Before this past November, I hadn’t attempted to write actual science fiction (hard or soft) in …. thirty years, I’d say, give or take a half-decade.
So, you’re thinking, Anthony, really … as a genre fan, you’re saying the last time you attempted to write a science fiction story was when you were fifteen years old? And my answer is: Yep. Exactly.
I can even remember the plot of that magnum opus, and the influences I was pulling from.
I was reading John Jakes’ KENT FAMILY CHRONICLES, devouring that multi-generational saga (partly for the history, partly for the sex scenes – come on, I was a teenage boy – and partly for the hoped-for revelation that these folks were somehow related to Jonathan, Martha and Clark – come on, I was a geeky teenage boy). I intended to create a multi-generational future saga to bookend Jakes’ tale of America’s past. It would center on a human family who becomes embroiled in Earth’s attempts to colonize not only our own solar system but planets beyond.
The television adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES aired around that time as well. My story needed an initial protagonist, a man at the center of it all who started the dynasty that would take to the stars. Christopher Connelly played Ben Driscoll in CHRONICLES and around the same time guest-starred on THE LOVE BOAT as a character named Rory Daniels. “Rory Driscoll” sounded like a great name to me for a dashing dynasty-starter. (Looking back at Connelly’s IMDB page, one wonders why I didn’t name him “Moses Driscoll” or “Ben Pray,” combining his CHRONICLES character with his other lead TV role of the time, Moses Pray on PAPER MOON. I know I watched MOON, but I guess five years was long enough to forget he played Jodie Foster’s father. But I digress…)
I wrote the first book, which I believe came in at a whopping 200 double-spaced typewritten pages. Rory becomes a part of the out-reaching colonization effort, encounters a secret civilization living among the larger asteroids, and helps build relations with that race which provides Earth with the tech to travel beyond our solar system. (Then, as now, I was not much of a researcher. What did I know about the nature of the asteroid belt and the likelihood of life, even accidentally-stuck-there life?) I was asked by my English teacher, Mrs. Eugenia DelCampo, to let her read it, because she knew Alfred Bester and might be able to offer a young writer some initial advice. I gave up on doing homework that night in favor of taking a pencil to the manuscript and covering up all the embarrassing sex scenes … there ended up being a lot of blacked-out paragraphs!
[Another digression: I did actually speak to Mister Bester on the phone once, thanks to Mrs. DelCampo. This would have been only three years or so before he passed away. He was pleasant, and supportive, despite what I’m sure was an intrusion into his nightly routines. I don‘t remember specifics, but I do remember him offered advice on clarity of word-choice when speaking on the phone: I’d said that I was ‘writing back and forth’ with Superman writer Eliot S! Maggin, and Bester thought I’d said ‘riding back and forth.’ When I explained I meant letters, he said “say ‘corresponding.’ It sounds more professional.”]
I never did write book two of that saga. In fact, not only do I no longer have that manuscript anywhere … I also have no idea where the story would have gone. Rory Driscoll, and his wife Cedar, stuck around though. While I aborted the attempt to write hard science fiction, I started toying with an idea for super-heroes in space.
Super-heroes in outer space? Sure. As part of the Super-Team Amateur Press Alliance (STAPA), I wrote prose stories featuring my own original creations, The Vanguards. I had plans to send them into outer space to meet a group of heroes I called Denthen’s Gladiators. The connection was going to be another character I’d created named Meld – a human scientist working on a space radio array in outer orbit who gets hit with a teleportation beam and ends up melded with a wolf-like alien life form. Meld owed a lot to my obsession with Burroughs’ John Carter books and DC Comics’ Adam Strange, especially in that incarnation. Meld would eventually get separated back into his component parts, with the human half returning to Earth and the alien half regaining his role as the leader of his system’s premiere superhero team. The human scientist’s name? Rory Driscoll, of course.
In November, I was stuck for an idea for National Novel Writing Month and decided to take Rory Driscoll into the “swords/guns and planets” genre, following in John Carter, Carson Napier and Adam Strange’s footsteps. I couldn’t quite get the idea to gel – it became more of a mystery about an amnesiac woman named Cedar whom Rory eventually marries than it was an SF story. So at month’s end, I set it aside.
And then earlier this year I was invited to submit a story to an anthology called SPACE BATTLES.
“Science Fiction?” I said. “What do I know about science fiction?”
Turns out, enough to get the story accepted for publication. I can’t say much about the story itself, but I can say this: it takes place in the Denthen star system.
Thirty years later, I’m back to dealing with Rory Driscoll and that alien star system all over again.