With her original Firebird trilogy, author Kathy Tyers is said to have invented the Christian science fiction genre in the modern era. Following a long sabbatical, she returns to fiction—and to the Firebird story.
For Christians who are fans of science fiction, author Kathy Tyers made history in 1986. That was the year she launched a groundbreaking science fiction epic with Firebird, followed quickly by Fusion Fire.
A space opera with parallels to ancient Israel, the titles were originally published by general market publisher Bantam Spectra—but when Kathy took the books (along with the third volume, Crown of Fire) to Christian publisher Bethany House, she found the freedom to revise the books and tell the story exactly how she wanted. “Writing for Bethany House gave me the opportunity to bring forward the spiritual undertones that had always been there,” Kathy shares. “The Firebird series always was a conversion story.”
More than two decades after Firebird’s original publication, Marcher Lord Press has published The Annotated Firebird, a special three-in-one volume with added material, maps and notes from the author. “All along I have kept a very fat notebook of brainstorming ideas,” Kathy says. “Family trees, cultural ideas, Hebrew word derivations and such. I went through and reread the Bantam and Bethany House versions of Firebird, Fusion Fire, and Crown of Fire, and just took notes of little things that popped into my head as I was reading it, memories from writing, and where nearly all the names came from.”
REACHING INTO SPACE
Kathy has enjoyed reading science fiction since she was a bright fifth grader looking in the junior high section of the public library. “I brought home a copy of Ben Bova’s The Star Conquerors. I read it in one day, and just couldn’t believe I had found something so new and wonderful.”
Many years later, as a young mother, Kathy decided to try writing a science fiction novel of her own.
Her first book was Firebird—and she was already working on the sequel when she made her first sale.
After writing four novels for Bantam Books, Kathy was invited to write a Star Wars novel. Kathy eventually wrote two Star Wars novels, The Truce at Bakura and Balance Point.
But not everything was rosy. “My late husband was pretty much convinced that my writing secular science fiction was part of the problem. So I backed off, stopped reading it, stopped writing it, and told God if He was ever going to have me write science fiction again, He was going to have to make it plain to me and my husband.”
He did. Kathy took a proposal for a contemporary women’s series to a Christian writers’ conference, but the very first editor she met with, Steve Laube, turned out to be a long-time fan of her science fiction novels. He championed her Firebird series and another rewritten novel, Shivering World, at Bethany House.
RETURN TO WRITING
Widowed in 2004, Kathy headed in 2006 to school for her master’s degree in Christianity and the arts. “I went to Regent College needing a rest, but also needing a kickstart if I was ever going to be writing again. One reason I chose Regent was that I could write a new novel as essentially my master’s thesis.”
Returning to novel writing was initially frightening. “Within a couple of weeks I pounded out one of the scenes for the first time, and I really was lost. Who was I to think that I could write?”
But she remembered that same doubt plagued earlier novels, and kept writing. “It was wonderful to have it confirmed at Regent College that all the arts, all of the things we do creatively, come to us from our Creator, and they are good gifts for the building up of other people, besides just entertainment. So I was being encouraged about writing in general as I was writing. It was the perfect environment for me.”
REBIRTH OF FIREBIRD
Now Kathy’s Firebird series has found new life at Christian speculative fiction publisher Marcher Lord Press. Book four in the series, Wind and Shadow, releases fall 2011. “It’s the next generation. I started with the assumption that Firebird’s twin sons would follow very different paths, and sure enough, they did. It was fun to put them in an adventure together, along with a young woman who grew up on the conquered world of Three Zed. She has a very evil background, but she was raised among Sentinels, so she is an interesting character.” Book five is scheduled for 2012.
“The heart of my books is the characters,” Kathy says. “I believe that every character is more complex than you could possibly put in a book. To find the aspect of that character that brings her or him to life and drives the plot forward is the spark of every book.”