Background

Learn how the author came up with the concept and title as well as the motivation behind why he wrote the story and what influenced him.

Concept

I first conceived of Beyond Cloud Nine in a creative writing class during my senior year of high school in 1997. That semester, I wrote the original prologue and chapter one. The prologue consisted of a somewhat poetic snippet of prose about a girl who accidentally killed her father when he took her flying for the first time (a modified version of this scene now appears in chapter three of the final novel). The original chapter one showed the main character, Brooke Davis, locked in combat against separatist fighters in Jupiter orbit (greatly improved in the final chapter one) and her fight with her copilot, Jeff Braxton (now found in the final chapter six). Today, it's very satisfying to see an idea I had so long ago come to full fruition.

BC9 sat on the shelf for many years while I did the whole college undergrad experience. Following graduation, I focused on other projects that I had dreamed up before BC9. Then in early 2009, after getting laid off from a job and living on unemployment, I decided to revive the story. In the span of a couple months, I wrote about a third of the novel. I don't remember exactly how long it took me to finish the first draft, but it probably took me somewhere in the neighborhood of one-to-two years.

I spent the next few years rewriting the manuscript after a multitude of valuable critiques by writers groups and friends. Finally, in early 2014, I felt my writing ability had improved to the point where I could produce a product of publishable quality, so I hired a professional editor who helped me take the book to the next level. Proofreading and graphic design services for the cover followed.

Title

The title Beyond Cloud Nine has multiple meanings and embodies the irony found in the plot of the story.

When real pilots experience a feeling of euphoria during high-gee aerial manuevers, they'll say that they're "on cloud nine." The feeling results from high stress on the human body and brain. In this regard, the title Beyond Cloud Nine means pushing the boundaries--going beyond--the limitations of the body and mind. After all, 23rd century aerospace combat places pilots under far more duress than the dogfights of the 21st century did.

More generally, if someone is "on cloud nine," they're very happy. Now, if you've read the book, you know that the main protagonist is anything but happy-go-lucky. So, the title poses a bit of irony for Brooke Davis and her journey to discover exactly what makes her happy.

Most importantly, the title embodies the central theme of the story. "Would you rather be miserable knowing the truth or happy living a lie?" This is the question Brooke and all of human civilization face in the novel. If someone lied in order to give you a lifetime of happiness, would you really, truly want to give up that bliss on the principle of knowing the truth? Thus, the title asks what we get when we go too far for happiness. How far is too far?

Finally, the author first dream up the title in 1997. Prior to 2006, Pluto was still considered a planet, giving the solar system nine planets in total. The story covers mankind's creation of the first faster-than-light propulsion technology, which finally gives the human race the practical means to travel beyond our solar system. And having yet to venture out of our solar system means there's still a veil or cloud shrouding our knowledge. Therefore, if the solar system consists of nine planets, and we can use FTL propulsion to travel beyond it to disperse the cloud of ignorance, we could say that we're going to travel beyond cloud nine. It's a bit of a stretch, I know, but it's what I came up with back in high school.

Motivation

Why did I choose to write a military science fiction story set in outer space involving fighter planes and conspiracies? Simply put, I love space opera (dramas set in space in the future). One of the things that inspires me most in real life are real possibilities for the future, and good science fiction portrays those future possibilities in a compelling manner. Great science fiction leaves you with a feeling that exciting advancements in technology or other amazing discoveries could not only happen but are closer to reality than many people believe. As real civilization advances, we'll be forced to deal with moral and ethical dilemmas as a result of human progress. But at the same time, basic human elements like love and trascending one's own fears and limitations are just as integral. I endeavor to write such stories.

I'd like to think I've created a setting in BC9 that feels much closer to the realities of modern space travel than the better-known Hollywood science fiction concepts. Few things irk me more than seeing, for example, the Enterprise run out of power, fall out of lunar orbit, and go crashing toward the Earth. Hollywood, you do realize that it takes three days to travel between the Moon and the Earth, and if the Enterprise fell, the Moon would fall, too, right? Seriously.

Influences

The world and technology of BC9 and my Beyond Saga are based on an Anime series I grew to love in grade school entitled Macross, more commonly known as Robotech in the United States and outside of Japan. Specifically, I borrowed the idea of a fighter plane capable of faster-than-light travel from Macross Plus. The idea to cast a female fighter pilot as the main protagonist and include a reporter as a supporting character came from Macross II. We've all seen the hotshot male fighter pilot too many times before. Putting a woman in the cockpit gives the story a much different and more unique feel, in my opinion. Thus, Macross Plus and Macross II are my story's too biggest influences. In my view, the space battles in the Macross series also have a certain "cool factor" that live action sci-fi has yet to capture.

Another chief influence was Star Trek: The Next Generation. I grew up with watching Captain Jean-Luc Picard grapple with complex ethical conundrums with no easy solution. I've done my best to craft a plot that deals with those same sorts of issues. As a matter of fact, the utopian nature of the Federation was something that led to the idea for one of the key components of the plot of BC9. In Star Trek, the human race has united together under one Earth government, and with few exceptions, crime, poverty, and hunger have all been eliminated. At one point, I got to thinking. What would it really take to make that possible in real life? The catalyst in Star Trek is that humans band together after inventing warp drive and meeting the Vulcans. In other words, realizing we're not alone in the universe gives the human race a collective identity that was previously lacking.

But would these things really be enough to create a true utopia in reality? Would all the wealthy people in power really be willing to give up what they have? Could an economy ever truly function on the honor system? And how could we ever completely eliminate bigotry and racial tension? As much as I think the utopian world in Star Trek is an ideal to which we should strive, I don't think it's entirely realistic. But let's say a group of people set out to try to make it happen. What would it take? I think it's very likely that tricking people into it through nefarious means—forcing them into it without their knowledge—would be the only way it could truly happen. That is premise underlying the plot of BC9 and the entire Beyond Series. Utopia through deception. A good writer knows that conflict is story, so the bittersweet notion makes for some juicy conflict.

Beyond all that, BC9 shouldn't feel very much like Star Trek. As my Beyond Saga progresses and things like interstellar space flight and time travel come into play, the series will begin to feel more like Star Trek.

What is my book not based on? Most people know the 2004 Battlestar Galactica series better than Macross, so my story gets compared to BSG. However, I didn't see any of the BSG series until after I had written the entire first draft of BC9. Now, don't misunderstand. I really like BSG, and having my book compared to it is quite flattering. Rather, I think BC9 gets associated with BSG only because BSG is the closet thing to BC9 that non-sci fi fans and casual sci-fi fans know. Hard core sci-fi fans should know better.