Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Interview on Sime~Gen for a German Publication

On Facebook I ran into Horst von Allwörden


Who is doing an online fanzine in German!!! 

The fanzine is looking for writers too.  Here's what Horst said:

The Zauberspiegel is German online magazine on  a non-commercial basis. Some sort of fanzine. We do anything from Science Fiction, Horror, Western, Fantasy, historic fiction, adventure or crime published in any form (from dime novel to movies).

We have an international section: http://www.zauberspiegel-online.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=33&Itemid=504.

For further information watch here: http://www.zauberspiegel-online.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6106&Itemid=249 or

here: http://www.zauberspiegel-online.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7856&Itemid=516

We need writers for the project. We need articles, reviews, stories, interviews. In Short: All things a magazine can use.

Please contact us: info@zauberspiegel-online.de  

Horst says: We do the things bilingual. We have an international section. watch this: http://www.zauberspiegel-online.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=33&Itemid=504 or this http://www.zauberspiegel-online.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6106&Itemid=249 - Most of these articles and interviews are translated for the German edition

And he wanted to interview me for it.  In fact, he went out of his way to buttonhole me for it.  He would translate what I said into German, using some side-bar material written by Sime~Gen fans on the Facebook Sime~Gen Group. 

OK, I do a lot of email interviews like this, but usually it's very hard to find anything to say in answer to the questions -- the larger the publication, the harder it is to answer their questions. 

I think that's mostly because they have cookbook or generic questions for writers instead of actually knowing what they're doing.

But here's a fan trying to do a good thing for an underserved readership.  So, yes, I told him, I'll do the interview. 

He sent me the questions.  The minute I got around to looking at the questions, I couldn't stop typing at my fastest speed trying to assemble answers. 

Here's the Q&A I sent him.

Zauberspiegel: Moin Jacqueline. Could you please introduce you to our - particularly the German - readers?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg:  On the Twitter #scifichat I usually introduce myself as a widely published professional writer of science fiction/fantasy/romance/ genre mixtures & a professional SF/F Reviewer.  But I will bring up other credentials depending on the topic at hand.  On various social networking "profiles" that want a 100 word biography I generally put the following:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg is creator of the Sime~Gen Universe, primary author of Star Trek Lives!, founder of the Star Trek Welcommittee, creator of the term Intimate Adventure, winner of the Galaxy Award for Spirituality in Science Fiction and one of the first Romantic Times Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel.  Her work is now in e-book form, audio-dramatization and on XM Satellite Radio.  She has been sf/f reviewer for The Monthly Aspectarian for 16 years.  With Professor Jean Lorrah, she teaches sf/f writing online via Tarot and Astrology.  Currently, new and old Sime~Gen plus other novels are in e-book, Kindle, and print from Wildside Press.  See http://astore.amazon.com/simegen-20 Bio and Bibliography at http://www.simegen.com/jl/ or http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

But some profiles want more, or publications often want a more personal slant, so I put something like the following:


I became hooked on SF in 6th grade when my mother snuck me a book from the "adult" library.  I fought with my High School English teachers about the superiority of the Lensman Series and E. E. Smith's "writing" over that of the "Classics" we were forced to read.  I avoided all English courses in college because I was determined to become an SF writer -- so like many SF writers I knew, I majored in Chemistry.  I've been a member of the N3F since 7th grade, and a member of SFWA since 1969. You'll find me on Linked-In, Facebook, Digg, LiveJournal, blogspot, Google+ and Goodreads plus a few other social networking sites. 


View Jacqueline Lichtenberg's profile on LinkedIn



INTERESTS: From the forefront of nano-technology to the depths of archeology.  From the business of the fiction delivery system to the psychology of audience response.  From the farflung limits of Kabalah to the most personal spiritual experiences.  Jacqueline Lichtenberg novels are known for combining action, adventure, romance, and philosophy into a seamless whole. 

Zauberspiegel: You are a Friend of Darkover and Marion Zimmer Bradley had been one of your mentors during your earlier writings. What did Marion Zimmer Bradley do during this mentoring process? What did she teach you and others?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg:  Well, I'm not sure how many others she did this for (though many of her students went from hopeless fumbling to prolific selling writers), but when she took me on I had sold a short story and completed a novel which she made only a few minor editorial suggestions for. 

That was my "first novel" (first professionally published, not first written), House of Zeor, now called Sime~Gen #1 in its Wildside Press/ Borgo Imprint edition.  It had been rejected by almost every SF publisher in Manhattan when Marion took it to DAW (which was just starting up) and recommended it. 

