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VOL. 127 | NO. 49 | Monday, March 12, 2012

Dream Becomes Published Reality

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Memphis News

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For science fiction author Joe Fitzpatrick, the completion of his first novel was a dream within a dream.

Joe Fitzpatrick signed copies of his first novel, “Voyage to the End of Time,” at Otherlands Coffee Bar in early March. The retired science teacher of 41 years hopes to introduce a new genre of science fiction with the book. (Photo: Jonathan Devin)

The product of over a decade of work, “Voyage to the End of Time,” which will be released by Tate Publishing & Enterprises LLC on April 10, literally woke him up in the early hours one morning.

“This was a dream – I dreamed the entire thing,” said Fitzpatirck, a Memphis native and Bartlett resident. “It’s not something I planned to do. The dream was so incredible that I got up at 2:30 in the morning and started writing it down. It continued eight straight nights.”

But then just as suddenly the vision stopped and didn’t come back for 12 years, returning last year at the speed of light.

Fitzpatrick is a retired science, biology and math teacher for Shelby County Schools who worked at Collierville High, Germantown High and Shadowlawn Middle School, experience which he said helped him conceptually with subjects like time and space travel.

He spent his undergraduate years at Lambuth University and got his master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but never studied writing or wrote so much as a short story before venturing into his novel.

In “Voyage,” Fitzpatrick introduces the human-populated space colony Galaxy 14, a deep space outpost where a young engineer named Kit Bartusch awaits his first mission of exploration.

On the eve of his departure, he mysteriously falls into a comatose state and, like Fitzpatrick, dreams himself on an amazing voyage across the universe and time, accompanied by the beautiful alien Lambda Photon.

The two continue on Bartusch’s original mission unaware of the exact divide between reality and his dreams. Along the way, the mission becomes an act of faith, an unlikely element in science fiction writings.

“My publisher says this could change the way people look at science fiction,” said Fitzpatrick, referring to the more spiritual moments in the novel, such as an opening scene in which Bartusch expresses his belief in God. Fitzpatrick hinted also that the ending has a touch of the divine as well.

“I guess some people think that out in space, God isn’t there,” Fitzpatrick said.

Still, he shied away from calling the book outright “Christian.” References are to “God” not Jesus Christ, and the intent, he said, was to express his feeling that faith would not simply evaporate in a realistic future setting. The book stays away from sword and sorcery, instead relying on the kind of technical innovations that would make time travel possible. Finding originality along that vein, however, was a challenge.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to write science fiction,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s so much that’s already been written. It’s hard to go beyond that.”

Still the novel was accepted by Mustang, Okla.-based Tate Publishing, only the fourth publisher to which Fitzpatrick submitted it. Fitzpatrick then set up a string of Memphis-area book signings through the February and March at coffee shops, churches and bookstores.

The soft-spoken Fitzpatrick said he had to learn in a hurry how to approach people about his work.

“You can’t be afraid to speak to people about it,” he said. “Don’t wait on them to come to you because it will never happen.”

After the release, “Voyage” will be available at Barnes & Noble, The Booksellers at Laurelwood and as e-books for the Kindle and Nook. Fitzpatrick is already working on a second book, which is not a “Voyage” sequel, though he hasn’t ruled one out.

“This is the first of more (novels).” said Fitzpatrick. “I’ve already been asked if there will be a sequel. I left the ending open so that there could be a sequel.”

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