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Welcome to the Inn of the New Sun, Jaggonath's finest eating establishment. Please come in and enjoy our hospitality. Be warned, spoilers for all three books abound.

Not interested in eating? Then let me bring you a pint of our special dark ale. There is a table of other travelers there in the corner, perhaps you'd like to join in on the discussion?


Discussion Questions requiring long answers (warning, most if not all are spoilers) These questions are spoilers unto themselves, and so are hidden. Highlight the text below to see the questions.

Submit a question, theory, answer, reply, or comments to: neocount@merentha.org



Discussion Section

Q: While reading the book, I couldn't help but that The Forest, aka Jahanna, seemed to close to the name, Gehenna. This was the name of a dump close to Jerusalem that was constantly on fire. I forget who exactly said it, but it was noted to be the closest resemblance to Hell on Earth. This description fits The Forest exactly. What other religious symbolism is there to the book? (if my first assumption isn't wrong, that is) - craft@twd.net

A: I believe Gehenna is also one of the many names ascribed to hell/hell-like places in other religions. I'm sure that is the parallel. Other references I spotted are Shaitan (which I think is the Islamic name for Satan), Hade (from the Greek Hades), Asmody, Sheva, Sattin (all name for the Devil or similiar god/spirit of death), Mordreth & Mortot (definately evocative of Tolkien's places of evil, which he got from somewhere else). Those are the easy ones as far as place names go..- neocount@merentha.org

Q: Why did C.S. Friedman have to end the trilogy the way she did. Tarrant's first death was neccessary to the plot, it had been worked up to all the trilogy, and it was an atonement. His reviving was against everything we had been told before, when we had every reason to be certain he was dead. And the second death and reviving just made it laughable. The last 100 pages of the book drive me nuts, it would be so easy to make it better simply by cutting out all scenes except for the Patriarch's suicide and any scenes necessary to that. - howard_dan@email.msn.com

A: I bet she purposely left many items open to reader interpretation - she's a writer to spoon feed meanings - but I don't think an ending such as you suggest would be satisfying. Having him rot in hell would have - for me at least - left some threads unresolved. His sacrifice to destroy Calista probably could have been written a bit more dramatically, but if you really read the trilogy, it was where she was going the whole time. The whole series encapsulated, and was really about, the rise, fall, and redemption of Gerald Tarrant. It presents a more inspiring image that good people gone bad can atone in some way, and reach redeption, rather that showing that if you screw up you're damned forever. .- neocount@merentha.org

Q: Given that Tarrant "lost" the Hunter aspect of his persona to the Iezu mother in the procreation of RF, shouldn't his self-sacrifice of his identity as the Hunter diminish? Or is it purely based upon the Ernan's perception of him as the Hunter? - as000726@student.fullerton.edu

A: I would think that this would depend on the nature of the working. A working whose effects are instantaneous, such as the Hunters transformation, has it's power based on the worth of the sacrifice made at the time it was made, .- neocount@merentha.org

Q: When Tarrant showed the Patriarch that divining, what was it of his pact that he broke? - coatimundi_man@hotmail.com

A: Tarrant's pact was that in exchange for immortality, he would be a terror on the human race (he would be evil and spread misery, fear, and pain). By showing the Patriarch the divining, he's helping people (doing good) instead of preying on them (doing evil).- neocount@merentha.org

Q: What about the attitude/goal of the Church itself? Unity at the cost of diversity of thought and ideology--two powerful adaptive traits (and traits that give humanity meaning both as a race and a cultural organism)--is not true unity. And if the Church was created under the propaganda of "reclaiming human heritage," isn't it defeating itself?

Moreover, I found it as difficult to applaud the Patriarch's final sacrifice and manipulation of the fae as I did any of Tarrant's Workings throughout the series. I will not comment on the survival reasons behind it (humans vs. fae) because there's no way to discuss what might have happened had his sacrifice not been made--in other words, I find it difficult to speculate on the possible ingenuity of the colonists' descendants. The important point here is that the Patriarch changed Erna according to HIS view of what a "better world" would be. What about the native rakh? What about those who weren't followers of his faith?

People adapt. Of course. But my point is that, by buying into the ideological project that was the Church, and by acting in accordance with the vacuum of thinking that created, the Patriarch in the end became precisely what he had rallied against--a sorcerer--using the fae to manipulate NOT JUST THE FAE, but the lives of every living creature on Erna and their descendants.

And any new possibilities the fae might present for humanity? Well, they're out of luck there, aren't they?

In short, I was disappointed that the Church's cornerstone stance wasn't scrutinized more carefully. Faith is one thing, but faith that inherently decries the faiths of others cannot bring about unity. I'd hate to see the social situation on Erna after the change. - chotzee@juno.com

A1: Actually this is a rather interesting point. I too was disturbed by his altering the fae in such a way that it was no longer able to be manipulated by people via normal means. In a way, this constituted defeat for his purpose.

The aims of the church were twofold, one to get all peoples to believe in a superior benevelant being, and by doing so the fae would create such a god.

The other goal, not so clearly stated, must then get people to act as they believe. You cannot truly profess a god representing such goals as faith, hope, and charity unless you yourself not just profess to believe, but actualize those same goals in your daily life.

