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The Story Behind "Countdown (My Dear One)"

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The Story Behind "Countdown (My Dear One)"

Jacquelyn Bengfort

If you've been following me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I spent Thanksgiving weekend live-tweeting my reading of Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction. This new collection, edited by the talented Kelly Ann Jacobson, features 19 scifi shorts unified by their epistolary nature.

My story "Countdown (My Dear One)" is one of them!

Most often (at least in my experience) writers write things and then try to find a home for them. This story came about quite differently. I saw Kelly's call for submissions for Dear Robot and wrote the story in response. And to my happy relief, she accepted it.

I knew right away that I wanted to echo the countdown that signals the launch of a spacecraft. I also knew that the duration of a flight to Mars is roughly ten months, because I have written other stories about Mars missions (you can read another example here). It's also roughly the length of time it takes to gestate a human, something I recently did for the second time. I put all these things together, and the tale of Ethan Reisender, doomed astronaut, came out.

Initially I wrote it moving chronologically through time, but reversing the time structure was always my intention. I did, however, scrap the romantic notion that he was writing letters by hand and jetissoning them into space; my scifi-loving husband helped me kill that darling, and a quick conversation with him led to the memo that opens the story. And I got to fold in some authentic memories of my time in the Navy, which was also great fun (even if the resulting story is far from what most people would categorize as "fun").

For a chance to win a copy of Dear Robot and read it for yourself, comment on this or any other Dear Robot blog post by my fellow contributors or Kelly herself by midnight on Friday. Include your email address in the post (deconstructed as, for example, dearrobot (at) gmail dot com to thwart the spambots!). You can also check out Goodreads for another chance to win. Or just go ahead and buy a copy; it works out to less than fifty cents per story!