Why.

One of Robin Sullivan’s recent posts reminded me that I’ve not really done much here lately except stop by and tell you what’s happening. Some people are getting insights into the why of my brain with the Talking On My Morning Walk podcast but that’s pretty scattered. I’m about to dive into another month of frenetic activity – and while I should be writing – I also need to stop and take stock.

“Why” is an interesting word. Why do I write? Why do I tell stories? Why do I tell the stories I do?

I believe in the power of the everyday hero. I am tired of the “we have to blow up the world” stories. I remember the wonder and joy I found in Heinlein, Bradbury, and Asimov. I miss those stories and I want them to come back. I figure the only to get them to come back is to write them.

To be clear, I don’t really remember the stories that well. What I remember is how they made me feel. What I know is that, as a kid, I found them strangely empowering, wonderfully engrossing. They were stories about people I could grow up to be — people I might want to grow up to be. I want to tell stories that give those feelings to others. As Hugh McLeod says, “The market for something to believe in is infinite.” I like that idea–that people want something to believe in. If I can inspire them to find it through my story telling, that seems – for lack of a less corny phrase – a worthy goal.

Key to this effort is telling the stories I want to read. A few people are very upset by the ending of Owner’s Share. I understand. It’s an upsetting ending. It’s not a Hollywood ending. It’s not happily-ever-after. It is the story I needed to tell. It’s the story I wanted to read. While some are wondering how this “something to believe in” meshes with the ending of the series, I think it makes perfect sense.

Before I wrote Owner’s Share, listeners made me promise not to kill him. The last Harry Potter book had just come out and there was a great deal of angst over the ending of that book. My listeners didn’t want that to happen to Ishmael. The more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea of continuing on, of telling more stories – different stories – set in this universe with Ishmael doing the exploration. The idea of “something to believe in” kept ringing in my head. How does one pick up the scattered pieces of a shattered life and move on? How do you find something to believe in?

These aren’t trivial questions, but are they questions that we ‘common people’ have to deal with. Ishmael is an Everyman. For all that many find him to be a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu, as the case may be), he’s still a common guy. The ending of Owner’s Share leaves him with something to believe in — and a new course to follow. He has a new guide and a new outlook. He has to do what anybody would have to do. Carry on.

For me, that’s a much more interesting challenge than happily ever after and it’s why I think the next series will be better. I’ve got new stories, and a new outlook to tell those stories with. I’m really looking forward to telling them and I hope you’ll all be with me when I do.

Oh, why do I write?

Because I have to.

About The Captain

The Captain is Nathan Lowell -- Author and narrator of these Tales from the Golden Age. You can find out more about him at his main website.
This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Why.

  1. John H says:

    Never fear Nate I loved the ending of Owner’s Share not because I wanted what happened to occur but because it left a lot of room for future events to develop in more interesting ways. I am sure the brain that gave us this ending will find new and exciting adventures for us all to share in the next series with Ishmael.

  2. scott pond says:

    Nate, I find that I believe in this type of storytelling more and more as the years go on. As a youth, I reveled in the bigger-than-life hero out to conquer the world or save the universe, thinking that this was how you measured success. In recent years, I find that my tastes have evolved and I find the “perfect hero” to be very cliche… exciting and death-defying… but at the same time boring and predictable.

    This has been especially true in the last 8 months as I’ve been faced with my own personal trials and tribulations. In that time and continuing to the present, I’ve had to face the fact that my father–a young man of only 58 years– is fighting valiantly a losing battle with cancer, a battle that he will ultimately lose in the next few weeks or months (we are on borrowed time and the sands are running out quicker and quicker each day).

    Reality has a way of jading one against the impossible successes of our so-called heroes, bringing into question of how do we really want to be entertained and what kind of people (both fictional and real) do we really want to put on the pedestal as our idol, our hero (by the way, my father is MY real hero–he has been for many years, and will always be).

    What I am trying to get at is that stories like yours (especially Owner’s Share and ESPECIALLY it’s ending) provide an opportunity to explore our own feelings of loss, despair, and challenge… issues that we have to address in our own lives at some point, issues that ultimately benefit from having explored those issues through real-life heroes (or those that emulate real-life). Believe it or not, stories like Owner’s Share (especially this not-so-perfect ending that some are having issue with) have helped me become better prepared–if only just a little–to face my own challenges as they have appeared… even my current challenge which is ripping my heart apart… much like the ending of Owner’s Share has devastated those who have invited Ish into their own mental families, I suppose. (And yes, I too was devastated by the ending of Owner’s Share and still am, but I am hopeful for Ish and his future BECAUSE of it).

