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Alcoa employee pens sci-fi novel

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MASSENA - Question: What do you get when you put a computer keyboard in front of an Alcoa fuel control operator with a strong interest in science and a little too much time on his hands?

Answer: “The Second Intelligent Species: The Cyclical Earth,” a novel set in a dystopian near future written by Dale Langlois of Bangor.

Mr. Langlois, after hundreds, if not thousands, of hours working and reworking the novel, self-published it a few months ago and has sold more than 100 copies of both the paperback and e-book. In addition, he has given away more than 2,000 e-book versions of the novel for promotional purposes.

The novel follows the ups and down (mostly downs) of a motley band of survivors of an apocalyptic global disaster who live in a dusty, dark world where every meal could be their last. The group encounters bandits and criminals and has to use the combined strengths of each of its members to survive – if survival in such a world is even possible.

Mr. Langlois, a 1979 Chateaugay High School graduate and 17-year employee at Alcoa in Massena, was forced to take some time off work a few years ago following back surgery. With so much down time ahead of him, he determined to parlay his lifelong interest in science into a work of fiction.

“I’ve always loved science,” said Mr. Langlois, who is known for “spreading [his] seeds of science” among his Alcoa West coworkers, who doubled as his “beta readers” during the writing of the novel.

But taking a story from the idea stage to a completed, published work was no easy task – especially for Mr. Langlois, who did not even know how to type when he began the process.

“I was a ‘one-finger only’ typist, so I got a book at the library,” he said, “and learned how to type in two days.”

For the basic structure of “The Second Intelligent Species,” Mr. Langlois learned as much as he could about the extinction of the dinosaurs (and the rise of Homo sapiens at the first intelligent species) and overlaid that scenario on the near future. His main characters, Nick and Beth, reflect different aspects of his own personality and philosophy. Beth, he said, is also a stylized version of his actual wife.

“The more I got into it,” he said, “the more I saw I had a book. I couldn’t put it down. I was obsessed with it.”

The project did not come without expenses, though. Langlois pays for each book printed and he hired an artist and editor during the process.

Mr. Langlois, in addition to his 10 or so coworkers at Alcoa West who read the book, chapter by chapter as each was completed, and gave Mr. Langlois much-appreciated feedback. He said the novel went through 10 revisions. Mr. Langlois also joined several area writing groups, most notably the Adirondack Center for Writing at Paul Smith’s College.

“Writing a first draft is easy,” he said. “Making it good is hard.”

Mr. Langlois said he is not finished writing yet; he has a second novel in the works, tentatively titled “The Harvest of Jupiter II.” And while he is somewhat tight-lipped regarding a possible sequel to “The Second Intelligent Species,” he has not ruled out the possibility.

Now that the novel is available to the public, Mr. Langlois has been dedicating his efforts to marketing. He has three book-signings scheduled for July: the Massena Public Library from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 9, Malone’s Wead Library from noon to 3 p.m. on July 20, and Dolly’s Books and Internet Cafe in Massena from 4 to 6 p.m., also on July 20.

And to mark the successful completion and publication of his first novel, Mr. Langlois has emblazoned the book’s title on the inside of his right forearm in the form of a tattoo by Andrew Martin of 518 Tattoos in Brushton.

Now that’s an example of a man dedicated to his craft.

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