I agree that by his actions, he absolves this goal from Erna's population. This seems to be contrary to the teachings.

If the story of the Coldfire Trilogy can be interpreted to represent the inner struggle of man (and I use that term to represent all mankind) to rise above his dark inner self to a higher level of morality, then one would expect an ending to keep true to that metaphor (as the Hunter did). The actions of the Patriarch seem to run counter to that metaphor, and so disappoint.

I can't conceive that Ms. Friedman would be so unpolished a writer to leave such an obvious hole. Knowing that she likes to leave on the surface ambiguous endings, I'd like to sumit that the Patriarch's actions were in keeping with the church's goals because it freed mankind from having the fae as an enemy to man's survival (the primary reason for the church being created), and it also freed man from having to need the church. Faith imposed instead of being freely chosen is not faith, but imprisonment. If anything, the Patriarch's action freed Ernans to choose their own path.

Also, the power of the fae actually limited freedom of choice, as the the fae creates strongest what most people believe, which would if anything hasten people into believing one thought, not the other way around. - neocount@merentha.org

A2: Interesting. The writer evidently assumes that the Church was being presented as "right", a kind of ultimate religion, and failed because it was not well designed from that standpoint. And that assumption is quite incorrect. I write fiction about real people, with all their flaws and predjudices. It is part of what the book is about.

The Church was a contstruct as replete with contradictions and shortcomings as any human religion. There never was a perfect one. There never will be. This was not my fictional attempt to create something perfect, but simply a description of something which men created to deal with the fae, based upon a structure of earth fait. Other religious movements existed on Erna. Others will in the future.As a matter of fact, the text clearly states that the Church has been in a decline for five centuries, outnumbered by other religions. Hardly a model of perfection.

The founders of the Church believed that man could never reach his full potential while the fae was available to sorcerors. I never said they were right. :-) Nor does a writer have any responsibility to create religious characters who are perfectly well-balanced, devoted to the happiness of all creatures, and fair. The Patriarch did not give a moment's thought to the Rakh. Nor did any of the CHurch's founders. Their concern was for what they thought man should be, not a higher ideal of perfection for the whole planet. As for using the fae, that was the cause of a great schism in the Church itself, some feeling one should not weild it for private gain at all, others (in the west) feeling that some compromise was acceptable. The more they compromised, the more the Church would prosper...and be corrupted. There is no black and white in religion, certainly not on Erna.

Tarrant and the Patriarch are men obsessed, and to be frank I find the self-sacrifice of such a one to have power, even if one does not agree with his philosophy. The fact that a man could believe in something so strongly that he would give up his very life, is something I find moving regardless of context. The war for survival is a darwinian dance of selfishness; acts such as this speak to the part of what makes us rise above evolution, and the very core of what it is to be human.

So: had I intended the Church to be some perfect thing, I would perhaps agree with the criticisms. Instead I feel the very contradictions that seem to bother her are part of what this story is about. Men are not by nature perfect beings, and neither are the institutions they create. We struggle within our context to give our lives meaning. That struggle is the core of all great literature. - C.S. Friedman

A3: Please bear with me this second time around, and I'll do my best to be more concise and true to my actual thoughts.

To begin with, it wasn't my original intention to talk about the Church specifically, its goals or its contradictions, but rather its context, and the larger background of the story itself. You see, it wasn't the contradictions that bothered me (though I can easily see how I gave that impression in the original comment) as I do indeed understand how replete the world is with them, and how necessary they, in fact, are to the very diversity I was talking about.

What bothered me, then, was that none of the characters in the story noted them, with regards to those examples underlined earlier. Not once. Not Senzei, who was pagan; not Ciani. Not even Hesseth, learning about the Church from Damien in WTNF, ever asked what impact it might have on her people. And isn't it a natural question? "What might happen to me?" "What might happen to those I love?" "What might happen to what I believe in?" And even if the characters were used to the Church's presence, even if they were confident in its decline (if they didn't agree with it), the readers weren't.

But my point is also larger, with regards to the story, and it ties in neatly with Ms. Friedman's observation that I seemed to have assumed that the Church was supposed to be portrayed as perfect. It gains kindling from her remark that there were "other religious movements on Erna."

I was a guest, you see. And all I saw was the Church--a noble effort, an intelligent and bold experiment embodied by the courageous, thoughtful, and compassionate protagonist--and "the pagans"--a miscellaneous collection of people without names or faces or voices. The only "other religious movement" we really got a description of was Karril's worship, which had nothing of the nobility of the Church, nor its thoughtfulness (at least the Church was trying to address the great issue before it), and came off as self-serving and visionless compared to the Church which existed supposedly for the good of humankind. Not once were the readers presented with an example of an intelligent, compassionate, visionary alternative to the Church. Did no one else care? Were there no other ideas?

Well, of course I would assume that there were. People are amazingly creative in times of crisis. But what guest would put words in the mouth of her host? So far as the text goes, and so far as the lack of consideration of such things on the part of the characters implies, there weren't any worth mentioning. Everything external to the Church was "paganism" and, due to the lack of emphasis through mention, a reader might easily assume that all pagan religions were analogous to the worship of the God of Pleasure. Does that stack up the Church, even flawed as it was?

