FF: Espionage, Tall Ships, Ninjas!

December 2, 2016

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine).

Ziggy Reads

Ziggy Reads

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  Full story, but ends with a set-up for a sequel.

The Golden Ball and Other Stories by Agatha Christie. Audiobook.   Agatha Christie had more range than people realized.  These tales are very much in the vein of P.G. Wodehouse.  Collection also included some of the short stories from her fantasy/horror collection The Hound of Death.

N or M by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Tommy and Tuppence have been told they’re too middle aged to be of use in this “new” war, but then a peculiar problem arises and they may be just the people to deal with it.

In Progress:

Wildwood by Colin Meloy.  Younger YA or middle grade adventure.

The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O’Brien.  Audiobook.  I’ve read the whole series, but it’s been a long time.  I don’t remember much about this one specifically, but I do recall it was a particular favorite.

Also:

Continuing Naruto re-read with issue 33 and following.  Also, as Christmas draws closer, looking through a lot of crafts books.

TT: Technological Immortality

December 1, 2016

JANE: So, Alan, last time you pointed out that one of the difficulties with the SF variant of the Gilgamesh Gambit is that in many cases the science is so futuristic that it might as well be magic.

I agree.  A good example of that is the evolution toward a bodiless state that humans apparently achieve in Clifford Simak’s City.  If I recall correctly, Simak never explains exactly how this happens.  He’s more interested in exploring what would happen on Earth after most of the humans have left.

Reviewing Options for Immortality

Reviewing Options for Immortality

ALAN: I’d never thought of that as an aspect of immortality, but now that you’ve pointed it out, I think you are quite right.

JANE: Although the technology isn’t always spelled out, I think Larry Niven did an excellent job in exploring some of the consequences of technologically extended longevity in his “Known Space” stories.  The stories collected in  The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton, for example, look at what might happen if organ transplant technology permitted people to live as long as there was a supply of new parts.

Lucas Garner, who provides a touchstone in several of Niven’s “Known Space” stories, is so old that – despite various technological advances that keep him alive, he needs a “float chair” to get around because he’s reached a point where the cells in his spinal cord can’t regenerate anymore.  Yet Garner remains full of curiosity – far from the dulled ennui that is so often the default position of technological immortals.

ALAN: Sometimes when the technology is spelled out in detail it can have quite a feeling of plausibility. James Blish’s Cities in Flight novels (1956 – 1962) have protagonists who are essentially immortal. The cities that they live in travel around the universe looking for work. Vast expanses of time are consumed in doing this. But because all the viewpoint characters are immortal, the continuity of the narrative is preserved (along with their lives, of course!) Blish lays the groundwork for this very convincingly.

JANE: You recommended these books a while back and I read them and found them surprisingly fresh.  For those of our readers who haven’t had the pleasure, can you explain more?

ALAN: Certainly. The background to the story arc is described in the first novel in the series (They Shall Have Stars) which is made up of two separately published novellas together with some linking material. The original novellas were “Bridge” and “At Death’s End”.

“Bridge” tells of the building of a bridge made of Ice IV on the surface of Jupiter. The measurements taken by the project lead to a mechanism that can manipulate gravity (nicknamed the “spindizzy”), which is eventually used to power the flying cities. “At Death’s End” concerns some pharmaceutical research which culminates in the discovery of “anti-agathic” drugs that prevent aging. The novel goes into great detail about both projects – I seem to recall that the narrative even includes some mathematical equations!

JANE: Another neat thing about these books is that by combining the concepts of spindizzy technology and anti-agathic drugs, Blish was able to write some first class sense of wonder SF, rather than becoming bogged down with problems like overpopulation, unemployment, lack of resources, and all the rest that can really cripple stories where the community, rather than a few individuals, are effectively immortal.

ALAN: Modern scientific opinion suggests that structures in the cells known as telomeres might be involved in the aging process. Perhaps drugs that modify the telomere structure could greatly extend a person’s lifespan? Charles Sheffield used this idea in two novels: Aftermath (1998) and Starfire (1999).

