Sunday, December 31, 2006
When I was a virgin (there's superstition for you), I used to stop watches regularly. I had to wear them pinned to my breast, like a matron (in the medical sense). Now, it's probably a matter of battery life!
Happy New Year!
I don't consider myself an astronomical heavyweight, intellectually speaking.
My natural, romantic bent is to consider Pink Floyd rather than Cepheid Variables,
a man's reaction to the passing of his life (Time) rather than the fact that a light year is a measure of distance (nearly six trillion miles). The coolness and romance of the idea of The Dark Side of the Moon rather than the possibility of habitable worlds (moons) in tidal lock around a Gas Giant.
Not so long ago, I was seated at a dinner party next to a member of the Pink Floyd, and --naturally-- I asked about the thinking behind The Dark Side of the Moon, which is why I feel free to mention coolness and romance.
Time is rather interesting as part of world building. How would a civilization tell time if they spent generations aboard a space ark? What method would remain relevant? I chose the female reproductive cycle when writing Forced Mate... No doubt it had something to do with my inconvenient effect on wearable timepieces when I was younger.
Looking back, I'm immensely amused by the spoilsports who all said that we all celebrated Y2K on the wrong date (wrong year). I must have spent at least twelve hours watching televised celebrations from around the world: rock stars and sopranos atop magnificent buildings, paper lanterns rising into the sky like miniature hot air balloons, ballet on beaches, fireworks along major rivers...
Obvious as it is to say, tonight, different nations --and different states-- will mark the arrival of 2007 at different times. I'm especially aware of this for a really silly reason. Not because my mother lives in England and will be celebrating five or six hours earlier than I will, but because my publisher's forums are on Central time and I'm on Eastern, and I'm determined to log in at midnight, and help break an attendance record. (firstname.lastname@example.org, midnight Central).
Greenwich Mean Time is very useful, but we don't all set our clocks by that. Not everyone follows the same calendar. Take the Chinese New Year.
Suppose there were an Antichthon
Would that world measure time in the same way that we do? Would Antichthon have a moon? How likely is that?
Too complicated for me, this morning, is the idea that someone leaving Earth, traveling into outer space, and returning years later would experience the passage of time differently, and may return as a time traveller (not the same age as the friends and colleagues who remained on Earth). It is an issue I must look into before I get much further with my next book, though.
The Sparrow was interesting on time. I know Star Trek measured time in Star Dates, but I don't know how that was calculated. I never noticed time being measured in Star Wars...
Any astronomers want to help me?
Happy New Year.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
I resolve to finish the third star book and think of a really great title for it.
I resolve to send off my proposal for my timetravel paranormal which already has a great title. It's called Twist and its full of them.
I resolve to send off my proposal for my YA timetravel.
I resolve to write more, write better and make better use of my writing time.
How bout you? Any resolutions?
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Unfortunately, there's no text to read. What you do get is a very clever slide show, a simulation of a pharmaceutical company's history of how the vampire race was recreated, with a detailed description of the biological basis of vampire traits. For example, they feed on human prey because the vampire's body lacks a vital protein that must be taken from human victims. They have an aversion to crosses (which, the voice-over points out, is far from solely a Christian symbol) because of a brain glitch related to their superior pattern-recognition abilities. (For example: When we see five or six marbles, we instantly "just know" it's five or six. We don't have to count. If we see fifty-five marbles, we can't tell how many there are without counting. A vampire can.) The right-angled figure of the cross causes neurons in the vampire's brain to fire improperly, causing massive seizures. As solitary, territorial predators, all vampires are sociopaths. They can't even endure the company of same-sex members of their own species. There's lots more information in the website slide show, all delivered in the bland voice of an accomplished PR man yet blithely spouting the most appallingly amoral pronouncements. Hilarious in a subtle and dark fashion.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I'm in the middle of watching a visual feast called Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon. I've seen about a third of it, so this isn't a review.
It's a movie with a D&D plot. There's the ragtag band of heros -- an over-the-hill King whose swordsmanship is rusty, a woman wannabe-mage wife of the King who contracts a curse while casting a spell, an Amazon dominatrix stronger than superman, a comic-relief character who isn't powerless, and so on, the usual.
This is a sequel, so they backfill previous stories real quick -- I haven't seen the prequels.
There's an old dragon asleep under a mountain, his powers siphoned off and imprisoned in a flask somewhere. There's the bad-guy who's gone after the Dragon's powers to cure himself of a curse (of vampirism) that should have been lifted, but wasn't because the caster of the curse died before fulfilling his promise.
What's WRONG with a story like this? There's plenty of aliens and part-aliens, lots of great stuff to look at, fabulous POWERS to play with, eye-candy gallore, shoulders and tushes to die for, eyes to pant over, and real women, heroic women with big problems -- and net-net, the thing is dullsville squared.
WHY? What is it that's lacking that would make this movie just our cup of tea?
The mere presence of sword-fighting and a quest or action-task, villains blacker than black and heroes whiter than white doesn't preclude some interesting stories.
I think in a word, the answer is angst. I'm a big fan of angst. That's what a writer calls internal conflict.
These characters are living their lives entirely on an external level -- all the conflict is external.
What little internal conflict is hinted at has nothing to do with the external conflicts.
Therefore there's no apparent reason for these particular challenges to appear in those particular lives at that exact time. There's no SUSPENSE. No INTRIGUE.
Beyond that, I have major problems with the theme sets used in movies and books like this.
There's this dragon sleeping under a mountain and his powers have been stolen.
Yes, it was done to him by civilization that bankrupted itself building prisons for him and his powers because he rampaged and nearly destroyed them.
But they discover the dragon, and INSTANTLY (without deliberation, council meetings, even a flicker of a handwaving argument) decide they have to either keep him imprisoned, re-imprison him, or destroy him.
There's this villain who tells us right off he didn't DESERVE to be kept a vampire, and when the King hears he's after the Dragon's powers, he mounts a military campaign to destroy him.
Nobody ever considers the bad-guy's side of things, wonders if the bad guy is really the bad guy? Wonders if WE aren't really the bad-guys.
Not one little thought is expended trying to find another way other than destruction.
What if marriages were conducted that way? Where would we be?
What if international affairs were conducted that way? (well, they are sort of)
Why do the good guys have to KILL the bad guys? That's not satisfying to me. Real triumph is to make the bad guys INTO good guys while they're trying to make the good guys into bad guys because they don't think they're bad guys.
Maybe everybody ends up gray-guys?
Bottom line: I don't buy into the concept that destruction resolves conflict.
So for me, films and stories such as this one don't work.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
History repeats itself. Victors like the conquered to worship the conquerors' gods. Which makes sense, at least in the world of Greek and Roman myths, because obviously the winners' gods were superior (given that both sides prayed for victory).
I've always been fascinated by the way Christmas was deliberately celebrated at the time of, and gradually in place of, the older Saturnalia.
If we (humans) were conquered by reasonably benign aliens, I wonder whether our new overlords would try to be equally clever and considerate. Would they give us a bigger, longer, more amusing, more colorful event to celebrate in late December? (Assuming December remained December).
When I consider how divided humankind has always been over religion, I wonder whether humanity as a whole would react violently or with secret relief. What do you think?
Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you great happiness, good health, and good friends.
All the best,
Saturday, December 23, 2006
So I spent all day yesterday and will spend most of today in the kitchen. Both of our sons are home and although that is a bit alien its nice. And we did have some aliens in our kitchen last night. No wait, that was just the lobster the dh cooked for his own birthday feast. I had to leave, the thoughts of putting anything alive in boiling water just creeps me out.
I'm as decorated as I can get. My shopping is done. The presents are wrapped. I've got sixteen coming for dinner on Christmas Day and come Tuesday it will all be over with. So I'm going to enjoy the here and the now while it lasts.
Merry Christmas everyone
Thursday, December 21, 2006
In American popular culture, Santa is assisted by elves, the eight reindeer of "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," and Rudolf. In folklore, however, he has many different helpers, such as Black Peter (the Netherlands), Belsnickel (Pennsylvania), and Krampus (a demonic-looking creature from Eastern Europe), mostly with the task of delivering what bad kids deserve. Imagine Santa being accompanied by a soot-blackened, bearskin-clad, or cloven-hoofed sidekick who carries a whip to punish naughty children. Sounds like NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Not a type of character we're likely to see on network TV holiday cartoons anytime soon.
