Evan Dicken returns to the pages of Analog with a fascinating look at what it might take to keep a generation ship viable. Read on to learn a little bit about him and “Generations Lost and Found,” on sale in our current issue now!
Analog Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
ED: Last winter, a gas line leading to my house ruptured just before the holidays. There was no explosion, no terrible hiss, just a faint smell in our basement. We called the utility company and they shut it off, but with the holiday season in full swing no one could come out to fix it for at least a week. My partner (quite intelligently) spirited our infant son away to his grandparents’ house, while I (quite stupidly) decided to tough it out.
As the temperature dropped I piled on more and more clothes (and later, blankets), enduring ice-cold showers and numb fingers. Being of a fanciful bent, I began to imagine myself as the sole survivor in a generation-ship, desperately trying to keep the thing going long enough to reach its destination. I got to thinking about how I might modify my clothes and equipment to better deal with the cold, and later, how I might modify myself.
Then, with nothing better to do, I sat down to write about it.
AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
ED: I would say the seed for “Generations Lost and Found” has been rattling around in my head since I read Dan Simmons’ Hyperion series back in junior high. I really liked the idea of The Outers (humans who had modified their genes and bodies to better adapt to other worlds), but I didn’t much care for the intrinsic threat they embodied.
I knew I wanted to write a story where, despite there being limited resources, despite there being an imminent threat of extinction, there was no inherent hostility between altered and unaltered humans.
That (and the cold) was the seed for this piece. Maro and the others might not understand the Sleepers, but I wanted the conflict to be external to their differences.
AE: What made you think of Analog for this story?
ED: Well, that’s a quick one to answer. Analog is one of my favorite publications. When I write science fiction, I always think of Analog.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
ED: I was reading through my stories, trying to figure out which ones might work in a collection or chapbook, and I realized that a large number of my narratives deal with family. I feel like this is an outgrowth of my general aversion to romance. (I should add, there’s nothing wrong with romance—I quite enjoy stories privileging romantic themes. I just have a hard time writing them.) Making my characters family allows for very close personal interactions and character arcs while simultaneously problematizing romantic angles.
Also, I recently became a first-time father, so children have been weighing quite heavily on my mind. It’s been weird feeling all the little chemical switches flick on in my brain. The love I feel for my son is strange, powerful, and (occasionally) terrifying.
In short, it’s the perfect vein to mine for story ideas.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
ED: I could think of a couple I wouldn’t mind being a part of, but I have to say, I keep coming back to Star Trek. I know it’s mostly confined to visual media (not to denigrate all the amazing Trek fiction out there, much of which I have enjoyed), but the optimism and technological triumphalism of the Federation has always resonated with me.
I mean, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to pursue their ideal self?
A few years ago, my partner bought me one of those little 3-D printed statuettes of myself in a Federation uniform. It sits by my desk like a tutelary god. Whenever I’m feeling stressed, or tired, or just lacking in motivation, I sit and stare at it for a minute or two. I know I’ll never be an officer on a starship (maybe a lieutenant or lieutenant-commander, captain was never my style), but it motivates me to imagine what that Evan would be like.
AE: What careers have you had and how do they affect your writing?
ED: A very, very wise author, Timons Esaias, once told me that research is no substitute for experience. If that’s truly the case, then I’m quite lucky.
In my relatively short life I’ve stutter-stepped down quite a few career paths, from psychological researcher, to translator, to banker, to historian, accruing all manner of “experience” along the way. The fact that I spent close to a decade studying old Chinese and Japanese maps doesn’t really help me in my current position as a medical research analyst, but it surely does worm its way into my fiction.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
ED: I’m on social media, although as a person rather than an author. You’re welcome to friend me on Facebook, although you will probably be disappointed.
I do maintain a website (evandicken.com) which I update with publications, news, and the occasional blog post.