The Science in Fiction: Mindfield: Parlay at Ologo by Cindy Koepp

When I read Mindfield: Parlay at Ologo by Cindy Koepp I was amazed at Koepp’s ability to walk the tightrope of science fiction and fantasy.

Not only does Mindstorm: Parlay at Ologo  have an array of interesting creatures and a galaxy of unique planets that they inhabit, but the elaborate system of telepathy tunnels the reader into a fragile landscape of mind and emotion. An exciting journey into and through deep and interesting fictional characters. (Literally) An excellent read, Mindstorm: Parlay at Ologo brings humor in the midst of drama, and passion in the midst of prejudice.

I have a great regard for SF writers like author and editor Cindy Koepp and, like the telepaths in her world, would like to take a walk inside her mind to see how it clicks.

Cindy! Welcome!

Hey Dianne, glad to be here. Science and science fiction have been great joys in my life.  I love playing “what if?”

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Tell us the story of  Mndstorm: Parlay at Ologo!

In Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo, genetic engineering efforts on humans produced a telepathic race. These people were enslaved until a revolt freed them a few generations ago. They took over the Haidar Space Station in orbit where they still live. For the most part, they’re self-sufficient, but for the things they can’t do for themselves, they earn their keep by hiring out their experts to solve problems on other worlds.

 Thomas, a Haidarian negotiator, is assisting his partner with a peace treaty when a hostile telepath and a bunch of mercenaries ambush the meeting. After his partner is shot in the chest, he battles off the telepath, taking some injuries in the process. Thomas teleports his partner back to the Haidar Space Station. The emergency room personnel were not able to save Thomas’ partner, and Thomas blames a psionic medicine specialist, Dr. Calla Geisman, because she has an inherited disability that limits the power available to her telepathy. Worse, a drug dealer with the same disability once tried to kill Thomas and very nearly succeeded. He can’t even look at Calla without remembering the drug dealer.

 The next day, Thomas finds out he has been assigned to negotiate a peace treaty on a war-torn world where a plague has been decimating both races. He pleads for more time to recover from the previous failed negotiation, but time is critical, and he already has experience on that world. To help with the plague issue, a doctor is being sent with him, someone so young the locals won’t suspect she’s a doctor. He’s not impressed when he learns his partner on this mission is Calla.

 They arrive at the site where a neutral third party, a pharmaceutical company called Pharmacorp, has offered them meeting space, but the company’s liaison keeps complicating things for them. Between Pharmacorp’s “help” and Thomas’ feelings about dealing with Calla, they have quite a challenge to figure out where the plague is coming from so they can negotiate the treaty.

 I honestly loved this story. Its unique, filled with adventure, humor and drama. Where did you come up with idea?

 Mindstorm had a convoluted history, not quite as circuitous as Remnant in the Stars, but still it all began …

 Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away….

No seriously, it started as Star Wars fanfic. I was working on Lines of Succession, a fantasy novel, and decided that my sword combat scenes were abysmal. I’ve had experience in rapier combat forms from the Renaissance, but I couldn’t get a description from my brain (and shadow-boxing sessions) to the paper. I started watching movies with much sword play like The Princess Bride, Zorro, Star Wars… Star Wars???  Yep. That was about the time Phantom Menace came out. Yes, I’m a weirdo. I might be one of the only people on the entire planet who things the 2nd trilogy outshined the first. *gasp* Was it perfect? No way. Were there annoying bits? Yep, but I still liked it better.image4

 So, after I’d seen a pile of movies that featured sword combat, I decided I needed some practice. I took the plot line for Phantom Menace and tweaked the tar out of it. I added some telepathic characters both for and against the heroes of the movie. The concept for the telepathic characters were based loosely — very loosely — on the 1970s British show The Tomorrow People. They could teleport and communicate telepathically. Telekinesis? No, I left that out, and they didn’t need computer assistance to do their thing. They could also do a bunch of stuff the Tomorrow People could not do. After those folks were in place, I came up with a plot line that had everyone getting into a gazillion sword fights. Then I wrote 2 more novels and a few more short stories that continued my plot line. One of those was called Drug War, which had a seriously truncated version of the Mindstorm plot line. After I finished my forays in Star Wars fanfic (No, I will not share. They were written for a specific purpose, so they’re heavy on sword fights and light on real plot line … besides, I don’t own the rights to many of the characters, so sorry, but no.), I rewrote Lines of Succession and the sword fights worked much better.

The next time I wanted a new project to play with, I went back through some of the Star Wars fanfic and decided that Drug War had potential as a standalone. It had the fewest references to the Star Wars universe, so I took that one and plotted out an extended plot line. Several tweaks and some character balancing later — the Haidarians were just way too powerful and most of the skills were not necessary for the plot — I had a functioning novel. It went through a truck load of revisions before I sent it off to a publisher or few. A pile of rejections later, I ran it through the ringer with a critique group, tweaked it again, and sent it off to Splashdown Books, who accepted Drug War with the caveat that it really needed a new title, something that would convey the snazzy telepathic phenomena.  Much brainstorming, and Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo became the new title.

The story has a very articulate process that the telepaths use to get into their client’s heads. Your descriptions are so visual I was
fascinated! Tell us about it.

Sure! … but we have to go back in history first. I have had a seizure disorder (originally diagnosed “epileptic” and now called a “non-epileptic seizure disorder”) for working hard on 40 years. I noticed that some seizures hardly affect me at all. Others are devastating. My memory was wiped out by medications I took as a kid. I came up with this theory that the mind was composed of levels: a superficial outer level, a mid-level, and a foundational inner level. As far as I know, there’s absolutely no scientific basis for this idea, but I was a teen trying to make sense of why my brain goes haywire for no good reason. My neurologist gave me copies of his medical texts on epilepsy and I read everything else I could find. No, apparently my theory was no good, but it stayed with me as a wild “what if.”

