Two years ago I wrote “Child Full of Stars” — I’ve been paying more attention than usual for anniversaries and things like that lately for no reason I’m aware of. It’s a story about an off-duty soldier of a nameless interstellar civilization falling into deadly peril and finding extradimensional refuge. It looks simple, it is simple, and as with many simple things there’s more than meets the eye.
All of its elements point to what the story is about beneath the surface: nostalgia. CFOS reminds me of some of the stories I grew up on, shorts and novels from Heinlein and Forward (what a fitting name for a science fiction writer, BTW) and Niven and Asimov and many more.
For the most part, their stories had straightforward plots and prose, nothing too ornate or obscure. I enjoy writing in that vein, and many people enjoy reading that sort of thing.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for ornate and obscure, for complex twisting plots and dense symbolism and metaphor and layers of meticulously crafted meaning and experimental structure and whatever else writers care to write and readers care to read.
(As an aside (skip it if you want to hold on to my train of thought, then come back later and read this if you wish) I think this mostly imaginary dichotomy between “straightforward” and “artsy” is more at the core of the whole SadRabid Puppies–Hugo Awards–Dogcatchers–Neutrals-who’d-like-everyone-to-shut-up-about-it-already kerfluffle than the ideological-wing aspect that gets talked about far more. Certainly puppies tend to be rightish (some, very) and Dogcatchers leftish (again, some very much so). But last year the Puppy slate (I have not looked at the state of affairs this year and am very much considering not doing so until 2025 or so) ostensibly created to oppose crappy message fiction from the left with ‘good old-fashioned storytelling’ was instead a slate of crappy message fiction from the right, which most puppies said was just fine or not message fiction at all because reasons and most of them cheered and voted for it. Thus, it’s about straightforward vs. artsy more than the politics which are indeed present but much less important to either puppies or dogcatchers than either cares to admit, but especially puppies. It’s also about love of conflict over dichotomies because dichotomies neatly separate the world into GOOD and EVIL and that way of seeing the world is frankly a big fat bucket of horseshit nineteen times out of twenty. But it’s easy horseshit, and many people really just want the easy, broad-stokes morality plays. For which there’s a place, but really not much of one. Aesop did it so well that it’s almost impossible to better. Again but, I digress.)
In other words, there’s a place for artsy and a place for straightforward, and in practical fact the two sort of blend around and into each other. There’s also a place for fiction deliberately made to convey a message (in fact, to convey messages about the value and hazard of scientific investigation and exploration was the reason science fiction became a thing) and fiction made with no particular message at all in mind.
“Child Full Of Stars” was my little deliberate visit with the straightforward stories I remember from my youth. Are there messages in it, political or otherwise? Of course! All fiction carries messages even if the writer tries really, really, really hard not to put any messages in. Messages are unavoidable. Words carry messages by their purpose. How they are arranged, the story they tell and exactly how and what is written and what is not written are factors packed more full of messages than a bowl of Fruity Pebbles is packed full of sugar and food dye.
I didn’t write CFOS with a particular message in mind when I wrote it. I wrote it to take a little stroll through fond memories, and perhaps it will bring out a few of your own if you choose to read it. And perhaps you’ll find a message or ten in it. Maybe I’d recognize what you find — or maybe I’d be surprised. Writers are often surprised by the interpretations that readers bring to stories. That’s just one more great aspect of writing.
You can read the story for FREE by clicking this link — select “online reader” under the description and you can read it online like a webpage, no download required. Or grab the format your e-reading device likes, your choice.
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