Don Wollheim (founder of DAW and father of the current owner) rejected it, but said that Doubleday was publishing books like this, and recommended I send it to them.  I did that, and after a year in the slushpile, it was accepted and published in Hardcover by the publisher of Isaac Asimov! 

Much later, Don Wollheim said he regretted rejecting that book (I suppose he'd heard of how it attracted and energized Star Trek fans) and he bought a couple of the Sime~Gen books for Mass Market originals, which was a career first for me.

Meanwhile, I was nursing STAR TREK LIVES! through the barriers to selling anything, even non-fiction, connected with Star Trek.  (that's a long story posted on http://www.simegen.com/jl/IFS~GConnection.html ) forging the connection with Jean Lorrah (who eventually became co-author of a lot of Sime~Gen), and working on the second Sime~Gen novel, my first award winner, UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER (labeled by Wildside as Sime~Gen #2).

Here's where Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me the majority of what I learned from her -- the real breakthrough lessons I try to teach on http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com and http://editingcircle.blogspot.com

UNTO was a much more ambitious piece of writing than House of Zeor which is essentially an 85,000 word short story.  UNTO is much longer, structured differently, with internal climaxes I just couldn't make land in the right spots for that size novel.  To sell a longer novel into that market, I had to get those climaxes at just exactly the correct places and I couldn't DO IT. 

I knew what I had to do, but not how. 

So after much explaining -- by snailmail -- which just didn't work, she took the hands-on approach that I now take with some of my students.  Let me tell you that is the creepiest feeling in the world, an absolute HEADSPINNING, total reality adjustment when a really strong, polished, talented, major force in the writing craft business takes up your words and reshapes characters, scenes, paragraphs, re-chooses words, re-creates the entire imagined world without changing the actual world-building.

After she rewrote a couple of the scenes to make those climactic moments the right "size" and in the right places, I was able to see and understand what she was doing -- in fact, she seemed to feel I understood how she did what she did better than she did. 

But it was still only a preliminary breakthrough in technique. 

For several more novels in Sime~Gen, and in step with her novels (you can figure this out by checking the pub dates in my bibliography which desperately needs updating with my newest publications) we exchanged "dailies" by snailmail.  Each day she would write a chapter in whatever she was writing (usually Darkover) and I'd write a chapter in what I was writing.  We'd each make an extra carbon copy (yes Selectric typewriter, carbon copies, snailmail) and mail it each day. 

Each day I would get a chapter from her -- (in an envelope with a chapter of mine that I had sent her the week before replete with her scribbed commentary).  I'd scribble comments in the margin of her chapter about the crafting of the dialogue, development of the story, spot lagging moments, wordy constructions, suggest what I thought the plot-direction she was going to take would be, and what I thought it should be, the nitty-gritty of milling a first draft into usable copy -- then I'd mail it back to her, together with MY chapter that I wrote that day. 

We exchanged raw, first draft, and exchanged commentary on what had to be changed or fixed to raise the raw material to publishable levels. 

Sometimes we'd include long letters of discussion of plot direction, character development, dramatic possibilities untouched that needed treatment, etc.

Each workday also included rewriting the chapter that had just arrived with commentary, then writing the new chapter.

Marion was known in the industry as one of the most prolific writers, under various pen names, in various genres.  She never missed a beat, and productivity was achieved by this daily discipline.  When she got stuck on a chapter, she'd chuck it all and go to a movie or out for a walk.  She'd work out plot-problems and character-directions while doing laundry, ironing, cooking -- she was raising kids, being supermom as I was. 

The productivity was achieved by producing words at a typist's fastest speed during the few hours at the typewriter.  The real work - the head work - was done while doing chores or sleeping.  This is my main beef with the current USA tax system.  A writer should be able to deduct from income tax the cost of the entire house because it's ALL OFFICE - as is the car, no matter if you're driving around on what other businesses call business.  If you are a writer, you are always writing, especially while asleep.

But that's how I learned under a hands-on tutor.  Eventually, Marion said that she admired my plotting.  And during her struggling with several of her novels, later in this process (I'm not going to tell you which titles), I helped her break her logjam by rewriting some of her scenes.  None of my work made it into print under her name, BUT what did get printed was sufficiently different from first draft that I could see the difference I had made. 

Since then I've done this with some writing students with varying results.  Most writers just can't STAND IT -- for good reason.  But others have acquired that "breakthrough" moment where they come to understand this lesson on a non-verbal level.

