Message From The Author
Women in Command
SCI-FI AUTHOR L.E. MODESITT, JR.
PUTS THE LADIES IN CHARGE
By Amanda Woytus
Science fiction and fantasy author L.E. Modesitt, Jr. has wanted
to write the story of Arms-Commander, the 16th book
in the Saga of Recluce series, for almost 10 years. In his newest novel, Modesitt answers a number of questions about the world of Recluce and gives readers something unique to the series -- the female perspective.
Arms-Commander picks up 10 years after the conclusion of The Chaos Balance and is the first in the series to be told from a woman's point of view. The novel features three women: Zeldyan, the regent of Lornth; Ryba, the marshal of Westwind; and Saryn, the arms-commander of Westwind at the opening of the book. While the novel has elements of romance, Modesitt says it's essentially about the power struggles the women have with male rulers
"Saryn finds herself in a unique position in dealing with the political, economic and military conflicts, and how these conflicts are resolved will determine the history of Western Candar for more than a thousand years," Modesitt says.
Although readers will find strong female characters in nearly all of Modesitt's 50-plus novels, the author admits he has to work
a little harder to write from a female point of view. But in many ways, he says it's more enjoyable. His Spellsong Cycle series, which came from observing his wife's career as the head of the voice and opera program at Southern Utah University, used female points of view exclusively. To write those books, Modesitt had to consider every emotional reaction, essentially asking how his wife or daughters would have reacted to each situation.
The Saga of Recluce has traditionally been told from a male perspective, but it's hardly a traditional series. The books span 2,000 years and five continents and feature more than a dozen cultures. And no more than two books are ever about the same set of main characters. "The greatest challenge is making certain that each novel fits properly into the world's history and cultural trends and that, in doing so, it creates an ever richer tapestry of the world," the author says.
Modesitt began writing poetry in high school and continued his study in college under American poet William Jay Smith. In his late 20s, he wrote his first sci-fi story, "The Great American Economy," which was published in 1973 in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine.
Modesitt wrote short sci-fi stories for another five years before turning to novels. It took him a year and a half to write his first book, The Fires of Paratime, which was published in 1982 by Timescape. Soon after, however, Simon and Schuster shut down Timescape, and he had to find another publisher. Keeping a publisher isn't a problem these days, but after 50 books, finding ways to keep his stories fresh becomes a challenge.
"Over the past eight to 10 years, writing the books has gotten a little harder, not because the writing itself is more difficult, but because I always try to do something different with each new book, even if it's a book in a current series," Modesitt says. "I don't know that I've always succeeded, and even when I have, not all the readers are pleased with such differences, but for me that effort is important. That makes the writing a bit harder."
The inspiration for his writings has come from his previous jobs in economics and politics, as well as his military service as a naval aviator, where he realized that every action has a moral dimension, and that "success or failure often depends on understanding that moral dimension." One of his short stories, for example, "Iron Man, Plastic Ships," which appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1979, is based on the H-2 helicopter modification disaster during the Vietnam War.
Along with moral issues, readers will also notice themes of people finding new talents within themselves. "There's an old precept about knowing yourself," Modesitt says. "Most young people only think they know themselves, and it's not until they're tested by events that they may discover more about themselves. The same is true of people who have settled into a life and profession where they've come to terms with day-to-day life. As humans, we tend not to like change, but change is what prompts us to learn. We really only learn, as my wife has pointed out, when we venture outside our comfort zone. That's why I personally believe that the best books are about people who do change and learn ... and those are the kind of books I like to write."
L.E. MODESITT'S FIVE FAVORITE SCI-FI BOOKS
CREATURES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS Roger Zelazny
THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS
Ursula K. Le Guin
SOLDIER, ASK NOT Gordon R. Dickson
THE WAR HOUND AND THE WORLD'S PAIN Michael Moorcock
THE SHAPE-CHANGERS WIFE
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