Sime Surgeon

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Fanfiction
Title: Sime Surgeon
Author(s): Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Date(s): 1978
Length:
Genre: gen
Fandom: Sime~Gen
External Links:

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Sime Surgeon is a Sime~Gen story by Jacqueline Lichtenberg.

This is the story that became the pro book Unto Zeor, Forever.

"Sime Surgeon" was originally published in four parts in the zine series Ambrov Zeor (issues #8, #9, #11, and #12) beginning in 1978. An introduction and some letters about the saga appeared "Ambrov Zeor" #7.

The Author Considers This Version Better Than the Pro Book

I wanted to sit down and just read it again, enthralled, transfixed. Therefore, I think there are many of you who will enjoy this draft, even if (or especially if) you've read Unto Zeor, Forever. I do know that many - an incredible number of fans - have found this version of the story "better" than the published version just as I do. For me, this is the version that's "real" history, and the published version is the way the history books of the Sime~Gen universe record these events (in expose biographies that is. No reputable scholarly journal would get this sexy.) [1]

Lichtenberg tells more about the original fic vs the pro book, calling it "a Nurse Nancy," here: alien romances: Research-Plot Integration in Historical Romance Part 3, Archived version

Online Here

Sime Surgeon - early version of 'Unto Zeor Forever', Archived version

Sime Surgeon - draft of Unto Zeor, Forever Award Winning Novel, Archived version

Lichtenberg's Introduction: Fanzine Version in 1978

In the sixth issue of Ambrov Zeor, Lichtenberg prefaced the first chapters of this story with an intro, a plea for feedback, and some sample letters from fans (including an editor from "Galileo").

The Intro and Request for Feedback

Next you are going to read a proposal which gives me the shakes. I have qiven AZ permission to print an early first attempt to write the book which turned into UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER. It runs over 150,000 words, and had to be cut drastically, as well as toned-down emotionally for the commercial market, Though UNTO is a better book technically, it is but a pale shadow of SIME SURGEON in many ways. There is a lot of Sime background, technical stuff, hard reading, in SS that had to be cut from UNTO. The expert Sime fan might well enjoy S3; the casual commercial reader wouldn't. I want to offer it to you, if you're interested, not as a Sime story but as an example of the process by which a story is carved out and evolved in my hands. It is valuable, enjoyable and intelligible only in conjunction with UNTO; and it will be terribly expensive to produce fannishly. It will have to be reduced, like this issue of AZ, and only your sases will convince Jan to go ahead (she has to type that thing! the size of 3 novels...).

We call Sime Surgeon the 2nd draft of UNTO because an aborted first attempt only ran 280-odd pages which are unreadable. The UNTO you will buy from Doubleday, (or better, get from the library, or wait for the paperback) is a heavily edited 4th draft. If you request it, A3 will publish the edited out portions, so you can have the complete book the way I actually wrote it and presented it. (it was still too long and heavily technical - will I ever learn?). If you want this, you'll have to beg Jan and/or Anne and/or Lisa (who is back on staff as our Controller).

If you don't want any of this stuff, for heaven's sakes tell us before AZ goes broke printing it.

[...]

The following letters and excerpts from letters are to give you an idea of various reactions to the book UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER. Read them and then send us a SASE if you are interested in seeing us print SIME SURGEON. We will not print it unless we get a reaction from you!

Four 1978 Letters

Four letters were printed in Ambrov Zeor #6. One was a letter of comment from Charles Ryan, publisher of "Genesis" Magazine. One from Lichtenberg commenting on Ryan's letter. One from a fan named Amanda that was sent to Lichtenberg, and finally, another letter by Lichtenberg to Ryan.

Charles Ryan's letter to Lichtenberg:

As you may have gathered from your phone conversation with Vincent, UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER isn't quite right for us at this time for two basic reasons.

The first reason is that we had already received and were contemplating the serialization of a major novel by Marvin Kaye and Park Goodwin. The finished work will be over 150,000 words and it is also scheduled for publication by Doubleday in July of 1978. In fairness, I had to read their submission first, having received it first. Then, once I had the opportunity to read both cam the next decision—the editorial one—of which, if either, novel to accept for serialization, the tentative release dates making it relatively impossible to run both in the four issues between now and July of 1978.

The Kaye-Godwin novel is damned good. In fact, I firmly believe it will be a strong Hugo contender and it is of such stuff that I can't lot it slip by and have thus decided in their favor. (Even though I'll have one hell of a job editing it and condensing it into serialization).

