Saturday, December 17, 2022

"To Each This World"

Having written twenty-three novels (and counting) published by her beloved DAW Books and Hugo-winning editor Sheila E. Gilbert, as well as numerous short stories, and editing several anthologies over the past 25 years, Julie E. Czerneda was inducted in the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2022. Czerneda’s works combine her training and love of biology with a boundless curiosity and optimism. The recently released Imaginings is her first short story collection.

Czerneda applied the Page 69 Test to her new standalone science fiction novel To Each This World, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I know what I heard!”


A warm spot, a tiny step to a shared path; Henry knew better than make anything more of it. The pilot had coped with kmeth’s extreme behavior. Good. Wasn’t cowed by his office. Better. Her willingness to stay and help save lives when she’d every right to demand a deserved leave home reinforced Kisho’s recommendation. Best.

None of which mattered more than his initial assessment.

She didn’t hide her feelings, or chose not to—an honesty he found encouraging. Killian’s face scowled fiercely and smiled well: broad, with strong lines at jaw and cheek, and large, dark brown eyes, blood-shot but alert, shrouded by thick lashes. Her scalp was covered in a close cut black fuzz, a geometric pattern shaved into the sides. Nice work by the Spacer Repository. There were even holes in her epitome’s earlobes and in each wide nostril where she’d removed piercings from previous assignments. Prudent. Kmet tended to fixate on them. Muscle flexed along her bare arms and her posture, weary or not, suggested athleticism.

Killian was in her mid-forties, as was he, and the patches dotting her faded, loose-fitting coveralls hinted at a past full of stories—and an attitude. He liked both, to be honest. Not that she’d care.

He liked that as well.

The pilot cradled her coffee, studying him in return. She’d arrived with conceptions about who he was, based on what he was; most who met him did. Might be shifting.

She’d arrived with those bloodshot eyes, now clear and bright, and the hand holding the cup no longer trembled. Flip’s coffee, no doubt, the polymorph having read the exhausted pilot’s vitals when she arrived and inclined to fix things.

Maybe she wouldn’t notice.

“Let’s get started,” Henry announced. “I need your observations of Kmet-Here and kmeth’s reactions, Killian. To me and my oneirics at once, if you don’t mind.”

She touched her wristband. Reflex. Didn’t tap it. Decision. For whatever reason, the pilot didn’t want her oneiric present.
Happily, jumping to page 69 of my new SF novel, To Each This World, won’t spoil plot. It does a quick, useful introduction to two of my Human protagonists, Henry and Killian. Along with hints about Flip, who isn’t Human but has an abundance of freewill. Nice!

It’s the first time in the book where we see Killian. We’ve been in her head, experiencing the sort of problems that arise on your first day working with an alien—in crisis--but those passages are quick and intimate, without time to learn more about her. The entire book is that way. The points of view are tight, personal, and fully engaged with what’s happening—a choice some say is unusual in science fiction. That’s fine, so is this book. And Killian, Henry, and Flip.

This page is a good example. As Henry forms his opinion of Killian, you learn more about him than her. What he values in another person. What he trusts. What matters to him. He’s in charge, but his natural approach is collaboration, not command. As New Earth’s Arbiter, the one person who negotiates with the alien Kmet, this is a key part of his success thus far. As is compassion. Here it’s for Killian, through Flip’s help.

Readers will spot cues on this page of a far future setting with space travel but what are epitomes and oneirics? I’m pleased those terms appear without context or explanation. If you start from page 1, you’ll be up to speed, but it’s gratifying this peek doesn’t give too much away.

After all, there’s a mystery to solve. Thanks, page 69!
Visit Julie E. Czerneda's website.

The Page 69 Test: To Guard Against the Dark.

The Page 69 Test: The Gossamer Mage.

The Page 69 Test: Mirage.

Q&A with Julie E. Czerneda.

--Marshal Zeringue