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America in
Chains

ANOTHER GODDAMNED IDEA September 21, 2007

In my communications with other writers, I’ve discovered that there’s a wide variety of characteristics among them. Some, for example, struggle for an idea they feel is worth writing about, maybe only coming up with something that satisfies them every ten years or so. Many of these writers keep coming back to the same idea, over and over again, until the next rare inspiration comes along. If they’re good enough at what they do, nobody will mind that they’ve been there before.

Other writers are figuratively plagued with new ideas, and, after a lifetime of it, whenever a new one comes, unbidden, to their minds, their first reflex is to groan, knowing they’ll never live long enough to pursue them all, and if they did, there isn’t enough market to use them.

I fit into this latter category, I’m afraid, and my computer (it used to be stacks of notebooks) is stuffed with ideas I’ve had — sometimes several a week — for novels, mostly, or the occasional movie. Whenever it happens, it’s a little like getting hit with a hammer, or being laden down with another sack of birdshot, and I groan.

Just a little, you understand.

I gather that I’m unusually open with my readers about the process of writing a novel. Some writers feel that if they tell the story to their friends, they’ll lose the urge to tell it on the page. I’m just the opposite. Telling the story to people who care about my writing helps me flesh it out, and to detect the flaws before I get around to writing.

Be that as it may, I thought I’d do something I’ve never done before, and share an idea I’ve just had (or that’s had me) while it’s still a tiny little spark behind my eyes. Somebody told me recently (I forget who it was) that there might be interest in a sequel to Henry Martyn and Bretta Martyn and to be perfectly truthful I always thought there needed to be a third book. What I call the “co-trilogy” — consisting of The WarDove and two outlined but unwritten sequels — would bring the grand cycle to six books, an exciting idea for any novelist.

Well, for this novelist, anyway.

Here’s the idea in as nutty a shell as I can manage. Maybe I should add that if you haven’t read Henry Martyn, Bretta Martyn, and The WarDove, shame on you. Go out and buy and read them right now.

Those who have read those books know that a thousand years ago (just a little while from now) the Earth was rendered uninhabitable by a thermonuclear exchange. The only survivors were colonists in the Moon — many stationed there to develop an interstellar spacecraft drive — who had to spend the next several hundred years just barely surviving, because the original plan had never called for complete self-sufficiency.

Early in that process there arose a conflict between those who believed that the devastating war on Earth was sparked by selfish individualism, nationalism, capitalism, etc., and those who knew perfectly well that it would never have happened if there were no governments. Happily, the latter group, while smaller, was faster on the draw. They crammed the former group into the prototype starship and sent them far away on autopilot, not really caring whether they survived.

Now, toward the end of the 30th century, there are two different human cultures in the universe, both largely unknown to each other. The first is descended from those who stayed in the Moon — which has now become terraformed and hospitable — and those who got kicked off it and wound up in a big star cluster at the very outside edge of the galaxy.

The first group, organized in a loose confedeation, has spread throughout this arm of the galaxy and conducts everyday contact and commerce with several dozen species of alien sapients, two of which the humans saved from annihilating one another several hundred years ago.

The second group, once they reached the Cluster, fragmented into many different more or less feudal kingdoms and empires, the largest and most powerful of which, in the 30th century, is the Monopolity of Hanover. All of these entities ply the stars in tall ships with mountains of billowing tachyon sails, ships that can exceed the speed of light. They fight other ships with massive “force-projecteurs” that can generate great bolts of one-way kinetic energy, while their crews wield lesser weapons that operate the same way and are used like swords.

For the most part, nobody in the Cluster knows of their origins on Earth and the Moon except as a distant myth. A smaller group, however, discovers enough of the truth that they launch a brief, long distance war against the Moon-centered civilization now called the Coordinated Arm.

In the end, the Clusterian Powers (which is what the Arm’s people call these mysterious attackers) exhaust themselves and withdraw, but relatively soon afterward, having developed terrible slave armies by chemically and surgically altering prisoners, begin to wage war on neighbors in the Cluster. In the end, the aggressors are beaten again, but at a terrible cost. Hanover, the central planet of the Monopolity is subjected to a “scorched earth” treatment that makes it nearly uninhabitable.

