Edited unto morbidity

When I posted this essay a few days ago, I thought I was done editing this chapter — that I’d be showing off what came of it and move on. Today, on December 20, 2021, after thirty-plus revisions over four different approaches, the headline is more appropriate than anticipated.

An engagement with editor Jon Oliver had produced the assessment that my novel-in-progress is in good shape, although not quite suitable as an entry point for new readers of Anye Universe material. The work needed, he said, a prologue.

Author/Editor Joan Dempsey advises against backstory-laden first chapters, but I thought to give it a try. Six-thousand-plus words and five different approaches later, I think Joan’s recommendation is the one I’ll go with. It was not a waste of time — usable material was developed, but it won’t go into a prologue.

For those interested in process, here’s the second-to-last draft. The last one contains text I’ll fold into the book.

Have you ever struggled with a first chapter? Tell me about it in the comments.

Fast Forward

The Near Future Opening Remarks, Elbert Harrison, Geneva

Twenty-five thousand years ago, the Anye migration vessel Bharamin made orbit around Jivada, a not-quite-habitable planet a short distance from Earth. They’d traveled for half a decade, during which time forty-five thousand years passed on their home world.

It’s a phenomenon described in Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, known as temporal dilation, and that was a long time to be away. Home wasn’t home anymore, and the fact that Vidura existed at all was a mixed blessing, because the motivation for the journey had been the anticipated death of their sun.

So, there they were, waiting for eighteen other ships to arrive, making a total of nine-hundred-thousand furry pilgrims stranded in a cosmic backwater with no mission at hand, and only one other place to go.

That, my friends, is how our ancestors ended up warming themselves around buckets of Anye-mined coal for the remainder of an ice age. Now, just about everyone I talk to asks how the furries could have lived here without us knowing about it.

Well, obviously we did know. They roamed, hunted, farmed and traded. We learned a written language and the rudiments of natural science. During the Age of Atlantis, humans were admitted into the fellowship of Zirna Zapha by the boatload. All of this and more can be seen in sacred text, mythology, folk stories, hieroglyphs and cave paintings.

But by the time of Jesus, the furry folk had taken up residence on Jivada, leaving business interests in care of the AjJivadi constituency’s human partners. Earth was still a vast, unsettled world. One could land an invisible spacecraft anywhere needed. The only prerequisite for operational invisibility was discretion.

That’s when the constituency faded into the shadows. After a fire at the library of Alexandria, and two thousand years of war and upheaval, it’s no surprise we forgot about them.

Fast forward to modern times. Ten million Earth-based human AjJivadi operating farms, factories, banks, import/export warehouses and off-grid cargo drops. That’s a different proposition. It almost fell apart in the 1930s, and again in the 1950s, although many would argue Roswell shouldn’t be counted.

Regardless, the Anye diaspora wasn’t exposed until it had to be, and I’ll wrap this section up with a few words regarding how that may have come about.

Anye technology turns upon a profound understanding of space and time, leading to validation of doctrines previously consigned to articles of faith. The immortal soul is a material fact of our existence. Prophecy is sometimes exactly what it appears to be.

The notions of destiny and divine intervention remain shrouded in mystery, but we’re occasionally inspired to give credit. I was a child, a soldier, a physician, a parent, a commentator, and finally an old man waiting to die.

I was then embraced by an AjJivadi clan, and given a new lease on life. I became an agitator, a policeman, again a parent, again a physician, a lawmaker, an artist, a lay-about, an adventurer, a spy, and now a diplomat. I cannot believe it was by anything except God’s will that I stand here today to tell my story.

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