find a text.
Reah: Need your clearance to get her purse. Locker 4.
He replied, 5 mins, and quickened his step.
The temperature rose as he and Scott drew deeper into the warehouse. A drone whirred overhead, taking photos at intervals. More drones hovered beneath the three-story ceiling, LED lights marking their presence. He would have to review the surveillance images later to see what happened. He might enjoy popcorn with it.
They stopped at the explosion site. The concrete floor rippled, like it had melted and hardened again. Every adjacent surface was dented and singed. Five dry chemical fire extinguishers lay nearby. Most intriguingly, a black, body-shaped imprint traced the floor like a shadow, a dusting of ash in its center.
Tony scattered the ash with his toe. “Looks like this place was pretty lit.”
Scott cast him a sideways glance.
The culprit was the twelve-foot vat towering beside the scene of the accident. Smoke wisped from the top, Tony’s hopes and plans disappearing with it into the black ceiling. The heat wrapped around him like a wool blanket.
“So the propellant isn’t going well,” said Tony, like a challenge.
“It just reacted badly,” said Scott. “I’m confident we’ll get it in time.”
“Hm.” Don’t placate me, Scotty. What churned inside that vat represented tens of millions of dollars.
Sure, every aerospace company had rocket propellant, but no one had this. This was his next opportunity for international success—his next Aries 180 fleet, so to speak. If only the damn stuff would stop failing him. The setback choked his sense of control like a vice around his throat.
His father had told him there was no point in going into business unless you were going to be the best. Rather, the advice had been something like, “You wanna run a business, you gotta do whatever it takes to get on top. Might as well quit and be a shit-scraper if you’re gonna be a pussy about it.”
Tony held that wisdom close. Using methods no one else was brave enough to try, he was on his way to upgrading Aries from a humble Canadian startup to the world’s most cutting-edge aerospace company.
His watch vibrated.
Steve: Korean Space Agency wants you to join the call.
Korea would have to wait. He was already late for an appointment with the bank.
“What are you going to do to fix it?” he said to Scott.
“We’re, uh, looking into it.”
“I hired all of you because you’re the smartest engineers in the world. You’re telling me you don’t know?”
Scott hesitated. Tony hated hesitation.
“There are other engineers who might know more about high-energy liquid tetrapropellant, Doctor Ries.”
“I’ve scoured universities. I’ve head-hunted in the Silicon Valley. They’re too—” Tony waved a hand. “They’re not ready for the scope of the job.”
Scott didn’t need to know how many applicants failed the psychological evaluation. A PhD and a 150 IQ meant squat when the candidate couldn’t pass a basic obedience experiment.
Tony’s watch buzzed again. He ignored it.
If he wanted this propellant, he would have to get his engineers something to work from. Sometimes, they needed a push. Call it inspiration, or pieces of the aerospace puzzle.
This was a gap in the matter that made up his universe. It needed to be filled.
“Give me a week. I’ll get you the data.”
Global Nanosats was making headway in liquid propulsion. They could be of use.
He pulled out his phone to check his calendar. An email notification appeared, reminding him of a development meeting in twenty minutes. He swiped it away.
Stress tickled the base of his brain. He would have to make time to get that data between his other appointments, or cancel a few. This was more important.
He’d known for a while that he was overexerting himself. His universe was expanding faster than he could manage. If he wasn’t careful there would be a stellar collision. He couldn’t keep filling these voids alone.
He needed someone to help him get this information—someone smart, fearless, and malleable. He needed a personal assistant.
Aries 181 has now launched! Get it now in ebook and paperback. Here’s an 80-second video about what inspired the story.
Tiana Warner here, author of the upcoming Aries 181. In this book, an aerospace intern discovers her boss is a supervillain who is stealing technology to build his company. The proof copy just arrived in the mail. It launches March 26th, and today I thought I would talk about what inspired the story.
First, science. If you are fascinated by books like The Martian, the technology in this story has a similar feel. The company ‘Aries’ is based on real aerospace companies, like NASA, who create earth imaging satellites. I’ve worked with some of this technology over the last few years, and was geeking out so hard over it that it sparked an idea for a novel. I thought, what if I stumbled on something I wasn’t supposed to see while working with these satellite images?
Second is being a nerd. If you enjoy books like Ready Player One, the geekery will be up your alley. And plus you can dive into what it’s like to work at a tech company.
Third, a huge part of this novel was inspired by partners in crime. So Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Louise, Joker and Harley. But this supervillain duo is robbing science labs instead of banks.
The book takes place in Vancouver.
And features badass, LGBTQ+ female leads.
And I think that’s all I’ve got to say about it. So that’s what you can expect from Aries 181. Thanks for listening, and get ready for a Chapter 1 preview in a few weeks!
Huge nerd … How do I look?
A crime spree to steal aerospace technology.
An intern with the brains to stop it.
Today I have the pleasure of being featured on Tethered by Letters, where I discuss my writing career, publication path, and the research process behind the Mermaids of Eriana Kwai series.
We’re pleased to launch the preview pages and cover design for Ice Massacre: The Graphic Novel!
Meela and her crew have departed on the Massacre to take on the deadly mermaids who have slain the men before them …
We’re looking to launch the full comic this winter on Patreon. With this platform, we plan to release the comic one page at a time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Patreon is a website where artists can share content as a subscription service. There, you can subscribe to comics, stories, art, podcasts, and more.
After a lot of discussion and pondering, we think this platform could be the best way to launch the comic.
- Timeline. With a publishing house, this comic wouldn’t be released for at least a couple of years. With Patreon, you can experience the story as we create it!
- Affordability. Above all, we want this story to be read and enjoyed by everyone. With Patreon, you pay what you want for the comic.
- Bonus content. We’ll be able to offer rewards to subscribers, like sketch requests and videos.
This means the initial launch will be web-based, but once we’ve released all the pages and the story is complete, we’ll compile them into a print version.
Tell us what Patreon Rewards you want!
Would you subscribe to get advance updates? Would you request a custom sketch of Meela and Lysi? Do you want a video stream, bonus sketches, or something else? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!