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Placeholder image The Starman Interview

by David Baumann
with input from Jon Cooper and Mike Dodd

Written February 4-10, 2005

Updated August 23, 2005

Updated again November 21, 2005

Updated again November 24, 2010

Updated again April 24, 2011

 

 

Austin Johnson is the webmaster of the Bayport Gazette, an online magazine for fans of the Hardy Boys series. In February 2005, Austin asked the Starman Team to provide an interview for his magazine. We agreed to do so, and he sent us a number of questions, for which we wrote extensive answers. Our answers have been updated to provide current information.


1.What is the Starman series? Can you give us a brief synopsis of the saga?

The Starman series is a set of nine novels, two novelettes, and nine short stories. It was written by three men who refer to themselves as the Starman Team: Jon Cooper, Mike Dodd, and myself--David Baumann. Putting our names together, we came up with our pen name of Michael D. Cooper. As of May 2011, Jon is 31, Mike is 54, and I am 62.

We love the classic series we grew up with and, when the opportunity came our way, we wrote a series reminiscent of our childhood books. We are well aware that the golden age of series books ended in the late 1960s. Nevertheless, perhaps against the odds, we wanted to create a series that could be both reminiscent of that age and appealing to contemporary readers. We were fortunate enough to find some readers who shared that vision and even hungered for it. After our first customer, Steve Servello, read our initial offering, he wrote: "A new juvenile series. Who'd've thought?"

Mike came up with the Starman motto, that puts our hope and purpose into a concise statement:

THE FUTURE--THE WAY IT USED TO BE.

That first book was issued in July 2000. We found ourselves hard at work from that moment, and after five years came to what we thought was the completion of our series. The eighth book was released in October 2005. We thought that was the last book, but five years later we decided to tie up some loose ends that we had deliberately left unresolved. With some new ideas we began to write the climactic book in the series in the fall of 2009; it was completed in March 2011.

The books were first published as individual hardbacks in dust jacket. Here are the covers of the eight books in the Starman saga that came out 2000-2005, and the ninth volume that came out in 2011:

 
Mutiny On Mars

 

 

 The Runaway Asteroid

 

  

Journey to the Tenth Planet

 

 

 Descent Into Europa

including the short stories

"The Flight of the Olympia" and "The City of Dust"

 

 

The Lost Race of Mars

including the short story

"The Orphans of Titan"

 

 

 Doomsday Horizon

including the short stories

"A Matter of Time" and "Return to Europa"

 

  

The Heart of Danger

including the short story "The Eight Treasures"

 

 

 The Last Command

with a summary of the novelette The Lost Tomorrow and appendices.

 

Although we believed that we had completed our work on the Starman series in 2005, over four years later we felt the itch to write one more story. During that time we had produced a few new short stories and a novelette or two, but we knew that we had left several plot elements unresolved at the end of the eighth book. In due course we concluded that in spite of the emotionally powerful conclusion to The Last Command, the Starman saga was not really completed with that volume. There was another danger to be faced, another story to be told. The vague and unresolved elements of the saga were given definition and put into a gripping plot by Jon Cooper, with spicy ideas added by Mike Dodd and psychological details supplied by David Baumann. The result was a tightly woven, originally unforeseen but necessary Starman novel that ties up all the loose ends. We subtitled the volume The Sequel to the Last Starman Book. After well over a year of work, we eventually completed and published the ninth Starman story:

 

Master of Shadows

with three new short stories: “The Sand Tomb”, “The Infestation at Sulphur Creek”, and “Light From Light”; and the novelettes Danger at L5! and Paradox Lost. Paradox Lost is a retelling of a limited edition novelette called The Lost Tomorrow.

 

The entire saga weighs in at over 640,000 words, more than The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings together. The text on the cover flaps of the first book introduces the saga in this way: "Starlight Enterprise was founded in 2089. Originally a company dedicated to finding new sources of energy, it quickly became known for high ideals, philanthropy, and interplanetary ventures. In the early 22nd century, Starlight Enterprise produced its first Starmen. The Starmen were the gifted and highly trained venturers of Starlight Enterprise. With their exploits, a new age of exploration and discovery began. Earth had not seen such a time for more than six centuries, when Columbus, Magellan, Drake, and others had set sail to discover new worlds.

"In the course of their adventures, the Starmen gradually learned the amazing history of the Solar System. They discerned that this history is far different from what Earth had long believed. Finally they discovered the opportunity and responsibility of the people of Earth to defend and preserve their home--now understood not to be a country or even a planet, but the entire system of worlds circling our star. An ancient enemy, long ago defeated but now quickly regaining strength and motivated by implacable hatred, will soon be at their doorsteps. The volumes of the Starman saga chronicle the adventures of Starmen David Foster, Joe Taylor, and Mark Seaton. Each volume is an independent episode, yet the series tells one continuing story of the glorious middle years of the 22nd century."

 

2. How did you stumble across the idea to create your own series?

In the summer of 1998, I did a web search for Tom Swift and found an excellent website that Jon Cooper had put up. It was so good I wrote to him out of the blue to commend him for it. In Jon's response, he recommended the six-volume Dig Allen series that had come out in the late 1950s and early '60s, which I'd never heard of. He said that another person, Mike Dodd, had recently contacted him about Dig Allen, and that the two of them wanted to write a seventh book in that obscure space series. Jon was a plotter of stories and Mike had lots of ideas bubbling up in his fertile imagination, but neither was a writer. I was a free-lance writer and the idea of writing a science fiction juvenile novel intrigued me, so we all three partnered up to write the seventh Dig Allen story. We contacted Golden Press, the publishers of the Dig Allen series with our proposal, but they flatly forbade us to write a new book. So we decided to write a new series that was similar to but quite independent and distinct from the Dig Allen series--books in the genre of Tom Swift Jr., Tom Corbett, Dig Allen, Rick Brant, Ken Holt, and other juvenile series that had been popular fifty years earlier. After a year of collaboration, thought, and research, our team produced well over a hundred pages of email correspondence and had created a couple of dozen files filled with plots, background material, and scientific information. The Starman series was ready to launch. In February 2000, I began to write Assault On Mars.

 

3. How did you three meet as co-authors?

As described above, we met first in cyberspace. It wasn't until more than three years after our first contact that we all met in person for the first time--in October 2001. I live in California but was back east for a conference. Jon lived in West Virginia and Mike in Norfolk, Virginia, and we converged at Mike's parents' house in Richmond, Virginia for a wonderful two days. The three of us have only been together one other time--at Mark Johnson's series book conference in Charlottesville, Virginia in October 2002. However, Jon and I have had several visits, both in Knoxville, Tennessee near where he lives now, and in California.

