More than a few people have asked me why I chose to write a Sci Fi series. Well, the real reason I’ve been writing the Lifeboat Augusta series is included in the front matter of the books themselves. But the question intrigues me. It assumes that Sci Fi is somehow less important, or less serious than other forms of literature.
Let’s be realistic. In my case that means being fairly casual. You won’t find me sitting at my desk in a suit and tie unless it’s absolutely necessary. And it is rarely necessary, I assure you. Let’s dispense with serious terms like, “literature,” or “prose,” and even “author.” Let’s just simply take the position that I have chosen to tell a story. It might be a light-hearted romp, or it might be a dark murderous tale. Perhaps I would choose to tell a children’s story one night, and a sci-fi dramatic story the next. The point is, why would a writer intentionally limit their own imagination, or choose to self-censor the stories they choose to tell. The rationale for this escapes me. It’s inconceivable, really.
Imagine if we transferred that self imposed limitation to music or the visual arts. Would Picasso have been as exciting an artist if he stopped developing his style in his early 20s and simply repeated himself ad infinitum? I don’t think so. Would the Beatles have been more influential to the culture if they simply arrested their development in 1964, choosing to ride the wave of Beatlemania rather than innovate and experiment? No. Not hardly.
Somehow we have fallen into a hole where writers are expected to maintain a certain focus. Many readers seem to wish they would inhabit a genre but never test its boundaries. That’s unnatural to me. My first novel, Burritos and Gasoline, is a traditional buddy story, with a bit of a twist. It involves a road-trip. In fact, some have considered the trip to be one of the characters of the book, in that it causes changes to occur in the other characters. The journey takes on a life of its own. Good. All journey’s should.
I love that book. The story is familiar and comforting to me. Many of the places described in the story actually exist. Some of them are gone now, but some remain. They all passed through my life at some point, or more accurately, I passed through them. Townsend’s Store was real. It’s just a memory today, but I know where it stood. I drive past the spot every summer. Well, almost every summer. That’s where I first started buying cigarettes when I was four years old. My granny would give me a quarter and a nickel and send me down the sand road to Townsend’s Store. I’d be barefoot, shirtless, and perfectly accepted in that little corner of the world. I can remember slapping that change down on the counter and asking with eager anticipation, “Can I have a pack of red Pall Malls, sir?”
Old man Townsend would lean over the counter and look down at my little boy frame and say, “Oh, you’re Queenie’s boy.” Then he’d tousle my hair before sliding a pack of cigarettes across the counter to me. That’s the kind of world I grew up in.
My grandmother’s name really was Queenie. Queenie Belle Beckett she was. It was an intentional name. She picked it out herself because she wasn’t fond of her given name, which was Aretha. Today her tombstone carries her real name. The one she picked and grew into. Queenie Belle. I like that.
So is it any wonder that a boy who grew up like I did might have a story or two to tell? Yep, I bought cigarettes at four, lived in an environment where shirts and shoes were entirely unnecessary, and loved every minute of it. I began driving at 13, on the highway, with my half-blind grandfather at my side. All in all it was the safer alternative. I loved him, but he was blind in one eye and had a cataract in the other. He used his head and knew that of the two of us, I was the better driver. Even though the state issued him a license and refused to extend the same courtesy to me until I was older, he knew better. So I drove him where ever he need to go, rather than us doing it the other way around.
I mention all this as a means of expressing a point. Burritos and Gasoline came from my real life, although it has nothing whatsoever to do with my real life. Except for the parts that do, of course. The Lifeboat Augusta series has to do with real life too. Just because the bulk of the story takes place in earth orbit takes nothing away from the reality of the situations the characters find themselves in. The science is real. The fiction is real too. Together, the series tells quite a story. It’s a good story, too. But it’s not the only story I have to tell. There are others. Burritos and Gasoline, is one. The soon to be released, Deep in the Grove, is another. That’s a completely different kind of story. There is no road trip, no space flight, and no romance of any kind. Deep in the Grove shares only one thing in common with Burritos and Gasoline, and To the Lifeboats, and Just About Armageddon, and Isle of Safety. They’re all written by the same storyteller. Other than that, they’re all completely different.
I think that’s just about right. There’s no point in writing the same story over and over again. You deserve better than that. And so do I.
Now it’s time for me to get back to it. I’ve still got two more installments of the Lifeboat Augusta series to complete. Binary Choices, and Survival of the Fittest, are headed your way. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as the other stories I’ve produced over the years.
Let me know what you think, would you? What’s your preference? Would you rather read just one type of book, or do you enjoy the diversity of the imagination as I do?