Roland Allnach

multi-award winning author of the strange and surreal
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REMNANT: An anthology

 


Finalist, Sci-fi, 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards
Bronze Medalist, Sci-fi, 2012 Readers Favorite Book of the Year Awards
Award Winner-Finalist, Sci-fi, 2012 USA Best Book Awards
Bronze Medal, Short Stories, 2014 Feathered Quill Book of the Year Awards

  From the back cover:

  "When all that's left is broken, which piece do you pick up first?"
 
So the question stands, and seeks fulfillment- a path reaching from the shores of a doomed paradise, through an illusory reality, and ending in a devastated future.  REMNANT, a collection of three novellas, is both the sum of these tales and the element that binds them together.

  A PDF excerpt of Remnant is available here. (Requires Adobe Reader, download here.)

  What do the critics say? Check out the reviews here.

  About Remnant:

  Remnant is my first stand alone publication, an anthology of three sci-fi/speculative novellas linked by themes of  redemption, self-truth, and fulfillment.  On this page I'll offer up some background on how the novellas came to be as individual stories, and then as the collective whole that is Remnant.


     I wrote the following essays to be read in order, but if you want to jump around to a specific topic, here are some quick links to navigate down this page:

-- To order a copy of Remnant from All Things That Matter Press, click here
-- To visit the homepage of All Things That Matter Press, click here.
-- Available in print, audio, and Kindle at Amazon. Signed copies available on this site at the Bookstore
-- To order from Barnes&Noble, click here. 

Questions? Topics for discussion? Feel free to email: fiction@rolandallnach.com


 

 

  Evolution of the novellas:

  Remnant consists of three novellas, "All the Fallen Angels", "Enemy, I Know You Not," and "Remnant."  In the original writing of these three stories, I had no idea that they would later join together to form an anthology.  I didn't set out to write on a particular common theme, but one of the things I learned in knitting them together for the anthology is that there are certain themes I enjoy working with when I write, and so these stories were siblings by nature. 

  By the way, don't worry about spoilers in the explanations that follow (except for the postscript essay). Even if I did give away something of the conclusions of the stories, I like to think that these stories have a little more to them than simple story mechanics or 'surprise' endings.  Stories and novels that I like to read lose nothing by 'cheating' and sneaking a peak at their endings, because I feel they are written with a character depth sufficient to lend a sense of humanity to the story that isn't limited by plot.  I hope- I aspire- to create stories of a similar nature. 

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  "All the Fallen Angels"

  This story works on several levels.  Part science fiction, part paranormal, part moral dilemma, it is the opening piece and serves to anchor the themes that run through the anthology.

  "All the Fallen Angels" originally came to me as a mystery of sorts, dealing with a man whose memory has been corrupted (by what means, I had yet to decide) and sets off on an expedition, unaware that he will be running into the very past that has been lost to him.  The idea felt good at its roots as I toyed around with it in my head, but I was at somewhat of a loss as to what exactly it was that lurked in the protagonist's past, as I knew from the start it had to be something significant, something shocking, a crime of some sort, that would have prompted, or at least contributed, to the mental break of his memories.

  This came to me while watching a war crimes trial for some of the people involved in and/or responsible for the various genocidal acts committed in Bosnia during the collapse and disintegration of Yugoslavia.  The thing that caught me was how very ordinary they all appeared before the World Court.  It reminded me of one of those old thoughts, the so-called 'banality of evil', and along with it accounts I had read of tyrants and dictators across the span of human history. 

  Almost as a rule, the worst war criminals do not start off as the worst of war criminals, but rather as ordinary, average men.  Though their acts can be considered monstrous, they themselves don't start off as monsters- or at least they don't demonstrate their monstrous traits from the get go.  For these men, there's always a moment, a turning point, where those traits we would like to think are universal- empathy, humanity, and a basic moral compass- are forgotten, broken from their perception of the world and the acts these men commit.

  In this, I found the motivation for the history of my protagonist: he would be a war criminal.  To be more precise, he would be a good man who did something horrible.  This at once established a challenge in crafting the story, as I wasn't looking to create an 'anti-hero', but rather to explore the descent of a good person to one who had committed a horrible crime. 

  The challenge would be to create a character of such standing that a reader could relate to.  This rolled in the initial elements of the story, with the character's life a broken mess, and more substantial, the presence of a spouse, who despite all apparent inclinations, has remained.  With that set I went about considering names, and came up with Stohko Jansing, and his wife, Pallia.  'Pallia' came about in a rather direct manner, 'Pallia' derived from the palliative, something to ease or cure.  A little symbolic nod to Pallia's role in the story, but without creating a name that was overtly linked to something, which would have sounded too contrived.

  Once I started to set words to paper (or, to be precise, fingers to keyboard), I settled on the gloomy mood of the story to compliment and foster the sense of loss and dread.  I also realized early on that the story was going to be quite long and, at one point, after completing the first chapter section, I considered rethinking and expanding my goals to extend the story to a full length book.  The more I considered what I would have to add, though, I realized that I was creating unnecessary filler, scenes that I would have loved to write but wouldn't serve any vital service in propelling the plot. 

  Given that much of the 'suspense' of the story is driven by the emotional knots of the characters, I knew that prolonging the story too far would only serve to numb the atmospheric effects I had already decided would serve to create the mood of the setting.  I tinkered with a few of the sections near the end of the narrative through several revisions to get the focus I felt best served the story.

  And with that done, it was just a matter of repeated proof-readings.  It was Summer, 2007.  Little did I know that "All the Fallen Angels" would dovetail with a story I first wrote way back in 1991, a piece that was collecting dust on my shelf, a story I had called "Enemy, I Know You Not."

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  "Enemy, I Know You Not"

  It was Spring, 1991 and, at the time, there was a great deal of talk about a new concept known as 'virtual reality'.  As usual, science fiction writers were well on the vanguard of dealing with the concept.  At the time, I liked to think of myself primarily as a science fiction writer, but looking back at the actual writing I was doing at that time I now think that the term 'writing' only applies in the most generous of definitions.  I had some ideas that I thought were pretty interesting, but oh-my-goodness, my writing mechanics were still early in their growth.

  As I've said in several places on this site, I like to challenge myself with each new thing I write, and that was true all the way back in 1991 as well.  So at that point I had already learned enough about writing to know the basic requirements of crafting stories in various lengths, from shorts to novels.  What I had not done was venture out of my sci-fi comfort zone to write something that would require considering my characters and a plot development in a different way.  The compromise was to do something of a mystery, but couch it in a sci-fi setting, so that I wouldn't be stepping too far out on a limb.

  I had a basic idea for the story, which evolved out of a section of yet another book I wrote and that I hope to resurrect into presentable form at some point.  Nevertheless, I had an idea that would focus on a murder, but not just a murder, rather a murder that takes place while a group of people are in a virtual reality simulation, so that the mystery could work on two levels, the immediate question of who might be a murderer, and a secondary question as to whether the murder was real, or just a ploy of the simulation. 

  I decided from the get-go that the people in question would be a platoon of soldiers and that the simulation would be a combat drill to train new members of the platoon, until things go horribly wrong, and the men realize that when they die in the simulation, their bodies are failing in the real world as well.

  That first version of the story took a fateful turn. The secondary level of the mystery, the question whether the murders were real or a deception, I dumped from the story.  At the time, I wanted to write an action piece, and the plot would be propelled primarily by action sequences framed by the evolving murder mystery.  I was all for making the dialog as foul and raunchy as I thought I could to give it a gritty atmosphere.  The story was violent to the point of total excess, with every wound erupting in excruciating detail.  In short, the story was an amateurish mess.

  And so it sat, and sat, and the years went by, and in my own odd way, rather than fix things I already wrote, I used my hard learned writing lessons on writing newer, better-crafted pieces.  Despite that, this story stuck with me, and on some occasions I would pick it up and suffer through my own mess to remind myself that there was something to the story that I found compelling, only I wasn't sure how exactly to go about fixing it so that it was a piece I wouldn't be embarrassed to submit. 

  The time came in Fall 2007, the time when I finally decided to get over myself and rather than get depressed about going nowhere with my writing 'career' to instead get my proverbial act together and approach publication as a serious, professional pursuit.  During that season I took what I felt were the best of the stories I had, cleaned them up as best I could, and set about the very tedious task of researching publications to submit my material.  Once I was moving on that front, I decided to take "Enemy, I Know You Not" off the shelf and take a good, hard look at it to make it marketable.

