What will Bellingham be like 100 years from now?
That vision was the starting point for "Memories of Light," a serial science fiction story written by six Whatcom County residents. The first chapter appears in The Bellingham Herald on Monday, July 22, with subsequent chapters each Monday through Aug. 26.
"Memories" is the fourth serial story hosted by the Herald. Last year, "Invitation to the Fire Ball" presented an action-packed fantasy set in contemporary Bellingham. Two years ago, "Mystery Lode" offered an adventure set in Fairhaven with a memorable array of characters. In 2010, Herald staff writers wrote "Unearthed," a mystery grounded in Bayview Cemetery. (All previous serial novels are available at this Serial Novel webpage).
I'm not much of a science fiction reader, but I appreciate the work by this year's writers. It would have been easy to have aliens or other futuristic creatures ravage Bellingham. Instead, the writers came up with a scenario much more plausible, and thus more worrisome in its possibility.
Here are this year's contributors.
Larry Goolsby paints the gray tone of the story, set in a downtown Bellingham different, but still recognizable, from today's lively district. He also introduces the main character, young Tanner Ellis.
Goolsby writes novels under the name Lawrence Kadow. Two years ago, he self-published his first novel, "The Button Boy," based on the premise that the world's population reached a critical mass and oil supplies can't keep pace. The sequel, "The Ferndale Sector," came out last year.
Tina Shelton adds complexity to the story by introducing several persistent antagonists.
Tina, who calls herself a "rehabilitated writer," didn't take up writing until she lost a job during the economic downturn four years ago. Now she has a son, a husband, a full-time job and two cats, but the writing stays. Last September she published her first novel, "The Corsican."
While Andy Brim keeps the story moving, he deftly explains why "Memories of Light" is called a "post-apocalyptic" story in the subtitle. He also has a surprise character waiting in the wings.
Andy says he has been writing science fiction since he was a lad pecking out a one-page story about fish people on his grandmother's electric typewriter (remember those?).
"My wife is always challenging me to write about real things and I want to oblige her someday," he says, "but my mind has always gone to fantastical places and I want to write those stories a little bit more."
Mary Schleinkofer takes Tanner in a new direction, underground, where elements of the past live on as hope for the future.
Mary recalls that she arrived in Bellingham on a Wednesday in 1993, and has since been hard at work establishing herself as the "Premier Dowager Empress of Earth." She also enjoys arts and crafts, naps with her cat, "Poofy," and studying creative writing at Western Washington University.
Amanda June Hagarty has Tanner learn more about the underground resistance and more about county residents' lives a century from now. Tanner also learns he's not yet out of danger.
A Canadian transplant, Amanda says she's a "massive 'Doctor Who' fan" who writes science fiction and fantasy when she isn't procrastinating or teaching social media marketing.
She took a break from fiction while she majored in psychology at Simon Fraser University but got back into it a few years ago. She's polishing a rough draft of a novel and has several short stories in the works.
Wrapping up a story written serially by others is no easy matter, but Robert L. Slater has the experience and chops to pull it off nicely. For now, I can say that he resolves it in a big-step-forward but watch-your-back manner. Much like in real life, even a hundred years in the future.
Robert teaches at Windward High School, where he will have a National Novel Writing Month class next fall. His debut speculative fiction novel, "All is Silence," will be available later this year at Village Books and desertedlands.com.
"Memories of Light," a serial science fiction story written by Whatcom County residents, runs Mondays, July 22 through Aug. 26, in The Bellingham Herald. The chapters also will be available at this Serial Novel webpage.
Later this year, we will invite readers to write chapters for the Herald's 2014 serial story.
Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or firstname.lastname@example.org.