Killing Atlas

Gary Dee Penton, University of Texas at El Paso


Eleven years ago, I wrote a novel. It was called Combat Aircrew Seven. There had been nothing written about my obscure military profession up to that point, at least nothing I could find on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I was a naval flight officer, mission commander on the P-3C Orion antisubmarine, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. It has since been replaced with the P-8 Poseidon which I employ in my novel, Killing Atlas. A decade later, I read the pages of Combat Aircrew Seven (quickly scanning with my face turned partially away from the pages), and while there were certainly some cringeworthy passages, it wasn’t a terrible novel, but I found a way to publish it in paperback for free and purchase copies to pass around to family and friends. One will pop up on the online bookstores from time-to-time but I never marketed it to a wider audience than family, friends of family, squadron-mates in the P-3 community and shipmates in two aircraft carrier battle groups. I’ve been working on “Killing Atlas”, my second attempt for approximately four years. Until late 2015, I wasn’t writing consistently but I eventually realized that, after a full military career and another decade running a small business, writing became something more than a lark and was something I had to pursue full-time. Whether the novel is good is yet to be seen, but I learned long ago that, to do something well it takes hard work and study. After two careers, this was something I really wanted to learn to do as well as possible, so I joined the MFA in Creative Writing program. My novel is 'hard' science fiction, which is to say that I extrapolate 40-years into the future, current technological research. It is fictional until the technology exists, but I stay away from the impossible fantasy genre which employs concepts not possible according to laws of physics, whether that be Einstein's Theory of Relativity or the mysteries of Quantum Mechanics. Quantum Mechanics and Physics allow me to propose concepts that are unimaginable because it is that physics that gave us the ceramic superconductor which defies all physics – scientists simply don’t know how it works, only that it does. This is like many psychotropic drugs, even lithium that has been used for decades for bipolar disorder. Neuroscientists can't explain precisely 'why' they work'. Even as late as 2009, Columbia University was soliciting funding to better understand how Lithium works in bipolar patients as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). [1] Killing Atlas was originally military fiction set in the present but I learned over the past two and a half years that I could take the story anywhere I liked, and though the primary setting I chose to set the story is still the island nation of Singapore, I have extrapolated current societal aspects a half-century into the future.

Subject Area

Creative writing

Recommended Citation

Penton, Gary Dee, "Killing Atlas" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10284546.