Suzanne’s Note: Since trying my hand at writing Science Fiction and finding that readers of Pam of Babylon love it, I had to branch out in my research/reading. Discovering Galactic Journey led me to Gideon Marcus. I’m in the middle of reading his short stories and I cannot put them down.
Gideon Marcus is a professional space historian, freelance journalist, and the creator of the acclaimed science fact/fiction blog, Galactic Journey.
From the About Page – Imagine living through the post-Golden Age of science fiction and fantasy. What would it be like to experience this journey at the plodding, one day per day, pace?
The Traveler lives in 1961, but he regularly commutes 55 years into the future to write about then-contemporary science fiction and fantasy, particularly fiction found in magazines. Of course, just detailing the fiction of the day would be without context, not to mention a little dull. So expect to read about the movies, the space shots, the politics, the music, and much more!
There is nothing like the Journey anywhere else in the universe. Come jump through the portal and see a world you may but dimly remember, or which you may never have seen before, but without which your time could never have been…
From Galactic Journey – “At a local gathering of science fiction fans, my wife and I discussed the state of the genre, particularly how our s-f digests are doing. Their boom began in 1949 and peaked in 1953, when there were nearly 40 in publication. That number is down to less than 10, and many are (as usual) predicting the end of the fun.
While it is true that the volume of production is down, I argued that the quality is up…or at least evolving. I used Galaxy’s sister magazine IF as an example. IF pays its writers less than Galaxy, and it is a sort of training ground for new blood. Fred Pohl, the magazine’s shadow editor, also prints more unusual stories there. As a result, the magazine’s quality is highly variable, but the peaks tend to be interesting.”
An Interview with Writer, Publisher Gideon Marcus
- How long did it take you to start writing in earnest once you knew that was what you wanted to do?
I’ve always been a writer. I spent much of my childhood in my father’s law office surrounded by typewriters and word processors – lovely things for a kid with atrocious penmanship! I grew up on science fiction, so I naturally drifted in that direction. Sophomore year in high school, I turned in a little story about tachyons and precognition for extra credit in my math class. As the day wore on, classmates kept coming up to me and saying how much they’d liked it. Turned out my teacher had read it to every subsequent class.
That was my first taste of fame, such as it was.
I got the idea that writing might be a career path in college. My brother had finished the skeleton of a fantasy novel, but he just couldn’t find the energy to flesh it out. He tossed it in my lap. I revised the whole thing, adding half again as much content. By the end, you couldn’t tell where his work stopped and mine began. I’m proud of that novel, though I never managed to find a publisher.
I completed my history degree in 2006. That same year, during my first semester of grad school, one of my professors pulled me aside and gave his unvarnished opinion of me. He told me that I’d never be a good historian, that I lacked the philosophical underpinnings for it, and I should just give up.
So I quit school…and became a professional space historian! After all, how could I resist a challenge like that? I published the definitive history of the Air Force’s early unmanned space program, for which I was invited onto the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society. That stint taught me more about research and scientific writing than any post-graduate degree could have.
It naturally followed that I’d get into journalism and for a few years, I became one of the better-known scribblers in North San Diego County. As a reporter and as a freelancer, I published hundreds of pieces, and I got really good at the 500-word article format. That gig only lasted two years; the Recession killed the papers, and I got a real (and better-paying) job running a law firm. But it was only a matter of time until I again took up the quill…
- Are you self published? Did you launch into self-publishing or did you try the traditional route first?
In 2013, I decided to take a break from the sordid business of family law and go back to my preferred pastime. That’s when I came up with the idea for Galactic Journey. It’s a blog with an unique twist: each entry is written from the point of view of someone living day-by-day exactly 55 years in the past. Well, not just any person. Me.
That means I write about my passions: Science fiction. The Space Race. Pop Culture.
Why 55 years? I’ve found there’s something really special about that distance in time. Further into the past, the world is an alien place. The world of 1961, however, is recognizably ours: a hotly contested election based more on TV than issues, burgeoning science, increasing standards of living, phones, computers, rockets… One can understand this world and see the roots of our current time in it. It’s also an age in which women and minorities are finally starting to get their voices heard; over time, the Journey has increasingly focused on these marginalized voices.
The Journey was a labor of love, a way to satisfy my urges to write and educate. I figured I’d get one or two fans. Then the big sf fan-site, i09.com, wrote an article about me, and thousands of people flooded in.
Since then, the Journey has enjoyed steady growth. I’ve hired a several guest columnists, and I even have a constellation of fans who comment on every post. Last year, I was nominated for the Hugo, which was quite a flattering surprise. I’ve been invited to do panels at conventions. It’s all a lot of fun, and I’ve met some great people.
- What was the most difficult part of the journey?
Writing as I do about science fiction magazines of the 50s and 60s, I’ve always wanted to join the ranks of Asimov, McCaffrey, Heinlein, and Henderson as a published sf author. Last year, I took a solid six months off of work, writing and submitting science fiction stories. Some were pretty good, some were lousy, all were rejected.
That was tough. Rejection always hurts, particularly given that my non-fiction career had been so effortless. It just goes to show that success in one field of writing does not always immediately translate into success in another.
- Do you want to do a stand alone or series?
I love to build worlds. Once you’ve got a solid setting, it’s hard to use it for just one story.
For instance, I once wrote a history of an alternate Space Race where the Soviets landed on the moon just a few months after Armstrong’s “small step.” It was nominated for a Turtledove award on alternatehistory.com
I’ve written two stories in that universe so far. One of my favorite pieces stars the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. I’d love to publish a collection of tales from that timeline.
I’ve also plotted out a young adult science fiction series about a young woman of color who builds her own starship and explores the galaxy. I think it’s a good mix of hard science fiction and adventure.
- Do you jump right in to write once you get an idea, or do you plan and outline?
I’m definitely an outliner. I often write whole scenes or articles in my head before the words ever come out. That said, there are plenty of times I’ll throw myself into a writing session with only the vaguest idea what I want to write about. The results often surprise me. When you let your characters be themselves, they wander in directions you wouldn’t expect!
- Where do you write? Do you have any rituals or necessities when you write? Is noise a hindrance?
I’m blessed with the ability to write pretty much anywhere, a trick I perfected banging out articles for the newspaper. I enjoy taking my laptop to coffee shops or restaurants, but I usually write at home, often just before or after work.
- Do you write more than one piece at a time? What’s in the works now?
I tend to work pretty linearly on my pieces, but I also like flipping back and forth. Sometimes I get a juicy idea I have to get down on paper regardless of what else I’ve got going. It’s also nice to have something to turn to when I get writer’s block on another project.
- What encourages you to write? Discourages? What do you do to motivate yourself through the rough times?
Deadlines are the secret to consistent writing. When I was on sabbatical, I gave myself a quota of at least 500 words of fiction per day. It gets you into the habit of always writing. Two pages doesn’t sound like a lot, but after six months, it adds up!
The only discouraging thing about writing is that I never have time to do as much as I’d like.
- I’m sure your experiences must compel you to write! Readers want to hear whatever you have to say about that!
The truism goes “Write what you know.” I know history, I know space, and I know science fiction. It’s no surprise that I decided to build a time machine. I hope you’ll all join me at Galactic Journey.
Find Gideon Marcus/Galactic Journey Here