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The Man Who Taught Me The Meaning of Ad Astra

October 22, 2021

Rodney, WordPerfect crashed on me this morning. Do you think you can get the chapter back that I wrote?

The year was about 1993. I was in Naples, Florida visiting my agent Barbara Bova. And I met her husband, Ben. Ben was a science fiction writer. A really good one.

He wrote what was called hard Science Fiction. That didn’t mean it was hard to read. Instead, it meant that his stories were grounded in science. Physics has no support for faster than light travel. Hyperdrives, warp drives, ion drives. They are really fantasy inventions masquerading as science fiction. Ben’s science worked. And lacking the option of simple zipping his characters from system to system in the blink of an eye, he had to write very cleverly.

His book Mars could be a training manual on how to conduct a mission to the red planet.

I was working for WordPerfect when we met. I was a muddling non-fiction writer with dreams of writing fiction. Ben was more than happy to encourage a young writer. I stayed in the software industry and continued to dream of writing. And I have over the years.

This year, nearly thirty years after our meeting that day in Florida I’ll finally see my fiction in print. As I created my universe, I remembered my conversations with Ben. I created a world, a system and a galaxy. I filled it with people and most importantly I invented science to go into my fiction. And I found myself trying to cleverly write keeping my science grounded in reality.

My space ships don’t go faster than the speed of light. I had to figure figure out how get my spaceships between systems. I had to figure out my farmers can raise a crop on a world with no metal.

A writer answers a thousand questions about his or her universe. In fact, world building is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing. The writer is an all powerful wizard spinning life out of nothing. And I have nothing against writers who build universes that have break the laws of physics. I might even do something similar.

For now, I’m excited to finally see in print what Ben encouraged me to do all those years ago.

He once autographed a book for me with the inscription “Ad Astra,” To The Stars. Ben’s passed on now. But, his books live on. The stories he told remain. And the inspiration he provided me and generations of writers will continue long after he’s gone, “to the stars.”

Oh, and that day when he asked me about WordPerfect 4.2? Nope. I couldn’t do a thing for him.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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