I did not, in point of fact, assume that the Church was supposed to be perfect. Call it intuition. But, to underline the reality of the Church, I would have appreciated some clue that the rest of Erna wasn't filled with people who gave no thought to their future, or in truth gave no thought to the fae at all, other than avoiding it. That isn't how "real people" live, and my main point was that that was not acknowledged. The pagans who traveled with Damien seemed almost meek about their beliefs in his presence, only muttering "Gods!" once in a while to remind us that they were somehow of different views than he. There wasn't even a single mention of "other religious movements"--only the vague, uninformative term "paganism"--and I had no basis for assuming that they existed, let alone that they might have been influential or meaningful.

In short, it didn't bother me in the least that the characters had flaws. Flaws are endearing or abhorrent and a thousand things between, and that's what makes life interesting. It didn't bother me that the Church was self-contradictory (though again, I can certainly see how that came across. Apologies). If there was a hole, it, by definition, wasn't in what WAS there, but in what WASN'T, and I missed even a cursory mention of the broader religious climate on Erna.

Even a single mention would have done it for me. My subconscious would have said, "Ah; intelligent religious alternatives" and gone on, better informed about the setting of the drama. It didn't have to interfere with the plot or the characters, really; the story ended in the way it ended. And it was a great story. But when, in retrospect, I'm told that I shouldn't have assumed that the Church was paramount even in decline, and then that I SHOULD have assumed that there were smart, progressive alternatives to the Church on no evidence, I get a bit confused. - chotzee@juno.com

A4: It sounds to me that you would have like explicitly in the storyline to have non-monotheistic religions shown as being at least on par as the Church, and in a favorable light.

After reflection, it seems to me that Ms. Friedman didn't do so because it would have served no purpose for her story. After all, the books aren't about polytheism vs. monotheism, but rather focus mainly (I know, there are many themes in these books!) about the man's inner struggle of deciding on which is the greater priority, personal needs vs. group needs.

Had Ms. Friedman intended for there to be a theme on mono- vs. polytheism, I'm sure she would have included the viewpoint you are seeking, but as she was not, did not. - neocount@merentha.org

A5: Something about the initial question here just didn't seem right to me. "What about the native rakh?" I do not see why this should affect the rakh or any other native species at all. These Patterns -- first Casca's pattern of sacrifice, then Tarrant's and the Patriarch's pattern of self-sacrifice -- seem to deal with human sorcery only. Quoting Casca (regarding his rituals): "I think they'll give us a tool. A means of communication. That's the challenge, don't you see? We have to impress the power here with Terran symbology, so that we have some way to reach out to it." Casca's Pattern was meant to give the humans a means of communicating with the fae -- but the native species wouldn't need that, because they lived in harmony with the fae.

Indeed, Casca's sacrifice didn't change the rakh's access to the fae, did it? The rakh were altered because humans affected the fae, but the rakh Worked the fae as instinctively as before -- only when they became more advanced did they learn some control, but even then, they still Worked it naturally. The way I interpreted not only Tarrant's and the Patriarch's respective sacrifices, but Casca's original sacrifice, they never had anything to do with the native species -- only with the way the fae reacts to the human mind. Indeed, it is said quite clearly that it will not immediately stop responding altogether even to humans -- only to direct Working. ("As for the rest [all but the few sorcerers who sacrificed themselves], they would observe that the fae was now a distant force, un-Workable...and slowly the fae would respond to that belief, and become so in truth. As it had changed after Casca's sacrifice, so it would change again.") - petter.haggholm@post.netlink.se


Q: Ciana and the Undying Prince - is adeptitude fleshbound or spiritbound?

A1: A1's answer got accidently deleted, I'll post it as soon as I find it!

A2: "You are totally right on part two; the Undying Prince's strengths and weaknesses all derived from the secret fact that his body was actually alive, and all he was doing was using other bodies as remote conduits for sensory input and communication. Had he left Jenseny, he would have lost the tidal fae sensory input she had. Presumably (though I never quite thought about it before), if his own body had died and he had managed to inhabit another permanently, melding to its brain instead of "borrowing" it, he would have lost his own adeptitude and been limited to whatever that body had.

Regarding Ciani...the question is never quite answered in the text, but it IS asked. Damien and co. made the assumption that Ciani's adeptitude was "taken", but Gerald Tarrant challenges that:

"Adeptitude isn't a learned skill. It's inborn. Inseparable from the flesh. A woman like Ciani could no more forget how to interact with the fae than she could forget how to breathe, or think. Yet that's precisely what happened. I question how. You believe that her assailants were constructs of the fae, that sustain themselves by feeding on human memory. Yet the worst part of what was done to her has nothing to do with memory, and everything to do with power. Which means one of two things...either these creatures aren't what they appear to be, or they are allied to something else. Something far more dangerous and complex."

He was right, of course. Damien's original beliefs regarding the Dark Ones were in error. As servants of the Master of Lema they served as a conduits for her Workings. And since she meant for them to capture Ciani alive and bring her back to Lema, it was in her best interest to cripple the adept's mind so that her special senses, though still functioning in theory, would not be accessible to the conscious brain. Much like causing someone to be blind by interrupting the flow along the optical circuitry, without damaging either the eyeball or the visual cortex.

