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Sandi Hall
Sandi Hall
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Sandi HallSHIRLEY and Darlene, family twins and soul twins, Lillian, an actress, and Minnie, a painter, are at the centre of a feminist network engaged in local community campaigning and in reshaping their own lives. Inevitably, they find themselves drawn into challenging the power of big business interests far beyond their Toronto home.

In another time, Lydia and Michou are creating holovids to be beamed around the earth, reflecting the cultural and social mix that is the basis of a life of harmony, colour and love. Can women’s command of the communication network really ensure the peace of the post-nuclear world?

The lives of these women are linked across time and space, and their fates are bound up, too, with those of their sisters in the witchburning past, in the time when women could do no more than comfort each other.

They meet in Aftertime, the time of the Godmothers, when bonds between women shall be finally affirmed,suffering become strength and death become life.

Embracing the imaginitive release of science fiction and the tension and excitement of the thriller, The Godmothers, Sandi Hall’s extraordinary first novel, embodies a brave new vision of a world rooted in the power of love between women.

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Time-Stream Two

        I rise up in the morning and am behind myself, wearing the face that shows the mirror surprise. So that’s who I am today. I would know simply by thinking, but it’s become a habit with me to check the mirror. I am still pleased by that alignment of human features into the state that is called beautiful, which I’m positive is one of the reason that I also am the dark one with four heirs who has an allotment of days at the food sorting plant. I’m usually weak after I’ve been her for a while, and have very little to take back Home. What I do bring seems to be satisfactory though.

        Today I am one of my favourites, for I love beauty and there are the clothes, the pearl silk shirt and the raw silk trousers, moonstone ring. Piled neatly beside the scriber is the work. I skip through it and become totally myself. I am Lydya Brown, Senior Executive of Holovision International. This morning I am on my way to present my ideas on the kind of programme mixes that are desirable in certain countries. Because I want to do the work, I’ve brought my latest programme mix.

        I am pleased with the results. The mixes for Santiago south, particularly, have blended beautifully; there is an excellent balance among my choice of other cultures, science, politics, a first in medicine, seaming with sculpture as a spatial need and early twentieth century love songs. The sweetness of the latter is balanced by the non-emotive elements of the former, with the sculpture providing a pivot point between. All are packaged within their own frames of reference and the mixing along these frames is, I thought, the best I’d ever done. When the music is added, its effectiveness will be doubled.

        On the high-speed image level, the mix is potent, touching the fear/reassurance emotions in a visual pattern that will also be underscored musically. If you sit and watch any of the programmes in the mix, you will also get an impression of the world’s history, chaos down the centuries, the rise of new thinking, the rightness of the present system of order and government. It is very effective.

        Cheva, my driving companion, brings the flick round to the front of the house. I am delighted to find that the day is mild and sunny, for spring has been extremely coy. We greet one another with a hug and settle into the wide curved space. She punches the directions through, checks the straps and releases the Block. I’ve known Cheva for years: our years are compatible and we went through training together. We have given pleasure to one another many times in the past, but now her liaison with Meriol, which has lasted several months, seems to be developing into something stronger than loving friendship.

        Cheva is also one of the few women outside Comnet with whom I have mindbonds, though of course we don’t use the technique much because of the energy loss. The flick takes us swiftly to Comnet, its domed pillar rising out of the huddle of buildings to catch the full sweep of the sun’s arm. Cheva bring us gently to the downpoint. I get out of the flick and tell her to check with me later to find out what time I’ll be ready to leave. The soft sucking whoosh of the flick’s departure pulls my hair straight up; I drop my case to smooth it down and see Cheva’s wicked grin. Then, after one last smooth of my hair, I pick up my case and run up the steps into the Comnet building.

        The fifth floor, where my offices are, has a view, but not one to make you gasp at the marvels of nature. Apart from the buildings of the city, all around, as far as you can see, is flat, ruler flat, until the land stretches out to thin line which is faintly stained according to the season. You feel suspended between land and cloud in a changing cloudscape or skyscape. After three years in that office, I know the sky almost as well as I know my own home, and can tell what the day is going to be like from the sky’s colour and texture.

        Today, it was clear and mild as a baby’s smile, light gentle blue, with itny clouds cuddled next to the land and the sun around somewhere, but invisible from my window. When the location of the Comnet Building was first mooted, I was against Regina, a city of no appeal that I could see. I was pushing for Atlanta, which I loved. But I could see that, as far as the continent went, Regina was ideally situated. You could as easily catch a flick to Reykjavik as Acapulco. In communications, to be central to everywhere was priority number one.

        “Lydya, good morning!”

        Across my office floor came Marla, another Senior Executive. There were four of us in all. Marla was acknowledged as being the most skilled at speaking and so she often as not issued messages for us, which made some people think she was our leader, but there are some people you can never change. Berenice and Michou were the others, and Michou was often accompanied by Stella, whom she was training.

        “You’re looking rather wonderful this morning,” said Marla, looking me up and down appreciatively. I knew Marla felt warmly towards me, and I liked her, but her angular body did nothing for me. ‘Good journey down?’