Maybe Saint Nick doesn't actually have to visit every child on Earth. After all, in addition to Santa's helpers, there are many different December gift-bringers throughout the world's cultures. Probably Santa shares the task of distributing presents with characters such as the Italian La Befana and Santa Lucia, Russian Grandfather Frost, Swedish Christmas Gnome, and the Three Kings. Imagine a convocation of all these figures parceling out their territories. (Are Father Christmas and Pere Noel the same person? If not, would they fight over who gets Quebec?) That could make a more entertaining Christmas special than yet another cartoon about a maladjusted reindeer.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I heard an item on the TV news this morning that Microsoft is creating a website like youtube where people can download and use videogame creating tools and then post their game for others to play.
Microsoft will be uniting the X-box and Windows platforms so that games will play on either, as I understand it. Currently game developers must compile their game for each platform.
What has this to do with alien romance?
Aha! How many Romance oriented games have you played recently?
There was an item in the news a few weeks ago that game developing companies believed they had reached saturation of the game market for boys and young men. They also noted that many women played videogames. And people running the game development companies are now actively targeting women players.
oho! A videogame, by definition (on the CNBC special on the history of videogaming) is the active fulfillment of a dream or fantasy -- people play videogames to be the HERO, to WIN, to experience what they can only aspire to in real life.
So, videogames are stories (something else emphasized on the CNBC special on videogame history). When a story was added, gaming became big business. The same happened with Dungeons and Dragons -- inventing your own story, making it real, living it, becoming part of it, trying on different personalities -- that's what we want!
Now if only I could give you the URL of this website where we can create Alien Romance Videogames.
Oh, the TV interview news item was with a Microsoft official and he said they are looking to have many people post games developed with their free tools. Then the most popular games will be chosen and published -- and he said that could make a game writer into a millionnaire.
Imagine an Alien Romance videogame making an AR writer into a millionnaire! I do think the market is big enough to do that.
Monday, December 18, 2006
I was reminded again how and why Cirrus One Station was constructed as I was (once again) at sea, in an 85,000 ton vessel that was--when you really think about it--the only thing between me and the deep dark ocean.
I'm sure most people on a Caribbean cruise don't want to even think about how perilous a situation they'd be in should something serious happen to the ship. Sure, there are lifeboats and such, and the chances of the ship going down a la Titanic are very slim. But a cruise ship--like a space station--is still a solitary, closed environment.
And it affects how people act. Because consciously or not, people know they're stuck there until they make the next port. They're stuck with not having an item they need. They're stuck without having a certain comfort they're used to. They're stuck with other people they may not like and can't actually get away from. Sooner or later they will, yes, run into that same loud-mouth, obnoxious guy because they are on the same ship. They're in a closed environment.
It's contents under pressure. Moreso after two days at sea.
The whole issue of personal space is raised and those dynamics may change, depending on how each person handles that closed environment. Some people purposely become more easy-going. Others ramp up their rudeness factor in an effort to take control. People Day 1 at sea are not always the same on Day 2.
I watch these dynamics with interest because of what I write. And I write situations that incorporate "contents under pressure" because of all the things I've seen after more than twenty-five years of being a cruise ship passenger.
But it's not just the passengers. Ship's crewmembers and staff have to deal with even less space and more pressure. They can't leave their troubles at the office because home is their office. And it's damn hard to tell your boss to take this job and shove it when you're hundreds of miles from the nearest port.
What happens then--in both real life and in my books--are that people must face their problem and handle it. Writing guru Dwight Swain states that a successful novel has characters who "start fires they can't put out." Well, I like to take it one step further in my books and have my characters not only not be able to put out the fire, but they can't even run away from it.
I made sure Gillie couldn't run away from her issue of being an accidental goddess by making sure her ship's damage kept her on station. I put Chaz on a space station with people trying to kill her and her only hope a rescue from a man she'd been trained to hate. And then I took away their only means of escape from the station and put them directly into the hands of a man who could harm them both.
And in my upcoming (February 2007) Games of Command, I strand my characters not only in another dimension but I taunt them with plenty of ships--none of which can survive transit back to their 'normal' space and time.
Because this is SF and the setting, the world, the ship plays an important and threatening part.
Contents under pressure. Trouble confined by four walls. Death awaiting outside.
And you all thought I go on vacations for fun.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Originally I had a longer and more accurate title, but I can’t get the song “Fifty ways to leave your lover out of my head”. I’d love feedback, or additional suggestions. The idea is to share all the things that authors can do to help each other, and that authors’ friends and family could do, might like to do, but may never think of doing. For the sake of argument, all authors for the purpose of this blog will be considered female. (No sexism intended).
Help the search engines find her:
1. Google your friend.
2. Ask Jeeves about her.
3. Dogpile her.
4. A9 search her. (That’s the Amazon search engine)
5. Does Yahoo have a search feature?
Even if you know where to find your friend, her blog, and her books, “hits” help. The more visitors the search engine spiders find, the more priority the author's website gets.
6. Visit her website… not just the home page.
7. Visit her blogs.
8. Find her Amazon Connect page
This link is to the alphabetical directory by author’s last name. Click on the name (which is blue, underlined and therefore a live link) and you will go to the author’s Amazon page. From there you can:
9. Invite her as an Amazon Friend
10. Add to your list of Interesting People
11. E-mail the page (about her… to your other friends)
12. Add her posts to your plog
As you explore her Amazon Connect page, you will find:
On the left, under her picture, links to any reviews she has written.
13. Click on them. Read her reviews. If you like them, click on Helpful.
14. If you see an opportunity to comment on her review, do so if you have something nice to say.
If authors write reviews, their books are advertised free in the attribution line, and their links to their page and their books are seen by people who are interested in the products that your friend reviewed.
There’s a link to her own web site.
15. Click on that… just to bump up the site and give it traffic. Then go back to Amazon.
If the author has blogged (written a note about what she is doing/thinking/ or given an insight into her books), there is a blue link to Comment.
16. Comment! Vote that you liked her post (it’s encouraging feedback)
If the author clicked “product” as she wrote her blog, there will be a live link on her blog to one of her books.
17. Click on the cover. Give her book page traffic. Or scroll on down and see her bibliography, who your author friend’s friends are, what reviews she has written, what search suggestions she has made, what “tags” she has created for each of her books, and what tags her readers have added. See her Reminders.
18. If you live near to the author, and she has a reminder on the calendar for a booksigning near you, click on Remind Me Too. Support at a booksigning is always wonderful.
19. While checking out her friends, maybe click on the image of other authors whose books you like. Amazon often pairs up two books by different authors and suggests “Buy Both”.
When you are on a book page, without buying that book, click on links to:
20. Put it on your wish list. It’s extra, free advertising.
21. Tell a friend
Scroll down the book page to Tag this product. (or make a search suggestion)
22. Add a tag. (Loved it! Can’t wait to read it! Soooo romantic! Etc)
23. Join in the Customer discussions. Ask a question. Start a discussion. The search engines pick up on the discussions, and quote interesting responses.
If you have read her book:
24. Write a customer review. It doesn’t have to be long or scholarly. Be as generous with the star rating as you can. Try to be specific about what you liked best about the story or one of the characters. Don’t give away the ending.
25. Ditto all of the above for Barnes and Noble, E-Bay, Borders, Chapters Indigo, Waterstone’s, Amazon uk, Amazon ca, or any other bookstore chain that allows customer reviews, comments, discussions etc. Or, simply search for her name, titles, reviews.
26. If you have a MySpace page (and if you don’t, but really want to help, get one… it’s free) invite your author friends to be your friends there.
27. Write a bulletin about your friend or her book.
28. Add a comment on their profile page’s comments section. Your comment is their opportunity to say something about their book without the appearance of soliciting.
