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Out of the Waters: Prologue
Last updated: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 22:01 EDT
TO RICK AND SHARON
Hoping that they will be reading my books to one another for many years to come.
Dan Breen continues as my first reader. He catches typos and mental lapses–dropped plurals, subject and verb agreement, not infrequently missing words; that sort of thing. More important, he highlights some really clumsy constructions. I have tendencies to be both over-precise and elliptical, sometimes in the same sentence.
Dorothy Day and my webmaster, Karen Zimmerman, archive my texts in distant places and search them when I don’t remember a name (for example, “What was the name of the night doorman?”). If an asteroid hits Pittsboro, Tor will still be able to retrieve my work in progress. (Unless it’s a really big asteroid, of course.)
For the most part, I took my quotations of The Book of the Dead from the EA Wallis Budge version, which I’ve owned and used for many years. I needed one particular phrasing which did not appear in Budge. Karen found it for me in a Normandi Ellis paraphrase. I could cite many similar examples, from this book and from earlier ones, of how valuable it is to a writer to know a librarian.
While I was writing the very last sections of Out of the Waters, the screen of my first-line laptop got wonky because of a loose connection. A minor thing, I assumed. It isn’t. My son Jonathan determined it was a job for factory repair and immediately ordered a replacement, which he then set up for me.
I have said that I’ll continue writing even if I need to chip my words out on a block of stone–and I will. I am very fortunate that my family and close friends include professionals at all levels of the IT industry, making it unlikely that I will have to resort to chisels.
I don’t care what anyone else thinks of the content of my fiction, but I run my non-fiction, including the Author’s Note which immediately follows these acknowledgements, by Mark Van Name for a useful outside viewpoint. Mark is more circumspect in what he says than I am (almost everyone is more circumspect than I am), but he’s very good at pointing out places where people who don’t know me will misunderstand what I’m saying and also places where I might in a few days wish that I had chosen to be a little less brutally frank.
I do not always do what Mark suggests, but I listen to him. Only a fool would not.
My wife Jo continues to maintain the nest in which I live and work. The bills get paid, appointments are remembered, and I eat extremely well. When I’m working, which is most of the time, I focus very sharply on the work itself. That’s good for the work, but it would be disastrous for life in the broader sense were it not for Jo’s unflagging support.
My thanks to the people above and to all the other friends who make my life not only possible but worthwhile.
Out of the Waters is set in a fictional city named Carce (pronounced CAR-see). Things occur in this novel and in all The Books of the Elements which did not happen and could not have happened in the historical Rome in 30 AD. This is a fantasy novel, not a historical novel with fantasy elements. I’m trying to keep that fact at the front of readers’ minds by referring to Carce (in homage to The Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison, by the way).
That said, I have hewed closely to Roman culture and to events from Roman history in creating the background of the series. The literary works which occur in the series (including the Sibylline Books and The Book of the Dead), and the quotes from them, are real.
The Native American myths which form the core of Out of the Waters are real also. I found the story of Uktena very powerful when I first read it. In reworking the story for my use here, I at last understood why it resonated so strongly with me.
While you should not assume that everything in the series is historical truth–it isn’t–you can be sure that I research the details which go into my fiction. This brings me to another reason for setting The Books of the Elements in Carce, not Rome.
Most educated people have an idea of what Ancient Rome was like. Much of what they think they know is false. I find it distressing to have folks write (and even phone!) me to complain about some “mistake” in my fiction when in fact my statement was correct.
For example, I’ve learned not to refer to Roman shields as being plywood, though in fact they were plywood and archeologists use “plywood” to describe the material from which they were molded. If I say the shields were “laminated wood,” people don’t complain (and I hope that I avoid breaking their suspension of disbelief).
Whereas I could say that the legions of Carce go to war wearing topcoats and tails without anybody claiming I was historically wrong. (They might think I was a complete twit–I would think I was a complete twit if I did something so silly–but that’s a separate matter.)
My purpose in writing is to tell interesting, exciting stories that many people will take pleasure in reading; my role is not to educate readers. I hope, however, that those who read The Books of the Elements will get glimpses of a culture very different from our own–but which is nonetheless one of the major supports on which our culture has been built.
Still, I’ll be satisfied if you tell me that you had a good time reading Out of the Waters. I certainly hope that you do.
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