 When I wrote Drug War, the precursor work to Mindstorm, Calla Geisman (Kayla Argosy in the original work) was highly trained in psionic medicine (a medical student in the original and a doctor in Mindstorm). Since much of the story was told from her perspective, there were times when I needed her to do her psionic medical thing, and I needed a way to describe what she was doing.

I fell back on my teenager theory of the mind.

The most superficial part of the mind is the memory. Memory images are stored on glass panes supported by poles in the configuration of a dense maze. imagesDamage to the mind can result in some of the frames cracking, breaking, or shattering.  In a really bad situation, the maze can collapse like dominoes. Damage here can corrected by reassembling the damaged panes like a jigsaw puzzle then clearing the distortions by imparting restorative psionic energy. The appearance of the panes and support poles can give a psionic doctor clues about what was happening emotionally and sometimes physically during that part of the person’s life.

The middle level is a series of pillars holding up the floor of the maze. These pillars are composed of disks that hold a person’s beliefs, likes, and dislikes. Damage here looks like Greek ruins. Pillars can be out of alignment or knocked over entirely. The psionic doctor can restore the damage by re stacking the pillars in the proper order.

The inner level is the most basic. This is where metabolism, breathing, heart rate, and other very basic functions are held. This level is visualized as a 3D neuron network. Information being passed from one area to another shows as little jolts of energy traveling through the neurons. This is where the doctor can control things how fast the body processes a drug or circadian rhythms or pulse rate.

Mental combat can also happen in any level of the mind. If the battle is actually happening in someone’s mind, the “home turf” has an advantage. The combatants envision themselves as an avatar, taking whatever form they choose. Some forms are harder to maintain than others and some are more effective in combat. There are only a couple mental combats in Mindstorm. If the sequel pans out according to the loose plans I’m pulling together, there will be more in that one.

Originally, the descriptions for those parts of Mindstorm were very sparse, but an early critique partner admonished me to run with the s-f-ness of the idea and go all out!!  So I did.

Cindy Koepp head shot

After hatching years ago in a land very far away, Cindy tried to hide under a secret identity, but she finally gave that up and started openly telling people she was an alien capable of adopting many forms. To her surprise, with the exception of one class of elementary students, no one believed her. They assumed she was joking, thereby giving her the perfect cover story. She spent 14 years mutating the minds of four-footers – that’s height, not leg count – but gave that up to study the methodology needed to mutate the minds of adult humans. In her off time, she writes about her adventures under the guise of telling science fiction and fantasy stories, records her blog articles, and reads wonderful books in exchange for editing help.

What science did you use for this aspect of your story and how did you apply it?

The science is kind of sneaky in this one. It’s definitely not hard  SF but the science is underlying some of the concepts.

 Genetic engineering resulted in the Haidarians, but not much time is spent on that in the story. A genetics discussion also comes up between Calla and Thomas’ fiancee, and Calla’s inherited disability is a recessive trait.

I did apply a good deal of orbital mechanics (in the form of tidal effects) and ecology to the environment on Ologo, where the negotiations take place. Ologo is a binary planet, and the other planet is naked-eye visible from Ologo. The result is impressive tidal differences. One race lives in the trees. The other is underwater, and the “dry ground” really isn’t. It’s more of a marsh because at high tide, the land gets flooded. The humans associated with Pharmacorp had to build a huge raised platform for their buildings.

The two races ecologically make sense for their environment, too. The aquatic race doesn’t see well on land, they convey emotions through color changes that happen in a way similar to how some octopi camouflage. They look like outsized frogs with webbed arms. They’re matriarchal and undergo a gender change, like some frog species can do. The arboreal race is more monkey-like. Height and age convey dominance.

 What are some of your other books? Are they SF or fantasy?

I have one other book out now: Remnant in the Stars. It’s science fiction.

 Three of my short stories are in published anthologies: The Hat (fantasy) in Hero’s Best Friend, The Last Mission (science fantasy) in A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court, and Negotiator (backstory for Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo) in Aquasynthesis Again.

In queue, I have many: Lines of Succession (fantasy) working our way through the artwork now. Urushalon 1: Like Herding the Wind (science fiction) in edits. Urushalon 2: Into the Open (science fiction) under contract and waiting for an editor The Condemned Courier (fantasy) available as a serial on JukePop serials, under contract at a publisher and being turned into a novel Dragon’s Bane (fantasy) a short story in a forthcoming Medieval Mars anthology Jewel Among Stones, Hard Knocks, Interference, and The Fall of the Invincible Man (all science fiction) short stories in a forthcoming Web Surfer Anthology

I also have Remnant in the Stars‘ sequel (The Loudest Actions) with some beta readers and as soon as I finish my degree and get caught up on current projects next summer, I have plans to write more short stories, a sequel to Mindstorm, a sequel to Lines of Succession, and a novel that currently has the horrible working title of Bird’s Eye.

That’s incredible as is your book! For those intrigued, here is the link to Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo . If you love SF you’ll love this novel!

Thank you Cindy!

Thanks for letting me play today!

I’m one of those odd creatures who has an education from rival universities. My degree in Wildlife Ecology came from Texas A&M University. Then, a few years later, I went through teacher certification at the University of Texas at Austin. These days, I’m pursuing a masters degree and working on my writing. I still find time now and again to work on my writing and crafts while I whistle tunes back and forth with a silly Timneh African Grey. My writing is influenced by the experiences in my life, the people I’ve met, and the God I worship.

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