Helping Hand: From Short Story to Love, Death & Robots

 

How would you feel if a short story you wrote became an episode in a high-profile Netflix series? That’s what happened to Claudine Griggs – her “Helping Hand” is now part of Love, Death & Robots, a rollercoaster animation anthology by Tim Miller and David Fincher. Ms. Griggs’ gripping account of an astronaut in peril was brought to life by Axis Animation’s special effects wizardry and Jon Yeo’s directing. We asked her about the experience and about her approach to writing. We also asked if she had any tips for aspiring writers.

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How does it feel to see “Helping Hand” turned into an episode for a series that will have significant viewership around the world?

The process of working with Tim Miller for the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots has been exciting and flattering. I loved the print version of “Helping Hand”, which first appeared in Lightspeed Magazine and was later selected for Baen Books’ The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF 2015. That, too, was exciting and flattering.

I initially felt concerned about translation of the story into an animated episode, but after researching more about Tim and Blur Studio, I felt confident that he would produce good work, predictably very good. And when I first viewed the Vendor’s Cut that Tim forwarded to me, it was apparent that I had underestimated what could be done with 3D animation. In many ways, the film version seems better than my original story – primarily for its visceral story-telling effects and beautiful space imagery. I also hope that exposure of my work through worldwide viewership will enable me to reach a larger audience with my writing. One of my goals is to promote space exploration (specifically) and science (generally). Writers and other artists might use “entertainment” to anticipate and to stimulate scientific progress; and if the early space program is any example, this progress will deliver multiples of economic and societal benefits.

Given you have experience in other genres, what made you decide to explore science fiction writing?

Like many writers, I have not traveled a straight-line path regarding my work. I doubt I could even envision what such a path would look like. I was briefly a news writer and radio show host while in the US Air Force; then I studied English in college thinking I would go to law school and/or write the next great American novel; but ultimately I settled into teaching English and writing part-time. Mix those experiences with the fact that I am a male-to-female transsexual, and my professional life rarely felt secure or certain. I stumbled into things as often as I selected them.

I primarily wrote nonfiction to survive in academia, but I always planned to revisit, someday, my first-love genre of science fiction. Speculative work allows a range of tactics and storylines to engage readers and (hopefully) get them to wonder about a plausible future where reason and logic are necessities, where technological advances improve human lives around the globe and eventually in the solar system, and where heroes are dedicated folks who balance risks and rewards while building a Trekkian future. I know that societal evolution will branch off in ways that do not follow any specific science fiction script, but real life optimistic dreamers will create a wonderful future nonetheless. Economic and social justice are more closely aligned with scientific progress that political maneuvering, and science fiction offers – more often than not – a genre of hope.

There is no shortage of tips for aspiring young writers, but if you were to choose just one piece of advice, which do you think is most valuable? 

Submit, submit, submit! That said, writers must learn their craft well enough that editors will want to publish their stories, but too many aspiring authors (including college faculty) rework a piece into oblivion without risking an essential part of our profession: sending work into the world. Of course, one must read and think and practice to improve at any job; however, writing offers another level of complexity. Writers are generally dependent on others to share our enthusiasm for a story or article or book and to invest in a publication platform for it. And, remember: rejection is an inherent part of writing as a profession. For example, “Helping Hand” was twice rejected before finding a home at Lightspeed Magazine, and there is no real alternative but to write, submit, rewrite, and submit again, etc., etc., etc.

So please, dear friends and futurists, set an early goal to learn through your rejections. Then get busy with that part of the writer’s education. I am waiting, patiently, to read your eventual publications.