On the surface, the novels are actually disaster stories – Alpha Centauri has exploded in a nova, and the resulting electromagnetic pulse destroys all advanced electronics on Earth. The books tell of the efforts involved in recovering from that crisis. However a major plot thread involves several protagonists who have been undergoing advanced medical treatment for cancer. The treatment requires varying doses of special drugs based on careful monitoring of their telomeres. Not only are their cancers now in remission, their bodies also seem to be rejuvenating themselves as well! Maybe immortality is just around the corner.

When the disaster strikes, the equipment they have been using for monitoring their telomeres stops working. They urgently need to find an alternative…

JANE: What I find interesting about this is the double whammy.  These people don’t only get a remission from cancer, they get immortality.  Is this an immortality they plan to share or are they only in it for themselves?

ALAN: The treatment is so new and experimental that the question hasn’t been examined yet. Selfishly, though perfectly understandably, the few people who have received the treatment are more concerned with their own survival than they are with anything else.

JANE: Hmm…  I prefer my SF with more focus on implications.

Another form of technological immortality is immortality by cyborg.  Interestingly, the two examples that spring to mind for me combined this with putting the human/computer hybrid into a spaceship.  Clifford Simak did this in Shakespeare’s Planet where the ship is handled by not one but three human brains.

Anne McCaffery built a series around the concept with her The Ship Who Sang. The sequels, co-written with a variety of collaborators, expanded the concept beyond spaceships.

ALAN: She considered this to be her best work, the book she was most proud of. I heard her read from it on a couple of occasions. She always chose to read the scene set at the funeral service for the ship’s mortal, human companion. She read it beautifully, though invariably it moved her to tears. And I must confess that I had a little lump in my throat as well as I listened to her. The story packs a very emotional punch.

Closely related to the idea of a cyborg, is the concept of “immortality by upload.”  I first came across it in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1956 novel The City and the Stars where the minds of the inhabitants of the far future city of Diaspar are stored as patterns of information in the city’s Central Computer from where they can be transferred into cloned bodies.

JANE: And it’s been done repeatedly since.  I’m sure our readers could supply more current titles.

Whether the immortality is achieved by brain transplant, partial body replacement, or upload the question arises as to how much of the physical body can be removed while still leaving the subject human.  In this way, SF adds to the age-old debate as to whether the mind, the “spirit,” or the body is at the core of what makes us what we are.

One of the things that’s interesting about stories that feature immortal characters is that ones like those in the  “Cities in Flight” sequence that tackle the idea of entire communities of immortals are comparatively rare.  More common are those wherein there is a smaller community of immortals living  side-by-side with those who age more “normally.”  Often the immortals choose to keep their long lives a secret.

ALAN: Quite right.  And these kinds of stories define my third category: those stories in which the immortals use the experience garnered through their longer lives to deal with the challenges that come up in the course of the novel.

JANE: Let’s extend the lifespan of this topic and deal with this point next time!

Tortoise and Hare

November 30, 2016

November ends today and with it NaNoWriMo.  Perhaps coincidentally, the end of November also saw the launch of SnackWrites, an extension of Josh Gentry’s popular SnackReads website.

SnackReads (for those of you who weren’t around when it published my short story “Hamlet Revisited,” as well as “Servant of Death,” a story I wrote in collaboration with Fred Saberhagen) is Josh’s answer to the problem so many people face of not having enough time to read.  The stories featured at SnackReads  are original fiction, meant to be downloaded and read on the quick.

And The Winner Is...

And The Winner Is…

Yes.  Before you ask, you can still get “Hamlet Revisited” and “Servant of Death” there, as well as stories by authors such as Suzy McKee Charnas and Daniel Abraham.

Back in August, Josh confided to me that while he very much enjoyed publishing SnackReads, he felt a yearning to expand his focus.  Just as SnackReads is intended to provide a place to go when you want to read but don’t feel you have time, SnackWrites is intended to encourage people who don’t feel they have time to write to at least noodle around.

Josh’s own plan is to provide one prompt a month, one article about writing a month, and one interview a month.

Talking with Josh about SnackWrites made me think.  We live in a culture that celebrates “fast” as if fast is the same as “good.”  That’s the philosophy behind NaNoWriMo.  Thirty days, 50,000 words, software to help you track your progress and feel good about how well you’re doing.  NaNoWriMo turns the process of writing a novel into a race.  It tells you you’re a winner.  All good, right?

Well, maybe.  If you’re a sprinter by nature, I think this approach could be excellent.  If you’re the sort of person who always did assignments at the last minute, again, NaNoWriMo may be for you.  Over the years, there’s been more discussion about how finishing those 50,000 words is only the beginning of the process – that the finished work will need polishing, revision, and fleshing out.

Proponents say “Of course, everyone knows that,” but the editors who receive “finished” works in the first weeks of December say that many people aren’t getting the message.  When the rejection letters come, the winners start feeling like losers.

SnackWrites has a different philosophy.  As with SnackReads, the emphasis is on small bites, rather than big projects.  Josh wants to encourage writers to write just a little – even if that writing isn’t part of a bigger project.  To that end, he’s solicited input from professional writers.  This month, award-winning writer Daniel Abraham (who with Ty Franck is one half of James S.A. Corey of “The Expanse” novel and television series fame) provides a provocative writing exercise – one you can do even if you don’t have writing implements at hand.

I’ve given Josh permission to reprint one of my blog posts “Battling Against Distraction” (also featured in a slightly revised version in my book Wanderings on Writing).    I’ll probably continue to contribute and maybe occasionally answer questions on the site because I like Josh’s philosophy – and I like the idea of helping people find their way to their stories.

Think of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.  NaNoWriMo’s philosophy is definitely that of the Hare.  Go fast.  Don’t worry if you get worn out.  You can always do the polishing, the refining of your craft later.

SnackWrite’s philosophy is closer to that of the Tortoise.  Write a little.  Play around with an interesting exercise.  See what that might spark.  Browse an essay or two by a professional writers discussing how they manage to write, to finish, to get the most out of their words.

It’s slower, surely, but just remember who won the race.  Hint.  It wasn’t the Hare.

FF: When the Sun Goes Down

November 25, 2016

We’ve continued reading in the evening.  It’s very relaxing and stimulating at the same time.

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

Kel and Ruby Read

Kel and Ruby Read

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Golden Specific by S.E. Grove.  Audiobook.  Sequel to The Glass Sentence.  Like Tolkien’s Two Towers, two separate plotlines.  Book suffers a bit from “middle book of the trilogy” syndrome.  Will probably read the next book, but am not panting for it.

In Progress:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  This has been getting a lot of buzz, so I decided to try it.  About half-way.  Narrative is about half how the members of the “crows” ended up where they are and half caper.

The Golden Ball and Other Stories by Agatha Christie. Audiobook.   Agatha Christie had more range than people realized.  These tales are very much in the vein of P.G. Wodehouse.

Also:

Having finished the anime dealing with the first part of Naruto, Jim and I are now reading (or in my case, re-reading) the manga for the second story arc.  This week, volumes 27-33.

TT: From Here To Eternity

November 24, 2016

JANE: Happy Thanksgiving!  While you wait for your turkey to cook – or maybe while you digest – Alan and I will attempt to amuse you.

Last week we started talking about the use of the immortality trope.  Unlike outer space exploration and time travel, immortality is one that occurs with equal frequency in Fantasy and SF.

Thanksgiving -- Immortal Monster Style

Thanksgiving — Immortal Monster Style

If you don’t mind, I’d like to at least try to examine immortality as a trope in SF/F from the angle of the three sub-groups you mentioned last time.  Let’s see if I can recall them from memory.

There are the stories in which the immortal serves as an observer of history.  Then there are the stories about the search for immortality – what you called “The Gilgamesh Gambit.”  Finally, there are the stories about immortals whose long life experience gives them an edge when faced with current problems.

ALAN: Right!  You get full marks. You can be the inkwell monitor for the class tomorrow.  However, I would like to make one thing clear.  These categories are not in any way mutually exclusive.  Stories can – and often do – use more than one of the ideas.

JANE: I can think of a memorable novel that uses all three creatively, but I’ll save that until we’ve explored these more or less in isolation.

To me, logically, the first one to look at is the Observer of History type of story, since the immortal is most passive in these.

The Vierck and Eldridge novels we mentioned last week fit into this section.  Do you have any other favorites?

