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Sep 4, 2016

Altramar

Cover art by Ned Dameron
(Edward Palfrey)
I have been celebrating the first 100 years of the Vance Era. Forty years ago I went off to college and immediately met a professor who would change my life. My first semester, I was lucky enough to have an English professor who was interested in science and who was willing to teach English to freshman science nerds by allowing them to read science fiction. Thus, while still in the wonder years of my teens, I was introduced to Jack Vance.

once again in the
mirror universe
By the time when I finally discovered the existence of Vance, I'd been reading science fiction for six years, but I'd never previously experienced a story that had been crafted in quite the spectacular way that Vance could weave words. The first Vance novel that I read was Trullion.

Triskelion
Warning: fanfiction disease
Previously, I have imagined that when settlers first arrived in the Fens, the Ambal family claimed ownership of most of the islands to the east of the Saur River (see the map, below). Later, one of the first properties sold off by the Ambals to other settlers arriving on Trullion was Altramar Island. It was purchased by Sulte Olonne, who built a fine mansion on the Island after moving his family to Trullion from the planet Triskelion.
source (click on the map to enlarge)

Lord Olonne's mansion
Initially, the Olonne clan prospered on Trullion, but then it was nearly exterminated by a tsunami that devastated the Fens about 500 years before the birth of Glinnes Hulden.

Lord Olonne had built his home on a solid stone foundation, but he'd selected a site facing the open ocean. When the tidal wave came, it swept the house away, leaving behind a silt-clogged tumble of stones.

Five centuries later, when Glinnes lived on Trullion, the residents of the Fens had learned to build their homes on the more sheltered northern shore of Altramar Island.

Tyran Lucho's home on Altramar Island
One such home was that where Tyran Lucho lived. Tyran and Glinnes, along with Carbo Gilweg, worked together to build one of the best hussade teams that ever played in the Fens. The amazing "hussade instincts" of these three men could be traced back to a set of genetics experiments that were performed on members of the Olonne family long before Lord Olonne ever came to Trullion.

On the planet Triskelion, the Chezy Corporation had long conducted secret genetics experiments that were aimed at improving human cognitive abilities. In fact, Innover Chezy, the original owner of the planet Triskelion and one of the first human settlers of Alastor Cluster, was a former employee of the Jarnell Corporation.

Denzel Warhound
virtual reality hussade
Vance not only came up with the perfect name for a hussade captain, but described him as "a lanky tow-headed youth with the wise sly eyes of a mythical creature". The genetic background of Denzel Warhound requires further investigation.

Today, Zeta and I were discussing arguing about how to tell the story of the Asimov Reality when Yōd emerged from her nap looking pale and sickly. Zeta immediately fetched her a cup of water which Yōd greedily guzzled.

the Vance Reality
Yōd quietly mentioned to us the fact that our rather noisy "discussion" had awoken her and she asked what we had been arguing about. I explained, "Many important features of human history must be traced back to their origins within previous Realities. One of those Realities is what I call the Asimov Reality."

"Ah, yes." Yōd grinned and reported, "Asimov was amused when he learned that you named that Reality after him."

Zeta added, "It might actually be wiser to describe it as the Vance Reality. Most of what we know about that part of Deep Time has reached us through stories written by Jack Vance."

Yōd was skeptical. "You've been reconstructing events from Deep Time by reading science fiction stories?"

The Atlantis Clones
Suspecting that Yōd knew little of recent Earth history, I tried to convey to her the importance of the Atlantis Clones in providing verification that Vance's stories of human expansion into the galaxy did in fact reflect actual events in the Asimov Reality. Yōd listened patiently to my account of Anney and Angela and their ability to access information about Deep Time through their use of the Bimanoid Interface.

Yōd asked for a banana and both Zeta and I were pleased to see that now she was finally able to keep some food in her stomach. She tried to summarize what I had told her, "So, during the Time Travel War, some people from the far future of the Asimov Reality were brought back through time to the 20th century. There (or, then) they were somehow able to pass information from the future on to Asimov."
The continuing adventures of Ghyl

I nodded. "Two such time travelers from the future were Sessily and Ghyl. I also suspect that an analogue or replicoid of Asimov was present in the far future of the Asimov Reality and he was able to send information back through time to the Writers Block, what amounted to accounts of the origins of the Ek'col and the tryp'At."

Yōd was unfamiliar with much of what I told her about Deep Time, but she had been in contact with Asimov and she commented, "Isaac told me some of the tricks that were used to allow science fiction writers in the Ekcolir Reality to tell stories about events in the Asimov Reality."

original cover art by Kevin Cullen and Stanley Pitt
I had to ask, "Exactly who is the Asimov that is being carried back to Earth by Many Sails? Does he have memories going back beyond the Ekcolir Reality?"

Yōd shrugged. "I believe that the 'copy' of Asimov who will return to Earth in 2017 is a dual creature: part biological and partly an artificial life form. Whatever he is, he seems to have memories from his biological analogue who lived in the Final Reality as well as easy access to much of what his replicoid knows."

Sitting, as I was, in a room with two clones of Gohrlay, I turned to Zeta and asked her, "Do you know if there was a cohort of Asimov clones?"

She shook her head and replied thoughtfully, "That is certainly possible, but I've never heard that Asimov was cloned. Various Asimov analogues did travel through time and/or get teleported, so it would be easy for the pek to make artificial 'copies' of Asimov."

With some sugar reaching her blood from the fruit she had eaten, Yōd was looking more alert. She jumped to her feet and paced back and forth across the room for a minute, her brow furrowed in thought. Eventually she stopped walking across the room and looked at me. "You reminded me of something Asimov once told me. He claimed that Vance had inserted some important clues in his stories. At the time, I had no idea what Isaac was talking about. I foolishly assumed he was telling me something about how to write a good mystery story."

I wondered, "What sort of clues?"

Yōd shrugged, "Asimov did a lot of name dropping; many of them the names of people who were part of what you call the Writers Block. Most of those names meant nothing to me. One name that I remember was Tanki. Zili Tanki. I thought it was a silly name with all those 'i's.

I chuckled. "Let me guess. This 'Zili' was mentioned by Asimov in the context Jack Vance and the clues that he put into his stories."

Yōd nodded. "Exactly. I don't remember everything that Asimov said about her, but it was clear to me that Zili was the woman who made First Contact with the Aquarians."

Zeta interrupted her sister, "What do you mean, 'Aquarians'?"

"That was the name that Asimov used for the aliens who came to Earth and contacted Zili. Asimov laughed at the idea that Zili was subjected to an alien abduction. I don't know why he thought it was so funny that Zili was taken off of Earth by the aliens."

Zeta explained, "Asimov lived through the 20th century of the Final Reality during which the idea of being abducted by aliens was something of a joke. Millions of people claimed to have experienced such abductions, but there was no evidence to support those claims."

I added, "Carl Sagan compared the phenomenon to people of the middle ages who frequently reported contacts with witches, ghosts and various folk goblins. However, I have to wonder if the Grendels and other alien influences account for some human reports of alien contacts on Earth."

a merling
Yōd snapped her fingers. "Yes!" She stepped into the kitchen and quickly returned, pealing another banana. "Asimov mentioned the Grendels and their preferred environment. And he also spoke to me about an alien race known as 'Star Kings'. Oh, and there was something else..." For a moment she tried to remember another name, then she said questioningly, "Merlings?"

"Vance stories often included many elements related to oceans and often had roles for strange sea creatures. His 'merlings' were a type of alien creature that exerted selective pressure on the human population of the Fens, a district of the planet Trullion."

