The Case of the One-armed Donor
by JEAN LORRAH
Where do you get those crazy ideas?"
By now, all of you have certainly heard Jacqueline or me reply, "You have to beat them off with a stick!" A writer's problem is never the original idea, but how to develop it. That is obvious to every would-be writer who has ever struggled through an entire plot, be it short short story or epic-length novel.
On the other hand, the writer with only one or two complete works under her belt may never yet have experienced the way a minor thought evolves into a major influence in a novel, or even a series of novels. Let me demonstrate by explaining the development of the white wolf in my SAVAGE EMPIRE series and the character of Owen Lodge in FIRST CHANNEL and CHANNEL'S DESTINY.
At that infamous August Party, 1978, when the threads of SAVAGE EMPIRE suddenly began weaving into a tapestry for me, I was bouncing my ideas off anyone who would listen. One of those who listened was Winston Howlett, editor of PROBE, best known in Trekfandom as the author of THE GODDESS UHURA. Recently he has started selling professional sf stories. When he heard that I was working on a heroic fantasy series, Winston, who is black, casually commented, "What heroic fantasy needs is a black hero."
People ought to know better than to throw challenges like that at me!
Although I already knew my two main characters, Lenardo and Aradia, the role of third main character was still open--and I filled it with Wulfston, a young black Adept, Aradia's apprentice and adopted brother, who develops into a hero in his own right by the end of the first book. The name "Wulfston", of course, is an obvious play on Winston Howlett--but it also happens to be a genuine Germanic name, meaning wolf-stone.
So there I was with a black man with a Germanic name in the middle of pseudo-medieval Europe! How he got there was easy enough to invent. How he got his name was another matter. In order to explain it, I invented the wolf-stone, Aradia's symbol That became a plot-device, the amulet Lenardo is given before he goes into exile. When I recognized the archetype of the shaman's adventure in the other world in Lenardo's quest, I created the real wolf--the totem animal. Now the wolf and the wolf-stone are inextricably woven into the SAVAGE EMPIRE universe--all because of a casual comment from a friend!
The character of Owen Lodge Erick in FIRST CHANNEL and CHANNEL'S DESTINY came about in a similar circuitous fashion. The question has come up over and over as to whether Gens have some sort of selyn-emission organs in their forearms to correspond to Simes' lateral tentacles. The "transfer points" suggest that idea to many fans, but Jacqueline says no, all the cells in a Gen's body produce selyn, and there is no particular outlet. Several scenes in FIRST CHANNEL demonstrate that fact.
However, although Jacqueline was sure that there were no selyn-emission organs, she didn't seem to be able to explain that fact to readers' satisfaction back in the early days of AMBROV ZEOR. The question came from fan after fan. Then--this was way back, when we were discussing the tentative outline of FIRST CHANNEL--at one of the many conventions Jacqueline and I attended, she showed me a letter which asked why Gen Territory people didn't wear armor on their forearms to protect themselves from Sime attack. That letter triggered a discussion between Jacqueline and me (I don't remember who else was there) which resulted in "the right question": could a one-armed Gen be killed or Donate?
The answer, of course, is yes--but the question gave us the graphic image that would demonstrate to readers once and for all that there are no selyn-emission organs in Gen forearms. In FIRST CHANNEL we would have a one-armed Donor! At that time we didn't know the story would take two books, as we were just working out the beginning. As we already knew that Kadi would be Rimon's Companion, we arbitrarily made our new character Companion to Rimon's son Zeth.
Jacqueline said, "Let's give him a name, so we won't forget. What sounds like 'one'? Owen! Owen Lodge!" (I'll bet Jacqueline doesn't even remember naming Owen, as it sounds like one of those "outlandish out-Territory names" I make up.)) ((No, I don't. JL))
The existence of Owen Lodge began to weave all kinds of threads through FIRST CHANNEL. AS "Owen" is a Welsh name, I threw in a few other Welsh names like "Drust" and "Ennis" among the people of Fort Freedom. The main impact, however, was the story of Del Erick and Carlana Lodge. If Owen was to be of Zeth's generation, he had to be just a little kid at the beginning of FIRST CHANNEL. That meant he had to have at least one parent around--and like the chicken before the egg, the mother was created because we already had the son! And once we had that nice young widow and Rimon's friend Del . . . well, you all know what happened.
If you've read FIRST CHANNEL, and you're now thinking, "But Owen has both arms," you're right. Wait until you read the first chapter of CHANNEL'S DESTINY! Because this is Zeth's story, Owen becomes a major character--and his story and Zeth's are as closely, although differently, entwined as Hugh and Klyd's or Digen and Im's. And all of this because we set out to show-don't-tell that Gens don't have selyn-emission organs in their forearms!
Copyright © 1980 by Jean Lorrah
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