Here is a photograph of the Starman Team, taken at the time of our first meeting in October 2001. We are, left to right, Jon Cooper, Mike Dodd, and David Baumann. Nearly ten years have passed since that photograph was taken!

 

4. What did, and do you, use for inspiration while plotting the series?

Jon, who is our plotter, can answer this best: "I have absolutely no idea. The ideas just come. I'm going along, minding my own business, and then something catches my eye and pow--an idea springs forth. They come from all kinds of places. The Runaway Asteroid was the natural outgrowth of Assault on Mars. Journey to the Tenth Planet came from an idea David had early on. Descent Into Europa came from an early proposed list of titles that we drew up; I just made a story to wrap around the title. The Lost Race of Mars was inspired by Bob Janoe, the prisoner to whom the book is dedicated. The Lost Tomorrow was inspired by the movie, 'It's a Wonderful Life'. Doomsday Horizon was inspired by the ending of a Three Stooges movie. There's no real rhyme or reason to it--the ideas just come, and then boom--there they are."

My creative part comes in fleshing out the plot summary and ideas into a smoothly-flowing tale. I put in a lot of material that comes from my experience as a martial arts instructor and, even more, as an Episcopal priest who's done a lot of counseling and general interacting with people in various stages of life. When I write the text from Jon's summary, I sift through the characters' motives, ways of thinking and reasoning, how they react to situations--their dreams, hopes, disappointments, and so forth--and put these things into the characterizations as the plot unrolls. Most, if not all, of the major and even minor characters are based either on real people or on amalgamations of personalities--including my own.

 

5. Were you satisfied with your initial output for Assault on Mars? Why or why not?

When we were ready to print up our first effort, we pondered how many books to make. We wondered if 20 would be enough, or even too many. In our most enthusiastic moments we speculated that maybe even 200 would sell. Finally, Fred Woodworth--a series book maven, printer, and personal friend of mine--offered to do the printing and start the binding process. He suggested that we make 500 copies. He said that printing that many was not much more difficult than printing 200, and we could always recycle what didn't sell. With a gulp, we agreed. He hand-bound the first 92 copies, and I did all the rest--eventually with the help of a group of friends.

So in July 2000, Assault On Mars, the first volume of the Starman series, was offered to the public. We publicized it through various series book websites and message boards. We were stunned when we had 100 orders in the first two weeks. Its first readers acclaimed it with fervor beyond our brightest hopes. Great as this response was, it also created a problem. Since these books were hardbound by hand, producing them was enormously labor-intensive. For the next two years, except for a huge lull after the terrorist attacks, orders came in faster than we could fill them. Income from sales made it possible for us to self-publish the rest of the books.
 

Here is what the cover of that first book looked like:

Assault On Mars

 

Once we'd written six books, developed a dependable fan base, and gained a lot of experience, the three of us looked back and felt that Assault On Mars was rather amateurish. Even though our fans liked it a lot, of the six books no readers named Assault On Mars as their favorite in the series. By the fall of 2003, we knew we could do better. It was important to us to try since, no matter how much a reader might like the later books, the first book is always the first one he'll read. We wanted what we called "a second chance to make a first impression". In the fall of 2003, we decided to revise and upgrade our first story, both to bring its quality up to the level of the other volumes as well as to update it in the light of events that had emerged as the saga had developed in the later books. It only took me a month to make the revisions. The story was retitled Mutiny On Mars, and replaced the first book. Mutiny On Mars was the first working title that Jon and Mike had for the book even before I contacted them, so when we reworked the first book we restored its first title. Plot changes made the new title appropriate.

 

6. How much respect did you gain for series' authors during the plotting and initial authorship stages of the Starman Series?

We quickly learned the difference between writing a book for quality and writing a book for profit. We had chosen quality from the first instant--a good thing, too, because until the very end we didn't make a dime on the books. We put enormous effort into producing the stories, and quality is our top priority, rather than making money--though we hoped not to lose money on the project. None of us has deep financial pockets.

We gained a lot of respect for the really good series authors like the original "Franklin W. Dixon", "Bruce Campbell", "John Blaine", and others. I think our respect went down a bit for authors and publishers who were more interested in profit than the product. We also quickly found out how difficult it is to work with artists and printers, even when everyone is dedicated to a good product. Communicating at a distance with creative people can cause glitches between text and illustration, pagination, and so forth. It is no longer surprising to us at all that the classic series books often had discontinuities between what the text said and what the illustrations showed.

 

7. And has this experience proved easier or harder than you first imagined?

Both. Easier since the plots seem to come without too much effort, and the writing also. I've never had writer's block, although sitting down to write does sometimes become burdensome. Jon is able to resolve an impasse in a developing plot almost instantly. It is work that we enjoy, but still work. It was also time consuming, which means that a lot of our personal pastimes were set aside for the work we've done. I estimate that Jon and I have both spent easily at least the equivalent of a year's full-time work on the series, or about 2,000 hours eachand probably a lot more than that! Mike's contributions have been less time-consuming for him, but invaluable to the process, like spice in a stew that turns it from mediocre to delicious. Part of the development of the saga even required me to create a new language, with its own vocabulary and rules. In the entire saga, however, only four written words appear in the created language. The first two took me about three hours to create, and appear in the short story "The Eight Treasures". The next two appear in the last novel, Master of Shadows. There has also been an overwhelming amount of extra work we hadn't anticipated at all in the beginning, such as record-keeping, mailing, research, looking for and working with publishers, and the like.

 

8. Tell us a little about your relationship with publishers. How did you pick your first publisher, second publisher, etc.? Why did you move on from each one, and are you planning on staying with your current publisher, American Web Books?

We have used several publishers. Fred Woodworth was our first. Without his gracious donation of labor, we could never have made the series a reality. Fred donated his time of several weeks' full-time labor, and was even willing to donate the materials. We did, however, convince him to accept payment for his out-of-pocket costs. Therefore our initial outlay of money for Assault On Mars was minimal, so that the sales of this volume produced some real income. We needed it to pay for the printing of the other books. The only drawbacks to Fred's method were that it required intensive labor over a long period of time, as mentioned above, and the hand-bound books just don't have the quality of a professionally printed volume.

With the income from sales of Assault On Mars, we looked for a "vanity press" for our second book. We investigated several and selected Sheridan Press. This firm printed our second and third books. The quality was acceptable for the price we paid. We had some difficulty with Sheridan over a number of snafus that cost us unanticipated expenses we could ill afford. Then one of our readers suggested a Canadian firm which could do better quality for less cost. Friesens in Manitoba printed our fourth and fifth books. They did a magnificent job in every way, but even at that, the cost of the printing was becoming more than our sales could sustain. We moved on from this fine company only reluctantly.