Lastly, The Church's dream was to cause the fae to stop *responding* to man's fleeting thoughts, so that the world would be more stabilized. They never intended to keep people from *seeing* it, and would not have considered such a goal possible or even desirable. Remember that adeptitude (naturally seeing the fae) and Working (consciously altering the fae) are two very different skills (though the special Sight of adepts makes them naturally more skilled at Working) The Church's goal would have made the latter impossible, but it would not have affected the former (although it might be argued that the very evolution of adepts is due to the fae responding to the human need for connection, and altering fetal development accordingly; hence, in a fae-inactive world, there might be no adepts more born)" - C.S. Friedman


Q: (to CSF) Care to comment on the significance of religious themes in the CF Trilogy? - neocount@merentha.org

A: "The religious themes in CF? They are the meat of the series for me, an investigation in to the nature and ramifications of human faith the way only SF can explore it. What will our religions become when god actually answers our prayers? Are we prepared to deal with the kind of power we say we want? How does good inspire man, how does evil corrupt him, and what are the names of the ten thousand shades of gray in between? The fae provides a mirror that lets us see all these issues more clearly and postulate how they might affect us. I believe there is a beauty in religious faith that transcends the doctrine of any one religion, and I struggled to capture that beauty.

It was a very hard thing to write. For all that we go on and on about how Judaism and Christianity come from the same roots and share the same God, their images of that God are very different (as a Jew myself in a Christian world I am acutely aware of this.) In searching for a way to express God's presence (in book two mostly) I found myself struggling to strip away centuries of ritual and tradition, trying to uncover that core belief which both cultures share. It is harder than one would think, and writing CF was a lesson for me in how really different the two faiths are in their view of the God the Father. (Thank the fates the original colonists had been chosen from populations sharing similar religious backgrounds, could you imagine trying to make this book work with the eastern religions mixed in?)" - C.S. Friedman


Q: All of which begs the philosophical question 'How should a person's worth be judged'? Must we always judge ourselves based on the expectations of society? Can people judge themselves based on their own ideals? Damien likes to believe so, the Patriarch does not. - dugal@earthlink.net

A1: I don't see this as binary. Because we are social animals, you must look at both sides of the equation. A person's happiness with oneself most definately is weighed against their own expectations of themselves, but if they desire to interact as part of a group, then they must recognize that will be also judged by what they contribute to the well-being of the group as a whole. - neocount@merentha.org

A2: Religion, by its very nature, presupposes a standard of behaviour or being that transcends the individual society. Whether this is true or not, the *assumption* that it is true gives greater weight to religious ideals than to mere "societal" ideals. Persons from Judeo-Christian background, for instance, assume that the laws given them by GOD reflect a "higher morality", and are often quite surprised to learn that the majority of the world do not share all their assumptions.

Damien and the Patriarch both believe that they are serving "higher" goals, and in fact believe they are serving the SAME goals. What is at issue is their interpretation of the process used to accomplish this. There is no doubt that Damien suffers great temptation towards selfish acts in his travels with Tarrant -- his fall is part of what the Trilogy is about -- but from a theoretical standpoint, he and the Patriarch are in total harmony as to what purpose a priest should serve.

Also remember that in the West, where Damien came from, it is mentioned that the fae IS being used by the Church; there he is not a rebel, but one of the loyal faithful. So it is not even his interpretation vs. the Patriarch's, as much as a schism in belief between East and West.

The ultimate religious problem: Man strives for perfection, but man CANNOT be perfect; at what point do we accept his limitations, or reject them, or strive to alter his basic nature through faith? - C.S. Friedman

A3: Individual worth is not a question of faith or specific acts, but rather a thing to be judged in relation to how a "person" values him or herself and the way that person is valued by others.

In the Coldfire Trilogy, Tarrant is many things to many people and to himself. He is, always, a genius. He is a warrior. He is a father, a teacher, a demon in human form, a friend, a historian, a husband, a murderer, a reluctant yet purposeful hero. He is evil. Yet he is a servant of good despite himself.

The beautiful paradox of these books lies is the GRAYNESS of the characters. Ultimate Evil and Ultimate Good are both attained through personal and extrapersonal sacrifice. There are few characters in this story who are NOT, in some way, fallen from their ideals. There are few characters left unredeemed in the minds of the readers. What is their worth as individuals? Tarrant, Vryce, Ciani, the Patriarch, all view themselves differently than they are viewed by others, and each much eventually face not only the reality they have created for themselves, but the reality the are through the eyes of the others. No one shines clean. No one is completely lost. It is the combination of self realization, within and without, that gives each individual and his or her acts their final purpose and therefore value. - srinn@nxi.com


Q: How do you feel The Coldfire Trilogy compares to the Wheel of Time series? I have just began reading the WoT series and have found the two authors are somewhat similar. - Gideon Prophetica

A: I think that when Black Sun Rising first came out (and before When True Night Falls) this question was much easier to answer, as at the time it seemed that they were a bit similar in nature, that is to say they both involved quests against a big baddy, both contained pretty contemporary characters, and they were both classical sword & sorcery works. In addition, both authors had pretty complex and developed worlds and emphasized character development. As both series wound on, it seemed that Jordan (after the 5th book) started slipping into mediocrity and was unable to keep the series interesting. His books became less about how these once fascinating characters developed throughout the plotline and more about coming up with sit-comish situations and stereotypes.