Oddly enough, writing, which is all about words, actually occurs on a deep, subconscious, non-verbal level of cognition.  Sometimes it's not possible to learn what you need to master by simply thinking about it, or reading about it.  Sometimes, as in lessons in cursive writing, the teacher has to put her hand over your hand and guide your moves.  Just watching the teacher scribe perfect circles doesn't get your own hand to be able to make those lovely circles.

Zauberspiegel: Your most popular writing is the Sime/Gen series, which you have created in a creative writing seminar. Was the design of a series part of this seminar or is this series sort of a by-product?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg: I did not create Sime~Gen in a writing seminar. 

In fact, I've never been in a writing seminar except as a teacher.

However, you might be referring to the fact that the first Sime~Gen stories ever written were done as excersizes for a correspondence course in writing that I did when I finally came to where I had to begin selling.  I had a husband, a kid and another on the way, and financial issues, so I knew I had to jumpstart my writing career.  I signed up for the overpriced correspondence course in writing and screenwriting, which purported to pertain to science fiction, but actually did not.

The salesman (very different sort of people from those who administered the school or those working writers who moonlighted "teaching" in the school) promised you'd sell your first story after the 4th lesson (lessons were one a month over 2 years I think it was).  NOBODY did that, and the school was sued and eventually I think either went out of business or got sold to some other owners.

I, however, did sell my first story which was the homework for the 4th lesson.

That happened because I knew more about writing than the instructors and I knew my market, my field of science fiction (that the teachers thought was just like any other genre which it is not and was not). 

I had already done professional level, advanced, and detailed worldbuilding for Sime~Gen.  I had the characters down pat.  I knew the conflicts, the long-range (thousands of years) future-history I wanted to construct, and I had the theory of reincarnation designed so that I could tell that multi-generation saga.

But there was a very important thing that I needed to learn.  I knew that I had to do it, I knew what it was (because I'd been reading books on how to write since High School), I had been trying to duplicate the effect I could see in stories I admired, and I had trained myself to do it -- but I just couldn't get it RIGHT.

How had I trained other than reading books on how to write a stage play, a TV screenplay, a filmscript, a short story, and a novel?  (I'd read every book in my local public library on this topic, plus several years worth of issues of The Writer magazine).  Reading about it, and trying to do it, just didn't get it to work for me. 

Other than reading about writing, I had also (quite by accident) stumbled into a marvelous training method.  When I was 10 years old, my father bought the family our first (manual) typewriter.  He was a professional teletype operator, and he taught me to touch type in the same way professionals had trained him.  That's why I could type all day at Marion Zimmer Bradley speeds, and to this day type all day on the computer, and never suffer carpal tunnel syndrome.  It's all in your wrist position -- and it's all in that very first moment you sit down facing a keyboard.  It's in the discipline, the smacks and verbal demands - sit up, hands just so, head just so. 

As with a ballet dancer, it's training that does it, not reading about it.  And the training has to soak in so deep it's subconscious.  You never know you're doing it if it's trained in.

If you have to FORCE yourself to do it, the tension will give you carpal tunnel.  You get the same effect in learning long-range driving.  If you sit tensed at the wheel constantly forcing yourself into "the" position, you'll be groggy and swerving all over the road after 500 miles in one day.

Writing is the same way.  You can't do it at commercial speeds if you're tensed up trying to "do it right."  "Right" has to be trained in so it functions beneath awareness. 

I trained in writing on that first typewriter by copy-typing several of my most favorite novels.  A. E. Van Vogt's SLAN, and Andre Norton's STAR RANGERS were among them.  I later did the same with some of Marion's work.  I have found this to be the MOST essential training in writing craft it is possible to find anywhere.  And today it doesn't even cost paper and ink to do it. 

So that's what I brought to the correspondence course.  I had the universe, the characters, the STYLE (from copy-typing), and the knowledge of my field of science fiction from having read everything published in the field from long before I was born to that current day.  Until the late 1960's it was possible to read everything published in science fiction each month, and have lots of time left over! 

Not only that, but I had studied the editors working in the science fiction field.  I sliced-n-diced every editorial in the SF magazines.  I understood the people, and I was in touch with their circles via science fiction fandom (a social network functioning by snailmail).  I knew both the editors and the readers, personally and in depth.

So what did I learn from the correspondence course?  I learned the single most important thing that differentiates the amateur from the professional writer, scene structure.

It's scene structure as a building block for story structure. 

I had already learned the importance of pacing, and by direct correspondence with A. E. Van Vogt, I learned (he taught me) the rule that he had always followed that worked.  7 line paragraphs, 700 word scenes.