Henry Martyn centers about the Islay family, who have been granted baronial possession of the planet Skye. The novel’s title is a piratical nom de guerre adopted by one member of the family, Arran Islay, when it is crushed and deposed through the treachery of former friends with approval of the ruler — called the “Ceo” — of the Monopolity.

Fifteen years later, the Ceo’s daughter Lia — a former tutor and true friend of the family Islay — has succeeded her father, and the battle with the Powers begins. By now, Arran is married and has a daughter of his own, Robretta, who uses the fighting name Bretta Martyn. Together, having been recruited by Lia to help her, they ultimately defeat the Powers.

That covers enough of Henry Martyn, The WarDove, and Bretta Martyn that I can now describe what’s going to happen in Phoebus Krumm.

Five years after the fall of its capital, a new one has just been established by the Monopolity of Hanover, still ruled by the Ceo Lia Wheeler. On New Hanover, it’s a much-reorganized regime that Lia controls. Every official in her government is drafted for a single, brief term. It turns out that the chief executive of the Coordinated Arm is her Aunt Anastasia Wheeler, who ran away from an arranged marriage long, long ago. The two women like each other and correspond frequently.

Together they learn that an old rival, the Jendyne Empery-Cirot, has constructed a starship so vast and powerful that she represents a threat to every other polity in the Cluster. Arran is on a mission to the Moon, and unavailable, but Lia remembers that his old friend and first mate Phoebus Krumm is right here on New Hanover. Tragically widowed, he has joined the Immortal School, an exclusive society of wealthy hedonists who live suspended in oxygenated fluorocarbon liquid, eating and drinking only the best, while attended in every way imaginable by flocks of beautiful young girls brought in from the provinces.

With some difficulty, Lia persuades Phoebus to rejoin the world again and go destroy the Jendyne battleship for her before she’s fully commissioned. Lia gives him a small fighting ship and letters of marque.

Phoebus recruits his own crew, but he stops in at Skye to urge Robretta Islay to join him in his adventure as “Bretta Martyn”. She’ll be his first mate. Bretta, in turn, takes Phoebus to visit people she knows who breed and raise spacegoing animals that she’s found useful before.

Having evolved a biological forcefield they can extend to protect their young, they can be ridden in the cold, hard vacuum of space like horses.

It’s here the story ends for the moment. I know that they’ll use the animals to “cut out” the Jendyne warship, which I plan to base on H.M.S. Victory, in my opinion the grandest seagoing vessel ever built. Instead of destroying the beautiful thing, they’ll keep her for their very own. Politics being what it is, the Ceo Lia will be greatly angered, and the Jendyne Empery-Cirot isn’t all that happy about it, either.

And that’s just the first half of the book.

So with two great empires turned against them, Phoebus and Bretta will proceed on an adventure to match those in the first two books. Along the way there’ll be “swordfights”, interstellar storms to sail through, space battles, interesting aliens, and maybe some romance.

Or even sex.

Comments

1. Pete Camper - September 21, 2007

Sex? Surely we’ve evolved beyond that!

Hopefully not.

.

2. Derek Benner - September 21, 2007

Dayum! So when do we get to read this masterpiece? ‘Cause you got me salivatin’ now!

Yeah… I always felt that there should have been a third book to the Henry and Bretta stories. I urge you onward – just as soon as you finish Ares and Ceres. :D

Derek

3. Administrator - September 21, 2007

….Somebody’s gotta pay me to write it first. When I get something stronger than the feeble nibble I’ve gotten so far, I’ll let everybody know.

….Meanwhile, _Ceres_ has been finished since Christmas Day 2005, and I’ve spent all the time since then lookimg for an agent. I’m waiting to hear from one right now, in fact.

4. al perez - September 21, 2007

Re: So many ideas. Tell me about it. Story pops into head full blown and putting it down on paper it takes a mutant life of its own.
The joys of being right brained. Getting an idea is like opening a zip file only to discover it’s got a mandelbrot random number wquation waitng to ambush you.
And they keep coming, from throw away one liners to Randasque epics.
Enjoy it, one day you’ll find an agent/publisher combo worthy of your talents and boy will you make eachother rich.
Your grandchildren’s college tuition is assured.

