Title: The Mysterious Midnight Ride. Completion date: circa 1961. Age of the author: ~12. Circumstances of discovery: cleaning office.
Here it is, folks. You’ve been clamoring for the archivists to uncover this work (seriously, a few of you have), and now it’s before you. My first story set to paper, when I was in 6th grade. My co-conspirator in this was my childhood best friend, Mike, now better known as classical music composer R. Michael Daugherty. I say co-conspirator rather than coauthor, because while we devised the story together, we each wrote our own version. I wonder if his has survived. I seem to recall that he wrote in the first person; mine is in third person. That’s about all I remember about it.
Is there an echo in here? I wonder how many stories have used this device:
Any reader of The Hobbit remembers this. In their quest for the Arkenstone, the dwarves and one hobbit make use of the prediction that on Durin’s Day, the last light of the setting sun will shine directly upon a keyhole enabling entry to a secret passage into the mountain.
In The Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones makes use of ancient instructions to find the location of the Well of Souls, where the Ark is kept hidden. The light of the rising sun, passing through the headpiece of the properly positioned Staff of Ra, shines directly onto the location of the Well of Souls in the fabled Map Room.
In the 1959 movie Journey to the Center of the Earth (which I started watching while feeling under the weather today), the location of the passage leading into the Earth is revealed when the sun shines through an opening in a nearby peak, directly onto the mouth of the passage. (In the Verne original, I believe, the mechanism is similar, but less cinematic.)
Reuse of plot devices is a time-honored tradition among storytellers, of course. How many other stories have used this device? If you can think of examples, list them here in the comments!
I’ve been home alone with McDuff, the canine nugget, for the last week. (Wife and daughter headed to Puerto Rico to work on the house. More Ponce Chronicles to follow, soon.) I gave myself a few days to crash, after they left. I decided to rewatch Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries and travel in time back to the days of writing the novelization. It was fun!
It reminded me that I never got around to posting on my website the essay I wrote for the compendium about BSG, Somewhere Beyond the Heavens. Well, there’s no time like the present!
Here’s how it starts out. Click at the end to read the whole thing.
Writing the 2003 BSG Miniseries Novelization
“So, Jeff, how would you like to write the novelization for Battlestar Galactica?”
That was what my Tor Books editor, Jim Frenkel, asked me, out of the blue, one day in 2005. Until that moment, the thought of writing anything related to Galactica had never crossed my mind.
As it happened, this was the day after I had finished writing the long overdue first draft of my novel Sunborn, a challenging project that had nearly done me in. I had let out an enormous sigh of relief at completing the rough draft. When Jim called me that next day, I assumed it was to find out how things were going with the new book. Instead, he asked if I had seen the new Battlestar Galactica on the Sci-Fi Channel, and if I liked it.
“Well, yes,” I said. And, “Sure, talk to me about it. But you’re aware, right, that I have this unfinished book to finish? That you’re waiting for? I just wrapped up the first draft, by the way.”
“Perfect!” he said. “You need a break. You should do something different for a while, and this is right up your alley. I’m editing the Galactica tie-in books, and I think you’re just the writer to novelize the miniseries. Also, it will be fast. Can you write it in two months?”
“Uhhhh…” My mind raced. I am a notoriously slow writer. Most books take me years to complete. Could I even type a book in two months? I wasn’t sure. I had never written a novelization before; I was used to writing my own stuff. “Can you give me three?” I asked.
I did not start out as a fan of Battlestar Galactica….[more]
Kudos to the LAX Lost and Found department, the L.A. Airport Police who actually do the work to reunite 5-7000 items with their owners every month, and the shipping company that handles mailing the items home. Eridani and Tabula Nova were very well packaged and sent out promptly after I paid the quite reasonable $35 for Priority Mail. Hey, kudos to the USPS, as well!
I can’t prove it’s the squirrels. But the lights in the tree in front of our house mysteriously stopped working last week. I say mysteriously, because they all went out at once. Sure, you say, the power went off, or a fuse blew, or a wire broke. Maybe. But the power is not out. I isolated the first string from the bottom, and it no longer works. But even with it cut out, neither do the rest of the lights. I isolated the second string from the bottom, and it no longer works. But neither do the rest of the lights. Whaat? At that point I got cold and stopped trying. I laid out a little circle of (different) lights on the ground under the tree, just to have something.
I cannot prove this was the work of squirrels. But they have the means, and the motive. (Sharp teeth, and we forcibly evicted their people from the property last year.) Coincidence?
As Kahn said to Kirk, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” I think the squirrels have been watching too much Star Trek.
