Monday, August 29, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Intro - If It Was Important I'm Pretty Sure I'd Remember It

The problem with happy endings is that they get in the way of sequels.  After the hero finds a magic ring, solves his personal problems, defeats the bad guy, gets the girl, and attains a position of wealth and prestige, it can be difficult to find something to do with him afterward.  Because where do you go from there?  Ramp things up a notch, introduce an even bigger threat, which will require an even more powerful magic ring to defeat, which will earn the hero even more treasure and glory?  Or just slam that Reset Button, take away everything the hero accomplished, and make him do it all over again?

Some eleven years after writing Slaves of Sleep, Hubbard examined these two options and decided, 'Why not both?'  And so we have Masters of Sleep, the sequel it's hard to imagine anyone demanded.  But I have a theory why Hubbard wrote it, one tied into something else that Hubbard published in another magazine at around the same time.

The story's Foreword is just a page-and-a-half long, and is mostly a recap of Slaves of Sleep.  You probably remember the story: Jan Palmer ran afoul of the ifrit Zongri, the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness led to adventures in the world of the jinn and mishaps in the world of humans, until Palmer mastered "the problem of his duality" and solved "the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness," so...

Wait, what?  When'd he do that?  I remember Palmer using the Seal of Sulaysolomon to sink a lot of ships, and then he inflicted the curse on the Genie World counterparts of some douchebags he knew in Seattle, but he never de-cursed himself or anything.  He didn't have to, the Curse of "Eternal" Wakefulness turned out to only last a few weeks before the Genie World personality regains total control of the Genie World body.

So is Hubbard retconning the first story here, or is he so unwilling to proofread or reread his own work that he just plain forgot how Slaves of Sleep went when he decided to write a sequel a decade later?

Anyway, the Foreword tells us that things went great for Palmer in both worlds, because he "became, as himself, truly the head of Bering Steam, for in Seattle he was now partly Tiger and in the world of the Jinn, as Tiger, because he was partly the brainy Jan."  Which is an unwieldy sentence and a half.  But then, the author smashed that Reset Button.

So matters stood for some time.  But Tiger's nature was unruly and, in the world of the Jinn, little by little began to outweigh the good sense of Jan.  Escapade after escapade brought Tiger and Wanna, his dancing girl, down the ladder in the favor of the Jinn.  Humans in the world of sleep were, after all, slaves.  At length, after nearly oversetting the government itself, Tiger, as punishment, was returned to the fleet as a common sailor.

"Oversetting," yeah, gotta love that archaic and obsolete vocabulary.  But that's how the mighty Baron Tiger wound up back in square one.  Presumably Palmer just couldn't control Tiger's thirst for pranks, and everyone got fed up with his dickery and kicked him out of the palace.  And at the same time,

As Jan in this world, he became more and more immersed in scholarly concerns and became less and less Tiger.  Wanna, too, began to separate her natures as time went on and became less the dancing girl of the Jinn and more the authoritarian housewife in Seattle.

I think Wanna is mentioned by name as much in this little section as she was in the entirety of the previous story.  But how about that for some character assassination?  Mrs. Palmer née Hall was transformed by the horrors of matrimony from a supportive woman who was willing to stand up to her crooked boss and throw her career away to try to save Palmer, into a domineering yet vapid spouse ready to fill the void left by Aunt Ethel.  And Palmer's character development from his time spent adventuring in Tiger's body in the land of the genies?  You can just forget about all that, he's back to being meek and wanting to run away from his corporate responsibilities.

Also gotta love how Alice-Wanna in Genie World was just Tiger-Palmer's "dancing girl."  Maybe humans don't have the right to get married in that place.  I mean what's next, human-genie marriage?

But it's weird, I can't help but think that this Foreword is forgetting something.  Something that allowed Zongri to be pickled in the first place, something that became vital to Tiger's adventures in the Genie World.  Something that makes Tiger's fall from grace a bit far-fetched, since it should have allowed him to intimidate or destroy any jinn who dared to stand against him.  Something that is in fact prominently featured on the book's cover.

Yet not only does Masters of Sleep's Foreword fail to mention the fabulous Seal of Solomon, I can't remember the story itself mentioning it, and have flipped through the first few chapters for any word of what happened the thing, to no avail.  Maybe something will come up when I go through it again, and more carefully, for this blog?  Because how crazy would that be, the sequel to a story utterly forgetting the mystical doohickey that everyone in the first tale was so desperate to recover?

Though if the Seal has been forgotten, we shouldn't be worried, because Hubbard has a new magical MacGuffin for us to focus on.  The Foreword explains that Tiger has worked his way up to becoming a gunner's mate on a man-o'-war, and is liable to see some action shortly.  Because

Ramus, ruler of Tarbutón, the principal nation of the Jinn, had become old.  She dispatched an expedition to the land of Arif-Emir who owned a strange gem called the Two-World Diamond.  Arif-Emir refused to part with his stone, though Jinn custom seemed to indicate that it should be lent.  A war was declared and Admiral Tombo with a fleet of twenty sail was sent to beat Arif-Emir into submission.  Aboard Tombo's flagship was Tiger.  And while Jan slept in Seattle-

I'd have preferred ending the Foreword with an ellipses instead of a dash, it's less of a hard break to the action.

So there you have it - Slaves of Sleep happened, Palmer learned about another world and dodged a trip to the asylum, but afterword everything went back to just about the way it was before Zongri popped out of that jar.  As for the Seal of Solomon... well, this Two-World Diamond seems pretty powerful, we should focus on that now.

In other words, after his brush with near-competence in the previous story, Hubbard is back to normal for this one  Oh, it won't be as bad as Mission Earth - you have to really make an effort to top that masterpiece of awfulness - but we'll see many of the ingredients for that recipe for disaster in this tale.  A stunted understanding of international affairs, casual misogyny, and of course brain-scrambling psychologists who hand out lobotomies like candy on Halloween.  It's almost like coming home.

Now wait, that genie royal astronomer was hella old, right?  Several millennia old, in fact.  So how did Ramus go from 'ugly and scary but otherwise just like any other ifrit' to 'the reaper is sharpening his scythe' old in the space of how many years it was between Slaves of Sleep and now?  Did it all just suddenly come crashing down on her at once?  If that's true, how did the astronomer survive so long?

Back to Slaves of Sleep's conclusion

No comments:

Post a Comment