Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sneak Preview of Father and Demons


SET FOR APRIL 9, 2015!

My next publication (due to be released sometime in the next six weeks) is entitled Fathers and Demons; Glimpses of the Future, and it doesn't have any giant termites!  In fact, it’s a serious work of speculative fiction about future human beings.  For the first time the general reading public will get to meet Capt. Robbin Nikalishin, the protagonist of my still unfinished opus, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  The best way to introduce my new book to you is to present excerpts from the book’s introductory matter.

A Note from the Author

When I set out to write the life story of Capt. Robbin Nikalishin (the first starship commander to make contact with extraterrestrials), I intended it to be one longish novel entitled The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  Among other goals, I wanted to depict the history and state of Earth’s future civilization in greater depth than I had been able to do in my novel The Termite Queen.  This included recounting what had become of certain remnant elements of society – specifically, defined religious populations.  The Jews constituted one of these populations.
So I introduced a Jewish character who was about to get married.  I began to research Jewish weddings and ended spending a good three months immersed in all aspects of Jewish religion and culture.  I even studied a bit of Hebrew.  This new fascination caused the Jewish wedding section to expand into a lengthy tome that encompassed not only an exposition of Judaism but also a probe into the nature of gods and their relationship with human beings. 
Obviously, a chunk this weighty could not remain part of the basic novel.  However, the piece contains many striking and provocative elements, so I have extracted it, shortened it by some 10,000 words, and turned it into a separate “novel.”  In fact, it is not exactly a novel, since it starts and stops in medias res, with only enough explanation of what has gone before to make it comprehensible.  It consists of several sections, some that elaborate on the future history of Earth; some that illuminate Jewish faith, philosophy, and culture and the future history of religion in general; and some that detail the stories of certain individuals, both Jewish and secular.  The theme of fatherhood and the connections between fathers and gods form the mesh that binds the book together. 
The most appropriate designation to accord this piece is speculative literary fiction; it is science fiction in that it takes place in a future time, at the very inception of interstellar travel, but it also deals with demons and gods that may or may not be real, introducing an element of the supernatural.  The style varies; within a framework of omnipotent narration, certain history and tales are told through conversation or related by one of the characters, and there is even a venture into epistolary form.  It is a bit like a musical work, with each segment having its own tempo, theme, and mood.  …

Lorinda J. Taylor
Colorado Springs
April, 2015

By Way of Introduction: Earth and Space, 28th Century

       All human beings must live with demons, but those demons are unusually powerful when they are summoned by the sort of catastrophe that happened aboard the Darter in 2761.  Robbin Nikalishin, the Captain of that interstellar ship, had succeeded, by dint of much help and a determined will, in subduing his own demons, but no member of his crew had completely escaped being affected.  That was especially true of Cmdr. Ian Glencrosse, the Darter’s 2nd Assistant Engineer.  Nevertheless, when the rehabilitated Captain received command of the first real interstellar mission under the new Phenix Project, he selected Ian Glencrosse to serve as his Chief Engineer.  The choice was limited, because few officers expert in temporal quantum drive were still alive; furthermore Nikalishin and Glencrosse had become close friends.  And in spite of (or perhaps because of) his own demons, Glencrosse had accepted the appointment.  After all, he had saved his Captain’s life during the catastrophe.  A proverb says, when you save someone’s life, you become responsible for that person forever. 
       As the launch date for the “Big Mission” approached – the day when the IS Ariana would depart for Epsilon Eridani – the crew took leave time.  The excuse was the wedding of the Communications Officer, Lt. Avi Oman, and Capt. Mercedes Tulu, Administrative Aide to Adm. Sergey Malakoff, the Phenix Project’s Mission Director.  Lt. Oman hailed from the Istrian Judish Enclave, a place of origin mysterious to most 28th-century Earthers.  Mercedes was Midammeriken, born in the citrus-growing regions of Teyhas, but her father had immigrated from Ethopa in East Afrik.  Since she had Flasha ancestors, Avi’s family had blessed the marriage.
       Cmdr. Glencrosse did not accompany his fellow crewmembers on this happy excursion to the Adriantic Sea’s northern coast.  He had something other than recreation on his mind.  He had long been haunted by visions of a malevolent entity that inhabited the depths of space – the very entity that was responsible for destroying the Darter as the ship emerged from a temporal quantum pod.  Both his Captain and the team psychologist, Dr. Gill Winehandle, knew about this aberration; in fact, the doctor had at one time improvised an unfortunate nickname for the entity – “the god in the pod.”  While the Engineer’s peers thought his delusions were under control, Ian still secretly believed in the reality of this demon space-god – that it disapproved of humans’ invasion of its territory and therefore had doomed the upcoming mission to destruction.  Ian was convinced he would not survive the voyage and so he was heading home to Mitchican Prefecture, where after a long separation he would confront his parents and make his peace.

