Recently, I found an old book I’ve had since middle school. This book is kind of special to me, partly because it was autographed “To Jeffrey” by the author when I met him, but also because it reminded me of one of the first pieces of fiction I’d ever written (well, that I can recall, at least).
It was 1992 and I submitted a story to a young authors competition at my school. It was a Star Trek fan fiction story that I wrote shortly after Star Trek VI was released, and the plot, effectively, was that the Enterprise-A was pulled out of mothballs, and Kirk and crew out of retirement, to go on a time travel mission to rescue a young Zefram Cochrane in 1996, at the end of the Eugenics Wars, which ends up with them actually causing a predestination paradox by inspiring him to create the first warp engines years later in 2018 (which the original series had established as when sublight “sleeper” ships became obsolete).
Four years later, of course, we’d get Star Trek: First Contact… in which the crew of the Enterprise-E have to go back in time and rescue Zefram Cochrane from getting killed by the Borg, who were trying to prevent the first flight of a human-built warp ship. Of course, that film was set in 2063, and Cochrane was actually born decades after the Eugenics Wars ended, but I didn’t realize that at the time that I wrote my story.
The thing that surprises me, particularly in retrospect, was that not only did I place highly enough in the competition at my school to go on to the regional level… I went on to place high enough there that my story went on to compete against other stories from across DoDDS-Europe. I didn’t win there, but I did attend a conference honoring all of us that had stories which had made it that far in the competition. And the guest speaker for the event was an author who had flown in from the U.S. to talk to us about being a writer. I vividly recall that he recited a fairly lengthy passage from his book, verbatim, and from memory. I was impressed, because I’ve always had trouble remembering things like that, and especially at that kind of length. I got a copy of his book, and he autographed it for me. That book was Redwall, and it still has a place on my shelf, and in my heart, because every time I see it, I’m reminded of what I took away from that day: I could be a writer.