5. al perez - September 21, 2007

PS to previous note.
And sometimes I’m talking Sally, not Ayn.

6. Wayne G - September 21, 2007

Well, after my first LNS read, The Probability Broach, I like the swashbuckling Martyn stories best. one more certainly will be welcome. I’ll be (figuratively) waiting in line!

7. Roberta J. Barmore - September 21, 2007

Just don’t drop the feathers, Al, pleeeeeze! ;)

8. al perez - September 23, 2007

somebody add a comment before I’m left here stripped of all dignity

9. E.J. Totty - September 23, 2007

An intriguing story line you’ve got there!

And, I am duly shamed for no having read your other novels mentioned, but being heavily involved in the technical sciences and politics, there’s not much time for other reading. One of these days …

And best of luck with the agent!
Hollywood is maxed out with the other stuff. Maybe you will get lucky!

10. Jeremy Morales - September 24, 2007

Will Nathaniel Blackburn make an appearance? And will he get another dolphin secretary to replace his old Gal (cetacean) Friday?

11. Eric Oppen - September 27, 2007

Why do you need an agent? If Ceres is finished, why not just submit it to the same people who published Pallas?

Or is that a stupid question?

12. Administrator - September 27, 2007

….My old friend Eric Oppen asks, “Why do you need an agent? If
_Ceres_ is finished, why not just submit it to the same people who
published _Pallas_ Or is that a stupid question?”

….No, Eric, it is _not_ a stupid question. Understand that I’m torn,
here, between telling you the truth and, for various reasons, not
saying anything at all. But I’ve never been one to keep the people who
read my books in the dark. The unvarnished truth is, it’s a question
I’ve been asking myself, over and over, for at least a couple of
years.

….The short answer is that “they” — Tor Books/St. Martin’s Press —
won’t look at _Ceres_, and neither will any of my other former New
York publishers. In fact, at the moment, and for some time, I seem to
have become _persona non grata_ there, with publishers and agents
alike.

….I’m sure there must be explanations for this. The simplest one is
that I don’t sell well to the market served by science fiction houses,
and while my readers are unusually loyal, there just aren’t enough of
them. Mind you, no one has come out and told me this, but it’s what I
infer, from my royalty statements and other sources, that they would
say.

….I have long believed that, even as a “mid-list” writer, I’m
unique, not merely a commodity, and that my publishers have no idea
how to sell my work. Some of them didn’t even really try, but one or
two — my editor Jim Frenkel, at Tor, for one — did their damnedest,
buying ads in places that were odd for them, like _Reason_ magazine.
I’ve often wondered how a well-staged gun magazine campaign would
work.

….My wife says my trouble is that my writing frightens people. She
says I tell them truths they don’t want to know, and I won’t pull my
punches. A good example of this might be that, despite what happened
at Columbine High School (actually, _because_ of it), I keep insisting
that children be taught to carry and handle weapons safely and
effectively.

….Liberals — pardon me, “progressives”, and that’s who we’re
dealing with, here — can’t handle the tiny little undeniable truth
that the minimum wage results in minority youth unemployment and
things like inner city gang violence and drug turf warfare. They are
terrified of their own children for reasons I’ve written about before:
the idea of little Dharma packing a .357 is an absolute nightmare to
them.

….One thing I know for sure: Americans aren’t the same people they
were when Robert Heinlein was a bestseller. They’re cowed, beaten,
timorous, thoroughly domesticated. Sometimes I think that the broad
popular audience I honestly feel I deserve is in the future (if the
human race still has one). Almost every day, something “outrageous” I
said ten or fifteen or twenty years ago turns out to be right. It’s
less satisfying to be ahead of one’s time this way than you might
expect.

….I keep reminding myself that Ayn Rand went through many rejections
with _The Fountainhead_ and that the only house interested in _Anthem_
was Caxton Press in Idaho. Frank Herbert couldn’t find a publisher for
_Dune_ on this continent and had to settle for a $1000 advance from an
English outfit. Tom Clancy’s first literary home was a publisher of
naval histories. John Ross’s book history is unconventional, too. Even
J.K. Rowling ended up being published in North America by Scholastic
Press.

