What Inspires Writers

The thoughts behind the stories in Compostela

For more than 1,000 years, Santiago de Compostela has attracted pilgrims to walk to the cathedral that holds St. James the apostle’s relics. The stories in the Compostela anthology in their own way tell the tale of futuristic travelers who journey into the dark outer (or inner) reaches of space, searching for their own connections to the past, present and future relics of their time.

These are the author’s inspirations for the stories.

Alan Bao “Marvin”

The story came from a place between Issac Asimov’s short story “Robbie,” and Fallout 4’s Cold War Americana.

John Bell “A New Lexicon of Loss”

I thought it would be interesting to explore the impact of time travel–even into the very near future–on both the first time travellers and those they left behind.

Chantal Boudreau “Better”

It was inspired by the discussion of whether or not athletes with prosthetic limbs should be allowed to participate in the Olympics against athletes without them.

Tanya Bryan “The Other Story”

Tom Baker’s Doctor Who is always the seed of any time travel inspiration for me, so even though he wasn’t directly involved in the writing or creation of this poem, he’s always there on the sidelines with his stripey scarf trailing behind him. I wrote this poem a few years ago after reading up on time travel and trying to make sense of what I’d read. I pictured a character who had a rather tough life and who believed in fairy tales, even if they never happened to her. In desperation, she became the first chrononaut to travel through time, searching history and parallel universes for the happy ending she knew existed – somewhere, sometime else.

Leslie Brown “Trespass”

I found the anthology’s theme challenging until I came up with a woman trying to escape herself and find redemption. Her technology fails her and she is forced to confront who she really is.

J. R. Campbell “Creaky Wheel”

I was considering mystery stories and how the same information holds different meanings for people (human and otherwise) depending on their perspective and experience. A big part of any mystery story is revealing information to suspects and seeing how they process it, science fiction lets you push that to the extreme.

Eric Choi “Plot Device”

The artificial intelligence research of Dr. Selmer Bringsjord, Professor of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Miki Dare “Grounded”

I was brainstorming ideas and thought of a world where folks could change color to match their moods. I wondered what life would be like for those who could not change their color, and I visualized Jukiht – a grey worm who had worked as a servant/slave all her life…and the world and story just built from there.

Robert Dawson “The White Bear”

As a university professor, and a graduate of a very old university, I’m fascinated by the history of universities. I started wondering what a university might be like in a different culture; this story was the result.

Linda DeMeulemeester “The Last Indie Truck Stop on Mars”

I stumbled onto the most delightful book years ago, about a woman who left civilization to be a teacher in the early years of Alaska and the challenges she faced. It made me consider that if people did begin to populate Mars, wouldn’t there be similar types of people who faced similar challenges?

Steve Fahnestalk “Gifted Fingers”

It was inspired both by Steinbeck’s [“Of Mice And Men”] and the Warner Bros./Bugs Bunny version thereof.

Jacob Fletcher “The Eyes of Others”

What if an android was capable of creating and appreciating art?

Catherine Girczyc “Card” & “Ancient Tech”

The first one is “Card”, which is about missing a special friend, and “Ancient Tech”, which talks about the future of ‘story’ even though we change technologies.

Roxanne Gregory “The Tell”

I dreamed a Cloud-based nano-virus infected every device and caused the Great Dying. I woke up and wrote as much of the dream as possible. Because the story  was so serious, I wanted some comedic elements that most tech-savvy people could relate to..The Tell is part of my screenplay, The Wasteland, based on that dream.

Mary-Jean Harris “The Immortal Fire”

The inspiration for my poem was really just that I had written a short story for the anthology but wasn’t happy with it, so to brainstorm another one, I started to write something else. Somehow, that “something else” wasn’t a story as I had expected, but it became this poem.

Geoffrey Hart “Childhood’s End”

Not sure, but possibly it’s because my wife has been working as a Unitarian Lay Chaplain for the past 6 years, doing “hatching, matching, and dispatchings” to help people pass through three crucial life stages.

Guy Immega “Epilogue”

There were a few things that inspired work:

  1. The discovery of thousands of habitable exoplanets orbiting distant stars makes me dream of humans colonizing the galaxy.
  2. Craig Venture created the first synthetic cell with manufactured DNA — its mother was a computer.
  3. Canada’s only science satellite: MOST (nicknamed it the “Humble Space Telescope”) which monitored variations in star light and looked for exoplanets.

