Watch the June 2016 winning novel transcript reading.
Alex The Inventor by Gerald Gordon Brynelson. Chapter 1: Big Ben and the Boy
Performed by Geoff Mays
Get to know the writer:
1. What is your novel about?
Alex the Inventor in the Fantastic Scrapyard (Book I) is a near-future sci-fi fantasy which involves the cyclical destruction and renewal of life on Mars when it is visited by a rogue “Planet X” at ten thousand year intervals. The near-miss fly-bys of the mysterious planet disrupt the orbit of Mars to either one that is closer to or farther away from the sun each time. After each interval, the climate on Mars changes to become warmer or colder, depending on how the orbit is affected. Set against this backdrop is the story of an impoverished boy named Alex Faraway who lives alone with his mother in an old farmhouse nearby an abandoned scrapyard. The house and backyard are completely overgrown with a concealing thicket of bushes, vines and trees. Between the hidden house and the scrapyard is an old barn that Alex has converted into a workshop in which he loves to invent and build all manner of robots and machines in his spare time. One invention not yet completed is a small spaceship, the plans to which Alex found in his father’s old desk, and which he hopes to finish one day to fly away and find his missing father. Alex dad disappeared ten years before under strange circumstances and with the sighting of a UFO.
When Alex is twelve, he is awakened one night upon hearing and seeing strange sounds and sights not far away, in the scrapyard. When he goes out to investigate, Alex has an encounter with a robotic creature that resembles a very large dragonfly. The oddly intelligent machine which he names, “Dart”, is friendly enough but does not want Alex to follow it back into the scrapyard after dark. Against its wishes, Alex follows the Dragonfly further into the maze of large scrap-piles and then has an unsettling return home because he senses he is being hunted by a sinister entity.
In the days that follow, Alex’s adventures unfold further when he befriends a girl named Rainah Onyahee. The oddly dressed girl with Asian-like features enters his life quite unexpectedly when she walks out of the scrapyard to catch a ride on the morning bus to school with Alex and the other children. When the school day ends though, so does Alex’s normal life after he follows the lonesome girl off the bus and back into the scrapyard. Rainah leads Alex down a tunnel and literally into a whole new, strange world in the form of an alien Biosphere Dome hidden deep underground. While on this path of unusual discoveries, the boy is reunited with an old woman named Miss Vee who used to baby-sit for Alex and whom Rainah also calls, “The Gardener Who Waits”.
Miss Vee has been caring for Rainah since she was small while also patiently tending a large garden inside the dome which has an environment very unlike that of Earth. Miss Vee and Alex need to wear spacesuits while in the garden, but Rainah does not. Alex soon learns that Rainah is a survivor from Mars when that planet was warmer – ten thousand years ago! Miss Vee has been hiding the Biosphere and the girl from sinister creatures called “The Others” who wish to destroy the dome and Rainah and all who stand in their way before Planet X returns and shifts Mars’ orbit back to one that will warm its climate once more. As Alex is drawn further into Rainah’s world, he learns who built the dome. He also discovers that their friendship did not occur quite by chance and that he may also be more like a Martian than he could have possibly imagined.
The Great Change for Mars is fast approaching and when the Others finally discover the Biosphere, Alex and Ranah must defend it and do battle against an overwhelming horde so that the huge dome – which is also a spaceship – can escape back to Mars in time. But, it is when combat is finally required and the need is most dire that Alex’s new and growing abilities with an unusual Martian device known as a Luss are suddenly sparked into full and dynamic action!
In the end of Book I, contact is finally made with Alex’s father. But then, there is also a backstory which reveals the events that happened on ancient Mars before its catastrophic encounter with Planet X – namely, the origin of the cold-hearted creatures called The Others. The reader is also given their first clues of Alex Faraway’s possible distant kinship with the people of Mars and why, because of tragic ignorance, they must endure the cyclical changes of their world’s climate.
Read on and suspend, for a little while, all that you hold to be the normal, the usual. Step into Alex Faraway’s fantastical world where his robot allies Legs and Big Ben help the two gifted children on their quest to save not only Rainah’s planet but perhaps ours as well. After you do, you may not wish to return.
2. Why should this novel be read by people?
In my writing, I enjoy blending possible mythical events into a story filled with suspense, childhood discoveries, and a good mystery. The myths of a possible Planet X, the canals of Mars, and an imaginary reason of why the climate of Mars has changed in long ago, are given life along with how a civilization of Mars suffered the consequences of their past follies. Hope is still just around the corner for Mars and its people however, and my characters rise to the challenge and the dangers with youthful (and sometimes playful) vigor. There is an element to the story of what I call “Imaginary Physics” as well which I employ in explaining how the spaceships in my story can fly to Mars at nearly the speed of light using the DIIVE Drive, for example. Each story also has a unique invention which Alex builds with the high-tech parts from his scrapyard and then uses with youthful excitement.
3. How would you describe this novel in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
5. How long have you been working on this novel?
Book I took me about 6 years to finish, from writing rough drafts by hand. Typing it out on computer didn’t take too long. This trilogy of novels, in whole has taken 14 years to write, all during spare moments here and there. It has been a long journey but an enjoyable one. Adding the illustrations has kept me going to finish it all because I like that part of the whole experience too.
6. Do you have an all-time favorite novel?
Anything written by Isaac Asimov.
7. What motivated you to write this novel?
When I was a kid, I was very shy and often enjoyed tinkering with mechanical devices and trying to be an inventor. I still do, a little bit and love the thrill of creating something unique and futuristic. I decided to begin writing this story about a boy-inventor and his adventures to encourage my own kids to enjoy reading when they were just starting school. I think my strategy worked quite well and it has been a joy bringing this unique character and his world to life, although I hadn’t anticipated that I would still be writing the story as a full-fledged trilogy. Book III is nearly finished though, thank heavens. Then I will top off the last two books with their own illustrations – which will be the most fun, actually.
8. What artist would you love to have dinner with?
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
The future of space travel and exploration.
10. What influenced you to enter the Novel Festival?
I happened to notice the website while on Twitter and liked what it offered. I’m glad that I found it in time to send off my story sample too. I need to get my writing out there more.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Yes. Love with a passion what you are writing about so that you will finish what was started! Be patient and proofread the finished story several times. Also, try to learn as much as you can about the nuts-and-bolts of proper spelling, grammar and sentence structure so that your finished work will be unique and enjoyable for the people reading it.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson