Sime~Gen Novels From Meisha Merlin Publishing

You may quote these remarks on  in whole or in part. -- Margaret L. Carter -- Vampire columnist for Sime~Gen Reviews Department, and published writer.  

June 14th 2002

The first Sime~Gen novel I read was the first published, HOUSE OF ZEOR. I found out about it by accident, while watching TV in a hotel room many years ago. Jacqueline Lichtenberg, interviewed on a talk show, mentioned that HOUSE OF ZEOR would appeal to anyone who liked vampires and STAR TREK. Since I fit into both of those categories, I hurried to borrow HofZ from the library. I was enthralled with the symbiotic variation on vampirism and with the bridging of differences across a gap of alienness between Klyd and Hugh.

I watched eagerly for subsequent books and read them as they appeared, getting UNTO ZEOR FOREVER from the library and buying all others in paperback. I don't have a clear memory of the covers of the first two hardbacks. The paperback covers vary widely in quality. Fortunately, I was attracted to the books by the characters and world-building; the cover illustrations were irrelevant to my experience. I own the entire series in paperback, but I don't own any "spares" and have not lent them to anyone, though I've sometimes recommended them (not often, because my experience with recommending books in general hasn't been terribly productive). I would expect this series to appeal to fans of STAR TREK and the sympathetic vampire theme, or the general theme of different species or cultures overcoming their differences to establish a bond, since those are the aspects that attracted me.

My favorite novels are HOUSE OF ZEOR, AMBROV KEON, and FIRST CHANNEL. My least favorite are MAHOGANY TRINROSE and RENSIME. The reasons for my preferences are that I enjoy the "horse and buggy era," when the Householdings flourish (the quasi-feudal loyalties of the Householding system resonate with me) and the two halves of humanity are first learning to work together, and the preoccupations of the later-era books, esoterica and reincarnation, hold little interest for me.

I found Sime~Gen fandom through attending the annual Darkover Grand Council and thereby personally interacting with Jacqueline Lichtenberg and the fandom core. I've read a fair amount of fan fiction, though far from all that is available, and I've enjoyed most of it. My favorite fan stories are ICY NAGER and Mary Lou Mendum's Eskalie series. I starting reading fanfic because the prospect of new professional Sime~Gen fiction seemed vanishingly dim. Thanks to the hands-on involvement of Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah, I knew the fan fiction would not fall below a certain level of competence, and I've never been disappointed.

My favorite character in the novels is probably Risa from AMBROV KEON and ZELEROD'S DOOM. My favorite fanfic characters are "Icy Nager" from the novella of that name and Jean Lorrah's Zhag and Tonyo (not sure where to count the latter, since their stories will eventually be pro-published).

Among the writers currently active whom I read faithfully are: Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, Mercedes Lackey, P. N. Elrod, Sharyn McCrumb, Laurell K. Hamilton, Stephen King, Susan Conant (dog mysteries), and Dean Koontz. Older favorites include C. S. Lewis, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robert Heinlein, and many others. I keep almost all the books I buy; I haven't counted them since we reached about 3000, over twenty years ago. 

08/15/2004 -- additional observations

I see a strong similarity to Sime~Gen in Jean Lorrah's Savage Empire  universe -- people with different but complementary gifts overcoming barriers of misunderstanding, fear, and hostility.

Bonding/intimate adventure themes: Yesterday I watched MISSISSIPPI BURNING on Showtime. The 2 FBI agents are in somewhat the same position as the lead characters of HOUSE OF ZEOR -- one an "insider" in the local culture, the other a visitor from outside, forced to work together for a common goal in a society dominated by a cruel, oppressive caste system. 

I suppose the movie version of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT is similar, though it's been a long time since I saw it.

For a fictional work to appeal to me as "like Sime~Gen," it needs the element of overcoming differences across a cross-racial, cross-species, or other barrier of extreme "otherness," preferably with an SF or fantasy flavor. Not all intimate adventure feels Sime~Gen-like to me.

Has Bradley's HERITAGE OF HASTUR been mentioned yet as "like Sime-Gen"? I'm thinking of the complex relationship between the young Hastur lord and his paxman.

Margaret Carter

(Note: Jacqueline Lichtenberg says Heritage of Hastur and all Darkover novels (currently coming out in omnibus format like Sime~Gen) have been mentioned as like Sime~Gen, but Heritage of Hastur is not a fair reference because at the time she was writing the book, Marion Zimmer Bradley and I were exchanging and commenting upon our daily output as she taught me the art and craft of writing.)