The Coldfire Trilogy kept true to the melieu of the first novel and IMHO with the exception of the ending of COS continued the vibrant visions and inventiveness of her earlier works (IOW, she stopped when there was no more story to tell, unlike Jordan)

Ms. Friedman's works also had to do with exploring the concepts of morality, religion, and righteousness with many sublayers of context to consider, whereas Jordan writes straightforward adventure. - neocount@merentha.org


Q: As I understand it, by the new rules placed by Gerald Tarrant about manipulating the fae, you cannot just use it. It requires self-sacrafice. As we see, the Patriarch gives his life to the fae, but he does so through cutting himself, freeing blood from his body, a sacrafice of his physical being. Now, the power given by a sacrafice is equal to what is taken, unstabaly powerful but powerful just the same. My question is, what's to stop fae users to bleed in exchange for the power to work the fae? Would a simple cut suffice to heal, or would it require more? Like a hand for a working? Or a scar for a seeing? And if this were the case, wouldn't it be understandable for adepts to do just this? Self-mutilation for a chance to tap into their birthright? As I see it, it's the most predictable, and easiest answer to the problem of getting around the block.

Or what about sacraficing your mind? Giving up an emotion (like the way the hunter lost the earge to hunt), or even a part of your brain (left lobe, right lobe, etc). As wonderful as the patriarch's dream seems to be at the end of the book, I'm not so sure it will come into full promenance before someone comes across this same idea. I mean, it only took the patriarch a few days, but then, religion is the sacrafice of things towards a greater good, and puts us towards the path of rightiousness, but the sacrafice is equal (I think it's quite unequal, eternal life for a few restrictions). I'd like to see it as the patriarch understood this inherently because of his position, instead of because it was painstakingly obvious. I hope so anyway. I'm hoping you can prove me wrong. - pearn@nbnet.nb.ca

A1: The idea of self-mutilation in exchange for power seems eerily familiar to what happend in the second Thomas Covenant trilogy. I agree that this sounds like a perfectly viable loophole. I also agree that a person who takes on the work of the Church, truly in their heart and not just 'as a job', then in a way they are giving up some personal freedom, something of themselves.

If it's very conceivable today that fanatics give up their lives just to kill a few people in an open market, they why would not a similar Ernan fanatic give up their life to work the fae? - neocount@merentha.org

A2: The official answer is:

Man is eternally determined and ingenious, and I have no doubt that whatever form the fae takes, man will learn to control it somehow. The question is, who will do that controlling?

The Patriarch sacrificed his life and all he loved for the fae, not just blood. He also acted as the focus of a million faithful souls, so it was far more than one man's life involved. That is why it had the effect it did. He says earlier in the book that the one dream he lived for was to survive long enough to see the fae change; by dying at the threshold of that change, he sacrificed his dream as well. Big stuff. A lot more than a scar or a lost finger.

Theoretically any man willing to sacrifice his life can now control the fae. What has changed the world substantively is that, unlike with selfish sorcerors, such men are limited in number and generally not evil in intent. While the fae can still be controlled by some, it will likely not be used as casually or selfishly as it was before. Self-sacrifice, is by definition, not selfish.

The concept of people cutting themselves to pieces is intriguing, but believe me, it would take more than a finger. Give me someone who'd castrate himself for a Working and I'd give him a shot at it. :-)

I'd call it far more likely that someone will come up with the idea of bribing desperate peasants into sacrificng their lives for workings, in return for payments made to their families. Humans have done that for ages. - C.S. Friedman


Q: What happens to the unnamed ones if the fae is virtually unworkable? - AndrysWoT@aol.com

A: I would assume that it remains a force in Erna. The Patriarch's sacrifice affected how people relate to the fae, not creatures of the fae. I think that it would still exist. As it didn't seem a force that pro-actively sought out man, it may just lay there undisturbed over the ages until someone "sells their soul" to accomplish a working. This is mentioned in human folklore for ages past. One would hope that eventually man would decide to rid himself of it (give ones life to defeat evil), but it seems for every person willing to sacrifice himself for the common good there is one who would do the same only for himself.

