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The Two Moons
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Background

From the Introduction

Inherit the Stars, the first of the two novels in this double-issue volume, was initially published under the Del Rey imprint of Ballantine Books in 1977. It has never been out of print in the years since, and has appeared in many languages. At the time I wrote it, I was a computer sales engineer with Digital Equipment Corporation in the UK, specializing in systems for scientific and industrial applications. It was interesting work, bringing me into contact with people from just about all areas of science and engineering, well-paying with good perks, and involving plenty of travel and socializing. I had little reason to want to change much in life. Then I saw the movie of Arthur Clarke's 2001.

For something produced in the 1960s, the technical authenticity was astounding. I loved the space station orbiting to a Strauss waltz, the sense of realism imparted by its being a Hilton Hotel, seeing Pan Am's logo on the docking shuttle and IBM's on the pilot's console. This could be the world my children would grow up in. And what could be more exciting than finding evidence on the Moon of an earlier alien presence, sending the whole scientific community into a spin? Fantastic!

But I didn't understand the ending. After setting me up on the edge of my seat, waiting for the resolution that would tie everything together, the story collapsed into this montage of surrealism and symbolism, with old men dropping wine glasses and babies in bubbles, that I didn't understand. Back at work the next morning, I was still remonstrating about it. Probably to shut me up, somebody told me that if I thought I could write something that made more sense, then go do it. I said I would, and the whole thing ended up as an office bet for five pounds a head that I couldn't write a science fiction novel and get it published.

I shamelessly stole Arthur's line of a scientific mystery being uncovered in the course of 21st century lunar exploration. Mystery stories have dead bodies in, but to get the whole scientific community excited, there had better be something more interesting going on than footprints in flowerbeds or a handkerchief in the library. This led to the idea of a corpse being uncovered that has lain there on the Moon for 50,000 years. Logically there are only two possibilities: (1) he's from Earth; (2) he isn't. (1) requires the existence of a vanished Terran civilization sufficiently advanced technically to get him there, while (2) implies an alien biology producing a form indistinguishable from human. Neither alternative is acceptable. Therefore no such corpse can exist. But it's lying right there on the slab. So we get a scientific detective story in which the investigators manage to put together an surprisingly complete picture of the world that "Charlie" came from. The problem is that half the evidence says he must have come from Earth, while the other half says he couldn't have. How it gets resolved, I'm obviously not going to say here, but suffice it to say that I thought it made good, solid, scientific sense.

The upshot was that the manuscript found its way to Judy-Lynn Del Rey of Ballantine Books (to show how green to the business I was, I had never heard of either) via a DEC large-system software support specialist in Massachusetts called Ashley Grayson, to whom I will be forever grateful--now a literary agent in California. Judy-Lynn liked it, offered a contract, and I made fifty pounds on top of the publisher's advance.

The follow-up came a couple of years later, after I had moved to the U.S. to manage part of DEC's sales training program, and was having dinner one night with Arthur Clarke, Judy-Lynn, and Lester Del Rey in Boston. I had told many people the story of how I the S came to be written, and heard many interpretations of what the ending to 2001 meant. The trouble was, they all contradicted each other. I had read the book and remained none the wiser. Now, finally, I could put it to the ultimate source.

"Arthur," I said, "What did the ending to that movie mean?" I can remember his answer word for word. It was, "I haven't the faintest idea." I was stunned. It was like making a pilgrimage to Rome for an audience with the Pope, only to be told in a whisper behind the hand, "I don't really buy all this, you know. I only do it for the dressing-up and the parades."

Apparently, the movie was based on Arthur's short story "Sentinel." As he told it, Stanley Kubrick wanted to end it one way; another Hollywood person wanted to end it another. Arthur explained, "They ended up waving their arms and shouting at each other--Americans, you know. I walked away and left them to it, and that was what they came up with. I've never really understood it either." I confessed that I had stolen the gist of his storyline. He replied, "I know. I've read it. And your ending is better." Then he added with a chuckle, "But mine made more money."

The responses were wonderful. Besides enthusiastic letters from science-fiction readers, I received appreciative comments from many scientific professionals, including such names as Carl Sagan, Bevan French, who ran part of NASA's lunar program at that time, Carl Boardman, director of Caltech's West Coast observatories, and Isaac Asimov. All of them were anxious, also, to see more.

This latter hope was already being addressed. The process of writing Inherit the Stars produced a growing realization that there could be a lot more to this story yet. Judy-Lynn's ever-fertile imagination was working along similar lines, and her letter suggesting a sequel crossed with mine proposing one. The result was The Gentle Giants of Ganymede, the second novel making up this volume. It too has a an interesting history, being written in parallel with another novel that I had embarked on, The Genesis Machine--discerning readers may have noticed that they were released one month apart. This was before the days of e-mail, and I was in the early phase of a writer's career that requires a lot of input and hand-holding from the editor. So while I was waiting (still in the UK at the time) for responses to the last letter concerning one book to complete the two-to-three-week round-trip from New York, I would push the manuscript aside and turn to the other.

So, it gives me great pleasure today to thank Jim Baen for the great job he has been doing to keep the science-fiction backlist alive, and to see these two early works now available in this attractive packaging. As things turned out, there was even more of a story to be told than I realized when I set out to write the sequel to Inherit the Stars. The "Giants" series is now up to five books. While each naturally builds on what has gone before, every one is a self-contained story that stands alone without demanding prior reading or leaving the reader hanging in one of those infuriating "To be continued" situations that I wouldn't inflict on anybody. The third and fourth are entitled respectively Giants' Star and Entoverse, and the intention is combine them in similar fashion into a two-novel volume to run as a later companion to this one. The fifth "Giants" story, Mission to Minerva, has only just been released, and I'm already getting letters asking if there will be another. So perhaps one day we'll see a further title to enable another pairing. In the meantime, I hope to be able to welcome many more readers to enjoy the series.

 
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