ME AND RAY BRADBURY
One of a suite of blog entries about the aftermath of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, including brain damage and eyesight damage; a survivor's account of the aftermath of cns lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the large B-cell variety, in the author's case cancer of the brain and the spinal cord.
THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD:
A HUGH COOK READER.
So I'm busy proofreading my way through the huge novel THE WITCHLORD AND THE WEAPONMASTER, tenth and final volume of the CHRONICLES OF AN AGE OF DARKNESS sword and sorcery series, a self-contained novel in its own right, 250,000 words or so of saga.
As I write this, the proofreading of Guest Gulkan's saga quest is into its thirty-third chapter, thirty-three out of fifty-seven, and the story is cooking along nicely, as the following excerpt shows:-
After considerable further hesitation, Thayer Levant at last consented to follow the others. With Guest Gulkan leaded, they braved their way into a huge chamber where there arose a kind of waterless fountain which was adorned with the warm and breathing bodies of a thousand women. Up, up rose this fountain, in tier upon tier, crowded with nubile beauty. For once, Guest Gulkan was quite lost for words. He just stood there and gaped. As he stood there, a woman danced forth from the company of her peers, positively floating through the air as she tranced toward him. She beckoned to him, and he stepped forward, as if in a dream.
The women vanished.
The women vanished with a clangor of metal and a burst of shuddering laughter.
Immediately, the adventurers realized they were confronted by (and more than partially surrounded by) a huge heaped-up conglomeration of steel, a towering contraption of whispering tubes and slowly grinding tentacles, of rotating disks and spindling toroidal columns, of glowing screens and phosphorescent feelers, of spiked antennae and gleaming chelae.
This thing of coiled and coiling metal sat there in a huge and brooding inertia, sat there with all the mighty weight of an ink-black thundercloud pregnant with hailstones the size of a turtle, sat there in predatory poise. There was no telling what or where its eyes might be, yet the thing saw the travelers, clearly, and these four mortals were the focus of its vulturing regard.
I wouldn't mind sitting down and reading this. This book of mine, THE WITCHLORD AND THE WEAPONMASTER, I've never read it as a book, starting at page one and moving through at the end. It's a very long book, about 250,000 words, and I've never had the time.
And I don't have now, not now while I'm in the process of preparing the second edition for publication.
Now is the time of the finicky rages of proofreading, the fretful business of chasing down punctuation marks missing or unnecessarily duplicated, of figuring out which "had had" is legitimate and which is a blooper.
That's the level at which I have contact with the book.
Maybe I'll finally read it, as it should be read, as a book, cover to cover, start at page one and go on to the end, in my old age. If I get to have an old age. In the meantime, however, getting through the text is not an act of pleasure but a task.
Working on this task, I'm reminded, time and time again, of a story by Ray Bradbury which I read many years ago. My recollection is blurred and I don't recall the title, but let me tell you my version of it here.
There's a guy, and he's a working stiff. It's not a tale from the world of penthouse suites. We're much, much closer to the barrio.
But, although this guy is poor, and going nowhere, he has an incandescent dream, a visionary dream for his children. He wants to give them interplanetary flight. An elite dream, which he can't put on his credit card. We can deduce the obvious, which is that he doesn't even have a credit card to start with.
Even so, he does it. He achieves his dream.
He's just a working stiff and so his children cannot possibly have the dream he wants for them. It's a megamillionaire idea, and he, he's not that. He's Mr. Broke.
His children cannot possibly have what he wants them to have.
And yet they do.
He builds a rocketship in his backyard, and the ship is launched, and the children, thanks to their father's act of faith, are launched. Interplanetary space is theirs, and they are awed, and rightly so.
And from time to time the father checks on them to see how they are doing. And they are doing fine, it's working out.
But the father knows how fragile this is. If one tiny thing goes wrong, if the video turns scratchy or the diesel engine unexpectedly runs out of fuel, then it's over. No more space machine. Just a noisy tin can vibrating away meainglessly in the backyard.
But nothing breaks. The illusion holds, and it is this illusion that the father delivers to his children.
As a father, at one level I read this as a tale of how we, guided by such love and wisdom as we possess, conscious of the niceties of timing, build a fraud for our children to live in, a provisional abode of apparent safety.
The family world, it's fraudulent. We don't tell kids, at least not when they're not even two years of age, that all this stuff which seems so permanent is not. It's a sham, an illusionary gloss which the imagination has built, and it stands, in its fragility, upon the foundations of a crueler, grimmer world, a world in which the father's brain, for example, is the chaotic slowly-stewing aftermath of exposure to radioactivity.
A world in which you, too, my darling, were born, ultimately, so you could die.
We don't say this. Instead, we persist in the maintenance of the vision. Visions being part of the supplementary world we need to build to survive in the actual world that we really do live in.