    I meant to thank you for telling Owner’s Share the only way it could have been told when I finally had the chance to meet you in person at BaltiCon, but I found that I didn’t (at the time) have my own emotions under control enough to be able to explain it with any real clarity, nor without being overcome (I tried, but had to stop myself at the last moment). But let me thank you now: you didn’t skirt around the reality and the brutality of life and the unfairness of it–instead you gave Ish and his universe a vitality and a realism through triumph and loss, which is very rare… and in my opinion much needed. While Ish (like myself) may not appreciate what his Maker has put him through, he will be able to better appreciate whatever else life may throw his way in the future… and may be able to pick up the pieces and find a new path of success and happiness.

    Thank you, sir, thank you for telling it the way it HAD to be told.

  3. paul says:

    If we as readers were sure of a happy ending we probably would not read as much as we do. The uncertainty in any good book usually reflects some sort of uncertainty found in life. As long as we can trust your characters to be believable and their world to be at least foreseeable a little uncertainty adds mystery and spice to life. Otherwise, why read fiction? I did not like your ending, but “I needed it” now I know your next Ishmael story will have a degree of mystery, perhaps tragedy, hopefully just enough to live with and feel like I can keep on reading. Like a “hero of a thousand faces” we are genetically inclined to expect some kind of hardship, indeed we need it, how we overcome it defines us and will certainly define Ishmael. Cheers.

  4. Jay says:

    Writing because you have to is so much the right reason. Sturgeon had the same problem. He tried to do other things, but had to write no matter what else he was doing. As long as you keep that mindset, you’ll continue to grow into the role Sturgeon played in science fiction literature of the 20th century.

    I don’t care what you write or what direction it takes or how positive or negative the ending of the story. Just write what you have to. That will ensure it is always something that has to be told and will continue to be amazingly compelling.

  5. Terri B says:

    I have to say that I was happy with the way you ended Owner’s Share Nate. Maybe I wasn’t conected to some of the characters as much as other people were. But I like being able to continue the stories I enjoy in my own imagination, even if the author is unable or doesn’t want to continue with the characters. Heinlein was able to pull this off I think, because of the World as Myth idea. I’m glad that you have left this open, mostly because I don’t have to dread listening to the ending of Owner’s Share whenever I revisit it. It still has that feeling of hope…and I can still hope and expect to see, or hear, more stories.
    Thank you again for your wonderful stories.

  6. Nathan,
    Good post. I like the fact that your books focus on ‘ordinary’ but ‘good people’. I love books that allow me to spend time with people I love to be around and Ish, Pip, Bev, Diane, and Brill are certainly that.

    I don’t think Ish is a Mary Sue – he has set backs…he has flaws…he’s just an average guy but works hard and for that he is rewarded – go figure.

    From my experience, writers that write books that they would want to read are great. People who write “what will sell” remind me of “Langley” from the video referenced in the video of my post. Continue to be a Wright Brother. Doing what you have passion for and you’ll never be steered wrong.

    Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

  7. bta says:

    “Why do I write? Because I have to.”
    Similarly,
    “Why do I read? Because I have to.”

    It would be a one-dimensional world without books.
    Keep up the good work.

  8. Michael S. says:

    Dear Nate,
    As I sat, late at night, listening to the close of the series and the coming of Article 37, it was terribly hard; I cried – I’ll admit it. But life isn’t always roses, and I, for one, will be following all of your stories as long as you’ll be writing them. It’s truly given me a newfound passion for crafting my own.

    So, a most heartfelt thank you to you Nate.
    Michael Seeley

  9. joyce t. says:

    Ish’s story began when he was a callow, inexperienced youth—a likable young fellow with a lot going for him, but rather shallow, perhaps? In every book he has grown and changed as he has faced new challenges and opportunities in his life and work. These are not juvenile books where a “happily ever after” ending is guaranteed and I am glad of that. Life without pain is life without growth. Ishmael is becoming……what? That remains to be seen. I can’t wait to read more.

