Monday, October 8, 2007

Been Busy ...

Just catching up; we've been busy with various things -- legal among them, we were in court last Monday. It's going about as well as could be expected -- down the road I'll have more to say on all of this; I'm working on a book about our experiences in Los Angeles Family Court. It's an interesting institution and there are some great stories in all this. (One of the custody evaluators at LAFC -- not the one assigned to us at this moment -- wrote an it's-all-true book about alien abductions. That's the guy you want deciding who's a good parent, let me tell ya ....)

Not fun to live through, but great material.

My oldest daughter turns 18 in March. She's spent the last decade of her life in court and isn't intimidated by it in the slightest -- she would make (and may make) a great lawyer. She had some really intriguing observations about what's happened to OJ Simpson, recently.


I've generated the PDFs for Last Dancer and it'll go to Immunity today, though maybe late -- I've got to go out for a couple hours, and I want to see it render correctly on my & my son's handhelds before I send it. It's a much bigger file than it seems it should be, even with font embedding.

I've locked down the first half of AI War; I'm not touching that text any further. AI War at various times has had 2 to 5 differerent sections -- it's going out the door with the following:

1. Trent the Uncatchable and the Temple of Toons
2. The Big Boost
3. Live Fast and Never Die
4. The AI War

There was a lengthy chunk at one point about Mohammed Vane and his wife Selena -- it was most of a section called "The Lay of the Rose." Most of that's been ripped out. The material made Vance look bad -- and I've gotten more sympathetic to Vance as I've aged. (Always was somewhat sympathetic to him.) He's not a "good guy" in this draft -- he still does terrible things -- but he does them because, plausibly, he thinks they're the correct things to do, not because he's angry, which was what drove him in earlier drafts of this material.

The soldier fighting off the approach of Chaos is, unsurprisingly, a lot more sympathetic to me in middle age than when I conceived of him ... and this quote, which always seemed meaningful to me, seems more so, these days:

"Players"—the child, the actor, and the gambler. The idea of chance is absent from the world of the child and the primitive. The gambler also feels in service of an alien power. Chance is a survival of religion in the modern city . . .
-- Jim Morrison

Read what little there is of "Crystal Wind" for the first time in years and years. It sucks less than I'd feared. :-)

Dvan meets Trent ...

"Why did he keep calling me Clark?"

Jodi Jodi just looked at him. "You're bigger than ordinary men. Stronger, faster. Glossy black hair. Able to leap tall women in a single bound. And you're a newsdancer." She smiled. "You're a newsdancer from another planet, man. What were you expecting?"


Sean Fagan said...

So, um, when can I read it? Not that I'm, you know, fidgeting with excitement or anything.

Sean Fagan said...

As for Vance... I've commented on that before, the Vance we met in Emerald Eyes was a very, very different person than we saw in the later two books. The scene with Vance and Trent in the infirmary in The Long Run is quite moving, in a way.

Since tLR, I haven't thought of Vance as a "bad guy"; he's an antagonist, and he's working for an evil government. And, of course, we all know what the road to Hell is paved with.

SF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SF said...

I'm very much in agreement with both of Sean's comments.

Rob Walsh said...

Eeep! (deep breath) Er, um, (sqeak!) what he said.

Seriously, even just here with the random life-observations, it's great to have you writing again. The world has too few worthy storytellers.

Anonymous said...

Dvan is still alive.


nathan kaiser said...

Awesome. I am excited that Dvan survived past The Last Dancer!

eKaser said...

RE: changing images of Vance...

I don't see a need for a character to remain 'consistent' from novel to novel. Authors grow and change. Also, characters, as people, grow and change, it's the nature of experience and aging.

Another aspect is that novels are told from one (or more) points of view, and the descriptions we get of characters are frequently not the "author's word of God", but rather the perceptions of the point of view character. For example, there have been a LOT of discussions over the years in a forum devoted to the works of Lois McMaster Bujold about her character Ivan in the Miles Vorkosigan books. In many of the earlier books, he's frequently referred to as "Ivan The Idiot". He's frequently doing incredibly stupid, or at least very unwise, things. But in later books, we come to realize that much of that is because he's trying to avoid being put in line for the emporer's job, and the 'idiot' descriptions are merely the current point-of-view character's impressions, not "authorial truth."

So, changing impressions and descriptions of ongoing characters can be due to many things, and in my opinion actually help to flesh out REAL characters, because real PEOPLE actually DO change their opinions and behaviors as they explore their ways through life.

