Notes from Dr. Tom’s Desk
Writing science fiction can be an abstract artform. You create (discover?) unknown civilizations, cultures, and religions, and populate them with new species speaking alien languages and holding values distant from Earth as their homeworlds. Technologies must be sci-fi friendly. Faster Than Light travel (if it exists in the Universe you are imagining), teleportation, particle beam weaponry, and molecular super-gadgets, the latter to dispense food or whatever else your crew needs. (See: “replicators,” thank you, Gene Roddenberry.) Medicine potent enough to cure a rainy day, as McCoy tells Kirk in TOS.
People sometimes ask sci-fi writers where they get their ideas. A better question might be, “How does a terrestrial lifeform like you take any of this seriously? You will live and die without leaving the only planet known to have evolved living organisms. Sci-fi? It’s all over the rainbow, sans Munchkins.”
And they have a point. Sci-fi is speculative fiction. (See: Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, aka, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.) So, to keep myself grounded, I carry an alien world in my pocket.
Well, not really a whole world, just a chunk of space rock. (See photo.) You can tell this is a meteorite by its leading edge, smoothed by superheating as it burned its way through the atmosphere. It’s also lightly magnetic, another sign.
When I hold that space-born arrowhead in the palm of my hand, I recall that there really are other worlds out there. Even if this rock was never a part of a planet but floated in the void since the dawn of forever, it tells me, “Behold! Solid ground exists beyond earth. You hold a piece of it in hand. I traveled through the ages to strike land in a new world. Your descendants will bend the space-time continuum and voyage to worlds yet impossible to imagine. So play with the possibilities. Keep the dream alive. Other worlds exist. Write about them, now!”
The rock is my inspiration, a taste of reality in a world of fiction.
And besides, it makes a nice paperweight.