Jan 20, 2014

Intergalactic Demons

As noted by Kat, for his novel The Palace of Love, Jack Vance created "the Mad Poet" Navarth. Navarth was reluctant to leave Earth, comparing himself to Antaeus and saying, "never may I detach my toe from Earth". During the flight through space to visit the Palace of Love on the planet Sogdian, poor Navarth, "simultaneously became afflicted with both claustrophobia and agoraphobia".

Asimov's fear of flying and enjoyment of small enclosed rooms seems at odds with his famous "Galactic Empire" and his science fiction journeys across vast interstellar distances. My own brain came equipped with a powerful system for generating fear of heights, so I know how difficult it is to overcome such "phobias". Recently a candidate gene has been identified that seems to be associated with claustrophobia.

I'm often thinking about brains and human memory processes while writing science fiction (most recently). Sometimes it is amusing when our all-too-faulty neuronal memory systems reconstruct reality for us. Keith described the Demon Princes as being "a group of five intergalactic criminals".

Vance's Demon Prince series is set within our galaxy, among a region of stars not too distant from Earth. I've long concerned myself with Asimov's apparent inability to extend his "Galactic Empire" saga beyond our galaxy. In Vance's fictional universe, might there be  "intergalactic" connections for the Demon Princes?

I've previously thought about writing a fan fiction sequel to The Book of Dreams. I must say...any story that does not involve life forms from beyond our galaxy inflicts me with a tingle of claustrophobia, so let's explore how to bring Vance's Demon Princes saga to the wider stage of intergalactic space.

Alice Wroke flirting
with Henry Lucas at
their Extant office
Intergalactic Demons
What if the Institute is a "front organization" for alien influences from beyond our galaxy? Maybe Alice's father and Treesong were initially working together to penetrate the Institute's Dexad. I imagine that alien forces slip their nanites into some humans such as Treesong. Suppose that Benjamine Wroke was experimenting with ways to take control of those alien nanites and turn Treesong into the tool of Interventionists. In the end, Treesong double-crossed Benjamin Wroke and murdered him.

When Kirth Gersen (in the role of Henry Lucas) first realizes that Alice is an associate of Tressong, he briefly contemplates the possibility that she is a wicked woman. Why else would she work with the "King of Thieves"? However, he soon learns that Treesong is forcing Alice to spy on Lucas and the Extant offices by using threats of violence against her father. Not knowing that her father is already dead, Alice infiltrates the Extant magazine headquarters and reports to Treesong what she can learn from Kirth.

Alice on the verandah at Gladen's Hotel
Eventually Kirth and Alice join forces to take revenge on Treesong. Kirth is already smitten by Alice and over dinner at her hotel on the evening of Gersen's return from space, she vows to never let him out of her sight again.

It is a puzzle for Kirth and Alice: how did Treesong rise to Institute rank 99? Just what advanced technologies might Treesong have at his command?

I've previously speculated that Treesong might be endowed with a nanite symbiont that could account for his "multiple personality" disorder.

In the Exode Trilogy, the Nereids make some advanced technology available to the Interventionists.

Alice, triumphantly
indispensable at
Blue Forest Camp
on Bethune Preserve
If I place Kirth Gersen and Alice Wroke in the Exodemic Fictional Universe then I have to contemplate which might be the most effective groups who are working to speed human technological advancement and counter the Institute's efforts to limit human cultural development.

Vance indicates that the IPCC does try to counter criminals like Treesong, but, as Gersen says, the IPCC is not very effective. Somewhere, hidden away in the many worlds of the growing Oikumene (or maybe Beyond) is there an Interventionist cabal that can turn the tide in the struggle against a mysterious alien force that would unleash criminal demons like Treesong upon humanity?

Follow the Money
I recently came across some commentary on Vance that took note of how frequently the main characters in his stories have to deal with strangers who try to "extort an extra cent from whoever". Often it is more than just a "cent". A typical example comes in The Book of Dreams when Gersen, who is a billionaire, lands on the planet Moudervelt, the home world of Treesong. He is greeted by a spaceport official who tries to charge a 200 SVU landing fee. Gersen knowingly hands over just 5 SVU while commenting that "some public officers tend either to larceny or daydreaming".

Just down the road in Cloutie, Gersen needs a room for the night. At the Hotel Bon Ton an attempt is made to rent him a room for 83 SVU, but Gersen calmly asks to see the schedule of room rates and suddenly the price of a room drops to 5 SVU. A short time later, Gersen is out strolling through town and an attempt is made to sell him a map (the price is marked 25 centums) for two SVU. Gersen the billionaire calmly argues over the price of the map for the duration of half a page of the novel.

Back in the "golden age" of science fiction, Vance probably sold some of his stories for the painful price of one cent per word. Under such working conditions he figured that he had to turn out a million words a year in order to earn a living. It would not surprise me if Vance pointedly developed the habit of including in his stories little scenes in which haggling over prices not-very-subtly depicted the frugality of a rich character...and by extension, publishers.