Solely for financial reasons, Mutiny On Mars and Doomsday Horizon were published by 1stBooks (later AuthorHouse), a print-on-demand company. Financial outlay was much less, but the company was very difficult to work with, made many errors, took an inordinately long time to publish the books, and could only produce them in one, non-standard size. Howling with dissatisfaction and frustration, we finally moved to American Web Books. The company president, Phil Zuckerman, was accessible, flexible, and very easy to work with. The quality of books was high and the expense was very reasonable. Eventually AWB produced four of our books, including reissuing the two books AuthorHouse had produced. AWB went out of business after our eighth book was published.

Recently we published our archival material through Cafepress, a print-on-demand company. Jon took out all the boring parts of our email exchanges and other material, and prepared the result for anyone who might be interested in the background of how the books were written. There is also background material on our newsletters and artwork. We put the material up for easy ordering. Cafepress produces it in large, good quality paperbacks. We are extremely pleased with the quality of the work and the speed of delivery. Because of that we decided to go renew our idea of producing the Starman saga in large paperback format. It is now available through Cafepress in both standard and annotated formats. Interested persons can find ordering information on our website: www.starmanseries.com.

Our current publisher is Lulu.com. It is a print-on-demand company that we have worked with for several years. They produce high quality books without any initial outlay. They don’t make books in standard series book size, which was important to us when we began our project, but we eventually abandoned that ideal, and have now produced the entire Starman series in a trilogy of thick hardback books. We also updated the text and corrected a number of small errors in the original versions. The entire saga can now be ordered for less than a hundred dollars, with all illustrations included.

The first editions of our ninth story, Master of Shadows, were published in the classic size by a private bindery in a limited print run. Second editions in classic size are available from a hobbyist in a “bind on demand” process.

 

9. As readers know, Michael D. Cooper is the pen name for three different men living all across the US. Can you describe the authorial process with regards to specific tasks for each co-author?

When the Starman team writes a book, we follow the rules that were used in the age of the classic series books. There will be no foul language, no extreme violence, no exploitative sexual references or subtleties of any kind. In the fight scenes, there is no gore. Only very, very rarely will anyone ever get killed. And no one will go to the bathroom. Of course, all of these things happen in real life, but with only a few exceptions the classic books followed these rules. In short, the classic books were intended to encourage, uplift, and entertain, rather than titillate or shock. We agree with these standards and follow them.

However, we do not hesitate to break new ground if we wish. We are aware that most of our readers are adult collectors of children's books--that means that they are, after all, adults. Although the stories are suitable for and read by children, the storylines, issues, and events are at an adult level. We do show a little romance and even a kiss or two, at least in the later volumes.

The Starman team believes that a good story will have five ingredients:

The plot--the story line must be exciting and challenging. This is Jon's primary contribution.

Accuracy and Plausibility--the science and the course of events must be either true-to-life or exceedingly believable. This is Mike's primary contribution.

The writing--the words must be poetic, the spelling and grammar correct, and the flow keep the readers' interest. This is my primary contribution.

Characterization--the characters must be distinct; consistently portrayed; and act, react, and relate in engaging and believable ways. Jon and I do this together.

Theme--the overall message and any submessages should be positive and encouraging to all readers. All three of us see to this part of the saga.

We keep careful records of all plots details, characters, and so forth so that the development of a character, his or her personality and language style, and whatever else is needed to portray a character, is kept consistent.

When we want to write a book, Jon first plots the story in a summary format. The summary is shared with Mike and me for comments. When it is in a form all three of us like, I begin to write the story from the summary. The plot continues to deepen as details develop in the writing. Mike solves scientific problems that emerge. Jon continually develops major plot ramifications. Minor plot developments emerge as I write, and we work them into the story. This is similar to the method Edward Stratemeyer used with his ghosts, except that we have added a third party for plot tweaking and plausibility, and we can collaborate by email as the book unfolds.

After the fifth book, Mike became very involved in his work and was unable to participate as much as he had. He still takes part in the discussions, however, and selected key elements of the plots in the later books are his contribution. From the fifth book, the task of providing scientific verification and making suggestions was mostly performed by Valerie Kramer, one of our earliest and most loyal readers. Valerie received each chapter as I wrote it and within a day or two sent it back to me with comments. For Master of Shadows, Charlie Campbell joined Valerie in this role.

Sometimes we sought advice from readers who are experts in one field or another. For example, there is a scene in the third book that takes place on Titan, a moon of Saturn, whose surface temperature is about three hundred degrees below zero. One reader, a Ph.D. chemist, answered our question about what "methane rain" would look like on that satellite. The recent landing on Titan verified the information he had provided us a few years earlier. Following is the text that came out the answer to our question. It comes from Journey to the Tenth Planet.

Small white dots began to drift downward from the rift above them, looking almost like snowflakes. The group hurried on, but Mark took the time to ask, "What's that? What are those white flakes?"

"That's methane snow," answered Kristina. "Or half-frozen rain, however you want to describe it. It's one of the most beautiful sights on Titan, but it's rare! The temperature inside the Gorge is a little higher than outside, so when it snows outside it's likely to rain inside here."

As they watched, the flakes came down in increasing density from the opening above. They fell as if in slow motion. About fifty feet above the path, the flakes melted into a slush and then transformed into large drops. When they struck the path, they emitted a pale vapor.

During the writing process, I also read the manuscript aloud a few chapters at a time to a small group of people that met about once a month. This audience made suggestions for improvements in anything from terminology (e.g., "You should use the term 'encryption' rather than 'scrambling'.") and caught glitches in the plot. Reading aloud also made the flow of the writing much smoother, and I made many corrections even while reading to the group.

After the first draft was completed, we sent it to Mark McSherry, another of our most dedicated readers. He read it "cold"--that is, without any advance information on what the story is about--and made comments for improvements. Even as Mark was reading, Jon Cooper was also reading the book straight through. From the comments these two made, I produced the final draft which no one saw until the book was published. From the draft of the first chapter to the final text, the entire process took roughly six months. The Heart of Danger took the longest time at seven months; The Last Command took the shortest time at just over three months.

During the time of writing, we also arranged for the illustrations. I selected about half a dozen scenes to be illustrated, and worked with the artist as he produced them. After Jon and I were satisfied with them we put them into the text. We've used a number of different artists for this part of the project.

The artist for the seventh and eighth books was Josh Kenfield. Here is a sample of his work, one of the illustrations from The Heart of Danger.

