Monday, February 7, 2011

Guest: Jacqueline Lichtenberg

What an extreme pleasure to have Jacqueline Lichtenberg at VampChix today!  I count her as one of the founding mothers of the vampire revolution we have seen over the past years.  She did it much earlier, and much smarter.  Here's a glimpse into her beginnings with vampires...


Vampire In Muddy Boots -- Out Of The Closet

The reviews of your own books that make the biggest impression on you are the FIRST ones you ever see.

Taking a writer's virginity is an awesome responsibility.

The first reviews you see of your first novel become etched into your brain cells and the cells of your whole body, just like that very first "time."

The first review of your first novel by someone who really REALLY "gets it" and understands what you were saying -- and points out very accurately (ouch) where you fell short -- aha, that one lives forever on the tip of your tongue.

That's especially true if the first review of your first novel that truly resonates has a memorable title.

"Vampire in Muddy Boots" was the title of Jean Lorrah's review of House of Zeor, and that review began a long time business association and friendship. It was the first review of my first novel that accurately identified what I was doing.

I quite deliberately built a science fiction background in which to tell vampire stories.

There was precedence. A few authors, very famous, had done stories examining the vampire dynamic as a property of aliens from outer space. I thought they'd failed abysmally and set out to do it right.

This was before the Romance field editors would even read a vampire story, or anything with paranormal or scientific overtones.

If the romance field had been open to me, that's where I'd have started my career.

But House of Zeor would still be the same novel because, you see, I also did something that as of that time only Marion Zimmer Bradley had done -- I based the plot on a (*gasp*) Relationship.

OK, I had to fudge a lot because of the parameters of the SF field. SF editors would not, under any circumstances, even read anything with Romance in it, nevermind a real Relationship (other than a war-buddy relationship, and there you had to be careful not to imply they were gay).

But you could motivate your Hero to go into danger to rescue his Lady Love.

Aha, a loophole!

So my Hero dove through that loophole into the danger of a "Vampire" community where he was fodder, depending entirely on the good will of a Vampire who was "a Good Guy Vampire." And he did a good job of rescuing his Lady Love until she had to rescue him back (when SF didn't allow kickass heroines).

That broke the SF formula. In fact I shattered the existing formula in a dozen ways to fudge my story into the only market then open for it -- SF.

That novel was continuously in print for 21 years, then prices on the used book market skyrocketed. Then came Omnibus reprint, and now finally the whole series will be out as both print and ebook from Wildside Press under the Borgo imprint.

Here's House of Zeor's new cover on Amazon:

House of Zeor: Sime~Gen, Book One (Sime Gen)

The ebook isn't available as of January, but we've almost delivered the whole set of novels (including the new ones written on contract with a now defunct publisher) so the ebook editions should appear soon.

Wildside has also done my novels MOLT BROTHER and CITY OF A MILLION LEGENDS in e-book, so you can see where their price range should fall.

Molt Brother (Lifewave)

Jean Lorrah (a Professor of English) had read my non-fiction Bantam paperback, STAR TREK LIVES! (which mentions a short story of hers) but a friend sent her House of Zeor. She wrote Vampire In Muddy Boots for a fanzine just because the novel impressed her (this was long before she got involved in writing Star Trek novels for Pocket).
I sent her a draft of the second Sime~Gen novel, UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER, and she scribbled all over it and wrote a huge, detailed criticism which I used in the final rewrite. (an early draft titled Sime Surgeon is posted online at simegen.com for free reading -- it's a blatant doctor novel with Vampire). The final published hardcover won my first award and it's very different.

So Jean got inspired to write fanzine stories for the Sime~Gen fanzines that popped up, but they were way too good for a circulation of just 500 or so. I took a chapter and outline of a story she wanted to do for the 'zine to Doubleday and they bought it. That became the novel First Channel.

So then Jean teamed up with me creating the background for the Sime~Gen Universe and writing novels in it.

Vampire In Muddy Boots had pointed out that though the concept and the ideas of House of Zeor were fascinating, the writing was "typical" of a first novel, and the composition just didn't live up to the potential.

She was right -- I wrote House of Zeor as a thin edge of a wedge to pry open the potential of a closed field. I deliberately added Vampire Romance (a field that didn't exist) to Science Fiction, and it just didn't do the material justice.

Could I have done better? Yes. But if the book had been "better" it would never have seen print.

I don't know that Sime~Gen is a cause for the current wide-open Vampire Romance, PNR field. But the same people who devoured the novels and participated in Sime~Gen fandom also read and wrote for Star Trek fanzines. And the Star Trek fanzines really brought the potential of the SF field to the Romance field.

Sime~Gen has generated 6 paper fanzines, leaping onto the web and continuing even today to generate fan-fiction which is posted for free reading. It's a smaller venue that Star Trek, of course, but it persists.

In rereading all of these novels for this new reprint, after all these years of reviewing the turbulent and developing overlap and blending of SF and Fantasy, and Paranormal, and Romance, I found I had to judge the Sime~Gen novels against the current field.

Just like that first exposure to a first review of a first novel -- that was a confrontation to cringe from.

I may be prejudiced (may, right?) but I still think these are good novels, and in a very odd way I see the themes, elements, motifs, and character developments of the most recent novels in the Vampire Romance field reflected in Sime~Gen.

I think the Sime~Gen novels can easily stand beside my Romantic Times Award winner, Dushau...

Dushau (The Dushau Trilogy)

...and that will be even more true when Jean Lorrah's new Sime~Gen novel, TO KISS OR TO KILL, finally sees print because it is a "genuine" romance where the plot is the love story.

It's long past time for Sime~Gen to come out of the closet and be identified as Vampire Romance, even if only a prototype. (remember sex scenes were forbidden -- these novels were written for Doubleday which sold to libraries and school libraries on subscription and had to guarantee "standards.")

So we didn't write the sex scenes, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. We just didn't let the editors know they were there.

The really odd thing is that, in doing this work for the reprints, I've discovered how my novel RenSime is much more of a Romantic Triangle Romance than I'd thought.

So perhaps going through the re-reading to produce the reprints is a new kind of loss of virginity.

Advice to all beginning writers: Are you going to want to re-read this book you're writing decades from now? Will you want your name associated with it? Will you want your grandchildren to remember you by it? If not, security-delete the files right now and start over.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (for free chapters)
http://www.simegen.com/writers/simegen/ free chapters of all the Sime~Gen novels, but the entire page needs updating.

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