by Jeff Secker | Originally posted on
It was 2012. I’d been writing a vampire horror novel, but Pascale wasn’t interested vampires, or my new origin story I set in Mexico. She was nine, and she asked if I would write a story that she’d like to read. “But what’s wrong with coarse language, graphic violence and horror?” I asked, appalled. No, I didn’t say that. Instead, I tried to write a book she’d like to read. I started with a short magical realism story called, ‘My Daddy is a Mosquito’, and a second short story in the same style and with the same characters. It was called ‘Emily Jayne and the Aliens.’ It was that short story that got me started. I liked the set of characters and the alien sci-fi plot, and I wanted to develop it into a short novel. I replaced the mosquito father with a human, changed Emily Jayne’s and Sarah’s ages to 11 and I was off to the races. From there I built on my love for science fiction books and movies, space, astronomy, cosmology, mathematics and the search for extraterrestrial life. This novel, Emily Jayne and the Kairos Codex, completed and published 13 years later, is the result of her request.
Emily Jayne and the Kairos Codex is a middle-grade science fiction novel set in the Milky Way galaxy as we know it. It’s speculative sci-fi because the galaxy is populated with intelligent extraterrestrial life that we haven’t yet discovered. It has strong and smart female characters in lead roles, who like science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). (It has strong and smart male lead characters too.) The heroine, 11-year-old Emily Jayne Hutchings, her dog Rex, and her adopted cousin, Sarah Spiller, need help from their friends—human and extraterrestrial—to escape evil time-travelling aliens and find the one extraterrestrial species who can help them.
This book is about children, friendship and adventure. It’s about diversity, and I draw from the mix of ethnicities and languages that I saw at the French public schools my kids attended, and the First Nations students who attended the elementary and secondary schools in the small town in Northern Ontario where I grew up. It’s about neurodivergent kids. It’s about dogs, and the special connection that can exist between people and the canines they love. It’s about a love for and connection with math, astronomy, space and the universe, and a longing to know more and find life elsewhere. It’s about children leading a relatively normal life, how they react when they’re faced with an extreme situation, and how it can scar them for a long time. And it’s about being a STEM geek and loving it.
This book was also inspired by the smart and strong women in my life. Growing up with my mother and sisters, and then spending three decades (plus a bit!) with them as adults, living with my spouse and our three daughters, and knowing my mother-in-law and other women in my extended family, I know first-hand what great things women can accomplish, but also the challenges and obstacles they have to overcome. In the spirit of Captain Kathryn Janeway and Seven of Nine of Star Trek Voyager, two of the many strong and smart female lead characters in the Star Trek universe, and two with a rich friendship and history, I give you a novel about Emily Jayne Hutchings and Sarah Spiller!