UPDATE: This post was first created when the AMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers) was running a Kickstarter to raise funds for our short story anthology. That fundraiser is happily funded with publication slated for July 2023. Multiple best-selling authors will be contributing stories including Kevin J. Anderson, Greg Cox, Delilah S. Dawson, Nancy Holder, David Mack, Scott Sigler, and lots more! If you haven’t ‘kicked in’ yet, let’s see if we can persuade you otherwise.
Three explorers walk into a bar when…
But it’s not the craziest idea in the world. If you’ve spent any time of this site, exploring my Antarctica journey, or you’ve visited my Instagram where I post videos and pix from our 52 Hike Challenge, you’ll know that I aspire to be more than an armchair explorer while also greatly admiring those who’ve tackled the boldest of adventures, both fictional and historic. When the IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers) approached me to write a team-up of public domain characters, my mind leaped to combining three of my very favorite explorers in one new adventure:
The fictional Lemuel Gulliver and the historical figures Ernest Shackleton and Sacajawea. Thanks to the anthology’s co-editor, Keith R.A. DeCandidio, here’s a short interview I recently gave on what’s in store for this short story:
What led you to choose the characters you’re using for your Double Trouble story?
Gulliver, Sacajawea, and Shackleton may have come from three entirely different backgrounds, but their devotion to the spirit of exploration unites them as characters. Shackleton said it best: “It is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all.”
Thanks to countless novels, comic books, and films, we’ve all become fond of heroes with capes. In the case of Sacajawea, Shackleton, and their fictional friend, Gulliver, heroism looks a little different, but it’s certainly got that same aspirational lift to it. All three of these characters embody that hunger to look beyond the next horizon. They stretched themselves, and in the case of Sacajawea and Shackleton, their discoveries and experiences contributed to today’s body of knowledge of how the world works and how humanity fits within that world.
Gulliver (through the pen of Jonathan Swift) also contributed heavily to where we are today. Swift’s stark, tongue-in-cheek language poked giant-sized holes in the African trade route, making Gulliver’s Travels one of the first anti-racist books published. Sacajawea certainly dealt with issues of prejudice as both a woman and a Native, and for all of Shackleton’s bravado and courage, he repeatedly dealt with anti-Irish bigotry.
In this story, the question becomes… “When you’ve explored all there is to explore, what’s next?”
What do you enjoy most about writing tie-in fiction?
All fiction begins with “What if?” The fun thing about writing in someone else’s sandbox (a.k.a., tie-in fiction) is that a sort of shorthand comes into play between the writer and the readers. If the writer can persuade the reader early on that they have a handle on the characters and world, they can explore nuances, threads, and even fill in the blanks (between episodes, films, story installments, etc.). Because of that shorthand, the writer can take readers much further into a world, a situation, a character’s turn. Mind you, none of that would be possible without the original creators of the characters (or, as in the case of my short story for this anthology, the actual historic figures the tale will be based upon).
What’s your favorite licensed universe that you’ve written in during your career as a tie-in writer?
As a tie-in writer, the spirit of exploration in Stargate SG-1 never gets old. The characters are each so distinct, their voices and action choices are such a wonderful blend of comedy, adventure, and drama. Plus, the “worlds” of the franchise can go on ad infinitum. While it’s not exactly tie-in (but it kinda is), writing the original draft for Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Rascals” with my dad was probably one of the most enjoyable experiences I ever had simply because the Trek franchise was a formidable part of my life since five years of age. The very first short story I ever wrote – at five years of age – was about Captain Kirk climbing up an impossibly tall castle’s sides to rescue Spock from an evil Gorn king (ha!).
What do you have that’s now out or coming out soon?
In the media tie-in realm, Stargate SG-1 fans might be interested in exploring why the Goa’uld Lord Yu wasn’t quite the bad guy. There’s my two-novel run of Four Dragons and The Drift. There’s also “Perceptions,” an SG-1 short story in the Far Horizons anthology that explores how the team deals with the death of their much-loved Dr. Janet Fraiser.
ADDED: On the original front… I’ve lost the last few years to chronic migraines and taking care of my mom’s accelerated fight with vascular and Lewey Body Dementia (more on that at another time). Thanks to modern medicine, the migraines are finally getting under control so I’m using this short story to train my writing muscles again. I’m also planning on taking a leave from my teaching position at Missouri State. I have a big science fiction trilogy planned out and once the new year is upon us and the short story is delivered, I’ll then crack the whip and get to work on those novels. Stay tuned. More to come!