SpaceNextBack in 2011 I was an acquisitions editor at Zenith Press. That year I had the pleasure of working on two books about the space shuttle. The first was the NASA Space Shuttle Owners’ Workshop Manual by David Baker. That was simply the U.S. printing of the newest Haynes manual, so I didn’t have any real editing to do, just paperwork as I moved the project through production. Next up was Piers Bizony’s The Space Shuttle: Celebrating Thirty Years of NASA’s First Space Plane. That was a full start-to-finish project. It’s a subject I love, and Piers is a great author to work with; imagine getting paid to read about—and look through photos of—the space shuttle program. It’s great work if you can get it.

But that’s all just backstory. Those books led to me getting a call from Luke Ployhar of Afterglow Studios. He was researching CAD files of the space shuttle and was wondering if the authors had sourced such illustrations in their books. As it turned out, they had not. All the detailed cutaway illustrations in those books had been done the old-fashioned way, with pen and ink.

I asked why he needed CAD files. It turned out he was developing a 3-D CGI movie in the IMAX format about the past and future of human space travel called Space Next. Somehow it came up that the screenplay he’d been developing in-house wasn’t finished. “Well,” I told him, “I happen to be a published science fiction writer, I’m familiar with the screenplay format, and I’m a space program geek and a movie buff, so if you’re looking for a writer . . .” And that is how I schmoozed my way into doing a new draft of the screenplay.

Now we flash forward four years to the present. All that time Luke has been diligently working away at Space Next on the side of his regular workload at his busy CGI studio. The screenplay now needed some revisions as well as narration for new scenes. I jumped back into the fray, happy for the opportunity to revisit the project and excited by the quality of the animation I got to see in Luke’s office. The rough draft poster above depicts the Voyager probe (to the left of the placeholder release date) against the backdrop of Saturn’s rings.

The movie is still being edited and polished, and there will be some more revising and tweaking on the screenplay as we tighten up the timing of the narration to the final cut of the animation. For a movie and space nut, this has been and continues to be an unbelievably amazing project to work on. When I eventually see my name in the credits on the giant silver screen I may explode. Just a warning to anyone else in the audience that night.

Updates to come as the story develops . . .

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