We had a day trip from the residence with Ken, through the beautiful Kent and Sussex country-side. This part of England is all basically history, most buildings are in the 200-300+ year old age range. In fact, our tour guide pointed out without batting an eye-lash that a certain cottage had an addition put on 200 years ago that "just ruined it...".
Ken told me some interesting things about his German publisher. He was sitting in Brighton at a convention with his German agent, the publisher strolled by, called him over. And the deal to continue in German was struck in about five minutes to continue the series. The contract was book by book, so that is where the cliff-hangers came in. He would not have done that to Don Wollheim. The Germans actually preferred it that way. He tried to end the series several times, and we will see that through the remaining books. DP #53 has about the crassest cliff-hanger in the Series, so he really wants to get Prescot and company out of a pickle. He wants to get the Series to a well-rounded conclusion for the fans.
There are many avenues, to conclude the series. Much like the Star Lords, an outcome could be chosen. Again, this comes back to Ken's organic writing style, he is really much like the Star Lords in choosing outcomes.
My belief is the story is an important story. A story worth telling, especially in regard to its basic premise: how races in the Universe should get along. Kregen as a medieval melting pot was always the main focus.
Ken is humble about his work. He poo-poos it, saying he never had enough fans for the Series, so it can't be important. He confessed he never banged his own drum rather loudly. [He found those that do in the SFWA rather annoying!] I disagreed with him. Rather than mass-market fans, I think he has quality fans on the Internet.
Pamela Bulmer, his agent and ex-wife, did indicate that the SFWA did want to fly Ken out to a luncheon in Chicago, most likely for a life-time achievement award. Ken has written so much for the SF&F Field in many different sub-genres, and for other genres, that in itself is worthy of recognition.
SP: Alright, for the Glossary, Els Withers is interested in doing the Glossaries for us [again!]. I want to know how you pronounce some of words, because I could never figure it out. How to you pronounce the Ice Floes of Sicce?
HKB: That is a very good question. "Zee-chay" The River Sicce. [Two syllables.]
SP: How to you pronounce her name? I have heard people pronounce it "Dee-lia", I have heard "Del-lia"?
SP: "Del-lee-ya" with an E. Likewise, would that be "Vee-lee-ya"? Her daughter's name.
HKB: "Vee-lee-ya." Actually, V-E-L-I-A, can spell it V-I-L-J-A. [The alternate Kregish spelling!] That is Hungarian.
SP: Is that where you get some of the names from? One of my friends said that Esztercari is a Hungarian name.
HKB: No. With names in most circumstance, they come out of the air. I'm writing the story as though I am reading it. I can't put a name, it just comes out. So I just put it in, and don't worry about it.
SP: Is just comes from your subconscious, and it just sounds right.
HKB: Yes. If I stop to think about a name, then I have to work on it, and work out on it...
SP: It gets you into writer's block. Okay, we don't want you to get into writer's block...
HKB: I nearly did though. [grins.]
SP: How to you pronounce the City's name? "Zen-eese?"? [Zenicce].
HKB: "Zen-ee-chee." The River "ee-chee." [Icce.] Zen on the Icce.
SP: So there is another syllable there. How to your pronounce "Show-lay"? [Jholaix.] Like in French?
HKB: "Show-lay". Jholaix.
SP: Okay, we got that one out of the way. We might come up with some further words later on, that is about all I could think of for now. What I'll do when Els does the Glossary, we'll put a little pronounciation with it, for some of those words. Good answer.
SP: Here is one for you: will Dray ever see Savanti tutor Maspero again. His tutor.
HKB: His tutor. Ah, no. As I suggest they are ordinary men--no, he wants to see him again. Yes. If ever he gets around to that part of the world again...
SP: Is that part of the resolution with the Savanti?
HKB: Well, as we were saying this morning, weren't we, on what was going to happen. [On the Secrets of Kregen tape.] I think that when that comes on, he has to see Maspero, won't he?
SP: Right. What role has or will Maspero play in the Series? I know that sometimes he sees the dove spying on him, is that Maspero particularly?
HKB: Savanti dove, comes from the Savanti. Maspero is just one. It could be the Senior Tutor, he will be running it. Yes.
SP: So it may not have been Maspero, it could be a Senior Tutor. Okay.
Will Prescot ever walk the avenues of the Swinging City again? "Aphra-zoe-ee"? [Aphrasöe.] I assume that is how you say it.
HKB: "Aphra-zoe-ee", Aphrasöe.
SP: So you think he'll ever get back there? Again, is that part of the resolution with the Savanti?
HKB: Well, yes. He has been back, there. He only went to the Pool.
SP: Only to the Pool, yes. But Maspero knew he was there.
HKB: He did that thing in the Pool, with Vanti. Oh yes, in fact...he will have to go back there to work it out.
SP: Gloag is an interesting character. We know the Shanks were trying to overrun Mehzta. Are we going to run into Gloag? We hill rescue Gloag at some point?
HKB: No. I think at the moment--Mehzta has cleared itself of the Shanks. With Gloag's help. When that has happened, Gloag has gone back to Strombor.
SP: So he will run into him, and discuss it?
HKB: No. See Gloag runs Strombor, doesn't he. It's looked after itself. See he will see Gloag, but Gloag is still merrily clearing out Mehtza. I'll mention from here that it is about time he has done it, and come back.[I think Ken is implying here that much of Prescot's holdings look after themselves, Prescot trusts them to look after affairs. When Gloag is ready to bring Prescot up-to-date, he will.]
SP: What about Prince Mefto the Kazzur? What happens in the Balintol Cycle?
HKB: Ah, Mefto the Kazzur. Yes, Mefto--well, he's cut his hand off, tail hand.
SP: Has he gone off to get that rejuvenated, or reconnected?
HKB: Well, of course, hasn't he? Of course, you haven't seen this.
SP: He was probably the nastiest opponent combat-wise he ever ran into. Here was a guy who could beat him.
HKB: Better swordsman.
SP: Not a better fighter, but a better swordsman.
HKB: Yes. In one of these books, don't know which one it is, he has been to--Kildois come from a place called Kildrin in Balintol--one of the books I've done, he goes to Kildrin. He meets a very old boy, who had been a swordsmaster, and taught Mefto the Kazzur. And Mefto went bad, and he wouldn't teach anybody again. There was a woman with him. Of course she has four arms and a tail, Prescot has a lot of trouble with her. One arm grabs you, one arm grabs you, and then you have two arms to do things. We are at a disadvantage.
So anyway, this fellow who had taught Mefto, was totally disgusted with the way he had turned out, packed it in. He thought Prescot a bumpkin, and then he said something about he cut his tailhand off. He couldn't believe that, you see. So now Prescot is much better than ever he was before, as if he were ten Kildois. Apart from anything else, he was always very good. So, when comes across Mefto again, standing in the Dawnlands if I remember, he--
[Ken digresses here, I think he was having some trouble with recall, this rematch battle may not have happened in the Series yet...] Your point about his tailhand being fixed on again, there is no reason he shouldn't. You know when an unruly gang went off, a lot of people, went off to the pool, the Sacred Pool, to save the old Emperor. Remember Dhurra? He got another hand.
SP: Zena Iztar gave him a cybernetic hand.
HKB: It is a question of character, because it was Dhurra of the days, he got a tool hand, you see. So what are we going to do about, Mefto the Kazzur...
SP: ...So there is a big fight at some point?
HKB: Yes, there will be a big fight, yes, yes.
SP: What happens in the Balintol Cycle? None of us have read that in English. Does that have to do with that?...
HKB: Yes, that is the Balintol Cycle. That is one of...[the threads] The Cycle consists of so many books, running through them is the Big Problem. [Ken pauses...] I can't recall. It's gone, I know it, but forgotten.
SP: Ken just made the comment he can't remember what he has forgotten--so, it sounds contradictory but it is absolutely true. There is so much he has created for Kregen, it is hard to dig out sometimes. [He needs to tease out the first bit of memory recall, and then usually the rest comes.]
SP: What happens to Rees and Chido? Do they ever find out who he is?
