What would you do if you suddenly found yourself, for all intents and purposes, abducted? What if the alien race that abducted you turned out to be entirely benevolent? What if they wanted to know more about you and the people of Earth? What would you tell them? More importantly, how would you live your life after you were returned?
James (Jay) Patterson is an accountant. He lives in Keyes, Oklahoma. It’s on the very tip of the Oklahoma panhandle. It is wildly conservative and in the thick of the Bible Belt. James is also gay. He has a husband named Casey, and they are both raising two foster children named Robbie and Angela. The story opens with a global phenomenon where practically everyone on the planet is having the same dream of a ringed, giant blue planet. Everyone that is, excepting for Jay. He is chalking it up to nothing more than nonsense. It’s a Saturday and he’s taking his foster children to church. Yes, he’s taking them to church. It’s a rather moderate church, and while the denomination is never stated, they are welcoming of Jay and his children. The kids are at a rehearsal for a play and while there Jay suddenly develops a bad case of vertigo, imagines he’s actually in space over a planet much like Saturn, except that it’s blue. Even though he sees himself in space he’s able to breath and is in movement around the planet. Then suddenly he finds himself back in the church, violently sick, with paramedics on the way. He then makes his way home, only to have another experience of being off Earth, except this time he’s on what is essentially some odd structure in space around that same planet, and he’s not alone. He’s with a very young boy from Spain and a teenaged girl from London (her family is from Bangladesh). After a time they find themselves taken to meet their “abductors,” only to discover they are peaceful and friendly, who only wish to know more about Jay and the people of Earth. The dream is their attempt at accomplishing this.
Let me start off by saying that this is a novella. With only 95 pages, including the Epilogue, this was an extremely quick read. The author, Peter Cawdron, has a wife and three kids, and they live in Brisbane, which further makes this story something of an anomaly. To write a book about a gay couple, in Bible Belt Oklahoma no less, can be considered to be a quite a stretch, but it’s done so to help make a point. Gay people are, despite what some on the “other” side of the cultural divide would say, normal and ordinary. They lead regular lives, have regular jobs, pay their taxes, and try to carve out as healthy and happy a life as anyone else. However, to use a gay man in this context was to help illustrate a point when Jay meets his alien abductors. Because of the way he conducts himself the aliens immediately wonder if he’s a leader, or at least part of the dominant class (No jokes about gays trying to take over the world here!). He has to explain the nature of the world he comes from, and while this might be considered “preachy” from a certain socio-political standpoint, there are certain truths here. In Cawdron’s afterward he delivers a quote from Charles and Morticia Addams that says “Normal is an illusion. What’s normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” Cawdron’s sci-fi novella here does what many in science fiction do, and that is attempt to address the human condition. As Isaac Asimov once said, “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinded critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction, its essence, has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.” Cawdron is using his book as a mirror for today’s humanity, and while some may find this offensive, it very much resonates with truth in the heart of this reader.
Cawdron’s primary characters, which are essentially Jay, Casey, Robbie, and Angela, have wonderful development, and for the short time that we see Jay’s family, the depths they have give them realism, especially in the Epilogue. Cawdron has shown that such families, despite what others may say, can have truly happy, and even ordinary lives. We see how Jay helps his husband Casey when he comes down with a cold, and we later see how Casey reciprocates with Jay under much more serious circumstances. He is showing that even same-sex couples have the same sense of love, devotion, and commitment, as all other married and committed couples have. Even the foster children show beautiful growth by the end of the book further illustrating the true meaning of the world “family.” The science fiction aspect tells us how in the face of an eye-opening revelation, how Jay comes to understand his place in the Universe, that we all must undertake our own journey on this spaceship Earth we live on, to help make it a better place for ourselves, for our families, and for the people around us. By bringing uniformity through our diversity can we flourish as a species as each one of us of travels in each one’s own “Starship Mine.”
Starship Mine gets 4.5 out of 5 stars (I docked half a star only because I felt the story wasn’t long enough!).
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