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Brothers in Science Fiction

When I was about three or four, my mom got a bleed in her brain stem. She had to have brain surgery, and she almost didn’t make it. Even after the surgery, there were months of recovery and doctor’s appointments. She was there for us four kids as much as she could be, but when she couldn’t, my oldest brother was a big source of friendship and comfort.

I learned so much from him, but here I’m focusing on the love of words and story. He taught me about Star Wars, about the Force, the Jedi. We even watched the almost-forgotten George Lucas classic, Willow. Multiple times. He would read me The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, and probably more that I don’t even remember. Stories, for both of us, have been a large part of our lives.

My mom, thankfully, got better. My brother went off to college and started his life. We grew apart in some ways, only because of distance and the fact that we saw each other less. But over recent years we have reconnected over our love of science fiction books.

It started with him telling me about Leviathan Wakes, the first book of epic sci-fi series The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. I’m still working my way through the series, though he’s read all of them. And some more than once.

From there, even though we’re states apart, we just started sharing book recommendations and talking about books. It all clicked how much we were reconnecting over books when he sent me this in the mail:

The ethereal blue fox plays a central role in the phenomenal Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer. Now, my brother is not a big fan of this book. But he knew how much the book meant to me on an emotional level. So he got a block of shiny blue plastic and made a blue fox with an at-home 3D printer. It is one of the most meaningful and thoughtful gifts that I’ve ever received.

For me, and many others, books don’t take us away from our lives or relationships. They enhance them, bringing a deeper sense of wonder and understanding to the world around us. And it is that wonder and understanding, brought about for us by means of science fiction, that has reconnected my brother and I, strengthening our relationship. The power of fiction to directly impact our lives for good never ceases to amaze me.

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Sci-Fi Trilogy: This Foreign Universe

Currently, my main work in progress is This Foreign Universe, a sci-fi trilogy that opens with Foreign Land. This first of three centers on two main protagonists.

Smith is a biotech farmer. He left his home on humanity’s first generation ship with his wife and their teenage son to help colonize the planet Aethera. Their colony ship breaks apart in the atmosphere. Smith loses his wife and the colony loses countless others in the crash. Struggling against grief, Smith fights to overcome the loss of his wife whilst attempting to help his son do the same. But Aethera proves to be far less hospitable than they had hoped. Unseen creatures and impossible biotech threaten the colonist’s lives. They invade Smith’s mind, bringing him to question his own sanity.

Back on the generation ship Smith left behind, his apprentice Tashon seeks answers from the ship’s leaders. Why haven’t they received any news from the colony on Aethera? More significantly, why are the leaders ignoring the silence? The answers Tashon finds lead him into a fight to protect the ship and its citizens.

These stories collide together in a story of grief, guilt, and how discovering the beauty of the universe can help humans overcome both.

Part space opera, part survival sci-fi, Foreign Land mixes characteristics of The Expanse series with that of VanderMeer’s Borne universe, with a little Lovecraft thrown in for good measure.

I am working to get this work published and will keep you all updated as that journey continues.

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Why Sci-Fi?

Everyone has something that they geek about, even if they don’t use that term. Clothes, sports, makeup, food, video games, movies. We all have that thing (or things) that brings us joy and balance in a world that is at times dark and confusing.

For me, it’s science fiction. Sci-fi books, graphic novels, and movies have been an integral part of my life for many years. I know many others feel as passionately about the genre as I do. But what is it that causes us to care so much about a single genre?

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there were deep rooted psychological reasons. But I’m going to look at it from a more personal, emotional level. We humans, after all, are rather emotional creatures.

I’ve struggled with depression since I was twelve.

Early on, science fiction stories and fantasy books provided a good break from that struggle. But as I grew older, I found that books can be much more. Books, and stories in all mediums, have the potential to be more than just an escape. Stories can provide knowledge and insight that help us see the world, and ourselves, in a new way. Insight that, if we let it, can give us light and understanding that help us overcome life’s struggles.

Right around my 22nd birthday, I hit an extreme low with my depression and ended up in the hospital. I had little to no self worth. I felt like I wasn’t, and never would be, enough. I saw all the darkness in the world and it was destroying me.

Then I found one of my favorite books. The one-thousand-page, epic science fiction novel Anathem by Neal Stephenson. There are so many reasons I love this book, but I’ll keep it short and spoiler free for those who haven’t read it. Here is a quote from the book that remains with me since I first read it ten years ago. 

“Nothing is more important than that you see and love the beauty that is right in front of you, or else you will have no defense against the ugliness that will hem you in and come at you in so many ways.”

Now, an important side note. Reading this didn’t cure me of my depression. Stories and quotes cannot do that. If you struggle with depression or thoughts of suicide, seek help. I still take medication daily, and see my therapist and psychiatrist on a regular basis.

No, reading Anathem did not make my depression disappear. But its ideas on beauty did provide me with a skill to learn that would help me look at the world differently.

“See and love the beauty” that is around us all. I needed to change my thinking patterns. A few days after finishing Anathem, I was taking the trash out on a cloudy, cold winter day. Above me, a flock of geese flew by. Not an unusual event. But I stopped, looked up, and realized that even common occurrences can be beautiful. It was over in seconds, but the beauty of that simple moment gave me a real life example of the beauty mentioned in Stephenson’s novel.

So, the question, why sci-fi? Because it provides an escape by taking readers across the cosmos with infinite possibilities for setting and plot. And because the best sci-fi novels use these other worldly settings as a mirror to our own Earthly experiences in a way that provides meaningful connection and personal insight. They weave tales that benefit, inspire, and invigorate readers.

That is why I read sci-fi. That is why I write sci-fi.