by Jane Carnall
Cities: Orbitsville and Neveryona
Reading Russ and Clarke
Wide Sargasso Sea
Mind of my Minds
[originally written as a loc for "His Beloved Pet", by Ruth Gifford/Atara Stein: adapted as an apazine article for "Strange Bedfellows".]
One of the major problems I assume any serious and canonical writer in ST:tng must have to deal with is the problem of Q.
I recently finished a serious but not quite canonical ST:tng story ["If There Are Gods"], and dived into a story someone leant me expecting a wonderfully relaxing and quite unreal read. I asked to read it out of friendship, re-establishing lines of communication with a friend I hadn't talked to in a while. I realised at first glance it was Picard/Q. I have no idea whether it's been published, but the copy I have is definitely not circuit quality. So I'm not going to mention the name or the authors, and I'll try not to describe the story too clearly.
But I loved it. Partly this was because, as Shoshanna inimitably pointed out to me, I'm a slave story fan. (What she actually said was, "You're not a Next Gen fan, you're a slave story fan. You know it and I know it. Admit it." I replied "If you know it and I know it, why do I have to admit it?") But mostly it was the way the writers dealt with Q.
Q provides a framework for the series, making the series as a whole the story of Picard (representing humanity) on trial for humanity's manifold sins. Whenever Q shows up, no matter how Q chooses to present Qself, Picard is, in one way or another, on trial. (Q's offer to Riker of Q powers was clearly a fairly subtle test - would Picard be able to talk Riker down from the rush of infinite power?) As presented, Q is an omnipotent, omniscient being, able to do anything, but choosing never to force anyone's free will. In other words, Q is God.
All the Q/Picard stories I have previously read took care to avoid the issue of Q as an omnipotent and omniscient being; Q was used as if Q were no more than a trickster with powers of illusion and timebending. I had wondered if it were ever possible to deal with the problem of writing about a character who is a god. A god can't have the same motivations as a mortal, or as any being with limited powers. A god in a relationship with a mortal - with one of the god's worshippers? It's very Greek and mythy, but could it work as a story, without making either the god, or the mortal, a cipher?
Yes, it can. Q is challenged by another Q to seduce Picard. To convince Picard, without any further illusion than that of appearing to Picard in Q's usual physical form, to have sex with Q - several times, is the parameter of the dare.
(This story opens shortly after the end of the last episode of the 7th season. It appears to completely ignore the movies - it's dated 1996, so it would have had to ignore First Contact. Picard does actually have reason to be grateful to Q, to trust Q, at this point.)
Picard has a secret. It's a fairly predictable secret, though Picard never thinks of it on those terms; he has domination/submission fantasies. He's never acted on them, because who could he find to master him? Being the Captain is an essential part of being JeanLuc Picard, or so he sees it.
It's one of the things I find most fascinating about Picard; that being a starship captain is something he always wanted to be, and once he achieved it, he is and was supremely content with being a starship captain. You can see this most obviously in the first episode where Riker is offered promotion; Picard literally cannot imagine Riker saying "No" - even though it means leaving the Enterprise for a tiny little research ship exploring the furthest reaches of space - and I don't think he ever understands why Riker does say no, and continues to say no. Accepts it, accepts that Riker has different ambitions, but never understands it.
Picard explains to Q (who already knows all of it, having read Picard's mind, read Picard's library, and checked back through Picard's life) that sometimes he has fantasised being the dominant, being able to give orders without having to think and care about his subordinate, but usually he fantasises about being the submissive, not having to make decisions, just do what he's told and take orders.
And Q offers to realise every one of Picard's fantasies. "Whatever I can imagine, I can realise. And whatever you can imagine, I can also realise." Q's night by night seduction of Picard is wonderfully laid out; and it takes one particularly neat S/M point and reverses it.
It's a classic of S/M that the bottom is really the one in charge, the one whose desires have control. I think the only way to tell whether a story is written bottom or Top is not whose viewpoint the story is told from, but whether the writer acknowledges who controls the scene. It's not immediately obvious; but to quote one of Avon's better lines about Vila "I guess I've got him exactly where he wants me."
In "bottom" stories the bottom in the story has chosen to submit to the desires of their Top. In "Top" stories, the two involved are very aware that the Top is doing exactly what the bottom wants. There are more stories of the first kind than the second.