 

The artist for the last book, Master of Shadows, was Allison Oh, a young woman who is skilled in creating digital art. She created the stunning cover of the book as well as all of the internal illustrations.

 

10. Would you consider branching out into other media, or have you?

Our books have been favorably reviewed in a number of places, including the prestigious Analog magazine. The review appeared in the fall of 2002 with a follow-up in 2003. The editor of Americana Publishing, Inc., a "books on tape" company, read the review and approached us with an offer to produce our books in audio format. We reviewed the contract API sent, made a few changes to which API agreed, and fulfilled out part of the contract: to provide abridged versions of books 1-6 and the novelette. The last two books were not under contract.

After we had provided the abridgements, however, API adhered to the publication schedule but failed to pay the contractual advances or royalties, and only sent the authors' audiotapes to us after repeated calls from Jon or me. In spite of that, API has repeatedly told us that our tapes are among their best sellers. Later, they produced our books on CDs, with boxed sets also planned. Our experience with this commercial publisher has been quite disappointing. The quality of their product is very fine, but the company essentially simply tried to steal our work. After a year of being stonewalled and lied to, in May 2005 we finally received a check for our royalties. The amount, however, was completely dependent upon their unverified sales figures, and only arrived after we had contacted an attorney in their city, who represented our interests with the company. After the settlement, we offered API the last two books (under different contractual conditions, of course), but got no response. Not longer after that, they declared bankruptcy and went out of business.

Fortunately we were contacted by Roy Trumbull, a hobbyist who likes to create audiobooks. He had found us through a web search. He has recorded four Starman books including the last three, and they are available online.

One reason we didn't seek a publishing house in the beginning is that doing so is usually a huge aggravation, even when successful. I've done it once and didn't enjoy the process. We also started out writing the series just as a hobby, and didn't expect it to become popular or, frankly, to turn out as well as it has. We also wanted to retain complete control over the content and appearance of the Starman books. For these reasons, we intentionally began by self-publishing. Nevertheless, two or three publishers asked to look at it on the recommendations of our readers--but no one picked it up. After the eighth book came out and we had rested a little, we sought an agent. We found a couple that were interested in our books, but neither proved reliable. Following up on recommendations from enthusiastic readers, we also examined the possibility of selling the story to movie-makers. A producer expressed fervent interest in the project, but his labors also were fruitless. We are rather soured on our experience with commercial publishing. Being commercially published was never a main goal for us, so we’re not too disappointed. Now that the series has been completed, we may try one more time.


11. The authoring of the Starman series quite obviously requires a broad and, at times, specific scientific background and education. Do the authors rely on their own knowledge base for technical points? If not, what sources do you use for information?

For an amateur, Mike has an extensive and expansive knowledge of these matters. Jon also is familiar with much of what we put into the books, just because he is well read. My undergraduate background, although I am a priest, is in mathematics and physics. We are all fairly well conversant with what it takes to write plausible science fiction. Valerie Kramer, in her role as editor, provides invaluable input on scientific matters for correction or refinement of the text. For our last book, Master of Shadows, Charlie Campbell provided invaluable scientific commentary. One or two other readers have also provided valuable technical suggestions.

We have often found that our writing has anticipated a discovery or announcement. We have a file we call "Science Validates Starman Series". There are at least a dozen to fifteen items in it in which something we have put into the books appears a year or two or three later in a scientific journal or newspaper article.

There are a dozen or more fight scenes in the saga. I have more than twenty-five years experience as a martial artist, including nearly twenty as an instructor. The scenes are carefully planned, choreographed, tested, and sometimes even photographed, both still and video, to make sure that they are true to life.

Here is one that was carefully choreographed, practiced, filmed, and studied before the final text was written. It is from the short story, "A Matter of Time".

Toby strode ahead confidently, grabbed Sarah by both shoulders, and pulled her forward a few feet until they were opposite a closet door. Still holding her firmly with his meaty right hand he reached over with his left and pulled the door open, then began to push her into it.

Suddenly a loud, throaty groan burst from his vocal chords, like a large animal in pain. Toby collapsed into himself, both hands grabbing his groin. With her eyes flashing, Sarah reached up with both hands and pulled his head down and to her right. Her left leg bent upward and with her knee she walloped him with enormous force on the right side of his head. The big man went down in a heap and lay on the floor whimpering.

The faces of Link and Sledge showed sudden surprise and then outraged anger. They both leaped at Sarah, clutching hands outstretched.

As they rushed toward her, Sarah jumped at the one on her right, the bigger of the two assailants. With a piercing guttural yell, she lifted her left leg into the air almost as if she were stepping onto an invisible stair and let fly a crushing kick with her right leg. The ball of her foot slammed into Sledge's solar plexus. The air whooshed out of his lungs loudly, his mouth opened like a fish out of water, and he went down.

Link stopped his rush and glared at the woman with alert wariness, his nostrils flaring with hatred.

"You just made a big mistake, honey." His voice oozed like poison. Slowly, with a lopsided evil grin, he drew his pistol. Before it had cleared the holster, Sarah dropped instantly to the floor and, supporting herself with her left leg, extended her right leg and swung it in a fast arc. She caught the saboteur just at his right ankle. The man's feet flew out from under him and he slammed down hard on the metal floor. The pistol went flying.

With a cry, the man rolled away fast from the Starlight student and leaped to his feet. His eyes glared with red fury. He snarled and charged her, bellowing and aiming a hard punch at her face with his right hand balled up in a tight fist.

Just as he released the blow, Sarah swept her right arm across in front of her head and deflected his attack, then slammed her own fist backwards into Link's face. He howled and closed his eyes, dropped his head, and covered his face with his hands.

Sarah planted her right foot and whirled rapidly counter-clockwise, leaning away from her attacker. At the height of her spin, she lifted her left leg high and dealt Link a hard blow on the left side of his head. For a quarter turn, his body spun like a propeller as he dropped to the floor. By the time he came to rest, he was out cold.

 

12. How do you a) decide what to use for cover art, and b) who will design/illustrate the cover?

The ideas all came from what we considered are exciting scenes from the books, and each of us had a hand in suggesting the ones we select. Mike designed and painted the covers for Mutiny On Mars and Journey to the Tenth Planet. Jon designed the cover for Descent Into Europa, and a fan, Kevin Anetsberger, created it digitally. I designed the covers for The Runaway Asteroid (painted by my son), The Lost Race of Mars and The Last Command (painted by my father), and The Heart of Danger (painted by a friend). I designed and painted the cover for Doomsday Horizon. The only disappointment we've had is a magnificent cover scene that Mike designed for Descent Into Europa. We wanted very much to use it, but the artistic capabilities we had at the time were unable to provide it. Jon, however, produced it digitally for the cover of the second archival book available through Cafepress. We found a new artist, Allison Oh, to paint the cover of the ninth book, Master of Shadows, and provide its internal illustrations.

