Books & Writing

I, Novelist: How Many K’s in Delaney

My first original novel, How Many K’s in Delaney, was a scifi epic inspired by Jules Verne and Star Trek and it had an incredible, Twilight Zone-esque twist at the end.

The hero of the piece was John Delaney, an astronaut on a one-way mission to go as far as he could go. A solo mission with nothing but a HAL like computer to keep him company and an occasional six-months-later message from the folks back home.

One day, he receives a message that isn’t from the computer or Alpha Control. This message is from a group of aliens who are as curious about Delaney as he is about them. Glad for someone to talk to, Delaney tells his life story with emphasis on all those little details that make humans human. He tells the aliens about playing little league and about birthday parties with cake. He tells them about his first date and the drive-in theater, about prom and fraternity pranks and falling in love with the woman he married then had to leave behind. It feels good to talk about home, but there’s a tiny niggle at the back of his brain. There comes a point where Delaney begins to wonder if there are aliens on the space ship or if all of it is just a delusion brought on by the perpetual loneliness.

The aliens, on the other hand, are beyond excited. They’re thrilled by John’s stories. “Just wait until we get home,” they say. “You’ll be a hero. The only K to return after the expedition to Earth.”

What? Earth? Yep. John Delaney may have been born on the planet Earth but he’s actually a K, born to a pair of K astronauts who had crash landed on Earth before his birth. So, instead of going on a one-way, lonely trip into space, John Delaney was actually on his was to the home he never knew.

He doesn’t react well to this news. Believing that he has well and truly lost his mind, John takes a space walk without his spacesuit leaving the K welcoming party stunned and saddened by the loss of their legendary son.

Man in SpaceI wrote that “novel” when I was 12. It was ten typewritten pages long, had a hand-drawn cover with a spacey title and it was illustrated with photo stickers from the Science Program Service book “Man in Space“. I also used that book as a reference so my space scenes would be completely authentic.

I thought it was brilliant. My sister said it had a lot of typos and the grammar was a mess. And, oh by the way, the title doesn’t make sense. There are no k’s in the name Delaney. I tried to explain to her that the aliens were called K’s and John was an alien so technically he has K’s “in him”. Now I could say that he had K DNA but we didn’t know about that stuff back then.

Undaunted, I stapled my novel together with the tiny staples from a Swingline TOT stapler (man, I loved that little stapler) and I kept it for 30 plus years. I still have it somewhere. I had to throw away the 100’s of scribbled in notebooks when I moved from NJ to California but I kept that story. I kept it because it was my first finished, original work. It wasn’t perfect but it had a beginning, middle and an end. It had interesting characters, good dialogue and a twist. I think Rod Serling would have been proud of me. Not because I wrote an amazing first novel, but because I had the guts to write it, “publish” it, and allow it to be read.

Thank you, Mr. Serling for your inspiration and imagined encouragement.

Tell me about the first original novel or story you ever wrote? Like the K’s on Delaney’s ship, I can’t wait to hear all the tiny details.

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