  10. Ego write , proinde ego sum

  11. Megan P. says:

    I think some of us (me included) got used to the idea that just by being himself Ish made stuff happen. He was close to being one of the youngest captains in a long time, he passed first try, he succeeded in taking all those tests when he was young….and all the while the other characters were telling us that THEY failed at it. So yeah, there was an idea, until Owner’s Share, that Ish could be anyone and go anywhere. It wasn’t until his problem with Greta that we started to see the cracks showing. I think ish does metion here and there that he’s been reprimanded before but we never got to see that. Maybe it’s not the ideal ending for escapists like me, but I think it’s clear that you didn’t compromise your idea just because of what popular media is doing. That means much more than having an ideal ending. I, for one, will still recommened every book you write to others. :D

  12. Gleep says:

    Can’t wait :)

  13. Geoff says:

    Like you I grew up reading Heinlein, Asimov, Clark and many others so I understand exactly what your getting at. I personally liked the ending of Owners Share and look forward to Ishmael’s future adventures. I’ve read so many great series in the past where the author just lost the plot when it came to the ending of the series. I’m glad to see that your not one of them.

  14. Abbott says:

    Nathan-

    I stumbled across your books through Amazon and a review that said,
    “If you like Heinlein, you’ll love this…”

    I downloaded the Kindle sample to my iPhone. Then promptly bought all three Kindle books and devoured them in 3 days. Then I wandered over to Podio and ripped through the remaining Trader’s Tales, the South Coast and Ravenwood. My wife and I are currently listening to Quarter Share and she’s now hooked. I also requested that my library system purchase all 3 paperbacks that are currently in print and have received a notice that they are adding them to the collection.

    I’ve been looking for authors who tell interesting stories that don’t wallow in intrigue. Ishmael is a decent man attempting to live decently. It was the thing I always loved about Heinlein and Ishmael’s predecessor, Horatio Hornblower. Ishmael’s world isn’t without pain or trauma. But his approach is hopeful. The end of Owner’s Share is tough but kathartic. My only wish is that she would have passed from something other than violence. In our world accident and illness are far more prevalent and would have resulted in the same loss for Ishmael. But it is a minor point and I look forward to your next story.

    Thank you.

  15. Nate says:

    Thanks for your comment, Abbott.

    The violence part irked me, too, but the nature of the required change meant a traumatic event — the bang, not the whimper. I toyed with various accident scenarios and could have written a different story that would have ended at the same place but wouldn’t have permitted as rich a field for new stories going forward.

    It was a trade off. I appreciate your sentiments on it. To a certain extent I share them.

  16. delbert says:

    I grew up on those stories (especially Andre Norton’s) and I find that I miss them.
    It is good someone is keeping their “style” going. It brings back fond memories while creating new ones.
    =

  17. John F. says:

    I just finished listening to Owner’s Share this afternoon. The biggest problem I had was the fact that there was an ending at all! I have been listening to one episode of Trader’s Tales on the way to work and a second on the way home for 2 months now and will have a great hole to fill. I must admit that I was encouraged that there is an option for future tales in this universe. I will be one of many that eagerly await what comes next.

    Thanks!

  18. Nate says:

    Thanks, John.

    There’s a lot more where that came from :)

  19. Sean says:

    Ish also has more than a bit of H. Beam Piper’s self-reliant man. He knows what needs doing and does it, but is always willing to keep learning.

  20. Mark Roberts says:

    Nate, that is why I was drawn to your first book. I’m constantly looking for SF books that are of this caliber and they are hard to find. Finding Quarter Share was a breath of fresh air and I REALLY enjoyed it. Right now having read every book in print and listened to every one of the podiobooks I”m just hurting for material. I’m very much looking forward to your next series and really hope Ishmael is a part of them. I suppose I really want to know that his struggles pay off and eventually just maybe he does live happily ever after. In the mean time I come back weekly looking for updates like when the hard backs are coming and for the next series.

    Keep up the great work. I look forward to your next work.

    Mark

  21. Jake says:

    Nate, I got to say, you are the captain of the ship and you have took us to a wonderful route. I got to say I didn’t liked how the thing went, because, nobody likes when a person you are fond of die. But its a story, and the story was excellent driven to the place you wanted it to end. Hurt but it won’t die, even if death played a part, and certainly was more entertaining that anything right now around.