Once when Jon was experimenting with a digital art program, he designed and produced an alternate cover for Journey to the Tenth Planet. I really like it, but it will not replace the one that Mike painted. He did use it, however, for the first volume of Cafepress version of the Starman saga. We call this book Quest for the Light.

 

The second volume is called Warriors of the Light. Jon's first draft of its cover is below. Jon adapted Josh Kenfield's internal illustration (reproduced above) for this rendering.

 

13. In the fall of 2004, "Michael Cooper" made the announcement that the series would be shortened from a series of over 20 volumes to a series of 8 volumes. Why was this decision made? How will you fit all of your material into the last books?

Simply put, we couldn't fit all of our material into the last books. Some stories (a few of which have been plotted in detail) are just not going to be told, although the summaries will be made available. Jon has provided downloads called "The Starman Appendix". They are free for the asking. There are five volumes already available which provide several hundred pages of background material, including plot summaries.

The same information is also available now from Cafepress in four  paperbacks. Interested people can go to http://www.starmanseries.com/appendix.htm for more information.

We decided to trim the title listing down for two reasons: we no longer had enough money or fans to make writing more books feasible, and we simply became too tired to write more of them. Although we thoroughly enjoyed writing the series, doing so has been exhausting. We worked the writing into our spare time, and all of us are busy people with demanding work. We've also learned that one phenomenon of series books is that each volume sells fewer copies than the one before, especially if one is telling an ongoing story, as we are. (Much to our surprise, however, the last book sold more copies than the one before.) Since we only started five years ago with about 320 readers, we couldn't afford to lose too many customers and still keep the project cost-effective.

 

14. What is the message that you, as authors, try to convey to your readers?

The broad-stroke message in the Starman books is that light will always conquer darkness, good will conquer evil. The message is stated several times in different ways in each of the books. The theme of light shining in darkness is constant, and expressed in many different ways. It is a message common to all people of good will. The fine-stroke theme of the books is to extol basic virtue--true pleasure, honor, integrity, loyalty, patience, respect, endurance, resourcefulness, courage, etc.

It has been made clear from the first advertisements for the Starman series that I am an Episcopal priest, and that Jon Cooper and Mike Dodd are also Christians. It should not be a surprise that there are some Christian images in the books, but they haven't been placed furtively to sneak Christianity into the story. They're there because, as any author should who cares about producing a good book, we draw upon what we knows best and use the images and symbols with which we are most familiar. If we wrote about something of which we were ignorant, the book wouldn't be realistic or convincing.

To illustrate this theme, here is a passage from the novelette, The Lost Tomorrow.


He became passionate, downright passionate, that we succeed. The night he emoted to us about it nearly broke our hearts.

"You must succeed!" he cried out. "It is your world that must prevail! My world should never have existed! It is an accident! No more than an aberration! An aberration that prevented the healing of humanity that came through Thomas and Richard Starlight and the Starmen!

"I sensed it, we all sensed it that foggy morning back in Buckeye the day we flew to Florida. It was Ira who realized it first. It was Ira who said that we had to help you to get back to your own tomorrow, even if it cost us our own existence! Strich and I knew he was right." He spoke mournfully and shook his head in an expression of grief such as I'd never seen before. "We ought never to have existed in our gray, featureless world!" he said huskily and with such passion that we were all deeply moved.

"Roos," said Mark in tones of earnest tenderness and sensitivity. "Roos," he said, "I can't believe that anyone's life is an accident. Whatever is in the scheme of things or the patterns of existence of all the mysteries of time and space, no life can ever be an accident!" He paused and swallowed. "And no sacrifice is without value. Your life and those of your friends are now inextricably bound up with ours, though we are men of different tomorrows. We are products of a shared history and we have a shared humanity. Across the immensities of time and truth, we are brothers. Whatever ultimately happens is out of our control, but the choices we make are always about ultimate truth and goodness--and these things are absolutes not bound by time or history or chance."

It is not our first intention to make the series a subtle tool for "preaching". Rather it is first of all that the books be enjoyable to people across the spectrum of belief, but we do have something to share. The series is designed to encourage the human mind and spirit and extol the virtues of courage, honesty, and good-heartedness. The lead characters follow a philosophy that life is good, the creation is exciting as well as beautiful, hope is reasonable and worthwhile, and the spirit of adventure is worth pursuing. We are very much directing the books to a general audience.

We're taking a little-traveled road in the series book field by putting a taste of philosophical matters into the books, but even this has some precedents in the series book world. We believe that putting these issues in our stories rather than ignoring them makes the stories closer to reality. After all, no matter what any given reader's personal convictions may be, everyone does have some kind of philosophy of life, and each person's beliefs can be refined by encountering others' philosophies.

Certainly one constant theme is personal responsibility and having to choose for or against absolute goodness; another is having to bear the burden of others' evil; yet another is whether to risk a great sacrifice for the greater good; still another is that the virtues of courage, love, patience, goodness, and harmony cannot be taken for granted. I intentionally try to create emotionally intense scenes in the stories--intense for the characters and therefore intense for the readers, so that the readers in some way also have to face the choices the characters face.

One unusual factor in the Starman Series is the emotional and spiritual development of the characters. Very few series, classic or recent, present their stories in chronological sequence. However, most often the characters' growth in these few series was mostly growth in years--that is, the characters merely "grew up". In the Starman Series, although the characters do "grow up" in years, of much greater significance is that they also "grow deep". They "mature" emotionally and spiritually. The Starmen, although heroic, are flawed. The three of them came to work together when they found, unconsciously, that the strengths each had balanced out the flaws of the others. Yet the flaws remained and, as the saga continued, continually cried out to be acknowledged and addressed.

In the past year or so, we have wondered seriously whether there really is a market for the Starman series and its message of hope, virtue, and responsibility. The themes we set out so earnestly just seem not to be generally valued or wanted in today's culture. When the publishers of the old series of the early twentieth century advertised their products, they appealed to "good clean adventure" and the encouragement to build virtue in young people. It seems to us that in the early twenty-first century, these qualities are not even much understood, much less valued.

We were taught as children that a virtuous life is a pleasure all its own, working hard will get you ahead, honesty will be rewarded, and integrity is the way to go. We carried these convictions into our adulthood, but our experience has shown that in real life these qualities are the exceptions. Very often, in the corporate world honesty and integrity are threatening rather than admirable. Making money is of highest importance, and is to be made not by producing dependable or worthwhile products or services but by finding clever ways to extract it from the public. Very often people who work hard lose their jobs because they threaten the status quo.

