The following material is copyright © 1997 by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg.
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Date: Saturday, 23-Aug-97 11:21 PM
From: Jean Lorrah To: Mary Lou Mendum
Subject: Re: Zhag and Tonyo
Compiled from email by Jacqueline Lichtenberg. [Workshoppers Note: usually material of this type is not written out in whole sentences. None of this is graven in stone. Any item of background can be changed (before anything is written derived from it) to support and enhance the thematic substructure of the story. That happens automatically when a POV character is chosen - or a theme is chosen which is the "story of this character's life." ]
Jean's notes: These characters first appear in the short story, "Reflection of a Dream," currently out looking for a publisher. Antoine Logan, Gen, is called Tony in Gen Territory, Tonyo in Gulf Territory, where he goes after Unity, seeking the music he has heard his mother and some of her friends sing. Tony's mother was born in Gulf, established, and fled across the border.
Zhag Paget, Sime, is the best shiltpron player in Norlea. At Unity he is already semi-junct and dying--he can no longer kill, but he is too old to disjunct. This is one of those karmic situations--Tony is a Natural Donor and a match for Zhag, and of course saves his life. I have not written the exact circumstances, as they will be adapted to fit a novel someday.
Zhag does not work as a channel, and Tony is never properly trained as a Companion at a Householding. Both of them just want to make music.
This brainstorming began with correspondence with Mary Lou Mendum, and then Tony started talking to me, telling me bits and pieces of his story. After he had told me a great deal, he finally made Zhag tell me something that happened to him before he met Tony...the part he would rather not remember.
You are looking at work in progress here, but not the words that may be published one day. This is backstory and character development--much of what you are reading here will never appear in professional print. Not only may the universe develop in such a way that some of what could happen if a Zhag/Tonyo novel were written today could not if it were written five years from now, but much of this simply won't belong in any professional story written about them. Some of it may be referred to; most of it won't be.
What you see here is character study. Out of it may possibly come theme at some time in the future. However, there is no plot. This is not a story, and it is not the outline of a novel. It's a set of reference notes I can come back to if there is ever a chance to write more about these people.
Even if some of the scenes you see described here should end up in a pro publication someday, you'll note that nothing here is from a specific point of view. If it appears in a story, it will be written in a completely different way. Should that ever happen, these notes will provide beginning writers with a clear differentiation between idea and story.
Dear Mary Lou,
I'm carboning Jacqueline in on this because it has lots of stuff she hasn't heard yet about Zhag and Tony.
Mary Lou Mendum: I'd like to ensure that what I do with Tallin and Zilmor stays consistent with what you have Zhag and Tonyo do a century later, allowing for development of a new artform.
Jean Lorrah answers: In the story, they do a simple concert as far as the music is concerned. They are out-T, so Zhag is the only Sime there--they left their backup musicians in Gulf (not that that is mentioned--because of word limitations I didn't even mention that Tony plays guitar on some songs). In the portion of the concert that is described (five minutes out of a two-hour performance) it is just shiltpron and voice to the Gen audience, although of course both are also performing nagerically. They have added a fancy light show for an audience that can't zlin, although again we don't know that they've just added it, because the pov character doesn't know that.
Mary Lou asks: I'm particularly interested in knowing what part Tonyo plays during the performances, whether there are additional backup musicians onstage with them, and what effects they have on their audiences. (Their Sime audiences especially, since I'm writing from Eskalie's pov.)
Jean answers: Tony is the first virtuoso Gen nageric performer--he is a full-time musician; that, not Companion, is his career. He is a fine singer, and a competent guitarist--he plays to accompany his singing, not as a solo guitarist. He is also a composer, but primarily a lyricist--Zhag usually roughs out the melody, and Tony refines the vocal part while Zhag refines the instrumental part. They are true collaborators, that part based on the way Jacqueline and I work together so that the final product is so seamless that you can't pick apart who did what.
Tony is, incidentally, Zhag's Companion, but Zhag is just an ordinary second-order channel who later gets bumped up to the lowest ranks of first-order through Tony's growth. This will become a running joke; as Zhag likes to put it, "He knocked me up." Zhag, who becomes one of the wealthiest men in Gulf, enjoys complaining about the taxes he has to pay, and the fact that Tony pays his taxes in selyn. Zhag refers to himself as Tony's tax collector. Background: Zhag comes from a poor but loving family. He saw his parents suffer the deprivation of delay when they could not afford to pay their Pen taxes--and of course at least one of his parents was a channel, who was often not satisfied. And then he very nearly died himself because he was too old to disjunct at Unity.
Now Zhag is as secure as it is possible for a semi-junct to be. He has Tony, and he has more money than he will ever be able to spend. But he will never be truly secure (Tony is a highly independent individual, not Zhag's property), so he covers his insecurity by joking about it.
Mary Lou asks: Also, does your duo use the channels-as-amplifiers technique which was discussed a while back on the Theater thread?
Jean answers: Not in the first story. I think this is something they have done a few times for very big, special concerts in-Territory. They do not usually tour with more than four to six performers.
Mary Lou says: If so, I'll have to work out with Jacqueline how much of the effect Tallin could achieve on his own, or in collaboration with only the renSime Zilmor. He does have the advantage that he's an accomplished and fully trained Companion, not a dropout. That might give him a little better idea of exactly what his nager is doing. Although if Zhag's a junct channel, I expect he'd be pretty picky about what Tonyo was doing nagerically.
Jean says: Tony is equally picky. In fact, he comes over the years to be much more in control of his nager than the average Companion, because he uses it artistically every day. Eventually he develops as much control as a Hailro. What he is known for is the power of his field, but he also has incredible finesse. He has the same perfect pitch nagerically as he has audially (Sime technical term: he is a fanir). And, because of who he is, there is none of the disapproval of his experimentation that would occur in a Householding or a Tecton training center. Zhag encourages him--everything he learns adds to the music. They are also both jokers, and furthermore, part of Zhag's attitude toward Tony in the early days (this will change in later days) is that he is sort of a prized pet that he loves to show off. So he helps Tony learn how to do all sorts of things no Companion would learn.
And some things he figures out for himself. The next story slowly forming in my mind has to do with a tour out to Norwest Territory, after Oliver Teague becomes their manager. The problem is, there is still a warrant out for Tony and Zhag's arrest there, from an incident six or eight years before, the last time they toured there. You see, Tony is used to wandering around in Sime Territory without an escort. He's done so since his earliest days in Gulf, where he quickly learned to be a Giant Killer Gen. He has never met a Sime he couldn't knock out cold with one flick of his nager--a trick he has used many a time in the unsavory neighborhoods he inhabits as a starving young musician.
What happens in Norwest is that Tony thoughtlessly goes off on his own, wanders into a dive somewhere to get a drink, and several edgy semi-juncts (at a time when there are many unhappy, edgy semi-juncts around) decide to teach this uppity Gen a lesson. He fails to pay attention to the Sime at the bar, who is in the process of stepping in to break things up before they begin--he just Genslams everybody.
But the Sime at the bar was the local sheriff. Tony is charged with assault on a law officer. Zhag and the rest of the band don't wait for a trial--they break him out of jail and the whole band hightails it for the border. So both Tony and Zhag are Wanted in Norwest Territory, something that has to be settled years later before they can perform there.
After this incident, Tony changes the way he handles Simes. Instead of using raw power, he begins to broadcast, "You like me. I'm a nice guy. You trust me. I make you feel good." Well, that works like a charm. The only problem is that it drastically increases the number of Simes, mostly female but including a scattering of males, trying to get him into bed!
Jean comments that Zhag stretches his cramped tentacles by hanging from the chandeliers in hotel rooms. Mary Lou asks: By the way, I had to wonder a bit about the chandelier business. They're very expensive. Most hotels, even luxury hotels, would have only one or two, to decorate the lobby and other public rooms. I'd expect the private rooms would be lighted by candles, lanterns, or possibly gas lights in the better places (which few musicians can afford). Are you sure Zhag isn't stretching his tentacles on the shower curtain rod or the clothes rod in the closet instead? And that the chandelier business isn't an apocryphal story resulting from a wild post-conference party in the hotel's chandelier-lighted conference room?
Jean replies: Not all chandeliers are crystal. I was picturing the wooden wagon-wheel type with candles or oil lamps on the spokes.
As you can see, these characters have really come to life for me--they are telling me all sorts of things about themselves! I could tell you half a dozen more such anecdotes.
JL admonishes - "Tell, Jean, tell!!!"