29. Review their book on your MySpace blog.
30. If her publisher has a forum, join it and ask her questions. For instance, Dorchester publishing (home of Leisure and LoveSpell authors) has
Again, your comment will be seen by hundreds, if not thousands, and it will give your friend a reason to post something interesting and quotable about her book without seeming to be self-promoting.
31. If you see a good review—on any bookselling site that allows customers and visitors to comment on reviews-- click Helpful if it is a helpful review.
Votes help both the reviewer and the author (especially the reviewer’s rankings ).
32. If you see a bad review, click Not Helpful.
33. If you see a personal attack disguised as a “review” click Report This, and tell the author. If enough people click to report ugly remarks, bad reviews come down in 50-60% of the time
If you see your favorite author’s books in a supermarket or bookstore:
34. Facing her books (if there is room, turn one so the cover shows)
35. Tell store personnel how much you like that book, or that the author is local.
36. If you don’t see her books, especially when they ought to be there, ask about them.
37. If you have a blog, publicize your friend’s upcoming signings/author talks/workshops on your blog. Mention her website URL.
38 Link to your author friend’s website or blog on yours
39. Offer a quote if asked--or volunteer if you’re not asked.
40. Do a review for her, asked or not. It doesn’t matter if some people think that you are friends. More often than not, you became friends because you like and respect each other’s talent, or sense of humor, or something you bring to your writing. People do respect recommendations
41. If you belong to readers’ group sites, or book chat sites, or special interest sites, post what you are reading. Plugs never hurt. These are also picked up on RSS feeds and the search engines.
42. Link to other writers. It drives everyone up in the search engine.
43. Ask your library to order your friend's book.
44. Join your favorite author’s yahoo group, let her know where you’ve seen her book in stores, or where you’ve seen discussions of her book, or reviews of her book.
45. Drop in on her online chat to say how you enjoyed her book. Supportive friends at chats are cool because chats can be chaotic, and typing answers takes time.
46. Put her book as a 'must read' on your own Web site, or in your own newsletter.
47. Send e-mails to your entire address list recommending the book.
48. Be her 'friend' on You Tube.
49. Offer to take a bunch of her bookmarks to conventions, or conferences, and make sure they are put in goodie bags, or on promo tables. Or simply visit her table at a convention, and sign up for her newsletter, or pick up her bookmark and tell someone else how good the book is.
50 Offer to slip her bookmarks into your own correspondence when you pay bills, taxes, etc.
51. Instead of quoting Goethe in your sig file, try quoting a line from your friend’s blurb in the week of her launch.
With thanks to the following for their help and suggestions
Kathleen Bacus, www.kathybacus.com
Diana Groe, www.dianagroe.com
Diane Wylie, author of "Secrets and Sacrifices" www.dianewylie.com
Jacquie Rogers, http://www.jacquierogers.com, http://www.myspace.com/jacquierogers.
Deborah Anne MacGillivray, author of The Legend of Falgannon Isle, www.deborahmacgillivray.co.uk Dorchester Love Spell, Kensington's Zebra Historicals
Charlotte Maclay, author of Make No Promises,
Rowena Cherry www.rowenacherry.com, author of Insufficient Mating Material, available 1/30/2007.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Then they do lots of stupid things which are typical for people that age and time passes before they are all together again. But how much time? I don't want to give away too much of the plot but lets just say they all travel in different directions due to the evil Circe.
Boone is the hero of this book and hopefully Zander will get his own story. My idea is to have Boone return at the age of twenty six. So what do you think? Is twenty-six a good age for a futuristic hero?
Suggestions are most welcome.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
One feature of Discworld I especially enjoy is the diversity of the police force in the great city of Ankh-Morpork. Under Commander Vimes, the force is an equal-opportunity employer, including representatives of all the major races. In a recent book Vimes was even persuaded to hire a vampire. The female werewolf cop, who keeps her nature secret from most people, has a budding romantic relationship with one of her human colleagues.
Other topics covered in THE ART OF DISCWORLD include witches, wizards, Unseen University, the Assassins' Guild, the character of Death, and many additional places and creatures in Pratchett's world. If you're a fan of his work, don't miss this book. It's a wonderfully entertaining glimpse into the creative world-building processes of a fantasy writer's mind. Amazon.com lists it as out of print, but they offer plenty of secondhand copies, and the Science Fiction Book Club carries it.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Well, this is the Season of Lights -- a whole bunch of faiths do light at the bottom of the year!
On Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, on the shortest day of the year they kindled a bon fire using a magnifying glass and the power of the very weak red-giant sun.
One of the essential ingredients in good world building is the anthropology and psychology.
Our fictional aliens have to be "accessible" to our human mentality if they are going to be characters. Otherwise you end up with something like C. J. Cherryh's most alien aliens who occassionally do a drive-by spaceship shooting, and can just barely communicate -- but who don't form relationships with individual humans. The most you can expect is a treaty whereby they won't shoot you today.
And we at this blog are all into "relationships" so let's look at the season of Year's Turning -- the winter solstice. Most worlds that have life will probably have an axial tilt and therefore have this metaphore built into their cultures. (OK, there will be worlds whose poles run sideways.)
Last time I talked about abstract thinking -- which includes metaphores, analogies, algebra, along with hypothesizing.
Our favorite books depict relationships between human and alien where the concept "soul mate" comes into play. That is a fated relationship, one where something abstract and intangible draws the two together because they are two halves of a whole.
So what is a soul?
Would aliens have that concept? It's really a very abstract abstraction.
Astrology would be vastly different for the natal chart of someone born in a different solar system. Or between stars -- would such a child even have a natal chart? How could you get a handle on who this person is? How mature the alien soul is?
Well, let's look at it another way. Suppose the alien civilization does have the concept Soul and even the concept Spirit -- and they come from a planet with axial tilt so they have a winter solstice. So they'd have the concept of cyclical seasons, and a winter solstice. How would they get from there to something akin to our concept of Soul?
According to most of our philosophies and religions (at least ones that didn't originate at the equator) -- the "light" Spiritual and Physical, waxes and wanes. The Sun waxes and wanes; the Moon waxes and wanes (and some say only a planet with water and a fairly large moon will develope complex land-dwelling life.)
In astrology there's the axiom, "As Above: So Below" -- that is, everything in this world is a metaphoric image of something else on a different plane of existence.
Understand this world, and you understand the "above".
The soul and spirit are of the "above;" the body of the "below."
And so if the world's light is cyclical, so too would the "light" that illuminates the soul be cyclical.
Thus the magical rite of kindling fire on the shortest day of the year is not to bring the SUN back, to initiate the growing season -- but to bring light back to the soul. "Peace on Earth; Goodwill toward Men." "A Great Miracle Happened There."
In some religions that translates into "seeing the light" -- i.e. coming to believe in the Divine, to see the Divine light.
But I submit that some people somewhere probably look at this magical process of kindling light at the darkest day of the year as the means whereby we ignite our souls to glow outward into the world and give us light to see the world by. (consider those in the southern hemisphere should do this in July for spiritual effect -- what of an alien world where they do it that way?)
"Seeing the Light" would mean to such aliens that you'd turned your spiritual headlights on so you can see to drive through the darkness and avoid obstacles and potholes. That is, you can live a smooth life if you can see where you're going.
Just imagine the range of possible misunderstandings between such lovers who had come "home for the holidays."
Sunday, December 10, 2006
ARK IMPERIAL, Operating Theater
Damn them! Prince Djetthro-Jason eyed the masked males and the unpleasant array of implements they were preparing to use on him.
I haven't told them everything, and I'm not about to. No way am I going to invite anyone to take a laser to my privates. Ahhh, Fewmet!
The "battlefield analgesia" was wearing off. During the duel that he'd begun as Commander Jason and ended--defeated--as Prince Djetthro-Jason, he'd felt almost no pain despite the damage Tarrant-Arragon had inflicted.
Now, his massively bruised thigh throbbed heavily, his neck muscles ached, and his jaw...it hurt even to think about his jaw. Perhaps worse--but less so by the moment--was the damage to his alpha-male machismo as he lay strapped down, stark naked, in his enemy's operating theater, preparing his mind for surgery without anesthetic. Also for "the fate worse than death" which was to come.
