Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe: Library of Erana interview

Originally posted at https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/zweihander-interview-will-and-kit/

Pirates 166 meg

Character Names: William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe

Relationship: Roommates; Playwrights; Co-authors

World: New Hell

Books:  Rogues in Hell; Dreamers in Hell; Poets in Hell; Doctors in Hell; Pirates in Hell (Heroes in Hell series)

How and where did you meet?

Will Shakespeare: When alive, we met as rival playwrights, Kit holding forth in the ‘Admiral’s Men company’ wheresoever the troupe played, or at the Rose; and I at the Globe, where I owned an interest in the house.

Kit Marlowe: Eyewash, all that. Shakespeare’s a famous liar. We met in the Clink, on Maiden Lane. So what? What intelligence we had of one another came through his works and mine, what plays we wrote and how we acted in ’em. My Tamburlaine the Great, Parts I and II, I performed in my lifetime; the rest were staged posthumously, but for Dido, Queen of Carthage, writ by me and Thomas Nashe, and ‘performed’ by the ‘Children of the Chapel,’ as fair a clutch of boy charmers as ever gamboled on any stage. I met my death not too long after cultivating Will, a matter of my spying here and lying there, most times with Walsingham, whose wife took umbrage, as women do when boys and men make love. Yet those plays set a new standard in quality and introduced blank verse. Mine were not, like Will’s, tripe writ for money-grubbery by the uneducated and for the uneducated. I helped Will write his Henry VI, Parts One, Two and Three and got no credit for it. Still, my own four plays performed on Earth after I arrived in Hell did what art should do: shined lights on evils hidden and calumny of the vilest kind.

Will: Kit, let’s not linger on this question, unfortunate as it may be. We were sometime lovers, sometime haters of one another, but always haters of repression and Elizabethan frippery. If your spying got you killed, Kit, your love of controversy sparked it — yea, incited it.

Kit: Incited? Poor choice of words, methinks. Edward the Second was first performed five weeks after my death; so that play, at least, retained its bite.

 What is it you like most about the other person?

Kit: Like about Will? His soft white skin, his ample buttocks — his mobile mouth, empowered tongue, and nubile breasts.

Will: Kit means he adores my ear for language, my deeply probing artist’s soul, and my knack of staying out of trouble whilst I slip and slide among the rich and reprehensible at Court. Do recall I’m not the one who ended life with a bodkin thrust deep in that eye so like a doe’s.

What is it you hate most about each other?

Will: We said that. But, since you ask for more: his blasphemy and his need to fill his pages with the ‘vile heretical conceits’ that sent him to trial before the Privy Council.

Kit: We told you that, and, like the Privy Council, you’ll acquit me on the grounds that truth itself can’t be denied — for long.

Will: Christopher Marlowe, like your English Agent in the Massacre at Paris, I hate your overweening pride and lurid need to confess your days of secret agency under so thin a guise as that play. What were you thinking, to warn Elizabeth of agitators, a theme far too dangerous to survive? And how many refugees from the low countries died of your ideas planted in their tiny little heads?

Do you think your partnership will last?

Kit: Henry Sixth answers that, for my part. It’s what Shakey would have writ had he an education or a life made dangerous enough to enjoy. And the rest, you see before you: two souls forever doomed to one another’s company in the bowels of perdition, to count eternity’s every day, and nights more deadly still.

Will: Kit’s a good boy, a young fellow led astray by childish derring-do, and with a taste for the hurly-burly that snuffed his life before its time. But now I have infernity to reform him, and Satan provides the irritant around which we’ll secrete a necklace of pearls while we write as we’ve never writ before.

 Describe the other person (max 100 words):

Kit: Will, go ye first, and light our path with your dulcet tones, so like a cello but a string or two short.

Will: Master Marlowe, my thanks for your recital, though it best be delivered later and revisited daily, as the Privy Council sentenced you to come before them every day: every day of the ten you had yet to live . . . Withal, I’ll try to answer the question: this Marlowe creature hungers for adoration and thirsts for justice, both of which were as precious scarce in life as they remain dubious in afterlife. Nevertheless, his talent is wider than the face of Paradise and tempered by a lifetime few would have dared to live — and I love him for his childish heart and indomitable soul.

Kit: My turn, then, to laud the Bard in terms free of spite and full with admiration: such a mind for the human animal has ne’er been seen on the black earth — not before he lived his quick span, or at any time thereafter. Although glorifying humanity may be an empty effort, he’s made them look into themselves, and find there what joy can be had, and give it value.

 Describe how you think the other person sees you

Will: I think not, for safety’s bereftest sake.

Kit: As my better half insinuates, ‘twould take a three-part comedy of errors to do that story justice. So I’ll not begin it, lest it never stop till eternity runs out.

Tell us a little about your adventures.

Will: Then or now? Becoming famous in life holds no candle to sustaining afterlife. We’ve written three plays now for Satan, and suffered the attendant woes of those who know true ignominy. We wrote Hell Bent, and died in it every night. We wrote The Witch and the Tyrant, and fell afoul of its graveyard stench. We wrote another, Pirates in Perdition, and found the very sounding of its name an incantation to summon fiends and demons and all manner of unexculpated souls.

Kit: Read our plays writ here, to Abbadon’s order, or don’t. But be warned: you’ll risk your wizened hearts every time you turn our pages and let your eyes rub words too dangerous to speak aloud.

Tell us about your world – and your part of it.

Will: Hell is the Reformation come to grief, with no Third Act to cure it.

Kit: Hell is where the heart is, and seldom beats. But when it does, that heart beats as only love can. We are Satan’s personal poets, and no worse can befall a soul who yet owns an ear for courage or for rhyme.

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

Kit: Right here. Scoffing at evil while we glorify every flaw that makes man human. What else, in hell, is a playwright to do?

Will: Enough, Kit. The last line of this comedy is mine: We’ll be here as long as ghosts roam the world and fools rule it; as long as regrets power penance and singers keen their pain.

 

You can find Will and Kit in the following:

Janet Morris on Amazon

Perseid Press Website

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Janet Morris and Medea: Hell Week

first published on: https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/hell-week-2017-day-6-janet-morrismedea/

Hell Week 2017 – Day 6 – Janet Morris/Medea

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pirates-in-hell_vertical-webbannerWelcome to Day 6 of Hell Week. Today the Infernal Interview Service catches up with series creator Janet Morris, and her character Medea.

 

Character Spotlight

About yourself:

*Who are/were you?   Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.

I am Medea, daughter of the king of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of Helios the sun god, priestess of Hekate, who rules Erebos and judges the damned who come there. More to the point, I am the oldest witch in hell. I met Jason when he came to Colchis to claim his inheritance and swore to claim his throne by bringing home the Golden Fleece. Like a fool, I fell in love with him. I helped him secure the Fleece, pass every test, on the condition that he would marry me should we succeed. Sailing in the Argos with his Argonauts, we did all of those, and more

* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?

Jason and I killed my brother, who came chasing after us to grab the Fleece once we secured it. Then, later, when he spurned me for a daughter of Creon’s, did I turn upon fickle Jason, and killed both our children. Although I had a right to my revenge, one of those or both brought me to hell.

Who are your friends/allies here?

Friends? If you wish a friend in hell, find a dog who lived on Earth before coming here. Scarce those are, but no scarcer than a friendly soul in hell. Those in hell who’ll help me are the Erinys, the Furies, the Moerae, the Fates; but those exact their own diabolical price. Men here like Jason, once my lover, might ally with me in perdition, but no one has a ‘friend’ in hell, anymore than a lover who will be true to oath or promise. And my once-husband, Jason? He sired a race called Minyans, bedding every Lemnian woman he could find. What more about his morals need you know? Such souls now feel my wrath and will feel it more, forever.

Do you have any enemies here?

My enemies are legion. Among the greatest are Jason and his crew of heroes, every one. Some of those heroes live on in hell, flayed, without a patch of skin anywhere upon them — a due punishment for men who killed so many whilst they lived. Some need more humbling; some have earned an afterlife of pain. And, by Circe’s will and Hekate’s devising, I am one who sees to the torment of the deserving. I have told you I am hell’s oldest witch, and thus damned souls are my natural prey.

Pirates – is that a word you resent?

In my days on the black earth, what you call piracy was an honorable profession, a way to test would-be heroes, and what then was called glory is now called evil-doing. In hell, sinners sin and sin again: their fates abide in their natures: and pirates in hell today can be thieves of music, words, or souls. I serve my purpose, to terrorize and penalize the damned. Thus I please the Lords of Hell and get my revenges. So do I resent the word piracy? By all means, if you mean my ‘piracy’ from ancient times. My deeds that got me here were fated, not my fault.

Hell covers all eras and technologies, there are many hells within Hell. How have you adjusted to this strange world?

I stay much to myself, much in Erebos, where I can drink the Waters of Forgetfulness should I wish a good night’s rest. Because I am hell’s greatest sorceress, I travel whither I choose, chasing enemies, breaking hearts, setting rights to wrongs, and wrongs to right.

How do you define ‘piracy’?

Define it? I lived it when such a quest had meaning. Now mere plagiarists and thieves of arts and letters are called pirates. Here latter-day warriors have weapons that make cowards of them all. To me, betrayal of the heart is the greatest piracy: Jason stole my heart – how long ago? – and I’ve yet to get it back.  So his steps do I shadow, his hopes do I destroy. And all like him, arrogant men who sack and pillage and lay waste here in damnation, are due to feel my wrath before infernity shall end.

Describe your home/environment in Hell.

I have said, I rest in Erebos, where those heroes end who can’t remember their names or fames. From there I range wheresoever my damned quarries roam. Satan sets me tasks in his New Hell, where the New Dead dwell; nor are the Old Dead safe from me. But, alas, not even the greatest witch in hell can rid its fastness of guilty humans. But I say to you that the New Dead, those hedonistic souls who care only for themselves, torment one another more than even I can devise. So I stay among the Old Dead, since sinners there abound, and pick and choose. And why are you here, my dear? Have you not yet felt my fury?

Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership?

Ah, Satan. He is what he is, suited to his modern flock of fearful souls, who all believe they don’t belong in perdition, who groan and moan over the slightest torture. Ha!  Now, Hades: there is a ruler worthy of the name.

What is the WORST thing about being here?

That I still love Jason:  that’s my torment. No matter how I try, I cannot shake his hold on my poor and shrunken heart.

Erra and his Seven – what’s going on there then?

Ah, Erra and the Seven – called the Sibitti. Erra and his personified weapons are doing more to make the underverse hellish than Satan ever did. The plagues in hell are of Erra’s making, and the floods, and there be more to come from the Babylonian Plague God and his minions., before eternity runs out.

What are your best tips for surviving in Hell?

Surviving hell?  All souls in hell are dead, do you not realize that? What survival do you mean? The survival of the soul?  They have that, yet they complain.  Soon enough, methinks, Satan will turn to obliteration: an end to all hell’s over-crowding, and to Satan’s own sentence here. Hell has its gods, to commute a sentence. Irkalla can send a soul straight to what you call heaven, if she will. But seldom does. The damned get here, and then they sin, and sin, and sin: every evil inherent in their persons do they exalt. So few, the tiniest fraction, deserve salvation. And those masses who love evil, and repeat their crimes in hell, are cursed with survival: even if they die, the Undertaker resurrects them, and they return to their vile ways. For those who cannot bear more punishment, hell holds out obliteration: not only not to be, but to never have been at all.  And this, to arrogant humankind, is the most frightful end, yet devoutly to be sought by the worst offenders here.

Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock!

I came not to New Hell, where Abbadon rules, but to Hades’ domain, where I have respect, even in Tartaros. There am I assigned retributions to meet out to the damned. Remember, I am not a damned fool like you. I am the oldest witch in hell. So bow down before me, and I may be easy upon you, sinner.

Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?

Time here is fluid. A day can be an hour, a century a week — never time enough for anything redeeming to be done, but time enough for every evil to mature, and spread, and multiply.

What do you miss most about your old….life?

Jason, when we were lovers. Jason, even now that he despises me. With love grown cold in his breast, I miss my days among the Argonauts, when heroes were heroes and my powers at their peak. Yes, Jason. I miss him only, and miss him most of all wherever in hell I may roam.

 

Author Spotlight

*Janet Morris (a/k/a Janet E. Morris)

Here is my bio from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

My first book was published by Bantam in 1977, and I have been writing for a living (fiction or fact), ever since.

* Tell us about your story for this edition.

What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?