….My plan at present is to write individually to a list I have of
400 publishers, many of them relatively small and not located in New
York, and see who wants to buy the next big saga to rival Harry Potter
and _Star Wars_. If you’d like to help see _Ceres_ and the rest of the
“Ngu Family Saga” into print, let me finish with advice that John Ross
gives his readers on his personal website :

….”One thing you can do that won’t cost you anything is to contact
the hosts of your local talk radio programs and suggest that they have
me on their shows as a guest. These hosts are always looking for
guests that will provoke listener interest, and I don’t disappoint. It
doesn’t matter where you live; radio stations do phone interviews with
guests thousands of miles away all the time. I’ve done over a hundred,
from Florida to Alaska. As a side benefit, you will become an asset to
the station and they may ask you for other recommendations in the
future.”

13. Eric Oppen - September 27, 2007

Thanks, Neil. I’ve often wondered if the future of publishing isn’t in publish-on-demand, like Lulu.com. (I bought a book for my best-beloved from them; they sent the wrong book, but when we explained what had happened, they were very good about rectifying the mistake).

From what I know about it, the book-publishing industry is screwy; the thought of “stripping” perfectly good paperbacks and returning the covers to the publisher for a refund is one that gives me the screaming shudders.

14. Administrator - September 27, 2007

> the thought of “stripping” perfectly good paperbacks and returning the covers
> to the publisher for a refund is one that gives me the screaming shudders.

….As it does any decent-minded, right-thinking individual. This is a result of the screwed-up way publishers look at book sales. They slam ‘em in the rack-pockets, and if they aren’t gone in two weeks, they’re _papier mache_. This may be another reason I’ve ended up less than popular with publishers. My books sell slowly, but extremely steadily. _The Probability Broach_ is still selling in various incarnations after twenty-seven years.

….The book business has other problems, too. I have discussed some of them related to science fiction publishing in my essay “On a Clear Day You Can See Bulgaria (But Who Wants to Look?)”, which you can find in my book _Lever Action_ or, I think, on The Webley Page .

15. a - September 27, 2007

Try putting a stronger “adult” subtext in your stuff and sell it through pornographers. We live ib a world where warm fuzzy thinkers expect mama to take care of them and think using force , especially in selfdefense is wrong while too many of those who accept the rsponsibility of self defense are caught up in America’s “need to defend itself from terrorism, drug dealers, and whatever Riff let in with his trandimensional gate opener.”
Neither one of these groups is going to support libertarianism without a lot of educating. Porfans on the other hand just want their t&a, sex scenes, and/or fetishes. If there happens to be an SF (or western or mystery) story holding it togethr , oh well., that’s nice.
And they fce enough persecution and make up enough of the pop to start changing things to boot.
The real problem i that too many people will support libertarianism, until it means giving their opponents a chance to talk. you’ve made it clear that it means giving the other guy a chance to make his point without giving up your right to speak up. Definitely anathema to people who feel it is appropriate to shout down invited guest speakers.

16. al perez - September 27, 2007

Sent version of this message through one browse (IE6) and it shows there but it isn’t reading on other (firefox) so assuming didn’t get through.
Let’s me say things over only right. Maybe you should up the “adult” content of your books and distribute through porn shops. More people read that venue than you’d think and they are more likely to give someone a chance to be heard, having dealt with ufair persecution.
We are teaching people to be nanny state liberals and others become terror state thugs on their own. Both groups find your ideas anathema. I
Strangely it is necessary to get them to let go of statist preconceptions to read anything but statist p(cr)ap.
Also, try to find sage state publisher. Yankee publishers and market are too “establishment” and will not give attention & sales you deserve.

17. "lee n. field" - September 29, 2007

>This is a result of the screwed-up way publishers look at book sales. They slam ‘em in the rack-pockets, and if they aren’t gone in two weeks, they’re _papier mache_. This may be another reason I’ve ended up less than popular with publishers.

