Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thoughts on "the Man in the High Castle"

Originally posted September 1, 2009

I'm sorry for contributing to the lull this past month. I read the first half of "The Man in the High Castle" early in the month, but like many of us I found it difficult and so I put it down and read comic books and watched television for most of the month. However, I did pick the book up again a few days ago and finished it.

I read all of the posts about the book and I am generally in agreement with others. I think Bill matched my own feeling about it when he wrote, "Enjoyed might be too strong a word."

I finished the book mainly because it won the Hugo and so I figured it must have a killer ending or something (More on the book's ending later). The only other Hugo nominee I've read from 1963 so far was "A Fall of Moondust" (which we read a few months ago) and I have to grudgingly admit that this is a better novel. It feels less dated and has better character development and story.

I agree with James who said that Dick doesn't write about heroic people, he writes about "little people" or everyday people. I thought this directly related to a quote from the novel, (my p 42) "Whom the gods notice they destroy. Be small… and you will escape the jealousy of the great."

This in a nutshell was the major reason why I didn't enjoy the book more. I kept comparing it to other alternate history books specifically Kornbluth's "Not this August" which is still fresh in my mind. In August the American people are conquered too. However, that novel is about hope, it is about how even if America is physically defeated you can't destroy the American spirit. Bill hit
upon this idea when he said that it made sense that, " a defeated people would be influenced by their conquerors. On the other hand, I would expect some of the population to be just the reverse, clinging proudly to their differences."

Another note on Dick's writing I read "A Scanner Darkly" a few months ago, and believe it or not that book was ten times more confusing than this one. Darkly was also more overtly drug induced.

I also agree with Tony who calling the I Ching outdated. I was equally mystified with the idea that the oracle wrote the book within the book. Surely all educated people understand that the I Ching, horoscopes, and fortune tellers all work the same way, the predictions are always vague enough for the client to fill in their own blanks.

Like Ann James, I didn't quite understand what happened to Tagomi in the park with the piece of jewelry. It seems that he somehow traveled to a different reality were the Japanese were not first class citizens. I think it was purposefully left vague, but I came up with all sorts of crazy ideas like the whole novel was a fantasy and Tagomi merely "woke up" or the two realities are closely related and people can wander from one to the other, that's how Abendsen wrote the novel he came from the other world. But my favorite interpretation is that is a metaphor. Dick is trying to tell us that just as easily as Tagomi can come into "our world" we can find ourselves in Tagomi's world or a world like it if we as a world make poor choices and don't learn from past mistakes.

Even the cover of the novel confuses me. I have the same picture that was on this site all month. Does anyone else understand how it relates to the novel?

I don't understand if Baynes/Rudolf Wegener was really Jewish. He seemed to be a heroic character, I loved the scene where he told the anti-Semite that he was Jewish but there was nothing he could do about it. However, the revelation of his true identity at the end of the novel left me confused.

In the passage right before Juliana kills Joe (my p 212) "Blade, she thought. I swallowed it; now it cuts my loins forever." I took this literally and I kept waiting for her to drop dead. But I guess it was just more craziness. I don't understand why these few pages are the only hint of her being mentally unbalanced.

I found Childan a particularly loathsome character, kind of a sniveling rat of a man or a used car salesman. He was so obsessed with Japanese culture I didn't even realize he was American at first. However, he was a sort of interesting character, I enjoyed hearing the machinations forming in his head and knowing that they were all going to go horribly wrong somehow. Also, my favorite of the plotlines was the idea that authentic American cultural artifacts had become so popular that someone had begun mass producing fakes.

Being an archivist this fascinated me, especially the argument that an original and a perfect fake have nothing that separates them, there is no specialness that emanates from a true original. I agree this is true and yet originals will always be worth more than copies.

Thoughts on "The Mote in God's Eye"

Originally posted September 28, 2009

I just finished reading "The Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. This is the third book I've read by this duo. Previously I read "Lucifer's Hammer," and "Footfall."

All three have been both riveting and thought provoking.

I'm going to focus this review on "Mote," but there will no doubt be mild spoilers for all three novels as I point out similarities and differences.

"Lucifer's Hammer" and "Footfall" both took place in the "present." The novels examined the respective questions of "What would happen if an asteroid hit Earth tomorrow?" and "What would happen if aliens invaded Earth tomorrow?" For me this made the novels very accessible. I understood the characters and their motivations because though they were in an extraordinary situation I shared the common ground of American culture and ideas with the characters.