Hell has so many fascinating characters, as many as human history has produced, that I use both characters who continue through the series, and characters who have only a bit of time upon Hell’s stage. Right now, I am writing Heroes in Hell stories with my husband Chris, and these center primarily on William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and how their compatriots or inheritors in life are faring in hell. We already know what brought Marlowe to hell. He’s there for writing in Faustus the line: “Hell is just a frame of mind.” In Pirates in Hell, we find out why Shakespeare is damned. This round, we had a fortuitous intersection with current reality, where Shakespeare and Marlowe are concerned: in 2016, scholars decided/admitted, using technological capabilities to underpin instinct and study, that Marlowe must be given co-author credit on at least Henry VI, Part 1, 2, and 3. That, plus the fact that Pirates in Hell admits stories swung around all sorts of piracy, allowed us to use the premise that, in hell, where book piracy and plagiarism are rampant, Marlowe and Shakespeare spat about how and why Kit Marlowe’s name has been omitted as co-author of Henry VI for centuries. Since Marlowe still struggles under a curse which allows him to remember lines he and others have written previously but gives him a hellacious case of writer’s block where new work is concerned, the restoration of Marlowe’s name to at least the Henry VI plays was a story-line too enticing to ignore.

How did you become involved with this project?

I created the Heroes in Hell series when I was at Baen Books and had a multi-book contract that had no creative limitations, not even specific titles: this ploy was how Jim Baen lured authors he otherwise could not afford. So I mentioned the Heroes in Hell concept to Jim Baen on the phone and he agreed I could do a “shared universe” series called Heroes in Hell (HIH).  And that I did, creating, producing, commissioning and editing multiple volumes of stories from authors (many of them writers who then were also friends) that include, so far, two Nebula Award finalists and a Hugo Award winner. We did 12 volumes, including both HIH novels and HIH stories, in the 20th century, and resurrected [sic] the concept in the 21st century with volume #13, Lawyers in Hell.  Pirates in Hell is #20.  But, since all Heroes in Hell volume have a targeted subject, and yet each stands alone, you can start anywhere in the HIH series, make your own order, depending upon your interests: you can choose to begin with HIH novels or HIH shorter fiction. The rules in hell are simple: no one rightly sent to hell gets out. For each novel or story, given writers must use several historical characters, or mythic characters, or legendary characters previously approved for their use by me, and follow the long-arc of the series per se, as well as a volume arc Chris and I give them. We then approve their story concepts before they are allowed to write, since the HIH universe (Hell as we describe it) is our property . So with these constraints, the volumes each have a theme and yet they are subject to tie-in thematics from other volumes which we provide to them.

Writing for a shared world requires rules all writers obey. Even without that constraint, writing for a shared world is most challenging, particularly when you haven’t used a character previously. Introducing new characters, writers must answer the following question to my satisfaction and Chris’: “Why is this character in hell?” Often the basic answer is revealed early in the first story using that character, sometimes it is revealed slowly. If you are using characters previously used by others, you must get my permission to use preciously-appearing characters, and write them to be consistent with the way they’ve been written previously. We have voluminous documents to which writers can refer, not only about New Hell, but about many of the dedicated hells such as Tartaros or Arali.  Since it is in human nature that like groups flock together, we have a few dedicated hells, hard to get into or out of, whether or not you are native to that culture. Some of these are Greek or Akkadian or Elizabethan. With the future hells, we allow only agreed-upon technology and future history, since no character can be historical if that character has not yet lived. Some people wheedled the option of writing about fictional characters, but those are rare, and they must be characters from the 19th century or earlier, or characters or persons from recent times who are in the public domain.

Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options?

While Chris Morris and I are working with Shakespeare and Marlow, we’ve been focused on their thread, but always include a new or different character as well, such as J the Yahwist or Diomedes from the Iliad or Medea the Colchian witch. Satan is one of our characters, so we always write a first story which doubles as an introduction to the volume, That first story is always the most taxing one, since we need to find a way to set up afresh the constraints, threats, and givens that all writers of that volume will share. It’s great fun, but its job is to serve as an orientation for the volume not, in or of itself, serve as a free-standing story, though sometimes we can make the intro story serve as both.

What are you currently working on?

I am still working on Rhêsos of Thrace, and also, with Chris, doing the updating and revising for the Author’s Cut volumes of my backlist. We’re only now finishing Tempus Unbound, and on deck is City at the Edge of Time, to be followed by Storm Seed; when those three are released, the ‘Farther Realms’ Sacred Band books will all exist in Author’s Cut editions. Besides our own work, we edit and format works by some writers who interest us, including but not limited to Michael A. Armstrong, Andrew P. Weston, Walter Rhein, Thomas Barczak, so publishing per se takes up much of my time. Plus, although we don’t take unsolicited submissions, we are always reading submissions from writers we find compelling.

If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and any when who would invite and what would you eat?

I’d invite Heraclitus of Ephesus, Confucius,  Albert Einstein, Roger Penrose, Homer, Marguerite Yourcenar, and a smattering of my HIH characters:  the Yahwist, Shakespeare and Marlowe. We’d eat roast lamb, which is familiar to all, barley and wild rice, and desert would be a green salad and/or a cheese board. We’d have wines with the meal and after, with chocolates.

Which 10 books would you save to keep you sane after the apocalypse? Oxford Classical Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary, The Iliad, the Odyssey, Paradise Lost, Hamlet (or complete Shakespeare), Tamburlaine, Faustus, the I Ching, Spenser’s Fairie Queen.

 

EXCERPT from your story.

Goat-Beard the Pirate, Part 1

or

Bitter Business

 

Janet Morris and Chris Morris

“Now I could drink hot blood and

and do such bitter business as the

day would quake to look upon.”

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

“Piracy in hell is bitter business, when freebooters steal whate’er a soul holds dear.” Grey doublet askew, buff linen shirt open, sans breeches and still bare-arsed but for hose, Kit Marlowe stalked Will Shakespeare across their attic hideaway in the New Globe Theatre. Heels drumming, Kit dogged Will until poet cornered poet at arm’s length. “And bitterest when what’s stolen is words, and the thief’s a lover, a friend — or you, vaunted Bard of Avon.”

“Call’st me thief? O’er the three Henry the Sixth plays?” Shakespeare rose up stiff and livid. “Accept this truth: Once you were dead and your name expunged from those scripts, I ne’er could restore it. When Satan reissued our Henry Six ‘masterworks’ as mine alone, he meant to vex you, Kit. This bone you’d pick with me’s sucked clean of marrow. Pirates run amok throughout perdition. Not only do they ply the floods and stalk the shores, they infest New Hell’s publishing houses. When we both lived, you helped me, yes. But —”

“Helped you?” Kit nearly spat. “But what?”

For a painful eternity, Kit’s question hung in the air between them, an implacable specter, until Shakespeare sought sanctuary in Hamlet’s speech: “‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.’” Will hid his bearded mouth behind a fingering hand while his eyes pled mercy.

They seldom fenced with quotes lately, too angry at each other. But now that Will had begun it, Marlowe meant to weaponize the game. For his first beat, he brandished his Elegia 1: “‘Rash boy, who gave thee power to change a line?’ An attribution line at that? In hell I may be, but ’tis insufferable to be plagiarized by you. . . .”

“Kit . . .” Shakespeare’s riposte died upon his lips.

Pulse racing, fury out of control, Marlowe tried to stem his words, but failed: “This bit’s yours, or so you say, but it’s surely apt: ‘For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright/ Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.’”

“With my own sonnet you dare despise me?”

“Despite is but a taste of what you’ve earned from me,” retorted Marlowe, tongue clumsy, blood rushing in his ears. “Did you not proclaim in Henry the Fourth ‘the fox barks not, when he would steal the lamb’? Take care, brash despoiler who hath ravaged me. Confess and make amends, Willie, or that’s the last quote of ours — or is it yours? or mine? — ’twill issue from my lips till infernity runs out.”

In the garret they’d leased once Satan expelled them from Pandemonium, time held still. Kit’s ears heard nothing but their breathing; no draft blew through their attic to cool their wrath; no sweet peace winged their way.

“Thus dies our game of quotes and more, this day!” Shakespeare’s voice shook; wherever no goat-beard bristled, his rosy cheeks drained white. He stumbled over his own lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “‘O, then, what graces in my love do dwell,/ That he hath turn’d a heaven unto a hell.’”

“Your ‘love’ am I? New words may come hard to me, but mine old I have aplenty. Recalling olden words, here’s more ‘deathless prose’ in which I had a hand but got no credit: ‘Love is familiar. Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but Love.’ Or so we once agreed in Love’s Labours Lost.”

Shakespeare sighed. “Marley, I’ll see Old Nick this very night. Beg him to change those attributions and include you. No sinners read those early plays; instead they ogle the hell-born travesties we stage for Satan. Since your words dried up, your soul’s gone cold. But we’ll fix it. Fix everything.”

A promise impossible to keep in hell, now we’ve provoked the Deceiver’s envy of what we two alone can share.

Marlowe shook his head, raised empty hands and dropped them to his sides. “There’s no fix for human frailty; no cure, unless it be Milton’s ‘obliteration’. And as for piracy, I bore with its bile whilst we lived and taste it still. But run not to the Archfiend’s wily embrace. He’s got no Muse of fire for me nor patience left for you; your glory droopeth, to his baleful eye.”

“Not so. Come with me, Kit, to His Infernal Majesty’s reception. Tonight. We’d best not ignore his invitation. All New Hell’s illiterati and their publishers has he summoned: every paltry poet and pusillanimous pundit in perdition will attend. As your Passionate Shepherd begged, ‘Come with me and be my love,’ and we’ll make every slight that’s wrong come right.”

When Will Shakespeare wheedled, contrite and on his game, Marlowe never could resist him. Yet Will’s affair with Satan too oft abandoned Kit to Jealousy’s embrace.

From their window overlooking the Globe’s stage and its tuppenny seats came a scrabbling of claws, a whoosh of wings, a shower of glass. Like love in hell, no pane in that window ever lasted long, but shattered once puttied into place. Kit spied the vandal, a red-eyed bat hanging upside-down from the window’s empty frame, staring unabashed.

Bats in hell exhaled contagion wherever plagues rode the air.

The hairs on Marlowe’s nape bristled. Heed this omen, Will Shakespeare: Diábolos, Old Scratch, the Prince of Hell, call him what you will, now sends his presumptuous bat, wings wide, for you and me.

Aloud, Kit scoffed. “Be your love, Will? At what cost? Go with you where? On this unclean night? Through twisty byways where purge and pestilence sack the damned?” Alas, Kit knew he’d do what Shakespeare asked, face even obliteration for this wraith, this shadow of the man he’d loved so well. “If you insist, I’ll attend you on this fruitless errand, albeit I’ve no hope for it. Your lusty devil won’t heed my plea, or yours. How many times before has Satan backhanded me for barging along beside you?”

At Kit’s last word, with one flap of wings the bat dropped from the sash and glided into its mother night. Did it hear? Understand? Hell bore few animals as the living knew them: hell-bats to shrive the doomed; hell-goats to feast on garbage; hell-horses whose manes and tails hissed like asps; hell-hounds, sometimes manlike. Save the rare curs or coursers come to seek their masters, hell hosted no loving fauna, no creature company for the dead.

Marlowe buttoned his threadbare shirt, donned his breeches, and paced Will through soggy lanes where few dared walk, where brigands roamed in gangs. Here Satan’s latest purge dissolved unwary souls to salty sand, while other damned, unscathed, scuffed through their glittering remains. If not for the floods that flushed its streets, Marlowe thought, New Hell soon would be but one huge dune.

Past the New Globe they ventured; past the Rose, still dark in fear of plague. Receipts were down at every playhouse, audiences scarce. Nevertheless, when they reached their destination the sidewalk teemed with the sad, the bad, and the mad, a mob desperate to gawk at arriving unworthies and glimpse the infamous.

An imposing structure overshadowed all. The hub of Satan’s New Hell seat, a horseshoe upside down and open at its top, arched toward Paradise and its bloody vault. Red carpet smoldered underfoot, gold festoons lined the forecourt’s fence. Torches blazed along ranks of spearhead finials on wrought-iron pickets, displaying the occasional severed head.

At its grand entrance, fiends of carmine and black formed a sweaty cordon barring groundlings here to gawp, whilst Shakespeare’s name assured entry for him and Kit as if it were a watchword.

A liveried orange demon who reeked of week-old corpses escorted them inside, around, up and down stairs that led in more directions than hounds seeking scent, till they came to a cathedral of a hall.

Once inside, their demon guide bowed low and left them.

Now Marlowe realized where Shakespeare’s fame had brought them. This was a fete for the piratical elite, an A-list affair convoked by Satan’s Masters of the Revels, his seven fallen angels, each banished warrior of heaven more gorgeous than the last. Before them, souls from every epoch mingled, resplendent in outrageous finery. While outside calumny, poverty, deviltry and woe oppressed all hearts behind the spear-topped fence, here chatter flowed, laughter pealed.

And stopped . . .

Into that sudden silence, a second orange demon boomed their names, its tail wagging like a dog’s: “Master Shakespeare and Mister Marlowe.”

Necks craned. Fingers pointed. Misers and monsters, demons and debauchers (hell’s every publisher, privateer, prostitute, pimp and poseur) took their measure.

