Apr 082015
According to my mother, I’ve been an avid reader since age two.  Apparently, I had memorized from an old TV soda commercial that P-E-P-S-I spelled the name of a tingly, tangy drink that I could only have in occasional sips.  The way she tells it, she almost wrecked her car when I saw a billboard and shouted, “Look mama!  P-E-P-S-I!  That spells Pepsi!”

On a whim, she decided right then to start teaching me to read, and in short order unleashed the hack writer before you now.

As a voracious reader, I’ve always loved discovering the stories behind the stories.  Don’t you?  It’s fascinating to find what makes an author tick… what events, dreams and wishes led to our favorite tales.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some background on my almost-completed novelette Downtime.  I already touched on some of the science aspects here.  But let’s talk about the human elements.

I originally conceived of the core idea in the 1990s.  That was, in the aftermath of some global catastrophe, some resourceful soul manages to get an abandoned spacecraft working and dedicates his life to hauling old written works up to orbital repositories for safekeeping.  I never finished that story because at the time I had trouble making it credible.  So I set it aside.

Like many writers I’m sure, I have stories streaming through my subconscious 24/7.  Sometimes I even emerge from sleep having dreamed a new tale from start to finish.  But usually, I just have current plots idling in the background, stopping to play with them at train signals and stoplights and then letting them loose to evolve again.

Bookworlds was one of those.  Over time I realized I had multiple ideas, and got excited over the prospect of crafting a collection of short stories around the theme of threats to written expression, and the likely remedies.  I put myself into the place of the spacecraft pilots, imagining their loneliness, their idiosyncrasies, their strong sense of duty.

It occurred to me that long-term relationships could be problematic, given that fliers could be out for weeks or even months at a time.  So probably few wives or girlfriends.  Prostitutes, then?  Well, maybe… but ones that stuck around while pilots were grounded.  Something between hooker and significant other…

Thus the term whorewife.

Some may take me to task for such derogatory coinage, but to be fair in the story I apply it to men as well as women.  In addition, history shows that patriarchies tend to form with the emergence of civilization.  So.

In time, the story began building itself around a pilot and the woman who chances into his home for a while.  The title suggested itself, too.

Now, I’m a major science fiction nut,  My favorites are Isaac Asimov, Larry Liven, Steven Barnes, Spider Robinson, Greg Bear, and CJ Cherryh.  I really love hard stuff with well-developed characters.  Hello, Ringworld!

I can write in that genre, easily.  But a story like Downtime needs realistic romantic touches as well.  That’s where my mother’s influence again became a factor.

From around age 12 on, I found myself too persistently hungry for new material to wait on my own book deliveries.  So I began slyly digging into mom’s collection.  There were fascinating classics, like Ken Kesey’s spellbinding One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I couldn’t get enough of those.  But so many tawdry romance novels…

I was probably the only 16-year-old male to cry over Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds.

With that eclectic foundation in place, I felt pretty confident in tackling my own SF-Romance work.  What I didn’t count on was that the female lead became THE lead, and all male characters settled back into the scenery a bit.  I made Leen Gaurige have Roma heritage, because that made it easy for me to stereotypically imagine her strength and defiance.

At this point, I envision the collection as three novelettes: Incidental Winters, Downtime, and Reboot.  Each will have its own feel, and the trilogy won’t follow the well-worn Hollywood three-part arc.

So much for movie rights.  But wait until you see what I have in store!

I’m especially proud of what I think is a competent job writing a female lead.  Of course the critics will weigh in on that after publication, no doubt.  And don’t get me wrong: it’s not SF-Porn.  I’m too chickenshit for that.

Besides, what would my mother think?

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