"The Mote in God's Eye," on the other hand takes place in the future year 3017 during the Second Empire of Man. There is 1,000 years of history to learn in order to understand who the characters are and what motivates them.

While a lot of time has gone by humans are still human. The characters don't really act much different then you or I would. In fact, I found it quaint to think that in another 1,000 years civilization would be run by aristocracy. I don't know how realistic that is, but I just went with it.

I remember one of the great things about both "Lucifer's Hammer" and "Footfall" were the vast variety of characters such as: an astronomer, a biker, a senator, a tv producer, and science fiction writers. "Mote" on the other hand suffers from having lots of navy man characters of the square-jawed, box-body variety and there is only one prominent female character in the whole novel.

But that's where any small amount of criticism ends.

The novel follows the same rough format as the others. Events happen slow enough for characters to reflect and predict the results of an unknown event. For instance in "Lucifer's Hammer" when the asteroid is first observed many scientists think it is going to miss the earth, the reader of course knows better.

In both "Footfall" and "Mote" there is endless speculation as to what the aliens the humans are about to meet will be like.

This device is a lot of fun because the reader has the same amount of knowledge as the characters and you can speculate along with them and try and guess if they are missing something.

In "Mote" when the humans finally do meet the aliens, they are extremely alien. Their culture is mysterious and as one character says, "It seems like they are learning a lot more about us then we are learning about them." And when the humans do finally learn the Moties' big secrets you can't help but wonder how the scientist never asked those questions! And yet as a reader I didn't think of them, so how can I blame the characters?

The Motie aliens are fascinating creatures. They are much more benevolent then the warlike baby elephants in Footfall, they are also highly intelligent and crafty and perhaps more dangerous.

What do other folks who have read this book think?

Some short reviews of some short fiction

Originally posted Nov 17, 2009

I came to the happy realization yesterday that no matter how many science fiction stories I read there will always be more. Previously I believed that soon I'd run out of good ones.

This month I've focused on short stories. I got "Galaxy 30 Years of Innovative Science Fiction." And have read the stories at random, going wherever the spirit moved me. I thought I'd share some short thoughts about each story. They will be spoiler free unless otherwise noted.

However, before I explore those stories I would like to say a few words about "Mindworm" (spoilers ahead), this month's short story. It was written by C.M. Kornbluth who despite his short life made a lasting impact in Science fiction. On the one hand this story is kind of silly and the ending was spoiled since I knew it was in vampire story collections from time to time. On the other hand it isn't a vampire story because it concerns a man who is literally sustained by sucking emotions out of people not blood. On the gripping hand, it was an interesting idea and an attempt to bring the fantasy idea of vampires into the science fiction age as a mutation. It is somewhat disappointing that few other authors go this route.

I also found the story to contain some amusing irony. The Mindworm goes to the small West Virginia town to disappear, but he's unknowingly arrived at the one place where he will be found. The Eastern European population of the town has seen his kind before and they are almost nonchalant in resolving the matter by immediately exterminating the "Wampyir."

Where as a more "civilized" society might have put the Mindworm on trial and discussed the possibility of rehabilitation these people thought of the Mindworm as a monster, or mutation, or a rabid animal; certainly something no longer human that was to be destroyed immediately.

The first stop in the "Galaxy" collection is "To Serve Man" by Damon Knight. This story's ending was familiar to me even though I'd never read the story or seen the Twilight Zone episode, though I have seen the parody in one of the Simpson's Halloween episodes. It's just one of those stories that's firmly in the pop culture. The story is also on the cover of this collection, and it is just about the worst cover ever. Almost every line of text on the left side of the cover has text the carries onto the following line. What were they thinking?!

Anyway, "To Serve Man," I think the story which features linguists working for many weeks to discover the terrible secret of the alien's books, makes a lot more sense then the Twilight Zone episode, where I believe they just kind of stumble upon the truth. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

"Coming Attractions" by Fritz Leiber

New York City was hit by a nuclear bomb, but you can't keep the Big Apple down. The population has just gone about their business and does their best to avoid the ground zero area known as the Inferno. The protagonist, a visitor from England, carries a meter around to see how much radiation he's been exposed to. But all of that is sort of in the background, the main focus of the story is a kind of social examination; In this future, all woman in America wear masks over their faces and the human form has been banned from all advertisements. It was
interesting to see how Leiber imagined American culture changing since this kind of modesty is currently only associated with Middle Eastern culture and for lack of a better word completely foreign to current American culture.

