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Jul 6, 2014

Second Life

As Isaac Asimov described the historical twists and turns of his Foundation saga, it was after Avon books published editions of the first three books that the Foundation Trilogy was lifted from obscurity and became a fan favorite. I have the 14th Avon printing from 1972. After a pause of a couple of decades, Asimov returned to writing Foundation stories, extending the trilogy and eventually weaving his robot character Daneel into the Foundation saga. In my view, Asimov's trick of slipping Daneel into the history of the Foundation was pure genius, giving it a kind of second life.

Cover art by
Gino D'Achille
Jack Vance wrote the first three Demon Princes novels during the 1960s. Then 12 years passed between publication of The Palace of Love and the 4th novel in the series: The Face. Some readers rank The Face as the high point of the series (example).

Lucky for me, I discovered the Demon Princes series about the time that The Book of Dreams came out, so I did not have to wait through the 12 year-long pause between the third and the fourth novel.

For me, it was about 12 years between discovery of the original Foundation Trilogy and reading the 4th book, Foundation's Edge. I was not impressed by Asimov's new novel and I felt that the story of Golan Trevize read like a rather desperate and uninspired attempt to bring the Foundation saga into the space age. Thus, I was in no hurry to read the 5th book in the saga, Foundation and Earth. However, when I eventually learned that Daneel was waiting for Golan on the Moon, I was very much impressed.

The Demon Prince Trilogy
a parade of "Drusilla clones", inspired by The Palace of Love
What if Vance had quit writing Demon Princes novels after completing The Place of Love? At the end of that novel, Kirth Gersen was on the Esplanade at Avente with "Drusilla I", one of the clones of Jheral Tinzy.

Sailmaker Beach on Alphanor (one of the Rigel planets) seems to have been a popular resort for Gersen. Had he decided to take up permanent residence there, his buddy of the IPCC, Walter Koedelin, would have been close at hand.

With his vast wealth and as owner of Cosmopolis, maybe Gersen could have invented for himself a new career, possibly writing about crime and criminals for the Rigellian Journal.

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However, Gersen had no real prospects to simply settle down with the "immensely appealing" Drusilla. We can have no doubt that he'd feel compelled to continue searching for Lens Larque and Howard Treesong.

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A woman like Drusilla, who "obviously had been raised in an atmosphere of gentility and good manners" would find it hard to understand Gersen's compulsion to destroy Larque and Treesong. If Gersen pursued a relationship with Drusilla, would it end any differently than Gersen's time with Alusz Iphigenia?     

Director's Cut
Both Asimov and Vance wrote for science fiction magazines in the 1940s. Often authors were paid by the word for stories published in magazines and parts of the Foundation saga and the Demon Princes stories seem a trifle bloated. Editing and condensing the Foundations saga and the  Demon Princes novels, perhaps reducing their bulk to new "essential trilogies" would be interesting projects. At the same time, it would be fun to update the level of technology in the stories. For example, updated and streamlined versions could throw in a few modern conveniences like cell phones and genetic testing to identify alien Star Kings. Maybe these tweaked versions could even find a place on the Big Screen.

The pain of cutting
cover art by Ed Emshwiller
I suspect that every science fiction writer can benefit from the help of a good editor. However, Asimov wrote about his dislike for both reviewers and editorial intervention into his writing. Asimov attributed a central feature of his Foundation stories, the "all human galaxy", to the editorial meddling of John Campbell. However, having been "forced" to imagine a future in which only humans existed in our galaxy, Asimov seemed quite happy to stick with that severe restriction.

I've never read the original version of Star King, as published in Galaxy magazine. However, apparently Demon Prince Attel Malagate (the Woe) was originally called "Grendel the Monster" in the magazine version of the story. The cover art for the magazine showed "beauty" Dasce, a character who deserves to be brought either to television or the Big Screen. He once had his eye lids cut off, requiring him to wear prostheses that can moisten his eyes or cover them. I suspect that even Vance was happy with the change from Grendel to Malagate, but I would not mind Gersen using modern genetics to quickly identify Malagate as the Star King, possibly cutting the whole novel to about 25% of its original length. After introducing "Tehalt's planet" early in the story, it seems to take forever for Vance to get the readers to that destination. Vance probably knew that the story was too long; at two points he has a character give voice to hopes their "fantastic voyage" can hurry up and end, already.

