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April 20, 2020

 An Outcast and an Ally by Caitlin Lochner
(A Soldier and a Liar #2)
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: April 21st, 2020
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Dark secrets and conflicting loyalties abound as four superpowered teens are torn apart by war in Caitlin Lochner’s An Outcast and an Ally, the epic YA sequel to A Soldier and a Liar.
Lai, Jay, Al, and Erik are on the run after the military accuses them of being traitors. Tensions between everyone are high, but they have to stick together if they want to survive. And somehow stop the war that’s now in full swing.
But when Erik returns to the rebels to find answers about his past, Lai, Al, and Jay have no choice but to go to the Order―a peace coalition bent on stopping the rebels and dissolving the enmity between gifted and ungifted. However, the longer the war drags on, the more Lai’s long-kept secrets threaten to destroy everything she’s ever worked for. Sparks fly as the team constantly questions whether they can trust one another and everyone tries to navigate a war that will change everything.
Filled with the same high-stakes superpowered action and complex relationships as A Soldier and A Liar, Caitlin’s first book, An Outcast and an Ally brings this story to a dramatic and satisfying close.

Guest Post - Tips for Writing Science Fiction

Growing up, I always had a very fixed, narrow idea of what science fiction is. There’d be long scientific explanations about absolutely everything, most of which I wouldn’t understand, in a world so technologically changed from the modern-day world, I know that I would have to swim through a sea of new rules and laws alongside all the science. Because of this preconceived notion lodged in my head about what science fiction must be, I didn’t read much until only a few years ago.

It started with reading Cinder of the Lunar Chronicles series. I didn’t realize it was science fiction when I picked it up, but the more I read, the more I thought, “Wait, this is science fiction too?” I loved how things were explained, the world, the way tech was used. I rarely felt swept up in a sea of explanations so deep I couldn’t keep my head above water. And then when I read Kij Johnson’s collection At the Mouth of the River of Bees and read short stories with sci-fi, I was even more floored by how subtle these elements could be and yet still make for an effective and engaging science fiction story.

I’m still new to the genre, both in terms of reading and writing in it. I wish I could talk about techniques in reference to the long-established and prolific canon, but since I don’t feel well-read enough to give that kind of topic justice, I thought I’d share instead what I learned while I was writing and publishing my own first science fiction books.

    1. It’s okay not to explain everything! This took me a while to get used to since I always considered it a staple of the science fiction genre, but realistically, what everyday person knows how each bit of technology works? I have no idea how cell phones function, and yet I use one every single day. Heck, I don’t even know how simple tech works. So having main characters who aren’t engineers or science-minded makes sense they wouldn’t explain all the tech around them. Much like in fantasy, I’ve noticed, just saying that it exists and this is the way things are and mentioning a few general side notes to give a better idea of whatever it is you’re explaining—this is okay. Your world needs to be fully fleshed out, of course (as in any story), but you don’t have to explain how every aspect of it realistically, scientifically functions.

    2. Science doesn’t have to be the central focus of the story. I feel like this sort of overlaps with my first tip/lesson learned, but all the technology and advancements can be a part of the backdrop and worldbuilding without being what the story is About. The problems don’t have to hinge on science or technology, and they don’t have to take center stage in the conflict or the characters’ lives.

    3. It’s okay to try writing science fiction and feeling doubtful about whether or not it actually is sci-fi! To this day, I still feel like some kind of fake when I say A Soldier and a Liar and An Outcast and an Ally are sci-fi. I feel like I haven’t read enough science fiction, like I didn’t write the sci-fi staples well enough, to claim that genre. But it isn’t fantasy—everything does happen scientifically, even if I don’t understand even the basic concepts of science well enough to explain how. Or at least, I imagine some of these things possibly being able to happen scientifically some hundreds of years from now. So wouldn’t that make it a kind of science fiction?

    4. Have fun with it! You should enjoy writing no matter what you’re writing about or what genre you’re writing in. If you find yourself frustrated trying to figure out how a scientific concept could realistically work, bogged down in research, or struggling to explain something, it’s okay to either skip the full-length explanation or else come back to it later with a fresh mind. Especially with first drafts, you should enjoy the process, world, and story. Don’t let yourself become fenced in with what you think science fiction is supposed to be. Write what you love in the way you love. 

Author Bio:
I’m a nerd, traveler, and architecture enthusiast who worked as an assistant English teacher in Tokyo for three years before pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Central Florida. I love reading and writing anything with magic, adventure, and complex found-family relationships. I can typically be found absorbed in books, games, or manga, or else obsessing over said books, games, and manga.