Marlowe tugged his doublet tight to hide threadbare shirt and cuffs, while leers cast his way said he’d be welcome naked. When he’d been a player, spy, and rakehell, such looks had bought him comfort on many a night. Notwithstanding, at that awkward moment Kit felt supremely underdressed; he should have followed suit when Will buttoned on grass-green shirtsleeves and donned his candy-apple codpiece; or at least worn a leather jerkin over the doublet — but no: rebellious, he hadn’t.

A sigh of whispers grew among this staring clutch of vipers. The crowd parted, and Marlowe happed upon more pressing matters to regret; for toward them strode Satan himself, reigning lord of the latter-day hells, a sinning soul on either arm: one male, one female.

“Will, be you wary . . . keep in mind why we’re here.” Kit tried in vain to wet his lips. When his words had fled him at Satan’s behest, they’d taken all his spittle with them.

“Do you see who that is, the big hairy man in the brown mantle, leaning on his staff?” Shakespeare’s whisper tugged Kit’s ear like a child: “King Solomon, from bible times. Do you recall him from the polo field where he begged my bodkin to slice that infant in half?”

A phantom babe, if ever it lived at all, meant to raise hopes of innocence and dash them, the Trickster’s favorite game.

“Will, remember, we’ve only come to convince Old Nick to redress this piracy; provide compensation, restitution or at least retraction, emendation, some satisfaction. . . .”

Shakespeare heeded not a word, but floated down that final stair and straight to Satan, white-winged and magnificent. Beneath one creamy pennon slid the Bard, as if into his rightful place.

That freed the female from Satan’s hold. Once out from under the devil’s pinion, Kit recognized her: J the Yahwist, she who first gave song and grace to the Old Testament.

J regarded Kit with but the faintest smile, as might a goddess . . .

She’d understudied a role in a play of theirs, come to a dress rehearsal, but they’d never stood this close. She extended a hand to him.

He couldn’t resist. That hand promised lost joys. Forgiveness nestled in her eyes. Exaltation graced her lips. She smelled of sympathy and more: a scent with a darker note, a hint of expiation. . . .

Kit Marlowe took two steps to kiss fingers that scribed the advent of creation. Her touch brought him near to tears. “Yet hell-bound, mighty J? Why do you tarry? Why comest thou here?”

“I am come for a line of mine, pirated by a mortal, a self-styled apostle named John: my line about the Word. Do you know it?”

“Know it? I lived it. Yes, I know it.”

“And do you not hear, with your unerring ear, that it belongs with my Genesis, not with the scribblings of some Johnny-come-lately?”

“I hear.” Many dwelt in hell, but this soul, called simply J, belonged Above. She had come on Mercy’s agency, rumor whispered, to inspire the damned — to give them words, give them hope — and been entrapped by Satan’s wiles. Within her orbit, for an instant sorrow left him. Kit forgot all travail, forgot even delirious Shakespeare, snuggling in the curve of Evil’s wing. . . .

“And why are you here, Christopher Marlowe?”

“I’m here about a play or two I helped write. But standing next to you, my loss sums as naught.”

J’s laughter tinkled like bells. “How could that be, you who wrote ‘Come with me and be my love?’” From her lips, the same line Will had used to jolly Kit into coming here became eerie, beguiling; as was what followed: “I have extra words betimes; words meant for hell’s most needy. Who knows but that I might have some for you? Would you want words about love transforming all, Kit Marlowe? Words to sound a higher octave of being? Would words to transfigure suit you?”

“What? You mean you could . . . ? I’d — That is, you would . . . ?”

Meanwhile, Shakespeare had not forgotten Kit:

Into Marlowe’s colloquy with J intruded the Bard’s voice triumphal: “I did what you wanted, Marley. I have Satan’s promise. And look who I found! You recall King Solomon: Solomon of the Song of Songs, of —”

“Will, not now! J says she . . .” Kit looked from Shakespeare to J, but she had slipped away into the crowd.

Consternation must have remade Kit’s face, because bulky, rough-hewn Solomon shrugged: “The Yahwist seeks her own redress of grievances. And a way out of hell.”

Kit could no more than stare.

“Everyone in hell seeks a way out.” Will sneered. “What makes her special?”

“She does.” The apostate King Solomon struck the floor with his staff for emphasis. “You must understand: J has basked in the paradisal light, walked near to the One — and now, for denying her faith by a slip of the tongue, she is marooned here.” Solomon sighed like a desert wind. “I know — she offered you words, didn’t she? She would. But our host Abaddon will never let her heal a soul like yours, as damned as your friend here describes you. You’ve doubtless heard my proverb, ‘As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.’ Few in hell have a friend. Do not pursue the Yahwist. Cleave to your friend Shakespeare and seek the truth of ages.”

Solomon’s words fell like rain on Kit’s roof. Marlowe had no answer for the Israelite king’s bombast but to look away, seeking J’s face in the crowd.

Alas, no Yahwist.

Where was she? What was she? A fortuity found and lost in a heartbeat? Salvation? A glimpse of deliverance? A breath of the sublime? Her offer of words — words to heal his mind, his heart, his riven soul — might never come again. Kit’s gut growled, protesting his loss.

[End of Excerpt]

 

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pirates-in-hell-chris-morris/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_in_Hell

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/janet-morris/

https://michaelaventrella.com/2012/05/15/interview-with-hugo-nominated-author-janet-morris/

https://plus.google.com/+JanetMorrisaspis/posts/fKEThwitP61

 

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/JanetEMorris/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Janet-Morris/108035375883983

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=janet%20morris%20and%20chris%20morris

 

Blog/Website

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://sacredbander.com/

 

Twitter

https://twitter.com/uvmchristine

https://twitter.com/uvmchristine/media

 

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y8WWKMT/

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris-ebook/

 

https://www.amazon.com/Janet-Morris/e/B001HPJJB8

https://www.amazon.com/Pirates-Hell-Heroes-Janet-Morris/dp/0997758449/

 

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/series/40812-heroes-in-hell

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/121072.Janet_E_Morris

Pirates 166 meg

Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature reviews Dreamers in Hell

See the original Black Gate review by Joe Bonadonna at: https://www.blackgate.com/2013/07/18/giving-the-devil-his-due-a-review-of-dreamers-in-hell/ Giving the Devil His Due: A Review of Dreamers in Hell

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Dreamers in Hell-smallDreamers in Hell (Heroes in Hell, Volume 15)
Created by Janet Morris, edited by Janet and Chris Morris, and written “with the diabolical assistance of their damnedest writers.”
Perseid Press (478 pages, June 13, 2013, $23.95 in trade paperback)

It is a place of swords and spears, revolvers and automatic weapons, sorcery and science, catapults and cannon, bows and arrows, computers and demons. It is a place where there is no Hope for the damned, merely the suggestion of it.

Welcome to Hell, where Perdition rules. Whether a soul believes in Hell or not, Hell believes in damnation of the mortal soul. Anyone can end up in Hell, no matter what religion, no matter what faith. You may not believe in Hell, but Hell believes in you.

In Hell, all things are possible. In Hell, many of the damned believe they have been wrongly sent there, while others accept their fate and try to make the best of a bad situation. In Hell’s Mortuary, the Undertaker giveth and taketh away, revives and reassigns the damned — again and again — so they can continue their dance with the Devil. Yes, welcome to Hell — where rogues and heroes and fools quest for a way out, and Satan plots to storm the Gates of Heaven.

Ah, but wait… the powers that be in Heaven have decided that Hell has become too comfortable. Infernity is in trouble. El Diablo is lying down on the job.

Heaven has sent Erra, Babylonian god of plague and mayhem, and his 7 Sibitti (his Auditors, his Enforcers, his personified weapons), to further punish the innocent as well as the guilty, and they do so with great glee. They are Hell’s judge, jury, and executioners. Satan can’t even run Hell the way he wants to run it. Paradise mocks him. Will Erra replace Satan? Make things worse for everyone in all levels and versions of Hell — past, present and future?

Dreamers in Hell is the 14th volume in this best-selling series, which has seen stories nominated and winning Hugo and Nebula awards. It is also the most ambitious book to date in this highly successful and most brilliant shared-universe of all. So let’s get started, shall we?

Heroes in HellChris Morris gets things off to a grand start with Fools in Hell. Satan plans a great festival to celebrate the rebuilding and reopening of the Hellexandrian Library. (Guy Fawkes, in an earlier tale, had destroyed the Library, as well as the Hall of Injustice in his attempt to assassinate Satan.) Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe write a play for Satan, who enlists their aid in yet another of his nefarious schemes. And who knows what wicked games, what sinister machinations lurk in the mind of His Satanic Majesty, aka HSM?

“Leave me in hell then! But leave my hell alone!” Satan screams to “Above,” in Janet Morris’ wonderful Alms for Oblivion. There is too much overcrowding in Hell for Satan’s liking. So he sets into motion plans to prove that Humankind is unworthy of Hell or redemption, and deserves only oblivion. Rid Hell of Humankind, and the Netherworlds won’t be plagued by Erra and his 7 Auditors from Above running amok throughout Satan’s rightful domain.

In Nancy Asire’s clever little The Unholy Hole, Caesar’s magnificent villa is totally destroyed, leaving but a massive hole in the ground upon which it stood. No survivors can be found. Are the dastardly Erra and his 7 Auditors behind this attack? Or is it someone or something else? Napoleon and Wellington are recalled to active duty by El Diablo himself. Attila the Hun and Sulla’s “legions” join them. Countess Marie Walewska, who chose to spend eternity in Hell to be with Napoleon, arms herself and joins in the fun.

Next up is Yelle Hughes’s intriguing Essence Helliance. The King Infernal visits Medea of Colchis, the first wife of Jason of Thessaly, who works in Hell’s Mortuary. Old Scratch needs the essence and souls of the damned who have no chance for redemption. This, he tells her, is for a project he is working on. A headstrong, disrespectful, and somewhat mad woman, Medea is in charge of this “essence and soul distillery.” But is there more to Satan’s power play? Can anyone even guess at what his infernal end game may be? (I’ve been sworn to secrecy.)

Next is Sara M. Harvey’s lovely and sad, Barefoot, On Brimstone. Isadora Duncan awakens from a dream of dance-performance, green grass, and her children — only to find that she is alone, still in Hell, and the infamous scarf that had strangled her is still around her neck. But then she meets Pharzuph and Naamah, a pair of fallen angels. It seems she has been summoned to Sin Francisco, to see Joshua Abraham Norton, who had once declared himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, and they are to be her escorts. But what she asks of him only one personage can give, and so she must go dance for the Prince of Darkness.

The Gates of HellShakespeare’s Ophelia, delicate and moody little flower that she is, finds herself once again in the hands of the Undertaker, in Shebat Legion’s wicked little vignette, Ophie and the Undertaker.Having twice attempted suicide, poor Ophie refuses to accept her fate in Hell and the fact that there is no escape. No matter how much the Undertaker takes from her, tenacious and stubborn Ophelia always finds herself crawling—or squirming—back to him.

In John Manning’s delicious Just Desserts, Jimmy Hoffa is union president of all Hell’s damned souls. Satan has ordered him to provide labor for the reopening of the Hellexandrian Library. Infamous Nazis Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Mengele, with a few friends, are hired as cooks under the supervision of Jewish gangster, Izzy Bernstein. Meanwhile, Matthew Hopkins thinks he’s found a way for him and fellow witchfinder John Stearne to get out of Hell and escape to Heaven, where they belong. Needless to say, everyone gets what they deserve.

Hell, I Must Be Going, is Michael A. Ventrella’s comedy-skit ode to the Marx Brothers, wherein Rufus T. Firefly and Ciccolini Ravelli, his assistant, are in charge of keeping track of all assignments in Hell. Enter one Margaret Dunwoody, who has come to question who they reallyare and what they are doing. Seems they’ve conned their way into positions where they can search for a missing brother who, for obvious reasons — is not in Hell. Hail, hail, Helldonia, land of the Knave and Unfree.

INFERNAL NOTICE: Weapons are not allowed at the grand reopening of the Hellexandrian Library. In Head Games, Bill Snider’s sly look at psychoanalysis in Hell, Fionn mac Cumhaill, accompanied by his friend Caliban, leaves his sentient spear Areadbhar at the door. Then, during an interview with Sigmund Freud, the spear begins talking to Fionn, though only Fionn can hear it. Old Siggy finds Fionn’s attachment to the spear quite “telling,” and begins to explain how the weapon is an extension of Fionn’s… well, I’m sure you can guess. Throw in the Staff of Merlin, which can talk to the Fionn’s spear, a guest appearance by Merlin himself, and one harridan named Sycorax, who is the mother of Caliban — and hellzapoppin!

Rebels in HellNext up is Tom Barczak’s heroic tragedy, Blood and Ash. Beowulf is still in the process of accepting his death when he encounters Boudica, Queen of the Iceni. Then they meet up with Joan of Arc, who has come to lead them out of Hell. All three are sorely wounded and badly burned, as you might imagine. The trio meets up with former writer turned tinkerer, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who gives Joan a Vorpal Blade that he calls ‘Alice.’ Before they can escape down the rabbit hole, along comes Erra and his 7 Sibitti Auditors. The unexpected happens, a sacrifice is made, and we discover that even in Hell, there is such a thing as Hope.

