THE NEXT BIG THING (The Hermetic Millennia)

John Moeller has tagged me for the THE NEXT BIG THING, which is basically writers indulging in self-promotion crossed with a chain letter. Unfortunately, I think chain letters  are untoward, so while I am perfectly willing to answer one, I am not willing to tag people or goad them into answering.

Besides, I do not have ten friends. You are the only one.

What is the working title of your book?


Where did the idea for the book come from?

I wrote this book as part of a projected five-volume novel reaching from COUNT TO A TRILLION to the finale COUNT TO INFINITY, and the plot action is meant to take place between now and the end of time.

I also thought someone should write a book about the difficulties to be overcome in setting up an interstellar or intergalactic polity, and emphasize the magnitudes of space to be crossed, energy to be expended, and social cohesion to be maintained if trade or law were to be feasible across such astronomical distances. The first thing that would be required is some method of ultralongterm hibernation, and the second, artificial superintelligence.

The first two volumes in the series deal with each of these problems in turn; the third volume, to be released next year, JUDGE OF AGES, deals with pantropy, that is, the artificial breeding of human beings, or genetic redesign, needed to force mankind to the next stage of evolution.

The other inspiration for this book came from Mummy stories. My protagonist, Menelaus Montrose, has been set the task of maintaining human civilization across sixty-six thousand years, with himself in suspended animation in a cryonic coffin, in a buried facility or tomb, which he has set aside for that purpose. With him are clients and patients, who have frozen themselves for a variety of reasons, medical, scientific, or exilic.

He is awakened in the year AD  10515 by little, blue-skinned men who seem to be archeologists, seeking a legendary tomb-builder, apparently himself: but they mistake him for a man of another eon. Their intent is sinister, even deadly, since the men dug up and thawed out from prior eras of history have no use, no part, in their society, and are only being thawed for slave labor.

Of course, like the unwary English archeologists who know nothing of the curse of the Pharaoh’s tomb, the Blue Men seem not to know who or what they are dealing with. Or do they? Odd little clues mount up. Why is there no detectable radio traffic coming from the world outside the archeological dig? Why do alleged scientists have so many guns and dogs? What happened to humanity while the slumberers slept?

The Archeologists, if that is what they truly are, meanwhile are working on a mystery of their own. Are the antique legends of a secret cabal of superintelligent spacefarers true? If so, where are they and what have they been doing? To what degree is human history under their control? And who are what has been killing them off, once every thousand years or so?

What genre does this fall under?

It is Hard SF crossed with Space Opera, a difficult combination to pull off. Kindly readers or harsh reviewers will have to inform me whether I have.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?

I am afraid I cannot think of any living actors homely enough to play Meany Montrose, or dapper enough to play “Blackie” del Azarchel.

Of past actors, I would say Raymond Massey could play Montrose, if he could manage an outrageous hick hillbilly accent (what? Do you think no superscientists can be hicks? I remind you that Dr. Richard Seaton, designer of the first space opera vessel the Skylark of Space was born and raised in Appalachia.) Ricardo Montalban can play Ximen del Azarchel, but only if he is restored to the age he was when he appeared in NEPTUNE’S DAUGHTER opposite Esther Williams and singing ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside.’

What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

In the far future, archeologists with evil designs loot the biosuspension tombs, unearthing men from the seven ages of history, unaware of who they have disturbed; for these tombs are guarded by the dread and dreaded Judge of Ages, who condemns and executes any civilization or age that dares to interfere with the slumber of his charges, or loot his tombs.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Tor books in New York is publishing it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Two or three years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is an intentional homage to SKYLARK OF SPACE by E.E. Doc Smith, but is also borrows elements from SLAN by A.E. van Vogt, from Asimov’s FOUNDATION series, from LAST AND FIRST MEN by Olaf Stabledon, and TAU ZERO by Poul Anderson. Of course, all stories of this kind follow in the footsteps of THE SLEEPER AWAKES by HG Wells, or, better yet, RIP VAN WINKLE.  In concept, it rather closely approaches MAROONED IN REAL TIME by Verner Vinge, but I cannot claim to be stealing ideas from the genius of Mr Vinge, much as I should like to, since I have not read that book.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

After I wrote THE GOLDEN AGE, my work came to the attention of a group of visionaries calling themselves ‘Transhumanists.’ These are basically optimistic enthusiasts about the prospect of medical advances that will change human nature, banish death, and turn us into gods. GOLDEN AGE, by unintended happenstance, explored many of the ideas that fascinate them, almost as if it were written for them.

Naturally, I was pleased and flattered by their interest in my humble work. However, in the letters I exchanged with some of them, a dissatisfaction, almost a creepy feeling, began to steal over me. I thought these optimists were too optimistic, and at least one of them to the point of recklessness, wishing for the destruction of the human race by robot brains the size of the moon.

I thought someone should write a story showing some of the drawbacks and delays and tragic losses likely for civilization to meet if it follows the idea of an evolutionary leap to the man beyond man, and the superman beyond the superman. I thought someone should point out that extremely long-lived creatures, such as a man who downloads his brain into a very stable container, still must one day die. Entropy always has the last laugh for so long as timespace lasts.

What else about your book might pique the interest of readers?

I have been informed by the publisher that an overestimation was made in the print run, and more units were printed than feasible. Unless each and every volume of the book sells, the series will not appear on the balance sheets of Tor Books as a good investment, and they will not buy the concluding volume.

So, any of you who enjoyed reading COUNT TO A TRILLION, and who want to find out how the story ends, whether or not the ending is told or is truncated is basically in your hands.

You can read a sample chapter and preorder it by clicking through this link: