What Inspired Endurance

Silhouette of a woman standing by a large window facing the planet Saturn, with glowing rings. The title is Endurance, the author Elaine Burnes
Endurance will be out in June!

I didn’t set out to write a science fiction novel. I’m not opposed to SF, not by a long shot. My first paid publication was a science fiction short story (which you can read in A Perfect Life and Other Stories—it’s the title story, and still one of my favorites).

I confess I hadn’t read much science fiction over the years after reading quite a lot as a kid. Mostly my brothers’ books; no one thought to give me science fiction. Though I was into horses mostly. A Wrinkle in Time, however, was a favorite and I still have my copy. I got it from Scholastic in 1970. Yes, I was an infant. <cough>

But I guess I forgot that women write great science fiction. I only remembered it being so…warlike. Just war in space instead of on Earth. Lasers instead of bullets. What was the point? And full of guys. As I entered adulthood, I realized I wasn’t into guys, so reading about them had less appeal. (I was never a fan of Star Trek: TOS because every episode seemed intended to get Captain Kirk out of his shirt and in front of a nearly naked buxom woman. I had a big Huh moment when my science teacher said the science in it was pretty good.)

Then I found Ursula K. Le Guin. And Tasha Yar. Of course, Janeway. And Connie Willis. I didn’t know that James Tiptree was really Alice Sheldon. Or that she was queer! Or that Andre Norton was a woman. Or C. J. Cherryh. Oh, how things might have been different.

What happened was I wanted to write a rip-roaring adventure story about a ship full of people stranded. Like, you know, Ernest Shackleton. Of course, that’s been done and in my opinion no one did it better than him! It didn’t seem possible to strand anyone anywhere on Earth for a significant amount of time anymore, what with GPS and smoke signals and radios and all. And I’m not into writing historical fiction.

So I set it in the future, in space. Then it occurred to me, as I began reading more science fiction—Anne Leckie, Martha Wells, Becky Chambers, Octavia Butler—that a lot of it is written in the far future. Full of intelligent extraterrestrial aliens with unpronounceable names and faster than light travel that needs no explanation. All well and good, but how did we get there? How will this technology be invented and perfected? Can it be done without breaking pretty solid laws of physics? The answer is probably not, but that’s the fun of fiction.

Consider Endurance a kind of bridge story. Not Apollo 11 but not warp drives either.

Did I mention it’s the first of what will be a trilogy?

Oh, and Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Dr. Ryan Stone, Dr. Ellie Arroway…I could go on about the SF characters I love. Who are your favorites?

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