It sounds simple, but it isn't easy to do. 

The correspondence course gave me the clues I needed to master "The Scene" -- and so combining that with everything else I'd learned, I was able to sell my first story to Fred Pohl at WORLDS OF IF MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION.  (Fred later moved to Bantam and bought STAR TREK LIVES! -- it's  not so much about who you know as it is about who knows you.)

Lesson 4 was to study a magazine market and write for that magazine, to write a story like other stories they'd published. 

Since I wasn't starting from scratch, I KNEW my magazines, I was able to think like Fred Pohl and write a story in my universe which exemplified one of his editorials on a deep thematic level. 

I can easily understand how someone who "wants to be a writer" could never do that.  In order to do it, you must already "be" a write -- i.e. to have studied, read about writing, tried it, failed, trained in various ways such as copy-typing favorite material, taken acting courses, whatever works for you.

Then a course like that can put the finishing touch on your training. 

There's one other thing I learned later in that correspondence course that I've passed on in http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com -- and it's laced through many of my posts there.  THEMATIC STRUCTURE.  (search on theme or thematic and you probably will find most of my posts on the subject).

Having grasped the secrets of thematic structure (I already understood theme, though they don't teach that so much in High School anymore), I redesigned the future-history structure of Sime~Gen to the current wheels-within-wheels symmetry that I've been using.

So, no, Sime~Gen did not originate within any kind of seminar. 

At the time I took the correspondence course, I had developed and fleshed out several major "worlds" for SF series, and to date of that group I've only used 1 - Sime~Gen (and it's not finished).

Zauberspiegel: Can Sime/Gen be called a vampiremyth in SF garment? Or would this be inadequate?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg: Wholly inadequate.  I'd say it's more Science Fiction in a Vampire garment.  But even that doesn't begin to scratch the surface.

It's not totally untrue to indicate the core themes of Sime~Gen as being related to the driving conflict we are seeing in the modern Vampire stories, especially Vampire Romance.

Vampire fans generally love Sime~Gen if they prefer Vampire stories that are not horror-genre.  Those who seek horror-genre Vampires really dislike Sime~Gen because the worldbuilding behind Sime~Gen is more like "Star Trek" in that it is the optimistic view of the universe.

The Sime~Gen Universe is built on the concept of the Human as essentially Good.  Given no restraints and no outside control, the Human tendency is to do GOOD.  The Natural Human is constructive, not destructive, and we tend to Love not Hate.

This is an assumption about Human Nature most people need to view via a Science Fiction lens.  It's bizarre.  It doesn't match up with what we think we see in the real world around us.  It's fiction.

But as such, it makes a terrific cornerstone for a science fiction worldbuilding exercise.

Another bizarre assumption behind Sime~Gen worldbuilding is (as with Star Trek) that the universe is essentially benign, a comfortable and welcoming natural home for the basic Human. 

Humans belong in Nature - so there can never be the classic fictional conflict source of "Man Against Nature" -- which is the basis for the biggest best sellers.

The worldbuilding assumption (never overtly stated) is that the physical Human body, the Human Soul, and Nature (the universe around us) is all of one piece, wholly and totally integrated, absolutely harmonious.  This situation exists because God is constantly creating this universe.  We are a song that God is singing -- all in perfect harmony. 

It's only in recent years that I've learned that my theory here has been expounded by legitimate philosophers who know more about it all than I ever will.  I took a course where I learned that the Soul enters reality through the dimension of Time (which is why it doesn't have any physical dimensions and so  can't be detected by science). 

I wrote about that in 4 parts of my Review column, and those columns are posted at:
(there are links to all the parts of the columns titled THE SOUL-TIME HYPOTHESIS)

These concepts at the base of the fictional construct Sime~Gen (never revealed in the fiction overtly) run counter to the basic premise of Horror Genre.

Horror's basic premise is that you have to fight Evil, but you can't win; the most you can do is chain it down in a box and shackle it with Holy symbols, or run away and hide.

 The premise of Sime~Gen also flies in the face of every science fiction universe assumption that I'd ever read prior to inventing this one.

The essence of "science fiction" is to postulate the unthinkable and then extrapolate how humans would cope with that reality.  What if everything you think you know is false?  Then how do you rebuild your psychological grip on reality enough to function day to day?  That's what SF is about - humans coping with the unknown and the unknowable.

Another "rule" of general fiction that Sime~Gen violates is the ancient adage that "Everything changes except human nature."  That adage became famous in the genre of Historical Fiction. 

