Mike: Our next interviewee is Ranna Kikken Commer, a major force in Sol scientific circles for her work on the Time Committee studying the aftereffects of the Alpha Centaurian Chronowarp invasion of Sol from 2013 to 2075, as well as her most recent work with the Committee to the Ywritt.
Ranna Kikken Commer: Thanks. I was just outside the door and heard the end of your talk with Waterfall Sequence. He was being usually candid today, I think. It’s hard to get him to talk for more than a few minutes.
Mike: Well, I’m the author and control how many lines he has in this book, and if he lives through it or not! By the way, that’s an interesting thought. Can members of the Ywritt die?
Ranna: Not as we understand it. After a few hundred thousand years they might decide to dissolve, but all their memories, along with algorithms for reproducing any event in their lives, are stored in the Ywritt libraries and so, in a sense, Waterfall Sequence is immortal.
Mike: Well, okay. Here you are, a well-established leader in Sol since 2038–
Ranna: Who hasn’t had a decent line in one of your books since Book Three, Nonprofit Chronowar.
Mike: Yes, I was just coming to that. Although you were part of the first chapter of Book Four, you’ve essentially been behind the scenes in the next three books, playing the part offstage of being Jackie’s stable older sister, or of Joe’s wife–
Ranna: Right. In a way I’ve been in a similar position as Amav, a symbol of a great marriage and stability back home while all the other characters get to romp around the universe. Except that Amav got to romp herself the last three books. But I had such a major role in Nonprofit Chronowar I’m surprised you haven’t wanted to use me since.
Mike: I’ve been uncertain about that, to tell you the truth. I kept looking for ways to put you in various books, but for some reason it always came down to needing you to be holding the fort either back home or in a newly-liberated Iota Persei, or for characters to mention you in passing, always in a positive light.
Ranna: I’ve been puzzled by that, and in fact resentful. I went from being an aging, guilt-ridden, probably sexually out- of-control nonprofit lady with a Cat Farm in Book Three who went through the terror of the destruction of the earth and the Evacuation. Then she’s in a crashing spaceship and certain she’s about to die when the love of her life, Joe, shows up with her old lost cat Churchill in a Heuristic Time Transition, and Churchill forces her to perform a Time transition herself! Well, that was all quite a role, and showcased my psychic integration as I accepted the end of the earth and the end of my life, only to find myself at my old buddy Urside’s wedding five years in the future. Damn confusing, but a new life for Ms. Ranna, and she and Joe knew that instant they’d be married, despite her being twenty years older than he was.
Mike: I think in the back of my mind I saw you as somehow completed in Book Three. After all, Nonprofit Chronowar was planned as a literary novel and only later did I see it as fitting into a trilogy of Jack Commer novels. So Ranna was originally intended as a main character of a one-shot novel. But I still had an urge to put you into other books. Part of the problem is that there are so many characters and you really can’t go into more than three or four in a book anyway without confusing everyone.
Ranna: So you’re interviewing twelve of us for this one, right? Great!
Mike: Well, one thing we’re here to do is see what you can contribute to Book Seven.
Ranna: Oh, so Rick Ballard’s right! We’re auditioning for roles! Let me tell you I’ve definitely read through all your notes so far. I think I’m the only one who’s done it, actually, and I really don’t see anything else in there for poor Ranna Kikken Commer other than more wifely duties and committee work back home. I see some talk about “finally resolving Ranna” but it sounds like weak BS to me.
Rick Ballard: Someone calling me? Hey, Mr. Mike, listen, this gives me a great idea! You’re absolutely right about Amav and me not working out! You’re always right about everything, man! That’s why we love you so much! But look, here’s the cool thing, what if I took Ranna here away from Joe? We could have a whole scene on a white rug in front of a fireplace! Look, I’ve made some notes here for how we could–
Ranna: Oh jeez! How’d he get in here again? This is priceless!
Mike: Okay, I can see I’m going to have to lock the door after I start these interviews.
Ballard: No, seriously, guys! Like, anyone can see Ranna’s rejuvenation has taken! And I do mean taken! Babe, you don’t look a day over forty-five! Don’t tell me you don’t want Rick Ballard! Why else are you wearing that tight, tight sweater?
Ranna: Hmm. I don’t want you, Mr. Ballard. Talk to Laurie 283. She’s a robot and will do anyone. And don’t go back through the sunroom. Joe’s on next and he’s back there.
Ballard: I’m not afraid of Joe Commer!
Joe Commer: Hey, am I up already?
Ballard: Dammit! Dammit! Screw this, I’m outa here! Son of a bitch!
Joe: What’s with him?
Mike: Hey, Joe, I’m still talking to Ranna, but Rick keeps crashing the place. See if you can’t keep him out. I’ll be with you in a few minutes.