In sum, I believe the struggle between good an evil on Erna may now changed, but it certainly didn't go away. - neocount@merentha.org


Q: I am writing again because this is just driving me crazy. I have been trying to find the following information (from your FAQ page) in the books and have been failing miserably:

"Each of the colony ships sent out from earth had a theme, or concept, guiding them. In Erna's case it was "Maximum racial diversity with minimum cultural conflict." Thus the choice of colonists all from advanced English-speaking cultures, of Judeo-Christian background with moderate to minimal religious commitment, and many other choices that affected the total blend. Fragment of immigrant languages remained, though the overall language was English. As the East was settled by a relatively small group of people, the culture as a whole reflects that group: darker in coloring on the average than in the West, and with fragments of language brought with them from Earth. Note that not only is the word Verda of Hispanic origin, but its use in sentences parallels that of "si?". In line with the observed development of language over time, ending consonants and bits of words have been lost or altered. - csfriedman@adelphia.net"

To me, this suggests a depressing future on Earth, if the "minimum cultural conflict" means that everyone must be Judeo-Christian background, or at least Western in thinking. I've looked and looked, and I don't think that the above information is in the books anywhere, and if C. S. Friedman did indeed give that quote, I have to ask: why was this important information not in the story? To bring it up now seems a bit late and confusing, and it only makes me wonder more about the subject of my first email, which was the profusion of Eastern names and words on Erna. (Shva-"Sheva", Kali-"Kale", sansei-"Senzei", "Pravida Rakhi", "Iso Rashi", etc.)

As for the original quote by Ms. Friedman, concerning "trying to make the books work with the Eastern religions mixed in", I would like to suggest that they would have been much more interesting and profound if she had tried, because she seems to be discussing "states of mankind" and the nature of good and evil and redemption, with the MAJORITY of the human race mute-to-nonexistent. - Anharra Djevah (anharra@postmaster.co.uk)

A1: Your letter has been referred to me, and I found it quite interesting. I shall try to explain some of my thinking.

First of all, regarding things that were not in the book -- in order to create a world that seems real to the reader, I have to know thousands of things about it the reader never reads. What are the historic periods between the landing and the period of the book? Who settled the planet, what was earth like, what were the major migrations, etc. Some of this stuff may actually come out in the writing, but most of it is just for me, so that I am not creating a small mini-world for the purpose of one book, but something that seems to have the scope of Earth itself.

The result is, alas, that every book will be based upon some ideas that are never in the book itself, for the novel is hinting at such information that makes us feel were are in a real world, not a fantasy construct. For instance, I could write a history of the western world without ever mentioning China, but since in the back of my mind I know there is a larger picture to the development of civilization than just Europe, it affects how I tell the story. There might even be passing mention of China, as well as other eastern cultures. That does not meant I should stop my narrative to explain Chinese history....for that, in turn, makes the whole thing seem artificial and forced, if it is in fact a narrative about America.

At least that is my philosophy, others may not agree with it. But I try to do that in every book I write, have a greater vision of the world than I need for that one book. That is why there will always be things not in my books, things hinted at which readers may discover, figure out...or simply ask about.

Now, on the other points, here you must understand that not everything we choose to write is a political stand as such. Sometimes it is just fiction. I myself celebrate cultural and genetic diversity and that is a theme of my current work, This Alien Shore. I assume a certain degree of racial and cultural mixing in any realistic future, and am frustrated by Science Fiction universes in which all the aliens are, say, caucasians with funny noses. However, Coldfire is not about the values of earth, or even my own values, but about one particular experiment. I assume there were many seedships sent out. I assume some particularly racist groups would have sent out ships manned by a narrow sampling of genetic stock, each religion would have had their own ships -- nay, each sect -- in order to create colonies that were utterly devoted to their view of God, political groups might gather, say, Communists from around the world, and fully mixed ships might have existed as well, as you describe....in short, everything that might be tried to make for a compatible group of colonists was.

That said, the Coldfire launching sought people from a shared cultural background, and one that would maximize genetic diversity for the health of the sampling. I am sure there were also ships with equally compatible groups of asian peoples aboard, and more representatively samplings of earth religions, but *this one ship*, about which the story was written, was primarily a western enterprise. You see, it is not meant to be a capsule summary of what life is like on earth, but simply one particular story that is part of a larger whole. Myself I DO assume there are many colonies out there that are dominated by eastern cultures and religions, not only for reasons of population density but also for the fierce energetic growth evidenced in some such cultures. In This Alien Shore, most of the habitats orbiting Earth are Japanese in flavor, and the language of space travel is borrowed from the Eskimos! But in the Coldfire trilogy, I am not writing about what earth has become, but about the fate of one small group of people sent out from it. You must not think that in reading their story you are reading some representative sampling of Earth, for you or not, or any greater statement on my part than "a group of people tried this. Let's see what happened...."

Why not mix in other religions, which as you say, may be more popular on earth? Well, (and I hope no one hates me for sayng this), let's face it, this is partly a book about western religion gone wrong. It is about the kind of faith most of my readers grew up with, and how very beautiful that faith can be, and how ugly it is when misapplied. You have no idea how many letters I get from Christians (mostly Catholics) who found this book a particularly moving read from a religious standpoint. Now, I could have easily have had half the ship be of other faiths...but then the story would have been something else. The Church could not have come to weild the power it did, and there would be much more to distract it. The evils of the world would not have taken on such a markedly Judeo-Christian tone. I would not be able to explore what western man would do if his God suddenly started making personal appearances, or the devil took on solid form (Jews don't believe in the devil, so this is foreign too me as well), and other such things. I wouldn't get to look back at all the excesses of the Catholic church in the middle ages and ask, is there any set of conditions that could cause such a force to exist again, so that intellectually modern men would support it? What purpose would it serve?

Do you see what I am trying to say? Although I assume that earth has vast diversity, *this book was about* a more focused world, and I used that focus to explore certain issues.

