By the 25th Century CE the slow building conflict between the billions trapped a greenhouse Earth and the 20 million Offworlders spread across the solar system approaches the breaing point. In the distant Uranus system, Edward Fundan, a habitat builder with vast resources, builds a starship. Other, earlier treks to the nearby systems were begun long before, but Fundan will use Phoenix reaction energies to achieve much higher velocity. Before he can finish the job, he is poisoned. His grandson, carefully raised to handle the job, takes over. Despite resistance from his own family, a powerful spacer clan, Dane completes the "Founder". On the way he strikes a pact with the devil, in the shape of the Khalifi Clan, a semi-outlaw group that clings to ancient Arab ways. The Founder escapes the system ahead of the efforts by the Earth Social-Synthesis government to prevent it, possibly the last starship that will ever do so.
The four year long trip to their destination becomes a tour of hell due to the Khalifi takeover. And when they reach the new world, with its mysterious ring continent and forest of enormous trees the Khalifi begin to colonize in their own thoughtless, greedy fashion.
Dane leads a rebellion against them and with his mastery of the ship's systems he succeeds. The remaining colonists begin to build their own colony on a coastal strip and some islands. Neither they, nor the Khalifi notice the strange "zipper" marks that have formed on the surrounding trees.
They have discovered the giant nests of the communal "chitin" insect, and also the Ay Fein, a heavily built humanoid species living in stone age conditions in the equatorial highlands, the only area where the giant trees don't grow.
Ultimately the trees disgorge their response to invasion, an army of Woodwose, creatures seventy feet tall, with woody flesh and terrible, destructive energy. The Khalifi are annihilated, and the remaining colonists escape with Dane's help to the coastal islands, where they regroup.
Dane Fundan was heir to the greatest builder of space habitats among the off-Earth clans. But after his protector's assassination, Dane needed new financing for the most important of the old man's projects - the interstellar colony ship Founder, which had been designed to save clan Fundan from Earth's rapacious social tyranny.
Eventually, backed by the piratical Khalifi, a clan without known scruples, the huge Founder was bound out-system. But the planet Fenrille was light-years off, and Dane had not foreseen what treachery awaited the refugees in space, or the dangers unbridled lust would attract on a world designed to eliminate the bothersome.
Seventy Eight feet high, the Woodwose moved with a strange clockwork gait. The long arms darted out in front, huge hands reaching for the men.
Gort was picked up and stuffed into the giant mouth while wailing in horror. Jaws chewed on him before the hunters' astonished eyes.
The thing smashed Porosh into a jelly with a blow from a fist the size of a door. A servant in white fell into a fetal ball on the ground. A foot stamped the servant flat.
Rifles were firing by then, but even as puffs of fiber and dust blew off the monster, it kept killing. Revilkh followed Gort into te thing's snapping maw; vigorous mastications took place, a few indigestibles were spat out, including Revlikh's saliva-coated binox.
TO A HIGHLAND NATION
The Last Farmer: the story of the end of the dream of colonizing the mainland of Fenrille and clearing the forest to farm the soil. The unrelenting war with the Woodwose can only end one way.
At this point, a hundred years after the Founder's arrival, the original colony on the islands was being superseded by a new way of life, that of the Chitin farmers. By then the secret of Chitin protein with its longevity effect on human life had been discovered. The ways of "farming" the chitin were being explored.
Sweet Fifteen: Fair Fundan, the most redoubtable leader of the Fundan clan in their history discovers the harsh realities of life as a Chitin farmer in a world full of thieves and raiders.
Drums and Rifles: The news of the Chitin derived longevity drugs had produced an exodus of groups from Earth. Despite the rigor of the totalitarian state they found ways to escape. Most prominent in the early days were the EASU, the East Anglian Social Union, an administrative region incorporating what had once been South Eastern England, with London at its center, plus the Friesian Coast and the coastline of Germany, including the cities of Hamburg and Bremen. The elite of this region had seized a starship and flown it to Fenrille. In consequence the coastal colony had been taken over and was now called the "Essex Coast."
Between the EASU and the Highland Clans there existed nothing but war, even as both sides traded madly for the chitin drugs. More colonists were coming all the time, drawn by the intoxicating dream of eternal life. In response to EASU aggression and the threat of atomic weapons, Fair Fundan pulls together a coalition of the normally non-cooperative Highlanders. With help from fugitives from the EASU rule of terror they counterattack and end the immediate threat.
After decades on Fenrille, the lush planet settled by legendary spacefareer Dane Fundan, human colonists and native Fein had reached an uneasy truce. And Fenrille's humans had discovered the indigenous chitin insects, which produced a drug that conferred virtual immortality -- on the few who could afford its astronomical price.
But other humans learned of the chitin insects, and they now threatened to destroy Fenrille in all-out war to control the super-lucrative chitin production and exploit the planet's peoples. Fenrille's only hope for survival lay in a new alliance between colonists and Fein -- one that would force the peacful native race to become a ruthless guerrilla army.
Only the heir to the Fundan legacy, the fierce and brilliant beauty Fair Fundan, could forge that alliance. But even Fair did not realize that the struggle for control of the chitin -- and thus the livelihood of Fenrille itself -- was only a battle, and not the war...
Amid the chaos of battle, Fair signaled the Fein forward. Her command group began to move up the tangled heaps of trash and busted equipment that cloaked the mountain. Flashes of light from the battle threw stark shadows on the garbage.
There was a huge flash from the airstrip and a crackling thud. A cloud of white smoke billowed up from the fuel station. Fair urged the Fein to move faster.
They came on a small EASU strong point in the uppermost moraine of garbage, a handful of troops dug into a narrow trench. They were standing, watching the fireworks. In front of them was an open stretch, fifty yards on either side -- a potential killing ground.
Fair hesitated, then told N'kobi to smother the position without firearms. The Fein moved forward with bodies close to the ground, on all fours like leopards stalking antelope...
THE WAR FOR ETERNITY
Five hundred years after the days of the Founder. The pattern set by the EASU continues. Twenty million humans live on Fenrille. Syndicates rule the "Sx Coast" and the other coastal enclaves. The Highland Clans rule the mountains where they produce the chitin drugs that are now traded all the way back to the home system.
Lavin Fundin, a relatively junior product of the Fundan laboratories, has become a top notch combat officer. Paired with Bg Rva, fein leader of Brelkilk village and the Abzen Fein he has bested Young Proud Fundan and held Abzen valley.
Fair Fundan, now almost five hundred years old, rules the family in her own mysterious way.
From Earth comes a new threat, the starship GAGARIN, with advanced weaponry and genetically enhanced combat troops. Admiral Enkov, in command, is inclined to take stern measures with the recalcitrant Highlanders over diplomacy. The situation sours swiftly into all out war and once again the threat of atomic weapons is raised.
The Fundan forces are driven into the great forest and the GAGARIN begins to use nuclear weapons against them, at which point the Arizel tki Fenrille, the ultimate rulers of the mysterious planet return to pass judgement on the human race.
The bearlike aliens of Fenrille had long been allies of the fiercely independent human clans. Together Men and Fein ruled the wooded highlands of the odd planet's single continent. And together they grew rich, for only the people of the highlands could harvest the drug that kept men forever young.
Then the masters of a distant Earth sent a starfleet with a force of brutal Space Marines to seize the planet. But they weren't prepared for the colonists stiff resistance - and no one had warned them of the aliens very special defenses.
Fein appeared out of the trees. Each carried a glopod or two, emitting soft green light.
Then, from the woods all around, hundreds of ancient fein, all adepts of the Spirit, gave the call, a whisper from many unseen lips.
The susurration slowly coalesced into the lament of th ay fein. "those who were left behind". As the whisper reached "are they forgotten by the mighty?" the pool grew agitated, and tiny wavelets rippled across it though no wind stirred the stifling air.
The Old One dropped the hairs of the departed into the thick humid air above the surface. As each hair approached the water, it winked out of existence. None survived to touch the pool...
THE BLACK SHIP
Set fifty years after the War for Eternity. From the Earth system comes the invading Black Ship, product of a rebellion by the Bond Lords of Neptune. Far away, in a distant universe so ancient that nothing remains except black holes, the Divider, great Arizel of Fenrille is captured by the Numal, a terrifying self programming robot. War wracks Fenrille as the Black Ship seeks conquest of the planet with its fortunes in eternity drugs. Meanwhile the Numal torments the captive Divider and seeks to understand what it is. The Divider summons Chosen Fundan, Lavin's son, to experience a transformation that allows him to cross the deeps of space and time and effect a rescue of the Divider.
Meanwhile the Black Ship has allied itself with Young Proud Fundan, Lavin's mortal enemy. Chosen struggles through the mad giant's nest of machinery that is the Numal's home and frees the Divider with whom he returns to Fenrille.
The Numal intends to follow with plans for conquest of our universe. The Divider arranges for the Black Ship and the Numal to meet head on the interflux of space where they combine to produce a small "big bang" and give birth to a new universe.
A First Novel Saga.
I began work on the material that eventually coalesced into "The War for Eternity" in the fall of 1978. I was a writer, but I had never written a novel, I had barely written any short stories, yet I was burning to try my hand.
I had a big Remington manual typewriter that I'd acquired by swapping it for my little portable typewriter. I had a table and I had paper. I was always a quick, loud typist. I had lots of ideas. I'd been collecting ideas for years.
That turned out to be a problem. Too many ideas curdle the broth. I wrote furiously, day and night. I abandoned my social life. I only went out to buy food and to play soccer on Sundays. The rest of the time I wrote or anguished about what I was writing. Friends either thought I'd gone mad, or else waited patiently for the fit to pass and my reappearance in the East Village watering holes. They had no idea.
For years I had been thinking about doing this while I was writing other things. I was a freelance journalist. I wrote for a lot of magazines and other printed products. I made good money. But I really wanted to write a Science Fiction novel I could be proud of. I was a Science Fiction guy, I always had been, since the age of 8. This I had to do, or die trying.
I wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more. Christmas passed with a brief trip back to London. Nothing there seemed real. Back in New York I wrote. My apartment was always hellishly hot in winter. I was on the fifth floor. I wrote with the windows open, in my underwear while the snow swirled in and melted on the floor. My neighbor downstairs, Sam, was a painter. He said the loud, typing above his head was good inspiration for him. He played jazz while he painted. Occasionally I would pause, exhausted, staring out the window at the tarpaper roofs around us and listen to the sounds of Miles or Trane drifting up from below.
By June I had written about 2,000 pages of absolute rubbish. I was getting nowhere. I had two or three different stories, all of them painfully disjointed and pointless. I couldn't get into the characters. I had some names, like the planet Fenrille. That had come quite early, and I knew it had to be a mysterious planet, with a wonderfully odd ecology and possibly some great monsters. I've always been drawn to great monsters. I had bits and pieces, I had ideas by the truckload.
But I had no book, just thousands of pages of rubbish. The pile was more than two feet deep. I couldn't even look at it. I had false starts that were two hundred pages deep. I think I was, possibly, losing my mind. I was also getting low on money. I realized I would have to go back to writing for a living real soon now. Everything I'd written seemed pedestrian and lame to me. None of it sang. None of it rocked. There was no swing. I would put on a Marley album and light a joint and try to find inspiration, but nothing solid materialized, nothing I could feel. Roots Rock Reggae? Nope. Not in the slightest.
I might have despaired. Probably I would have, and soon. I stopped writing. It had begun to seem pointless. I stared out the window instead. An elderly pigeon had settled down to die on the roof next door. She, I was sure it was a female, looked as if she'd had a good run, for a feral city pigeon. She was very dark, almost black, and thin, with that stretched look that old pigeons get. She'd picked a safe spot to die. Nobody ever came up on that roof. She looked over at me in my window with a single worried eye. Was I going to open the window and climb over and do something to her? Which might be a problem, because it was clear she couldn't move. After a bit she must have decided that I wasn't interested in her and she ruffled her remaining feathers and sank her head down on her breast and settled in. I watched her for a long time and as far as I could tell she never moved again. She was dead the next day and she rotted right there until all that was left by mid-july was a little pile of bones and a few feathers. The rest had blown away. I began to think I was going to suffer the same fate, or at least my book "Fenrille" was.
And then, one day, after getting back with the paper and some milk I looked out at the little pile of bones over on the next door roof and something clicked into place. I wasn't quite sure what it was, but it had a rhythmn to it, a certain kind of pulse. I made some tea, and wandered around the apartment, staying well away from the typewriter which had been nothing but a disappointment all that year.
I couldn't sit still. I couldn't read the paper. I had these images in my head all of a sudden. I could see the Fein, the native inhabitants of the planet Fenrille and I could feel them, could hear them, could almost smell them. They were stone age folk, and their leader was a big fellow named Bg Rva. And they were at war, and they were marching and counter marching, and with them went a small group of men and women, human beings, colonists of the planet Fenrille, and they were at war too, men and fein together, and all in pursuit of a drug that could give humans eternal life.
A drug that if taken on a continual basis would extend mammalian life for centuries, perhaps millennia, no one knew as yet. Eternal life: the only thing that could draw human beings over the light years between the stars. The only thing that human beings would fight for over such distances. And there I had it, the beginning of the War for Eternity.
I was on fire again. I wrote a hundred pages in almost no time at all. Maybe four days, maybe less. I don't remember. And then I stopped. It was good stuff. It really rocked, if I say so myself. I sat up on the roof, our building had great views of midtown Manhattan, and read what I'd written and stared at the Chrysler building glowing in the evening sun. I had broken through. I knew that this was good stuff.
I wrote more, but I also typed up a good copy of that first hundred pages and tried it on an editor at a publishing house that was to go out of business just a couple of years later in the most painful way for many writers, leaving their manuscripts tied up and unpublished. He did me a huge favor and rejected the book. The prose was too heated, too clumsy. I was not discouraged. Editing is a matter of personal taste. One man's "clumsy" is another woman's "exciting."
I took it to Del Rey Books.
This meant I rode uptown on the No, 6 train, walked to Random House, rode to the 10th floor and found myself in front of a receptionist. I explained my mission. She nodded and pointed to a pile of envelopes and boxes. "Put it over there," she said. I added my slim envelope to what seemed like a mountain of unsolicited submissions and took the elevator back to ground level.
For a couple of months I waited, hoping, wondering whether anyone else would be caught by my fever dream of the planet Fenrille, with its ring continent and its huge forests of gigantic trees and its chitin insects and their invaluable protein, from which men could make the drug that would give eternal life.
My phone never rang. No letter appeared in my mailbox. Disappointment began to work its gloomy magic. The air seeped out of my balloon.
Then, at last, I began to let it slip out of my daily routine. I had about two hundred and fifty pages of the manuscript by then, but I put it away and went back to making a living. And only just in time. I was painfully broke.
Time passed. I pretty much forgot the book I'd been writing. I went back to writing all kinds of stuff for a living. The files on Fenrille grew dusty. A huge stack of unusable manuscript went into my narrow closet and stayed there.
1980 slipped by. 1981 began. I took a long trip back to London to research an article on the Campaign for Real Ale for Food& Wine magazine. I had completely forgotten Fenrille and the ten months I'd spent writing my brains out to no purpose.
I came back to New York, wrote up my article. Wrote other stuff. I was back in the swim and Fenrille was forgotten.
And then one day I found a small white envelope in my mailbox along with the other stuff. It had "Del Rey Books, a division of Random House" printed on the top, above my name and address. Oh, I thought, they'd finally gotten around to rejecting my hundred pages.
Upstairs I made some tea and idly opened the envelope. Expecting rejection I didn't quite understand it the first time around. I read it again. Someone had actually read my hundred pages and they had liked it. In fact they wanted to see the rest of the story, if I had it.
Holy cow! Could you credit it? It was almost eighteen months since I'd dropped that envelope on that huge pile of unsolicited manuscripts. All kinds of thoughts and emotions that had been set aside to cool and go dark, came welling up from whereever they'd been hiding. I yipped and I yayyed, and I yodelled and Sam came up to see if I was alright and I showed him the letter, and we had shots of Chester Graves the cheapo bourbon that I kept at home and I was ready to dance a jig or even a tango-- and then I felt a sudden clutching terror in my heart. The rest of the manuscript! Where was it? What had I done with it? I'd had a big clear out before going off to London in February. I'd chucked out a lot of stuff.
Frantically I dug around in my closet. I extracted the huge block of useless stuff I'd written in 1979. Thousands and thousands of pages of it, and not a jot of it worth the effort to burn it. But there was no sign of the Fenrille file and the 250 page manuscript.
By now, the sudden clutching terror had turned into icy fingers of fear. Nobody wants to lose a hundred and fifty pages of good stuff. And this was in the pre-computer era, so I had no backups. There was just a brown file with 250 pages of hurriedly typed material, mistakes, typos and all and it was vital.
