It’s been at least a couple of years since I first met Drew Avera (real quick – his last name is pronounced “averee”… yeah, I know… I screwed it up too). I’d read a few of his books (in fact, a couple of them were some of the earliest ebooks I had downloaded) and then ended up running into him on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve often conversed about various story ideas and I’d pick his brain about his indie-author career.
Drew’s been writing for a while now and has quite a library of stories. It’s pretty crazy to see this much work come from someone with a full-time military career. Drew is a Navy Veteran and that is one of the things that drew (Ha!) me to him. One of the things that amazed me about him is the fact that he wrote his first book on an iPhone… yes, an iPhone. How cool is that!
Drew has recently been involved with some amazing anthologies… in fact, I remember when he just had a few books under his belt – looking at his Amazon page today, it’s amazing to see how his library of work has grown.
Let’s let Drew talk about his time at sea and how those experiences may well qualify him to crew a deep space starship one day…
One Hundred Days…
That’s the roundabout number of days it takes me to start shutting down on a deployment. It’s at this point when everyone around me starts getting on my nerves, the feeling of being a sardine packed tightly into a can makes me feel claustrophobic, and mild depression starts setting in. One-hundred days. It is a threshold learned over the course of four combat deployments on US Navy ships and it is part of the reason I write science fiction.
It is Memorial Day, at least right now it is, as my fingers strike the keys of my keyboard. A bit of laziness causes a typo, but it isn’t pure laziness, it is the exhaustion of almost two-hundred days of not being home. I’ve had eighteen days off out of the last two-hundred and only two or three more scheduled out of the next forty days. To say my “cycle” is a little off is an understatement, but I’m actually used to this lifestyle in a way a sick child is used to the needles injecting into his/her arm every day. It hurts, but you know it hurts, and then you just don’t care that it hurts.
I sleep in a coffin, six feet long, three feet wide, and three feet high. It’s open on one side, though the blue fabric curtain offers something like privacy. It’s low-tech in a high-tech world. I’m drifting on a war vessel capable of destruction the world hopes to never see and I am so numb to it that I barely recognize it for what it is. It’s the future exposed in the modern world. The confinement, the isolation, the stress, all of it will carry forward into the future drift as humanity expands its reach to the stars. We learn and we adapt to our surroundings. Sometimes it hurts, but eventually the pain of it dissolves, or we grow numb to it. This is how mankind will be taught to traverse their way into the unknown.
Deployments have extended, my own is no exception, the blow of knowing you will not be home on time tears a hole in your soul. The patchwork of moving past such heartache is the same as the numbing agent of making it one more day, followed by the next, and the next, and the next. Eventually, the days all stream together into an incoherent mass, indistinguishable from one another. It makes you feel a bit crazy to lose the concept of time, but eventually you are grateful for it, to not have the mark of individual days weighing on you like a burden you can never drop. It is a skill, in and of itself. Mostly, it is a learned trait that will be necessary to take us beyond our solar system, where the light of Sol is only present as a pinprick of light on the monitor feed of a generational spaceship.
The future drift is coming. Space exploration is becoming a privatized industry as governments fall out of competition and let the common man take over. I think it is better this way. Governments only serve to get in the way of expansionism, to use politics to say why we can’t do something. Instead, we will figure out how we can do it and then break those barriers down as we carry ourselves further into the expanse. Mars will be our neighbor, followed soon by the moons of the outer gas planets. Before long, the solar system will not contain us, though we will still be contained. The point when everyone starts getting on each other’s nerves, the feeling of being a sardine packed tightly into a can making them feel claustrophobic, and mild depression starts setting in. and then we will do it all over again, relearn new traits to deal with the pain, the isolation, the subjugation of captivity in the vacuum of space.
There’s a part of my soul that wishes to experience this, but I know I would hate it, and love it, and hate it. We romanticize what it would be like to explore the universe. We experience it in short duration as we watch television and movies depicting the dreams of mankind on a screen, the adventure laced with drama unfolding before our eyes. Those depictions leave out the innumerable moments of mere existence that carried the crew to the uncharted worlds they discover. Were they frozen in time, sleeping away relentless years without stirring, or were they awake for the ride, trapped in their own coffins to sleep away their lonely nights after a long days work? And what happens to day and night when the light of stars is too dim to distinguish one from the other? Will mankind care or will it become the numbed pain of learned association, the mind dealing with existence in a way that disassociates the person from reality, if only for a short while?
The future drifts, requiring us to learn what is necessary to take the next leap forward. Space exploration will not be abridged, shortened to eliminate the dull moments; the ones that make you feel alone in a sea of people, the ones where you miss home. The guarantee of adventure is as weak as the guarantee of immortality. Some lives may pass with nary a moment of exhilaration as other lives are bent and molded by new worlds, the challenge of adaptation forbearing in a way we can only imagine with weary eyes before we drift to sleep at night.
I’ve thought about it as I’ve been lulled to sleep by the gentle crash of waves against the ship. What would it be like to be anywhere but where I am now? What if I could change time and put myself in the future, in the drift of space, carried forward by momentum gained years prior? That is how we will explore, on the thrust of the generations who went before us. Can I count myself as that generation, or am I part of the world of forgotten scientific advancement? Are our achievements capable of being measured because they are important now? Or will the future nullify all we know in order to accommodate new sciences that will fit into their view of the universe? It’s hard not to want to know the answers, but what if they are disheartening? What if we never reach towards the stars? Is it a bigger crime than being forgotten by the sands of time?
Maybe, I just think about it too much. As the future drifts, so do I, upon the sea that countless generations sailed. There is a brotherhood of the sea, where men like me missed their families too. Perhaps they dared to dream of a future like I do, or perhaps they longed for the seas to dry and negate the need for ships that drive wedges between them and their families. Both are hopeful and hopeless, a duality, like a double-edged sword you are cut either way. Instead, I won’t think about the pain of the cut, but on the hopefulness of the future, drifting further away while being close enough I deceive myself in thinking I can touch it, to taste it, to smell its existence.
We will be among the stars again, because it is the stars from which we were born. Perhaps not our bodies, but in our dreams; born for more than the universe as we know it, but as we want it to be, and more.
Drew Avera, author of The Dead Planet Series, is a science fiction author and active duty Navy veteran. He lives in Virginia with his wife and children. You can learn more about Drew by visiting his website at www.drewavera.wordpress.com
Please take a moment to check out Drew’s Amazon page.
I want to thank Drew for writing this guest post for my blog. Thanks, Drew!
You can find Drew at the following locations when he’s not tethered to an omnipotent machine or sailing the seas…