If Tarrant-Arragon had observed Great Djinn tradition, the duel they'd fought less than an hour ago ought to have been to the death.
Why hadn't Tarrant-Arragon killed him then and there? To the victor went the Empire, the Ark Imperial, and gods-Right to any female he wanted...and they both wanted the same female.
Damn it! Even if he wanted to stop, I should've fought on after he crippled my leg and shattered my bloody jaw. Why didn't I? What's left for me?
I'll be the Djinn equivalent of a broken thoroughbred stallion put out to stud. It's fairly obvious why Tarrant-Arragon made an excuse not to finish me off.
The Great Djinn were nearly extinct. In twenty years' time, Tarrant-Arragon's and Djinni-vera's children would need true-Djinn mates, all entitled to the silent D-prefix to their royal Djinn names. That's why!
When the "fate worse than death" had been spelled out, it had been sheer bravado to mumble that he wanted to marry Princess Martia-Djulia.
Maybe I do. Maybe I don't.
It hurt how much he still wanted Djinni-vera, who'd been the last Djinn virgin in all the Communicating Worlds, and betrothed to be his, until Tarrant-Arragon abducted her by force and took her virginity.
What consolation would it be to have Tarrant-Arragon's sexy, fashionista bitch of a sister in his power and in his bed instead?
Djetth winced at the savagery of his thoughts about Martia-Djulia. Shards of pain shot along his broken jawline.
"Well, Djetthro-Jason, are you ready to be carved up for your new identity and your new life as my little sister's glorified love slave?"
From somewhere out of Djetth's line of sight, Tarrant-Arragon taunted him, stressing the part of Djetth's real name that he'd used until his cover as "Commander Jason" was blown and he was overpowered and arrested.
Djetth did not turn his head. The pain in his face and head was intolerable enough without moving.
"Ahhh, I do believe that Our Imperial surgeons are ready to do away with that distinctive jagged scar on your cheek," Tarrant-Arragon crooned. "And screw together your jaw."
What else might they do while he was under the laser and the knife? While his face was open, might they carve out a sensory gland or two? Implant a tracking device? Use his broken jaw as an excuse to weld a mask over his head?
Prince Djetthro-Jason would be a latter-day "Man in the Iron Mask" if they realized how closely he resembled Crown Prince Tarrant-Arragon. Which he would, without his scars, his colorful contact lenses and his long, blond-dyed hair.
Djetth glanced at the treacherous, turncoat 'Rhett, who'd been his bloody useless "second" at the duel, and who was still hanging around.
What for? Damn him. 'Rhett was too much the intergalactic statesman for his own--or anyone else's--good.
If the patient lost consciousness, Tarrant-Arragon could decide that the chances for galactic peace would be better if Djetthro-Jason were neutered...one way or another. Given the secrets 'Rhett knew, 'Rhett might agree.
"No--" Djetth groaned with the unexpected agony of trying to speak. He wanted to refuse anesthetic again. How he wished there was somebody present whom he could trust!
A door swished open.
"Does he have to be in such pain?" The cause of all the trouble spoke from the doorway. She sounded on edge, as if she felt his pain telepathically.
Djinni-vera! No longer his Djinni. By conquest, by the irrevocable exchange of vows, and finally by her own choice, she was Tarrant-Arragon's.
By All the Lechers of Antiquity, how he loved her! At that moment. For coming. Mentally Djetth qualified his thoughts. Djinni-vera might not love him now, but she was honorable to the core. Tarrant-Arragon wouldn't dare do anything dastardly in front of her.
As she glided to his surgical table, Djetth looked at her wildly, helplessly, with mute appeal, hoping that she would read his mind and aid him this one last time.
Djinni-vera's amethyst eyes widened as if she had Heard him and understood. Her gaze averted, she reached out and dropped a gauzy white cloth of some sort over his monstrously inappropriate erection.
To others, her action might have looked like public modesty on her part. Djetth assumed that Djinni had read the part of his mind that was worrying about the striking tattoo that only showed up in the dark or when he was suitably excited.
Thank you he thought. Please help me. Stay.
She nodded, and took his fettered hand with her undamaged left. "You've been macho about this too long, J-J. Why won't you let them put you to sleep?"
"Careful, my love," Tarrant-Arragon said, moving possessively to her side. "You can never call him J-J again. Nor may you use any of his other damned traitor's aliases. Not J-J, not Commander Jason. Traitors cannot be seen to survive their attempts on my life. Commander Jason is officially dead, and everyone--including Martia-Djulia--must believe it. From this day forward, he's Prince Djetthro-Jason."
"What a mouthful..." Djinni began; then her changing expression told him that she must have read a thought-pun he couldn't resist. "Djetth!"
She frowned sternly.
"I know you Great Djinn males can't help thinking of sex all the time. But it's not helpful, Djetth. As long as you have your saturniid gland, you're dangerous."
Not dangerous to you, kid. You won't ovulate while you're pregnant, and probably not for a while after that, he thought back at her.
Her mouth twisted in a wry smile.
"You'd be safer if you let them remove it."
Some aspects of Royal Djinn maleness one would rather die than surrender, he rejoined, hoping she would not read his darker thoughts.
"Martia-Djulia would be better off if you couldn't have the rut-rage again, too..." As she spoke, Djinni tossed her head as if shaking off a bothersome fly.
Djetth wondered if Djinni had unexpectedly Channeled someone else's reasoning. Djinni couldn't possibly know how savagely Martia-Djulia liked to be served in bed.
"I saw Palace footage of you having the rut-rage with Martia-Djulia." The little mind-reader's voice rose in protest at the thought he hadn't meant her to sense.
You saw? You saw what, exactly? His thought question was a ploy to distract her from thinking about the rut-rage, but no sooner had he asked than he dreaded how detailed her reply might be....
Saturday, December 09, 2006
but I've got this deadline folly...
so my blog is in a hurry .....
please fogive me if I scurry falala....
la la la la
tis the season and I'm busy writing along with the other holiday things
Hopefully next week I'll be done
Thursday, December 07, 2006
(I always enjoy good expository dialogue, especially about the biology of other species, so I try to write it the way I like to read it. One of my very favorites in that "vein" is Dr. Weyland's lecture on "how nature would design a vampire" in Suzy McKee Charnas' THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY. An excellent recent book that portrays an interestingly worked-out vampire species is Octavia Butler's FLEDGLING. Here's an example of information feed about the physiology and psychology of an imaginary race from one of my books. This is an excerpt from DARK CHANGELING, the first-published novel in my "alien" vampire series. Roger Darvell has just met his mentor, the vampire elder Volnar, who in this scene begins to answer Roger's questions about their species. Sylvia is a young female vampire Roger has known for a short time.)
"You started late," said Volnar. "Most of us acquire our psychic talents in our early teens -- as you did, didn't you? -- but start needing human blood soon thereafter, around sixteen."
"Children don't?" said Roger. He'd had trouble visualizing an infant or toddler feeding on a human adult.
"Of course not," Volnar chuckled. "Babies are born with two needle-like teeth -- the only time we have those absurd rattlesnake fangs beloved by Hollywood -- to feed on the mother's blood as well as her milk. You didn't, thanks to your human half. At weaning, three or four years old, we lose the fangs and switch to raw meat, milk, and animal blood."
"Makes sense," Roger said. "Growing children would need the calories in solid food."
"In early adolescence the ability to digest it disappears, when we lose our wolf-like incisors and canines, to be replaced by a more human-appearing set for drawing blood inconspicuously. It's a good thing you didn't undergo those changes, or you could never have passed for human."
"I'm still baffled about the way you manipulated me. Why this `experiment,' leaving me to flounder through those developmental stages alone? Why did you care whether a hybrid was `viable'?"
"Quite simply," said Volnar, "because we aren't replacing ourselves. Long-lived predators have to breed slowly in comparison to their prey, to avoid overrunning the food supply, but in recent centuries our low reproductive rate has become a crisis. Females more often than not go into estrus without conceiving. The incidence of miscarriages has increased, too."
