Star Liner

Scott Branchfield

What does it mean to be human? For many, it is just a struggle to survive. Even for many of those lucky enough to be comfortable, baser instincts are still paramount: greed, acquisition, power, fear of anyone different. But shouldn’t humans strive to have goals higher than that of the beasts. Should we not respect the lives of others even though it is uncomfortable, even though we may hate them? Certainly religions and philosophers have tried to get us to see this. But it is a hard thing to do. Fear of others is human nature. Human nature is really animal nature. Time will tell if we will rise above it. This story explores the difficulty of siding with someone or something you hate, just because it is the right thing to do.

Which single author do you think influenced Star Liner most?

I guess of those authors that I listed above, I would probably say Robert Heinlein shows through into Star Liner. Heinlein was a master of space opera and Star Liner definitely has elements of space opera in it. Also, Heinlein’s main characters were often young adults faced with a situation completely out of their experience. He took us inside their heads and let us experience what they were going through, their fears, motivations, and thought processes. Like them, my main character, Jan Stot, finds himself in situations he would not have imagined and is unprepared for, yet somehow he must deal with them. We see him trying to overcome his own insecurities to solve the problems he and the others face. We see relationships develop. We see Jan forming a bond with the rest of his “crew”. They are all very different personalities yet they come together to try to accomplish their tasks.

Did you start out with the intent to include the mystery element to Star Liner?

I did. Having a murder happen in a contained location like a space ship seems to me to heighten the tension. Agatha Christie knew this (Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None). Even though it is a large ship with nearly a thousand people on it, no one can leave. I enjoyed playing with the paranoia that would ensue in such a situation.

How many science fiction stories have you written, published or not?

I have written six novels at least in draft form. Three of them (including Star Liner) are substantial enough in my opinion to pursue publishing. The other two are The Down Side of Eternity, and Renfield’s Dream. The Down Side of Eternity is a futuristic tale where the aging process has been stopped (for most people). Renfield’s Dream is part alternative history and part fantasy, with a couple of characters borrowed from Bram Stoker and some others borrowed from history. I will continue to pursue publishing them after the release of Star Liner. When I was in college I wrote quite a few short stories. Though none of them were published, it was good writing practice.

Why are you most excited to see Star Liner for sale?

I think it is a good story. I want to get it out there, to have people read it, react to it. I have been writing for a while now. It is exciting to finally put it out there where more than just my friends and family can read it.

What's your favorite mythological or fairy tale story?

I would have to say the Middle Earth stories by Tolkien. He did something that was completely new at the time. He constructed a world that was so carefully and lovingly constructed that the reader had no problem believing in orcs, hobbits, elves, and a multitude of other magical creatures. His work has been copied so often that people forget how groundbreaking it was at the time. I also love the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. While it is definitely not a copy of Tolkien, I don’t think it would have existed had not Tolkien come first.

What's a similar story or book to Star Liner that you've read before?

There is nothing that I can think of that really fits the mold of Star Liner, but there are aspects of the plot that remind me of the following excellent books: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, Startide Rising by David Brin, Chindi by Jack McDevitt, In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick,

Any last thoughts for readers looking forward to your book?

I just hope they enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.