HKB: Oh yes. Don't forget, the time of the last one, in #31 was finished, up to the beginning of #53 a lot of things have happened in that period of time. He goes somewhere to do something to find out something, he meets Rees and Chido. Chido's land had been blown away, and Chido of course goes to his friend. Prescot meets him somewhere, and they are working together, there is is a big siege somewhere. They then do some adventures underground, helping people, and in the jungles of Loh. [Pauses, smiles.] That is the Lohvian Cycle, wasn't it?
SP: We are almost there, halfway through. We are on #41 and #42, which we are going to publish. We are going to run into them again at the end of that Cycle?
HKB: They found out who Prescot was. I can't remember which one it was now, he got them...
SP: So we are going to see them again.
HKB: [Ken nods.]
SP: What was significant about Phu-si-Yantong? And the other Wizards he runs into? Was he a hemaphrodite, was that his "little problem"?
HKB: That was his son. His offspring, was blighted. Phu-si-Yantong, [Pauses...] His wife was called... [We talked about Cistra here.] it was in #37. She was killed. Uhu. Phunik was the Uhu.
SP: Was Phu-si-Yantong on his own? Was he being driven by other people?
HKB: He was himself.
SP: He was just plain evil?
HKB: Yes, a big strong wizard. People go crazy for power, don't they?
SP: He became a meglomaniac at some point, he figured he could basically rule the world, to rule Paz.
HKB: When you have power, you have to be so careful. Yes, that's right.
SP: All through the story he runs into Wizards. Some are good, some are bad. I think as he goes along he runs into more Occult power.
SP: What about Carazar? [Mispronounced the name here, so it took awhile to get the right set of books...]
HKB: Oh, ah, the Skantiklar. Haven't finished it yet? Ah yes! He turns around, he helped him. They did not find all the Skantiklar, they never found it. It's still there somewhere. He had some of the jewels, Prescot has some of the stones. That's right.
SP: Carazar, is he a Wizard? Is he head of the Shanks?
HKB: Wizards in general look after themselves. The known Wizards of Loh, tend to get together for strength. They train up together [in Walfarg], after that they be themselves, more or less one. I believe they formed an alliance, Prescot formed an alliance with him. They each had--there are nine rubies--one had four, one had three, that's seven. The other two they never got. They never formed the Skantiklar. There was plenty of opportunity there for some idiot to go for it again. But he wouldn't give up his jewels, and Prescot wouldn't give up his. A stand-off there.
SP: I guess we will see that in the last three books in the Lohvian Cycle. They are to come. I don't want to give it away for everybody, I don't want to give it away for me! [It was unclear who in the book Prescot forms an alliance with, so it will be interesting to see how the triangle between Prescot, Carazar, and Fantong works out...]
HKB: There is one book to come, in the Lohvian Cycle. [We discuss what we put out on the Net.]
SP: Dray always seems to have trouble believing occult power, even when it clearly before his eyes. Is this because he is an Earthman, used to rational Science? And Kregen is more of a place where magic works? Occult power is more prominent on Kregen?
HKB: You know this, since it has been discussed a lot. You've got one great hero with a massive sword, up he goes trots away like that, then he's going to beat a wizard. Who's been standing--woof--hits at the wizard with his sword and turns him into a frog. Wizards have got far too much power. All the time a question of Prescot himself who can't believe that the Wizards have this much, but he knows they have. It is question of containing it. Otherwise it would just be silly, wouldn't it?
SP: Prescot has tremendous willpower, so he can often resist. He is protected as well. You talk about the Caul of Protection? So his own Wizards are protecting him?
HKB: Right. That is performed by his own wizards, that's right. Otherwise he wouldn't stand a chance, would he?
SP: Do the Star Lords protect him as well?
HKB: Aha, well now, you have come to a very, very, sore point. Who does care for him? They don't care for him, do they? Or do they? He nevers know that. He never had--sometimes something happens--and maybe they are looking after me.
SP: Well, he has heard them argue over him. Starlords have been arguing, and they say you are protecting your Lordling. So obviously someone there thinks very highly of him.
SP: Are they trying to recruit him? Is that an eventuality? Do you think he will refuse that?
HKB: It is the usual story. All of SF, Van Vogt in particular. All these wonderful people, in the end how do you beat them? You don't beat them, you join them. The Star Lords will eventually fade away, leaving these two--Ahrinye, and Zena Iztar. [Pauses...]
SP: You are not sure on that? You think he would refuse it? He just wants to live happily ever after...
HKB: That his ambition. He knows very well he has got to help people when he can. Because, it is the way he is. It sounds silly, why should he, wonderful Dray Prescot, go risk his life for some poor little girl, or bloke. But he can't help it, he has to go help them.
SP: So he may strike a balance between the two younger Star Lords? His destiny? [At this point, we were interupted by the staff, so this question remains for a future interview, just to tantalize everyone...]
SP: I have one question for you that has always bugged me, does Delia ever go back with him to Earth for adventures?
HKB: That is something I have very, very seriously considered. My daughter Lucy and I have discussed this. Now, the only person to go back to Earth is his son Drak. That is in the next book to come, to finish it off. Now, I thought about that, how interesting it might be if she was there. But, then as I said in the beginning, you don't want to read about Earth, you want to read about Kregen. so therefore at the moment no. She has never--[pauses]--she might have been. Wait a minute. I cannot categorically say that. She could have been, but I have forgotten it. Drak has gone back to Earth because he has to tell the Reader, us, about how Dray and Delia are whizzed up to the clouds. And gone, apotheosis. However would we know. The whole time we have to remember, the only way we know about what is going on, is through the medium of the voice, the tape. When he is gone and up there, we must find another narrator, which in this case is his son Drak.
SP: That is at the end of the Lohvian Cycle?
SP: So the end piece is narrated by his son Drak?
SP: So that will be interesting for everyone to read. [Ken thought #43 was it, so it has a substantial end postscript he calls his apotheosis piece. At this point we were going to break for the day, but Ken indicated he wanted to say a few more words.]
HKB: What I am saying, is we can only know what goes on up there, on Kregen, by what Prescot tells us. So everything has to be first person. One of the gimmicks is to start off from one perspective, and shift to another. [The tape side ended here, in mid-sentence. Ken I had a discussion on how he needed another perspective to end the series in #43. We picked up the conversation on side two...] I have trying to figure out ways and means of getting another viewpoint in. The easiest way of doing that is simply to do it.
SP: Would you say that was from Zena Iztar? Would she have that kind of power to follow him?
HKB: Yes. But she is never here, is she? [smiles.] What ever was the question that started this?
SP: We started with the question of Dray and Occult power, Dray doesn't seem to believe in it, or recognize it, and it is all around him on Kregen. So the Powers That Be are always strong occult powers. Do the Star Lords always keep a regular eye on him? Is that a continuous observation, or monitoring?
HKB: When they want something off of him, or need something, they look for him. They can look at him through the Gdoinye, they can always keep an eye on him when they need him. They of course know, and knew from the beginning, that he's got this Yrium. He got's that you see, which means they know he can do all these things.
SP: They just have to get him focused, and believing he can do it.
HKB: Yes. I decided, or I didn't decide, more or less, thought I would say that Prescot himself does not have magical powers. If I had given him magical powers, there would be no end to it, where do you stop? The only thing he has going for him, he didn't really believe this remember, he has very good vision in the dark.
SP: Yes, Star Lords. He said give him a gift, he would like to see a little better in the dark. And he doesn't even believe it when it happens to him. He still doesn't believe, he just doesn't believe in Occult power! Maybe that is a good thing, that gives him tremendous resistance...
HKB: Yes. He knows what it is, he's seen it.
SP: I wanted to talk a little about being a Kregoinye. There are obviously more than one, we have seen evidence of many people helping the Star Lords. He is not the first, is he their fire-brigade, trouble-shooter?
HKB: The other people who have been taken up?
SP: Yes. Have they been taking people up for thousands of years?
HKB: I think so. They have been trying to get their own view-point across. Why they use people, and from other planets, as you know--why did they use people from Earth? One reason I suppose was to move apart from the lot that were there, those that are somewhat different. [Ken alludes to the struggle between the Star Lords and the Savanti to recruit the loyalty and mind-share of those that are different from the masses. This probably needs more questions to explore!]
