1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 48

1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 48

“I wouldn’t do that,” Marla protested, in the face of everyone else’s smiles. After a moment, she smiled as well. “All right, but I need more coffee first.” She leaned forward and held her cup out for Mary to refill.

          Settling back with a freshly filled steaming cup wafting warm vapors past her nose, she began. “My main observation is I think it needs more passion and tension, especially between Merlin and Guinevere early on and between Guinevere and Nimue in the last act. Second, the vocal styling is too . . . too restrained, too soft. It needs more bite, more edge to it. The last thing is, am I correct you are thinking of me for the role of Guinevere and Master Andrea,” she nodded at him, “for the role of Nimue?”

“Yep,” Amber replied, “you called it.”

“The music is too similar for those roles,” Marla said. She sipped at the coffee again, trying to get the butterflies in her stomach under control. Despite her acquaintance and friendship with Amber, she felt intimidated by Schütz. She was still getting used to the idea, even two-plus years after she arrived in Magdeburg, that someone who was in the encyclopedia as “The Father of German Music” would value her opinions. “There needs to be a distinct differentiation between the styles, the themes, and the timbre of their music.”

“What do you mean?” Heinrich spoke up, gaze intent on Marla.

“As I read the libretto,” Marla began, then interrupted herself with, “and that’s a near-brilliant piece of work, by the way? Who wrote it?”

“I worked with Johann Gronow,” Amber said. “He’s the editor of –”

Black Tomcat Magazine,” Marla interjected. “He’s also the friend of Friedrich von Logau, who just worked on a small project for me. They’re both good.”

She finished the coffee and put the cup down, holding up her hand in negation when Mary pointed to the coffee pot again. “Anyway, as I was saying, when I read the libretto, I was hearing Guinevere as earth and fire: very emotional, all strings and brass and percussion. Nimue, on the other hand, came across to me as air: ethereal, not particularly passionate, with woodwinds as her sound.”

“Ah,” Heinrich sighed. He sat in thought for a long moment, then said, “That is what I was missing. I need to contrast those two women more. I see it now, and I see how to rework it.” He gave a seated bow to Marla. “My thanks, Frau Marla. You have been of great assistance.”

Amber flashed a smile at Marla, and she relaxed a bit.

“My turn,” Amber said. “Any thoughts on staging?”

“You’re asking me?” Marla asked in confusion. What is this, pick on Marla day, or something? Where does it say, I’m the expert here? “You’re the professional director and stage manager. I should be asking you.”

“Come on,” Amber insisted. “I know something had to have popped up in your brain. Let me have it.”

“Okay.” Marla thought for a moment. “Only two things at this point in time: first, I think Nimue needs to be played in a very androgynous manner.”

“That won’t be difficult,” Andrea observed from his chair with a chuckle, joining the conversation for the first time. He looked toward Amber. “Much the same thought had occurred to me — make a virtue out of necessity, as it were.” His grin flashed for a moment. “I just hadn’t had time to bring it up yet.”

“Noted.” Amber actually did write it down in a small notebook. “What’s the other thing?”

“Please don’t make the costumes too heavy.”

From there they descended into a detailed discussion of costume designs, proposed staging, etc. It was nearly an hour later that Mary finally brought the conversation to a close.

“All right, we’re good to go then. Master Heinrich will make his revisions as soon as possible, and we’ll get the parts passed out as soon as he does. We’re shooting to begin rehearsals by February 5th, and we have money from a supporter that will get the sets and costumes under way.”

There was a general bustle as the others stood and took their leave. Marla remained seated, staring at the coffee table where the manuscript had been, tired and numb.

There came a touch on her shoulder. She looked up to see Mary there, looking down at her. No words were spoken, but she could see the expression of sympathy on the other woman’s face, and the tears began welling up in her eyes to match the sudden surge of grief from the void under her heart.

Mary took a white linen handkerchief from a pocket and handed it to Marla, then sat down in the chair next to hers and wrapped an arm around her shoulder.

Marla wept. She bit down on the handkerchief, but still small moans of grief escaped her. The tears coursed down her cheeks, and she trembled as if she were badly chilled. The thought touched the edge of her mind that she was chilled; not to the bone, but in the soul.

She had no idea how long she mourned within the curve of Mary’s arm. It felt like hours, but doubtless was not more than a few minutes. The tears slowed; her ragged breathing calmed.

Taking the handkerchief from between her teeth, Marla unfolded it and wiped the moisture from her face, rubbing fiercely to remove the feeling of the drying tracks of the tears. Then she clasped it between her hands in her lap.

Mary took her arm from Marla’s shoulder.