Hellexandria the Great is next at bat. Sarah Hulcy hits a home run as she tells us of Demetrius, the Chief Librarian, Makalani his assistant, and Caesarion and Brutus, the sons of Julius Caesar. Brutus and Caesarion are drafted as volunteers to act as guides for the guests at the upcoming gala in honor of the reopening of the Hall of Injustice and the Hellexandrian Library. During the boys’ training period, they hear of the destruction of their Dad’s villa by suspects unknown, and everyone is naturally on edge. (Could that all be part of Satan’s grand scheme to storm the gates of Heaven? At this point—anything is possible!) But everyone survives the big party, even though the witchfinders attempt to assassinate His Satanic Majesty.

David L. Burkhead’s The Knife-Edged Bridge is a tale of friendship and loyalty. It stars William Simpson, veteran of Second Manassas, Jim Bridger, scout and trapper, and Perseus, Son of Zeus. In olden times, this bridge was known as the Bridge to Paradise. But now… who knows where it leads? For them, it will hopefully lead out of Hell. But along the way, Bridger is horribly mangled and tortured, and Perseus goes missing. Setting out to rescue his mates, Simpson finds himself in a disturbing level of Hell he’s never seen before, where his friends are being tortured by demons, rather than having been sent back to the Undertaker for reassignment. Simpson rescues his friends, as well as Archimedes, who claims he should be in Hades or Tartaros, but not in Hell. So they all set out to find Erra and his 7 Auditors, hoping to get Archimedes’s punishment amended—and fearing that they might make it worse.

Our next item on the menu is Deborah Koren’s The Wager. It’s an interesting mash-up of the western and boxing genres, with a dash of Damon Runyon thrown in for seasoning. It stars Bat Masterson, the eternal gambler, and Wyatt Earp, who has become the manager of a boxer named Big Ed. Enter one Grayson, an atheist and former writer who refuses to accept that he’s dead and in Hell. Earp bets Masterson that he can’t convince Grayson that he is indeed dead and damned. As for what’s at stake, you’ll just have to read the story and find out for yourselves.

Crusaders in HellBettina S. Meister’s More Light is a very poignant, complex, and introspective yarn. Certain passages read like the inner monologue of poet and sorcerer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who believes he has been wrongly sent to Hell. He suffers the daily humiliation of a poet’s soul. His sufferings of old age are daily presences in his life in Hell. He is tormented by memories of his mother, his wife, and his children. But even in the Realm of the Damned, one can find a friend, and he does — Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem, whose suicidal death Goethe had immortalized in his novel, “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” Arrogantly thinking that he can play with the powers of Hell, Goethe sets out to plead his case in hope of gaining salvation.

In the Shadow of Paradise is Jason Cordova’s excellent, first-person account of Juan Ponce de Leon y Figueroa’s common-sense approach to survival in Hell, set in Lost Angeles. The 7 Sibitti have destroyed Hellywood, and through a landscape of death and devastation, Figueroa travels to find a map showing the way out of Hell, using the waters of the Fountain of Youth underneath the Mortuary. And then he meets Marie Antoinette, who has somehow acquired the map. With her is her attendant, Henrietta, who is in possession of box that contains a Prophecy Head Doll that speaks with the voice of Rasputin. Meanwhile, two Angels from Above discuss whether or not there is such a thing as ultimate salvation, and whether or not even the damned can be redeemed.

Zero Sum Game is Richard Groller’s sci-fi seasoned take on what happens when Nikolai Tesla realizes what has been missing from his theoretical constructs. Tesla is Director of Infernal Research Projects. George Washington Goethals, once Chief Engineer in charge of building the Panama Canal, is Tesla’s assistant and ally. Thomas Edison is the comptroller of the Dept. of Infernal Energy. And Hero of Alexandria is the arbiter of the War of the Currents that is still being waged by Tesla and Edison. Tesla needs funding and is obsessed with besting Edison. Goethals has a penchant for skirting regulations. During the course of Tesla’s experiments, a worker demon is killed, and then a stress wave in the fabric of Space and Time causes one-third of New Hell to disappear. Could Thomas Edison be the saboteur? Tune in and find out!

Kings in Hell“All of Hell is a stage and the damned are merely players in Satan’s endless and infernal game.” So says Jack William Finley in his philosophical And the Truth Shall Set You Free, which stars Constantine the Great, one-time emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Constantine can’t come to terms with the reality of his new existence in Hell, but he has a plan: “In the land of the Prince of Lies he would weave a greater lie than all that came before, a lie that would set them all free.” He assembles the finest minds in Hell, including Kierkegaard, Voltaire, and Schrodinger, to help him concoct this magnificent lie. Satan then orders gangster Frank Nitti to team up with Jack the Ripper, and they are sent to keep an eye on this intellectual rabble. When in Rome, do as the Romans. But when in Hell, do not attempt to emulate the Devil.

The next entry is Michael H. Hanson’s The ITTT (pronounced eye-triple-tea) — The Institute of Terrified and Tortured Technicians. Sergei Korolev, former father of the Soviet Space Program and now, in Hell, President-Elect of The ITTT, is the keynote speaker at an upcoming conference, which revolves around the ongoing feud between Edison and Tesla. Edison is a crafty bureaucrat who lords it over the various infernal-internal technology departs, and steals every idea he can get his hands on. Also in this clever little tale, we see more of the irony and punishments of Hell: genetic engineers are plagued with physical deformities, and chemical engineers are constantly sprayed in their faces by all manner of toxic elements, for example. But what’s really at stake here is Tesla’s new space tunnel, Hell’s own escape hatch.

Petra E. Jorns continues the tragic tale of Siegfried and Kriemhild in her mythic Siegfried’s Blade.Kriemhild awakens in Hell, suffering the pain of loss and guilt. Wandering over a field of bones, she hears a skull speak to her in a familiar voice. “You have murdered us.” It is the voice of Gunther, her brother, who had plotted Siegfried’s death with Hagen. Kriemhild sets out to find Siegfried, only to encounter Brunhild, her enemy, whose own vanity had led to Siegfried’s death, and they accuse and blame each other for that. Further along, Kriemhild meets Hagen, who now carries Balmung, Siegfried’s accursed sword. Hagen: whom she had allowed to murder her brother Gunther, and thus quench her thirst for vengeance. Haunted by memories of Siegfried, confronted by old ghosts and tortured by her own guilt, Kriemhild stumbles on, over the bodies of her brothers and all those she had brought to death thru her vengeance — and ultimately discovers the truth of her personal and private Hell.

Stairway to Heaven is Ed McKeown’s wonderful tale of Emile Du Chatelet — physician, mathematician, and author—who seeks audience with Belial, Crown Prince of Hell. One-third of New Hell City has disappeared, and its citizens have not reappeared at the Undertaker’s for reassignment. According to Emile, Tesla could not control his Dirac Power Source — which is actually the underlying principle that binds the Universe together. She proposes a great mechanism by which they can rip open the dimension of Hell and march out to freedom — perhaps to Heaven itself. Emile, who claims she has done nothing to warrant her place in Hell, wants revolution. She wants to invade Heaven and face God in battle, but she needs Tesla’s help, and he’s still locked inside the Fortress of Despair — J. Edgar Hoover’s prison. Belial agrees to support her, and with the aid of a female demon named Smoke, the cowboy Frank Hopkins, and Achilles piloting a Blackhawk helicopter, they storm the prison in a battle worthy of a James Bond flick. Emile’s speech to the damned is thought-provoking, eloquent, and perfectly logical.  What she asks of Belial, however, is a thing heretofore unknown in Hell.

Explorers in HellKnocking On Heaven’s Gates is Larry Atchley’s excellent and epic novella, starring Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan on Earth. Seems he’s been blown to pieces in the failed attempt to steal from Guy Fawkes the Spear of Longinus, aka the Spear of Destiny—the spear that had pierced Christ’s side. LaVey wakes up in the Mortuary after experiencing a dream of light at the end of the tunnel, a heavenly dream of love and joy. Now he wants to experience those feelings again, if he can. After the Undertaker reconstitutes his body, LaVey sets out to file his report with Satan. Meanwhile, Tesla’s latest invention has backfired and a third of New Hell has gone missing. Hell now really looks like a painting by Bosch or Brueghel. LaVey realizes that Hell is truly going to Hell in a hand basket.

Cut to Guy Fawkes, who was captured and is now in prison, but still in possession of the Spear of Destiny. But the Spear is embedded in his body, a result of an explosion during the failed attempt to take it away from him, and legend has it that whoever has the Spear is invincible and invulnerable. So no one can take it away from him. Enter Emile du Chatelet, who comes to free him and enlist his aid in her plot to storm the Gates of Heaven. Will her plan succeed or is it doomed to failure? And what is Satan’s purpose for secretly supporting but not taking part in the storming of Heaven’s pearly gates?

Meanwhile, Satan wants LaVey to play keyboards and entertain the army of damned souls about to attack Heaven. But LaVey is suffering from Post-Traumatic Death Disorder and does not feel he can perform at his best until he recovers from his emotional trauma and his troubling dream. Just as self-serving in Hell as he was in life, LaVey wonders if he can become a better person, to be loved and to find redemption. After his first session with Williams James, Psychologist, Spiritualist, and Pragmatist, the big day has come for LaVey. He is ordered by demons to play the new and improved Liszt pipe organ while the army of the damned assaults the Gates of Heaven and battles a host of Angels. Ah, but things in Hell are not always what one thinks they might be, and LaVey realizes that everything in Hell has its price — even playing the pipe organ, to which he and a number of other lost souls are physically attached.

Now we come to the final chapter, folks, and a most fitting pay-off it is, too. Janet Morris returns us to Chris Marlowe and Will Shakespeare as they perform, perhaps for all eternity, their play, Hell Bent, which is also the title of this eloquent and theatrical comic-tragedy. The two playwrights play lovers in a hellish parody of their own plays, which they have written to order, per His Satanic Majesty’s Request. Will plays the male lead, Marlowe the female. In every performance, Marlowe must kill Shakespeare — I mean, really kill him. But the Bard does not return to the Undertaker for reassignment, for Satan is there at every performance, there to revive him, once a night and twice on Sadderday. More than a parody, their play is almost a travesty, being made up of scenes and dialogue cannibalized from the plays they wrote in life. Marlowe, in love with Shakespeare, wonders and worries over the Bard’s infatuation with HSM.

“Why should you love him whom the world hates so?” Marlowe’s character asks.

“Because he loves me more than all the world,” Will’s character replies.

As he prepares to plunge the rapier into the heart he loves best, and bring death nightly to the man he treasures most, Marlowe stage-whispers a line from Othello. “Perdition catch my soul, but I do love thee! And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again.”

“Hell is just a frame of mind,” Shakespeare replies through gritted teeth.

That line from Faustus was Marlowe’s downfall — a line that ultimately proved to be false. He had taunted the Devil in life with it, and now he pays in Hell forever.

Over and over again, Marlowe must kill Shakespeare in the final act, only to watch, through jealous eyes and suffering heart, as Satan brings Will back from the dead, showering him with love and favor. However, after long and many arguments, Marlowe convinces Will to trade roles with him, and the Bard in turn convinces Satan to let them do it, because he wishes to learn how it feels to truly kill a man.

Rogues in Hell“Since I cannot prove a lover, I am determined to prove a villain,” Will tells the Devil, quoting a line from his own Richard III.

Will the Prince of Darkness bring Marlowe back to life after Shakespeare kills him in the final act of their play? Ah, there’s the rub.

Not since Adam and Eve has the Devil had such a pair to play, one against the other.

Oh, what fools these mortals be! Are the damned Satan’s tools, his fools, to think they can wring power from infinity, make themselves powerful enough to overcome their fate? Does the assault on the Gates of Heaven succeed? Does Satan bend Hell itself to accommodate his fools for war? Does he transport one-third of New Hell, trashed by power-hungry idiots and their petty hatreds, into some new dimension of space and time just big enough to accommodate their egos and their fiery deaths? Does the Son of the Morning make his point to Erra and his Seven Sibitti, the Almighty’s pitiless enforcers — that Mankind is demented and foul and not worthy of Heaven’s forgiveness, not worthy of redemption? Will Satan gather his legion of Akkadians and Spartans, Nazis, Americans, Chinese — the greatest armies of the damned — and put on his own play for Heaven? (Or a reality show—“His Satanic Majesty Disciplines His Own,” perhaps?)

In Hell, the Devil rules, the Devil is not mocked, and the Devil always gets his due.

Each story in Dreamers in Hell is top notch. Perhaps I should say each chapter, for this is truly a shared-universe that reads like a novel, rather than an anthology. The stories are all very good, many are great, some are superb. This is a true collaboration of diverse hands that has been shaped and molded into a cohesive whole by Janet and Chris Morris.

