Thursday, November 5, 2009
Sime-Gen Author's Query
Some time ago, I wrote an article about a series of books that impressed me deeply when I first read them. They were novels about the Sime-Gen universe, created by Jacqueline Lichtenberg who, with the collaboration of Jean Lorrah, then proceeded to weave an elaborate tapestry depicting an alternate future of the human race based on a strange mutation.
Rather to my astonishment, Jacqueline Lichtenberg read my article and responded with a comment a few days ago. She wrote:
'Thank you for the nice words about the Sime~Gen Universe novels.
Please let us know what format you'd like to see these novels in next.'
Initially, in my excitement at receiving a communication from her, I misconstrued her question, and conceived a hope that she was interested in continuing the series. Now I realise she probably was asking about preferences between printed books and 'e-books' or Kindle publications.
I re-read the entire collection of Sime-Gen novels and stories last year, after recommending them to some one else who, like most of her peers, was infatuated with the 'Twilight' series. To me, the Sime-Gen universe depicted the same sort of social conflict that occurred between vampire and human, with concepts of prey and predator being turned upside down by love. Re-reading the books, however, I began to see that Lichtenberg and Lorrah each had their own focus. Jacqueline Lichtenberg appeared to be fascinated by the scientific workings of the Sime-Gen mutations, and each successive book delved more deeply into this aspect of the alternate future of humanity. Jean Lorrah, on the other hand, appeared to share my own focus on personal relationships and the power of emotion and faith in changing philosophies and society's prejudices. To define the two writers in this fashion is overly simplistic, of course, because Jacqueline Lichtenberg based her own exploration of the Sime-Gen Universe fundamentally on the stories of individuals and their own relationships and struggles. Even so, I noted her painstaking creation of complex scientific foundations for each aspect of the mutations.
Had Jacqueline Lichtenberg asked me the question I wished she had posed, I would have answered that I would welcome new novels about the period prior to Zeor's founding, the period when the mutation still had not been studied scientifically, when Simes viewed Gens unconditionally as a source of sustenance and Gens lived in terror of the 'unnatural' Simes. This dynamic, I believe, would appeal strongly to a new generation of teens, the same readership that follows Stephanie Meyer's saga of Edward and Bella with almost obsessive interest.
I believe that vampires have attained a new level of popularity partly because they represent the individual who cannot be assimilated into society's ruthless quest for universal conformity. They are the ultimate 'outsiders', fueled by a substance that is taboo to the rest of humanity. 'True Blood' is another enormously popular series and one that endeavours to show a vampire society that CAN assimilate with 'ordinary' human society and how, even when doing so, fear and prejudice undermine the attempt. What both the Sime-Gen novels and 'TrueBlood' demonstrate is the fact that we divide ourselves into predator and prey. Those who have extraordinary special talents or needs are not necessarily a threat, as with that special power is an in-built weakness. The Vampyre requires blood; the Sime requires selyn.
Note that 'True Blood' is a television series based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels. Which brings me rather indirectly to Jacqueline Lichtenberg's question. 'In what format would I like to see the Sime-Gen Universe next published?'
I actually have answered this question in general terms previously in articles I have written for this site. I am a great believer in the power of the printed book. It outlasted the rise and fall of Empires throughout the thousands of years that humanity has committed its thoughts and history to some form of 'paper', 'scroll' or 'tablet' and it will outlast the ever-changing, transient world of cyberspace. Furthermore, the printed book can be passed from person to person, generation to generation. It can be lent, sold, or inherited. It can be copied and reprinted. It can be taken ANYWHERE.
The Kindle may have revolutionalised life for many readers but I personally do not like reading literature on a screen. I like the tactile pleasure that a book provides as well as the fact that it can be read almost anywhere. Having extensive experience with hand-held systems such as the GBA and DS, I have discovered again and again that certain types of lighting can be almost fatal to the ability to see the screen, however well-lit. Books do not give me the headaches that a computer screen can give... nor do they have to be held at a certain angle.
I prefer CDs and DVDs to downloads. I prefer permanent records to transient files. If I care enough about a book to want to read it again, I would like to have it in printed form.
Having stated this, I nonetheless applaud the efforts of various organsiations and individuals to make classics available on the internet. Those of us with access to the internet often can find an obscure ancient text somewhere in cyberspace where it would require herculean efforts and a great deal of money to obtain the same text in printed form. It is a wonderful, invaluable on-going project for humanity but it should not persuade any one to render printed books obsolete.
Finally, the new trend towards self-publishing is to be encouraged. The fact that ANY writer can place his/her work on Amazon.com for the general public to see is incredible. It is tantamount to the freedom that the weblog has given to writers of every kind. Publication now is not the province of an elite business, jealously guarded. It is open to any one with energy and determination.
On the subject of Jacqueline Lichtenberg and writing in general, the Official Sime-Gen site encourages writers and aspiring writers to follow their dreams. Like Marion Zimmer Bradley, who created the marvelous universe centred on Darkover and then encouraged fans to write about it, Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah promoted fanzines about the Sime-Gen Universe.
'Everything on simegen.com is about storycraft and its function in the world.'
-- Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Here is a link to the site:
Official Sime-Gen Site