The Planetary Society
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Jim Kelly  –  writer
" What drew me, first as a reader, then as a writer, to science fiction is that it demands dizzying leaps of imagination. "
How were you motivated to choose your particular field?
  When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. But then I also wanted to be an astronaut, the starting forward for the Boston Celtics and maybe President of the United States. I figured that my chances of having any of these careers were equally likely, or rather unlikely. I didn't necessarily want to be a science fiction writer, even though science fiction books were some of my very favorites. In fact, in those days, people looked down their noses at science fiction. I remember in my junior year of high school getting an assignment in English to write a short story. We could write whatever kind of story we wanted –– as long as it wasn't science fiction! I wish I could say that I rebelled and turned in a story filled with strange creatures and new worlds, but I didn't. It wasn't until after I got out of college that I had grown strong enough as a writer and a person to write the kind of stories I liked to read. By then I had come to appreciate how science fiction skirted the edges of respectability and that while it could sometimes be a little wild, at least wasn't tame. What drew me, first as a reader, then as a writer, to science fiction is that it demands dizzying leaps of imagination.   Click for larger image
What can you share about your creative process?
    I can tell that my creative process is clicking when I surprise myself. Sometimes that surprise takes the form of a clever turn of phrase or chancing on a muscular verb. It could be that a character will do something I hadn't thought her capable of. I might be drifting off to sleep and suddenly bolt upright in bed with killer plot twist or even the outline of an entire story. I know this may sound a tad strange, but I often imagine that there is another creator –– "the little guy" –– who lives inside my imagination. I do not have access to "the little guy's" process but he is working in parallel to whatever I am working on, and every so often when I'm stuck, he'll surprise me with the answer.

But surprise alone doesn't get words on the screen. I write at the computer, the greatest advance in literary technology since the eraser. I spend the first hour or so paring and revising the previous day's work. This not only promotes the proper mindset but it also helps me re-enter the world of the story. I'm rarely stuck because I always begin with these editorial warm ups –– much easier than first draft, in my opinion. In the middle part of the day I try to compose as carefully as I can. Later on, however, I may let standards slip in order to fill out the daily complement of screens. This admittedly sloppier work will either be cleaned up or pruned first thing the next morning, as the process begins again.

What ideas do you have for a future human community on Mars?
  The first citizens of Mars will be like us, but as time passes they will become more and more Martian, first psychologically, then culturally and perhaps even physically. Mars will seem very empty in the early years and everything will be new. The Martians will have to recreate their relationships to the sun, to water, to air, to the weather, to time itself. They will feel physically more capable –– super! –– in the low gravity, but they will have to learn caution because Mars is a far more dangerous place than Earth.

When they will have more in common with their Martian neighbors than with their parents or siblings on earth, a Martian culture will emerge, a culture that will be based on values that may seem alien to us. For instance, I believe that it will be easier to redesign the human body than it will be to "terraform" Mars. At first this redesign will take the form of mechanical enhancements, but I think that ultimately Martians will want to tinker with the human genome in order to make themselves at home on their planet.

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