Roger set down the brandy and stared at him. "You're looking for new blood, aren't you?" He winced at his unintentional pun. "You think human DNA might revitalize your gene pool."
"Exactly." Volnar smiled as if pleased at his quick comprehension. "Some of the elders consider it contamination, but I've overruled them. Including the ones who make derogatory remarks about `lap dogs pretending to be wolves.'"
Roger felt his chest tighten with anger. Though he wasn't sure he wanted to be a wolf, he didn't care for the proposed alternative.
"Some of them," Volnar continued, "cite the fable of the Ugly Duckling, which they think ends on a note of unwarranted optimism. What kind of a swan could the creature become, crippled by a barnyard fowl's conditioning?"
"Are you deliberately trying to goad me?"
"Only preparing you," Volnar said, "for the hostility you're sure to encounter sooner or later. Not that it's universal. Most of those who know about your existence either tentatively approve or are indifferent."
"The nay-sayers have a point," Roger said. "Do you happen to have read Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson?"
"Two boys are switched in infancy, half-brothers, the son of a slave woman and the son of the mistress of the house. When they reach adulthood and the truth is revealed, the young man who's grown up thinking himself a slave suddenly becomes the master's heir. One might expect a Cinderella conclusion, but that doesn't happen. The slave turned master proves utterly unfit for the station to which he was born."
"You don't have to apply that pessimistic tale to yourself. You've done better than that."
"Oh, have I? Not from my viewpoint." Roger took a deep breath, then coughed when he inhaled cigar smoke instead of fresh air. "How can you stand that blasted thing?" He wondered whether the smoke was a test of his willingness to accept Volnar's domination. When he'd cleared his throat, he said, "What you've made me is a misfit among both vampires and my human peers."
"On the contrary, you've done remarkably well, considering how you were forced to `flounder,'" Volnar said. "Not unlike Tarzan in Burroughs' novel, who, after being reared by apes, as an ape, taught himself to read and eventually functioned not only as a civilized man but as an aristocrat of the most civilized nation on earth."
"A pulp fantasy," Roger said. "Real-life feral children more often become mental and emotional cripples."
"That didn't happen to you, however," said Volnar, "so I suggest you stop wasting energy on resentment."
"But I haven't turned out like Tarzan. More like a badly socialized puppy."
"In what way?" said Volnar.
"Well, I understand that if you take a puppy away from its mother and litter mates too soon, it doesn't know how to behave like a dog. On the other hand, if you leave the separation too late, the pup can never fully adjust to life with a human master. Either way, you have a maladjusted dog."
"It's true that there are critical periods in our childhood and adolescence -- times of imprinting, as with ducklings. The adaptability of young vampires is a double-edged weapon."
Roger stood up, too restless to hold still. "Sylvia has a fear of religious objects -- that's the kind of thing you mean, don't you?"
"Yes. Her advisor was too lax. She was exposed to excessive human influences. She almost thought, in her mid-teens, that she was human. Then she drifted the other way and picked up a cluster of absurd superstitions about her nature."
"Then I'm not the only child whose upbringing you people royally fouled up." He simmered with tension, half tempted to take a swing at Volnar just to discharge it.
"Learning how you've dealt with your highly specialized problems may help us avoid mistakes with future generations." Volnar rested the cigar in an ashtray and strode to Roger's side. "Don't let anger blind you to the possibilities, young man. This stage is only the beginning. The next is to breed you with a female of our species."
Roger jerked away from the elder's outstretched hand. "What? Do you think for one minute I'd consider that? Creating another child to suffer what I've gone through?"
"He or she wouldn't suffer the `identity crisis' you've had," Volnar said, walking over to pick up his unfinished cigar. "The child will know his or her nature and destiny from the start. I'll serve as its advisor myself."
"All the more reason why I'd run miles to avoid the whole thing."
"Nevertheless, I do expect you to consider it," Volnar said. "I've contacted a young woman, born in the 1880s, who has proven her fertility. She conceived more than once but miscarried each time. With you as the sire, perhaps a pregnancy might --"
"Not interested," Roger cut him off. "I can't condone any more of your damned experiments. And what makes you think this woman would accept being forced into mating with a -- a halfbreed?"
"Not forced! Our women choose their own mates, subject to veto by the elders, to prevent inbreeding. I've already explained your background to her, and she is enthusiastic."
"She may like the idea of being a reproductive machine for you, but I don't!" He almost wanted to rush out of the room and drive away, but the need to learn as much as he could stopped him.
"Juliette doesn't fit that description in the least. She teaches English at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and writes historical romances under a nom de plume -- far from a mindless breeding machine. However, she does want a child, and her next estrus is due fairly soon. Think it over."
"I don't need to think," Roger said, baring his teeth. "I'm absolutely sure that I don't want to serve as sperm donor to a woman I've never met in support of a project I don't believe in."
Volnar said, "Aren't you curious, if nothing else?"
"What do you mean?"
"Many of our males live out their first thousand years -- or more -- without once being chosen to mate. This may be your single chance to experience fully consummated genital sexuality."
The notion disturbed Roger, though he couldn't say why; he certainly felt no physical urge for the act Volnar alluded to. "You keep mentioning estrus, as if vampire females went into heat like --"
"Dogs? Wolves?" Volnar's lips quirked in amusement. "They do, and male vampires can consummate the sexual act only when stimulated by a female in heat. Mating lasts through an entire night of repeated copulation. If an unwanted conception occurs, the woman can mentally compel her body to eject the embryo." He became more serious. "Not that this problem comes up very often anymore. We do need your genes, Roger. Your potential hybrid vigor."
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Linnea brought up that one thought process I will be talking about in my review column the first half of 2007 -- hypothesizing.
http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2007/ will show you the list of books to be reviewed the first half of the year. The columns will be posted after they have been printed in the magazine that paid for them, then posted to THEIR website -- finally on simegen.com for archive.
Hypothesizing is a cognitive function that animals don't have -- the ability to think about something that is not, might never be, should never be. It's the ability to think abstractly (i.e. do algebra).
In this blog we discussed what it is that a human could possibly see in an alien (a real non-human but intelligent person) that would be sexually and romantically attractive.
I mentioned a shapeless blob, and everyone immediately chimed in ODO -- well, yeah, I'm a serious Odo fan (STAR TREK DS-9 -- if you haven't seen it, get the DVD's from the library at least! Odo is something else!)
So for writers and readers of Alien Romance it isn't the appearance that ignites the spark.
We write about how it is that "love at first sight" can operate even with an alien (maybe one you can't even see!)
We write about that sense of soul-to-soul recognition. And we write about it emotionally.
But Linnea put her finger on exactly what it is that could be recognized over that biological gulf that could set off the total romantic attachment of "love at first sight." It's the cognitive function that has to tie all "intelligent" life in all galaxies together -- the ability to hypothesize.
It is our imaginations that unite us - even as imagination divides us. Imagined slights, insults, and the "well she thinks she's so great!" cognitive error of believing you know what another person thinks just from what they do.
So imagination would make the main axis of conflict in an Alien Romance.
Mostly we believe that those fabulous lovers we imagine in the night aren't real.
But what if they are? I mean what if they ALL are real?
Monday, December 04, 2006
Well, it's Monday, meaning it's my turn to blog. Given I'm hip-deep in deadlines for THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES and the final galleys just arrived on GAMES OF COMMAND and I'm leaving on a seven-day cruise Sunday...you'd think I'd be fresh out of brain power.
You're right. I am. I have no idea where this blog is going to come from or go, but it's just going to happen. So fly along with me...
Which is why it's titled WHERE DOES THE CREATIVITY COME FROM?
How do we think up all this strange shhhhhtuff? (You all thought Iwas going to use another word, no?) Where is that dark room in an author's brain where characters and stories and plots reside, fermenting?
I was asked this question recently by a police detective who works outside Chicago. Not that I'm in any particular kind of trouble, mind you. I actually was asking him some questions about homicide detectives since the male protagonist in my current WIP has that career. And the detective--being by nature a question-asker or he'd not be in that biz--returned the favor and asked me: how do authors think of all this stuff?
What I told him was this: for every author it's different but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that there's not an author out there who doesn't play with What If?.