The beauty of the Heroes in Hell series is that all genres work in Hell, and no genre has been left undone. You’ll find horror and science fiction here, fantasy and historical drama, satire and action/adventure thrillers — even romance. These metaphysical, visionary “mythical epics” are character-driven, thoughtful, intelligent, and insightful. They examine the nature of Man, and the nature of good and evil.

These are fables and morality tales, examinations into what makes Mankind tick, a look into the soul of humanity. Justice rules in Hell, too, you’ll discover. So does irony: all that was fair on Earth has turned foul in Hell. But all’s fair in Hell when it comes to how the damned are treated, of course.  Yet for all its torments and punishment and betrayals and violence, there is friendship and loyalty to be found in Hell, courage and honor, and even love. And above all, Hope persists. For even in Hell, the damned can and do hope for redemption and salvation.

Have some sympathy for the Devil and give Satan his due: check this one out. In fact, I recommend you check out all 14 books in the Heroes in Hell series. Just in case you find yourself in Hell one day, it’s best to be on the good side of the Devil. If he has one, that is.

Interview from the Void: Chris Morris by Donny Swords

It is my honor to introduce Christopher Crosby Morris.  His passion to connect with life, and its people, and to be an honest, true voice that shines out is an extremely valuable blessing.  I have had the opportunity to interview Janet Morris his extraordinarily talented wife already.  I knew Chris’ responses would be very informative.  I had no idea how insightful of an interview I was in for.  I am humbled.  Chris Morris possesses fiber, that something which took years of practice, and years of pushing beyond mastery to possess.  His writing- no matter the medium, whether you prefer audiobooks, music, or written prose challenges and moves the mind into directions not often pursued, but well worth the journey.  I have been listening to Chris narration of the Sacred Band available on audio lately, and as a singer who has studied formerly under one of the greatest voice instructors of all time I have to say that I would not be able to deliver so much substance, such enriching quality in my deliveries, even using my characters. In short, Chris Morris is astounding.  Keep reading to begin finding out why.

Hello, thank you for agreeing to the interview.  Would you tell us a little about yourself?
A must have! Click Here.My pleasure. My consuming passion is voice in all its aspects, but especially as it manifests in storytelling, both in prose and verse, literature and song. Metaphorically voice represents many things, even the sum of a life. Voice is a double-edged sword we learn to wield to our benefit or detriment. Most recently I’ve assumed the task of narrating our prose catalog and am thrilling to offer publicly what has heretofore been a private but seminal feature of our writing process.
 
You write as a team with your wife Janet Morris.  When did you first become drawn to writing, was it before or after you met her?
Before. Since childhood I’ve enjoyed arranging words to varied effect. In my youth I became a marvelous liar, more because of my fascination with discerning and fabricating what people wanted to hear than from mischievous or malicious intent. When Janet and I met our first collaborations were songs, many of which I still perform today — they are that good. She wrote stories from a very early age. A lasting part of our attraction was and is a shared desire to precisely express what life is showing us, and that means capturing those observations in story form. The difference — or complementarity — between us is that she is expansionist in her portrayals and I am reductionist.
 
You are a musician, when did you start playing?  What instruments do you play?
My older sister and brother proved miserable piano students, so our parents decided that Christopher could do without. Unbeknownst to me (and thankfully so), I was spared the disadvantage of entering musical life through the doorway of percussion. I’m a baritone and baritones seldom wow anyone vocally until the instrument develops, usually in one’s mid- to late twenties. Therefore my public school music teacher, Ms. Hutton, smiled commiseratingly and showed me to a seat with alto boys whose glee club lot was to huff and puff in support of the shrill girls reciting rote melodies. I loved it: anonymity and license to experiment with pitches against a preprogrammed backdrop of boys droning away predictably. In short, I sang, and still sing, first and foremost. And I utterly believe that all music in the human bandwidth derives from controlled breathing.
Guitar started for me at age eleven and is my most satisfying lifetime tool-oriented skill path, several times requiring me to experience the miracle of starting over in order to thoroughly master basic aspects. At this point I am pretty deeply into creating digital models of guitars impossible to achieve in strictly analog settings; I use custom built guitars with Graphtech’s Ghost hexaphonic sensors fed to Roland’s VG99 effects unit, then into a Yamaha board (with my vocal mic) and out in stereo to one of two twin Bose tower monitor systems (L1 and/or L1 Compact) so I am always in the same sound field as any listener. This all stems from wanting a bigger – not louder – guitar sound. I “build” a guitar for any song that needs something a little different and now have twenty or thirty pretty amazing guitars dial-able from one setup. Can’t wait for you to come check it out, and we be jammin’ man.
 
To me the guitar is a universe of possibilities, which is the same with writing.  Do you ever feel limited by people’s expectations of you and your crafts?
I could spend an hour on your first statement here, but will answer the question bit first. No, I no longer feel constrained due to others’ irrational calculations of what comprises art. I say ‘no longer’ because every creative must ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery through determined focus and practice. In his autobiography Miles Davis stated the gospel: “The most difficult thing a musician can do is sound like himself.” And, as you said in that first sentence, it’s “…the same with writing.”
 
When I played onstage I got instant feedback as to how I was doing.  I often find it difficult when I release a book and it gets less attention than I’d hoped.  Does your perception of what you feel will or won’t be received well change when you consider your fan base?
Buy Music
No, nor should it for you. This is a variant of the last question, but with a putative contrast between two, on the surface, apparently different art forms. Beneath the surface however they are so closely related as to be nearly identical: they are both listening sports, simultaneously involving the sources and receivers and overlapping the roles of each. Anything you can say of one has an obvious parallel in the other, the biggest difference being in rate of transmission.
One of the glories of human consciousness is that we can hear ourselves hearing ourselves. Shakespeare was the first to portray characters listening to their own inner voice, “the invention of the human” as Harold Bloom calls it. In both music and literature you are your own first audience and, if you like what you hear, by any and all means do not hesitate to proceed for want of external approbation. They are your audience, not your judges. Disregard this truth and that way lies madness.
 
Get your copy here Does a really good review feel as good as a standing ovation at a gig, or are they apples and oranges?
Glad you asked. Distrust both. If you pin your self-esteem to them and their approbation or lack thereof, you are lost. As Heraclitus said, “He who is praised to the skies lives a life of fantasy.”
 
You and your wife Janet are a team, how does that dynamic play out when you are developing a novel?  When it is underway?
Our novels develop from conversations reaching a point where further elucidation will best be accomplished by the exploration of personality(ies) in our case, fictional heroes — living their way through circumstances embodying the challenge under consideration. Our working definition of a hero is one who struggles in service to an ideal; if we run out of ideals we may write a different sort of book, but that protagonist would most likely be struggling to find out what happened to all the missing ideals … hmmm.
When the book is under way it’s buckle up time, the blessed state, because (and this is hard for many of our writer buddies to accept) we honestly don’t know everything that’s going to happen. The way to find out the details is to go where only the characters can take us. By that time we are way onboard and strapped in and boldly going we know not where, but headed for a climax we’ve seen but not yet lived. Fun or what? Is it real? For us and the characters, you bet. Does it have that precious quality of feeling true to life? Yup. That’s the reward of the collaborative arrangement; it imparts a binaural, binocular, bi-conscious view of uncertainty, which we and a host of readers find magnetic.
 
When you edit do you have a process?
When Janet began drafting (typing, mind you) High Couch of Silistra I would read her day’s output (and still do) aloud, because sound is primary to my apprehension, especially if analytics are involved. When I draft we do the same. Although it might seem laborious, this actually saves time and speeds up the rate at which we achieve publishable work. Linguistic anomalies can be heard by the ear and missed by the eye; our editing voice benefits from two sets of each. I’m frequently amazed at how much a slight alteration of pitch or emphasis can inform the net effect of syntax. If we have a passage that wants to be heard a certain way it’s incumbent on us to nail the punctuation so the experienced reader ‘hears’ it.
 
Since you began as a published author, how have things changed?
It might be easier to list what hasn’t changed, but for those tuning in late there’s: lots more slush being published and given away; increased ability of content providers to call the shots at every production level; no more meddling middle-folk; no more security of the reasonable advance for a multi-book deal; lots more transparency; even more slush being published and given away; piracy; more feedback from readers and trolls; general confusion as to what intellectual property is and how to preserve ownership of it; still more slush being published and given away; genre-fication whelping a litter of niche-of-a-niche-of-a-niche popularity contests; ability to purchase emblems of legitimacy bestowed for a price by formerly powerful arbiters of taste such as Kirkus; global reach to millions of readers; yet more slush being published and given away, or did I say that enough?
 
One of your recent projects was narrating the audio book “The Sacred Band”.  Could you tell us what it takes to accomplish such a feat?
Like anything worth doing, it takes tenacity and focus. Because it was a first-time project The Sacred Band audio book involved a learning curve which added time and cost. I’m a team player and narration has a solitary aspect to it; I’m getting accustomed to it, but I was grateful for the technical assistance of a good friend who babysat me as I got this first one recorded over a period of a little more than a year. If I narrated full time it might now take me only eight or nine weeks. I’m working in Adobe Audition and can handle everything up to but not including audio-post mastering chores (adding noise reduction, some compression and normalization processing before converting to Mp3 for submission). I am an ACX.com (Amazon>Audible>ACX) user and have no plans to market outside their considerable infrastructure; I’d recommend them to beginners because they’ve done the homework necessary to service all the stakeholders in a project. ACX is also a good place to listen to samples of what other production teams are doing and obtain a reference point of view as to what constitutes a finished product. ACX costs nothing to join; they’re compensated from what Audible gets from sales of your book.
 
I say feat due to your performance.  You are merged with your and Janet’s characters in that delivery.  This summoning of Tempus or whomever is speaking shows a deep connection to your characters.  Do they make you laugh or cry?
I had already read The Sacred Band aloud two or three times before embarking on the narration. We are meticulous about “voicing” our characters and punctuate and format very carefully to emphasize their characteristic speech patterns while still retaining transparency of style. For our first audio project we decided to hire Alex Hyde-White to learn the ropes and see how an accomplished pro would narrate our material. He did a bang-up job with Wake of the Riddler, a shorter TW piece of Janet’s, and immediately caused me to realize what I could bring to our work because of my greater familiarity. I am gratified that you heard the characters coming through because after experimenting with inventing a distinctive sound for each character I opted instead to read with consistently clear articulation and to respect each character’s mood and message within the limits of my voice rather than risk caricature.
They don’t make me laugh or cry. They make me disappear. I miss that when we’re not together.
 
Your music is intelligent and endearing, quite moving actually, were you going for the same effect on the audio book?
Thank you. Yes, in both cases it turns out to be what I do instinctively. After countless attempts to sound “commercial” musically, I finally took Miles’ advice and dared to embrace what comes out of me ingenuously. Being comfortable in one’s own skin is worth whatever effort is required to make it so. It took me decades to get there (hence my remarks about the acclaim of others) but once arrived, I rejoice to possess sheer bandwidth that accommodates a broad spectrum of emotion without disproportion.
 
What is your take on violence in books?
Gratuitous…or not. If a story is merely a vehicle to roll out a train of atrocities, what’s the point except to titillate adolescent sensibilities? Writers of all sorts leverage threats of violence, many to avoid the laborious task of carefully laying out a sequence of events building to a genuine need for overt confrontation. I write for the more experienced reader, and myself, who want a little more justification, realism, and reason to care what happens than a story where hardware and machinery are indistinguishable. No doubt about it, there’s violence in books.
 
Who are your favorite musicians?  Authors?

Ray, Mose, kd, Chet, Tony, Sly, Diana Krall, Tommy Emmanuel, Bill Evans, JS Bach, CPE Bach, Mozart, Davey Spillane, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Nat, Haydn, Corelli, Leadbelly (see video), Lightnin’, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Dinah Washington, Aretha but she ticks me off, Eddy Arnold, Mitchell Parish (wrote the lyrics to Stardust), Carmichael (wrote the melody to Stardust), Michel Legrand.
Janet Morris, Arthur Clarke, Hermann Hesse, John Milton, Will Shakespeare, Jack London, Will James, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Heraclitus of Ephesus, P. G. Wodehouse, Harold Bloom, Homer, Deborah Koren, Mika Waltari, Sam Harris, Roger Penrose.
 
How long did it take to compose the backing track on the Outpassage trailer?
Read Outpassage It took about two days, back in late ’78, culminating in that recording. It’s a song called No Man’s Land, a bedroom demo recorded on a TEAC 10 inch four track reel to reel with Janet on bass, Leslie Kuipers on guitar, Nathan Seely on drums, Ted Lo on ARP string synthesizer, and me on guitar and vocal. It smoked sufficiently that we began playing the Boston fusion clubs around Berklee and generally had a very good time. We were regrouping after moving back from LA in the wake of the MCA album’s short but glorious run, and I still had three quarters of my band to work with and Ted and Nathan eager to jump in. We were listening toMahavishnu and Return to Forever and I was wondering why nobody ever sang over that kind of stuff, plus it was in my “sky high” period when I’d figured out how to build section momentum with circular patterns. The song has some cool cousins I’ll put up pretty soon. What I’m digging now is that shelf life is pretty much irrelevant these days and No Man’s Land has a rabid following on a site called NumberOneMusic.com ; entry level listeners take in Hendrix and Gaga and Norah and Eminem and me all at once and could care less when a piece of music was made or even whether the artists are still alive.
 