ALAN: Yes, I do. In 1978, Nicholas Monsarrat published Running Proud, the first volume of the Master Mariner series.  It told the story of an Elizabethan English seaman who, as punishment for a terrible act of cowardice, is cursed by a witch to sail the world’s seas until the end of time. The series was designed to tell the maritime history of England with the immortal hero participating in critical historic episodes.

It was one of Monsarrat’s most popular books, but ironically he did not live to finish the project. He died with only one episode of the second volume (Darken Ship) completed, though he did leave some notes about how he saw the story progressing. These days, the completed episode and the notes are usually bound in with the first volume and published as a single volume under the title The Master Mariner. I highly recommend it.

JANE: Tall ships and ancient curses…  Sounds like a good combination.  I’m surprised no one else has picked up the idea and continued with it.  Then again, this book in particular highlights what is oddest about the Observer of History sub-trope.

While, essentially, it belongs to SF/F – after all, as far as we know, there are no immortals among us – this type of novel is a subgroup that would appeal more to mainstream fiction than to SF/F because of the essential passivity of the immortal.  I see these kind of stories as historical fiction in SF/F drag.

ALAN: I suppose that’s true, to an extent. But “proper” SF has certainly used the idea as well. Poul Anderson’s The Boat of a Million Years (1989) was nominated for a Nebula, a Hugo and a Prometheus award, so it must have had something going for it! The story follows a group of ten immortals from the ancient past to the far distant future.

JANE: Good example.  Another SF more or less immortal who serves in that “observer of events” role – although many of these events haven’t happened because they belong to a fictional future history – is Heinlein’s Lazarus Long.  He also belongs to your third category, but I find I think of him more as a tour guide to Heinlein’s future than as an actor in that history.

ALAN: Yes – I tend to think of him that way as well.

An interesting offshoot of the basic idea of the Observer of History is the legend of the Flying Dutchman – a sailing ship crewed by immortals which is doomed to sail the seven seas forever, never making landfall.

JANE: It’s hard to see how history could be observed if the ship never sees anything but the sea…

ALAN: True – and that’s probably why the trope isn’t used very often. But Tom Holt had a lot of fun with it in his comic fantasy novel Flying Dutch. It seems that the ship’s crew have drunk the elixir of life and are therefore immortal. Unfortunately, a side effect of the elixir has given them all the most appalling body odour and they cannot ever go ashore because their ferocious stink repulses everyone they meet. Hence their never ending voyage… (Once every seven years their stench drops to bearable levels. That’s when they make landfall and re-provision the ship).

JANE: Oh, lordy!  I haven’t read that one in ages.  Now you make me want to add it to my already crowded To Be Read shelf.

So, let’s move on to the Gilgamesh Gambit.  Despite the classic mythic elements, it seems to me that immortality, of body or at least of mind, would be a something SF would find very compelling.

ALAN: Indeed so. Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls (1972) is the very best Gilgamesh Gambit story I’ve ever read. I think a lot of people must agree with me because it was nominated for a Nebula, a Hugo and a Locus Award!

Four college students discover a manuscript that tells of an order of monks who live in a monastery in the Arizona desert. The monks have the power to bestow immortality on those who complete a rather bizarre initiation rite. Naturally, the students set out to investigate the claims…

JANE: Monks, though…  That sounds as if the solution is going to be magical, rather than scientific.

ALAN: You could say that and I wouldn’t disagree too strongly with you. But this is Silverberg we’re talking about. The concepts are slippery…

One of the difficulties with “Gilgamesh Gambit” stories, especially of the Science Fictional sort, is that immortality always seems to be around the corner, but the science never seems to quite work out – that is unless the techniques relied on are so extreme that they might as well be magic.

JANE: And that’s another can of worms. Let’s watch them wriggle next time…

Reimagining

November 23, 2016

This weekend, I went to an art show called “Fantasía Fantástica: Imaginative Spaces and Other-Worldly Collage” at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.  This features the works of four artists, all of whom create using a variety of found or repurposed materials.  Although all four artists are considered Latina/o, they work outside of the (to quote the brochure) “narrow definitions of what is considered Latina/o art.”

As Peter said last week: “Art is an ongoing conversation the future is having with the past,” and this show seemed built around that idea.

