Writer's ideas

Eschew Limits of Another’s Imagination

Recently I read something on social media that spoke to me quite succinctly: Don’t restrict yourself to the limits of someone else’s imagination.

In one sentence, this summed up how I’d felt since I began drafting my Other Worldly series about aliens among us. I’ve come to call it genre alienation, this lingering notion that what I’ve written doesn’t fit within someone else’s idea of what novels featuring aliens are or should be about.

Sometimes it’s the hypocrisy of publishing professionals and others who tell you to be original, then reacting as as if you’ve crossed some unspoken line when you dare attempt originality. Those same folk might seek to twist an original concept into something fitting their view of aliens and typical futuristic science fiction.

There’s always someone bound and determined to compare, pigeonhole, and bludgeon your work into that which they’ve seen before. Then there’s the inevitable presumption that all aliens must be the bad guys, the ones seeking to annihilate Earth when we humans are doing that all on our own.

I braved coming up with a unique and clever take on aliens, but my novel series is often treated as if it must be a carbon copy or blatant rip-off of any number of books, movies or TV shows. As if someone else’s idea of aliens supplants what I’d created in my mind.

Consequently, I was so taken with that message about the limits of another’s imagination that I searched for who said it. I discovered a similar quote, from a woman who likely knows of boundaries people erect based on their preconceived notions and bigotries.

“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination,” said Mae C. Jemison, American engineer, professor, physician, and former NASA astronaut.

Jemison became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in September 1992. Astronaut Jemison spent more than a week orbiting Earth.

You know what else? Mae Jemison authored a children’s book about her life, Find Where the Wind Goes. And she was even in a 1993 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Jemison is now head of the 100 Year Starship project, a joint US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA program that offers grants to private entities. Its goal is to foster research and technology needed for interstellar travel within a 100-year timeframe.

I’m going to take a page from Mae Jemison’s stellar life example and continue eschewing limits that other folks’ imaginations might try to place on me, whether intentional or inadvertent.

My Other Worldly series protagonist Rowan Layne gets to fly to the moon like an astronaut because I haven’t let my imagination or anyone else’s prevent her from doing so. In Alien Sensation, coming next year, Rowan will travel farther into space with her alien pals. Extraterrestrial entities who strive to help save Earth, not destroy it.

I’ll keep writing about compassionate and intelligent aliens, space travel, science-based scenarios, plus all sociopolitical issues surrounding how humans react to the news that we are not alone and never were.

My novels aren’t set on some unknown planet in the far distant future, but in the here and now. They’re not about never-ending wars with aggressive aliens intent on space domination. Because that’s not how my imagination envisions it.

Coming very soon, Being Alien, wherein Rowan learns more secrets of the universe and makes intriguing new friends in the Highlands of Scotland, an otherworldly place right here on Earth. And no, it’s not Highlander, Brigadoon or any preconceived fairy tale, though you just might meet Nessie. But please don’t call her a monster.

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