Henry Melton is often on the road with his wife Mary Ann, a nature photographer, and their travels throughout North America, Europe and Africa have inspired his YA series of novels; Small Towns, Big Ideas. The first, Emperor Dad, was the winner of the 2008 Darrell Award for Best Novel and Lighter Than Air won the 2009 Eleanor Cameron / Golden Duck. Henry's short fiction has been published in many magazines and anthologies, most frequently in ANALOG. Catacomb, published in DRAGON magazine, has been called a classic. A new series The Project Saga starts in the current time and stretches through a future where the Solar System is re-engineered and Humanity finds its place in the stars. An online magazine of old and new short fiction is available at HenrysStories.blogspot.com.
1. Tell us a little about yourself? — I love to travel. Three or four big family vacations while I was growing up set the pattern. When I married, we decided that even though we were dirt poor and couldn’t afford it, we’d travel anyway. I’ve seen far too many people who decided to put off travel until they could afford it, or until they retired, and then poor health shut down all those plans. So, we traveled. My wife Mary Ann cultivated her nature photography skills, and I was inspired by many of those locations, which formed the settings of many of my novels.
2. What made you want to become a writer? — I read science fiction since the fifth grade and grew up in the very early days of NASA space exploration, so since my eyesight was bad enough I could never be an astronaut, I wrote stories instead. At first, they were just for fun, but one day my biology teacher assigned a simple homework task, write the story of a tree. Now, I’m sure he was just looking for a list of the various features of the plant, but he did say story — so I wrote a tale of an intelligent raindrop falling from the sky, entering the roots through the soil and meeting up with an elderly water drop who taught him all the features of the tree before transpiring out the stoma of a leaf. The teacher gave me an A, then read the story out loud in class. I took that same paper and turned it in as an English composition, and got another A. So, two A’s, and some public notoriety off the same work? I was hooked.
3. Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book? — Most recently published is Humanicide, book 5 of the Earth Branch of the Project Saga. That’s a mouthful, but my Saga is a multibranched future history and far too complex to go from book one to book 18 in a simple linear list. Humanicide completes the Earth Branch, which started with Star Time. In this novel, a genetically crafted, artificial human with all the best traits of humanity, decides that with his extended lifespan and superior intelligence, it was up to him to guide humanity, and the first order of business was to kill off 99% of the people and set us back to the stone age where we couldn’t get into trouble with our world-changing technology—all for our own good, of course. That’s what he tells himself, that is. Unfortunately for his plan, there was one other lab-grown human out there, and she was a circuit doctor working among the space habitats and smart enough to detect the beginnings of his pandemic. The story follows several main characters and follows their lives through the greatest Plague the world would ever see.
4. What is your favorite writing tip or quote? — The thing I tell everyone who comes to me talking about wanting to be a writer is this: Keep writing. If you are already one of the fortunate few who can take an idea and put it down into words on paper, then the rest is practice. Writing well is a craft, just like music, or painting, or carpentry. You get better by doing it over and over again. Have several stories in the queue, so that if you stall out one one, you can switch over to the next. Just keep on writing.
5. Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Do you have any other books in the works? — Many, many books. My Project Saga will take about eighteen books, of which I’ve written seven. Of the dozen YA novels I’ve written, easily half of them have unwritten sequels that I would love to have time to write. In addition, the ideas keep coming. I have a double-handful of unrelated ideas that sit there in my notes or in place-holder short stories that cry out for a full novel treatment. The question is how may years do I have left before I run out of steam.
But what disturbed Dr. Bet Nomad, circuit doctor for many of the minor habitats in the Clusters was a simple cough that seemed to be found every place she visited. The more she learned, using banned genetic technology, the tighter her own limitations restricted what she could do—she was banned genetic tech herself, living in the shadows lifetime after lifetime. But she was certain something was wrong—something evil.
Humanicide is the final chapter of the Earth Branch of the Project Saga.
Alexandria Habitat, L4 Cluster
Dr. Bet Nomad crouched down behind a shipping crate as the officer passed by. A transport had too few places to hide. But if she could just wait him out … He had to get back to his command station soon.
When the footsteps on the deck plate dwindled, she stood up and tapped on the meter-wide display set into the wall. She dismissed the chart showing the inventory and how it was placed. A few familiar taps and it went into auto-reflection. She stared back at herself. I need to pay more attention to my appearance. I look too young today.
She brushed her hair back into place. The screen showed the texture of her skin looking unnaturally smooth today, not at all matching her hair. No one was watching, so she opened her kit and added a few age lines. She needed to look at least forty to match her current bio report.
Satisfied, she tapped DOCKING VIEW. Opening like an abrupt rupture into free space, she raised her hand, fighting the illusion that she was looking into vacuum. She squinted, trying to take in the details of the long range view.
This view has to be from Alexandria. That’s us. She laughed. Our ship looks like a virus.
I’ve got virus on the brain again. Concentrate. Today is public-relations.
There was a click on audio. “Dr. Nomad, report to Access G-4.”
“I’m already here, Captain Che.”
There was no answer. She was annoyed with the man. Stick to piloting and don’t try to entertain me. I’m cargo. The hardest part of every new assignment was the first few hours and she didn’t need his distraction.
The display was entrancing to her medical mind. It’s just like a viral attack. A tiny rod-shaped mobile capsule draws near to the membrane of a cell that is enormous in comparison. Soon it will locate a hatchway—a compatible spot of chemistry, and then inject its genetic cargo to hijack the cells life-force for its own ends.
A smile attempted to twist her practiced, professional expression. But that makes me the disease!
The remote camera watched dispassionately as the transport lined up with the clamps at the hub of the slowly spinning city in space. Latches secured the ship and the walls around her echoed a low metallic clang. The transport ship was being lowered to the rim by the huge external elevator. The docks were at the habitat’s full spin gravity. She could feel no difference—the transport’s own local pseudo-gravity kept everything balanced.
Captain Che’s voice echoed again, “Bet, it looks like you have a welcoming committee.”
Her smile reverted to a scowl. He’d ferried her twice now. First from Blanco to New Lusaka, and now to Alexandria. He’s getting possessive. She preferred to be invisible, and the voice of experience was nagging. He’d soon be a problem, but the best she could do for now was ignore him.
Better check out her greeters. Two assignments earlier, she’d bent a few of the medical restriction rules. Someone might have noticed, and cared enough to track her down.
She looked at her massive packing crate and shook her head. I don’t want to have to run again. Too much to lose.
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