Mary Lou: Thanks for the background. I think the way I've been approaching Tallin's concerts will fit reasonably well as an early version of Tony's artform.
For some reason, I got the impression that your pov character was Tony.
Jean: No--the pov is Carla Stenner, an out-T Gen who is in charge of security for the concert. She and Tony were childhood sweethearts. They were seventeen at the time of the Unity Treaty. Tony immediately went in-T in search of music he had only heard Gen versions of. Carla was too much afraid to go with him. Eventually she married someone else, but is now a widow. Carla has remained Tony's anima, his Beatrice, his inspiration--the woman of his dreams. In reality, she is a rather mundane person, intelligent and even witty, but no dreamer like Tony.
Mary Lou: BTW, wouldn't Tony also be independently wealthy, maybe more so than Zhag if he doesn't pay Sime taxes?
Jean: Yes, of course. But Tony doesn't really care about money; he doesn't need more than life's necessities as long as he has his music and his dreams. Fortunately, Zhag gets good investment counseling for both of them through Carre.
Mary Lou: However, in my Eskalie stories, Tallin is using music as a way to control and manipulate junct Simes. He justifies it (in the martial arts tradition) as the least violent method of defending himself and the Sime(s) in his charge in a sticky situation. Putting Zilmor and her accomplices to sleep in "Pilfered Pen" was obviously preferable to using Genslam on them,
In the current story, Tallin's actions are a little less morally justifiable. He basically manipulates Eskalie and her father into patching up the quarrel which led to Eskalie running away from home in the first place. It's definitely more the sort of thing a First Companion would do, rather than a professional musician like Tony.
Tallin is not only providing nageric sedation every time it looks like his victims are losing their tempers, but he's guiding the conversation by his choice of songs, and the emotions and associations those songs evoke.
Jean: This is a maturity distinction. Tony is a seventeen-year-old working class kid when he goes into Gulf. He is also very, um, pretty. Back home in Gen Territory he learned to use his fists to combat the first impression that because he has blond curls and big blue eyes and would rather sing than play sports, he must be a sissy. In-T, he slugs it out with his nager. Even as he grows older, for a long time he's living among down-and-out semi-juncts in the part of Norlea where the shiltpron parlors are. Even after Tony and Zhag team up, there are years of earning just enough to keep a roof over their heads, because until the reinvention of the phonograph (or some method of recording sound) there is no way for working-class music to break out of the small clubs. For a long time the best they can do would be the equivalent of making it big on the burlesque circuit at the beginning of this century. And there is no equivalent of Broadway in-T.
So, Tony lives among rough, uneducated people, even though he and Zhag educate themselves once Zhag faces the fact that he is going to live and starts planning for the future. But it's a specialized education: everything they can learn about music, plus anything that happens to intrigue either of them in any other discipline. But few social graces--who needs them?
Therefore Tony comes late to the idea of using his nager as subtly in a social situation as he does on stage. When he thinks about it, it's easy for him--but he wouldn't think of handling a situation the way Tallin does for many years. Why cajole when he can bash?
Mary Lou quotes Jean's statement, "He has never met a Sime he couldn't knock out cold with one flick of his nager--a trick he has used many a time in the unsavory neighborhoods he inhabits as a starving young musician."
Then she asks: This, presumably, was before he and Zhag started building a reputation? Or does Zhag handle the finances for both of them, and just hand Tony spending money when he asks for it? (Quite possible, if he initially viewed Tony as a pet Gen. And by the time he changed his mind, the pattern would have been set.) I'm getting the impression that Tony is so wrapped up in their music that he doesn't pay much attention to the rest of the world. He might actually be quite happy to leave all the bill paying and other day-to-day management to Zhag.
Jean responds: For many years he is completely happy to do so. Zhag never cheats him, although for a long time Tony would never know if he did. When he finds out that Carla's husband has died, for the first time Tony takes stock of what he has--and by that time, it is quite enough to support a wife and two young stepchildren in comfort. But he also has his disinterest in money reinforced as Carla turns him down at that time, not ready to turn her daughters' lives inside out any more than their father's death has done.
But then, a new opportunity arises. The Genfarm outside Norlea goes out of business (the few kills still needed in Norlea can be sent from elsewhere), and the land is put up for sale.