One basic cornerstone postulate behind Sime~Gen is:

The Sime~Gen Universe
where a mutation makes the
evolutionary division into
male and female pale by comparison.

Sime~Gen is not "Post Apocalyptic" though that's the only Category Label extant that it's generally tossed into. 

However, the novels that wear that label "Post Apocaplyptic" are often very downbeat, about the desperate struggle to survive in a destroyed, and shattered world, about the horrors of not having modern technology, about looking backwards to an unattainable golden age instead of building a better, new golden age.  It's a term that's come to be applied to stories about barely surviving in a hopeless world which is utterly hostile to the human spirit, and which breaks the human spirit. 

You find this in many Fantasy worlds built on Magic, such as Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels (much admired by me).  The characters seem to have had their self-esteem drubbed out of them by a hostile world.  In such Fantasy worlds, at some time in  The Past, there was a civilization that had mastered the intricacies of Magic.  They wrote down their miracle-working in grimmoirs and such Books, and bound those books with spells and secrets.  "Now" all is lost, and the only way to do such "miracles" for yourself is to find the magical stone or gadget these prior people made, or find their grimmoirs.  Not one character ever thinks to him/herself, "well if they could do it, we can, too" and then just invents SOMETHING NEW!!!  They're always trying to copy or re-create instead of thinking for themselves, as would a person with a healthy self-esteem. 

The Sime~Gen characters I write about are of a different breed.  While there is a Householding that specializes in archeology and digging up ancient technology (in House of Zeor they're exploring what a "camera" can do), most of the people in this new society think for themselves and invent things, never considering that they can't do something just because they don't know how.

Much of the Sime~Gen redevelopment follows the same course that Ancient humans followed -- for the same compelling reasons.  But there are departures due to their physiological and psychological differences from Ancient Humans.

The PreHistoric event that generates the Sime~Gen situation is not an "apocalypse" as generally depicted in Science Fiction and Fantasy novels -- but its opposite but I don't think there is an antonym.

And it turns out the actual, literal, and traditional meaning of the word Apocalypse exactly fits Sime~Gen -- while the novels the word is generally applied to depict the opposite of the actual meaning.

Here's a nice discussion of the origin of the concept apocalypse on a WIKI:

The article starts with the core of the matter:
Apocalypse (Greek: ?p???????? Apokálypsis; "lifting of the veil"), is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of humankind. Today the term is often used to refer to the end of the world, which may be a shortening of the phrase apokalupsis eschaton which literally means "revelation at the end of the æon, or age".
---------END QUOTE--------------

And it goes on to describe the application to Christian visions -- and of course that came from the Jewish origins.

The essence of the reference is to the Biblical descriptions of the Messianic Age, and to the turmoil that is prophesied to precede that age.

At the time I created Sime~Gen I hadn't learned any of this "apocalyptic" stuff.

At that time, the SF literature was dominated by Atomic Bomb apocalypses, and all of my favorites were about human mutants Andre Norton's STARMAN'S SON etc.

All of those were cautionary tales (like Silent Spring) or outright Horror Stories (humans are so evil at heart that left to themselves they will destroy themselves - stupid or evil humans in a hostile environment.)

So, being a science fiction writer, I postulated the opposite.

Instead of God cursing humans with utter destruction for our essential shortcomings, WHAT IF ....

The essence of science fiction is "What if....?" or "If only ....?"  or "If this goes on ...."  I learned from reading about how to write that the best SF combines all 3 of those speculations.  So I did.

WHAT IF - humanity is good, but stubbornly refusing to learn compassion?

IF ONLY - humans would become sensitive to the pain of others

IF THIS GOES ON - God will Bless us with a very definitive lesson.  A lack of compassion will become a capital offense. 

So in Sime~Gen, because of God's love for us and his Universe, God blesses us.  If you postulate that God is real (a terrible stretch for some people, but this is SF after all -- no pain, no gain)  -- and that the Soul is real, then Death can be only temporary.  Reincarnation could be real because God, being rather sensible, would recycle these complicated creations called people. 

Redesigning the Universe so that a lack of compassion is a capital offense is just God's method of training us in a lesson we really do want to master. 

It's a lesson in how to make life easy, how to get along, how to live without destroying that which supports life (our ecology - Sime~Gen is an answer to the problem of using up all Earth's oil for energy and not being able to restart civilization after collapse of this one). 

So the Souls of these characters have undergone a whole series of short, ugly lives terminating in horrible deaths until the lessons of compassion are driven deep into the fabric of their beings.

