Why I Write About Space

When I was a kid, I lived in the stars.

By that I mean I was a total sci-fi geek. I wasn’t a great student when it came to science or history, but I had encyclopedic knowledge of obscure planets and characters from the Star Wars universe. Imagined space battles took up a lot of my headspace. I drew comics of me and my friends rocketing to distant worlds at light speed. It helped that I grew up in west Texas, where the land was so flat that on a clear night you could see the sky for 360 degrees around you, nothing but stars and moon in every direction.

Despite my love of interstellar stories, I wasn’t really much of a reader most of my elementary years. Why bother with books when I had cartoons and Nintendo games? A lot of my classmates — the other boys especially — agreed. Our teachers were always assigning us books they assured us were “guy books,” (as if books have any sort of gender) but, honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about Johnny Tremain or White Fang. Their stories may have worked for some kids, but my head was in deep space, not on Earth.

So, what changed? One, I got into comic books (thanks, superhero cartoons!) which was my first experience reading stuff that actually excited me. Two, I realized there was a whole world of books outside of what I was being told to read in school. I found out there were new Star Wars stories in novel form, and, hating the idea that my favorite characters were having adventures without me, I bought some, despite my aversion to the written word. It turned out I really liked the books, and soon me and my other nerdy friends — even some of the other non-readers — were passing Shadows of the Empire back and forth in our own little book club. Eventually, that led me to other sci-fi and fantasy books. I caught the bug. I was hooked.

It’s sometimes weird to be an adult who writes for children. I’ve spent afternoons wondering how I’m supposed to know what kids want to read. In those moments, I try to think back to the way I felt when I finished a great comic, or spent recess in the library trying to find new space operas to devour after realizing that was my thing. I remind myself of why I started writing for children to begin with: to create books twelve-year-old me would’ve been excited about. The Cloak Society was for my superhero nerds. The Moon Platoon is for my fellow stargazers.

I know many other authors who do this, too. We write for our past selves — reluctant readers who just needed to find our way. That’s what keeps us coming back to the blank page. And, with any luck, our stories will make their way into the right hands, helping to flip the switch for kids who don’t even realize they’re about to become Capital-R “Readers.”

Jeramey Kraatz has wanted superpowers ever since he opened his first comic book as a kid. He’s a graduate of Texas Christian University and the MFA writing program at Columbia University, and the author of The Cloak Society, Villains Rising and Space Runners #1: The Moon Platoon. Jeramey lives in Texas, where he works in the animation industry.

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