Nobody is interested. The price drops. And Tony decides to buy it.
Tony wants to keep it in operation as a farm growing things Gens can eat. Gen population is growing in Gulf, but food for Gens is pretty plain stuff--whatever diet they share in common with Simes is all there is. The farm has provided necessary dairy products, for example, that will disappear if it is turned into something else.
Tony doesn't have enough money to cover the land, taxes, and hiring people to do the farmwork. But he's been living in Norlea for years, now, and has connections at Carre. The Householding is planning to take in the Gens and children from the farm, to house and educate. Tony strikes a bargain with them: he will house and feed them if Carre will provide teachers to educate them. The Householding is only too happy to agree--they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And thus Tony keeps an experienced workforce on the farm for the time being, and only has to hire a couple of supervisors.
Gulf has by this time instituted a method of moving Gens raised for the kill but not killed into citizenship. They must be educated and pass a test. Some are never going to make it, and will require supervision all their lives. For the moment, there are more than a hundred Gens and children on the farm who are not citizens and require someone to be responsible for them until their status changes.
It's when he signs the papers to be official guardian to all these people that Tony suddenly realizes what he is getting himself into. Especially when, after the formalities are concluded, he is addressed as "Tuib Logan." He's been Tonyo in-T, ever since he met Zhag, and afforded the courtesy of acknowledging his last name, Tonyo Logan, as a Free Gen. But no one has ever addressed him formally before. (Not that Zhag is ever Tuib Paget, either--they are entertainers, not exactly considered fine upstanding citizens in that time and place. In ten more years it will be different.)
Zhag, by the way, thinks the whole scheme is a stroke of insanity, but if Tonyo wants to throw his money away.... So Tony decides that his enterprise will be the first business in Gulf Territory completely owned and run by Gens. For a long time the farm is only modestly successful (Zhag is surprised that it is even self-supporting)--but once Oliver Teague gets involved....
Anyway, on the day that Tony signs all the papers and officially takes responsibility, he tells Zhag, "I can't believe it--suddenly I'm responsible for all these people, when I've hardly ever even been responsible for myself!"
And Zhag, of course, chokes on his porstan and manages not to point out the obvious.
"Reflection" is several years later--and the beginning of Tony and Carla getting back together. There's going to be some major adjusting to do--Carla has some real problems understanding Zhag and Tony's relationship. She's used to Tecton channels at the Sime Center, with their rotating Donors. This is the first time she has ever seen a channel/Companion relationship at work, and of course because Tony and Zhag are also, and primarily, collaborators in their art, they are even closer than the average channel and Companion. Sometimes she can't figure out why Tony is so obsessed with having her around, when he spends all his time with Zhag. Tony doesn't understand why Carla doesn't automatically love Zhag--doesn't everyone? The next story will go far to resolve that conflict. If, of course, there is ever reason to write the next story.
August 24, 1997
Jean--continuing as Tony and Zhag keep whispering new information in her ear:
Tony and Zhag first meet in Norlea. Tony originally crossed the border into northern Gulf. Every Sime he met pointed him toward Keon, so he went there. They were only too happy to welcome him, but when he found out how much of a Companion's time is tied up, he walked away and headed for Norlea, where he was told he could find the music he was seeking.
Free Gens are new in-T, even in Gulf, and one not associated with a Householding is a minor wonder. Tony is willing to work for food, but Simes don't really require Gens to do physical labor. He often sings for his supper--he plays guitar competently enough to accompany himself. But it's not his guitar playing that wins him fans wherever he goes--it's his singing and his nager. At this point Tony does not really understand what he is doing with his nager; it's reacting to the emotion he pours into his singing.
But he is a growing teenage boy, wandering about where most of the population simply has little food on hand that is suitable for Gens. He is hungry a lot of the time.
Tony arrives in Norlea in the evening. He has been advised to go directly to Carre, but when he finds other Free Gens mingling with the Sime population, he figures he doesn't require the protection of a Householding, where they would be nagging him again to become a Companion. So he sets out to find a shiltpron parlor, not really bothered by the fact that it takes him down around the docks, a very seedy area of town...nor the fact that he is the only Gen in that neighborhood.
Finally he hears music--music like nothing he has ever heard before. It's the first time he has ever heard a shiltpron. He cannot at this point distinguish his audial from his nageric reaction to it. All he knows is that he is overwhelmed with the power and potential of this incredible music. He enters the shiltpron parlor and sits down at the back, where he won't be noticed.