We've learned that there are fortunes to be made by thinking for the short term and not having much regard for customers or employees. Those who are honest will often be taken advantage of, and it is understood that the corporate office expects an employee to lie when necessary. If you want to be promoted you have to play "the game". No doubt it has always been this way, but these standards seem to be a lot more accepted today than in previous generations.

The Starman Series is an anomaly. It simply does not fit into the modern world. Many of our few fans are intensely dedicated to the series, but there are others who have sampled it and shaken their heads in bewilderment. Nevertheless, we are heartily convinced that our message is not only based on a foundation of truth but much needed in our culture. In fact, it is a premise in the Starman series itself that greed and dishonesty led to the collapse of Earthly culture, and from that collapse came a renewed sense of wonder and adventure.

The bookflap of Mutiny On Mars puts it this way. "At the beginning of the 21st century, the world economy was booming. Within two decades, however, most multinational corporations had overreached themselves and a severe, global depression set in, unprecedented in scope. All efforts to counter it failed. Governments fell and the infrastructure of the planet decayed, initiating the worst period in human history. The age became known as the Collapse, and was characterized by worldwide violence, terrorism, and unrestrained criminal opportunism. But the century ended with a glimmer of hope. The concepts of stewardship, accountability, and mutual responsibility revived. Starlight Enterprise was founded in 2089, committed to rebuilding the Earth and its culture."

We present a fictional world that is, in many ways, the world the way we wish it were. It bursts with a sense that it is "morning", fresh, intense, and full of wonder and promise. It is a message we are convinced our world badly needs, but hardly knows how to understand or value. If we are "preaching" anything, I guess that would be it.

Sometimes even this symbolic element is made specific in the Starman series. This text is from chapter 11 of The Lost Race of Mars.

With a sweeping glance Zip took in the staggering sight of a gigantic cliff dropping down abruptly just ahead of them, its ruddy slopes dotted with cedars and stone joints that led down into clefts filled with gray smoke. Far below was a ragged red world of rock, bare and shining wetly in the aftermath of the rain. Spires and domes and crags, clear and strange in the morning light, uplifted from the bottom of the canyon with beauty that seemed more fable than fact.

The vastness and grandeur caused Zip to draw in a sharp breath. Mark and Joe moved up to gaze from the forward window. Looking back toward the sun, the Starmen saw the edge of a dazzling disk of light lift over the distant horizon and radiate brilliant illumination that flowed through layers of saffron mist. Dawnlight touched the topmost parts of the canyon, and the opposite side showed the first trace of gold.

"There's a large overhang on the opposite side of the canyon," pointed out Zip, "and it looks as though there's a cave there, too. That might be just about ideal for our purposes." He eased the Star Ranger forward over the edge of the canyon. The rock walls dropped below them in majestic splendor. Zip followed the profile of the cliff down, keeping close to the enormous rocks that shaped the sides of the chasm. At the bottom he crossed and then ascended past the spectacular rises on the far side.

He lifted up through a shadow-hung gap in the escarpments and found the space he had discerned before. A large hollow, carved over eons out of the soft stone by the powerful winds of Mars, made a concave shelter under the outcropping. He eased the Star Ranger onto the ledge, and slowly and carefully brought it as far into concealment as he could. With scarcely a trace of motion, he rested the ship onto its landing gear and shut down the power.

"I'm hungry," announced Joe. "I'll make breakfast. I doubt there's a finer place on the planet for a meal." He set coffee to perking, then gathered up a couple of frying pans and checked the larder for eggs, potatoes, and bacon.

While Joe was preparing breakfast, Zip set the table. Mark secured his helmet and stepped out of the airlock onto the ledge. A stand of hardy fir trees grew on one side. Far off to the east, a vivid rainbow glowed through the mist in a dazzling arc.

 

15. Do you feel that the elements of the Starman series are equal to those of series books of the past, as far as adventure, mystery, espionage, romance, and excitement?

The Starman team definitely includes all these elements--even a little romance. Are we the equal of the books of the past? I suppose our readers must be the best judges of that, and some of their comments are shared below. We set out to produce stories whose setting and style are similar to those of the Tom Corbett and Dig Allen series. We wanted the stories to have the adventure and intrigue so popular in the Rick Brant series. We wanted to provide the intellectual challenge and intricacy of the Ken Holt series. We wanted to include a little philosophy about life and human endeavor in the same way the Tom Quest series and the books of Capwell Wyckoff did. But most of all, we just hoped that the Starman series would develop its own character--in the style of the classic books without imitating them too much.

I think that other series--at least the top quality ones--may do a better job than we do in some of these areas you asked about, but I also think that the Starman series does excel in other areas these other series did not. Not that the classic series couldn't have done so, but they were aimed at children or teenagers and didn't explore the higher themes. For example we have put a lot of effort into developing a convincing and even chilling picture of evil in some of our characters. Here is one scene from Descent Into Europa.

Denn's lips tightened and his forehead creased. "I'll have to radio the Maiden and tell them to go back and finish the job."

"No! I order you!" cried Nolan, standing up. "I'm in charge here! I order you to stop them!"

Denn laughed again. "Robert Nolan," he said indulgently. "You're not in charge here. You haven't been in charge for a year. I've been in charge for a long time. Look around you. How many people do you see? We allowed everyone to go home, don't you remember? Who is left aboard? Only the crew I hired, only the people I picked! I'm in charge, Robert!"

Robert's face blanched and he rocked on his feet. Beowulf Denn slowly rose, put a large hand on Robert's chest, and pushed him gently but irresistibly down into his chair.

"No," said Robert quietly, as if into the air. "No. It's my plant." He leaped to his feet. Energy surged into him and he screamed. "Get out of my way! I'll give the orders myself!"

Denn pushed him down into the chair again, none too gently this time. Robert jumped up yet again, and Denn struck him down with an open hand. Robert fell over the chair and sprawled on the ground, stunned and still unbelieving. Sudden fury filled him. He crawled forward out of Denn's immediate reach, and scrambled to his feet.

He saw a display case in front of him. He grabbed a dark and pocked iron meteorite the size of a lemon, whirled around, and threw it with all his might at his adversary. The heavy stone struck the large, grinning man on his forehead with enormous force. Denn expelled a huge blast of air, clutched upward, and fell back to the floor unconscious.

Robert fled from the room. Outside, he composed himself and headed for the shuttleport.

 

And another from The Runaway Asteroid.

