Jandrax 41

Thomas Anderson, whose views I often disagree with, but always respect, found the transition from Part I to Part II of Jandrax abrupt, irritating, and hard to follow. I told him that I like a tangled web, meaning that I like abrupt jumps followed by the information needed to fill in the blanks. I think his criticism and my response are both valid, but each has its drawbacks. If you tell too much and make the story too cohesive, a certain kind of reader will lose interest. If you jump around too much, another kind of reader will lose interest. It’s a judgement call.

It didn’t help that everybody’s names were too similar. That even confused me.

I could have written . . .

Two decades had passed. Children were born who knew no other life but the life that Harmony offered them. Andrax and the others passed out of everyday conversation, if not out of memory. The elders never talked about them, and the youngsters did not know their names.

A month after the others’ disappearance, Angi married Lucien Dubois, and six months later gave birth to a son she named Jean. Eventually, the patriarch died and his son took his place. Every other melt the herds returned, and everything in the colony came to revolve around their harvest.

It did not occur to me to write such a transition. In the seventies, stories were expected to proceed at a gallop. This is what I did write . . .

Part II
Standard Year 893 and of the colony,
Year 23

Chapter 9

Jean Dubois knelt near the icy pool and waited. Anton Dumezil was somewhere within shouting distance but likewise well hidden. The melt had been underway for a week back at the colony and they had trekked north to meet the oncoming herds; others might wait until the animals arrived nearer home but Jean and Anton were impatient in their youth. Anton was armed with one of the rifles brought in on the Lydia. Jean’s muzzleloader had been made on Harmony by old Levi-Stuer, the gunsmith. It was probably as accurate and powerful as Anton’s weapon, though slower to load, but the cartridge rifles carried an extra aura of prestige.

The wind stirred the lal bush with the soft movements of new growth. The melt is a glorious time, even as youth is a glorious time, for all the wiry, naked bushes take on flowers for a few weeks and then leaves. For a month the sun is warm (though the old ones who remembered Bordeaux complained bitterly of the cold even in high summer) and the world is green. Then the melt is gone and the vegetation with it, and the land is desert again for a season before the snows return.

The old ones complained that there were no rain and no clouds, but Jean found the idea of woolly things floating in the sky and liquid falling from it so absurd as to be unbelievable.

Across the pool the bushes stirred and Jean raised his rifle. It was a leer. They were not prized for their meat but for their skins, which were carefully removed with feathers intact. Anton had a jacket made of leerhide which he wore on ceremonial occasions. Very impressive. The leers were always the first to come with the melt, so Jean was unlikely to get a better target. As the creature worked its way out to the pool, Jean noted with some concern that it was a male. Among leers, the female is the more deadly and they almost always run in pairs. To kill a male with a single shot rifle was to lay oneself open to attack from the female. One always shoots the female and leaves the male. more tomorrow


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