Tell us about your publishing house.
Perseid is damning the torpedoes and putting out stuff that is representative of what we grew up wanting to read; we say books for experienced readers, or books worth reading.
 
What inspires you?
My favorite of your questions.
Growth. A starry sky. Acceptance of the greater without diminution or forfeit of personality. Personal truths: the value of distinguishing between what one is told and what one learns from experience. The love of a dog. The suppositions of consciousness turned upon itself. In music the ability to reharmonize melody, steal time (rubato) and imply realms beyond physical scope. Kindness. Exploring Heraclitus’ thesis that all things are reflected in all things. The hunger for truth, beauty and goodness. Sister Wendy.
We live in cataclysmic times, for all I know analogous to all preceding ages. What is unknown to me so overwhelmingly eclipses what is known that my fate is to be inured to the idea that uncertainty is somehow requisite to continuity. I accept. I am human for a blink, a moment in an infinite progression. My moment too is subsumed in eternity and, being part, reflects its whole — harbors the DNA of the eternal — from micro to meta. So, even as a relatively infinitesimal particle I may intake my portion of the entire mystery of mysteries. If I am a moment, so am I eternal. Beyond cool.
And partnership…to host an intellectual life is a high privilege, to share such a life closely, transcendent, to make art of such sharing, nonpareil.
 
For readers new to your novels, which three would you recommend?
 
The Sacred Band (book, e-book, audio book) Click Here.
 Outpassage (book, e-book) Read Outpassage
The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (book, e-book). Buy
 
How important are reviews to you?  For marketing?  For sales?
 
Reviews are Rorschachs of their writers, offering subjective accounts of questionable exposure to some work or other. The substance of reviews is of most interest to other reviewers. Although taken for marketing currency, reviews are seldom value added. Creators inevitably fail to accurately calculate the effect of reviews on sales because the study of the relationship is an inexact science at best, at worst an obsession stymieing their creative efforts for lack of prudent allocation of attention.
 
Now advertising is a little different….
I would like to thank Chris Morris for this famously insightful and encouraging interview.  It is good to know the human condition is not wasted on him- but rather seen as an opportunity to grow.  Bravo- Chris!  See everyone next time.  🙂Thanks for reading.Donny  
Chris’ Links: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Sacred-Band-Audiobook/B00MU2VCEO/http://www.amazon.com/Outpassage-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00IDC1E84/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410294833&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fish+the+fighters+and+the+song-girlhttp://numberonemusic.com/christophercrosbymorris/https://www.reverbnation.com/christophercrosbymorris?profile_view_source=profile_boxhttp://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Knows-Christopher-Morris-Band/dp/B004GNEF3A/https://soundcloud.com/christopher-morris http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_2https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorrishttps://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings http://www.sacredbander.comhttp://www.theperseidpress.com/# http://www.facebook.com/christopher.c.morris.7?fref=ts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLqxH_Tx5VA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g79LZAgk8w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EylzKQa4yghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCv4GA5W5eA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SQFmxwfT7ghttp://www.amazon.com/Outpassage-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00IDC1E84/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=    Where to find Donny Swords stuff:   Donny Swords author ( Facebook )  (Blog) Primal Publications (Facebook )  (Blog) The Indie Collaboration ( web )   Novels & Links

Hell Can Be … Fun!

Weston’s Hell Bound- Hell can be fun!  First published in the web by Seth Lindberg: http://www.selindberg.com/2016/07/westons-hell-bound-hell-can-be-fun.html

Hell BoundHell Bound by Andrew P. Weston
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Grim Reaper will lead your through a wacky, dark Hell
In Andrew P. Weston’s Hell Bound, our protagonist and tour guide into Hell is Daemon Grim: he’s a snarky bounty hunter, Satan’s right-hand man for reining in the damned. Grim is so impressed with himself that it takes a while to realize that he may, like everyone in Hell, may actually be subject to being played.

Grim was introduced to the Heroes in Hell series in the previous installment,Doctors in Hell. In short story form there, he was tasked to retrieve Dr. Thomas Neill Cream who had escaped topside. Doctors in Hell is an anthology,an enjoyable introduction to Hell which serves as a great entry point to the series. Heroes in Hell is a long, sustained series, but Doctors and Hell Bound confirm that anyone can hop along and enjoy the ride from any stop (it is always a good time to go to Hell). Reading Doctors will help the reader appreciate the full novel Hell Bound, but doing so is not necessary.

For new readers, I summarize the Heroes in Hell milieu. It is a fantastical place built from myths and religions—so do not expect Tolkienesque elves or dwarves. The primary realm explored is called Juxtapose, which is a satirical mirror of our earth’s cityscapes (the Seine river featured as “Inseine”, Paris called Perish, the Eiffel Tower represented as the Awful Tower, Facebook is called Hatebook… which sadly seems too appropriate…). Since time has little meaning in Hell, beings from past and present meet and scheme (i.e., Tesla and Chopin). There are other realms beyond Juxtapose connected with ethereal gateways. All are populated by beings being tormented and try to outwit Satan or their comrades. Even Erra, the Akkadian plague god, has visited Hell to torment Satan. No one is safe! It is a splendid, wacky place that works well.

Having recently read Doctors, I was intrigued with the Heroes In Hell world. I wanted to experience it more but needed a tour guide. Daemon Grim did so in entertaining fashion. I wanted to “see” how the Undertaker refreshed the damned as they underwent subsequent deaths; I wanted to experience more odd-ball pairings of historical figures struggling to complete their life’s missions; I wanted my tour guide to have some depth, even if he was unaware of it. The story is a bizarre cat-versus-mouse hunt, with Grim chasing Cream through very dark realms, upturning mystery after mystery. A scavenger hunt-like game ensues with beautiful, cryptic poetry that leads Grim further and further into a web of deceit. Antagonists are aplenty.

Hell Bound delivered. Andrew P. Weston did a superb job balancing the needs of a full length novel with the freedoms/constraints of a shared world usually expressed in short story form. Highly recommended for fantasy readers who enjoy a bit of dark adventure.

Professor Baker’s review of Golden Sword

see original article at:  https://profesorbaker.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/bookreview-asmsg-the-golden-sword-the-silistra-quartet-book-2-by-janet-morris/

#BookReview #ASMSG The Golden Sword (The Silistra Quartet Book 2) by Janet Morris

 

Prologue:

984289_ehwhebupMy review of High Couch of Silistra, (The Silistra Quartet, Book 1), is here. The first three volumes of the Silistra Quartet had more than 4 Million copies in Bantam print when the fourth volume was released.

The series was translated into French, German, and Italian editions. The series is built on the premise that biology is reality, and much of human behavior is hard-wired.

High Couch of Silistra was the first book of its kind, mixing science fiction and fantasy with metaphysics and hotly debated issues of sexuality, and many of its truths are as controversial today as when the series first appeared in 1977, and has spawned generations of imitators.

The Silistra Quartet is based in Greek mythology, but its civilization has never heard of the planet Earth. People of color make up the heroes and main characters in this series.

Synopsis

The Battle of the Sexes is never over…

Estri, the Well-Keepress of Astria and High Couch of Silistra, the highest office in the land, has continued her quest to locate her god-like “Shaper” father to his home planet, Mi’ysten, where she is tested and shown to have inherited his powers.

Following further training in the ability to manipulate time and probabilities with her mind, Estri is abruptly returned to Silistra after an absence of two local years. Many changes have taken place in the power vacuum her absence left and Estri must conquer her immediate captor, Chayin, Cahndor of the violent Parset desert tribes, in order to continue her quest to save the Silistran people who are dying out from infertility.

The Parset tribes cultivate and grow the plants from which the costly longevity drugs sold throughout the Bipedal Federation are made. Renegade members of the Bipedal Federation offer proscribed hi-tech weapons to leaders of the warring tribes in exchange for exclusive access to the longevity drugs, assuring that tribe’s domination of the rest.

Chayin rejects their offer, knowing it will end in the destruction of his people from greed and power. The BF keeps counting on at least one tribal leader’s greed to eventually agree to accept their offer, allowing one tribe to conquer all others with off-world weapons.

Estri and Chayin must find Sereth, former Slayer of Estri’s home who aided her in beginning her quest and was made outcast afterward (because Estri disappeared under his protection). Estri, Chayin and Sereth must join in a triad, forging a bond created by their innate powers and intense love to assure the future of the planet.

After they defeat Chayin’s various tribal opponents, they conquer Estri’s enemy of hundreds of years, her father’s grandson, Raet, and hope they can have a respite from tribulation. However, Khys, the semi-mythical, usurper overlord of the planet, abducts the triad to his sacred city and binds Estri with a device that suppresses her powers and causes her to lose her memory.

With Estri in his control, he elevates Chayin to be his puppet overlord of all the Parset, but leaves active Chayin’s own in-born powers that may drive him insane. Khys forces Sereth into the role of a “trusted” vassal who remembers everything about Estri, Chayin and their pasts.

Helpless before his power, Chayin and Sereth cannot stop Khys from impregnating an unsuspecting Estri to take advantage of her “Shaper” genetics. Khys gloats, triumphant in assuring himself a powerful and gifted heir, while believing no being in the universe is powerful enough to deny him what he truly desires: return of the technology that nearly destroyed the planet and forced the population underground into “hides” until their world recovered enough from the devastation to support life again. For a time, he’s correct…

*****

Top Customer Review

By altos on May 10, 2010

Estri, the heroine of High Couch of Silistra, a/k/a “Returning Creation, ventures further than she ever has before into this exotic and sensual fantasy novel. Here she meets Chayin, price of an alien culture, and discovers more about her past, and future. Full of passion and adventure, this is the second book in the Silistra series of four volumes.

High Couch of Silistra was reviewed by the New York Times Sunday Book Review with great enthusiasm (June 26, 1977), and created a firestorm of controversy and a genre of imitators.

All four books were published in French, German, Italian, and other foreign-language editions, as well as multiple editions in the States. The German covers are the best.

 

Sensual and multi-layered, this book can be read as erotic fantasy or as a much deeper exploration of the limits of female — and male — sexuality and the effect of sex on decision making.

Be warned: the main characters are all bisexual and very smart.

Janet Morris lets you choose how deep you go: read it for the titilation of the body, or of the mind. By the time ‘Wind from the Abyss,’ third volume in this series appeared, rival publishers were welcoming their authors “to the pantheon of Janet Morris” in full color posters and splashy ads.

See where sexual liberation and strong female characters really got started in science-fantasy. But be warned: Estri is no male in high heels.

Get inside the feminine psyche as never before or since as Estri gains power and begins to wonder what her limits are, and how powerful women can co-exist with their male counterparts.

A fully realized culture, complete with a language and mythology and ethos different from any other, rounds out the series.

Remarkably realistic, considering its content and the driving philosophy behind the tales, there’s never been anything like the Silistra series before or since.

Erotic and unabashedly exploring the relationship of sex to power, the Silistra series will make you think about why we do what we do. I adored it, and read all four more than once. So will you.

*****

5.0 out of 5 stars

984289_ehwhebupI am deeply tempted to simply write, five stars, place a period, no, an exclamation mark after the word “stars”, and thusly be finished with my review.

Tempted, yes, but I won’t do that. Not just yet.

Let me put two questions to you, dear reader(s):

  1. Is there anything I can say in this review, that would dissuade you to not buy this book, if you have already decided to buy the book?
  2. Conversely, is there anything I could possibly say in this review, to persuade you to buy this book, if you had already decided, not to buy this book?

My recommendation is that you purchase the book, based on its literary merit.

Why? Here we have a series of four books, a quartet. It was first published in 1977. That’s 39 years ago. It’s May, 2016. It’s half a century later. Imagine you read this book in 1977, went to sleep after reading it, and then woke up today, May 18th, 2016.

You would probably think you had woken up in the world described in this book. At least, its primary subject matter, low fertility rates, is still holding up pretty well. It’s consistent with what Janet Morris explores in this series.

In fact, we could go ahead and call Janet Morris a prophet. In today’s world, according to the United Nations Data Booklet “World Fertility Patterns” (2015), birthrates in developed countries are declining. Global fertility is now 2.5 children per woman.

I must ask the question: How does a woman have half a child? Impossible, I know. We’re talking statistics here, and such things are possible. Let me quote directly from that booklet:

“Fertility patterns in the world have changed dramatically over the last few decades.Global fertility has reached unprecedented low levels…” (end of quote) What is even more worrying is the fact that “nearly half the world lives in below-replacement level fertility countries.”  Let me give you the facts straight from page 6 of the report:

“Today, 46 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries with low levels of fertility, where women have fewer than 2.1 children on average. Low-fertility countries now include all of Europe and Northern America, as well as many countries in Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Another 46 per cent of the world’s population lives in “intermediate fertility” countries that have already experienced substantial fertility declines and where women have on average between 2.1 and 5 children.