The second reason is that while I think UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER is good, I find problems with it. If you do not want unsolicited advice, you can stop reading here. I'm not offering it out of an ego trip the only reason I say anything is that I like you and want to see what is a good work be even better. So, if there aren't any objections here's the free advice.

The first half of the novel is by far the better half, it sets up the story dilemma, creates plot tension, introduces some interesting characters and brings it all to a well charged conclusion.

The second half, however, left me greatly dissatisfied. There were, I felt, several basic problems after Digen runs away with Ilyana. The first is that the dilemma Digen Farris was wrestling with in facing the Tecton/Distect ideological, and practical differences became too internalized. The plot and characterization seems to have been shelved, while Digen went on and on with his problems. The problem and its tension and resolution are important to the story but it tended to run away with the story to such a great extent that I hardly had any pangs when the characters I had come to like in the first half wore killed off one lay one. The characters became devices of transfer rather than people, but that potential theme (woman—sex object equals Gen—selyn object) isn't developed, so the characters wither through overuse as a device and underuse as characters. Instead of suffering the shock and empathy of death and loss one would with a living person, it seemed [partly as if only ghosts had died.

The story, in my mind, needs those deaths to have a much deeper emotional impact for it to work.

The ending itself, too, was dissatisfactory. The problem wasn't resolved enough. Obviously both philosophies had their good points and Digen was going to try and integrate them, but it didn't end strong enough. I put the second half down with an unease of coitus interuptus, so to speak, rather than completion or fulfillment. I also wonder if all the characters need be" killed off. Ilyana, yes, but Joel and Skip too? (If so, it should be more dramatic, rather than off in the wings.)

There are one or two places in the first half where the action also is slowed down due to internal rumina
tions, but it isn't any way as much of a problem as it seems to be in the second half. I'd suggest trying to find
 some way to end the novel with the some kind of intense energy you end the first half.

At this point I think the theme runs away with the other two in the second half to such a degree that it

actually hurts the theme. I hope you don't take offense from this overview. I've tried to be objective, to help rather than hurt.
Lichtenberg's letter to Ryan:

Thank you for your considered analysis. There are certain aspects of it I agree with, and will ponder on greatly.

As a writer, I have two considerations that you don't. Firstly, two major editors in our field, shrewd women for whom I have great respect, have had exactly OPPOSITE reaction to yours. They feel that the beginning was a little weak, but the climax was absolutely smashing and perfect. In fact, make that three professional women in our field agree on that point.

The second consideration is that as a writer, I must rely more on my own judgment than on what people tell me. 
I weight your analysis much more than any casual fan's analysis, but not QUITE as much as the professional women's
 analysis. You do, no doubt, reflect the average male reader's reaction, and no doubt have put your finger on the 
reason the male reader would react this way .

However, my own judgment says that since I write primarily for the feminine readers — and since, being a woman, 
my intuitive judgment of the feminine "sexual" response is rather keen — I must discount your reaction. It is genuine
 but a lesson to be applied to the next book, not this one.

For you, UNTO may be coitus interruptus — for a woman it is a full orgasm.

It is my theory that feminism in sf has nothing at all to do with how female characters in a story are portrayed. It has more to do with this "internalization" of the climax. For a woman, the internalization is where the story is at. For a man, it's purely externalization — with any internalization that overbalances his "action" making him feel cheated and wrong.

Anyway, I am absolutely DELIGHTED with your analysis. It's got a lot to teach me — it may save UNTO from obscurity if I can use it even a little — and it may be the opening round in a whole new controversy — and I thrive on controversy.

The really interesting thing about the male/female angle is that a number of MALE readers have found the ending of the book a slam-bang wower and very satisfying. Many readers have been in such tears over the deaths of the major characters that they had to put the book down. I wouldn't DARE make those sections any more powerful or nobody would be able to finish the book. It would become too much of a downer trip. In fact, you're the very first to have the reaction you describe — and I find that very exciting. Any book which plays to mixed reviews of violently and diametrically opposed opinions is bound to be a top seller. That's how Kraith got to be so famous — and I did that on purpose. I had no idea I'd done it again with UNTO. This is going to be fun.