And, for me as an artist, what Bradbury's story communicates, more clearly than anything else, is the father's responsibility to his art, the art of illusion which he is working on the world on behalf of his children. It must be, if it can be, impeccable.
It's craftsmanship, this illusion he's building for his kids. Having the inspiration, getting the idea, seeing how it could be done, that is one thing. But meticulously carrying the project through to its conclusion, that's another.
And this story has been coming back to me, repeatedly, in the last few months, as I've worked my way through a variety of projects.
You never catch all the mistakes, and there is always going to be some glaring blooper, some embarrassing disaster which you failed to catch. But you have to try for the perfection you are seeking. Persist, and try to make sure the missing period is replace, that morning does not accidentally follow afternoon, and that "there" and "their" have achieved their appropriate mutations.
I would not count myself as a great Bradbury fan, but I have read FAHRENHEIT 451 at least three times, and the old man's spirit (as far as I know, he's still alive, at this writing) is with me, I feel, as I work.
A builder, a fabulator, a creator of complete and self-sustained works of the imagination. One of those who helped to show me the way.
AND THE WEAPONMASTER
Above, the cover of a new edition of THE WITCHLORD AND THE WEAPONMASTER, the tenth and final volume in my CHRONICLES OF AN AGE OF DARKNESS series. It has been out of print for some years, but now a new edition is on sale.
The book can be bought at:
Unfortunately, while lulu.com would like to be a child-safe site, something like THE WITCHLORD AND THE WEAPONMASTER or the suicide bomber novel TO FIND AND WAKE THE DREAMER is not a child-safe book, so to see this "mature" content you have to certify yourself as adult, as follows:
To see the mature content (1) sign up to make a free log-in identity then log in; (2) go to "MY ACCOUNT"; (3) click on "manage content access level"; (4) assuming you are 17 or older, choose "Mature" as the consent level, and save that preference.
Returning to lulu.com/hughcook you discover that a number of books which were previously invisible are now visible.
For those who are not familiar with THE WITCHLORD AND THE WEAPONMASTER, I have written a blurb, which is below. Note that, though this is the tenth volume of a series, it constitutes a self-contained novel in its own right, and can be read independently without any reference to any other book in the CHRONICLES OF AN AGE OF DARKNESS series.
This massive novel of 57 chapters and about 250,000 words is the story of a barbarian named Guest Gulkan. He, the self-styled Weaponmaster, is the son of an emperor known as the Witchlord. The story concerns, amongst other things, the struggle for the control of the empire, and the sweep of the action encompasses battles, wars, the invention of air travel and the first-ever airwreck. (Actually, to use the parlance of the wizard Sken-Pitilkin, they didn't get air-wrecked. Rather, they crashed.)
Before Guest is done, he had learnt an enormous amount about geography by fighting battles on various bits and pieces of it, by adventuring through it and by being airwrecked on it. He survives a duel in Enskandalon Square, sword against sword in fair combat against the Rovac warrior Thodric Jarl, and survives, also, an encounter with the Great Mink.
Survival is not painless, as the following excerpt suggests:
"For Guest Gulkan, arms and legs both shredded by the mauling strength of the Great Mink, there was no blessed darkness."
Will Guest Gulkan survive being savaged by the Great Mink? And how will he fare against the quokka when he eventually encounters it in the Stench Caves of Logthok Norgos? The key issue in politics, as one of the wise has said, is "who whom". That is, who has the power to do what to whom? When Guess Gulkan comes face-to-face with the quokka, who will be hung and who will do the hanging? And who, ultimately, will rule the empire?
In this sprawling saga, a tale of combat, torture, power struggles and (on occasion) encounters with the irregular verbs (and more, much, much more) the tale of Guest Gulkan unfolds in a self-contained novel which is complete in itself. No prior knowledge of Guest Gulkan or his world is required. Eat well, pack lightly, make sure your boots have plenty of road-wear left in them, then begin, if you dare, this, the ultimate saga adventure.
My publishing plans for 1996 include new editions of two other books which are out of print, THE WORDSMITHS AND THE WARGUILD and THE WORSHIPPERS AND THE WAY.
With those two missing books also published, all ten books will be in print, as Colin Smythe of Colin Smythe Ltd is still selling stocks of the original Corgi paperback versions of the remaining seven books in the ten-book series.
Transworld Publishers, owners of the Corgi Books imprint, remaindered the Corgi paperbacks some years ago, but Colin bought the stocks and rebadged them with new ISBN numbers, therefore these books can be purchased from amazon.com.
Also on sale at the lulu.com/hughcook storefront are the three books of the OCEANS OF LIGHT trilogy, a fantasy trilogy set in the archipelago of Chalakanesia. The three books are WEST OF HEAVEN, EAST OF HELL and NORTH OF PARADISE.