SP: What about in the past? There have been other great heroes in the past?
HKB: Of course, there is one in the Balintol Cycle. He meets a bloke, Sekrit his name or something like that, he think the Star Lords want to protect this man. It turns out this man it not a Kregoinye at all. But his father was. His father was a Kregoinye, well known, and all the rest, and died a normal death. And he has children living on after, so yes, they were using them in the past. I don't know how many years, vague about it, seasons and all that.
SP: Do they send him way into the past? Does he ever go really far in the past? How far can they send him, is a matter of how much time flow they can alter? [We stopped the tape here. Time travel questions are on the Secrets of Kregen tape...]
SP: [...Picking up the tape, Ken is talking about some of his favourite scenes in the series.] We were talking about the Krozair Cycle...
HKB: After the siege of Zandikar, and all these great people, all his friends and their ships come in and rescue them. His three sons, great hulking sons, big and brave, and marvelous were all standing there. And Delia comes running along, running towards them, she runs right past them! That's my favourite scene. I like that one. Their jaws hit the sands. I like that.
SP: Did they figure it out right away? I guess Drak sort of knew...
HKB: They didn't. The next chapter started off with them psychoanalyzing it. They all got very obstreperous about it. I liked that.
SP: So he has an interesting relationship with his sons. He has trouble with family?
HKB: The answer to that is, I suppose, is when you are great hero it is all very well. But, when you clear off to Earth for twenty-one years, it is ridiculous in a way, your family renounces you. They aren't an ordinary family, are they?
SP: No. Does he explain to them this what happens? I know he tells Delia, but does he try to explain to his sons this is what happens?
HKB: Oh, yes. They are alright, they are coming around, they are alright now. [Ken then talks about some of the marriage problems Prescot sons are having...]
SP: So marital reality comes to Kregen.
HKB: [Laughs.] It's true, isn't it?
SP: Is that what you are trying to do? I know when Prescot started, it was very black and white, swords and sorcery. Are you trying to make him grow and learn, so he has much more depth of character?
HKB: I told you, it just happened.
SP: He grows, he develops, he cares. He obviously cares for people a lot now...
HKB: The thing about him, I quote in mitigation, his own childhood, his own life, what we would regard as a proper life, anyway, was dragged up in that navy, after a few brief years. As you know. He served his mate. Retaliation. He gets his retaliation in first.
SP: That is some good thinking. We are talking about the way Prescot has grown. Again, Ken writes organically, so Prescot himself has grown organically into a much stronger, deeper character. Did the Star Lords see this in him orginally? Did they just see him as a pawn, a sword-arm? Or did they look down the road and say, man, he could really be something to change to world?
HKB: Yes. They saw something in him that was useful, that is way they got him up there as a Kregoinye, anyway. Then they realized this Charisma was in him, and no chance to be shown openly. That kind of power, latent, he could command it. The so called Emperor of Emperor. The Emperor of all Paz.
SP: That is not a job he really wants? He just wants to beat the Shanks.
HKB: Yes. That is sort of silly, no one man could rule all them. If he can get them together to talk, and to plan. Perhaps like the modern world, but the modern world is falling to pieces.
SP: Like you said in '76, we will muddle through it. Do you still think we will muddle through? Do you still believe it, I do.
HKB: I don't know. All I can say is I am very much impressed by the support from the people who read--view--all this via your network, the WWW. Good lads, and the ones who write to me. Good lads, the whole lot of them.
SP: I'd like to think it shows how the Internet can be a tool to connect people to communicate all over the world. We have a network of fans, which reflects the power of the communication tools. As long as people are talking, there is chances for peace, and the peace will remain. We are a global village, I know it sounds corny.
HKB: That was the thinking years ago. As we were saying yesterday, they were contemplating a two-hour difference between Scotland and England. And here we are adjacent. You always hate your next-door neighbour, so you always form an alliance with the guy next to him. [Ken and I found a television news feature we had watched earlier on Scotland considering a different time zone from England rather amusing...]