Yōd quickly devoured the second banana. Still holding the peal, and with some of the fruit still packed in her bulging cheek, she said, "Asimov told me that it was in Alastor Clustor, on worlds such as Trullion, that some key gene combinations were found. He claimed that it was only through the accumulation of some rare and special genes that the Time War could be ended."

in the Ekcolir Reality
I took the banana peal from Yōd and also carried her cup into the kitchen. I disposed of the peal and refilled her cup with water. Returning with the cup, I found Yōd and Zeta bent over a table and looking at Zeta's tablet. Zeta was saying, "Anney Fersoni claimed that Glinnes Hulden and Duissane Drosset were two important sources of genes. They both grew up on the planet Trullion."

 I noted, "That's a story that was well told in the Ekcolir Reality."

Yōd straightened up and turned to me. She took the cup of water and quickly drained it. "Wait, now. Are you saying that Anney simply looked into the past and read science fiction stories that were written in that Reality?"

Alpha Gohrlay
"In some cases, Alpha Gohrlay confirmed the existence of certain stories in that Reality."

Yōd was annoyed by all of our talk about science fiction. "But how does a story from the Ekcolir Reality confirm a story from the Final Reality?"

"Well, of course, it proves nothing if similar stories were told in two different Realities. However, Anney was able to access information in the Sedronic Domain. She was able to confirm that humans actually lived in Alastor Cluster in the far future of the Asimov Reality."

"I see." I again refilled Yōd's cup. When I returned from the kitchen she was sprawled on the couch and using Zeta's tablet. I set her cup on the table.

Zeta told me, "I think I'm going to have to get myself a new computer."

collaborators
I was becoming quite comfortable with the idea of making use of Yōd as a new collaborator who could do some useful website development and facilitate the telling of the Secret History of Humanity. "If Yōd is willing to do some website development, maybe she should pick out the equipment that she wants."

Without looking up from the tablet, Yōd told us, "This device seems easy enough to use. I can draw on all of Sally's experience with Earthly computing devices and your primitive online systems." She set the tablet on the table and picked up her cup, which she again quickly drained.

I sat down at my work desk and wrote 'Zili Tanki' into a notebook, asking Yōd how she thought the name should be spelled. She said, "I only heard Asimov speak the name, so I don't know what the correct spelling is."

the Jarnell Intersplit
"Hmm... 'Tanki' reminds me of a name that Vance frequently used in stories." I pulled a couple of Vance's novels off of a bookshelf. "As I recall, he wrote about a planet Tanquil and a city named Tanquil and even a police officer named Tanaquil."

Zeta asked me, "Are you suggesting that the works of fiction published by Vance were kept clean of any mention of 'Zili Tanki', but he stuffed his stories with mentions of 'Tanquil'? All just to hint at the hidden origin of Intersplit technology in the Asimov Reality?"

I had to laugh. "It does seem crazy, but maybe..."

Click image to enlarge. (source)
Yōd handed me her empty cup and announced, "I think I finally got past my dehydration. Now I'll go see if my special knowledge from Sally's nanite endosymbiont includes knowing how to empty my bladder." She went off down the hallway.

I said to Zeta, "Maybe you should provide her with a toothbrush and take Yōd shopping. She still has a smell of vomit about her."

Zeta was on the couch using her tablet. "Apparently the name 'Tanki' has two possible ancient derivations. It might refer to the name of a European warrior caste that trained their dogs to fight at their sides. That tradition lives on in modern English in the context of a 'warhound'."

I laughed. "That reminds me of a Vance character: Denzel Warhound."

The legendary Vire Mine 1, supposedly
located deep under the city of Vire,
on planet Sadul Suud Four,
in the Aquarius Sector,
within the Asimov Reality.
Zeta continued, "Alternatively, the name Tanki might go back to a very ancient language in which children were named as 'gift of god', with a particular deity being named."

"Interesting. In a sense, our new collaborator Yōd is a 'gift of god'. Someone put a lot of thought into how to insert her into the historical timeline of Earth."

Yōd returned from her mission in the other room and she asked me, "So, you've never heard of Zili Tanki?"

I replied simply, "No."

