The Pandora Sequence: The Jesus Incident, the Lazarus Effect, the Ascension Factor (41 page)

BOOK: The Pandora Sequence: The Jesus Incident, the Lazarus Effect, the Ascension Factor
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It was Ship again.

Still shaken by the experience of the sharing, she spoke aloud in a trembling voice. “Yes, Ship?”

You have taken My best friend, Legata. Oakes is Mine now, a fair exchange. Where I go, I will need him more than you.

She looked up at the Rega-haloed outline. “You’re leaving?”

I travel the Ox gate, Legata. The Ox gate—My childhood and My eternity.

She thought about the Ox gate, the scrambled repository in which she had found the truth about Oakes’ origins, the near-mystical computer where hidden things emerged. As she thought this, she felt her own consciousness become one with Ship’s records. And because they all were linked through Vata, all on the plain shared this.

Ship’s words and images rode over this flooding awareness.

Infinite imagination has its infinite horrors, too. Poets turn their nightmares to words. With gods, dreams take on substance and lives of their own. Such things cannot be scratched out. The Ox gate, my morality factor. My psyche moves both ways. If it moves in symbols, it moves through the Ox. Some of my symbols walk and breathe—as it was with Jesus Lewis. Others sing in the words of poets.

Oakes fell to his knees, pleading. “Don’t take me, Ship. I don’t want to go.”

But I need you, Morgan Oakes. I no longer have Thomas, my personal demon, and I need you.

Ship’s shadow began to pass beyond the people on the plain. As light touched Oakes, he vanished—a white blur, then an empty place on the sand.

Legata stood there, looking at where Oakes had knelt, and she could not keep the tears from coursing down her cheeks.

Hali stood up beside the litter where her patient slept. She felt emptied and angry, robbed of her role. She stared up at the passing immensity of Ship.

Is this what I was supposed to let them know?
she demanded.

Show them, Ekel!

Still angry, she played the images of the crucifixion, then: “Ship! Is that how it was with Yaisuah? Was he just another filament from one of Your dreams?”

Does it matter, Ekel? Is the lesson diminished because the history that moves you is fiction? The incident which you just shared is too important to be debated on the level of fact or fancy. Yaisuah lived. He was an ultimate essence of goodness. How could you learn such an essence without experiencing its opposite?

The shadow was gone from them, flowing away over the cliffs, carrying off the bits of humanity remaining up there—the Natali, the hyb attendants, the hydroponics workers . . .

“Ship is leaving us,” Legata said. She crossed to Panille’s side.

In the midst of her words, she felt the blaze of awareness which Ship had shared with them—Shiprecords, all of the pasts carried into the smallest cell on the plain.

“We’ve been weaned,” Panille said. “We have to go it alone now.”

Hali joined them. “No more shiptits.”

“But
alone
has lost all of its old meanings,” Panille said.

“Is this what the expansion of the universe is all about?” Legata asked. “The fleeing of the gods from their own handiwork?”

“Gods ask other questions,” Panille said. He looked down at Hali. “You were midwife to us all when you brought us Vata and the Hill of Skulls.”

“Vata brought herself,” Hali said. She put a hand in Panille’s. “Some things don’t need a midwife.”

“Or a Ceepee,” Legata said. She grinned. “But it’s a role we all know now.” She shook her head. “I have only one question—What will Ship do with those people up there?”

She pointed upward at the vanishing ship.

They all heard it then, Ship’s presence filling the people on the plain, then fading, but never to be forgotten.

Surprise Me, Holy Void!

Afterword

Meeting Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom

Frank Herbert wrote for the
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
when I was finishing my undergraduate degree at University of Washington in 1967–70. Students at the university started an underground newspaper,
Helix
, that was an immediate hit nationwide. One afternoon I picked up the latest edition on my way to work and had a good laugh at lunch over an article that bemoaned the mine-shaft gap between the United States and the Soviet Union. During every budget cycle, our government would pump more money into nuclear weapons with the argument that we suffered from an untenable “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and that more warheads meant more deterrence. The author, H. Bert Frank, claimed that we didn’t have enough fallout shelters for everyone, which meant that in time of nuclear war, mine shafts would mean the difference between survival and annihilation. He maintained that the Soviet Union had more mine shafts, therefore a higher probability of surviving a nuclear holocaust.