In fact, your letter has made my day. Yesterday, we found out that our heating system is busted to the tune of $200; today the brand new $800 color tv broke; and a week ago we paid over $200 for work on the house's electrical system. I was just about to the point where I was going to give up; and here you've given me a new lease on life and a new faith in humanity.
Amanda's letter to Lichtenberg:
UNTO: Ohmigod. I knew it was about tragic and terrible things, but I didn't know it would cut me up into little pieces and leave me bleeding on the ground. That book HURTS. The problem for me is that I know just a little too well what Digen is going through in his philosophical despair. I have a constant feeling that I'm on the wrong path and that I don't know how to get back to where I belong. I also have a feeling that things will work out in time, and I think that is what holds me together. Anyway, reading UNTO provoked a rather long fit of crying which left me feeling much better. (This is coitus interruptus? JL) I don't know what it was that I got out of my system, but it's gone now and good riddance.
Lichtenberg's letter to Ryan, mentioning Amanda's letter:
I wasn't going to send this to you (Amanda's letter) — but yesterday I got two more UNTO comments in this vein — one who said it ought to be read in a walk-in refrigerator, and the other who said it's such a high voltage she had to read it 100 pages at a time, and classed it with STRANGER and a long list of Hugo winners So with all that just pouring in (from people who have read one or another of the two copies outside this house), I felt unprofessionally pleased with myself, and just had to send this along.

Lichtenberg's Introduction: Online Version in 1997

Sime Surgeon, the early draft of Unto Zeor, Forever was published in Ambrov Zeor, serialized, in issues #7, 8, 9, 11, and 12 [2] at about the time the Doubleday hardcover edition was on the shelves.

At the time, Anne Pinzow (under a different name) was editing Ambrov Zeor. She had been involved since the first collating party at Linda Denneroff's apartment. To give you an idea of what fanzines and fandom are all about, I'm going to quote here a summary [Anne] just sent me by email of what was going on in her life during the publication of the five parts of Sime Surgeon. (BTW: AZ #10 is not part of Sime Surgeon. It contains a Bachelor's Degree Thesis on Sime genetics, based entirely on House of Zeor alone.) I remember all of these events for we lived through them together.

If ever you order a fanzine by mail and it's a little late in coming, just think of this paragraph.

"It occurred to me that the span of me editing and publishing Sime Surgeon in Ambrov Zeor, encompassed the following events in my life: Being beaten up by my ex so bad that I blacked out. Finding the ad in The Journal-News, for the job at The Journal-News, just pointing to it and telling him that I would get that job. Getting that job (which turned out to be in part discovering the capabilities of the first visual display typewriters, the forerunners of the computers we use today and monitoring satellite transmissions of news stories, which was one of the beginnings of the internet) being given writing assignments based on the work I did on Ambrov Zeor 7 and 8. Leaving my ex, moving from place to place so that over a period of one year living in seven different places and hauling AZ around with me each time, going to the world con in England, going through a divorce, starting grad school, going to Israel for the second time, meeting George Lucas there, producing my first documentary, laying the groundwork for my first weekly column and getting my own byline. At the same time I was publishing AZ the old fashioned way, typing everything, offset printing pages, organizing collating parties, hauling stuff from convention to convention and sitting table. Leave us not forget that it was just after I gave up the publishing job of AZ that I was thrust into Esotericon. I guess you felt that I had too little to occupy my time."

So now, thanks in large part to Anne's long-ago efforts, and Ronnie Bob Whitaker's current efforts, we can present here the entire early draft of Unto Zeor Forever, which is longer than the novel. And I want to do this because my writing workshop students may benefit from doing a contrast/compare study between the early draft, the published version, and the "out-takes" from the published version (large sections that had to be cut from the submission manuscript.

Even after all these years, I'm still proud of Unto Zeor, Forever, my first Award Winning novel, and though this early draft (actually it's a fourth draft I think, though #2 and #3 were only partially completed) seems to me at this time embarrassingly bad, it is nevertheless filled with great enjoyment for the fan of this series. Most particularly, this version contains a great deal more of the technical background of transfer mechanics and the social problems derived from these difficulties.

But here's the real reason I'm putting this up on the Sime~Gen website. I just got this file by email attachment from Ronnie Bob Whitaker (who has scanned in and ocr'd and corrected so much of our material and it is to him you owe your thanks and much virtual chocolate) and started formatting it for the Web, and my eye lit on the first paragraph - and I was caught.