Of course, being human, they don't all learn at the same pace -- so there are some dunces in this class. 

The worldbuilding theory is that the bell shaped distribution curve for compassion among humans has had it's peak shifted maybe 10% toward the compassion end of the X axis.  Because of this, the events in the novel Zelerod's Doom and the subsequent year or two in the Sime~Gen chronology are plausible.  Given the same problem today among Ancient humans (us), the events would not have gone that well at all. 

So you might say Sime~Gen redefines the label "Post Apocalyptic Literature."   And Sime~Gen redefines the label "Vampire Novel." 

Zauberspiegel: Sime/Gen tells the story of the Simes and Gens, a society of two different types of humans. How do you refer to the two ... are they different types of humans? Races? Species? Since the younger readers in particular will very likely not know the novels, please tell us more about it. What is this society like? What are the relationships between the two of them like?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg: The Sime~Gen Mutation split humanity into Simes and Gens. 

Some Simes are male, some female.
Some Gens are male, some female.

Children of either or both Sime and Gen are neither Sime nor Gen, but just children. 

The child of 2 Simes has about a 1/3 chance of turning into a Gen at puberty.

The child of 2 Gens has about a 1/3 chance of turning into a Sime at puberty.

The child of a Sime and a Gen -- all bets are off.  (and yes, they interbreed, which makes some dynamite stories!)

I used the terms Sime and Gen only until fans discussing the universe on a Listserv (which has moved to Facebook Sime~Gen Group) kept running into the English syntactical need for an equivalent of the word Gender.

So we did what Jean and I are generally prone to do -- we let the fans make suggestions and then we took a vote on what the term equivalent to Gender should be.  We have always let the readers guide the direction of the stories, and fans who write stories in this universe (which we publish online) sometimes see their additions to the universe incorporated in print.

The word "larity" won -- I'm not sure of the etymology, but I suspect it has something to do with Lateral Tentacles.

You see, Simes have tentacles on their arms, Gens don't.

Since the stories are scattered among thousands of years of human history, the character's assumptions about their own Nature changes.

Nobody knows (and the universe premise is that the characters will never know, which is part of their problem) what the actual cause of this mutation was.  They do know that Ancients looked like Gens (some statues survive).

So, since no Sime has ever zlinned (Simes have senses Gens don't) an Ancient, it was at first (pre DNA science) assumed that Gens were Ancients and Simes were the different ones.

As their assumptions change, their society shifts to adjust. 

After the collapse of Ancient (pre-mutation) civilization, about a thousand years of chaos intervenes.  This is pretty standard in human history's archeological record - when a major civilization such as Ancient Rome collapses, it takes about a thousand years to get things together again. 

During that interval, the afforementioned short, ugly lives are lived with horrible ugly deaths until compassion is learned.

As compassion is learned, a third mutation begins to survive puberty -- the channels, who are Simes with two nervous systems instead of one.

In Jean Lorrah's novel FIRST CHANNEL, one such channel discovers (because of the Gen he loves) that he can take selyn (the energy of life) from a Gen without killing the Gen and later give that selyn (channel it) to another Sime who can then survive a month without killing a Gen.

The problem humanity faces is that Gens produce abundant amounts of life-energy (selyn) but their bodies use very little, if any.  Simes don't produce any selyn in their tissues, but their bodies run on selyn not calories (they don't eat much except to replace protein and minerals to keep cells alive and replaced).

When a Sime takes selyn from a Gen, the Gen dies.

Of course, the other Gens aren't happy about that.  Wars ensue.  Wipe out all the Simes and that solves the problem. Nope, the children of Gens still turn into Simes and form bands of Freeband Raiders, killing for the fun of it.

Some Freeband Raider gang that gets too big to move around settles in and forms a Sime government, domesticating Gens by breeding them in pens and doling them out to tax-paying Simes.

They defend their "Territory" -- and before long the landscape is dotted with odd-shaped Sime Territories surrounded by Gen Territory, and the border wars begin.

Into this situation comes The First Channel (son of a Genfarm owner where they breed Gens for the Kill). 

In the direct sequel, CHANNEL'S DESTINY, we see how the Forts begin to form, little walled villages of Simes and Gens who live together using channels as intermediaries.

In THE FARRIS CHANNEL we see how the Forts can't survive and how they evolve into the living-groups called Householdings that eventually band together into an organization called the Tecton -- which evolves in ZELEROD'S DOOM into the Modern Tecton (a government that manages both Sime Territory and eventually Gen Territory) -- and there are novels yet to be written about the Interstellar Tecton.