What if...a character doesn't go to work that day but stays home and witnessess her neighbor doing [fill in the blank]? What if...Trilby brings an unknown injured pilot on board her starfreighter instead of (oh-so-more-wisely) leaving him to fend on his own? What if...a cop leaving a crime scene spills coffee on himself as he's pulling his car away from the curb and--instead of going back to the station with the computer he's taking into evidence--decides to make a quick stop home to change his clothes...
...and is kidnapped by outerspace aliens and 'beamed' on board a starship.
What each author does with their What Ifs is unique to that author's style (and deviousness!). But the fact that we all use the What If is a common denominator. It's the author's tool for looking at What Is and making it into What Could Be...in a hundred different variations.
Just look at the authors on this blog. We all write in pretty much the same genre. We write female protagonists. Male protagonists. Starships and space. Aliens and vampires (which are alien to mortal humans). We write fast-paced action. We write passionate romance. You'd think we'd all be writing the same story--and each other's stories--over and over.
We're not. Because each author takes that What If into herself and makes it uniquely her own.
But where does that ability to turn what's inside into a story come from?
Feelings. At least, that's where it is in me. And, if you use Dwight Swain as a writing guru as I do--that's where Swain say it comes from, too. Feelings. I know when I'm writing well because I get all fluttery inside. I know when I'm writing really well because my hands go cold and I've been known to jump out of my chair and pace around the office (trying not to step on the cat who've I've most likely dislodged from my desk in the process).
That's why although the technical craft of writing can be taught, what makes a book really good, what turns words into a best seller is much more difficult.
Where that creativity lives in me or in you can't be pinpointed on a chart or map. If you want to be a writer, all I can do is give you the pathway that leads to it. And it's under that sign over there that says What If?.
Enter at your own risk. You might come out being an author.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
If you like to ponder what aliens might think of Earthling males' genitals, see the joke in the Comments on my last blog.
If you don't like the jokes I like, you won't be interested in Insufficient Mating Material, in stores from January 30th 2007.
For more dignified reading, scroll down to Susan Grant's cool excerpt.
The third instalment of Susan Grant's masterly new alien romance was posted on October 28th.
Since then, the blog has been pretty active, so I'm sharing my day this week.
Hunky human hero, Jared Jasper --real estate mogul, brother of a feminine US Senator (who happens to have married an alien)-- is exploring an alien spacecraft that crashed onto his family ranch. As he sits in the pilot's seat, a video communication screen turns on, and he realizes that the enemy aliens may have seen him.
Excerpted from MY FAVORITE EARTHLING
by SUSAN GRANT
copyright Susan Grant 2006
ISBN 0373771924; HQN books
This uncorrected excerpt may contain errors and other text not found in the final printed novel and is not for sale. Please don’t share the text with anyone without first receiving permission from the author to do so.
Whoa, baby. Jared sat up straighter in the pilot seat as the striking alien woman appeared onscreen. Heavy, dark, and long, her hair whipped like Medusa’s snakes around her shoulders and breasts as she turned to face him.
Shouting something, the woman shoved a hand through her wild mane of hair. A thick, intricately jeweled band glittered on her upper arm. This was no shopping mall purchase. The workmanship was exquisite and matched the earring dangling from her left ear. The chick was buff, sculpted muscles flexing. She wore a black jumpsuit that was so formfitting it looked painted on. Jutting nipples pushed up against the fabric by one unforgettable pair of breasts as her chest literally heaved.
So much for any doubts as to the two-way feature of the ship’s TV. She could see him, no doubt about that. Her eyes had opened wide at the sight of him, her mouth forming a luscious circle of surprise.
The moment hung in freeze-frame. He didn’t move. He had the wildest impression of having startled a rare and beautiful mythical being like a mermaid or fairy: a few seconds of unforgettable eye contact before she escaped forever.
“Jared,” Evie whispered. “Put your eyeballs back in your head.”
He lifted a finger to his lips. He didn’t want to scare the woman away.
The alien woman must have taken his gesture as if he were telling her to be quiet. Wielding a knife she stormed the screen. So much for thoughts of a fairy or mermaid; she looked more like an avenging warrior princess off the pages of a Manga comic book.
“Uh oh,” Evie said. “Now she’s pissed.”
“Actually, a little more than pissed. Given half a chance, she’d probably cut out my heart and eat it for dinner.”
This is the face of your enemy.
And this was the face of hers, he thought. Against his better judgment—and Evie’s—he stayed put.
The woman stopped inches from the screen to finish telling him off, but he couldn’t understand a word she said. “What we need is a little closed-captioning.” Lights blinked on the arm rests. “Maybe one of these is a translator.”
“What if it starts the engines? What if it makes it fly?”
“Don’t panic. The tech may be a lot more advanced than what we have, but some things stay the same. Controls on a seat are usually for convenience or comfort items.”
He tapped them one by one, figuring he’d keep trying until he found one that translated. It was worth a shot. Cavin had a translator implanted in his brain for two-way language understanding, so likely there was something similar in the cockpit. Down the bank of lights he went. “Talk to me, baby. Talk to me...”
The alien warrior-chick reared back, startled. A spark of fear in her eyes disappeared almost as quickly as it showed up.
“Earthling,” she spat.
“You got that right.”
Jared coughed out a laugh. “There’s only one barbarian around here, and it’s not me. Look at you. We stopped dressing like that a thousand years ago. Daggers are pretty much passé, too. So, is this a retro fashion trend, or are all of you Coalition types this primitive?”
Evie hissed. “Jared, you're going to start a war.”
“We’re already in a war,” he whispered back. “I'm just adding a little fear and awe.”
“I will see you brought to me in chains, Earthling!” the alien chick yelled to him.
“I haven’t had an offer that exciting in a while. Do I get to see you in chains, too?”
The woman’s mouth dipped in a sneer as she looked him over from head to boots. Stripped naked, he doubted he would have felt more exposed to her scrutiny. “I’d rather cough up blood.’
“Jared,” Evie warned. “Don’t make me come down there and get you.”
“I’ve got to go,” he told the alien woman. “But I’d like to chat more sometime. I have to admit, the chains thing really got my imagination going.”
Her mouth tightened. She had very expressive eyes, Jared noted. In them, it was very easy to see every detail of his excruciating death should she get her hands on him which was something that would never happen because he’d fight to the death to keep her people from taking over his world. Even if every Coalition woman was as hot as she was.
“Jared?” Evie interrupted. “You’re doing it again.”
“Doing what?” he whispered back.
“Staring at each other.” Evie’s face was centered in the open hatch above, framed by blue sky. Her hair swung just above his head.
“I’m not staring at her. I’m contemplating her contemplating my death.”
“Who are you talking to?” Warrior-chick demanded.
“My staff. And some members of my harem.”
Evie made a sound that was strangely close to the one Warrior-chick made.
“Who are you?” the woman asked.
“You don’t know?”
I know what I’m doing, he told Evie with a frown.
He leaned forward. “You can call me The Prince.”
“Oh, jeez,” Evie muttered. “I can’t listen to this anymore.”
“You are a prince?” Warrior-chick’s chin came up as she asked the question, her nostrils pinching.
“I’m the Prince. And my message to you is this: if your people come back for another try at landing on Earth, we’ll be waiting. A billion more guys like me, waiting.” Trash talk. But sometimes the most effective weapons were psychological. “Mess with Earth and your defeat will become your reality. Got that? Now, have a nice day, baby.”
Jared pushed free of the pilot seat’s glove-tight hold. He pulled himself out the hatch and slammed it closed behind him. “What the hell just happened?” He rubbed a tired hand over his face. “I need a shave.”
“What just happened? I don’t know, Jared, you tell me.” Evie dropped down next to him on the fighter-craft’s invisible wing. Side by side, they sat, lags dangling. “Who are you? Because whoever you were in that cockpit, I didn’t recognize him.”
“It’s not someone you’d know unless you flew on my wing in an F-16. It’s how I deal with the stress of combat; it’s how most of the guys do, I think. Maybe it’s why we have the call signs, to differentiate who we are inside the cockpit from who we are outside of it. An alter ego. But when I leave the unit, he stays behind. Ol’ Prince is not exactly family friendly.”
