Available formats: epub mobi pdf rtf lrf pdb txt html
The Star Sloop books of Verity Fountain-Douglas began as an attempt to show that it was possible to use our power to suspend misbelief as the foundation for a different level of futurist fiction. The suspension of misbelief is, of course, the basis on which we build fairy stories and myths, gods and miracles, daydreams, and the ultimately certain triumph of good over evil. It is vital to many sorts of novel. I once had begun to read a novel [because it had a promising title] in which, within a few intriguing pages and for reasons unknown, a protagonist who had seemed normal, suddenly changed appearance, including dress, just by thinking he would. There are lots of examples of this fairytale kind of behaviour, some older than the serpent in Eden, some much newer than Superman, with dozens and dozens of witches, wizards and djinnis constantly being created. But because the opening text of the novel made the sudden turn unbelievable, I put it down and, eventually, into a village recycling bag.
I say "a novel." We have a passion in English publishing for putting our books into categories --'genre fiction' would be a very broad category for instance-- some of it trash. The book I have mentioned would be classed more precisely as 'fiction:fantasy.' But publishers work themselves into knots sometimes, trying to decide, for example, whether a work is a novel with a good deal of fact, or a memoir because it doesn't contain too much noticeable fiction. Science fiction may contain a lot of fact or factual types of situation and credible behaviour. I find it interesting that the Germans, who tend to matter-of-factness and physical image [philosophers and sages are likely to be called tooth-suckers], do not have this problem of description. Specimens of all sorts are described as 'about-books.'
So the Star Sloop novels, with two now in print, are comprehensible as about-future books --four or five hundred years from now. They are also 'about-science-fiction' books in that they do purport to explain, if only in passing, how we shall overcome the limits that enclose us in one solar system. But the works are also about-people books --and wry enough [I hope] to be true to that subject, because that qualification is the essential. The characters depicted in 'life-and-times' fashion have to be believable and entertaining when looked at with a little sympathy for the ironies of the human condition. The principal, Grant August Elik, proves to be one of our 'disturbers' on the grand scale. The works are, therefore, also adventure stories told 'back to the future' by an author working at the end of the present millennium. This author, Verity Fountain-Douglas, exists for the stated objective of debunking Our Hero.
If anyone has a word or two that accurately and kindly sums all these features in a few syllables, I would be glad to hear about it. I'll cheerfully hear criticism too, of course --but not from those who have forgotten the pleasures to be had from suspending certain mundane disbeliefs, however rational. As an early friend and mentor Geoffrey C. Pinnington, Fleet Street giant and sometime editor of The People, put it when we were still swapping comics by people like Ray Bradbury, A.E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke: "Everybody seems to have some kind of warp, even if it is not mentioned. That is just taken for granted." Indeed it is, and the joke is this: there is a growing chapel of scientists who have such a high opinion of ourselves that they are distressed by the thought that mankind will never be more than a 'one-planet race.' They really want to harbour their own fantasies, and it helps that they will never know if they truly had the least cause to be hopeful. Even they are known to find relie in the suspension of disbelief.
Perhaps I should add that this is not another of those yarns that can be dragged through innumerable volumes. Sagas, as they are called, are now a genre unto themselves, another separate, apparently unending, literature. The entire life-and-times of Grant Elik exists in four modest manuscripts completed before a word was published. The books also wear the colophon of Dvanda Masda in arms: an artist's charcoal sketch figure of Apollonian enlightenment and enemy of all the Dionysian excess that scars what we have made of the world we began with. That is another story,that I cannot tell as well as others who have specialized knowledge, but in this case it means, broadly speaking, that reader and author will probably share much the same standards of good and ill. --Oliver St. Gaudy