But What I Really Wanted...
by Karlos Allen
Michael Hannety didn’t give interviews, period. He never had, and the consensus in the blogosphere was that he never would. So when society blogger Kyle Artursen got an invitation to watch the launch of the Queen Isabella from Hannety House, he knew he had a once in a lifetime shot. And when his boorish poking around got him into a room with a figure looking out at the spaceport, he could feel opportunity practically beating on the door.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize anyone was in here.” Sincerity is hard to fake, but he’d mastered the technique.
Kyle walked up to the window and stared down at the gantries wrapped around the huge cylinder. From fifty stories up, you could see the entire ship.
Kyle carefully checked out of the corner of his eye. Yes! It was Hannety! He took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves by calculating the number of zeros he would get on the book advance alone.
“You’re Mr. Artursen aren’t you?”
The string of zeros started dwindling before his eyes. “Yes, I am.”
“And you’ve come looking for an interview.” It was a statement.
Kyle turned and, radiating all the sincerity he could muster, said, “I did have hopes...”
“I was expecting you to try when I saw your name on the guest list. But it’ll be short, and if you ask any of those inane ‘How do you feel on this historic day?’ kind of questions, I’ll walk out immediately.”
Kyle mentally trashed most of his list. “OK. I’ll stick to that.”
“Why don’t you sit down? I’d offer you a drink, but there’s nothing available here and the interview won’t last that long anyway, will it?”
Kyle sat down and nodded. “It’ll last only as long as you want it to.” He paused, waiting to see how Hannety would react, but the man just stood there looking at him. “I’ve read your official biography of course.” He shrugged. “everybody has, and I’ve often wondered. Where did you get the idea?”
Kyle swung an arm out toward the bay window. “Yeah, the idea. The electrogravitic drive. You weren’t a physicist...”
“Oh! The idea. That’s a good question, Mr. Artursen. Better than I expected from you. It’s also a long story.” He sat down next to the window where he could keep an eye on the ship.
“You’re right, I’m not a physicist. In fact, all I have are some certifications in a completely unrelated field, nothing to do with space travel at all. I did have an ambition, though.”
“To go to space?” Kyle started mentally composing his opening paragraph, ‘Drawn by stars, Michael Hannety...’
“No, to write. More specifically, to write science fiction.”
“Science fiction? Nobody writes that.” His opening paragraph faded away.
“Now? Yes, but thirty years ago a lot of people did, and I wanted in.” He swiveled his chair away from Kyle a bit more. “I had an idea for a novel, but I wanted it to be right. It’s too easy to postulate a drive, throw some techno-babble at the reader and then start the action before they realize what’s going on. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be realistic.
“So, I started looking for possibilities. I found an old paper in the arXiv_physics site on electrogravitic fields. I got excited and started poking at it. I had a cousin at the time, he was an engineer. I showed him what I’d found, and he got excited too.”
“And so you stopped writing?”
“Oh no! I wasn’t poking at it to actually develop anything, I wanted to have the details right for the story. I needed that.”
“Why? I mean, why specifically? Your average reader would get only so technical.”
“True. But the story was going wrong. The characters were... wooden. Dead. The dialog was... stiff, clumsy. I couldn’t make a coherent plot to save my life. I hoped that if I could make the ship realistic enough to me, I could break through that and make the story work.”
“Did it happen?”
“No.” He shook his head, “It never worked. My cousin developed things far enough that we were able to get some backing... and then he was killed. Stupid actually, tried to stop a guy from breaking into his house...
“I knew enough to keep things running. I had learned the theory forward and backward, and I could keep up with the engineers on staff and contribute to their work. But that took all my time, and the story got put aside.
“And five years later the Pathfinder was launched. Horrible name for a ship, but Public Relations wanted that.” He got up and walked over to the window, “I still get out the old manuscript once in a while and look at it. It’s still dead.”
Kyle felt the urge to say something positive. “Yeah, but look at what you accomplished! People call you the Bill Gates of the 21st century! Because of you, we have colonies scattered across the Solar System! Why, you’re launching an interplanetary cruise ship! You’re going to be up there with Einstein, Edison, Newton...” He trailed off, a little surprised at his own enthusiasm.
“Yes, I’m all that.” There was a hissing roar and he paused. They both watched as the Queen Isabella lifted off for her thirty-day maiden voyage to Jupiter. “But I wanted to be a writer.”
Copyright © 2010 by Karlos Allen