Hey Everybody!! It’s the day you’ve all been awaiting with eager anticipation, sweaty palms, and trembling knees: EXTANT re-release day has finally arrived!!!
Wait, what do you mean those aren’t sweaty palms? Their just wet because you forgot to dry them after using the restroom? Oh… well, that doesn’t explain the trembly knees. You must be pretty darn excited if you have trembly–
–Really? Yesterday was leg day and you squatted the equivalent of a small Buick?
Huh… okay, so none of those physiological responses were in reaction to today’s release? Very well. Let’s BLINK back in time and start over (don’t understand this reference? Don’t worry, you will by the end of the blog post. Give it time):
Hey Everybody!! It’s the day after yesterday! Which is great because it’s Friday, the weekend is imminent, AND I come bearing (baring? Homonyms are hard) very special news: It’s EXTANT’s re-release day!!
What is Extant, you ask?
Good question. Extant is a short story I wrote last year for the master of anthologies himself, Samuel Peralta. Extant was featured in The Time Travel Chronicles along with a slew of other crazy talented authors. Seriously, my story was rubbing shoulders with Hugo Award winners like Robert J. Sawyer, YA megastars Rysa Walker, along with a stable of hot up-and-coming Indie’s like Lucas Bale, Ernie Luis, and Stefan Bolz. Needles to say, being invited to join the ranks of such storytelling elite was quite the honor.
Extant’s origin story is sort of interesting, and one I haven’t really discussed much, so why don’t you snuggle up the arms of a loved one (or a hateful enemy, both can be lovely if done correctly), and I’ll tell you a little story.
Last May I was working tirelessly on a series of novellas (The Watchmaker’s Daughter, Homebody, and Nemesis) which comprise The Transhuman Series known as Augment when I get a message from Samuel Peralta It’s the sort of message every young Indie author checks their email roughly 32,003 times per day for. Ya know, just to make sure it doesn’t slip past. The sort of message that says, “Hey, you… I see you over there… and I like what you’re doing. Why don’t you come join me over here and we’ll make some magic.”
Actually, maybe it’s just me, but the way I worded that has some sexual undertones. I can assure you, Sam’s message came with absolutely zero sexual undertones.
*Re-reads email just to be certain*
Yes. Definitely no sexual undertones.
What was there, was an invitation to join The Time Travel Chronicles. But there was a catch… a twist. A complication. An escalation of events leading to an inevitable climactic decision on the part of our hero (aka: me). That complication went something like this:
Sam: “Another author dropped out of The TT Chronicles at the last minute, can you fill in?”
Me: “Absolutely. When do you need the story?”
Sam: “June 13th.”
Me: “Hey, that’s my birthday! Also, that’s only 14 days away.”
Now, the first ideas that bubbled up to the surface were absolutely nothing like the finished product. All I really knew was that I wanted to avoid a time travel story with paradoxes, which, is sort of an uphill battle from the word go. Because I’m a cyberpunk sort of fella, I toyed with the idea of digital time travel. Which is to say, reliving (and altering) memories through a computer program that can extrapolate new life events as you change them. I had the vague concept of a character, some sad-sack research scientist who’d fallen so deeply into the system, addicted to the control he could exert over his digital life, that the line would inevitably blur between reality and digital projection.
Well, I still really dig this idea. In particular, I think the short story format lends itself to the sort of “what’s real/what’s imagined” mind-warp I was going for. Unfortunately, by the time I had this idea all nailed down, I only had about 10 days left to write the story and one thing became immediately clear: This story would have a lot of moving parts that would have to fit together seamlessly to pull of the climactic, head spinning finish. Sadly, I didn’t like my chances of pulling it off in the time allotted, so having wasted 4 of my 14 days to write this story, I did something really scary…
I scrapped everything and started from scratch.
This was a difficult decision to make at the time because writing for The Future Chronicles is sort of a big deal and I really didn’t want to blow it. Staring down the short barrel of the deadline gun, I needed to brush myself off and start again.
At this point it became obvious I couldn’t commit to an overly complicated story, which is a shame, because I like crafting short-stories that revolve around surprising plot-twists. Problem is, plot twists are surprisingly time intensive (for me they are at least).
So, I started anew with a single kernel of an idea: What if time-travel was a sort of superpower?
Okay, I can dig that. Superhero stories don’t have to be terribly complex and, as a plus, they are very engaging when done correctly.
In sketching out ideas I had to come up with the rules of time travel for this world. What I landed on were three classes of time manipulators: Blinkers, Pausers, and Blitzers.
Blinkers can rewind time. Pausers can stop time. Blitzers can accelerate time.
Now, having those classes somewhat loosely defined in my head was helpful, but I still didn’t really have a story. I had a plot device, but that’s not much on its own. To find the story itself, I needed to dig deeper into the relationships between those three classes of time manipulators and think really hard about their strengths and weaknesses.
As is often the case, it was in their weaknesses that I discovered the story.
See, that’s what makes a good superhero story in my book. Weaknesses (and how our characters ultimately deal with them in the face of adversity) go much further in defining them than anything else.
What are these weaknesses? Well, Blitzers, for example, accelerate forward through time which takes a physical toll on them in the form of premature aging. Pausers have an interesting weakness that I never actually discuss in the story so I’m going to keep it to myself for future use. But really, the story revolves around two Blinkers named Abigail and Kaelyn. Blinkers can rewind time, but in doing so they are trapped with the memories of everything they are undoing. Since the only reason to rewind time (and try again) is if something has gone wrong, Blinkers are saddled with a lot of emotional baggage. A baggage they can’t necessarily share.
Though Extant is, on the surface, an action adventure/military SF story, there were some deeper themes emerging about loss and memory and PTSD. I didn’t want to be heavy handed in how I dealt with these issues, but it’s been rewarding to hear from a bunch of reviewers that these themes were particular meaningful to them.
From reviewer Jas P:
“This was a very good story, one that being an ex-Police Officer, I resonated deeply with. The Author uses the time travel experience to look at how some people in life can have a greater burden than others from an emotional sense, the impact of the past and what has happened.”
In the end, I got the story into Sam on time (for which I was very proud). Extant has a couple things about it that I wish I could have taken a bit longer to nail down perfectly, but ultimately I am satisfied by how it turned out. I think there’s a good blend of humor, action, and emotional resonance. But above all that, I believe there’s an important story lurking beneath, and for that, this is a story I am very proud of.
Okay, so today is re-release day of Extant. If you have 99 pennies to spare, I’d love it if you’d head over to Amazon and grab a copy. If you’ve read the story already, maybe consider leaving an honest review. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story!
Before you go, I want you to get down to the comments and tell me the last story you read that really resonated with you. Go on, don’t be shy. Do it now. I’m waiting to hear what you have to say!