With her mind-bending stories and captivating storytelling, Betty Adams has solidified her status as a master of the genre. In this exclusive interview, we dive deep into her imaginative universe, uncovering the inspirations, challenges, and sheer wonder that drive her literary creations. Both ‘Dying Embers’ and ‘Humans are Weird’ are exploring the cosmos through a new and unique perspective. This is why we’ve decided to take the opportunity to peek into the mind of Betty Adams to discover how her stories are created and what are her future plans.
FH: How did you go from a biology major to a sci-fi writer? And how does your academic background serve as an inspiration for your stories?
Betty Adams: I always knew I wanted to write. I “Published” my first book in third grade as a class project. We wrote, illustrated, and bound the books. My mom still has it on display in her China hutch. I was particularly inspired by the book “Gentle Ben” and other stories that told of children interacting with nature.
I wanted to become a scientist and tell interesting stories of the natural world to children, to inspire them to feel the same wonder about the natural world that I did. Now that I write science fiction, it provides endless input into my stories. The vast majority of my stories are set in ecology research situations.
How do you balance the comedic elements with the overall plot and educational messages of the “Humans are Weird “series?
I take most of the comedic elements from real life. It is, from my observations, simply the natural flow of nature for scientists to laugh, to be absurd, and to recognize each other’s absurdity. Most of my stories are ‘ripped from real life.’ So when I write, I am just telling an interesting story about people doing either science or engineering. The humor just flows out of that naturally.
Have you ever received any surprising or unexpected reactions from readers regarding the aforementioned series?
There have been many surprises. The thing that really surprised me is how my fans retain details and discuss them with each other. For instance, the Shatar are an insect species, and the vast majority of their population is nominally female. One of my fans was confused by one short story and asked me a question.
Before I even got the notification, several other fans had jumped in and explained the social dynamics of the Shatar hives in explicit and accurate detail. I was enchanted by this, and not just because it saved me work.
How do you handle the process of creating believe alien characters in your stories, and once again, how does your background in biology affect that process?
To create believable alien characters, you have to give them motivations that humans understand. That is it. Biology is utterly secondary to that. Take Q from star trek. He is a being of pure energy, and yet he is bored and curious, so we humans empathize with him. I give my aliens motivations such as curiosity, hunger, and fear.
Physically yes, my biology played a huge role in making them scientifically grounded. For most of the aliens, it started as a what-if. “What if mantids were four feet tall?” and I built their biology around that. What would safety concerns be for a species with an exoskeleton? How would they differ from a species with an endoskeleton? The species I poured most of my scientific background into are the Undulates.
One of the defining definitions of life in biology is that an organism must be cellular. So I asked myself what would a non-cellular lifeform look like, and I built up everything about Undulates, from their culture to their homeworld, from that concept.
Are there any specific authors or books that have influenced your writing style or approach to storytelling?
George MacDonald’s fairy stories (he wrote at the same time as Mary Shelly, and if she gave science fiction its body, he gave science fiction his soul), CS Lewis, of course, Tolkien, LM Montgomery, Patrick McManus, James Herriot, there are so many authors that influenced me it seems unfair to list any.
But ultimately, the two authors who influenced me the most were my mother and father. Both were journalists with a love of reading and, by example, made a bookworm of me.
How do you balance the scientific accuracy of your stories with the need for an entertaining & funny narrative?
I generally do not find scientific accuracy in conflict with entertainment and humor. I find that I can usually make the story funnier by sticking strictly to the laws of nature. However, there are three great scientific challenges that I do ignore. Firstly, faster than light travel. I simply don’t address all its complications of time dilation and retaliative time.
This is easy as my characters are usually on planets or relatively stationary space stations. I do have a theoretical FTL drive with diagrams all based on an actual current theory, but it really never comes up. Secondly, the language barrier. This one I don’t ignore so hard. Some of my scientists are linguists, but I just skip over most of the history of how the aliens all learned to speak to each other.
For the story to be entertaining, I need my characters to be able to communicate. Thirdly, I do largely ignore the potential for cross-species diseases. I very deliberately hypothesized that the different alien systems are simply too different for pathogens to jump species. I do address that bodily fluids might be toxic, but in order to avoid complications, I decided that you don’t have to worry about alien flu bugs.
What do you hope readers take away from the “Humans Are Weird” series? What is the general message in your own words?
I hope readers take away joy, peace, and a bit of happiness. I want my books to be escapism that helps readers leave behind all of the annoying parts of reality for a moment. If they take anything out of my stories back into the real world. I want it to be just a sense that life and humanity are absurd, and most of our problems deserve to be laughed at just a little.
Are there any fictional worlds or universes from other books or movies that you wish you could explore or write about in your own stories?
Yes and No, I am fiercely protective of my own stories, and bringing in another author’s creations would feel like corruption. However, anything with winged dragons is very, very tempting.
Regarding your book “Dying Embers, “what inspired you to create a protagonist like Drake McCarty, who has the unique ability to see things that no one else can?
This was heavily influenced by both my Cherokee and Irish heritage. The concept of a family producing someone with ‘second sight’ every few generations is a long-standing tradition. It was also inspired by real-life science. I have family members that are colorblind. Their pattern recognition and night vision are so good that they can spot predators moving through the brush where no one else would. They can very, very literally see things that no one else can.
I also have family members who have extra color receptors and can see colors others can’t. I just extended that very real biological concept into a certain percentage of the population having the ability to ‘see’ beings without physical bodies.
What challenges did you encounter while blending elements of science fiction, adventure, and international tensions in the story “Dying Embers “?
The biggest time sink was getting trapped in research loops. I said I have a functional theory for faster-than-light engines? Well, I spent an inordinate amount of time hunting up scientists and theories for that.
Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with our readers?
July 2023, I will be running both Indiegogo and Kickstart campaigns for the prequel to “Dying Embers,” The book “Flying Sparks” Volume 1 – Trees Walk, Boulders Dance, and Stars Sing of War. You can check out the Indiegogo campaign on this link.