This article originally appeared in the Monday edition of the Journal Inquirer, a newspaper out of Manchester, Connecticut.
JI editor forecasts a warm, dark future in ‘The End of Ordinary Life’
By Julie Ruth
The year is 2028. An Alaskan bush pilot is flying an electric plane. The Arctic Ocean is ice-free because of global warming. The U.S. has been in an economic slump ever since the banks collapsed in 2008, and things are coming to a head. That’s the backdrop for Journal Inquirer Associate Editor Daniel Hatch’s latest science fiction story, “The End of Ordinary Life,” which appears in the May issue of Analog: Science Fiction and Factmagazine.Hatch, who’s published more than 20 works of science fiction in Analog, Absolute Magnitude, and other publications, opens his latest science fiction story in southeast Alaska, where his lead character, Tom O’Reilly, discovers that each of his four girlfriends has disappeared. When he later finds himself uprooted against his will as well, O’Reilly realizes that what he has known as “ordinary life” is now over.
“I have been living in the shadow of the economic collapse, and the bill is finally coming due,” O’Reilly says.
The story explores the consequences of global warming and a longterm economic slump following the 2008 banking crisis.
“It’s a pessimistic projection that we don’t fix the things that are wrong with the economy, and they get worse,” he explained. “All kinds of solutions out there are easily attainable but nobody wants to touch them because they will interfere with the profit stream of the big corporate players.”
Hatch is a longtime contributor to Analog, which has been around since the 1930s, the Golden Age of science fiction, when there were dozens of fiction magazines.
Analog is known as the “hard science fiction” magazine, where stories are driven by science rather than characters, said Hatch.
He got the idea for the story after reading a report prepared for the U.S. Navy that predicts that the Arctic Ocean will have no ice during the summer within the next 20 years.
“It said we’re going to have an extra ocean to deal with, and we should start making plans now.” The report included things the Navy should watch out for, like terrorists and arms smugglers coming through Canada.
Hatch said he discovered science fiction in first grade, when he found “Danny Dunn and the Weather Machine” in the library, a novel about a teenager who discovers a device that can make small clouds and miniature rainstorms.
Like many teenage boys in the ’60s, he was reading science fiction novels voraciously.
He wrote his first saleable science fiction story during a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard in Cape May, N.J., after finding a book in the library. Written in 1929 by John Gallishaw, who taught at Harvard, it was called “20 Problems of the Fiction Writer.”
“I still have it; I never took it back,” he said. Which is just as well, since the book is no longer in print.
At the University of Connecticut Hatch prepared for his writing career.
“I studied all the things science fiction writers should study: Shakespeare, history, journalism,” he said. “Because you’re writing grand narratives about the meaning of life in the universe, man’s place in the universe.”
After graduating in 1980, he worked for the Connecticut State News Bureau and The New York Times before joining the Journal Inquirer in 1988.
Hatch said the story is also an excuse to write about flying, one of his passions, though he learned flying through the Microsoft Flight Simulator program, rather than by spending actual time in the air.
After Hatch submitted the story, his longtime Analog editor, Stanley Schmidt, sent him an email: “I don’t remember your ever saying anything about being a pilot, or living or traveling in southeastern Alaska, but if you haven’t done those things, you sure know how to research a story. I’ve done both, and this feels real!”
The May issue of Analog magazine featuring Hatch’s story will be available at Barnes & Noble stores.
The issue is also available on Barnes and Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle.