Aug 18, 2015

Stray Threads

In a previous blog post I listed the novels of Jack Vance that I have read. In another blog post I mentioned those Vance novels that I have read dozens of times each. Vance's humor and felicity with words makes it a pleasure to re-read his novels.

Sadly, Vance departed this world before writing enough novels to last us through eternity. I like to imagine additional novels that Vance might have written, or, for maximum fun, novels that Vance wrote in an alternate universe. These imagined Vance novels all begin with stray threads that Vance left scattered through his stories.....

Missed Opportunities
Jheral Tinzy
In the case of Vance's Demon Princes saga, there was a gap of a dozen years between publication of the third and fourth books in the series. It is fun to imagine other Demon Prince-related "spin off" novels that might have been written during those 12 years.

At the end of The Palace of Love, we see Gersen meeting "Drusilla I", one of the clones of Jheral Tinzy: "The girl was immensely appealing, with a thousand charms and graces."

But then 12 years later, at the start of The Face, Drusilla is never even mentioned. When Vance continued the Demon Princes saga after the 12 year hiatus, Kirth Gersen was busy trying to attract the attention of Lens Larque, the 4th Demon Prince to be hunted down and confronted by Gersen.

The Demon Princes Series.
When Gersen first begins his effort to find and kill the 5 Demon Princes, he is very much a loner.

Pallis Atwrode
Along the way, he involves a number of other folks in his mission, sometimes to their detriment. In the first book of the series, Star King, Gersen's investigation of Demon Prince Attel Malagate brings unwanted attention to Pallis Atwrode. She can't really be counted as Gersen's collaborator, since all she does is innocently answer some of Gersen's questions. However, the "reward" for her involvement with Gersen is being kidnapped, imprisoned and raped.

Gersen and Alusz
Take 2
In The Killing Machine, Gersen makes use of information that is provided by Alusz Iphigenia (princess of Gentilly on the "lost planet" of Thamber) to help him track down and kill Demon Prince Kokor Hekkus. Gersen does a better job of protecting Alusz from harm, but ultimately the course of his life alienates her and drives her away: "Never again, he told himself, would he involve a woman with the dark necessities of his life..."

In The Palace of Love, Gersen becomes somewhat enamored of Zan Zu of Eridu. However, after his failed romance with Alusz and fearing more heartache, he pushes Zan Zu away.

At that point, we turn the page and watch Gersen meet the charming Drusilla. Presumably Gersen has an enjoyable dalliance with her, but all that is left to our imaginations.

Alice Wroke
Preferring to work alone, Gersen still found himself in need of a collaborator and so he involved his financial adviser, Jehan Addels, in some dangerous legal maneuvering that was designed to bring the evil Lens Larque out into the open where he could be subjected to Gersen's lethal attention.

Later, in The Book of Dreams, Gersen makes use of Maxel Rackrose, Tuty and Otho Cleadhoe and Alice Wroke as collaborators who help him eliminate Howard Treesong, the fifth and final Demon Prince. Alice is the perfect match for Gersen. For her own personal reasons, she shares Gersen's desire to kill Treesong.

I previously imagined that in the Ekcolir Reality, Vance wrote other Demon Prince novels including The Clones of Sogdian (originally imagined as a prequel to The Palace of Love) and Return to Dar Sai (a sequel to The Face). Could there be additional books added into the Demon Princes saga, placed sequentially between The Palace of Love and The Face?

Jerdian Chanseth
Vance began The Face at a point in time when Gersen had already linked Lens Larque to the spaceship Ettilia Gargantyr. Somehow, Gersen was able to link the Ettilia Gargantyr to the Mt. Pleasant Raid, the ghastly atrocity that destroyed Gersen's home and family. We are not told how Gersen discovered the fact that the Ettilia Gargantyr was previously called the Fanutis and served to carry slaves away from Mt. Pleasant.

The Palace of Love.
In The Face, Gersen falls in love with Jerdian Chanseth and seemingly abandons his previously self-imposed restrictions on romantic entanglements. So could there have been a Vance novel about Gersen's romance with Drusilla during the time when he was searching for Lens Larque?

Drusilla of Alphanor and Kirth
Those of us who hve been restricted to the stories that were written by Jack Vance here in the Buld Reality never learned much about "Drusilla". We do know that Drusilla is not her real name. As a clone of Jheral Tinzy, she was handed over to "guardians" who raised her "in an atmosphere of gentility and good manners" on the planet Alphanor.

