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Some Golden Harbor: Prologue

       Last updated: Thursday, February 16, 2006 19:52 EST




    To Barry Malzberg

    A friend of many years, with whom I live in the Land of Science Fiction



    Dan Breen, my first reader, continues to catch clerical errors that I'd missed at least twice. Not infrequently he'll also ask a question like, "How did she get from there to here?" which is even more valuable.

    Oh, boy, did I kill computers this time. The score was four or five, all for different reasons and all within a period of weeks. The prize was when I decided to change my pattern and bought a brand new Compaq, which gave splendid service before dying on Day Five (yes, taking with it my day's work; but that was my fault.). Compaq instantly sent a new hard drive, which solved the problem. (And I redid the work. Hey, nobody's shooting at me.)

    Keeping me going with expertise, parts, and labor were Mark Van Name, my wife Jo, and most particularly my son Jonathan. And I should mention that in the course of my frustration, Allyn Vogel taught me to disconnect the Insert key which has been a thorn in my side ever since I had to switch to the Windows operating system. My life would be much darker without family and friends.

    Dorothy Day checked continuity for me during the writing, and my webmaster Karen Zimmerman dug up bits of desired information. (For example, finding the lyrics to Morgenrot, which I then translated in a rough-and-ready fashion for a throwaway scene.) Both of them also archived my texts as I completed them. (See above. This was a really good book to archive in distant parts of the country.)

    Dorothy and Evan Ladouceur then went over the completed manuscript for mistakes that'd survived my first two passes. (And believe me, I caught my share of stupid errors).

    Besides picking up replacement keyboards (yes, two of them) and the like and feeding me superbly, my wife Jo provides someone to whom I can burble about the plot problem I'm facing or the neat thing I've just learned. This is enormously helpful.

    Even though Some Golden Harbor is a solo novel, it would be significantly less good if I didn't have a support structure which you literally couldn't buy. This is a blessing whose full extent can be appreciated only by those few who are similarly fortunate.


    I've based the setting of Some Golden Harbor on political and military events taking place during the early 5th century BC in Southern Italy (Aricia, Cumae, and the Etruscan federation). All right, that's a little obscure even for me, but I found the discussion of Aristodemus of Cumae in an aside by Dionysius of Halicarnassus to be an extremely clear account of the rise and eventual fall of an ancient tyrant.

    There's more real information here than in the lengthy, tendentious, and generally rhetorical disquisitions on Coriolanus (a near contemporary, by the way). I suspect that's because Aristodemus is unimportant except as a footnote to Roman history, whereas Gaius Marcius Coriolanus provided one of the basic myths of Rome. The real Coriolanus and the real events involving him are buried under a structure of invention, but nobody had a reason to do that in regard to Aristodemus.

    While the basic politico-military situation comes from ancient history, I took most of the business on Dunbar's World from the South during the American Civil War and the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. I've enormously simplified what went on in both cases.

    Every time I really dig into a period I learn that what a secondary history gave two lines to was an incredibly complex business that could've as easily gone the other way. I'm pleased when I meet people who know any history at all, but I do wish that people who've read only secondary sources (or worse, have watched a TV show on the subject) would keep in mind that there's a lot beneath the surface of any major historical event. I want to scream every time I hear someone say something along the lines of, "What really caused the Roman Civil War was--"

    No, it didn't. Nothing that complicated has a single, simple causation. When somebody frames his statement in those terms (those doing so have invariably been male in my experience), he proves that he doesn't know enough to discuss the subject.

    The scattered human societies I postulate for this series would have many systems of weights and measures. Rather than try to duplicate that reality and thereby confuse readers without advancing my story, I've simply put Cinnabar on the English system while the Alliance is Metric. I don't believe either system will be in use two millennia from now, but regardless: my business is storytelling, not prediction.

    And some are wilder comrades, sworn to seek
    If any golden harbor be for men
    In seas of Death and sunless gulfs of Doubt.
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Prefatory Sonnet to 'The Nineteenth Century'

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