Jerdian Chanseth dressed in green,as first seen by Kirth Gersen
Jerdian Chanseth in Skansel
Plaza, Sarjeuz, Dar Sai
I've been trying to imagine how Gersen might spend his money to help the Interventionist cause and defend humanity against an "evil" alien influence. While Gersen might well argue on the street over the cost of a 25 cent item, at other times he is willing to spend money without a qualm. Early in The Book of Dreams Gersen is out on the streets of Pontefract killing time before an appointment. He impulsively buys a set of mechanized chess playing puppets. During this time, playing the role of Henry Lucas, he resides at the upscale Penwipers Hotel, where every day he is dressed in elegant clothes by his valet, providing him with an excellent disguise (normally he wears plain spaceman's attire).

In The Face, the first evening he is in Twanish on the planet Methel, Gersen eats dinner at the Medallion Restaurant. He enjoys the Grand Repast featuring "Authentic Dishes in the Style of the Grand Masters". This meal costs about the equivalent of $300. Later, while contemplating a possible future life of frivolity and comfort in retirement with the charming Jerdian Chanseth, Gersen spends a million SVU to buy the fine house Moss Alrune in the exclusive Llalarkno district.

Drusilla III at Arodin's Temple
In all of the Demon Princes saga, Gersen seemed most comfortable spending money when in the presence of Navarth. In The Palace of Love, Gersen is out on the town for an evening with Navarth and Zan Zu. While searching for Viole Falushe they stop at the Hotel Prince Franz Ludwig for dinner and then they go bar hopping. Dinner, muscatel, champagne, krystallek, coffee and trifles of pastry at the Hotel Prince Franz Ludwig alone cost Gersen more than 200 SVU. When Navarth must throw a carefully crafted party to lure Falushe near, the cost is one million SVU.

At the end of the story, when Falushe has been eliminated and Gersen leaves Zan Zu and her clone sisters (Drusillas III and IV) with Navarth, he provides additional funds to Navarth for their care and rehabilitation.

In my imagined fan fiction sequel to The Book of Dreams, after visiting Terranova and learning that his mother is still alive and living at a hidden Interventionist base on Earth, Kirth and Alice recruit help from Navarth, using the "Mad Poet" and his antics as cover while Gersen penetrates a Interventionist enclave which is hidden in the mountains of the northern Iberian peninsula.

Alice extracting nanites
Finally Gersen's vast fortune becomes useful. The Interventionists help Gersen extract nanites from Treesong's corpse then use his wealth to develop the means to reprogram, control and replicate the nanites. Treesong's nanites developed a defect that caused his multiple personalities and that also makes them vulnerable to "hacking" and reprogramming.

Although Falushe's body is never recovered, Gersen is able to verify that there are also alien nanites in the bodies of Lens Larque, Attel Malagate and Kokor Hekkus. Gersen and Alice travel to Lambda Gruis III where they discover that the bodies of all Star Kings contain a nanorobotic symbiont. Long ago, the pek bioengineered Homo sapiens on the world "Ghnarumen".

That aliens are responsible for our species' origin becomes quite clear. Kirth and Alice learn that Interventionist agents secretly transplanted some of the engineered humans back to Earth. The pek still plan to replace humans with more advanced Star Kings that are still being evolved. Can the Interventionists successfully equip humans with nanites so they can defend themselves against the Star Kings?

almost heaven
Paladins Triumphant
This is my 250th post to this blog. It somehow seems fitting that I am here again indulging myself in the "fan fiction disease" of imagining a sequel to one of my favorite science fiction novels. Sorry about that, Jack!

Princess Gisseth
This blog has become a rather meandering exploration of the science fiction terrain that so fascinates me...

Why would aliens target "a shy brown-haired boy known as Howard Hardoah" growing up on a farm near Gladbetook, Maunish district of planet Moudervelt? In his youth, Howard was transformed and he imagined himself born of Princess Gisseth of Treesong Keep.

The eerie paladin Eia Panice.
What did Vance imagine was going on with the "paladins" who shared Howard Treesong's body? Mewness: There are long roads yet to be traveled and many an inn where I would take refuge.

The alien and eerie Eia Panice has eyes like pale fire. "Eia, as fearsome to enemies as death itself speaks little. His deeds tell their own tale and terror trembles in his wake."

Immir of the graces
Panice calls together the departing paladins and they topple Howard to his death. Cleadhoe: "The chair was solidly fixed! He could not have tumbled it alone!"

Gersen turned away, "Whatever has happened, it is enough for me." But later, he and Alice must extract the nanites from Howard's corpse and risk re-instantiating the mysterious paladins.

Kirth and Alice eventually realize that some of the "paladins" who haunted Treesong originated as non-human life forms. Maybe Panice, like the Nereids, originated in another galaxy.

Vance indicated that there was some kind of controlled breeding program in Maunish. I assume that program caused Howard's brain to be particularly suitable for hosting an alien nanorobotic symbiont. "Immir" was the intended symbiont for Howard, but something went wrong and multiple artificial life forms took up residence inside him.

2018 rumor: "Vince is currently writing and producing Jack Vance’s seminal five book science fiction series DEMON PRINCES for Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions, produced by Nick Wechsler and Carole Tomko." (source)
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  1. I'm a Vance devotee. You really captured the Vance spirit with that photo of "Jerdian Chanseth" in the green dress.

    1. I hope someone will make a film or a television series based on Vance's stories. It would be fun to see who might be cast in roles such as Jerdian.