  I started with a straight re-type of the manuscript, as the word processing program I originally used to type the story no longer existed.  Oddly enough, a story that dealt so much with computers had lingered as a single copy on yellowing tractor-fed paper in old dot matrix print.  That irony aside, I was only a few pages into the re-type when I stopped and remembered what a mess that old version was. 

   It was decision time, and I knew I had to make a tough decision: I would depart from that old version, use it only as a loose outline, and re-write it from scratch.  It wasn't that much of a revelation, as I had been doing that with increasing comfort and confidence over the piece I already re-typed, but coming to that decision made several subsequent decisions much easier. 

  First, the salty language went out the window.  Second, the excessive gore went out with the salty language, and once the gore was out, the third decision to streamline the action sequences seemed a natural consequence.  Fourth, there was a considerable mass of technical computer jargon, which in 1991 was well in the realm of 'cutting edge' but in 2007 was more 'dinosaur fossil' and to boot served absolutely no purpose in propelling the story.  Last, but certainly not least, I realized what the story was missing, and what would make it work the way I wanted it to work: that secondary question of the mystery, regarding whether the whole mystery was in itself a ploy.

  That opened a whole new realm of possibilities.  I looked at the story from a new perspective, with the notion that if the mystery took place in a virtual world that existed only in the minds of the characters, by nature I could weave in some greater philosophical considerations.  It took time, but by Spring 2008, I had a completely new version of the story, one which I felt good enough to send out for consideration. 

  And so the rejections ensued.  In the meantime, I once again put my newly learned writing skills to work, and decided to revisit another novella hibernating on my shelf.  That one was titled "Remnant."

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  "Remnant"

  I've always been fascinated by the expanses of woodland that still exist in the United States, and in New York where I live.  When I was young and my family took vacations in upper New York, the sheer scale of woodland expanse impressed me.  In the midst of suburban sprawl that so many of us know these days, it seems you can't go one hundred feet without running into fast-food, gas stations, or a chain pharmacy. 

  As much as it may be a comfort and convenience to have so much infrastructure, it is a very artificial way in which to live, because if the hidden network of logistics that keeps all those stores manned and supplied would fail, life would be very, very different.  That's when I think of those endless expanses of woodland, because they serve as a reminder that the life we know, what we call 'society', is a very tenuous facade.

  My initial idea with "Remnant" was not so much to do a post-apocalypse story, but rather to explore the idea of isolation.  There is a certain, seductive freedom in the notion of living without any outside order of society to intrude on our motivations and judge us as right or wrong.  Much of what we consider societal morality is a pretext to maintain basic order within a society; an objective look at the Ten Commandments reveals them as some of the basic fundamental requirements to keep a society in order, rather than in a state of anarchy.

  Getting back on point, I wanted to take a 'normal' character and, well, torture him by placing him in a  situation very few of us might be prepared for.  That situation is the complete breakdown of society as we know it, which quickly led to the underlying precept of the story, that a global plague had wiped out all but a very few survivors. 

  After all, a story without society and its dictates by necessity has to do away with society itself, and that means goodbye global population.  Poof!  That would leave my character alone, broken, and searching for the meaning of his life in a world with a moral pragmatism completely separated from that which he'd known, highlighted by the breakdown of modern conveniences.

  I did something a little different with this story, which was to use some of my local environment for the setting.  In most cases when I write a story I don't want to be constrained by the limitations of a known place, so I prefer to formulate fictional places, even if they are in 'real' areas.  In "Remnant" there's a  compromise between these two paths, for a reason.  The story is speculative in nature, but the time of the story is present day, in comparison to "All the Fallen Angels" and "Enemy, I Know You Not" which take place in unspecified future times.  I did this to help bring in the reader, as this story is based more on the emotional arc of the protagonist, which provides the plot and momentum of the story.

  I'm sure some will wonder about the similarities between the protagonist and myself.  The answer is both yes and no, of course: no, I am not Peter Lowry of the story, and he is not meant to be me; yes, he has  certain similarities to me, but they are only similarities.  Part of what I do when I write a story is to think of what is near and dear in my life, and then toy with possibilities of having that jeopardized or destroyed.  I  think I get two benefits from that, one being credible emotions in my characters (I hope), the other that it reminds me to appreciate what I have in my life.

