Yes, you read that right, today is Book Day for the anniversary re-issue of Scout’s Progress! featuring a stunning new cover by Sam Kennedy.
In celebration, we present to you the Authors’ Foreword from the new edition.
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You are holding the more-or-less twentieth anniversary edition of Scout’s Progress, which is something of a shock all by itself.
Scout’s Progress was written in 1993, part of an intended two-book set, featuring two brothers-of-the-heart – Er Thom yos’Galan, whose story was told in Local Custom – and Daav yos’Phelium, whose story is told in this book.
We never expected either book to be published.
Nineteen-ninety-three was . . . an odd time in our lives. We were not at that point working writers, by which we mean that we weren’t selling. Our first three novels had entertained “disappointing sales” according to their publisher. And yet that same publisher was in no hurry to revert the rights to us, the authors.
We may have been feeling just a trifle bleak in 1993, and questioning a whole lot of our life choices.
We say these things not to garner sympathy, but to set the stage for how we got to Local Custom and Scout’s Progress.
In 1993 Real Life, Steve was managing a computer store; Sharon was working as a part-time office manager in the mornings, scrambling as a reporter/photographer for a small weekly newspaper during the afternoon and evenings, and writing a once-a-month science fiction review column for the local daily.
In his spare time, Steve set up and operated Circular Logic, the first computer bulletin board system in Central Maine, which essentially brought Maine into the rest of the then-infant internet. This may not sound like a big deal nowadays, but, trust us, back then, it was an Undertaking, involving multiple CD players, two large servers, interfacing with FIDOnet, to upload and download nightly message caches . . . Yeah, wow. Those were the days.
Sharon, being something of a one-trick pony – continued to write.
Previous to 1993, she wrote a non-Liaden space opera, The Tomorrow Log, which was roundly rejected by the SF houses. She then wrote an almost-cozy mystery – Barnburner, which was met with great editorial disinterest on the mystery side.
Which was when she decided to write – a Regency.
When we became a team, Steve had introduced Sharon to Georgette Heyer’s Regency “romances.”. She fell in love, as had so many before her.
But Sharon didn’t want to just write a Regency. She wanted to write a Regency without having to actually do the necessary research.
One of the Cardinal Writing Rules is: Write What You Know. So, Sharon set about telling the story of two brothers, alike in estate, though not in temperament, each of whom needed an heir to fulfill the demands of family and society. These brothers lived just outside of Solcintra, the premier city on the planet Liad.
We’d like to pause here and reflect upon how very, very well Regency England, as portrayed by Georgette Heyer, dovetails with space opera. Heyer’s task was to present her readers with a believable alien society operating by subtly different mores. The goal of space opera is to believably present alien societies operating under different, yet compelling, mores.
The Liaden Universe® operates under vastly different rules from Heyer’s Regency Universe, but it is informed by the tenor of her narration, her phraseology, oh – and the clothes. Truly, we stand on the shoulders of a giant.
Returning to 1993, we had no expectation that Scout’s Progress – or Local Custom – would ever be read by anybody but us. They were therefore written to amuse – us. Things that amuse us particularly are word-play; dry, understated humor; a certain grace – of manner and of person – protagonists with a strong sense of honor and right action, who are competent, though they may be flawed.
Improbably, Local Custom and Scout’s Progress were published in February 2001, as original omnibus Pilots Choice, from Meisha Merlin Publishing.
It’s apparently Traditional on occasions such as these for authors to reflect on what they would have done differently, were they writing the work being celebrated today.
And our answer is? Nothing.
Daav yos’Phelium and Aelliana Caylon have become reader favorites, and more than that, true pillars of the Liaden Universe®, supporting more than just their own happy ending.
Some readers, certainly, decry this novel, and Local Custom, as “Mills and Boone in space” – but we see that as a failure of their vision, not ours.
So, here we are, celebrating an unlikely anniversary. We hope that newcomers will enjoy Daav and Aelliana’s story, and that those who have read the story before will be pleased to re-visit old friends.
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Cat Farm and Confusion Factory
The anniversary edition of Scout’s Progress may be purchased in mmp and ebook editions from your favorite bookstore. It is also available as an audiobook, read by Bernadette Dunne.