"Cold Friend" by Harlan Ellison

Ellison just seems to be one of those authors you either love or hate, mostly because Ellison strikes me as nuts, I mean what kind of a guy copyrights his own name? (as Harlan did in 1980). What kind of a guy writes a whole book about how he didn't like the changes that were made to City on the Edge of Forever? (Especially since most people consider it the best hour of Star Trek ever). That said I'm slowly moving firmly into the love category because he may be a son of a bitch in real life, but he does know how to craft great stories.

Cold Friend is a story about a man that wakes up in a hospital after he clearly remembers dying. He soon realizes he's the last man on Earth. Though Earth is only roughly 3 square blocks and the rest complete darkness.

Note: Anyone know how popular Ellison is these days? I was disturbed to not be able to find a single one of his books in Barnes and Nobles the other day.

Philip K. Dick does not disappoint with "Oh, to be a Blobel!" a Sci-fi story whose ending mirrors "The Gift of the Magi." In the story Earth went to war with these kind of giant amoeba aliens from Titan called Blobels. During that time both Earth and Titan genetically altered some of their soldiers so that they became the opposite species in order to act as spies. Some years later there is peace, but not for ex-spies, they were told there would be no lasting effects
but for 12 hours of the day former permanent human George is a man and for 12 hours he is a Blobel. He has nothing to live for until a robot psychiatrist introduces him to a beautiful woman who is really a former Blobel Spy. She is a woman 18 hours of the day and a Blobel the other 6.

Asimov's "Founding Fathers" was a short story Asimov wrote as a commission. It was based on a drawing Horrace Gold gave him of that month's cover and told him to make a story around this.

The story concerns shipwrecked astronauts trying to survive on a planet with a nitrogen-carbon dioxide-ammonia based atmosphere. It's an interesting idea and made me think of another strange atmosphere story, Clement's "Mission of Gravity" where the aliens floated their ship on a methane sea.

Going Down Smooth by Robert Silverberg is a great little story about an AI computer used as a therapist that begins to become as crazy as its patients.

"All the Myriad Ways" by Larry Niven is kind of a satirical review of the absurdity of the theory that there are an infinite number of dimensions where your every action and decision are played out with similar or different results.

I thought it was neat that someone called a rich guy committing suicide, "pulling a Richard Cory" because I know and like the Simon and Garfunkel song.

The Holes Around Mars by Jerome Bixby (Spoilers) was supposed to just be a fun little story full of puns, but it was kind of interesting scientifically too, even if the science in it is impossible. In the story astronauts discover a tiny, but extremely dense moon that travels around the surface of Mars and cuts through anything in its path even several miles of solid rock.

"The Gift of Garigolli" by Fred Pohl and based on notes and bits of story and dialogue by himself and C.M. Kornbluth. (spoilers) This one confused me, it's a story about a down on his luck guy and some fly sized aliens that continuously attempt to communicate with the man. The alien's perspective is shared in the form of an alien's letters to his commander. In the end the aliens turn out to be formed from chemicals in the man's garbage? Or maybe they create the organic
chemical ooze the man finds in his garbage, I couldn't tell.

And all the Stars a Stage; Childhood's End, passage Compare and Contrast

Originally posted December 6, 2009

I found it absolutely fascinating that the last two novels I've read both had very similar passages in which it is purported that oral contraceptives and paternity tests will revolutionize society. Here are the two passages, after which I will do some compare and contrast.

"In particular, the pattern of sexual mores- insofar as there had ever been one pattern- had altered radically. It had been virtually shattered by two invention, which were, ironically enough, of purely human origin and owed nothing to the Overlords.

The first was a completely reliable oral contraceptive: the second was an equally infallible method- as certain as fingerprinting, and based on a very detailed analysis of the blood- of identifying the father of any child. The effect of these two inventions upon human society could only be described as devastating, and they had swept away the last remnants of the Puritan aberration." (p 73 in my copy of Childhood's End.) 1953

"The relevant technique was called sperm electrophoresis, a ridiculously simple trick to perform in glassware- and the pharmaceutical manufacturers had quickly come up with a medium, an anion or cation exchange gel, which made it equally easy to perform in situ. Its purpose was sex determination of the child at conception….