Everett Kaser

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Amy needs to read it first -- she still hasn't. Once she's done, I'll forward it to proofers, just the first half, so people can confirm that yes, it exists. (Also the proofing will be nice.)

Until I buy the book back, I can't send it around more generally, and I'll trust the proofers (only those who proofed the earlier books are eligible) to sit on the text until I finish the 2nd half.

The first half is Temple/Boost. Second half is Live Fast/AI War.

Sean Fagan said...

Darn. I didn't proof the last one.

joseph said...

I wish I had been able to proof TLD, but as I said my grammar is not that good. Although I would rather read the whole piece and not in chunks.

Good to hear you are working on it again.

Rob said...


This Rob != the Rob who posted earlier. Dunno who that other one is, but it's not me. I'm pretty sure you can figure out which Rob this is just from the tenor and text, though: I'm the Rob who's cursed with near-fatal logorrhea.

I'm glad that Vance is growing on you as you age. Maybe it's a sign of my own extraordinarily advanced case of cynicism, or an unflatteringly ruthless pragmatism I acquired as an early age, but I never much respected Trent.

Trent is the archetypical example of the guy who tries so hard for you to like him that you walk away touching your hip pocket to make sure your wallet is still there. He's a door to door vacuum cleaner salesman, just with a lot of panache and extraordinary skill.

Don't get me wrong, The Long Run is still one of my favorite pieces of SF and Trent is one of the more memorable SF characters I've seen... but I don't think I would respect Trent very much if I knew him. I've known too many people in my life who thought they were Trent-types, and you can generally rest assured they make one hell of a mess of your life as they skip out the door.

But if you want to talk respect... if you want to talk hero... the discussion begins and ends with Mohammed Vance. He is the only one whom I see complete a major arc of character development. In Emerald Eyes Vance is a contemptible thug. He's a gangster operating under color of law. In The Long Run we see that this gangster is frighteningly, terrifyingly, competent: and we know, if we're paying attention, that Trent's days are numbered. Trent has to go his entire life without making a single mistake, or Vance will be on him so fast he will exit his own light cone. As for Vance? Vance just needs to have one good day.

And then, in The Last Dancer, Vance ... changes. At the end, what is it he says to Mirabeau? Something to the effect of he would rather lose to an enemy like Trent than win with an ally like Eddore?

Vance comes around. Vance learns. Vance changes.

That's what makes him such a frighteningly effective adversary. And that's why I think he's the hero: Vance is the character who undergoes the most believable, the most nuanced, and the most profound moral awakening.

Trent is the protagonist, but he's not the hero. Vance is the antagonist, and is the hero.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to leave a comment saying "hi".

Hope you're well man
-Matt (Dak)

prophet said...

I assume you're a member of the WGA. Do you have any thoughts on the current labor situation that you feel like sharing?

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Dak! Baby! Drop me a line at, would love to see you and your blushing bride. Except she's probably got past blushing by now -- we had a wedding gift for you, I have no idea where it is anymore.

Rob ... I will be fascinated to hear you take once you see the final book. You do get to see Trent change and mature -- there's a scene I love between Trent and Denice wherein they each observe that the other has grown up. There are two really, really old scenes in this novel that haven't been touched much: one is the scene where Trent meets Douglas Ripper, and the other is the scene where Trent and Denice reconnect.

"As for Vance? Vance just needs to have one good day."


Subrata -- I'm not sure what my status is with the WGA, though they do keep sending me paperwork; I haven't paid dues in years and don't know if I'm eligible to rejoin. If anything happens with "All Possible Worlds" I may have to find out.

As to the strike -- the Guild should get what it can, now. The production environment's growing more fragmented and if they don't get a handle on it, they'll become irrelevant. Now is better than later.

Sean Fagan said...

Hrm, I think I have to disagree about Vance in tLR.

The EE Vance is, as you say, a thug. No doubt about that. He does what he's told, and does not question orders at all. (And then... he gets Touched by Carl Castanaveras.)

Trent and Vance are frightfully similar in so many ways. They are both far more intelligent than the bulk of their society. And both -- shockingly -- actually want the same thing: safety and prosperity for humanity.

The real fun part of tLD was watching Sedon... who also wants the same thing (in essence) as Trent and Vance.

Three different characters, all with the same effective goal. All with different insights into what the real problem is; all with different skills to bring to the problem; all with different limitations on how they can accomplish it. And all with different sets of ethics and morals.

