The Madness Season
He’d had so many names over the centuries, so many new identities that he could scarcely remember who he had originally been. Now his name was Daetrin, a name given by the alien conquerors of humankind, the Tyr.
Three hundred years had passed since the Tyr conquered the people of Earth as they had previously overcome numerous races throughout the galaxy. In their victory they had taken the very heart out of the human race, isolating the true individualists, the geniuses, all the people who represented the hopes, dreams, and discoveries of the future, and imprisoning them in dome colonies on planets hostile to human life. There the Tyr, a race which shared a unified gestalt mind, had left these gifted individuals to work on projects which would, the conquerors hoped, reveal all of humankind’s secrets to them.
Yet Daetrin’s secret was one no scientist had even uncovered, for down through the years he had succeeded in burying it so well that he had even hidden his real nature from himself. But, taken into custody by the Tyr, there was no longer any place for Daetrin to run, no new name and life for him to assume. Now he would at last be forced to confront the truth about himself-and if he failed, not just Daetrin but all humans would pay the price…
“Friedman’s (In Conquest Born) exceptionally imaginative, compelling science fiction novel leaps ahead to the 24th century. For hundreds of years, Earth has suffered under the yoke of alien conquerors: the dreaded Tyr, a reptilian race in which all individuality is submerged into a single, overarching consciousness. Determined to keep humanity cowed, the Tyr have culled from the captive population the most intelligent, the most curious, the most likely to foment rebellion, and banished them from Earth. As the memory of freedom recedes, humanity sinks into a lethargic subservience. Daetrin, the hero of this tale, is a vampire-not a monster, however, but a man, nearly immortal, who embodies the vanished virtues of a once-sovereign Earth. When his existence is exposed by the Tyr, who are appalled to find a human who witnessed the “Conquest,” they immediately ship him offworld. Thus begins a journey of self-discovery as Daetrin is forced by adversity to come to grips with the long-suppressed side of his nature and to confront the ancient horror of a bloody heritage.”
“Three hundred years in the future, the Tyr, a hivelike alien race, have subjugated the peoples of Earth. Daetrin, an ancient vampiric shapechanger, uses his unique talents to battle the aliens while trying to understand and accept himself. Intriguing plot and excellent characterization combined with good writing (although it bogs down occasionally) make for an original science fiction romp.”
Dad (who was a writer) and Mom (who was not) assured me that the second book would be the hardest to write. The theory is that everyone has one great story inside them, waiting to be told, but once that’s gone you have to start from scratch.
Damn if they weren’t right, too.
At this point I had some fantasy material I wanted to explore, revolving around the concept of a medieval Catholic occultist: the Faustian saga of a man of true faith who hungered for knowledge that his beloved Church had declared off-limits. I recognized that the story was a big one and needed a universe large enough and complex enough to do it justice, and I didn’t feel I had that ready quite yet. So I put that material on a back burner to simmer for a while and looked for a one-book concept to develop in the meantime.
As vampires have always been an interest of mine, for a variety of thematic reasons, I decided to broach the ultimate cross-genre “what if?” question. That is to say…if vampires really existed, and if they were a natural part of our world, what would happen to them when and if we made contact with alien civilizations? How would said aliens view them? How would they, with their unique perspective, view aliens? This led to perhaps the most bizarre concept I have ever come up with, which I fondly refer to as “Vampires in Space”, and ironically it required as much research as the more realistic things I have written. After all, you not only have to come up with reasons why your vampires would have evolved in the first place, but why they had not taken control of the Earth after doing so…a key point most novels in the “top of the food chain” mold do not bother to address.
As I needed an alien species for the book I decided to tackle a couple of themes that had been tried before in science fiction, but rarely handled well. The first was the concept of a “hive mind”, that is, an entire species sharing a single consciousness. Despite the fact that many authors had played with the idea, very few of them were able to present a believable vision of what such a consciousness would be like. (To Marry Medusa by Sturgeon is a noteworthy exception). Thus the Tyr were born, a true communal consciousness, as complex and flawed as anything which evolved on earth. Figuring out how such a creature would have evolved in the first place (evolution is based upon competition, so what happens when individuals have no reason to compete?) and what their mating practices would be like was half the fun.
I also invented the Marra, a delightfully quirky species that had no bodies of their own, and hence had very little real understanding of any facet of human culture that depended upon physical reality. I must admit this is the only time in my writing career I ever based a character upon a real person, in this case the personality of a student named Lori Cook who worked with me in the costume shop. I also was delighted to write in the destruction of the football stadium at the University of Georgia, an act long overdue, in my humble opinion.
Lastly, I had to determine how memory storage would be affected by the extended lifespan of both my main characters. Does a human being who lives for a thousand years simply accumulate ten times as much information as the rest of us, with all of it as easily accessible as a recently-dialed phone number, or does the vampiric mind have some special means of handling storage-and-retrieval that makes the burden tolerable? The answer became a unique quirk of my vampiric species, a “timefugue” state in which current events could trigger vivid emotive flashbacks from previous time periods, linked thematically to the current moment.
DÃ©jÃ Vu Files, Part One: Years after The Madness Season came out, the TV show “Forever Knight” introduced a vampire who responded to current events with vivid emotive flashbacks from earlier time periods, linked thematically to the current moment. Imagine that.
DÃ©jÃ vu Files, Part One: The struggle of a particular member of the Tyr to comprehend the nature of individuality, and to develop a sense of self divorced from the greater whole, was a central part of my story. In one of my favorite scenes, a human tried to explain to him what a name was for, and the alien asked him to name him. He did so…resulting in an alien named Fred.
Several years later, a friend sent me a tape of a Star Trek episode, in which a member of the Borg, attempting to comprehend the nature of individuality, and to develop a sense of self divorced from the greater whole, asked to be given a name, and wound up…an alien named Hugh.
Imagine that 🙂