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Home from the Shore

Gordon R. Dickson

  Home From the Shore

  Gordon R. Dickson


  An Imprint of Start Publishing LLC

  New York, New York

  HOME FROM THE SHORE © 1978 by Gordon R. Dickson. © 2006 by the Estate of Gordon R. Dickson.

  First Start Science Fiction edition 2013.

  All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Start Science Fiction, 609 Greenwich Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10014.

  All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Published by Start Science Fiction,

  an imprint of Start Publishing LLC

  New York, New York

  ISBN: 978-1-62793-464-0


  What lies between the covers of th is book representsan attempt that is unique, not only in science fiction but inpublishing. Only the thesis that anything can happenexplains it—except that in this case it is the sort of any-thing that lurks beyond the ordinary dreams of most artistsand writers. In fact, in my twenty-seven years as an authorpreviously I had seen nothing to suggest that there mightbe a practical possibility of arranging the kind of mutualcreation that produced this book in its present form.

  Nearly a year ago at the time of this writing, TomDoherty, publisher of Ace Books, spoke to me about anidea of his, not real izing how closely it matched one of myown, which had, in fact, been in mind for a number ofyears. That long-held idea was a plan for rewriting one ofmy earlier works to my exact satisfaction and furnishing itwith illustrations made to my direction, which wouldexactly fit the story and interpret it as I had originally^ wished it interpreted. The plan had laid in the back of mymind all these years, unfulfilled, because I had seen nopossibility of putting it into execution, except by publish-ing such a book at my own expense.

  Now, independently, I had been approached withDoherty's idea, which was that one of my early writingsbe expanded and illustrated with the work of an artist ofmy choice. Ace Books, he indicated, could bring me andthe artist together into New York, where we could discussthe book and the illustrations to be done.

  This offer was the first of two happy coincidences.The second, was that just at that time, by good fortune,there was an artist named James Odbert in my home area,whom I considered an ideal choice to do the illustrationsfor such a book as Doherty had in mind. I made thesuggestion, therefore, that instead of our making use of anartist whom I would be able to meet with only once andbriefly in New York, Odbert be asked to do the artwork.He and I lived only the width of a city apart; and wewould be able to get together as often as the workrequired.

  Moreover, there was another reason which madehim the ideal choice as an artist to work with me on thebook. Like me, he was deeply interested in the Polynesianculture on which the culture of the sea people in the bookwas based; and he had made a study of it during a twoyear stay in Hawaii. Vital to the story of HOME FROMTHE SHORE was the special feeling of belonging, thenous-nous, of the sea people; which Odbert not only alsounderstood but to which he responded—see the illustra-tion on page 97. In effect, we spoke the same language inthis area, and the fact that we did would be critical to asuccessful making of the book as I envisioned it.

  It was settled, therefore; and James Odbert agreed towork with me on HOME FROM THE SHORE. The workitself turned out to be full of discoveries for both of us. Theprofusely illustrated story that the book presently is, withover fifty pages of Odbert illustrations, developed even-tually into something not merely new in bookmaking butin artistic concept. The end result of our teamwork even-tually became a collaboration in the truest sense of thatword between the artist and the author. What emergedwas not merely an illustrated story, not even a story withspecial illustrations carefully fitted to it; but a unique unitof pictures integrated with words in which these twoelements became equal partners.

  There were a number of factors involved in this.Primary to the rest was the fact that the work to be donewas the product of a collaboration between an artist whowas in love with the story and an author who was pro-foundly impressed with the capabilities of the artist. Theeffect of this was that Odbert and I each fell almostimmediately into the practice of leaning on the other forstrengths outside our own creative area, to the great bene-fit of the work itself. Involved in this, and made necessaryby it, was an astonishing amount of conferencing—manytimes over what I had envisioned when I had first urgedthat I work with an artist living in close proximity to myown working area. Odbert and I found ourselves continu-ally concerned with matching the fine details of the art tothose of the story and those of the story to that of the art.The end result was a situation in which each of us fed offand gained from the creative imagination of the other.

  There have been instances in this book, for exam-ple, of Odbert making suggestions to me, and my makingsuggestions to him, that rang almost eerily in accordance

  with what the other had himself been thinking. One of theother of us would, separately and independently, con-ceive of something to be done with the book, and hastento tell it to the other only to discover that the other hadbeen only waiting a chance to suggest it himself. A veryclear example of this type of parallel thinking are thepictures of the two sea-sisters on pages 26 and 27. Odbertdrove over to see me specifically to suggest this illustra-tion and found that I had been eager to seem him so as tosuggest it to him.

  The resultant creation has consequently becomethis something which is more than a book in the tradi-tional sense. If we have done what we think we havedone, what you hold now is a mechanism for the imagina-tion never developed before—a magic box of sorts thatthe reader can open on an experience more fully ren-dered than those in ordinary books, putting himself orherself into the life of the story with an extra element ofdepth or involvement which comes from the direct inter-action between the subtleties of the text and the subtletiesof the illustration. And it is my belief that as such itmarks the first exploration of a hitherto-untouched areain book making.