Part of the current churn, I think, is due to a tax change dating back to (again, I think — going on decades old memories) the Reagan administration. Books all of a sudden depreciated way faster than previously. That’s why I could buy, a couple months ago, a copy of Larry Niven’s latest for 1/4 of what it cost brand new three years ago.

Back in the day, I worked in a library, and I remember considerable bitching about what it would do to book publishing.

18. al perez - September 29, 2007

Just sent message through Firefox and saw it disappear into universe. trying again on IE6.
Analog just ran review of book by John Barnes that he had troble getting published. Predicted Terrorist attack on US by Moslem extremists including review of why they felt provoked.
The bosses really don’t want realistic discussion of why people outside US wantt to attack us, except maybe at a dems blaming reps, lberals blaming conservatives, and vice versa, level.
To be honest, too many average decent (and weird, indecent) Americans have been successfully conditioned not to face these criticisms, except of course as partisan blame throwing (and thanks to Dave gold of Mad for that phrase).
Neither do the bosses want to hear it said that trashing the Bill of Rights is not the way to protect America. Rather, they don’t want to be told they’re wrong for restricting liberties, but they will allow it’s wrong for their opponents to do so.
As long as Barnes, our faithful Administrator and others procclaim that we need to clean up our act on both left and right and respect liberty. as authors they will remain prophets without honoriums.
Perhaps if we fans of these authors and supporters of their ideals flood Amazon.com (through TLE, of course) and brickfront bookstores with orders for their stuff we can make libertarian prophecy profitable.
Depending on circumstances I should be able to back up my words with actions either the beginning of November or April, maybe March.
Given economic reality I’m sure many of you can say the same thing, But a steady and expanding trickle of orders should help.
Meanwhile this is the second time this week I’ve had trouble posting on Firefox. What gives?

19. Administrator - September 30, 2007

“Lee” said:

> a tax change dating back to (again, I think — going on decades old memories) the Reagan administration.

….This happened just as I was entering the business. I was told that the government had decided that the contents of warehouses were taxable in a way they hadn’t been before. After that, printings were held to a minimum, but it wasn’t enough. One by one the major publishing houses were sold to overseas interests — mostly German — and whatever happened afterward (it’s said the new owners are interested only in blockbusters, and the midlist can go to hell), it’s been disastrous for a great many writers.

….On the other hand, editors — who are a writer’s link to the publisher — are notorious for “poormouth” excuses not to pay writers a decent return for their efforts, so you can never tell what’s really going on.

….My solution is the “two-tiered tax reform”, an _interim_ program in which (A) nothing connected with the five basic necessities of life — food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and self-defense — may be taxed, nor may (B) anything protected by the Bill of Rights. That includes “speech” in the generalized “freedom of expression” sense that would include the written word, graphics, photographic images, and even computer programming. Among the many benefits of this program would be a flowering of arts and letters in this country such as has never been seen before.

….Of course that may be the very opposite of what the peopke who think they own us want.

20. Enemyofthestate - September 30, 2007

“Of course that may be the very opposite of what the peopke who think they own us want.”

Maybe, maybe not. The state would still have control of copyright.

21. al perez - October 1, 2007

referring to an earlier strain, _Arrrggg, Vamped
Again!!!!_ maybe you shouldn’t worry about seeming unoriginal with offering publishers novel about ethical vampire.
They don’t want original anyhow. So hand them a theme they’re ready to deal with but with your own ideas mixed in.
Feel like a pimp (fifties usage) giving this suggestion.
On other hand, gets you in door where they might be ready to hear new ideas.

22. Donald Qualls - October 2, 2007

I think it was Spider Robinson (one of my other favorite authors) who once wrote that writing for publication is just a form of prostitution — and as such, there was no indignity in writing in a manner that would sell, as opposed to writing exactly what you want. To slightly slant an exchange usually attributed to Mark Twain, “we’ve already established what you are, now we’re just haggling over the price.”

