Of Wer-Gens and
Red Killer Whales
by JEAN LORRAH
I have just come home (mid-July, 1980) after spending six weeks at Vantage Point, finishing the first draft of CHANNEL'S DESTINY. You will be happy to hear that that book is now in the polishing stage--but on the other hand, it is not the same book Jacqueline and I set out to write.
You see, just as I arrived at Jacqueline's, the publishing industry underwent financial panic. We received calls from both Doubleday and Playboy: no books over 85,000 words in length can now be published. FIRST CHANNEL is about 110,000 words, and the outline of CHANNEL'S DESTINY was designed for a book of about the same length. So when the decree came forth, we spent the first week of our time together revising the outline.
CHANNEL'S DESTINY, the story of Rimon Farris' son Zeth, was originally intended to have a flavor similar to that of FIRST CHANNEL: a long, hard struggle punctuated by tragedies but relieved by love and humor. As we had to redesign it, it now has a flavor much more like that of UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER, hardly any relief between tragic events, and an ending that resolves the problems but cannot have the triumphant feel of FCh because neither the hero nor the reader has had time to recover from the string of catastrophes now compressed into the second half of the book. The love story is gone completely, for poor Zeth now has to fulfill his destiny, overcoming his fear of the kill and discovering anti-kill conditioning, within five months after his changeover!
If CHANNEL'S DESTINY suffers from the new restrictions, however, at least it had the chance to be restructured to fit the new length. Not so MAHOGANY TRINROSE and MOLT BROTHER. That's right both books, well over 120,000 words each, have been thrown back at Jacqueline for cutting by one-third. Furthermore, Sharon Jarvis of Playboy has insisted that TRINROSE have a new opening scene--an action/adventure episode that introduces the gypsies who appear later in the book, shows a witch-burning, and brings Halimer Grant on the scene more dramatically (!) than in the original. The editors of AMBROV ZEOR, COMPANION IN ZEOR, and FORUM will be running notices to Trufen, asking you not to read what is now called the "Prolog" to TRINROSE. Indeed, it is a misleading beginning to a mystic/philosophical story. As Katie Filipowicz put it when she read the new opening, "Talk about red herrings--that scene is a red killer whale?!"
On the other hand, after you have read TRINROSE through, beginning with Chapter One instead of the Prolog, let me urge you to go back and read that opening scene. You may have heard Jacqueline say she can't write action/adventure. That's not so. She doesn't want to write action/adventure, which would be her prerogative if we lived in a perfect world. As we don't, and as she was instructed to write a slam-bang opener, she pulled out all the stops--and in attempting to prove that she couldn't do it, she proved she could! Taken by itself, that Prolog is one of the best bits of fast-paced action you'll ever read. The only problem is that it doesn't go with the rest of the book.
Lest you think that the summer was all cutting and agonizing, though, let me share with you a new legend of the Sime/Gen universe one which we created for CHANNEL'S DESTINY. As you recall, in the first chapter Owen loses an arm to Sime raiders who attack the children of Fort Freedom, thus intending them to die in changeover. Rescue arrives in time that only Owen is mutilated--and he establishes as a Gen and eventually becomes Zeth's Companion.
You recall the Giant Killer Gen of FIRST CHANNEL? The legends of the Gens of Fort Freedom, who cannot be killed and who have the capacity to kill Simes, have spread all over the territory. Now, with Owen's establishment, a new twist is added to the story: according to the Simes who escaped after the ill-fated attack on the New Farris Homestead, Owen was actually in changeover when his arm was cut off--and therefore the channels must have turned him into a Gen so that he could survive! That piece of "evidence" (purely imaginary, you understand) provides the solution to the puzzle of the Companions: they must be Simes who have been turned into Gens for Fort Freedom's convenience! Or maybe they can change back and forth at will. Anyway, they certainly can't really be Gens. Anyone who's not afraid of Simes has to be Sime inside--and thus the legend of the wer-Gen, the Sime-turned-into-a-Gen, is born.
The legend of the wer-Gen persists among the juncts right up to the time of Unity. With that information, let me leave you with a question. What is the Simelan word for "wer-Gen"? It's a common word, one you use every day about the Householding. . . .
And if you can't figure it out, I'll tell you next issue!
Copyright © 1980 by Jean Lorrah
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