“Not many people here know it,” Mary said, “but Tom could have been a second child. I had a miscarriage before I had him.”

Mary’s voice was quiet. There was no sense of claiming some identity in a sisterhood of suffering; no sense of one-upmanship in her words. Just a simple statement of fact. But it was enough that Marla released her clasp and reached a hand out to Mary, who grasped it tightly.

“How . . .” Marla husked, “how do the down-timer women bear it, seeing half or more of their children die?”

“The same way I did,” Mary responded. “One day at a time; one hour at a time; sometimes one minute at a time.”

Marla looked at the older woman, saw the strength in her, and drew on that strength to stiffen her own resolve. She was going to make it through this torrent, some way, somehow.

“Thanks, Mary.”

“Any time, dear. I have lots of handkerchiefs.”


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27 Responses to 1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 48

  1. Vernon Nemitz says:

    Actually, the way that downtime women bear all those deaths of children (about 50% by age two or three) involves emotional detachment. They have not been brainwashed by idiot pro-lifers to assume that every pregnancy will result in live birth, and that therefore even the unborn should be called “children”, when it is perfectly obvious that they aren’t.

    Actual children do not go around with umbilical cords attached to them; inside the womb each human organism consists of TWO major parts: the main growing body and the placenta, and neither can survive without the other. Well, since each whole unborn human organism includes the placenta as part of its existence, while a normal/alive born human does not include the placenta as part of its existence, that is why the unborn do not qualify as “children” –the unborn are truly biologically different from the born.

    But I’ve digressed from the original thing. Because downtime women KNOW that many of their youngsters will die with a couple years after birth, they simply refuse to become emotionally attached to those children, until they have proved able to survive.

    That fact is worth remembering; should our advanced civilization collapse some day, you can be sure that modern medicine will no longer be around to prevent so many children from dying in their first years. And once again parents, for their own psychological health, will have to refrain from becoming emotionally attached until after those kids have proved able to survive.

    P.S. That death rate appears to apply to youngsters regardless of species. I once worked on a Christmas tree farm, and every year fresh seedlings needed to be planted –and about half of them failed to survive the long term. Getting all emotionally upset about Actual Facts is just plain stupid. And the downtimers, as has been pointed out many times, are not stupid.

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      IMO Eric Flint would prefer that discussions of modern politics not get started here. Vernon, I’m not really objecting to what you said. I’m just trying to “head off” any discussion of the abortion issue here.

  2. William says:

    You could have said what you had to say without the derogatory remarks about Pro-Lifers.

  3. Zak Ryerson says:

    I feel taht since I have never been in that position, I should refrain from comment on
    “How does one survive”.
    I still feel that there will generally be a difference between an early miscarrage, a late miscarrage, and a stiillbirth.
    And will note that the 2013 survival rate of early arrivals of acertain duration is much high that it was in 1962 when The child expected by John F. and Jaquline Kennedy cmae early _and did not survive_ !

  4. Bruce says:

    Vernon says, “they simply refuse to become emotionally attached to those children, until they have proved able to survive.”

    Perhaps, because that ability generally occurs earlier now, people today become emotionally attached to those children much earlier.

    I know that I did not expect the miscarriage we suffered in 2000 because of today’s medical technology, and probably mourned more deeply than my great grandparents did for their stillborn children born in the Oklahoma Territory who would have been my great uncles.

    Some might call that progress.

  5. Bruce says:

    As to the plot and the story – it is amazing how much influence Mary Simpson is having not only on culture, but on society. For a fairly minor character in the first book or two, she is becoming a very important player.

  6. Tweeky says:

    A bit off-topic, Drak, but any idea when Eric will be updating the “Fortcoming” section as it has been over a year since it was last updated.

  7. Vernon Nemitz says:

    I’m sure there must be, somewhere, a pro-lifer or three who does not exhibit idiocy. Most of them, however, simply spout the same worthless nonsense over and over again, without thinking through the stuff they are talking about. One example was presented in my previous post here/above; they deny the fact that born human children are biologically different from unborn human organisms.

    But other examples are just as easy to point out: They ignore the fact that human reproduction is a very complex process, and Murphy’s Law is always a factor in very complex processes –and so about 1/6 of confirmed pregnancies miscarry (and if you start with conceptions, half or more fail to result in live birth –most of that half fail to result in a confirmed pregnancy). Many human organisms are fatally genetically defective from the moment of conception, yet pro-lifers idiotically want to equate them with “persons”, despite what that would mean in terms of Laws Enabling the Handicapped.

