(Part One of a Three Part Series)
Writers hear it again and again: write the book you want to read. I’ve been circling closer and closer for years. No, for decades. I’ve always had a soft spot for science fiction. I was a part of the generation who were wakened from cozy beds to watch astronauts set foot on the moon. I remember sitting very close to the TV in an attempt to see the puffy men better. Mom and Dad got us up to see stellar activity as well: constellations, planets that came closer than usual or lined up in a row, and comets, infrequent but lovely visitors to our world.
I sat in the front row the day the For Reals NASA Astronaut talked to us in school, and if I hadn’t already fallen deeply in love with books and writing, I’m certain I would have tried for work at NASA. As I grew older, I tagged along when my dad went to lectures on space, stars, UFO’s, and one very special time, to a talk delivered by Ray Bradbury, who shook my hand, treated me like an adult, and signed my book. (He paused for a peppermint first, telling me his breath tasted like six dead rats—a phrase I have never forgotten. Why six? Why dead? Why rats? Oh, what wonderful things you can do with words!)
In middle-school, I checked out science fiction books, asked my nerdiest teachers to recommend more authors, and hid the book covers so my girlfriends wouldn’t sneer. Heinlein I liked, Asimov I didn’t understand, and Bradbury terrified me, but I couldn’t stay away! My own writing at this time always veered quickly to the speculative, although again, I hid it from everyone but a few teachers.
Eventually I discovered The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, The Sword of Shannara and the Prydain books. Stories with an epic villain and heroes who didn’t all die in the cold vacuum of space at the novel’s close. I liked this better—these hope-filled endings—and set aside my search for written Sci-Fi, enjoying doses of screen Sci-Fi instead. I’ve only started reading Sci-Fi again in the last few years (and death-by-the-great-vacuum-of-space is still popular), but I’ve maintained a soft spot for attenders of Star Trek conventions and get tears in my eyes riding Mission: Space in Florida. (The part where Gary Sinese tells me it’s okay to feel a little scared and he’s proud of me? OMGZ—where’s my Kleenex???)
You must write the book that only you can write. You must write even when you are scared to death everyone will hate it but you. You must write what you love. These words echoed in my head for decades, a Grecian chorus of voices, insistent. And right, too, I knew. But for so very long, I wasn’t ready to share anything Sci-Fi that I’d written. Something about recalling too clearly the snickering when classmates saw my copy of THE MAKING OF STAR TREK. (I know. I know. But that is for Part Two.)
Well, I’ve done it now. I’ve gone and written the first book in a science-fiction series. (Cover reveal coming in Part Three of this post!) I’m terrified. Will the cool kids still be laughing? I think it might be the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s the kind of book I love to read—with a cause worth fighting for and flying through the stars and love and loss and in the end, hope. And I do hope, dear reader, that some of you have a soft spot for science fiction as well. Anyone feeling brave enough to confess?
4 Replies to “Writing What You Love”
Heinlein is a god. There, I said it. Stephen R. Donaldson has rocked my world twice. Neal Stephenson, well, he needs an editor, badly. But when he’s on- oh, so wonderful. (“Reamde” was excellant, tho not SciFi) Sheri Tepper, “The Gate to Women’s Country” and almost anything else, better than Amos. So…I’m looking forward to adding Swanson to the pantheon!
Which Donaldson do you recommend? Keeping in mind my quest for stars, a fight worth fighting, love, loss, and hope? As to being a member of a pantheon, are there dues and CCRs I should be aware of first?:D
Donaldson has only done one scifi that I know of and it wasn’t his best, though nice plot twist ending. I started him in 81 on post grad trip to europe, “The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” which is fantasy trilogy. The other wonderful duo was “A Mirror of Her Dreams” and “A Man Rides Through,” also fantasy, but again the plot so well done. Natalie and I read that aloud on way to Au Sable summer class during seminary. Incredible fights, love, loss and hope. Yes.
Dues? Write from your gut as well as heart, do the math and science (I really do love Heinlein!) and don’t flinch from killing a favorite character!
Ha! I was thinking more “no livestock” or “maintain landscaping” and you gave me actual good advice! 😀