The Man Who Came To . . . ?

by Jean Lorrah

PROGRESS REPORT: As of this writing, November 18, 1978, FIRST CHANNEL IS FINISHED! I am in possession of all but Jacqueline's file copy, doing a final red-penciling to smooth out the few things she didn't catch, or which are my own personal idiosyncrasies, before I give it back to her at Shuttlecon Columbus, and she in turn hands it over to Doubleday. SON OF FIRST CHANNEL, which will actually be titled THE FARRIS SOMETHING-OR-OTHER (we have discarded "legend", "gift", "legacy", "strain", "mutation"--any suggestions on exactly the right word?), is in the back-and-forth-letter-writing stage--the kind of thing we were doing with FIRST CHANNEL two years ago. The paperback rights to FIRST CHANNEL have been sold to Playboy Press; the paperback will appear a year after the hardcover.

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER is a play about a man who comes to dinner and stays to take over the household. Abel Veritt in FIRST CHANNEL is a character who was created to play a very minor role, and stayed to take over the novel. He is my creation, not Jacqueline's at all--and he's the first renSime to play a major role in a Sime/Gen novel. He is also a tour de force: that impossibility, a thoroughly good man who is nonetheless an interesting fictional character.

In the last issue, I explained how Rimon Farris's son Zeth came to get his own book. Zeth is only two years old when FIRST CHANNEL ends; he is a very minor character. In light of that, after the fact, I can now see what happened to bring Abel Veritt forward. Jacqueline's two Sime/Gen novels are built upon pairing--in HoZ, the action is to develop the Hugh/Klyd relationship; in UNTO, Digen is torn between two possible partners, Im and Ilyana; for a time it seems he will pair off permanently with Ilyana, but after her death the book ends in his orhuen with Im.

Now when I start messing around with the universe, suddenly we have a book with a three-part structure, which was supposed to have three main characters: Rimon, Kadi, and Zeth. What happened was that as the book progressed, Abel took over the third major role--until finally we were forced to realize that FIRST CHANNEL is simply not Zeth's story. I didn't know Abel Veritt any more than Jacqueline did when I first created him (and I have that same feeling about him that Jacqueline has about the Farrises; I didn't create him--I met him!), and meant him to be a simple obstacle to Rimon. As it turns out, he is a major motivating force in Rimon's life--the force that Kadi cannot be, because it is the force of a father, the influence Rimon loses when his own father throws him and Kadi off his property. For all that Rimon is technically a grown man by Sime law, he is in many ways the sixteen-year-old boy you or I would consider him when the novel begins. Rimon's father cannot possibly accept his son as a Sime who does not kill; Abel Veritt can.

For Abel is an out-Territory Sime, raised in the Church of the Purity, who has overcome his own despair and found a way to survive and help other Simes from Gen Territory survive what has happened to them. The circumstances of his life have made him flexible--he is able to accept data which contradict what he had assumed, and formulate new theories. He and Rimon's father, Syrus Farris, are about the same age; Abel looks older but acts younger. And he will give anything not to have to kill. It is Abel Veritt who forces Rimon to learn to channel.

If FIRST CHANNEL is ever made into a film, there may be a fuss made about who will play Rimon and Kadi (John Travolta and Kristy McNichol?)--but the Oscar will go to the character actor who plays Abel Veritt. It's a cinch Best Supporting Actor role.

I could go on, but I won't. Meet the man when you read the book--and then help me try to figure out where in my subconscious he came from! I can identify a few of his characteristics in various people I admire, but the man as a whole is nobody I know--but I'd like to! He didn't even appear in the original outline we submitted to Doubleday, and yet he is absolutely necessary to the book. I guess if he didn't exist, I'd have had to invent him. ((Copyright (c) 1979, by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg))

((FIRST CHANNEL was safely delivered to Doubleday. Jean brought along to Columbus the first chapter of CHANNEL'S DESTINY, as the sequel is now called. That's the fifth Sime novel, folks! CAF))


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