Also, to be very blunt...I think that eastern and western religion differ greatly in some areas of basic philosophy, and there is not that same kind of common ground you will find in a purely western (or eastern) grouping How can I meld a group of christians whose heads are filled with visions of a controlling God and fear of hell with, say, Buddhists? Perhaps as an intellectual excersize I could find some points in common (other than simply wanting to come to terms with the vastness of the universe about them) but quite frankly, I believe that those traditions make different base assumptions about the world, and what might be an act of faith to one could well prove incomprehensible to the other. And that was not what this book was about. To attempt to encompass both eastern adn western religious paradigms in the same culture would have meant writing a novel in which that was the focus of the entire story...and I had another story to tell.

Now, as for the other elements. Well, one of the concepts I was working with is that the bulk of the colonists were from America, Canada, and perhaps Australia. Immigrant nations, in other words, with a tremendous mixing of peoples from all over the world. Yes, all of those colonists are the products of western education, and all have been assimilated into the Judeo-Christian setting (but note that strongly religious people of ANY persuasion were NOT included.) However, in America that still includes people whose ancestors came from all over the world, recently enough that some customs, folklore, language, and other tidbits of foreign culture remain. In addition, of course, their education includes the rest of the world, so they are not ignorant of Indian deities, for example.

Are the names of the people foreign? I know one Chinese girl here who has an Irish name -- McClaughlin -- and another whose name is utterly Chinese. Both are second generation Americans who speak without an accent and are indisputably part of our culture. My neighbor in Graduate School had a Lebanese name, for his parents were Lebanese immigrants. He talked like a New Yorker. As a matter of fact, when I was looking for foreign sounding names for one of my books, one of the things I did was go through the graduation lists from my brother's college in New York -- a school with very few foreign students, but a host of foreign names. That diversity in one culture is what America is, and I think that richness will endure the centuries. That is what you see reflected in the book. The fact that there is a man named Toshido does not mean the ship had to import native Japanese, merely that someone of that ancestry still used their original name.

So that's where I am coming from on all the foreign names and such. Remember, the founders of the colony were looking for genetic diversity. That means they were *deliberately searching out* people whose ancestors came from all over the globe, east and west inclulded. Of course some of them would still bear names that woud reflect their ancestry, that seems only natural to me. Far more unnatural would have been to assume that a predominantly American ship would speak ONLY English, have ONLY anglo-saxon names, and be caucasian. (There are very few "real" caucasians in the book, you might note.)

Lastly, these were educated people. Here's another tidbit that is not in the book (though I think it's hinted at.) When the data storage of the earth ship was destroyed n the first sacrifice, some people realized very quickly that they were in danger of losing their entire heritage. I imagine some of them working 24 hours a day to get people to write down EVERYTHING they remembered, from the history of earth to the stories they were told as children...ALL of it. Because once that founding generation died, anything not recorded was lost forever. Now, don't you think that in that mass of data there are the names of non-western gods and traditions? Don't you think a well-educated man of later centuries might draw upon them if he had to, say, name a bunch of cities? I mean, if you've decided to name all the cities of the North after gods of death and destruction (that IS in the book), and you're only using Judeo Christian gods, you run out after a very short time.

So that is my vision, I hope this explains it better. It is, as you see, quite complex, and merely hints at a much larger picture that is behind it.

For the record, I strongly believe that in the future there will be:

Much more racial mixing than there is now, with the result that in any colony it will be hard to pick out "pure" racial types such as we now know on earth. (In my second novel an alien group sorted humans out by color, and completely missed the fact that some groups have nothing in common BUT color)

More tolerance overall, and hopefully appreciation of, diversity of religion and philosophy

But...also an equal amount of intolerance, and continuing attempts at segregation, predjudice, and even violence based on national and/or cultural conflict. Why? Because we are human. I don't think the future is going to change who and what we are that much. And there is a part of human nature that fears the stranger, that longs for the artificial safety of a world where everyone is family, and where the unknown is locked safely away somewhere else. Perhaps I am cynical, but I don't think that will EVER go away. It will find different ways to express itself, may even go underground for a while, but it will always be there. We are not just intellectual creatures, but emotional as well, and some of our emotions are rooted in parts of the brain that do not listen to reason. We are flawed creatures and in any future we create, we will take those flaws with us.

And by the way, fundamental and extremist religious views top my list of causes for serious conflicts, which is the reason that was the one group barred from the Coldfire voyage: Religious fanatics of ANY ilk.

Well, I hope that answers some of your questions. Now tell me what your background is, and who knows, maybe you'll wind up on my list of people to talk to when I need some foreign cultural information. :-) - C.S. Friedman

A2: Added note on names:

At the risk of sacrificing all sense of mystery, I must admit that the name Senzei came from a student of mine, totally Anglo Saxon guy who was nicknamed "Zen" and I really liked that. So I stole it. (with his permission of course) As for the cities....er....well (promise not to respect me less if I tell you this? ) I have this book called "5000 Things to Name your Cat." And it happened to have a list of demons, gods of death, names for hell, and similar stuff from all sorts of different cultures. (I mean, you couldn't find a list like that if you were searching for it, could you?) I picked the ones I liked. Truth is, I find the phonetics of Indian names very pleasing, and suitably mysterious -- foreign enough that the source isn't obvious to American readers, familiar enough that if they really try they can figure it out.

