Every once in a while a book will blip on your radar and make you come to a screeching halt to look a bit closer, am I right? Well, this happened recently for me, and color me intrigued. Brian P. Rubin’s comic sci-fi novel, Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans (take a moment to appreciate that title, please), sports an absolutely stunning cover and its blurb promises some glorious chaos. We all need a bit of chaos in our lives. THIS is one I cannot wait to dive into. Fingers crossed I have the bandwidth to do so verrry soon.
Today I’m excited to be taking part in the Dim Stars Book Blitz presented by Storytellers on Tour, and over the next few days you’ll be spotting this beauty of a book across blogs and social media. It’s my honor to welcome Brian to the blog for a deeper look into the inspiration for this story of his. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this, so keep scrolling to give it a read – then promptly pick up a copy of Dim Stars for yourself so you can join in the shenanigans.
Oh! And there’s also a giveaway. Enter if you dare.
About the Book
Kenzie Washington, fourteen-year-old girl genius, signs up for a two-week tour as a cadet on the spaceship of her idol, Captain Dash Drake. Too bad Dash, who once saved the galaxy from the evil Forgers, is a broke loser and much less than meets the eye. But when an intergalactic evil appears and launches an attack, Dash, Kenzie, and the ship’s crew escape, making them the next target. On the run and low on gas, Dash and Kenzie encounter cannibal space-pirates, catastrophic equipment failure, and a cyborg who’s kind of a jerk. Kenzie is determined to discover the bad guys’ secret plan. But for her to succeed, Dash needs to keep his brilliant, annoying cadet from getting killed …which is a lot harder than it sounds.
Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans by Brian P. Rubin
PUBLISHED: October 20, 2020 by Critical Eye Publishing
GENRE: Sci-Fi, Humor
Inspiration for Dim Stars
by Brian P. Rubin
The actual process of writing Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans took a little under two years from start to finish. While I was living and writing through that time period, it felt like it took absolutely forever. Though, looking back on it now, it seems like it took no time at all. What my memory often fails to take into consideration is that the pre-writing process actually took many, many, many years of false starts, failed attempts, and piecing together little bits of inspiration into one finished product.
Many years ago, probably around 2012 or 2013 or so, I watched an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that scratched an itch I never knew I had. The episode is called “Valiant,” and it tells the story of a Federation ship deep in enemy territory during wartime, crewed entirely by an elite squad of Starfleet Cadets. Ultimately, things don’t really go so well for the crew and the ship, but there was something so appealing and interesting about a starship being run by a bunch of overmatched teenagers. It’s part of why young adult stories appeal to people of all ages, right? We’ve all been young, and we all can feel the excitement that comes with young people being in over their heads and desperately trying to rise to the occasion.
Think about it: Luke Skywalker is basically a pouting teenager at the beginning of the first Star Wars movie, and we’re right along with him as he grows into a superpowered space wizard. Harry Potter is the rejected outcast kid we all think we were when we were younger, who finds out he has a secret, powerful destiny. Even Wesley Crusher, the boy genius who winds up piloting the Enterprise and who seemingly annoyed generations of fans — those fans were only annoyed because they wished they could be as smart and as lucky as Wesley was. We all wished we could work at the helm console and hang out with Data and Worf. How cool would that be?
I decided I wanted to read something like Harry Potter smushed together with Star Trek, starring young people learning to be “space heroes” (for lack of a better term) who get stuck in a situation where they have to take charge and try and save the day. I worked on this concept for months, writing background information, plot and character sketches, and even a few false starts at writing opening chapters. This is where I developed very early versions of the characters Kenzie and Jo, who develop a close friendship in Dim Stars. But at the time, none of it clicked at all, and it went into the drawer.
A few years later, I was invited to participate in a sort of collaborative online Star Trek writing “game.” Each person playing would basically write scenes showing what their characters were doing in reaction to each other. It was an interesting experience, and the character I developed — a guy named Marty — was a sort of slacker-savant pilot. He could fly a ship with unparalleled skill, but he had minimal ambition or motivation. As it happens, while this game was going on, I’d just started a new job, and I wound up having a hard time keeping up with contributing regularly. I decided to bow out so as not to bring down everyone’s good time because of my chronic tardiness. But the feeling I got from writing my little scenes and playing around with this character who made me laugh was a difficult one to shake.
Marty was a lot of fun to think about; everyone on Star Trek is always so put together and competent. I really liked the inherent comedy that came from imagining someone whose first reaction to a new spatial anomaly or warp core breach would be to roll his eyes and think about when he could clock out and get something to eat.
Not long after that, I was chatting with an old college friend named Greg who’d been dabbling with some writing projects of his own. We got to talking more and more about the idea of writing novels and I started trying to find a way to resurrect my old “Harry Potter meets Star Trek” concept that wasn’t even half-formed. I liked the idea of cadets on a ship who were overmatched and the drama and comedy that could produce, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to make it work for me.
It was Greg who came up with the magic question that made it all work. He asked (I’m paraphrasing here), what if the “teacher” character — the captain of the ship — had a cadet who was actually so competent, so skilled, so smart, that they might become dangerous? How could the captain keep everyone safe while keeping this potential supervillain in check?
This was a great idea.
This got my wheels turning. While I loved the dramatic hook of the question Greg asked, it wasn’t quite the kind of story I felt comfortable tackling — at least not yet. But I really latched onto the idea of the cadet being so incredibly talented that she might actually be dangerous. And I remembered how fun Marty, my slacker pilot, could be in scenarios where he was the dumbest person in the room.
I started writing, and it was like magic: The first chunk of the book fell out of me in short order. Marty turned into Captain Dash Drake, a one-time war hero who was now reduced to schlepping cargo from one end of the galaxy to the other. Kenzie transformed from a determined young heroine in the making into an incredibly talented — and incredibly annoying — young cadet who worshipped the ground Dash walked on. The clash of their personalities and worldviews clicked immediately.
As more characters appeared in the story, I turned to sitcoms to help me figure out how everyone would relate to each other. Initially, the supporting character Jo was incredibly friendly and excited to become Kenzie’s friend, which was how I’d envisioned her in my super-early attempts at writing this book. But It didn’t take me long to realize that two characters immediately becoming best friends is actually really boring. Fortunately I was soon struck with yet another piece of pop culture I could riff on to write my book: Parks and Recreation.
The relationship between Leslie Knope and April Ludgate is a wonderful example of friction and conflict leading to great comedy and unlikely friendship. Kenzie’s enthusiasm for space adventuring was Leslie through and through already. So casting Jo as my spaceship’s version of April made perfect sense. Soon after that, I wound up conning my way into an amazing writing group here in the Twin Cities, filled with some of the most talented writers I’ve ever met. Their feedback (and the pressure to bring more material in to share with them) helped me actually get the thing done.
So there it is: Dim Stars is my debut novel. It’s the thing I’m most proud of. I also ripped off Star Trek, Harry Potter, more Star Trek, a video game called FTL, my buddy Greg, Parks and Recreation, and I fully copied one line of dialogue from a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
Inspiration is a funny thing.
Meet The Author
Brian P. Rubin has written articles and blogs for City Pages, Geek Magazine, Machinima’s Inside Gaming Daily, ReadWrite, Looper, and Grunge, among several others that both time and the Internet have forgotten. He even wrote questions for Trivial Pursuit, none of which actually wound up in the final game. So that’s cool. His first novel, Dim Stars: A Novel of Outer-Space Shenanigans, was published in 2020. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his family.
Enter to win!
International • Ends 10/16