The Dr. Carlos stories…

Carlos Obregon, medical officer on the starship Brendan, stars in various short stories of mine. You can find them in the collections Pasodobles in a Quantum Stringscape and Fantastic Encores! Dr. Carlos is Sherlock Holmes at times, while his intern Julie Chen often plays the role of Dr. Watson. But are these short stories mysteries or sci-fi? They’re both, of course, for the most part—always sci-fi, but many also mysteries. This isn’t new in sci-fi. Old master Isaac Asimov created the sci-fi mystery, in particular with The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, two novels where Earth cop Elijah Bailey teams up with android Daneel Olivaw. Most sci-fi stories have some mystery elements, of course, but putting a traditional crime story in a futuristic context seems to bring out the best of both genres.

One of the best recent sci-fi mysteries I’ve read is Adam Troy Castro’s Emissaries of the Dead. It combines many conventional sci-fi elements into a crime story—weird ETs, strange settings, and an interstellar conspiracy that broadens the scope of merely solving a murder case. Clarke’s 2001 and 2010 are sci-fi mysteries; so is his Rama series until the Rama engineers are outed. My young adult novel The Secret Lab is also a sci-fi mystery. Readers can probably think of many more examples.

Dr. Carlos is an amateur sleuth, of course, and he also takes care of the medical challenges, his main job. The Brendan is in the Space Exploration Bureau’s fleet; the SEB is an agency of the Interstellar Trade Union of Independent Planets (ITUIP), a federation comprised of many near-Earth planets. The evolution of ITUIP starts in the “Chaos Chronicles Trilogy” (now available as a bundle) and continues with Rogue Planet. Dr. Carlos lives at the end of this timeline, far in the future. My goal is to include Dr. Carlos in a future novel as an homage to Dr. Asimov, but the reader can get to know him in the short stories.

Dr. Carlos is something of a rascal who often creates his own problems. He’s knowledgeable about Human and ET history, not a mean feat when considering the lengthy future history of near-Earth space I’ve imagined. He might also be considered an expert on trivia. He drives the Brendan’s captain crazy sometimes, and doesn’t always follow SEB rules. In the long run, though, he creates order out of chaos in the short stories describing his adventures.

While some short stories merit expansion into a novel (the short story, “Marcello and Me,” found in the Pasodobles collection, will become an example), I probably need a more complex plot if I’m going to do honor to Dr. Asimov. Hopefully that’s not a problem—I have many ideas for crime stories, and giving them a future setting should be possible. So Dr. Carlos will probably get his own novel.

I love this character. In some sense, he’s an alter-ego who can have adventures that I can never hope to have. But maybe that’s a characteristic of all sci-fi writers?

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Pasodobles in a Quantum Stringscape and Fantastic Encores! have new reviews—see my webpage “Books & Short Stories.” These speculative fiction collections are excellent ways to try out my sci-fi for any reader on your gift list—that might be you? Many hours of varied reading entertainment illustrating my belief that short fiction isn’t dead in the publishing world.

In libris libertas!

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