Garnet Johnson-Koehn “Buried, But Not Dead”

I was re-reading Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos series, and he made reference to the ‘Martian War Machine’, not as a weapon, but as a whole system of government, and it was just such an evocative phrase I knew I had to do something with the idea of it.  Rather than look at what something like that would be as an active power, though, I thought it would be more interesting to use it as a sort of boogey man for the characters, an in-universe threat so terrifying that even long after it had passed people were still scared of what that system had touched.  And I thought to myself, maybe they should have good reason to be scared, even after all this time.  But everyone’s gotta make a buck, so maybe some folks don’t have the good sense to be scared after all.

Michael Johnstone “For You, Endlessly”

It was inspired by a combination of John Keats’ poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” thinking about the possibility and implications of conscious virtual entities, and having experienced a very difficult period of loss (including my father’s passing).

Cate McBride “Scavengers”

Although the story is set well after the events, it started with a vision of aliens destroying Mars Colony, then moving to attack Earth only to be destroyed by weapons built by prisoners on the Moon. I wanted to know what happened next.

Lisa Ann McLean “No More At All”

The inspiration for this short story is the apocalyptic world in which the novel I’m working on takes place.  This story is the catalyst that sets that world into motion.

Rati Mehrotra “The Shadowed Forest”

My inspiration came from Dante’s Inferno:
“When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
for I had lost the path that does not stray.
Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was,
that savage forest, dense and difficult,
which even in recall renews my fear:
so bitter – death is hardly more severe!”

And also from Orwell’s 1984. I imagined a future Toronto where everyone is forced to wear implants that connect them to each other and to the city, but also means that they are constantly policed. My protagonist can no longer distinguish between good and evil in her situation. In that sense, she walks in a “Shadowed Forest”. But she holds on to things from the past, physical things that she can touch and feel, like books and knives. This is a clue that she is different from others around her.

Derryl Murphy “In Memory Of”

There is a scene at the end of the story involving the rememberer that I hesitate to give away, but I will note it was this image that came to me first, and I wanted to know what it was she was holding up, and what she was surrounded by. The entire story grew from this picture, almost literally a sudden flash of inspiration.

Brent Nichols “Intervention”

My inspiration for “Intervention” started when I read a headline about a man in Japan who hired online “hit men” to go into his son’s favourite game and assassinate his son’s avatar, over and over, in the hope that they would ruin the game for the boy and he would give up in disgust – and get a real life. I’m fascinated by addiction, by the wonderful potential of virtual environments, and by the sad human penchant to take anything good and carry it to a sick excess.

Susan Pieters “Ghost In The Machine”:

I had a friend over for dinner who had just completed the Compostela Pilgrimage, and started me thinking…the next week the topic was announced, and I got chills. I hope this story gives the readers chills too.

Alexandra Renwick “Dear Houston”

I was a junk and salvage dealer for years and can scarcely begin to imagine how much detritus we humans collectively generate and jettison on a daily basis.  I’m immune neither to the terrible horror of it, nor the terrible beauty.

Rhea Rose ‘Gel Theta One”

The inspiration for the story came from imagining how lonely it would be traveling out in space all of one’s life. Virtual reality would be a blessing and falling in love with another living thing would be cosmic because of the lack of interaction with other living beings.

Robert J. Sawyer “The Shoulders of Giants”

I was inspired by the curiosity about the pioneer spirit that risks everything to open up new frontiers.

Thea van Diepen “I Didn’t Expect the Stars”

One day, I thought about writing a story and got an image in my head of a corpse thumping into the cockpit of a spaceship. From the outside. It was actually a hallucination, and the story was going to be a sort of thriller feel as the crew of the ship were slowly going insane from stress and not knowing when or if they’d get where they want to go. I worked out all the backstory- why they were there, who the pilot was and what motivated him, why was the trip so stressful and who was making it that way- but couldn’t seem to get the story going. Before Compostela was ready for submissions, another anthology was wanting spec fic short stories, and my brain went back to this story idea and was like “what if you made it about the pilot’s wife instead? The one in cryosleep?” And suddenly it worked. The other anthology didn’t accept the story, so I polished it some more, gave it a better title, and submitted it to Compostela. I still want to write the story with the corpse hitting the glass someday. It’s a killer idea.

