“Homesick”, my popular science fiction short story, is one those tales that sneak up on you and tug on your heart. There are two very personal connections to this story for me; I’ll get into them in a bit. For now, let’s discuss the inside scoop on “Homesick”.
I wrote “Homesick” because at the time, I actually was, in fact, homesick. More on that later. Once the story was completed, I submitted it to a print publisher of anthologies. “Homesick” was gladly accepted and scheduled to be included in their newest anthology. The only item they wanted changed was the title. So instead of “Homesick”, the story was to be known as “Home Of The Heart.”
Alas, the publisher had to close its doors before the anthology was released. If you’ve been reading my Author Notes blogs, you’ll know this happens A LOT.
So the first thing I did was change the title back to “Homesick”. Next, I looked for a new home for the story. I eventually used it to promote my contemporary romance release LOVE AT THE TOP at Novel Books, Inc. (now defunct) Here is the beautiful cover.
“Homesick” was voted a Top Ten Finisher Best Science Fiction Short Story in the prestigious Preditors and Editors Readers Poll.
When the publisher went out of business, “Homesick” was free again. I included it in my anthology LUCKY 13, now no longer available electronically, but still available in print from my website.
Thirteen delightful stories for your reading pleasure by Susanne Marie Knight
When I received a call from my publisher, Uncial Press, to submit a short story, I sent in “Homesick” where it was very happily received. It was given a rating of 1 1/2 hankies out of 2 hankies -- “Unusual for a short story, because it's hard to build that kind of emotion in short stuff. You do it well.”
Artist’s concept cover
Here’s the blurb from the publisher: “Susanne Marie Knight always tells a good tale, whether long or short. Homesick is one of her shorts, but it packs a lot into its almost 6,000 words. Jayna is not a scientist; she's an artist. The only reason she's part of the Mars expedition is because her husband is one of the scientists vital to the team. Lacking the all-consuming passion of satisfying research, she is at loose ends and dreadfully homesick for the soft breezes and gentle green fields of Earth. Mars is harsh, red, and cold. She can't even breathe without a mask. As she paints the stark landscape, she gradually sees its beauty. And then something so incredible, so impossible happens, and she has to adapt to Mars...or die.”
Just what is Jayna homesick for?
This book is part of the Fascinating Sci-Fi line.
Some reader comments:
“Such a beautiful story! Was not prepared for the story or the ending!!!! Wonderfully written!”
“I really liked this story. I would definitely like to read more of your work.”
“Fantastic! Beautifully written! I love your descriptions!”
Now for the connections to real life as I mentioned in the beginning of this blog. Way back when, my husband was stationed on Okinawa, a beautiful island half a world away from where I was from. And yes, at first I was homesick. Looking up at the night sky, I couldn’t get over how strange it was to see different stars, different constellations. This thought led me to the idea on what it would be like looking up at the night sky on a different planet, for example, Mars. The following passage is the beginning of “Homesick” where Jayna describes her reaction to her new home.
Jayna stared out at the vast expanse of desert undulating before her. The shifting sands roughly lapped at her booted feet. As she watched, arid winds increased in tempo, whirling the gritty particles into a frenzy. Soon a sandstorm would obscure her vision and she’d have to return to the compound.
Not that she minded. Staying inside the manmade tomb carved into a mountain higher than Mount Everest irritated her, but being outside was infinitely worse. At least inside, ordinary, everyday objects surrounded her. Outside, only the monotonous, pale sand seemed familiar. But instead of reminding her of the home she’d left behind, the sand’s color made her blood boil. She’d expected the stuff to be blood-red.
God, how she hated this place. Even the name of the desert was apt: Hellas. Hell. How true.
Inhaling a deep breath of the purified oxygen-nitrogen mixture from the tank strapped to her shoulders, she took one last look at the velvet skies pierced by intense, untwinkling points of light. Two tiny moons hung low on the horizon. Two. If she lived to be one hundred, she’d never get used to that unnatural sight.
The second connection shows how Jayna has adapted to this new home, and also has new life growing inside her. Her miracle baby, she calls her unborn child. I, too, called my daughter my miracle baby. Below shows how Jayna feels about her new circumstances.
Sitting cross-legged at the base of the Hellas mountain she now called home, Jayna took a break from her painting and gazed out at the desolate beauty surrounding her. The shrunken sun had warmed the thin Martian atmosphere to forty degrees Fahrenheit, a veritable heat wave. High overhead, the two midget moons, Phobos and Deimos, shone down on her, keeping her company. Soon the larger one, Phobos, would complete its circuit across the sky and vanish for a few hours. But it would be back. She and Deimos could count on that. Funny how two moons instead of one now seemed so natural and right.
She smiled. Yes, a lot had changed in two months.
Her half-finished canvas propped up in front of her, she picked up an oil tube of ultramarine blue and squeezed some next to the viridian green on her palette. Springtime on Mars was beautiful, a cause for celebration. The nearby Mare Serpentis, once believed to be an ocean, was instead awash with hardy desert plants: mosses and lichens to decorate the Spartan landscape. New life, new growth abounded, just as it did within her.
She patted her generous tummy. Who would’ve guessed she had something in common with this forbidding planet? As the seed within her took hold, so did the tenacious desert plants. Each new life struggled against the odds to survive hostile conditions. Mother Nature’s miracle. Her miracle.
When she lifted a brush to the canvas, a gentle fluttering in her stomach stayed her hand. “You’re letting your presence be known, aren’t you, little one?”
I hope you enjoy Jayna’s wondrous story.
Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!