I have just recently published two science-fiction novels, The Survivors: A Novel and Lizard’s Lair: A Novella Prequel to The Survivors, with Wordclay in cooperation with Phoenixe Press. Both are now becoming available in the Ingram and Baker and Taylor network including Barnes and Noble. You may find the very best price for both books at www.amazon.com ($9.50 for The Survivors: A Novel, and $7.25 for Lizard’s Lair: A Novella Prequel to The Survivors).
It is astounding to me that I was able to complete both novels within 6-7 months with a full time job (I am an attorney). I am certainly sensitive to the concerns of beginning writers and one of the most common I hear is the difficulty in ever even completing the novel. I hope this article might help those of you with this complaint.
Ernest Hemingway said it well long ago: you have to make yourself finish the first draft. Many would-be novelists "bog down in the middle" and so never finish the book. There will be plenty of time after a complete first draft for adding the details derived from exhaustive research, tweaking passages of awkward language and so forth. But until you have that first draft in your hand you are not going anywhere.
I bore that in mind when I found myself alone on Christmas Day of 2007; certainly not a work day, not until after New Year’s. I had done a bullet point outline for The Survivors in November. I got up early on Christmas Day and forced myself to write from about 7 a.m. until midnight, taking of course normal breaks. By the end of the day I had a complete working first draft.
You might ask: how much work came after? A lot. I have a thick tome of research accumulated over the six months following completion of the first draft; some research is incorporated into the book but much not. I just needed to know much of the research to help write the book. I reworked that first draft not less than eight full times before it went to the publisher, weeding out or reconciling narrative inconsistencies, smoothing over awkward passages. All before the book went to the publisher within six months of the first draft. The point stands, however: I would have been nowhere without that completed first draft.
I am a child of the 1960's, a fan of the original Star Trek series and a voracious reader of works by the grand masters including Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson. Seeing that the fantasy of Harry Potter and the like abounds all about us but with very little of the traditional science fiction space adventure, that is what I decided I wanted to write–and without copy-catting unduly off the work of Sci-Fi’s Golden Age. I ran across some news articles in the fall of 2007 about radiation streaming from a black hole in a distant galaxy; a ray of radiation which, according to scientists, would excoriate intelligent life if any in galaxies surrounding the black hole.
So I decided that is where my "starcraft" the Aurora would go in almost six hundred years from now; to observe at a safe distance an energy-streaming black hole and transmit images back to scientists of the First Intergalactic Alliance. That is okay for an introduction. But making that the central story would be about as exciting as watching paint dry. So I got to thinking what adventure the crew of the Aurora might experience on the way back to their origin of "Earthport."
After various mental peregrinations I ran across an article in a sci-fi "how to" book doing a humorous take-off on an oft-used space adventure story: the starship has a forced landing, is in need of repairs, but is surrounded by "bug-eyed" monsters. My "bug-eyed" monsters became feral mutated humanoid survivors of a war ravaged planet, living in deserts and mountain tops and away from crumbling advanced cities, once radioactive, which were extant before the final war. A little like Planet of the Apes or Alas Babylon, right? But hardly plagiarism. I have a totally different story. Conveniently, I have long-ago biological warfare having killed off all the females. All the surviving creatures are male; hence the race is becoming extinct.
Without giving away too much so no one wants to read the book, the obvious answer is to give the male creatures genetically engineered adult females to preserve the race, and keep the creatures so "preoccupied" as to hopefully permit our human crew to repair their space cruiser and escape. Maybe there is a nice happy "American ending" and maybe there is not, at least not totally; but, regardless, there is lots of conflict and set-backs along the way, as my amazon readers have discovered.
How did my second sci-fi novel, Lizard’s Lair, come about?
To be perfectly candid, Lizard’s Lair is the result of unused tape on the "producer’s cutting room floor." That is, the central story of Lizard’s Lair was originally a subplot within The Survivors, and was deleted so that only a "flashback" summary of the story remained. I decided that to include the full story of Lizard’s Lair made unwieldy and detracted from the tight focus of The Survivors. So after The Survivors was off to the publishers, I spent about one and a half months to rework Lizard’s Lair and then sent it off to the publishers.
Anyway, as I said, I wanted a resurgence of the traditional 1960's-type space adventure. But with a modern twist. The Survivors delves into many new issues confronting modern man: suspension of normal human aging due to genetic enhancement; cellular regeneration of damaged human tissues; and changing mores gradually evolving into alternative sexual lifestyles including "polyamory communities." I am going to delve into these matters in a future article titled:Technology and Morality of The Survivors.
In the meantime, I hope that some of you will find useful the within suggestions of a life-long sci-fi fan but humble new novelist.
September 1, 2008
Derek Laurens, Sacramento