That is the whole mystery, alas. If you were really paying attention you would also find names derived from Mordred (bastard son of King Arthur) and Morgoth, which is the evil demon-force in the Silmarillion. Seems that when the colonists quickly wrote everything down they didn't always indicate clearly what the source of the legends were....(I know Paul is hitting himself on the head right now, for not catching the Morgoth reference. LOL) The five rivers in the north are based on the Greek rivers of the underworld. "Sattin" is from Satan, Old Testament. Shaitan is an ancient Hebraic name. Seth is from the Egyptian Set. Hade is from the Greek Hades, for Hell. Asmody is from Asmodeus, Latin for an ancient and powerful devil.

....in short, a few things from the east, a few from the classical countries, and a few from others. :-) I think there's four all told from Indian roots, which I don't consider disproportionate one way or the other :-)

Hope that helps...or at least entertains. - C.S. Friedman


Q: Though history continues to prove that no movie can ever live up to the book, and more than often a movie version tends to be corrupt, I don't see how one could do so to a book by C.S. Friedman, my question being if there are any plans for a movie trilogy to be made of the Coldfire trilogy, and if there are, I would suggest that she keep a close eye on it, and reserve authority (is this possible?) to keep the movie in her persepective. Reference has been made to who would play the characters, but I've heard nothing of whether or not there are any plans whatsoever. If there aren't, I beg for discussions to begin :). - Bruce Morgan [bwayne@home.com]

A: So far as I know, there are no plans whatsoever for a movie to be made. I have had one person say that they had begun a script for an animated version of the CFT. I think that technology has advanced enough that a live-action format can be used. Due to the complexity of the novels, I don't know how it could be done except as a series of three movies, and even then they would have to be very long.

I would think that CSF would do her best to keep the movies true, but am skeptical about a movie studio agreeing to do so. .- neocount@merentha.org


Q: Do you think his (Gerald's) personality was changed by the "nameless one" when his life was extended, or did it change because of his long life and all that he has gone through to keep his "human" soul. There are spots in the books where it almost seems he regrets his decision to ally with the nameless one. (One spot was when he first offers to re-teach Ciani how to Work in the first book and says that he made the decision to extend his life and didn't think about the consequences; and then when Damien rescues him from hell, he bitterly says that he still is what they made him to be). Regret perhaps? Or just wishful thinking on my part to make him a more sympathetic character? Just curios what others might think about this....... - CMMAWARD1@aol.com

A: If you look at how people's attitudes change as they go from being 20 to being 80, is it not conceivable that Gerald would be a different person at 1000 than at 40? That's a long time to get bitter as one sees the world around him go from being one of revivalist enlightenment to one of barely hanging on.

How would you react if you had been a Roman senator from 80BC, and had to watch as your beautiful country changed from a republic to a corrupt empire (so much for Lucas being original), then fall into anarchy and take over 1000 years for society to get back to anywhere near where it was (80BC Rome had indoor plumbing, checking accounts, multi-story apartment buildings... things that were not seen again until the late middle ages, over 1000 years later).

Part of the beauty of Celia's characters is that they are very real in terms of how they act, and frankly I find it refreshing that her characters are just as wistful and inconsistent in her books as they are in real life.

I think your explanation of his remarks is probably on the money, however only CSF could say for sure. - neocount@merentha.org


Q: Did C.S. Friedman set out to make the Patriarch and the Hunter to seem similar? Both are tied to the church, and both are powerful adepts (A question or statement posted said how Tarrant was the strongest adept ever. I disagree. I feel that, if given THAT much time, the Patriarch would exceed the Hunter's skill - G.T. just had more time to study). It would never occur to me, except when I was last reading the beginning, when Vryce meets the Patriarch he immediately feels the fae, and a mention is made about how proper and high class the Patriarch is (Not too much in his office, but whatever was there was expensive / manicured nails). His description is almost (of coarse, not exactly) like the woman Tarrant meets on the street and escorts home (I forget her name, even though she is central to the books) [Narilka - ed.]. Old gestures, old way of thinking (like the Patriarch's old way of thinking about the fae that Vryce attempts to challenge), Manicured nails, aristocratic/ high class clothing...

The similarities ARE there, I think... In more ways as well, but nothing I can cite specifically (not liking the Patriarch character much, I don't remember all he does) - MosheFried@att.net

A: I don't think so, in many ways they are quite different. I would suggest that the qualities that leaders of large, public religious organizations need tend to be similiar. I'm sure you've read or at least heard of the book 'Seven Habits of Highly Successful People'. Most people in highly visible public places tend to be well groomed. Even boyish Bill Gatse employees people full time to help polish his public image (and he's not the only one to do so).

The Patriarch is much more selfless and nowhere near as vain. Just because one keeps themselves properly groomed (like they both do) doesn't mean that one is self-absorbed (the Hunter was, the Patriarch wasn't). Gerald was much more of a scholar and less of a people person than the Patriarch was. - neocount@merentha.org



 

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