“He’s a jerk.”
“But he’s perfect for dealing with uppity Coalition bitches.” Jared shifted his focus to the closed hatch. He couldn’t believe the argument had actually turned him on. “What a woman, huh? Totally not my type, but...wow.” He thought of her hair whipping around her shoulders, pictured her naked, that long hair stuck to her damp skin, letting tantalizing peeks of her breasts and stomach show through, skin that was damp from having sex with him, not from pumping iron. Or maybe they’d do it after they worked out...and before...and...
Evie’s voice jolted him out of a fantasy of the alien woman bent over a table, her lush breasts in his hands as he thrust into her. By now he had such a hard-on that he hunched over, grateful he was wearing thick sweats. What the hell was wrong with him? He wasn’t in high school anymore. “Say again?” he said with a trace of hoarseness in his voice.
Evie’s dark eyes sparkled. “Chemistry. I said it was amazing that you can feel it across light years of space.”
“Chemistry?” He choked out a laugh. “I have a few ideas on what to call it, but it’s not that.”
“Jared, you’re so unromantic.”
“She’s the enemy.”
“So? Woo her over to the dark side. Use the force.”
He pulled out his cell phone to call Cavin and brief him on what they’d discovered. “Force or no force, Miss Sunshine lives in a galaxy far, far away. After our little conversation today, I’m doubly determined to keep it that way.”
Friday, December 01, 2006
“You’re an idiot.”
The Emperor of the Kariin Empire continued to look glumly down at the shiny black surface of the table as his chancellor spoke. The conference table’s surface was mirror bright despite its being over eight hundred years old, and having seen some hard use from six generations of his dynasty. The pale face he saw reflected in black wasn’t a pretty sight. He wasn’t sleeping well. He was dejected. He wasn’t feeling particularly regal.
“I’m an idiot?” Counselor Rankal answered the Chancellor indignantly. “I’m not the one who inadvertently leaked the details of the Inclusion to this world’s communications channels.”
“Who says it was inadvertent?” the Chancellor shot back.
“And I wasn’t talking to you, Rankal.”
“Who else would you— ”
The Chancellor tapped Rawn on the head.
“Wake up, boy, I’m talking to you.”
“Jessica,” the spheroid android corrected. “Call me by the Earth version of my name. I like the sound.”
Rawn Ruan glared at the floating ball of artificial but not in the least bit inferior intelligence that was the third most important being in the Empire. Jezika – that is, Jessica – was older than the eight hundred year old Grand Council Table and far larger than it as well. Most of Jessica was buried deep in the heart of a small, well-guarded moon. Her mobile units were spread throughout the empire. In fact, Jessica had been a representative of the League of Non-Biological Lifeforms when the Kariin Empire was founded. She had served every ruler of the Karii, her wise advice and firm opinions passed on to each succeeding ruler.
The current ruler of the Empire glared at the metallic ball that floated a few feet from him. He rubbed the aching spot on the top of his head. “Am I the one you’re calling an idiot?”
“Correct, as usual, Your Supremacy.”
Rawn hated when Jessica was sarcastic, because the wise old entity only used that withering tone on those who deserved it. He wished he hadn’t emerged from his reverie – all right, funk – long enough to respond.
“Idiot,” First Counselor Rankal protested. “Are you calling your emperor an idiot?”
“If the crown fits…” Ru muttered. Then, ignoring the Chancellor who hovered beside his chair, he sat up straight, looked down the long length of the table. “First Counselor Rankal, please invite the rest of the council to enter.”
“You’re not getting out of discussing your idiotic behavior that easily,” Jessica informed him before floating in a disgruntled manner to her official place. Rawn wasn’t sure how the android managed to be so expressive with so little body language to work with.
The full council consisted of thirty-five sentient beings, representatives from each of the Imperial worlds. As he had told Summer, most of the inhabitants of the Empire were human, but the non-human beings were equally represented on the Council. There was so much he would have liked to have told Summer. She was so easy to talk to. Curious. Intelligent. Refreshing.
“You with us, boy?”
Rawn glanced briefly at the speaker. Krostersare of Limnalis claimed to be nearly as old as Jessica. He certainly looked it, with his papery, wrinkled gray hide and dusty, dry voice. His eyes were bright and sharp as lasers. Rawn looked away from those eyes to focus his attention on the beings gathered around the table. All of them were watching him attentively.
He’d been vaguely aware of their arrival as they walked, slithered and floated to their places. He just wasn’t sure how long he’d drifted off into his own unhappy thoughts with his entire Council watching him. He distinctly did not recall their taking their seats while his mind had been on Summer.
This is not good, he told himself. Not good at all. This distraction over the woman had to stop. It hadn’t been so bad while he’d been away from Earth, but now that he was back to the world where she…
“My apologies,” he said to the waiting group. “I seem to be having trouble concentrating this morning.”
He was only slightly annoyed at the sight of raised eyebrows and other appendages; several persons sarcastically mouthed, ‘this morning?’. Jessica snickered.
At the far end of the table, Kamis turned to her eggtwin, Kella, and said in what she probably thought was a whisper, “Monkeys are easily distracted.”
“Apes,” Kella corrected her. “No tail. Apes in season are easily distracted.”
“Do apes come into season, sister?”
“This one is.”
Rawn listened with a certain embarrassed fascination to the Avarins’ analysis of his emotional, or at least hormonal, state. He didn’t try to correct them, or explain himself. He got down to business instead.
“The Empire found the Human World Earth at a delicate time in the world’s technological and cultural development. We – “
“Meaning ‘you’,” Krostersare interrupted.
“Chose contact rather than observation. We are not gathered,” Rawn added firmly, with a hard look at the old Limnalis representative, “to debate a decision made and executed months ago. We are here to discuss the next phase of bringing the sentient species of Earth into the embrace of the Empire.”
Jessica snickered again at his choice of phrasing.
Rawn took a deep breath before going on. “You discuss,” he reminded the Council. “I decide.”
“Testy, isn’t he?”
“In season, I tell you.”
“Human!” every human at the table responded to the Avarins.
The feathers of Kella’s great gold and green crest fanned out. “You don’t have to shout.”
Rawn stood. He waited for complete silence, and for everyone’s gaze to focus on him. Then he bowed formally to his Council. “My apologies for disrupting the workings of the Empire.” After he received formal nods of acknowledgement to his words, Rawn sat back down, crossed his legs, and said, “We shall now proceed.” He looked at Jessica. “Chancellor, I have yet to receive an explanation from you for why you released the details of the Rite of Inclusion to this world’s news media.” He said the word ‘media’ as though it was a curse rather than a complex network of communications outlets.
“Specific details of the Rite have not been released, Your Supremacy,” Jessica responded.
“Which has only fueled speculation,” Rankal complained.
“Gives them something to keep their attention on,” Jessica told the First Councilor. She addressed Rawn again. “I have allowed – rumors – to be leaked. This method seemed more in accord with local custom. As you know, the Empire attempts to adapt procedure to the—“
“I didn’t ask how you did it, Jezzie, I asked why.”
“For the same reason you chose to contact Earth early, of course, Ru.” Jessica floated up from her chair to hover above the table as she continued. “Because we can’t afford to waste time with these people. Something must be done to bring cohesion to this world swiftly, Your Supremacy. They like to talk too much without getting anything accomplished, don’t you think?”
He nodded. “Very good thinking, Jessica.”
“I thought so.”
“You’re lying, but your reasoning is as sound as always.”
“I never lie, Your Supremacy. I merely work on many levels at once. Your job is to figure out which of my purposes you should concentrate on at any one time.”
“I thought you worked for me.”
“We both work for the good of the Empire.”
“We’re bickering, Jezzie.”
“I know, Ru. And you still want me to answer your question.”
“I’d appreciate it.”
“I’m not sure all the reasons why are important right now,” Rankal spoke up. “The Rite has been Announced. The Emperor must Act.”