  Illustrations were always considered a part of booksup until the early part of this century, when they began tobe crowded out from most fiction for reasons of pub-lisher's cost. The only exceptions to this trend were infiction written for the young; and even for this sort ofreading matter they were severely curtailed. A book-maker's misconception grew into general acceptance tothe effect that it was words, and words alone, that adultreaders wanted, not pictures.

  As often happens in the literary field, this mis-conception was generated and accepted without any realreferendum of those most concerned with it—the readersthemselves. The result, consequently, was that it existedvery nearly until the present historical moment, with oneexception. The exception was in science fiction, the onearea of literature where the readers had an opportunity torespond directly to the authors both in person, and byletter; and where, accordingly, they had strongly ex-pressed their preference, not only for illustration in thebooks they read, but for good illustration—illustrationnot merely expressed in the poster-like colors of the mo-ment's fashion and sideshow patterns of advertising,without any real concern for the story to which it applied.The illustration the readers showed a desire for was thatwhich truly mirrored the story it illustrated; and whichtried to bring into sharp, artistic focus the general imagesof the characters and scenes forming in the mind as the

  story was read.

  It was toward this sort of illustration and its particu-lar effectiveness that our work on HOME FROM THESHORE has been directed. For it seems certain, nowapproaching the end of the twentieth c
entury as we are,that the dispersion of the arts has gone far enough, andthat in turning back, as James Odbert and I have here, tothe paired unity of word and picture, we are merely part ofa general return, now commencing, to the basic intent ofall craft, which is to reach the reader, the viewer, thelistener—the appreciator in all forms—by any and allartistic means at our disposal.

  Chapter 1

  The night before the sea-born among the senior space cadets were due to ship out—the night before they were to leave Earth to actually witness an attempt at a space bat capture—the chanting of the cadets from the land began early. It was heard down in the quadrangle of the Space Academy,between the two tall barrack buildings, that of the sea-people and the one housing the landers.

  The sound of massed voices echoed like the growling of penned animals up from the dark shadows of the ground level. It bounced off the walls of the two buildings and entered through the windows of the sea-born cadets, open to the soft New Mexico evening.At his desk, working with his books on the geology of the inner planets, Johnny Joya heard it in his ears and felt it in his bones.

  "...slug a slug a slug a slug!

  "Slug a sea-slug, slug a slug..."

  He forced it from his mind. But only a few minutes later his door opened—without warning, for among themselves the sea-born did not knock, knowing as they knew so many things about each other, when they were welcome and when they were not. He looked up to see Mikros Palamas, standing at his elbow.

  "They've got to stop that," Mikros said.

  Johnny s gaze read the strong, rectangular face of the other, who was Representative for those sea-born cadets in their junior year at the Academy, as Johnny himself was Representative for the senior sea-born, the first of them all to have accepted the landers’ invitation to enroll. Like Johnny, Mikros looked big but not alarmingly so—even, perhaps, a little soft-bodied and harmless like the sea-slugs for whom the lander cadets had nicknamed them. But looks were deceiving.

  "Don’t even think about going down there," Johnny said.

  “None of us want to go,” Mikros said.

  "But it hurts us more than they know, that chanting. We aren't built to take all that hate and fear they're throwing out. No one is. Our class sent me up to ask you to call a meeting of the four class reps."

  A meeting won't do any good," said Johnny.

  "And no one’s to go down. No one."

  "It's hard not to.”

  "They aren't going to stop just because some of us go ask them to,” Johnny said, "and if they saw just a few of us down there they might do something foolish. Seeing us just rubs it in to them, makes it worse for them.”

  "They won’t come in here," said Mikros, bleakly. "If they'd just come in—but they won’t try that.”

  "Of course not,” said Johnny.

  It was true. There were probably over a thousand lander Space Academy cadets in the darkness below, now, and less than four hundred of the sea-born in their dormitories. But even the landers would not go to the extent of using weapons in a raid on the other building; and without weapons they did not stand a chance against young men and women grown to physical maturity in the endless waters of the oceans.

  "All we need to do is ignore them,” said Johnny slowly, patiently repeating the familiar words. "Just six months more until we seniors graduate. Then there'll be some of us in space alongside the landers. We’ll be their partners.

  Keep your mind on that, Mikros, and tell your classmates to keep their mind on it. Up here on the top floor we've had a year more of this than even you juniors; and we've ridden it out, the way you’d ride out a hurricane up on the surface.

  So hang on six months more. We'll graduate and then the land can't say any longer the sea-born are unfit for space. And the difference between sea and land can start to heal."

  "It'll never heal," said Mikros. "They hate us because we're bigger and better than they are.

  "We'll always be bigger and better. How can anything heal?"