Generation Gap
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I suspect that reader preferences have changed greatly since the Golden Age of science fiction. Apparently Edmund Hamilton wrote 40 stories that were all published in pulp science fiction magazines before he ran into an editor who gave him some suggestions for how to modify a story. (He was totally spoiled and threw away the story rather than make the changes.) A hundred years ago, people had time to read. In this age of information overload, young readers often don't have the patience to luxuriate in the slow pace of a novel. Why not provide streamlined versions of science fiction classics? I enjoy every last word of Vance's Demon Princes stories, but some folks might prefer shorter versions that cut to the chase.

planet of the apes (source)
The Stars, My Brothers is a good example of how science fiction stories can benefit from being updated and condensed. In 1962 it was fun to suggest that there would be Moon bases and Moon orbital stations in the 1980s, but why not update the story and move the date of the accident and update the cryogenic science? Also, do we need to hear about the poor student, Gertrude Lemmiken, who sent Reed Kieran to his early death off to be space-struck? As in Vance's Star King, we again have a character in the story begging that the story speed up! I suspect that most members of a modern audience would agree with that sentiment and prefer to read a condensed version of The Stars, My Brothers.

Trysta and Ekcolir
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In Asimov's novel The Stars Like Dust, Joseph Schwartz must find a way to adapt to the future times that he suddenly finds himself in. Similarly, in The Jameson Satellite, a man is thrust 40,000,000 years into the future where he must integrate into an alien society. In The Stars, My Brothers the time jump is "only" 100 years, but Kieran must quickly adapt to a new reality that includes a nasty conflict between rational aliens and primitive humanoids. For Trysta and Ekcolir, I'm currently writing an introductory chapter in which Ivory Fersoni realizes that she is an alien.

The problem I'm confronting is how to quickly provide readers with enough backstory so that they can understand the shock experienced by Ivory when she realizes the true meaning of her unusual genetic endowment. At best I can only provide readers with a hint of what is going on, then they must follow along with Ivory while she tries to find the mysterious place where she was born and those members of her family who can help her sort out the secret history of the human species.

The Hierion Domain
in the Hierion Domain (source)
Isaac Asimov faced a similar challenge when he wrote The End of Eternity. Asimov chose to start his novel with a description of Andrew Harlan taking a trip through time. With his credentials as a time traveler established, Asimov then takes several chapters of the novel to fill in the backstory for Harlan.

For Trysta and Ekcolir, I could take the same approach as that used by Asimov. Six months ago, I originally imagined that Ivory's place of birth was a secret undersea base located in the Atlantic Ocean, rather jokingly called "Atlantis" by its residents. However, locating "Atlantis" in space is just as tricky as locating the space-time bubble where Harlan lives: Eternity.

More recently, I realized that the only thing located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is a kind of portal, a "hierion tube" that connects our world to the Hierion Domain. Ivory's place of birth was within the Hierion Domain.

portal to the Hierion
Domain (source)
Having never entered the Hierion Domain, I'm a bit uncertain about what would be involved in moving through a portal connecting our conventional world and "Atlantis", the "place" within the Hierion Domain where the Atlantis Clones must be produced.

Asimov's description of Harlan traveling through time provides no wiz-bang Hollywood moments. When Harlen moves from Eternity into Time, there are no flashing lights or dramatic sounds. Similarly, I imagine that Ivory could (with assistance from Many Sails) simply "step sideways" into the Hierion Domain and seemingly disappear from her home in Salinópolis, Brazil, rather like being teleported.

In my whimsical cover image for Daveed the Luk'ie (shown to the right), I included a mysterious red device connecting two people, one in the Hierion Domain and the other on Earth. I'm trying to imagine an object that Ivory could find in her childhood home in Salinópolis that functions as a "key", allowing her to slip quietly from our world into Atlantis. Arriving in Atlantis, Ivory begins her second life during which she helps develop her clone sister Angela's ability to access information about other Realities, information that exists inside the Sedronic Domain.

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