Astrophysics Student Writes Sci-Fi Book With Pertinent Message

March 27, 2023

By Yujeong Kim

Astrophysics master’s student Ness Brown wrote “The Scourge Between Stars,” a sci-fi horror that provides readers with a new perspective of Earth.

Ness Brown and her new book, The Scourge Between Stars
Ness Brown and the cover of their book, "The Scourge Between Stars”

When Astrophysics master’s student Ness Brown was young, their parents introduced them to science fiction and horror stories. The experience influenced them to pursue a master’s in Astrophysics and became a driving force behind Brown writing their debut novella, The Scourge Between Stars.

Brown, who uses they/them pronouns, was inspired to write the book six years ago when they taught astrobiology at LaGuardia Community College. Their class, Life in the Universe, was about the origin and evolution of life, including potentially habitable worlds and interstellar travel.

“I used a lot of the material that I presented to my students to shape my novella,” Brown said.

Brown hopes the book — about the captain of a starship who needs to hunt down an unknown intruder in order to return to the solar system and survive — will lead readers to have a different perspective of life on Earth how to treat our planet.

Learn More About the M.S. Program in Astrophysics

“One thing that I asked my students to consider was the preciousness and rarity of our existence here on Earth,” Brown said. “With our current state of knowledge and technology, it would be virtually impossible to find a second home in the universe if we destroy this one. The difficulties faced by the failed colony and crew in The Scourge Between Stars are like a miniature cautionary tale about how we treat our home world.”

Although Brown had years of experience to draw from, the opportunity to write a book came about very quickly. They discovered a call for submissions from publisher Tor Nightfire about a month before the deadline, quickly wrote a manuscript, and was selected to get an agent.

To others who want to write, Brown says the best way to become a writer is simple: “Read as much as possible”

“I truly believe that is one of the main ways that a writer hones their craft,” they said, adding as an aside that their biggest complaint about grad school is having little time to read.

Ness is finishing up their first year of the Astrophysics Program, which they called “absolutely fantastic.” They are working on a project on the effect of magnetic draping on in-falling galaxies in clusters.

They explained, “My experience as a teacher has made me a better student, and I continue to receive creative inspiration from my coursework and research.”

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