My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Michael J. Martinez to talk about how his super-powered burrowing writer-mind relates to The Gravity of the Affair.
The scene: a typical weekend, with my daughter and her friends running about the house, doing the inexplicable, strange and occasionally cute things girls do. My wife is reading. I’m in my favorite chair, laptop on lap, fingers flying through The Gravity of the Affair, my novella set in the Known Worlds of the Daedalus series. A ship is under attack by unknown privateers. Alchemical cannon fire lances through the Void into wooden hulls, turning the ships’ interiors into death traps. Only courage and skill will win out.
Suddenly, the Royal Navy brig rises in the Void, her planesails struggling against the Solar Wind. All hands, brace for impact!
An errant shot blows through the hold, disrupting the ensorcelled lodestones that keep air, heat and gravity aboard—and keep the crew alive in the harsh chill of the Void around Jupiter. Bodies fly into the unforgiving nothingness. Hope is nearly lost.
I look up. The Void recedes. My wife stares at me in disbelief. Three girls now wear feather boas and altogether too much sparkly makeup, their squeals piercing the background noise provided by the latest Disney teen-pop chanteuse. “What?” I say, oblivious. “Did you say something?”
Like most superpowers, my super-powered burrowing writer-mind is a double-edged sword, a blessing and curse in equal measure. Honed by years of reporting and writing on blistering deadlines and surrounded by angry, feverish colleagues, I have the ability to write nearly anywhere, at any time, no matter the circumstances. The inspiration is nearly always there. The words flow; they may not be great words, but I’m equally adept at revising in situations most mortals would find intolerable. I can dive deep into my head, open the word-tap, and let ‘er rip.
Give me a half-hour and I’ll give you words. Give me three hours and I’ll give you a lot of words.
For example, the short story that evolved into my novella, The Gravity of the Affair (now available wherever fine ebooks are sold, plus Audible), was written in less than a week, and revised in less than week after that. Once I realized there was more there, it took another few weeks to whip it into shape, and maybe one more to respond to edits and comments.
Yes, I type fast, but I don’t consider that a particularly “super” power; it’s more like a survival mechanism. Point is, when I have the time, I can pretty much let everything else go and immerse myself in the story with very little effort. I don’t need a cozy writing chair, or a particular brand of tea. I need a computer. In a pinch, my iPhone will do.
Yet this power comes at a price. Writers talk at times about being in “the zone.” My zone has a freakin’ light switch. And when I’m in it, the rest of the world falls away all too easily. My ever-patient wife and bemused child will have to repeat themselves regularly when I’m in my burrowing writer-mind. There’s no sign to them that I’m even there, so they have no way of telling where my head is at. Sometimes it’s amusing. Sometimes…it’s not.
As with any superpower, the trick is to learn how to use it—and when. There are plenty of times during the week where it’s perfectly OK to burrow deep into the story. Perhaps my wife’s at yoga and my kid’s playing outside, or everyone’s busy with work and homework. Then, it’s a simple matter of turning on the computer and letting it all go. Dive deep and find the story.
But when they’re around, it’s beholden upon me to save the file, close the laptop and engage with the people I love most. After all, as a wise man once said, with great power comes great responsibility. My nascent fiction-writing career has been a blessing for my family and I, and the trick will be to ensure that I mitigate the curse that goes with my superpower so that it stays a blessing.
I don’t always succeed, of course. But I do try.
Now, where were we? Ah, yes…Jupiter. Go.
Michael J. Martinez is a novelist, a title which still takes him by surprise now and then. He’s the author of The Daedalus Incident (one of Library Journal’s best of SF/Fantasy for 2013) and the novella The Gravity of the Affair, now available in ebook and Audible audio. The next novel in the Daedalus series, The Enceladus Crisis, is due this spring, and there’s a third book in the trilogy that he should really finish soon. He lives in the greater New York City area with his incredible wife and amazing daughter. He blogs at http://michaeljmartinez.net and Tweets at @mikemartinez72.