The Development of FIRST CHANNEL
(C) 1978 by Jean Lorrah
This is a very brief introduction to the plot of FIRST CHANNEL, a Sime/Gen novel by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Perhaps in future issues I can discuss some of the themes of the book, which I have not even attempted to cover here.
As I tell my composition students, the best writing always stems from a question the author is burning to know the answer to. That is precisely how FIRST CHANNEL began, with my insistent demands to know, How did Rimon Farris ever learn to do that?"
The problem was, Jacqueline couldn't tell me, and the more I learned about the Sime/Gen universe, the more I saw how impossible it would be for a junct channel to discover how to take selyn without killing, let alone learn to transfer it to other Simes. Yet the fact that some time in the past of HOUSE OF ZEOR Rimon Farris did learn it is an established fact.
For months, I pestered Jacqueline with questions. Could it happen this way? No. That way? No. Then how? I don't know! But with each "no" came an explanation of why not, plus letters, unpublished novels and stories, and facts, facts, facts . . . until I, the inveterate tyer-up of logical loose ends, suddenly realized how it could happen --- and I told Jacqueline.
At first I suggested that I write the story for "Ambrov Zeor," but Jacqueline said no, it was part of the pro series, and "some day" we might turn it into a novel. Not knowing Jacqueline so well in those days, I forgot all about it -- until one day last spring, when she telephoned me to tell me she'd sold her editor at Doubleday on the idea, and we were writing a novel!
At this writing, FIRST CHANNEL is still a growing entity; it's a little more than half-written, following the outline but also embroidering broadly upon it. It's a love story, a tale of young pioneers, a comedy and a tragedy in one. It takes place in a Sime Territory, where childhood sweethearts Rimon Farris and Kadi Morcot want nothing more than to grow up, get married, and live happily ever after.
Fate, however, won't let things be that simple: Kadi establishes as a Gen. The first third of the novel is an action/adventure story in which Kadi is sold at the Reloc Bazaar, Rimon goes after her to rescue her, he tries to take her to the border to release her into Gen Territory . . . but . . .
While readers new to the series may not expect it, I won't be spoiling the plot for those of you who are familiar with the Sime/Gen universe, as you have already guessed that Kadi must be a Natural Donor. Thus she is able to provide transfer for Rimon and survive.
That, of course, is the beginning of their problems. They make all the wrong assumptions, the worst one being that they can teach any Sime to take transfer from any Gen without killing. A second assumption, but the first to prove false, is that most Simes would want to learn to live without killing. Kadi, as a Gen, is regarded by most Simes as less than human; the fact that Rimon wants to live with her as husband and wife makes them outcasts from Sime society.
They decide to homestead in an area near the border, where a variety of other outcasts and wanderers manage a marginal existence. The central part of the novel deals with their learning to live together, and finding a place in the community. Here they meet Abel Veritt and the people he has organized into a community called Fort Freedom. These are Simes who came from Gen Territory, who were followers of the Church of the Purity. They believe that the Sime nature is a curse, and that if they accept God's judgment and live good lives as Simes, their children will be Gen! When a child of Fort Freedom establishes, there is great rejoicing, and he is escorted to the boarder with prayer and thanksgiving.
I won't go into the complexities of Abel Verritt's theology, but as you might imagine, Rimon and Kadi, Sime and Gen living together without killing, seem like saints to the people of Fort Freedom. Everyone wants to learn to do what they do. But of course, Rimon cannot teach them.
It takes years before Rimon finally learns how to channel--before he discovers that he can transfer selyn from Gens to Simes. This long, painful learning process occupies the central part of the novel--along with fire and flood and wild Gen raids and all the other problems of pioneer life!
The third part sees Rimon's homestead turn into what will become the basis for the Householdings. The end of the book is both tragedy and comedy--tragedy as Rimon's confidence takes him too far, and he must face the truth of his Sime nature--a truth he has shielded himself from for many years. The result is his death.
He does not die in vain, however; his son Zeth Farris, is able to profit from his father's mistakes and establishes the House of Rimon on the principles that will later become the principles of Zeor. The New Way has been found; the pattern is set for the development of the system of Householdings to be seen in HOUSE OF ZEOR.
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