We’re lucky enough to have an interview with S.C. Jensen, author of the popular indie cyberpunk series Bubbles in Space. She’s agreed to sit down with us and explain some of the things that went into her writing process.
[GdM] Could you describe what Bubbles in Space is about?
Bubbles in Space started off as an irreverent cyberpunk love letter to my favourite noir writers, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. It’s about an ex-drinking ex-cop with a cybernetic arm, a semi-legal P.I. license, and a knack for getting herself into trouble.
I meant for it to be a lighthearted, fun, “fluffy” sci-fi series to kind of purge my system after I finished writing a much darker, dystopian sci-fi trilogy… But it turns out I can’t really write fun and fluffy.
Bubbles in Space is a grit and glitter sandwich with a side of off-the-wall cynicism. It starts off fun and quirky and gets a bit darker the deeper into the series we get.
I do still think it’s pretty fun and funny for the right kind of reader: sci-fi lovers who don’t take themselves too seriously, noir lovers looking for something a little different, weirdos with a twisted sense of humour. People like me, basically.
[GdM] What is Bubbles Marlowe like?
Bubbles Marlowe is a bit of a screw up. She’s newly sober, trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in the world. While she’s solving mysteries and trying not to get killed, she’s also repairing broken relationships and attempting to prove her self-worth. She’s fiercely protective of her friends and believes that everyone is worth saving. But she’s the queen of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.
Bubbles’ character is based on my own experience with alcohol addiction and the rollercoaster to recovery. I really wanted her to reflect what it’s like to have to re-discover who you are in your mid-30s when a major part of your adult identity has been stripped away. I hope others in recovery will see their own struggles reflected in the ups and downs of her character arc. Especially the ups!
This might be a bit of a spoiler, but I think it’s important to mention for those who are in recovery: I will not be using relapse as a plot twist. Bubbles is sober and she will stay sober for the entire series. Her character arc is about recovery.
[GdM] What’s her situation at the start of Tropical Punch?
Bubbles is having a rough go of it. The Chief of Police wants her dead, she’s got no money, she’s been warned off a case by her ex-partner. And when she takes what should be a straightforward job delivering a message to an exotic dancer, heads literally roll. No matter what she does, Bubbles seems to make things worse. So she decides she needs to get out of town. Of course, that goes about as well as you’d expect!
[GdM] What attracted you to the cyberpunk genre?
Cyberpunk embodies all of my favourite themes in writing. Before I was really cognizant of the genre, I was exploring things like income disparity, classism, life in the underbelly of society. I think this is what drew me, as a reader, to the old noir pulp detective stories.
As technology becomes a greater and greater part of our everyday lives, I am very interested in the ways that it exacerbates these problems, and also the ways that it acts as an equalizer. Cyberpunk is neo-noir in essence, and that’s what really attracted me to the genre. I love the aesthetic dichotomies of cyberpunk, too. Darkness and light, metal and flesh, human and machine. It’s got so much potential!
[GdM] How would you describe HoloCity?
HoloCity is the quintessential western cyberpunk city. It’s a sprawling megacity controlled by powerful corporations and economic interests, world governments have been replaced by Trade Zones, politicians and law enforcement are bought and paid for so no one ever really knows where anyone’s loyalties lie. It’s capitalism on steroids, basically. This creates some challenges for our underprivileged protagonists, but it creates opportunities too.
[GdM] Who is your favorite character after Bubbles?
I love them all! That’s a tough question…
I see Hammett, her sobriety support pet (an electronic pig) as a kind of extension of Bubbles so I can’t choose it. I think it’s a toss up between Dickie Roh, Bubbles’ pulp noir fan boy partner at the detective agency, and Cosmo Régale, the lusty gender bending fashion magnate. They are both comic relief type characters and act as a balance against some of the darker themes at work in the series, but they serve as important supports to Bubbles’ development in their own ways.
[GdM] Why does cyberpunk work so well with noir detective stories?
I started to get into this a little earlier. I think cyberpunk is really a kind of neo-noir. It’s exploring the same themes as 1930s-1950s noir detective novels—morality in a corrupt society, the criminal underbelly of wealth and prosperity. Noir detectives tended to be underdogs, outsiders to the wealthy worlds of their clients, and they often uncovered the hidden seediness of upper-class lives. Pulp noir was an exploration of ethics, and a deconstruction of the idea that money equals human worth.
Cyberpunk does all of this, too, and it expands on it.
Cyberpunk goes beyond considering morality in a corrupt world. It asks not only what it means to be “good” but explores what it means to be human. Then it deconstructs the idea that to be human is to be good.
I think that’s the power of a film adaptation like Blade Runner from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The ethics of transhumanism are a much bigger and more complex issue today than the morality of the 1930s, but thematically they are similar. Both questions are rooted in our need to classify this as “good” and “bad.” Both genres force us to question whether there is such a thing as good and bad in a corrupt world.
[GdM] How has the response been to the Bubbles series?
Bubbles in Space is a bit of an odd-ball genre mash-up so it has been difficult to find the right readers. Some people don’t really “get it,” and that’s okay. I knew that was a risk when I started it.
I’m frankly not very good at writing to market, and I probably never will be. That’s both a blessing and a curse. Bubbles might never be a mainstream best-seller (that wouldn’t be very cyberpunk anyway) but she’s got a strong, loyal following which is a dream come true for me.
Overall, the response to Bubbles in Space has been overwhelmingly positive. I am thrilled and humbled to be finding my little group of weirdo book nerds who do “get it” and love the series as much as I do!
One of the best things about being a niche writer is that I have a very strong relationship with my readers. I’m able to respond to emails and messages personally and get to know the people who reach out. This, more than anything, makes me feel like Bubbles has been a huge success!
[GdM] Do you have any advice for indie authors?
My best advice for other indie writers is, no matter what, just keep writing. Get your work out there. Most “overnight” successes are many years in the making. You don’t have to have a run-away hit to make a living as a writer so don’t let “perfection” get in the way of progress. This is a long game!
I recommend joining a professional group and surrounding yourself with other people in the business. I love the Facebook group 20BooksTo50K® and would love to see you there!
[GdM] What can we expect from you now?
Books, books, and more books!
I plan to have the last two books in Bubbles in Space out before the end of 2021. I also have a series of standalone novellas, called Holocity Case Files, for those who want a glimpse into Bubbles’ first cases. The first one, Dames For Hire, is available for free to those who join my VIP Readers Club, or you can buy it on Amazon for $0.99. I’m hoping to have the next couple out early next year.
I will be expanding on the HoloCity world with a techno-thriller series, too!
I am re-releasing my first novel, The Timekeepers’ War, as well as the 2-4 other books in that series in 2022 as well. My original publisher sadly passed away this year before the release of the second book, so I am waiting for copyright to revert to me and I will be publishing the series independently.
This is a dark science fantasy series set in the same story universe as Bubbles in Space, but not directly connected (yet). Fans of the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genres who are looking for something a little different will love this series!
If you haven’t read The Timekeepers’ War yet and are interested in the series, I ask that you please wait to buy the second edition. The first edition is tied up with my publisher’s estate and I don’t know yet if I will see the royalties from those sales while the book is in limbo. Thank you for your patience. You can join my mailing list for updates!