Ahh! A deceitful statement because never actually planned to become one. For twenty five years I have been writing various short stories and incomplete novels, learning my 'voice', but apart from a few hints of comedy fantasy (more likely psychosis) there has not been any emphasis on science fiction in my work. The explanation for 'Backswipe' being a science fiction novel is quite simple. I couldn't figure out a better way to get my characters into a Boeing Stratocruiser. I could have made it an historical novel but that defeated the original premise, and the premise was the germination of the while story. It was a question my friend Tony and I pondered one hot afternoon in Houston several years ago.
It was late summer at my old job and we were sitting there in the office on the 7th floor working the weekend shift, staring out a the yellow late afternoon glare. Everything in Houston looks brittle in the summer, even the trees appear to be made of dried pressed oregano. The phones were not ringing and we had caught up on the busy work. All that was left was to sit around and wait while quizzing each other with Airliners.net pictures. 'What airport is this?" "Name that airplane?" That's when the question arose. "Of all the classic airliners no longer flying which would you most like to get a ride in?"
Now Tony is younger than me so classic for him has a slightly different connotation. For him a ride in an early 1960's jetliner, something like a Boeing 707 or early DC-8 'water wagon' qualified, (a water wagon was any early turbo jet that used water-alcohol injection to boost takeoff thrust...very dirty!) though I think the Convair 880 struck a chord being particularly loud and filthy. The 880 was a mid size four engine turbojet that burned as much fuel as the somewhat larger 707. Most of that fuel was transferred directly into black carbon I think.
My choices were much older. I have always been a fan of the early Pan American flying boat 'clippers' and I think I leaned toward the B314, a whale of a seaplane that had compartment seating like in trains, 'Pullman Style' is what they called it when people knew what a Pullman was. They only flew for a few years and not a singe example was saved for a museum, typical for older commercial airplanes.
Tony hemmed a little on my choice. He liked the fact that it took a minute for the 314 to take off...he likes runway hogs...and that a typical flight lasted 12 to 16 hours, but he wanted a bit more oomph, more power and altitude. And that was when the Stratocruiser came to mind. Here we had consensus.
The Boeing 377 was a blunt nosed airliner with huge piston engines and super luxurious accommodations. The flight deck was gigantic with 19 windows and in many cases, its own bathroom. It often flew as high as 25,000 feet but could go even higher if needed and cruised at over 300 knots, not jet speed but not the 130 knots of the B314. It was a gas guzzler too, and had a lower lounge where passengers could mingle and drink cocktails. Now we had a good choice.
Sometime thereafter, either that night or a couple of nights later, I had this semi-lucid dream where Tony and I were in the 1950s dressed up in thick wool suits and uncomfortable shoes as we flew from San Francisco to Hawaii on a 'Strat'. When I awoke, I began to work out the problems of going back in time to take a ride in one, and that's where the science fiction kicked in. How would we get there? Some kind of teleport, time machine. Where would we get money? Can't bring cash because it's all post-dated, and gold is cumbersome. Diamonds? Nah! If we can make a time machine we can make untraceable counterfeit currency. Things like that began to obsess me, fill my idle moments, and before long the outline began to take shape. I knew the story could not be about an airplane because that would bore the pants off everyone so I stole from Hitchcock and made the 377 my 'MacGuffin', constructing instead a story around the people going to ride the airplane. Riding wasn't enough however; they needed to recover one. After all, the Stratocruiser was another example of an airliner that no one saved a single complete example of, and that made for a decent premise.
So there you have it. I'm not an avid science fiction writer, though I do have my favorites but truth be told, I'll write any genre to get the story told.