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Interview with Robert Wagoner

So why did you decide to write this series?

I guess it goes back to my first memories as a child. When I was four years old, my parents woke me up to see the Apollo 11 moon landing—mind you, my parents didn’t wake me up at that age easily! I guess that image of seeing a man walking on the moon just stuck with me. I spent the rest of my childhood dreaming about what life would be like living in space.

When I was in sixth grade, I wrote a novel-sized story about a space exploration mission. A year or so later, I decided to rewrite that story—though I never got around to writing it then. When I was about twenty, I developed the basic storyline that remains intact to this day.

Why the name ‘One Small Step out of the Garden of Eden’?

The name is a juxtaposition of two concepts.

The first concept goes back to the original “One small step for man…” quotation from Neil Armstrong. It represents the continued evolution of technology that accomplishes great and almost unimaginable things for the human race.

The second concept deals with the human condition. Despite our advances in technology, our basic humanity remains unchanged. Both the good and bad things that exist at our very core and make us who we are remains intact and identical to our ancestors. That is why we see great accomplishments accompanied by conflict, greed, war, etc…

If you will indulge the idea, stepping out of the Garden of Eden represents a banishment from paradise and into peril, struggle, and uncertainty. That is the theme of this futuristic book. 

So what is life like five hundred years from now?

For the sake of the storyline (and I only included as much technology as I thought needed to make the story credible), the human race exists almost anywhere in the solar system where sustainable living is remotely possible: some of the planets, moons, asteroids, and various space stations here and there. I made the assumption that, as man ventured beyond the Earth, his natural orientation to only one world (i.e. “where on earth have you been”) would expand. Hence, the solar system becomes “the world” and man’s orientation—Terrae Solaris (loosely, Land of the Sol sun”).

But this cosmopolitan existence—and it is anything but cosmopolitan—didn’t come about easily. The solar system is a vast place; conquering it took time; life was difficult for those early settlers.

As time went on and technology improved, diverse peoples and nations grew into being. But because of the vast distances between places, these “countries” and regions developed within themselves, creating diverse values and cultures. Moreover, because of the difficulties of surviving in such hostile conditions, many of these cultures developed very stoic and well-defined moralities too—something very alien to our current thinking in the west.

However, as technology in space travel developed, Terrae Solaris began shrinking. Nations that at one time barely traded and interacted with each other soon found themselves as neighbors. Local conflicts and tensions quickly began impacting the “international” climate.

Everyone is trying to figure out how to get along in the smaller world. So in a way, Terrae Solaris is much like how Earth developed in the early twentieth century when ship and air travel first shrunk our world.

At this point, I feel it is important to note that the trends described above are merely the backdrop of the story. In reality, the story is really about the adventures and struggles of four friends who find themselves in the complex and perilous world.

So how does ”Call of Destiny” fit into the story?

Call of Destiny is a coming of age story.

It introduces our four main characters: Michael Gillen, Kate DeCarreau, Kara Ricci, and Tom Andrews. The characters are very young when we first meet them, and we get to see who they are, where the came from, and how they came to be the people we see when the real story begins.

—the ‘real’ story?

The background behind Call of Destiny was that it was a prequel to my original story. When my wife read the original manuscript draft, she kept asking to read a sequel. However, I thought that I had told everything that needed to be told—nothing was left to build on.

So (now addicted to writing and unable to get the characters out of my head), I started fooling around with a prequel: take out some of the “memories” and background information and build a story around it.

At first, the story idea seemed trite and redundant. But the more I began to learn exactly where my characters had come from (both historic details and how those events had shaped them), the more I realized that their history told a rather compelling story.

In fact, I learned so much about them that I went back and rewrote (I should say added to the emotional narrative of ) the original manuscript around what I had found. Those qualities were always present in the original manuscript; I just had to bring them out better, which made the “real” story that much better.

Can you give an example of something you learned while writing Call of Destiny?

Probably the best example revolves around the space exploration aspirations of our characters. The question I had to pose to myself was: what kind of young adult would want to have such a career? I mean, as dangerous as the original American and Soviet space programs were, every astronaut from that era hoped to safely return to Earth after executing a short trip of some sort.

But exploration five hundred years into the future is about going to the next star! We don’t have faster-than-light ships, so these young adults would be gone for decades and/or centuries. They are essentially leaving behind the only world they know. So who would do such a thing?

The answer: some very talented young people, most of whom have no ties to the world they’re leaving. That makes many of them misfits of sorts—young people who haven’t had the best of luck so far. That gives our characters a very vulnerable side, especially in their formative years, but that also drives their reactions to ongoing struggles even as adults.

What do you think might be the biggest surprise to a reader?

Two ideas:

The first idea revolves around the rather stoic culture that exists, even in the place I call “Earth States”. We live in a time where the culture embraces behaviors that would normally make us blush. But this culture is a throwback to earlier times, where things are black and white (at least they appear that way on the surface), traditional roles of men and women are more prominent, young women are chaperoned and protected, and xenophobia is high—just some exampled.

Yet at the same time, the culture also struggles with those values too.

This isn’t the way most futuristic storylines portray the development of the human race (unless the intent is to go to some kind of totalitarian society).

The second idea requires some explanation:

Though I wrote the book around Michael Gillen—an aspiring deep space explorer—I also found Kate DeCarreau and Kara Ricci to be strong characters as well. So even though the story has all the trappings and action associated with a science fiction story involving a young, male character, it also has a relational side to it as well. Since it is a coming of age tale, the characters struggle with their own romantic notions, both from the male and female perspectives—not to overwhelm the story, just to add that balance. I think women would find this story as good of a read as the intended male teen. 

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