Here at the Star Rigger Ranch, we celebrated Christmas with family and good friends and good food, and celebrated the new year by completely failing to notice midnight come and go. The homemade eggnog tasted good, though, and we finished Season 3 of Jack Ryan, which give or take a few wobbles in the final episode was amazingly good throughout.
I am very happy to say good riddance to 2022, and I hope the screen door hit it in the ass on its way out. Welcome 2023! Try to do better, please.
Marked at the beginning by some significant challenges for some family members. (Weathered and largely overcome, thank God.) Colored throughout by continued creative block for the guy trying to finish his book series. (To the point that I have sought out professional help in rooting out the cause of the block.) Brought low by the dreadful news from the Ukraine, under assault by the murderous Putin. Smacked upside the head by my diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis, which continues to affect our lives on a daily basis. (I will write more about this another time, but suffice it for now that I seem pretty stable since bringing supplemental oxygen into my life back in August.) We lost Captain Jack, our border collie mix, gone from our lives since October. I do miss him. And on a more minor but certainly aggravating note, I am still awaiting the return of my laptop and tablet, lost at LAX in December, identified in lost-and-found inventory, and claimed, but not yet acknowledged.
On the plus side, there were some good things to remember. A great family reunion in June. A couple of wonderful trips to Tanglewood during the summer. A memorable family Thanksgiving. A trip to L.A. that gave us quality time with both family and friends whom we had not seen in too long. A low-key but very enjoyable Christmas season, as noted above. Also, I got new print editions finished and released into the wild of four of my earlier books. Yay. There are probably other things I’m forgetting.
What will you bring us, 2023? New hope and new treatments for this disease that’s trying to kill me? (Not if I get you first, little frakker. We have not yet begun to fight.) Peace for Ukraine? Politically in the U.S., who knows? Another dysfunctional Congress? Or will the people who actually care about the good of the country find a way to some kind of common ground? There are hopeful signs, at least on the state level.
Did I mention that we are planning to move, later this year? Yep. Twelve feet, straight down. We are planning to trade apartments in our two-family house with daughter and her husband. We’ll be closer to the ground (not so many stairs), but will have a lot less room. This is a serious challenge! We are already working on the process of downsizing: culling the books and media, getting rid of years of accumulated sediment, as well as distributing ancestral belongings to other members of (Allysen’s) family. I have begun the painful but necessary task of seriously pruning my SF library. Man, that hurts. But it needs to be done. For the move, but also so that we don’t saddle our children with as much stuff to sort through and dispose of as we are having to deal with from the generations before us. It promises to be a long slog. Target date, end of June. Updates to come.
Happy New Year, everyone! What are your hopes for the coming year?
In keeping with the spirit of giving great gifts to the ones you love*, I’ve just added a new item to my Etsy store: a complete autographed set of all six books in the Star Rigger Universe, in snazzy new trade paperback editions from my imprint Starstream Publications! Need I say, this would be a terrific gift for the holidays for anyone who loves science fiction in handsome paper editions. Also, I would love to sell some of them. (Seriously, though, I do enjoy the contact with appreciative readers when they ask for autographed copies. The income is definitely secondary in the autographed book business. )
Here’s what’s in the set:
Dragons in the Stars
Star Rigger’s Way
Seas of Ernathe
That listing is in the order of the internal chronology of the stories in the Star Rigger universe— quite different from the order in which I wrote them. In fact, the last shall be first, if you look at them in order of composition. Seas of Ernathe was my first novel, and Star Rigger’s Way my second.
If you already have all the Star Rigger books you want, there are lots of other choices in my store, with more being added daily (depending on how you define daily). Chaos and more!
Except for the part where I lost my laptop at the TSA checkpoint at LAX and didn’t realize it until we were already in the air, bound for Boston. Yeah, that part sucked. My laptop and my tablet were separated from me along with all my other stuff during the course of a manual pat-down, because of the portable oxygen concentrator on my back. After all the distraction of the thorough searching, I failed to realize that my devices never got put back into my computer bag. I’ve filed a claim and now can only wait. It’s in the hands of God and the LA Airport Police, who process (they say) 5-7000 lost items every month. Fortunately, everything important on it is backed up to Dropbox.
Aside from that, we had a great time. Besides visiting with family, we were graced with good friends, good dogs, good food, and good museums. I wish I’d thought to take a picture of that red Focker Triplane at the Museum of Flying at the Santa Monica Airport! Well, here’s a 1959 attempt at a flying car, the Trautmann RoadAir…