Or, to be extra clear, Al may have the right idea — except that doesn’t help get Phoebus Krumm onto shelves where I might be able to afford to buy it and thus have a chance to read it. Seems to mere there’s an actor or director (Stephen Spielberg?) who works things this way: make one movie for the box office, and then make the next for his own expression. By alternating this way, he ensures the coffers will open to allow him to make the movies he really wants, as well as keeping his name fresh with the public. Of course, it helps to be able to crank out a big-gross seat-filler on demand…

23. Donald Qualls - October 2, 2007

Oh, should have added — it also doesn’t hurt to win Oscars in both halves of the cycle…

24. Administrator - October 2, 2007

….Well, the problem with Spider, apparently, is that he’s some kind of socialist who desperately needs to watch _McClintock_, a John Wayne movie that explains the market system better than anything I’ve seen short of _Free to Choose_. Pay close attention to the exchanges between Duke and the character played by his son, and between him and his movie daughter, played by the eternally beautiful Stephanie Powers.

….I’m nobody’s prostitute, and I could only damage my work (and my mental health) by thinking of it that way. I’m a productive artist who attempts to create for the market system. I give people a few hours of fun, a couple of things to think about, maybe a pretty girl to occupy their thoughts during an otherwise dreary hour, and they give me what it takes to feed, clothe, shelter, transport, and defend myself and my family.

….Anybody who would call that noble enterprise “prostitution” is a really sick fuck. No wonder I didn’t get on with Robinson when I met him in Albuquerque. And maybe I should write a bar story or two of my own.

….A final thought: if I subverted my life’s work just to make a sale, then why should any of you, my readers and my friends, trust me any more?

25. al perez - October 3, 2007

I publicly apologize for anything that I said or wrote that implied you should prostitute your art or in any other way sell out your ideals or artistic integrity.
I meant to address the concerns you had expressed about putting -Sweeter than Wine- up for sale at a time when a spate of vampire TV shows and novels were/are coming out.
It is not your fault that other writers, editorss, publishers, and producers get an attack of common sense and say the same thing you’re saying at the same time as you.
Say what you want to say when you want to say it and if it happens to be well timed commercially great, and if others falsely or mistakenly accuse you of being derivative they can skin a rattle alone (Look up the idiom skin a rattle in an Irish Gaelic to English dictionary.)
Again I apologize.
Love McClintock. Mrs. McClintock proudly displaying her shiner and saying “No one gave this to me, I earned it!”
is one of the greatest expressions of the spirit of free market economics and libertarian independence i ever heard.
Take it easy on poor Mr. Robinson. He’s lived too long as a government subsidized artist in socialist Canada and it has corrupted his morals.
Perhaps he should meditate on the example of Shania Twain who turned her nose up at tribal rights due her after her parents died and successfully supported herself and her siblings as a club singer gefore she hit it big.

PS. This is the third time I’ve had to rewrite a letter and send it through IE6 because firefox lost the first copy. What the bloody hell is that all about?

26. enemyofthestate - October 3, 2007

This is a test
This is only a test
Had this been a real message
It you have told you where to go

27. enemyofthestate - October 3, 2007

“This is the third time I’ve had to rewrite a letter and send it through IE6 because firefox lost the first copy. What the bloody hell is that all about?”

It may be your cookie settings.

Go to Edit->Preferences->Privacy->Exceptions

Located http://www.bigheadpress and delted it from the list

Close the list

Check: Allow sites to set cookies

Check: For the originating site only

Keep Cookies: Aslk me everytime

Close the window

Log back onto bighead press and when asked about cookies select allow. Not allow for session only — that will not work. It has to be allow.

28. Lonnie Courtney Clay - October 4, 2007

Would you like to collaborate on pulp novels?

What do you feel when you hear the video below?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvbuJKqIJ4Q

Signed By :
Lonnie Courtney Clay aka Laughing Crazy Coot aka ZORRO Chic Logo Guy

29. Eric Oppen - October 4, 2007

It also occurs to me that Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, of Liaden fame, do some things that might be worth looking into. They publish a lot of their stuff in “chapbook” form.

I’m not too surprised that you didn’t get on with Spider Robinson; the man’s a hypocrite, as I’ve blogged on my LJ. But then, hippies are not known for clear thinking on their best days.