  "Put plugs in your ears. Cover your head with a pillow. They'll be stopping in an hour or so because they have to study, too. Wait it out, Mikros, and tell the others to. Because it’s got to heal. If it comes to war, they can kill us all."

  "All right," said Mikros wearily. The skin over the big bones of his face was tight and his mouth was one straight line. "I'll go back and tell them once more. . .we wait a while longer."

  "Just a few more months," Johnny said.

  "I tell you, it's us seniors up here they're trying to break—not the rest of you. Six months, and there'll be no point in their chanting out there. We'll have graduated a class and got commissions. We'll have won and they'll have lost this try of theirs to keep us from space.

  Keep telling our people that, Mikros. It's us seniors they’re after; and if we can stand the chanting, they can too.”

  "All right," said Mikros. "Once more.”

  He went out.

  After he had gone Johnny sat alone, listening to the voices. His own words repeated themselves in his head. He had been the one who had most urged and pushed the coming of the sea-born here to the Academy. He and his cousin Patrick—Patrick of the magic musical instruments and magic voice—had been the two most listened-to among the third generation of those who had first begun to call themselves the sea people, the fourth generation of those who had permanently turned their backs on the land to live completely in the oceans, underwater and on the continental shelves, or completely in movement about the seas.

  In a real sense it was he, alone, who had led the best of the third-generation sea-born into this. The land had wanted them for their superior physical strength, their saner minds, those new, or perhaps old, instincts that the landers themselves did not have. And he—idealizing the situation in which he now saw there was nothing to idealize—had thought he had seen a chance to end the land’s growing jealousy of his own, free people who had all the wide oceans of the world to live in.

  Instead, he had led the others of his generation to this place; and the landers' inferiority complex, maturing into hatred, had, instead of being reduced, grown now greater than ever, its increase now echoing in the voices from the lander cadet down below.

  He went back to his books; and around eleven o’clock the chanting in the quadrangle dwindled and stopped.

  The following dawn after morning parade the sea-cadets gathered their personal gear and filed aboard low-altitude transports lined up on the Academy airfield. One by one the boxy-looking flying platforms with their transparent roofs of light-sensitive glass took off and lumbered southeast through the skies to the shuttle field at Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  There they landed and the cadets went by people-mover to the shuttle.

  Four hours later, they were in orbit and leaving the shuttle for the spaceship itself.

  None of them had ever been in a space-going vessel before. They came aboard, however, with the practised movements that were the result of many hours of training in the mock-ups on the ground back at the Academy. A long double-file of them passed through the main airlock into the rear third of the ship, saluting the duty officer as they came in, then continuing in a single file down one of the two corridors that led to assigned quarters on each side of the aft section.

  Johnny found himself near the front of the file directed down the starboard corridor. To his right and left as he went along were the doors of the tiny, personal rooms that would be home for each of them during the trip. It was strange to feel the carpet underfoot, to see the picture-screens inset in the walls, with scenes that tried to imitate the three-dimensional Earth, as seen from the window of a lander structure. There were few scenes of the sea—and none a tall of the undersea.

  Like all of his generation among the sea-born, Johnny listened to his feelings and perceptions to an extent inconceivable to a lander. In the sea they had moved away from the heavy, omnipresent technology of the land.

  They were used to and reached out for direct contact with the living unive
rse of water that surrounded them—and for all their Academy training, their instinctive image of space vehicles had hardly progressed from the romantic period of their grandparents who had first moved out into the underseas.

  The carpets, the picture screens, the imitation wood panelling of the metal making up the walls and doors around him now all seemed false and almost pitiful in their attempt to carry the image of a lander earth into space.

  Particularly this was so, contrasted to the old image of bare-metalled, utilitarian craft out of the dawn of the space age. This, a more modern ship than the ships of his youthful dreams, ironically seemed old-fashioned, ornate and fussy.

  "John Joya?” said the Space Force lieutenant checking them into their rooms. He made a mark with his light pencil on the coder he earned, when Johnny nodded. “Right. Twelve-B. This is yours.”

  "Thank you, sir.” Johnny pushed through the door indicated and found himself in ah apparently bare closet. But this, too, was as it had been in the mock-up practises. He reached high on the wall, opposite the door, pulled down the desk surface at which he would be studying and working, and put his personals bag upon it. Then, turning, he went about the other walls, folding out bed and chair, opening clothes-locker, bookcases and stowage compartments.

  Satisfied finally that all the room’s appurtenances were clean, available and in working order, he began to unpack. He was just hanging the last of his clothing in the locker, the room set on study mode with the desk still down but the bed up, and seating surfaces taking up the space it had occupied, when the door opened without warning.

  It was, of course, one of the sea-born whoc ame in. A lander would have needed to hear him answer before knowing entrance was agreeable. The Cadet Commander of the Senior Class, Peri Tashkent, stepped in.

  "Something wrong, Peri?" Johnny asked, for her slim, oval face was drawn into serious lines. Almost as tall as Johnny, she looked at him soberly.