Of course every Sime in the place instantly focuses on this Wild Gen instinctively locking nagers with them and resonating to the music.
It's not Zhag playing. He is already too ill to play a full evening. The player is the opening act, young, competent, but nowhere near the artist Zhag is. But Tony is unconsciously making him seem like a virtuoso.
The owner sends her son--a child, the only person who could possibly tear himself away--to get Zhag. Because Zhag is a channel and accustomed to manipulating the fields when he plays, he actually does manage to sit at the back of the room, unnoticed.
The music ends. Tony gets up to approach the shiltpron player, to ask if he can be allowed to sing. Three Simes--a man and two women--sense his move as deprivation, as at this point Tony does not know how to do a gentle disengagement. He doesn't even know it's necessary--he doesn't realize what he has done to them. As Tony walks away, the Simes follow him, angrily demanding that he stop and explain himself.
When it appears that they are going to physically attack, Tony responds with the first thing he learned in-T as a response to a threatening Sime: he Genslams them, and continues on his way.
Now, Genslam is the one thing Tony already has some conscious control over--he drops the three unconscious but unharmed, while his field barely affects the rest of the Simes in the place. Zhag, the only channel in the audience, is fortunately shielded by the three victims.
Of course all the renSimes are going, "Giant Killer Gen!" and trying to decide whether to flee for their lives or stay and watch the fun. When the three Tony dropped wake up with no ill effects while Tony is talking to the shiltpron player, they decide to stay. Tony asks to be allowed to sing.
The shiltpron player, half scornful and half afraid, says no.
From the back of the room, Zhag says, "I'll play for you."
And thus begins a new era of popular music.
Zhag plays, Tony sings, Simes wander in off the street, and the shiltpron parlor has its biggest take since Unity. But Tony is hungry, and the shiltpron parlor doesn't serve meals. He eats the nuts and pretzel equivalents available, but along with them he drinks lots of porstan--like beer, it has some nutritional value, right?
The night disappears into a blur. The next thing Tony knows, the sun is in his eyes, coming through a hole in the roof. He wakes up on the floor of a shack he doesn't recognize, in a heap of quilts and discarded clothing...along with the two female Simes who accosted him the night before. All three are naked, but Tony could not care less. He has the worst hangover he's ever had in his life.
Tony's headache quickly wakes the two women, who grab their clothes and flee the vicinity of his field. It also brings Zhag out of the only other room--it's his shack, of course. To preserve his own sanity, he doses Tony with trin tea as well as experimenting with some of the channel's skills he has never formally studied. He has to ease that pain if he's going to keep the kid around--and he already knows he wants to keep the kid around, even if he doesn't realize that he has met the one person who can save his life.
At this point Zhag has accepted that he is going to die. His music is the only thing that means anything to him anymore, and last night, sharing it with this strange Gen he calls Tonyo, he was so lost in the music that he actually felt positively good for the first time since his last "innocent" kill--which was before his brother established (see below).
Tony that morning is not exactly what a junct channel in the midst of a suicide disjunction needs--in fact, of course, had anyone at Carre known what was happening, they would have tried to prevent the meeting. Becoming friends and partners with a Gen can only shorten the time Zhag has left.
Zhag doesn't care--quality is more important than quantity to him, and Tony has given him back his joy in music. That is the one thing they share from the very beginning. Nevertheless, it's a wonder Zhag doesn't throw his unexpected house guest out, for besides the hangover that Zhag knows how to cure, Tony has a huge case of the guilts.
"What have I done?" he wails. "I've been unfaithful to the only woman I've ever loved--and I don't even remember it!"
Eventually, being a young, healthy, and quite normal male, Tony salves his conscience about "cheating" on Carla (who never asked for a promise of fidelity) by restricting his extracurricular activities to Sime women, never Gens--and never entering into a lasting relationship.
August 25, 1997
Being on other mailing lists helps. As you know, I'm also on the Led Zeppelin mailing list. Some time ago the guitarists were off on their own thread, talking technical stuff.
One of the amateur guitarists was talking about a song that is terrifically hard to play--he just could not master the fingering. One of the professional musicians came back with the answer: instead of the standard tuning, Jimmy Page retunes his guitar (he gave the tuning). Then the song becomes perfectly simple to play.
