“Rust Belt to the Stars”

Industry of the past becomes a springboard to the future! And the past (technically)! And parallel universes!

“This is a coal-fired time machine?”


“A coal-fired time machine doesn’t seem especially practical.”

“Well, I had a great deal of coal and a need to travel back in time.”

“I see. And why did you need to travel back in time?”

“I accidentally dropped my plans for a coal-fired intergalactic spaceship into my coal furnace. I had to go back and save the plans.”

“Yikes. So, you heat your house with coal?”

“I do now. I had already purchased all the coal needed for the first intergalactic mission – the government did anyway. I thought that using a little of the coal to heat my house was logical.”

“This is a government project? A coal-fired intergalactic spaceship?” 

“Yep. The government wanted to rejuvenate the coal industry in Appalachia as promised. We call this whole concept the Rust Belt to the Stars. The United States has the greatest coal reserves in the world. And think of how much coal this time machine will allow us to reach!”

“I’m not sure that you understand how time travel works.”

“Of course I do! Math. And coal.”

“How much coal does a coal-fired spaceship require?”

“You drove out here in the dark, didn’t you?”



Author: joshuajscully

That’s my picture up there. I’m not totally sure why I look so angry. I may be thinking about how much I hated the Crypt Keeper as a child. I grew up faithfully watching reruns of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt. Unfortunately, I missed the boat in terms of writing for either of those programs. I do consider both to have been wildly influential when I think back to my earliest thoughts about becoming an author and I’m grateful my parents let me watch those shows as a kid (although there were probably some nights early in my childhood my mother wished she hadn’t let me watch those shows). If you’re familiar with either program, then you know what genres are my focus. I thoroughly enjoy science fiction, suspense, the twist ending, and some horror or supernatural elements as well. Honestly, when I was a kid the Crypt Keeper scared the hell out of me. As an adult, I’ve really learned to embrace the puns. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine as well, and the root of that is shared with my profession. I am an educator by trade, and I teach American History. I consider some of the best writing I’ve ever done to be within the realm of historical fiction and I really enjoy saturating my mind in the research end of those projects. I would make the argument that storytelling is in my blood. Even my sister mulled, very briefly (about 45 minutes), launching a career as a screenwriter! My last name is one of those Irish (and, apparently, formally Manx) ones with a wonderfully researched history -“the story-teller’s descendant”. On of the first day of school each year, I do share that “my name is Mr. Scully, and that rhymes with Kelly”, just so I do not hear the myriad of mispronunciations on the first day. Several years ago, I started a blog similar to this one to highlight my middle years as a teacher. If that aspect of my life is of any interest to you at all, you can still find that blog online. During my summers, I really have time to pursue my writing projects and this blog will highlight some of that work. My first attempts to sit down and write extensively occurred when I was 15, but only a few years ago did I make setting time aside to write a priority. I’ve also benefited wildly over the years from many willing readers among my family and friends. The direction and feedback from those individuals has been invaluable. Outside the world of the written word, I am an educator, basketball coach, lecturer, and (very, very occasionally) a landscaper. I have only ever known Western Pennsylvania as my home. Although I love a good novel, I am absolutely unable to resist the power of the short story. The latter is really what I hope to be remembered for one day.

2 thoughts on ““Rust Belt to the Stars””

    1. Thanks! And definitely some heavy loco logic – but I’ve always been fascinated with the tremendous amounts of fossil fuels (specially coal because of the wild amounts of labor and manpower involved) we’ve used to move big things in the past (locomotives, ships, etc.). And I thought how bizarre – you travel through time into a potential perilous situation only to need to start shoveling to move yourself back to your own time – and then there’s the huge amounts of coal you’d have to (presumably) take with you. When I wrote this I cut out a passage: the prospective time traveler / designer of this spaceship comments that the sheer number of “coal trimmers” needed to run such an intergalactic spacecraft would “put all of Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh back to work!, “that’s a lot of futuristically-fashionable blue collars”, etc). Imagine one of those generation-ship type ideas…coal-fired. Thousands of people invest the rest of their lives, their children’s lives, their grandchildren’s lives, etc., living on the ship and shoveling coal into huge furnaces while a fortunate few hibernate away to their new home in the stars. Fusion reactors, FTL, and wormholes be damned. The horrors of a lo-tech future.


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