The Sanctuary Series

As those of you who have read SETTING SUNS know, there are three stories set in the Sanctuary universe in that anthology, and I'm getting questions.

For those who haven't, and/or are new to my work, I wrote SANCTUARY for the first time when I was a teenager. I revised it in college, and again in 2002. It is the work dearest to my heart, despite its many and multiple flaws.

SANCTUARY tells us what happens when the aliens come to invade and conquer - and we lose. As the Gahid - my strange crystalline-insectoid aliens with an even stranger religion - occupy Earth and scoop up shipfuls of humans to cart offworld as slaves, chaos reigns on the surface. Cities degenerate into gang wars, while others flee to hide in the rural wilderness for as long as they can stay ahead of the Gahid.

In New York City, a cadre of military families takes refuge in a half-finished underground military base. They are hiding, not fighting, and as the years go by, their children grow up without seeing the sun. But when the leader's daughter takes over, she leads them back to the surface, to join with the street gangs and try to retake the island.

More than that, though, I tried to explore that we don't know what we have until it's gone. In a larger sense, we don't appreciate the freedom to walk and breathe without fear until merely looking at the sky can get you killed - or worse. In a smaller sense, we don't appreciate the place people hold in our lives until we lose them - something more than one character experiences. Okay, a LOT of characters experience. SANCTUARY has a 59-percent death rate among speaking/named characters and earned me my decidedly undeserved reputation as a murderous author.

SANCTUARY was read by my writers' group and twenty or thirty of my closest friends. They seemed to like it quite a bit, enough that they keep bugging me about publishing it. When I look at it now, I tend to cringe a bit. The language is stark and dull, the scene transitions are awkward, it's more than a little melodramatic and the structure is just strange to me.

I wrote a companion novel, THE POLARIS PASSAGE, a few years before NOCTURNAL URGES took off and my career changed in a windstorm. I hesitate to call POLARIS a sequel - it's a completely different book, with different characters and an offworld setting. The only thing the two have in common is the Gahid, and their galaxy-spanning empire of slavery.

POLARIS follows escaped slave Azure, born into slavery and complete ignorance of who and what she is. She has never seen a person who looks like she does. When she is sold to a slaver, she escapes on a space station and runs into a trio of operatives from the Polaris Passage - an interstellar Underground Railroad that helps ferry escaped slaves to free planets where slavery is illegal. But when the freighter captain who helped her escape is arrested and charged with a capital crime, she faces a choice: to give herself up and save her friend's life, condemning herself to slavery; or let him face the consequences of his choice, and continue fighting for freedom with the newly-found love of her life, the psychic Sinda.

It's a much darker book than SANCTUARY. Some of the most wrenching, violent and sordid scenes I've ever written are in that book. Sad to say, I got most of them from historical research into the practices of slavery in 19th-century America. I can't make up some of the things they did. I'm not that twisted.

POLARIS is a much more grown-up book than the action-movie-put-to-pen that is SANCTUARY. It deals with religious mania, the institutionalization of slavery, the search for identity and the impossibility of true love. It is also far too allegorical, with an Elijah Lovejoy knockoff who practically spouts anti-slavery dogma word-for-word from my historical research. Also, it has a very ambiguous ending. That was in equal parts, "Elizabeth doesn't know how to finish this book on a happy note given everything we've been through," and "Elizabeth doesn't want to make it too much of an ENDING because she wants to write the next five books in the series."

And there are more books:

There is TERRA FIRMA, a Lewis-and-Clark-like walk across the remains of America by the survivors of SANCTUARY to contact other human enclaves.

There is KINTARA, the follow-up to POLARIS with the previous book's survivors trying to rescue slaves during a war between the Gahid and the K'Ryat, a mysterious alien race that'll make the Gahid look like non-evil teddy bears.

There is ABSENCE OF LIGHT, the struggle of the Island to go forward with a new society without its greatest leader, starring the OTHER survivors of SANCTUARY.

There are two Polaris standalones: An untitled struggle between a slave girl raised as nobility on a slave planet and her older sister, ruler of the planet; and MISSION, possibly a novella, an adventure in freeing slaves on the space station where Azure escaped, starring a few survivors of POLARIS.

And I know how the SANCTUARY and POLARIS storylines will tie together. In the last book. Titled SORIKASI. No, I'm not telling you how it ends. If it ends. God knows I'm not J.K. Rowling.

This is the series I always wanted to write. Only the first two are written. The rest are in my head, waiting to come out. I harbor no illusions that they will look anything like this when finished. But everything I've done - the Nocturnal Urges series, the short stories, everything - has been in large part to position myself to be able to do this series, to do it well and get it published with a science fiction publisher who will let me take it where I want and the clout to make it visible.

So what's taking so stinking long?

Time. Money. Influence. My lack of all three.

SANCTUARY and POLARIS both need complete rewrites before they could be submitted. I did once send SANCTUARY to an agent, who rejected it, probably unseen. Nobody ever heard of me.

In the meantime, I have the next Nocturnal Urges book to finish and publish. Then I'll rewrite YELLOW ROSES and try to convince Leisure to consider it.

That's the thing. That's what really would kick the Sanctuary series into high gear. If I sold YELLOW ROSES or a similar book to a New York publisher. If they gave me a $5,000 advance (fairly standard), it would fund my writing business for two years. That would give me a year to get the books revised and submitted, and another year to catch back up with more horror and resume my PAID publishing.

At this time, I just can't afford to take time out for a year and rewrite the books. I tried that after NU - I wrote YELLOW ROSES and didn't publish it because it needed a rewrite, and that threw my money situation out the window. If I didn't have a day job, maybe I could write one book in the morning and one at night. But it just doesn't work that way on two hours' writing time a night.

But the series is never far from my mind, and I have not-so-idly perused the large and small publishers of good science fiction, picking my top choices.

I'm glad it has such a strong following from the few who've read it. I'm hopeful the three Sanctuary stories in SETTING SUNS - which were just like coming home - might spur more interest. Crawford and her soldiers, Azure and the Polaris gang... they're my kickass partners in crime, and they never fall completely silent.

And who knows? Anything can happen.


  1. ~begins cheering for Sanctuary publication~

  2. I remember reading Sanctuary one chapter at a time as it was posted on must have been when I was in high school (I'm going to be a senior in college this fall, so for me this feels like a long time). I remember loving it, despite having grown up reading the white-male-sf-classics (Clarke, Niven, Asimov, et al.) and never liking sf with aliens in it, and *especially* not with alien invasions in it. I guess you could say it was sf that I wasn't used to (in the best way possible).

    Every once in a while I google for keywords about it (usually I check Amazon first), and hey: here it is.

    I'd love to see it published--but maybe not mangled by an editor.


  3. Thank you! It's good to know Crawford's got fans. :) We'll see where the wind blows...


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