The amateur tried it and reported that it worked--suddenly he could play the "impossible" song with ease!
Now, a Sime leaves the strings of his shiltpron always tuned the same way, because with tentacles he has no problem with even the weirdest "fingering." But Tony, when he wants to play Zhag's shiltpron, figures out that if he retunes it, there are several of the most complicated songs that he can play with just fingers. Of course when he does that, the next time Zhag picks it up he gets a discordant jangle, because Tony didn't retune it after he finished.
Later the same day:
Something is definitely happening here! Every time I walk the dogs, Tony and Zhag tell me another story! Here's today's installment, about Tony and Zhag's first "hit" song:
Tony is living in Norlea, crashing in Zhag's shack because he can't afford a place of his own--he can barely earn enough at this point to keep a still-growing Gen fed. He and Zhag have been having transfer now for three or four months, and Zhag is healthier than he has been in years. So far, Tony has been singing Zhag's songs and genre classics, giving them his own spin--they are drawing larger and larger audiences, but the person making money at the moment is the owner of the shiltpron parlor.
Zhag has finally felt well enough after their last transfer to compose his first new music since Tony arrived. He plays it for Tony, who vocalizes to it--there are as yet no lyrics. But later Tony asks Zhag to play it again, as he has thought up some words.
As Zhag plays, Tony begins to sing, "My Brother, He Turned Out Wrong." It's a song of loss, carefully worded so that the narrator could be either Sime or Gen, and you cannot tell exactly what happened to the brother--whether he died, or how, or whether he crossed the border. It doesn't matter: in all cases the result, the refrain, is "And I will never see his face again."
Tony gets through the first chorus and half the second verse before Zhag breaks down, unable to play anymore. "How did you know?" he demands. "None of my friends in Norlea know! You can't know what happened--but how could you write that if you didn't know?"
In point of fact, Tony doesn't know. He was writing about something he has never personally experienced...at least not in this lifetime. But Zhag has. When he was four years past changeover, his younger brother established, and Zhag tried to escort him to the border. But they were caught by the Border Patrol.
As he tells Tony, Zhag realizes...what he did is no longer a crime. He can talk about it. Tony can sing about it. And whether they tried to help, did nothing, or even killed a Gen relative, every Sime in Gulf has some sort of poignant emotional response to that situation.
The song is an instant classic. It is picked up and sung everywhere--but only a Sime~Gen pair like Zhag and Tonyo can give it that special feel. This is the break that gives them the clout to bargain for a living wage--but more important, it is the first step in Zhag's perception of Tony as not being some sort of stunted person who is, sadly, missing something. He's starting to discover that Tony doesn't miss much!
So Zhag begins to test Tony, drawing conclusions that Householding and Tecton Simes just won't admit as possibilities. He becomes convinced that his Gen can read fields...and one night he makes the month's rent during a break in the music by betting a bunch of Simes that he can call Tonyo to his side using nothing but his nager.
Zhag is high-field--it's only a couple of days since he and Tony have had transfer. He is at his favorite table at the back of the room, and Tony is at the bar, flirting with a young Sime woman and paying no attention to Zhag at all.
But Zhag is a channel; he can put on any show-field he wants to. So after he has taken everyone's bets, he simply projects need--and in seconds Tony has forgotten the girl at the bar and is at Zhag's side, demanding to know what's wrong! Of course when Tony finds out that Zhag is showing him off like some kind of performing animal, Zhag finds out that a tongue-lashing is nothing compared to a field-lashing by an offended Gen.
At this point they are earning so little that Zhag splits everything they earn with Tony. When they get their raise, Tony says he will find a place of his own...and Zhag panics. He barely manages to cover it, explaining that actually, with that amount of money, Tony has a choice between renting a dump no better than Zhag's place, or eating right. He still doesn't have enough to do both. So Tony opts for paying half of Zhag's rent. And fixing the hole in the roof.
But when he wakes up one morning a couple of days before transfer to find Zhag in bed with him, Tony learns a little more about taking care of even a healthy channel. Recognizing that Tony requires his own space, Zhag tried not to clutch too tight lest he spook this one person on whom his life and sanity depend. When Zhag was so ill, Tony had sat with him to allow him to sleep--but now he is supposed to be well. So he has tried not to impose himself on Tony when they are not working together.
