Being unrealistic for my debut year

My problem, friends, is that I’ve spent too much time being a realist.

I was realistic about my prospects when I graduated college, and instead of throwing myself into writing novels, I became a journalist. Instead of going out to LA to pursue a film career, I took the more realistic path of starting a local company that produced weddings, corporate video and commercials. I’ve been a realist all my life, and all realism has given me in return is burnout and pain.

In 2015, I picked up my pen again and used fiction to recover from a very traumatic year. I found my notes from the story I thought up the week of my college graduation—the very first few scribblings I’d made regarding Ash Jackson, the crew of Twenty-Five, and their world. This is fun, but I need to do something that actually makes money, I’d thought at the time. I can’t be a novelist. I can’t make money that way. That’s unrealistic. I have everything to lose.

I wish I knew then what I know now: that you always have everything to lose, and how that’s not an excuse.

In 2015, I stopped being realistic. I wrote the book of my heart with the characters I loved. I put my entire heart on the page and made it the unrealistic book I’d wanted to read my entire life. Architects of Memory is a first contact book, yes, but it’s also about human rights and health care and love and loss and responsibility. It’s a spaceships-and-rayguns book knit through with literary language and firebright poesy and ambition. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did.

And Tor bought it.

How much more realistic can you get?

So, for my debut year, I’m vowing to be completely unrealistic about my prospects. I’m going to dream big. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to say why not instead of absolutely not, and do whatever I can to make Architects of Memory a success.

But more than that—

— I want Architects of Memory to earn out its advance. I want to make enough royalties to pay off the mortgage on my house. I want to pay for childcare, and groceries, and vacations. I want to support my family as a full-time writer. I want this kind of want to be seen as normal, for authors to be able to speak this aloud and not be seen as wrong or wild.

— I want the literary world to consider genre books on the same stage as “serious” ones. This has gotten a lot better since I was in college, but more progress could always be made. Genre books are serious, and a lot of genre writers today are doing things that are gorgeous and glorious and completely brand new. I want people to give genre a chance, and I want my book to be part of that change.

— I want my book to help shine a light on what not having health insurance can do to someone’s mind and world and family. I want people to love the crew of Twenty-Five as much as I do—and I want them to ask questions about their world and how it was created, then engage with the world that exists today. That’s what good science fiction does in the world, and would be the highest compliment.

— And, to be selfish: I want someone awesome to option the film rights. I want to see Ash and Kate on the big screen. I wrote Architects of Memory with the eye of a videographer, and I think it would make an awesome blockbuster movie. I want a woman director and a woman director of photography and women gaffers and women on the production staff. And I want that much involvement of women on a genre production to be the most realistic thing on this list.

— I want a college student out there to read this and think: I don’t want to be realistic about this. I want to pursue my dreams. And I want her to do just that.

Thank you for joining me on my journey.

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Karen Osborne

KAREN OSBORNE is a writer, visual storyteller and violinist. Her short fiction appears in Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny and Fireside. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding. Her debut novel, Architects of Memory, is forthcoming in 2020 from Tor Books.

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