I wanted to sit down and just read it again, enthralled, transfixed. Therefore, I think there are many of you who will enjoy this draft, even if (or especially if) you've read Unto Zeor, Forever. I do know that many - an incredible number of fans - have found this version of the story "better" than the published version just as I do. For me, this is the version that's "real" history, and the published version is the way the history books of the Sime~Gen universe record these events (in expose biographies that is. No reputable scholarly journal would get this sexy.)

A formating note: I've left this typed the way it appeared in the original fanzine edition - with underlines instead of italics and with paragraphing styled like a fanzine instead of like a book. I've also left the page breaks and notations where illos might go (except we're not posting the illos right now - anyone wants to make new electronic form illos for us drop an email to simegen@simegen.com. Sime Surgeon is a "Doctor Novel" with the plot-structure of that subgenre of Romance. It does not even vaguely resemble the commercial genre known as science fiction in structure, though it has a pure science fiction content. The juxtaposition of these two elements makes this an "unpublishable" novel. So regard it as a fan novel and have fun reading. [3]

Reactions and Reviews

To "Unto Zeor, Forever"

[2010]: Cult fandom done right: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Unto Zeor, Forever: Digen Farris is an exquisitely overtrained channel with a crippling injury that makes it impossible to perform the high-volume work for which he was trained, transferring/channeling selyn between Gens and Simes. (Simes and Gens are complementary human mutations; in adolescence, one either becomes Sime or Gen, consuming or producing selyn.) So he decides to become the first, and only, Sime surgeon (psychic sensitivity making it too difficult for ordinary Simes to perform surgery). But, because of the death of every other Sime in his immediate family, he’s also the leader of Zeor, a key House in the Tecton (which manages channels), and he still has the needs of a high-functioning channel, in a system that is rapidly losing the ability to fulfill the needs of such channels. In his medical training, he faces discrimination from the Gens who fear losing an area of expertise to Simes (since Simes are faster, stronger, and don’t need as much sleep), on top of the basic Gen fear that Simes will kill them for their selyn. In essence, Digen is the woobiest woobie ever, and he meets a woman who’s his perfect match for producing selyn, which means they're destined to be mates—except that she’s the leader of a rebel House that doesn’t believe in putting channels in between Simes and Gens, and thus if he takes transfer from her he'll be condemned to die by attrition. It’s complicated, and epic, and I remember how fun it was when I was a teenager even though I feel it less now. If you miss the kind of books that have glossaries and appendices at the end explaining various technical aspects of selyn production and transfer that were too arcane even for an infodump, then go for it! Or, you know, if you like superwoobies. [4]

Comparing the Two Versions

[Betty Herr, the first editor of "Ambrov Zeor"]:

I was utterly, overwhelmingly crushed, disappointed to tears of frustration, shenned to the limits of endurance by the difference between the drafts you allowed me to read and the final version (of UNTO, Ed.) What happened to Dane's Qualification? Or Digen's Testing that so nearly killed him? ((Sharon Jarvis would NOT let me publish that version of the book and for various reasons, I feel she was, right. Yet we did lose something very important to fans of the series, and so RZ is publishing the second draft (SIME SURGEON)..JL))

If one of the main points of the book was that the Tecton was a necessary evil in that it protected those cripples who did not deserve death in punishment for a handicap they couldn't help, wouldn't Dane have been a shining example? Yes, you had Digen—a super-capable channel incapacitated by his famous lateral scar. Yes, you had Joel—with all the will in the world to Donate, but all but selyn-null. Dane? He had both the capacity and the desire to Donate, even to become one of the best, but psychologically crippled by having been burned, as Joel was. For Joel, nothing could be done—yet. For Dane, the Tecton in the person of Hayashi could help, and was trying to do so, and the Tecton protected him meanwhile, through Digen's testing and Jesse's suicide-abort. It was not all that clear, unless one had read the drafts, that Dane needed that protection. ((Correct, but to understand Dane's problem, you had to be fan enough to be willing to learn a new science, transfer math!!! That is why it had to go from the commercial version of the book. Most readers are not fans, or so they insist..JL)) [5]

References

  1. Sime Surgeon - draft of Unto Zeor, Forever Award Winning Novel, Archived version
  2. Actually, #7 included an introduction and some letters. The actual story was in the other four issues.
  3. Sime Surgeon - draft of Unto Zeor, Forever Award Winning Novel, Archived version
  4. by rivkat at Fantasy Life; archive link, August 29, 2010
  5. from Ambrov Zeor #8 (1979)