Nancy SM Waldman “No Others Like Us”

This story evolved from two inspirations.

First, because I was dealing with a chronic pain situation at the time, I wrote into my story pools that could provide complete, soul-reviving, pain-relief–and a character who really needed that. I was envious, but somehow it helped just imagining it. It is good to look back now and remember that am much improved!

My second inspiration was an anecdote from my husband’s hitchhiking days where he returned to a small town ten years later to find that his actions while passing through had, in a small way, changed the town. This notion is magnified in my story to a…cosmic level.

CompostelaAbout Compostela

Compostela is an anthology of hard and soft science fiction stories that best represent a futuristic view of the sciences and how humanity might be affected (for better or worse) by a reliance in all things technological. The stories contained within the pages of Compostela are a reflection of the world we live in today; where science produces both wonders and horrors; and will leave us with a future that undoubtedly will contain both. Journeys to the stars may be exhilarating and mind-expanding, but they can also be dangerous or even tragic. SF has always reflected that wide range of possibilities.

Read more about this anthology at EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

About the Editors

Spider RobinsonSpider Robinson

Since he began writing professionally in 1972, Spider Robinson has won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Hugo Awards, a Nebula, and numerous other international and regional awards. Most of his 36 books are still in print. His short work has appeared in magazines around the planet and in numerous anthologies. The Usenet newsgroup alt.callahans and its many offshoots, inspired by his Callahan’s Place series, were an important non-porn network in early cyber­space.

In 2006 he became the only writer ever to collaborate at novel-length with First Grandmaster of Science Fiction Robert A. Heinlein, posthumously completing VARIABLE STAR at the request of the Heinlein estate. That same year, the US Library of Congress invited him to Washington D.C. to be a guest of the First Lady at the White House for the National Book Festival. In 2008 he shared the Rob­ert A. Heinlein Award for Lifetime Excellence in Literature with his mentor Ben Bova.

Spider was regular book reviewer for Galaxy, Analog and New Destinies magazines for a decade, and contributes occasional book reviews to The Globe And Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, for which he wrote a regular Op-Ed column, The Crazy Years, from 1996-2004. As an audiobook reader of his own and others’ work, he has won the Earphones Award and been a finalist for the Audie. In 2001 he released Belaboring The Obvious, a CD featuring original music accompanied by Canadian guitar legend Amos Garrett. He has written songs in collaboration with David Crosby and with Todd Butler.

Spider was married for 35 years to Jeanne Robinson, a writer, choreographer, former dancer and teacher who died of biliary cancer in 2010. She was founder/Artistic Director of Halifax’s Nova Dance Theatre during its 8-year history. The Robinsons collaborated on the Hugo-, Nebula- and Locus-winning Stardance Trilogy, concerning zero gravity dance and its role in communication in space. Spider and Jeanne met in the woods of Nova Scotia at the end of the 60s, and lived for their last two decades in British Columbia.

James GardnerJames Alan Gardner

Raised in Simcoe and Bradford, Ontario, James Alan Gardner earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Applied Mathematics from the University of Waterloo.

A graduate of the Clarion West Fiction Writers Workshop, Gardner has published science fiction short stories in a range of periodicals, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Amazing Stories. In 1989, his short story “The Children of Crèche” was awarded the Grand Prize in the Writers of the Future contest. Two years later his story “Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large” won an Aurora Award; another story, “Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream,” won an Aurora and was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards.

He has written a number of novels in a “League of Peoples” universe in which murderers are defined as “dangerous non-sentients” and are killed if they try to leave their solar system by aliens who are so advanced that they think of humans like humans think of bacteria. This precludes the possibility of interstellar wars.

He has also explored themes of gender in his novels, including Commitment Hour in which people change sex every year, and Vigilant in which group marriages are traditional. Gardner is also an educator and technical writer. His book Learning UNIX is used as a textbook in some Canadian universities.

A Grand Prize winner of the Writers of the Future contest, he lives with his family in Waterloo, Ontario.

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