The remaining 8 per cent of the world’s population lives in “high-fertility” countries that have experienced only limited fertility decline to date. In these countries the average woman has five or more children over her lifetime. Most of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.” (end of quote)

So, as I said before, author Janet Morris is a prophet. She got out her crystal ball one day and looked into the future. She saw a world in decline, fertility rates dropping, the population getting older and older, and the birth rate unable to keep up with the mortality rate.

I think it’s not necessary for me to tell you that under these circumstances, the human race would eventually become extinct. What this book does is imagine the desperation of living in such a world. The ability to procreate, to have children, would bestow great wealth and power to individuals with this biological blessing.

This nightmarish scenario is one of the many global problems our leaders are supposed to be working on. Failure to do so would condemn the human race to extinction. It’s as simple as that. Therefore, you will understand my recommendation for anyone interested in a medical career, social services career, or a public administration career to read this book. It’s a fantasy that could turn into a nightmare.

Intellectually and emotionally, this is challenging reading. On a third level, it is enough to take one look at the book covers to understand that it can not avoid dealing with human sexuality, in all its forms. Why? Because for the inhabitants of such a world, what will be uppermost in your mind is having sex, not so much for pleasure, although we humans are “hardwired” that way, but for procreation. The idea behind all the fornication is to save the human race, and at the end of the day, that’s quite a noble undertaking.

And this is the point where I will conclude this book review by saying, five stars!

5.0 out of 5 stars

EPILOGUE

Author’s Bio

For this last section, please indulge me dear reader(s), but I’m not going to go to the author’s bio on Amazon for this feature. I’m going to do what any self-respecting reviewer would do, who has a deep admiration and respect for the work of the author who he is reviewing. I’d like to share with you something pesonal about this author who has given me countless untold hours of reading pleasure.

Writing

Janet MorrisJanet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 40 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. Her debut novel, written as Janet E. Morris, was High Couch of Silistra, the first in a quartet of character-driven novels with a female protagonist.

According to original publisher Bantam Books, the Silistra quartet had over four million copies in print when the fourth volume, The Carnelian Throne was published. Charles N. Brown, Locus Magazine, is quoted on the Baen Books reissues of the series as saying, “Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure.”

Morris has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes.

She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel,The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris.

Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels.

Her 1983 book I, the Sun, a detailedbiographical novel about the HittiteKing Suppiluliuma I was praised for its historical accuracy.

O.M. Gurney, Hittite scholar and author of “The Hittites,”commented that “the author is familiar with every aspect of Hittite culture.”

Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on non-lethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Horsewoman

Janet Morris and UVM Christine.JPGA lifelong horsewoman, Morris and her husband breedThoroughbreds and also maintains a World-Champion producingMorgan Horse breeding program.

Her foundation mare, UVM Christine (pictured left) won Morgan Grand National Champion Four-Year-Old Mare, World Champion Senior Mare, and Reserve World Champion Mare in 1998.

Other Grand National and Reserve Grand National and World Champions followed, including Reserve World Champion and Reserve Grand National Champion Park Horse, Pastorale in 2001 and 2002; homebred Grand National Champion Morgan Snaffle-bit Reining Horse, Spring Diva, in 2003; Grand National Champion Pleasure Driving Horse Burkland Rafinesque in 2008; and homebred Privilege, World Champion Western Pleasure in 2014. The Morrises’ Morgan breeding program was featured on the cover and in a profile article in Equine International in 2009.

Michael Ventrella interviews Janet Morris

Originally published at: http://michaelaventrella.com/2012/05/15/interview-with-hugo-nominated-author-janet-morris/

 

Interview with Hugo-Nominated Author Janet Morris

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: Today, I am pleased to be interviewing Hugo-nominated author Janet Morris. Janet is probably best known for her Silistra series. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series “Thieves World” and then created, orchestrated, and edited the fantasy series “Heroes in Hell,” writing stories for the series. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Her 1983 book I, THE SUN, a detailed biographical novel about the Hittite King Suppiluliuma I, was praised for its historical accuracy.

Janet, let’s start by talking about the Kindle promotion going on right now.

JANET MORRIS: There is an Amazon giveaway (May 15-17) of the author’s cut reissue of BEYOND SANCTUARY as a Kindle book. This is the only time this book will be offered as a free Kindle download.

It is the first novel in the “Author’s Cut” group of reissues: each “Author’s Cut” volume is completely revised and expanded by the author(s) and contain new material never before available. The other “Author’s Cut” volumes that have been released as eBooks and as trade paperbacks are TEMPUS WITH HIS RIGHT-SIDE COMPANION NIKO (2011) and THE FISH THE FIGHTERS AND THE SONG-GIRL (2012). The next “Author’s Cut” edition will be BEYOND THE VEIL (2013), second of the three “Beyond novels” in the Sacred Band of Stepsons series. We will eventually reissue all the Sacred Band of Stepsons books, and then more of our back-list, in this ‘author’s cut’ program. It’s very satisfying to get all the errors and deficiencies corrected, and have a chance to enhance these perennial sellers.

Most Sacred Band novels will not have giveaways; we chose BEYOND SANCTUARY as a good starting place for those new to the series and, in its enhanced and expanded form, as an attraction for those who loved these books and stories in the 20th century. We are planning to do a few Sacred Band stories as Kindle shorts as time goes by, but nothing specific has been decided.

VENTRELLA: You started your publication history with the Silistra series. How did you make that first sale?

MORRIS: I wrote HIGH COUCH in 1975 and its two follow-ons, THE GOLDEN SWORD and WIND FROM THE ABYSS thereafter for fun: following the story for my husband and our friends. I knew no one in publishing and had no aspirations to break into the business.

One friend said her husband knew an agent and the book (HIGH COUCH) should be published but I would need to provide the manuscript in a clean, double-spaced copy, not single-space with handwritten corrections. I had my dad’s ancient typewriter (non-electric, non-correcting; the “p” key stuck) and was a terrible typist. I found out it would cost $1.00 per page to have the manuscript typed by a professional, which meant a $250.00 investment. So I didn’t do that for over a year; by then my second book was finished. In 1976 my friend sent the typed HIGH COUCH manuscript to an agent, Perry Knowlton, president of Curtis Brown, Ltd.. Perry called me and said I was a natural storyteller and he wanted to represent me and the book, and did I have any other books? I said I did but they weren’t typed up. He said, “Get them typed.”

Perry remained my only agent until his death. By the time I had the other books typed, he had sold HIGH COUCH for five figures to Frederik Pohl and Sydney Weinberg at Bantam and I was able to quit my day job. Then Perry sold THE GOLDEN SWORD and WIND FROM THE ABYSS to them in a package. By then I was writing THE CARNELIAN THRONE. By the time THRONE came out, Bantam had over 4M copies of the first three in print.

They bought THE CARNELIAN THRONE also, and my next series went to auction in two countries simultaneously based on sample chapters: I still don’t like to write outlines.

Silistra got many foreign rights deals, but only the French one is a divergent manuscript: for a sizable additional sum, I provided extra ‘erotic passages.’ ‘Erotic’ in those days was much less explicit than now, but even so, SILISTRA shook a lot of people from complacency: it wasn’t feminist, nor was it conservative; it featured pan-sexual characters and dealt with philosophical and sociobiological questions about sexuality and abuse of power; the main female character was powerful and had a sword: all these elements were challenging to the fantasy and SF community. And the book didn’t fit a neat category. In what was then a very hidebound and immature market, it blazed tough trails and still today doesn’t fit any simplistic or political model.

VENTRELLA: How has the publishing world changed since then?

MORRIS: E-publishing is a big change. Deconstructionism is rampant: the continual division of the novel into smaller and smaller subsets of its constituent elements (such as mystery, thriller, erotic, adventure, romance, horror, etc.) either mirrors or leads the deconstruction of politics and of society. Writing outside established marketing categories is increasingly difficult; the mid-list book, which was an incubator of talent, is all but gone in print publishing.

As an ox-gorer and a windmill-tilter who writes mythic novels with political subtexts and who never has been easy to categorize, I think e-publishing is a good thing. I no longer have to cut a big idea into three volume-sized chunks: I can write the book at the length it needs; I don’t have to fix or endure additional errors from semi-educated production people; I can control my covers and the book’s sell copy. The downside is there is much more free reading material (some worth the price, some not), and a lower educational level among some groups – but there have always been books and writers for every echelon of society.

VENTRELLA: Do you see a future where self-publishing will be accepted?

MORRIS: Sure, eventually. When we decided to return to fiction (after taking 20 years off to create the nonlethal weapons mandate, the nonlethality concept, and other initiatives in the defense policy and planning realms), we wanted to keep our fiction e-rights and at that time my agent (Perry Knowlton’s son, Tim, at Curtis Brown) said it was impossible to make a deal like that with a major house. So we decided to put together a small publishing house that did e-books and trades and make strategic alliances with other small publishing houses who produced quality hardcovers. We did this because the self-publishing road is still stigmatized, and because the production learning curve is steep. Kerlak did our first two hardcovers and gave me what I wanted: sewn binding, linen boards, generous print size, etc.

The stigmatization of self-publishing is primarily from the big chains, who look down on POD but POD was what attracted me to small publishing: no remaindered books; no books going to dump=sites; no torn-off covers returned and no tax liability for unsold stock. When we do reissues, we do “Author’s Cut” editions in which we can correct and expand and enhance each book that we’re releasing with better covers and production values than the twentieth century originals: an approach possible now but not practical even ten years ago.

Machiavelli commented in THE PRINCE as follows: “There is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more uncertain of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in those who would profit by the new; this weak support arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually experience it.”We found this when initiating the nonlethal weapons programmatics: twenty years later, we are where we should have been in five years in nonlethals, and at absurd cost because nothing is adopted until big things take that viewpoint onboard commercially. Similarly, with publishing, as vested interests deal themselves in and competitive entities are created, things will stabilize – hopefully with new players, but with many of the old entities in new guises.

VENTRELLA: Will the rise of smaller publishing houses and e-books mean that these may someday be better accepted? For instance, will SFWA someday accept more of these publishers? Would that be a good thing?

MORRIS: Eventually the writers organizations must accept reality. E-books and small publishing are part of the new reality. SFWA, like all bureaucracies, protests that it protects its membership while it actually protects primarily itself. When SFWA sees that it must change to survive, it will change. Adaptation is always necessary for survival.

VENTRELLA: Now let’s talk about something more fun: Writing! What led you to write fantasy?

MORRIS: My work doesn’t fit many contemporary definitions of fantasy. I really write mythic novels and stories, sometimes in an SF and sometimes in a fantasy context, but there’s nothing ‘sweet’ or ‘pastel’ about my work: my characters face challenges and so do my readers.

When I write something that publishers call ‘fantasy’ I am writing in what I think is the most important tradition of fiction: starting with Homer and up through Shakespeare and Milton, the most important themes to tackle are those of the mythopoeic domain, tales of the body and mind seen through a temperament and a cosmos divorced from current reality so what is said can be more clear. For me, myth is the ‘common’ language of us all – or has been until these days of stories reduced to their lowest mechanical nature. My stories have a historical cognizance, a literary cognizance, and a philosophical/ scientific cognizance.

Bantam once wanted to separate a book of mine into two books: a short ‘wisdom literature’ book and a longer ‘mainstream’ book. I didn’t do that, but in retrospect it was a well-thought impulse on the publisher’s part.

I’ve also written nonfiction; a rigorous historical about Suppiluliumas, a Hittite king; a pseudonymous ‘novel’; other pseudonymous ‘high-tech thrillers’ (or what you will) with strong technology drivers. I make more money when I write under one male name than when I write under one female name or, as reality dictates, as “Janet Morris and Chris Morris.” But I write the book, each time, that forces me to write it, whether fiction or nonfiction. If the book is fiction, I write only when the story and characters demand that I give up my real life because what they will say is more important.

VENTRELLA: How do you create a realistic, believable fantasy world without just looking like every other realistic, believable fantasy world out there?

MORRIS: We say about THE SACRED BAND, our newest mythic novel, that it is “an adventure like no other.” This book had waited since the late 1970s to be written.

