Ann and Amel's First Fan by Lynda Williams
My daughter Jennifer likes fantastic fiction like the Hobbit, Harry Potter and Narnia. But my stories are not meant for young adults. I was a bit leery, therefore, about including her when I vowed to read a chapter a week of "Courtesan Prince" to my husband to get feedback. David told me that -- given the issues covered in Jennifer's favorite sit coms -- she could cope with things like Amel's mistreatment, and Di Mon and Ranar's homosexual love. But I was worried that she wouldn't like the story much.
Science Fiction can be techie in spots, and there is tough sledding over sexuality, reflecting my thoughts about sex and power. And while the Okal Rel Universe is not without its cases of True Love (cher'stan), most of it violates romantic norms. Jenny didn't seem to like the idea of mekan'stan.
She had some trouble, sure enough, in chapter one, with things to do with arbiter and space stations. But that actually helped a lot. Neither she nor Ann - her favorite character - would sit still for a lecture, so I cut them out.
She liked the student courtesans in chapter 2. But I figured she was being dutiful. She is my darling first born after all. There is only one, true acid test and that is: does the reader want more? It doesn't matter what she says, if what she's doing is checking her watch.
The fun began when Ann met Amel, going by the name of Liege Monitum and known to himself, at this point in history, as Von.
In the middle of the week, Jenny told me she'd been thinking about how Ann knows him, at first, by his hands, because that was all she saw while he was sending her images to help her dock. They have a language problem and she is looking forward to them being able to talk. That's in chapter four, this weekend, right Mom? she asks.
I had to tell her, no. Chapter four, in the first draft, is where Ranar wakes up on Gelion and meets Di Mon. I tried to convince her it would be interesting to discover Gelion through the eyes of an anthropologist who has known it only through artifacts and hearsay before. But she wasn't buying that. She wanted to know more about Amel and Ann, which comes in Chapter 5. I was afraid she would bow out for the week, wound my author's sensibilities when -- to my delight -- she said: "Then you'll just have to read two chapters."
She tells me, now, that she's my first and biggest fan. Which is delightful. But it is not all of the inhabitants of the Okal Rel universe that she loves. She can take or leave Di Mon and isn't much inspired by Horth. It is Amel and Ann she advocates for, and woe betide me if I do not get them together, "on stage", a bit more than originally envisioned. It's inspired me to plan a few more stories like "Going Back Out", which is now online. I am not entirely happy with it, but the thing - I am learning - about having fans, is once they've got their hands on things you aren't allowed to tinker any more.
Jennifer has also decided what should appear on the cover of Courtesan Prince. Guess that means I'll have to finish it. It's sitting around, as of April 2001, in the three quarters finished state I am so good at getting to, then letting lie fallow in first draft while something else takes over my imagination. Jennifer's pick for the cover is a scene with Ann on Amel's lap, in the one-person sling cockpit of a rel-fighter, with her fading out from flight fatigue in his arms and him trying to fly the ship around her. Reaching out away from them in all directions is the grid-work of the inner frame in which the sling cockpit is anchored, and beyond that space -- portrayed on the nervecloth of the inner hull.
"I can just picture it," Jenny assures me.
She is telling the artist commissioned for the cover of Throne Price about it, too, in between inquiries, in her Grade 8 French, about the pictures on Sandrine Gestin's web site. Isn't e-mail wonderful? Jenny's French teacher at D.P. Todd has offered to help her with tricky words, even though Jenny isn't taking French this semester.