Had it not been Selektrojel, it would have been something else. That had appeared almost simultaneously with another dangerous triumph of the pharmaceutical research laboratories: a cheap, simple, safe, foolproof oral contraceptive. This, couples with the fact that venereal disease had disappeared (as a natural consequence of the virtually complete conquest of infectious
disease by chemotherapy, immunology, and universal sanitation), might easily have destroyed the immemorial family system entirely, by making sexual relations so free of any unwanted consequence that they could hardly seem worth the price of a lifetime contract, especially to the innately roving-eyed- male. "In fact," one of the leading doctors of the time had remarked in an immortal burst of unconscious humor, "venereal disease is now almost as pleasant to cure as it is
to catch.") Legal protection could still be afforded the woman afflicted with an accident of impulse, since modern genetics made it possible to determine the parents of any child ninety-nine times out of a hundred by blood tests alone." (6-8 in my copy of And All the Stars a Stage) 1960 or 1971

As I stated in my review of Childhood's End: "We of course have both of these technologies. "The Pill" came out in the 60s and it about 99% effective if properly used. I'd call that reliable. And DNA testing first reported in 1985 can offer definitive paternal proof.

So did these two discoveries change sexual mores, absolutely without the pill there would have been no free love movement in the 60s and DNA testing in paternity cases can be really important. On a lighter note, I've heard that on "the Montel Show" "you are not the father" is practically his catchphrase. However, have these discovers lead to an end to the "Puritan aberration?" Not so far. Not as long as the bible belt pushes abstinence only programs, television
networks get sued for showing a nipple on television for 3 seconds, and every day it seems like from the way people talk about abortion, it was outlawed instead of legally protected in the Roe vs. Wade judgment. So in my opinion, the sexual mores of today may be different than those of the 50s, but we still have a long way to go."

And as Bill so brilliantly stated more so than the two changes purported in Childhood's End it was the more seemingly mundane change of woman joining the work force that truly revolutionized modern sexual mores. For the first time woman did not necessarily have to get married in order to have children. Today with artificial insemination a guy doesn't even have to be involved, but that's getting off topic.

The Blish passage brings up some new and interesting ideas. And by interesting I mean crazy. The idea that "venereal diseases disappeared as a natural consequence of the virtually complete conquest of infectious disease by chemotherapy, immunology, and universal sanitation." Okay, lets pick this apart one at a time. The conquest of infectious disease by chemotherapy, I'm guessing that Blish is using the word chemotherapy to mean antibiotics not its modern usage as a cancer medicine. The story originally appeared in 1960 in "an abridged form" and the novel in 1971. Chemotherapy had a major breakthrough and first started to be used for cancer in the mid 60's.

Okay, "the virtually complete conquest of infectious disease by [antibiotics]" at least makes sense as an idea. I can't help but still consider it naive through no fault of Blish's though. When he wrote this book, no one yet experienced the ultimate venereal disease AIDS.

I have nothing to add about immunology, but universal sanitation just makes me laugh. Yes, third word countries have problems with diseases that first world countries don't because of sanitation issues, but America's sanitation is great but our population does still get venereal diseases. Not as much as third world countries, but it is probably sex education and medicine that helps us fight STDs.

Okay then looking at the passage as a whole he is saying that four things, the power to pick the sex of a baby, an effective oral contraceptive, the conquest of venereal diseases, and an accurate paternity test, resulted in the destruction of the whole ideas of marriage and monogamy. Now that just makes no sense to me. The ideas of monogamy had been ingrained into the human psyche seemingly since the days of cave man and certainly since biblical times. I don't see a couple of inventions changing this. Men, as the novel states have had "Roving eyes" for generations, but most men still seem to settle down with one partner because there is something innately special about such an arrangement. I would even concede that polygamist relationships are still the same thing because the man or men are committed to the woman or women in a way equal to a single marriage.

