Star Hatchling, by Margaret Bechard

Star Hatchling

Before the star fell near his village and the hatchling emerged, Shem had never known real fear. There were vicious Outsiders beyond their territory, but his family’s strong females had always kept the males safe. But this hatchling, this creature, would scare even an Outsider. And after it molts, its new body is even more hideous.

Shem doesn’t know that the creature is as scared as he is. For the creature is a human, a girl separated from her family on an alien world. Luckily she has been trained in first contact protocol. Unfortunately, Shem hasn’t …

Star Hatchling Paperback, by Margaret Bechard

Reviews

“Bechard constructs a believable, complex setting for her characters … with problems that are not neatly solved at the end. Put this next to Annette Klause’s Alien Secrets as a satisfying reminder that juvenile science fiction needn’t be simplistic.” —School Library Journal, starred review

  • Selected as a Children’s Book of the Year by the Bank Street Child Study Children’s Book Committee and marked for Outstanding Merit
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • A nominee for the Maine Student Book Award, 1997
  • Winner of the Golden Duck award, given by the DucKon Science Fiction Convention for best middle grade science fiction, 1996

Author’s Notes

This was, actually, the first novel I ever wrote.

The idea came from the movie E.T. I love the movie. Don’t get me wrong. But when I saw it, I thought, “You know, if that were the other way around—if a human landed on an alien planet—things would be very different.” After all, we don’t have glowing fingers that heal wounds. And I could be wrong, but I think your average human would have a lot of trouble building a radio capable of sending a signal into the depths of space. Especially if all he had to work with was what he found lying around your typical alien home.

I started sending the manuscript out to editors—this was back in the days when just about every publisher took unsolicited manuscripts—in 1981 or 82. And I got back nothing but rejections. Eventually, totally discouraged, I decided there was no hope for this story. And I stuck it away in my drawer. I told myself that some day I would take it out again. Someday I’d work on it again. But deep down? Deep down I knew that was a lie. The story was dead and buried.

In 1993—having sold my first two books—I attended a Master class offered by Jane Yolen in Port Townsend, Washington. I signed up on impulse and without paying too much attention to the introductory material. It was only after I arrived on campus that I realized I needed something to bring to the workshop/critique group. I was between stories and had nothing I was actively working on. But I also knew that no one knows more about writing fantasy and science fiction for kids than Jane Yolen. So one night, in my dorm room, I rewrote from memory the first chapter of this story. And I presented it the next day in the workshop. The group discussed it—Jane was, bless her, encouraging—and then, almost as an afterthought it seemed to me, she said, “You know, in science fiction, it’s okay to alternate point of view.”

Alternate point of view? I had never even thought of it. (Seriously, this was a long time ago. No one was alternating point of view in middle grade novels back then. Or, at least, not anyone I knew.) But now that Jane suggested it … yes, yes … I could see how that could work. I wasn’t even sure I could pull it off. But as I started writing, for the first time I really thought about the human character. She didn’t even have a name in my earlier draft. I really started to think about the story from her point of view. She started to become a real person. And the story became a real story.

You know, as hard as writing is, sometimes the universe helps you out. Sometimes the Muses give you a gift. But you have to be listening. And you have to be willing to try.