Let me start with an irony or a coincidence. Whenever I finish writing or producing a book and it becomes available for sale I consider it “launched”. Maybe that has something to do with being trained as an aerospace engineer. My most recent book and my first science fiction novel is launched! And it is called Firewatcher. It is a science fiction novel so it isn’t much of a surprise that it starts with a space ship that was launched. Now the book is launched, too.
At a quick read it is a story about pioneers who worked hard at escaping Earth because they fear an artificial intelligence that has become dangerously powerful; but if they act quickly they can escape. They don’t know where they will go, but they will go. That also can describe any book. An author writes it, launches it, has hopes, but doesn’t actually know the kind of journey it will have.
After a deeper read there are ideas to play with like what is truly alien, what old habits must be abandoned and what new habits must be formed. There’s also the very human story of what happens when colonists leave Earth to settle a new planet, hoping to find one that is unpopulated but livable, and then populate it. We carry our soap operas and gossip mills with us.
But is that what readers will get out of it? Authors never know for sure. It is launched. You get to help decide how far it will go.
This is my eighth book, but my first bit of fiction. I think I startled a fellow writer when I pointed out that I designed it for sequels and already have about six in mind. Firewatcher may be the biggest because it establishes the world and the characters that will live (well, most of them will live) in the sequels.
The most common question has been (Hey, I already have a FAQ!), “How long did it take you to write it?” Sorry, I didn’t take notes. The simple answer is that it took about three years, starting before the pandemic. The truer and deeper answer is more like nine years because it took about six years to invent the maths, physics, biology, culture, physiology, botany, etc. that would enable a ship to transit dimensional space and encounter a suitable planet. Aside from the technical aspects, how could they organize such an escape? What would they be able to carry without knowing the planet’s or the moon’s or the asteroid’s features and challenges?
And then there were the aliens, but to describe them would take a book – which is called Firewatcher. (Available on Amazon)
It was a balancing act to create aliens that are more than people in costumes without being so alien that we couldn’t make sense of them. I hope I succeeded.
As for what happens on Earth, the colonists purposely decide to lose contact so they can’t be followed. (That also allows a sequel(s) about what happens after they leave. Dystopia? Revelation? Singularity?)
I won’t relay the entire story about how I decided to write the novel, at least yet. I’ll save that for public readings and such; but I can reveal that the universe gave me a couple of HINTS that I was sure I shouldn’t ignore.
One sign that I was enjoying the process was that I found myself more drawn to the story about Ari and Cho than to watching shows at night. It turned me from being a spectator to being a participant in the scifi genre. They helped me get through the pandemic.
I started with an image, expected it to become a hard science fiction story, and found that my characters had challenges but also had a sense of humor. Hard science fiction, as I interpret it, is a story where there should be a reason why the science could work. One way I look at it is, Star Trek is science fiction because there’s usually an engineer fixing problems while Star Wars started with explanations and philosophies. Eventually Star Wars described more details about The Force and the Kessel Run, but that came later. I think I needed a bit of humor and some mental exercises over the previous few years.
I’ve probably gone on more than enough but as most writers know; “If I Had More Time I Could Have Made It Shorter – #IIHMTICHMIS”.
Before I finish making dinner I want to pass along some thanks that I’ll lift from the book.
Thanks to Rob Schouten for allowing the use of the image of his original painting, Fire, for the cover art. Also, thanks to Joe Menth for his assistance with the cover design.
Thanks to Don Scoby for an early review of the concept.
Thanks as well to Brian Kern and Richard Pelletier for support and holding onto backup covers of various drafts as the work developed.
Thanks to mathematics for the inspiration from a simple, elegant, and deep equation. eiπ+1=0
Escaping a digital dystopia
Too little time to safely plan and prepare
Can they survive?
In a world where people trust computers
more than people, power shifts.
A resistance movement finds a way to flee
while in plain sight.
No one is perfect, not even the aliens,
and who is really alien?
For anyone who has a story and wants to learn more about the process, Don Scoby and I will be teaching a workshop on self-publishing, “From Inspiration To Publication”, on Saturday, October 15 in Coupeville, WA. Contact me for details.
Thanks for reading along. I hope you enjoy the story and want to hear more. I am also a fan of the idea that everyone has a story to tell, and I hope I can help.
Just finished the book – in one day. There were many typos (which I did not record to let you know in part because of no page numbers!). It was a compelling read with relatable characters combined into a well told story which prompted in me a plethora of scientific questions. When is the next book launching? I want to find out if the ocean fish are sentient!