This month the bloggers in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy tour are sharing about their favorites — books and authors — in speculative fiction.
Let me say at the outset that of all the novels I have read in my life, When the Sky Fell is not my favorite Christian speculative fiction story. There have been others I have enjoyed more. Why then would I share with all of you this particular book as one worthy of a review in comparison to those other books? The reason is quite simple. When the Sky Fell was the first novel I ever published, and will always hold a special place in my heart because of this.
Like most first-time authors, the journey to get the book published was a long and arduous one. Twenty-eight years in fact. There were innumerable rewrites during this time, writing conferences that produced zero results, a whole stack of rejection letters to show for my efforts, and an indomitable belief it would one day be published, despite all evidence to the contrary. In fact, I was very close to giving up my dreams of being a published author. I figured I didn't have what it took. Rather than just quit, I decided to give it one last try and offer a co-authorship to Brandon Barr, an author I had recently met online at the time, if he agreed to rewrite the entire novel. Because I was so close to the project I could no longer see it objectively anymore, the proverbial not being able to see the forest from the trees problem. Happily, he agreed to tackle this difficult project, and did a very good job of trimming down excess verbiage, tightening the characters, and giving the story much needed focus. The end result was Silver Leaf Books agreeing to publish our newly polished novel.
It is difficult to share with you just what it was like reading that e-mail from the managing editor at Silver Leaf. They were words I had waited years to hear. They actually wanted to publish my novel. It was a dream born of God many years before that was going to become a reality. Unknown to me at the time, there were many more trials and travails still awaiting me, which ultimately delayed publishing the story for another two years, but at that moment, I felt like a published author, and someone in the publishing industry also felt the same way about my story and was willing to take a financial risk on it. That is a feeling that will remain with me for the rest of my life. It's like the old adage, "You never forget your first love." For the author, it's, "You'll never forget your first acceptance."
As to the story itself, I had initially written it before I committed my life to Christ. It was your typical space opera--big, bad aliens are coming to destroy the Earth, and we have to figure out a way of stopping them before we're wiped out. There were a few years when I didn't do much with the story, and it was at this time that I committed my life to Jesus. As I slowly began to understand that God desires we give every area of our lives over to Him, He slowly began to impress upon me the same applied to When the Sky Fell. It didn't take long for me to figure out that I needed to go back and rewrite the entire story. To make a very long story short, cutting out many, many years along the way, I turned your typical alien invasion adventure into one that was a Biblical allegory based on the life of Paul the Apostle.
I had come to understand that everything I do for God, including the stories He inspired me to write, should be designed to honor Him, and/or help others have a better understanding of who He is. Or was Brandon and I wrote in our manuscript proposal:
Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
As a result of Man’s fall in the garden, the devil succeeded in severing humanity’s relationship with the Father. He, on the other hand, because of His great love for us, had a plan to restore that broken relationship—through the atoning death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. But the road to reach the Father is often a difficult one, with setbacks and diversions, often crafted by the devil himself.
Such is the difficult journey of one man, Commander Frank Yamane. Using the details of Paul’s life and teachings as the foundation of this story, the reader is taken on a trip where the cosmological battle between good and evil is played out right before his eyes, with the fate of the human race hanging in the balance. Like Paul, Frank Yamane believes he can fulfill what he had been destined to do apart from the will of God. The result is the death of millions, and the future of humanity hanging in the balance.
As to what the story is specifically about, we also included this summary in our proposal:
The year is 2217, and Commander Frank Yamane is the captain of the stellar cruiser, Corona, stationed at Saturn’s moon, Titan. Having been in the military for most of his life, he is a battle-hardened man who has experienced a series of personal tragedies, including the loss of his beloved wife, Liana. The inability to prevent her death has left him feeling guilt-ridden, and plagued with doubts regarding his ability to lead others. It is these same experiences, however, that have also prepared him for when humanity needs him most—when an alien race known as the Deravans attack the earth without mercy. Knowing he cannot stop them alone, Yamane has no choice but to seek the assistance of an enemy he helped defeat in a war ten years before. The problem is—Commander Yamane knows they have every reason not to come to Earth’s rescue.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts about my first published novel. It's not my favorite in terms of stories I've read. And I guess in a sense it could never be. When you read a story for the first time, especially one that captures your imaginations, it is like you are transported into another reality, and you enjoy the ride as you go. For stories you toil over for months or years, writing and rewriting a character's dialogue, dropping those elements that don't work, even though they are beautifully written, the awe and wonder produced by a well-crafted tale presented to you by another isn't possible. But that's okay. It's like I said before, When the Sky Fell will always be special for me because it was my first.
If you are curious about which stories deemed as the best by those who are also participating in the Blog Tour, simply click any one of their names below.
Thomas Clayton Booher
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Rachel Starr Thomson