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Author Interview: Jean Johnson

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Sci-Fi November is a month-long blog event hosted by Rinn Reads and Over The Effing Rainbow. It was created to celebrate everything amazing about science fiction. From TV shows to movies, books to comics, and everything else in between, it was intended to help us share our love and passion for this genre and its many, many fandoms.


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Today I am interviewing Jean Johnson, author of the new science-fiction novel The Blockade, third book in the First Salik War series.

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DJ: Hey Jean! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!

Let’s start with you; for readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Jean Johnson: I’m an author of genre fiction, writing primarily in the science fiction, fantasy, and romance categories, because those are my favorite types of books to read. I also enjoy superhero stories, occasional steampunk fantasies, and so forth, but I’m not a big fan of horror. Growing up in a little patch of rurality surrounded by suburbia, I didn’t have a lot of friends living close enough for me to walk over to their house and visit, so I spend a lot of my childhood reading. My parents encouraged it, taking me frequently to the local libraries and so forth, but after a while, I realized there were stories I wanted to read that no one was writing, and it finally dawned on me that if I wanted to read them, I would have to write them myself. So here I am, twenty-plus books later, with many more still to go.

DJ: What is The Blockade and also the First Salik War series about?

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Jean: The First Salik War series is about, well, the first Salik War, which takes place in the late 2280s, according to our calendar. It’s about humans from Earth reaching out into interstellar space for the very first time, exploring multiple star systems beyond our own, only to encounter aliens that are not only hostile, but whom have already managed to encounter humans who are not from Earth.

In THE TERRANS, the first book, we see things from the Terran perspective, and most of the action takes place either in space we’re become familiar with, or on Earth itself. The first book covers a lot of first contact and political doubts on what humanity—Earth humanity—should do about what they’re discovering. We do get to meet the Salik at the start, but the war effort ends up taking a back seat to the conflicts of trying to figure out how two very different cultures can peacefully interact even when it’s technically the same species.

In the second book, THE V’DAN, we learn a lot more about this other race of humans that has been living for thousands of years on this other world hundreds of lightyears from Earth. The protagonists do that by going to that world to figure out who they are, what they’re like, and how to interact with them. Once the Terrans know how to do that, they hope they can make the transition to interacting with the truly alien, non-human races out there in easier ways…but they still run into trouble because the V’Dan are very different from the Terrans, despite being completely biologically human.

It’s very much a book on cultural clashes, another aspect of both first contact and political troubles. These tensions are worsened by the fact the V’Dan and the other Alliance races are losing their war against the Salik, because the technological playing field favors the aggressor being able to lay plans and carry them out without the defenders being able to adequately prepare against their attacks in time. The Terrans have some seriously good technology that could completely overturn their losing war into a victory…but the cultural clashes are making it difficult to want to volunteer anything for that task.

THE BLOCKADE, final book of the trilogy, works hard to resolve a lot of the problems from the previous two books, while exposing the main characters to the actual war. They can no longer stay in the halls of political power, but must instead go to the various warfronts to make sure that the Terrans are integrating without too many troubles into the Alliance’s efforts to stop the Salik invasions. At this point in the overall timeline of this universe, nobody wants to wipe out the Salik as a race, because xenocide—genocide by any other name—is an horrific thing. But these people are running out of options because the enemy is psychologically committed to hunting and battling everyone they deem inferior. Saving the day will require a lot of hard bluffing and a serious bit of cleverness—based on some actual science, yay!—to save the day.

It’s not as hard-core military science fiction as the first series, Theirs Not To Reason Why, and there is a bit of a lovestory woven throughout all three books, but to be fair, I try not to write cookie-cutter stories and/or characters. Everything is going to be a bit different than what came before. The previous series was very military, to the point I have been accused dozens of times of surely having served in the military. (Confession: I have not.) This one is far more political, cultural, and first contact confusion & clash in its flavoring, but that’s perfectly fine. When we do have a first contact scenario, once you can communicate in each other’s languages—and the Terrans have a pretty good trick for doing that—then you focus on getting to know each other, and hope you don’t make too many obnoxious-to-the-other-side mistakes out of ignorance as you go along. Continue reading

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