For my part I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of the stars makes me dream. ~ Vincent Van Gogh
What do you see when you look up at the night sky?
It’s no secret I write about characters that inhabit a universe where space travel is commonplace. Visiting strange worlds and looking up to see stars twinkling in a unfamiliar night sky is nothing out of the ordinary for them. But, it wasn’t until I was mulling over a scene for my newest book that I realized I was missing an opportunity with my main character. What did he feel as he stood beneath that glorious canopy on a world not his own. Did he long for his home world and the familiarity of stars he would never see again? Find a measure of comfort that the stars remained when all else was gone? Or was he exhilarated by the vast mystery, ready to leap into the void and escape the past?
It was a bit of a jolt when I realized I couldn’t recall the last time I actually stepped outdoors and looked up. How could I possibly tap into Wulf’s feelings if I couldn’t remember how I felt as a stargazer? I’ve lived in many places over the course of my life, some where the stars are narrow strips between buildings and in others where the sky is so big I can almost see the curve of the world. I’ve felt lost in the vastness, small and insignificant, but I have always yearned to explore. Who knew what adventures were waiting for me.
As I stood outside I was struck anew by the beauty of the night. I took a deep breath of the cool night air and let the worries of the day drift away. I could almost imagine Wulf standing beside me whispering in my ear and I began to understand what he saw and what he was feeling. I will never stand on a strange planet and look at its night sky, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand what it means to be in a strange place and yearn for what was lost. Can I capture that part of him in words? I hope so.
When you get a chance take a moment and step outside. Look up at the night sky and dare to reach beyond yourself into that velvet darkness. You might be surprised what you discover.
“This is for everyone who has ever looked at the stars, or gazed from atop a hill, or across the sea and wondered…”
~Tim Perkins, Worlds End: The Riders On The Storm
I’ve had some health issues lately and my system hit overload. To top everything off I was leveled with a bad cold, a man-voice that echoed in my own ears and the energy level of an anemic slug. Yeh, so not pretty. I crawled home from work with the sole purpose of collapsing on my couch and pretending I was still alive. My youngest asked me how I was feeling and I said without any pause to think – I feel like the starship Enterprise that has had to reroute all systems to basic life support. Non-essential functions are temporarily off line. Bless her, she didn’t even miss a beat, just shook her head, laughed and jokingly called me a nerd. She also went to make me a cup of tea.
That brief conversation stuck with me because describing how I was feeling in that odd way really does sum up a lot about me. I am a dyed-in-the-wool SciFi fan and have been since I discovered The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key when I was in the 6th grade. My imagination was hijacked. I devoured that book.
When Star Trek came along I was entranced by the possibilities of space travel. The fact the Enterprise was inhabited by Kirk, Mr. Spock and Bones didn’t hurt either. I regularly fell in and out of like with them. Through the years I have read countless books, watched the majority of SciFi movies and regularly take a side trip to English TV and Dr. Who. When I wrote my first book it was inhabited with men who planet hop. No surprise there.
I am also blessed with a friend who doesn’t blink an eye at any of this. Of course, she is also a writer and dwells in that strange landscape of a writer’s mind where many of us reside. Who else is going to turn up for coffee wearing a Dr. Who t-shirt to celebrate the 50th anniversary? She and I discuss space travel, magic and difficult characters with aplomb. We jump from subject to subject and then back again without missing a beat. We tend to laugh a lot. From the outside you would probably not even realize what we are so earnestly discussing. If you did, you just might want to join in the fun. Resistance is futile! (sorry, I couldn’t resist) 🙂