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Issue Number : 26 - Life on the Farm, New Novel in the Works, Web Site, Obvious Answers, Entoverse

Life on the Farm, New Novel in the Works, Web Site, Obvious Answers, Entoverse

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Issue #26 - October 04, 2004
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Letters have been coming in commenting that there hasn't been a news letter for a while, and I've been a bit quiet -- which is true. The main reason is that in August I finally moved out of the flat over the pizza parlor in Sligo town, and took up residence in the (sort of) renovated farm cottage that I bought in the outlands of County Leitrim. There were the obligatory traumas to deal with, of course, that seem to come as part of any dealings with Irish building contractors. The main waste and sewer line from the house was broken in the course of excavating the trench for the power cable, resulting in what might be delicately termed "noxious effluents" gurgling up out of the drains. A hardwood floor laid above cement that had not been given time to dry out properly swelled up into fair imitation of a turtle's back, and "yer man's" "digger" (backhoe) -- brought in to cut back more of the hillside at the rear -- managed to take one of the front gates off when negotiating the turn from the lane. (Front gates are necessary in this part of the world to ward of strays from the cattle drives that take place regularly up and down the local roads.)

After three promises from the contractor to come out and rectify things had failed to result in the materialization of a physical body, and I was beginning to experience the deja-vu feeling of contemplating legal proceedings, he and his partner appeared unannounced this morning. They had been held hostage at a convent they were working at in Mayo county the other side of Sligo, where the nuns tyrannized them repeatedly with more jobs to be done every time they thought they were finished. And lo and behold, the sewer line and the gate are fixed, and the dining room cleared for the floor to be relaid tomorrow, so it appears that we might not be including a "Sorry About That 2" piece in the third collection of mixed fiction and nonfiction after all. Speaking of which, this is at last coming together and promises to be the next piece due for completion. No estimate of a likely publication date at present, however.

Cutting back the hillside at the rear of the house has created a situation where, until a proposed extension is added, which we might get around to sometime between now and the next ice age, the contours funnel the flow off the slope into a depression to form a temporary lake. Not that the house seems likely to slip into it and disappear beneath the waves; but it's unsightly. I asked Ireland's answer to Romulus, and his assistant, what we could do. They scratched their chins and looked at each other questioningly. Finally, the assistant ventured, "How about putting a few ducks on it?"


We've signed a contract with Baen Books for a new novel. Tentatively titled Echoes of an Alien Sky, it tells of inhabitants from a future cooled, life-supporting Venus exploring the ruins of the extinct civilization that once existed on Earth. The strange thing is that as the Venusian scientists piece together more of Terran biology, the more it seems that the two families of life are too closely related to be coincidental. Some conclude that the Terrans must be their ancestors. But how could that be, when it is shown conclusively that the time scales cannot be made to match, even remotely? And yes, we do get to see part of the story through the eyes of Terran characters who are real, through interleaved chapters forming a separate flashback thread. It turns out that although separated by a large gulf of time, the two groups of characters and their experiences are linked in an unexpected way.


The "Heretics" extension to the Order Catalog is working well and proving quite popular. As soon as I get through the chores of moving and settling in (putting up about 20 miles of bookshelves -- writers are compulsive book collectors, and incapable of getting rid of them; organizing a new office and kitchen; recovering the acre of trees, shrubs, and garden from beneath an Irish spring and summer's worth of growth), I'll be adding more to it. The intention is to make it an extension of the existing order form, which will facilitate handling other titles that I think should be available but which aren't listed by amazon.com. Also, we still plan on moving fully to a database and upgrading the Index, which I've been promising for a long time. We thought it would have been done by now, but the leg work for the project depends on graphics-programmer son Alex, currently residing in Orlando, Florida, and every time I've called in recent times to see how things are going, it seems they're recovering from another hurricane. A week or so ago he decided to escape from it all for a few days to visit family and friends . . . in Pensacola! I talked to him today just an hour or so before he was due to return, and he assures me it will soon be done -- which tidings I pass on in good faith. Somehow I can't help feeling like an Irish building contractor.


In a way somewhat like the proverbial elephant that's there in the middle of the room but everyone misses, we often fail to see the answer to a question because it's too obvious. Take, for example, the lament we hear all the time that, "Why, when I lose something, is it always in the last place I look?" Well, think about it. Who's going to carry on looking after they've found it? In like vein, it has finally dawned on me why we seem to have so much less time as we get older. It's because you spend half of it searching for your glasses. (Exercise for the reader: Why is the obvious answer always the last one that occurs to us?)


I still receive letters from readers who have just discovered that Entoverse is a fourth book in the Giants series. For others who may have missed it also (shameless plug), it would be helpful to read it before the 5th in the series -- and thanks to all those who have written to say they're looking forward to it -- Mission to Minerva, scheduled for release May, 2005.

As always, thanks for your inputs, questions, comments, and interest.

James P. Hogan
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