My first attempt at a novel was a dystopian science fiction story while I was in 7th grade in Hays, Kansas. It focused on the Junior High students and our coming challenges as we were to be protected from a cataclysm that would wipe out society before were were to restart humanity. Probably not the best sci fi book plot of all time.
Hays has about 20,000 residents and sits on the high prairie surrounded by millions of acres of wheat. 300 miles to our west sat Denver. 230 miles to our east was Kansas City. North of us was…a lot of wide open land up to Canada (and then more open land). South of us the Oklahoma panhandle, and then west Texas.
Culturally it is a different place. The majority of the residents are heavily influenced by their Russian-German (“Volga-German“) heritage, so Hays has an interesting dialect and food you won’t find in very many other places.
All considered, it was and still is a unique island in the middle of an ocean of wheat in the middle of America’s “fly over” country.
Obviously, this made Hays a perfect setting for one of the best sci fi books of all time. Right? Or so I thought as a 7th grader.
As an aside, my experience helping on my friends’ farms, sitting in the cab of a “combine” and shoveling wheat in silos has greatly influenced the second novel in my End War series, but that is for another day. 😉
The storyline of my first attempt at a sci fi novel went like this: One day shortly after we got to our junior high to start the school day, metal shutters came down over all the windows and doors, and the school sank into the ground. We were told to sit on the floor near our lockers as the school descended to a massive railroad deep underground built to be used only one time. Teachers and other school leaders ran around making last-minute preparations, and a team of soldiers came running through the halls.
Once on the railroad, the entire building began rolling south at about 10 miles per hour through a massive cave cut out of the earth for the purpose (which no one noticed happening, of course). We were told that life on Earth was about to be extinguished by some terrible event. Our school, and those of us that attended it had been randomly selected to be saved. We were going to ride the underground railroad under Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas before we were to eventually drop to the seabed in the Gulf of Mexico. From there – after various misadventures – we were going to reemerge and restart humanity.
As I recall, I had a vague notion that in my first person telling, I was going to get hooked up with the prettiest girl in the school along the way. Go figure, right?
The story makes perfect sense. Kind of like every 7th grader’s first idea for a novel makes perfect sense.
You would think the gov’t would have picked a school on the Gulf Coast, from Houston, for instance, rather than one 1,000 miles away. But at the time this had not occurred to me. I won’t take too much blame on that count, though. Most of the sci fi books I was reading at the time were light on plausibility.
During those years I was deep into Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ science fiction books of John Carter’s misadventures on mars.
I was also reading a lot of Mack Reynolds, Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein, and many other writers of some of the best science fiction novels of the time (another one of the best sci fi book series back then — IMHO — that comes to mind is Hiero’s Journey). And I was reading science fiction short stories in Analog, which showed up in the mail once a month. I was also swept away by movies such as Logan’s Run, Silent Running, and many other sci fi movies popular at the time.
I also realized another issue that was more troublesome: My handwriting sucked, I was not adept at spelling, and my grammar was anything but top of the class. This was all aggravated by having to use an old, manual typewriter. I still remember the stack of pale-green paper my parents told me I could use and the joy and frustration of “whiteout“.
I only got about 10% of my sci fi novel written, and my mother still asks about how it was to end (I never figured that out). But I learned from it and began to think in terms of novels rather than short stories.
I’d like to think Lonely Hunter will be one of the best new sci fi books of 2018, but that is a rather lofty goal, so highly improbable. However, science fiction is all about dreaming, so maybe…?
In all events, my writing has come a long way from my first attempt at a dystopian novel on green paper splattered with whiteout in a little town on the prairie.