  I dashed out the initial version of "Remnant" in a couple of days.  I wasn't of the opinion at the time that the story had a few problems, as I was still in that 'every word is sacred' euphoria of completing a new story.  It was early Summer 2006.  In Fall 2007 when I started my push for publication, this was one of the stories in which I held a good deal of confidence.  Out it went, and back came the rejections.

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  Piecing together an anthology

  By Spring 2009 my push for publication was starting to show some returns.  I had that first critical  publication credit under my belt and a few more behind it to give me the confidence that getting one story published was not a fluke or stroke of luck.  I also learned some new editorial tools for proofing my writing, and had gotten closer to that all important objective eye when doing my edits. 

  As good as all that felt, I wasn't fooling myself to think that I was anywhere past being a novice.  So I set my aim on attempting something bigger, and that was to get one of my novellas published.  I was to receive a bit of a reality check, though.  I was used to the old days of science fiction, when it was fairly common for longer, novella length pieces to be serialized or bundled in various anthologies. 

  In today's world, the unfortunate realities of printing expense, editorial page commitment to long pieces, and Internet competition have served to tighten the market options for longer stories.  I found a few markets to submit the novellas, but they were high level commercial markets, and I was an unknown author with novellas that needed more work than I realized at the time.

  Over the Summer of 2009 I started to research something different, the realm of smaller publishers, as I learned that quite a few of these publishers accept submissions of single author anthologies.  I didn't have a clear idea as to which novellas I would include in an anthology, or what commonality might tie them  together. 

  That was when I came across All Things That Matter Press.  When I  researched what they look for, and the books that they've published, it sparked a little idea that I might have something of interest.  It didn't take long for me to see how "All the Fallen Angels", "Enemy, I Know You Not" and "Remnant" could fit together.  In fact, the more I considered the combination of these three novellas, the more it seemed that they were meant to fit together, and just in the order I listed them.  They are independent stories, but together, they describe a definite thematic arc.

  In late Summer 2009 I got to work on prepping the manuscript.  The 2009 submission year had been a rough experience for me, because after what I thought was an encouraging roll of accepted stories coming into the year only turned into an abyss of rejections. 

  That served its purpose, I guess, because when I started proofing the novellas for Remnant I approached them with a caustic eye.  "All the Fallen Angels" went through a serious clean-up.  With the thematic arc of the anthology in mind, the background ideas of "Enemy, I Know You Not" crystallized and allowed me to bring the story to its final form.  A few scenes were added, some scenes went through further clean-up, and the conclusion was expanded to tie the whole thing together.  It was at this time that I came up with one of the final pieces of dialog (for reference, that would be Ellister's closing statement) which I felt not only cemented the story but its place in the middle of the anthology.

  I was nervous, but confident in the final manuscript I would be sending out.  As good as I felt it was, I was worried that it still wasn't quite good enough.  I thought the stories complimented each other very well, and that the thematic arc running through them was conveyed on several levels.  I had a list of potential publishers to submit Remnant, but I felt my best chances were with All Things That Matter Press.

  As things would turn out, Remnant was accepted for publication on that first submission.  Work began on getting the manuscript ready.  Working with Phil and Deb Harris at All Things That Matter Press was a  wonderful and educational experience, and if you are a writer looking for a publisher, I would recommend you give them a look.

  I wrote my first story when I was sixteen.  The ink wasn't dry on the final period of that story before I knew that writing would be a big part of my life.  Two seconds after that came the natural dovetail to that conclusion: I want to have a book published. 

  November 2010, and Remnant was released.  I used to have a lot of anxiety wondering if I would ever get to this point.  Now I have a new anxiety, that the book enjoy some success.  I don't mean that just in terms of sales (but, hey, that would be nice) but in terms of providing a satisfactory reading experience.  I can only hope that those who read Remnant enjoy it as much as I did writing those stories and sharing those characters.

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  Looking back (a postscript)

  Now that the book has been out for some time, and people have had a chance to finish reading the stories, I thought I'd go ahead and talk a little more about some considerations of the stories.  For those who are still reading, or who are yet to read, beware, this is your SPOILER ALERT!

