“Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all”. ~Isaac Asimov
On July 11, 2015, I had a crazy, elaborate dream. It was so visceral and bizarre that soon after I woke I grabbed my phone and created a note about it, recalling every detail that I could still gather to capture what happened before it was lost. I don’t make notes about my dreams, but this one felt like the story could be a publishable work of fiction. I am primarily a memoirist. That is my wheelhouse. I have never been big on writing fictional stories because they require a honed imagination and careful story planning and dialogue skills that I have not developed. Fiction is frightening. Telling honest stories about my life is natural for me because I began my writing life with a collection of journal entries. My blog posts are a continuation, my online, open-to-everyone journal. I strive to tell it like it is, not make stories up.
So, I have sat on this dream/story idea because it starts in a dystopian future and has science fiction elements. Again, not my forte. Four years ago, on a whim I found some inspiration and managed to pen a first chapter. It felt foreign, forced, and feeble. Still, I managed to get three-thousand words on paper and a couple characters introduced. Then I put it away again, not sure where to go next or if I should even bother.
About a month ago, I rediscovered the beginnings of this story. I printed it out and took it to my son. Luke is a voracious reader of all things, but especially science fiction. I gave him my printed pages and said that if he had a chance and was interested, he could read what I had written. I had zero expectations but, since he is our resident sci-fi nerd and the other writer in our four-person clan, I thought perhaps he would find value in it. He read it and came to me immediately to discuss it. He was excited about the idea. I was excited he was excited. I still didn’t know, however, how to proceed. So, I shelved it again.
Yesterday, Luke came to me with a printed page of his own. It was filled with suggestions about my story from the sci-fi perspective. On the document, he had outlined proposed themes, information about the sci-fi aspects, and a suggested sci-fi book he thought might help me get unstuck in my process. At the top of the page, there was a heading (A Few Suggestions From Your Nerdy Son) followed by this introductory paragraph:
“Dear Mom…You are a great writer. I want to see you and your story succeed. You have helped me improve my writing and I want to return the favor. Your story’s premise is fascinating and your writing is clean and elegant. I have a few suggestions, which may improve the science fiction aspects of your tale, however. I am not trying to impose my will on your creative process. I love the concepts you have instilled in your narrative and I want to see them brought to their fullest potential. Please keep me updated on your progress, and I am always ready to help and brainstorm. Love you, Sincerely, Your Son“
Seriously? I shed a couple genuine tears over his thoughtful kindness and eagerness to help. I couldn’t decide what to feel the most proud about. Was it that my son was being my support, cheering me on about writing a work of science fiction that frankly scares the hell out of me? Was it that he had taken his own free time on summer break to come up with a page (front and back, mind you) of science fiction insight, themes, and encouragement? Was it that he had done such a great job formatting and presenting his information? Was it that I felt loved and seen? Was it that the one chapter he read a month ago was still churning around in his head? Was it that there might actually be some value in my narrative idea? So much to consider.
I hope Luke will continue to embolden me to write, to move beyond my comfort zone, get some knowledge of the genre, and stop telling myself it makes no sense for me to write a dystopian, sci-fi story focused on a lost and struggling, middle-aged female protagonist. Every writer needs a Luke in their corner, someone who not only provides encouragement but is also a valuable sounding board and idea person. If I ever do finish my story and publish it, you can be sure that Luke’s name will appear prominently in the Acknowledgments section and probably in the Dedication section as well. Writers need other writers. And how much better does it get than being a writer with another writer in your house and your corner?
To this day, I am unsure what inspired me to begin writing “Sasha of The Chukchi Sea: An Arctic Dog’s Life”. I was just going to write some posts, and put them up as a serial. Not even testing the waters of fiction writing, but really doodling. The main character is named for my own dog, so I guess I took a shine to her. I wrote about a sled dog in the Arctic because I’m a big fan of “Challenge of The Yukon” (the radio series, not the LeRoy Snell book from which the title was purloined) and “Sergeant Preston of The Yukon”, continuing on to television until 1958. The story featured Yukon King, “swiftest and strongest of lead dogs”.
I would paste together a few paragraphs and post them for yuks. Before I knew it, the characters and the story called to me. I wrote posts that were like a radio serial; cliffhangers and “find out in our next episode.”
I, too, had to know “what happens next?”, and so was compelled to continue writing to satisfy my own curiosity.
When I reached 30 posts, I realized it was a book. The first one, “Homestead”, is pretty clunky and thin, but gets the characters and tone established, so I published it anyway.
The second book, “Lodge”, was also written and posted as a blog serial, but done so as chapters for a book at its completion. I don’t think Newberry or Pulitzer will be calling on me any time soon, but I am proud of “Lodge”, a real book with a beginning, middle and end (and even an open door for the next volume!)
I’m presently up to the 11th chapter of the third book, “Caravan”, and continue to post the draft chapters on Sasha’s own website- Sasha Of The Chukchi Sea.com.
I edited and published the works myself through Amazon Direct Publishing, and made print books and e-books available to the world! It costs absolutely nothing out of pocket to do it.
I published a collection of posts from my first and original blog, Armchair Zen, in a volume called “Gleanings”, and intend to something similar in the future with more focus on the poetry content.
I share this lengthy story with you to encourage you to jump in to your sci-fi story, write it the way you’d want to read it. Do it! Do it! Do it! (Plus you have an expert advisor in your corner for FREE with Luke!)
If nothing else, it has been incredibly rewarding and liberating, and feels like accomplishment, to have actually written 30 chapters that can be called, collectively, a book.
Good luck, and Write On!
Thanks for the encouragement, Paz. I love that you created your own book series. Writing is hard work, so no matter how it comes about I am impressed by the motivation to keep going. I am going to do some sci-fi reading and see if I can get myself more involved in the genre before I take off down this path, but I am intrigued by where it could go. Stay well!