A Different Look

A Different Look

One of the reasons I wanted to see this show was because it involved collage and the use of unusual materials.  Rachel Muldez, for example, uses materials from nature: oak galls, magnolia seed pods, bits of wood or stone, tiny dried vines.  Nick Abdalla builds abstract sculptures from a variety of found objects, including wickerwork, placemats, animal horns, and scrap metal.  Color was downplayed in the majority of his works, which invited the viewer to look more closely at the shapes.

Cynthia Cook’s and Carlos Quinto Kemm’s art fit more closely into what people usually mean when they say “collage” in that the works were flat (more or less) and were intended to be hung on a wall.   That didn’t mean they were in the least “same old, same old.”  Cynthia Cook uses found objects – or as she herself calls it “trash metal, trash glass” – as not only elements in the collages but in creating the frames.  Carlos Quinto Kemm’s multi-layer collages are so densely populated with images that the three of us (I went to the show with Jim and our friend Michael Wester) spent a great deal of time exploring the details. “Did you see that tiny monkey in the corner?”  “Is that a turtle or a griffin?  “I really want to know the story behind that woman.”

Another reason I wanted to go to this show was the promised fantasy element.  I’ve seen many SF/F art shows.  These are always fun but, after a while, a degree of sameness does creep in – and not only due to the fact that certain artists mail their contributions to shows all around the country.  There are always dragons (and I like dragons), vampires, fairies, as well as works inspired by visual media productions – both new favorites and older “classics.”

I wanted to see what Fantasy meant to people outside of the SF/F community.  Certainly there were similarities such as mermaids and dragons, but there were differences too.  Religious elements –  and not only Christian – had a larger place.  There was a sense of a dialogue between a historical culture and an evolving present.  Mystical searching seemed to reverberate though many of the works, an impression confirmed by the artists’ statements accompanying the show.

Among the interesting elements was the time these artists were willing to give to permit a piece of art to evolve or to find the right place for a particular found object.  Several of the artists mentioned how a certain item might stay in their studios for years until the time came to use it.  Lately, maybe because November is NanoWriMo, I’ve seen a lot of emphasis on working hard and fast – as if that also means working at one’s best.  This show was a good reminder that a work that takes weeks or months to write may be years or even decades in gestation.

I found a bonus in the statement that accompanied Nick Addalla’s work.  He’s been involved in various forms of art for over forty years, and is recently retired after being a teacher at UNM for twenty.  About his current work he says: “I am learning to PLAY again…  Hours and hours of serious and totally involved play, getting lost in the MAKING.  No ambitions.  No goals.  No need to justify.  Just doing.”

That really spoke to me.  After years of writing to deadline, wondering what the next job will be, I’ve been doing a lot of creative “play” that has been very satisfying.  I’m feeling happier about my recent decision to permit myself a chance to explore my own creative ventures with less concern about where the story might “go.”

Seriously, these narrow definitions can really impede a writer’s creativity.  A couple of weeks ago, I came across a plaintive Twitter post from a well-known YA writer who was commenting on her own work in process:  “Is this even YA anymore?”

Should she need to worry about that?  Shouldn’t she just be permitted to write the best book she possibly can?  But the fact is that, in these days of “if you like this, you should read that” marketing, stories often aren’t permitted to be themselves, they’re trimmed and altered so they can be presented as a “portal story” or a “space opera” or a…  Well, you get what I mean.

In the handful of days since we saw Fantasía Fantástica, I’m already seeing the world  differently.  A friend sent a beautiful card.  I’m saving it with a future collage of my own in mind.  I’m smiling as I think about the short story I started last week, a story inspired by my allowing myself a foray into visual art.  It’s all good.  In fact, it’s all great!

FF: More Time to Read

November 18, 2016

Jim and I finished what we’d been watching, and switched to reading in the evening, so I had more time this past week.

Can We Wash the Black Off?

Can We Wash the Black Off?

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Goldenhand by Garth Nix.  The first novel to carry the excellent “Old Kingdom” series forward since Abhorsen.  Pluses – ties the prequel Clariel more into the series.  Minuses – suffers a bit from how good the resolution was to Abhorsen. Still, I enjoyed.