As a result, Zhag can't sleep at all for several nights before transfer, because he has terrible need nightmares. Tony, having now lived in that neighborhood for several months--and saved the life of everyone's favorite shiltpron player--has made a good many friends among the local Simes. So he often goes out on his own, being naturally more gregarious than Zhag, who tends to stick with a very few close friends rather than a wealth of acquaintances.
So when Tony stumbles in just before dawn and collapses virtually unconscious, Zhag, who is by now exhausted (and totally deprived of REM sleep) thinks he'll just lie down next to Tonyo for a couple of hours. He expects to be up well before the worn-out Gen, who usually sleeps till noon.
Only Zhag conks out, and Tony wakes up first. Fortunately, he wasn't drunk the night before, and certainly knows that Zhag has no sexual desire at this time of the month (he's just recently made the unsettling discovery that his own disappears with Zhag's turnover)--so why, he wants to know, is Zhag sleeping on Tony's pallet on the floor instead of in his own bed in the bedroom?
And that is when he learns that Zhag's need nightmares didn't stop when Tony started giving him good transfers. However, at that point he doesn't learn why.
At WorldCon, Tony and Zhag continued to tell me things. Though Zhag is there, Tony is the front man who normally does all the talking. Some things are just snippets--for example, one night toward the end of their performance, they're jamming. Tony sings,
We've killed each other so many times,
In this life we do it for fun!
He doesn't sing it every night. Zhag is so caught up in playing that he doesn't hear it the first time. But eventually he does. And says nothing.
The line becomes a legend. It's never in their recordings, only rarely in live performance. People who hear it tend to think, "That couldn't be what he said!" Unfortunately, there are no bootleg recordings of their performances, so the only people who ever hear it are those who are there.
As I was walking around the dealer's room at WorldCon, though, Zhag spoke to me himself. Tony made him tell me something he has never told anyone but Tony...and that only after they had known one another for years.
It is the time that Zhag risks the lives of their entire troupe to break Tony out of jail in Norwest Territory. They escape across the border by the skin of their teeth--and once they are safe, Tony gets Zhag apart from the others and demands to know why he did such a stupid thing. None of the Simes in the bar were hurt, including the sheriff--they all came to in minutes without even a headache.
"What did you think they'd do to me?" he demands. "They can't kill me. They could lock me up for a few days, maybe--but most likely it would've been a fine. Zhag--don't you trust me to persuade a Sime judge that I didn't know the man at the bar was the sheriff? I didn't! Any Sime could read the truth in my nager. Now look what you've done--now we've all participated in a jailbreak. You've put a price on all our heads!"
Finally Tony runs down...and realizes that Zhag isn't answering. He is just taking all the anger that Tony pours over him nagerically, and not making any attempt to defend himself. He hasn't even retreated to hypoconsciousness.
And that is when Tony realizes there is something important in Zhag's past that he doesn't know.
So he changes his tactics...and slowly, painfully, pulls the story out of Zhag.
Warning: you are about to get a glimpse of what junct society is all about, and the kind of things it does that can never be either forgotten or forgiven.
Years before, Zhag told Tony about the time he tried to escort his younger brother, who had established, to the border. That happened before Unity. All Zhag told Tony was that they were caught by the Border Patrol. Now Tony drags the rest of the story out of him.
The Patrollers didn't simply take Zhag's brother away from him. They arrested Zhag, who was sentenced to a punishment to fit his crime. This occurred in an area of Gulf that was reacting against the Householding mentality spreading southward from Keon and northward from Carre. The intent was to teach Zhag, and anyone else tempted to escort a Gen relative out of the Territory, what it meant each time a Gen was lost: potentially, an upstanding tax-paying Sime citizen would go without a kill that month.
Now, the idea is not to cause the death of the transgressor, but to make him realize the seriousness of his offense by making him suffer attrition. So Zhag is caged in a public area, to remind everyone who passes by what they would suffer if everyone were to do what Zhag tried to do.
And then when it is judged that Zhag has taken all he can, they bring him his kill...his brother.
Zhag aborts out of the kill.
They wait a few hours and try again. Again he aborts out.
Good citizens start protesting--what that boy did is not a capital offense! Do something!