I don't think Vance particularly changed in character across tLR and tLD. He grew older, and more experienced, and as he has gained power, he's been more buffeted by the political process in tLD. And I think that, more than anything else, has brought him to the conclusion that -- in order to achieve his long-term goals -- the Unification needs to change. Significantly. Possibly to the point of revolution.

I also don't think of Vance as a hero. He's more like Ahnuld from T2: steady, unstoppable, and incorruptible. He'll do good, but it won't make him the hero. It might just be that he lacks enough charisma for that :).

Trent is a hero, though. Not just because he does good deeds, and has a noble goal -- Vance is that, as well. But Trent inspires others to his cause. And he's sacrificed everything to achieve that goal.

Rob said...

You don't seriously mean to imply that Vance has not sacrificed enormously in the pursuit of his goal, or that Vance does not inspire people to his cause, do you?

You do not get as frightening as Vance except by the most extreme sacrifices and the most extreme discipline.

Also, think about how many hundreds of PKF Elite in the service of the Unification say "I aim to live up to the example set by Commissionaire Vance."

If Vance were to ever openly turn against the Unification, how much of the PKF Elite would come with him?

Sean Fagan said...

Vance is a leader, and as such, can set an example.

But he doesn't inspire people to his cause.

Consider both Trent and Vance as Robin Hood. In Trent's case, people of all sorts look at him, and decide, "Wow, he's doing good things, I think I shall now give to the poor."

In Vance's case, people who are already PKF think, "Wow, he's a good commander, I shall try to emulate him as I execute my orders in the PKF."

As for sacrifices: Vance has a wife, and children; he's very well-off, financially; he can walk in public, and suffer no more than any other PKF Elite. Compared to Trent, who has to Run, who has a price on his head and is subjected to constant assassination and/or capture attempts, who cannot return to Earth, who cannot live a normal life.

Both of them knew that would be the result of their respective choices. And Trent chose the path that would take everything away from him. While Vance chose the path of his career.

There will be other choices later on; I'm pretty sure Vance will choose to sacrifice his career for a better world order (I could be wrong, of course). But I predict that when he does so, he will do so with the support of a very large percentage of the PKF Elite, if not the PKF as a whole, and he will not be taking nearly the same risk that Trent has already taken.

As I said, Vance is not a bad guy. He is even, to some degree, a good guy. But he's not The Hero. Not in the big picture.

Rob said...

I can't buy the argument that Vance only inspires people who are already inspired. It looks to me like you're deliberately cherrypicking a meaning of 'inspired' that makes Trent more heroic.

It has been said several times in the books that the Unification has the broad support of the people of Earth. Vance doesn't need people to say "I want to be like Vance, I'll join the PKF!". People are already joining the PKF because they share the same ideals as Vance.

In a similar vein, Trent does not 'inspire' people to donate to the World Food Bank. The people who donate to the World Food Bank are the exact same people who would already be inclined to donate. Trent just inspires them to go a little bit further--which is exactly what Vance does with the PKF.

As for sacrifices, Vance has a wife, I don't think it's ever been said he has children. It's not as if Trent has lacked for company: how long was he with Mahliya Kutura? Trent's not the marrying type and I don't think Trent wants to settle down; he's too in love with his own image of the rogue on the run. So the use of the marriage angle is a complete nonstarter: Vance has settled down because he wants to settle down, and Trent has not settled down because he does not want to settle down.

joseph said...

I love reading this thread. I never put near this much thought into these books. Both perspectives give food for thought. Personally I never really thought much past Vance being obsessed with Trent, and mostly that was because of the emberasment Trent caused the PKF and Vance in paricular. But I admit, I have only read TLD once, and that was right after it came out.

Ken Prescott said...

One of the custody evaluators at LAFC -- not the one assigned to us at this moment -- wrote an it's-all-true book about alien abductions. That's the guy you want deciding who's a good parent, let me tell ya ....


Anonymous said...

Dan, I'm available for proof reading. I've been doing it as a regular thing for a writer friend of mine for the past few years. E mail is dave at waveridersystems dot com.

Anonymous said...

I'm really looking forward to this, with or without the Vance-unflattering elements. He's always been the the most interesting character to me; and the one that'd be the most fun, or at least bearable, to have coffee with. Trent? Sure, he's got charisma and super powers, but he kind of comes off like a tedious jerk.

For my money, Vance is the underlying protagonist of the novels; he just had the narrative misfortune to wind up getting cast in a production of Trent's life :)

I remember reading The Long Run when it first came out and my toes curling till they cramped -- I'm so very glad you're still around and still writing!