Friday, February 23, 2007

Secret History

ERBzine has posted the last two chapters of Secret Masters of Callisto today, finishing up the serialization of my novella length pastiche of Lin Carter’s Jandar books. The introduction that precedes the story tells how I came to write Secret Masters, but not why I wrote that particular tale.
The last published Callisto book was Renegade of Callisto. It came out in 1978, when the “boom” spawned by the late 1960s reprinting of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, had just about run its course. Sword & Planet and Sword & Sorcery were on the way out, being replaced by a more Tolkien inspired form of heroic fantasy.
The early Callisto books had been very strong sellers for Dell’s SF paperback division, but the final two books (Renegade and Ylana of Callisto) hadn’t done very well and the series was terminated before the third trilogy was completed. The final book would have been Sword Master of Callisto and would have featured series regular Lukor, the fencing master who had taught Jandar how to fight.
Lin Carter was a writer who usually had long range plans for his series. He had synopses for a couple of future Callisto books and titles for others at the ready.
Xara of Callisto would have followed Sword Master. Next would have been the Kaldar trilogy featuring Jandar’s son. Warrior Girl of Callisto, Ice Kingdom of Callisto, and Kaldar of Callisto. Lin had at least two more in mind after that, Lost Prince of Callisto and Zamara of Callisto. None of these were ever written.
Originally, when I decided to write a sequel to the Callisto series I was going to pick up with Lin’s titles and write Sword Master of Callisto. But my plot turned out to involve the origins of the jungle moon, building upon hints that Lin had salted his books with, so the title didn’t really fit. Besides, Lukor had been described as ‘elderly’ in the last Callisto book and I was picking up the story some three decades later, so it wasn’t likely that Lukor would still be among the living. Unlike the inhabitants of Burroughs’ Barsoom, the Thanatorians don’t have 1000-year life spans.
Still, I managed to work in a reference to the Sword Master by naming the new flagship of the Ku-thad sky navy the Lukor. Plus my title has the same initials as Lin’s. Secret Masters vs Sword Master.
Similarly, I decided to use Jandar’s son (who hadn’t appeared in Carter’s published books except as a baby) as a lead character. Thus I was able to use the name Kaldar and more firmly link my story to the originals. Darisha, Jandar and Darloona’s daughter, is entirely my own creation.
If you’ve read the final chapters you know that I left the story wide open for a sequel, and that the sequel would most likely be Ice Kingdom of Callisto. There are a couple of reasons I chose that title from the list of unwritten Callisto books. First, I always liked the Ice Kingdom of Mongo series from Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon strip, which is where I suspect Lin Carter got the idea. Second, since Lin never wrote about the polar region of Callisto I’d be free to make up everything. As much fun as I had playing in Lin’s world, I was beginning to chafe at the constraints of using his settings, monsters, etc. I’m used to making all that stuff up.
So do I plan to write the sequel? Maybe. The guys at the Lin Carter yahoo group are very enthusiastic about me continuing the story. I’m working on other projects just now, but I may find my way back to Callisto. Time will tell.

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