Exploring the First Contact Cafe

Greetings from the Dragon Lair of Irene Radford aka P.R. Frost, aka C.F. Bentley, Phyl to my friends:

Today the first of my short stories rotates to the front page of Book View Cafe. “It’s A Con World Afterall” first appeared in a highly abbreviated form in the program book for RadCon in 2003 when I was Guest of Honor. At the time, RadCon was still primarlily a regional gaming con with limited guests and paneling, 12 guest and about 800 members. Wow has that con changed in 5 short years. In 2008 the convention hosted about 2000 members and 175 guests. To tie in with the dominant membership in 2003 I wrote the short story based upon a world I’d created for an anthology and is now a featured part of my newest series “The Confederated Star Systems Volume #1: Harmony,” by C.F. Bentley from DAW Books August 2008.

Let’s back up a bit to another con. The programming committee of BayCon — Memorial Day weekend in San Jose, California — put me on a panel entitled “First Contact Etiquette.” We explored the purpose of etiquette and the nature of first contacts. At some point an audience member (I think) reminded us that when you meet someone on the internet, you do not invite them to your home for a first face to face, you rendezvous at a coffee shop elsewhere in the city. So shouldn’t we also have a First Contact Cafe in space for that primary face to face meeting?

Bells rang in my head. Idea!

So I wrote a short story entitled “First Contact Cafe” in which humans first venture out into alien space to make a trade agreement. The story found a home in the Space Stations anthology published by DAW, edited by Martin Greenberg and John Helfers. I wrote two more stories, including “It’s A Con World Afterall” in that world that never found the right market.

And then I began the new series beginning with Harmony. I needed a space station for some delicate diplomatic negotiations. Why should I invent a whole new one when I had a design and an alien species in place with a plethora of stories buzzing in my head. So at the end of “Harmony” my characters land on the First Contact Cafe. In “Enigma” the sequal (DAW Books August 2009) the majority of the action takes place on that space station. At this point I had to do some serious redesign of the station to make it work. Many thanks to my friend and collaborator (on a different story) RadCon Bob Brown for his help with the physics of the the thing. Someday I’m going to pry off his harddrive the lyrics to a filk entitled “It’s A Con World Afterall.” I think you can guess the earworm of a tune.

So, welcome to the First Contact Cafe. I hope you enjoy my world and follow it around the universe.


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: www.ireneradford.net Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.

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