"They found us!!" Zimbardo shouted. "They found us! The Earthmen know where we are! They've located the fleet!! The freighters those fools destroyed yesterday were decoys! The Earthmen deployed the real probes and they've already found us! They outsmarted us!" He cursed vehemently, then growled as if his teeth were grinding on gravel. "But I've never been outsmarted! I won't be outsmarted now!"

Zimbardo jumped back into his chair. "Gene! GENE!!" He screamed like a man possessed.

"Right here sir," said the young man, coming up quickly to the pirate leader's side.

"Crank up all the power this asteroid can give me! I'm going to create the biggest electromagnetic pulse this Solar System has ever seen, and BURN every last one of those probes out of the void!! And then when we are invisible again, we'll move this asteroid to a new course and continue our plan."

"But sir," pleaded Gene, almost desperately. "That would take a lot of power! It would be highly inefficient and might work against us! I don't know the power capacity of the asteroid! It could very well burn us out!"

Zimbardo stopped moving for a moment, then turned his head very slowly around and stared at Gene. His eyes glinted with an unearthly light.

"Do it," he hissed.

Gene stepped back half a pace, then pivoted swiftly and ran to the power breakers on the far side of the room. He began to pull switches, override safety indicators, and turn power dials to maximum output.

In a little less than three minutes, he turned and looked back at Zimbardo. The pirate leader had not taken his eyes off of his assistant for a second. With his mouth slightly open, Gene looked into Zimbardo's eyes from across the room and nodded with a quick jerk of his head. Zimbardo smiled, inclined his head slowly, and turned back to his console. He laughed out loud and pressed the switch that activated a general direction EMP.

We excel, I think, in the matters addressed in the previous question--briefly, in drawing on cosmic themes and developing the humanity of our characters. And I might go so far to say that I think we have blended the best virtues of the classic series into one set of stories. We also put in a fair measure of sophisticated humor. Several scenes have caused readers to laugh out loud.

Here is a sample of adventure and excitement from the seventh book, The Heart of Danger.

"Jack!" Zip yelled, his bellow fed by intense alarm. A second burst from enemy lasers seared the space where Zip's head had just been and sheered off the end of his laser rifle. With a snarl the Starman flung his useless weapon down and, turning, sped along the right hand passage toward the opposite side of the ship, looking fruitlessly for the shoulder pack. He came to the place where he and Jack had labored at the bottom of the shaft.

"Aayahhh!" he screamed in anger, frustration, and to release the pent-up energy of battle. Weaponless, he saw the pipe he had used to assist Jack to place Karax's device and snatched it up. "Ah, Jack, Jack!" he lamented with teeth-clenching intensity.

As soon as the first Xenobot sidled into sight in the rounded passageway, Zip leaped to the attack with fury, wielding the length of pipe faster than human eye could follow, holding his weapon with both hands in the middle and slamming his attacker alternately with the ends. Six, seven, eight blows hammered the Xenobot in less than two seconds. The laser pistol it held in its wormlike appendage shook with each strike. The metallic casings were too strong for Zip's bludgeon to do any harm to the structure, but the soft gelatinous tissues inside were violently whipped and shaken.

Sensing an attack from the rear, Zip looked over his shoulder, his face gripped with dreadful passion. Without pausing, shouting a war cry that only he could hear, Zip drove the pipe straight back like a battering ram, its pointed end connecting with the metallic upper body of his second attacker. The force flung the Xenobot backwards into the third that was close behind.

Zip turned forward again and drove the blunt end of the pipe against the first Xenobot, which was still reeling from the vehemence of the Starmen's initial blows. The mollusk-like creature flew off its tripedal supports. With full force, Zip swung the pipe like a pickax onto its glassy front. Without pausing to see the result he whirled once again and pummeled the two that had come up behind him.

 

16. How do you feel your series compares to the series of the '60s and prior - giants of science fiction such as Dig Allen and the ever-popular Tom Swift?

Generally, at the risk of boasting, I think we do pretty well. We were told by one reader, an expert in the series book world, that he considered the Starman series to be better than 98% of the series he collected and read. For me, the top 2% are Rick Brant and Ken Holt, so I took his comment to imply that our books are close to those two series. It's not exactly what he said, but it's how I took it, and I was greatly pleased.

But we can never do what the classic series did effortlessly--reflect the era of the 1950s and '60s and so connect with the childhood of our adult readers. Our series can never create the same response in its readers as the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift Jr., Ken Holt, or Rick Brant do, or even Tom Corbett or Dig Allen. It is something new. This means that in some ways, the Starman series is a citizen of no world and therefore "homeless". It reads like the 1950s, but it is a product of the first five years of the 2000s. The appeal of the Starman series, when it has any, is complex.

Perhaps the best way to answer your question is to let a few of our readers speak for themselves. Here are quotes from messages we have received.

 

Jim Ogden

The first book in the Starman series, Assault on Mars, is a wonderfully old-fashioned futuristic story. I strongly recommend its purchase. I can't wait for the next book in the series.

 

Fred Woodworth

I think you've got a winner on your hands. No kidding, this is a fully professional series-type book. I'd have read it and liked it when I was a kid. It has a lot going for it just in the old genre style alone, but I also see things that seem to be more in line with how people think and react today. I see a lot of stuff like this in your book, the kind of thing that could not be reproduced effectually by anyone not part of the series-fan community.

 

Ed Pippin

In an age where electronic games, Internet surfing and computers compete for the leisure time of young people, the STARMAN series is a welcomed alternative. It is also a great read for "older" Cadets who remember the TOM CORBETT and RICK BRANT stories. It is a project conducted by fans for fans with a professional result. The style and flavor of the STARMAN series is reminiscence of the book series Robert Heinlein wrote for Scribner in the 1950s. Heinlein never "talked down" to his audience in his series of books and neither do the STARMAN books.

 

Mike DeBaptiste

The new Starman #1 ASSAULT ON MARS is a really terrific book in the classic space adventure mode with a vast epic sweep. This book is exceptionally well-written. Descriptive passages of space, the Martian landscape, and the city and tunnels are terrific and had me pausing to read them over again. The plotting is excellent with its eerie mystery, twists and turns, and some nice surprises thrown in, and the action and dialogue are crisp and fast, keeping the pace upbeat.


Mike Pahlow

I finished the book. It is really very good!! I'm impressed with the story line and the characters enough to want to continue with each new proposed edition!! It does indeed remind me of the Tom Corbett and Rick Brant series books.


From Jim Gaudet

True confession time: my step-daughters' dad loaned me one of his two copies of Assault on Mars and I read it last week. Wow! I am way past being impressed. This book is professionally written but true to the spirit of all those great series books of my youth. Congratulations!

