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Star Mate: Cosmopolis, City of the Universe

a far-future SF novel by A. T. Nager

Touched by New Haven or New England. It's another tango in New Haven, so to speak. I started writing this novel one summer, age 15 as best I can recall, while spending a few days in Meriden at the house of a widowed aunt. In fact, I sat at a desk overlooking her garden wall, and beyond that the moonlight eerie acres of a cemetery, and this in the former bedroom of my deceased grandmother. I was not haunted by any of these things, but by the ghosts of Roman emperors and the cities of Isher and Norstrilia in the finest SF novels.

Touched by Isher and Norstrilia. I had long been an avid SF fan, reading at least one book a week. I loved the work of many authors from Andre Norton to Ray Bradbury, and the usual heavies (Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke). One of my particular loves was the grand, sprawling saga of future galactic empire. I was particularly enthralled with the universes created by Alfred Bester and A. E. Van Vogt, and their like. Right about this time, I discovered my ultimate favorite of all time, Cordwainer Smith. I was writing and reading poetry on a steady basis, and preparing for my years as an English Major at UConn (with a stronger interest in history and languages), so I came at this stuff from multiple directions. I was also soon to begin my years as a summer interne newspaper reporter (the first real job I ever held, beyond car washing and soda pumping). Furthermore, I was studying Latin and history at Notre Dame High School, immersed in Classics. So when I created the space empire in Cosmopolis: City of the Universe, it had strong historical underpinnings. When the movie Star Wars entered the popular imagination around 1974, I wondered what the fuss was all about. Greater empires had been created far earlier, among them Asimov's Foundation. But Star Wars lay in the future as yet. SF was a 'ghetto' (Dean Koontz's term) for those who had the courage to escape from U.S. fundamentalism and conformity. Read the introduction to any of SF's many excellent anthologies of the time (e.g., by Damon Knight, August Derleth, et al for a sense of how, for example, many fans would hide their SF magazine inside a newspaper so they wouldn't be ridiculed and eye-bullied by nitwits while riding the bus.

City of the Universe, or Cosmopolis. As a teenager, I created a universe in which a young Astral (space navy) officer of the galaxy's most powerful city state (Rome of 5,000 C.E., Mercury Free Port City) faces his country's decline and fall. Jared Fallon's career has been cut short by a beautiful but corrupt princess, who uses him as one of her personal pet heroes. As the city slides into ruin, Jared escapes, just barely, and seeks happiness first in the summer planet (Arcturus, where he falls in love with surfer girl Mala) and then the autumn planet (Lethe, River of Forgetfulness) where he loses everything material but finds his ultimate escape as a star-wandering spirit in a whispering ghost ship. It's a teenage novel, filled with the hormonal angst and autumnal poetry of, well, a young man who felt lost at a vast factory world of a university, not to mention lost in the 1960s pursuit of finding himself. Whatever.

It's Good, Probably Great. The manuscript gathered dust for just under fifty years before I resurrected it, had it typed and digitized, and read it. When I read it, I was surprised at how good a writer this teenager was, long ago in a lost world and lost lifetime. I had intended to just do a quick polish, and left the story line and its characters intact precisely as they were in 1969. However, I added one touch amid some final polish, and that was the introduction of a new type of SF creature, a human clone made from a person's nervous system as a glowing, energetic field. They are made from light copies of our neural kelp, like the luminescent jellyfish we'd be if we were only neurons, axions, and synaptic sparks. I call them diaphanes (diaphanous, as a moth's wings that you can all but see through) or djia for short. I fell in love with the djia in Jared's life, namely his sisterly partner (djia don't do sex) named Stella, and Princess Lixa's clone Lelli.


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At the end of the day, it really is a teenage novel. It is grounded in a good understanding of history, and what can go wrong with the human race, and it became the foundation for my series Empire of Time (EOT). The most recent EOT novel is Moon Berry Wine (2015), which references the ruins of an ancient fortress of Mercury Free Port City (from the novel finally released in 2016 as Star Mate). There is much more yet to come in the EOT saga, which spans a billion years of time, multiple universes, and many discrete times and places where humans behave in their accustomed manner, both heroic and infernal, for rousing entertainment. Star Mate is both the first and the sixth novel in the series, so it comes before and yet also outpaces some of the more inventive touches that crept in, like female popes, the Temporale (a transit world outside time and space), exogravitation, and much else.