The logical thing to do is give him a different Gen, but by this time Zhag is so strung out that he can't kill at all.
Now, the one thing that even the most reactionary juncts will call on the Householdings for is medical help--and somebody knows there's a channel/Companion pair in a nearby town, where they have just helped to stem an epidemic in the local Pen. So they are dragged from one nasty job to another.
This is when Zhag is officially identified as a channel (he had suspected it, but never gone to a Householding to have it confirmed--prior to his brother's establishment, Zhag had avoided investigating that "perverted" lifestyle). The Carre channel is doubtful that Zhag can be saved, but can make one suggestion that might work: give Zhag a Gen, have someone else take a kill, and hope that he will be carried on the cascade to take a kill himself.
Well, it works--but Zhag emerges completely traumatized. It is only then that the Carre channel finds out that the authorities gave the Sime who precipitated the cascade Zhag's brother. To Zhag it is as bad as if he killed him himself.
The channel takes Zhag back to Carre, but once he finds out that he is too old to disjunct, he doesn't want to live there. He takes refuge in his music, lets the channels and Companions at Carre help him through a few crises, and prepares to die. And that is his situation when Tony finds him.
Why didn't Zhag tell Tony the whole story from the beginning? He wanted Tony to stay in Gulf Territory, that's why!
After he learns the whole truth, it's Tony who has the nightmares. He has always been sensitive and psychic, much of his empathy with Simes coming from previous lives as a Sime. But he has been Gen as often--and now his dreams bring back the most horrible moments of all those lives, killing, being killed, loving and losing, deprivation, torture. No, he didn't die at Ardo Pass--he was living his present life when that happened--but he did die as a Sime killing another Sime in a similar situation several lives ago.
Tony does not consciously believe that his dreams are real--they have just always been part of his life. After Zhag's revelation precipitates this sequence of nightmares, something very startling happens.
Zhag and Tony have always performed Sime and Gen classic songs along with their original compositions. Tony is perfectly comfortable singing an old Sime blues classic with lines that go, "Can't pay my pen fees--what am I gonna do? The border's too far, and I sold my horse last month. Feels like turnover comes the day after a kill." (Hey, it's a Simelan song, so it doesn't rhyme in English. Content? Did you really think Eric Clapton shot a sheriff?)
There has always been an intriguing counterpoint between Tony's Genness and the Sime persona of these old songs. But the next time he sings one after Zhag's confession and the series of dreams, something very different occurs. He hardly gets through the first chorus before Zhag stops playing. Thinking he's broken a string or something, Tony keeps on singing and playing his guitar, caught up in the music. The next thing he knows, Zhag is dragging him off the stage.
Backstage, Zhag grabs Tony by the shoulders, shaking him, demanding, "Stop that! Stop it, Tonyo! Now!"
Bewildered, Tony asks, "Stop what?" He's just experiencing the emotion of the song, the way he always does.
And Zhag tells him, "You're radiating need, Tonyo--hard junct need!"
Tony stops, the concert resumes...and although they perform the song at other concerts, never again does Tony project such a field.
Nevertheless, the incident leads to Tony's learning even more control, Zhag's being inspired to new music, and both of them growing. And, inevitably, every Sime in the audience that particular evening, if they didn't think it before, comes away completely convinced that wer-Gens are real, and they've just zlinned one. It's a small venue, maybe 200 people in the audience, and another addition to their legend. A bootleg recording of this concert eventually surfaces, but of course it is sound only...so no one who wasn't there will ever believe what caused the break in the concert.
For more on Zhag and Tonyo see Companion in Zeor:
And Jean has given us even more than this on the discussion list simegen-l. We're hoping those letters will be compiled and posted, and linked here too.
Meanwhile, Zhag and Tonyo make their professional debut in Sime~Gen: To Kiss Or To Kill by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg. The volume contains a long novel by Jean in which Zhag and Tonyo are minor characters, a short story by Jean featuring Zhag and Tonyo, plus a very short novel by Jacqueline titled Personal Recognizance, set in Rialite long after Mahogany Trinrose and RenSime.
Jean plans an entire novel about Zhag and Tonyo. You will find breaking news on that on simegen-l discussion list, or in our monthly domain newsletter newsletter-l -- sign up for all our newsletters here. Or check the section on Sime~Gen professional novels.