Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Glory Gate

Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. 

Glory Gate (Post 24)

Glory Gate (2001) began with a sunset. It was one of a handful of books (see Post 20 for another of them) where the idea just popped into my mind. I was walking along our road when I saw the sunset. As I'd thought now and then before, (and since) the sunset sky looked like another world. On that evening I wondered how one would get to that world. Glory gate, said my mind, or my subconscious or some universal author-botherer. Grand title, I thought, so I wrote a book to match it.

Glory Gate is one of my rare political stories. I'm not sure how that came about because I'm generally not interested in politics, except in so far as decisions made in political offices may have effects on people down the line; and they can be effects not even the decision-makers thought about. The story is also a science fiction adventure, because I love writing science fiction. The hero, Gavven, lives a comfortable existence with his family, and his school friends. He knows some of the adults are not too happy about the way things are run, but most people are quite pleased. The ruling party, after all, stepped in to bring peace out of chaos, and it has worked. It's a kind of benevolent and paternalistic dictatorship, with brown-shirted governors on hand to help out, to organise and to educate. Some of the stuff being taught at school is gently redirected, a teacher, involuntarily retired, and the brown shirts (and this was long before Firefly!) explain how some changes have to be made for the sake of peace. 

Everyone's house must be painted. The brown shirts provide the paint and other materials. Gavven's dad is not too pleased. 

In the manuscript, the houses had to be painted pink. I had two reasons for this; we used to pass a pink house sometimes and it always stuck out as an odd colour for a building, and I'd read that pink is a softening, pacifying colour. The (American) editor insisted this colour must be changed to lavender. I was surprised, because, hey, I like lavender, and if I saw a lavender house I'd think it looked good, not odd. I respectfully asked why, and the editor informed me that in one part of the US a lot of houses are painted pink... and so readers from that area wouldn't find pink unusual and might in fact be offended if my characters did.

Okay. Lavender it was. Mustn't offend the readers who live in pink houses. (Actually I like pink. I just think it's an odd colour for a house.)

After the great house painting, the brown shirts came up with something else. Gavven's friend Jamal and his sister Indiri were sent to a different school because, explained the brown shirts, it was differences in belief and culture that caused wars. Therefore, keeping cultures apart was the best way to peace. Gavven soon finds Jamal won't associate with him even outside school. He's been gently and oh-so-thoroughly brainwashed.

The next move comes when the brown shirts take away Gavven's much-loved little sister, Sudeshi, because she is adopted. The only concession is that she will be brought up by Jamal and Indiri's family, whom she already knows.

Enter the Glory Gate. This is a method of space travel, developed locally. The brown shirts now use the Gate to send each cultural group to a different planet, where each will be effectively stranded. They will have everything they need, but will be locked away from other cultures forever. Gavven and his parents are desperate to get Sudeshi back, and Gavven discovers his father, and his old teacher, are working on a solution. They have their own Glory Gate and have decided to relocate with a group of cross-cultural friends and mixed families. They're working against the clock, and at the last minute, Gavven enlists the help of Jamal's sister Indiri to get his sister back. The resistance group goes through the Glory Gate, which has been randomised. They have no idea where they'll be, but they will at least be free of the well-meaning brown shirts.

It's years since I reread this story, but I did enjoy writing it. It's not particularly long, but it did have enough room for world-building, which has always been one of my favourite pastimes. It's probably out of print by now, but I sometimes see copies on eBay.  So - from a sunset to political science fiction, eh? The places our minds go to get ideas!

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