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. Sequel to A Long Way From Chicago.  Very strong.  I’ll need to try some of Peck’s other works.

In Progress:

The Golden Specific by S.E. Grove.  Audiobook.  Sequel to The Glass Sentence.  Split plot lines.  One has the more “go-getter” character, the other the more interesting material.  Makes for an odd read.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  This has been getting a lot of buzz, so I decided to try it.

Also:

Finished off what’s available of The Wicked and the Divine.  Am happily speculating on where the final plot twist may lead.  I have two theories…

TT: Live Long and Prosper

November 17, 2016

ALAN: Do you want to live forever?

JANE: Depends.  Do I get to stay relatively young and healthy?  Does everyone I love get to keep living, too, or do I need to watch all of them die?   Immortality is a lot more complicated than just not dying.

Long Term Fiction

Long Term Fiction

ALAN: And considerations like that make immortality a fascinating subject to investigate in fiction.

We’ve been telling stories about living forever for as long as we’ve been telling stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest story we know. It dates from about 2100 BC and part of it tells of a hunt for the secret of eternal life.

It’s a popular idea, and it’s a story that we’re still telling today, in one way or another.

JANE: It’s worth noting that The Epic of Gilgamesh (which exists in several variations) deals with all of my concerns.  In one of the most common versions, the reason Gilgamesh goes looking for the secret of immortality is because his best friend, Enkidu, dies.  Gilgamesh learns the secret, but – being merely mortal – does not succeed in bringing the gift back to humanity.  The secret of eternal youth (and presumably health) is a separate deal.

So there we have all of it: not dying, staying young (and healthy), and the dread of loss wrapped up in one tidy package.

ALAN: Tidy indeed!

It seems to me that there are three basic story lines belonging to this theme. We have the search for immortality (the Gilgamesh Gambit, if you like). You can also use an immortal protagonist as an observer who watches, and comments on, the passage of history. And finally you can have a protagonist whose immortality gives him the experience to cope with whatever crisis or conflict he is currently facing in (probably) the modern day or the near future.

I have examples of all of these from both SFF and the mainstream, one of which was written by a certain Jane Lindskold… The story line of your novel Changer is a perfect example of the last category I mentioned. What made you decide to write the novel in this way?

JANE: Damn…  I hate to do this to you, but I didn’t decide.  The story decided.  I started what would become Changer relatively soon after I’d come to Santa Fe to live with Roger Zelazny.   Twenty years ago, Santa Fe was less self-consciously touristy, more a place where people lived and tourists came, in part because of the people who lived there and the things they made.

One of the things that I encountered one day when Roger and I were walking down to the Plaza to have lunch was a section of concrete sidewalk where someone had drawn a magic circle, complete with a few little crystals embedded in it when the concrete had still been wet.

Roger walked right over it without deeming it worthy of comment.  At that moment, I resolved to write a story set in New Mexico before I, too, took such things for granted.  Changer and the athanor began to take shape that day.  But I didn’t sit down and say, “Well, I think I’ll write an ‘immortals among us’ story.”  It just happened.

Doubtless the fact that I am a life-long reader of myth and legend had something to do with my choices, but I wasn’t at all conscious of making them.

ALAN: You may not have been conscious of it, but I think you were well aware of what you were doing on a deeper level. When I was reading Changer, I was interested to come across this sentence:

“There are turtles,” Eddie says, “like the one that Salome had in Viereck and Eldridge’s novel.”

The reference here is to a trilogy of mainstream novels from the late 1920s by George Sylvester Viereck and Paul Eldridge. The first, My First Two Thousand Years was the autobiography of the Wandering Jew and is a perfect example of the second story line that I mentioned before, in that Viereck and Eldridge use the myth of the Wandering Jew to comment on the passage of history. The other novels in the series (Salome and The Invincible Adam) continue the theme from other points of view. They are rather obscure books and for a long time I thought I was the only person in the world who had read them.   So I was pleased to see your little aside. Clearly you were also familiar with the books – something else that we had in common!

How did you come across them and how influential did you find them to be?

JANE: I was given my copies by Roger Zelazny.  Once Roger and I started corresponding regularly, he’d send me books, often ones that he’d loved and wanted to share.

