When people ask me how I came up with the idea for Vulcan Rising, I don’t mind telling them. But they almost universally seem disappointed. It wasn’t what they expected. They don’t know what they expected, but it wasn’t what they heard. Besides that, they find it unsettling that others are walking around with tales of dark and fantastical things rattling around in their heads.

I can almost see the regret formulate within them. They wish they’d never asked. Their perception of me has changed, and there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. But that’s okay. It’s not me that has changed, just their understanding of who I am. The shadow side was always part of me; they just hadn’t been acquainted with it before.

In the vein of transparency, I don’t mind telling you about the genesis of Vulcan Rising. Then you can cast or reserve your judgment as you see fit.

Expectant Writer J. W. Judge The Unsettling Genesis of Vulcan Rising

The Origin Story for Vulcan Rising

This isn’t the first novel I thought I would write. It’s not the first novel I’ve tried to write. Nor the second. But sometimes the muse is working behind the scenes, aligning things just right so that you’ll be ready when the time comes.

Three of the chapters in this book were inspired by real life situations. And while I wrote them down as they transpired, it didn’t occur to me until the third one that I could write a novel that featured these events. That was at the end of August 2020. By early December, I had finished my first draft of Vulcan Rising.

In early January 2020 (before the world went sideways here in the United States), my five year old, Jack, started calling for me in the middle of the night. I looked at the clock and saw that it was 3:40am. With only an hour and twenty minutes left until my alarm was set to go off, I knew that my good sleep was pretty much done for.

I went up to his room and tried to coax him back to sleep. But when he told me that he couldn’t sleep because he didn’t want to be alone anymore, I felt really bad for him and laid down beside him.

But in that little bed with only a minimum of covers made available to me, my mind started racing. And I came up with the scene where Thomas finds Ning in his bed and dismisses Joseph to return to his own.

A Return to Transcribing Dreams

A couple of weeks later, I had a really strange dream. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been a vivid dreamer. For a time during my 20s, I wrote down my dreams. But that seemed to somehow magnify their intensity and creepiness, so I stopped. Then the dreams returned to their baseline weirdness levels.

More recently, I’ve started writing down dreams that are particularly interesting and stick with me. I’ve started letting my dreams fuel my fiction writing, rather than let them dissipate into the ether.

In late January, I had a dream that was graphic and surreal. I remembered every detail — three men were kidnapping a pegasus colt, and I stopped them in my driveway and shot one of them; then I had to return the mythical creature to its mother.

I had an inkling the dream could be the inciting incident for a much bigger story. But what I had in mind then was a much different story than what Vulcan Rising became.

Fast forward seven months to August 2020. Sometimes you have weird interactions with your kids. It seems like their brains are working overtime all the time. Not infrequently, those conversations lead to story ideas. So when that happens, I try to run as far and fast as I can with it.

One morning, Jack came down from his room and snuggled up right beside me on the couch. He was unusually somber and his responses to my conversation prompts were monosyllabic and noncommittal. His demeanor caused my mind to wander, thinking about its potential causes. One of which was whether he thought he’d seen something in the stairwell. Perhaps, he had. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t a chimera. But who’s to say for sure.

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