Demigoddess of the Mind
|Review Essay by
The inner masterpiece
James H. Schmitz wrote thirteen stories in his powerful and subtle Telzey Amberdon series, published in Analog Science Fiction from 1962 through 1972. These are a subset of his larger Federation of the Hub series.
Some time after writing the Hub novel A Tale of Two Clocks, Schmitz realized that his galactic background, the Federation of the Hub, had grown to have a life of its own in his creative mind, diverse and sprawling but consistent: a "self-maintaining science fiction universe" in his words. He developed several excellent new stories for the Federation of the Hub series — including "Lion Loose" and the first Telzey story, "Novice" — but other ideas wouldn't fit. In an article he once wrote for me, Schmitz says:
I gave up at last, found backgrounds more suitable for my plots and wrote them up that way. One genuine Hub story, "Undercurrents," a lengthy sequel to "Novice," was begun in this period. It was staged on Orado, planetary seat of the Federation's Overgovernment, produced a great deal of additional information about the Hub's internal organization and other matters, and was incidentally an extraordinarily difficult story to write.James H. Schmitz
And we are extraordinarily well rewarded with the results. Schmitz's Telzey Amberdon series is a masterpiece; or if you will, the longest sequence within a larger masterpiece, his Federation of the Hub series.
Demigoddess: a being of ancient religion, denatured into modern mythology, and sometimes fictionalized in modern fantasy. Why do I maintain that in his young heroine Telzey Amberdon, Schmitz has created a demigoddess in science fiction?
That is, a person possessing near-Olympian aspects which could belong to some new-found demigoddess of ancient Greece, but whose abilities are presented reasonably, even matter-of-factly. Telzey is not born of a union of god or goddess with a mortal, as Hercules or Helen. Telzey is a natural person whose exotic development is described as extraordinary but out of real physical and mental materials; not supernatural.
For more about her exotic but natural mind, read on —
I want to stress here that it is worth taking your time to read (and re-read) Schmitz slowly, thoughtfully, and with your analytical antennae well tuned. In other words, close reading. It's easy to breeze along with these fine adventures and miss the lusciously deep texture.
And note that "Novice" is only an introduction, not an overture. (I make the same points about Fritz Leiber, and the latter's "The Snow Women" as the opening to the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series.)
I lay the groundwork for my Telzey as demigoddess thesis in three linked story reviews, which should be read sequentially:
Please go on to the discussion of "Novice". For those with serious interest in the human potential, Telzey's ascent is quite a ride.
© 2002, 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson
The Federation of the Hub