    They ignore the fact that today’s “stem cell research” is proving to be more and more able to take any human cell with a DNA-filled nucleus and get it to exhibit “totipotency” –as fully able to grow into a complete human organism as any just-fertilized ovum (or “zygote”). So, in terms of “potential”, there is no fundamental difference between a zygote and any other human cell with a DNA-filled nucleus, which means that –perfectly logically, according to pro-lifer idiocy about zygotes and persons– you commit mass homicide every time you cut yourself shaving, causing hundreds of white blood cells to bleed out and die…. (The red blood cells and platelets that also bleed out don’t count; they don’t have DNA-filled nuclei.)

    They exhibit Prejudice about “human life”, ignoring the fact that humans require the Global Ecology in order to survive –but most of those idiotic pro-lifers don’t seem to mind one bit our overpopulation-caused-and-Exponentially-Increasing destruction of the finite Global Ecology, and the logical inevitable horrible-to-humanity consequences, all due to the prejudice of not granting other life equal value to humanity.

    In the USA, they don’t seem to know that the Constitution specifies “person” throughout, and doesn’t use the word “human” even once –amazingly, the US Constitution is ready in case any nonhuman alien intelligences from the stars want to immigrate (remember movie and TV show “Alien Nation”?), and prove that the over-use of the phrase “human rights” is indeed prejudicially idiotic.

    Suppose some of those aliens had “R-Strategy” reproductive biology (having hundreds or thousands or even hundreds OF thousands of offspring at a time, most of which must die because it is literally “physically impossible” to raise all those offspring). Meanwhile human “K-Strategy” reproduction yields mostly one-offspring-at-a-time. R-Strategists prove in a different way that a fundamental tenet of pro-lifers is idiotic –that “every conception of a potential intelligent being immediately yields a person” instead of the actual fact that at conception a mere animal organism begins to exist, which might, depending on species, grow to eventually become an intelligent being. (Another fact that pro-lifers idiotically ignore is the Law of Supply and Demand, and how it ultimately controls the value of living organisms –including humans. Remember that ritual suicide, not to mention a generally low value for human life, has been a widely accepted cultural tradition only in places overpopulated for many centuries….)

    For more information along the “grow to become a person” topic, consider the rare documented cases of “feral children” who were raised in the wild by animals, and how you might test such a child to determine whether or not it qualifies as an “intelligent being” (generic “person”), instead of qualifying as just a clever animal. Humans have existed in “anatomically modern form” for nearly 200,000 years, but only in the last 50-70 thousand years have humans become more than “feral but clever animals”. It took that long for humanity’s gradual accumulation of inventions and words and mental stimuli to reach a kind of “critical mass” that affected very young human minds such that they became mental powerhouses of creativity (especially artistic creativity, as evidenced by the paleontological record), leaving “feral-ness” far behind.

    Do note, though, that the potential for that mental breakthrough has existed even longer than the species homo sapiens; study up on Koko the Gorilla, and how she was raised. She has the brainpower of a human toddler –and also the non-feral-ness of a human toddler, and qualifies as a person just as much as does a human toddler.

    Meanwhile, most other gorillas are simply feral-but-clever animals, not intelligent-beings/persons –so, if you ignore prejudice about “human”, can Truly Feral Children qualify, per All Relevant Scientific Facts, as intelligent-beings/persons, instead of clever animals? And what does All That Data imply about unborn humans? It is no coincidence</b that downtimers all through History tend to start thinking of their children as being people worthy of emotional attachment after those children have survived and grown and developed mentally for a couple of years, becoming “non-feral”.

    I could easily point out more varieties of pro-lifer idiocy, related to ignoring relevant facts, but I don’t need to, because someone else has already done a very thorough job of it (at fightforsense.wordpress.com), from where I cribbed some stuff for this post. )(Me, I confess responsibility for writing a document you can find on the Web titled “Human Reproduction and Murphy’s Law”, from where I got other stuff for this post.)

    It might be interesting to figure out how many chunks of “raw” information (or equivalent), mentioned here and elsewhere, is available in encyclopedias and other reference works that came through the Ring of Fire…. Eventually, someone in the 1632-verse might put some of those chunks together, and maybe prevent the abortion controversy from taking root there. What fun!

  8. David Carrico says:

    Ignoring all the irrelevant diatribe, Vern made the observation that down-time women dealt with the heartache of children’s deaths by not emotionally bonding with them until they reach an age where they are likely to survive.

    I’m sure there were some women who dealt with it that way, just as there are women today who don’t bond with infants until they are close to walking age and become more like little people.

    Was it the universal coping method? I strongly doubt it.

