Wednesday, April 14, 2021

In the Spotlight: Charles Kowalski ~ Author of "Resident Alien"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Charles Kowalski on his short story, “Resident Alien.”


This story deals with a dark matter, even if not literal “Dark Matter.” The setting is a remote planet in the far future, but the inspiration came from a chain of events very much of this present world: the death of George Floyd, the ensuing demonstrations, and the responses that condemned the protests more harshly than the murder that ignited them. I wanted to shout to my fellow white people, “What would you do if it happened to you?” But I realized the most likely answer would be, “It wouldn’t.” For a white person to imagine how it feels to live as a displaced, formerly enslaved people, in a hostile environment that was still the only home we ever knew, with no way out, there was no real equivalent on earth.

So, I thought, we would have to go somewhere off Earth.


Thus was created the planet of Ogygia. (The name comes from one of the oldest imaginary places on record: the island where Calypso held Ulysses captive in the Odyssey). When SETI first discovered signs of civilization on an exoplanet, space agencies around the world collaborated to build an interstellar vessel for an international crew (later known as the “Great Eight”). Of course, it would be a one-way trip; even if the ship could return to Earth, Einsteinian time dilation would mean thousands of years would have passed in the interim.


When the Great Eight landed on Ogygia, they met a fate like the ancient Israelites in Egypt: They were welcomed as honored guests at first, but their fortunes changed with the rise of a new ruler who saw no use for them except as raw genetic material for mass-produced slaves, Brave New World-style. It’s been a constant battle for freedom and equality ever since. The story was my way of asking, “What if ALL humanity were in this struggle together?”


Another inspiration was the early criticism of Star Trek as too implausible even for science fiction. Warp-speed starships? Matter-energy transport? Sure, why not? Those fit comfortably within the conventions of the genre. But look at the crew of the Enterprise: Mixed genders? Mixed nationalities, including Russian? Mixed races, including black, white, Asian, even extraterrestrial? Come on--suspension of disbelief has its limits.


Science fiction has always done better at predicting changes in technology than in society. And yet, we didn’t even have to wait until the 23rd century for Star Trek’s predictions to come true. Earth may still be light-years away from the utopian society Gene Roddenberry envisioned, but sometimes, the human race can surprise itself.




The descendants of the first human interplanetary explorers struggle for freedom and equality on their new home planet.




The line at the checkpoint wasn’t too long. At this hour, with everyone coming home from their jobs in downtown Zulon, traffic into the Baryo was heavier than out. This could mean I’d sail through easily, but it could also mean the police would have more time and attention to spare for each of us. Everything depended on who was on duty, what kind of mood they were in, and whether there had been a crime somewhere in Zulon that a human would be blamed for. But then, I repeat myself.


I shuffled along, avoiding eye contact with the officers on guard, until I reached the head of the line. The scanner hummed as I walked through the archway, toward the landing lot where Lhuara would be waiting for me.


A siren pierced my ears. The light turned red, the barrier came down in front of me, and a robotic voice blared from the speakers: “Report to Inspection Room One.”


Shito, I swore silently.

I passed through the side door, down the corridor, and into the inspection room. The harsh glare on the white walls made me squint, and I imagined it must be painful for an Ogygian, whose eyes were more sensitive to light than ours. But the unseen inspector probably didn’t mind, since there was a reflective tinted window between us.


Face me.” The voice over the speakers sounded male, but the electronic distortion made it hard to tell. “Hands up.”


I complied. A line of red light swept across my palms.


Do you speak Ogygian?” the voice asked.


Do you know any human who doesn’t, you idiot? I was born here, like my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. “Yes, sir.”

Charles Kowalski's contemporary thrillers, Mind Virus and The Devil's Son, have won prizes and nominations including the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Award, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, and the Adventure Writers Grandmaster Award. He is also the author of the Japan-themed historical fantasy Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts (Tokyo: Excalibur Books, 2019). When not writing, he teaches at the International Education Center at Tokai University, near Tokyo.

We also have some exciting anthology news! As we get closer and closer to the release date of Dark Matter: Artificial on May 4 (just three weeks away!), we're excited to announce our upcoming blog tour with guest posts and interviews by the authors on several writing blogs! Throughout the month of May we'll have blog stops that you can browse and read through to learn even more about the science fiction stories and writers that you've just started to learn about here. And it's always fun to go "on tour"!

On April 28 we'll post the exact dates and links, so you can check them out!

Also coming on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 . . . 

Next up on this blog will be Olga Godim, who shares her backstory for "Nano Pursuit."


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Star Trek was just way before its time.
I can easily see the Egyptians-Israelites comparison. Of course, those people just had to leave Egypt to find their peace.

Steph W. said...

Your inspiration is perfect. Science fiction is such a great medium for confronting our humanity. I hope others reading our stories can step outside of themselves long enough to receive the message!

Charles Kowalski said...

Thanks, Steph! May it be so!

Charles Kowalski said...