While Q seduced Picard into making love with him by making all of Picard's unrealised fantasies come true, Picard believed that he was submitting, by choice, to Q's desire to dominate him. He had faith that Q desired him; he submits with "infatuation, awe, and gratitude". And of course, the sex is perfect, every time, all the time. Of course.
But eventually, obviously, Picard has to find out that it was not Q's desires he was responding to, but Q's realisation of Picard's desires. And equally obviously, no matter how infatuated, or how submissive, Picard isn't going to submit to a disinterested God.
Divine love is rough. An omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God is a logical impossibility, unless you can bring yourself to accept that God's love is not love according to any human definition of the word. If Q is God, we have to accept that Q let Picard be Borg'd into betraying the Federation at Wolf 359, let him be tortured by Cardassians, let his brother and his nephew die horribly by fire, all because Q felt the effects of these events would be best for Picard. You have to either believe that, or else believe that Q observed and didn't care.
In the ST:tng universe, of course, theology is simpler. Picard does become a better character by his suffering. Several million fans would tell you so, and the God of ST:tng, who is Paramount, is well pleased with their creation and servant.
But this story isn't about divine love, though one of the things which very impressed me about it is that throughout it Q holds to the principle of free will, the divine Prime Directive: Q will meddle with everything around Picard but not Picard's will to consent or to refuse. And further, Q holds to what one might call the sanity principle: God cannot undo what God has done, therefore Q cannot simply go back through time and make the moment when Q abandoned Picard to reality not have happened.
What this story is about is a God discovering not divine, but mortal love, including the necessary Incarnation for resurrection. Mortals who love Gods get burned; a God who loves a mortal must be incarnate as a mortal, out of free will and out of love, and must suffer in that incarnation.
The final moments, when Picard offers himself and Q accepts, both splendidly in character, are exquisitely touching without being overtly sentimental. Picard's closing line is almost a punchline, it fits the story, caps it, and reverses it. It's impossible to feel sorry for Picard after this, and you know that's exactly the way Picard would want it to be. "Only a god could master me."
I've just finished writing a theological slash story myself (well, it may not be slash, but it's definitely theological) which is one reason why I was pleased and impressed to find another ST:tng theological slash story. (The really hot sex scenes didn't hurt either!) I had carefully avoided thinking about Q as I constructed my theologies; but this story reminds me that, if I were a canonical writer of ST:tng, I would have, in some way, to deal with Q.
Cities: Orbitsville and Neveryona
I bought 105 books while I was in the US. I didn't bring all of them home: no more than a hundred. It was partly the cheapness of books (a book which costs $5.99 in the US [£3.55] will cost £5.99 here) and partly the number of books which simply never migrate to Britain (or only to Forbidden Planet in London, or Gay's The Word and Silver Moon, also London) and partly the number of bookshops... (I admitted to "over 40" books at work, which they found weird enough.)
Among the books I bought were three old favourites: Orbitsville and Orbitsville Departure, by Bob Shaw, and Flight From Neveryon, by Samuel R. Delany. (Yes, I know there's also Orbitsville Judgement, but I didn't see a copy in Pandemonium.)
It struck me that OB and FfN, published at very nearly the same time (1983 and 1985 respectively) are antitheses on cities.
Orbitsville is defined as a BIG DUMB OBJECT in the second edition of the ESF. What it is, is a Dyson sphere: the sphere itself made out of ylem (which differs from scrith only by having artificial gravity) and the inside of the sphere a rolling landscape of hills and plains, equal in area to thirty billion Earths. Naturally, it's no sooner discovered that colonised. Within a century, most of Earth's population have gone to Orbitsville.
Neveryon is a Neolithic city in a strange and terrible land based on a comparitive translation from several ancient languages of a brief narrative text (c. 900 words) known both as the Culhar' Fragment and the Missolonghi Codex. The translation was accomplished by a young black American mathematician and crytographer, K. Leslie Steiner. Both the Culhar' Fragment and Steiner are fictional inventions of Samuel R. Delany, who nevertheless engages in correspondence with both of them and also (in Neveryona) with a non-fictional archaeologist. Or is he non-fictional? Is anyone who exists in a novel fictional?
Sorry, I got distracted. I love the Neveryon quartet with a strange and disturbing passion.
The tales of Neveryon are set in a land where certain concepts do not yet exist, or else are in the process of being created: but the city exists. It is Delany's contention (at least, in the tales of Neveryon) that far from being a (comparitively) modern invention, cities are almost as old as humanity. That it is in the nature of humanity to create cities.