    And a side observation: when I wrote the first draft of the story where the event of Marla’s baby being stillborn actually occurs, and posted it on Baen’s Bar for comments, one of the women readers told us that the most recent statistics (2007, if I remember correctly) indicated that between miscarriages, stillbirths, SID, childhood diseases, and accidents, 20% of American pregnancies don’t survive to age 18. That was a surprising number to me.

    Another–slightly humorous, slightly ironic–side observation: of the Baen’s Bar readers of the first draft of that story, it was the men who were all “But Marla should have had better medical care, she should have been in the hospital, why did she let this happen”. The women readers all supported what I had written, basically saying, “It happens, even today. Deal.”

    • Richard H says:

      That 20% is an amazing statistic. Out of curiosity, was there a breakdown of how things shook out? I know I almost had a younger brother but he was stillborn. For many years while I was growing up, my parents would visit a small headstone for him. (As a young child, of course, I was impatient and didn’t really get it…)

      • Drak Bibliophile says:

        It would be interesting to see a breakdown. I didn’t learn this until much later but Mom had a miscarriage after I was born (1954) and before my sister (1956) was born. Also, when I was in college, Mom had another miscarriage.

        • David Carrico says:

          Me too. I was very surprised to find out as an adult that my mother had a miscarriage when I was about 4 or 5. Kind of like finding out at the age of 35 that my mother had been dealing with MS since I was 12.

      • David Carrico says:

        No stat breakdown that I recall. I think she gave a link to CDC or something like that, but I didn’t keep it, and it would be hard to run it down again.

        • David Carrico says:

          Found the link. This was back in 2005 (not 2007), so my memory wasn’t as accurate in the details as I thought it was. The actual numbers in toto look worse than I said.


          • Tweeky says:

            Those are some interesting but disturbing statistics, David, anyway on an unrelated note when will Eric Flint be updating his forthcoming page because its last update was over a year ago.

            • David Carrico says:

              Eric leaves the updating up to his minions. I’ll see if I can jog an elbow.

              • David Carrico says:

                Of the existing forthcoming list, the scheduled for publication books have all been published. The first two of the Works In Progress list have either been published or will be within three weeks. The next item up for publication is Cauldron of Ghosts, which last I heard, Eric was still working on. It is scheduled for April 2014, I believe. Nothing else is ready for publication at this time.

      • vikingted says:

        I also had a younger brother who die of meningitis before his 2nd birthday. I got a bad case of German Measles just months after my brother passed. I wonder what my parents were fearing when I was taken to the hospital that day.
        I agree with Vern on his take of the emotional viewpoint of the Pre-WWI. Europeans, my grandmother was one of 20+ births in her farming family in Norway.

        • Tweeky says:

          Sorry to hear about brother anyway your Grandmother was one of over 20 births (Eek)! I shudder to think what her mother (Poor woman) went through ending up as basically a baby-factory.

    • Tweeky says:

      “Another–slightly humorous, slightly ironic–side observation: of the Baen’s Bar readers of the first draft of that story, it was the men who were all “But Marla should have had better medical care, she should have been in the hospital, why did she let this happen”. The women readers all supported what I had written, basically saying, “It happens, even today. Deal.””

      I didn’t read the first draft but I have to say (I’m a man too) that the men’s response was face-palmingly stupid as Marla was getting good medical help for the time but they seemed to forget that this is the early 17th century and the best available medical help is nothing like what’s available in the early 21st century.

  9. Vernon Nemitz says:

    There are statistics and then there the ways that statistics are used/interpreted. Quoting above: “between miscarriages, stillbirths, SID, childhood diseases, and accidents, 20% of American pregnancies don’t survive to age 18” –but just by itself, about 1/7 to 1/6 (14.3% – 16.7%) of confirmed pregnancies miscarry. If we simplify that to, say 15%, then that means all those other causes of death, before age 18, only account for about 5%, toward that quoted total percentage. (In the old days, when the death rate was something like 50% by age three, it would have been an even bigger percentage with respect to age 18 … mostly due to childhood diseases after infancy.)

  10. Ken Valentine says:

    A conservative estimate by gynecologists and reproductive scientists is that fully 40% of fertilized eggs either fail to implant in the uterine wall or miscarry before full term. Most of those are implantation failures.

    An acquaintance of mine had a full-term placental separation about a week before she was due. She had the heartbreak of having her obstetrician tell her the fetus had died, and then still had to go through an induced delivery to expel the remains. That was her first pregnancy–she had three other miscarriages before she finally managed to carry a child to term this summer.

  11. Vernon Nemitz says:

    I’ve used the phrase “confirmed pregnancies” as my starting point, different from “conceptions”, because of another statistic I encountered, that perhaps 50% of conceptions don’t result in confirmed pregnancies.

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