Sundered Q&A

NOTE: This is for people who have read The Sundered, and there are spoilers galore.

No, really. Spoilers.

Read on only if you’ve already read the book.

Spoiler alert. Just thought I’d given you another chance to turn back.

From Robin:

Aakesh appears to claim Harry. Did he? Are the roles now reversed? Will Harry and all the other humans have to “serve” Aakesh and the other Sundered?

Aakesh did claim Harry, though the roles are not precisely reversed. What Aakesh is trying to do is literally the opposite of what Jason Iskinder did: he’s trying to bring Harry alongside them, to them, until he’s essentially one of them. To un-sunder.

To that end, Aakesh linked himself mentally to Harry and touched every single cell of Harry’s body with power. It’s a big choice. In essence, he’s chosen to adopt Harry – and by doing so, intentionally try to steer himself and his people away from bitterness and unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness is a human trait. Unfortunately, it can also be a learned one.

For that reason, Aakesh chose to preserve the lives of some humans on this world. His plan is to heal Harry of all the damage ever done to that young man until he’s what he ideally should have been: happy, loved, creative, at peace.

It will take years. That’s okay. Aakesh has stopped Harry’s aging, so they have that time.

Is this a good thing to do? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s what they’re doing, and there’s no stopping it now.

From Cameron:

Will we get details the last days of Earth, the launch of The Hope of Humanity, the landing on The Sundered planet, and Jason Iskinder’s relationship with Aakesh? “The Journals of Jason Iskinder?”

You will indeed get all those details! Some of them will be in Notte, some will be in Half-Shell Prophecies, and other books, and of course, short stories. I don’t know yet about a journal for Jason Iskinder; that guy’s head is a scary place to be! We’ll see what details need to be filled in once those books are finished.

From Tiffany:

Did Harry’s dad know Notte?

No, mostly because of distance. Notte is back on Earth (yes, I said “is,” not “was”), and not on Motherwater. However, Jason Iskinder knew Notte, and that little detail will become very important toward the end of Notte’s book.

From Tyler:

Why did you decide to make the planet alive?

It was a weird idea that just sort of grew. I already knew the water was deadly to the touch, and the fact that it consciously hated humans was there long before the first draft was even halfway done. Then, in the intense madness of the writing the very end of the book, I could feel the Sundered essentially calling their planet Motherwater.

Not really a word we have, but it was a name for a person, not a title. The moment I listened to that plot-bug, it bloomed. She has a LOT to say, and unlike Aakesh, she doesn’t forgive.

From Becky:

Are there humans on earth or other planets? Or is there seriously just a handful of us left?

There are a lot of other humans left. Nowhere near seven billion, mind, but there are quite a few – and some of them are even elsewhere in space.

I don’t want to give too much away regarding Notte, but it is safe to say Harry is mistaken: all the humans are not dead. Jason Iskinder simply assumed they would be, because he and his fifty-two hand-picked people were the only ones “worthy” of survival. The rest, he was completely certain, would be dead within a generation or two, and since he believed that, it’s in his notes.

Happily, he was (yet again) wrong.

From Tracy:

I have been pronouncing Harry’s surname as Iskender, but just realized it is “isKINDer” Harry is so conscientious and always tries to do the best/right thing for everyone else.

I get variations on this question a lot! I’m happy to set the record straight here. 🙂

Iskinder is actually an Ethiopian variation on Alexander, meaning defender of men. Harry has a very interesting lineage, but most recently, his family did indeed hail from Africa. Yes, I was dorky enough to choose a name that placed humans and Sundered at odds, but after that, the idea grew into something much bigger.

I’ve already put one of Harry’s ancestors in the short story The Twins, available free here. There will be more

From Becky:

 The imagery about the end of the book being influenced by descriptions of heaven? #alienheaven

Love that hashtag, by the way.

Well, it’s certainly a lot of what I hope heaven will be.

To me, heaven is unity, peace, the joy of being everything we were meant to be without the damage of self-centeredness, complete togetherness and openness and freedom.

We humans are horrifically self-centered, and we don’t do any of those things very well.

The Sundered are never self-centered; it isn’t in their nature at all, and that’s why they couldn’t understand how humans worked (even humans have a hard time understanding that). Of course, now that they’ve been exposed to all this, one has to wonder what will happen next.

From Marcie:

When do we get more?!?!

Soon! I’m producing at least one new short story every month or so right now. Join the newsletter to get them in your inbox before they’re made live!

From Dawn:

Why is Harry the one to do this?

A combination of factors. Yes, it’s true that Harry’s DNA was required to get into the Hope (and the Sundered had been commanded in such a way that they couldn’t just use somebody’s severed hand or something), but Harry himself represents much of the best about humans. He’s teachable; he can love, which means seeking the best of someone else at cost to himself; he’s creative, which is a deeply important factor; and he’s sensitive, which gives him more compatibility with the Sundered.