Shaw presents a world - two worlds, Earth and Orbitsville - where the idea of city is falling apart. Cities on Earth are derelict; cities in Orbitsville do not last. Shaw suggests that the natural human reaction to Orbitsville is for pioneer families to set out alone, not to create communities but to be independent of community.
In the land of Neveryon an island woman can invent the idea of writing, and within twenty years see her invention in use all over the land: in Orbitsville, eventually, ideas cease to spread because they have too far to go: nomad peoples, he imagines, scattered across the vast globe, endlessly re-inventing the steam engine.
I devised an acid test of my own, for any imaginary world, ten years or so ago: Can you imagine someone in that world settling down with a book? Can you imagine someone writing a novel in that world? Or even a short story?
(In passing, this is sadly a test that LeGuin's Anarres fails: while I can imagine shared readings, I cannot imagine the solitary writer. The only one we hear about, Tirin, gets torn to pieces.)
You could read and write in Neveryon. You couldn't in Orbitsville.
Russ and Clarke
I happened to read almost simultaneously (no, not quite one book in one hand and one in the other) Joanna Russ's We Who Are About To... and Arthur C. Clarke's A Fall of Moondust. One can hardly imagine two more dissimilar writers nor two more dissimilar novels, given that both novels deal with the same situation: a number of people thrown together by the random chance of transport are placed in a situation where they cannot survive.
Clarke takes for granted that the social relationships between men and woman, and the social status of women, will remain exactly what they were when he wrote it in 1961. That it remains a novel I still re-read is due not so much to his writing skill as it is to his determination to stick to the classic form of hard science-fiction. (To me the thing I love about hard SF, done well, is that it lets me boldly go where I have never gone before. A good hard SF writer is a tourist guide on a trip out of this world. With Isaac Asimov I have slept weightless in space, with Saturn's rings for a nightlight. With Arthur C. Clarke I have flown over Titan and Jupiter and explored Rama, and of course, I have walked on the Moon.)
Russ, writing fifteen years later (1975 - 1977) also writes a novel where the social relationships between men and women, and the social status of women, are much where they were; but she doesn't take it for granted so much as make an agonised prediction. (It's said, with how much truth I do not know, that WWAAT...) was written in response to Marion Zimmer Bradley's appallingly unhopeful Darkover Landfall. It's true, because I did it, that mentioning Joanna Russ to MZB guarantees a unusual snarl about "textbook feminists". I never got the chance of putting Russ, Bradley, and Pat Califia on to the same panel to discuss the impact of lesbian-feminism on science-fiction, and vice-versa, though it was one of my first ambitions in running the gay programming stream at Intersection, as three strikingly different lesbian-feminist science-fiction writers.)
You could make a splendid Hollywood movie, akin to Apollo 13, out of AfoM. (In fact, I wish someone would.) No one in Hollywood would ever make a movie out of WWAAT... and I hope that no one in Hollywood ever does; their blinkered vision, if it could encompass it at all, would see it as a horror movie. The worst Clarke does to his characters could easily be overlooked or redirected these days; Miss Morley and Mrs Schuster are stereotypes, but a glimpse of humanity shines through, and the worst Clarke does in the direction of Hollywood Heterosexuality is when Harris and Wilson kiss in the storage locker. But in the Hollywood universe, Alan-Bobby and Nathalie would be lovers, not enemies, Cassie would have a heart of gold, and Mrs Graham would be more like Mrs Schuster. As for the anonymous narrator... what could anyone in Hollywood do with her?
The key paragraph of AfoM is: "At the speed of light, waves of relief and happiness would now be spreading over the Moon, the Earth, the inner planets, bringing a sudden lifting of the heart to billions of people. On streets and slideways, in buses and spaceships, perfect strangers would turn to each other and say 'Have you heard? They've found Selene.'"
The key paragraph of WWAAT... is: "At dawn I held hands with the other passengers, we all huddled together under that brilliant flash, although I hate them. O God, I miss my music."
Clarke's novel is about people working together, about saving lives, creating hope. It's also about how to survive as a group with dignity, even when you know you are about to die in a week.
Russ' novel is more complex, less satisfying; crudely, it's about the right of every individual to choose death with dignity, not to be forced into a repugnant course of action by a majority vote. (Majority rule is something which Quakers strongly disapprove of, which makes the following quote and pun even better; "'A Trembler,' he said. 'My God, a Trembler in our very midst.' I shut my eyes. - 'The Quakers,' I said, 'called themselves the Society of Friends. They were called Quakers because some fool heard John Fox say he quaked in the presence of his God. Actually I like to think of myself as a temblor. Never mind.'")
