Albany-based science fiction writer Terry Lewis has lived a fascinating life.
The author of sci-fi book series, The Javelin Trilogy, has settled in Albany with his wife Denise after spending seven years travelling the US in a motor home.
The 77-year old has lived an adventurous life — which could form the plot of its own novel — including working on remote lighthouses, losing his home in an earthquake and UFO encounters.
Lewis was born in Sydney in 1945 and grew up as one of six brothers with “dirt poor” parents, his father working as a labourer and living with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his service during World War II.
“I found out a couple of years ago, I got a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs that he was in fact in Changi prisoner of war camp, which he never ever spoke about,” Lewis said.
At the age of 10 Lewis got his first job bagging potatoes at a roadside fruit and veg stall on Saturday mornings.
“For a day’s work I got 50 cents, back then it was five shillings,” Lewis recalled.
During his childhood he had ambitions of being a doctor, but was appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service when he finished school.
He ended up in the lighthouse service as a clerk, travelling up and down the coast of NSW to perform stock takes and replenishment of supplies on the remote outposts.
“Some of them are pretty hairy like Montague Island, for example, had a flying fox and you sat in this box and they had a big motor on the top and they motored you all the way to the top, straight to the side of this cliff,” he said.
“And that’s just a big hunk of granite in the Pacific Ocean.
“So you go out by boat, you’d get to this little jetty, and the flying fox would come down, you’d jump down with your little suitcase because you’re going to be there for a few days and away you go up to the top.”
Lewis then worked in Papua New Guinea as a customs and immigration officer in Port Moresby — a job he loved.
He returned to Australia in 1983 and settled in Alice Springs where he spent time working as a journalist for a local newspaper and radio station.
It was there that he had an extra-terrestrial experience, witnessing what he believes was a UFO.
“One night we were coming from this party in Alice Springs and a mate of mine said ‘wow what the hell is that?’,” Lewis said.
“It was one o’clock in the morning and this large, very, very large flying object very slowly came across the MacDonnell Ranges from where the space base is on that side, came across into the town side.
“It was fairly low, low enough that you could see all the pinpoints of light in this particular structure.
“No noise at all, it just sailed across slowly then it disappeared over the next lot of ranges over to the north of Alice Springs.
“So that got me really excited.”
This and several other unusual experiences, as well as a longtime passion for writing, inspired Lewis to formulate his first science fiction novel in 2002.
But it wasn’t until many years later that Lewis picked up writing the book again.
After moving to Boulder, and the death of his first wife in 2007, Lewis met his second wife Denise.
The couple lost their house in the 2010 Kalgoorlie-Boulder earthquake and decided to started fresh in Albany, before they set off again in 2014 when they explored the US in an RV.
Denise worked as a travel nurse and she encouraged the retired Lewis to finish off the novel he had begun all those years ago.
After he managed to extract eight pages of his original novel off a floppy disk, he said the “whole story just flooded back” — but this time with the addition of Albany as part of the setting.
“I started typing away and next thing everything just flowed, I wrote three books.”
After 13 weeks of writing, he completed his series The Javelin, a sci-fi odyssey following two United States Army Air Corp pilots who end up in Albany, which begins during the Second World War and continues into the present day.
The books were published in 2020 and 2021, under the pseudonym Cutcliffe King, a combination of the surnames of his grandfathers.
The publishing of the trilogy is only the begging for the author who has since written a collection of 10 short stories and is two thirds through writing another novel.
“I love science fiction because you can put a few facts in there, and then you can tell a good story around those facts,” Lewis said.