  22. Nate says:

    Thanks, Mark. I try to make them interesting. I can recommend DA Boulter’s Courtesan, Debora Geary’s A Modern Witch, and Brand Gamblin’s The Hidden Institute as good stuff to read while you’re waiting.

    Jake, You’ve hit the nail on the thumb (as it were). I wasn’t *happy* with the way it went either but – while it’s an overused cliche, it’s still true – characters really took over there and no matter how hard I tried, it kept going the way it ended up. The good news there is that we’ve got a lot of new ground to explore and I’m looking forward to getting back into it…sooner rather than later.

  23. Andrew says:

    Nate, I loved your books! Amazon led me to them, and I’m glad that their search filters put me in the way of your stories. The Trader series was fantastic, and I devoured them one after the other. Running out of the text, like others, I went for the podcasts. At the beach today, I listened to the last half of Owner’s Share staring out at the sea.

    Ishmael has been a very satisfying character to follow. You have created a setting and characters that folks can get lost in. It was tough when the Chief was killed, and I got teary while listening. You’re right though, some other direction may not have had the depth. As much as I didn’t like what happened to Ish, it was a strong conclusion to the series.

    I hope to read more of Captain Wang in the future!

    Andrew

  24. Nate says:

    Thanks, Andrew.

    There’s more coming but I need to work on some other stories for while now.

  25. Tony says:

    I’m curious, are you thinking that you’ll do more stories with Ishmael as the point of view or with someone else as the main character?

    I also can’t wait to find out what eventually happens to him, I’m sure it will be something interesting. I kind of see him going back to Port Newmar for a while until he “recovers,” but you probably have something more interesting than that in mind. :)

  26. Nate says:

    Oh yes. There’s another trilogy (at least) in the works with Ishmael.

    I’m hoping to branch out into other characters as well.

    We’ll see.

  27. Tony says:

    Oh, great! I hadn’t realized that you were planning on that many more books.

  28. Kevin Keenan says:

    Nate,

    Thank you for the gift of these books. It was a great adventure for those of us who imagine traveling among the stars. You created a world in which so many of the possibilities of today come to pass. I like your writing style, as the stories seemed to flow so effortlessly and the characters felt so real.

    The end of Owner’s Share affected me much more that I had expected. When Ish finally came together with the love of this life, it seemed the perfect setting for him to have the wonderful ship with a comfy living room and his lady and crew by his side.

    Life cannot exist without pain, and to write a story without loss is just not realistic. So I know that it is necessary. The fact that I have been brought to tears by the loss of a fictional character is a tribute to your excellent storytelling. thank you for this fine tale. I look forward to enjoying more of your work.

    Kevin Keenan

  29. Dt says:

    I doubt that the complaints about the ending will ever stop, since people will always read and reel. I must admit, I think that I went through those Kübler-Ross stages of grief. I have not yet experienced great loss in my life so I only assume but I certainly could not believe what had happened (waiting for Ish to wake up). Followed, over the course of weeks, by the other three.
    But after reading your post Mr. Lowell I think I must be at the end of the cycle. No, I don’t like the end, but you never asked (or I doubt wanted) anyone to “like” it. But I do accept it and as Ish and the Golden Age are yours. The story was yours to tell and you told it well and you told it how you wanted and I have respect for that.
    Thank you, sir.
    Dt

  30. Hade says:

    Hey Nate,

    I know this post is old news, but I’m going to say this regardless.

    You talk about wanting to tell stories that give people something to believe in. Well, by now I’m sure you’ve heard variations on this quite often, but I’m here to tell you one more time: mission accomplished.

    I found the Trader’s Tales halfway through the Podiobooks publication of Full Share. I was at a low point in my life, where I had recently lost someone very close to me, a three-year relationship had just ended (three years is a very long time at 22), the ongoing cold war with my parents was in the process of freezing over entirely, and my education was no longer going according to plan.

    Ishmael’s story made me see my life in an entirely different light. My future was arguably in shambles at that point, but damn, so was his, and look where it got him.

    Like you said: some fictional heroes are the kind of people we can aspire to be when we grow up. And although none of us are ever going to make a living as an intergalactic trader, Ishmael Wang definitely is one of those people.