What does all of this prove? Nothing, except that when you put the same idea into the heads of two different people at different times you get different novels. The yeast and the flour may be the same, but no one except a factory ever baked two identical loaves of bread, and factory-baked bread isn't worth eating.
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell, 1996.
This is an astonishing book. (Mike Sherwood loaned it me, for which much thanks, Mike - sorry it took me this long to get aroundtoit.)
It begins on Earth, 2059, in Rome. The introduction tells you that the book is about the Jesuits making the first contact with another intelligent species (on one of the Centauri worlds; one feels for reasons of convenience). A book about the Society of Jesus and interstellar exploration; it did not, I admit, immediately appeal.
The title is Christian on multiple resonances; the reference specifically intended is that notorious one about not a sparrow falling without God's awareness. But I also thought of the Anglo-Saxon riddle, the long one about the soul being a small bird (which I have always thought of as a sparrow, though I don't believe the text specifically indicates that) flying through a lighted hall, from one end to the other, coming in from the storm outside and flying out into the storm again, with only a brief moment of warm still peace as it flies.
The sparrow is Emilio Sandoz, sole survivor of the Jesuit mission to Rakhat, a priest, a linguist, a whore and a child-murderer. This is how he is introduced in the first few pages, and for over nine-tenths of the book, though one learns more and more about Emilio, the final chilling fact is not explained. You are invited to learn him, to know him by both those who loved him, hated him, and were indifferent to him, you are asked to love and to forgive him without being told how it is possible.
And this is the kind of novel which is a drastically different read the second time through. Cyteen is another such, and the Neveryon tetrology, and, come to that, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. This kind of storytelling operates on concealing facts from the reader in such a way that the reader cooperates unknowingly in fooling themselves; and at it's best, the facts which were concealed on the first reading must be plainly visible on the subsequent readings.
One of the classics of thoughtful science-fiction is what will happen when we (aquatic omnivorous languageusing apes) encounter another species which we are compelled to treat as equals? A species of equal or greater power with us: we are not compelled to treat the species on this world which may or may not be as intelligent as we are, but which are certainly far less powerful. And how much of what we conceive as unquestionably normal behaviour, of our ethics and moralities, are based firmly in our genes?
What if we encounter another species, or pair of species, that are as locked into their own patterns of unquestionably normal behaviour, as we are, but their unquestionable norms are abominable to ours? The famous Starfleet Prime Directive, the non-interference directive, must have been originally designed as a crutch for the conscience. How else could anyone capable of seeing an alien as a person like themselves stand aside and see abominations done and never say a word?
(Orson Scott Card dealt with this problem in nine paragraphs towards the end of Speaker for Dead, the scene in Chapter 17 where Ender, Ela, and Ouanda have just been shown the mothertree. Another interesting example of two different writers with the same idea writing utterly different novels dealing with it.)
For example; imagine a species which evolved from lions. A pride, the basic social unit among lions, consists of adult females who hunt cooperatively, their children, and a single adult male. Female children join the hunters of the pride on adulthood. Male children leave the pride on adulthood and roam alone until they find a pride with a male they can defeat - not necessarily kill; a defeated male leaves the pride and roams alone. So far, this can be expressed and understood in human terms; Larry Niven and C.J.Cherryh have both used the social structure of lions as a basis for aliens (though Niven, typically, assumed that the males in that system were dominant, and ignored the notion of the females as primary hunters and providers). But a further aspect to the pride structure, which the lions would consider an unquestionable norm and we would consider an unquestionable horror: if the newcomer male takes the established male's place, he kills all the children of the pride; this brings all the females into oestrus, and he then mates with them. Now how could you write a novel from the viewpoint of an alien who watches a stranger kill her children and then has sex with him? And does this as a simple, unquestioned norm, without it ever occurring to her that her behaviour is horrifying... because for her, it isn't. I can't conceive it, and I've tried, since it occurred to me. The only way I could write it, I think, would be as an outsider. This is different from writing a story from the viewpoint of someone who holds different opinions from you; opinions are things that you think into, unquestioned norms are things that you cannot think otherwise.
