Univ. Communications – A guy and a cybernetically-enhanced bear walk into a wormhole orbiting Earth. The bear says to the guy, “Hey look, there’s a new planet in here!” No, this isn’t the start of an obscure bar joke, it’s roughly the plot of Gabe Kagan’s new book: First Contact is Bad for You.
Kagan, a junior majoring in computer science, began writing this science fiction novel in high school. After many pauses in the process and months of revisions, his work, in e-book format, is finally available at electronic retailers such as Amazon.com.
The plot revolves around two main characters, one of whom is a walking, talking bear. After NASA discovers a wormhole in Earth’s orbit, the characters decide to see what’s on the other side. They buy an old space ship and travel through the wormhole to a new planet, populated by a civilization using Victorian technology. The arrival of Earthlings causes major catastrophes on the planet as wars and turmoil ensue. “I’ve always read a lot of science fiction books, I like the genre, so that’s probably why it turned out to be in that format,” said Kagan, “It’s not exactly a realistic novel, especially with the more humorous aspects.”
When Kagan decided to publish the book, he found out about BookBaby, an e-publishing company. “I decided I wanted to get it out specifically as an e-book since it would save me a lot of hassle with trying to get submitted to various publishers and have to worry about them asking for content changes,” he explained.
In total, publishing and distributing through BookBaby and having them design his cover cost Kagan about $300. The author receives most of the royalties from every e-book sold without any further deductions by BookBaby. “I’m hoping to make some money [from writing] but I wouldn’t say it’s the highest priority,” he said.
Kagan wrote and edited First Contact is Bad for You only with the help of his friends and family. However, he is considering submitting the book for reviews by noted sci-fi authors and critics in the future. A sequel may also be in the works. He recognizes that many people identify sci-fi writing either as cheap pulp or as too technical and esoteric. Yet, he is not out to prove anyone wrong. “I write basically because I enjoy writing,” he said, “I’d say your average writer is capable of writing good stuff that discusses various [technical and scientific] issues while still being entertaining.”
When it comes to role models, Kagan insists on his unique style but still looks up to such popular writers as Terry Pratchett and sci-fi novelist Stephen Baxter. He hopes to continue developing his writing after graduating. “If this turns out to be lucrative for me I’ll probably try to make a career out of this sort of writing but even if it doesn’t, I can probably do it on the side.”
For now, Kagan is focusing on his academics and keeping a blog (https://invisiblesandwichtm.wordpress.com/) dedicated to short stories, commentary, music reviews, discussions of social issues and video games.
Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications. She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world. An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo. She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia (www.out-of-russia.com) and the other to photography (www.myorientalism.com).