That said despite Blish's statement about the end of families this world does seem to find a different definition of family. The popularity of being able to pick the favored male babies results in there being lots of men and a lot less women. Suddenly due to the laws of supply and demand woman are the greater commodity and find themselves taking over society and the government. It seems that they keep this power by continuing the trend of flooding the market with men rather than correcting the population ratio which would theoretically lessen their power. However, there are still families a single woman has many husbands, but they are still a family unit.

I actually think that the scenario Blish has unfolded seems possible.

Perhaps the present day model of China can serve as an example. There male babies are preferred and that coupled with their governmental controlling of the birth rate result in, "according to a report by the State Population and Family Planning Commission, there will be 30 million more men than women in 2020, potentially leading to social instability." 1

Only time will tell whether this leads to woman gaining more power in Chinese
society as a result of their scarcity.

So anyway, what do you all think about these changes to the social makeup of society. It seems that picking the gender of a baby is now scientifically possible through a form of in vitro fertilization, but it is not yet cost effective for the majority of the population. If and when it becomes more common what long-term effects do you think it will have on society?

Also, does anyone else think it's weird that two authors wrote such similar passages?

Original post at Classic Science Fiction Message Board
Review of Childhood's End

Thoughts on "The Door into Summer"

Originally posted Feb 20, 2010

When I finished "The Door into Summer" and found it had a
time-travel-into-the-past-twist and a May-Dec Romance twist at the end, I couldn't help but think of the Heinlein book we read last year "Farnham's Freehold," which also had these same plot points. Maybe some of you are still trying to forget that one. As I recall, it left a bad taste in some member's mouths.

I went back and looked at some of out posts from when we read that book and they weren't quite as negative as I remembered. Some people, myself included, enjoyed
"Freehold," but it was kind of an ugly novel exploring the consequences of nuclear war, and the horror of cannibalism, and it featured lots of unlikable characters.

"Door Into Summer," by comparison seems bright and cheery. In theory, it is primarily about the engineering of robots that would help women around the house. It's also about time travel, cats, the future of civilization, and

I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative style, it was kind of light and easy to read, it doesn't challenge the reader to understand technical aspects of robotic engineering though that is the narrator's (D.B. Davis) job. Perhaps this lack of more hard science bothered some readers? Instead the novel focused more on Davis' humanity, his relationship with his cat, his relationship with his
business partners (Miles and Belle), and his relationship with Miles' "daughter" Ricky.

(Side note: I told my wife about the novel, especially all the cat stuff, because we have a cat, and she commented that Heinlein captured the human/cat relationship so well that must have been a cat-person himself).

The novel is, in a way, timeless since it explored a future (1970) where robotic technology was exploding; a time that has not yet come to be. Then it explores a further future (2000) where man had begun to explore the solar system. While reading the novel it really bothered me that Heinlein picked the close years of 1970 and 200. Why didn't he choose 2300 or 2XXX. But upon reflection, I decided that the close year must have been a sort of optimism that civilization was
going to go through great changes quickly or maybe he didn't think anyone would still be reading his novels after the turn of the century.

What did you all think about the significance of the years?

Bill talked about the casualness of references to nuclear war bothering him. This didn't bother me; mostly because it was so in the background I hardly noticed it. Also, after reading Bill's post I thought that leaving it in the background just kind of fit. As I said before, the novel was written in a very intimate sort of narrative voice. It explored Davis' character and his life and interpersonal relationships. It explored the differences between 1970 and 2000, but only anecdotally. So, I felt it fit that there were questions sort of left unanswered about the "6 Weeks War."

Imagine someone in another reality writing a sci-fi novel about our reality. Would Sept. 11 be mentioned? Maybe, but only if it was important to the story, perhaps it would only be mentioned in passing. Certainly the nuclear war hinted to in this novel which caused Denver to become the US's capital had a bigger impact than 9/11, but I think the analogy works.

Now, I want to talk about the ending. Specifically, Davis pining for and marrying a girl he'd only known till she was 11. Doug talked about having met "old souls" in real life. I know the concept fairly well because I've always been kind of an "old soul" myself. I had older siblings growing up and I've always been pretty smart, so, growing up, I was often more comfortable with older kids or adults, more so than I was with kids my own age.

