Inspiration for the Janey McCallister Mystery series

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Inspiration for the Janey McCallister Mystery series – How To Write the Future podcast, episode 67

“So space elevators really sparked my imagination and are one of the underpinnings or infrastructure of my world.”

In “Episode 67. Inspiration for the Janey McCallister Mystery series” host Beth Barany, creativity coach, teacher, and science fiction and fantasy novelist, shares how she was inspired to start her sci-fi mystery series and gives insight into how to write your setting for science fiction. 

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The How To Write The Future podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers.

Tips for fiction writers! This podcast is for you if you have questions like:

  • How do I create a believable world for my science fiction story?
  • How do I figure out what’s not working if my story feels flat?
  • How do I make my story more interesting and alive?

This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

Transcript for Ep 67 – Inspiration for the Janey McCallister Mystery series 

Hey everyone. Beth Barany here. Welcome back. Or welcome to How To Write The Future podcast. I am here to support writers, science fiction and fantasy writers, who want to write positive, optimistic futures. Because I believe that when we vision what is possible, we help make it so. I myself am a novelist, a science fiction and fantasy novelist, writing teacher, and a coach, and a burgeoning filmmaker. Yes, that is true too. More on that in some other episode.

So when I was casting about for a new project, about seven years ago. Is that right? Yeah, seven years ago.

I was toying about going back to my contemporary set paranormal romances, with action, adventure, and suspense. Or start something completely new.

And I had an idea that came directly from a dream where a woman was dressed, uh, like it for a cocktail party, and she was at an art gallery and this art gallery was on a space station and she was undercover looking for a thief.

And I woke up from this dream and I thought, wow, that would be a fun story. And actually, in my dream, there’s a confrontation between her and a guest at the art gallery showing who is dressed like James Bond. And, um, she’s all dressed up and they’re kind of flirting but she’s catching the clues that he’s probably the thief. And I thought, oh, this is really fun.

So I had that kernel of an idea and I’m like, okay, I want my main character to be investigating something. And to be on a space station. And that’s what was the spark for my Janey McCallister mystery series.

She’s a space station investigator.

And as I was starting this whole series, about seven years ago, I realized, oh, I am really writing a police procedural. She’s a legitimate investigator. She works for somebody. I had to figure out what, and I eventually decided who she worked for. And in the four stories I’ve written, she’s hired on as an investigator to this hotel casino space station that is like a, a little city. And that’s her job.

So she’s a legit investigator. And I realized when I was planning the story that I really needed to understand how mysteries were structured. And how do I make sure we know we’re in a science fiction world without, you know, doing long explainer scenes?

So I studied how to integrate setting and all the gadgetry we like in high-tech science fiction, but also some changes in worldview. Some shifts in how humanity is in the story.

I’ve said it only a hundred years in the future, so it’s not that far in the future. And I need to think about what are the things that are different from today’s world and what are the things that are the same. And then how do I signal to the reader right away, right away, that we are in a science fiction world?

When you write a contemporary fiction, you don’t need to explain a lot of things because most readers will understand what those are. Setting doesn’t need to be explained in as much detail right away as in science fiction, for example.

That’s one of the best clues to indicate that you’re in a new setting.

One of my favorite TV shows…

One of my favorite TV shows was… 

I’m spacing on the name- bounty hunters and space – Kill Joys.

They weren’t investigators, they were bounty hunters and they had to go and find their bounty. So similar idea to mysteries. Your characters are on the hunt. And I loved what they were doing with the societies and the tensions in the societies there. 

And then the greater sort of science fiction world. So that was one of my inspirations I would say indirectly.

And I just enjoy thinking about how things could be in the future.

And, it’s not all utopian. It’s not all horrible. It’s not dystopian. Somewhere in the middle. And it’s incrementally better in many ways than today’s world. And, and yet still problems exist.

Those are some of the things that inspired me to create Janey McCallister and, and the futuristic world that I created.

Space Elevators! 

Another thing that has really inspired me, especially once I got the idea for my space station investigator story was the space elevator.

And so I want to share a little bit with you about the space elevator, what a space elevator is or what it is conceived to be, and a really interesting academic challenge for 2024.

So basically a space elevator is – imagine you could take an elevator from the surface of the earth up to the weightlessness of space, say where the International Space Station is.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Except it is really hard to build.

And one of the things I learned in my research is that you need a very durable, lightweight material to build it.

And so in my story, I’ve decided that it is graphene because that’s one of the metals that we think could help us build a space elevator.

But there’s thought of technical challenges in building a space elevator. So through my research, I found the International Space Elevator Consortium. And they are running an academic challenge in 2024, in conjunction with the National Space Society.

They’re conducting a student academic challenge on the concept of space elevators, and first prize is 2000 US dollars. And there will also be awarding a total of 7,000 US dollars. So this contest is open to individual students or teams of up to four students and anywhere worldwide.

So a little bit more about what is a space elevator. So imagine a lift system that can raise 170,000 metric tons to space every year. That’s the equivalent of 8,500 or 8,500 Falcon Heavy launches. And it has no atmospheric pollution. It’s essentially a green road to space. It’s incredible. We could save a lot on materials and, uh, we wouldn’t pollute and it could be a very safe environmentally friendly, easy routine way to get up to the edge of space.

And then once we’re in the weightlessness of space, what could we do?

We could launch from there, we could build up there, we could bring robots up to create factories.

So space elevators really sparked my imagination and our, one of the underpinnings or infrastructure of my world.

Now if you read the first four books in the Janey McCallister mystery series you will see I mention a space elevator. It’s in the background it’s part of the story but I researched it through the space elevator consortium. And then just let my imagination go wild.

Space Stations! 

There’s one other element I want to share about what inspires me to write my current sci-fi mystery series and that is space stations.

My series is focused for the most part on space stations. And this really intrigues me. I think I was inspired by Star Trek and also by Elizabeth Moon’s science fiction series. She has two different series that exist I think in two similar far, future worlds where some of the time characters are on space stations.

And I was also inspired by a dream I had, like, I’ve already mentioned.

And I wrote a book that is still in pieces in the back drawer somewhere but might get revived one day that I call April’s Folly. And in that story, I have my present-day main character go to the future with, um, the love interest and they go to the space station and they have an adventure.

And I just thought space stations were such a great place to look down upon Earth and have some perspective and have some distance and be able to meditate and be able to just gain a new perspective.

So those are some of the things that I’m attracted to with the idea of a space station.

And so I built a whole world in my futuristic story where there’s more than a dozen space stations around Planet Earth. there’s a few around the moon. In my story, there’s science stations out by the outer gas giants like Saturn.

They just take my imagination and so, I like dreaming up different kinds of space stations, the ones that might be like a family hotel or one that might be a military training base. Or one that might be actually like a meditation temple. Or another one that is a transit station, like a big airport, and a lot more. So I’m playing with some of these ideas. In my next book and book five, which will be published I don’t know when exactly. You’ll find out when I know.

All right, everyone. That’s it for this week.

If you would like to find out more about my science fiction and fantasy, especially about my space station investigator series,

Go to and there you will find all about my fiction. It could also go to any of the online vendors and search my name, Beth Barany that’s B A R A N Y.

And check out my fiction for some rip-roaring adventures.

Yes, rip-roaring adventures.

Write long and prosper!

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Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”


Learn more about Beth Barany at these sites: 


Author siteCoaching site / School of Fiction / Writer’s Fun Zone blog



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