My books are remarkably unlike most of what else is available in contemporary fiction, so making the story or milieu ‘unique’ is not an effort for me. We started ‘The Sacred Band of Stepsons’ series and characters in the ‘shared world’ universe of Thieves’ World®, and so wrote in a milieu populated with other writers: making my work ‘fit’ their construct was a challenge. I have a deep love for the third, second and first millennia BCE, and my ancient characters always are touchstones to historical reality: I don’t “try” to make my fantasy world different from reality: I try to take you into the mythos of humanity. Silistra had a complete language, a glossary, a unique context, a rigorous rationale actually based on sociobiology and genetics, but had sword-wielding women and horses and ancient skirmishers as well as high-tech outsiders trying to understand it. The “Dream Dancer” series, also ‘science-fantasy,’ was set in space habitats primarily. It’s very easy for me to establish a credible world construct and posit behaviors there: I have predicted several major events in the real world over a number of years based on that ability to identify the most likely course of action that a country or individual will take in a given context. Now this skill is beginning to become a field of study called “intuitive decision making” and also “implied learning.” We once called it “speed understanding.” Writers often have this ability, and it allows creators to make their characters and societies credible. The writers who don’t have it can’t make their characters, or worlds, credible enough to please me.

If you want to write something completely unique, you will probably fail or at best write something without redeeming value. The mind works in certain patterns: the mind organizes facts in story form; it is your commonality with that body of human thought that makes a good book, not its estrangement from the common values that humans share.

VENTRELLA: As one of the original THIEVES’ WORLD gang, you’ve had a huge influence on modern fantasy fiction. It’s one of the first (or maybe the first?) shared world anthology. (I copied it completely and stole this idea for my TALES OF FORTANNIS series, by the way.) Where did the idea for this originate?

MORRIS: TW had one volume published when I was asked to come aboard: “Thieves’ World,” which had Joe Haldeman and Andy Offutt and Bob Asprin and others. Bob had the original idea for the “worst town in fantasy, the grittiest, meanest, seediest place possible.” He asked me to write for it at a convention and I said, “How serious are you about gritty?” I had written a very short piece about a woman who killed sorcerers for a living, and I proposed to bring those characters into Thieves’ World, plus an immortalized and very unhappy mercenary who regenerated. Bob said okay, I could bring the characters and take them out again afterward.

I started the story “Vashanka’s Minion,” that introduced Tempus (a/k/a the Riddler, Favorite of the Storm God, the Obscure, the Black). He has a metaphysical link to Herakleitos of Ephesus, and lives as a warrior in a Herakleitan/Hittite cosmos that I overlayed on what Bob and Andy already had done. But when Tempus got down to the dock and Askelon of Meridian got off the boat, Tempus said, “You, get out of my story. There’s not room enough here for both of us.” So Askelon didn’t arrive in Thieves’ World until “Wizard Weather,” although Cime, Tempus’ sister-in-arms, did show up. Tempus forms the Sacred Band of Stepsons in Thieves’ World #3, from ten pairs of fighters left to him by Abarsis, the original Stepson, who later becomes patron shade of the Sacred Band.

Then the TW books start to succeed and people got cranky. I called Bob and asked for a letter because I wanted to take my characters out of the shared town and do a group of novels with them, since Bob was complaining my characters were “too big.” So we agreed on that plan. These tensions made the stories more fun: people came and went; I took my characters into my own constructs such as Wizardwall and into the real ancient-world settlements of Nisibis and Mygdonia. Everyone contributed something useful to TW, and its fabric is still very rich.

I got Lynn Abbey’s permission, after Bob died, to bring the Sacred Band back to Sanctuary for a big novel to tie up loose ends, one  set ten years after the Stepsons left town in TW #11 and well before Lynn’s own novel, since that milieu wouldn’t work for me. This project became THE SACRED BAND. As agreed with Lynn, THE SACRED BAND was followed by a novella, “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl” (the title story from the second “Sacred Band Tales” anthology), which takes the Stepsons back out of Sanctuary again and contains all my TW stories not previously collected. So now, between “Tempus with his right-side companion Niko” and “the Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl” all our ten TW Sacred Band stories are assembled in two volumes, along with other Stepsons tales not available elsewhere.

As for fun quotient, I get more joy from the Sacred Band of Stepsons than from any other characters. And the SBS character list is expanding….

VENTRELLA: Another great series you’ve run is the HEROES IN HELL series (which now apparently includes LAWYERS IN HELL, which could be the name of my autobiography). What future themes can we expect to see?

MORRIS: If I’d known you, I’d have invited you to contribute to LAWYERS. In the 21st century Heroes in Hell books, next up is “Rogues,” to be followed by “Dreamers” (or “Visionaries,” I haven’t finalized the title), then “Poets,” then “Doctors,” after which “Pirates” is a distinct possibility. There are many stories left to tell in hell, especially now that we have met hell’s landlords, and heaven has sent down auditors to make sure hell is sufficiently hellish.

VENTRELLA: How do you work with the authors to make sure there is consistency in the world setting for these collections?

MORRIS: Each hell book takes a year to write and assemble, and the writers must coordinate more completely than was possible before the internet: we have a “secret” working group on Facebook where the writers interact and arcs and meta-arcs are chosen and polished. They choose characters. Our “Muse of Hell,” Sarah Hulcy, has put up 130 orientation docs, so there’s plenty of available information. When they choose the characters, we check to see if those characters have been used previously. If the characters are available and meet our criteria, they can “claim” those characters for the time they write for the series. If they leave, they can’t take the characters: characters come back to me and stay in hell to be recycled.

Then they work on a short “two or three sentence” synopsis. I must accept the synopsis and the characters before they start to write. They can use legendary, historical, or mythical characters. They can’t use characters from modern fiction (post 1900) and they can’t use recently dead or living people. Then writers are allowed to post in-progress snippets which the group can read, and comment upon – or not. Chris and I  may write “guide stories” or story plans (two or three), setting up the current long arcs and the general tone of the volume at its beginning and end. Between these “bookends,” the other writers must set their stories.

When the stories are generally selected, I edit for continuity and tone, and Sarah Hulcy follows me with a copy-edit. Chris Morris is the final editorial reader, and with the three of us working on the stories for continuity and cohesion, we get a strong result and a better book than we could have produced before the internet.

VENTRELLA: I assume your anthologies are primarily invitation-only (correct me if I am wrong). How do you deal with stories that don’t meet your standard or are rejected for other reasons?

MORRIS: We are invitation-only. The milieu of our Heroes in Hell series belongs to Chris and me. The authors know that from the outset. We usually won’t let them write a story we don’t think will work: by the time we’ve approved characters and synopsis, we know what the story will be and how we’ll use it. If someone simply fails to write a useful story, they probably haven’t met our guidelines. Our hell universe is easily recognizable. Each writer has left a clear trail of participation. If they want to rewrite a story we won’t accept and take out the arguably HIH context and characters, of course, they can try, within contractual limitations.

VENTRELLA: Let’s discuss your novels. Which is your favorite?

MORRIS: In fantasy: THE SACRED BAND (Janet Morris and Chris Morris; Paradise, 2010; Kerlak, 2011), the mythic novel of the Sacred Band of Stepsons uniting with the Sacred Band of Thebes and returning to Sanctuary. In historical: I, THE SUN (Janet Morris, Dell, 1987).

VENTRELLA: Who is your favorite character?

MORRIS: Tempus and then Niko and the Sacred Band of Stepsons fighters.

VENTRELLA: What would you ask that character if you could meet him or her?

MORRIS: Tempus lives in my skull. I meet him on a regular basis, and I’m happy to have a character so available. He’s been there since 1979. I went to the White House and he said, “Kinda small, isn’t it?” I would ask him, in all seriousness, whether he truly believes that “character is destiny,” a line he shares with Herakleitos.

VENTRELLA: And what do you think he or she would answer?

MORRIS: “The sun is new every day.” We call him the Riddler, remember.

VENTRELLA: Do you prefer writing fantasy or science fiction?

MORRIS: Fantasy, because very little in SF can transcend the gimmickry of a technical conceit, yet without that conceit at its heart a book isn’t truly science fiction. Furthermore, so little emerging thought and technology is employed by sf writers today that the genre is lagging far behind reality both in the cosmology area and the technology area: sf is no longer a place to experiment, but is now very derivative.

VENTRELLA: Do you find novels easier to write than short stories?

MORRIS: A novel is a major commitment, and must move smoothly along its trajectory. A “short story,” if it’s more than three thousand words, actually lets you focus more deeply on a circumscribed area or event. I think short stories and novels are different; each form is unique and equally demanding. I prefer novels but short stories are good exercises in discipline.

VENTRELLA: Do you tend to outline heavily or just jump right in? What is your writing style?

MORRIS: I don’t “outline” in the way that you mean. I get characters, and their background; I immerse my intelligence in a milieu that’s fully realized: a place with weather and politics and problems and a special nature. I use square post-it notes to write down certain things that must happen during a sitting: a line of dialogue, a particular event, where I need to be when the section is done; a section or chapter or story title. I know where I want the story or chapter or novel to end; I know where I want to start each section: how I get there is the fun for me.

Often times the question for me is which viewpoint character will have the best take on a particular set of events. When I have (twice) sold a project based on outline, it took all the fun out of it.

VENTRELLA: When creating believable characters, what techniques do you use?

MORRIS: I wait. I lie on the bed or go for a drive with paper in my pocket and wait for the characters to start to interact with me, or to tell their story to me. I need to “see something moving” and other writers who write this way all agree – if there’s something moving in your mind’s eye, there’s a character there.

Abarsis was a good example: I knew I wanted to do “A Man and His God” in which at the end the Slaughter Priest would die in Tempus’ arms. I got a character called Abarsis. I thought he and the Slaughter Priest would be two different people but the character wanted to be “Abarsis, the Slaughter Priest.” This was a very big, very strong character and I argued that if Abarsis was the Slaughter Priest then he would die. He said that was fine. Susan Allison of Ace called me up after she read it and confessed that the story made her cry. And Abarsis came back as patron shade of the Sacred Band: the character knew more than I what to do and how, in order to be memorable. Sometimes with good characters you must let go and let them forge ahead. This requires belief in your Muse.

VENTRELLA: You’ve collaborated with other prominent authors, at least one of whom lives with you, which makes it easier. How have these worked? (For instance, do you share writing equally? Does one author do the basic work and the other expand from that outline?)

MORRIS: With whatever writer, we talk about the story line, points of interest, what needs to be accomplished. If it’s Chris, he may come up with a title or a concept. I usually do draft or if I write with others, I’ll often write first: I like beginnings. With some writers, I send sections and they pick up the action; with others, I’ll do a draft and then they will add to it after I’ve done all I want to do, from beginning to end.

Everyone has a special genius, and working with each person is different. If the other writer starts, that’s a different process for me: I work on the story they’ve sent in Track Changes, do what I want to the entire manuscript. Then they accept or reject or we go back and forth. I worked a number of projects with a writer who was outline-driven and I could never figure out what those notations were supposed to evoke, so I’d call to discuss it. The outline made the other writer feel better. I can do a series of chapter titles and use those as an outline, but beyond that, outlines don’t help me. I often work with other writers who don’t like to outline either, or outline in the most cursory way.

VENTRELLA: Writers who are trying to make a name get hammered with lots of advice: The importance of a strong opening, admonitions about “writing what you know,” warnings to have “tension on every page” – what advice do you think is commonly given that really should be ignored?

MORRIS: All advice should be ignored. Every real writer is different. Every story has a nature, an organic way it wants to unfold. Tell a story that sweeps you up, that you want to hear, that keeps YOU on the edge of your seat. Some stories start best with dialogue, others with narrative: writing is catching the wave of creativity. The wave must be there for you to catch.

Writers learn from reading other writers whom they can admire, and writers whom they detest. Before Silistra, I bought a paperback by a famous writer and when I was done I threw it in the wastebasket, said “I can do better than that,” and did. When I read, I try to read writers who can teach me something, who are better at some things than I am. But print-through is always an issue: often when I am writing fiction I read only nonfiction, and vice versa.

The only person who should ask you to make changes in your book is some editor who has paid a lot of money for it. Even then, changes are risky: the story unfolds on the first pass the way the universe unfolded in the first moments of creation: in the way that it must.

VENTRELLA: What is the biggest mistake you see starting writers make?

MORRIS: Writers who have no characters and force a story bore me. Writers who are good at one thing – such as dialogue – may do that one thing too much: talking heads don’t work except very occasionally, when they can work very well. Knowing when to do something is part of the art of writing. Sometimes I act as an acquisitions editor. If you want to sell to me, you’ll tell me who, where, what, and why, and then finally how – all on the first page, hopefully in the first couple paragraphs: where I am, what it’s like, who cares about what’s happening. I want to fall through the words into a different place. But most of all, you must make me care almost immediately.

VENTRELLA: With a time machine and a universal translator, who would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?

MORRIS: Homer, Hesiod, Tiye, Virgil, Marcus Aurelius, Herakleitos, Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, Xenophon, Kikkuli, Thales, Plato, Odysseus (assuming he was Homer’s grandfather), Epaminondas, T.E. Lawrence, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Byron, Mary Shelley, Evelyn Waugh, Emil Zola, Dwight Eisenhower, Sun Tzu, Aspasia, Aristotle, Marguerite Yourcenar, Henry James, Suppiluliumas, Anksepaaten, Herodotus, Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Richmond Lattimore, Solomon, the Biblical “J.” And I’d really like to have Roger Penrose as toastmaster, but he’s still alive.

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