  So what is the thematic arc of the stories?  This 'arc' is mentioned in several places in the essays above, but beyond its general description as a path of redemption and fulfillment, how this plays out was essential to the order I chose for the stories. 

  In "All the Fallen Angels" Stohko achieves his sense of redemption, but it comes at a terrible price, in that everyone around him, including him, meet their mortality.  In "Enemy, I Know You Not" Hovland is faced with the uncertainty of an existence without trust, without delineations of safety or greater purpose, and so he is left in a very gray area.  He survives, but he is not certain what the meaning of his survival will entail.  In "Remnant" Peter Lowry attains perspective on his life, and so gains his redemption for the things he has done and the horrors he has endured.  And, perhaps most importantly, he gets to live, and pursue his life, with a notion of hope, and a sense of balance.

  As to the stories themselves:

  "All the Fallen Angels"

  The question I get most often regarding this story concerns the end.  Has Stohko gone to 'heaven', so to speak, or has he been trapped in delusion?

  My answer would be. . .Yes and No.  To consider this question requires looking at the construct of events that involve Stohko.  Everything orbits the underlying 'mystery' of the story, the elusive presence of the Hermium euphoria.  The euphoria is the experience sensed by the characters, the emotional broadcast from the experimental success of Doctor Bhandhakar's Project Chrysopoeia, the awful machine he has built around abducted children from Hermium, which projects their emotions while maintaining their bodies in stasis.

  This serves explanation for the misguided, often vindictive nature of the euphoria, as it is based on the reactions of immature minds.  It had been the aim of Bhandhakar's project to use such minds so that they could be readily manipulated, but he underestimated the forces he tapped.  The situation was brought to a boil by Stohko's arrival to Hermium, carrying within him his promise to his wife Pallia, that he would settle the unrest on Hermium so that they could live on the planet and have children: a piece of heaven for their little angels. 

  But things are not so simple, as he has become estranged from Pallia in his growing obsession for Hermium, an obsession fostered by the euphoria's awareness of the promise.  He drifts into an emotional attachment with Ellen and Elena as surrogates for the family he hoped to have, and when he finally wakes from his moral predicament and decides to leave the planet, the euphoria lashes out, spurring the vindictive crimes that swallow Stohko's life.  He is returned to what is left of his life and marriage, and Hermium is abandoned.

  Upon Stohko's return to Hermium things change.  Pallia is drawn into the effect of the euphoria, and despite Stohko's efforts to warn her of its delusional effect, he welcomes the prospect of making his peace with her. In this lies the final eruption of the euphoria: the moment Stohko and Pallia make their peace, the rest of the crew goes insane.  The promise between Stohko and Pallia was to have their life on Hermium with children of their own, and the euphoria sets out to make this happen by its own needs. 

  Remember, the euphoria is driven by the minds of abducted children.  They want to be held, they do not want to be alone.  They seek their own absolution by their only means: they incite the deaths of everyone in the crew, one by one, until only Stohko remains, and then he too suffers his death, all in the purpose to have Stohko and Pallia beholden to the lost children of the euphoria.

  Which produces that final scene.  So I would say 'yes', it is a glimpse of 'heaven', but a heaven entirely subjective to those involved.  Note that all the people in that final scene are the characters engulfed by the tragedy of Hermium, and none of those who had helped perpetrate the pain.  The crew is absent, whereas Ellen and Elena are there, Melogo and his daughter are there, Stohko and Pallia are there and, as the centerpiece, so too the lost children harvested for Project Chrysopoeia. 

  Yet, because of this, I can also say 'no', for the very fact that all this is an other-worldly construct, a communal redemption of all the characters.  In the end, I guess it can be interpreted depending on what the individual reader brings to the story, which is what I would prefer.  If one is skeptical, or cynical, then perhaps the conclusion is that the characters are trapped in a communal delusion, foisted upon them by the still functioning Project.  If one is given to more spiritual views, then perhaps the end is an image of redemption in fact and not delusion. 

  I prefer a blending of these two views.  After all, no one knows for sure what will happen when our eyes close for the last time, but I would like to think there's something more than the darkness of obliteration waiting for us.

  And then there is Siona Hutchins.  Is she not deserving of any redemption?  Certainly her hands are dirtied with respect to the Project, as she was married to Bhandhakar, and worked with him on the Project.  On the other hand, she did what she could to help Stohko, given her own predicament, and her own distortion by the euphoria.  When all is said and done, though, the sense of redemption is somewhat skewed to that of the children whose minds power the euphoria. 