I will post updates on the release date on
like me while you’re there!)
 Twitter (@TermiteWriter)
Google+ (my community: Books by TermiteWriter).

And visit my Amazon and Smashwords pages
to check out my published books.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Metamorphs and Indiana Jones: My Two Main Characters in The Termite Queen

I've never published this before.
Strangely, I never did a picture
of Kaitrin Oliva.
Lots of times a textured
background doesn't come out right.
       While I was taking my afternoon nap (or rest) just now, I began to think about my protagonist Griffen Gwidian in The Termite Queen.  When I was writing this character, I absolutely fell in love with him.  Perhaps that isn't so surprising since I structured him to be fascinating to all women.  Unfortunately, the women who have read my novel haven't seemed to feel that way about him.  I made him enigmatic, mysterious, founded in a dark, twisted psychology -- everything women ought to find fascinating in a romantic hero.  So I began to think -- why haven't women been attracted to him? (Men haven't been attracted to him either, but that I expected.)
       In the story, Griffen has become skilled in altering himself to appeal to any woman he meets, and he is compelled (for reasons we learn late in the book) to do so.  So where did I get this character?  And I thought, Griffen is an empathic metamorph.  Do you remember the episode in StarTrek: The Next Generation called "The Perfect Mate"?  It's one of my favorite episodes.  A woman is being transported in stasis to be a gift to the ruler of a neighboring planet.  Kamala, wonderfully portrayed by the beautiful Famke Janssen, is an empathic metamorph -- she has the gift of making herself into whatever the man whom she is with at the moment wants her to be.  She is awakened too soon and ends up bonding with Picard, but duty forces her to give herself to this unpleasant Prince from the other planet.  (Poor Picard, he never gets the girl -- I always felt bad about that!)
       I think subconsciously I got the idea for Griffen's character from this metamorph concept.
      The love story between Griffen and Kaitrin Oliva takes up a large quantity of the book -- if you don't like the characters or the love story and all you want is termite adventures, I could see how you might find the book tedious.  One woman who read the book sort of pooh-poohed Griffen as not worth bothering with as a hero.  She said something like this (and she'll know who she is because we discussed it), "I like my adventure heroes to be like Indiana Jones -- he has his shortcomings and his fears, notably snakes, but they don't keep him from being heroic."
       Well, I never intended Griffen to be a stereotypical macho hero.  Certainly, he is not that!  I think if you go into the book expecting some cliched rendition of an adventure hero (or an adventure heroine for that matter), I can see why you might be disappointed.  In fact, the roles are reversed -- Griffen is a psychologically anguished man searching for a way to give meaning to his life and he becomes a metamorph in his quest.  It's Kaitrin Oliva who is Indiana Jones -- a strong-willed, adventurous heroine who may not particularly like going down the rabbit hole (i.e. into the termite mound), but who wouldn't consider not doing it. However, the roles become reversed again in Parts 3 and 4; Griffen does end by becoming the hero he always wanted to be, and Kaitrin becomes the anguished seeker, who has to find a new, more meaningful structure for her life.

Now I hope this elaboration on the characters will make
some of you want to go out and buy The Termite Queen
and get started on your quest to learn everything
you can about my termite people and my future world!

Remember it's a two-volume novel,
and you haven't finished it
and won't have the full impact unless you read v.2!
Find the book on
Amazon (paperback and Kindle)
and all the other Amazon nations.
Also at Smashwords (all varieties of ebooks)
Barnes & Noble

Monday, March 2, 2015

Genres Revisited: What Genre Do I Write?

