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Mars Station One

Over the years I have worked off and on on making a science fiction story about the first manned outpost on Mars. This is a bit of a pet project of mine that goes back many many years and is, in a large part, very close to me on a personal level. I got my love of space exploration from my parents. My mom introduced me to telescopes when I was around 10 and my parents and I would stare at the night sky, not really for countless hours, but enough that I can tell you about the major constellations thanks to them. My dad got me interested in science fiction, being one of his favorite topics to read. I remember, just days before he passed away, asking him about what made him a fan of science fiction and he told me how when he was a young soldier in the Army he had been working at this guard tower and someone had left this small magazine of science fiction stories in the tower. That had, according to him, been his introduction to science fiction. This would have been, I believe, in the early to mid 40’s.

At 7 I watched Star Wars at a drive in theater in Los Angeles with my parents and my love only intensified – Han Solo was my first real crush. Fast forward 40 years and uncounted books, movies and television series later and I am still just a space nerd with a love for science fiction and strong unexplainable feelings about Mars. Perhaps it is how prominent Mars was in both science and entertainment when I was growing up? I don’t know, but I do know that the first sci fi story I wrote was a lovely little starter for a novel I was working on about the first manned mission to the red planet. A mission that included its own flight patch designed along the lines of the many NASA flight patches for Apollo and Space Shuttle missions. A mission that introduced the next phase of Mars landers and Space Shuttles, launched from an orbital station at Earth on a four month mission to a station orbiting Mars (most of that journey was skillfully skipped in the story), then a landing on the red planet that.. well… it was a very glorious crash that had just the right combination of fast pacing and researched details to make it worthy of editing into a finished scene. Unfortunately the entire story crashed soon after that crash landing when my parents and I watched a movie that chronicled the events of a manned mission to Mars that left me wondering just how in the hell someone had stolen my idea and thinking I was never again going to submit a story idea to an online critique group. It was a brutal feeling to see what was, essentially, my beloved science fiction story being  told in full color on the television. It was not even an old movie, the thing had been made over a year after I had began plotting out my story, but there was so much that was almost identical to my planned story that I gave up and stopped writing my novel. Who, after all, would ever believe that I had not ripped off that movie?

This issue only got worse when I wrote my second science fiction story. I went small the second time around, a basic little tale of a rescue crew that was sent to Io to investigate the loss of contact with a mining facility there. Io was in the news at the time and had caught my attention and I was letting my imagination run with thoughts of what might be locked in that icy sphere. There was no doubt some new element that would be found that would make it worth while to place a mining outpost there. I was rather proud of myself with how the tension had built in my short story, how I had taken the Alaskan Ice Worm and moved it in giant size to this frozen moon so far from Earth and made it terrifying as the crew of my rescue mission tried to escape from what was, essentially, a cross between the Alaskan Ice Worm, a centipede and a nasty killer ant. I was rather proud of this story. So proud that I shared it with a critique group on the Critters.org website to see what others thought of it – it could not be as good as I was telling myself, I knew it needed adjusting and I was ready to put in the work needed to make it good enough to submit to anthologies.

It was a painful and crushing feeling when someone responded with accusations of plagiarism. And not just ANY plagiarism… the man accused me of plagiarizing Robert Heinlein! It was a no holds barred attack on me as a writer having plagiarized one of science fictions greatest writers. I was crushed by this because it was completely untrue, but how could I possibly prove that when… and here’s the kicker… I’d never even READ any Heinlein. Yes, that’s right, adoring fan of Sci Fi that I am, I never read any of the great Robert Heinlein’s works. And here was this guy telling me, telling everyone on this critique site, that I was a plagiarist. I mentally shut down, amid a LOT of crying, and began to rethink my choice to be a writer – particularly of science fiction. After the hyperventilation passed I went to my dad and asked him if he could read the story. He read it, enjoyed it, and then explained to me how there are no new ideas in writing and why the guy had made the accusation he did. In the end I walked away with a few things from the experience: I stopped going to critters.org (my anthrophobia, still in its early stages, left me horrified of the place thanks to that one person), I started considering sci fi writing as just a hobby and not anything I could pursue as a career – focusing instead on non-fiction and fantasy, and I realized that out of the entire world no one would ever believe in my abilities in the way my parents believed in them. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that every story has been told before – sometimes by exceptional minds – and there was always going to be someone comparing what you create to something someone else created.

That lead me back to Mars Station One. It was officially a hobby project that would be worked on off and on for years to follow. I never have got much past the start of it – probably because I lost everything I had written once upon a decades ago. I have plans for greatness, however, and whenever I think of Sci Fi I think of my story of man’s first manned outpost on Mars. I even had a website dedicated to it years ago, before life got in the way an I ended up losing the domain to financial distress. As I write this I am in a large part distracting myself from the knowledge that I can not start a writing course I want to take until after I am paid this coming Friday, a course that I want to use to try – again after so many years – to write in the Sci Fi field. Am I perfectly suited to writing about Science Fiction? NO. I still have not read any of Heinlein’s work (saving that and Tolkien’s works for my old age).  I am also not the best when it comes to scientific things, although I can hold my own in your average discussion about string theory and time travel and the Drake equation and any number of other topics that I have found out makes the average person’s head spin. Why Sci Fi? Because why not? I love it, my parents loved it… why should I not write Sci Fi?

So… I am going back to Mars Station One as a therapeutic step into a genera I love. Starting point – 3D design and writing exercises focused on a manned outpost on Mars that will be the building blocks for later works in Science Fiction. Who knows… I might even see if I can get my Mars website back when finances allow.

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