Sunday, August 03, 2008



Edmund asked me to write a little something about this story and how it came about. For me, stories come from a wacky and powerful collision of thought, emotion, experience and curiosity. And nearly always, they end up meaning something to me, revealing something about whatever I was processing at the time, and expressing that outward. There's an uncomfortable vulnerability in it that I liken to running around with my underwear on my head for all to see.

I wrote "The God-Voices of Settler's Rest" in January of 2007. It was the first short story I'd written after completing my first novel. In some ways, there was trepidation after so many words spent in the long-form. In other ways, it was like sliding into a comfortable pair of shoes.

Only something had changed. Maybe it was me. But the story unfolded differently, flowing out of the character of Mother Abigail Holton in scenes from both the beginning and end of a life spent in service in the Firsthome Temple. This one just felt different. So different that I didn't quite love it as one of my paper children right away. But now that I've spent some time with it, it's grown on me.

Because I understand voices.

While I was writing LAMENTATION, that first novel of mine, I had invented a new name for those internal voices that chew at us. I called them the Chattering Head Monkeys, or the CHM for short. Which of course, were differentiated from the so-called voice of my muse, Leroy. Of course, these voices are just me. I know that. No need for alarm. But it got me to thinking about the other voices we hear and listen for.

And then I wondered: What if the voices were real?

I saw a world -- a colony world in some far off future -- where somehow the ghost voices of a long vanished civilization called out to the settlers, initially with promises of home and love but later, through no fault of the hapless colonists, turned angry and raging. And what if only the women could hear these voices? And what if those voices -- like telepathic recordings that played in cycles over long stretches of time -- revealed lost secrets of that previous civilization to the eager Settler's Daughters, bent on learning about humanity's new home. Only the voices were so powerful that they felt divine in nature.

Wait a minute. That sounds familiar.

Rummaging around, I find an uncomfortable dose of memory from those long-ago days when I first experienced what I felt was a divine call to service as a minister and everything that it entailed. I flinch now when I remember burning my Dungeons and Dragons materials in the yard, selling off my science fiction and fantasy collection and tossing my love of writing aside at the age of seventeen based on the power of that perceived sense of calling.

I think these memories help keep me humble.

All told, I spent at least a decade pursuing those god-voices of my own and this story is really just a part of processing what that ten year island meant in the broader context of my life. A decade of voices. And then there's that question again, in the back of my mind, bending memory towards Story: What if those voices were real?

Because really, they were real at least to me, though like Mother Holton's voices, they were easily misunderstood and were not necessarily what they claimed to be on the surface.

One more ingredient for Story Soup.

And last, what about those other voices we're listening for with our radio telescopes? The ones from elsewhere in this great big universe we spin through?

Sometimes I think we're just sitting by the phone, waiting and hoping for it to ring. And not especially caring whose voice is on the other end of that line, be it divine or extraterrestrial, as long as someone, anyone, calls.

Why do we want it so bad? Are we curious or are we lonely...or both? Or neither? Maybe, like Mother Holton says, it's because we cannot bear to be alone in the universe. And maybe the answer is the same one she found at the end of her days, when she looked back over her life and what she'd learned along the way from how she'd lived it.

We're never alone if we have one another.

And when we learn that answer for ourselves, we'll treat each other better, I suspect.

But I digress. We're really talking about where stories come from. Particularly where this story came from.

Bring yourself unto your keyboard or your pen. Take all of these thoughts and blend them together. Shake them well. Stir them up. Sprinkle in lies enough to masquerade the truth and truth enough to make the lies seem honest. Pour through the fingers and let Story emerge.

And that's how "The God-Voices of Settler's Rest" was written.

I hope my underwear wasn't too frightening.


"The God-Voices of Settler's rest" by Ken Scholes is now available in issue 9 of IGMS.

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