Here’s the author’s note at the end of Star Wanderers: The Jeremiah Chronicles. It’s the only content in the omnibus that isn’t available anywhere else, and I don’t want my readers to feel like they have to buy something they’ve already read in order to get it. And if you do want to buy it, there’s a link in the sidebar over there. ———–>
I put an author’s note at the end of every ebook I publish. It adds a little bit to the progress bar, which can be annoying for readers who expect “the end” to come at 100%, but I think it’s good to briefly tell the story behind the story. It’s certainly something that I would enjoy reading at the end of some of my favorite books (especially the ones by David Gemmell!). Whether you read them or whether you skip over them, it’s a feature I plan to keep in every ebook I release.
So, here it is!
One of the questions writers get asked the most is ‘where do you come up with your ideas?’ Honestly, that’s probably the hardest question to answer. Orson Scott Card said that everyone runs across at least a thousand story ideas each day, and a good writer will see maybe three. To that, I would add that it might take years before you realize that you’ve seen them.
The idea that eventually grew into Star Wanderers probably came to me the first time I saw Serenity. At the beginning of the movie, there’s this long continuous shot that shows the space ship from the hangar bay doors to the cockpit. I don’t even remember what the characters were talking about, I was just mesmerized by that shot. For weeks, I dreamed about having my own starship like the Serenity, where I could escape the stresses of college and lead an adventurous life out among the stars. I still daydream about it to this day. Having my own starship and piloting it to places where I can be free and independent is one of my greatest recurring fantasies.
Another major catalyst for the idea that became this story was the Lombardo translation of Homer’s Odyssey. The Odyssey is perhaps the most famous epic work of all time, but the Lombardo translation struck a particular chord with me because of how down-to-earth and accessible it is. Instead of some stodgy 19th century translation that passes for cruel and unusual punishment in some high schools, this one made the story come alive. I was first introduced to it in a Western Civ class in college, but enjoyed it so immensely that I picked up a copy over the summer of 2009 and read the whole thing.
As I read it, I couldn’t help but notice the potential for a science fiction crossover. What if the sailing ships were starships, and the oceans the vastness of space? The islands would be like planets, with their strange and exotic cultures, and travel from world to world would be as arduous and difficult as it was for Odysseus to return to Ithaca. A new form of paganism would emerge, one that worshiped the stars and planets just as the Greeks worshiped the rivers and trees. The starfaring people would be as hardy and self-reliant as the ancient Greeks, and as antagonistic toward the more civilized Coreward peoples as the Aegeans to the Trojans. Most importantly, though, the starfarers would feel a sense of powerlessness as they faced the unforgiving vastness of space, just like Odysseus as he braved the wine-dark sea.
I actually started writing that novel in 2010, and got about a hundred pages into it before moving on to the revisions for Bringing Stella Home. Later, I trunked it, but the basic world-building stayed with me as I continued to expand the Gaia Nova universe with Desert Stars and Heart of the Nebula.
The final catalyst for Star Wanderers was the love story from one of my favorite Westerns, Jeremiah Johnson. My college roommates introduced me to that movie my sophomore year, and just like Serenity, I spent the next several days daydreaming what it would be like to be a mountain man. I went to college in Utah, so the frontier landscape where the film was shot is very familiar to me (in fact, I’m writing this author’s note from Slide Canyon just outside of Provo). But the love story—that was the best part. An accidental marriage from a cultural misunderstanding that blossoms into something touching and wonderful, in spite of the language barrier—by far, that was my favorite part of the whole movie.
All of these ideas were bouncing around somewhere in the back of my mind for years, but it wasn’t until 2011 that they all came together. I had graduated about a year and a half before, and was working a number of low-skilled temp jobs, trying to make ends meet as I grew my writing career. I was between projects, trying to work on Edenfall (sequel to Genesis Earth), but nothing was coming together and I just felt very frustrated.
One day, as I was lying on my bed daydreaming for the umptieth time about escaping this planet on my own starship, the thought “what would Jeremiah Johnson look like if it were set in space?” came to me. It was like a supernova exploding in my mind, illuminating my imagination with the power of an exploding star. For the next half hour, I worked through all the details in my head—the famine backstory of Megiddo Station, the Oddysey-like far-future space setting, the wandering lifestyle of the mountain man turned starship pilot. And then, once I’d replayed it half a dozen times in my head and worked myself up to a fever pitch, I rolled out of bed and wrote the first chapter of Outworlder almost exactly as it now stands. The rest of that novelette came just as readily, and in a couple of weeks I had a finished draft.
