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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Stewards of the Flame (The Hidden Flame, #2) by Sylvia Engdahl

About Sylvia Engdahl

Sylvia Engdahl is best known as the author of highly-acclaimed Young Adult science fiction novels, one of which was a Newbery Honor book and a finalist for the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year in the Rediscovery category. However, her trilogy Children of the Star, originally written for teens, was republished as adult SF, and she is now writing fiction only for adults. Engdahl is a strong advocate of space colonization and has maintained a widely-read space section of her website for many years. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, and currently works as a freelance editor of nonfiction anthologies. For more information about Sylvia Engdahl, visit her website here. If you would like to read up more about Stewards of the Flame, visit the book website here.

About Stewards of the Flame

When burned-out starship captain Jesse Sanders is seized by a dictatorial medical regime and detained on the colony planet Undine, he has no idea that he is about to be plunged into a bewildering new life that will involve ordeals and joys beyond anything he has ever imagined, as well as the love of a woman with powers that seem superhuman. Still less does he suspect that he must soon take responsibility for the lives of people he has come to care about and the preservation of their hopes for the future of humankind. This controversial novel winner of a bronze medal in the 2008 Independent Publisher (IPPY) book awards, deals with government-imposed health care, with end-of-life issues, and with the so-called paranormal powers of the human mind. Despite being set in the distant future on another world, it's not intended just for science fiction fans. Blogcritics said, "The story is compelling, and drew me in from the first few pages. . . . Stewards of the Flame is a thought-provoking novel that may make you question the authority and direction of modern Western medical practices. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading genre fiction with some substance to it."

Guest Post with Sylvia Engdahl

I've always had ideas about the future, and about humankind's relation to the universe, that I wanted very much to express. More often than not, my view of such issues contrasts with prevailing views. I'm inspired mainly by the wish to explore them, but I want to do it through the thoughts and feelings of characters who have to deal with them, rather than in the abstract. It's generally hard for me to think of events -- action -- through which the characters can confront them; I've come up with story ideas during only a few short periods of my life. But when I do get a plot idea, then I'm completely absorbed in the story until it is finished. I don't write, or even read, typical science fiction. My novels are not action/adventure stories, and they focus neither on strange environments nor on the details of hypothetical technologies. They're about characters portrayed like real people of today. Stewards of the Flame is set on a world colonized in the distant future by settlers from Earth. Its problems are more like today's problems, extended just a little beyond today's reality, than how the distant future will really be. But the story required a separate planet with a history of prior generations, and interstellar travel isn't going to occur for centuries considering that we're still dragging our feet on colonizing Mars, so I had no choice about its placement in time. In many ways the novel appeals more to readers of mainstream fiction than science fiction fans, but there is just no way to market a book about the future on another planet as mainstream; no matter what I say about it, it gets an SF genre label, making it hard for readers not looking for that genre to find. I hate the "genre" concept, but that's another topic. . . . I combined two issues I wanted to explore in fiction when writing Stewards of the Flame. In the first place, what might be the logical conclusion of today's trend toward government control of health care? My own feeling is that it could end in the takeover of the government (at least in a small colony) by medical authorities, depriving the citizens of their personal freedom. The people of the story live under what is essentially a dictatorship, but it wasn't imposed on the population by force -- they voted it in through misguided placement of health issues above all other values. The protagonists can't aim to overthrow it because it was established democratically, so they oppose it in another way, which involves the development of "paranormal" mind powers. I don't think of such powers as weird or supernatural. To me, they represent the future evolution of humankind. My view of the future is less pessimistic than the one common today, and I'm impatient with fiction that suggests we're not progressing. That, more than anything, impels me to create fiction of my own.

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