‘Mmm. Pleasant,’ I said. ‘I’ve finished the mixes – want a side?’

        ‘Yes please!’ she returned, sitting down as I got the mixes and plugged them in. ‘When is the meeting?’

        ‘Three, I think, in the Solarium,’I said. The picture was fading and opaquing at the edges, so I stopped the machine and adjusted the laser control setting. Another little test run, then I sat back to watch my creation once again.

        A holovid mix is a curious concept, a bit like one of those paper shapes you make for children to tell fortunes with. Each ‘side’ seams with that of the next mix, and though each side is complete in itself, together they form a wholly separate mix, usually on two levels. At first, the top level fusion happened by itself but as we learned more about it, we could manipulate our base mixes to achieve the top level mix. In every holovid mix, each integral part must be able to be extracted and still leave behind a perfectly sensible programme, so that the EXTRACT button can be pressed at any point, to lift out a whole mixed programme, while leaving another whole mixed programme there to view.

        Our viewings were held in the Solarium because it was the most comfortable room in the building and a viewing always took several hours because everyone wanted to see all sides.

        ‘Oh well done, Lydya,’ said Marla, her eyes fixed on the screen. You could feel the cold, smell the reindeer as they fled under the night sky. She had pushed the EXTRACT button then, and the scene moved without hesitation into a star map of that night sky. The transition was excellent and the stories individual. The extractor was actually a channeler, allowing separation of individual structure during transmission. Normally, the mix went out as a total package, put together with the viewers’ needs in mind. The joy of a good mix was the precision of linking, so that each programme had to be related to the other on all sides. Mind-jumping rather than viewing was what it really was.

        Holovision allowed a single transmitter to sent out up to six programmes simultaneously, and the choice of what to use was completely in the hands of the person controlling the extractor. We programme for schools, of course, a ‘total education’ transmission. Commercial transmissions were our money spinners, and Berenice seemed to have an instinct for choosing what would appeal to the public of Western Samoa as easily as what would appeal to the public of western France. Marla really excelled at the classic arts material, and my own grasp of education mixes seemed to come from somewhere inside myself that I couldn’t call on at will, but which never let me down.

        ‘Has Moochie seen this yet?’ asked Marla.

        ‘No, not yet.’ ‘She’s going to be thrilled with you,’ grinned Marla.

        ‘I hope so,’ I said.

        Moochie was Michou Bleu, large, untidy, constantly eating other people’s tasties, mooching their ciggies, but so cheerfully and with so many laughing self-beratings that you couldn’t get angry with her, nor could you refuse her. She always paid you back, in the end. Moochie in her moods of largesse was a bit intimidating, because she gave with a magnificence that reflected her affection for you and the inflated size of her guilt. Her sense of proportion was affected by her emotions; people she knew only casually were repaid what she borrowed and a little bit more – like four cigarettes for two. But someone she liked got tiny bits of jewellery, old old books or lace. Once she had given me the most exquisite tiny cup and saucer, probably made in 1928 or 1930, well over two hundred years ago anyway. It was a lovely clear yellow, fluted at the mouth, sprinkled all over with deep blue dots and rimmed with gold. Apart from being incredibly difficult to find, it must have been worth a huge pledge.

        The same sense that led her to such beauty worked with her selection of the music to fit the visual patterns of the holovids. She could fit music to vision superbly, uniting the ear and the eye with a depth of meaning that flowered in the mind, lingered and grew, long after the programme ended. Once, viewing a mix completed by Moochie and Marla, I hallucinated right back into Home. It was such a shock, being in two places at once.

        I hoped that Moochie could get on to this mix right away but it wassn’t certina. She’d been working on a special project with Berenice, which had started about six weeks before. I had an idea that the project was finished but Moochie may have to go off for a while, recharging. Special work was particularly draining. When Stella was fully trained, Moochie’s work load would ease, but that would be some time yet. At fifteen, Stella was obviously a natural for the work but she was still too new to take off much of the load.

        I left Marla to browse through the mix and went up to the Solarium to nabe a dome. The Solarium was a huge room spanned by a synthetic glass dome as fine and clear as a soap bubble. Its toughness withstood the howls of prairie wind that came sweeping across the enormous expanse of land, unchecked by tree or hill. Hail couldn’t dent the dome, and ice or snow just slid off. The Solarium had been designed by a mind touched with magic, for it allowed smaller domes to spring out of the floor to encompass a space just right for the happening within. The sides of the smaller domes could be opaque to two thirds of the way up for privacy; but in all of them the sense of space and sky was retained.

        I walked down the centre of the room, feeling for the right spot. The choice of surroundings was varied and I wated just the right one for my viewing. The surroundings must be comfortable but not too intrusive; if nothing was right, I’d have to dial it myself. Bamboo and palms – no, too casual. Velvet and silk – no, too luxurious. Bells, tiny mirrors and cushions big as beds – too ethnic. As I started over to a raining shade of pearl, one of the cushions moved and I saw Moochie, waking from a deep sleep, it seemed. Her face was very white and her eyes wide with disorientation. She looked at me for a long moment, then buried her face in the crook of her arm and began to shake.

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