Rankal was the sort of officious, protocol-loving being who spoke in Capital Letters. He was very useful for reminding Rawn about custom, etiquette and propriety. It was Rankal who had insisted on this Meeting to Discuss the Situation as soon as the Emperor returned to the palace ship that remained in orbit around Earth while Rawn was out on the Apical Border. What Rawn wanted was to tell the Council that nothing needed to be officially announced. That the Emperor wasn’t ready to take such a Major, Irrevocable, Life-Changing step. But –
He’d been educated in a great deal of Earth culture. A great many Earth terms came to him as he thought of what Jessica had done – she’d let the cat out of the bag, the genie out of the bottle, she’d forced his hand. He thought these things, and even mostly understood them. What he knew was that he had to act before he was ready, and he wasn’t pleased about it.
He looked at Jessica. Keeping their conversation as private as he could in a room full of advisor. “I had hoped to do this differently.”
“What you’ve done already is quite bad enough.”
Rawn cringed, but didn’t attempt to argue, or to justify. What was on his conscience was his business, even if his Chancellor also thought it was hers.
“Very well,” he said to Rankal. “Make the announcement official.” He ignored murmurs and exchanged glances around the table. He knew that he was going to be offered a great deal of advice on this subject, but most of his councilors would want to make comments in private. At Rankal’s questioning look, he added, “Let’s make the time period for the Rite six months, shall we?”
“How about six weeks?” Jessica suggested. “Six days?”
“What!” Rankal looked like he was about to faint. “You can’t be serious, Chancellor. What of the Search? The Winnowing of the Candidates?”
“He doesn’t need to search,” Jessica told Rankal. “There’s already a perfectly acceptable Candidate. And I don’t believe in long engagements.”
Before Rawn could fight past his indignation to answer Jessica’s claims, the venerable Krostersare did it for him.
Krostersare laughed. Though it sounded more like an eerie desert wind, the short-lived sound was laughter. “The Chancellor is joking, of course.”
“Of course.” Rawn answered for her. “All the proper ceremony and seriousness will be observed. We will not offend the peoples of the Empire, and especially not the newest world of the Empire, by taking shortcuts with something as significant as the Rite of Inclusion.” Rawn glared at Jessica, hoping an indication of Imperial Displeasure would keep the meddling android quiet.
“Keep this up, Jezzie, and I’m going to forget to change your batteries,” he muttered under his breath.
He didn’t mind her meddling in his private life, but he couldn’t allow her to manipulate policy for the sake of what she thought would make him happy. He didn’t get paid to be happy. He had a new world to bring peacefully into the Kariin Empire and not much time to do it in. The people of Earth were afraid, suspicious, angry, resentful. Perhaps it had been a mistake to approach them before they were ready, but it was done. Now he had to find the right person to help with the monumental task ahead. He couldn’t simply follow his own inclination.
“Your father followed his heart,” Jessica told him. Her voice came from the aural communication implant in his jaw that was his direct link to the Chancellor. The link was not supposed to be used during full Council meetings, nor was telepathy allowed. Things were not discussed sub rosa in the Empire.
“The Lady Jezika has just advised me to follow my heart,” Rawn announced to the others in the room.
His words did not produce the effect he thought they would.
“You have a very trustworthy heart,” Krostersare said.
“While I disapprove of such imprecise terminology for a combination of physical, emotional and intuitive responses that form subjective, but valid, reasoning,” Sonala from Eridanus said. “I agree with the Chancellor.”
“You should return to the one who triggered your season,” the eggsisters said together.
“It was most odd that you did not complete your reproductive cycle when it started,” Kella added. “It is most unhealthy. No wonder you’ve been distracted and irritable for the last month.”
“Perhaps the Candidate is unsuitable,” Rawn’s cousin Alise suggested tactfully. “Or has obligations or interests elsewhere.”
“Rawn Ruan is the Emperor,” Shala of Tadda pointed out. “It is for him to decide who is suitable.”
General Priner pounded the table with his very large fist. “If another tries to claim this Candidate, follow the Warriors’ Way, Supremacy. Challenge and fight!”
“Chicks dig that.”
This time when Jessica spoke directly through the aural link, Rawn didn’t repeat what she said to the stirred up crowd. Not that he was sure anyone would have heard him over the increasing volume of commentary. He did cover his mouth for a moment to hide a smile in case the easily offended general noticed.
Unfortunately, he thought to Jessica. The person I would be fighting is myself.
“His Supremacy,” Jessica announced as soon as she received his telepathic communication, “has told me that he believes he has offended the prime candidate for the Rite of Inclusion. Nothing is sub rosa in the Empire,” she added in a whispered aside to him.
“I’m going to give you to LeBron James,” he told the basketball-shaped android.
“So one of us can teach the other about dunking?”
Rawn faced the curious Council. “Whether my heart is engaged or not doesn’t matter. The lady is not interested.”
Candida of Halcar looked him over critically. Candida was from an amazon culture. When a Halcaran woman looked a man over, it was with a direct, assessing interest that left the man quaking in terror, or panting at her feet, begging to become one of her harem. Rawn Ruan merely blushed.
“Is the woman blind?” Candida asked at length.
“In fact she has very good eyes. Sapphire blue.” Rawn smiled at the bittersweet memory of looking into those eyes. “Quite the loveliest eyes I’ve ever seen.”
“Then have her look at you again. You’re worth a second look.” Candida crossed her arms over her ample leather-clad bosom. “I wouldn’t beat you for getting crumbs in my bed. Much.”
His smile was tinged with bitterness as he recalled Summer saying something similar. “I did more than get crumbs in her bed,” Rawn told the amazon. “I offended her deeply,” he explained to his Council. “Misjudged her. Humiliated her. Used her. She doesn’t want anything to do with me. Yes,” he admitted to the double row of shocked expressions. “I screwed up.” He folded his hands on the smooth black tabletop. “Let’s move on, shall we? Rankal, I leave it to you to instruct the inhabitants of Earth on the full details of the Rite.”
“Yes, Your Supremacy.”
“We’ll let them decide on how they wish to conduct introductions. Just make sure they keep it as simple and low-key as possible.”
Rankal looked disappointed. “If that is your wish, Supremacy.”
“What about this perfect candidate?” Krostersare asked.
“The subject is closed.”
The old Limnalin held up a thin hand. “Wait. I have a suggestion on the matter.”
“What about the Imperial Family Motto?” Jessica spoke up, before Krostersare could go on, or Rawn could tell him not to.
Rawn ignored Jessica. He couldn’t ignore Krostersare. “A suggestion, Councilor?”
“Why don’t you ask her out?”
“Date her. I believe that’s the term.” Krostersare glanced at Rankal. “While he’s arranging all the useless diplomatic protocol, why don’t you go out with the one you’re interested in? If things don’t work out…” He shrugged. “At least you’ll have gotten the girl out of your system and you can settle down with a suitable candidate without any regrets or false hopes to cloud the relationship.”
“Very – wise,” Rawn admitted reluctantly. “But I really don’t think that I should impose myself on someone who told me she doesn’t want to see me again. Ever.”
“Did you hurt the girl?” Shala demanded.
Rawn sighed. “I tried to point that out to you people.”
“Have you tried to make amends?”
“She doesn’t want to see me!”
“Is that an answer, young man?”
Before Rawn could respond, Jessica moved to bob at eye-level in front of his face. “Just how would you translate the motto, the creed, the very foundation of the Imperial Family Philosophy into the vernacular of the language we use to communicate on this world?”
After a few moments of glaring, eye to ocular sensor with his Chancellor, and taking the time to work the complex ancient language of his ancestors into a loose English translation, Rawn sat back in his chair and translated, “If you screw up, fix it.”
“Did you screw up?”
The image of Summer’s tearful face, and memories of her ravaged emotions haunted and hurt him. “Big time.”
Jessica backed away.
Rawn stood. Though everyone’s eyes were on him, his attention was fixed on the android. A sense of both terror and elation took hold of him. It couldn’t possibly work out. The situation was far more complicated than Jessica pretended it was. But – Summer.
His heart lifted at the thought of seeing her again.
“All right. Fine.” He held up his hands in capitulation. “I screwed up. I’ll fix it.”
He just hoped it wasn’t already far too late.