WHY I BOTHER
Over the eighty-five years I’ve lived so far, I have failed to gain a reputation as a driving force of a man who sees large and complex projects through to completion. That’s mostly because I tend to avoid large and complex projects altogether. Truth to tell, I like for the end of a thing to be in sight before I so much as hit a lick at it.
But this book, or story, or whatever it’s going to wind up being, is different. I’ve assembled a big mess of news clippings, copies of other people’s letters and journals, and several books as research materials. Knowing me, I’ll probably just plop direct quotations from these sources in to fill the gaps in my own knowledge and experience instead of cleverly weaving them into the narrative. And I’m not at all sure how far I’m going to take all this — or, should I say, how much I’m going to tell about certain things — but somehow I’m going to finish the bastard or die trying.
The reasons I’m setting all this down on paper are as follows: Although I’ve told these stories all my life to my friends and family and anybody else who’d hold still, I’ve never seen a completely accurate account in print of the events I lived through on Gordon’s Planet. The Quadrant brochure my grandson Philip sent me from Vanessa was an embarrassment of lies, but worse than that, my name wasn’t in it.
Also, while Charlemagne Gordon was every bit the larger-than-life character he’s been made out to be, the heroics of Captain John C. Vickers have been virtually purged from the stories I’ve seen. This is partly because he was one of the people who twisted the Quadrant’s arm to force the signing of the Treaty of Limitations — without which I could not be speaking so freely today, let’s not forget. But that, as they say, is another story.
Lastly, young people seem to want to know what it was like to be a spaceman in my day. That’s a style, an attitude, a whole way of life that’s mostly gone now. I hope I can do that part of it justice.
With the upsurge of interest in Charlemagne Gordon, Colony Valley has turned into a must-see for the second time in my life. People just out of college consider it practically a pilgrimage to go there. By now, I suppose, just about everyone’s been to Gordon’s Planet on vacation, or at least seen the brochures and the promo on laservid.
People go there, and they go to the zoological gardens, or the Hall of Tarks; they visit the replica of Gordon’s barricaded cabin, and see a reenactment of the fighting; they go to buy, sell or trade trinkets at Borka’s village; they go hunting or fishing, or hiking, or whatever it is one does in an Unspoiled Wilderness. Then they head back to their hotels, shower up, and go check out the restaurants and the night life in downtown Vanessa. They can have a few drinks, take in a show — something for everybody!
At least, I guess that’s what they do. I haven’t been to Gordon’s Planet in over fifty years. A kind of sick residue of fear washes over me when I even think about going back.
There were no nightclubs when I was there. There were no hotels, no restaurants. When I was there, there was only terror.