• J.D. Mitchell

Did I Mention it was an Honor?

Updated: May 15

Sweet Lady of Blessed Validation, my comedic space opera novelette, Red Sun Over Silver City, earned an Honorable Mention in L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest!


Most writers will attest that validation's giddy highs come after months and years of trudging through the deepest, darkest valleys of uncertainty and apprehension; cold, hard places of solitary work worn into the landscape, where writers endlessly struggle with plot, words and inadequacy.


The fleeting esteem snatched from occasional successes is what keeps us going.

I wish I could share Red Sun with you because it's one of my favourites, but I am shopping it around for publication, which is a very long, very dark valley of its own. I'm sure it'll find a home sooner or later--this Honorable Mention will make selling it a little easier--so I'll content myself, and hopefully entertain you, by talking about it.


Before Red Sun I had written mostly fantasy (a lot of it), including my novel and several short stories. I love fantasy, but I was feeling a need to try my hand at something fast, furious and silly. Fantasy has certain... requirements that certain sci-fi lacks. So, I cut loose and threw myself headlong into space opera with The Fifth Element, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in mind.


I love space opera because it has no rules. No hard and fast ones, anyway. Unlike fantasy and hard sci-fi, you can really go nuts with spaceships, blasters, comedy, aliens, tech stuff, and sciencey things. The fine details aren't really that important, it's all about the action, the drama, the conflict, the visuals. Without restrictions I could set my story literally anywhere.


I let my imagination go to town. That town, turns out, is built on a rocky planet orbiting a red dwarf. When I closed my eyes I saw a tiny ball suspended in the blackest space below a massive red star. I saw blue skies and pink clouds, black rock cut by a network of kilometer-high cliffs that towered over oceanic canyons wide enough to accommodate a mega city.

Alright, so I knew where it was going to happen, but was that even possible? I mean, this is space opera but I still wanted it to be plausible. I'm not into hard science and know only a tiny bit about astronomy from a long-ago university intro course--the rest had to come from the internet, the modern writer's best friend.


Turns out the clouds I had envisioned were a good thing, because one way to have a habitable planet orbiting a red dwarf is for it to be very close, and the only way to survive that radiation is for the planet to have serious cloud cover. That was good: I could make it water vapor and a human-friendly atmosphere; I didn't need to worry about domes or re-breathers or anything like that. The flora would be prehistoric--giant ferns and huge palms. They would, I learned, need very dark leaves to better absorb the weak star's red light, and those plants would look black in that kind of light. Very cool. I decided the fauna would be chiefly avian and aquatic to go with those open skies and endless canyons.


That was all I needed to start the story, and it took very little time. It's exactly what I needed after a heavy investment in a detailed dark fantasy setting. Go time!


So, yeah, when I said I wanted to let loose, I meant it: exploited bots, super-heated plasma guns, oppressive planetary regimes, blockade running, and an intergalactic megabank that has a vested interest in keeping Kev from getting ahead. Sounds familiar. Sure, I wanted a crazy, sexy space romp, but I also was writing for myself, so I wove themes important to me into my crazy space opera, themes as accessible as Star Wars' underdog Rebellion fighting Space Nazis.


And that's how I wrote Red Sun. Right from the first, poor old Kev's in over his head (trust me, he deserves it), stumbling from situation to situation in a desperate attempt to stay solvent. But he's a sleazy trader. Funny, but not very likable, though he does kind of grow on you. He needed someone to keep him honest...

Jo's a kick-ass engineer with a shady past and a undiagnosed soft spot for Kev. She'll keep the ship repaired and Kev on the straight a narrow, sometimes with her fist. I never said it was a healthy relationship.


That's it in a nutshell. How the story came to be and the two main characters that see it through--three main characters if you include their ship, The Indefatigable Bucket, which you should. It's a fun story about a man trying to sell a load of discount hotpants on a world that's shiftier than himself. But it's a shify galaxy and this novella is just the first of many irreverent adventures to come.


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