Yōd sat down next to her sister and started competing for access to the touch-screen of the tablet computer. Yōd suggested, "If someone did not want you to hear from Asimov how First Contact was achieved, then it would make sense that you never heard the story of Zili Tanki. She was taken off to Sadal Suud and given access to advanced technology by the Grendels. Then she flew her spaceship back to Earth and introduced Humanity to the Intersplit space drive. Zili's efforts soon lead to the founding of the Jarnell Corporation."

Foundations of Eternity
I was feeling a powerful sense of déjà vu. I wondered out-loud, "Maybe Angela or Ivory told me about Zili and the founding of the Jarnell Corporation. My memories of Zili might have been erased."

Zeta gave up fighting Yōd for the tablet. "Okay... I have a plan. First, Yōd gets a shower."

Yōd said, "I don't know how ten billion of you live together on this planet without cleaning nanites."

Zeta added, "And I'll show you how to use a toothbrush. You have banana breath."

"My memories from Sally include how to brush. I used your toothbrush before I took my nap."

"Then I'll take you shopping. One of us will get a new computer so that we don't have to keep fighting over my tablet."

Yōd finally looked up from the tablet and smiled. She asked, "Does this mean you're going to let me live here?"

Zeta shrugged. "You can use the spare bedroom. We can try having you here, but I suspect after a few days I'll be ready to kick you out. In case anyone is watching you, it is probably best that you remain stationed in your home. We could collaborate over the internet."

I asked, "By 'anyone watching', you mean the tryp'At?"

Zeta nodded. "Ya. But since Yōd just told us about Zili and the Overseers might view the story of how Intersplit technology was given to Earthling as forbidden knowledge, we may get a visit from an Overseer any minute." She took Yōd off to the shower.

an Ek'col and an Asterothrope
My hunch was that what Yōd had told us about Zili Tanki was just the beginning of a more complete story, a story that probably would, if known to Earthlings, constitute a violation of the Rules of Intervention. My best guess was that as long as the Grendels could be blamed for giving Intersplit technology to humans, and as long as that "gift" was only a temporary feature of human history, now lost in Deep Time, then there was no violation of Huaoshy ethical principles. However, I believe that the Grendels were puppets for the bumpha. If, instead, it was the bumpha (who represented a major political faction of the Huaoshy) who had violated the Rules of Intervention AND if their meddling in human history had forced the Huaoshy into the compromise of the Trysta-Grean Pact then our telling a truth of that magnitude to a planet full of Earthlings might win Yōd, Zeta and I each a one-way ticket off Earth. And, further, by the time Asimov arrives in 2017, he might also no longer be welcome on this planet.

in the Ekcolir Reality
original cover art by Stanley Pitt
I was still sitting at my desk and contemplating the secrets of the Asimov Reality when Yōd emerged from the back of the house, freshly scrubbed and dressed in some of Zeta's clothing. I asked her, "What do you know about the bumpha?"

Yōd was not familiar with that term, but then I explained what I meant and she was familiar with the fact that the Huaoshy maintain two sets of operatives in the Hadronic Domain. Yōd said flatly, "What you call the 'bumpha' were the creators of the human species."

Zeta came into the room and put an arm around her sister. "Let's go. You two can continue splitting Huaoshy hairs when we get back."

In the Ekcolir Reality.
Original cover art by Fred Kirberger
and Hannes Bok
The ladies left for their shopping spree and room fell silent. My thoughts turned away from the tryp'At Overseers towards the Ek'col and the Asterothropes. My suspicion has been that Glinnes and Duissane played an important role in bringing the tryp'At into existence. However, what if the Ek'col were also crafted in Alastor Cluster during the Asimov Reality?

If tall individuals such as Howard Hardoah and Denzel Warhound were part of the genetic experiments that led to successful creation of the Ek'col, might there have been a single shared breakthrough event in Alastor Cluster that allowed for near simultaneous completion of both the tryp'At and Ek'col development projects? If so, then what might that breakthrough have been? And is that the secret that Asimov was not allowed to share with me?

Next: investigating human genetics experiments in Deep Time
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