 

Daniel Routh

I got Starman #2--thank you! I've read a good bit of it, and after the first two chapters it really got interesting. I could barely put it down--in fact, I didn't for a while. I'm sure my homework suffered a little for that. ... This book [#5] flowed marvelously--I felt as though it was a real magnet pulling me along irresistibly. The plot was always unexpected--a good change of pace. And it kept me constantly thinking and emoting as I followed the varied story lines. Excellent job! ... The Starman series infuses new life into such old clichés as world-destruction. In the authors' world they awake, breathe, and tremble.

 


Steven J. Servello

The three (known collectively as Michael. D. Cooper) have utilized a plot device that is lacking in most series but very prevalent in other series (Dray Prescot and The Survivalist) which are my absolute favorites in all of literature, though not juvenile in nature. This device is to plant seeds (or mysteries) that will be eventually revealed as the series progresses and with new ones being dispersed throughout the balance of the books. This forms a great feeling of continuity, not usually seen in the genre. My thoughts on the enjoyment factor (the most important) while reading "Assault?" A superb adventure that held my interest throughout.

 

Valerie Kramer

This series is really pioneering a lot of new ideas in series books! I know everyone wishes the books had a larger audience but you can all be proud of a good job, and just maybe that audience will find you yet. If nothing else, your place in the history of series books is assured.


Dale Ames

This series of books is the best series of Space Adventures to fly into our Solar System. Not since the Tom Corbett series of books have we read and enjoyed books of this high a quality. Great plots and thrills a minute as our Starmen jet thru space, battling space pirates and dangers. I was unable to put my copy of book #1 "Assault On Mars" down until I completed the novel.

 

Neil Shapiro

The first two books "Assault on Mars" and "The Runaway Asteroid" are now out. I ordered the first one and I knew when I saw it I was in for a special treat. Bound as an old series-style book with a cover from the '50s, it was presented as a doorway into the future and yet reminiscent of the past as well. But this NOT a nostalgia book or even something that seems dated. Instead, it is a natural continuation into present day interests and writing style of the old, popular juvenile SF series. If you want to introduce a young teen to SciFi, well, I don't know a better way right now.

 

Ed Haser

It is an interesting experience to read today after 40 years of technology advance, books written with a mid-1900s view of technology and society. Darn amazed at how well you guys, especially you "youngsters", are able to re-create that experience in the books.

 

Mark McSherry

One of the strengths of the Starman books--in my humble opinion--is the sense of place as well as predicament in the telling of the stories. The Starman Team has enough confidence in their work to take time to leaven the plotting with descriptive accounts of both locale and environment. And by drawing on all five of the reader's senses while doing so, enriches the tale by adding a depth that lingers in the memory long after the telling.

I knew the Series could be something special while reading Assault On Mars. The trek across the Martian landscape to Eagle City, which takes up the middle portion of the book, is exciting in and of itself. But the journey, especially after meeting up with Jogren, takes on a leisurely, almost lyrical quality as the earthmen land-sail across a snowy plain, then work their way on foot through the maze of the mud caves, till finally kayaking the Martian Sea. It is writing such as this, and there are other examples throughout the entire series, that transcends the boys'-sf-adventure series genre that the Team seeks to emulate and pay homage to.

 

Laurel Barber

I had saved the latest Star Man book to read until yesterday as a treat. After MONTHS of
waiting to read your book I finally read it and it was FABULOUS! So, I just wanted to say please keep writing! I love stuff like this and you write it really well. The book didn't seem 400+ pages long, and it moved at a good pace.

 

Tim Parker

Just finished Doomsday Horizon! (I tried to stretch it out as long as I could but you guys made it so exciting that I finally had to finish it.) It was a very enjoyable read. I didn't think that you would be able to top The Lost Race of Mars but I think that you just may have. It had everything in it that you could ask for in a children's (or adults pretending they're children's) series.

 

Bert Francis

Recently finished Tenth Planet--VERY EXCITING AND VERY GOOD!! It had some really powerful, unexpected parts to it, and it was thoroughly entertaining. I'd have to say that it's my favorite so far in terms of gripping suspense and overall readability, although Asteroid comes in a very close second

 

Tony Baechler

This has to be one of the best series I have read in a long time. It is very addictive and it is hard to stop reading. You have proven that you can tell a good epic without excessive violence. I think this is one of my favorite science fiction series.

 

17. Do you think there is still room in today's society for series fiction? In a future society?

If you're asking about the series books of the classic era, probably not, though I would be delighted to be proven wrong. The popularity of series book reprints is probably mostly nostalgia more than finding a new audience. The world has changed. How well do children read? When the series book era started a little over a century ago, not even radio was commonplace. There were newspapers and the budding film industry. Reading was a mainstay of popular entertainment. Now there is too much competition, and the competition is widespread and highly influential, although mostly of extremely poor quality. (Gladly, there are some marked exceptions.) That has contributed to changing people's tastes and shortening their attention spans.

In the twentieth century, the popular culture moved from books to radio to movies to television to computers to videogames. The entertainment industry keeps moving faster and faster. Among all the competitors for people's attention, books move the slowest and demand the most from the imagination. When the Stratemeyer Syndicate revised its classic texts beginning in 1959, one criterion seemed to be to remove the parts of the stories that might be called "literature"--an educated vocabulary and the element that featured simple enjoyment of life and descriptions of the terrain and the seasons. In the early 1960s, this was considered "boring" and unnecessary to the adventure. The books became shorter and shorter, slicker and slicker, used a simpler vocabulary, and appealed more and more to excitement rather than to character building and telling a good story. Many people today, including adults, can get by without being able to read very well. Compared to previous eras, today’s general culture has become functionally illiterate--communicating a lot by images and voices, not written words. I cannot envision a future society reverting to valuing the printed word by any large measure.

So although I believe that the Starman series is very good, those features that make it so may ironically also render it unsellable today. In the long run, I think that the Starman series is a project born out of time. It is hard to imagine that it will ever be widely known. The Starman Team knew this when we began our work. Nevertheless, we are delighted that we took it on and gratified that we've done it well--better than we ever guessed we could at the beginning, when an 18-year-old was doing the plotting and the writer hadn't written fiction for thirty years. Even if the series fades into obscurity, and no more than two or three hundred people ever read it, we're very glad we did it. Writing the Starman saga has certainly changed our own lives for the better, and when we think about it, we actually succeeded far beyond our fondest dreams when we first hatched the idea of creating a new series in the summer of 1998.

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© 2011 by David Baumann, Jonathan Cooper, Mike Dodd. All rights reserved.