I decided I’d make my fortune with a science fiction novel, maybe an epic saga, not unlike Asimov’s Foundation series. He often claimed that he merely cribbed The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Change the names, add atomic powered spaceships and bang, instant classic.
I was going to do it with the story of Lyndon Johnson. In space.
Start with a backwater planet, a place fiercely independent and proud of its own heritage, yet saddled with vast regions of dirt poor farmers and ranchers. And a young boy who grows up there, lying to his friends and neighbors, possessing an instinctive genius for political manuevering, ends up in the galactic council or whatever I ended up calling it. Round about volume three or four I’d have to come up with the Vietnam of space, but that was much later. And the space Kennedys. It just all seemed to fall into place in my head. Sketchy, but doable.
First I had to come up with the planet. I wanted to name the planet first. I mean Texas produced LBJ, was instrumental in producing him, so my space Texas had to be just as unique. Then I had to name spaceboy himself, little Lyndon. In fact, maybe I needed his name first, then work backwards to the name of the planet.
Initials! That was it. Maybe give him the initials LBJ, but don't use them. That would help future academicians to help understand my underlying metaphor. "A ha!" one would say. "The hero has the same initials as LBJ! It must be some sort of parable. I shall write my thesis on it!"
Okay, so future doctorates depended on this. Let's see. Had to be subtle, but strong.
Lipid. Lipid Behrans Joculan. Yes. A good space name.
So young Lipid, who'd be given the nickname of "cowboy" as a kid (genius!) would grow up a backwoods space farmer, then go on to bring the glory of galactic civilization back to his homeworld, then rise to patriarchal overlord of the imperial senate, then ascend the throne to become the Great Space Emperor.
It would practically write itself!
Yes, and the great space Vietnam would loom over Emperor Lipid's reign, even as he continued to make strides toward equality for aliens and humans.
Oh yeah, baby.
So, next I needed the name of the planet. Lodestar. Yes! It was like saying Lone Star when you had a stuffy nose, and Lone Star, of course, is the nickname of Texas. So subtle! So perfect! The future doctoral dissertations were piling up!
So Lipid B. Joculan of the planet Lodestar. Right. Now an opening sentence.
An opening sentence.
Well, that could wait until tomorrow. I had the actual hard work done. Names. Naming a thing gives it power. I had the power.
I took the power and stuck it in the back of my brain. It short circuited, spun me around. I wobbled, fell back on my bed.
The ceiling spiralled. My feet floated. I could see the light. Rising. Rising.
Then a hat. And a face. A familiar face. Scowling. And then a voice. A familiar voice.
"Don't screw with me, boy."
I closed my eyes, trying to shut out the giant head of Lyndon Johnson now consuming my depth of field. But he burned through my eyelids, pried them open with the force of his will.
"Listen to me, boy. I will not stand for this. Do you understand?"
"I said, do you understand?"
"Good. And don't try to recast it with Jack, either. Get your own damned ideas."
And he began to fade, and I relaxed, and then he was back.
"Wait. Use Dick. Skewer the son of a bitch."
And with that, he was gone.
I sat up.
Dixon. Flitchart Dixon of the planet Lorbayinda...