The idea for The Boy Who Fell from the Sky came out of another novel I was writing, but I ended up putting on hold. I was originally writing a post-apocalyptic story set 400 years in the future. I built this whole huge world (in my imagination, of course) and peopled it with characters and events. Then I started thinking about the backstory, how the apocalypse had come about.
I spend a lot of time building back-stories and detail, because my worlds are all invented and I would get hopelessly lost if I didn’t write it all down. I created a spreadsheet with a kind of future history, going all the way to 2472, based on research I’d done, reading books by futurologists and various scientists, like Michio Kaku and geopolitics forecasters like George Friedman.
In the backstory, this character emerged, someone called Mathew Erlang, who was this genius scientist, a legend in the future. He started out being just a name and a portrait in an art gallery. I began to imagine his story, from when he was a boy, not that far into our own future, starting in 2055. Then his story gained more and more space in my head until it kind of took over and demanded to be written first. So The Boy Who Fell from the Sky is actually the prequel to that original set aside novel.
But to answer the question, why was I writing this kind of book at all, there’s a longer more complex answer. I studied literature at university and like most literature students read the classics and then what is laid down as modern classics, the kind of books that win the Booker Prize. I always like magical realism, but probably because of the inherent prejudices against science fiction and speculative fiction amongst literary types, I was late to the genre.
The first books in that I read were Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake and I was drawn to Ursula Le Guinn because one of my more enlightened professors had mentioned her name to me. Then I discovered Philip K Dick and Iain M Banks and I was hooked!
Around the same time, I started reading The New Scientist. I worked for many years in online businesses and I love technology – I’m a typical gadget geek. But reading The New Scientist I was being fed this weekly diet of the wonderful and miraculous. Really, before then, I had no idea of the pace of scientific innovation that is going on around us and the crazy stuff that physicists think up, like string theory and multiverses. I just fell in love with the ideas. I discovered there’s this whole community of people who think about the future, the futurists, or futurologists. I started to read their books and their blogs and anything I could get my hands on, really. The New Scientist also covers climate change quite closely. I wanted to know more, so I read a lot about the subject, books by people like James Lovelock and James Hansen and started to become more and more concerned.
As my reading had become broader, I started to enjoy books like The Hunger Games and Divergent. I also love books like Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking and Chuck Wendig’s Heartland Trilogy. They are all exciting, deeply engaging dystopian action adventure series. Literary catnip. So I wanted to write something similar, something fun but also something that brought a bit of this science I’d been reading into the mix. I liked the idea of exploring possible futures based on the non-fiction I’d be reading. Fiction has always been a good way of testing out “what if” scenarios, our old version of virtual reality. In my stories, I am trying to do that. I don’t write “hard science fiction”, but I try as best I can, to explore versions of what might happen based on good sources.
The Boy Who Fell from the Sky is available on Kindle and as a paperback from Amazon.