  As such, Siona has little place in that scheme.  She is a victim in many ways, but this is a story full of victims, and part of my goal in this story was to depict the very thing Stohko realizes during one of his talks with Pallia on Hermium: the curse of moral equivocation.  Bend things enough, and anything can make sense, anything can seem proper.  This was the impetus of Stohko's crimes, after all.

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  "Enemy, I Know You Not"

  Extending on the essay above regarding the evolution of this story, I placed this in the middle of the anthology for the reason that even though it has a definite conclusion to its plot, it perhaps opens more subjective questions.

  In the process of re-writing this story to the form in which it now exists, I was looking at it in more philosophical terms.  Hovland and his men exist in a militaristic reality, one of supposedly clear definitions between friend and foe, even as they fight in a rebellion whose main thrust is sabotage and idealistic insurrection, a passive-aggressive assault on the minds of its opposition.  In this, there are layers of what trust means, and what can be construed as a 'foe'. 

  The simulator immersion, the virtual reality training mission where most of the action takes place, is a rather blatant metaphor for these layers of illusory trust.  The fact that in the end all the betrayal and revelation of mole agents in the platoon is in fact all the scripted creation of the military's own security personnel running the simulation only serves to add another layer of illusion and distrust.  The men of the platoon emerge - return - to the reality they know bristling with accusations against each other, even as they are informed that the simulation was in fact one large behavioral experiment. 

  In this context I intended Hovland and his sergeants to be different benchmarks on a sliding scale.  There is  Messina, who is introduced by his open rejection of Ellister's actions told in back-story, actions which on their face are perhaps 'justifiable'.  For Messina, his moral compass never wavers.  To him murder is murder, right is right, and wrong is wrong.  For this reason, he cannot accept what has happened, and this is why he walks off at the end of the story, resigning himself from the situation.  He's the most stable in his direction, and so finds he no longer has a place in the world he thought he knew. 

  For Webb, there is the compromise of pragmatism.  He is the man in the middle, the one who wavers with the shifting winds, doing what he has to do to keep order, as best as he can figure.  But even for him the shattering of all sense of trust, of a sense of order and place in the world he knows, is a reality in which he finds no comfort.  He needs direction, and the truth they discover in the trials of the simulation and the betrayal by their own security people shows him there is no direction.  The 'every-man', the pragmatist, he is lost, and so he too resigns himself.

  This leaves Ellister and Hovland.  Friends who have served together for years, enemies in the scripting of the simulation, they seek as well to define the meaning of what they have endured. Ellister is more the hard-nosed type, and as such, there is little compromise in him.  What was previously his utter conviction in the rightness of his actions has been undermined in the convolutions of the simulation: he was scripted as the lead mole agent, and worse, his mounting ruthlessness in the simulation, and the actions that went with it, make a strange sort of sense to him afterward.  In the beginning the stalwart everyone would want at their side, in the end he's a man clouded by doubt, questioning the drive that was once so clear to him.

  Ellister's experience is in relation to Hovland, who, as the thinking man, the one who has tried to rationalize every twist of the simulation's paranoid script, has taken an almost transcendental view of life.  For all he has tried to make sense of everything that has happened to him, he has come to the unsettling conclusion that perhaps the only logical conclusion is to disconnect from reason. 

  The abyss in which both Ellister and Hovland find themselves is summed up in Ellister's closing moment of thought, his confession that in his dreams (nightmares?) he still sees himself pitted in the simulation, clinging to a ridge with slopes that drop to darkness.  When they have nothing left to say to each other, nothing left to try to explain what they have experienced, they fall back on their simplistic military motto: on three, that is, just count to three and do it.

  So why did Hovland shoot himself on 'two' to escape the simulation?  For me, I saw that as a final act of defiance, a final F-you to the mess he believes has enveloped him.  What was the meaning of Lippett's death?  Exactly what was inferred in the story, that for the simpleton he was, for the fool he was ridiculed to be, he was the only member of the platoon to resist the manipulation of the simulator's scripting; resisted it, in fact, to the point that he blew a blood vessel in his head. 

