”The two men stopped on the rim and froze at what was below. Nothing in all their training could help them now. Just beneath them were Marlin, Ferster, Gentry and Hastings, who were also trying to comprehend the scene. At the bottom lay the remains of an oval-shaped, tubular craft made from a glass-like, reflective metal Taylor had never seen – and he visited Skunkworks many times over his service! The nose was partially buried in dirt and mud with rocks strewn about, still glowing red from the heat of the impact. One side had an engine of some sort while the other held only the remains of where one would be attached. It was maybe twenty or so feet in length and looked to be a one or maybe two-man craft. To the long-time soldier, it was a slap in the face of all he had ever known. Everything he ever believed in was wrong, because below him lay the wreckage of an extraterrestrial craft!”
—Rise of Aen
‘Rise of Aen’ is the first novel for Yorkton writer Damian Shishkin.
“An empire set out a millennium ago in a galaxy wide search for a fabled creature of immense power, only to end up stranded on Earth. Faced with desperation, the last member of the expedition must undergo genetic manipulation to complete her mission …,” hints the book’s back cover.
“Aaron Foster always dreamed of being something more in life, but had no idea how much his life was about to change. Aaron’s world is forever altered when he is kidnapped by a shadow government agency who is determined to blend the DNA from the sole occupant of a crashed alien vessel with human genes. He must find himself in his new place in the universe as he tries to defend Earth from an ancient evil.”
While a book of science fiction, Shishkin said ‘Rise of Aen’ comes down to a book about characters.
“It is a tale of a man turning personal tragedy to his advantage and learning to take what has been delta to you no matter how strange it may be,” said Shishkin, who was born and raised in Yorkton, moved away for a few years but like many found my way back home again. “Aen is a modern day Frankenstein, but one that holds the key to saving the world. The story follows his journey in rediscovering who and what he had become and showing how the great arrogance of mankind could very well be the defining moment in our downfall.”
For Shishkin his muse was found in front of a classroom years ago.
It is often said good teachers inspire their students for life. That does seem the case for Shishkin and his first book.
“I was inspired by my Ninth Grade teacher who saw something in me I never did,” he said. “But, once I realized how much I enjoyed it, my writing began to improve leaps and bounds.”
That was the push to explore writing for Shishkin.
And from there the dreams took over.
“I am an insomniac; I have been since I was fourteen. Ideas pop into my head at all times and they keep churning in my skull like a gerbil on its wheel,” Shishkin wrote in the book’s forward. “A friend of mine referred to it as over thinking things, something I am occasionally guilty of, but for the most part this isn’t one of those things. Instead, it is the creative part of my mind taking control of an idea and warping it, expanding it, and looking at it in new ways. It is part of who I am, and in part it is an explanation of why I can’t sleep.
“But this isn’t about my inability to sleep as much as it is about what happens when I do sleep; because when I do sleep, my imagination runs into overdrive as it is free of my conscious efforts to keep it in line. In my slumber I dream many wonderful and frightening things; many of which haunt me to this day. It is here that I draw the inspiration to write and tell the stories that my mind puts on display at night. It is here that I hope to show you a part of me that no one can truly see.”
And therein lies the story of Aen.
Again from the forward, “I am a normal guy; quiet and easy-going. I live a normal life with my family in a quiet part of a busy world. But inside, behind the façade of normalcy, my imagination is chomping at the bit to be let loose and after a long journey I have finally let it. This book is opening up my world to all of those who read it. A more personal look at me than I sometimes wonder if I am ready for. I am a deeply guarded and private person, always worried that others won’t understand my unique outlook on things. It is a mindset that has me always looking upwards when the stars come out at night, the unmistakeable draw that makes you look up at the stars above and wonder what life can be out there. That somewhere out in the darkness, there is something, or someone, looking up at the sky and thinking the same thing.”
Shishkin said the story of his dreams became something he needed to share.
“This story was a re-occurring dream I’ve had over my life and I decided to put those thoughts down and see if it was worth sharing,” he said.
“After many years of ignoring my writing, I wanted to see if I could still do it.
“So the story that had haunted my dreams took shape on my computer screen as very few knew what I was up to.
“After about a year, a friend got a hold of it and instantly became enamored with the story and its characters; she pushed me hard to not only finish it but to get it published as well.
“After over three years and four rewrites it was finally ready for that scary next step.”
The years did pass in the creation of Rise of Aen. Shishkin said as a writer with another career time was always something he fought to find in terms of writing.
“Finding time to keep focused was hard; life doesn’t give a ton of free time to sit quiet and write,” he said.
“But also knowing when I wasn’t in the mood to write and the discipline not to write in these times for if I did I ended up redoing all that I had put down.”
And even after years, Shishkin said he wishes he had taken just a little more of the all to scare time.
“I wish I had read the final proof more carefully to catch the few typos I missed, but in the end nothing’s perfect and I am overjoyed with the results,” he said. “Friesen Press has been awesome to work with and they continue to support me even after the contract for the work is over.”
In terms of inspiration in putting pen-to-paper, Shishkin said many outstanding authors come to mind, they having shared their visions and worlds with him as a reader.
“I was always inspired by the sci-fi greats like (Isaac) Asimov and (H.G.) Wells, but am also just as inspired by Stephen King and Anne Rice as they showed me what passion, suspense and a proper unhappy ending can do to improve a story,” he said.
Shishkin said readers seem to be liking his tale.
“Response has been shocking and overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “Readers love the story and are impatiently waiting for the follow up book.
“In the world of sci-fi, it has picked up a bit of steam as sales and reviews are all strong.”
And readers will be pleased to find more is to come. Like many works of scifi, Shishkin envisions a series.
“Next is the second book, then the third and fourth in the series,” he said. “It is a rather large tale to weave and ideas for the characters seem limitless right now.
“As well, I do have a few more books with ideas jotted down separate from this series.”
And then there is the work of supporting ‘Rise of Aen’.
In the immediate future is the SaskBlitz sci-fi convention at the end of July where Shishkin will be a vendor, and a book signing is set for Cole’s in the Parkland Mall in Yorkton Aug. 23.