When he sent me my copies (which I still have), he said, “When I was growing up I read the 2000-Year Trilogy (each volume told from a different viewpoint) many times, & was doubtless influenced thereby in my own writing.”

As for how influential I found them?  In one way, not at all, except that they were good books.  However, I’d already encountered the motif of “immortals among us” through the works of many writers – including, no great surprise, Roger Zelazny.  However, in that Viereck’s and Eldridge’s novels had an impact on a writer who, in turn, was a great influence on me, I suppose you could say they had a tremendous influence.

Influence is all a matter of timing…

ALAN: I think you might have just said something quite profound.

There’s still a lot more to say about this subject. Shall we look into it again next time?

JANE: Absolutely!  After all, you came up with three general types of immortality stories and we’ve barely touched on any of them.  Let’s explore the secret of immortality together.

Moving Along Now

November 16, 2016

Thanks to everyone who weighed in last week regarding branding as it applies to books and your awareness of them.  I’ll keep you posted on developments.  Please feel free to keep sending me comments, either on the post or to my work e-mail: jane2@janelindskold.com.

A Pile of Ongoing Projects

A Pile of Ongoing Projects.

Currently, I’m focusing in on the writing/editing side of things.  Last week, Jim finished reading the manuscript for a novel I wrote on spec.  The original manuscript was 54,000 words, but I recently expanded it to a tidy 72,000.  One of my jobs this week will be polishing the expanded version and getting it to a few beta-readers.

I’ve also selected which of my out-of-print Avon novels I’ll be getting ready for e-book publication.  Smoke and Mirrors, originally published in 1996, is a far future science fiction novel about what happens when a very unlikely person becomes among the few to realize that there just may be hostile aliens infiltrating human-inhabited worlds.  It’s more thriller than war story, because I prefer the small picture to massive troop movements.

If you can’t wait for the e-book, I still have some copies of the original mass market paperback of Smoke and Mirrors.  See my website bookstore for details.

I’m also writing a short story, because I’ve learned the hard way that if I’m not doing something creative, I get very, very grumpy.

This past weekend featured several fun and creatively stimulating events.  Friday, I read my yet-unpublished short story “A Familiar’s Predicament” at the monthly meeting of the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society.  I very much enjoyed the discussion afterwards.  Particular thanks to the lady who cheered at the story’s resolution.

Saturday, Jim and I went to the New Mexico Archeological Council’s annual conference.   Although Jim’s paper was the last of the day, we went early enough to listen to most of the other papers.   Even though this is technically outside of my “field,” I find such events very creatively stimulating precisely because the papers are outside of what I would usually be reading and thinking about.

Many of the papers we listened to had to do with the crossing of the various cultures that have settled the region now known as New Mexico.  In addition to the “alien invasions” represented by the incursion of peoples from Europe, there were culture clashes and cross fertilizations between the numerous indigenous peoples – many of whom spoke completely different languages and practiced widely varied religions.  By contrast, modern “America” looks positively homogeneous.  How many cultures have occupied this landmass is worth remembering, especially in these days when there is a rising myth that the United States was once a monoculture.

Sunday, I had a lovely time running my on-going roleplaying game.  Running a game is an entirely different type of storytelling.  I very much enjoy the stimulus of setting up a situation, then seeing how my players react as they discover something.  This week in particular was full of discoveries.  I can hardly wait for next time…

But, for now, I’m off to split my time between pen and paper and keyboard once more.  The stories are calling, and I must come!

TT: Special Edition!

November 14, 2016

Hi Folks,

I’ve had e-mail asking me if Alan is okay after the earthquake that hit the South Island in New Zealand.

Yesterday, Alan e-mailed me to let me know that although the South Island was hit by a 7.5 earthquake, he, his wife, their dog, and two cats are fine.

Jake Reads Phillip Mann

Jake Robson, Not an Earthquake Detectorre fine.

Obviously, there could be further problems from aftershocks, tsunami, and the like but, as of my latest report, Alan and family are well.

With typical Alan sense of importance, he noted that — contrary to folklore — none of their animals reacted to the quake.

Let’s all keep a good thought as the world does Shake, Rattle, and Roll…