Yet when we reach the point of communicating with an alien species, both we and the other species must learn to accept that we each have different unquestioned norms, and that we must not interfere with each other's norms out of some notion of omnispecies morality. But this is just what we are not good at doing; look how difficult it is to distinguish between opinions and unquestioned norms. And the Society of Jesus is dedicated to interference; though in the universe of this novel, and possibly in the real world for all I know, they are defined as the most likely international group to initiate a first contact team, they are also by definition the worst people in the world to do it.
Finally, though everything else worked itself out with painful symmetry, there was one point which I found unbearable but which appeared to be accepted as an unquestioned norm by the remaining characters in the novel; one of the non-Jesuit members of the expedition is Sofia Mendes, an artificial-intelligence expert who was rescued from her life as a street-child and prostitute by a broker who sold her intelligence, rather than, as previously, her body. (It's just occurred to me that this transformation is a very neat reversal of what happens to Sanchez.) Most of the scientific reports that went back from Rakhat to Earth went with her name on them as author or co-author, and none of them were published. When Sandoz, appalled, asks why, he is told; Didn't you know she was a prostitute? and at this, he seems to concede the point, and agree that in such a case the Society of Jesus cannot publish papers with her name on them. And this seems to me the most appalling concept of all.
"In 1905 Arnold Daly produced Mrs Warren's Profession in New York. The press of that city instantly raised a cry that such persons as Mrs Warren are 'ordure' and should not be mentioned in the presence of decent people. .... I was deeply disgusted by this unsavoury mobbing. And I have certain sensitive places in my soul: I do not like that word 'ordure'. Apply it to my work, and I can afford to smile, since the world, on the whole, will smile with me. But to apply it to the woman in the street, whose spirit is of one substance with your own and her body no less holy: to look your women folk in the face afterwards and not go out and hang yourself: that is not on the list of pardonable sins." (George Bernard Shaw, Plays Unpleasant)
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Another loan from DMS, a splendid one. Wide Sargasso Sea is the novel I have wanted to read since I knew it existed; the prequel to Jane Eyre from the first Mrs Rochester's viewpoint. Though you could read it without ever having read or heard of Jane Eyre, and I wonder what it would be like to do so, and then to read Charlotte Bronte's novel? The world is wide; someone must have done so. Neither Jane Eyre nor Rochester are ever named in the novel, so I suppose it's even possible, if you were not forewarned before you read it (as Penguin, who published this edition, takes care that you are) that you could read it without ever knowing who the mysterious husband is. The only two characters in WSS who are named in Jane Eyre are Mr Rochester's first wife, and her keeper. Can you remember what their names are without reference to JE? (I could, but then Jane Eyre is one of the books, like Villette, that I have read so many times I've lost count.)
I deliberately didn't read the prefaces or any of the notes as I read the novel. (A lot of the notes are useless EngLit type things, explaining that a reference to the first garden where the tree of life grew is a reference to the Garden of Eden in the Bible).
It's an extraordinary novel. I know I shall read it again. I shall want to read Jane Eyre. again too, and think about the contrast between Charlotte and Emily Bronte, both of whom used in their first published novels the idea of a woman who is deprived of her property by marriage, but whereas Emily Bronte makes it a visible link in one of the chains of her plot (Heathcliff forces young Catherine Linton to marry his son Linton Heathcliff, which makes all her property legally his, then forces Linton to make his will leaving all his property to his father, and then Edgar Linton dies, leaving his property to his daughter, which by a fragile chain of dubious legality but solid custom, means Thrushcross Grange becomes Heathcliff's property) Charlotte Bronte makes it a necessary but unnoticed keystone: Bertha Mason's fortune becomes Rochester's fortune, and he has the use and enjoyment of it while she is locked up for a madwoman in Thornton's attics. His wealth (and brutality) both of which, explicitly in Wide Sargasso Sea and inexplicitly in Jane Eyre, he owes to his first wife, buy him and lose him the opera singer who is the mother of the child, Mr Rochester's illegitimate and unacknowledged daughter, whose residence at Thornton is the reason for Jane Eyre coming to Thornton and meeting Rochester.
Mind of my Minds
The Patternist sequence by Octavia E. Butler, consisting of (in order of publication): Pattern-Master, Mind of my Mind, Survivor, Wild Seed, Clay's Ark.
Many people write future-histories; sequences of novels that are independent of each other but which take place in the same pattern of time. But I have seldom read a sequence which fits together as neatly as Butler's. This isn't a review, exactly; it's an appreciation, and if you haven't already read all of the above novels, well, one, go do so immediately, and two, this is your spoiler warning; if you don't like to know what happens in a novel before you read it (I don't), don't read on. Go find the novels and read them yourself.
