With his new science fiction novel, Returning, J.T. McDaniel returns to the world of full-length fiction after several years devoted to writing short stories, essays, and plays. It also marks the end of more than forty years of development for this particular novel, during which the story grew and evolved from a simple story that shared characters, but none of the plot, with the final version.
By Rite of Word says: “Author J.T. McDaniel has crafted an engrossing story, combining alt-history and sci-fi dystopia with a realism that seems chillingly plausible. I found the idea of an FTL drive that travels point to point, taking the ship effectively outside time, to be a particularly nice twist to the story, and the segments of the book set on earth were all too possible in the current political environment.”
Joyce Faulkner, the award-winning author of Vala’s Bed, Windshift, In the Shadow of Suribachi, and USERNAME, declared: “Returning is part fantasy, part science techie, part political drama—and great storytelling. It begins with a diverse crew preparing to leave their home planet of Barzak in a very special starship named Warrior. Most of the action, however, takes place 86,000 years later when they return home for a visit. Exotic, well-written, and captivating. I didn’t expect to love Returning quite so much. It made me laugh and it made me think. Isn’t that the point of literature?”
Jeff Edwards, the best-selling author of Sea of Shadows and Steel Wind Rising, had this to say about Returning: “A brilliant twist on the classic first contact scenario. Imagine the kind of pulse-pounding adventure you’d expect from a Jack Campbell novel, wrapped around an incredibly clever idea. J.T. McDaniel has created that rarest of all things: a thought-provoking novel that’s also pure page-turning fun.”
Returning revisits the Gehunite civilisation McDaniel first created in the mid-1970s. Originally a swords and sorcery milieu, Gehun naturally evolved into a modern, technological culture over several hundred years. By the time Returning begins, that cultural evolution has move well past where we are today. Examples of both phases are found in McDaniel’s short story collection, Blackout & Other Stories.
McDaniel received much of his training as a writer and editor courtesy of the United States Army. “I enlisted in 1967,” he explains, “mostly because I was 1A draft status and essentially unemployable.” He was trained as what the Army then designated an “Information Specialist” at the Defense Information School, a Defense Department school then located at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana (it’s currently at Fort Meade, Maryland). DINFOS managed to cram the equivalent of a four-year college journalism degree into a ten-week course.
“The emphasis was on newspaper journalism, as this was long before electronic media began to make an impact,” McDaniel says. “It’s a great background for any writer. You learn to structure your stories. You learns what will interest a reader. The only negative is that it also trains you to keep things as short as possible, which isn’t exactly an asset when you’re trying to write a novel.”
In addition to writing, McDaniel had a career in broadcasting, mostly at radio stations in Florida. A recent outgrowth of his old broadcasting career has been narrating audiobooks and recording a couple of spoken-word albums. He also frequently appears on the legitimate stage in central Ohio, and has appeared in television commercials, motion pictures, and print advertising.
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