• Haight: Sci-fi enthusiast pens second novel

  • A local architect/contractor during the week; a writer of science fiction on weekends.

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  • A local architect/contractor during the week; a writer of science fiction on weekends.
    Who is this multitalented Independence resident? He’s none other than Jim Gamble, president of The Gamble Co. Inc., whose imprint is affixed on the landscape of Jackson County architecture.
    For someone who never wrote a line of fictional dialogue until about five years ago, this lifelong Independence resident has come a long way since writing his first novel, “The Rise of the Phoenix,” using a voice-recognition software program on his home computer.
    That program solved a serious typing deficiency and opened up a new world for Jim, who admits he “struggled desperately” to type – a feat he couldn’t do well.
    It wasn’t until the voice-recognition program was installed, translating words into print, that a new world opened for Jim, inspiring him to write “The Rise of the Phoenix,” a 500-page novel that hasn’t been published yet.
    “So I can dictate, and it pops up right on the screen. Then I can do slow editing,” he explains.
    Jim believes the quality of his novel is “generally good.” However, some of the chapters need rewriting, he says.
    “I have rewritten most of it. But now I am pretty much involved in my second book and want to finish it,” he says. When completed, the University of Oklahoma graduate plans to go back to his first book and clean it up.
    Though the 68-year-old author will soon have two unpublished sci-fi novels under his belt, three of his short science-fiction stories have been published in “Horizons: An Anthology of Prize Winning Stories from SFNovelist.com.” This printing is the second anthology published since SFNovelist.com was founded in 1997.
    The 423-page book features a collection of 34 original science-fiction stories written by a number of authors, all members of SFNovelist.com – an online critique group dedicated to writers of “hard science” science fiction, where the science is believable.
    Founded by Victory Crayne, it was this international English-language science-fiction writers’ group that Jim joined about four years ago to develop his writing skills. He did this by submitting sections of short stories to his peers for their critiques and feedbacks.
    “Its purpose is to encourage people to write novels,” he says.
    For a change of pace, the group of highly technical men and women compete in a short-story writing contest every June.
    Since the last anthology 10 years ago, some 140 submitted short stories have been accumulated. And it was from this stack of entries that the three judges, Jim Gamble, Richard Winder, a Canadian environmental biologist, and Bruce Davis, an Arizona trauma surgeon, selected 34 of the best entries for the second edition of “Horizons.”
    Page 2 of 3 - “… We asked our authors to make improvements, found copy editors within our membership for fine tuning, conscripted a very fine artist for the cover art and then published 423 pages containing some of the finest work in the genre.”
    How stiff is the competition? Just ask the former Army veteran.
    “I came in dead last,” he says without embarrassment, then adds grinning: “The next year I won. I went from last to first.”
    In the anthology, you’ll find three of Jim’s stories, including his prize-winning entry entitled “Family Matters.” Other entries are “Thistles and Figs” and “’Merican Way.”
    Describing himself as an avid reader, Jim recalls devouring books as a youngster.
    “Not just science fiction,” he says. “But everything. I liked to read all kinds, whether it was non-fiction, fiction or other areas of fiction besides that.”
    So, it’s not surprising the 1961 William Chrisman High School graduate was drawn to science fiction, referring to it as “an optimistic type of literature, generally.”
    As Jim’s appetite increased for more science-fiction stories, he realized the genre reveals perhaps the worst and the best possibilities of the human spirit and what it can accomplish.
    “I think that appeals to me,” he says. “I have an interest in people who have done great things, and maybe that optimism is something that attracted me. I would like to think I could make a contribution along the same lines.”
    And Jim has made a contribution, thanks in part to his cousin, Carolyn Smith of Weatherford, Texas, an accomplished fiction writer whose romance and mystery novels have been published often.
    “She always encouraged me to write because we corresponded (with each other). I had written things for publications that she did and wrote some family histories,” he explains.
    Carolyn’s encouragement and inspiration did the trick.
    “That was the kickoff for (my writing),” he says.
    Having been a reader all his life, Jim thought that at some point in his successful career he would give writing a try.
    “I can do it,” he thought. “So I made an effort to do it.”
    Now that Jim is wrapped up in his writings, the question is asked: “Where do your story ideas come from?”
    Says Jim: “I don’t think you are going to find a formula. Sometimes it comes from a technological idea that might change the way people live. That is one source.
    “One of those technological changes, he explains, is whatever someone might think of, or they take some emerging existing technology and speculate how that might come out.”
    However, Jim says, “All stories are not simply centered around technology, so much as the human aspect interest of the characters. And that is the hook of the readers’ interest.”
    Page 3 of 3 - From 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 9, Jim will be signing books at the North Independence Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library, U.S. 24 and North Spring Street. There he can answer all your questions.
    As for the future, Jim doesn’t know if he is going to have a second career or not. However, “I certainly have an avocation that I am pursuing.”

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