Zauberspiegel: You often worked together with Jean Lorrah. How did you meet? How did you begin to write together? What is it like to work so close with another person for such a long time? How do you split up the work on your writings? Did your cooperation only cover Sime/Gen?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg:
I first encountered Jean's writing during the compilation of STAR TREK LIVES!  Jean had co-authored a STAR TREK story which we wanted to include in a center section of STAR TREK LIVES featuring fan fiction -- no fan fiction devoted to any TV, film or book series had ever been professionally published, aired, or discussed in professional journalistic media of any kind at that time. 

It turned out that the fanfiction section would make the book too long, (and yes, they were against the concept of fanfic, and there were nasty copyright issues with Paramount which owned Star Trek at that time).  So it wasn't included.

However, to their utter astonishment STAR TREK LIVES! was a best seller and went 8 printings -- we blew the lid on Star Trek fandom!  So Sondra Marshak took on another partner, Myrna Culbreth and did the anthology STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES (and some sequels, plus some original Trek novels) while I went on developing Sime~Gen.

When HOUSE OF ZEOR first came out in Hardcover, I sold copies I had bought myself to Star Trek fans I knew via snailmail magazines and groups.  I sold it on a money back guarantee (the hardcover was exorbitantly expensive).  The guarantee was only to Spock fans.  People who liked Trek for reasons other than Spock were not my target readership for HOUSE OF ZEOR (though McCoy fans were the target of UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER).

I sold over 60 copies of the hardcover on the guarantee and never had one returned.

Jean Lorrah, however, was not so much a Spock fan as a Surak fan.

So HOUSE OF ZEOR both worked and didn't work for her.  She wrote a review in a fanzine titled Vampire In Muddy Boots calling House of Zeor a novel that was flawed in the way of typical first novels.

She was a professional writer at that time, but hadn't sold a novel, and didn't know the "flaws" evident in first novels are there not because the author can't do any better, but because publishing houses would BUY a novel that was a first novel that did not have those "flaws."  Catch-22.

Very soon after the publication of House of Zeor, my mailbox exploded with mail.  I couldn't handle it all and found myself writing the same thing again and again.  So I started making as many carbon copies as I could and putting them out in circulating lists (asking each person to forward it to another on the list).

That didn't work well, and before I knew it, Betty Herr had taken over creating a mimeographed fanzine Ambrov Zeor. 

For the first issue, we wanted to publish Jean Lorrah's insightful review, so I wrote to her and asked permission.  Within months she'd sent in several fanzine stories set in Sime~Gen -- and soon after that we met at a Star Trek/Media convention where she showed me the outline for a longer story.

I loved it, and told her to do a couple chapters and an outline and I'd submit it to Doubleday as by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg.

They bought it but it was way too long, so it had to be split and became both FIRST CHANNEL and CHANNEL'S DESTINY -- there's a third story in that trilogy which we might do someday as a screenplay.  The events in that third book are summarized in THE FARRIS CHANNEL.

If you are now thoroughly confused, you may want to look at the official chronology in the order in which they happen in Sime~Gen history, rather than publication order.

So for FIRST CHANNEL and CHANNEL'S DESTINY Jean wrote the first draft of a chapter, and sent it to me (usually daily, but sometimes in chunks) and I would retype the chapter, making changes to the background and tweaking wording.  She would rewrite my rewrite and I'd do a final draft from that.  We did all the chapters, then smoothed the book as a whole. 

For ZELEROD'S DOOM I first drafted and she second drafted -- she decided she just couldn't cope with my rough-drafting method (which I've since changed to require less rewriting). 

So recently we've been brainstorming what happens and writing independently -- but these works are still collaborations, and as coherently interwoven into telling the future-history story as possible. 

We have very different world-views, but Sime~Gen is not a series but a universe -- to tell its story you must have a lot of worldviews included.  Hence the fanfiction is an integral part of the experience of reading Sime~Gen.

Read a Sime~Gen published novel, read some related fanfiction posted on simegen.com/sgfandom/  -- then re-read that published novel and you'll find you're reading a totally different novel.  That effect makes the published novels worth their price -- even the price of the audiobook versions.

Zauberspiegel: From the series only "The Haus of Zeor" (Dt: "Das Haus Zeor") and "Unto Zeor, Forever" ("Für Zeor auf ewig") had been published in German. When the Moewig Verlag cancelled its SF-paperback program, there were no follow ups (something I deeply regret). Was there no interest in publishing further books from this series? Are you trying to find a German publisher right now?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: At this point, we're not actively searching for a German publisher.