  This in part is meant to blend with Hovland's transcendental notion, recounted in his statement to Webb, that finding their peace is not so much about being 'stupid' but by understanding that certain considerations need to have their freedom before one can rise above reality and its confusing input.  It may not be the clearest resolution for Hovland, but it makes sense for him.  He is fully aware of the gray mess in which he finds himself, and finds his own truth by setting a simplistic, if debatable, compass for his life.  As such, "Enemy, I Know You Not" is meant to fulfill its title, and so finds its place in the middle of the anthology.

  These things may be a little hard to consider but, as with "All the Fallen Angels", I wanted to craft a story  that has a definitive ending in terms of plot, but offered something on a different level that is open to individual interpretation.  This is an attribute I try to build into everything I write- I like to think that I am writing as much for the successive reads of a story as I am for the first read.  All the classics I like to read have that characteristic, so I shoot for something similar.

  "Remnant"

  Oddly enough, for the story that shares the title of the anthology, and perhaps served the greatest part in  inspiring me to piece the anthology together, I think I might have the least to say about "Remnant."  Then again, I think it's the most accessible of the three stories.

  In terms of its place in the anthology, I put it last not just because of the title, but for how it dovetails in the thematic arc of the anthology.  I like the fact that in terms of its nature it is much more of a speculative piece than a science fiction piece, which is a genre more fitting for "All the Fallen Angels" and "Enemy, I Know You Not," although even they would fall on the 'softer' side of the genre as they are not tech-heavy stories. 

   "Remnant" takes place in a time very close to our own, if not our own, instead of an unspecified future as the other two stories, so I think the immediacy of what Peter Lowry endures in the course of the story might hit a little closer to home.  Not to say that I think the emotional arcs of the other stories are inaccessible, but they do require a certain imaginative leap to adjust to the situations the stories describe.  "Remnant," on the other hand, is in the world we all know, in places identifiable on a map, in general terms. 

  Most importantly, "Remnant" found its place as the closing story for the reason that Peter Lowry finishes the thematic arc: Stohko Jansing finds a redemption (of a sort, as discussed) but at a terrible price; Lieutenant Hovland finds his truth, but it is a questionable truth, adrift in gray uncertainties; and then there is Peter Lowry, who finds himself among the wreckage of his life, and closes his story with some hope for a positive future.  He doesn't just survive, he gets to live.

  As I've said above in the essay on this story, it was not my intention to craft Peter after myself.  There are certain similarities, which I won't get into here for sake of my own sanity, but my interest in giving him those similarities was to keep myself focused on the world around me, rather than doing what I usually do, which is to drift off to the little alternate realities in my head.  To a certain extent all of my characters are by default extensions of myself, but I wanted a certain commonality to Peter to make the story accessible. 

  For all outside appearances, I guess I lead a pretty mundane life.  And that consideration was something I wanted to explore in the story to give Peter's character some bite, and provide the underlying emotional impetus to the story- he may have been a common man, but there are things inside him that are not necessarily ordinary, and so provide individuality to his story.  Alone in the world, immune to a nameless plague because of an unspecified genetic fluke, he is a presence, but he is not a survivor.  He is a broken man, trying to make sense of his life, and the meaning of his existence in the world.

  It was very tempting to make this story much longer.  I found the dialog between Peter, Jim and Emily flowed with ease during the writing of the story, particularly the latter scenes when Emily and Jim take turns trying to dig into Peter's personality.  As tempting as such scenes were, I never wrote them, as in the scope of the story, they would have served no purpose.  Peter's portrait is that of someone in a frail and feeble emotional state under a thin veil of callousness.  He craves the very thing he dreads, the confrontation within his own mind, and the fear of this dilemma has spurred him to seek refuge in his isolation. 

  Once Jim and Emily arrive on the scene, it just didn't seem realistic that Peter would be able to keep himself in check for very long.  Having contact with Jim and Emily is not a cure in itself, but rather forces Peter's hand in realizing (at least subconsciously) that he must confront himself.  Until he does so, any attempt to leave his isolation will be a disastrous failure. 

  As with most cases in real life, he has to break before he can re-make himself.  We human beings, we just love to torture ourselves, don't we?

 ____

  So there it is, just about everything I can think of that might be of some interest- at least for now.

  Fare thee well, Captain Jansing.

 

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