Gersen begins his acquaintance with "Drusilla of Alphanor" by reading some of Navarth's poems to her. This unconventional approach surprises her, but she says, "...I'm an unconventional person..." and we are left wondering if she and Gersen can become friends.

Dr. No
Secret Agents
Vance set the Demon Princes saga about 1,400 years in our future, but it is a future that seems remarkably similar to the mid-20th century. I did not discover Vance as an author until 1978, but it is fun and educational to remember the period of time when he started writing the Demon Princes stories: the 1960s.

In 1962 the first James Bond film was released, Dr. No, based on Ian Flemming's 1958 spy novel. Vance's own 1958 novel, The Languages of Pao, features a kind of "secret agent": Palafox of the Breakness Institute. In the opening scene, Palafox runs afoul of the brash and bumbling would-be-dictator Bustamonte and he is thrown into prison.

Dreams of flight in Science Fiction.
Artwork by Virgil Finlay.
Palafox uses his secret agent gizmos to cut through the prison bars and fly off into the night, escaping to his waiting spaceship. Palafox has used his advanced technology to make the blustering Bustamonte look like a buffoon. Palafox could fly because he had an anti-gravity device implanted in his body.

In 1964, Ian Flemming helped launch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on television.

United Network Command for Law and Enforcement
The agents of U.N.C.L.E. battled against the evil-doers of T.H.R.U.S.H. in the same way that James Bond battled S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). Just as now, when we are trained and conditioned to imagine "terrorists" conspiring behind every door, during the Cold War we imagined evil  agents who were plotting to take over the world: back then they were commie agents. In the atmosphere of fear that was generated during the Cold War, fantasy secret agents like James Bond boldly confronted the lurking evil-doers of our imaginations.

The Demon Princes
The silly science fiction themes of James Bond were there from the start in Dr. No. The Bond films have often included unrealistic technologies: I guess the intent has always been to play off public expectations that secret government agents have access to super secret wiz-bang technologies. The invented technologies of the Bond films are often hokey, but they create a "super science" atmosphere for the stories. In contrast, Vance's Demon Princes saga is set in the far future, but under the influence of the anti-progress "Institute", the technologies available to Gersen while he hunts for the 5 Demon Princes are little different from those of 20th century Earth...... the main exception being the ready availability of spaceships.

The Man from Zodiac
Between 1964 and 1967,  Vance published his first three Demon Princes stories featuring Kirth Gersen as a kind of "secret agent" who did battle against "bad guys", specifically the five "Demon Princes" who had destroyed his home and enslaved his family. In that fictional universe, Gersen lives in a future "Oikumene" where secretive organizations such as The Institute and the I.P.C.C. vie for domination over the hundreds of scattered planets that have been colonized by humans.

a Zodiac Control agent
using nanotechnology
In 1967, Jack Vance published The Man from Zodiac. (apparently Vance's preferred title was “Milton Hack from Zodiac"). Milton Hack is an agent for Zodiac Control. I've seen it suggested that this story could have launched a series and may have been written as early as 1957. I've never read the story, so I'm just using it as a "stray thread", inspiration for an imagined trilogy of Vance novels. I imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality, rather than a 12 year-long gap between The Palace of Love and The Face, there were instead several "spin-off" novels featuring the adventures of Kirth Gersen and "Drusilla" who end up crossing paths with agents from Zodiac Control.

Our Reality Chain.
I imagine that during their time together, Drusilla and Kirth travel to the city of Vire on the planet Sadal Suud Four in order to investigate the Celerus Transport Company, but they are led in strange, unexpected directions and never find Lens Larque before their collaboration is tragically terminated.

About three years ago I sketched out the plot of a sequel to The Book of Dreams (see also). What if "behind the scenes" during Gersen's quest to destroy the five Demon Princes there is a larger struggle over the fate of Humanity?

For the Exode Trilogy, I've written Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance and Carl Sagan into the story. It is fun to explore a special role for science fiction writers in telling us about the fate of Humanity in past Realities. For example, Asimov told the story of the Malansohn Reality in The End of Eternity.

The Reality Chain that led to the world
as we know it (the Buld Reality)
Asimov also described the next Reality of our Reality Chain, the Foundation Reality, in his famous Foundation Saga. As a time traveler, Asimov played a major role in the Reality Change that ended the Foundation Reality and brought into existence what I call the Asimov Reality. The future fate of Humanity in the Asimov Reality was described by Jack Vance in his science fiction novels.