So what genre would you assign
to this book?  Oh, I know!
It has to be about an
exterminator named
Ki'shto'ba who labors at
destroying termite colonies
 by abducting their Queens! 
What genre is this?
Hmm ... hard to tell from the cover.
In fact, I call it speculative
literary science fiction, future 
history, psychological fiction, plus a 
rumination on future religions.
With a provocative theme and
 great characters-- 
don't forget that!
March 2-7, 2015
All My Books
are 50% off,
so none is over

Jane Dougherty recently wrote a blog post entitled Does Literary Have to Mean Dull and Boring?  She defines literary fiction as "something that could never be accused of being genre fiction."  She goes on to say, "since authors are obliged to fit their work into a genre when pitching it to publishers and agents, or just to sell it on Amazon," anything that didn't fit in a genre was disqualified as poor literary production, in effect. "In the label 'genre' writing there is an implicit sneer," she says.  She mentions "magical realism," saying, "our magical realism is just plain fantasy (I wrote that with a sneer)."
       In her final paragraph she says, "Why can't we go back to the good old days when there were just books and children's books?  I like to think I write books.  I don't like to think that they are so similar to other people's books that there is a handy tag for them."
       I couldn't agree more, Jane!  And I want to elaborate on this idea a bit.  I originally planned to become a college professor of English literature, so I spent the early part of my career reading "literary" fiction.  Frankly, I didn't even know that was what I was reading -- books by Jane Austen, William Makepeace Thackeray, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, James Joyce, William Faulkner -- they were all "just books."  I daresay those authors are all considered writers of literary fiction.  But they are definitely not boring, for starters!  Lately, I've read several books that are "literary" -- The Great Gatsby, for one, and a recent book by Simon Gough (a grandnephew of Robert Graves) entitled The White Goddess, in which Graves is a main character. (The links take you to my reviews of these books.) Boring? Not on your life!  (Parenthetically, I should point out again that I consider all significant books to contain elements of fantasy -- see my post Defining Fantasy According to TermiteWriter.  To impart a shiver of wonder can only enrich any "genre.")
       In midlife I discovered Tolkien (is he literary enough for you?) and I started to write somewhat similar fantasy.  I also started to read a lot of fantasy and finally got into science fiction.  It never occurred to me that I was somehow betraying my educational background -- that I had sunk low in matters of taste.  I was just looking for good books and I kept the same standards.  Thus, although I read a good deal of Marion Zimmer Bradley, I considered her a pretty pedestrian writer.  But then there is Ursula K. LeGuin, who is one of the most skillful writers around.  And there  was C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams (one of the Inklings)  and other older writers like E.R. Eddison (The Worm Ourobouros et al.) and William Morris (The Well at the World's End) and ... well, I could go on and on.  They definitely cross genre lines and nobody seems to condemn them for it.
       As for "magical realism," I've only read one example -- Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits.  It's full of fantastical elements, of course, but it's also very dark and not particularly comfortable to read.  It's never boring, though.  I would say, if having seriousness of purpose makes a book boring for you, well, then most literary fiction would fall in that category.  And most of my books have a serious purpose, even the termite epic, so I guess I have the only literary termite people in existence!
       When I started to write again in 2000, it never occurred to me to worry about the genre I was writing.  I didn't realize at that time that I was supposed to fit my fiction into a category.  I was just trying to write exciting and fascinating books. I happened to enjoy both science fiction and fantasy, and obviously a tale laid in the 30th century with extraterrestrials who are giant intelligent termites cast The Termite Queen in the SF mold.  But it also includes the tale of Kaitrin Oliva and her enigmatic lover.  One early reviewer called my works literary science fiction and stated that they reminded him of Mary Doria Russell (I see Wikipedia calls her a writer of "speculative fiction" novels -- I presume that designation elicits more respect.)
       I was always taught not to write in cliches, so why in the world would I want to pump out books that were carbon copies of other people's books?  My aim was never to get rich selling millions of books to thoughtless readers looking only for sensation or escape -- I wanted to attract some attention for my ideas and gain some respect and a following.  Those are still my goals.  I wouldn't even know how to write a stereotypical vampire romance or a nasty zombie tale or a cliched space opera or one of these sword-and-sorcery Tolkien rip-offs.  If I tried, the characters would soon develop all kinds of psychological complexities and gain a back story to explain it, and probably the outcome of the whole thing would be tragic.  Even my termite characters fit that picture.  It's just the way I write, and I have no intention of changing.

If you're interested, I addressed this genre question before, way back in 2012, from a slightly different perspective in a blog piece called What Genre Do I Write and Whom Do I Write For?