March 22, 2015

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “Looking Down On Athena” (THE AETHER AGE – Helios , Hadley Rille Books, 2010) Guy Stewart #15

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote to the left will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

I stumbled across an advertisement in the discussion columns of the online writer’s group I joined a decade ago.

They were looking for people to write stories for an original “shared world” anthology. This was in the days before crowd funding and it was the project of a small, independent publisher.

The ad directed me to a website where they had posted a “bible” of the world, giving specifics of the conditions that bounded it. Specifically, the world was one in which the Christian Church never arose, Egypt and Greece never collapsed. Oh – and instead of vacuum, space is filled with variably breathable “aether”. Sort of like air, but not. It extends far, far into the area we call space in our world, but there, it is accessible with balloons and human-powered flight. Instead of ocean-going vessels, humanity invented “aether-going” vessels.

The idea intrigued me to no end – and it kicked the foundations of my personal beliefs in the teeth: “While the writer is free to explore the subject, we don’t see how a Christian cult could arise. The traditional religions of Greece and Egypt will be dominant. The worship of Zeus may have emerged as monotheism (there are Real World Fact hints that some did worship him in this way). Jehovah is only worshipped by whatever tribes of Israel might exist (and since this derived out of Babylonian polytheism, it is possible that some semblance of ancient Hebrew religion got started, but rather unlikely that it spawned ther est of the Abrahamic faiths as it did in the real world).”

For me, that was a challenge! I am a Christian and believe that my faith is more than just ancient cultures borrowing the myths of other cultures and cobbling together a religion to use to influence others and create wealth for a privileged few. I believe God can work in ANY way – and that he did.

So I set out to prove it – by working out God’s plan in this shared world.

In this real world, Egypt was at its height when God released the Children of Israel. The traditional Ten Tribes returned to the Promised land. But legends and tales have persisted for centuries that there were ANOTHER Ten Tribes that went in the opposite direction of what would become Israel. One of those tribes, was the Tribe of Dan which  headed deeper into the African continent and became the Ethiopian Church. In the world of Aether, I make the legends a fact. From that Ethiopian church, springs my main character, Berhanu Lexy. He is a victim of polio and he is a scientist – a poor scientist as he has no sponsor in Athens or Alexandria; but a scientist nonetheless.

Experience with bubonic plague in the Olmec Empire of what we would call South America leads him to the germ theory of disease – in our timeline, it was discovered by a long string of Europeans. In Berhanu’s world, germ theory has been well-established – but he has a theory that epitheatosos – invisible inflamers – are responsible for other diseases...

In Berhanu’s timeline, Jesus was both of the Tribe of Dan and came to save the world anyway. Berhanu is a Christian minority both in a polytheistic world of Egyptian and Greek gods and goddesses and an atheistic world of medicine. In the story, I manage to hint at the life of a man who is devoted not only to medicine, but to serving the Christ. I forgot to mention that there’s a bit of unrequited love in the story, too. And a preparation for a launch into the aether, but for me, that wasn’t the important part. I just wanted to get into the anthology.

When they took the story, I was thrilled. I didn’t “make” any money on it, but it was quite a bit of fun, and I’ve thought of extending the story (which is what I’d planned on doing anyway) and sending a story to ANALOG. But we’ll have to wait and see!

AETHER AGE: Helios is still available in its various formats,  Kindle’s the cheapest at $1.99. Get it here if you’d like:

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