    Although I count myself among those who were utterly shattered by Article 37, I have to admit upon further reflection that it strikes me as a fitting end to the Share series. In essence, it’s a reboot, but one in which our hero gets to keep all of the memories, knowledge and wisdom he gathered the first time around. We watched Ish pull himself up by his bootstraps once already, after his mother died and his future, as planned, was pulled out from under him. Now, we get to watch him do it again, except that this time, he’s likely to be less naive, therefore more interesting.

    I guess I said a lot more than I planned to say. What I really want you to take away from this message is this: in at least one reader’s life, you’ve made a real-world difference, by writing about something to believe in.

    Thank you for sharing your stories with the world. And given the fact that in the Solar Clipper universe, forty is the new twenty, I’m hoping there’s a lot more where that came from ;).

  31. Nate says:

    Thanks, Hade.

    There’s more. Much more.

  32. Mark Roberts says:

    Note, notice this one on Amazon? I just started reading it and its not nearly as good as your books but has some similar characters. Notice the first review even mentions your series. That was the reason I got it.

    http://www.amazon.com/Temporary-Duty-ebook/dp/B00531CPHC/

    Mark

  33. Nate says:

    I hadn’t noticed that one before.

    And he’s selling better than I am.

    Le sigh …

    :D

  34. Memline says:

    Hey, I enjoyed “Temporary Duty” and am glad there are a few things to read while waiting for Ishmael to let me know what he is doing these days. Fodder, you know? Enjoyed a little (that is a joke) book called “Hawk Seven”, too. Wish there were more out there, but it is summer so there is less time for reading anyway. I am in the 2 months of relatives mode at this point. In Montana it is 10 months of winter and 2 months of relatives. I am enjoying it very much, but it does give me a break from reading. No time except for here and there. Heart up, Nate, as soon as DS comes out in print version, sales will go up again. All those greedy word folks just waiting for their fix.

  35. Hade says:

    Temporary Duty’s sample looks very promising, but for lack of a credit card (and no PayPal on Amazon), I can’t buy the rest of it. Drat!

  36. Tony says:

    You know, ever since reading Owner’s Share I always expect the love interest in all new books I read to die. Most of the time they don’t, of course, but you’ve definitely put the fear into me. ;)

  37. Nate says:

    Sorry about that. :/

  38. Tony says:

    No worries. Now I’m that much happier when everything turns out peachy.

  39. Pingback: Blogging It Forward | Fem and Nerdy

  40. Mel says:

    I hadn’t realised Owner’s Share had been released, so came here looking to see how it was going after a long hiatus. I got as far as:
    “A few people are very upset by the ending of Owner’s Share.”
    and stopped reading, only continuing after I’d finished listening to the story (just now, in fact – I still have something in my eye, *sniff*).
    So I always had that sentence in mind while listening, and was always trying to think ahead, to work out who’s evil, and what was going to go wrong. But I wasn’t at all expecting what did happen. It’s like the emotion of the whole series twisted sideways.

    But I do prefer a non-Hollywood ending, and I’m just glad there was, in the end, only one seriously bad event. :)

    Now I need a hug. :)

  41. Rocket Scientist says:

    I was just listening to Part 2 of Abigail Hilton’s interview with Nathan Lowell on her Cowry Catchers podcast feed. It was very interesting to hear Nathan talk about what he thought he was doing in the latter part of the Share series, because it is so completely different than what I thought the author was up to as I was listening to it. Maybe it is easier in audio than in reading, to get locked in to the narrator / protagonist’s interpretations, and miss clues that he is actually unreliable. Or maybe Nathan is just too subtle for me. In any case I saw the Share series as a fun but insubstantial tale where moral ambiguities all get swept into the corner and ignored, and the hero sometimes sweats a little but always wins after a brief struggle. In theory I applaud the fact that the author has higher ambitions than that. In practice I got the rug pulled out from under me and did not like it.

  42. Alan says:

    Just like Mel a few posts back, I hadn’t realized Owner’s Share was out. I was extremely pleased to be able to download the book and once again listen in to Ishmael’s adventures.

    Nathan, I very much enjoy your story telling and narration, and look forward with much anticipation to the next installment. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>