Alas the Moewig Verlag translations (you did see the discussion of their cover art on the Sime~Gen Group?) were highly inaccurate, misleading, etc.  We do have some fans in Germany (mostly through Trek Fandom) and thankfully they read English.  However, their outcry is the loudest.

With ebooks and audible.com versions being instantly available worldwide, the pressure to do translations has abated.

I suspect an opportunity with a real fan who is able to do good translating would be irresistible! 

Zauberspiegel: In the USA the series was not only continued, it was pretty succesful and had and still has a big fandom, which is also very active. The series formed to a whole universe that does not only involve you and Jean Lorrah, but that is actively involved and where fanfiction plays an important part. How did this fandom form?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg: How did Sime~Gen fandom form?  I couldn't honestly say it ever FORMED.  It's an amorphous sprawl of happy role players who just love bouncing ideas around and rewriting the established Sime~Gen Universe exactly as Star Trek fans (me, too, with Kraith) rewrote Star Trek.

The fans create all these alternate universes that I just totally adore, and another one just started bouncing some ideas around on the Sime~Gen Group on facebook.

Remember those 60 copies of HOUSE OF ZEOR that I sold on a money back guarantee?  Well they were to Spock fans, who were mostly fans of my Kraith Series of Star Trek fanfic ( http://simegen.com/fandom/startrek/  -- and the reason they knew me was from reading fanzines, in which many of them also wrote stories.

I drew a bead (aimed) directly at that nerve that Spock's character twanged in those writers, and they responded to Sime~Gen the same way they responded to Trek -- the reached out their hands, grabbed the wet clay of my universe, and remolded it.

And that's how Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me -- molding my words with her hands, running my words through her typewriter, kneading them as you knead bread. 

The Star Trek fan writers sent me Sime~Gen stories they'd written.

When you've got a tiger by the tail, there's nothing to do but swarm aboard and ride it.  So I sent the stories to the editor of Ambrov Zeor (which was various people at various times) and she published them. 

OK, it wasn't quite that simple.  Before I would allow anything to be published in Ambrov Zeor, I had to make sure it met the highest professional standards of craftsmanship I knew how to meet.  So often a fan written Sime~Gen story would go through 3-5 rewrites before it went to the editor and copyediting (and more little tweaks and twiddles) -- the exact same process any professional publishing house uses.

By doing this, we trained a lot of writers in the craft, and several editors, two of whom are working professionally now on the basis of what they learned then.  I can think of two of the writers who have sold professionally, also.  But many fan writers just don't want to write professionally -- not that they don't want to turn out high precision craftsmanship, but that their subject matter isn't geared to the commercial markets.

That squeezes a lot of material into the fanfic market which is now online with all kinds of fanfic spun off from TV shows.  Many of our writers still write in those venues.

Another phenomenon that I've been following in aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com is the Indie publishers and e-publishers and Indie writers doing their own works.  This is a kind of creativity that had no outlet when so many were writing Sime~Gen fanfic. 

At one time there were 5 separate Sime~Gen fanzines publishing, and consulting with each other to coordinate which conventions which issues would debut at.

Most of that material that we have been able to clear rights for now resides on simegen.com/sgfandom/  for free reading. 

Also in that section of the simegen.com domain you will find a large amount of my own work -- an early draft of UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER so you can learn how a novel can morph before publication, plus some unpublished work.

There is also that first short story I sold, OPERATION HIGH TIME. 

And there's new fanfiction going up in two sections. 

Is there something like a "bible" for the series that is guiding the people who are involved in fanfiction? If there is, what does this bible contain?

No, there's nothing written down to guide writers.  We did do a "bible" for the Kraith stories because at one time there were 50 people creating Kraith, but I don't think we've got that many working in Sime~Gen (I could be wrong; haven't counted).

I honestly wouldn't know how to assemble a "bible" for Sime~Gen writers. I'd say read and re-read the published novels in various orders, and come to the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook, ask questions. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Great interview! The origin of "larity" is that it's short for "polarity." I was on the list when this issue was discussed. I suggested "subspecies," and the biologist on the list explained why it wouldn't work.

    Could you post the Facebook link for Sime-Gen? All I have friended is Zoe Farris's Facebook site because I don't know where the official Sime-Gen one is.

  2. http://www.facebook.com/groups/121838917889519/ is the "official" Sime~Gen Group on Facebook and it's "webmastered" (?? face-mastered?) by Zoe Farris.

    Thank you for remembering that discussion that produced "larity" as the official parallel to "gender."