There are other ways of ordering the sequence. For me personally, the order is the one in which I read them: Mind of my Mind, Survivor, Clay's Ark, Pattern-Master, Wild Seed. Or the order in which they take place in the future-history, which runs Wild Seed (unusually for a sf novel, it takes place entirely in the past, from roughly 1600 to 1900), Mind of my Mind (the present, almost), Clay's Ark (about fifty years on from MomM), Survivor (no date given, but probably fifty years again from C'A), and finally Pattern-Master, which takes place in an unguessably-distant future.
The central character of the first two novels, the one whom we most care about and most desperately want to lose is Doro. Doro is four or five thousand years old, immortal, unkillable, and the most conscienceless mass-murderer in history... except that he is never part of anyone's history except those whom he owns. The novel Wild Seed is about a struggle between Doro and his only possible opponent and saviour, a near-immortal woman, Anyanwu. Anyanwu hates Doro through most of Wild Seed, but her husband and Doro's son tells her: "I'm afraid the time will come when he won't feel anything. If it does... there's no end to the harm he could do. I'm glad I won't have to live to see it. You, though, you could live to see it - or live to prevent it. You could stay with him, keep him at least as human as he is now. I'll grow old, I'll die like all the others, but you won't - or, you needn't."
And at the end of Wild Seed, Doro and Anyanwu have reached each other, have agreed to remain alive and human to each other.
Mind of my Mind concerns an adolescent, bred by Doro from Anyanwu's descendants, who comes to be more powerful than Doro... though he owns her as he owned all her family back to Anyanwu. I read it first when I wasn't much younger than the girl, and re-read it as often as I could.
The girl's name is Mary. Among other things, she possesses the gift Marion Zimmer Bradley called catalyst telepathy; the gift of making latent psions into active psions. One of the latent psions she brings through, the first one, is a man called Clay Dana.
At the end of MomM, Doro is defeated, and the unkillable immortal dies at last. The only reason he let Mary live long enough to grow strong enough to defeat him is because he loves her; because Anyanwu forced him to keep his humanity. And she is the first Pattern-master.
Clay Dana develops an ftl spaceship drive. A ship goes from Earth, crewed by non-psions, and returns with a disease. Eventually, despite everything that the crew can do, the disease gets loose and spreads; it is infectious, only sometimes lethal, and mutagenic. The offspring breed true. There are now two species of humanity on Earth; or three.
Once the Clayark disease is loose, the Patternists, in self-defence (the Pattern-master may still be Mary at this time; she is capable of being as immortal as her ancestor Anyanwu) cease to hide themselves, and raise walled cities in which they live safely from the Clayark mutants, with their nontelepathic slaves. That's the Earth that the people of Survivor leave.
Finally, perhaps centuries later, what's left is scattered towns of nontelepaths, and Houses, each ruled by a strong telepath and independent of each other. Between the towns and the Houses is wilderness, populated by mutant humans, Clayarks. (The Houses are tribes, rather than towns.) There is one world government, the Pattern, and one world leader, the Pattern-master. There is no freedom for non-telepaths, mutes; they're programmed slaves, slaves who cannot even conceive of rebellion. There is little freedom for most telepaths; they're controlled by their House-master. The external control of the Clayark mutants (who can infect others, any human but a Patternist), and the internal control of the powerful telepaths, makes for a future where there is no freedom; not even in becoming the owner of it all, the Pattern-master.
And each novel is another link in the chain. (Survivor is part of the future-history, but a minor part; mainly it explains why the Patternists didn't simply leave Earth to the Clayarks.)
We learn why Doro is as he is; and how he remains still faintly in touch with humanity. Because he is as he is, he breeds Mary; because he is still in touch with humanity, he lets Mary live when he knows she could conceivably be dangerous to him. Mary is responsible for Clay Dana, and Clay for the Clay's Ark drive, and thus ultimately Doro is responsible for the Clayark disease being brought to Earth. But he is also responsible for Mary's Pattern being strong enough to create safe areas where humans can survive - as slaves. And Mary's humanity (or her son's) is responsible for some still-human survivors being allowed to leave Earth.
Now you can say that she wrote Pattern-Master first, where the end of the story is clear, and then all she had to do was write the novels explaining the situation she'd created... but all I can say is: try it. Just try it.
Persistence, says Butler, succeeds in the end.
"I am going to write because I cannot help it." (Charlotte Bronte)
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