February 2016 at the Hollywood Bowl, my son, Brian, and I watched J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot as the L.A. Philharmonic played the score live. The music swelled in perfect synchronization when Capt. Kirk led Enterprise against the giant Romulan ship Narada. Phasers fired, the artificial black hole opened, and new versions of the classic Star Trek heroes were victorious.
As the audience of thousands cheered, I asked myself: Why can’t we have stories like this glorifying Jesus? I mulled the hardware, the action, the romance, the beckoning beyond—tenets of science fiction and its variants like space opera—with the Savior at the center. I wanted to make thousands cheer this kind of tale.
Research Came First
I did my research. I knew speculative fiction—the overarching term for sci-fi and fantasy—existed within Christian writing. I read encouraging examples, primarily by a noted genre author whom I met before moving from California to Minnesota. But that move, and the new life I had to create with my Anni in her beloved home state, took precedent. There are always reasons not to write, even worthy ones.
Once settled in Minnesota with my job situation stabilized, excuses dwindled. I started writing Christian instructional books, outgrowths of my adjunct teaching at Christian universities. I considered fiction but worried about being sufficiently commercial. Was my first love, science fiction, too much of a stretch in the Christian marketplace? I had written without success in the past—screenplays in my twenties never produced, a true-crime book in my thirties that crawled to a second printing and stopped selling.
What Would Christians Do With A Rocket?
Then the spark—what would Christians do with a rocket? Private spaceflight is a growing industry, thanks in large part to billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson.
A Christian tycoon could build his own spacecraft. He would need a reason and an enemy with equal reason to stop him. I didn’t want a Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne-style hero. The protagonist would have to be someone other than the billionaire, an underdog serving as the reader’s senses and conscience as he stumbles onto the secret project. Of course, the rocket had to be secret.
Every time the ideas flowed, I pushed back. Should I be writing Christian sci-fi? Brian flew to Minnesota to surprise me for my fifty-seventh birthday in 2019. He’d married his high school sweetheart just before we left California and would tell me later that year I was going to be a grandfather. I shared my thoughts about writing. The talk was less about writing and more about marketing, the subject I taught. I insisted on heavy research into trends and readership before putting any time into a book.
I Get the Best Writing Advice
Brian cut me off. “Shut up and write,” he said. If sci-fi was my passion, write the story of the Christian rocket. He had the genre adoration and blunt wisdom of his screenwriter grandmother, my original writing teacher. I heard my late mom Ellie’s voice in his. Still, I had to be sure. I asked pastors “Shut up and write.” I asked Anni.
“I love you. Shut up and write.”
Brimstone 1 took shape after that. I wrote a short story first as a hedge. Again, Brian channeled Grandma when he told me to go back and write a novel. I sought teachings and encouragement on writing Christian speculative fiction. I was delighted to discover like-minded communities online, illustrating the vibrance and variety of Christian writing. I published another Christian instructional book on Kindle after finishing the short-story version of Brimstone 1. Finally, I jumped into the novel.
By mid-2020, the first draft was done. Before submitting to publishers, I looked for an editor. A colleague who’d published a novel counseled me to make this investment. I found a trove of Christian editors online, much like discovering rich communities of Christian speculative fiction writers and fans. Amid correspondence about process and rates, I received a book contract from one of the contacts who had read my manuscript.
Self-Doubt About Releasing My Book
I had a lengthy phone conversation with my publisher. Brimstone 1 was “hard sci-fi” with spacecraft, drones, armored vehicles, and lots of action. My publisher enjoyed the same type of sci-fi that I did.0
I pointed out the sexual situations and the older woman/younger man romance between the protagonists, all depictions PG-13. The publisher said her mission to tell powerful, honest stories to Christian audiences. She was fine with the subject matter.
Soon, I realized I was filled with self-doubt when it came to signing the contract. Should I allow this book to be published? Would it glorify Christ as I intended? “Shut up and write” became “shut up and sign.”
A Targeted Audience
With the new year, Brimstone 1 is being released along with a free study guide. I’m marketing the book to homeschool families, English instructors, and church small groups as a unique means to study Christian truths.
I’m a student too, learning about publishing, writing, and my walk with the Lord. I don’t know how this story ends. But thank God, it has begun.
Jason William Karpf is an author and professor who lives in Minnesota with his wife, Anni. A history and trivia aficionado, Jason was a four-time Jeopardy champion.
Brimstone 1 is available in e-book and paperback at Amazon and your local bookstore.