I wanted to write a quirky article for Chris’ blog, The Story Reading Ape (I mean, when you start with that title, readers expect outside-the-norm, don’t you think?). Well, unusual fits my stories, mostly set within the rarely-read prehistoric fiction genre. My overarching theme–survival–might sound mundane in today’s world where man is king but in prehistoric days (one-two million years ago), we were always one encounter away from extinction. The mystery of how we survived a habitat filled with sabertooth tigers, massive tusked mammoth, and vicious wolves almost as tall as us is why I began writing this genre. Add to that, our predecessors had puny teeth, dull nails, skin that could be sliced open with one swipe of a five-inch claw, rarely wore clothes, and had no idea what a number or a wheel was. Well, you see the problem with the simple goal of survival.
So each of my novels asks, How did we survive impossible circumstances?
To start with, earliest man had no idea how over-matched he was. If someone had told him, he probably would have hid underground like moles or scampered into the tallest trees like his ape predecessors. Instead, he stood upright and stayed on the ground, intent to boldly go where no man had gone before–
Wait. I can’t use that phrase. It’s Star Trek’s. In fact, this audacious statement is how Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek’s creator) built the sci-fi empire from something that lived only within his imagination into one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time. Sound complicated? The shows actually followed fairly basic rules:
- The instinct to survive is king. Life does what’s needed to continue. Never underestimate the will to live.
- Don’t judge a character by his/her appearance. Star Trek often raised moral and social issues through non-humans who were as smart, devious, and focused as any human.
- When in Rome… That lesson never changes. No matter where you are in the Universe, the fantasy world, or history, the laws and culture of the land and people color everything. Treat them with respect.
- The Vulcan game of Kal-toh is a metaphor. Tuvok explained the object of Kal-toh as “finding the seeds of order in the midst of chaos.” That theme was replayed over and over throughout Star Trek’s TV shows and movies.
- Imbue your fantasy world with truth. For example, the Romulan ships (and later the Klingons’) had cloaking devices. Well, a version of that already exists using metamaterials but so far, can hide only small items. Sometime in the future, it will grow into what Star Trek postulated. If you’re interested in metamaterials and hiding objects in plain sight, check out my thriller, To Hunt a Sub.
- Integrate fascinating trivia. For example, the Klingon warship in Star Trek was named after the original Wright Brothers plane, Bird of Prey.
What’s my message? The basics are fundamental to any story. Build a fictional world that readers want to inhabit and they’ll travel with you through one book, a trilogy, or an entire series.
Read Jacqui Murray’s prehistoric fiction trilogy, Crossroads, available in print/digital through Amazon.
The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an ,Amazon Vine Voice a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Fall 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning