Well, that took longer than I expected.
There’s something I remember posting around the end of the last book or the start of this one, but I can’t find it now and neither can Google, which is a bit aggravating to me. Anyway, in case it’s not there, what I said was that if you look at the epic series The Wheel of Time, the story as we know it doesn’t really get started until the fourth book; the first three, in their entirety, are essentially the introduction to the series. (You can get away with that when you’re writing something as huge as WoT.) And I sort of had the same idea with The Tales of Paul Twister: after the end of this book, all the pieces would be in place. And now they are, mostly. (There’s still one essential element to set up, which I’ll probably do in the first chapter of the fourth book. It involves one of the most significant days of Paul’s life, and one he really didn’t see coming. 😉 )
Don’t worry, I’m not going to take a hard left turn and take the story off in a radically new direction or anything, and if you go over the last few chapters of this book you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the future of the Fifth Realm looks like. (But just remember that everything we see is from Paul’s perspective, and he’s only one person in a very big world. I always try to convey the impression that while he’s out having adventures and doing significant things, so are plenty of other people.) Things are changing, Paul’s right there in the thick of it, and he’s just had his first really profound lesson in how, when he makes a mistake, gets too cocky and acts without thinking, there can be very serious consequences that affect a lot more people than just himself. As you can probably imagine, that’s going to make a lasting impact on his character, but you can see from the epilogue that it didn’t break him and he remains essentially optimistic about the future, even in the face of likely problems. We’ll have to see how it all turns out for him and those around him…
Unfortunately, this took a lot longer to write than I had hoped, because life is becoming more complicated. Between my day job, the special side project I mentioned at the end of the last book, working on Lisa’s story and just life in general, things have been real busy for me over the last year and a half. (BTW things are getting far enough along on that project that I can talk about it now. I’ll probably make a post about it fairly soon.) I’m going to try to sustain a better pace of writing as things move forward, but I really can’t promise anything.
The last few weeks in particular have been kind of rough. When you’re a kid, Christmas is an awesome, magical time when you get lots of new toys and candy and Christmas cookies and you get to go see Santa Claus at the mall and time off from school and all sorts of fun stuff like that. After a while, you outgrow such things, and the deeper meaning of Christmas starts to be more important, and it becomes a more contemplative time of year. Like usual, I went home over the holidays to visit the family, and like usual we went to the grandparents’ place on Christmas Day, and while I was there something happened that shook me up a little.
I owe a lot of who I am to my grandfather. I sometimes tease my mom that she’s an original-model geek; this is because he was an engineer who raised his kids on Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings, back when they were both new, and then she in turn passed a love of both on to me. I was enjoying the adventures of Kirk, Spock, Scotty and all the rest on reruns before I was even in school; I remember being bitterly disappointed when, in kindergarten, I found out they were doing a brand new Star Trek show but my mom wouldn’t let me watch it because it came on after my bedtime. (I guess that sort of dates me.) I picked up Tolkien a while later, in middle school, and in high school I got into Bazil Broketail, Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane, and the Riftwar series, and then Dragonlance and The Wheel of Time in college, all works that helped shape my notion of what a fantasy story should feel like.
Anyway, my grandfather was a big pioneer in the modern telecommunications field. He’s a classic American success story. From very humble beginnings, he started out as a poor kid, the kind whose best prospect after high school was to go into the military. He joined the Marines and fought in the Korean War. Somewhere along the line they trained him as a radio technician, and it turned out he had a knack for it, and so when he got out of the service he kept on and eventually became an expert in communications, even working on the Space Program for a while. As a child, my mom was one of the first people in the world to ever see photos of the Earth from space, because her father was at the ground station the day they transmitted them, and he brought a copy home to share with the family. He’s worked for businesses and governments all over the world, helping to set up communications infrastructure, and even for years after he retired, he’d get offers from people starting big new projects, asking him to come work with them. Even though he never did get a college degree, he can explain anything from telegraph to radio to fiber optics in whatever level of detail you care to discuss it in.
Or at least, he could. I knew he had had a stroke a while back and that it had done some damage, but I never really knew what it meant until I was talking with him over Christmas and he kept losing words. It’s not dementia; his memory’s still as sharp as ever, but somewhere between the part of the brain that holds ideas and the part that expresses them in words, something seems to have shorted out. Like at one point, while discussing something I’m working on, he was able to grasp everything I said just fine, but when he asked for clarification on one point he was like, “so are you using those… uhh… the ‘opposites attract’ things?”
“You mean magnets?”
“Ugh, yes! Magnets!”
That sort of thing happened more than once, and it was really painful to me to watch him struggle with it. (As a side note, please don’t ever smoke. He quit long ago but, just like the tragic case of Leonard Nimoy, not before it had done lasting damage, not just to his lungs but to his heart as well. And I can’t help but feel that the stroke was probably yet another long-term consequence of his early love of tobacco.) And now I’m looking at someone I’ve loved and admired all my life, and sort of wondering how much longer he’s going to be with us. It’s a sobering thought.
On a lighter note, around the time I was starting on this book I picked up another old favorite from my middle and high school days: Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat books, a space opera series about a (somewhat) reformed interstellar thief and con man who goes around stopping people a lot worse than himself. I hadn’t read anything from Harrison for a long time, and I was a bit surprised to see just how much of Paul I recognized in Jim diGriz, the titular Rat. I kept running across ideas, concepts, and attitudes and thinking “oh, that’s where I got that from!” But I was also surprised at Jim’s sophomoric (and often blatantly misogynistic) attitude, which I hadn’t remembered from reading it back in the day. Jim’s wife Angelina is his equal in both intellect and skill, and he clearly loves her, but the way he talks about her and treats her, especially in the earlier books… if Paul were to act the same way towards Aylwyn or Sarah, there’s no way it would end well, as Paul would put it. (And neither of Paul’s love interests is a reformed murderer whose anti-psychotic treatments didn’t quite “take.” Angelina is. You’d think that would lead Jim to tread a bit more lightly around her, but he really doesn’t.) So that was kind of a weird experience.
Through all of this, it’s always been good to have readers who continue to read and enjoy what I write. And I wanted to give a shout-out to a few of them who managed to work out some of the clues I dropped along the way.
It was only two days after I posted Downfall, the chapter where Ryell dies, when one insightful reader by the name of Nick posted the following comment:
Based on Syrixia continued insistence that the various preparations to restrain her are pointless and the known connection to Ryell, I suspect that a very great portion of Ryell-ness resides in the Oracle. While people often think of Ryell as a large sort-of-magic lizard in reality the lizard does very little personally of the things “Ryell” is doing.
Given that Ryell knows a very great deal about modern technology this assault is foolish in light of her other options. Magicking up some artillery should have been child’s play for her, especially with her resources, and would have solved this problem far more easily. Even if the cabin had some kind of shield that couldn’t be solved with long range bombardment, she could have removed everything around it first.
I suspect that the giant lizard is little more than a glorified dracora or tractumil, and just like the rest of them dying, this was merely Ryell sacrificing a body (though a very useful and perhaps the original one) to advance her long term goals. Even if she can’t get another lizard, or the lizard was the store of most of her personal power it isn’t her.
So I guess my conclusion is: Ryell’s mind is in Syrixia.
And in “The Queen’s Gambit,” after Syrixia begins to transform, Paul theorized:
If I were to guess… I’d say that Syrixia’s possible transformation into a dragon is meant to create a suitable host body for Ryell’s disembodied soul to inhabit…
Neither one turned out to be completely accurate, but both came very close. Congratulations, guys!
Also, when Ken’tu Kel said that he had encrypted his spell formulas with RSA encryption and then lost the key, Uchuu took me to task over it:
Umm… 2048-bit RSA? Seriously? Why would anyone use RSA to encrypt something like that. And “the key”? RSA has two keys, one for encryption and decryption. You should have gone for a symmetric encryption like AES, asymmetric encryption like RSA or elliptic curves seems the choice of someone who actually has no clue about encryption. :p
Actually yes, I did know the two-keys thing at the time I wrote it; I wrote that hoping someone would pick up on it. (And with regard to algorithm selection, Ken’tu Kel’s specialty is magical theory, not cryptography, so it’s entirely possible he didn’t make the optimal choice.) It’s always fun to see readers noticing the little details that aren’t quite right. 🙂
The original plan was to have Invisible finished about the same time as I finished with this story. I haven’t kept pace as well as I’d hoped, though. Right now, it’s a little more than halfway done with the first draft, and I’ll need to go over it afterwards and do some revisions before it’s ready to publish. I’m going to try to finish that up before I start book 4 of Paul’s story. But don’t worry; in the meantime I’m going to be posting something a little bit different, a shorter story titled The Job of Paul Twister, about a heist where things don’t quite go as expected. It won’t have very many chapters, and it’ll be very different in tone from what I’ve written so far; this is going to be me having fun more than anything else, and I’ll even go so far as to say it probably shouldn’t be considered to be exactly the same continuity as the rest of it. (You’ll see…) 😉
Once that’s done, I’ll begin with book 4, which I don’t have a name for yet, but it will involve a trip to Ìludar, the fey realm, which, although it is reachable from the Human Kingdoms by ocean travel, is actually a different world. This will be a chance to begin to explore the way the Eight Realms relate to one another, and for Paul to broaden his horizons a little. I’m looking forward to writing it!