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. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.
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 above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!
HEIRS has got to be the single greatest exercise in writing persistence in my long and varied writing career (see “Writing and Air Quotes” for a discussion of my writing career: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2016/02/writing-advice-31-writing-and-air-quotes.html).
So picking up where I left off: “Once I started to understand Emerald, other things fell into place – things like answering the question, “What do teenagers DO on a spacecraft committed to a twelve year mission?”
“Next time, I’ll look at the development of ‘school for teens in space’…”
OK – it’s “next time”!
When it comes to school for teens in space, SF writers have lacked much imagination. From setting up desks and having a teacher, like on ST:NG and ST:DS9 to having teens just go to a “virtual school” that is identical to what we have here and now as in Michael’s Burstein’s award-winning short story, “Teleabsence”; to training young adults to just “be soldiers” like in Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME books; I think the genre has treated the future of educating teens as if we’d already reached the epitome of “educational technology” here in 21st Century America…I don’t even see SF attempting to include educational theory and practice from other cultures! A quick Google search reveals only that there are lots of articles on how to use SF to teach about science or inspire girls to be scientists. This list http://sf.hackeducation.com/ is a good start, but hardly complete – at least I hope it’s not complete.
At any rate, to create an educational system that made sense, I drew from my own experience. One thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t want my teens – and there are 130+ of them on SOLAR EXPLORER – just “going to school” and then “hanging out”.
As important as that activity is, and know that I’m not speaking tongue-in-cheek, these young people are not only going to be in space for twelve years, they are going to mature into adults who will in their own time take their places in the operation of the ship. Some will be “promoted” to apprenticeships or leadership positions; some will become menial laborers. Some perhaps will become philosophers, others still recorders, writers, and artisans.
But how do they get there and not just “hang out” on their cellphones and on social media all the time?
Education in classical literature, mathematics, social studies (including history as well as the social experiment they live in!), physical education, science (duh!), art, and practical skills like programming, global languages, welding, recycling technologies, particle physics, gravitational manipulation technologies, and mass communication and journalism – how do you cover all of these things without sitting the fat butts of these kids down?
First of all, SOLAREX is a tiny, closed society. You might consider it a microscopic section of countries like “Andorra, Luxembourg, Greenland, Norway, Liechtenstein” where “literacy reaches virtually 100 percent.” (http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-highest-literacy-rates-in-the-world.html). Surveillance is practically universal (though I touch on the fact that it’s NOT!), so teens will only get into minimal trouble in the ways that they do. As well, there’s an “illicit” athletic outlet (pryzhok) as well as plenty of other things to do. Education is experiential as well as academic. They work on Intensive Training Teams as well as receive homework assignments in the “traditional subjects” we expect teens to study. They also receive tangible rewards as a result of inter-Team competition in both their vocational training and academics: “‘Vacation days, Leisure Study days and tours, credit chits to buy food at the alternate restaurants and hang outs, mostly.’” (from HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES 2: ZECHARIAH OF VENUS (p 37).
In another novel I wrote, OUT OF THE DEBTOR STARS, I have instructors who design educational pathways for students – “He was willing to admit that he’d been a master query marker guide at one time. He’d figure out what someone needed to know then lead them there. After the suicides, he’d adjudged himself a stupid query marker guru, quit, and fled.” I’m trying to explore ways that we might educate our young people.
It SEEMS sometimes like it’s a lonely business. Comments anyone?
Next time, I’ll look at why I think leaping from Earth directly to “interstellar space exploration” is a BAD idea – and the basis of why I created the SOLAR EXPLORER…