The next Reality in our Reality Chain, the one that followed after the Asimov Reality, is usually called the Ekcolir Reality, but I used to call it the Noÿs Reality. It becomes the task for "the Editor" of the Exode Trilogy to tell the story of the Ekcolir Reality. Thus, the Exode Trilogy is recursive science fiction where the science fiction genre plays an important role in the story.

Preland, Human, Sedronite evolutionary tree.
Through the course of the Time War, two alien influences vied for control of the fate of Humanity. During that time-twisted struggle, the Overseers of Earth tried to enforce the Rules of Intervention. Their goal was to establish the artificially crafted Prelands as the dominant primate species on Earth. The rivals of the Overseers are the Interventionists. The Interventionists formed an alliance with Gohrlay and worked hard to give we humans a chance to inherit the Earth and spread outward among the stars.

In the Ekcolir Reality
In the Ekcolir Reality, from 1967 to 1977 the twins Jack and John Vance wrote a series of novels featuring Drusilla and Kirth in which they become aware of -and caught up in- the struggle between Overseers and Interventionists.

Jheral Tinzy became  part of a long and sustained effort by Overseers to breed humans who could function as better hosts for nanite endosymbionts. However, before the Overseers had their chance to study Jheral's remarkable set of genes, some Interventionist agents used Vogel Filschner as their tool to extract Jheral from Earth and take her to a distant planet where she could be cloned. The Interventionists performed experiments on the clones, experiments designed to find new and improved methods to interfere with the nanite endosymbionts that were being used by Overseers to control human behavior.

After Gersen first meets Drusilla on Alphanor, they begin a joint investigation into the Interventionist experiments that were being performed on the planet Sogdian and learn that Drusilla had been scheduled to be infected by nanites and only narrowly escaped that fate because of Gersen's visit to Sogdian during which he managed to kill Viole Falushe.

The planet Sogdian is the fifth planet of the star Miel, within the Sirneste Cluster, which is located in the Aquarius Sector of the galaxy.
Sogdian is in the Aquarius Sector of the galaxy.

A Drusilla clone on Sogdian.
The first novel in the "Kirth and Drusilla" trilogy (also known as the Aquarius Trilogy), The Clones of Sogdian, starts with the return of Kirth and Drusilla to Sogdian where they learn as much as they can about the experiments that had been performed on Jheral and those that had been planned to be performed on the "Drusilla clones", the daughters of Jheral Tinzy. They discover that Retz, who worked with Viole Falushe, was secretly an agent for a mysterious organization called Zodiac Control.

Thamber: The Gentilly Protocol
By the end of The Clones of Sogdian, Kirth and Drusilla discover that they must return the the planet Thamber, a world that like Sogdian was a base of operations for experiments being carried out by Zodiac Control.

The second novel in the Aquarius Trilogy, Thamber: The Gentilly Protocol, includes an account of events when Drusilla and Kirth visit Thamber. They discovery that Zodiac Control is actually a tool, along with the Institute, being used to manipulate the growth of human civilization and shape the ultimate fate of Humanity.

Novelette by John Vance
The third novel in the Aquarius Trilogy starts with an account of how Kirth and Drusilla go to the planet Lambda Grus III to investigate the odd relationship between the Star Kings and Zodiac Control.

With clues gathered on Ghnarumen, Kirth and Drusilla develop the hypothesis that the Demon Princes are all controlled by alien endosymbionts.

Kirth and Drusilla next go to the Fomalhaut star system and discover the artificial life remnants of the ancient technologically-advanced humanoids who long ago designed and crafted both the Star Kings and we humans.

The Aquarius Sector of the galaxy (map key).
Zodiac Central Command
Zodiac Control has a secret research center on one of the Fomalhaut planets. In order to put an end to the meddling of Kirth and Drusilla, the Zodiac agents simulate a collision between Gersen's Pharaon and some space debris in the Fomalhaut system. Zodiac Control takes Drusilla for use in their secret experiments.

Book 3 of the Aquarius Trilogy
Having been tricked by the agents of Zodiac Control, Gersen believes that Drusilla was killed in the spaceship collision. He feels lucky to have survived and to have escaped from the Fomalhaut star system.

Gersen has had some of his memories erased by Zodiac Control and mercifully that allows him to forget about Drusilla and get on with his grim task of killing the last two Demon Princes. He returns to Aloysius and resumes his hunt for the two remaining adversaries, Lens Larque and Alan Treesong.

Next: Tall aliens and the tall tales of science fiction.

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