On May 23rd, I got an email from one of my favorite sci-fi writers (and close friend) Eliot Peper. It was titled “My very first scifi short story” and said:
“David Cohen shared the idea that inspired this story. I drafted it last week. Thought you might enjoy and would love to hear what you think.”
I was in the middle of grinding through my email backlog, so this stopped me in my tracks as I spent the next 15 minutes reading Eliot’s new short story. The first few sentences grabbed me.
“Kamran Tir gazed into the mirror and confronted the fact that his genes had betrayed him. His thick dark hair was carefully groomed, his olive cheeks clean shaven. For someone who worked late so often, he was in reasonable shape.
The problem was his eyes.”
It was stunning. I’ve been reading and responding to Eliot’s writing since he wrote his very first book in 2014 titled Uncommon Stock. It’s a great example to me of the development of a writer and the effort required for mastery of the craft.
The backstory of how this came together, is a fun one. Eliot put it up on Amazon in the From the Author section, but it’s worth repeating to warm you up to the story.
A few months ago, I received an email from my friend David Cohen, “I’ve had an idea for a book for a while. Given what’s going on in America, I thought I’d send it to you because I sure as hell am never going to write it.” David went on to present a thought experiment: what if discrimination targeted eye color instead of skin color or any other trait?
Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you start writing books, your friends will start sending you ideas. Strangers too. You’ll get very good at letting people down easy. After all, you have your own dreams to bring to life.
But David’s premise stuck with me, lurking in the shadows of my subconscious and rearing its head at opportunity moments. It would visit me as I took the dog on a walk or did the dishes. It made me think of my opa whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis and my oma who risked her life every day to fight in the Dutch Resistance. Every time the idea resurfaced, it took on weight and texture, building up creative momentum until I had no choice but to write it.
Speculative fiction has a secret superpower. Imaginative stories invite us to experience plausible realities unlike our own. In doing so, they empower us to confront the myriad hidden assumptions we take for granted in our day-to-day lives. We cannot explore new worlds and return unchanged.
True Blue is a story about the absurdity of discrimination, the importance of being true to yourself, and our irrepressible capacity for overcoming injustice. It’s a story about standing up instead of standing by. It’s a story about finding the courage to stop caring what other people think.
These are truths we need to keep in mind now more than ever. Oh, and next time someone sends me an idea, I promise to pay attention.
Eliot just released True Blue on the Kindle. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free, otherwise, it’s $2.99.
Also published on Medium.