I tore my primitive filing system apart. Files on "Close Encounters of the Third Kind Poster Books" went flying. The Star Trek Monthly (I was editor) files followed, as did the Alien Poster Books files and tons of other commercial material. Nothing, nada, less than zero, I was about ready to tear out my hair. My cat decided that the fire escape was a better place to be than the apartment since I'd obviously gone mad. His departure drove me on to further frenzies.
I was lost. It was lost. I was losing my mind. I would have to start all over from the beginning, and there was no guarantee I would get it all back.
I sat down and stared at the blank screen of my little tv. What the hell had I done with it? When had I last handled that plain brown file? Where did I put the "Fenrille" notes file? The two would surely be close together. I'd thrown out a lot of old files back in january. They were just cluttering up the small office space and it was ridiculous for me to be keeping thousands of pages of stuff on projects that were completed years before. I couldn't be sure what I'd done with the Fenrille files and a nagging sense that I'd done the dumbest thing imaginable kept floating back to the surface of my mind. The last time I'd touched those files had been, when? A year back? More?
The cat stuck his head back in the window and checked things out. Had I settled down or gone out? He decided the coast was clear and jumped onto the top of the tv which stood by the window and then down to the floor and headed for the bedroom.
As he went by I noticed something. My little tv sat on top of a small black shelf unit in which I kept records. At some point I had shoved some thick brown files under the tv to bring it up higher than the windowsill. I think I let out a scream, completely inarticulate, primal, from the heart, as I flew across the little room and yanked the tv out of the way and pulled out those files.
The first was a huge compilation of clips and stuff for Star Trek Monthly. My heart sank, but the next, oh boy, that was the "Fenrille" notes, a mass of several hundred pages of notes, maps, drawings, character studies. And at the bottom, with no title, there it was, the "War for Eternity."
My shriek of joy was probably audible a block away. From glum normalcy to a state of high excitement, to frantic freaked out file searching to incredible relief, all in the space of about forty minutes, I hadn't had such an emotional rollercoaster ride since childhood. I was lucky I hadn't expired on the spot from either an aneurism or a heart attack.
Of course, the book was far from finished. I wrote a lot more that summer, and more in the autumn too. The mad fever dream of "Fenrille" was back, with fein and settlers, wild battles in the equatorial mountains, and terrifying woodwose, the ultimate weapons for trees to wield. When it was done, after a week of marathon typing to get a clean top copy with a deadline since I had to go to San Francisco on business, I flung it into the mail to Del Rey and raced to the airport. I was due to write the Collector's Edition Return of the Jedi Movie Special and had meetings with Lucasfilm people to see what exactly I could write about.
When I got back, head full of Jabba the Hut, Ewoks and the like, there was an invitation waiting for me to meet Owen Lock, an Editor at Del Rey Books. I went uptown and had lunch, the first of many lunches with Owen. We got on well and I learned something about the Soviet GRU, which was his great hobby. I met Judy Lynn Del Rey, and Shelley Shapiro, who was then her assistant. Owen liked the "War for Eternity." They were going to buy it. A contract was soon in the mail and after that a check.
Soon after that I saw a proof of Ralph McQuarrie's brilliant cover. That was a moment I will never forget. McQuarrie (who had done a lot of work on Star Wars) had caught the exact look of my fein. There was Bg Rva brought to life, right down to the little green feathers worn behind the ear that the Fein used as tribal colors. And behind him, brooding against a background of fire was Lavin Fundin, my lead character.
It was a great cover and it helped move "the War for Eternity" off shelves across the USA. The book eventually went to 8 printings and spawned not only the sequel,"The Black Ship" but also a pair of prequels, "The Founder" and "To a Highland Nation." Along the way, "The War for Eternity" won the Compton Crook Award for the Best First Novel in the field and that introduced me to the world of Science Fiction fandom and conventions.
Eventually "The War for Eternity" was to be published in Japanese, English and Russian editions and to remain in print for more than twelve years. Copies can still be obtained from the second hand and out of print book sellers on the internet.
I don't know if there's a moral to this tale, perhaps that one should really never give up on one's dreams. And equally, that writing is ultimately about inspiration as much as it is about hard work.