“The Melody Lingers” Annotations

Warning – contains spoilers

Page numbers are for the print edition of Galaxy’s Edge #39.

Scene 1

p. 17

The description of how dolphins see the world is based on their use of echolocation – perceiving the world through the reflections of the sounds they transmit around them. I explored the idea in more depth (heh-heh) in Star Trek: Titan – Over a Torrent Sea.

The term “Wyrd” for Thayara’s form of magic is derived as much from “Word” (as in “In the beginning was the Word,” the Greek concept of Logos as words and thoughts defining reality) as from “weird” (as in unearthly or supernatural), and is pronounced about halfway between the two. I think of Thayara as an alternate Earth where evolution proceeded differently due to the Wyrd phenomenon and its resonance with thinking brains, so that humans share the world with other sapient, civilized species, hominid and other. However, the dolphins were the only other species relevant to this particular story, so for simplicity’s sake I didn’t mention any of the others, aside from a passing mention of “the human lands.”

The reference to Khar’s “unusually pale bronze skin” is meant to imply that most Thayaran humans are dark-skinned. Humans’ spread out of the continent we call Africa was never quite as pervasive on Thayara as on Earth, because competing species (hominid and otherwise) were not as fully displaced or absorbed. This story is set along the Thayaran equivalent of the east coast of Africa, moving northward. The national boundaries, histories, and cultures are quite different from their Earthly counterparts, but major cities are in roughly the same places due to similar geographical pressures. I’ve used phonetically similar place names as a creative convenience and mnemonic—e.g. Tazanbi corresponds roughly to Zanzibar and Tynilae to the Nile Valley. You may be able to deduce the rest.

p. 18

Tynilae is the dominant human empire, corresponding geographically to the Middle East, North Africa, and Mediterranean Europe from Greece to Italy. Tynilae’s industrialization and the Siege of Numeshai (a traditionalist empire in the sub-Saharan West) are bits of leftover worldbuilding from my unpublished 2009 Thayara story, which was set maybe a generation earlier. Basically, since conservation laws and physics still apply on Thayara, great Wyrdworkings used to require sacrificing thousands of lives for their metabolic energy, until the Tynilaeans figured out how to harness energy from sources like coal and thereby industrialize magic.

p. 19

In the original version of this story, the confrontation with Khar after the concert was her first and only meeting with Jeran. To improve the pacing, I expanded the story so they had two confrontations, one where Khar initially accused an unconvinced Jeran, then a later one in which matters escalated as in the original (and final) scene. When Mike Resnick asked me to condense the story again, I decided to draw mainly on the second scene from the longer version, so that they’d already met and had an initial confrontation before the story began. That improved the pacing of the short version and let me keep the best of both.


Scene 2

p. 20

I’m not that familiar with concert tours, so I’m not sure how feasible it would be for a musician to cancel or rearrange bookings at short notice. But I expect it would be very costly, what with tickets having to be refunded and the expense of venue reservations/preparations going to waste, not to mention the bad PR that would result from disappointing the fans, stiffing investors and contractors, etc. It’s an extreme move that only someone as famous and powerful as Jeran could pull off, and that underlines how desperate a situation he’s in, so I wish I had stressed the difficulty more.


Scene 3

p. 21

“two continents”: Since Thayara’s human civilization is not Eurocentric, they wouldn’t have any reason to invent the political fiction of Europe and Asia being separate continents. Thus, the two continents are the equivalents of Africa and Eurasia.

I’ve always felt it was a bit of a cheat to write a story about songs of power and not include any of the lyrics. But I don’t think I have sufficient songwriting skill to plausibly craft lyrics as powerful as Jeran’s supposedly are, and of course I just didn’t have room in such a short piece.

It also bugs me that this story about a man using and exploiting women is told from the man’s perspective and has him being the one who frees the women, rather than the perspective of a woman freeing herself. But I wanted to get inside Jeran’s head to show how he rationalized his exploitation, to expose the self-serving hypocrisy of his thinking. I tried to give Ganalyn what agency I could by having her make the suggestion that ultimately freed her, but it’s not an ideal structure.

p. 22

I dislike stories where the defeat or atonement of a bad guy requires their death. I don’t see death as a form of justice in any context. But in this case, it was physics that dictated the outcome—and Jeran’s sacrifice was necessary to show that he’d really recognized and renounced his selfish use of others.

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