Anthony Arnone | November 29, 2022
From Book to Future Blockbuster
“For Jen. If you hadn’t ended civilization, none of this would have happened.”
Those are the first words you will read in Edward Ashton’s science fiction novel Mickey7 in dedication to his wife Jennifer Ashton, Associate Professor of Education and Human Development at SUNY Brockport.
Prior to the Ashton’s marriage, Ed had written a handful of published science fiction short stories, but he stopped writing shortly after their first child was born. In 2013, Ed found himself with more spare time as his kids got older and he was spending it playing a video game – Sid Meier’s Civilization.
“I hate that game,” Jen laughed. “I hated that he would spend hours in silence playing it. I wanted him to be productive with his time. I think I said to him ‘You used to do things that were creative. You were a writer and you have these skills you haven’t used in years.’”
They made a deal that if Ed started writing again instead of playing video games, Jen wouldn’t be mad at him for spending hours in silence staring at his laptop.
Six months later, Ed had written the draft of his first novel, Three Days in April.
“The fact I got the same guy to represent me that represents R.A. Salvatore is ludicrous,” Ed said. “After Three Days in April was published I asked him how well it needed to sell for him to keep being my agent. He said “I’ll keep being your agent until your work starts to suck.’”
While Three Days in April sold well, its sequel The End of Ordinary, fell flat and Ed needed to reevaluate whether or not he should keep writing with the intent to be published. He was already halfway through what would become Mickey7 and he decided to see it through to the end and go from there.
Mickey7 became an instant hit and was nominated in the opening round of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2022 Science Fiction/Fantasy category. Before the novel was even published, it had made its way into the hands of Hollywood, including Brad Pitts’ Plan B Entertainment who bought the option in March 2020. After nearly two years of hearing nothing about a film, Ed and Jen were sitting at their table eating breakfast when Ed’s phone dinged. It was a message from his agent with a link. All it said was “you should read this.”
The link was to a press release stating Bong had picked up Mickey7 to be his next project.
“I was sitting across from him and his face went completely white and I immediately asked oh god, who died?”
Production started on the film in 2022 and Ed asked if it would be possible to visit the set. Months later, Warner Brothers flew the Ashtons to London in early September to tour their facility and watch the filming of a particular scene that was significant to Ed.
“We walked inside and it was dark then suddenly you see in various spaces, dozens maybe hundreds of people working on set. The enormity of it hit me in that moment,” Jen said. “Their livelihoods are centered on the craft of bringing Mickey7 to life. We didn’t really talk to each other; we just took it all in.”
Bong personally showed Ed pieces of the set from his book that were being brought to life including working vehicles and 3D models of spaceships created for the film.
“Bong was really, really sweet. While showing Ed around the set he slipped a test tube into Ed’s pocket and said ‘Take a piece of the set with you, nobody will notice.’ He respected how amazing the experience was for us,” Jen said.
Ed and Jen returned to Rochester after a week in London and spent time “taking it all in” before asking each other what they felt about the surreal experience. After the dust settled, Jen returned to teaching and had to explain to her students why she missed the entire second week of classes.
She decided it was best to clear the air.
“I showed up to class and let my students know where I was and why and that I have no regrets,” Jen laughed. “I told them ‘Go ahead and Google it. It’s a real thing.’ I didn’t know how to best talk about it because it’s all still beyond even what I can understand a lot of the time.”