Many, many years ago, in the school library, I found a collection of SF short stories which included Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations", a tragic story of a young woman whose life is forfeit to the immutable laws of nature. I was instantly drawn in to the idea of using fiction to explore possible futures, and read omnivorously through the whole canon of classic SF. Favourite authors were Heinlein and later Niven, with Colin Kapp, Hal Clement and H Beam Piper along the way.
If a hear a song I want to sing, if I see a picture I want to draw, if I enjoy a show I want to put one on, so it was only natural that I would come to write.
Then came a warm, summer night back in the 1970s, when the Apollo program had just reached an end. I had been reading a textbook on astronomy which described Arcturus as having a lovely orange-red colour under magnification. I borrowed my father's binoculars and found the star. I was instantly entranced by the auburn glow, and found myself thinking, "That would look beautiful if it were closer." Then I almost cried. Arcturus is, in cosmic terms, in the next street, closer than the shops, but there was no chance of anyone developing a spaceship that could reach it in my lifetime.
I didn't give up. Slowly an idea was forming in my mind. There was just one way I could wander through the galaxy. I gave back the binoculars and borrowed my father's typewriter. And that's how I came to take up writing SF.
That makes the whole business sound too easy. I spent nearly a decade just working out the technology, history, politics and arts of my future history. Then there came a cold weekend when snow fell and I was blocked in the house. I dug out all the notes and tried to pull them together. I had an idea for a powerful story, a teenage girl born on a farm on a recently colonised planet who is kidnapped, taken away in a spaceship and rescued.
It didn't work.
The galaxy is so big that she could have been a grandmother before the search came even close. Any normal heroine would have given up at this point, but in my mind I had created someone very special.
Jane Gould had invaded the story. Her comment was, "There is no prospect of my being rescued unless I do it myself." When Space Fleet found her she had already dispatched the kidnappers and written off two very expensive spaceships.
That is how a very strange relationship began. I have been writing for thirty years about Jane and her unconventional career in Space Fleet, in which her long-suffering CO tolerates her creative interpretations of regulations because she gets results.
Thanks to the wonders of electronic publication it is now time to introduce Jane to a wider audience.
Expect the unexpected and she'll not disappoint you.
Open the books and meet her. I'll hand the story over now to my other woman, my best friend and fiercest critic, my conspirator, my nemesis, my Jane.
RB 13th April 2015