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Historical Fiction

"Joshua Fagan wanted to be a scientist until he discovered he was terrible at math. So he became a science-fiction and fantasy writer instead. He loves stories about confused, relatable people who have to deal with everyday problems while also fighting aliens and robots. His guilty pleasures are cheesy musicals and 90s anime. When he's not writing about strange characters in stranger situations, he travels the world and eats far too much seafood.")
Hanging above my writer's desk are a dozen sticky notes, all with the same message: "Write about the 2030s." I scribble ideas on blank sheets of paper, but nothing works. Mankind discovering interstellar spaceflight? No. It's been done. First contact with aliens? Nope. There were approximately two thousand books about that last year. What else? Creating the first base on Mars? No. That was in the 2020s, wasn't it? I stare at the blank cursor on my computer screen as though it's taunting me. Snippets of conversations I've had with writer friends flash through my mind. One just finished a third short story collection and is going on a book tour. Another sold the film rights to one of her books. What am I doing wrong?
The lights flicker and dim. I grab a stack of books and mark the interesting pages. After hours of research, an idea drops into my head: the Titan landing. The gears in my mind whir. From the primordial mire where concepts live and die rises an image: there's the surface of Titan and the contorted faces of its first astronauts. This is it. Wiping the sweat from my face, I gather up my books, turn off the lights, and race into the living room, where Amelia and the kids are eating breakfast. The kids stare at me like I'm a mad scientist from one of those old B-movies, but Amelia's eyes glow. We've been married long enough that she knows what it means when I get like this. She knows I've discovered an idea I can use, the flicker of something that will turn into a story. When I tell her, she says, "This could be your big break."
"Now all I have to do is write it." I try to be calm, but I look away from her. If writing a story is like climbing a mountain, I'm still at the bottom, wondering how I'll reach the peak.
"Don't worry. You're the best historical fiction writer I know." She kisses me goodbye before entering her spaceship and flying to Venus to work on building a wormhole to Andromeda. I stare at the ship as it vanishes into the cosmos, not to return until late at night. Swallowing hard, I shuffle back toward my writer's cave, but I stop when my youngest, Bryan, tugs on my sleeve and asks what historical fiction is.
After attempting to say something profound, I eventually just mumble, "It's a story that takes place in the past. Before we had all this. Back when we were only a one-planet species."
"What did they want?" he asks slowly. "Back then?"
"I don't know. What we have now, I suppose."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020
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