As a young single guy in my early twenties, I tend to think about love and relationships a lot. I think it’s a myth that women are somehow more interested in romance than men—we just express that interest in different ways. At Worldcon 2011 in Reno, Louis McMaster Bujold said that women tend to write about love and life, whereas men tend to write about love and death, and I’ve found that to hold very true, at least in my own writing. Perhaps that’s why it was so easy and natural to come up with the backstory that put Noemi on Jeremiah’s starship. The rest, with the pregnancy, the polygamy issues, and the baby at the end, all came naturally as I wrote things out. I was originally going to have Noemi miscarry about halfway through Fidelity, but realized almost immediately that that wasn’t going to fly. Once I realized that the natural ending of the story arc would be the birth of their son, everything else just came together.
My goal from the beginning was to write something that I could submit to the Writers of the Future contest. For that reason, I kept Outworlder fairly short. However, when I got to the end, I realized that there was still a lot of story left unwritten, so I decided to follow it out. I’m more of a novel writer than a short story writer, so it was natural to structure the overall story arc in that way. At the same time, I really enjoyed the intimacy of that first novelette, and the way that the shorter structure allowed me to focus on one or two characters and their relationships with each other. Those were all considerations that pushed me into following the novella format, as well as the chance to experiment with publishing a series of shorter works.
Fidelity and Sacrifice were a lot more challenging to write, in particular Sacrifice. Part of this was because I was still trying to figure out where the overall story arc was going, and part of it was because some of the subject matter (such as polygamy) seemed pretty unconventional for a science fiction story. But after taking a couple of short breaks to work on other projects, I managed to push through it, eventually getting to Homeworld which came much more easily. I’ve always been better at endings than at middles, and I went into Homeworld knowing that it would conclude Jeremiah’s main story arc.
As I was working on the later parts to the Star Wanderers series, I moved to the Republic of Georgia to teach English for a year. That had a tremendous impact on how I wrote the language barrier between Jeremiah and Noemi, mostly because my experience was quite similar. I didn’t accidentally marry a Georgian girl (though there are one or two who I still miss sometimes), but when I showed up in the airport in Tbilisi, I didn’t speak a word of Georgian and knew almost nothing about the people or the country. Needless to say, it was quite an adventure. The stresses of living in a foreign culture did slow down my writing a bit, but I managed to get it back by the end and finished Homeworld before coming back to the States for the summer.
When I first started publishing the Star Wanderers series, I saw it as a sort of side project that I would do before getting back to other projects. However, this series has proven to be more popular than any of my other books, so I’ve decided quite happily to expand it. The Jeremiah Chronicles contains the full story arc for Jeremiah, but there are a lot of other characters who I want to explore, and the novella format is perfect for that. If you have any in particular that you’d like to revisit, feel free to shot me an email at joseph [dot] vasicek [at] gmail [dot] com and let me know. I love getting fan mail and do my best to respond to it, so any comments would definitely be appreciated.
If you’ve just discovered Star Wanderers and would like to keep up with the newest books in the series, you can get them for free by signing up for my mailing list. Whenever I release a new Star Wanderers story, I put out a two-week coupon code to get it for free on Smashwords and send the coupon code out to my subscribers via my email newsletter. That way, you don’t have to feel like you’re spending too much once I have fifteen or twenty ebooks out. I figure that if you enjoy these stories enough to sign up for the mailing list, you’ll probably tell a friend or post a favorable review, so I’m happy to make my new Star Wanderers releases available for free.
I hope you enjoyed this omnibus! If you did, please consider posting a review or sharing it with a friend. Every little bit helps, and the more people discover and read this series, the more stories I’ll be able to write. My goal from the beginning has been to make a living telling stories that I love, and it looks like Star Wanderers might actually make that possible.
In the meantime, don’t be a stranger—you can find me on Twitter (@onelowerlight), Goodreads, or Facebook (Joe Vasicek), but the best way to keep up is to follow my blog, One Thousand and One Parsecs. I’ve been blogging since 2007 and plan to keep it up for the foreseeable future. You can also find links to all my books there, on all the major sites where they’re published. And of course, if you want to sign up for my mailing list, you can find the sign-up form on the sidebar.
That’s just about it. Thanks for reading! It’s readers, not writers, who really make a story come alive, and at the end of the day the greatest honor is simply to be read. So thanks for taking a chance on this one, and until next time, I hope to see you around!