In 1973 my family and I moved to Port Townsend, Washington, to start Centrum, a non-profit foundation for arts programming. The
Port Townsend Leader
ran a story that celebrated the fact that two authors moved to town, both of whom were nominated for the National Book Award: Frank for
Soul Catcher
and I for
Finding True North & Critter
. I loved the wry humor and political juxtapositions of Frank’s journalism, so I dropped a postcard to H. Bert Frank that said, “I write in the mornings and break for coffee at noon. Drop by for a cup anytime.” Two days later, at 12:01, he knocked at the door and presented his own cup. “I write in the mornings, too,” he said. “The next one’s on me.”

Brian Herbert included the circumstances that led Frank and I to experiment with co-authoring in his biography of Frank,
Dreamer of Dune
, so I refer you there for that story.

The most common question I get at workshops and book-signings is “How do you co-author a novel?” I know only two things about co-authoring novels: The projects with Frank were a pleasure; and a successful “act of collaboration between consenting adults” (as Frank put it) is rare. Several things worked in our favor: we both were writers (not a writer and an expert in something else); we wrote at the same time every day (before internet, on typewriters, three carbons); we wrote the part of the work we were thinking about each morning and worried about ordering the pieces later; we had almost identical childhood backgrounds in the same valley (his cousin married my mother’s cousin); we had the same sense of humor and passion for books of all kinds.

Co-authored novels, with both names on the cover, did not exist in the late 1970s, to our knowledge, so when we made the commitment, we had to recognize the problems we’d face. First, with each other: We shook hands on the agreement that if at any time one of us wanted to cut something and the other really wanted to keep it, we’d keep it. Our thinking was that the friendship was more important than any element of the story. For the record, that problem never came up. The publisher wanted only Frank’s name on the cover for the marketing advantage, claiming that fans would not trust a co-authored work; we both insisted on both names on the cover. As a result, together we received a fraction of the advance that Frank would have received under his name. The whopping success of
The Jesus Incident
made the issue moot. We had to recognize that some critics would claim that Frank ran out of ideas and had to bring some youngster on board; critics would claim that I was some unknown regional poet riding on the coattails of Frank Herbert. We did hear those criticisms, but because we’d recognized them in advance, we didn’t let them interfere with the work. Frank’s wife, Bev, was our strongest supporter (literally, with the occasional lunch and snacks) in that she helped us to think of these important, non-writing issues that might interfere so that we could strategize around them and proceed with the work.

We mutually despised dictators who controlled people by manipulating their religion and their food supply; we weren’t crazy about war for oil or rubber; we shared very strong views on civil and human rights, and a passion for the natural world. Clones became our vehicle for making human rights a centerpiece in the Pandora Series.

How did we actually
work
? We met every day for coffee and talked. I wrote a very breezy and porous rough draft to get the basic story down, and in our daily process we role-played various characters and situations. I’d insert a blank sheet wherever we needed a chapter or more that we didn’t have, then Frank took a turn while we continued to meet daily to “talk story.” Frank’s draft came back with roughs of most of the missing chapters for me to rewrite, added some blank pages of his own, and we divvied up the blank pages to draft, then passed them to each other for rewrite. At that point we had a complete draft, and proceeded to go through it side-by-side, line-by-line. That usually generated a handful of new material that we wrote, rewrote, and double-checked side-by-side, line by line. Then we made copies for ourselves, for our editor and one for a safe deposit box downtown.

We proceeded on our solo projects with the momentum we’d worked up together, and we continued daily coffee, which served us well when Putnam/Berkley asked for a sequel. And then another. But those are stories for another time.

The End

BOOK: The Pandora Sequence: The Jesus Incident, the Lazarus Effect, the Ascension Factor
4.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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