Note: Writers love to be flattered, and I'm no exception. We naturally seek recognition and praise from our peers. But such recognition and praise is especially rewarding when it comes from outside our chosen genres. Martha Nochimson was a mentor to me in the craft of writing fiction, as mentioned in the introduction to "Throne of the Gods." But she is not an Aurora Universe fan, and never could be; too much of AU fiction's essence is foreign and even distasteful to her. I knew this as soon as I revealed to her what kind of fiction I'd been writing. But I wanted to prove that I was capable of writing something for her, and people like her, as well as genre readers. It was risky, because I knew that the attempt might fail. But it did not fail; moreover, she was able to see the story in a way other than myself or the AU fans. Her review, first posted at the Abintra Universe Readers Group, is something that I will always treasure. -- B.T.E.

Throne of the Gods, by Brantley Thompson Elkins

Reviewed by Martha P. Nochimson (author of No End to Her: Soap Opera and the Female Subject; The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood; and Screen Couple Chemistry, The Power of 2)

Even a stranger to the Velorian universe with its heroic, sexually supercharged women and its riptides of verbal intensities can take pleasure in Throne of the Gods, by Brantley Thompson Elkins. Frequent flyers are destined to find it original and refreshing, as well as steeped in the rich, established conventions of Velor.

Throne of the Gods is a kind of coming of age story about good-bad-girl Velorian named Theel'dara, daughter of an aristocrat, who, after a trying exile, and a series of comic-heroic adventures finally emerges from an overextended adolescence to take her rightful place in the upper echelons of her people. It is the comic aspect of the heroism that really delights this reader, beginning with the quietly hilarious prospect of a statuesque golden girl, used to commandeering lovers with the ease of Queen Elizabeth I and the sexually confident arrogance of Madonna, punished for her flamboyant disobedience to The Powers That Be by being stranded on Domyr as a Protector. Domyr, a name very close to the Russian word for home, is a humanoid world that gives new meaning to the word "nowheresville." It's a low key humdrum planet, where all the inhabitants resemble mild mannered muppets, millions of miles from hunky prospects for romance. So snoozeful a place is Domyr, that Lady T hardly ever has any call to protect anyone or anything. This is a suitable trial by celibacy and patience for a girl who needs to find a personhood in her that goes beyond orgasmic moments of bliss (though she gets that too in the end).

Not being a real sci-fi aficionado, I glaze over when Elkins goes into the details of a CGI invention created by an old Domyran astronomer named Amsul, the only personoid who ever really talks to her and who is stimulated by Theel'd's very presence on his otherwise slow paced home world, but I imagine sci-fi enthusiasts will find it intriguing. What I couldn't help grinning at was Our Heroine's attempt to save Amsul from commercial exploitation by Eristratov, a crass commercial traveler, with whom she is nevertheless willing to have a little sex, since she's been in drydock a long time and beggars can't be choosers.

A very unfunny Planetary Cataclysm (the sort threatened but always averted in movies like Armageddon) at about this time becomes Theel'dara's first real test. There is no way to save Domyr, and so in some way she has failed her primary mission. She must make do with survival, as she saves herself, Amsul, and Eristratov by shuttling them to the Scalantran spaceship on which Eristratov arrived at Domyr, aboard which she meets up with a wonderfully diverse group of colleagues. My favorite is the charming comic creation, Ashotour, the kintz engineer, probably because I love cats. Now Theel'dara needs to return to Velor and explain why she has left her post, hoping that she can bring succor to Domyrans surviving in space colonies but fearing that because of her history she will be neither believed nor forgiven.

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Theel'dara has a hard time getting home, but she does after bumping into many people with polysyllabic names composed of strange and wonderful profusions of apostrophes and consonants. She is rewarded for all her pains when, on the way, she finds real bliss with a lover, a Betan trooper named Xikander, a beautiful, warm, good man, unlike the nasty, depersonalized oddballs she had been consorting with in her immature, wild days. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise of the many ups and downs Our Heroine experiences by detailing them all; they are fun to read because Elkins is so imaginative in his storytelling and Theel'dara is so thoughtful; each incident changes her in some way. Her progress homeward also characterizes her as an increasingly attractive person because her experiences pit her against the repressive, proto-Fascist values of Velor with its omni-present themes of "racial purity" and blondes: Theel'dara's homecoming finds her embracing a wider, less shallow understanding of living beings.

Elkins is a master storyteller in the making. His language is colorful and concrete, the kind of writing often referred to as muscular, full of the exuberance of naming and the discovery of the texture of written word. I have sampled a few other narratives of the Velorian universe and found them to be quite vividly written, but sometimes too forced in their over concentration on the mechanics of sex and breasts for my taste. Elkins finds a graceful balance. For the most part, the eroticism in Throne of the Gods evokes the sensuality and sexuality of the inhabitants naturally and colorfully, without derailing the story with a trainwreck of hyperexaggerated physiological details. Check out the denouement of his story, where Elkins alludes to one of my favorite quotations from The X-Files, a deeply touching statement by FBI Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) that lends its emotion to the conclusion of Throne of the Gods.

So, Theel'dara's galactic melodrama was fun. Now, what happens next to Ashotour, the quirky kintz?