First novels are unpredictable.
Sometimes it’s the best thing a writer will do in his career, something into which he empties so much of his heart and talent and experience that he’s left with too little fuel to light much of a fire under future work.
For another it sets the course for an entire career: he’s found the key in which his voice is most comfortable and he sticks to it.
For some writers that first novel gives no hint as to what is to come, the restless been-there-done-that school where every new work is a departure from the last.
And then there’s that first novel, not terribly uncommon in the science fiction field during the seventies, in which the writer is learning his craft in public.
Healer is one of those.
I wrote it in 1975, using "Pard," an Analog novelette, as a springboard. All of my published science fiction to that time had been set in a future I was slowly piecing together. And piecing together was precisely the process. I hadn’t sat down and worked out a time line for this future; I didn’t know how it had begun or where it was going, all I knew was that somewhere along the way the freedom movement had won and something called the LaNague Federation (LaNague – rhymes with the Hague – was chosen for no reason other than I liked the way it rolls off the tongue) was overseeing the far-flung colonized worlds in a very laissez-faire fashion. Only coercion was illegal. Beyond that, do what thy wilt was the whole of the law.
At that point the historical underpinnings of my future didn’t matter to me; the issues were the burning concern, and the issues were timeless ones, all boiling down to the endless struggle between the individual and the collective. The good guys had won, but the bad guys – the never-ending stream of men and women with the monstrous self-assurance that they know best how other people should live and work and play – hadn’t gone away. Fueled by either religion or long-discredited philosophies of social engineering, they were there as always, chipping away at our hard-won freedoms.