Our guest blog today is by Lachesis author David Lee Summers. David has written several horror and science fiction novels for Lachesis including The Pirates of Sufiro which is free, and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.
Our ongoing topic is: what inspires your writing? Over to you David . . .
When asked what inspires me, I think of the 1985-92 television series Ray Bradbury Theater. During the intro segment, Ray Bradbury walked into an old cage elevator and came out in an office full of memorabilia and toys. He referred to it as his “magician’s toyshop.” All he had to do was look around and begin. As it turns out, I first met Ray Bradbury in 1983 and he encouraged me to go through life with eyes wide open, because an author never knows where inspiration will strike.
As with most writers, books can be an inspiration for me. Several years ago, I read Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love and John Nichols’ The Magic Journey, back to back. Both told stories of life in a frontier. In Time Enough for Love, the frontier was space. In The Magic Journey, the frontier was New Mexico. As I read the two books, I thought of my grandparents and great-grandparents who homesteaded New Mexico at the end of the nineteenth century. I wondered what it would be like to tell that story in space. Ultimately, that became the genesis of my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro.
My “day” job is operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Not only do I have the opportunity to contribute to world-class science, I find myself awash in inspiration, and sometimes in very unexpected ways. Back in the 1990s, one of my fellow telescope operators was a fan of vampire novels. She loved everything from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice, and she hooked me on the genre. We used to joke that telescope operators were the vampires of the observatory because we were only visible from sunset to sunrise. This made me ask what if a vampire really was a telescope operator? As I considered that question, I wrote down what would ultimately become the first chapters of Vampires of the Scarlet Order.
Of course, working at an observatory, having the opportunity to see planets, stars, and galaxies regularly, also inspires me in more expected science fictional directions. One night, while observing the heart of our own galaxy in the infrared, a visiting astronomer remarked that we were seeing farther into the center of the galaxy than any human had seen before. I began to imagine ways humans really could visit the center of the galaxy and that started me on a writing path that ultimately led to my novels Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth.
My current writing project takes some inspiration from my job at Kitt Peak. The 4-meter telescope is housed in a 17-story tall skyscraper on a remote mountain in Southern Arizona. At night, the building is mostly empty. Stairways go off in unusual directions. Doors open onto odd-shaped, closet-like spaces. What few lights there are, are typically red and dim. Astronomers often remark how scary the building feels. Because of this, I’ve been working on a new novel that imagines a terrifying night at a haunted observatory called, The Astronomer’s Crypt.
Over the years, I’ve been building my own magician’s toyshop. I collect things that grab my eye, build models of spaceships that capture my imagination, and buy prints from science fiction convention art shows that depict alien worlds. On the wall in the picture (on the left), you can see a model I built of a solar sail, a type of spacecraft NASA and other space agencies are trying to build. It’s the thing that looks a little like an old farmhouse windmill. Imagining travel aboard a solar sail spacecraft led to my novel The Solar Sea.
In general, inspiration comes in favorite songs. It comes when I spend time with my kids and my wife. Sometimes inspiration finds me while I’m taking a walk through my neighborhood, hashing out an idea. I’ve found Ray Bradbury’s advice to me all those years ago to be absolutely true. A writer must go through life with eyes and ears open, because inspiration is everywhere.