Joe: Sure. Just let me know.
Mike: Well, sorry about that. I do want to have a good talk with you, Ranna, and please don’t consider this just an audition.
Ranna: Well, another part of the notes had Ballard kidnapping me to the Greater Magellanic Cloud! Oh boy! Maybe we should call him back in here!
Mike: No, let’s not. I agree that plot idea was pretty stupid. And we can’t do any more kidnapping anyway. We already did that in The SolGrid Rebellion with Laurie. But look, I’m just trying to figure how the best way to get you into this book. First of all, I think we both sense that your central role in Nonprofit Chronowar has been both a blessing to the series and a strange liability for pushing you any further along in it. That’s something to be probed.
Ranna: Well, one thing we can say is that Ranna did develop amazing leadership talents in the years before Nonprofit Chronowar, and during it. Despite the fact that people considered her like something on the order of a social worker for running the nonprofit Cat Farm, she knew how to organize, raise money, and direct a big enterprise. And she was confident she could repeat that success a dozen times even if she had to start from scratch for each one. So when she starts realizing the nature of time travel and gets transitioned from a dying Earth in 2033 to Mars in 2038, yes, it’s a total shock to the system of someone who a second before was absolutely convinced she was about to snuff it, but it’s also astonishing new life, and a second chance.
Mike: And she grabs that chance. She works well on the Time Committee with Dar and top scientists, and though she isn’t a scientist herself, she becomes an expert on Heuristic Time Transition, does a few more Transitions herself, and helps close up time paradoxes created by the Alpha Centaurians. When the Ywritt come along she’s instantly seen as a natural for the Committee. More leadership for Ranna, and invaluable contributions from her.
Ranna: And yet, although Ranna’s still grateful for this second chance even forty years later, there’s something missing. I think she has some metaphysical questions that contact with time travel and later the Ywritt merely stimulate, but never answer. She may be prodded by the arrival of the pyramid in Iota Persei, Ballard’s death and JJC’s escape, to ramp up her energies for something completely new.
Mike: I can see something there. Still vague, though.
Ranna: Well, while we think about that, there’s something else to explore. The origins of the Ranna Kikken archetype. It needs to be mentioned here. Maybe it can help. After all, Ranna began essentially as a snapshot.
Mike: Yes, the scene in The Soul Institute where sophomore Dorrington Caldwell, just dumped by his girlfriend Lisa, has taken a job at the Soul Institute library and from the vantage point of the circulation desk sees a senior guy leading the voluptuous Ranna Kikken by the hand out of the library, headed no doubt for her dorm room and some easy fantastic sex, while poor Dorrington has none. He can’t help but note that stunning wild dark red hair and these fantastic huge breasts in the tight ribbed russet sweater–
Ranna: A sight Rick Ballard himself endorsed not a few minutes ago, we may add.
Mike: And the senior and Ranna are laughing so gleefully! At one time I’d tried to integrate both The Soul Institute and Sortmind characters into the Jack Commer universe, but gave it up. Yet I left a young college student Ranna, as well as a five-year-old Urside, in The Soul Institute, and nineteen novel years later, in 2020, they would figure in Nonprofit Chronowar. Urside would have a terrible unrequited crush on her.
Ranna: But while that’s so incredibly fascinating, Mr. Author, you’re leaving out the fact that you witnessed just this scene while working at the Rice library circa … 1974?
Mike: Yes, that was definitely Ranna Kikken I saw at Fondren Library that day, just as described in The Soul Institute and later for the thirty-nine-year-old, then a fifty-year-old Ranna in Nonprofit Chronowar. What a kinetic sculpture! But what’s most memorable about her is the fact that she must have been a Rice student, but that was the one and only time I ever saw her. I also never recognized her whenever I might have flipped through the annual Rice yearbooks. I knew just about every one of some twenty-four hundred Rice undergraduates at least by sight after four years, after all, as well as from encountering them from the vantage point of the library circulation desk my last two years there. So Ranna came and went in about ten seconds. Maybe she was just created on the spot to figure later in my novels!
Ranna: So sometime in the mid-’90’s she went straight into The Soul Institute without needing a single edit. But again, just like the present me, for a walk-on part only. Fortunately you had the good sense to explore her thirty-nine-year-old self more thoroughly in the Jack Commer universe. I wonder what you might make of the newest version of Ranna Kikken Commer, circa 2076.
Mike: You know, library worker Dorrington even speculated what might happen to kinetic sculpture Ranna by the time she turned forty. From the perspective of a college student, it wasn’t a pretty picture.
Ranna: But now we know better, don’t we?
copyright 2018 by Michael D. Smith