The fact is, Aakesh had been trying for a couple of generations to get an Iskinder over there to shut the damn thing off. The fact is if Harry had died or refused, Aakesh would have moved on to the next generation.

And if there wasn’t a next generation, the Sundered would die.

But Aakesh didn’t want to move on. He likes Harry, regardless of Harry’s occasionally overwhelming nineteen-year-old-boy-ness (my apologies to any nineteen-year-old boys). Aakesh wanted it to be Harry, to the point that he was willing to risk his own death at the Hope because he believed Harry would make the right choice.

It didn’t have to be Harry. It was Harry, and the Sundered who love him are very happy about that.

Numerous Readers:

What does ___ look like?

Humans first:

I want you to understand that by the time Harry comes along, there are very few clear-cut racial groups anymore.

The humans who landed on Motherwater had been chosen as the “best” of all humanity – the most “pure,” the most intelligent, the most athletic. The best stock, according to Iskinder’s point of view, and – this is important – people group had little to do with it. By the time the Hope left earth, the whole planet was in bad shape. National and ethnic lines had fallen in favor of simple survival, so when Jason Iskinder chose  people for a start-over, he didn’t care what they came from as long as they were purely human.

No Kin, in other words.  Jason iskinder’s primary bias was against non-humans, or mixed-human blood. This is also why not a single human in four hundred years produced magic on Motherwater.

The result of this is a lot of genetic mixture. If you want some idea of what they look like, I suggest checking out this fascinating article from National Geographic.

Next, the Sundered Ones:

What they look like often depends on the day, the mood, the moment. What they see, they copy, often in bizarre ways. There are a few who choose to keep certain forms (Gorish, for example, really loves looking sort of froggy), but for the most part, they change shape all the time because… well, that’s what they do.

That means Sundered Ones are more varied than Pokemon. If you can think of a bizarre shape, they’ve probably done it. This makes fanart an interesting and open-ended topic, indeed!

Numerous Readers:

Is Harry supposed to be so annoying?

How many nineteen-year-old-boys do you know? (If you are one, I apologize.)

It’s not that a guy at nineteen is necessarily a bad person. Some of the best friends I’ve ever had were young men, and there are quite a few I know near that age I would call in time of need without hesitation. However, there is a certain… arrogance and desperation that often accompanies a teenage male.

Especially a damaged teenage male.

Especially a damaged teenage male with father issues.

Harry isn’t trying to be annoying; he’s trying to be a grownup when he doesn’t know how in order to please other grownups whose approval he never received and can no longer guide him.

Give him time. He has guidance now, and help, and he’ll make a damn fine man someday. It’s like one of Gorish’s favorite statements: love makes whole.

Numerous Readers:

Why does Harry use 21st century slang?

First: this is intentional.

History and the evolution of language is an amazing thing. The whole point is that Harry is the inheritor of this world; people in our day and age say “cool” because people long before us said it, and we inherited the word.

Harry came from this world. The culture he lives in now has fallen apart, rusted, degraded to the edge of complete collapse, but it still came from this current familiar one. For Harry to speak without any remnants of slang, without any hint of the generations that came before him, would not only be unrealistic, it would be ridiculous.

Think of it like a small group of people who leave their countryies and go to live on a complete isolated island. They have no contact with the outside world; what they have, culturally, is what they bring with them. I promise you that generations down the road, their language would still be recognizable, even as it changed due to simple accent shifts and new slang.

Whenever you see a reference to a cuisine or clothing style, or are struck by the almost contemporary nature of Harry’s words, remember that the humans on that world took it all with them – and that was how it fared.

If I wanted to update this, I would try to incorporate 21st century slang, etc. from other countries, but since I am white and very American, I didn’t want to just grab things without truly understanding their cultural impact or importance. In fact, that leads me to this point:

Multiple Readers: 

Is ___ cultural appropriation?

This was tricky, because I tried not to do this thing while simultaneously portraying people who did.

There are some unnerving stereotypes in The Sundered, and that was intentional.

The culture of Harry’s world was hand-crafted by Jason Iskinder, who was a firm believer in eugenics and censorship. Jason was believed only pure humans—in other words, no Kin or anyone else among the Seven Peoples—deserved to live. Using the stolen power of the Sundered, he tried to create a pure human paradise—one where no one would ever know what they left behind, and which (to his mind) only showed the best and most beautiful human culture had to offer.

Of course, each of the people he chose to go on that ship brought their own ideas of what “ideal” human culture looked like, and that fractured his intended paradise very quickly. The cities in The Sundered are the result of arrogant humans bickering over what “perfect” human culture should look like, without really understanding the richness of human culture outside of 2D stereotypes.

The Sundered Ones remember all of it. They have not forgotten. They will not forget. They grieve the destruction of diversity, even if the humans did not, because – like human creativity – they found it beautiful.

Have any questions? Feel free to send them in here!