Anyway, Mary Beth thought the end of "Door Into Summer" was a sort of romantic fairy tale ending, but I found it to be downright creepy. I was fine with this plot-thread until the end. Remembering "Freehold" and the relationship between that story's protagonist and the much younger Barbara, I was worried where this story was headed when Ricky's character was first introduced. But for the bulk of the novel Davis' love for Ricky seemed to be platonic or fatherly. I thought, in the future Davis was searching for Ricky as a friend, a link to his past, not
a lover. Though maybe I failed to read between the lines since Davis gives up the moment he finds out she's married.

In my opinion, Davis falls in love with an idea. The idea of him finding Ricky and living happily-ever-after keeps him going when he is thrust into a future where he doesn't belong. But, how can you fall in love with an abstract idea? The Ricky who emerges from cold sleep is not an 11-year-old girl, but a 21-year-old woman Davis has never met.

I always feel like the man I am today bears little resemblance to the man I was 8 years ago when I was 18. Maybe I'm closer to that version of John than I think, but one thing is for sure, 10 years can be a long time.

Personally, I think the novel would have made more sense if Davis had met Ricky in 2000 and fallen in love with her. Given the time-loop quality of the novel, she would have been already married to Davis' future self, but she could have played coy and implied she was married to someone else. Thiscould have been the event that caused Davis to visit Denver and Dr. Twitchell. Or when Davis tracked Ricky down he could have met his future self. It would have spoiled the ending, but it would have been an interesting meeting. The same scenario I just
described happened in the Red Dwarf episode "Stasis Leak," one of the best of the series.

Either of these would have made the ending less "creepy" and more realistic, but maybe I'm just not a "romantic," as I wouldn't fall in love with a person I'd never met or talked to as an adult.

What do you think was Heinlein's thought process: Was he a romantic, was he making a statement about pedophilia or was it all incidental because he just wanted an interesting time-travel-twist ending?

Or I'll ask the same question in a different way: Why didn't Heinlein have Davis meet Ricky in 2000? Was it to maintain tension in the story or was it supposed to be romantic?

Thoughts on "The Naked Sun"

The Naked Sun
Originally Posted March 24, 2010

I was a bit disappointed that there was little interplay between Baley and Daneel. It's been about a year since I read the first book, but the way I remember it in "Caves of Steel" Baley was worried about Daneel solving the case before he could. Every clue Daneel recognized was suspenseful, here is a walking computer, limitless amounts of knowledge and all Baley has going for himself is human intuition.

However, in this book, there is never a doubt that Baley is in control and Daneel is the one that is outclassed. There is never a doubt that despite Daneel's knowledge he could never hope to outthink a human.

Like others said this is basically a sociology book with a plot. First there are the Solarians who have made eschewing human contact a way of life. It was fascinating to read about the way they were raising children. The children wanted to play together when they were younger, but the Solarians slowly forced it out of them, isolating them more and more all their lives. The Solarian scientists purport that this need for contact would be slowly breed out of them. To any sensible Earthling this is of course complete hogwash, but it is fascinating to imagine a world where everyone has been given the same phobias. I liked that there was one woman, Gladia, that rejected the indoctrination. She still craved human contact even though they had tried to force it out of her during her childhood. It reminded me of the topsy turvy
realities explored in classic Twilight Zone episodes.

The other interesting bit of sociology was first introduced by the lone sociologist on Solaria. He says that theirs is the first civilization where humans are all on even terms and have nothing to do but enjoy themselves because robots replace the working class. The unexpected result of this is that the people of Solaria lose the human drive, since all of their needs are met they stagnant instead of striving and becoming stronger due to hardship.

I really like how despite spacer's best efforts to build safe machines even positronic-brained robots can unknowingly break their three laws. I did however come up with an easy solution to the problem presented in this book. If two robots are being given orders that seem benign on there own but are deadly when combined the solution is to have a central positronic-brain imbedded into the house that does nothing but monitor the house and watch all the robots for just such happenings and when it begins to see one it can shut robots down by remote control or alter their orders.

Even though I read the final Foundation book, I don't think the idea of a Spacer/Earther conflict every really sunk in, it's a shame Asimov never wrote a book devoted to the conflict. He just showed the effects in the final Foundation book. I'll need to go back and re-read that because I didn't know the significance of the worlds they were visiting in "Foundation and Earth" because I'd never read this book.

It strikes me that Asimov seemed to spend all of the 80s putting a button onto his classic works, linking them together, explaining things left unexplained. He always made sure they were good stories by themselves too though.